Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another FDP politician faces plagiarism charges

This time, the culprit is Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, who has been in the news recently quite a bit because he is half Greek, half German and has therefore repeatedly been asked to explain what's going on in Greece to German TV audiences. I found him to be quite an affable fellow, especially because he openly says he holds both passports; Germany officially does not allow double citizenship, but in practice foreigners are not allowed to keep their passports when they become German – there are practically no checks of whether someone with a German passport has or gets another.

Anyway, this guy really takes the cake with his dissertation. In the chart you see, the blue stuff at the beginning and end is the intro and bibliography, which are not checked for plagiarism. In the rest, the white stuff is where no plagiarism was found. As of this morning, plagiarism had been found on 72 percent of this guy's dissertation, and all of the red stuff is pages that were more than 75 percent plagiarized. He is expected to lose his doctorate officially in two weeks.

This from the party whose slogan is "Leistung muss sich lohnen" (performance should be rewarded).

On a similar note, his fellow FDP politician Koch-Mehrin, who also lost her doctorate, refuses to step down as a member of European Parliament, though she was forced to step down from the committee on research after a slew of German researchers said they refused to be represented by someone who had so obviously committed plagiarism. Otherwise, Koch-Mehrin is sticking to her position that her university did not catch her plagiarism when she submitted her dissertation and therefore has no right to take away her doctorate.

You have to admire her for her chutzpah.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Germans oppose tax cuts

Several times in the past, I have written about how Germans oppose tax cuts. Now, Germany is doing so well that tax revenue far exceeds budget plans – it's like Germany is undergoing the boom the US had in the 1990s. According to Deutsche Bank, tax revenue is up 10 percent, and the budget deficit is now below two percent of GDP.

The governing coalition has responded in an American way by saying it will lower taxes, but the Germans are having none of it. Economics journal Handelsblatt – the closest thing that Germany has to the Wall Street Journal – announced today that it is sending a copy of today's issue to all members of the FDP (Germany's libertarians, the party closest to the Democrats and Republicans as I once explained); the paper argues that the debt should be paid off before taxes are cut, and apparently readers overwhelmingly agreed, as the letters to the editor indicate.

As I mentioned in that blog post about the FDP, what started off in Germany and Austria – and partly in Freiburg – as "ordoliberalism" has become a blanket call for smaller government in the US. But the original idea lives on in Germany, and yesterday the editor of Handelsblatt published an editorial entitled "Der große Selbstbetrug" (which could be loosely translated as "Facing the facts"), in which he argues, as he himself puts it, along "ordopolitical" lines that "we should pay down our debt before we fritter away our future capital."

So there you have it – German politicians continue to propose tax cuts, and Germans will have none of it, with the people behind Germany's version of the Wall Street Journal being among the most vehemently opposed.

Diane Sawyer apparently perceived as leftist

As I mentioned in my penultimate post, I tried to find some indications that Diane Sawyer, a Republican by all indications, had at some point changed her political position towards the left – and could not find any.

What I did find was a number of right-wing websites that list a number of statements she made, which the right-wingers perceived as being leftist (see these of Google hits). This particular website contains a particularly long list of instances, and though the number of responses is quite low this discussion over at Yahoo is also revealing.

Apparently, people are not well-informed enough to realize when they are dealing with someone close to the Republicans; all you have to do to be charged with liberalism is be in the media.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How Americans see the French

Over at Harper's, John R MacArthur wrote an interesting article a few weeks ago about how he, the son of a French woman, views American perceptions about the French, particularly in the context of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's current court case:

If America really respected women, we would follow the French model. Reducing economic stress tends to reduce stress on marriages and helps keep families together. I’ve been the direct beneficiary of France’s family/women-friendly policies — from the private hospital room that permitted me or my wife, at no extra cost, to stay overnight with our sick daughter to the Napoleonic Code that prevented my French grandfather from disinheriting my mother and my aunt. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the French divorce rate is lower than America’s (43 percent compared with 49 percent, says Divorce magazine)...

Germany actually comes in at 41 percent.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Former Nixon aide a source of left-wing bias?

Diane Sawyer as press aide shortly after Watergate.
The interview between Jon Stewart and Chris Wallace on Fox News has drawn quite a bit of attention (if you have not seen it, it is here). While everyone seems mainly focused on Wallace's admission that Fox intentionally tries to go far right to counterbalance the perceived left-wing bias in the rest of the media, I found another aspect to be peculiar.

One of the examples that Wallace gives of left-wing media bias is the way Diane Sawyer presented a particular issue. Stewart does not point it out, but Diane Sawyer is a peculiar choice for a source of left-wing bias. She started her career as a Republican press aide and worked as a "literary assistant" (as Wikipedia puts it) to Richard Nixon – after Watergate and even after his resignation.

I don't know if Sawyer has changed her political stance over the past 35 years, but I could not find any indication that she did so in a quick search online. If she remains a Republican supporter, then she is surely a poor example of a source of left-wing bias.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dragon Dictate and Wordfast in Word 2011 on Mac

Last week, I purchased a MacBook Pro with an SSD drive and eight GB of RAM. In the work that I do, I require special Translation Memory software, and I choose to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my Windows machines instead of typing.

I wanted to comment in some detail on the performance of this set up just in case anyone else is thinking of going the same route.

To cut to the chase, Dragon Dictate only works properly on a Mac within the software’s own Note Pad. If you are coming from Dragon NaturallySpeaking on Windows, you are in for a terrible disappointment, and if you would like to use Dragon Dictate in a wide range of programs – from browsers to Microsoft Word – you are likely to regret this purchase.

In the reviews of Dragon Dictate for Mac online (such as at, there are some mentions about how slow the program is within Word. The Translation Memory software I choose to use is Wordfast Classic, which runs as a set of VBA commands within Word – in other words, I need to use Dragon Dictate on a Mac the way I use it on Windows: to dictate what I say, not to navigate around my computer. In particular, the Translation Memory software has a whole array of keyboard shortcuts to speed up work.

It turns out that there is a “golden rule” for Dragon Dictate on Macs that I have never encountered for Dragon NaturallySpeaking on Windows – you cannot use the keyboard at all at any point during the dictation session. Since I am fortunately not handicapped, I do not need Dragon to navigate around my computer; I simply use it so I do not have to type in what I am saying. Dragon has allowed me, since 2005, to look at a text in one language and speak it aloud in English – et voilà, when I looked down, the text was already typed there for me with 99% accuracy.

This simply does not work with my particular configuration now. Dragon Dictate has all sorts of glitches on Mac OS. Like its predecessor, MacSpeech, Dragon Dictate leaves leading spaces all over the place every time you move the cursor by hand. On various user forums, you will learn that the command “purge cache” can be used to stop that from happening. Basically, the program tries to remember everything in the text you are working on so that if you want to correct something somewhere, it will know where to go to. If you ask the program to purge (erase) the cache, it will assume there is no text and start from scratch. At least, that’s what the manual says.

In practice, the purge-cache command only gets rid of the space. The first word you say will be capitalized, so if you don’t want that word capitalized, have fun trying to tell the computer that.

In fact, the situation is even worse, as the manual itself says – take a look at this screenshot:

Essentially, this blurb means that you are still screwed every now and then even if you do not use your keyboard while dictating.

All of this would be completely unnecessary if Dragon Dictate had a mode that allowed you to completely do without all of these commands and just have the program dictate exactly what you say. If you want a capitalized word, you will have to say “cap,” and if you want a leading space, you will have to say “space.” Then, if you don’t say either thing, you get no space and a lowercase word. That would be a lot more convenient than what the program does now.

If you would like to see how terrible all of this is, visit my video here (give the video about 20 seconds to start showing something; for some reason, it's gray for the first 20 seconds after I uploaded it):

If any translators would like to comment,  I'd love to hear what you have to say, especially if I am getting some things wrong here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another "Plagiator" bites the dust

As I mentioned a while back, another prominent German politician, Koch-Mehrin, was accused of plagiarism, and yesterday her university nullified her doctorate.

I wondered in that previous post why so many of the people under review seem to be from conservative parties, and it turns out – according to a colleague of mine over at Heise, who put together the chart you see – that those parties actually have the largest number of doctorates. Not only are the Greens a relatively small party in the German Parliament, but only around 10% of its MPs have a doctorate – half as many as in the CDU or the FDP (Koch-Mehrin's party).

So perhaps the swarm is not as politically motivated as it may seem.

Disappointingly, Koch-Mehrin has yet to step down from her position as a high-level MP in European Parliament (where she continues to make a killing), nor has she admitted any guilt. On the contrary, on the nightly news last night, there was speculation that she might take the university to court to challenge the legality of revoking her doctorate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

German video on US coverage of Merkel's visit

German public television has a very impressive online video library, where most things are available – even for downloading – for at least a week.

I was thus impressed to find this video below online for downloading when a reader of this blog commented that it must have been a local paper the Germans were complaining about when they didn't like the coverage of Merkel's visit. On the news program during lunch time, the correspondent in Washington shows that, in addition to covering Libya and Syria, the New York Times covers “a senator's sex scandal” (probably Mr. Weiner) and something about US TV moderators, while the Washington Post at least mentions Merkel's visit – but only in terms of her “evening dress,” referring readers to the lifestyle section.

On another news show (I can't remember which, so I couldn't look for the video), the Washington correspondent came to the same conclusion (one of the papers focused on the desert at dinner: apple strudel) after looking at major US papers and commented that, while Obama may treat Merkle as an equal, Berlin is obviously by no means on the same level with Washington – meaning that it's a big deal for Germans when Obama visits, but Germany is simply not as important for Americans.

For what it's worth, I didn't get the impression that this conclusion was drawn in malice, but simply stated as a matter of fact.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Merkel in US

The German media are incredulous about their Chancellor's reception in the US – not because she has been poorly received, but because so little attention is being paid to the event in the media. Repeatedly, reporters on German TV flipped through US newspapers to show what the US reports on – and to show that Merkel's visit just barely warrants a mention alongside all the wars the US is fighting and a number of things that seem trivial from abroad (and are, in fact, trivial).