Decision to not use violence.
From Willy Brandt’s 28 Oct 1969 address to the Bundestag:
“It is this government’s firm conviction that the policy of abstaining from violence, a policy that respects our partners’ territorial integrity, is a crucial contribution toward a détente in Europe. Abstentions from violence would create an atmosphere that enables further steps.
“This objective is also served by joint efforts to promote trade, technical cooperation and cultural exchange.”
(Geh VAULT fair tsichh t.)
“We want to become a people who are good neighbors, inside and outside our country.”
The last sentence concluding Willy Brandt’s address to the Bundestag on 28 Oct 1969.
“XV. Dedication to democracy.
“This government will not humor people, telling them only what they want to hear. It will demand a lot, not only from others but from itself as well. It will set concrete goals. These goals can only be achieved if a few things change in burghers’ relationship to their country and to their government.
“In democracy, a government can only be successfully effective if that government is carried by burghers’ democratic dedication and involvement. We have as little need for blind acceptance as our population has little need for splayed dignity and regal distance. We are not seeking admirers; we need people who think critically along with us, co-decide and share the responsibility.
“This government’s confident self-awareness will externalize in the form of tolerance. Therefore it will also appreciate the solidarity demonstrated by criticism. We are not the select; we are elected. That is why we seek dialog with everyone willing to make efforts for this democracy.
“In the last few years, some people in this country feared the second German democracy would go the way of the first one. I never believed this. I believe it less today than ever before.
“No. We are not at the end of our democracy. We’re just getting started. We want to become a people who are good neighbors, inside and outside our country.”
(Veer VOLE en eye n FOLK dare goot en NOCHH bar-r-r n vair den, nochh inn en oont nochh OW! sen.)
“We want to dare more democracy,” the most famous line in Willy Brandt’s wonderful state-of-the-nation address to the Bundestag after he was sworn in as chancellor in 1969. Mr. Brandt would have turrned 100 on 18 Dec 2013.
“Our population, like all other populations, needs its internal order. But in the 1970’s, in this country, we will only have as much order as we inspire in the form of shared co-responsibility. Such democratic order requires extraordinary patience in listening to and extraordinary efforts to understand each other.
“We want to dare more democracy. We will open up how we work and we will satisfy the critical need for information. We will work toward the end that, by listening in the Bundestag, by constant contact with the representative groups amongst our population and by comprehensively providing information about government policy, every burgher will have the opportunity to participate in the reforms to our state and our society.
“We are turning to the generations who grew up in peace, who are not burdened with the mortgages borne by the older people, and who must not be burdened with them; to the young people who want to take us at our word and who should do so. But these young people must also understand that they too have obligations to our government and society.”
(Veer VOLE en MARE dame awk rah TEE VOGG en.)
Happy holidays! The Bundestag announced plans to create its own standing internet committee [ständiger Internet-Ausschuss], responsible for online issues. Though not entirely neglected, the interface between citizens and computers is not fully covered in Germany either. The Greens traditionally disliked technology, the Pirate party was trying to fix that lacuna but now seems possibly unterwandert by the German military (what was a Defense Department employee doing as party chair, one asks oneself now, post-Snowden). The new coalition has divided up online issues among a Wirrwarr of multiple ministers, some of whom oppose digital consumer protections such as network neutrality or individuals’ data privacy yet are now the designated advocates for them.
The press learned about the new Bundestag committee’s creation from Twitter.
Topics to be handled by the parliamentary committee include the expansion of broadband infrastructure, copyrights, data security.
Update on 13 Feb 2014: The Bundestag created its internet committee! It’s called Digital Agenda (dee ghee TALL awg EN dah).
(INN tah net OW! ss shoes imm BOON dess tochh.)
After international news showed architect’s drawings of the thoughtless shopping center scheduled to replace one of Istanbul’s last green parks, people outside Turkey started wondering how much excess power the country’s developers might be exercising over the country’s democratic processes. And if developers could pull such strings, who else could?
Now a recent kerfuffle has exposed that the state might be one of the developers.
Last week Istanbul police made dawn arrests to bring in for questioning “scores” of people who included three sons of Erdoğan ministers, an Erdoğan-party mayor, three “lions of construction,” “the general manager of Turkey’s largest housing developer, the partly state-owned Emlak Konut GYO” and the boss of a government-owned bank; one of the construction tycoons “recently made headlines with controversial mega-projects and works for the notoriously opaque state housing agency (Toki),” according to the Guardian. At the time of the arrests, the accusations in the air were wild and wonderful: hoarding millions in shoeboxes, bribery, building illegally, illegally converting nature preserves into development land, money laundering, “dubious gold deals with Iran,” reported Süddeutsche.de.
Less than a day later, the heads of five Istanbul police departments involved in the arrests, which Süddeutsche.de described as an “anti-corruption fishing expedition,” had lost their jobs. The decapitated police departments included Financial Crimes, Organized Crime and Smuggling units, and the unsonned cabinet ministers were Interior, Economics and Environment & City Planning, according to the Guardian.
Süddeutsche.de said Gezi Park protesters had always claimed that large construction projects in Istanbul were corrupt and used to make “the big Reibach.” If you had connections to Mr. Erdoğan’s conservative-religious AKP (“Party for Justice and Development”).
The arrests and police firings may have been an outward symptom of a fight for influence between Mr. Erdoğan’s associates and the associates of a Turkish cleric named Fethullah Gülen, “who directs an international religious community from his U.S. exile,” warned Süddeutsche.de. The two religious groups used to “dominate” Mr. Erdoğan’s ruling conservative-religious AK party. Mr. Gülen could help persuade voters, while Mr. Erdoğan could protect Mr. Gülen’s business interests, wrote Spiegel.de, which included media outlets, a bank, schools and training centers that have helped millions of high school students pass college entrance exams (“repetitories” in German, dershane in Turkish). In any case, the increased international attention on Turkish news and better information about Turkish politics and business is welcome.
The strange variety in the accusations against the arrestees might make more sense were they to indicate pieces of networks once used for circumventing the old embargoes against Iran:
“The flight into conspiracy theories doesn’t change the fact that it still must be clarified whether the manager of the state-owned Halkbank helped an Iranian businessman with money laundering, with the sons of the Interior and Economy Ministers allegedly assisting in various ways. Washington [D.C.] people had been taking negative notice for some time of the fact that Turkey was using detour routes to pay for its gas and oil deliveries from Iran ever since sanctions had excluded Teheran from the interbank system. Again and again, couriers with suitcases full of gold were spotted in the Istanbul airport. That’s why it’s remarkable that Ankara people are denying they knew anything about these questionable activities, long ago.” –Süddeutsche.de article
“Suitcases full of gold” must be a metaphor in the Turkish press.
Update on 22 Dec 2013: Mr. Erdoğan has now fired 70 top police and justice officials. He might be not only firing them but having some arrested as well.
FAZ.net concluded its update with an assessment of Mr. Erdoğan’s current situation:
“[Mr.] Erdoğan, who has held this office since March 2003, has taken a hit. Presumably he would still win any election that took place now. But the once-charismatic prime minister has turned into a table-thumping/blustering choleric. For him, democracy means having elections; liberal values such as protecting minorities are not part of his idea of democracy. More and more people are objecting to the fact that [Mr.] Erdoğan is acting as the nation’s morals police, who wants to tell people what to eat and how many children to have. He’s lost from view the fact that the AKP, which has been ruling without a coalition partner since 2002, owes its rise among other things to the image of being a ‘clean party.’ The kemalist parties that ruled Turkey until 2002 were voted out of office for, among other things, corrupt business practices that drove Turkey to the edge of bankruptcy in 2001. In recent years, corruption around [Mr.] Erdoğan has begun spreading like a cancer again. The Gülen movement is ‘clean’ though, says [Mr.] Arinc. The Erdoğan vs. Gülen war will continue.”
Update on 24 Dec 2013: Spiegel.de wrote that Mr. Erdoğan has threatened to break the hands of troublemakers and that more journalists were imprisoned in Turkey than in any other country.
Update on 07 Jan 2013: Last night Mr. Erdoğan fired hundreds of police, 350 in Ankara alone, according to the Dogan press agency and CNN Turk, said Süddeutsche.de. Those relieved of their duties included police officers and 80 higher-ranked officials in the divisions of Financial Crimes, Organized Crime and the anti-smuggling authority.
Update on 08 Jan 2013: Mr. Erdoğan removed from their posts Turkey’s deputy police chief and the police chiefs of 15 provinces, including the capital city of Ankara. On Tuesday night his party submitted draft legislation to give the government more power in naming judges and prosecutors. The E.U. commission is concerned, the Financial Times said, “that government moves to remove, reassign and fire police officers and investigators ‘could undermine the current investigations and capacity of the judiciary and the police to investigate matters in an independent manner'” in Turkey.
(RYE bochh, rebb ochh.)
Leading by “announcing things one will not be doing.”
Bundespräsident Joaquin Gauck, Commissioner Viviane Reding, Président François Hollande.
Mr. Gauck made this admirable move when Germany had been without a government for weeks post-election, in a bit of a vacuum.
Update on 17 Dec 2013: President Obama announced he too would not be attending the winter Olympic games in Sochi, and then he added two gay delegates to represent the U.S.A. at Sochi. Billie Jean King.
Update on 19 Dec 2013: U.K. prime minister David Cameron will not be attending the winter games in Sochi.
(Fair KINNED oong fawn ZAWCHH enn, dee mon nichh t toon veered.)
Dutch for “Data Protection Authority,” a government office in Holland.
Google has been invited to testify at a data protection hearing in Holland. Süddeutsche.de ‘s 29 Nov 2013 article said the head of Holland’s data protection office said, “Google is spinning an invisible network out of our personal data without our permission, and there’s laws against that.”
Update on 15 Dec 2013: Google said U.K. privacy complaint plaintiffs should sue the company in California courts. The U.K. plaintiffs wanted to sue the company for secretly tracking their internet browsing “by circumventing privacy settings” in Apple’s Safari web browser on different devices. The Guardian.co.uk said the company’s lawyers were expected to argue in court on Monday, 16 Dec 2013, that a similar privacy complaint had recently been dismissed from a U.S. court “and that no European regulators are currently investigating this issue.”
Spiegel.de said Google has already had to pay two fines for this privacy practice in the U.S.: $22.5 million to the F.T.C. in August 2012 for tricking Safari into accepting cookies on various devices even when the consumer had set tracking to “off” and again $17 million in a Nov 2013 settlement to the attorneys general of ~37 U.S. states for the same issue.
Update on 08 Jan 2014: France’s data protection authority fined Google 150,000 euros, the largest fine C.N.I.L. ever issued, for violating France’s data protection laws. Since 2012, Süddeutsche.de explained, Google has been able to create search-based profiles for users of its search engine, YouTube, Gmail, Google+ and other enterprises and that enable sending targeted ads to consumers. France told Google to inform French users about how the company was handling their data and to obtain their consent before putting cookies on their computers that would track their online behavior. Google did not comply.
Update on 14 Dec 2013: Canada’s antitrust Competition Bureau is investigating Google’s business practices, to see “whether Google is abusing its dominance of the Internet search market to stifle competition and drive up digital advertising prices.”
Apparently authorities in Spain, Italy and France were also examining Google’s business practices, according to the Süddeutsche.de article.
“New S.E.P.A. payment transfer system.”
A new bank transfer system for making payments is scheduled to go into effect in 33 European countries on 01 Feb 2014 for companies and associations and at a later date for individual people. S.E.P.A. transfers will use new 22-digit I.B.A.N. bank account numbers. There were concerns that some businesses hadn’t updated their forms in time to fit in the extra digits. On 24 Oct 2013 the Bundesbank warned that some firms were starting late and their mistakes could hurt their employees.
The new transfers between accounts in any of the 33 countries are supposed to cost no more than a domestic transfer and arrive no later than the next business day.
(NOY ess ZAY pah TSOLL oongs iss taym.)
According to a law passed by the E.U. parliament on 12 Dec 2013, every E.U. burgher is going to have a right to have their own giro-type bank account, which have replaced checking accounts.
Twenty years ago, my experience was that checks were regarded with suspicion in Germany while almost every payment and donation was made by filling out bank transfer forms. Your wages were transferred into your account (quickly and for free) and your rent, universal health insurance (incl. dental and medicines), university tuition (about $200/year? mostly student union fees, much of which the student government spent on scholarships for foreign students), public broadcasting fees, &c., were transferred out of your giro account automatically each month after you filled out permission slips for regular automatic transfers. Donations to charities, one-time payments, magazine subscriptions, court-imposed fines: all were paid for twenty years ago by filling out a transfer form and handing it to a bank clerk or mailing it to a company.
The E.U. parliament is creating this right to a giro account because they said you need one to have a normal life there “and no one should be left out because e.g. they are homeless or have financial difficulties.”
The base giro account will be able to make and receive transfers but not be overdrawn. The individual Member States still must approve this law, said ZDF heute journal moderator Heinz Wolf.
(R-r-r-echh t ow! f JEE roe conn toe.)
“Privatizing a troop of engineers,” the ~2800 elite engineers in Britain’s Defence Support Group which is responsible for maintaining and purchasing high-tech weapons systems such as fighter jets, tanks and troop transporters, said Spiegel.de.
Spiegel said London is ignoring the U.S.A.’s request not to sell off the unit. The U.K. military fears the sale would result in loss of institutional knowledge, loss of control over military secrets, exposure to boycott risk and other problems. Spiegel said the Observer said the official call for bids to buy D.S.G. will go out in a few days despite lots of domestic opposition to the plan, which didn’t stop Mr. Cameron’s government from e.g. privatizing the Royal Mail.
The Spiegel.de article said the U.S.A.’s notoriously tight control over military technology it shares with allies was circumvented by Tony Blair in 2007 when he worked out a simplified sharing agreement in the throes of the wars. George W. Bush agreed to share important anti-terrorism military technology using streamlined processes and without requiring export licenses.
(Inn jen YOO er en troop ah pree vot eez EAR en.)
A chilling effect, what Chinese censorship has on news reporting and book publishing.
Australian media have reported that it looks like Chinese authorities will not renew the visas of foreign journalists working for the New York Times and Bloomberg, set to expire at the end of 2013. This will require those journalists and their families, including children in school, to leave the country very suddenly, while having a chilling effect on all other international writing about China because yet again the authorities have not named their reasons for this move, leaving people guessing and self-censoring while denying they’re self-censoring.
I feel a qualm now when typing the names of journalists whose work I’m citing. Will my attempt to credit their good work create search engine results that imperil their future efforts to help explain a country as important and interesting as China?
Writers talking about not writing about China oscillate between drawing conclusions about censorship causes that they then decide are obvious, and saying you can’t know. But it does seem some officials there dislike reporting about corruption and vast accumulations of family capital. Corruption would also not be a reason you’d want to cite for refusing to renew journalist visas.
Update on 30 Jan 2014: After ten years reporting in China, Austin Ramzy switched from Time Magazine to the NYTimes in April 2013 and was forced to leave the country this month when he was denied a new press card, meaning his journalist’s visa could not be renewed. Spiegel.de reported that NYTimes and Bloomberg are unable to fill empty posts in their China bureaus.
(Eye nah OB shreck en dah VEERK oong.)
European winding-down fund for rotten banks.
After years of discussions, European finance ministers have agreed on some corner points for how they’re going to deal with busted banks: an F.D.I.C.-type fund to settle up bad banks and close them out. The fund is to be created over the course of the next few years and stocked with an initial 55 billion euros provided by the banks themselves, as is the case for F.D.R.’s F.D.I.C. in the U.S.A. The new bank-funded fund is intended to help keep mismanaged banks from shifting their risks onto taxpayers again.
Update on 12 Dec 2013: ZDF Brussels correspondent Udo van Kampen explained the order of who will be called on to bail out troubled banks in the entire E.U.: first Eigentümer (“owners” = bank stockholders?), then Gläubiger (“creditors” = people who have bought the bank’s debt-based bonds?), then accountholders with >100,000 euros deposited at the bank, then taxpayers.
The bank-funded bad-bank fund will not be fully available until 2023, Mr. van Kampen said, and “The new liability rules for banks are now going to go into effect in 2016, two years earlier than planned.”
An economist pundit summed up the steps the E.U. has taken to prevent another huge financial collapse like the one that started on 15 Sep 2008: “We have a common European financial authority, now we have a bank settlement fund and we have creditor liability [Gläubigerbeteiligung, creditors having a stake]: that should help us avoid a similar crisis in the future,” said Carsten Brzeski, describing progress toward establishing the three “pillars” planned for the E.U.’s banking union in 2012 and 2013.
(Oy roe PAY ish ah OB vick loongs fɔ̃ fir mah ROAD ah BONK en.)
Investigating/testing/auditing for hidden risks.
Update on 05 Dec 2013: Scheduled to take over responsibility for Europe’s largest banks at the end of 2014, the European Central Bank started its latest “stress test” on the risk management being exercised by the 128 largest European banks. This included 24 German ones, of which ARD tagesschau.de listed the following: Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, some Landesbanks, DZ Bank, Hamburg Sparkasse and the Wüstenrot & Württembergische (not a bank but a “financial company”; many pies). Structures and solutions for the stress test were not yet entirely defined. National finance ministers were meeting to decide who would be responsible for banks found to have too many hidden risks: Italy wanted Europe to be on the hook for bailing them out, for example, and Germany wanted the national governments to be responsible first. The stress test was expected to last nearly one year.
(NOCHH fair SHTECKED en REE zee ken prüü fen.)
Some insight into why left-leaning governments along the very densely populated Ruhr river, even under an S.P.D. + Green party state coalition government such as that of governor Hannelore Kraft (S.P.D.), might persist in doubling down on the “losing bet” on coal-fired power plants: financially-strapped town governments, such as the city of Essen where the huge utility RWE is headquartered, are heavily invested in private utilities’ stock. Essen bought almost 19 million shares of RWE stock in 2007 at ~75 euros and was still listing the stock in its books as worth 75 euros though they were trading at 27 euros when ZDF heute journal reported on this last month. Update on 01 Apr 2014: Essen adjusted its books to reflect its RWE stock’s current trading price, because new rules required the city to do so, and consequently lost 680 million euros on paper. Essen’s capital has now shrunk to ~15 million euros. The city estimates it will have debts of 18 million euros at the end of 2014 and >50 million at the end of 2015 and 2016 (2015 and 2016?). FAZ.net said other Ruhrgebiet cities invested in RWE stock as well.
The city utilities of the towns of Essen, Dortmund, Oberhausen, Bochum, Dinslaken and Duisburg along the Rhine and Ruhr rivers formed an entity called the Stadtwerke Konsortium Rhein-Ruhr which in 2011 bought 51% of STEAG (“the Anthracite Electricity Co.”), a company that operates coal-fired power plants, for a total of 1.2 billion euros in borrowed money.
Academics interviewed on ZDF heute journal said Germany’s energy future is in decentralized renewables, especially solar power and wind. They worried that the utilities stock the financially imperiled Ruhrgebiet cities have borrowed money to invest in wasn’t just tempting city and state governments to make questionable environmental policy but that they would acquire so much debt throwing good money after bad to subvention the old coal power plants that the towns might never recover financially.
Update on 21 Nov 2013: An expert opinion report found that ex-governor of Baden-Württemberg Stefan Mappus (C.D.U.) overpaid by ~780 million euros when he bought into private energy utility company EnBW in 2010, negotiating a shares purchase package for 4.7 billion euros. The report was commissioned by the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office. N.B.: Mr. Mappus was succeeded in office by Winfried Kretschmann, Germany’s first Green party governor, as a result of the fierce protests against the Stuttgart 21 train station expansion project (C.D.U.).
Update on 28 Feb 2014: RWE lost 2.8 billion euros in 2013. This is its first loss year in sixty years. The majority of the losses are from write-downs on gas and coal-fired power plants. It had calculated that its conventional large coal-burning power plants would be selling electricity at 50 euros/megawatt hour in 2014/2015 that it’s selling for 35 euros because of Germany’s investments in decentralized renewable energy sources. RWE’s stock price was almost 29 euros though because shareholders were expecting the news, a trader said.
Update on 04 Mar 2014: RWE’s C.E.O. Peter Terium said at a press conference that the utility “made mistakes too” and was late to invest in renewable energy sources, “perhaps too late.”
Perhaps one-third of their large coal-burning power plants is not earning enough from electricity sales to cover operating costs. The company is 30 billion euros in debt. They said they will have to make cuts, including cutting 10% of jobs by the end of 2016 which is a clear dog whistle to the S.P.D, and asked the German government to help them out of their dead end. The chair of the Mining, Chemistry, Energy union where the new general secretary of the S.P.D. used to work, who is also the new general secretary of the S.P.D.’s life partner, called for the government to support RWE’s request for more government support. Payment for maintaining offlined unprofitable coal-burning power plants would not be a subsidy, said RWE’s C.E.O.
Update on 12 Apr 2014: Spiegel.de reported that Wirtschaftswoche reported that Handelsblatt Online reported that the just top twenty municipal governments owning the most RWE stock lost 2.5 billion euros on paper in the recent write-down to the stock’s current trading price. Essen lost 680 million euros. Mülheim an der Ruhr lost 480 million. “The stock price adjustment is bringing some of them to the verge of bankruptcy.” Also, RWE’s C.E.O. Peter Terium recently confirmed that the utility might issue new stock to get fresh capital, further pushing down the price of its old stock. Wirtschaftswoche and/or Handelsblatt said the affected North Rhine-Westphalian “counties” [Kreis] include Hochsauerland, Rhein-Sieg and Rheinisch-Bergische and the affected North Rhine-Westphalian regional authorities [Landschaftsverband] include Westfalen-Lippe and Rheinland.
No one has explained yet how RWE could be so massively in debt yet 2013 was its first loss year since World War II, unless they’re saying the utility did it by hiding losses on paper while hoping for government support. A 03 Mar 2014 article headlined “Complaining as a Strategy,” in which Spiegel.de said C.E.O. Peter Terium still lacked a plan for bringing the utility giant forward into greatness, cited an RWE presentation dated February 2014 that said the company had debts of ~19 billion in 2008 which increased to ~30 billion euros in 2013. It said it appears the management has cut costs and already budgeted in government aid it expects to receive by explaining how poorly the company is doing, but it still lacks a plan for getting out of the “vale of tears.” Laudable investments in decentralized renewable energy sources such as “Blockheizkraftwerke [decentralized combined heat and power station units], Solarspeicher [storage units for solar energy] and smart home concepts” cannot offset the huge losses from investments in giant dirty power plants.
(Ow! fss FALL shah FEAHD geh ZETTS t)
Fake temp work.
Apparently Germany has a supreme court for labor law, the Bundesarbeitsgericht, located in Erfurt.
On 10 Dec 2013 the labor court judges announced a detailed verdict in a temp work dispute that basically said, ARD tagesschau.de said, it’s time for the legislature to pass certain laws. “It’s the legislature’s turn.”
At issue was clarifying a 1972 temp work law, the Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz, AÜG, whose current version apparently does not adequately define punishments for violations of itself and uses nonspecific language: “Die Überlassung von Arbeitnehmern an Entleiher erfolgt vorübergehend.” [The seconding of employees to hirers is done temporarily.] When the AÜG was passed in 1972, it limited temp work to max. 3 months; that limit was raised several times until it reached 24 months in 2002, was eliminated entirely in 2003, and was re-introduced as the word “temporary,” vorübergehend, in 2011. The current draft agreement negotiated for a possible post-election C.D.U./C.S.U. + S.P.D. grosse Koalition government contains a promise to reset the maximum temping limit to ≤18 months, ZDF heute journal’s Simone Friedrich said in her brief history of the relevant law.
Three years was how long the case’s plaintiff, an I.T. specialist, had been temping at a hospital. His workplace was operated by a company that ran multiple hospitals and had created its own temp agency to staff them with several hundred workers receiving significantly less than union-negotiated wages, according to ZDF heute journal. Yet the labor court had to find that punishments not codified in the current laws were not codified in the current laws.
“As disappointing as this verdict may be for the plaintiff, the judges also made clear that temp work can only be legally limited by the lawgiver [legislatures]. And the legislatures are who must craft the regulations stating what sanctions will apply to hirers that don’t follow these rules.” –ARD tagesschau.de correspondent Matthias Koch
The Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund association of unions said the corrective legislation should not only limit the maximum time for temp work but also mandate that temp workers receive the same wages as regular workers.
Reporting on the verdict made charming use of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rather impressive statement when she addressed a meeting of the German employers’ association on 19 Nov 2013:
“Unfortunately, in the German economy, we have seen it happen again and again that from every flexibilization an abuse arises. […] And the more often that sort of thing happens, the greater the danger that everything will be reregulated again.”
ZDF correspondent Simone Friedrich said Germany had 20,000 temp workers in 1982 and 822,000 in 2012.
(SHINE LIE ah bite.)
“Cleverizing speech patterns.”
During the dot com bubble, U.S. Americans seemed to think peppering your speech with unnecessary pauses indicated you were smarter, not the opposite. Perhaps this idea was spread by television sit coms, because that’s where people seemed to be getting a lot of their information.
In the subsequent George W. Bush administration, a new package of tics signalling expertise became appreciated in the form of the delivery style used by Vice President Dick Cheney.
(Shl OW! my eahn deh SPROCHH moose tah.)
“Extra-parliamentary opposition,” people who aren’t legislators making their policy criticism known in various legal ways. A.P.O. will have to get strong and loud in Germany again if the grosse Koalition agreement is approved, leaving a “bonsai” Bundestag opposition totalling only 19% (Leftists + Greens). That’s so small rules will have to be relaxed to let a group that size do the relatively powerless things it can do such as launch an inquiry [Untersuchungsausschuss], call a special meeting [Sondersitzung] or ask the constitutional court in Karlsruhe to determine whether laws are in compliance with the German constitution [Normenkontrollklage].
The coming grosse Koalition, Germany’s second-largest, will be able to change anything it wants, like a steamroller. Including constitutional amendments.
(Ow! sah pah lee ah ment A-R-R ish ah opp oh zee tsee OWN.)
Democracy, rule of law, separation of powers, basic rights, a free political life and the right to an effective opposition.
A pundit professor on public broadcaster ARD said these are in principle the “core substance” of the German constitution [Grundgesetz] and what that document means by the “freiheitliche demokratische Grundordnung” [basic underlying free democratic order], which it said political parties in Germany can be banned for attempting to impair or eliminate. On 03 Dec 2013 the Bundesrat submitted another petition to the supreme constitutional court in Karlsruhe asking the court to ban the neonazi-esque N.P.D. party on grounds such as these, based this time on party members’ public statements rather than evidence collected from paid informants.
The German constitution outlaws actions that reduce democracy for future generations.
(Dame awk rah TEE, WRECKED shtot, geh VAULT en TILE oong, GRUNED wrecked eh, eye n fry ess poll it ish ess LAY ben oont doss WRECKED ow! f eye neh VEAHK zom eh opp oh zee tsee OWN.)
“The fact that freedom of the press is not guaranteed by law anywhere in Great Britain is now taking its revenge,” was a German reporter’s comment on a hearing held to determine whether the Guardian’s reporting on Snowden trove documents had put Britons in danger.
ARD tagesschau.de correspondent Annette Dittert went on to say, “In no other democratic country would such a campaign against a well-respected newspaper even be conceivable, and especially not a campaign ordered by that country’s government.” She said at the hearing Mr. Rusbridger “broke a lance” for freedom of the press, using good arguments and pretending to be unaffected by the enormous political pressure. Süddeutsche.de called him a stiller Stern, a quiet star.
(Doss dee PRESS ah fry height inn gross brit ON ee enn near gen dvoh wrecked lichh fair BRIEFED issed, r-r-r-echh t zichh yetsst.)
New Egyptian constitution, to replace the one adopted and adapted by former President Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood) which took powers away from the judiciary.
Update in August 2013: Egypt’s temporary prime minister Hasem al-Beblawi emphasized the country’s commitment to democracy. The schedule still stands, he said: first a referendum on the new constitution, then parliamentary election and then presidential election by February 2014. “Egypt will not be a religious or a military state,” Mr. al-Beblawi said. “Our road map to democracy is still in place.”
Update on 30 Nov 2013: A ~50-member council representing a variety of groups in Egyptian society began meeting to discuss a new Egyptian constitution. After they report their results, the temporary government will prepare a constitutional referendum.
Update on 14 Jan 2014: The two-day vote on Egypt’s constitution referendum began today. ARD tagesschau.de said the military’s strong role is written into the new draft constitution as well: they’ll be able to decide who’ll become the next defense minister, for example. This is the third constitution referendum in three years. President Morsi’s shenanigans have given a new shine to Egypt’s new strong man, defense minister and military commander-in-chief General as-Sisi, who after helping usher in these latest, necessary reforms may run for president in the upcoming election. Outside observers said they were pleased that the new constitution strengthens women’s rights and “raised the hurdles for islamic laws.” They criticized the confirmation of the military’s primacy in the country.
ZDF heute journal listed the following points in the new Egyptian constitution:
General as-Sisi may decide to not run for president and to remain “a figure of Egypt’s transition,” having helped his >80 million countrymen very much at a very important time without having had to start hurting them later, upholding an unbalanced regime.
(NOY ah æ GHIP tish ah fair FOSS oong.)
“Shadow science of war,” headline to a Süddeutsche.de article about >$10 million the U.S. military has invested since 2000 in research projects at at least 22 German universities, careful curious institutions where $10 million can buy a lot of study. The Pentagon helped fund investigations into military explosive materials at Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität in Munich, for example; bulletproof glass [Panzerglas] and warheads [Sprengköpfe, exploding heads] at the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg; at Marburg, mini-drones and “nocturnal visual orientation in flying insects” useful for targeting munitions; at Saarland, $120,000 from the Army Research Laboratory for mathematical studies of linguistic structures, presumably useful in surveillance technology.
Süddeutsche.de and its investigation partner the Norddeutsche Rundfunk criticized the lack of transparency at the German universities and research institutes about having received the funding. Despite having “packs or prides of marketing experts,” the mostly-taxpayer-funded German schools’ reticence about U.S. military sponsorship meant journalists could only find them by going through lists in U.S. documents, including online searches of the database of the Federal Procurement Data System, which S.Z. said publishes all U.S. government purchases >$3000.
“And afterward strained excuses were even voiced, such as, the money was for basic research that surprised everyone when it turned out to have military applications. But the Pentagon would never have opened its cash register for pure love-of-neighbor, nor for scientific curiosity.”
Süddeutsche.de said 14 German universities have added “civil clauses” [Zivilklausel] to their by-laws stating that they will not accept research money from the German military, which also sponsors such projects. The University of Bremen did this, for example, and was then shocked to find its name in the U.S. database, having received $40,000 in 2011 and again in 2012 from the U.S. Air Force to study metal emissions in the upper atmosphere. Even if schools have such so-called civil clauses, the newspaper wrote, it is each individual German academic’s decision whether to accept military money for “dual-use” projects because academic freedom is guaranteed by Art. 5 of the German Constitution, section (3), which can be translated as “Art and science, research and teaching, are free. The freedom of teaching does not release instructors from their constitutional obligations” (to democracy and the human rights mandated elsewhere in the Grundgesetz, GG).
Update on 17 Dec 2013: The Swiss newspaper SontagsZeitung reported that in the past two years the Pentagon has provided “about a dozen” Swiss universities with “over a million dollars” in sponsoring for research projects in aerospace and computers. Schools included E.T.H. Lausanne and the universities of Zurich, Bern and Neuenburg.
(SHOTTEN vissen shoften dess CREE gess.)
Car exhaust limits.
Update on 29 Nov 2013: The E.U. resolved a dispute about tightening car exhaust pollution standards in which Germany was trying to get laxer standards to appease its large large-car manufacturers. The E.U. ministers compromised on delaying the stricter standards by one year until 2021, when max. 95 g carbon dioxide per kilometer will be permitted for new cars.
The one-year delay will make the 95 g/km rule apply for 95% of new cars in 2020 and 100% in 2021. ZDF heute journal financial correspondent Valerie Haller said German manufacturers sell heavier cars than French and Italian manufacturers, so they will benefit well from the extra year to develop compensating technology. Also, the new rules say only 4 L/100 km of gasoline can be consumed, which small light cars manage but heavier cars will need electric motors to accomplish. Car manufacturers’ supplier Bosch said that practically means the end of purely-gasoline or purely-diesel “grosse Klasse” cars, meaning I think the big expensive German automobiles. Road traffic is one of the top three air polluters, Ms. Haller said, and the E.U. has promised to reduce its air pollution to try to mitigate the disasters that will be caused by climate change.
A similar fight happened in 2013 over E.U.-mandated use of a more environmentally-friendly fluid in new cars, with France filing a complaint stating that German car manufacturers were out-of-compliance and German car manufacturers responding that their in-house tests had found the new fluid spontaneously combusts sometimes.
(OW! toe OB gauze gren tsen.)
Veiled wealth management contracts.
270 tax police searched about 40 Commerzbank branches at their Frankfurt headquarters and elsewhere on 03 Dec 2013 seeking information about Italian partners who had advised the bank’s customers on how to avoid taxes using what only looked like tax-exempted life insurance, according to Bochum prosecutors who executed the razzia with Düsseldorf tax officials.
ZDF heute journal’s finance correspondent Valerie Haller said assets such as stock or bonds in “depots” at the bank that should have been subject to capital gains tax were instead “wrapped in fake life insurance” by the friendly insurer. The long (12-year) period of the fake life insurance instruments conveniently allowed some tax evasion statutes of limitations to expire. Unlike real life insurance, these instruments let customers continue investing the money wherever they chose while avoiding significant tax and remaining rather anonymous. Real life insurance that qualifies for German tax breaks must also insure against a risk (the death of the insuree), according to a German law passed in 2009 to tighten up these loopholes. After the 2009 law, said a 2012 S.Z. article, such life insurances bought by Germans had to be reported immediately to the Bundesfinanzministerium [Federal Finance Ministry] when bought in Germany, but when bought outside the country the sellers were only obligated to report them to the German government when the policies were paid out.
The Italians are rumored to have been working for an Italian insurance company called Generali, though that has not been confirmed. Handelsblatt.com heard it was Generali subsidiary PanEurope Ltd., headquartered in Ireland, and added that the scheme had a minimum deposit requirement of half a million euros but prosecutors thought this one had been used to avoid taxation on several hundred million. Reporting on a similar investigation in 2012 of German insurance customers at the Swiss bank Crédit Suisse, Süddeutsche.de said English names for the scheme included “insurance wrappers” and “private placement insurance.”
Commerzbank is only being called as a witness, the bank’s representatives said. They only managed das Depot, which translates as portfolio but has always sounded more like an armored box.
The Green party took advantage of the event to call once more for a German criminal code for companies, in addition to individual people, so that companies can be prosecuted for crimes.
(Fair SHLY ah teh fair MƏG oongs fair VAULT oongs fair TRAY geh.)
The Ukrainian government’s decision at the E.U.’s recent Eastern Partnership conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, to decline to strengthen economic ties with the European Union in order to strengthen economic ties with Russia made very little sense because given an either-or choice the country would have become more prosperous by partnering with Europe. That made it appear that Russia had to have been threatening the country, in addition to carroting it, while possibly also bribing individual politicians.
FAZ.net reporting about ship-like natural gas processing and delivery harbors that can replace pipelines has indicated post-Soviet Russian “gas wars” against Ukraine. On 21 Nov 2013 ZDF heute journal reported that Moscow had been waging a bitter trade war with Ukraine for weeks before the decision, with threats to stop investments and throttle back natural gas deliveries just as winter was starting.
Update on 29 Nov 2013: Angela Merkel told reporters at the summit it wasn’t even an either-or decision. Ukraine could have strengthened economic ties with the E.U. and with Russia. And the decision remains open; Ukraine can decide to join the E.U.’s Eastern European trade partnership program at any time. And the E.U. has few enemies in the world that might sanction Ukraine for being friendly with it: North Korea? Syria?
Meanwhile, Georgia and Moldavia did sign the E.U. trade partnership agreements, as a result of which they will enjoy fewer visa limits and lower customs charges.
Update on 02 Dec 2013: Amid fierce protesting, half a million people in the streets, terrible violence in Maidan Square, followed by the resignation of the chief of police in apology for official brutality, President Janukovytsch announced his government might be willing to talk talk about E.U. trade partnership association agreements again. He flew to China to be seen talking talk about non-E.U. trade there.
Update on 03 Dec 2013: Three opposition parties formed an alliance in Ukraine on 02 Dec 2013. The next day, “all” the parliamentary opposition parties brought a no-confidence vote that failed to oust Prime Minister Mykola Asarow’s government, getting only 186 of the 226 votes needed. Apparently Mr. Janukovytsch represents while Mr. Azarov governs.
ZDF heute journal reported that the no-confidence vote’s arguments had been: “the disastrous economic situation,” burgeoning governmental corruption and, last but not least, the decision to turn down an E.U. association agreement. Followed by the new arguments of the terrible police brutality against protesters. It’s too bad press cameras love following ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko, because there are other opposition leaders in Ukraine. ZDF’s correspondent said they mangled, mauled and lacerated each other last year, resulting in Mr. Janukovytsch’s majority.
(Zoh VOLE … alss OW! chh.)
“Devil’s stuff,” the chemical weapons Syria agreed to destroy with international partners, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. A schedule has been set for the most dangerous of them, mustard gas and sarin gas, with collection before 31 Dec 2013 and destruction before 30 Jun 2014.
Update on 16 Nov 2013: Protesters in Albania succeeded in getting their president to promise not to use Albanian facilities to destroy Syrian chemical weapons. Their concern was understandable. Everyone’s reluctance is understandable. Albania had been asked by the U.S.A. if they would take on the job because Albania had experience destroying its own chemical weapons. Germany still has some facilities that have been used to destroy old munitions and unexploded bombs that keep turning up from the world wars. Syria’s weapons might be destroyed by incineration at very high temperatures or by chemical “hydrolysis” cleavage, said ARD tagesschau.de correspondent Rolf-Dieter Krause. “Both are quite dicey methods whose control requires experience and very safe technical systems.”
Update on 30 Nov 2013: The U.S.A. offered to destroy 500 tons of the most dangerous of these military materials on board a ship and to pay for it. The O.P.C.W. announced that after that another 800 tons would be destroyed by specialist companies. The elimination is a little behind schedule because many countries that were asked to help destroy the chemical weapons regretfully declined to do so.
Update on 13 Dec 2013: All chemical weapon production sites in Syria are said to have been destroyed. Deadly chemicals from Syria’s arsenal will be transported on volunteered Danish and Norwegian ships to a huge U.S. Navy vessel that will destroy them via chemical cleavage and neutralization, in about two weeks, said Jan van Aken, former U.N. weapons inspector, environmentalist and now bioweapons and chemical weapons-specializing Bundestag member (Leftists party). “Helicopters, aircraft carriers and fighter jets will have to secure the Cape Rae” during the destruction process, said ZDF heute journal correspondent Roland Strumpf. The process will create >7 million liters of toxic waste water. The other residues left over from the substances will be stored in drums. The current cold snap in the Middle East, which just dumped forty cm of snow on Jerusalem, is a problem for the initial truck transport of the >1000 tons of poison gas; presumably the U.S. and other countries will be monitoring those transports via satellite imagery and other tracking.
Update on 10 Jan 2014: A company owned by Germany’s federal government in Munster will be participating in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons by eliminating some of the degradation products produced by the breakdown of mustard gas. Several hundred tons of the diluted residues will remain after combustion on the Cape Ray, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons asked Germany for help with them in addition to the 5 million euros the country pledged to the project. The chancellor’s new defense minister told reporters Germany has the methods and technology to combust these residues down to nothing, with equipment still being used to dispose of unexploded bombs still being dug up from W.W.II.
Reporting on the methods and quantities involved in this project is starting to contradict itself, but the spirit of cooperation, multiplicity of partners and good intentions on all sides to “unsharpen” the conflict in Syria is wonderfully welcome.
Update on 23 Jun 2014: The Syrian government announced that all the chemical weapons scheduled to be destroyed have been destroyed.
(TOY fells TSOY g.)