Scheindebatte

A fake debate.

The German defense ministry will be presenting their case Monday, 30 Jun 2014, in the Bundestag for why they must be allowed to buy and co-develop armed drones, unmanned airborne weapons platforms. But they’ve already decided, according to an “Einzelplan 14,” to buy Medium Altitude Long Endurance armable surveillance drones by late 2014. There are no longer M.A.L.E. drones that cannot be armed, said taz.de.

The Bundeswehr is currently staying in Afghanistan until 2016, and they said they need to tool up with drones and close some “capability gaps” because they’re staying in Afghanistan.

One of the evening news shows said the new supermajority government’s coalition agreement promised a debate about drones. They said this in a way that implied that the coalition agreement only promised a debate.

Update: After the Bundestag talk, the defense minister announced the German military won’t be buying killer drones. It will be leasing them, from Israel.

(SHINE day BAT ah.)

Rote Hosen

Red Pants, the name of the soccer team from the S.P.D. fraction of Saarland’s state parliament.

(ROTE ah   HOSE en.)

Kanzleramtschef, ChefBK, Kanzleramtsminister

“Chief of the chancellory,” Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, whose duties include coordinating and controlling/monitoring Germany’s secret services as the boss of the federal government’s intelligence agencies officer [of the person with the job title Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für die Nachrichtendienste].

Update on 25 Jul 2013: After Bundeskanzleramtschef Ronald Pofalla testified secretly before the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium, the parliamentary committee that is pro forma in charge of Germany’s intelligence services, he made a statement to the press saying absolutely everything done so far by Germany’s spy agencies had been legit and in compliance with German law. Also that German data protection law had not been reinterpreted. Supervisory committee members from opposition parties (parties that were in the ruling coalition when the information exchange began between German and U.S. intelligence agencies, as far as we know so far) gave counterstatements to the press indicating they were not satisfied with Mr. Pofalla’s responses to their catalog of questions about the U.S.A.’s Prism program.

Amusingly, artists at one news show edited Mr. Pofalla’s sound bite into their report to begin just he was saying “This statement is clearly false…”

(KANT’s lah omts chef,   CHEF bay kah,   KANT’s lah omts minn iss tah.)

Grosse Kohlelition

Grand “coal”-alition.

Since the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election, Germany’s second-largest political party, the socialist S.P.D., has had a new boss: Sigmar Gabriel. He managed to get his party to agree to form a grosse Koalition with Chancellor Merkel’s largest political party, the conservative C.D.U. (and its Bavarian state branch, the C.S.U.), even though this effectively eliminated opposition from the Bundestag and usually causes the S.P.D. to lose voters after unethical compromises of its core principles. After delivering the S.P.D., via much talk, singing rousing songs and an up-or-down vote on whether to rule, Mr. Gabriel became the deputy chancellor of Germany and took on two cabinet ministries: Economics and Energy. He announced he would “reform” Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources, the awesome Energiewende, to cap government support of solar and wind power because he wanted to reduce electricity prices for consumers. The reporting indicated Mr. Gabriel has no plans to significantly reduce the C.D.U.’s exemptions, “industry privileges,” granted to high-volume electricity-consuming companies, which goes up by about 1000 companies/year and which the E.U. competition authority has said if not stopped or at least better organized may be reason for that authority to kill the Energiewende entirely. In fact, ZDF heute journal correspondent Stefan Leifert said, the new minister has refused to specify which important industries will get which rebates to their contributions to the Energiewende.

Mr. Gabriel’s hand-picked successor as head of the S.P.D. is a representative of coal workers, from the Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE, “industrial union for mining, chemistry, power”).

Because Bavaria has been investing in biofuel systems, the C.S.U. was not 100% behind kneecapping the Energiewende when Mr. Gabriel submitted his reform proposals on 30 Jan 2014. Bavaria’s Economy & Energy minister Ilse Aigner (C.S.U.) explained that biomass electricity generation is a reasonable alternative for times when there are low quantities of sun or wind.

(GROSS ah   COAL a lee tsee OWN.)

Veteranen wissen um den Wert des Lebens

Veterans know how valuable life is.

Military veterans among the protesters in Ukraine have been quietly doing excellent work. They help calm down the angriest protesters. They started cleaning up Kiev’s convention center the day after protesters stormed it. The night protesters took over the convention center, veterans organized the peaceful retreat of a hundred police who had been assigned to defend it.

The very well-spoken Ukrainian veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan who said soldiers know life’s value also told reporters, “There were some who said let’s beat the police, take their clothes away, humiliate them. But I said let’s not be like they are. Let’s set our own example.”

(Vet tare ON en   VISS en   oom   dane   VAIR t   dess   LAY benz.)

Parlamentarische Trickkiste

“Parliamentary box of tricks,” what an ARD journalist amusingly called a Green party Bundestag M.P.’s attack on the new coalition’s proposal to not reduce current workers’ monthly contributions to government pension plans as required by law and agreed by the previous government, now that the pensions’ coffers are full, but instead to use the additional income to fund pension reforms such as giving pension points to mothers for each child born before 1992. (German mothers weren’t receiving points for non-earning time spent caring for children born before 1992, one of many reasons why elder poverty primarily affects women even in wealthy welfare states.) The Green M.P. said everyone approving the proposal would be increasing their own mother’s pension, and thus any “yes” votes weren’t disinterested.

Not reducing the contributions by the 0.6% of income scheduled for 2014 means working people’s pension contributions will remain at 18.9% of their gross income, even when their income is very low. Yet about 7 million of Germany’s current ~42 million workers, including e.g. judges, bureaucrats, many self-employed people and Bundestag members, are exempted from having to make these pension contributions. Thus the second point of the Green party member’s criticism, that any M.P.’s voting to not reduce pension contributions would be helping their own mothers and grandmothers on other people’s dime, at no cost to themselves.

Update on 21 Feb 2014: The grosse Koalition voted to increase mothers’ pensions at the same time it voted to give itself a pay raise of ~10% in 2014.

(PAH lah men TAH rish ah   T-R-R-RICK kiss tah.)

Internet-Ausschuss im Bundestag

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.)

Ausserparliamentarische Opposition, A.P.O.

“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.)

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.)

Null Null Sieben

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Newel   newel   ZEEB en.)

EUR 9.85, EUR 8.50

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

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

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

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.)

“In einer Demokratie akzeptiert man Urteile!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Bekannte Gefangenschaft”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Beh CON teh   geh FONG en shoft.)

 

Pädophilen

Pedophiles.

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

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

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

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

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

(Paid oh FEEL en.)

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.)

Themenklau

“Issues thievery.” Opposition parties propose new laws and reforms that are helpful good ideas, the ruling coalition steals the ideas and writes the legislation, the opposition criticizes that it doesn’t go far enough, everyone votes to pass the bill and voters benefit. It appears ruling parliamentary coalitions especially like to steal opposition parties’ best ideas during election years.

(TÆ men cl ow!)

Ellenbogen und Solidarität

 

“Elbows and solidarity,” this year’s Hessian S.P.D. candidate’s description of how his party will fight to win the Hessian state election occurring simultaneously with the federal Bundestag parliamentary election on 22 Sep 2013. The C.D.U. manages to win the state of Hesse rather consistently.

(Ellen BO gen   oont    zoh lee dar ee TATE.)

Unausgegorenes Sammelsaurium

Half-cocked collectionoctopus, great mild pejorative for some political parties’ last minute policy proposal dumps these past few months. News reports about which could all start with the ultimately disparaging “# weeks before the September 22 election…”, which has the potential to discredit almost any statement following it.

(Oo now ss geh GORE en ess   zom mel z OW! ree oom.)

Unionsrecht

“Union law” in Germany apparently means European Union law and not the rules of the conservative Christian Democratic union consisting of the national-level C.D.U. + the Bavarian state C.S.U. This distinction became clear during a television news discussion about the legality of C.S.U. head Horst Seehofer’s strange and very unsettling* campaign promise to create a toll for foreigners driving on Bavarian roads. Mr. Seehofer’s political party, which has ruled Bavaria since 1946, claimed they did a survey that found 88% of Bavarians disliked foreigners enough to support the C.S.U.’s proposed toll or “Ausländer-Maut.” C.S.U. proponents also said the country of Austria introduced a similar foreigners fee and why wasn’t that illegal but their state-level proposal is.

The Bavarian state election (for the Landestag, state parliament) was Sunday, 15 Sep 2013, one week before Germany’s Bundestag election.

During the campaign—mercifully short by U.S. standards—the C.S.U. party promised Bavarian voters it would refuse to join a German federal government coalition after the 22 Sep 2013 federal election if their federal partners said they couldn’t tax foreigners. But it’s hard to believe the C.S.U. could afford to exit that coalition. Bavaria is said to have the best schools in Germany, so it’s hard to believe Bavarian voters would believe the C.S.U. when they promised to exit that coalition, either. The threat didn’t work on Chancellor Merkel (C.D.U.), on the surface at least. During what was apparently the only formal evening debate between the two largest parties’ candidates, she said on national television that the C.S.U.’s proposed foreigner-specific state road toll was not going to happen.

But the whole point appears to have been to talk about taxing foreigners in Bavarian beer tents, because Horst Seehofer persisted in doing that even after Angela Merkel’s quiet and very public “no.” Mr. Seehofer’s challenger, Munich mayor Christian Ude (S.P.D.), called it “eine bewusste Irreführung der Bevölkerung,” a deliberate confusion or leading-into-crazy-country of the people.

* Not only do proposals like this sound like they could grow racism, but as we now know since the Snowden trove revelations there are several ways the new toll could be used to spy on foreigners.

(Oo n YO nz wrecked.)

Der lange langsame Marsch durch die Institutionen

“The long slow march through institutions.”

In an Australian radio discussion about democracy, Francis Fukuyama said that is how Antonio Gramsci might have described the history of the “1968” generation of German students who did things like created the Green party in 1980 and then gradually got elected into local, state and federal office, cogoverning the country from 1998 to 2005.

The 1968 students also insisted on discussing previously taboo topics that shouldn’t have been taboo, especially aspects of World War II and its aftermath which some of their parents had demonstrated by their behavior they would have preferred to continue hiding and abetting.

(Dare   LONG eh   LONG zom eh   mahsh   doer chh   dee   in stee toot Y’OWN en.)

Sehr beeindruckend

“Very impressive.” The excellent foreign correspondent Dietmar Ossenberg reporting from Tahrir Square on the night of July 1, only a few hours after the Egyptian military issued its 48-hour ultimatum for anti-Morsi and pro-Morsi protesters to find a compromise.

When asked what would happen Monday night, Ossenberg said he didn’t know.

“I don’t know. Peacefully, I hope. It is enormously impressive to see how once more hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating in this square before the [?] palace, and really very peacefully. Despite the images we just saw of the Muslim Brotherhoods’ main headquarters. The people here are not letting themselves be provoked. They talked beforehand with young people, they practically did training for this, to make sure these mass demonstrations would happen peacefully. So it is really very impressive… We have experienced many historical moments here, but this is really very moving. A speaker for the Egyptian military said today that these are the biggest demonstrations, and peaceful demonstrations, that Egypt has ever seen. That is true in fact, and simultaneously an indication of what side the military will put itself on. I think the erosion process of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood has started. Today we had eleven resignations of ministers, which Morsi refused. But that doesn’t mean anything because these ministers will no longer be carrying out their official business. From the provinces, five provinces, there were reports that the governors’ offices are closed. So people are refusing to follow the central government. So I think the Muslim Brotherhood will have to pivot. They will have to try to approach the people with a compromise. That could be a referendum, for example, which was under discussion tonight in the Muslim Brotherhood, a referendum about whether or not Morsi should stay in office. But I can’t imagine that would impress the people demonstrating in any way, shape or form. So I think that within 48 hours we will not have an agreement, that the military will take over power in a soft coup d’état, perhaps for a transition period, to then together with all the parties, as the Minister of Defense said today, form a type of round table to define a road map for the future. I can’t imagine after the last 48 hours that Egypt’s history is not about to be rewritten again. The sole hope remaining for us, however, is that this happens relatively peacefully. But this year the army promised they would try to prevent violent conflicts. However, one must respond to that by saying that the people here relied once before on promises made by the military and were bitterly disappointed.”

(Z air   beh EYE n drook end.)

Auf dem reichen Auge blind

Blind in the rich eye,” a punning headline for a Zeit article about Bayern Munich soccer club president Uli Hoeneß that reminded readers Bavaria is the state with the least number of tax auditors per capita and the least number of audits per auditor (29 audits per 100,000 taxpayers in 2011). Taxes are still collected state-by-state in Germany, not by a central federal office like the USA’s IRS.

“Steep theses,” “sometimes tending toward polemics” this review said but also that the 2013 book Die Selbstbediener: Wie Bayerische Politiker sich den Staat zur Beute machen (“Serving themselves: How Bavarian politicians make the state their booty”) by Speyer professor Hans Herbert von Arnim started the recent discussion about the Bavarian CSU party (which has monopolized their state gubmint for fifty years and is also the only state party to join national-level ruling coalitions, such as Angela Merkel’s current government CDU/CSU + FDP). People are still shocked by the 500 million euros recently discovered in Uli Hoeneß’s Swiss bank accounts and by the number of Bavarian MP’s (17, no 30, no 79) subsequently discovered to have taken advantage of loopholes in a 2000 nepotism law to hire their relatives at government expense. Von Arnim says the nepotism is just the tip of the iceberg for upcoming Bavarian parliamentary scandals.

Other emerging facts that shocked this week included: that the Bavarian state parliament members (CSU monopoly) complained loudest about southern European countries takin’ all our money yet paid themselves the highest income of all the German state MP’s, at 10,200 euros/month before taxes. Von Arnim says this is possible because of a lack of transparency in Bavarian state budgeting which other German states have deliberately prevented by passing separate rules governing important financial issues such as legislator compensation. He criticizes insufficient transparency and controlling in Bavaria’s very large budget, which is the size of several other German states’ combined.

How can corruption like this happen? Recent angry op-eds said the newly discovered nepotistic politicians aren’t exactly Raffke (Berlin slang from ~1920 for a greedy grabber) but that after a party is in power for a long time its members’ mentality can shift. Politicians in the party no longer orient their moral sense on what’s right and wrong, but instead on what the other politicians are doing and, eventually, toward what’s possible. Politicians in other parties of the monopolized government begin to think the same way as well. So far the only party in the Bavarian parliament not discovered to have employed family members after 2000 is the FDP, which wasn’t in the state parliament because it lacked the votes.

(Ow! f   dame   REICH en   ow! ga    blinned.)

 

Das Crowdsourcing von Umweltanalysen

“Crowdsourcing environmental testing,” including sharing of software platforms used and the data resulting from the tests, for the efficiencies associated with wider availability and to prevent knowledge losses that can occur e.g. when you underfund and then destroy E.P.A. libraries. Many experiments with crowdsourcing chemistry and biology testing are ongoing right now. For example, for the past five years high school kids in Lower Saxony, ~10,000 students so far, have been learning to test food products for GMO’s in high school lab classes, often finding modified products in foods labeled GMO-free. The curriculum includes pro and con discussions that must be pretty interesting.

Silicon Valley companies and other communities are experimenting with creating open source software and hardware kits for crowdsourced environmental testing and pharmaceutical testing, according to an interesting new book by Institute for the Future director Marina Gorbis.

(Doss   CRRROWD sauce ing   fun   OOM veldt on ah LOO zen.)

Mumiensturm

“Storm of mummies.” Joschka Fischer was in the German Green Party the first time it managed to join a ruling federal coalition. He became foreign minister (Secretary of State). Years later it turned out the Foreign Office (State Department) had a cadre of elderly and/or retired diplomats who objected to the new government’s decision to stop publishing obituaries of colleagues who had been former nazis, egregious former nazis in the case they chose to start a ruckus over, in the foreign ministry’s small in-house magazine.

Joschka convened an international “Historians Commission” that spent five years researching the history of ex-nazis in the post-WWII German foreign service. They brought sunlight to a problem that had been made possible by, among other things, the fact that FO was the only cabinet ministry allowed to manage its own document archive and thus control and rewrite its own history; all the other cabinet ministries had had to submit their documents to a central federal government archive. Joschka was particularly irked by the following issue as well: there had been a few brave German diplomats during the 1930’s and 40’s who tried to resist the nazis; most were killed for their troubles; and they tended to be communists. After the war, many of the diplomats with a nazi past or who supported post-nazi colleagues pretended to have been in the resistance. Right wingers hiding behind the communists, Joschka called them. He also called their obituary-based revolution a “mummies storm” like in the Brendan Fraser movies.

(MOOM ee en SHTOORM.)

Parlamentarisches Pokern

“Parliamentary pokering,” brinksmanship on the part of some politicians from countries with bartering and/or bluffing cultures.

(Parl ah ment ARR ish ess   POKE ern.)

Bärbeissig

“Bear bitey.” A very important force behind the amazing success of the German Green party over the last three decades was Joschka Fischer, a high-school dropout and one of the world’s most amazing politicians. The director of a documentary about Joschka described his relationship with the media as “bärbeissig” but also said, “It wasn’t always easy, but it was always open.” When the Greens were governing Germany in a coalition with the SPD, and Joschka Fischer was foreign minister, I remember my surprise at how he would answer the questions journalists asked—not providing an answer to a different question entirely, as I had gotten used to since Reagan—and yet not make the situation worse. While speaking openly and well, he makes situations better.

There’s a new book by Joschka Fischer that came out in 2011 about the war in Iraq, which occurred while the Greens and SPD were in charge. Its title is taken from something he told Donald Rumsfeld: “Excuse me, I’m not convinced.”

16-second video on YouTube:

“You have to make the case. And to make the case in the democracy you must convince by yourself. Excuse me, I am not convinced. This is my problem. And I cannot go to the public and say, well, let’s go to war because there are reasons and so on, and I don’t believe in them!”

(Bear BICE ichh.)

Zukunftspartei

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

(TSOO koonfts part eye.)

Leihstimmen

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

(LYE shtimmin.)

Lavieren

Tacking, in sailing. Nautical metaphor used by the SPD candidate running against Angela Merkel in the upcoming German parliamentary election—his background is in ocean-oriented northern Germany. When pressured about unlikely coalition partners such as the libertarianesque FDP or Merkel’s CDU/CSU, Peer Steinbrück insisted he “would not tack” and said the SPD would only form a coalition with the Greens.

(Love EAR en.)

Wahl-O-Mat

A software app available online since 2002 (and offline since 2004) from the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, BPB) to help people understand and select from among the multiple political parties’ platforms. Voters answer ca. 30 questions about their political views and are then shown which party platforms most closely match their thoughts and feelings. Based on “StemWijzer” software from the Netherlands that was modified by Politikfabrik, the Wahl-O-Mat software was used 9 million times between 2002 and 2009, for the federal Bundestag parliamentary/chancellor elections, some but not all state elections and recently the European parliamentary elections. Users can search the archive for historical versions of the Wahl-O-Mat software, to see how it changed as the parties’ positions changed over time. Apparently there’s a similar app available for USA elections at www.isidewith.com.

When answering Wahl-O-Mat questions, you can choose “Agree,” “Neutral” or “Disagree,” or skip the question without responding. You can choose to have some questions be counted twice, indicating their topics are more important to you. At the end of the survey, you must select up to eight political parties that will be evaluated for you. No more than eight parties will be evaluated. This and other issues have generated healthy debate about the app over the years.

The Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year; it was founded to support West Germany’s new democratic government after the Nazi era and appears to be a good political resource for school students.

(VALL oh matt.)

Flughafen-Untersuchungsausschuss

“Committee Investigating the Airport.” Berlin’s state parliament has created a committee to look into the billions of unbudgeted euros and months if not years of delays incurred in the construction of its new airport. The committee chair is Martin Delius (German Pirate Party), the first Pirate Party member ever to chair a parliamentary committee in Germany.

ZDF said Martin Delius (28) has meticulously prepared for this job, even swotting up on police interrogation techniques. He also created Wikileaks-type websites for airport workers to submit information to anonymously. ZDF briefly flashed an image of a book in Delius’s office by Oliver Wenzlaff called Piratenkommunikation: Was die Eliten in Politik und Wirtschaft von den Piraten lernen können [“Pirate communication: What the political and economic elites can learn from pirates”]. Berlin’s ruling SPD party said it wants to follow this GPP example of good transparency. The Greens said they want to do better than the stated Pirate goal of finding out what happened, by finding out what happened and then firing people and bringing lawsuits. The investigation is to last approximately one year, so results will be published in October 2013, presumably.

(FLEW g hoff en   OON ter ZOO kungs ow! ss SHOOSS.)

Wahlrecht

“Voting law.” The Bundestag is debating an overhaul of Germany’s electoral system. On 17 Oct 2012, Spiegel reported one issue was that the reforms currently under discussion might increase the size of the Bundestag to 700 M.P.’s (Spiegel-Online, “Bigger Than North Korea,” saying Germany would have the world’s second-largest parliament after China). Electoral reforms were necessitated by the Federal Constitutional Court’s decision in July 2012 that parts of the current law were unconstitutional, particularly with regard to Überhangmandate (which will be balanced out by proportional extra seats for the other parties). If a final agreement is reached rapidly, the new law could be in effect by Christmas 2012.

Update on 21 Feb 2013: The Bundestag reached an agreement on the new election rules. Überhangmandat seats will be canceled out by Ausgleichsmandat, compensation mandate, seats.

(VALL wrecked.)

Überhangmandate

“Overhang mandates,” overhang seats. Unusual parliamentary seats resulting from Germany’s two-vote election system. With their first vote, burghers choose a candidate. With their second vote, a political party. If a party has more direct candidates elected in a district than the seats they would have won by percentage, the party can still retain the directly elected excess candidates as Überhangmandate.

According to ZDF heute journal reporting on 25 July 2012, after Angela Merkel’s government’s recent electoral reforms there were an unprecedented 24 overhang seats in the subsequent election, a new record, and all belonged to Angela Merkel’s ruling party CDU/CSU. The Federal Constitutional Court has now declared the recent reforms imperfect and in need of revision, during which there will presumably be substantially more debate and resistance from the opposition, who now say these reforms were in fact rather inconsistent and hastily pushed through the legislative process.

In future, the Constitutional Court said, a maximum of only 15 overhang seats will be permissible.

Update on 21 Feb 2013: The Bundestag reached an agreement on the new election rules. Überhangmandat seats will be canceled out by Ausgleichsmandat, compensation mandate, seats.

(OO ber hong mon DOT eh.)

Blog at WordPress.com.