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.)

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.)

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.)

“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.)

 

Fluorwasserstoff, Ammoniumhydrogendifluorid, Natriumfluorid

Hydrogen fluoride, ammonium hydrogen difluoride, sodium fluoride.

What did your country’s companies export to the Assads’ Syria that could have been used to hurt civilians?

These are three of the chemicals German companies exported tons of to Syria between 2002 and 2006 that could have been used to make chemical weapons, at a time when the Assad regime was known to have a chemical weapons program.

The German government’s Ministry for the Economy [Bundeswirtschaftsministerium] drew up and published a list of such chemicals, including quantities, dates and prices, that could have been used to manufacture chemical weapons and for which the government issued export permits, in response to a question submitted by the Leftists party (Die Linken) and by Bundestag member and former U.N. weapons inspector Jan van Aken (Leftists) in particular. The government supplied this information one week before a national election.

Update on 30 Sep 2013: After the national election the government supplied more information. German companies were issued export permits for “dual-use” chemicals even until 2011, after the Assads were killing peaceful Syrian protestors. From 1998 to 2011, ~300 tons of such chemicals, which could be used for civilian or military purposes, were delivered from Germany to Syria. Klaus Barthel (S.P.D.) criticized the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium for, among other things, phased provision of the truth. The Bundeswirtschaftsministerium said they reviewed the investigation and remain convinced of the plausibility of the civilian uses cited, but the C.D.U. said plausibility is not enough when dealing with regimes like the Assads’. Reporter Arnd Henze said Germany has to be especially careful in these matters because the world knows that chemical weapons were produced in Libya and Iraq “with German support.”

On 01 Sep 2013 it was announced that Britain had issued licenses to export sarin gas precursors potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to Syria in January 2012, ten months into the uprising against the Assad family. The export licenses were revoked in July 2012 after the European Union agreed to sanctions against the Assad regime. Prime Minister David Cameron (Tory)’s office initially responded by saying the U.K. has the the most rigorous export control regime, with a computer system called C.H.I.E.F., which is how they know that though the export permits were issued at that unfortunate time no chemicals were exported under the permits. Later it was indicated this was not so. Following up, Business Secretary Vince Cable (LibDem) subsequently reported that other licenses to export sarin precursor chemicals to Syria were issued by previous U.K. governments between 2004 and 2010 (the year Mr. Cameron’s Conservative-LibDem government came to power).

Update on 09 Jul 2014: U.K. foreign minister William Hague sent a written statement to the British parliament announcing that British companies had probably exported hundreds of tons of chemicals to Syria in the 1980’s that could have been used to make chemical weapons such as sarin and VX.

(FLEW or voss ah SHTOFF,   a MOAN ee oom hee dro GAIN dee FLEW oar EAT,   NOT ree oom FLEW oar EAT.)

Kapitalverschleierung über Steueroasen

“Using tax oases to veil capital.” Methods for doing this were disclosed by financial data about 130,000 people, in 170 countries, >120,000 “mailbox companies,” >260 GB in >2 million documents from a time range of ~30 years sent anonymously to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists over a year ago. The story hit the world press on 04 Apr 2013. Greek and Filipino tax authorities announced that they will be investigating. The vice president of Mongolia‘s parliament will probably have to resign. Some of the still-legal methods to create tax opacity to be gleaned from the data were shown to have been used by the Deutsche Bank in Singapore, which had an intermediary agent (Trustverwaltungsfirma, “trust administrator company”) create >300 companies in so-called tax paradises (Steuerparadise).

In response: Gerhard Schick (Green Party) suggested Germany follow France’s example of levying an additional tax on all transactions with low-tax countries, disincentivizing tax flight (Steuerflucht) by neutralizing the advantages. Joachim Poß (SPD) proposed “an international anonymous NGO and a comprehensive information exchange, starting here in Europe.” The Leftists party proposed following the USA’s example of linking tax obligations to citizenship, so that every German residing abroad would be obligated to report “their total income every year, how much property they owned in total and what taxes they had had to pay for that in the Seychelles that year. And the difference between that and their German tax obligation” would then have to be paid in Germany, said Gregor Gysi (Die Linken).

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that they and NDR were the two German media outlets given access to the data (of “the biggest leak in world history”), and furthermore that a representative of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble requested access to the data on Thursday, 04 Apr 2013, but the SZ would not grant that request. The data were protected under freedom of the press (Pressefreiheit), which includes protecting one’s sources, the Süddeutsche wrote. Sharing the data with government authorities might endanger those sources and obstruct the SZ’s ongoing research. NDR also refused the request to share the data. Now Focus magazine seems to have acquired the data somehow.

Update on 06 Apr 2013: “I have a certain degree of pleasure from the fact that this public scandalization in all countries has very much increased the pressure,” said German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble with quiet satisfaction on 05 Apr 2013. “And now we have better chances to make progress faster than was possible in the past.”

Critics say the German finance minister has to be kidding because everyone’s known about this for years. If Schäuble were serious, they say, his office would be drafting new legislation. Income tax is regulated state-by-state in Germany, for example, and some people are calling for it to be centralized, made into a uniform federal-level taxation system with fewer “tax bait” niches. The OECD seems to be the locus for international negotiations in response to the new information; that group wants to issue a list of proposed actions in response to the “Offshore Leaks” data trove by July 2013.

(Cop ee TALL fer SHLY er oong   üüüberrr   SHTOY er oh OZ en.)

Grossspenden

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

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

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

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

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

(GROSS shpen den.)

Nebeneinkünfte

“Side incomes,” translated by dict.leo.org as ancillary or auxiliary income; casual, incidental earnings or discretionary earnings; emoluments and perquisites. On 16 Oct. 2012 the Bundestag debated the SPD’s proposal to have Bundestag members disclose all incomes in addition to their M.P. compensation. Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU party was opposed, as was their coalition partner the FDP, who said their primary concern was that working lawyers would have to disclose their clients. Greens and Leftists said they were ready for full transparency.

The debate was triggered by attacks on a vulnerability of the SPD’s challenger to Angela Merkel in the upcoming election. Peer Steinbrück, who was called the Bankenschreck (terror of the banks, banks’ bane) when he was Finance Minister under an SPD government, has since then been receiving high speaking fees from banks and e.g. hedge funds. Calls from rival party members for Steinbrück to disclose these fees have turned up opportunities to improve the laws regulating extra-parliamentary compensation. The SPD’s proposal suggested disclosing the type of work, amount paid and payer’s name, because apparently that’s not required now. Violations would be punished by a reduction in the M.P.’s salary.

Tagesschau.de reports that Peer Steinbrück (SPD) is the top earner in the Bundestag, followed by mostly members of the ruling conservative CDU/CSU and FDP parties (nine of the top ten, yet because of the nature of the old system these are minimum incomes and not accurate numbers).

Update on 25 Oct 2012: The ruling coalition CDU/CSU + FDP finds themselves in a bind because while they wanted to attack Steinbrück, they never wanted transparency for supplementary M.P. incomes, reports Spiegel-Online. The ruling coalition has now agreed to a reform plan that changes the disclosure system from three steps to ten steps. The three-step scale was up to EUR 3500, 3500 to 7000, and >7000, monthly. The ten-step scale will be, either monthly or annually (hasn’t been decided yet), EUR 1000 to 3500, to 7000, 15000, 30000, 50000, 75000, 100000, 150000, 250000 and >250000. With the old scale an M.P. who earned e.g. EUR 150,000 for a speaking engagement only had to disclose EUR 7001. The SPD is concerned that under the new system an M.P. could take ten EUR-900 fees without having to disclose, so they have proposed disclosure of fees exceeding EUR 10000 in one year. The SPD and Leftists (Die Linken) parties remain committed to full transparency. The Greens have proposed two models: full disclosure or a thirteen-step scale. The frequency of mandatory reporting is also still under debate; AbgeordnetenWatch.de points out that with modern technology this useful information can be made available very rapidly to voters.

Update on 22 Feb 2013: Today the Bundestag agreed on a new 10-step plan to disclose M.P.’s supplementary incomes.

(NAY ben eye n coon fteh.)

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