Transparent Publishing

New technology pushes transparency of publishing, journalism and science to new levels. Through the hyperlink structure of texts it is easy to link back to the sources of a text. What used to be long lists of references at the end of a text or in footnotes has become directly accessible through weblinks. Only paywalls may or may not restrict the fast and easy access to original sources. In writing online, this is a major additional feature of publishing in the last few years. Some online journals allow this for quite some time now, but there are lots of printed versions that stick to the read and be stuck approach of publishing.
In teaching I have been an advocate of “read the original sources” as the basic source of inspiration for authors. The transparency of the thought process and the evidence provided in whatever form should be traceable. In publishing this transparency allows to exclude the copying of thoughts or unreflected referencing.
However, the task to check for the validity of weblinks and the updating is an additional task. 500+ blog entries with an average number of 2 weblinks per blog entry makes this a job of its own. Testing of 1000 weblinks is something you need a software or plugin which alerts you to “broken links”. The maintenance of a webpage, therefore, increases substantially as the content increases. Reorganisations of webpages make the follow-up of links sometimes quite hard. Projects like the general archives of the web and webpages are very important to ensure the transparency of publishing in the short, medium and long run. The archives of today look more like machine rooms than the splendid archives or libraries of the past and present.

AI Reader

In the middle of the hype around AI it is useful to take stock of the reflection and evolution of AI. In my own analyses and writings on AI it evident that a narrowing of focus has taken place. Whereas before 2022 the writing dealt more with digital technologies in general. The links to the literature on the social construction of technologies was obvious. Algorithms and AI was a part of the broader topic of society and technology.
This has changed. The public debate is focused on “everything AI now”. We look at technological developments largely through the lens of AI now. Hence, my focus of assessments of technology from a societal perspective follows this trend. In a collection of blog entries on AI we try to demonstrate the far reaching changes that have started to have an impact on us. In the last few months the all encompassing concern about AI’s effect on us needs full attention of social scientists, policy makers, companies and the public at large. We can no longer leave this topic to the software engineers alone. By the way, they themselves ask us to get involved and take the latest advances in AI more seriously.
As a “flipbook” the online reading is rather comfortable (Link to flipbook publisher MPL). The pdf or epub files of the blog entries allow to directly follow the links to sources in webpages or other publications (AI and Society 2p 2024-4-18). The cycles of analyses and comments have become faster. Traditional book writing suffers from time lags that risk to make pubications outdated rather quickly. Dynamic ebook writing might bridge the gap between time to reflect and speed to publish or inform the wider public.

Citizens Gardens

There are multiple ways to link citizens to gardens. Most people would link citizens to the property of their own garden. This is more the perspective of people from the countryside. The aim of citizens who can afford it have a garden, many others wish to have one and all of them enjoy public garden spaces. An intermediate version of the public versus private property of citizens’ garden is the joint ownership of groups of like-minded people to work together in the shared property or rented garden space. The recreational and health effects are well documented, if care is exercised with utensils etc. Spring is the ideal time to join projects again as the results of a little bit of gardening will be visible and enjoyable for several months afterwards. Gardens are also meeting points for people of all walks of life as in the vicinity of the European Parliament in Brussels. The Citizens’ Garden has a different function to people gardening there. When you puzzled about Europe after a visit to the Parliament or the Museum of the History of Europe, then it is time for a stroll and relax in the garden nearby.
Alternatively, the Exhibition Centre of Tour & Taxis in Brussels not too far away from the North train station has an impressive indoor garden for the times of rough weather conditions. At the time of the book fair culture in the indoor garden made a splendid combination. There is a green version of Europe. It is like a small plant. It needs a lot of time and care to grow.

AI and languages

A big potential of AI is in the field of languages. Translations have been an expert domain and a pain for pupils at school. In professional settings translations are an expensive extra service for some or a good source of revenue. AI has shifted the translation game to a new level. In terms of speed of translating large amounts of written text AI is hard to beat. In terms of quality the battle of translaters against AI is still on. For chess players the battle against AI has been lost some years ago already. It remains an open question whether translators can still outperform AI or just adapt to using the technology themselves to improve both speed and quality of translations. The European Union with its many languages and commitment to cultural diversity can serve even more language communities with documents in their own language than before at marginally higher costs. A panel on the 9th day of translations at the „foire du livre de Bruxelles” 2024 expressed their reservations with regard to the use of AI in translation of political text or speech. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation will be the rule rather than the exception with potentially harmful consequences. Checking the correctness of translations is a permanent challenge for translators and can be very time consuming. There is room for an AI-assisted translation, but similar to other fields of application of AI, relying exclusively on AI bears high risks as well. We should not underestimate the creative part of translators to do full justice to a text or speech.

www.flb.be 2024 Translation

AI and text

The performance of large language models (LLMs) with respect to text recognition and drafting texts is impressive. All those professions that draft a lot of texts have often decades of experience with using word-processing software. The assistance of software in the field of texts ranges from immediate typo corrections to suggestions of synonyms or grammatical corrections in previous word-processing software.
The improvement of AI stems for example from the potential to suggest alternative drafts of the text according to predefined styles. A very useful style is the “use of easy language”. This rewriting of texts simplifies texts in the sense that longer and more structured sentences are split into shorter ones, lesser-known words or acronyms are replaced by more common or simpler words. Some languages like German have a particular need to use easy language when it comes to administrative regulations and procedures. Public services that aim for inclusiveness of for example older persons or youth can become much more accessible if the use of easy language is spread more widely. Just keep in mind the large numbers of so-called “functional illiterates” (OECD study “PIAAC”) in all OCED countries.
AI can do a great job in assisting to reach a broader public with texts adapted to their level of literacy and numeracy competences. Webpage Designers have made use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for years now. The most common way is to use frequently searched keywords more often on your website in order to be found more often by search engines like GOOGLE et al. Additionally, AI allows to explain keywords, sentences or even jokes to you (Spriestersbach 2023 p.111). This may help in situations when cross-cultural understanding is important.
We have made use of optical character recognition (OCR) for a long time now in public services as well as firms and for private archives. AI is taking this “learning experience” to the next level by making use of the content of the recognized text. Predicting the following word or suggesting the next sentence was only the beginning of AI with respect to texts. AI can draft your speech to plead guilty or not guilty in a court. But we shall have to live with the consequences of making exclusive use of it rather than referring back to experts in the field. AI please shorten this entry, please!

Wage Minimum

A wage at a minimum level is frequently lower than the minimum wage. Most EU countries have a legal minimum wage that should protect against poverty risks at low levels of wages. Over decades it has not yet been possible to raise all low wages to this level. Le Monde (Béatrice Madeline et Aline Leclerc) has published on April 3rd a comprehensive analysis of sectors and people concerned with this difficulty to make a decent living while earning the minimum wage. In France (La désmicardisation), as in many other countries, it is difficult to earn just a bit more as the minimum wage because both employers and employees may lose social benefits if they just earn some hundred € more than the legal minimum wage. For all those persons who do receive only a wage even below the minimum wage getting stuck in a poverty trap is very likely. The number of working hours is then often is the only option to make ends meet your needs. Put bluntly, you work additional hours and/or take a second job to complement the lack of earning a wage at the minimum level. Public procurement that makes the application of the minimum wage compulsory and controls this application effectively benefits society as a whole. Lots of infrastructure projects, urban and rural development receive public support. The conditionality to pay the minimum wage + X should be a „conditio sine qua non“. The millions of workers at the lower end of the wage distribution have a power at the ballot box, which continues to be underestimated in many European countries. The EP elections on June 9th will probably alert us about the lack of faith in a bettering of living and working conditions of those persons coping with wage minima.

Home Delivery of everything ! Working Conditions

Architecture Berlin

The annual exhibition of completed architecture projects in Berlin attracts people beyond the narrow circles of architects. You may take a walk through Berlin to view the actual realizations in 3D or 4D with people living, working or moving in these buildings. As social scientists we like talking or interviewing these people about their experiences. Urban planning and participation in urban development is important for city development in a democratic fashion. The combination of social, ecological, economic and technological concerns find compromises in urban renewal. The range of activities is remarkable. Living spaces have the most entries in the exhibition followed by offices and trade spaces. Education as well as public open spaces raise a lot of interest and funding currently. Climate change and adaptation to limited ecological resources ask for innovative solutions as well. Most projects in Berlin or by Berlin based architects deliver in this respect. The socio-ecological change needs a lot of actors to implement such changes and meet unprecedented challenges. The 60 projects represented for 2023 are the top of the iceberg but a lot remains to be accomplished in repairing old buildings and infrastructure as well. The DA! exhibition provides a democratic transparency of projects, which allows the public to learn about innovation and to make more informed judgments about what architecture can deliver for society.

DA! Exhibition Berlin 2024

Fertility Growth

The first association of fertility and growth is likely the growing of fertility rates in a country or region. Only macro economists associate the growth or decline of fertility with the macroeconomic consequences of more or less economic growth. Countries with higher fertility rates in most cases have higher growth rates as parents spend more on food, clothes, mobility and education. Accommodations are changed, adapted and refurbished. Estimates of increased consumption per child by economists range from 500.000 to almost 1 million in the highest developed countries. Children are a country’s wealth, but they also cost a fortune in monetary terms. Good news for the economy if families keep spending independent of economic cycles. More children keeps dedicated shops running or even a whole sector of the economy. In recessions the downward pressure in this sector becomes an additional challenge not only for the families but with ripples-on effects for the whole economy and society. If you see shops closing which has sold furniture for children for the last 15 years then the realization of an economic downturn becomes also more real. Sometimes the parallels in the news of declining fertility and increases in pensions do not square well with the fitness for the future or the future orientation of a society. Democratic voting rights that give families more weight in elections could change this. It is not yet on the political agenda.

Russian Angst

The title of a book “Russian Angst” by Thomas Franke summarizes the state of Russian society under Putin. It dates back to 2017, but the underlying process of Angst in the Russian society is increasing rather than diminishing due to the already 2 years long intensive hot war of Russia against Ukraine. The Russian Angst is a fear of a continued roll back of its authoritarian rule in Eastern parts of the world and its internal threat that its own people will claim more rights like freedom of speech, freedom of the press and effective democratic voting rights. In a dictatorship the “Angst” is a pervasive phenomenon which creeps into all spheres of live. Franke and Dornblüth (2023) describe the toxic society in Russia. Intoxication and torture of opponents are used by the Putin regime as a threat to suppress critical voices in Russia. Through this a climate of “Angst” is spread so that any internal opposition has to face very high risks to utter any discontent. The experience of a barbarian, totalitarian regime is well known. The threat to life and the presence of intimidation to any disobedient behaviour are strictly persecuted. Nevertheless, the need to think beyond the Putin regime is well under way. The more external and internal, real or imagined threats are countered with brutal force, the more the regime reveals its true kind of governance by force. This invites and leads to the strengthening of counter forces both internally and externally. It seems like box fight in the before last round of a very vulnerable, weakened and isolated boxer. Not many will bet on the likely loser and more countries who previously supported Putin will stop their erroneous policy. Russian Angst and loneliness will further increase.

AI Sorting

Algorithms do the work behind AI systems. Therefore a basic understanding of how algorithms work is helpful to gauge the potential, risks and performance of such systems. The speed of computers determines the for example the amount of data you can sort at a reasonable time. Efficiency of the algorithm is an other factor. Here we go, we are already a bit absorbed into the the sorting as purely intellectual exercise. The website of Darryl Nester shows a playful programming exercise to sort numbers from 1 to 15 in a fast way (Link to play sorting). If you watch the sorting as it runs you realize that programs are much faster than us in such simple numeric tasks. Now think of applying this sorting routine or algorithm to a process of social sorting. The machine will sort social desirability scores of people’s behavior in the same simple fashion even for thousands of people. Whether proposed AI systems in human interaction or of human resource departments make use of such sorting algorithms we do not know. Sorting applicants is a computational task, but the data input of personal characteristics is derived from another more or less reliable source. Hence, the use of existing and newly available databases will create or eliminate bias. Watching sorting algorithms perform is an important learning experience to be able to critically assess what is likely to happen behind the curtains of AI.

AI and dialect

The training of Large Language Models (LLM) uses large data sets to learn about conventions of which words are combined with each other and which ones are less frequently employed in conjunction. Therefore, it does not really come as a surprise that training which uses standardised languages of American English might not be as valid for applications that receive input from minority languages or dialects. The study forthcoming in the field of Computer science and Language by Hofmann et al. (Link) provides evidence of the systematic bias against African American dialects in these models. Dialect prejudice remains a major concern in AI, just like in the day-to-day experiences of many people speaking a dialect. The study highlights that dialect speakers are more likely to be assigned less prestigious jobs if AI is used to sort applicants. Similarly, criminal sentences will harsher for speakers of African American. Even the more frequent attribution of death sentences for dialect speakers was evidenced.
If we translate this evidence to wide-spread applications of AI in the workplace, we realise that there are severe issues to resolve. The European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) has flagged the issue for some time (Link) and made recommendations of how to address these shortcomings. Human control and co-determination by employees are crucial in these applications to the world of work and employment. The need to justify decision-making concerning hiring and firing limit discrimination in the work place. This needs to be preserved in the 21st century collaborating with AI. The language barriers like dialects or multiple official languages in a country ask for a reconsideration of AI to avoid discrimination. Legal systems have to clarify the responsibilities of AI applications before too much harm has been caused.
There are huge potentials of AI as well in the preservation of dialects or interacting in a dialect. The cultural diversity may be preserved more easily, but discriminatory practices have to be eliminated from the basis of these models otherwise they become a severe legal risk for people, companies or public services who apply these large language models without careful scrutiny.
(Image AI BING Designer: 3 robots are in an office. 2 wear suits. 1 wears folklore dress. All speak to each other in a meeting. Cartoon-like style in futuristic setting)

Need of War

It seems like a horrific idea to talk about the need of war. We might have deemed it outdated to read about the terrible love of war or about the strategy of war. However, the time of war is back in Europe and Eastern Europe feels the real threat and Ukraine the bombs hailing from Russia. Why does Putin love war? The love of war is largely driven by domestic issues. Staying in power for unliked authoritarian leaders is easiest if they indulge in external conflicts. Dictators love war because it makes it easier for them to sustain leadership through brutal force within the country due to a proclaimed external threat or even outright engagement in war. Democratically elected leaders know that they will leave office eventually in a peaceful way (exceptions like Trump are rare). Dictators use any force or terror necessary to stay in power. The love of war is part of this.
Hence, the need of war goes without questioning, if a country in decline or at risk of decline tries to uphold an inefficient, belligerent regime. Beyond rational reasons, such regimes will abuse ideation about national pride, the national interest and anything pertaining to some supposed myths of nationhood to justify its need of war. The dictators have all failed eventually as resistance against this need of useless war is found out by enemies either within or externally. But thousands or millions of victims will suffer. The pressure against the need of war has to rise internally from opposition as well as from alliances of democracies that do not need war to motivate their people to achieve the best they are able to deliver.
Therefore, the defence of democratic rule is, at the same time, a fight against the need of war by some doomed regimes. After winning the war comes the difficult task of winning peace. This means to create a state of affairs and a state of mind that can do without the need of war. If the external threat diminishes the internal threats might rise and have to be contained as well. Lots of challenges, even for mature democracies. (Image: Berlin 2022-10)

AI and S/he

There was hope that artificial intelligence (AI) would be a better version of us. Well, so far that seems to have failed. Let us take gender bias as a pervasive feature even in modern societies, let alone the societies in medieval or industrial age. AI tends to uphold gender biases and might even reinforce them. Why? A recent paper by Kotek, Dockum, Sun (2023) explains the sources for this bias in straightforward terms. AI is based on Large Language Models. These LLMs are trained using big detailed data sets. Through the training on true observed data like detailed data on occupation by gender as observed in the U.S. in 2023, the models tend to have a status quo bias.
This means they abstract from a dynamic evolution of occupations and the potential evolution of gender stereotypes over years. Even deriving growing or decreasing trends of gender dominance in a specific occupation the models have little ground for reasonable or adequate assessment of these trends. Just like thousands of social scientists before them. Projections into the future or assuming a legal obligation of equal representation of gender might still not be in line with human perception of such trends.
Representing women in equal shares among soldiers, 50% of men as secretaries in offices appears rather utopian in 2024, but any share in-between is probably arbitrary and differs widely between countries. Even bigger data sets may account for this in some future day. For the time being these models based on “true” data sets will have a bias towards the status quo, however unsatisfactory this might be.
Now let us just develop on this research finding. Gender bias is only one source of bias among many other forms of bias or discriminatory practices. Ethnicity, age or various abilities complicate the underlying “ground truth” (term used in paper) represented in occupation data sets. The authors identify 4 major shortcoming concerning gender bias in AI based on LLMs: (1) The pronouns s/he were picked even more often than in Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational gender representations; (2) female stereotypes were more amplified than male ones; (3) ambiguity of gender attribution was not flagged as an issue; (4) when found out to be inaccurate LLMs returned “authoritative” responses, which were “often inaccurate”.
These findings have the merit to provide a testing framework for gender bias of AI. Many other biases or potential biases have to be investigated in a similarly rigorous fashion before AI will give us an authoritarian answer, no I am free of any bias in responding to your request. Full stop.

Corruption Watch

There is a persistent need to watch carefully whether corruption is involved in political as well as economic deals. Transparency Watch is doing a great job in reporting on corruption cases. In democracy we can talk openly about corruption but in authoritarian regimes it is life-threatening for yourself to talk and report on corruption. The case in Europe around the network of Eva Kaili continues to make headlines due to the ruthless abuse of rules the European Parliament. (Link to Le Soir, image below, 2024) The close monitoring of activities and lobbying of powerful industrial interests targeted on parliamentary candidates and officials will continue to be essential for the survival of democracy. The organization „Abgeordnetenwatch.de“ is doing just this. Investigative journalism needs to complement the work of NGOs in this field. Thanks to these efforts it has become much harder to cover up corruption. Only if the risk to be found out is a credible threat corruption can be contained. Let us watch out carefully and probably with the assistance of AI to uncover early any attempts of corruption.

Clip „Le Soir“ 2024-2-28 p.1

AI input

AI is crucially dependent on the input it is built on. This has been already the foundation principle of the powerful search engines like Google that have become to dominate the commercial part of the internet. The crawling of pages on the world wide web and classifying/ranking them with a number of criteria has been the successful business model. The content production was and is done by billions of people across the globe. Open access facilitates the amount of data available.
The business case for AI is not much different. At the 30th anniversary of the “Robots Exclusion Standard” we have to build on these original ideas to rethink our input strategies for AI as well. If there are parts of our input we do not AI to use in its algorithms we have to put up red flags in form of unlisting parts of the information we allow for public access. This is standard routine we might believe, but everything on the cloud might have made it much easier for owners of the cloud space to “crawl” your information, pictures or media files. Some owners of big data collections have decided to sell the access and use to their treasures. AI can then learn from these data.
Restrictions become also clear. More up-to-date information might not be available for AI-treatment. AI might lack the most recent information, if it a kind of breaking news. The strength of AI lies in the size of data input it can handle and treat or recombine. The deficiency of AI is not to know whether the information it uses (is in the data base) is valid or trustworthy. Wrong or outdated input due to a legal change or just-in-time change will be beyond its scope. Therefore, the algorithms have a latent risk involved, i.e. a bias towards the status quo. But the learning algorithms can deal with this and come up with a continued learning or improvement of routines. In such a process it is crucial to have ample feedback on the valid or invalid outcome of the algorithm. Controlling and evaluating outcomes becomes the complementary task for humans as well as AI. Checks and balances like in democratic political systems become more and more important.

Election Re-election

Politics is a lot about decision making, coalition building and communication strategies. Therefore, there have been well established election and re-election cycles in all democracies, even the so-called illiberal pseudo-democracies. The time span between elections is itself a constituent part of democratic practice. 4 years of office for an elected parliamentarian seems to be common sense across many countries. More intensive participation and election schedules have advantages in tighter checks and balances, but may have disadvantages with respect to democratic fatigue, i.e. the time and effort needed to stay informed and cast votes. “Liquid democracy” is a concept of decision making which requires highly engaged persons willing to get involved beyond average commitments. Delegation to politicians within parties and parliaments remains an effective version of democratic practice. Checks against corruption and illegal practices is a necessary condition of each system of delegation. Rapidly changing governments are similarly perceived as a risk to democracies as the repeated call to the ballot box might be unsettling more than calming the spirits.
Berlin in 2024 (like 2023) provides another lesson on the sense of elections and re-elections. The repetition of parts of the federal election in parts of Berlin was required by the constitutional court. Due to failures in correct provision of access to voting and voting material results might have been biased. According to an online reporting by the local radio station (rbb24) based on the official electoral statistics, the participation in the re-election decreased from 75% to 51% in the 455 out of 2.256 districts that repeated the election. There seems to be a high level of democratic fatigue in these districts where the re-election in general accounts of participation in elections marks a low point in achievement. It appears worthwhile to question the judicial decision to repeat the election to the drastic reduction of representativity of the re-election. In statistical terms we trade one form of bias against another form of bias with an unclear overall outcome.
Organising elections is a professional task and requires specific competences. As this is at the heart of democracies, we need to improve our organisation and surveillance of this fundamental democratic process. Repetition seems to be worse than other second or third best solutions. Investing in democracy starts also at the ballot box. Electronic voting is not a panacea, but might be part of the solution. (Image source: Landeswahlleiter Berlin, left: Erststimmenmehrheit, right Wahlbeteiligung, combined election + re-election)

Fighting Fascists

On february 3rd 2024 Berlin has seen the Parliament (Bundestag in the old Reichstag building) surrounded by young and old to raise their voice against the rise of right wing extremism in Germany. The broad alliance against extremism finds grassroots support from a very broad and diverse community. 1700 organizations have joined forces to send a strong signal that they are ready to act against the inhuman propaganda and persistent hate speech. The creativity to express the discontent in clear messages is impressive. Civil society is showing that diversity offers multiple benefits to find new ways to unite people. Great that European flags and balloons in Ukrainian colors where present as well. A movement of solidarity was felt with these people and that provides a strong message for the months ahead with so many elections taking place at the local, regional, national and European levels.

Berlin 2024-2-3

Continuity in 2024

The Russian aggression continues on Ukrainian territory also in 2024. Based on false allegations and stories about a supposed Russian heritage based on Ukraine territory the ongoing war is once again fought more about the past than the present. The future is entirely disregarded by Russia as if it is clear to them that they do not have a future of the dictatorial regime. If a country does no longer care about future perspectives or future generations even, this country is likely to become very dangerous for neighboring countries and beyond because of the high discounting which implicitly applies to all its investments. Western companies who moved out of Russia had immediately high losses. At the same time Russia continues on a daily basis to destroy lives and property. We just shall not stop to support the fight for freedom and democracy in Ukraine as long as it takes. It fighting for our future rather than demons of the past.

Berlin 2023-12-30

Winning Peace

Most analysts of international conflicts deal with winning or losing a war. At best they deal with short-term versus long-term versions of winning and losing. However, the question of how to win or achieve a lasting peace is rarely researched. Research on the 2nd World War reveal as soon as the turning point of the war was achieved the preparation of what will come after defeat. Organising humanitarian relief is part of warfare. The U.S. has set a good example of how to organise humanitarian aid as well as ensuring a lasting peace in Europe after the 2nd World War. Lots of books have been written on the Marshall Plan to get the economies in Europe (Western Europe) back to producing. Much less attention has been devoted to the important element of “de-nazification” of whole societies.
To win peace after the monstruous crimes of the Nazi-regime and the millions of followers and ruthless fighters was a challenge without precedents. The U.S. gave a good example of how to handle the process of winning peace in the regions under its military authority. In the following I shall refer to work published by Christa Horn (1992) “Die Internierungs- und Arbeitslager in Bayern 1945-1952”. The Allies had agreed upon to pursue war criminals. In April 1944 the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces published the “Handbook for Military Government in Germany”. It was deemed important to detain “certain government and party officials and members of police and para-military formations” (p.17).
Common to demilitarisation efforts after a war, it is the primordial function to reduce the risks of a renewed uptake of guerilla-like attacks due to the amount of arms still widely available or hidden on the enemy’s territory. The document specified further that the continued presence of Nazis in government and other exposed positions “might be a threat to the security of the Allied Forces or an impediment  to the attainment of the objectives of Military Government in Germany” (Arrest Categories Handbook, P.2). Denazification was a means to an end. The size of the task was, however, underestimated at several instances. For example, the organisation of the arrest and detention of more than 100.000 persons was a difficult task. After the end of fighting the transition to peace is not instantaneous. Hierarchical military and party structures had to be dismantled. The so-called “automatic arrest” issued on 13.4.1945 included all grades from the NSDAP down to the “Kreisleiter” or even “Ortgruppenleiter” as well as SS members and their “Helferinnen” (Horn, 1992 p.21). These arrests without judicial procedures came under critic as not-American in the U.S., but it took until 10.10.1948 to abandon this procedure. The literature on the issue refers more to the lack of adequate judicial procedures to handle such so many legal procedures with qualified persons as well as the difficulty to organise detention camps for more than a hundred thousand persons that should deserve to be prosecuted. Handing over to the national or regional judicial instances was, therefore, an important step. The risk to abandon the process of “denazification” was evident, but it was equally important to counter the expansion of the Russian-domination in Eastern Europe with the help of a strengthened Western Europe. Winning peace is a delicate balance of prosecution through the winners of the war and the subsequent prosecution of criminal actions through the indigenous population and its new institutional and judicial setup.
Social Sciences have a lot of solid insights to offer to win peace. With careful consideration they are helpful to learn from even for current international affairs and raging wars. Demilitarisation is only a small part of winning peace. Changing mind sets to internalise humanitarian values remains the biggest challenge and involves more than one generation.

City Museums

Some city museums have a difficult time to present the richness of their historical heritage. Additionally, the question of city heritage maybe entangled with a process of nation building and citizenship altogether. The focus I advocate is on the evolution of democracy and the process of civilisation. The Zagreb City Museum on the top of the hill comes pretty close to such a perspective on history or historical perspective. Due to the recent efforts to excavate remains of the iron age underneath the more recent City Museum the historical line of Zagreb civilisation can be traced back even longer. The tumuli are worth a whole new section in the Museum. The process of civilisation with “burying cultures” are more than 2600-3000 years old in Zagreb. Democratisation as a process can also be studied with all its ups and downs over the history of the city and the Croation nation building. Capitals and city live play an important driving force in this process. Zagreb has experienced a bombing of the city centre as recently as 1991 (Banski Dvora) and again in 1995 (city of Zagreb) in the Croatian war of independence.
It is a real pleasure to walk through centuries of historical evolution beginning with the recent excavation of the iron age as well as the arts and crafts since the medieval times. Even passing the horrors of the 2nd world war through the eyes of the author and painter Cata Dujsin (image below from 1944) speak to us even today.
There is no linear process of civilisation which is improving over time. There have always been backlashes and there will be. It is even more important to be aware of the continuous risks to independence and democracy. The current setup of the Zagreb City Museum seems to focus on the Croatian population to remind them of their great heritage. With more English and foreign language subtitles and inscriptions the example of civilisation and democracy will be more accessible for even larger crowds of visitors. The online visit accessible in English is already an excellent appetiser.
The City Museum is moving from the internal Croatian function more and more to additional external function to offer learning experiences beyond the Croatian visitors in this tourist attraction that is internationalising in its work force at a rapid rate.

Verbannte Worte

Die Ausstellung Verbannte Worte im historischen Zentrum von Frankfurt trifft auf viele Besuchende der Messe aus der ganzen Welt, die oft nur ein bisschen Rathaus, Marktplatz oder Paulskirche sehen wollen. Aber unbefangen kann keiner an der Geschichte dort vorbeigehen. Neben den Millionen an gedruckten Worten muss es eben einen würdigen Ort geben, der den

verbannten Worten gewidmet ist. Viele Kunstschaffende und Schreibenden konnten bestenfalls im Exil überleben. Das ist heute in großen Teilen der Welt weiterhin so. Der PEN International listet erschreckende Zahlen dazu. Das erneute Post-COVID Wachstum der Frankfurter Buchmesse erfreut alle, die sich unermüdlich für das freie Wort einsetzen. Jedoch auch klare Worte finden denen gegenüber, die das freie Wort menschenverachtend missbrauchen. Dazu leistet die kleine Ausstellung ein sehr wichtigen Beitrag, der über die Buchmesse kraftvoll in die Welt getragen wird.

Frankfurt am Main 2023-10-22👍🏼

Geo-politics

In the middle of October 2023 we witness the unexpected and unwanted rise of the geo-political importance of the European Union. First, after the aggression of Russia to realise a huge land grab on Ukrainian territory, the European Union managed to define its new geo-political role in supporting the Ukrainian struggle of independence and freedom versus Russian oppression. This means continuous support of several forms: humanitarian, supporting infrastructure like energy and food supplies as well as military equipment for defensive purposes. Achieving our own strategic autonomy means decoupling from energy supply from Russia despite huge investments to build interdependence particularly by Germany or Finland. Additionally, strategic autonomy means relying on international partners that share our values and quest for sovereignty. Supply chains for production systems have to be re-organised to ensure independence even in military conflicts.
A new role has become evident also in the attack from Hamas on the state of Israel. Historic links and responsibilities to the creation of the state of Israel have led the European Union to make its voice heard in the Middle East to limit escalating confrontations.
These changes in the geo-political role of the European Union have far-reaching implications internally as well as in its external relations. Some have been spelt out by Luuk van Middelaar (2022, adviser to Herman van Rompuy) in his lectures “Le réveil géopolitique de l’Europe”. In the introduction he makes clear what are the 3 major elements of the geo-political wake-up for Europe: (1) power, (2) territory and (3) narrative. Europe has shunned away from its geo-political role as a powerful player. (1) Believing more in a peaceful role, a moderator, deviating from its colonial past, upholding the primary role of international law and justice, the European Union has been forced by external powers disrespecting these premises to enter into various international border conflicts as a power in its own right. (2) Questions of territory matters most if they are challenged by powerful neighbours who are not inclined to respect international law. Even uncontrolled migration is part of this disrespect of territorial integrity. (3) Speaking in the name of a whole community of countries who share the same values gives a convincing force to be able to overcome national particularities and predilections.
However, the European Union’s new geo-political role has to be carefully communicated not only to the outside world (it is in no way thought to be offensive), but also internally. For example, the budgetary implications of the geo-political role need to be communicated to the electorate and public opinion(s) in Europe. Do not forget to take carefully prepare the whole population on this new role. Donald Tusk held steady to counter claims from the PIS-leaders in Poland to reduce the geo-political role of the European Union. Many countries and people sharing our values are eager to see the European Union to accept this new geo-political role to defend human rights, internal law and justice. (Background reading: Middelaar, L. v. 2022. Le réveil géopolitique de l’Europe. Paris : Collège de France. doi :10.4000/books.cdf.12770 ). Image: Extrait  LeMonde diplomatique 2019-11) for discussion.

Landtagswahlen

Bayern und Hessen haben am 8.10.2023 ihre Landtage gewählt. Hessen erreichte eine Wahlbeteiligung von 66%, Bayern 73%. Das ist ein erheblicher Unterschied. 7 Prozentpunkte als Differenz warten auf Erläuterungen. Ein stark polarisierender Wahlkampf mobilisiert Wählende aus allen politischen Lagern. Positionierung dafür oder dagegen lassen mehr Leute zu den Wahlurnen gehen. Selbstverständlich gibt es auch diejenigen, die sich etwas angewidert von dem Spektakel abwenden. In Bayern war mehr deftiges Schenkelklopfen und öffentliches Abwatschen zu beobachten. Das hat wohl das Wahlvolk ermuntert, mit dem Wahlzettel an dem Wahlkampf aktiver teilzunehmen. Das gehört zum demokratischen Wettstreit dazu. Bedenklich sind jedoch Abstimmungsergebnisse, die nur noch wenig pluralistische Meinungsvielfalt aufzeigen.
Relativ einmalig und erschreckend zugleich ist das Ergebnis im Wahlkreis Kelheim. CDU, AFD und FW gemeinsam vereinen ca 80% der abgegebenen Zweitstimmen auf sich. Da sollten wir öfters genauer hinsehen, was da los ist. Einzelne Provinzen in Bundesländern haben mittlerweile diametral entgegengesetzte politische Tendenzen. Die Debatte verschärft sich. Dabei brauchen wir doch angesichts der vielfältigen internationalen Krisen mehr denn je Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, aber eben auch Meinungsvielfalt. Historisch waren tragische politische Fehler nicht mehr weit weg, wenn das Spektrum der Parteien allzu eingeschränkt daherkommt. Es braucht schon wieder Mut, um in einigen Regionen für eine vom allzu dominierenden Meinungsbild und für eine abweichende Meinung einzustehen. 

Bauer

Ein Bauer im Schachspiel kann spielentscheidend sein. Ist der Bauer erst einmal jenseits der gegnerischen Angriffs- und Verteidigungslinien am Ende des Schachbretts angekommen, kann er in die Figur seiner Wahl eingetauscht werden. Wir sollten den Bauer also nicht in seiner Bedeutung unterschätzen. Das trifft auch auf Fritz Bauer zu. Der hessische Generalstaatsanwalt Fritz Bauer, Mitbegründer der Zeitschrift Kritische Justiz, hat die deutsche Justiz in besonderem Maße herausgefordert. Durch seine Anklagen hat er viele der aus der NS-Zeit belasteten Richter angeklagt und entschieden an der Verfolgung und Verurteilung von Adolf Eichmann mitgewirkt.
Dieter Schenk hat in seiner Dokumentation und einem fiktiven Interview eines Journalisten mit Fritz Bauer die Persönlichkeit anhand seiner Schriften und Interviews lebendig als Theaterstück inszeniert. Bereits 2x in Polen aufgeführt, hat die Deutsch-Polnische Gesellschaft Berlin e.V. zu ihrem 50. Jubiläum zusammen mit dem Bund ehrenamtlicher Richterinnen und Richter, Landesverband Brandenburg und Berlin dieses Werk im Oberverwaltungsgericht Berlin Brandenburg zur Aufführung gebracht. Frank-Walter Steinmeier hat die Arbeit von Fritz Bauer mit folgenden Worten gewürdigt: … vielmehr ging es Fritz Bauer darum, die Deutschen zu immunisieren, sie vor einem erneuten Rückfall in die Barbarei zu schützen.“ Das ist heute noch genauso wichtig wie in der Vergangenheit. Der historische Gerichtssaal des OVG BB in der Hardenbergstraße in Berlin bot dafür eine eindrucksvolle Kulisse. So voll war der Saal noch selten, betonte der Hausherr.  Den Besuchenden viel sicherlich auch die Gedenktafel mit den Namen der von den Nazis entlassenen Richter auf dem Weg zum Plenarsaal im Treppenhaus auf.
Eine stille Anklage richtete sich in dieser Veranstaltung eben auch in Richtung Polen, die Rechtsstaatlichkeit und unabhängige Richterinnen und Richter zu gewährleisten. Deutschland hat sich historisch viel Schuld aufgeladen, umso mehr Verantwortung haben wir jetzt, uns für diese wichtigen Grundrechtsprinzipien einzusetzen. Der Verein „Gegen Vergessen, Für Demokratie e.V.“ soll als Ko-Organisator unbedingt mitgenannt werden. Hans-Josef Schöneberger und Uwe Neumann als Schauspieler und Ian Melrose mit seinen Intermezzi auf der Gitarre haben eine tief beeindruckende Atmosphäre geschaffen. Es wurde klar, dass Recht, selbst Verwaltungsrecht viel mit Streitigkeiten verbunden ist. Die Befriedungsfunktion des Rechts wirkt oft erst über Generationen hinweg.
Ich wäre gespannt zu wissen, in welche Schachfigur sich Fritz Bauer am anderen Ende des Schachbretts hätte eintauschen lassen. Mein Tipp, vielleicht als Turm wichtige horizontale und vertikale Linien besetzen oder doch ein Springer, der nicht einfach zu berechnende Sprünge leisten kann. Von einigen seiner Verehrenden wird er auch als König gehandelt, der allerdings, wegen seiner Verwundbarkeit, oft anscheinend ohnmächtig im Zusammenspiel mit den anderen starken Figuren agierte.

Checks and balances

The principle of checks and balances refers back to the separation of powers introduced by the French political theorist Montesquieu in his writings “De l’esprit des loix” in 1748. 40 years later in 1788 James Madison wrote as §51 in “The Federalists Papers” explicitly about the system of checks and balances as part of the constitution of the USA. For maintaining the principle of separation of powers it is necessary to install a system of checks and balances between the powers to prevent one power dominating the others. These well-known principles of democracy face, nevertheless, continuous challenges as to the balance of the powers (legislative, executive, judiciary). In order to safeguard democracy a basic scepticism towards the exercise of power is warranted. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” (Federalist Papers, 1788, p. 239).
The necessity of auxiliary precautions has led modern democracies to a multiplicity additional checks and balances. Independent Anti-fraud offices, disciplinary committees within the separate powers as well as the checks and balances between the separate powers play a role in the survival of democracy. Recently, in July 2023 services like the internal service of the police to overlook the adequate execution of the force applied by police have been much in the headlines. Checks and balances apply to each branch of separate powers internally, and if they prove inadequate, they have to be corrected by other powers. This is the procedural as well as fundamental interaction within the separation of power. Presidential systems, where this system of checks and balances has major deficiencies, are very likely to fail its people through an overpowering executive. Neither the country of Montesquieu, nor of the Federalists is free of these dangers. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement and to meet with people, all contribute to strengthen checks and balances in a democracy. “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control of the government” (p.239).