Kali-Kartell

“Potassium cartel.”

Update on 05 Aug 2013: Supposedly ~70% of the world potassium trade has been controlled by two export alliances, BPC in Russia and Canpotex in North America. The world price for potassium was kept at a “comfortable” ~$400/ton. Last summer a Russian potassium company, Uralkali, made a surprise exit from the BPC export alliance (BPC stands for Belarus Potash Company), and the potassium price then fell to ~$300/ton. The stock price of e.g. the K+S potassium and salts company in northern Hesse fell precipitously as well.

Update on 24 Oct 2013: Spiegel.de posted an amazing potassium follow-up: “A kingdom for a cartel. Lukaschenko’s battle with the oligarch.” After the Russian firm Uralkali abruptly ended their BPC cooperation with the Belarussian firm Belaruskali last summer, Belarussian Prime Minister Lukaschenko had Uralkali’s C.E.O., Wladislaw Baumgertner, arrested in Minsk, where he is still held by authorities though he was moved to house arrest in late September.

Since the split it’s been shown how dependent the White Russian state company was on its Russian partners: exports to India and China were considerable but have nearly ended because, White Russian sources said, Belaruskali’s sales personnel don’t have the English to keep their Indian and Chinese deliveries on Russian trains running? In addition to its dependence on Russian trains, White Russia remains dependent on Russian oil and gas. White Russian potassium mines have been experiencing temporary closures since the cartel ended. As the company’s revenues fall so do the state’s; Mr. Lukaschenko had been using the potassium company’s money to fill the government’s budget gaps.

Spiegel.de wrote that Uralkali and Belaruskali started working together in 2005 to help keep international potassium prices high, together controlling ~40% of the world market in 2012 for potassium salts, which are used to make artificial fertilizers. World potassium prices had peaks of as much as $900/ton, yet White Russia is now forced to try to attract nearby customers in Russia with prices around $140/ton, forcing the Russian competitor Uralkali to counteroffer $160/ton for domestic customers.

More historical background provided in the article: Uralkali is controlled by major shareholder Suleiman Kerimow (worth >$7 billion) who bought his interest from another oligarch in 2010. He was also interested in acquiring Belaruskali from Mr. Lukaschenko, who not only did not sell but announced that Mr. Kerimow had offered a purchase price of $10 billion to the government plus an additional $5-billion bribe to Mr. Lukaschenko. When the purchase offer was made is unclear from the Spiegel.de article but the nature of the gossip flying indicates it was before the BPC alliance ended.

(CAWL ee   cawt ELL.)

Null Null Sieben

The 007 license plate of the car that dropped off Chancellor Merkel at the E.U. summit on 24 Oct 2013 in Brussels, where the hot unofficial topic was outrage at revelations about U.S. spying on the German chancellor’s cell phone and in previously-unknown but huge volumes in France. Possibly also Italy, including the Vatican. And now Spain.

“Spying on your friends is not okay.” —Angela Merkel (C.D.U.)

“That would represent an entirely new quality, and cast a new light on all statements made by the N.S.A. in the past few months.” —Ronald Pofalla (C.D.U.), who as Kanzleramtschef, the chancellor’s chief of staff, is responsible for coordinating and monitoring Germany’s intelligence agencies. He had declared the scandal over last summer in response to assurances from the U.S.A.

“We will not allow ourselves to be treated like that by the Americans. The trust has been harmed. I think a few things have to happen now before this trust can be restored.” —Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.), interior minister

“The Americans are not fully aware of the situation. And then you’re told things like, ‘but everyone spies on everybody.’ And that’s where you have to say loudly and clearly: that is not okay. Friends are not allowed to eavesdrop on friends. And how would people react in America—this is what we’re saying on our visit here, how we’re describing it—if the Bundesnachrichtendienst were to spy on the U.S. president.” —Elmar Brok (C.D.U.), chair of the European Parliament committee for Foreign Affairs, currently visiting Washington D.C. to complain

“The chancellor’s cell phone is important, but the private and business communications of normal burghers is just as important. We will stand up for the protection of the basic rights of German citizens[…]” —Thomas Oppermann (S.P.D.), chair of the Bundestag’s Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium intelligence committee that is tasked with but not always successful at monitoring and controlling Germany’s intelligence agencies. Mr. Oppermann may be hoping to become the new Justice Minister, replacing Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (F.D.P.).

“What sort of terrorists are they trying to find in the chancellor’s cell phone? This is a really absurd indication that the reasons they’ve told us so far absolutely cannot be true.” —Christian Ströbele (Green Party), member of the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium intelligence committee

“It’s good that the clarification of the facts appears to be starting, now, and that at least a healthy distrust vis-à-vis the American intelligence services also appears to be arising, now.”  —Steffen Bockhahn (Leftists), member of the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium

“The German government now mistrusts all claims and assurances made by the U.S. government in the entire N.S.A. affair. Now that we know they bugged the chancellor’s cell phone, the U.S. government can no longer sustain its claim from last summer that it did not injure Germany’s interests. It did, and representatives of all parties agree on this, utterly deceive Germany.” —Ulrich Deppendorf, ARD studio head and news editor-in-chief

“I think we should be honest that we have the capacity to obtain information that we didn’t have before. What we need now is the appropriate legislation that ensures we are not seeking or not using the capacity that we have.” —Fredrik Reinfeldt (centrist Moderate Party), Prime Minister of Sweden. (Approximate quote; his original English was drowned out by the German translation.)

“So we have to think about what we need. What data protection agreements do we need, what transparency do we need. We stand between the United States of America and Europe, before shared challenges […]” —Angela Merkel (C.D.U.)

“When I walk into a negotiation and must fear that the other side, a friendly democracy, already knows from espionage what I want to say in that negotiation, that’s no longer eye-to-eye.” —Martin Schulz (S.P.D.), president of the European Parliament

007, might be funny if the matter weren’t so serious. […] But this isn’t just about the chancellor’s cell phone. The much bigger concern is industrial espionage, which could cost European companies billions.” –ARD correspondent Rolf-Dieter Krause

In a wonderful interview given in German on the evening of Oct. 24, E.U. commissioner Viviane Reding said she’d heard that England’s government did not want European data protection but Poland, Italy and France had joined together to fight for it. Also: “Both of us, both the Americans and the Europeans, need this Transatlantic Trade Agreement. But to be able to negotiate an agreement, you need trust. I think this trust is no longer quite as present. That’s why the first thing that must be done is to restore that trust. And then, so that Europe can speak with a single voice, for that you need strong data protection that is Europe-wide. And that has to be the basis from which we can then move into negotiations with the Americans.”

“The whole time, Frau Merkel acted as if the affair was unimportant, as if it wouldn’t impact anyone in a big way. But then when it affects her, she gets upset? When all German burghers were affected, when it was about protecting burghers’ basic rights, she didn’t do anything then.” —Anton Hofreiter (new Green party co-chair)

“It is strange: umpteen million communications from Germans alone are recorded every month by British and U.S. intelligence agencies. With these extraordinary claims from the documents supplied by the ex-N.S.A. man Edward Snowden the snooping story exploded into public view last summer, but left the German government, and one must say most Germans as well, rather strangely unmoved. Then last night a single cell phone was added to the mix—OK, it was the chancellor’s—and suddenly all hell broke loose.” —Claus Kleber, moderator at ZDF heute journal

The new Bundestag scheduled an extraordinary meeting or special session [Sondersitzung] to discuss the N.S.A. spying affair in mid-November. All political parties also agree a parliamentary inquiry [Untersuchungsausschuss] is “unavoidable.” Many parties would like to invite Edward Snowden to testify before the committee, after which he can apply for asylum in Germany.

Update on 28 Oct 2013: On Thursday, Brazil and Germany will introduce a draft United Nations resolution against N.S.A. spying. FAZ.net reported that a large majority was predicted to approve it, and that though United Nations General Assembly resolutions tend to be nonbinding, unlike Security Council resolutions, the fact that Brazil and Germany are behind this and that so many of the 193 member states support it give it extra significance. Brazilian reporter Sonia Bridi from TV Globo said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government wants the world to make international regulations for internet access and international telecommunications such that no individual state can ever again have access to the world’s key communications hubs or nodes.

Update on 26 Nov 2013: The United Nations Human Rights Committee approved Germany and Brazil’s U.N. resolution against data spying. It will be sent on to the U.N. General Assembly, where the nonbinding resolution is considered certain to pass in December 2013.

“Today, for the first time, a resolution in the United Nations expressly specified that human rights have to be protected online just as much as they must be protected offline.” –Peter Wittig, permanent representative to the U.N. for Germany since 2009

(Newel   newel   ZEEB en.)

Bankendaten-Transfer ausgesetzt

Stopped the transfer of banking data.

On 23 Oct 2013 members of the European Parliament parties the Social Democrats, Greens, Leftists and (libertarianesque) Liberals voted 280 to 254 to stop providing bank transfer data to the U.S. under the S.W.I.F.T. agreement until more is done to fix the U.S.’s disrespect for data protection worldwide. Bank transfers have replaced checking in Europe, and the E.U. had originally, reluctantly, agreed to let the U.S. access bank transfer data in order to help fight terrorism.

Only four E.U. countries, including Five Eyes member Britain, and the German C.D.U./C.S.U. M.E.P.’s remained in favor of the status quo (this was before revelations that the U.S. had bugged the cell phone of Chancellor Merkel (C.D.U.)!). France was leading the protest, especially after articles in Le Monde that week about the vast extent of N.S.A. spying in France, slurfing tens of millions of French phone calls in just one 30-day period. The angry M.E.P.’s wanted the U.S. to, among other things, be honest and precise about what its organizations have been doing. An anonymous committee member was quoted in Spiegel.de as saying they know now that the U.S. does not change anything until after you stand up and say no to them.

The European Parliament decision to stop providing S.W.I.F.T. transfers data still must be approved by 2/3 of the 28 member states. The coalition of proponents doesn’t quite have those numbers yet, but lately U.S. intelligence agencies tend to help their opponents by delivering new outrages rather than, say, providing honest and precise information about what they, the myriad private contractor intelligence companies the U.S. hires, and their public and private partners around the world, have been doing.

Some goals, from the press release for the nonbinding solution:

“Parliament stresses that any data-sharing agreement with the US must be based on a consistent legal data protection framework, offering legally-binding standards on purpose limitation, data minimisation, information, access, correction, erasure and redress.”

Update on 27 Nov 2013: E.U. interior commissioner Cecilia Malmström (Swedish Liberal People’s Party, conservative-liberal, liberal with the non-U.S.A meaning of libertarianesque) announced that the commission was negating the E.U. parliament’s decisions to stop sharing E.U. air passenger data and S.W.I.F.T. bank transfer data with the U.S.A. “to fight terrorism” because, she said they said, there was no evidence the U.S. had violated the agreements. And, the E.U. Commission was also not going to change the toothless self-policing “Safe Harbor” data protection agreement: justice commissioner Viviane Reding has given the U.S. a 13-point data protection homework assignment to implement by summer 2014, after which the E.U. will re-examine torpedoing “Safe Harbor.”

(BONK en dot en   TRONZ fair   OW! z’gez ets t.)

Anti-F.I.S.A.-Klausel

Anti-Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act clause.

E.U. justice commissioner Viviane Reding has had trouble passing her data protection reform. Years of debates, thousands of amendment proposals, successful lobbying by U.S. companies and successful pressure from U.S. governments. But now everyone’s mad.

On 21 Oct 2013 the European Parliament passed data protection reforms. They updated 18-year-old rules that were obsolete and also loose enough to let the lawscape vary from country to country, enabling internet companies such as Facebook to shop for Member States with laxer data protection laws such as Ireland.

The so-called “anti-F.I.S.A. clause,” which regulates sharing of E.U. burgher data with so-called third-party countries, had actually been politely deleted in response to pressure from the U.S. government and lobbying from large U.S. companies, according to a June 2013 Spiegel.de article. Because everyone’s mad, the responsible “Libe” civil liberties committee put the anti-F.I.S.A. clause back into the proposed reform and it has now been passed by the European Parliament.

Spiegel.de summarized the key points:

  • Sanctions for violating European data protection rules have been “drastically” raised, to up to 5% of a company’s annual worldwide gross. Earlier this year Frau Reding had had to accept a compromise of a 2% maximum fine, but no more!
  • “Privacy by design,” which means, Spiegel.de wrote, “Companies must design their [websites] to be as [data-frugal] as possible, with the most data-protection-friendly default settings. They must also give their users the option of using their services anonymously and pseudonymously.”
  • “Explicit consent” by users to processing and sharing of their data. The explicit consent cannot be given in small print such as an end-user license agreement. Standardized easily recognized symbols must be included in the request for consent. Companies will not be allowed to create a user profile of users who forbid them to create one.
  • More guardians. Companies dealing with data from more than 5000 people will have to hire a data protection officer.
  • A European Union data protection council will be created to watch over these rights and abuses. To submit a complaint, burghers will only have to contact their country’s data protection office and will be able to submit complaints in their own language. The national data protection offices will escalate and forward.
  • The Libe committee was unable to get a majority vote in favor of the “right to be forgotten” this time, settling instead on a “deletion right” under which E.U. burghers will be able to force companies to tell them what data they have collected on them and then to delete it. The companies will not be responsible for ensuring that data do not appear anywhere else in the internet however, which is what a “right to be forgotten” would have meant. Spiegel.de said German data protection law is stronger here.

It’s not over yet. The European Parliament must now agree on a final version of the reform with all 28 countries in the E.U. Council and in the E.U. Commission. If the reform is not done and dusted before European Parliament elections in April 2014, it may be delayed for ridiculous lengths of time again.

(Auntie   FIE zah   cl OW! zell.)

Schattenhaushalte vieler katholischen Bistümer

Shadow budgets of many Catholic bishoprics in Germany.

An incident made the news which in turn made people aware that Catholic bishops in Germany appear to have large discretionary funds, sometimes, whose contents and disposition are not transparent.

The incident happened to be the scandalous new bishop’s residence in Limburg, originally approved for 2.5 million euros but now at 31 million and possibly costing up to 40 million ultimately as the digging and draining that proved so unwieldy and expensive for the site itself may turn out to be endangering the stability of historical buildings around it. Limburg has been settled since at least the Stone Age and has Roman ruins dating back to before the Roman empire became Christian in 380 C.E.

In tumultuous economic times, especially when Germans see more reasons to worry about their traditional issue of inflation, moving cash into real estate may be a wise investment. But the Limburg bishop’s motivations appear not to have been entirely practical ones. He was also caught subsequently perjuring himself about church finances, according to procecutors in Hamburg.

An ecclesiastical friend gossiped to me that the Limburg bishop’s shadow budget or discretionary fund was about 90 million euros because his predecessor was a saver.

In addition to reporting details about the bishop’s construction projects, which were hidden behind an expensive high stone wall and included designer gardens, conference rooms, housing for nuns (as domestic servants?), a chapel, the bishop’s own apartment and an underground relics room, reporters have also used this opportunity to explain the history of how Germany got to its strange semi-separation of church and state whereby the states collect a “church tax” and distribute it to the dioceses (income tax is collected state-by-state in Germany). After Napoleon invaded some German principalities and enacted legal reforms, in 1803 the so-called Reichsdeputationshauptschluss or “German mediatization” according to Wikipedia stripped the officially recognized churches of their property but set up annual payments—almost pensions—to the churches to compensate for the loss. Now, two hundred years later, the government still pays compensation [Staatsleistungen] to the bishoprics—my ecclesiastical friend said these obligations were eliminated for dioceses smaller than bishoprics during the last decade or so—for the church property technically confiscated in 1803. The state also pays churches Staatsleistungen for the social services the churches provide, such as day care. Also, anyone who ticks a box marking themselves as Catholic or Protestant on their mandatory registration form with the local police will automatically owe church tax [Kirchensteuer]. People voluntarily do this because they feel religious, they want to get married in a church in addition to the standard civil marriage in the town hall, or, especially, they are desperate for preschooler day care which was mandated but not provided in Germany until 2013, when actual penalties went into effect for towns that didn’t provide enough day care. Money for saving and maintaining wonderful old church buildings, bells and organs also comes from the state in these forms. Such income streams are how German cathedrals are kept heated in winter despite being giant stone piles with ceilings 20 meters above the floor ducts.

German news reported that the transparent public budget of German Catholic bishoprics includes taxpayers’ voluntary church tax [Kirchensteuer], collected and handed over by the government, for free, and the government’s own payments [Staatsleistungen, several hundred million euros annually] as rent on the property seized in 1803. Bishoprics’ untransparent private budget includes income from e.g. real estate, stocks, bonds, legacies willed to the church and interest income. ARD’s tagesschau.de reported e.g. that the Catholic bishopric of Würzburg said its private property was 271 million euros, and Cologne said it had 166 million euros. A political scientist and journalist disagreed with these numbers however, telling tagesschau.de that the Cologne diocese had three billion euros in cash and property, including an investment in a company that owned ~23,000 apartments, he told ZDF heute journal. The researcher, Carsten Frerk, published a 2010 book estimating annual subsidies of German churches at 19 billion euros and accusing churches of “false labeling” because, he said, nearly all the religious business they carried out was subsidized by government funds, taxpayers’ direct church tax and even N.G.O.’s such as Germany’s health insurance schemes. Mr. Frerk also noted that churches in Germany are exempted from paying property tax or tax on interest income and from many fees as well, while taxpayers can take church tax as a 100% deduction for which the government also receives no compensation.

Tagesschau.de reported that Hildesheim is the only Catholic bishopric that is fully financially transparent. Their books are published in their entirety, and kept according to the German Commercial Code [Handelsgesetzbuch]. ZDF heute journal reported that in the wake of the Limburg scandal 14 of Germany’s 27 Catholic bishoprics started publishing financial statistics about themselves that they hadn’t disclosed before.

To finally financially separate church and state in Germany, governments would have to make large 1803-concluding lump payments to the bishoprics which they feel they can ill-afford right now. Thus the situation continues.

Update on 09 Feb 2014: A report is expected soon from the Catholic church’s five-member commission investigating the financial scandal in Limburg. It doesn’t look good, said Spiegel.de. Construction costs of the bishop’s 2.5-million-euro residence will exceed the most recent estimate of 31 million euros. Some church foundation money [Stiftungsgelder] was diverted into the project; apparently this is mentioned because it was done improperly. Spiegel.de’s source used interestingly arcane words: The investigators managed to document possibly prosecutable [justitiabel] offenses, based among other things on information found in a “secret registry” [Geheimregistratur] found in a “conspiratorial apartment” [konspirative Wohnung] rented separately in Limburg, where the “most important documents” on the church construction project were found together with financial papers bearing the bishop’s signature which could be used as evidence. The commission’s report is supposed to go to the catholic bishops’ conference and the Vatican, but it would be nice if it were shared with the general public as well.

(SHOTTEN house halt ah   FEEL ah   cot OLE ish en   BISS toom ah.)

Beseeltes Lächeln und im Sorgen um Amerika gekräuseltes Stirn

A ZDF heute journal reporter’s description of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s unique look: his beatifically uplifted smile, his forehead wrinkled with concern about America.

(Beh ZALE dess   LAY chh hell n   oont   im   ZOR-R-RG en   oom   om AIR eek ah   geh CROY zell dess   STEER n.)

EUR 9.85, EUR 8.50

9.85 euros is what a liter of slowly warming beer cost at the 2013 Oktoberfest in Bavaria (6 million visitors were expected this year). 8.50 euros is the national statutory minimum wage the S.P.D. party promised to introduce in its recent election campaign. Looking on the bright side, this labor breakthrough is what the S.P.D. is now hoping to permanently achieve by agreeing to an identity-destroying grosse Koalition with the C.D.U./C.S.U.

Minimum wages in Germany are negotiated individually by each union though not for all job types. Notoriously, German hairdressers often work so many hours that their per-hour earnings are shockingly low. So do many cleaners, cooks, florists, healthcaregivers, waitstaff and especially also meatpacking industry workers whose jobs are subcontracted by subcontractors. ZDF heute journal reported on 17 Oct 2013 that 5 million Germans earn less than the proposed minimum wage, one in four workers in the former East Germany.

In the fight to prevent a national minimum wage, employers and their economists and their other academics and conservative politicians have made predictions about the damage a minimum wage would cause. In the fight to introduce a national minimum wage, proponents have discussed how it would ease strains on a welfare state’s social services, which have had to cover for employers of the working poor. In a country that keeps good records such as Germany it will be interesting to be able to measure the results against the predictions, and to compare them to results from other countries that introduced minimum wages such as Britain (with success) and Poland (results middling but the wage may have been set too low to do much, at 2 euros/hour). If it happens, the German minimum wage will be an ongoing experiment certainly subject to future negotiation and adjustments.

Dann doch!

“Well, okay then.” Actually, this is yet another thrilled German headline about the warming of diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S.A. The wonderful détente is very exciting. Hopefully, now, we can all get rich together, a wish expressed by my Iranian kitchenmates at German university ten years ago.

A recently published “history of Iran for beginners” said the country had ~38 auto manufacturing companies, presumably in response to international sanctions. Perhaps innovators like Google or Tesla could work out deals with some of these groups to supply novel parts for renewable-energy car projects. There could now be excellent internationally sponsored engineering programs at Iranian universities, and training exchanges around the world.

(Don DOCK.)

 

Kosten-Preis-Analysengruppe

“Cost/price analysis group,” what retired inspector-general pricing & logistics director Harry Kleinknecht said the U.S. Army doesn’t have, “much less an experienced one.”

A recent inspector general report’s criticized that the Boeing company, the Pentagon’s number two supplier after Lockheed, tried to overcharge the military billions of dollars, discovered in four audits over the past five years. Boeing apparently misinterpreted an inflation formula ~$2 billion in its own favor, for example. The audits caught them e.g. invoicing for new helicopter parts but installing used ones, a situation so old it sounds like how Harry Truman said he rose to F.D.R.’s attention as a congressman during World War II: by driving a congressional committee investigating lethal waste, fraud and abuse committed by military contractors (and not by being a machine politician).

Retired I.G. Boeing auditor Harry Kleinknecht also criticized that the military’s tactics and force preparedness were insufficient “in complex negotiations” with its contractors and that it did not properly inspect, evaluate and respond to the quality of results delivered, or not delivered. When the military failed to know how many items they needed of a part while ordering it, they would let Boeing oversell them, millions of dollars. When they failed to know a part’s market price or what Boeing’s manufacturing costs were for it, they would let Boeing overcharge them, millions of dollars (~$2000 each for a ~$12 part, ~$600 each for a ~$10 part). Contracting officials lacked the engineering? accounting? criminal justice? experience to discern what some of the problems that needed fixing were, Harry Kleinknecht indicated. Bloomberg.com said the inspector general’s report deemed the military’s contract management “lax.” A spokesperson for the inspector general’s office mentioned that the wording of the military procurement contracts could have but did not prevent some of the more expensive and possibly dangerous suppliers’ misunderstandings in the suppliers’ favor, a situation that can hopefully be improved by leveraging the experience accumulated in this area for >100 years.

Thanks to Harry Shearer for mentioning this Bloomberg report on his weekly news podcast, le Show.

(COST en   PRIZE   on ah LEEZ en grue peh.)

Minderheitenrechte im Bundestag

Bundestag minority rights, minority meaning the multiple parties that aren’t part of the multiple-parties ruling coalition.

Update on 09 Oct 2013: If the two biggest parties, Chancellor Merkel’s C.D.U./C.S.U. and the S.P.D., form another huge coalition, the Green party + Leftists opposition would be so tiny they wouldn’t have the votes e.g. to create investigative committees [an Untersuchungsausschuss], call a special session [Sondersitzung] or ask the supreme court in Karlsruhe to check a law’s constitutionality [Normenkontrollklage]. Because of this, the Green party announced on 09 Oct 2013, they will consider asking the supreme court in Karlsruhe to review the situation and verify that minority rights are still appropriately guaranteed in the Bundestag should a grosse Koalition result from the 22 Sep 2013 election.

Update on 19 Oct 2013: C.D.U., C.S.U. and S.P.D. gave assurances that the ~9% + ~10% opposition consisting of two small parties would be allowed the same rights and control/inspection capabilities that require 25% in a normal Bundestag. Meanwhile, S.P.D. party members voted yes to proceed with negotiations with the C.D.U. for a new grosse Koalition government, that could start ruling in early December.

Interesting update on 16 Jan 2014: The “bonsai” Bundestag opposition really means it about wanting to change the rules so they don’t have to wait for members of the two big parties to magnanimously provide formal support enabling their initiatives. Bundestag president Norbert Lammert (C.D.U.) is considering a Bundestag law that would lower the minimum from 25%, but this pathway is unsatisfactory to the opposition because such a change could be undone just as easily. A change to the German constitution would be more permanent.

Amusing characterizations were swapped in this ZDF heute journal report. A Green party rep said the Leftists were intending to go “full opposition” this time while the Greens wanted to be a “constructive opposition.” A Leftists rep said the Greens were behaving like a “government-in-waiting.”

Update on 11 Feb 2014: The ruling grosse Koalition is still talking about making the changes to give the <25% opposition some tools besides speechifying. Though they are about to propose and pass a 10% raise for themselves within one week.

The grosse Koalition is saying yes, the Bundestag’s rules of procedure really ought to be changed to allow oppositions <25% to create investigative committees. But no, now they refuse to agree to allow <25% oppositions to ask the supreme court in Karlsruhe to check constitutionality of laws [Normenkontrollklage].

Update on 03 Apr 2014: The two parties in the grosse Koalition, C.D.U./C.S.U. + S.P.D., and the oppositional Green party voted to change the Bundestag’s rules of procedure to allow this 19% opposition to create investigative committees and call special sessions. The oppositional Leftists abstained because the compromise agreement did not go far enough. The new rules will apply until the next Bundestag election.

Update on 28 Jun 2014: The bonsai opposition was unable to file complaints against the Bundestag’s creating automatic raises for itself and against the reform to Germany’s switch to renewable power sources. The Greens weren’t able to call a certain type of hearing to review last minute substantial changes to the Energiewende reform because they lacked the numbers.

(MINNED eah height en RECT eh   im   BOON dess tochh.)

“Ein politisches Armutszeugnis”

“A certificate of political poverty,” meaning the budgetary brinksmanship done by a fraction of one political party in the U.S. Congress, which seemed to one German reporter to be evidence that the U.S. has neglected long-overdue political reforms. Such as electoral reforms that would shift legislators’ focus from fundraising to legislating, e.g. by capping donations and limiting campaigns to several weeks instead of two to four years.

Another German reporter said the U.S. has been “hammeling” from one jerry-rigged makeshift stopgap provisorium to the next for five years now. “Hammeln” sounds like an interesting word but its translation is not yet apparent from online wikis.

(Eye n   poll EE tee shess   ARRR moots tsoy g niss.)

Divorziati resposati, coppie omosessuali, altre situazioni difficili

“Divorcés who remarry, homosexual couples and other difficult situations,” from Pope Francesco’s September interview in La Civiltà Cattolica when he urged mercy and more understanding for divorced people, homosexuals and women who have had abortions. German reporting said he said their church should be a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital on the battlefield of life; they should heal wounds, not marginalize people via church rules.

In October 2013 a group of cardinals started meeting with the Pope for the first time to prepare reforms for the Curia.

Update on 07 Oct 2013: One Catholic German bishopric (the archbishopric of Freiburg) has decided to allow people who have divorced and remarried to take the sacraments again, on an individual case-by-case basis after intense discussion with their male priest. Freiburg’s archbishop Zollitsch is the head of the German catholic bishops’ conference. His representative said the diocese wants to conduct this reform transparently.

“In einer Demokratie akzeptiert man Urteile!”

In democracies, you accept court verdicts!” thundered Italian prime minister and lawyer Enrico Letta before the vote of confidence with which media billionaire Silvio Berlusconi’s political party tried to take down the Italian government after the cavaliere was found guilty of a criminal charge, eliminating his senatorial immunity from future prosecutions. Unexpectedly, several Berlusconi ministers broke with their party, including Mr. Berlusconi’s “Ziehson” or adopted son or protégé, Angelino Alfano.

The statement may have come from this section of Mr. Letta’s speech:

Uno stato di diritto si basa sul principio di legalità, e in uno Stato democratico le sentenze si rispettano si applicano, fermo restando il diritto alla difesa, senza trattamenti ad personam o contra personam, che va riconosciuto a ogni cittadino italiano.”

Update on 19 Oct 2013: An appeals court in Milan decided that Silvio Berlusconi cannot hold public office for the next two years.

(Inn   eye nah   dame aw crah TEA   oct sept eared   mon   OOR tie là.)

“Gerüchte verbreitend”

“Rumormongering,” for which Chinese bloggers are being sent to prison in new ways. China’s new internet rules permit the arrest of people who use blogs or Weibo microblogging (Twitter has been blocked in China) to e.g. comment on the obvious and deadly air pollution or support Bürger-Bewegungen, burgher movements, such as the one that dared to demand party functionaries publish how rich they are.

Tagesschau.de reporter Christine Adelhardt said,

“What’s a rumor is of course defined by the Party. And thus the new rules are becoming a free pass to gag critics. The Communist Party is worried about its opinion superiority [Meinungshoheit] in the internet and its power monopoly in the country.”

Her report is so well-written that it’s difficult-in-a-good-way to translate:

Was ein Gerücht ist, das bestimmt selbstverständlich die Partei. So werden die neuen Regeln zu einem Freibrief1, um Kritiker mundtot2 zu machen. Die Kommunistische Partei furchtet um ihre Meinungshoheit3 im Netz und ihre Machtmonopol im Land.”

(Geh R-R-R-Ü chh teh   furb RYE tend. )

1  Charter, get-out-of-jail-free card, free pass, but not a letter of marque which is a Kaperbrief or ship-capturing permit

2  “Mouth-dead”; gagged, muzzled

3  Opinion superiority, high ground that allows those controlling it to be the ones who define opinion

1808

The year book printing was finally legalized in Brazil! Brazil was “guest giver” [Gastgeber] or host at the 2013 Frankfurt book fair, with a large beautiful stand creatively constructed from fireproof cardboards. They put up hammocks for visitors to read in.

(Acht say n HOON deah t ACHT.)

Büro für Berufliche Verantwortung

“Office for Professional Responsibility,” an in-house ethics watchdog. In the U.S.A.’s federal government, e.g. the I.R.S., F.B.I., Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security each has one, and the Justice Department has one. Serious criticisms written by U.S. judges are apparently supposed to be reported in the Justice Department to your supervisor and then on to Justice’s Office for Professional Responsibility.

A Freedom-of-Information-Act request by USA Today found that the Justice Department’s Office for Professional Responsibility not only did not investigate the scathing criticism of the N.S.A. written by at least two judges on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court supposed to monitor the agency, but Justice’s Professional Responsibility office had no record of having heard about it.

The F.I.S.A. judges objected to the N.S.A.’s lying to the F.I.S.A. court.

(Byoo ROE   foor   beh ROOF lichh eh   fer AUNT vort oong.)

Der schlimmste Feind im ganzen Land, das ist und bleibt der Denunziant.

“The worst enemy/biggest rascal in the whole damn country is and remains: a snitch.” Handy mnemonic reminding Germans not to squeal on their neighbors, even when the stress of dense living conditions can get overwhelming. Left-leaning German students will repeat this to you as a meme joke that’s crept firmly into their consciousness, while they diligently study education, journalism or history, enjoy detective shows on television and meet up in meatspace for ferocious protracted information-sharing discussions in the interest of bettering democracy. Perhaps it’s now understood that snitching on your fellow citizens will murder Anne Frank but finding out what governments and other large actors are up to and talking about it might save lives.

Bruce Sterling: “What’s a historian but a fancy kind of snitch?” is a deeply unsettling offhand remark.

Australian radio’s charming Phillip Adams asked a Mossad expert a chiming question in a recent discussion of the information asymmetry enabled by drones and other surveillance: “Are you allowed to spill all the beans?” Mr. Adams was bean facetious.

Now that I’m olderly, I can think of more specific examples of situations in which professional information-sharers might *not* share the relevant useful context they know:

Schoolteachers: the topic of censorship in schools is ancient, but people will still surprise you. My grandfather used to show kids how to carefully mix up explosives within the safety rules of his high school chemistry class because he knew a certain book was available in the local library.

Historians: the majority would probably object strongly to showing people who make fake reference books how to make more convincing fake reference books. Though there could be tempting exceptions. Pacifist historians for example might not mind hearing that widely available gunsmithing research had been used to glut an overfunded, underinformed collectors’ market fetishizing blunderbusses like baseball cards (but pacifist historians would care very much if they heard the shoddy cast iron was shattering and injuring people). Historians are disturbed by the introduction of fake evidence, a crime against future generations that might someday be correctable, and absolutely infuriated by destruction of genuine evidence, a crime against future generations that can never be made right. It is so easy to accidentally destroy genuine evidence; it is casually shown over and over in archeology adventure films.

Introducing something that is beautiful, but not real, but not falsely presented as something other than it is (or encouraging destruction of genuine evidence!) almost seems okay. A gorgeous art book that riffs on designs and pictures from old reference books without being disguised as one could be a beautiful gift to the world. With proper source citation.

Journalists: probably must deal with the problem of when to withhold information most often, being confronted by these dilemmas accidentally because it goes with the job and on purpose, by interested parties familiar with the job. Journalism’s evolving ethics, rules and procedures are thus very valuable and interesting.

Priests: have the chance to learn a lot about contexts and reasons in local communities but might be highly susceptible to targeted “for the better good” arguments not to supply the most honest why’s and how’s, especially when the unusual levers within their particular religion are applied.

Scientists: probably have the clearest rules about information sharing, while handling some of the most useful information. Publish everything that seems reliably true according to defined test methods, unless the government swoops in. Archive non-seized published information and its underlying data so they can be found again, forever.

Librarians: seem to stand back and let people discover their own answers, though some jewels of librarianship can and will provide wonderful succinct context when asked. That can go the other way too—there were stories about history students in Germany returning to hometown libraries and discovering systematic long-term local obfuscation of local people’s colorful Nazi pasts. As the decades passed, the cover-ups necessarily got more and more complicated, the information in the town got more out of synch with the information widely known outside the town, and the aging perpetrators in the institutions were more likely to err and get caught.

Universities: one of the most fun and possibly most expensive hobbies you can pursue in the U.S.A. (A more expensive hobby might be something else + a university education, such as raising a child.) Professors and, these days, untenured adjunct instructors give highly efficient shortcut answers that tesseract you to the most useful synopses, unless they’re lying. Figure out how to study more than the inadequate standard four years and you might get an education. Figure out how to return to college from time to time and you might keep it.

After I studied history in a country that wasn’t either Cold War superpower, it seemed to me that one of many things the U.S.A. had in common with the Soviet Union but not with other countries was that the U.S. allowed propagandistic tendencies in important national history professors. This only became apparent after exposure to its absence. Once “allowed” it seems hard to eradicate—I noticed the U.S. tendency in the late 1990’s and it’s still going on in 2013. Presumably, sponsors’ and university administrators’ ethical barriers to installing such “chairs” must be deliberately reconstructed and haven’t been; also it’s hard to muster the data and arguments to effectively criticize a history professor. The latter was true of nearly all professors in Germany, professional experts who enjoyed a certain god-like status that was susceptible to abuse, but might especially pertain to history professors in the U.S.A.

Novelists: Fiction writers lie, wrote Margaret Atwood, and they use lying as a devious form of truth-telling. Along those lines, Terry Pratchett’s Y.A. books’ relatively direct overgeneralizations about people and institutions seem to have stood the test of time well, providing some rare explanations twenty years ago that appear not inaccurate today, two decades and half a world away.

Older relatives, like me now: will explain a lot, especially via wandering anecdotes, like this blog post; but they won’t tell you why and how if the reason is that someone in your family screwed up. When they’re feeling bad because they think they screwed up themselves, they often won’t talk about that either.

Government watchdogs, auditors, rapporteurs, monitors, inspectors general; departmental offices of internal affairs, ethics, professional responsibility: in addition to systemic inbuilt ways these inspectors may accidentally or deliberately fail to find and report, or be prevented by inspectees from finding and reporting, important cases of waste, fraud & abuse, how their reports are packaged for the press can also hide their key discoveries. The surrounding context we would like to know more about is so difficult to communicate that perhaps it’s no wonder we would like to know more about it. During the Reagan administration, it made little economic sense that the president’s stories about a “welfare queen”—which turned out to be a fairy tale—found more resonance than the real e.g. $500 hammers, nuts and toilet seats the Pentagon was caught buying at the same time. Which was the bigger economic threat? Yet one fairy tale was easier to remember than two overpriced hardware items.

Bureaucracies that don’t include functioning, safe systems for reporting and fixing in-house errors are what create a WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks and other disseminators and investigators of huge data troves: are flummoxed by too much data, where vast volumes can hide relevant answers, especially after misinformation was introduced. But software has now been developed and distributed that helps map these infinitely complex connections. Insignificance and the ephemeral nature of human memory will no longer shield nonhackers.

(Dare   SHLIMM sta   FIE nd   im   GONTS en   LOND,   doss   ISST   oont   BLY bt   dare   den OONTS ee aunt.)

Is des Des des Des, des des Des soi soll, oddä is des Des des Des, des des D soi soll?

Music joke in a Hessian dialect:

Is that D flat major the D flat major that’s supposed to be D flat major or is that D flat major the D flat major that’s supposed to be D?

(Iss   dess   DESS   dess   dess,   dess   dess   DESS   zoy   zoll,   oh deh   iss   dess   DESS   dess   dess,   dess   dess   DAY   zoy   zoll.)

Barbarisch, nicht gezähmt, verwildert, wildlebend, wild

Barbaric, untamed, wilding, maenadic, agrestal, rambunctious.

German’s lack of a direct equivalent for “feral” makes it hard to translate Charles Stross’s recent essay about ways spam could invade end-users’ e-libraries.

Gepflegt, an antonym for feral, is difficult to translate into English.

(Bar BAR ish,   nichh t   get SAY mt,   fer VILLED urt,   villed LAY bend,   villed.)

Betreiber gigantischer Bibliotheken

“Operators of huge libraries.”

From a presentation at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, describing Amazon.com and Apple.com as booksellers no longer but rather operators of gigantic libraries which readers must pay to access.

(Bett RYE bah   ghee GONT ish ah   bee blee oh TAY ken.)

Physikgesäubert vs. chemiegesäubert

“Cleaned by physics vs. cleaned by chemistry.” In the late 1990’s, to this tourist, it appeared that U.S. appliances were designed so that ever-more-sophisticated soaps and/or soap marketing would get laundry clean, while German appliances were designed to use physics to get laundry clean. The latter had gotten so good at it that for years they’d been competing by promising not cleaner clothes but to reduce the electricity and especially water required to do a load of wash.

The fabrics in clothing sold in 1990’s Germany were much higher quality than the kleenex clothes sold in the U.S.A.: thicker, stronger, less likely to wrinkle. At the time I thought this was because German consumers complained before purchases more, both to each other and to the stores*, but perhaps it was also due to post-purchase complaining after clothes designed to be worn twice and soap-laundered dissatisfied chatty consumers rather egregiously when worn four times and agitation-laundered.

In both countries, water in rural creeks and rivers formed persistent foam that did look like soap bubbles, originally white but turning yellow with dust as it was carried downstream. But friends said this was caused not by household soaps but by artificial fertilizers in runoff from farmers’ fields.

(Fizz EEK geh ZOY bat   vair seuss   chhem EE geh ZOY bat.)

*   “Are you trying to verarsch me with that see-through, pilly, short-fiber cotton?”

“Datenschutz muss so wichtig werden wie Umweltschutz”

“Data protection must become as important as environmental protection,” said Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck in his German Unity Day speech on 03 Oct 2013.

Recalling similarites between how they discovered ways to deal with the difficulties of Germany’s reunification and how the world must discover ways to deal with today’s difficulties, he said, “Everyone involved back then was a learner—and sometimes an errer!—but they were, we were, all creators! October 3 does not just remind us of powerlessness overcome. It is also witness to the will to create freedom in freedom.”

(DOT en shoots   MOOSE   zoh   VICHH tichh   VAIR den   vee   OOM velt shoots.)

“Das Geld dafür geben die Anderen”

“Other people are paying for it,” how financial reporter Frank Bethmann commented the U.S. company Verizon’s “schwindelerregend” offer of $130 billion to buy out British partner Vodafone’s stake in their U.S. joint venture Verizon Wireless. In the 02 Sep 2013 announcement of the sale, Verizon said as part of it they intended to borrow $25 billion one week later at the currently very low interest rates; that would have been the largest amount ever borrowed by a company in the history of the world apparently.

Update on 12 Sep 2013: Verizon’s $49 billion Unternehmensanleihe [“company loan” i.e. corporate bond] “emission in eight tranches at varying interest rates and terms to investors around the globe” was the biggest ever, according to manager-magazin.de, adding that the takeover itself was also the third-biggest ever.

This is not the only vertiginous telecom merger in the works. There’s two in the German market as well.

On 23 Jul 2013, Spanish Telefónica’s German subsidiary O2 announced that it wanted to buy the Dutch KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus, though “only” for five billion euros. The resulting company would become the German market’s largest mobile phone provider (43 million customers), followed by Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-mobile (37 million customers) and then the British Vodafone (32 million c.). The merger required approval from German and E.U. competition authorities.

Update on 12 May 2014: The German Monopoly Commission [Monopolkommission] told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung they expect the E.U. to set serious competition-saving conditions for approving Telefónica’s acquisition of E-plus, including that there will still be four mobile telephony providers in the German market after the merger. “Abstract concessions and offers won’t do it.” Three mobile phone providers competing in the German market would not suffice because E-plus was the one that stirred up the market the most and it would be the one disappearing.

Update on 13 Sep 2013: Now British Vodafone is purchasing the Munich-based Kabel Deutschland, “Germany’s biggest cable network operator,” at ~8.5 million television households,” for ~11 billion euros (~7.7 billion for ≥75% of Kabel Deutschland’s stock and the rest to cover Kabel’s debts; stock cost to be announced Monday 16 Sep 2013), according to Spiegel.de and manager-magazin.de. This will increase Vodafone’s competitiveness with Deutsche Telekom in the German market selling wireless and landline telephonery, television cable and internet access. European competition authorities approved the deal on 20 Sep 2013.

Huge telecom mergers & acquisitions could be motivated by more than just the roseate future of voice and internet communications plus current rock-bottom interest rates. If telecom industry people believe governments will stop defending net neutrality and consumer privacy, they will fear they must join a large existing telecom and fight to expand it, or die. They will not think risky entrepreneurship or small-to-medium-sized companies are an option. If a telecom gets big enough in a deregulated market that includes suspicionless surveillance, the money will sort itself out somehow. In regulatory situations where governments have to grant unusual concessions to big telecoms, governments will grant unusual concessions to big telecoms.

(Doss   GELD   dah foor   gay ben   dee   ON dare en.)

Ohne uns nichts

“Without us, nothing.” Since the George W. Bush administration, the former U.S. phone monopoly AT&T appears to have provided cooperation in constitutionally questionable surveillance projects to such a degree that one might conclude the company thinks no one can be elected president of the U.S.A. without its support.

In addition to the famous access to a key internet node that AT&T was caught providing in San Francisco in 2002 and then granted retroactive immunity for by Congress, NYTimes.com reporting and others’ follow-ups appear to indicate AT&T has been keeping its own copies of phone communications which people have used to access e.g. a 26-year-old phone call. AT&T let government agents hire and even “embed” AT&T employees to help search the phone company’s difficult-to-use database providing access to these calls. NYTimes.com described the expensive database consultants as having to sit next to the government agents as they attempted to use the software; if this is so it makes you wonder how and if AT&T managed to keep the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q. from having remote access to its computers.

AT&T also appears to be gradually re-acquiring the Baby Bell phone companies it was split into. Were that the case, the company might leave ~1.5 competitors in the market to avoid appearing monopolistic.

(OH neh   OONTS   NIX.)

“Reich der verdeckten Parteispenden”

“Empire of hidden donations to political parties.”

Austria continues to have fascinating scandals. This Süddeutsche.de article based on News.at reporting and dated a month before their recent parliamentary election describes some salacious-sounding goings-on. Investigations into corruption in “the” phone company Telekom Austria for “stock price manipulation, questionable Eastern European dealings and alleged law buying” has turfed up unreported donations to both the conservative party Ö.V.P. and the social democrats S.P.Ö. The Ö.V.P. and S.P.Ö. have been in a grosse Koalition for the past few national governments and are about to form a new grosse Koalition, though with the weakest results so far.

The unreported political donations came from: Telekom Austria, Österreichische Lotterien [“Austrian Lotteries”], Raiffeisen bank, the Austrian post office corporation [Österreichische Post AG], P.S.K. bank and the Industriellenvereinigung [“Federation of Austrian Industry,” abbr. IV; Wikipedia says this is the Austrian employers’ lobbying organization]. There appears to be a Jack Abramoff king-lobbyist character involved: Peter Hochegger, his company Valora AG, and an agency Mediaselect to which they transferred funds. Peter Hochegger has been under investigation for scandals from the time when the ex-Haider F.P.Ö. was in a ruling national coalition with the conservative Christian Ö.V.P.

In the 29 Sep 2013 Austrian parliamentary election, the two biggest parties barely got enough votes to form another grosse Koalition (the last one, journalists speculated). The racist ex-Haider F.P.Ö. came in third. Other small parties also did well, in an indication of voter frustration: Austrian Green party ~10%, the weird new party of a Canadian-Austrian billionaire ~5%, and the new party of “young neoliberals” ~5% (though if it’s like the German neoliberal party F.D.P. appears to be, this group will front with young politicians—rapid risers with amazing management skills!—while old men quietly run the show, selling a network disguised as a reservoir of superior business knowledge).

(R-r-rye chh   dare   fair DECK ten   pah TIE shpen den.)

“Liebe deinen Nächsten. Für mich sind das unsere Österreicher.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself. For me, that means our Austrians.” Campaign slogan of the racist populist ex-Jörg-Haider* F.P.Ö. party, which came in third in Austria’s 29 Sep 2013 parliamentary election. Quoting the Bible to encourage and give permission to hate foreigners, i.e. anyone who isn’t Austrian. F.P.Ö. politicians said the slogan was an attempt at a “positive” campaign, avoiding “negative” messaging, and that the other political parties were against Austria.

(Bah.)

* Jörg Haider’s old political party has gone through several name changes and reorganizations. Süddeutsche.de said there are now two viable political parties carrying on the horrible Haider’s legacy: F.P.Ö. & B.Z.Ö.

Mätzchen

Gimmick, hokum, antics. Stunt, scheme, trick, ploy. Word used in German reporting about the U.S. government shutdown caused by some legislators’ refusal to pass a six-week budget.

(METS chh en.)

Bundessicherheitsrat

“Federal German Security Council,” which must approve German weapons exports.

Approved arms exports to Gulf states increased in 2013 (~800 million euros in the first half of 2013; ~1400 million in 2012; ~500 million in 2011). For example, apparently this council approved sales of 24 “haubitze 2000” and 62 “leopard 2” tanks to Qatar last spring, but Qatar’s neighbors Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates apparently also tooled up, according to a response to queries from the opposition Leftists (Die Linken) party. German arms exports to governments without good recent human rights histories remain heavily criticized by the pre-Sept. 22 opposition to Chancellor Merkel’s pre-Sept. 22 government.

The ARD tagesschau.de report mentioned that in Germany arms exports are “poison” for incumbents in election years, which is why, they said, people inside the weapons industry said the C.D.U./C.S.U. + F.D.P. government postponed the decision on whether to approve some further arms exports such as >100 tanks to Saudi Arabia until after Germany’s national election on 22 Sep 2013.

Update on 15 Apr 2014: The new members of the Bundessicherheitsrat are the chancellor, vice-chancellor, foreign minister, defense minister, interior minister, finance minister, justice minister, development minister and the chief of the chancellory (the chancellor’s chief of staff).

Update on 01 Jul 2014: A former federal development minister, Dirk Niebel (F.D.P.), is going to become the top lobbyist for weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall. As development minister, he was on the Bundessicherheitsrat when it approved weapons exports by his future employer, including the export not just of tanks but of a tank factory to Algeria. An op-ed in Spiegel.de called for an investigation of what approvals and favors the F.D.P. minister provided for Rheinmetall while in office.

Update on 02 Jul 2014: Prosecutors are investigating Germany’s biggest small arms manufacturers, SIG Sauer, Heckler & Koch and Carl Walther, for exporting guns to e.g. Colombia and Mexico without saying so on the guns’ export permits. The economy ministry, part of the remit of superminister Sigmar Gabriel (S.P.D.), is investigating reforms to Germany’s weapons export permit procedures that would include e.g. the introduction of random checks to ensure weapons remained where their exporters said they were going.

(BOON dess ZICHH ah heights RAH t.)

Rummel

Whoopee, shindig, rumbling rattling carneval fair. “Wann geht er los, der Rummel?” sings the audience in the opening to Jim Henson’s Muppet Show. “When does the rummel start?” Bundestag coalition negotiations may continue until January 2014.

(ROOM əl.)

“Bekannte Gefangenschaft”

Known captivity” of forming a “grosse Koalition,” a large coalition consisting of Germany’s two biggest political parties and practically no opposition. After the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election, Chancellor Merkel‘s C.D.U. was more powerful than ever yet needed another seat or two for a Bundestag majority. Its trusty traditional libertarianesque coalition partner, the F.D.P., didn’t manage the 5% hurdle created to prevent future Hitlers and so is now out of the Bundestag. Whoever partners with the C.D.U./C.S.U. to form the next government will probably lose their political soul and end up with their core voters [Stammwähler] fleeing in droves after the bigger partner forces them to agree to break faith with their supporters and their political identity again and again. Yet, as an old S.P.D. politician is said to have said, opposition is crap [“Opposition ist Mist”].

The S.P.D. promised, swore, during the campaign that they would not form a grosse Koalition.

Update on 25 Sep 2013: The Greens are proposing their pals the S.P.D. as the C.D.U.’s coalition partner and the S.P.D. is proposing the Greens. A cartoon was published showing Angela Merkel saying, “Yoo hoo!” and the Greens and S.P.D. chairs scrambling up a tree to hide in the leaves. But the German constitution requires a coalition be formed by Oct. 22. And the S.P.D. has reason to fear its ~25% result would drop even lower if a new election were called.

Update on 26 Sep 2013: The S.P.D. is supposedly pushing to make the C.D.U. break a campaign promise before the S.P.D. breaks its campaign promise by forming a grosse Koalition with them. Before the election, the S.P.D. promised to raise taxes for the richest Germans, anathema for the C.D.U./C.S.U. (& F.D.P.). Now the S.P.D. is indicating they could and would make the C.D.U. raise some taxes on some rich people as a coalition precondition.

The Leftists party (Die Linken) was originally created by former East German politicians twenty years ago and now houses some apostate S.P.D. pols who felt the Social Democrats were trending too far to the right—especially after joining grosse-Koalition C.D.U. governments. If the socialistical S.P.D. would partner with the Leftists plus their traditional partner the Green party, they might form their own majorities and take over state and federal governments. But the S.P.D. oath never to work with the Leftists seems to be the one campaign promise they’ll keep.

None of the options available can be taken. The most logical solution, S.P.D. + Leftists + Greens, has been ruled out. The most harmful for German voters, a grosse Koalition with no opposition, looks the most likely. Democratic elimination of the most dishonest-seeming party brought about this impasse, which cannot be resolved without further vile treachery. The ensuing wriggling and oath-breaking will occur very publicly, under a high degree of light and attention by U.S. standards.

Update on 27 Sep 2013: Germany’s post-parliamentary election process, within which many people are discussing how to accomplish what seems obviously impossible. After 1) post-election party meetings behind closed doors [geschlossene Gespräche; Konvent], the Green party and the S.P.D. announced they are prepared to talk with the C.D.U. about forming a coalition in the 2) “sounding out” pre-coalition pre-negotiations phase [Sondierungsgespräche]. The S.P.D. chair said he wanted to compensate core voters for the party’s obvious willingness to break the no-grosse-Koalition promise, less than one week after the election, by involving the voters in the grosse Koalition decision in special ways. This almost sounds like hinting the S.P.D. might adopt Pirate Partystyle new technologies in addition to new communications and decision-making systems—if democratic software innovations can be trusted before resolution of the N.S.A./G.C.H.Q. spying that’s been revealed but not yet regulated. In fact, S.P.D. voter participation here would be limited to an up-or-down vote on any grosse Koalition agreement that’s negotiated, giving the S.P.D. comrades minimum input while placing maximum emphasis on the temptations of exiting the opposition, apparently also hoping to force S.P.D. voters to break the campaign promise too.

Update on 28 Sep 2013: “The Greens will make it with everyone,” complained one voter. The Green party is trying to bust out of its traditional coalition role of only partnering with the S.P.D. They want to re-emphasize their environmentalism and “critical accompaniment” of the Energiewende. Then, having strengthened their own political identity thus, they want to seriously consider partnering with everyone including the Leftists (Die Linken). The Greens say they’ll let the S.P.D. go first in negotiating about a coalition with the C.D.U. because, they said, if they negotiated in parallel the C.D.U. would play the two parties off against each other.

Somehow, the Greens also want to start sounding like they’re not telling people what to do, even though that’s how environmentalists work. They’re right however that a vacuum or opportunity has presented itself in Germany for politicians who figure out how to champion personal liberty, now that the <5% F.D.P. who claimed that was them is out of the picture, and the <5% Pirate Party is mostly out too. The German Pirate Party arose in part because the Green party was crewed by 1980’s types who distrusted technology, which is where serious individual liberty and privacy wars are being fought these days.

(Beh CON teh   geh FONG en shoft.)

 

Pädophilen

Pedophiles.

Apparently after the German Green party was founded in 1980 some people joined who wanted to decriminalize sex between children and adults. They joined committees and submitted platform proposals. It took a while before the Green party as a whole realized what was going on and that they were against it. They voted for party program language to fix the problem in 1989. One sentence submitted by a committee in Göttingen for example in 1981 that looks innocuous and was buried in a thickish booklet was in fact intended to strip away those protections from children, and party head Jürgen Trittin gave his approval to that booklet as a young man.

§§174 and 176 of the Criminal Code [StGB, Strafgesetzbuch] are to be understood such that only use or threat of violence or misuse of a dependent relationship shall be punished.

A year ago, the Green party said, they tasked the Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research [Göttinger Institut für Demokratieforschung] with studying, evaluating and reporting on the problem. The two researchers started publishing their findings in German newspapers and giving interviews about it the week before Germany’s national election on September 22, 2013.

In their taz.de article, the researchers noted that a youth organization branch of the F.D.P. political party also called for decriminalization of sex between children and adults in 1980.

In 2012 the newly founded German Pirate Party started discussing how to deal with the misogyny expressed by some of its members.

(Paid oh FEEL en.)

Blog at WordPress.com.