Thomas Mann describing his early-twentieth century idea of the “civilization littérateur,” from I think his 1918 essay “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man”:

“Nothing, I said, was more indicative of the literary disposition than the twofold and basically only uniform activity of those humanitarian journalists of the time of the Enlightenment, who, in criminological-political writings, summoned society to the forum of humanity, who educated their contemporaries to despise the barbarisms in the administration of justice, to be against torture and capital punishment, and who paved the way for milder laws—and who characteristically made names for themselves at the same time by pedagogical writings on language and style and by treatises on the art of writing. Love of mankind and the art of writing as the dominant passions of one soul: this meant something; not by chance were these two passions found together. To write beautifully meant almost to think beautifully, and from there it was not far to beautiful deeds. All the moral improvement of the human race—this could be demonstrated—came from the spirit of literature, and even the popular teachers of antiquity considered the beautiful word to be the father of good deeds. What a sermon!”

(Tsee vee lee zah tsee OWNS lit tay rah t.)

“Bürger sind mehr als nur Verbraucher.”

“Burghers are more than just consumers.”

“Being a burgher also means helping co-design your society,” said Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck in his official speech at a lunch with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(Burgher zinned MARE alss noor fair BROW chh ah.)

Erste erfolgreiche paneuropäische Bürgerinitiative

“The first successful paneuropean citizens’ initiative” was handed in to officials in Brussels, who said they were overjoyed to be meeting with privatization opponents to mark such a happy milestone for grass roots democracy in Europe. They were serious.

The group Right2Water collected 1.6 million signatures protesting new rules that would have made it easier to privatize European water utilities, and in ways large companies would have dominated. Not only was theirs the first initiative to meet the Lisbon agreement’s requirements but “who knows what would have happened” without the discussion Right2Water created, said Süddeutsche.de. In response to the signatures campaign, the commission officials under Michel Barnier canceled plans to enable privatization of municipal water utilities with bidding open to companies from all of Europe. They announced public water utilities would not be subject to the internal market’s liberalization rules.

Currently, a citizens’ initiative that fulfills the Lisbon agreement’s criteria of collecting >1 million signatures from at least seven Member States will get a hearing from the European Parliament and from the European Commission. The European Commission is obligated to issue a statement in response within three months, so in this case by 19 Mar 2014.

Right2Water organizers made three demands: that all Europeans have a right to water and basic sanitation, that the E.U. push internationally for universal access to water, and that the potable water supply not be subjected to the interior market’s rules.

The group clearly achieved some progress on the third demand, preventing the worst from happening for the time being. Regarding the second demand, European parliament president Martin Schulz (S.P.D., Germany) recently caused a scandal in the Israeli Knesset by asking why the discrepancy between the per capita water volumina available to Palestinians and to Israelis.

(Eh ah stah   eh ah FOAL gry chh ah   ponn oy roe PEI ish ah   BIR gah ee nee tsee ah TEE vah.)


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.)

“Wir wollen ein Volk der guten Nachbarn werden, nach innen und nach aussen.”

“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.)

“Wir wollen mehr Demokratie wagen.”

“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.)

“Demokratie, Rechtsstaat, Gewaltenteilung, Grundrechte, ein freies politisches Leben und das Recht auf eine wirksame Opposition”

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.)

Neue ägytische Verfassung

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:

  • More government, less religion
  • Burghers’ rights are strengthened
  • Freedom of religion guaranteed
  • Military primacy unchallenged

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.)


“Political parties law,” which defines some German election rules.

An Armistice Day article in Spiegel.de on the continuance of the neonazi-legacy N.P.D. party’s temporary loss of government political party financing due to “chaotic bookkeeping” mentioned some interesting aspects of German public financing of political parties and the parties’ reporting obligations. Under the Parteiengesetz, the German government gives all parties that receive at least 0.5% of the vote in Bundestag or European Union elections, and/or 1% in state elections, 85 eurocents for each vote received in E.U., Bundestag and German state parliamentary elections. That is reduced to 70 eurocents per vote >4 million votes. “Also, for each euro a party receives as a membership fee or donation, up to 3300 euros, the government pays another 38 eurocents.”

This money is paid to the parties in quarterly installments.

Spiegel.de said the N.P.D.’s financial trials began in 2007 when a Thuringian N.P.D. official named Golkowski was caught using fake donation receipts in order to get more matching funds from the government. This may have been going on since the 1990’s. The error was compounded by the so-called “chaotic bookkeeping” in that year’s year-end reporting that should have been glass-clear in order to avoid more trouble but in which party treasurer Köster apparently misplaced almost 900,000 euros by using the wrong tables at one point. As per the Parteiengesetz, the N.P.D. had to return the inappropriately obtained donation-matching funds (almost 900,000 euros) and pay a fine double that amount. Accordingly, the Bundestag announced the N.P.D. would be fined 2.5 million euros for the malfeasance, but in December 2012 the supreme constitution court in Karlsruhe, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, reduced the fine to 1.27 million euros because, they said, the Bundestag had overlooked the fact that the radical right-wing party had provided “coherent/conclusive explanations” [“schlüssig erläutert“] of some of the points they were accused of. In May 2013, in response to the N.P.D.’s accelerated appeal to the supreme constitutional court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht said the government would have to pay the N.P.D.’s 15 May 2013 and 15 Aug 2013 quarterly payments “in advance” until a final court decision in the main hearing on the fine’s legality; this financed the party until at least the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election.

On 11 Nov 2013, the Bundesverfassungsgericht announced that the neonazi party’s fine would not be cancelled more yet and their 15 Nov 2013 payment can now be stopped. Although the N.P.D. had filed an accelerated appeal to the nation’s highest court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht said the party had not exhausted its relevant appeals in Berlin. The N.P.D. said they need this money now more than ever, with the E.U. Parliament election coming up.

Spiegel.de’s chart shows government contributions to the N.P.D. from 2003 to 2011. Red bar numbers represent government contributions in millions of euros. Beige bar numbers are government funding’s percentage of total N.P.D. income that year.

(Pot EYE en gezz ETZ.)

Monitorische Demokratie vs. monetäre Demokratie

Monitory democracy vs. monetary democracy.

In an online discussion, political theorist John Keane said he considered our form of government to have gone through three stages: the ancient world’s assembly democracy, in which groups of landowning men would vote on some topics; late-18th-century representative electoral democracy; and, now, added to that, an emerging “monitory democracy” in which many varied groups are monitoring governments’ performance, adherence to democratic principles, protection of humans, protection of human rights, etc.

Monetary democracy: perhaps codified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which appeared to define one dollar as one vote.

(Mon ih TOR ish eh   dame oh cra TEE   vair seuss   mon eh TARE eh   dame oh cra TEE.)

Merkwürdige Umkehrung rechtsstaatlicher Logik

Remarkable reversal of rule-of-law logic.” One of Heribert Prantl’s points in his op-ed on fundamental rights [Grundrechte], the German constitution and various countries’ mass trawling to collect world communications.

“In the countries of the western world, led by the U.S.A., a remarkable process of reversal of rule-of-law logic is underway: Whether a country is ruled by law is apparently no longer measured by whether the country upholds people’s fundamental rights. Instead, the violations of fundamental rights are justified by saying it’s a rule-of-law country doing the violating. The concept of ‘rule of law’ is being stripped naked of its content and used willy-nilly despite what it actually means. The United States are justifying even the worst ominousnesses by saying ‘but we’re a Rechtsstaat (rule-of-law country).’ Apparently people think that even nobilifies waterboarding.

“…A state that views its burghers with generalized suspicion and fundamentally mistrusts everybody is not strong. A state is strong that has the security that human rights and burgher rights are the best guarantors of internal security. A democratic state, which only exists because of and from the freedom of its people, must not turn against its creators.”

(MERK voor diggah   OOM care oong   WRECKED shtot lichh err   LO! gick.)


“Because I said so!” policy, dictated from above without two-way discussion, learning or compromise.

(Boss ta! Poll ee TEAK.)


Arbitrariness. When a government does it: despotism. Tributes to Walter Jens said he kept up a fight against despotism, with elegance.

(VILL koor.)


“People-counting judgment,” the census decision made by the German constitutional court in the 1980’s. An online article I found on the history of Germany’s strongest interest in Datenschutz und Datensicherheit (data protection and data security) explained that country’s aversion to census-taking from a historical perspective. The Nazis took an infamous census of “greater German” territories in the 1930’s that collected data used to kill people later, supposedly with the aid of early computing machines. Later generations of Germans, especially the authority-questioning “1968 generation,” were early adopters of fears about the way a fact that is harmless in one context may become dangerous in another, meaning there is no longer such a thing as a harmless datum. It was and is the combination of mandatory registration with the local government of your residence and contact data, which all German residents still have to do, and a proposed resumption of census taking that set off the large protests against a census in Germany. Eventually the German constitutional court issued its decision reaffirming the first sentence of the German Civil Code, the right to human dignity, and saying control and protection of one’s information was protected by that right.

My source said the logic and humanity of the court’s granting of this protection, and seeing that the state obeyed the court’s decision and canceled the census, calmed the fears of the 1968 generation of antifaschist protesters and did a great deal to integrate them into civil society, which they now control.

(Folks TSAY loongs oor tile.)


Morning air,” freshness, energy. This tailwind is said to be enjoyed by antisemites in Hungary right now, some of whom are friends with Prime Minister Orbán’s party and/or are themselves regime members. An openly antisemitic party is the third strongest in the Hungarian parliament after their most recent election. Which is why the World Jewish Congress made the wise decision to hold its annual meeting in Budapest this year, to draw attention to what looks like a terrible problem starting to grow in the middle of Europe.

Mr. Orbán’s right-wing government recently passed constitutional reforms about which Europe and the USA have expressed concerns. The questionably democratic amendments included restricting the Hungarian supreme Constitutional Court’s ability to adjudicate laws passed with a 2/3 parliamentary majority, changing people’s right to vote and making it possible to outlaw homelessness.

(MOAH genn LOOFT.)


“Democracy quality.” Twenty years after “the West” set up ways to monitor, motivate and report on the democratization of former Eastern bloc and other countries around the world, it appears some Western countries could also use some polish. Timm Beichelt of the Europe University in Frankfurt (Oder) wrote inter alia in his essay “Verkannte Parallelen. Transformationsforschung und Europastudien” that many eastern European countries have done quite a good job of organizing new structures while, e.g., France and Italy would have trouble with freedom of the press as measured by now-standard democracy indicators. Italy because of Berlusconi’s media empire, but France…?

(Dame awk rah TEE qvoll ee TATE.)

“Den kleinen Kreis der Kenner zu einem grossen Kreis der Kenner zu machen”

Much-loved words of Bertold Brecht in the 1930’s. He said, “What is democratic is turning the small group of people ‘in the know’ into a large group of people ‘in the know.'”

(Dane   KLY nen   k rice   dare   kenner   tsoo   eye nem   GROSS en   k rice   dare   kenner   tsoo   MOCHH en.)

“Weltbürger, Wutbürger oder Passivbürger”?

World citizens, fury citizens or passive citizens“? 30 Jan is the anniversary of Hitler’s lawful accession to power via structural weaknesses in Germany’s first democratic government, known as the Weimar Republic. Discussion and analysis of whether Germany’s current democracy is structurally strong enough to resist international and national erosion factors included the commentary that a democracy requires sufficient numbers of democratic citizens who participate in it. Former Volkswagen C.E.O. Carl Hahn also said that citizens who travel and see non-democracies for themselves will prefer democratic governments to the alternatives, and that the best stability for a democracy depends on how well it educates and communicates values to the next generation.

(VELT burgher,   VOOT burgher   ode er   poss EVE burgher?)


“Co-say.” Having a voice in a decision.

(MIT shprock eh.)

das Liquid-Feedback

Free open-source software intended to support das Delegated-Voting. Wikipedia says that in addition to helping “find decisions” and “find opinions,” this software can help efficiently channelize different competencies about a topic.

Update on 17 Dec 2012: According to Oliver Wenzlaff’s 2012 book Piratenkommunikation, the software is now being used by Pirate parties in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Brazil, and the German Pirates have encouraged other German political parties to use it with some success in municipal SPD groups and FDP discussion. Wenzlaff writes that it has been called “das Perpetuum mobile der Partizipation,” participation’s perpetual motion machine.

Update on 10 May 2013: the Liquid-Feedback section of the German Pirate Party’s website: https://lqfb.piratenpartei.de/

(Doss likvid FEEDBECK.)

das Delegated-Voting, das Liquid-Democracy

German Pirate Party names for a voting system under debate last winter that is intended to enable groups to reach decisions in a manner between direct democracy and representational democracy. This will be enabled by software. On each issue, large or small, you can vote directly or you can assign your vote to someone you think is more competent to decide the specific issue being voted on. Your assigned votes can be rescinded at any time. Das Delegated-Voting is intended to provide more direct, and thus more accurate, feedback to representatives. There would be no more waiting for “elections” and political terms to end; instead voting would be continuous.

According to Wikipedia, an “Internet and Digital Society” Bundestag committee decided in 2010 to use Adhocracy software to involve the public in Bundestag “work” in a Liquid-Democracy manner. Germany’s two conservative political parties (the conservative, apparently slightly shady, powerhouse CDU/CSU and the libertarian now-unpopular FDP) stopped the planned introduction of this software in January 2011, citing costs, but a beta version was put online in February 2011.

(Doss delegated VOTINGK, doss LIKVID democrrracy)

streitbare Demokratie

“Militant democracy,” what Germany has according to the German constitutional court. In such a system, the free democratic fundamental order cannot be ended by legal means. Even a majority of voters cannot decide to eliminate democracy or its most important elements, taking them away from future generations. The state may also act against individuals or groups who wish to harm German democracy, even before they do anything illegal. (Presumably this was behind Germany’s ban of Scientology.) Thus militant democracy itself impinges upon some fundamental rights and is the focus of much dispute.

(SHTRIGHT bar eh DAME oh crah TEE.)

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