Hamburg’s “Transparency Law,” requiring the administration to publish all its documents with the exception of e.g. personal data and business secrets. The compulsory publication will go online in October 2014 in a central “information register.”

Hamburg passed this law in 2012 after an initiative by Mehr Demokratie!, the Chaos Computer Club and Transparency International.

So far the city-state’s government has held 120 training seminars to tell 1700 officials what the new law will mean.

One trainer began his sessions with an 1838 quote from Prussia’s interior minister, Gustav von Rochow.

“It is not fitting for subjects (…) to apply the standards of their own limited insight to the head of state’s actions and to presume in their bigheaded arrogance to make a public judgment about the lawfulness of said actions.”

(Tronce paw RENTS geh zetts.)

Europäisches Unternehmensregister

European register of companies, to prevent letterbox companies from obscuring who’s behind an enterprise.

The E.U. law mandating a new European companies register is being worked out in Brussels. Sven Giegold (Green party) said the current draft would only allow officials to view the register. Süddeutsche Zeitung confirmed it did not explicitly say everyone will be allowed to see the information. “Insiders said this was because publicly naming companies’ and foundations’ economically authorized persons would violate privacy.”

Sven Giegold said you don’t have to publish their names and addresses, but the public has a right to know who’s behind things. To prevent abuse of the companies register, there could be a register documenting the people who want to view the companies register.

An activist from a group called One said Africa loses 44 billion euros each year that are diverted and laundered through anonymous trusts and letterbox companies.

(Oy roe PAY ish ess   oon ta NAE MON’S ray GISS ta.)

Schlichtungsstelle für Suchmaschinen

Mediation board for search engines.

Since the European Court of Justice’s recent decision that Google (and all search engines) must delete on request links to pages that E.U. burghers feel violate their personality rights, thousands of deletion requests have been sent to the company.

Germany’s coalition government announced they want a board to be created to help search engines process these requests so the search engines are not the sole deciders. They said they want clear rules about how these requests are evaluated. Clear credible rules for how the “forget” requests are handled are also necessary: in the U.S.’s data protectionless jungle, companies frequently respond to consumers’ requests to forget or correct information with demands for more information, all of which is certainly not deleted. Who will be allowed access to the forget requests? Who can make copies of them, and how secure are the copies?

Germany’s data protection officers have demanded they have a significant role in the evaluation of the link deletion requests.

Update on 30 May 2014: Germany’s data protection officers have criticized that the “forget” request page Google has provided requires a scan of the requestor’s passport or other photo identification. Hamburg state data protection officer Johannes Caspar, who deals with Google questions, said that the automatic saving of personal ID’s by non-public entities was illegal and must be changed immediately. Google promptly changed the wording on the online submission form to “Please attach a legible copy of a document that identifies you.”

(SHLIH chh toongs SHTELL ah   fir   ZOO chh mosh ee nen.)


“White money strategy.”

Under-the-table money is called Schwarzgeld, black money. Before Switzerland got rid of banking secrecy this year by joining the O.E.C.D.’s common standard for automatically sharing account holders’ banking data with the tax authorities in the account holders’ home countries, Switzerland first adopted a so-called “white money strategy” for several months. The Süddeutsche Zeitung said the policy involved trying to only attract and manage legal money. In some cases, under this policy, Swiss banks pressured their clients to make things right with the tax authorities at home, or lose their Swiss bank account.

How Switzerland’s new rules will look remains unclear, said the Süddeutsche. It’s possible that it may be easy to get around them by using letterbox firms or “shell” companies. “The only thing that will help against that is transparent company registers.”

(VICE geld shtraw tegue eee.)

Perfektion protegiert Pädophilie

Perfection sponsors pedophilia.

In its thousand-year-old quest for perfection, the Vatican under St. Pope John Paul II was staffed with high officials who were supporters of a group called the Legion of Christ and of its charismatic founder, Marcial Maciel (born 1920 in Mexico, died 2008 in U.S.A.), a man who sexually abused children. German newspaper articles said Marcial Maciel raped children, using his Legionary students and priests as “lustknaben” [lust boys], weekly but possibly daily since the 1940’s. He used to summon young people to his bed at night to massage his stomachaches; after ruining their lives he reportedly told them the pope had given him permission to assuage his ills in this manner to enable him to continue his marvellous good works. He switched to women in the 1970’s and was known to have fathered several children. When he was 56, he used a false identity to seduce a 19-year-old girl, founding a family with her, then founding a second family ten years later. “According to his women, of his four children he didn’t sexually abuse only one of them,” said the F.A.Z. [“Nur eines seiner vier Kinder missbrauchte er nach Angaben seiner Frauen nicht.”: a bit convoluted].

Marcial Maciel’s qualification as a priest and his education have been called into question, because he was kicked out of several Catholic education institutions as a teenager in Mexico despite the support of several bishop uncles before being ordained by one of those uncles.

Mr. Maciel apparently had a serious opiate addiction since the 1940’s, and used to send confidants hundreds of miles with faked prescriptions to obtain medications for him, and get nuns to administer shots and tablets to him.

The high point of Marcial Maciel Degollado’s power was in 1994, said the F.A.Z.

The Legion of Christ—which still exists and e.g. has a location in Germany, in Bavaria—has been described, in its conservative attitudes and rigorous discipline, as a bit similar to the Opus Dei and Pius Brothers groups. Founded in 1941, the organization also used anti-communism as a way to surf to power during the Cold War. It’s said to have been close to the Franco dictatorship in Spain. The Legion successfully recruited wealthy aristocrats as supporters throughout the 20th century, apparently in countries like Spain, Austria and Germany. Süddeutsche Zeitung said the Italian l’Espresso newspaper and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal reported that the Legionaries have had huge financial resources, possibly due to Marcial Maciel’s close involvement with Carlos Slim, possibly the richest man in the world, and the German branch’s recruitment of the former “C.E.O. of the United Nations’ Refugee Agency and chair of the German Fundraising Association” [Deutscher Fundraisingverband, it’s not clear who that is or for whom they raise funds]. The Legionaries have an organization for laypeople called Regnum Christi that’s been said to have or have had 50,000 members.

Supporters of Marcial Maciel inside the Vatican included:

  • Cardinal Angelo Sodano at the State Secretariat, who has been accused of leading a “coverup faction” that tried to hide priests’ pedophilia at very high levels. Cardinal Sodano may have had good connections to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet because “as a nuncio he introduced Maciel into Chilean society during the time of the Pinochet military dictatorship,” according to the F.A.Z.
  • Pope John Paul II’s secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who became the cardinal-archbishop of Krakow.

Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published a book in 2012 about the discoveries he made in materials revealed by the Vatileaks Vatican whistleblowing. In Süddeutsche Zeitung, Mr. Nuzzi said that Marcial Maciel’s secretary, Pater Alfredo Moreno, met with Pope Benedict’s secretary in 2011 and reported that he had destroyed documents containing evidence of Mr. Maciel’s crimes. According to the Vatileaks information, at the 2011 meeting Pater Moreno said he was refused an audience by John Paul II’s Vatican when he tried to report this in 2003. Other German-language newspaper articles show there were decades of notifications to the Vatican about this man’s crimes. The Swiss Tagesanzeiger said a victim was refused an audience with John Paul II to discuss Mr. Maciel’s abuse in 1983. In the late 1970’s a victim sent the Vatican a letter describing what had happened to him and some of his brothers but there was no response, said the Frankfurter Rundschau. In 1956 the Vatican investigated accusations against Mr. Maciel (which they had now also received from the U.S. and Spain, in addition to Mexico); that report too has disappeared in the Vatican archives, “as have all other letters and reports containing information on Maciel’s practices,” said the F.A.Z., adding that since the 1950’s Mr. Maciel’s strategy of favorably influencing key cardinals with money and gifts created an impenetrable armor around him.

The first newspaper report about this was apparently published in the U.S.A.’s Hartford Courant in 1997 by journalists Jason Berry and Gerald Renner. Then there were reports in Mexican media. All were heavily squashed: “Libel lawsuits, advertizing boycotts, freezing out journalists who dared to take up the topic, getting personalities from public life to defend Maciel—nothing was not tried,” said the F.A.Z. Before dying mysteriously, a former Legionary well-known in Mexico asked the priest Alberto Athié to ensure that justice was served, and in 1998 Fr. Athié filed a lawsuit in Rome with eight former Legionaries against Mr. Maciel for abusing the sacrament of confession by hearing his victims’ confession after a shared night, issuing the victims absolution with an order to maintain silence. But the head of the department responsible for hearing Fr. Athié’s lawsuit, the Congregation of the Faith’s Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), decided not to allow the 1998 proceedings despite the fact that his department at the Vatican was not the one in which previous complaints against Mr. Maciel had always disappeared and despite the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger was not known to have been one of the cardinals accepting envelopes full of money from Mr. Maciel’s network. In 1999, the archbishop of Mexico City stripped Fr. Athié of all his church functions.

(Peah FECKED shown   pro tej jeert   pay dough feel EE.)


Data journalism.

Germany has thousands of gas stations that tend to be owned by only a handful of chains affiliated with the world’s major oil companies. For years, people accused German gas stations of raising fuel prices right before weekends and holidays and especially holiday weekends, in concert, yet no one could prove collusion. So the government created the Market Transparency Office for Fuel. In 2013, the Markttransparenzstelle began requiring German gas stations to communicate their fuel price changes in real time, and then it broadcast the data to companies whose phone apps let consumers quickly and easily compare gas prices at the closest gas stations.

Süddeutsche Zeitung has now taken four weeks of gas price data from one of the larger phone apps and combed through the information looking for patterns in what they’re calling a “data journalism” investigation. They’ll be publishing their findings in a series of articles.

Update on 16 Apr 2014: Some immediately obvious outliers turned out to be caused by gas stations that were sending in prices without decimal points, or e.g. one was submitting the price “9999.” S.Z. said the system still doesn’t have a way to check whether the numbers submitted by gas stations are truthful. Currently consumers are to send complaints about incorrect price data to the phone app companies.

S.Z. said they too can’t prove collusion. But some gas station chains are more expensive (the chain with the highest fuel prices said it’s because their fuel is such high quality). Some chains are big enough that their price changes move the market, with smaller chains changing their prices after a bigger chain does so.

The lowest fuel prices tended to be in areas with dense populations.

One gas station chain tends to change its fuel prices >13 times a day, another only 9 times a day. Both are very likely to change fuel prices between 7 and 8 p.m., while several other chains are very likely to change prices between 9 p.m. and midnight. Apparently until this report was published the cheapest time to refuel was between 5 and 7 p.m., with fuel prices rising steeply after 8 p.m.

Update on 17 Apr 2014: The chain with the most gas stations in Germany has the highest fuel prices in Germany, in the data set the Süddeutsche Zeitung examined. The chain with the second-highest number of gas stations has the second-highest fuel prices. S.Z. said the ratio holds true for four other large “A brand” chains.

“B brand,” cheaper and smaller, gas station chains tend to use a strategy of selling fuel at prices only perhaps two eurocents below the prices of the closest “A brand” gas stations but the new pricing data shows that their prices average four to five eurocents below the A brands’ when looking at Germany as a whole. The C.E.O. of one of the fuel price phone apps said, “The strategy of the B brands is actually: one or two cents cheaper is okay, that won’t start a price war.”

Germany also has many gas stations not affiliated with the large oil-company chains, but the current database groups independent gas stations in the same category as ones that belong to a large non-oil company such as a chain of car washes or supermarkets. The larger category of independent gas stations plus gas stations belonging to non-oil-company chains had higher average fuel prices than the B brand gas stations, yet S.Z. said “a look at the data” showed that in fact car wash and supermarket chains sell the cheapest fuel, because they’re hoping customers who arrive to buy gas will stay to wash cars or buy groceries.

Austria is trying to regulate gas stations’ pricing to benefit consumers more by mandating that gas stations there can only change fuel prices once per day, at noon. It’s not known whether the advantages of this model will outweigh the disadvantages: German and other officials are watching to see how the experiment works out.

(DOT en jure nah LIZ moose.)

„Bad Pharma“ wird besser!

“Bad Pharma” is getting better!

After much debate, Brussels agreed on European drug law changes, effective in 2016. To improve transparency and safety, pharma studies in humans will have to publish all results, including negative findings.

As Ben Goldacre explained so lucidly in Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, scientists’ and study sponsors’ tendencies to only publish findings that are interesting and/or support certain types of conclusions have skewed drug licensing and killed people.

(Bod   FAW mah   vee awed   BESS ah.)


ISDAfix benchmark reference.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc., website at said the ISDAfix is “the leading benchmark for annual swap rates for swap transactions worldwide.” Bloomberg*’s April 2013 article called ISDAfix “a benchmark in the $379 trillion market for interest rate swaps, which corporations and governments use to fine-tune their borrowing costs.” Süddeutsche Zeitung’s August 2013 estimate was that a $450 trillion market was affected by this benchmark. A* Jan. 2014 market estimate was even higher: “The organization’s ISDAfix benchmark is an important reference point underlying contracts in the $630 trillion derivatives market, and ICAP collects data for the U.S. dollar-denominated part of it.”

The data used to set the US$ section of the ISDAfix benchmark were provided by thirteen banks to the New Jersey office of a U.K. broker or “intermediary trader” known as ICAP. U.K. financial data company Thomson Reuters* calculated the benchmark prices from ICAP’s banks’ data for the US$ section and from data it collected directly from banks for the other currencies. ICAP published its ISDAfix benchmark prices on a Reuters page every morning at 11 a.m. and updated them throughout the day based on reported transactions. ICAP’s data entry was not automated.

The S.Z. said Germany’s BaFin finance regulator started investigating ISDAfix fixing after Bloomberg reported that the U.S.A.’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission financial regulator was investigating perhaps fifteen banks and about a dozen current and former ICAP traders for possible pricing collusion.

Background from Bloomberg

“In their simplest form, swaps are used by investors to exchange a fixed interest rate for a floating one, or vice versa. They also come in profoundly more complicated flavors, and altogether they constitute more than half of the $639 trillion global derivatives market. ISDAfix, used by traders to settle contracts and value positions, is commonly found in hybrid securities known as structured notes that are popular with wealthy investors. While they affect everything from pension annuities to commercial real estate investments, ISDAfix rates are esoteric even by the standards of structured finance. …

“…Banks could earn millions by persuading ICAP brokers to delay their manual entry of data. Publishing stale prices can boost profits for banks dramatically. On a $500 million swap that matures in 20 years, for example, a delay that prevents the instrument from moving one basis point (0.01 percent) equals $1 million in profit for the dealer. […Also, ICAP’s] brokers match dealers by phone, then enter transactions into the 19901 screen by hand. The firm is paid commissions based on the size of the trades it matches.” described a 2010 article saying that “prices capable of influencing Isdafix through the rate-setting process sometimes appeared to move in ways beneficial to a handful of banks.”

The ICAP brokerage was also hired to execute many ISDAfix-related trades for reasons that could have included exerting extra influence on ICAP-mediated benchmarks, said an online article from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal*.

A 25 Sep 2013 article seemed to indicate that brokers were particularly able to game off-market trading price benchmarks, particularly in slow economic times when those relying on brokers’ reported pricing data had fewer sales of their own to glean comparable pricing data from. “To promote market integrity, it is critical that benchmark interest rates be anchored in observable transactions,” said C.F.T.C. chair Gary Gensler in 2013.

Update on 26 Sep 2013: ICAP was fined £55 million “for control failures that allowed employees to engage in Libor rigging” said an online Financial Times article. After admitting L.I.B.O.R. control failures, which the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority also called a poor compliance culture, the huge brokerage firm argued against reducing its ISDAfix role, saying that would give undue influence to the banks submitting ISDAfix pricing data. ICAP, the world’s largest broker for interbank transactions, couldn’t have been gaming the ISDAfix benchmark’s timing because people would have noticed, ICAP said.

Update on 26 Jan 2014: It was announced that ICAP was to be removed from its middleman role in ISDAfix, which was to be restructured so that banks would submit US$ pricing data to Thomson Reuters directly, said Rupert Murdoch’s Thomson Reuters has been collecting the non-US$ ISDAfix data directly from banks for years, said, but the US$ data from ICAP for >15 years: “[ICAP] had been providing ‘snapshots’ using transaction-based information from its BrokerTec platform in addition to information from recent deals, the second source said, but the process would now return purely to a poll of participating banks.” Apparently the snapshots involved removing some outliers and averaging the data. ICAP said, “We appreciate ISDA’s interest in having a consistent polling process across each of the relevant currencies and fixings.”

ISDA said moving ISDAfix pricing data for all currencies to Reuters is a first step toward their goal of defining the benchmark based on actual trades (“live prices from trading venues” said, not just data submitted by banks. The new system will also be automated: “The second stage will be the move to an automated, market-based ISDAfix rate setting process, which is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2014,” said an ISDA spokesperson. ISDA said they will create a code of conduct and oversight committee for the benchmark.

ICAP’s C.E.O. Michael Spencer helped create the ISDAfix benchmark fifteen years ago. Reporting on the ISDAfix benchmark described ISDA as the benchmark’s “overseer” and as a lobbying group.

Update on 09 Mar 2014: Thomson Reuters has been granted U.K. regulatory approval to create a benchmark services subsidiary to handle the ~160 benchmarks the company helps calculate, including L.I.B.O.R. International benchmark regulations are about to be tightened this summer, according to a letter sent last summer by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“a global body of central banks. They include oversight of third parties and policies for managing conflicts of interest” – warning companies they had one year before new stricter rules. “Administrators of financial market benchmarks have to prove by the July deadline that they have improved systems for monitoring submitted figures,” said

* The U.K.’s Reuters press agency was reporting on financial news related to the ISDAfix and it belongs to Thomson Reuters (since the Canadian Thomson Corp. bought Reuters in 2008). The parent company of Bloomberg News “competes with ICAP in some businesses, including foreign-exchange and swaps trading, and with Thomson Reuters in providing financial news and data” according to their disclaimer in an ISDAfix article. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns the Wall Street Journal and owned Dow Jones from 2007 to 2010, when it sold it to the C.M.E., Chicago Mercantile Exchange/Chicago Board of Trade group.

(EESS dah feex   ref ah R-R-RENTS veaht.)

Kaverneninspektion durch Kameras im stillgelegten Atomkraftwerk Brunsbüttel

“Camera cavern inspection in Brunsbüttel’s shutdown nuclear power plant.”

Cameras lowered into one of six underground concrete chambers to inspect barrels of nuclear waste impermanently stored under the offline Brunsbüttel nuclear power plant found another ~18 that were rusted. >600 barrels of nuclear waste are stored at Brünsbuttel. Rust was found on about one-quarter of the 70 inspected so far; some drums were so rusted their walls had breached, said ARD Schleswig-Holstein’s environmental minister Robert Habeck (Green party) said the video inspection showed that corroded drums are not “isolated outliers” [Einzelfälle] as some previously claimed, “that it’s not one barrel or a few barrels that are beset but that in fact this is a systemic problem.”

The drums were only intended to be kept in short-term storage at the plant but have now been there for thirty years. Fixing the problem will be difficult: a special crane will have to lift each barrel and put it in a new container, without breaking the damaged drums and without exposing workers to leaking radioactivity. Once in new containers the nuclear waste can be moved to permanent storage, but Germany has no permanent nuclear waste storage sites yet.

(Caw VERNE nen inn spects yoan   dooichhh   COM air oz   imm   shtill g’leg ten   ah TOME croft vair k   BROONZ bittle.)

“Gewisse Leichen ausm Keller des BMVg nachholen”

“She has to haul certain corpses out of the defense ministry’s cellar” at this stage, said a Leftists party spokesman about Germany’s new defense minister Ursula von der Leyen (C.D.U.). “Including these weapons projects.”

There was an uproar in the Bundestag after the Greens discovered the defense ministry made a 55-million euro payment to MTU in December 2013 without obtaining Bundestag approval or informing defense ministry management. The payment was compensation for a 2011 decision to reduce the German military’s Eurofighter order from 180 to 140 fighter jets. But budget rules require Bundestag approval for every single expenditure >25 million euros. Germany’s new defense minister said she was shocked and, said, invited all responsible persons in her ministry to a meeting of her predecessor’s so-called Arms Board [Rüstungsboard] on 19 Feb 2014 to discuss the defense department’s biggest procurement projects.

Update on 20 Feb 2014: New defense minister Ursula von der Leyen (C.D.U.) fired Thomas de Maizière’s state secretary Stéphane Beemelmans and her Weapons department head Detlef Selhausen, “both considered key figures in the Euro Hawk drone controversy” said ARD She announced plans to fundamentally reform the German military’s entire planning and procurement because costs and schedules for billion-euro projects are not transparent, she said. ARD said at this stage corruption cannot be ruled out in the defense ministry and in its complex interrelationships with German industry.

Over the next three months, the German military is going to “transilluminate” [durchleuchten] its ~1200 procurement projects, including gathering suggestions for how they can be better accompanied/managed/monitored and controlled/inspected/checked [begleitet und kontrolliert].

Update on 04 Apr 2014: The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that some major defense procurement projects continue despite the new minister’s freeze.

“Although important decisions have been postponed or cast into question for some large arms orders, other major projects are ongoing, such as delivery of the new A400M transport plane (which has a long history of delays and cost overruns) and the new Puma armored tank (in which many initial deficiencies were found).” And, especially, the defense ministry is quietly preparing for a project that will cost billions, called the TLVS, taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem, a new generation of missile defense that will include new missiles, radar equipment, command centers and networking capabilities.

Ten years ago Germany began working with the U.S. and Italy on the new missile defense, called Meads, and has spent about a billion euros on prototypes since then. TLVS project requirements include “360-degree radar and a modular system in which any new components, such as launching platforms or other defense missiles, can be added. The defense batteries should be rapidly transportable by plane to distant theaters.” The defense department is looking at five options for this project, including using Lockheed’s Meads, Raytheon’s Patriots, or combinations of the two. German defense hawks will try to persuade other countries to join in development and deployment, lowering Germany’s costs for both. Vladimir Putin is helping with this by creating interest in missile defense in e.g. Poland and the Netherlands.

(G’VISS ah   LIE chh en   ow! sem   KELLAH   dess   BOON dess min iss TARE ee oom   fir   fair TIED ee goong   NAW chh hole en.)


A new type of bank apparently that doesn’t spend a lot of money on brick-and-mortar branches. Direktbanks use the internet and provide interest advantages. ING-Direktbank, the German subsidiary of the large Dutch bank ING, is the first major bank in Germany to eliminate overdraft interest rates for the standard giro accounts everyone uses in lieu of checking. Overdrafts there will now be charged the bank’s normal interest rate for short-term small loans [Dispokredit or drawing credit], which they also lowered from 8.5% to 7.95%. The eliminated overdraft interest rate had been 12%; other German banks are still charging up to 18% on overdrafts. The European Central Bank’s prime interest rate is currently 0.25%. said that last year ING-Diba acquired half a million new customers. That was before they eliminated overdraft interest and other banks didn’t.

The bank’s top German executive also proposed that a [neutral, reliable] central authority should publish a list of all short-term credit and overdraft pricing schemes offered at all German banks. Perhaps the Stiftung Warentest could do it, he said, mentioning a product-testing foundation that has the reputation of Consumer Reports in the U.S.A.

Update on 21 Apr 2014: A article said some smaller banks were first to end overdraft interest rates on giro accounts but it didn’t list them. The article was in praise of another bank of the Genossenschaftsbank type (a mutual?) which reduced the highest interest rate on one type of extreme overdraft.

(Dear ECKED bonk.)

Verbandsklagerecht der Verbraucherschutzorganisationen

Right for an association to file suit, for consumer protection organizations.

The new justice minister and consumer protection boss, Heiko Maas (S.P.D.), said he is thinking about making it possible for consumer protection organizations to file lawsuits on behalf of consumers in response to data protection violations.

Currently, consumer protection organizations in Germany can only file data protection lawsuits if a company’s terms and conditions contain data protection violations. Mr. Maas wants to have draft legislation “closing this loophole” ready by the end of April 2014.

The article continued,

Maas and Germany’s data protection officer Andrea Voßhoff [(C.D.U.)] furthermore admonished companies to treat their customers’ privacy with more respect. Customers’ trust is, in the end, the fundamental basis of all business models in the internet, they said. Instead of pages and pages of terms and conditions, what [customers] need is true freedom of choice when it comes to what’s allowed to happen to their own data, said Maas. “If some providers want to stubbornly persist in the digital Flegeljahren [boor, churl, cub, lout years, meaning teenagers], if they disesteem/disregard/disdain/ignore/flout/violate their customers, and if they refuse transparency, then the state will have to intervene regulatorily to protect users.”

(Fair BOND sklah geh rechh t   dare   fair BROW chh ah SHƏTS oregon ee zot see OWN en.)


“Attention gap,” a technique used in online headlines to pull in curious clicks by e.g. asking a question and promising answers.

Reforms proposed to increase transparency of organizational publishing have suggested bylines for a news article’s editors as well as its writers and investigators. Perhaps headline writers ought to start receiving credit for their work as well. Current technology makes it possible to attach movie-type credits to every online post without disturbing readability.

(Ow! f MEAHK some kites LICK ah.)

Wer wirklich wissen wolle, welche Wagen am bestgewertet seien…

“Anyone who really wants to know what vehicles are the most highly rated ones…” should not consult Germany’s Munich-based A.D.A.C. automobile club’s car rankings, because “someone who has lied before, you don’t believe any more” as put it.

A giant in German consumer protection has fallen. The Süddeutsche Zeitung saw documents indicating Germany’s equivalent of the A.A.A. car club had manipulated the numbers of readers’ votes received for its “Yellow Angel prize.” Auto industry pundits are now questioning all the group’s data: blue book car values, European tunnel safety evaluations, accident statistics. “If you want to know the most popular cars on German roads, we can only recommend now that you consult the government’s reliable statistics on new registrations,” Spiegel said a competitor car club, the Stuttgart-based Auto Club Europa (A.C.E.), announced in a written statement.

The hundred-year-old advocacy group, at ~19 million members one of Germany’s largest associations and Europe’s biggest car club, was a mixed-purpose, highly entrepreneurial group that did lobbying work, tested products and services, published a magazine and promoted its magazine, but also did business as an insurer, travel agent, car rental agency, long-distance bus company and of course provided much-appreciated roadside emergency aid to members with car trouble via a large fleet of highly recognizable yellow autos. They also own some small planes and 51 helicopters, apparently, supposedly for airlifting patients to hospitals but not always. Although it certainly has defended drivers well on some issues in its lobbying work, including supporting the environmentally-friendly side of some pollution questions, its interactions with Germany’s auto manufacturers have at times been problematically “symbiotic,” a Sü op-ed commented. The survey for which readers’ interest was faked was apparently part of the group’s self-promotion work: the A.D.A.C. awarded its “Yellow Angel” prize as usual in a lavish evening ceremony at a royal residence in Munich on Thursday, 16 Jan 2014, calling the Süddeutsche’s publication two days before about the possible manipulations “a scandal for journalism,” only to admit to the accusations two days afterward. The magazine’s editor fell on his sword.

The A.D.A.C. had recently disagreed with the statistics cited by Germany’s new transportation minister Alexander Dobrindt (C.S.U.) and his colleagues in support of the C.S.U.’s biggest goal from the recent election: to impose a car toll on non-German drivers entering Bavaria. Now the A.D.A.C.’s statistics are no longer considered reliable.

Update on 24 Jan 2014: Critics are calling for restructuring of the sprawling “anachronistic” A.D.A.C., saying a car club that takes in 2 billion euros annually can no longer be run like a pigeon fanciers’ association.

Update on 17 Feb 2014: Auditor Deloitte only had access to data going back to 2009, but there appeared to be some general trends in how A.D.A.C. manipulated the automobile brands that were made the official winners of the “readers’ choice” Yellow Angel award. No car manufacturer had two models among the top three winners, even though that did happen several times. Preference appears to have been given to new models. When they announced the auditor’s findings, both A.D.A.C. and Deloitte were still sticking with their theory that the results were manipulated by lone gunmen acting alone, said Sü

Update on 25 Feb 2014: A.D.A.C.’s business manager has now resigned, after the club’s president resigned, after the communications director-and-magazine editor fell on his sword. >200,000 members have cancelled their memberships.

Update on 09 Mar 2014: Income tax is collected by the states in Germany so I presumed it was the Bavarian tax authority that examined the A.D.A.C.’s tax returns from 2007 to 2009 and decided the club owed 500 million euros in back taxes. The club did not pay an insurance tax even though it “provided grounds for an insurance relationship relevant to insurance tax law” [“ein versicherungssteuerrechtlich relevantes Versicherungsverhältnis begründet“]. But apparently this announcement was made by the federal finance ministry [Bundesfinanzministerium]. The ministry said there would be no criminal trial if the A.D.A.C. paid the half billion. The Registration Court at the Munich Local Court [Registergericht beim Amtsgericht München] is examining whether A.D.A.C. still fulfills the requirements for Verein status, in view of its business activities.

Meanwhile, described a Wirtschaftswoche article reporting that federal highways money that was allocated but not spent in time in other states got sent to Bavaria, to the tune of an extra 140 million euros in 2013. Four other relatively wealthy states also received extra highways funding in 2013 that poorer states such as Berlin had to give back after not managing to spend it building highways: Lower Saxony (+80 million euros), Hesse (+47 million euros), Rhineland-Palatinate (+40 million euros), Saxony (+38 million). Bavaria’s total federal highways funding in 2013 was 1240 million euros (including the extra 140 million).

Update on 04 May 2014: has received information that the A.D.A.C. auto club owned about 3.5 billion euros in 2012 in stock, bank accounts and real estate. With its dozens of subsidiaries, the A.D.A.C. auto club had a 2012 gross of nearly 1 billion euros, with about 85 million euros profit. Their next project is to open a car repair franchise, with 150 workshops.

Structurally, a Beirat has been added to the association’s management, whose members include someone from Transparency International and a former judge from Germany’s Constitutional Court. Apparently the A.D.A.C. did not and does not have a supervisory board, despite the enormous wealth and power controlled by the club. After the recent manipulation scandal became public, they added the new Beirat or additional advisory board in lieu of a more powerful supervisory board.

Spiegel wrote that the new Beirat, “at their first meeting before Easter, did not have the impression that the club was starting a transparency offensive. Rather, the top management at A.D.A.C. seemed motivated by the question of what actions would have to be taken for the club to retain its legal form of an e.V. registered association. The Munich Registration Court has been reviewing this privilege, which gives the A.D.A.C. certain advantages, for weeks now.”

(Vay ah   VEE ah click   VISS en   VULL ah,   VELL chh ah   VOGG en   om   best gah VAY ah tett   zye en)


“Separated banks law,” proposals for which are in the works in Brussels. wrote that financial industry lobbyists can no longer induce many significant changes to the E.U.’s banking union but they’ve been trying so hard to affect the bank separation law now under discussion that interior commissioner Michel Barnier has ordered E.U. officials to stop meeting with bank lobbyists. That phase of the process is now officially over, he said, and the industry was abusing the system.

“In view of our workload and the sensitivity of our current dossier, until instructed otherwise Market D.G. employees should not meet with bankers, their representatives or their associations.” “Thank you for conscientiously following this order from our commissioner.” –From excerpts of an email sent by Mr. Barnier’s general director Jonathan Faull to his employees in early December 2013.

Mr. Barnier’s spokesperson told the magazine he wants to implement the new bank structure reforms currently being drafted before the E.U. parliamentary election in May 2014. said the new rules would be based on the 2012 report of group of experts under Finnish central bank chief Erkki Liikanen that found banks “ought to separate their own securities trading, derivatives trading, loans to hedge funds and loans to private equity companies from the rest of their ‘customer business.'”

Trennbanken and Universalbanken [separated banks and universal banks] are two German ways to differentiate between “consumer banks” and post-deregulation’s sprawling “investment banks” or “speculating banks.”

It would be nice if the discussion introduced a new word for the investment banks’ term “Chinese walls” to describe their in-house arrangements for artificially blocking information flows that could generate in-house profits. “Chinese walls” seems insulting to China.

(TR-R-R-ENN bonk en geh ZETTS.)

Legislativer Fussabdruck

Legislative footprint.

A article about the financial industry’s efforts to lobby officials in Brussels mentioned that the E.U. has voluntary self-registration of lobbyists in its “transparency register.” The authors said the U.S.’s “legislative footprint” to register lobbyists and their undertakings is a better system in that Washington’s is mandatory.

Update on 06 Jan 2013: The U.S.A.’s archives of lists of lobbyists and political donations may have been hacked.

The Federal Election Commission’s inspector general’s 2013 audit report said the F.E.C. was, briefly describing two examples of “intrusions” that were discussed in the audit. “In May 2012, the FEC was a victim of a network intrusion by an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). Several FEC systems and a Commissioner’s user account were compromised by this specific threat. For approximately eight months, the Commissioner’s computer contained malware…” [p. 8].

(Ledge iss lah TEEV ah   FOOSS ob drook.)

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.)

Bankenberatung bemängeln

German consumer protection groups “criticized the deficiencies in investment advice banks give to consumers,” saying the old issue persists that bank advisors’ recommendations depend more on the commission the advisor will earn from the investment than the return the customer will reap, the risk they will be exposed to, whether they can afford the product, and/or possibly also the harm propagated by the company invested in.

ZDF heute journal’s financial correspondent Valerie Haller said consumer protection groups such as the Verbraucherzentrale Baden-Württemberg warned that better and qualified bank advising would only happen if investment advisory services and investment sales were separated within the banks. Bank investment advisors ought to have specialist qualification (usually this means courses and a test) and the quality of their advice ought to be monitored by government with sanctions applicable after violations. These systemic changes need to be made via new legislation from the Bundestag, a consumer protection rep said.

Ms. Haller added that the banks countered by claiming ~90% of their customers said they were satisfied with the investments they’d been advised to make, to which the consumer protection groups responded that they had evidence many customers didn’t understand what they’d bought.

Apparently bank advisor’s commissions have been banned by law in the U.K., though either this was done recently or it was incomplete because a new fine was just imposed on Lloyds Banking Group for two billion pounds’ worth of bonus-fueled overselling from 2010 to 2012. The listed “products” oversold to the possibly up to 700,000 customers do not include stocks and bonds, and the Guardian quoted the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority’s director of enforcement and financial crime as saying customers will not be “‘put first'” while companies still “‘incentivise their staff to do the opposite.'” The Guardian said she mentioned that “the fine had been increased by 10% because Lloyds failed to heed repeated warnings about sales practices and because it had been fined 10 years ago for poor sales incentives.”

The Baden-Württemberg consumer protection group’s webpage reminds readers that Germany’s statute of limitations period for suing banks after incorrect investment advice was recently lengthened from three to ten years. Also that bank investment advisors have been required by law since 2010 to keep a record describing what was said in their meetings with clients and potential clients when discussing potential purchases of stocks or bonds [Wertpapiere]; this does not apply for consultations about other products, such as the ones Lloyds was just fined for overselling. After a consultation, German bank advisors must sign a copy of the protocol and give it to the consultee, who does not have to sign it even though some banks have claimed the opposite. The German law mostly lets the banks decide how the protocol will look but does define the following general requirements:

1. Reason for the consultation

2. Length of consultation

3. Advice-relevant information about the customer’s personal situation

4. Data about the financial instruments and investment services discussed

5. The customer’s wishes and investment goals, and their relevant weightings

6. Advisor’s product recommendations and reasons why

(BONK en bear AH toong   bem ENG elln.)

Eine abschreckende Wirkung

A chilling effect, what Chinese censorship has on news reporting and book publishing.

Australian media have reported that it looks like Chinese authorities will not renew the visas of foreign journalists working for the New York Times and Bloomberg, set to expire at the end of 2013. This will require those journalists and their families, including children in school, to leave the country very suddenly, while having a chilling effect on all other international writing about China because yet again the authorities have not named their reasons for this move, leaving people guessing and self-censoring while denying they’re self-censoring.

I feel a qualm now when typing the names of journalists whose work I’m citing. Will my attempt to credit their good work create search engine results that imperil their future efforts to help explain a country as important and interesting as China?

Writers talking about not writing about China oscillate between drawing conclusions about censorship causes that they then decide are obvious, and saying you can’t know. But it does seem some officials there dislike reporting about corruption and vast accumulations of family capital. Corruption would also not be a reason you’d want to cite for refusing to renew journalist visas.

Update on 30 Jan 2014: After ten years reporting in China, Austin Ramzy switched from Time Magazine to the NYTimes in April 2013 and was forced to leave the country this month when he was denied a new press card, meaning his journalist’s visa could not be renewed. reported that NYTimes and Bloomberg are unable to fill empty posts in their China bureaus.

(Eye nah   OB shreck en dah   VEERK oong.)

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 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.)

“Schattenwissenschaft des Krieges”

“Shadow science of war,” headline to a Sü article about >$10 million the U.S. military has invested since 2000 in research projects at at least 22 German universities, careful curious institutions where $10 million can buy a lot of study. The Pentagon helped fund investigations into military explosive materials at Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität in Munich, for example; bulletproof glass [Panzerglas] and warheads [Sprengköpfe, exploding heads] at the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg; at Marburg, mini-drones and “nocturnal visual orientation in flying insects” useful for targeting munitions; at Saarland, $120,000 from the Army Research Laboratory for mathematical studies of linguistic structures, presumably useful in surveillance technology.

Sü and its investigation partner the Norddeutsche Rundfunk criticized the lack of transparency at the German universities and research institutes about having received the funding. Despite having “packs or prides of marketing experts,” the mostly-taxpayer-funded German schools’ reticence about U.S. military sponsorship meant journalists could only find them by going through lists in U.S. documents, including online searches of the database of the Federal Procurement Data System, which S.Z. said publishes all U.S. government purchases >$3000.

“And afterward strained excuses were even voiced, such as, the money was for basic research that surprised everyone when it turned out to have military applications. But the Pentagon would never have opened its cash register for pure love-of-neighbor, nor for scientific curiosity.”

Sü said 14 German universities have added “civil clauses” [Zivilklausel] to their by-laws stating that they will not accept research money from the German military, which also sponsors such projects. The University of Bremen did this, for example, and was then shocked to find its name in the U.S. database, having received $40,000 in 2011 and again in 2012 from the U.S. Air Force to study metal emissions in the upper atmosphere. Even if schools have such so-called civil clauses, the newspaper wrote, it is each individual German academic’s decision whether to accept military money for “dual-use” projects because academic freedom is guaranteed by Art. 5 of the German Constitution, section (3), which can be translated as “Art and science, research and teaching, are free. The freedom of teaching does not release instructors from their constitutional obligations” (to democracy and the human rights mandated elsewhere in the Grundgesetz, GG).

Update on 17 Dec 2013: The Swiss newspaper SontagsZeitung reported that in the past two years the Pentagon has provided “about a dozen” Swiss universities with “over a million dollars” in sponsoring for research projects in aerospace and computers. Schools included E.T.H. Lausanne and the universities of Zurich, Bern and Neuenburg.

(SHOTTEN vissen shoften   dess   CREE gess.)


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

An Armistice Day article in 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. 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.’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.)

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. 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.)

Schattenhaushalte vieler katholischen Bistümer

Shadow budgets of many Catholic bishoprics in Germany.

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

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

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

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

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

German news reported that the transparent public budget of German Catholic bishoprics includes taxpayers’ voluntary church tax [Kirchensteuer], collected and handed over by the government, for free, and the government’s own payments [Staatsleistungen, several hundred million euros annually] as rent on the property seized in 1803. Bishoprics’ untransparent private budget includes income from e.g. real estate, stocks, bonds, legacies willed to the church and interest income. ARD’s reported e.g. that the Catholic bishopric of Würzburg said its private property was 271 million euros, and Cologne said it had 166 million euros. A political scientist and journalist disagreed with these numbers however, telling that the Cologne diocese had three billion euros in cash and property, including an investment in a company that owned ~23,000 apartments, he told ZDF heute journal. The researcher, Carsten Frerk, published a 2010 book estimating annual subsidies of German churches at 19 billion euros and accusing churches of “false labeling” because, he said, nearly all the religious business they carried out was subsidized by government funds, taxpayers’ direct church tax and even N.G.O.’s such as Germany’s health insurance schemes. Mr. Frerk also noted that churches in Germany are exempted from paying property tax or tax on interest income and from many fees as well, while taxpayers can take church tax as a 100% deduction for which the government also receives no compensation. reported that Hildesheim is the only Catholic bishopric that is fully financially transparent. Their books are published in their entirety, and kept according to the German Commercial Code [Handelsgesetzbuch]. ZDF heute journal reported that in the wake of the Limburg scandal 14 of Germany’s 27 Catholic bishoprics started publishing financial statistics about themselves that they hadn’t disclosed before.

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

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

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



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 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.)

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.)

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.)

Gemeinsames Terrorabwehrzentrum, G.T.A.Z.

“Joint Terrorism Defense Center.” Apparently the German police and secret services have been working together at this institution since its founding in 2004 under poor Otto Schily. Many Germans are terrified by the idea of police and spies working together.

If the reasonable, brave, intelligent, energetic and left-leaning defense attorney Otto Schily, cofounder of the German Green party in 1980, could as interior minister in an S.P.D. + Green party coalition federal government help set up the “antiterrorism” cooperations that Otto Schily apparently did, then institutions in governments around the world could use a good hard review by politicians who don’t want to see themselves forced into similar stances in the very near future.

A recent review of Germany’s antiterror laws by the interior ministry and the justice ministry, examining in particular who has what authorities and who checks their work, has concluded and published its nonbinding report. Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.) was satisfied with the current laws but justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Scharrenberger (F.D.P.) is not: she is calling for a new law providing uniform and limiting rules for antiterror centers where police and intelligence services exchange information.

“When we’re talking about intervention authorizations that go deep, precisely the ones that penetrate into the privacy and personality spheres of individual people, then there have to be definitive rule-of-law procedures, mandatory notifications, inspection and controls, transparency.”

(Geh MINE zom ess   TARE or OB vare tsent room.)

Intransparente Preisgestaltung

“Intransparent pricing.”

The German supreme court in Karlsruhe [Bundesgerichtshof, BGH] found for the plaintiff in a case brought by the North Rhine-Westphalian consumer protection agency on behalf of natural gas customers against “intransparent price increase clauses in special contracts” of the utilities company R.W.E. Apparently “special contracts” [Sonderverträge, Sonderkundenverträge] in this case are contracts for customers who switched to their current utility from a prior utility. The court found insufficient reasons were cited for price increases on these customers’ utility bills. A ratepayer interviewed on said when he asked about it R.W.E. fobbed him off by telling him their rates were raised for “responsible, suitable and well-grounded reasons” (“wir haben verantwortungsbewusst, angemessen und begründet kalkuliert”), still without citing them.

The BGH decision was based on a European Court of Justice ruling that the criteria for rate increases have to be notified to these customers when they sign their contract. It is not enough to merely notify European utility customers in advance of rate increases and give them a right to cancel their contract.

Clauses in “special gas contracts” must contain information about causes for, prerequisites for and scope of possible price increases, in a clear and understandable manner, the BGH judges said.

The German court’s decision applies retroactively for the past three years. Millions of German billpayers are now being encouraged to check their natural gas contracts’ price increase clauses for legality and apply for their money back if they don’t meet requirements. A press release about the decision from the North Rhine-Westphalian consumer protection agency said >70% of Germany’s 13.5 million gas customers are on these special contracts because they’ve switched utilities—encouraging market forces to rationalize prices for consumers!—and recommended the energy utilities provide “slender and consumer-friendly procedures” for the affected customers to ask for and receive their money back.

(Inn tronz par ENT eh   PRIZE geh SHTOLT oong.)


In 2011 a Goldman Sachs study apparently stated that market speculation had indeed helped drive up the price of oil for consumers. In 2012 U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Bart Chilton said, “Using the Goldman Sachs research figure, and multiplying 10 cents times 233.9 million, would mean that theoretically there’s a ‘speculative premium’ of as much as $23.39 a barrel in the price of NYMEX crude oil.” Mr. Chilton has also said that the commodities business is a possible loophole for banks in the U.S.’s new frequently-postponed “Volcker rule” intended to reseparate banking from investment gambling.

Potential oil bottleneck points persist in privately held and/or operated oil infrastructure. Oil traders now own oil refineries. Pipelines are included in the infrastructure large banks have somehow acquired part ownership of. U.S. bank Morgan Stanley invested in the “global oil tanker operator” Heidmar in addition to “fuel chain supply manager” TransMontaigne. An F.A.Z. article described how the world’s three largest oil trading firms, Switzerland-based Gunvor, Vitol and Glencore—”prescient” commodity markets pioneer Marc Rich’s old firm—work today, supposedly on the basis of fast-computer-based price arbitrage rather than speculation. Moving into production, Glencore is now invested in oil wells, coal mines and metals mines, after its late-2012 fusion with Swiss competitor Xstrata.

Apparently a landmark 2003 U.S. Federal Reserve decision allowed U.S. investment banks to start “trading oil cargoes.” In July 2013 the Fed announced it was “reviewing” that decision. Though Fed deregulation may have unleashed the Wall Street side of recent international commodities speculation problems, the Fed probably cannot fix it now without simultaneous coordinated reforms from other regulators around the world.

(ILL prize.)


“Miniature Wonderland,” a flabbergastingly extensive, ambitious, complex, technically impressive and beautiful model train exhibit in Hamburg. They recreated the Swiss Alps, the Frankfurt Airport, a floating Scandinavian cruise ship, Las Vegas and Florida. There are dozens or perhaps hundreds of tiny jokes to hunt for. The sun rises and sets every fifteen minutes, with lights coming on in all the little villages. Visitors can watch the Wunderland artist-engineers at work in their glass cubicles, while they can watch you enjoying the show.

(Min ee ah TOUR   VOON da lond.)


“View into the files,” access to files, to audit records and check documentation systems. What inspectors and transparency advocates request.

(OCT en EYE n zichh t.)


“Grid search,” “raster manhunt.” Pre-crime data dragnet. Controversial German police method pushed into law in the 1970’s “to deal with the Red Army Faction,” preserved through the 1990’s “because of organized crime,” briefly tried out after the 9/11 attacks and considered by its critics to have failed, in which police are given access to big data troves to search for suspects before a crime is committed. The police create profiles of people they think are likely to commit crimes, identify characteristics for those profiles, identify data markers they think indicate those characteristics, and then use computers to “filter” large data troves for people with those markers. Files are opened for closer investigation of those “caught” in the dragnet and their friends, family, neighbors and other associates.

Several million data sets were shared and examined in this way after 9/11 but no arrests were made. The Bundesverfassungsgericht ultimately decided this was not legitimate and said future data investigations of the magnitude used in vain to find “sleepers” in Germany would have to be in response to a “concrete threat to high-level Rechtsgüter,” which might mean legal goods or legally protected interests. At an anti-neonazi march in Dresden in 2011, police got a court’s permission to collect all mobile phone “connections” data [Verbindungsdaten] in a large zone around the demo for several hours. ~300,000 people’s phone data were collected according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, some of which were then used for purposes other than originally submitted. Wikipedia says police also used drones and other cameras to record that demo. Videos from that march have been submitted as evidence in the trial of an anti-nazi youth pastor accused of urging people to throw stones at police.

(ROSS tah FOND oong.)



“Data protection seal of approval.” A 2008 book on data protection in Germany proposed creating independent auditing agencies who would inspect public and private organizations. If the organizations met standards for data protection, transparency, data security, etc., they would be issued the auditors’ “quality seal” which they could use in their marketing materials as a reputation booster. The auditors would be motivated to keep their own reputation high by not being pushovers, presumably. Multiple reliable auditors could watch each other. Set up well and done honestly, these inspections could ultimately enhance efforts at leak control by keeping whistleblowing from being the only way visible to try to fix the most broken organizations. When these inspectors published what criteria they used to calculate their ratings, smaller organizations down to families and individuals could learn tips about improving their own data protection.

Judging by online search results, squabbling about which data protection inspection seals are worthy may have already begun. There appears to be understandable concern that a company that produces consumer credit scores, which many Germans view with suspicion, also dipped its toe in the data protection certification business. Possible other models suggested for such an independent inspection system included the feared TÜV inspections and Biosiegel (“certified organic.” Bio means organic in German. Öko means treehugger.). An early boost was provided when a German state created demand for the certificate by requiring independent data-protection certification for products, programs and services used by state offices.

(DOT en shoots ZEEG ell.)


“Shponsoring tickets,” a new kind of money-equivalent created by big soccer and big stadiums. Shponsoring tickets nominally worth hundreds of thousands of euros can be printed for each large soccer game, apparently.

After auditors found valuable sheafs of these lying around in soccer club safes, German companies started developing accounting procedures to document gifted sports tickets. Now when German companies are caught in some other impropriety people point out it’s ridiculous that … isn’t being tracked as carefully as soccer tickets.

Update on 07 Mar 2014: Reporting on the Ukrainian crisis mentioned that Germany’s biggest soccer sponsorship is Deutsche Telekom’s, for the team Bayern Munich, and the second-biggest is Gazprom, for Schalke 04.

(SHPON soar ingk   CAW ten.)

“Nicht mit Ruhm bekleckert”

“Didn’t dribble glory on themselves,” in predicting the 2008 global financial troubles—from Thomas Thiel’s review of social scientist and publicist Werner Rügemer‘s 2012 book about the world’s three major financial ratings agencies.

In his book, Rügemer discussed the “curious financing model” in which clients pay for the grades they receive. Managerially, Rügemer said, many of the same people are members of the boards of the big three ratings agencies, the companies that own the ratings agencies, and the ratings agencies’ clients. Thiel:

“The deeper Rügemer goes into the ownership relationships, the more there unfolds a conglomerate of hedge funds, banks and companies that is worrying in how functionally interwoven it is. Market leader Standard & Poor’s for example belongs to the media house McGraw Hill, which mainly belongs to large investment funds such as BlackRock and Vanguard. These funds own many companies that are regularly/standardly/by default evaluated by the ratings agencies. In addition, many of the same funds are the shareholders behind Moody’s and S&P, such as the investment giant Capital Group. Seated on the supervisory boards (Aufsichtsrat) of the agencies there are companies like Coca-Cola or the pharma company Eli Lilly, plus banks and insurance companies such as Allianz, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.”

McGraw Hill owns another agency that is very important for setting world oil prices: Platts. Der Spiegel said Platts is the world’s largest energy information service. On Tuesday, 14 May 2013, the EU raided Platts’ London offices and offices of three big European oil companies, Shell (Holland), Statoil (Norway) and BP (UK), seeking information about price fixing allegedly achieved by slight distortions of data going into Platts. If said international oil price distortion occurred, it may have started in 2002.

Background info from the Wall Street Journal: the international “physical-oil market” is worth $2.5 trillion. “Index-publishing firms like Platts derive their prices from self-reported transaction data from participants in deals.”

(Nicked   mitt   ROOM   bah KLECK aht.)

Achtung, die Historiker kommen

“Here come the historians.” For about a year now, reported, historians have been studying the influence of ex-Nazis within post-WWII German federal ministries other than the Foreign Service (which a historians commission already investigated from 2005 to 2010 at Joschka Fischer’s instigation). At Justice, for example, historians found nearly half the top bureaucrats after WWII had a Nazi past or “eine sehr starke NS-Belastung,” “a quite strong Nazi load.” The head of the Chancellery (Adenauer’s chief of staff) for ten years after the war had helped write the “race laws” in the 1930’s, for example.

Marburg historian Eckart Conze said Joschka’s initial investigation found more Nazis worked at high positions in the Foreign Office e.g. in 1951–52 than in 1937–38.

To uncover more NSDAP-related sins of omission and commission in West German legislation, regulation and adjudication, the historians want to continue the project by churning through thousands of relevant documents that have not yet been read through in this investigation.

(OCHH toong,   dee   hist OR ick ah   COM men.)

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.)




“Adverse events database” (unerwünschte Arzneimittelnebenwirkungen-Datenbank). BfArM (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, the regulatory German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices) has created an online portal providing free access to its database of all suspected side effects reported to BfArM for all drugs since 1995. The UAW-DB is for doctors, patients, scientists and the merely curious.

The suspected side effects were submitted by hospitals, physicans and patients themselves, but not from clinical trials. Unlike the confirmed ones listed in package inserts and expert information sheets, the side effects listed here may or may not have been proven to have been caused by the medications used.

(OO AH VEY dot en bonk.)


“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.



Poppycock! In this video op-ed from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a commentator says it might appear that the best way to reform the world’s tax oases would be to let each fix their own lax tax laws, one-by-one. But piffle! No! Those 40+ tax havens are in competition with one another. Max Planck Institute researchers said market pressures would mean the last holdouts would become too powerfully wealthy and resistant to change. The best way is the one that is most politically difficult: negotiating simultaneous agreements with all tax oases.

(POUSSE teh KOO chh en.)


“Banking secrecy.” Luxemburg announced on 07 Apr 2013 that they intend to relax their banking code of silence, “no longer strictly refusing” to automatically share information about international accounts with other countries’ tax authorities, starting in 2015. EU countries have also been in negotiations with Switzerland about similar issues for several years, though individually as separate countries and not with the full power of the EU.

Until now, foreigners banking in Luxemburg have paid an anonymous tax of 35% on interest earned there. This will be changed in Luxemburg e.g so that account holders’ names will be included in the information shared with German tax authorities.

German critics say this is insufficient because other Luxemburg income, such as company profits, remains untaxed for foreigners. Also, Luxemburg isn’t the only European tax oasis. Jürgen Trittin of the Green Party criticized Austria, for example, where names of foreign account holders earning interest in Austrian banks are only shared after initiation of criminal proceedings. Green Party finance guy Gerhard Schick wrote that the G20 summit in 2009 actually agreed to end Bankgeheimnis; certainly some reforms were enacted that year though movement has been slow since, until the recent data leak. The ZDF report concluded by saying that economists have warned that if only some tax oases reform their laws, the ones that don’t will profit from acquiring fleeing customers.

Update on 09 Apr 2013: “In principle, Liechtenstein has separated itself from its tax haven past.” Speaking of Liechtenstein, it looks like they had an interesting idea for a new field for financial services experts in former tax oases to move into: ratings agencies that are independent of the big three on Wall Street. The nonprofit Carlo Foundation (, said to be the world’s first independent fund rating agency, was founded in Liechtenstein in July 2012.

Update on 22 May 2013: At their summit in Brussels all 27 EU leaders confirmed in principle their finance ministers’ decision to eliminate Bankgeheimnis for “foreign”-held bank accounts, insurance policies and investments starting in 2015. The leaders of the two last holdouts, Luxemburg and Austria, said they too would agree to the automatic exchange of data after the EU as a whole negotiated banking agreements with relevant third-party countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Monaco. Luxemburg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker said his country is particularly concerned that the same competition conditions apply in finance centers inside and outside the EU. Negotiations with Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra, Switzerland and San Marino about automatic exchange of banking data are underway and expected to be concluded quickly, in “two to three months.” If all goes according to schedule, EU leaders could completely eliminate Bankgeheimnis at their meeting in December 2013.

Update on 20 Mar 2014: The 28 E.U. heads of government agreed to end Bankgeheimnis in the European Union, with comprehensive exchanges of tax data. This will also end banking secrecy for foreigners, though that might mean only for foreigners from other E.U. member states. Five third-party countries, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco and Andorra, also agreed to exchange sufficient information to end banking secrecy de facto with regard to interest income, said Luxemburg’s prime minister, saying this fulfilled Luxemburg’s conditions for also agreeing to the new policy.

The O.E.C.D.’s standard for automatic data exchange will be the orientation point, and the E.U. hopes it will become the standard for tax information exchange regulations worldwide, said E.U. Council President Herman Van Rompuy. But today’s breakthrough E.U. policy agreement goes beyond the requirements of the O.E.C.D. standard:

“In future, the data exchange is supposed to apply not only to private persons but also to certain trusts and foundations. The guideline will also apply for stock profits and certain insurance profits, particularly from life insurance and investment funds. The banks are also to be obligated to collect more information in future about the actual economic owners of companies.”

(BONK geh HIGH mniss.)


“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.)


The new “Market Transparency Office,” under the auspices of the German Federal Cartell Authority. The MTO is intended to gather and evaluate data from electricity companies and especially gas stations to ensure there is no price fixing. These data will not be shared with the public. It is not clear whether this new office will be functional or grandstanding.

Update on 12 Sep 2013: Starting today, drivers will have access to the price data ~13,000 German gas stations have been sending to the federal cartel authority [Bundeskartellamt] since 31 Aug 2013. The bundled data are forwarded to several phone apps and “registered consumer protection centers” or “consumer portals” drivers can use to compare gas station prices in real time; price changes are updated to the market transparency office every five minutes. Beta testing is scheduled to end 01 Dec 2013.

The following consumer portals have been approved for this so far: reported another eight “information services” have been approved to help share the price data with consumers and another hundred have applied for approval.

The Green party called this a placebo office, criticizing inter alia that it does not fix inflationary pricing malheurs committed by the refineries (which have the same ownership as some large gas station chains in some cases). Also, it doesn’t cover all fuels or 100% of the market because the smallest gas stations can apply to be exempted. Germany has about 14,000 gas stations, so ~1000 are not participating as the service is launched.

(MARKED trons par ENTS shtell ah.)

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