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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Friday, May 25, 2007

North Carolina Slave Narratives

I stumbled across North Carolina Slave Narratives - The Lives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grady & Thomas H. Jones by accident in the JFKI library. Just saw the North Carolina in the title while walking past a shelf and decided to grab it as some kind of an early introduction into where I am actually going to be living starting in August. It turned out to be a really good read. I skipped most of the lengthy introductions, just because I was interested in just the primary source content and none of the supplementary comments and explanations, but I thoroughly enjoyed the narratives.

Four former slaves autobiographically recount their lives' experiences and how they managed to escape the slave system and settle in the British colonies and England (for the most part). All four of them were written earlier than Frederick Douglass' famed account during the 1830s, also unlike him they testify on exactly the way they escaped (Douglass, in order to protect the people that helped him, skips over this part in his narrative) which makes for a very exciting read. The experiences of all four were immensely different.

Moses Roper continuously tried to run away, being caught, whipped and put in chains countless times, yet never giving up and finally succeeding in getting to the Northern states where abolitionists financed his continued flight to England (according to federal laws at the time any slave that had fled the South had to be deported back into slavery when being caught in the slavery-outlawing Northern states).

Lunsford Lane on the other hand had a lenient owner who rented him out to himself (a rather bizarre practise where the slave would pay the owner a fixed sum every year, which he had to accumulate himself by whatever enterprise he chose to enroll in, everything above that sum he could keep for himself). After a couple of years he had amassed enough savings to buy himself from his owner and thus liberate himself. He then proceeded to save up money to buy his wife and children as well and being of an industrious nature succeeded financially with this as well. Yet, a self-liberated entrepreneuring black man like him posed a threat to the system as it caricatured the image of the lazy, child-like, incompetent slave that without the slave owner would degrade and finally die because of his incapability to nourish himself. Thus, he was chased out of North Carolina by use of the law (there were no free blacks allowed to enter the state of North Carolina and since he had gone to New York for a while this law was used against him) and the threat of mob violence.

Moses Grady like Lane toiled for himself in order to pay his master out. Unlike Lane though his masters cheated him out of his money twice by simply accepting the money for his liberty after having made an oral contract for the same, yet then not granting this liberty to him. While this was morally condemned even by most white people, legally he stood on safe grounds simply because as an owner you could not cheat your property as everything he earned or did belonged to you anyway. The third time he paid money to his - then - master, that white man tried again to cheat him out of his liberty, yet in the end succumbed to moral pressure on the part of the white community.

Thomas H. Jones was the last and least interestingly written account. He fled to the North and later Canada after having had a friend bought his wife and children. His flight went uneventful (luckily for him) and smooth. His narrative was in my opinion the worst, because he, a preacher, wrote in a sermon style with constant and very repetitive references to God. His writing simply did not suit me and his Christianity of forgiving even the worst slave holder in the name of Jesus I found hard to believe and even harder to relate to.

All in all, I would recommend this to virtually every one as the accounts detail and make one aware better of important aspects of the Southern slave system. The way families, husbands and wives were split up for example and how people dealt with that. How common corporal punishment was, yet how blacks and whites lived together. Thomas H. Jones' sermons in rural North Carolina are visited by blacks and whites alike. Also, how older slaves were left in the woods own their own, because their masters considered it economically unsound to feed and clothe them any longer. Lastly, as a more positive aspect I guess, how many slaves seem to have worked for themselves, rented themselves out and thus enjoyed a relatively high amount of freedom. Again, read something like this if you care about the American South, history or simply human beings.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The American Welfare State

I have to write an essay on the American welfare state and an exposé for that essay is due today. So, if anyone of you cares to find out why the American welfare state developed later and differently than most European welfare regimes. Have fun.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


  • Die internationale Medien (EU Observer & NZZ) haben Deutschlands butterweiche Position auf- und angegriffen. Ich bin jetzt mal gespannt, ob die deutschen Medien da auch kritisch darüber berichten werden, oder ob der deutsche Außenpolitik Konsens Kritik und negative Aspekte wieder mal (1, 2 & 3) verschweigt.

  • Aus dem EU Observer:
    "Under the scheme, an EU member state – in order to fill its labour gap – would temporarily hire non-EU workers, as long as they respect the key condition and return to their home country after their contracts expire.

    "The idea is that people come and work in the EU for a couple of months, then return home and later come again," one EU official explained."

    Behaupten wir mal ganz theoretisch ein Mitgliedsland (Deutschland zB), würde Arbeiter aus einem anderen Land (die Türkei um bei einem möglichst abstrakten Modell zu bleiben) als Gastarbeiter anwerben, ob die wohl alle irgendwann wieder nach Hause gehen würden?

Le Vicomte de Bragelonne I

Quand j'étais un jeune adolescent, j'étais obsédé avec d'Artagnan et ses amis. Je crois que je lisais Les Trois Mousquetaire et Vingt Ans après au moins cinq ou six fois. Or, quand j'ai vu à Paris qu'il y avait une troisième livre sur cette histoire je l'ai acheté tout de suite. Ca c'était en été de 2006 en fait, quand je travaillais à Paris, et un ans avant que je suis venu faire Erasmus là-bas. J'éssayais de lire Le Vicomte à l'époque mais j'n ai pas réussi, parce que le vocabulaire était trop dur pour moi, en plus Dumas utilise le Passé Simple, Passé Antérieur et Subjonct if souvent, lesquels je ne connaisas pas du tout (il faut admettre que même si mon francais s'a amélioré, je ne suis pas encore capable de former ces trois temps, mais je me promets de bosser au-dessus). Aujourd'hui le livre n'était plus trop difficile, bien sûr, je ne comprenais pas tout - comme dans Les Bienveillantes les déscriptions de nature ou des batîments étaient le pus difficile - et parce que je n'aime pas lire avec une dictionaire à côté de moi - je l'éssayais plusieurs fois, le résultat pour moi ce que j'arrête à lire, parce que je déteste chercher pour les mots dedans tout le temps - je suis sûr qu'il y avait beaucoup des choses qui m'ont passé.

Mais, ce bouquin est un d'eux qui on déteste à arreter à lire. Je continuais plusieurs fois quand j'aurais dû dormir déjà. Je ne vais pas dire grande chose sur quoi ce livre s'agît. Je suis sûr que tout le monde connait d'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis et Athoas. Ils sont plus agée, le fils d'Athos est très important aussi, mais sauf ca, il n'y a pas une grande différence en qualité et suspense en comparasion avec les premiers deux. Le seul problème ce qu'il y a trois livres qui compose Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, j'ai déjà fait la command e pour le deuxième, mais je ne sais pas quand c'arrivera, et hier soir quand j'ai fini le premier tier, j'étais vraiment faché que je pouvais continuer tout de suite avec le deuxième.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Race & The NBA

I've already discussed the study by two economists that empirically prove that there is a racial bias in foul calls by white and black referees respectively. The NBA of course denounced this and offered up an apparently ridiculous - from an academic point of view - study (check the input box by Tom Jolly the NY Times sports editor) to counter this. It is hard if not impossible to simply discount the findings of Wolfers and Price considering they analyzed 13 seasons, adjusted their results to role player, all stars and the such, all in all a very sound piece of work as it seems (I haven't obviously read it, but that's how most everyone not directly associated with the NBA portrays it).

Yet, John Hollinger discards it on the notion that playing a black player when a white officiating crew presides for 48 minutes instead of a white one, results in a foul call increase of only a negligible increase of 2.5 to 4.5%. Assuming that a team plays with an all black line-up this of course would imply a rise in foul calls against that team of 12.5 to 22.5%, which makes the word negligible sound doubtful already. Also, even if one considers the results of the study to be so low as to not hold any importance for the outcome of games - which I doubt - the basic premise that - subconscious - racism on the part of the referees is persistent. Hollinger excuses that by explaining that 'refs are human too, after all, and when they step on the court they unwittingly bring their life experiences and values with them.' The logical conclusion here being that life experiences and values of white referees necessarily have a racist edge to them, because otherwise how would the statistical correlation be explained? Finally, even if the statistical numbers are low that of course changes a players' behaviour anyway. Someone with two fouls will play defense differently or may not even be on the court anymore than someone who only has one in the first or second quarter of a game.

A friend of mine brings a more valid argument to the table which argues that white players less so than black players are considered defensive specialists resulting in black players such as Marion, Camby or Bowen being called for fouls more often than white shooters such as Kapono, Korver or Stojakovic. On the first and second all-defensive team for the 2006/2007 season there is not one white player he offers as further proof of this theory. While I agree with the general premise of this argument I wonder whether it could not be turned around. From my own experience of being a rather bad defender - and a slightly better offensive player - I would argue that a guy such as Kyle Korver trying to defend against the opposing team's small forward (say LeBron James) is going to rack up more fouls than Bruce Bowen doing the same thing. Obviously both of these arguments do not have any statistical back-up, just some food for thought.

Lastly in my big race and the NBA entry (hope I have not chased away the female half of my 4 daily readers with this), Richard Lapchick explains on ESPN that the NBA's big picture actually is really pretty when compared to the other major leagues in the USA. According to a study done by him (and Horacio Ruiz and Marina Bustamante) 75% of NBA players are black, 36% of all referees are either black or latino, 40% of the head coaches, 15% of team vice-presidents are black, 34% of professionals in the league office were minorities and the NBA also has the only black CEOs (5) and presidents (2) in professional sports. Also of course Robert Johnson is the only black owner of a franchise in American professional sports. While all this implies that the NBA is a front-runner in regard to integration when compared to the NFL or MLB, I have to differ with the view that it shows a pretty picture. Take a simple look at the amount of players and compare it with the rest of the numbers, especially the number of head coaches (and presidents too I believe) since most of these used to be players themselves. To me, this makes clear that basketball is (and will continue to be) a sports played by blacks (I wonder how high the percentage of of black players would be if you only included Americans) and controlled by whites (I am not even claiming that this is due to inherent racism or anything like that, probably is more related to the economic realities of racial life in the USA, am just stating a fact that I feel Lapchick is misrepresenting).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blair en francais

Oui, quelq'un écrivait ca pour lui probablement. Oui, son accent est aussi fort, que même moi je le remarque. Oui, il l'avait exercé sans doute plusieurs fois. Mais, il parle francais mieux que beaucoup de ses - plus jeunes - compatriotes n'importe quelque langues. Il parle mieux que notre ancien chancelier, Schröder, se pouvait exprimer en anglais. Et surtout, il essaie de faire quelque chose qui existe pas assez dans la société européenne pour l'instant. Il s'adresse à un autre peuple, dans une autre langue, il essaie d'avoir une dialogue intra-européenne. Est-ce que vous pouvez imaginez Chirac ou Merkel s'adressent au peuple francais/allemand dans l'autre langue respectivement? Je trouve ca - notamment si on prête attention à son age - remarquable.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Ich hatte Orhan Pamuks Istanbul von meinem Vater geschenkt bekommen, kurz bevor ich dort ein langes Wochenende verbrachte. Die Stadt war sehr eindrucksvoll und deswegen freute ich mich sehr auf das Buch. Ich muß ganz ehrlich eingestehen, daß ich am Anfang nicht so beeindruckt war. Der Nobelliteraturpresiträger erzählt in seinem Roman die Geschichte seiner Heimatstadt anhand seiner eigenen Lebensgeschichte, sowie parallel dazu durch Berichte, welche andere Schriftsteller über Istanbul verfassten - hier sowohl türkische als auch westeuropäische. Ich würde fast behaupten, daß man das Buch nur schlecht als Roman bezeichnen kann. Es gibt keine kohärente zusammenhängende Geschichte, vielmehr erscheinen die Kapitel als Ansammlung von Essays, welche sich alle mit Istanbul und zum Teil mit Pamuks Kindheit befassen, aber es gibt kaum Stringenz zwischen den Erzählteilen.

Aber, je weiter ich las, desto mehr gefiel mir das Buch. Die literatische Geschichtsstunde Istanbuls - Flaubert und Twain sind nur zwei der Autoren, welche Pamuk zitiert und fast die einzigen die ich (wirklich) kannte - war faszinierend und auch die Beschreibung der Entscheidung, welche Pamuk als 20jähriger treffen mußte, ob er sein Studium abbrechen solle und Künstler - Schriftsteller oder sogar Maler - werden solle, wird fesselnd dargestellt.

Letzten Endes kann ich zusammenfassend sagen, daß ich das Buch im Prinzip eigentlich jedem empfehlen würde. Die einzige Bedingung wäre vielleicht, das der- oder diejenige vorher kurz nach Istanbul sollte. Viele der architektonischen und geographischen Beschreibungen waren für mich bereits verwirrend, ohne je da gewesen zu sein, erscheinen sind diese unmöglich zu verstehen.

Ein letzter negativer Punkt ist das 'hünzü'-Konzept, welches laut Pamuk die Schwermütigkeit, die Lethargie, das Trarige ist, welches die Einwohner von Istanbul seit Jahrhunderten geprägt hat. Teilweise bedingt durch den Abstieg des Osmanischen Reiches und darauffolgenden tiefen Fall in eine arme Obskurität. Pamuk behauptet, daß dieses Konzept nur für Menschen, die in Konstantinopel gewohnt hätten zugänglich wäre und dies mag stimmen, ich kann es nicht beurteilen. Aber, ich finde, wenn man einen Text schreibt und dabei auf ein solches Konzept zurückgreift bedarf es einer stärkeren Argumentation dahinter, mir ging es nicht vollkommen auf, ich konnte es nur sehr bedingt nachvollziehen. Dies könnte natürlich auch meine Beschränktheit sein, falls noch jemand dieses Werk gelesen hat, würde ich insofern weitere Erklärungen dankend entgegen nehmen.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Falls Ihr jemals in eine Diskussion über Immigration verwickelt werden solltet, lest diesen Text. Das Argument ist im Prinzip, daß Einwanderer im Durchschnitt mehr Unternehmen gründen (Intel, Google und Ebay werden als Beispiele für die USA benannt, in Deutschland sind damit wohl eher Restaurants und Lebensmittelläden gemeint) und dadurch das BIP steigern und Jobs schaffen. Außerdem ermöglichen sie den Einstieg qualifizierter Personnen (Frauen vor allem) in den Beruf durch niedrige Löhne in Dienstleistungsjobs (Haushaltshilfen, Kindermädchen...). Letztlich geben Einwanderer vor allem am Anfang einen hohen Prozentsatz ihres Einkommens aus, eine hohe Konsumnachfrage mit all seinen Effekten (höherer BIP, mehr Jobs) folgt. Abschließend würde ich gerne mal wissen, was eigentlich diese andauernde Nennung von Kreuzberg (oder auch Neuköllns) als Symbol der gescheiterten Integration soll. Ich wohne hier (in Kreuzberg) und hatte nie irgendein Problem, wo ich mich unwohl fühle sind eher Bezirke wie Lichtenberg, Marzahn und Hohenschönhausen mit ihren hohen Glatzenanteilen, ist da die Integration auch gescheitert?

It seems that I am one of the people 'who think they should run the country.' While the list is of course way too business centred, it is quite funny.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

le 6 mai

Je lisais le NY Times et LeMonde commenter sur le débat entre Sarko et Ségo hier, je dois avouer que je l'aurais aimé regarder. Mais, j'étais dans un café pour le foot avec mon père. Tant pis. Je crains en tout cas que Sarko gagnera. Sa position sur l'immigration surtout et la façon comme il piquait les votes de Le Pen m'inquiètent. Mais oui, je peux même pas voter en tout cas.

Sarko & the NBA

Si vous ne savez pas encore pour qui voter, peut-être ca vous intéressez (je les trouve un peu trop populiste parfois).

An independent study has established that there is a racial bias in NBA refereeing. White referees (who are the majority) discriminating black players and black referees (a minority and less pronounced) discriminating white players. John Hollinger counters these finds based on the little impact they have on a game ('a black player will [only] rack up approximately 0.16 added fouls per 48 minutes). While his (Hollinger's) argument does make sense, there seems to be no counter argument towards the fact that this racial bias exists. Quite shocking, even if the effects are more or less negligible.