Friday, March 14, 2008

a massive human rights violation that requires immediate action and even the use of force if necessary

While everybody has been wondering about who's been torturing who, and whether the US Constitution should prevent a benevolent presidential dictator from doing whatever he wants, and whether a little bit of warming will cook the planet until human civilization collapses, or will just give us all a slightly warmer winter night and the chance to surf the Arctic Ocean, a truly important issue has failed to get the attention it deserves.

Members of a certain class of foreigners in Germany are being deprived of a fundamental human right due to a 1930s-era German law.

How awful. The brutality of it all.

I mean, why bother spending all those years of studying and living in crappy student housing to get a PhD if you can't go to Germany and be called "doktor"?

Yep, that's it. Apparently at least 7 American academics in Germany have been investigated by police after being turned in by an anonymous whistle-blower for using the title "doktor" in Germany - a privilege extended only those with a PhD from a German (and since 2001, any European Union) university.

One molecular biologist, Dr. (I'm not in Germany I can call him that if I want) Ian Thomas Baldwin, was actually interrogated by police for using the term "Dr." to describe himself. The crime? "Title abuse." Baldwin refuses to say whether they waterboarded him or not, but since it was German police the odds are pretty good they did NOT physically abuse him, although surely they taunted him for having a PhD from a cut-rate diploma mill like Cornell.

Yeah, titles are important in Germany. But this is a bit absurd. Even Germans think so - the head of Germany's office for foreign education, Barbara Buchal-Hoever, said
"This is a completely overdone, mad, absolutely ridiculous situation."

She added "The people who have pressed charges must be gripers or troublemakers who wanted to make a totally absurd point."

And what I'd like to know. Who turned in Baldwin and the other of the American Doctorate-Holding Seven? Probably some disgruntled German graduate student who was struggling with his/her thesis at Heidelberg and was peeved that these damn Yanks were calling themselves "Doktor" when they shouldn't have.

Let the investigation begin. Perhaps we should begin by interrogating law students - they seem like the sort that might learn of this law, and be narrow-minded enough to apply it.