“Wir brauchen keine Volksarmee, wir brauchen Butter!”

“We don’t need a People’s Army, we need butter!” The East German uprising of 1953  will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary on 17 June 2013. To spread the word about the general strike on 16 June, people went through the streets of East Berlin the night before calling out where and when to meet, as well as slogans like this one. During the day East German protesters apparently used loudspeaker cars and bicycles to communicate between strikes in the central and outlying districts, while the strikers themselves got around on public transportation such as trams and the metro. Wikipedia says a West Berlin radio station reported about the East Berlin strike, probably helping the protests spread to other East German towns.

Bertold Brecht wrote a poem about 17 June 1953 called “The Solution.”

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

(Vir   brow chh en   k eye neh   FOLKS arm ae,   vir   brow chh en   BOO ter.)

Der Star

Starling, in German.

(Dare SHTAH.)


Kin liability.” Ongoing Chinese practice of punishing dissidents’ spouses in addition to the dissidents themselves, because in China an individual’s family is thought to share responsibility for an individual’s crimes.

(ZIP pen hoft.)

Frankfurt’s fairy tale

Bundesliga team Eintracht Frankfurt, which traditionally had to fight to not be relegated down to the second league, will probably be #4 in the first league this year. They maintained second place behind Yankees-esque Bayern Munich for the longest time.

Tut gut

Does you good.

(Toot goot.)

Gelikt, geliket, geliked

Dictionarians’ discussion of how best to translate “liked” into German for software purposes.

(Geh LIKED,   geh LIKED,   geh LIKED.)


“Future Party,” the German translation of former journalist Yair Lapid’s “There is a Future” centrist political party Yesh Atid that did well in Israel’s recent election because of voters’ concerns about economic issues.

(TSOO koonfts part eye.)

Lauter als die Hölle

Louder than hell. Motto of the annual festival that the village of Wacken says is the world’s largest open air heavy metal concert. According to this report, Wacken villagers let metal fans from around the world camp in their lawns and gardens, saying they enjoy the international visitors and good cheer and that the 80,000 headbangers behave well on the whole. Bringing new beer buddies to Schleswig-Holstein is also not a problem, probably not ever.

There’s a thoughtful Arte documentary on YouTube about backgrounds to the Wacken festival called “Brass Band Meets Heavy Metal.”

(L ow! terrr   alss   dee   HÖ lah.)


“Loaned votes.” In parliamentary elections, where voters get a primary vote and a secondary vote, voters have more ways to demonstrate dissatisfaction. They can “loan” a vote to their habitual large party’s current or proposed smaller coalition partner party, for example, to maintain the status quo—by keeping the current coalition government in power—while ensuring there are at least some statistical consequences after bad policy. By strengthening minor parties, a loaned vote can have the additional advantage of preventing the two largest parties from forming a ruling coalition (a so-called “grosse Koalition“) during which parliamentary opposition is notoriously insufficient.

(LYE shtimmin.)

“Wieder Zeit für einen Rachefeldzug”

“Time for another campaign of vengeance!” Cheerful headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung over a review of Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Django Unchained.

(VEE derrr   TSIGHT   für   nochh   eye nen   ROCHH eh   FELD tsoo g.)


“Alphabet salad.” What investigators will supposedly find if they tap the now-encrypted uploads to Kim Dotcom’s new venture.

(BOO! chh SHTOB en zah LAHT.)

“Stud Oil”

German pronunciation of Norwegian petroleum company Statoil.


Sled slopes, for winter family vacations less expensive than skiing. Carefully banked 3-km sledding slopes have been built in Bavarian mountain villages, with padded walls on the curves and lights for night-time sledding. The wooden sleds look highly steerable. Villages are happy to have the tourism, with local entrepreneurs expanding their shop assortments.

(ROAD el bonn.)


A “blaze” marking on horses, as painted in white on these carved wooden toys from Germany.

(BLESS ah.)

Das Himbeerreich

“The raspberry kingdom.” New play running with the same cast in two German theaters. It uses anonymized quotes collected by director Andres Veiel during a year of confidential interviews with bankers, brokers and board members.

Raspberries are considered elegant berries in Germany, and the title of the play refers to the great rock candy mountain bankers supposedly find themselves on when they retire.

(Doss HIMM beah reichh.)

Mutmacher, Muntermacher

Someone who gives you courage, someone who makes you cheerful. From uplifting 10 Dec 2012 reporting on the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union.

(MOOT machh er,   MOONT er machh er.)


“Life artist.” Someone whose main goal is to live a beautiful or at least interesting life. Can involve much improvisation. Some of the translations suggested at dict.leo.org: a jack of all trades, survivor, bohemian; a person who is cheerful, frugal, bon vivant; a master of the art of living, a person who finds pleasure in the simple things in life, someone who doesn’t let the stuff that makes you small make them small.

(LAY benz KOONST ler.)


“Construction lion.” A building magnate.

(Bow LÖV eh.)


Though this word looks like it might mean “obligation to build” it’s actually a “construction targets” document describing precisely what has to be done in a construction project, documents apparently neglected in three prestige enterprises recently gone awry in Germany: the Elbphilharmonie riverfront concert hall in Hamburg, the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport, and the expansion of the Stuttgart train station underground (“Stuttgart 21”). ZDF heute journal reported part of the systemic problem is that responsible parties include politicians, absent in 15 to 20 years when the project finishes, who absolutely want to build the shiny thing and construction firms that absolutely want to obtain the building contracts without, apparently, feeling constrained to submit realistic bids. Also, planners’ fees apparently are a percentage of the project’s ultimate cost?

(BOW zollll.)

Mit Steinen auf die eigene Zukunft werfen

“Throwing stones at their own future.” Young violent protesters trying to dredge up old problems in Northern Ireland. Well-said phrase from ZDF heute journal’s Marietta Slomka.

(Mitt   SHTEYE nen   ow! f   dee   EYE gen eh   TSOO koonft   verf en.)


“Orchid subject.” Highly specialized university major. Süddeutsche Zeitung mentions Tibetology or Papyrology, for example, and notes that with sufficient practica and internships acquiring highly specialized expertise makes good sense with today’s technological opportunities in today’s economy.

(Orc id EH! en fochhh.)


“Beer chain.” A bucket-brigade delivery system to convey refreshing bottles of beer into this crowded apartment room where students performed a delightful Bach party in Leipzig.

(BEER kett eh.)


German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority,” which announced that it will be checking the bonuses paid by banks in Germany. “We think it’s important to verify whether banks are in fact complying with the laws’ requirements. Because checking bonuses and salaries is an important instrument for countering undesirable developments in the banking system.” The ruling coalition welcomes this because the announcement itself should cause better compliance with existing banking regulations. The SPD, which is in the opposition, says it’s not enough and that in this election year they will fight for stricter new laws and for radical limits to be set for banker remuneration.



“The Vichy Left.” Derogatory term for the left side of the aisle in USA politics.


“Representatives of Germany’s health insurance schemes.” Who have been demanding that a gap be closed in German law, after the German supreme court (Bundesgerichtshof) found six months ago that practicing physicians could not be punished for preferentially prescribing pharmaceuticals from companies that had given them gifts, because the relevant German regulations applied only to employees and not to the self-employed. Germany’s health insurance companies are pushing for this loophole to be closed by new rules, with fines or prison terms of up to three years for culpable physicians. Politicians from opposition parties accused the Ministry of Health (Bundesgesundheitsministerium) under Daniel Bahr (FDP) of not fixing the problem in order to allegedly protect practicing physicians, who are loyal FDP voters. The health insurance representatives estimate that one in five German physicians has accepted money or gifts from the pharma industry.

(COSS en fer TRAY terrr.)

Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium. Wir betreten, feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligthum. Deine Zauber binden wieder was der Mode Schwerd getheilt. Bettler werden Fürstenbrüder, wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt. Seid umschlungen, Millionen! Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt! Brüder—überm Sternenzelt muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.

Joy, beautiful godly sparks, daughter of Elysium. Drunken with fire, we enter o heavenly one your holy space. Your magics reconnect what the sword of fashion separated. Beggars become the brothers of princes where your gentle wing whiles. Be hugged, millions of people! I give this kiss to the whole world! My brothers—above the tent of stars a dear father must live.



“Rails cartel.” Troubled steel giant Thyssen-Krupp and three other firms are defendants in a lawsuit by the Deutsche Bahn for railroad construction price-setting collusion said to have lasted almost a decade. Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) is seeking 550 million euros after, it said, trying for several months to reach an out-of-court settlement. Its lawsuit is said to have good chances, in particular because somehow the suit suspends the statute of limitations for the offenses, for which these companies were fined ˜100 million euros last summer by the German Federal Cartel Authority (Bundeskartellamt), which criticized the Deutsche Bahn’s lax procedures. Tagesschau.de reports that the Deutsche Bahn has often been the victim of rail cartels. The F.A.Z. called them “nearly a historical normality.” In 2012 Thyssen-Krupp announced losses of 5 billion euros after failures of e.g. investments in steel processing plants in the USA and Brazil; it fired half its board in consequence.

Update on 23 Jul 2013: The Bundeskartellamt announced it has issued a second set of fines in this matter totalling ˜97 million euros to eight companies, moving its fines total for this rail cartel to ~230 million euros. This second set of fines was for overcharging construction firms and local, regional, private and industry train organizations. F.A.Z. reported the fine money will go to the federal government. Almost all the companies are cooperating, according to the cartel authority. The investigation was started by a request to turn state’s evidence from the Austrian Voestalpine company, which also said recently that it is the only one of these companies to have reached a negotiated settlement with the Deutsche Bahn so far. This second set of BKA fines is not yet final; they may still be appealed.

The Bundeskartellamt’s press release said in the cartel the company scheduled to win each order was given a “leadership” role that included telling the others how much to ask for in their so-called “safety bids” [“Schutzangebote“] tendered to camouflage the collusion.

(SHEE nen cartel.)


“Large donations,” in this case business donations to political parties exceeding 50,000 euros. Private donations to Germany’s political parties are low by U.S. standards and have been decreasing since 2002, though they still spike in election years. Of the reported large donations of this type from 2002 until 2012, 45.2% went to Angela Merkel’s CDU, 21.4% interestingly went to the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the CSU (a state party that manages to hold power at the national level), 17.0% to the FDP and 10.8% to the SPD. The Greens and Leftists are calling for reforms mandating that private political donations go to individuals and not parties, and capping them at 100,000 euros.

Update on 10 Aug 2013: The Bundestag published a list of Q1 + Q2 2013 “large donations” >50,000 euros by political party:
CDU 600,000 euros, SPD 290,000 euros; FDP 130,000 euros, and no large donations were listed for the Green party or Leftists (Die Linken).

The Bundestag website enables easy comparison to their large donation lists from previous years.
Q1 + Q2 2012: CDU 267,000 euros, CSU 141,000 euros, SPD 259,000; FDP 59,000 euros.

Update on 16 Oct 2013: Three major Bavarian Motor Werks [BMW] shareholders each made a large donation of ~200,000 euros to the C.D.U. party on 09 Oct 2013. The political donations were properly reported. However, at about the same time the German government (C.D.U./C.S.U. + a new coalition partner t.b.d.) made the unusual move of blocking stricter carbon dioxide standards for car exhaust under discussion in Brussels. The C.D.U. denied the two events were connected.

Update on 17 Oct 2013: The C.D.U.’s Bavarian state sister party the C.S.U. also received a relatively large large donation after the recent Bundestag campaign: half a million euros from the Bavarian Metal and Electronics Industry Association [Verband der Bayerischen Metall- und Elektroindustrie]. Süddeutsche.de reported that the C.S.U. received the donation on Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013, and reported it on Thursday, 17 Oct.

(GROSS shpen den.)



The “Renewable Energy Act Contribution” or sharing of the investment costs of Germany’s “biggest infrastructure project of this age,” the Energiewende conversion to renewable energy sources. Shortly before Christmas, on 19 Dec 2012, Angela Merkel’s government announced that a record ~1550 companies had received permission to not pay the increased EEG-Umlage contribution for 2013. About 2000 firms had applied for the 2013 rebate; about 500 of these applications were “questionable” and still under review, though not yet rejected. Only 778 companies received the 2012 rebate. The costs resulting from the ~1550 companies’ nonpayment in 2013, estimated by the Green party to be “up to” four billion euros, will be divided up among and paid by private consumers.

Update on 7 Mar 2013: The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court voided businesses’ exemption from sharing the costs of building the new power lines required to connect the new alternative energy sources to the electricity grid. Chancellor Merkel’s government said in response that it will quickly eliminate this exemption (the Netzentgeltbefreiung). The opposition parties welcome the decision.

Update on 09 Oct 2013: The EEG-Umlage paid by private households will go up again in 2014 to 6.3 eurocents per kilowatt hour. Tagesschau.de’s graph showed it rising from 1.2 eurocents in 2008 to 5.3 eurocents in 2013. Household consumers’ EEG-Umlage is used to subsidize not only a steadily increasing number of businesses receiving electricity rebates from Chancellor Merkel’s government but also to pay the higher kilowatt-hour price guaranteed for twenty years at the subvention in force when the photovoltaic system is installed to people who put solar panels on and around their buildings to feed electricity into the grid. As announced long ago to incentivize folks to install decentralized home solar feeds faster, the guaranteed twenty-year price+ solar subventions are currently being tapered down, steadily reduced in what looks like annual amendments to Germany’s EEG law. The rising Umlage fee compensates in part for falling electricity prices on the exchanges, because of the conversion to decentralized renewables and despite the closure of all of Germany’s nuclear power plants and now, possibly, several coal-fired plants as well. And perhaps also closure of a giant “surface mine” that produces the more-polluting “brown coal” or lignite to run an adjacent coal-fired power plant; the Garzweiler pit is so big it has swallowed 14 villages so far and was scheduled to eat several more.

(Eh eh geh   OOM log ah.)


“Bang frog,” a firecracker that is usually green and jumps in the air.

(KNOLL frrroshe.)

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