Zentrales Waffenregister

Central weapons register. Gun owners in Germany currently have to register their guns at several hundred (~550) small separate offices that don’t coordinate with one another. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) says the government has scheduled the creation of a central gun registry in Germany, which police will be able to use to check weapon ownership starting in early 2013. The central registry is being created in response to an EU guideline that would have allowed two more years for implementation.

Update on 15 Nov 2013: Research by Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Norddeutsche Rundfunk has discovered that development of the Waffenregister (and development of a central registry of personal I.D.’s, Personalausweisregister), were two of ~100 jobs the German government outsourced in the past five years to a German subsidiary of Computer Sciences Corporation (C.S.C.), a U.S. company very firmly entwined with the U.S. intelligence sector whose software probably can’t be trusted. C.S.C. helped develop surveillance software for the N.S.A. and was, Süddeutsche.de reported, involved via another subsidiary in the C.I.A.’s Verschleppung of the German citizen Khaled el-Masri in 2004.

Süddeutsche.de said C.S.C. helped test the Bundestrojaner malware of the Bundeskriminalamt and support the introduction of electronic files into the German courts. It helped with the introduction of a nationwide “electronic passport” and Germany’s recent “secure email” project known as De-Mail.

“The company is part of the American shadow army of private companies that work cheaply/favorably [günstig] and invisibly for the military and secret services. The company belonged to a consortium, for example, that was awarded the N.S.A.’s so-called Trailblazer Project, which was said to include development of the recently disclosed Prism program. Some of these problematic involvements have been known for years, yet supposedly not within the Ministry of the Interior, which signed the framework contracts with C.S.C.”

Interior Ministry spokespeople said the ministry had no “own knowledge” of these entanglements but that the framework contracts “usually” included clauses forbidding transmission of confidential data to third parties.

(Tsen TRALL ess   VOFF en reh GIST er.)



(Oon kaPUTT bar.)


Fire protection agreement, a.k.a “Memorandum of Understanding on fire safety in Bangladesh between PVH and labor rights organizations and unions in Bangladesh and internationally,” a voluntary agreement to ensure safer textile factories in Bangladesh that presumably could be applied in other exporting countries if it proves effective. This is especially relevant after recent deadly fires in Bangladeshi factories. ZDF heute journal reports that though the US corporation PVH has taken the praiseworthy step of negotiating this fire safety agreement, its provisions will only come into effect after least three other major outsourcing corporations have signed it. Of the largest companies that import clothing into Europe and Germany, the industry leaders Zara and H&M have already rejected the agreement, while C&A reports they are planning to discuss it at least. The German company Tchibo agreed to sign on last September.

German union ver.di reports that this fire safety agreement is for a two-year program that includes training in fire safety, the formation of working committees in the companies’ factories and “a comprehensive independent control/inspection system,” in which employees and their unions can be actively involved.

PVH describes key points in its agreement as follows:

“This fire safety agreement is groundbreaking, because:
“1) It is not a verbal promise, or a voluntary initiative, but a legally binding contract between PVH – and any other brands that join – and worker representatives.
“2) It will, for the first time, allow fire safety inspections led by people outside the apparel industry, with inspection reports made public.
“3) Under the agreement, the brands will require all of their suppliers in Bangladesh to open themselves to inspection, and, most importantly, to eliminate any fire hazards the inspections uncover and make their factories safe. Brands cannot continue doing business with any supplier that refuses to make necessary repairs. Also, under the agreement, the brands are committed to pay prices to suppliers that make it feasible for the suppliers to make the necessary repairs.
“4) Under the agreement, brands must require suppliers to accept worker-led health and safety committees in every factory, so that workers will play a direct role in protecting themselves and their fellow workers.
“The goal now is to convince more brands and retailers to accept the obligations of this program so that it can be fully implemented and begin to transform the apparel industry in Bangladesh from the most dangerous in the world for workers to an industry that is fundamentally safe. Without additional brands, the program cannot be implemented.”

(BROND shoots ob come en.)


A software app available online since 2002 (and offline since 2004) from the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, BPB) to help people understand and select from among the multiple political parties’ platforms. Voters answer ca. 30 questions about their political views and are then shown which party platforms most closely match their thoughts and feelings. Based on “StemWijzer” software from the Netherlands that was modified by Politikfabrik, the Wahl-O-Mat software was used 9 million times between 2002 and 2009, for the federal Bundestag parliamentary/chancellor elections, some but not all state elections and recently the European parliamentary elections. Users can search the archive for historical versions of the Wahl-O-Mat software, to see how it changed as the parties’ positions changed over time. Apparently there’s a similar app available for USA elections at www.isidewith.com.

When answering Wahl-O-Mat questions, you can choose “Agree,” “Neutral” or “Disagree,” or skip the question without responding. You can choose to have some questions be counted twice, indicating their topics are more important to you. At the end of the survey, you must select up to eight political parties that will be evaluated for you. No more than eight parties will be evaluated. This and other issues have generated healthy debate about the app over the years.

The Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year; it was founded to support West Germany’s new democratic government after the Nazi era and appears to be a good political resource for school students.

(VALL oh matt.)


Someone who camps overnight under a rock overhang in the “Saxon Switzerland,” a beautiful area of unusual hills near Dresden.

(BOH feh.)

Antrum vastissimum incogniti recessus

“Immense cave, unexplored depths.” Laconic note on a map of Westphalia from 1645 marking the site now known as the Balver Höhle. This karst cave was occupied during the stone age. Now it has been dynamited bigger and is used for multiday concerts and festivals with audiences of thousands of people. Rivers of beer. Schützenfests still take place there every year, and apparently they’ve added a celtic music festival. There used to be a big annual jazz festival there, with Dutchmen wearing lavender and light blue playing great slide guitar and mumbling fake English, interspersed with heartfelt “SHICK AH GO!”s.

Falschfahrer, Geisterfahrer

“Wrong drivers,” “ghost drivers.” Wrong-way drivers, people who enter the wrong side of the German autobahn, proceeding against traffic. I’ve never understood how they manage this, but you hear over and over on German radio traffic warnings about someone driving the wrong direction on this-or-that autobahn. After a recent accident, ADAC (German AAA) estimated there are about two wrong-way drivers per day in Germany. It sounds like autobahn entrances have the potential to be redesigned into somewhat safer sluices. Technical solutions are already being tested: Austria has installed tire barriers at its autobahn entrances that pop the tires of vehicles going the wrong direction, though this is said to hinder ambulances rushing to accident scenes. BMW is testing alarms.

Apparently there’s more “Bourne”-type driving the wrong way down one-way roads in Germany than I knew: this ZDF heute journal report from 22 Nov 2012 shows cars with diplomatic plates doing it pretty consistently in Berlin.

Update on 02 Jan 2013: Technical recommendations include better signage on autobahns and warnings in cars about dangerous driving ahead. ADAC recommends “dass Falschfahrermeldungen unbedingt in die Navigationssystem eingespeichert werden,” that wrong-way driving messages absolutely must be stored in the on-board navigation system. It’s unclear to me whether this means the navigation system should inform drivers or report them when they’re driving the wrong direction.

(FOLSH far err,   GUY ster far err.)

Seinen Mann stehen

Stand your man,” but it means buying your round in the pub.

(ZYE nen   MONN   shtay hen.)

“Die ich rief, die Geister, werd ich nun nicht los.”

“The spirits I called / I cannot now get rid of.” Lines from Goethe’s poem “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” that are frequently used by German commentators to describe political situations. Recently they were used to describe Egyptian President Morsi’s presumed thoughts after meeting with the “somewhat arrogant” Hamas political chief on 19 Nov 2012.

(Dee   ichh   reef,   dee   GUY ster,   verd eh   ichh   noon   nicked   Lowe’s.)

Geklonte Identität

Cloned identity.” After receiving a surprisingly low percentage of the vote in October 2012’s direct election—the first direct election, in which all party members were eligible to vote, of chancelor-level candidates in a German political party—Green chair Claudia Roth was reconfirmed as party leader at the Green political convention on 17 Nov 2012. In her speech before the convention vote she said, “You must decide whether I’m the right one, as I am, with corners and edges. Because I don’t want to change that. And I don’t like cloned identity.” An agreeable surprise to hear words like that from a politician under duress.

The Greens want to improve their social issues platform. Spiegel-Online listed some of the other decisions reached and ongoing discussions at their recent convention (status as of 18 Nov 2012, when the convention wasn’t yet over): 100% renewable energy by 2030, no armed drones in the military, stronger rights for asylum seekers, labeling for vegetarian food, torture to be criminalized per se in the penal code (?), a motion approved against discrimination of Sinti and Roma; discussion about religious circumcision, debate of European policy.

(Geh CLONE teh   eeee DENT ee TATE.)


“Cabinet drawers thinking.” Thinking in stereotypes, heuristics, shortcuts, biases, ruts.

In We, Robot: Skywalker’s Hand, Blade Runners, Iron Man, Slutbots, and How Fiction Became Fact, Mark Stephen Meadows wrote, “It appears that the ability to make stereotypes, generalizations, and snap judgments are all quite important to being both intelligent and stupid.”

(SHOE blod en DANE can.)


“Computer-experienced.” In a case appealed to the German supreme court (Bundesgerichtshof) in Karlsruhe, a spokesman for the music industry said most parents of children accused of illegal music downloads were “computer-experienced.” Yet the high court decided on 15 Nov 2012 that German parents who have informed their children about the illegality of certain downloads are not financially responsible when their children are accused of making such downloads. One of the judges said constantly checking your child’s activities as the overturned decision would have required was no way to raise a responsible young person. The music industry is still allowed to sue children directly, however.

Update on 21 Mar 2013: This decision, now called the “Morpheus” decision, has been augmented by another in Cologne stating that the main renter of a shared apartment cannot be held financially responsible for files illegally downloaded by roommates. In some cases.

Update on 08 Jan 2014: The Bundesgerichtshof in Karlsruhe decided that a father could not be sued by music companies for the downloading and uploading behavior of a child past the age of consent, even if the family apartment’s internet connection was in the father’s name. ARD tagesschau.de’s legal correspondent Frank Bräutigam said the decision also included the conclusion that parents are no longer required to have instructed adult children about legal handling of copyrighted materials.

(ComPUTer   err FAR en.)

Eile mit Weile

Goethe’s charming translation of “festina lente,” “make haste slowly.” The motto of the Roman emperor Augustus, who struck coins that used images of a crab and a butterfly to illustrate it. Wikipedia says other animal pairings used to indicate the motto over the years have included “a hare in a snail shell, a chameleon with a fish,” a tortoise with a sail on its back and a dolphin around an anchor.

(EYE leh   mit   VYE leh.)


German pronunciation of the “Men in Black” movie series.


The “politeness piece.” You never take the last item from the plate in Germany. Even after discussion, with everyone agreeing someone should eat that hors d’oeuvre.


Archaic word meaning an old or sick domestic animal that is no longer useful and is now used as bait in a hunt.

(SHIND lood er.)


Central federal file of police and intelligence services’ information about potential and actual terrisss but also possibly about innocent burghers. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said this central file is Germany’s most important tool in the fight against tare. The “anti-terror file” is now being evaluated by the highest court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, Federal Constitutional Court) to see whether it violates the German Civil Code. Questions also include what information goes into the file and which German institutions and foreign intelligence services have access to it.

(AUNTie   TERRor   dot EYE.)

Bayrisches Paradox

“Bavarian paradox.” When the CSU says they’re against something but collaborates with it anyway. Peter Gauweiler (CSU) said in this ZDF interview that although the CSU co-governs the country of Germany, it understands itself as a pike in a carp pond because its ambitions are not focused on federal power but rather on power inside the state of Bavaria.

(BY rish ess   PAR a DOX.)


“Book of petitions.” On 11 Nov 2012 German Pirate Party members voted online through a catalog of over 1400 proposals that had been submitted as prospective party platform planks. The topics ran the gamut, not unexpectedly. Spiegel-Online wrote that the party is hoping to “distill” a program from this process, and that the worst that could happen would be if the top ~50 suggestions were for minor issues rather than major GPP points such as electronic privacy and copyright. It is hoped this will also take care of “white areas of the map” for which the GPP has not had enough of a position before now, e.g. “employment, social and economic policy, electricity prices and building new housing.”

Zusammenhaltslose Details

“Unconnected details.” What can happen when comfortably entrenched political parties in a democracy divvy up political issues, granting concessions to one another as mutual rewards, in pursuit of no bigger governing goals than mutual favors while retaining power.

(Tsooz OM en holts loze eh   day TIES.)


Precariat. In sociology and economics, a nonhomogenous social group living in an insecure, precarious, situation, i.e. without job security.

(Prey CAR ee ott.)


“Committee Investigating the Airport.” Berlin’s state parliament has created a committee to look into the billions of unbudgeted euros and months if not years of delays incurred in the construction of its new airport. The committee chair is Martin Delius (German Pirate Party), the first Pirate Party member ever to chair a parliamentary committee in Germany.

ZDF said Martin Delius (28) has meticulously prepared for this job, even swotting up on police interrogation techniques. He also created Wikileaks-type websites for airport workers to submit information to anonymously. ZDF briefly flashed an image of a book in Delius’s office by Oliver Wenzlaff called Piratenkommunikation: Was die Eliten in Politik und Wirtschaft von den Piraten lernen können [“Pirate communication: What the political and economic elites can learn from pirates”]. Berlin’s ruling SPD party said it wants to follow this GPP example of good transparency. The Greens said they want to do better than the stated Pirate goal of finding out what happened, by finding out what happened and then firing people and bringing lawsuits. The investigation is to last approximately one year, so results will be published in October 2013, presumably.

(FLEW g hoff en   OON ter ZOO kungs ow! ss SHOOSS.)


Lit. “soully,” but it means mentally, emotionally, psychologically. Not to be confused with selig (ZAY lig), which means “blessed.” Seelisch is used in serious heartfelt German discussions between friends. It puts the conversation on a new serious footing, grounds the talk. From the heart? From the soul? DEEPer. Deeper and wider? “For real,” if you only say “for real” once.

(ZAY lish.)


“Holding-out films.” Carry-on films in England. Late-WWII Nazi propaganda films that encouraged people to keep struggling in the face of Nazi-imposed adversities. Most have been rightfully tossed on the rubbish heap of history; one is still watched and is a feel-good equivalent of The Wizard of Oz. 1944’s Die Feuerzangenbowle, named after a hot schnapps punch prepared by setting beet sugar afire. Heinz Rühmann and some old friends are drinking punch and make a wager that they can go back to high school and enjoy schoolboy pranks.


A blocked or frozen account. Before the troika’s report, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) suggested that rather than wait for the troika’s results Germany make its next tranche payment of aid to Greece anyway, putting it in a frozen account that will automatically pay off certain obligations but not be completely available, somehow. In its 17 Oct 2012 article, Spiegel-Online indicated that the French government too was getting tired of having to deal every few months with problems from Athens. A blocked account similar to the proposed one is currently in use, but it is under the auspices of the Greek finance agency. The new blocked account would be at an institution inaccessible to the Greek government. Spiegel-Online went on to report that additional proposals included giving the Greek minister of finance more powers to strengthen his position versus the other cabinet ministers, bringing in more bureaucrats from other countries to provide development aid in Greece, having Greece issue more “T-bills” and asking or demanding forgiveness of certain debt types.

(SHPARE con toe.)

“Themen statt Köpfe”

“Issues rather than heads.” Part of Pirate Marina Weisband’s discussion of the current state of and reporting on the German Pirate Party. She says it’s too bad there is such a focus among some journalists on personalities and people in the nascent political party, because the program is what will establish the group among voters. “Talking about personalities is tempting because it doesn’t require a lot of prior knowledge,” but the pirates have to get to work on the issues at hand, especially figuring out responsible ways for GPP politicians to process/grok hundreds of direct petitions before major political meetings.

(TAY men   shtot   KÖPF eh.)

Schwarze Null

“The black zero,” meaning a balanced budget. The federal government is saying it’s possible Germany may manage to have a budget with no deficit spending as early as 2014, although this may not be as true after the upcoming German election.


Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar.

“Human dignity is inviolable.” The fundamental principle of the German constitution.

(Dee   VÜRRR deh   dess   MENSCH en   isst   oon on TOSSED bar.)


Electricity storage techniques or technology. ZDF heute journal reports that a new storage method is being tested near Stuttgart: excess electricity produced by solar and wind power is converted to methane which can be stored in a natural gas network. When insufficient “renewable” electricity is generated, the stored methane is converted back to electricity.

I found an article explaining that they are using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and then chemically reacting the hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make methane.

(SHTROME shpy chher   TECHH neek.)


Rocket sled. Which, Wikipedia writes, “is a test platform that slides along a set of rails, propelled by rockets.

“As its name implies, a rocket sled does not use wheels. Instead, it has sliding pads, called ‘slippers,’ which are curved around the head of the rails to prevent the sled from flying off the track. The rail cross-section profile is that of a Vignoles rail, commonly used for railroads.

“A rocket sled holds the land-based speed record for a vehicle, at Mach 8.5.”

(Rock ATE en shlit ten.)

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