Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Technology in soccer

The first day without soccer in two weeks -- I can go back to reading and cycling now.

In the last four games of the round of 16, one game was decided by penalty kicks. The other three included goals that should not have been given for the team that ultimately won. It is hard to think of an unfairer game than soccer.

FIFA is now apparently responding by talking about which technologies could be used in the next World Cup. But keep in mind that if FIFA has constantly discussed the use of technologies -- and rejected it. "Technology will kill football. The human system is better," explained former FIFA head and current UEFA head Michel Platini recently. In an article at Germany's Tagesspiegel, current FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke is quoted as saying, "The special thing [about soccer] is people, and people make mistakes."

Der Tagespiegel does not even disagree:

Soccer is an unpredictable, man-made drama, and errors are part of the script... One change would lead to another and break the game up into parts. The rhythm would be lost if there were constant interruptions to review situations. Goals are not the only important thing, but also red cards, penalty kicks, and offside calls.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Translation notes: Vorstand

Vorstand is an interesting word. Look it up, and you will almost always read that it is the board of executives, or something to that extent. The Vorstandsvorsitzender is the chairman of that board, more commonly referred to in English as the CEO.

But bizarrely, German tends to use Vorstand for the chairman, not for the entire board. I recently came across this at Wacker, a major German manufacturer of solar silicon. They present their CEO in German under "Vorstand" here and in English under "Executive Board" here. One man does not a board make, however.

A few years back, a new customer sent me a text late on Friday which she had to have back on Sunday. I did her the favor, and when she saw that I had translated Vorstand as "Board Chairman," she gave me a real shelling (she wanted CEO), even calling me incompetent. Needless to say, she didn't thank me for doing the text at no extra charge over the weekend.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Proof of funniest German video

The British Telegraph writes:

Adolf Hitler wrote a begging letter to a Mercedes dealership asking for a loan for a limousine until his royalties for Mein Kampf came through.

We therefore have proof that this video, one of the funniest in German at YouTube, is true:

And since I recently wrote about how Germans do not think courts are fair, I'll translate the last joke for you. "I told the judge that you just can't have someone like me, who has never done anything wrong, never even gotten a parking ticket, has worked and paid taxes all of his life, you just can't have someone like me be cheated in such a lease. And the judge said, oh yes you can."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Germany beats England 4-2

At halftime, the Germans I watched the game with were not happy. "If we don't win this game by a few goals, we'll never hear the end of this," one said. "I don't want to win like this," said another.

After Germany won the game by a few goals, the Germans I was with were pleased to still be in the World Cup, but not convinced that the referee's obvious mistake (good God, how far does a ball have to be behind the line?) did not matter. "Germany was able to play defensively because they had a lead," one German friend said, "and the two goals in the second half were counterattacks based on a strategy we could not have pursued if the game had been tied."

I see now that England's coach agrees:

The game was different after this goal. It was the mistake of the linesman and I think the referee because from the bench I saw the ball go (in).... The goal was very important. We could have played a different style.

The German coach also agrees:

What I saw on the television, this ball was behind the line.

Not exactly a fair game. Interestingly, it does not seem that either coach is calling for video reviews in soccer.

On the streets of Freiburg after the game, hundreds (if not thousands) of people streamed into town from Eschholzpark, where loads of people watched the game outdoors on giant screens. When a streetcar approaches, everyone rushes onto the tracks and sits down and begins singing. One popular song, in commemoration of the French, is:

Allee, Allee
Alle, Allee, Allee
Eine Strasse mit vielen Bäumen
Ja, das ist eine Allee

I don't know how (perhaps it is my New Orleans upbringing), but I actually found two young ladies riding through town on top of a car in first gear who were are interested in flashing the crowd. I'll try to get some photos up over the next few days ;-)

It's fun being in the winning country. Sorry about that crap decision, England.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What Americans don't quite get about soccer: it ain't fair

In 2006, France’s Zidane head-butted an Italian player in the final game, and although everyone in the stadium and hundreds of millions of TV viewers saw it, the French coach nonetheless challenged Zidane’s red card. He thought the referees had not actually seen the foul except on the screens in the stadium, which would have constituted a sort of video review – and that is not allowed.

How French. Americans want to see an ideal world in spectator sports – a world where the winner is always the best team and justice is always served. But in soccer, the best team does not always win – and you can forget about justice. In a way, Americans like to have escapism even in spectator sports, whereas Europeans don't mind blunt reminders of how unfair life is when watching soccer. Resistance to video reviews in soccer is the best example of how Europeans tolerate a degree of unfairness.

In terms of fairness, soccer differs from the main three types of American team sports (football, baseball, and basketball, all of which currently have video reviews) in three main ways. First, the ball is practically always live, and the clock is always ticking. This aspect keeps the tension up in a way we Americans are not used to with all of our timeouts; and, of course, baseball could go on all day. (Europeans often comment that they find our sports boring because so little happens half the time.) The fast pace of the game means that soccer referees would have to stop things completely when they want to review something. More reviews might make soccer fairer, but it would also slow the game down, especially since soccer has no timeouts where video reviews might naturally fit in.

Second, very few points are scored, which means more luck is involved. Team A might have as many as 12 shots on goal and even hit the post once or twice but never get one in. Team B might only get a couple of shots on goal and otherwise be completely dominated during the game, but they could still win 1-0 if they got lucky and one of those shots went in. Such an outcome would not be considered unusual. In contrast, it would be strange if an NBA team shooting 60 percent from the floor were to lose to a team shooting 40 percent (though turnovers in the NFL could produce such an outcome).

Third, and perhaps most importantly, bad calls left standing are simply more common in soccer. American football has just as many people running around on the field as soccer does, but the NFL uses seven referees – compared to three in soccer on the field and a fourth referee off. Two of the referees in soccer are mainly concerned with making sure that no one is offside, leaving the other two to scan the entire field for unfair play and everything else. (There are almost no rules in soccer, whereas US sports practically require a degree in law.) Soccer players know they can get away with head-butts because the refs cannot see everything; there is no equivalent in American football.

Basketball moves quickly and makes do with only three referees on the court -- but that is where the similarities end. To begin with, basketball courts are third the size of soccer fields, and there are half as many players on the field and basketball. Video reviews are not only used in the NBA; there is even a dedicated video referee. And as Wikipedia puts it, NBA “officials must watch an instant replay of a buzzer beater to determine if the shot was released before time expired.” Americans do not want to see NBA games decided because of bad calls by referees.

The situation is the same in the NFL, where the rule is that a coach can demand a video review if his team has a timeout left. In the last Super Bowl, as I remember very well as a New Orleans native, the Saints coach demanded a video review of a two-point conversion – and won the contest. The referee’s changed call affected the Colts' game strategy on the next drive. Had the referees in the last Super Bowl not been forced to award the two points to the Saints, fans of both the Saints and the Colts would have felt gypped if the Colts had then won the game by a point with two additional field goals. Say it loud and say it proud: we are Americans, and we want fairness in our sports.

As a result, we have little patience for players who say that the referee is at fault when they lose. Over at Harper’s, Ken Silverstein has been asking for reader comments to his blog posts about the US soccer team's performance at the World Cup (he is not a fan). As he wrote in an e-mail to me, “One could also argue that, if not for the British goalie’s mistake, the US would have lost game 1.” But there is a difference between losing because of the referee, whose participation should not decide the outcome of the game, and because of an opposing player, whose participation should. To come back to the Super Bowl, Peyton's interception is not in the same category as the referee's bad call on the two-point conversion. Ditto for turnovers, which are bad luck, but not unfair.

Silverstein was especially critical when US “players complained that the game [against Slovenia] was stolen by the refs.” He explained, “My son plays Little League, I have to tell him all the time that his first reaction after a game should not be to blame the umps.”

I would tell my children the same in the US sports, where bad calls simply do not make or break games. (Ever heard of the "hand of God"? Well, it happened again this year.) Silverstein references this article from the Washington Post as an example of how referees get things wrong in US sports as well, but the article actually only mentions one example of a bad call outside of soccer, and it merely robbed a baseball pitcher of a perfect game, not a win.

Now take a look at some examples from soccer. In this year's World Cup alone, everyone agrees that both the US and Switzerland were robbed of a win. The US team was not alone in complaining about it. Here is what the German coach of the Swiss team had to say after the game taken from him:

“At the World Cup we need the best referees available, and not just a referee who blows the whistle on the beach."

No one in the media I read and watch had any problem with that statement. In fact, German weekly Die Zeit (where this discussion at Harper's was originally printed) published an article explaining why referees at the World Cup have to suck (all continents must be represented, so you simply cannot take the best).

Silverstein is off the mark when he praises the Italian team at length for being good losers; he even wrote me in an e-mail that Italian head coach "Lippi did not complain about the controversial plays” in Italy's second game. Here is one thing that Lippi said after that game:

“I just regret that we did not get the points we deserved, but sometimes that's what happens, you get less than you deserve.”

And here is a statement from an interview I could only find in German (again, in an article about how the referees at the World Cup suck):

"Ich bin enttäuscht, aber: keine Panik. Wir haben in zwei Spielen zwei Schüsse aufs Tor bekommen, und beide waren drin. Das war Pech. Wir hätten eigentlich beide Partien gewinnen müssen."

My translation:

I am disappointed, but there's no reason to panic. In two games, we got the ball in the goal twice, but we had bad luck. We should have won both of those games.

My feeling is that Silverstein is surrounded by complaining Americans who feel that their soccer team is being cheated, perhaps because the world bears a grudge against us after all (you know, 9/11 and all that). In fact, the US team is one of a handful (out of 32) that have indeed suffered remarkably from bad calls. Americans simply need to realize that no one is out to get them. Bad calls are just part of soccer.

At the same time, Silverstein needs to realize that what he perceives as complaining is simply everyday post-game soccer banter in Europe – and that more teams are complaining than he realizes. The Germans, for instance, felt slighted in their second game because the Spanish referee handed out so many yellow cards that their only striker had to leave the field in the first half. You bet your Weizenbier the Germans were complaining – not because they didn't think their players had committed fouls, but because similar events in other games had not elicited yellow cards.

You would think, at such times, that Germans would warm up to the idea of video reviews in soccer. But when famed German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who is now moderating the games on German television, was asked by his co-moderator if Germany's bad luck with refs this year is not proof enough that we need video reviews in soccer, he replied, “No, it means that the line judges need to pay more attention.”

Say what? Why would Germans (and Europeans) oppose video reviews in soccer? I cannot know for sure, but it wouldn't be the first time that Germany/Europe has been accused of being opposed to progress. Indeed, Europeans like quaint small farms and farmers markets, not just large agro-business and supermarket chains. Germany is fiercely proud of its Mittelstand (basically, SMEs), while the US likes its global corporations (Germans seem a bit ashamed of theirs). So who needs fancy new technology when you can still improve workmanship, eh Oliver? Forget about cameras – referees need to pay more attention. A quite un-American sentiment if you ask me. But genuinely German.

If we come back to the concept of escapism, we find that we Americans like happy endings in our movies as well. Europeans tend to make more movies where bad things happen to good people, and they like their soccer with a heaping helping of luck and injustice -- just like life.

What's the difference? Americans do not have a greater sense of justice than Europeans. On the contrary, Europeans would view a lot of what goes on in the US as unjust. Think of the death penalty, which many Americans support because they think the US court system is fair, but Europeans have no such illusions about their courts - or, as one German saying goes: "Being in the right and getting your rights are two different things" ["Recht haben und Recht bekommen sind zweierlei"].

Likewise, Europeans definitely watch the World Cup to escape, ever so briefly, from reality -- or, as France's Le Parisien put it when their team embarrassed all self-respecting French people last week: "Thanks guys, you ruined our summer, in which we hoped to forget about the worries of everyday life."

Perhaps that is the main difference, then: Europeans do not need what the Germans disdain as Heile Welt – a Disney World of happy endings and just victories – in their light entertainment. Say it loud and say it proud, Europe: we are adults and face the world as it is. If we Americans are going to enjoy their number one sport, we may just have to put up with more real-world nastiness in our pastimes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy days

Over at Harper's, Ken Silverstein seems to be having a frustrating life. Rather than writing informative articles like his colleague Scott Horton, he merely posts asinine personal attacks that fail to rise above the level of the people he criticizes.

Perhaps he is having a good time with his completely unfounded attacks on the US soccer team, and specifically on Landon Donovan, but I can assure him that, if he could read foreign languages [UPDATE: Ken writes, "I read Portuguese, Spanish and can even make out a bit of French." Touché, Ken, I should have expected as much.] like his colleague Scott Horton, he would realize that everyone who saw the video realizes that two goals have now been taken from the US in three games by bad referee calls -- or, as Die Zeit recently put it:

Die US-Amerikaner trauerten vor dem Spiel dem aus unerfindlichen Gründen nicht gegebenen Siegtreffer gegen Slowenien nach.

Ken, you should ask Scott what that means. He'll probably tell you that it means that everyone who views the matter objectively would agree that the US did not just squeak by in winning its group, but actually won the group by quite a large margin.

And while I am at it, Ken, why don't you change your magazine's stupid subscription policy.

Otherwise, I have already said what I have to say about the World Cup. (Thanks, Özil.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Germany will win World Cup

Ok, I know Germany just lost, but even with ten people on the field, they were the more exciting team in the second half, and they had more opportunities than most teams I have been (bored) watching. Yes, the Serbs had two shots at the post, but not much more. It could have been 0-3. But Germany still dominated.

Let's call it an off game. Get eleven guys on the field, and there is no holding back the German team. That's my prediction after round two.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

White House never had PV

Just a quick note to clear up a misunderstanding -- you may have heard of the new Globama campaign, which aims to put photovoltaics on the White House. Essentially, a US company will donate the panels for free.

The confusion comes in, for instance in this article, when people start putting the word "back" into the campaign (the campaign itself does not talk about putting solar back on the White House). The reference is to the solar thermal panels that were put on the White House while Jimmy Carter was president. They were taken down (allegedly because of a leak) while Ronald Reagan was president and are currently found here.

Solar thermal panels have water running through them, which they heat up. Photovoltaics generally consists of solar cells, which generate electricity. There have never been photovoltaic solar panels on the White House, though an Annex to the White House has had PV on it since 2003 (installed while George W. Bush was in office).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Conviction in New Orleans no reason to rejoice

(Hat tip to Scott Horton at Harper's)

For those of you who missed it, in Dec 2008 the Nation published an in-depth report on events in Algiers, a part of New Orleans just across the Mississippi River, in the days after Katrina hit. A warning to the faint-hearted: it's not an easy read. But it is apparently all true -- except, that is, for this one sentence by a staff member at Tulane University:

I can't see a white person being convicted of any kind of crime against an African-American during that period.

As a Horton reports, on Friday a white man was indeed found guilty of killing a black man during those days. To make things worse, the white man was a police officer at the time. (A total of five police officers were indicted.)

I visited Algiers and spoke with some of the people in the Nation article in late December 2005 myself. I was only in New Orleans for around 10 days and only in Algiers for one, so I was not able to do this kind of in-depth reporting. I certainly heard a lot of stories about white vigilantes patrolling the streets, but a number of things that some of the (black and white) locals claimed were simply not true, as I pointed out a few months later in this article (unfortunately only in German).

What I did not do, but the Nation journalist did, is try to speak to white vigilantes in the community, which seems to be fairly easy to do -- they certainly do not seem to have much of a problem speaking to the Nation journalist, and also see this Danish documentary. Had I spoken to these gun-toting white wackos, I probably would have believed more of the stories I had been hearing.

Overall, it seems that a group -- or perhaps a number of separate groups -- of white vigilantes responded to a quite small number of crimes in the wake of Katrina by setting up their own militia-driven state. They then proceeded to harass, threatened to kill, and in some cases murder law-abiding black citizens from the community. It's quite frightening, especially when we think about the implications of all of the gun-toting that still goes on right out in the open -- or, as blogger Tim Wise recently put it:

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters - the black protesters - spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic?

Friday, June 11, 2010

FIT ≠ solar

A highly misleading article entitled "Calm the Feed-in Frenzy" has been published over at Renewable Energy World. The article is so bad it is not really worth commenting on except in one respect: it conflates feed-in tariffs with feed-in tariffs for solar power, which a lot of people do.

You can see it coming near the beginning, when FITs are described as providing "returns from generating renewable energy from buildings." Nothing of the sort is true, not even for solar; rates are paid regardless of whether buildings are involved or not. If you put up a wind turbine on a hill, a biomass unit inside or outside of a factory building, or solar power on a roof or in a field, you get paid for the electricity you generate.

Things get even sloppier later:

Feed-in tariffs were introduced in Germany in 1999, offering index-linked payments of 51 euro cents for every KWh of electricity produced. The popular programme was met with a whirlwind uptake. By 2005, renewables already accounted for 10% of electricity in Germany, 70% of which was supported by feed-in tafiffs (sic).

Actually, no -- Germany has never had index-linked feed-in tariffs (meaning that they are not adjusted for inflation). And the feed-in tariffs that went into effect in 2000 (and were voted on in 1999) were only 51 euro cents for the most expensive type of solar power. Less was paid for large solar arrays in the field, and the solar rates for just about everything else were around 10 cents, which was significantly below the retail rate at the time (meaning that all types of renewable energy aside from photovoltaics had already reached "grid parity").

Then comes this really mind-bending analysis:

The bubble in Germany stemmed from the government doubling the rate at which the feed-in tariff decreases year-on-year (by between 5% to 10% depending on the size of the installation) just over a year ago. Reductions in the cost of raw materials and the ensuing over-supply of solar panels contributed to a 25%–30% reduction in the price of building a solar farm, but with no equivalent reduction in the feed-in tariff, the market suddenly promised huge returns for anyone opening a solar farm before the end of last year.
It seems that, for the first time in history, a bubble was created when a government doubled rate reductions. The author makes no mention of the largest economic crisis since 1929, which drastically affected all markets everywhere. Indeed, other policies to promote renewables were also affected; in the US, tax incentives are a common mechanism, and they suddenly proved completely ineffective because companies had insufficient profits to reinvest and write off. And in fact, Germany has responded by adopting lower rates, which go into effect on July 1 (see my previous post).

And then this self-proclaimed "solar energy analyst" provides this insight:

However, too many countries have implemented feed-in tariffs in a piecemeal way and have adopted levels of subsidy that have been unrealistically high, resulting in huge profits for investors and the creation of conditions in which speculators have rushed to build renewables infrastructure purely for the short-term returns.

Which countries?

The article is terrible in so many ways that I do not have time to go into everything, so let's just focus on the author's final conceit:

But how many markets must collapse before more purposeful regulations are introduced to prevent this?
I don't know, maybe you can tell us first how many markets have collapsed? To my knowledge, only the Spanish solar market collapsed, and the question is whether that is a FIT problem or a Spanish problem or a photovoltaics problem (or some combination).

According to Miguel Mendonca, the great collector of global FIT statistics, some 50 countries have FITs, and I don't hear many reports about problems anywhere. The Spanish wind market did not collapse while its PV market was collapsing, and contrary to some reports the German PV market - far from collapsing - is certain to set a new record this year.

So let's make a crucial distinction from now on: feed-in tariffs are not just for solar power.

The mood at Intersolar on Bundesrat opposition

I returned from Intersolar on Wednesday night. One of the hot topics there is the decision by the Bundesrat to oppose the proposed rate reduction for solar power scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Essentially, the Bundesrat - a sort of "upper chamber" of Parliament which represents the interests of the individual German states (there are 16 of them) - vetoed the rate reduction even though it has no power to do so. According to all of the reading I have done (see this for instance), the Bundesrat merely forced the Bundestag (the "lower chamber" of Parliament which actually has the power) to take another vote on the matter.

The lower chamber is, however, currently in recess and cannot respond to the upper chamber's veto before July 1. Nonetheless, the lower chamber merely needs to take another vote for the rates to go into effect, apparently even retroactively. For instance, if the lower chamber were to adopt exactly the same new policy in mid July, everything could retroactively go into effect as of July 1.

It therefore seems that the upper chamber's opposition is merely symbolic.

Nonetheless, people at Intersolar were hopeful that some tweaking might still take place. For instance, the rate reduction might be reduced from 16 percent to 10 percent, and the ban on solar arrays on farmland might be lifted. And indeed, a meeting is scheduled to take place on June 16. But don't hold your breath -- it seems that no negotiation is necessary.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Woodward practices "access journalism"

I recently expressed my doubts that the Washington Post was practicing investigative journalism when it reported on Watergate. Now, I see that a former colleague of Woodward's agrees; she says he was practicing "access journalism" even when publishing leaks from Deep Throat - just typing down what powerful insiders tell you, not questioning it and getting the story they are trying to hide.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Guardian gets more facts wrong

I grow weary of fact-checking for the Guardian, but in an otherwise fascinating article about oil spills in Nigeria, we find the following inaccuracy:

... the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution.

That's blatantly wrong, as you can see from the official statistics from the US government here. Nigeria as a whole provides closer to 7-8 percent of all the crude the United States imports. The Niger Delta is entirely within Nigeria, so there is no other country that contributes to the figure for crude from the Niger Delta.

Overall, Nigeria is far behind Canada (in first place) and Mexico (generally in second place) as a crude supplier to the US. Nigeria generally vies for third place with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

The unfortunate thing is that when you see such an obvious inaccuracy, you doubt the rest of the article.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watergate involved investigative reporting?

Over at the New Yorker, Steve Coll expresses his concern about the future of US journalism:
... how did we end up in a society where Williams College has (or had, before September) an endowment well in excess of one billion dollars, while the Washington Post, a fountainhead of Watergate and so much other skeptical and investigative reporting critical to the republic’s health, is in jeopardy?
I've got a different question, Steve: how did we end up with journalists who believe that the Washington Post did investigative reporting pertaining to Watergate?
... as Watergate unfolded from 1972 to 1974, media revelations of crimes and political misdeeds repeated what was already known to properly constituted investigative authorities. In short, carefully timed leaks, not media investigations, provided the first news of Watergate.... Watergate prosecutor Seymour Glanzer says that what really mattered – both legally and politically – was Nixon's failure to destroy his incriminating tape recordings, not the media's coverage: "Woodward and Bernstein followed in our wake. The idea that they were this great investigative team was a bunch of baloney." (source)
Basically, Woodward was a local reporter, and when the Washington Post was notified (!) of a burglary in town, this is how things happened in Woodward's own recollection:
... it looked like a local burglary at the Democratic Headquarters, a police story. I covered the night police beat. It was a Saturday morning, I think the summer. Editors looked around and thought, "Who could we call in? Who would be dumb enough to work on this story on a Saturday morning?" And they thought of me immediately.
Otherwise, Woodward seems to have merely written down what Deep Throat, his informant, told him, much as he simply wrote down what prominent people told him in his later books. Here's another question for you, Steve -- if Watergate is such a great example of investigative journalism, has Woodward revealed anything through investigative journalism since? It's been over 35 years...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

English misreports of German President's resignation

Germany's President Horst Köhler resigned yesterday in a move that took everyone by surprise, but reports about the event in English are misleading. To take just a few examples, the Financial Times writes, "German president Horst Köhler added to the pressure on chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday when he resigned over his contentious remarks that the country's military effort in Afghanistan protected German commercial interests." But that did not happen at all. (Doesn't the Financial Times realize that there's not much to be had in Afghanistan economically?)

On a trip to visit German soldiers in Afghanistan, Köhler did comment that the German public is gradually coming to accept the concept of the German military protecting the country's economic interests abroad (I italicize "German public" because this aspect has been under reported in English). His political opponents then expressed outrage at the announcement that the mission in Afghanistan might be primarily economic, which was not the goal originally stated (it was originally about the war on terror and spreading democracy). Köhler's office then cleared up the matter by stating that, although the comment had been made in Afghanistan, the statement did not apply to that particular mission, but rather to the role of the German military in general.

But those facts did not stop the Economist from writing the misleading headline "Germany's president resigns after ill-chosen remarks about the war in Afghanistan."

The political opposition was then outraged at the notion that the German military might be serving at the behest of German industry, and there were charges of imperialism. The governing coalition largely failed to support Köhler over the weekend, and the man turns out to be a bit of a lightweight, so instead of standing his ground and taking part in a Democratic debate, he nearly broke into tears when announcing his immediate resignation.

So the claim was first of all not made about Afghanistan; second, Köhler was not so much saying that this is the way things should be, but that the public was coming to accept the use of German military force in purely economic matters (such as pirate ships, though Köhler was too daft to give an appropriate example); and third, no one prominent ever called for his resignation to my knowledge -- in fact, everyone on the opposition is completely flabbergasted because no one was even considering his resignation.

So when the Guardian writes, "But those whose loud voices called for his head are now part of the problem and will never contribute to the solution," they should do us the favor and tell us who actually called for his head.

For the record, here is my translation of the spoken word (which I have tried to render faithfully, including the rambling) that got him into trouble (the German is also posted below):

I believe we, by which I also mean the general public, are generally on a path to understanding that a country of our size, with our focus on foreign trade, is also dependent upon foreign trade, so we also have to realize that in cases of doubt, in cases of emergency, military force is needed to protect our interests, such as free trade routes, such as the prevention of instability over entire regions, which would certainly detrimentally affect our opportunities to protect our jobs and income through trade.

Meine Einschätzung ist aber, dass insgesamt wir auf dem Wege sind, doch auch in der Breite der Gesellschaft zu verstehen, dass ein Land unserer Größe mit dieser Außenhandelsorientierung und damit auch Außenhandelsabhängigkeit auch wissen muss, dass im Zweifel, im Notfall auch militärischer Einsatz notwendig ist, um unsere Interessen zu wahren, zum Beispiel freie Handelswege, zum Beispiel ganze regionale Instabilitäten zu verhindern, die mit Sicherheit dann auch auf unsere Chancen zurückschlagen negativ, bei uns durch Handel Arbeitsplätze und Einkommen zu sichern.
Horst, couldn't take the heat, so he got out of the kitchen. In a democracy, people get to debate things, so if you say something, you may get criticized. And if you say something stupid, you will be criticized more. And if you're not good with words, you will say stupid things more often.

May the next German President know those simple facts.