“Mental lightning.” Describes what happens when good ideas occur to you. Wit.
(GUY stess BLITZ.)
“German unity day.” Celebrated on June 17 for years in West Germany to remember the popular uprising against the East German government 60 years ago this week.
The German unity holiday was changed to October 3 when East and West Germany signed the agreement to reunify on Oct. 3, 1990.
Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, a regime-critical East German pastor who after the Wall fell led the so-called Gauck-Behörde, the agency created to figure out what to do with the Stasi files left behind by the secret police, said,
“Today it remains essential, everywhere around the world, to stand by / provide backup for those people who, though discriminated against and marginalized, courageously take a stand for freedom, democracy and justice.”
“Es gilt auch heute, überall auf der Welt, jenen beizustehen, die sich obwohl diskriminiert und ausgegrenzt mutig für Freiheit, Demokratie und Recht einsetzen.”
(TOG dare DEUTSCH en EYE n h eye t.)
“Overflow areas,” deliberately designed flood zones along a river, in wilderness or agricultural regions outside towns. Post-Enlightenment romantic poetry’s rivers of plashing brooks, bosky dapple, und so weiter, were dredged and dug in the nineteenth century into straight deep channels that could be used for peacetime and wartime shipping. In the late twentieth century, amid concerns about global climate change and drowning poor Holland, they started rewilding sections of German rivers by bulldozer into broad serpentine environments with polders that are intended to flood after heavy rains and will hold more water than the old Wilhelmine channels. The ecological results should be interesting, as species move through the new riparian habitat amid lands that have been Feld-Wald-und-Wiesen, fields forests and meadows, for a very long time, possibly centuries in some places.
Jerome K. Jerome’s pre-WWI descriptions of the channelization might be based on actual observation:
“Your German is not averse even to wild scenery, provided it be not too wild. But if he consider it too savage, he sets to work to tame it. I remember, in the neighbourhood of Dresden, discovering a picturesque and narrow valley leading down towards the Elbe. The winding roadway ran beside a mountain torrent, which for a mile or so fretted and foamed over rocks and boulders between wood-covered banks. I followed it enchanted until, turning a corner, I suddenly came across a gang of eighty or a hundred workmen. They were busy tidying up that valley, and making that stream respectable. All the stones that were impeding the course of the water they were carefully picking out and carting away. The bank on either side they were bricking up and cementing. The overhanging trees and bushes, the tangled vines and creepers they were rooting up and trimming down. A little further I came upon the finished work—the mountain valley as it ought to be, according to German ideas. The water, now a broad, sluggish stream, flowed over a level, gravelly bed, between two walls crowned with stone coping. At every hundred yards it gently descended down three shallow wooden platforms. For a space on either side the ground had been cleared, and at regular intervals young poplars planted. Each sapling was protected by a shield of wickerwork and bossed by an iron rod. In the course of a couple of years it is the hope of the local council to have “finished” that valley throughout its entire length, and made it fit for a tidy-minded lover of German nature to walk in. There will be a seat every fifty yards, a police notice every hundred, and a restaurant every half-mile.
“They are doing the same from the Memel to the Rhine. They are just tidying up the country. I remember well the Wehrthal. It was once the most romantic ravine to be found in the Black Forest. The last time I walked down it some hundreds of Italian workmen were encamped there hard at work, training the wild little Wehr the way it should go, bricking the banks for it here, blasting the rocks for it there, making cement steps for it down which it can travel soberly and without fuss.” —From Three Men on the Bummel (1900)
(Ü bah FLEW toongs flechh hen.)
“To know what it was like.” Motto for the twentieth anniversary of the museum for the Stasi documents, the files and systems of the East German secret police, that were saved from destruction, reconstructed despite destruction, archived, read, evaluated, reread and shown to visitors from all over the world.
The decision to preserve the files was not as obvious now as it may seem in retrospect. Some well-meaning West German deciders wondered if finishing the Stasi’s destruction of the files might not be a benison to the Stasi’s victims, in the extremely short term. Fortunately for victims, for voters who in the decades since might otherwise have elected candidates with an “inoffizielle Mitarbeiter” (“unofficial coworker,” “unofficial employee”) past, for people living in police states who are making plans about what to do when the dictatorship falls, and for people living in potential police states, the documents were not destroyed, systems were developed to work with them while preserving privacy for the innocent, and the people at these archives are happy to share what they’ve learned with visitors.
(VISS en vee ess vahr.)
Arbitrariness. When a government does it: despotism. Tributes to Walter Jens said he kept up a fight against despotism, with elegance.
“Pre-syndrome syndrome tracking,” by starting long-term medical studies on groups of workers known to have undergone exposure to certain hazards limited by time and place. To prevent the clouds of confusion of another Gulf War syndrome, reliable medical schools could ask for volunteers for long-term studies on the health developments of veterans of the Second Gulf War, TSA workers who had to stand next to X-ray machines, Fukushima cleanup workers, etc. Regular good checkups and tests might also benefit any American workers who lack health insurance. The questionable environments to which they were exposed should also be evaluated sooner rather than later, recording and taking samples of possible toxins that can be compared to outcomes decades from now.
More than one institution should study each cohort in case their study’s funding gets cut one day.
(FORE zyn DROME lichh ah zyn DROME fair fol goong.)
“History of everyday life,” history of ordinary people and ordinary things they did and made. Alltag in the present is considered rather gray and oppressive in a special way in Germany, at an intensity only made possible by festivals, so another English explanation of Alltagsgeschichte might be history of the LDG, loathsome daily grind, rather than of DWM, dead white males.
Most people who ever lived have been forgotten. The ordinary events in their ordinary lives might have been considered the most unworthy of documentation because ubiquity gives an air of permanence, because the literate few didn’t know how normal people lived or because chroniclers wanted to erase or deny aspects of it. Accidents are thus the source of much of the little we know in Alltagsgeschichte and related branches of historical study. Such as the preservation of medieval clothing cast aside in mountain salt mines, the preservation of Stone Age bodies in Alpine glacier ice, the Viking custom of sacrificing things valuable to them in anaerobic peat bogs. It took an unusual event to bring details of common people’s lives into written forms that were preserved: in witch trial documents clerks wrote down where women were and what they were doing when bedeviled, old coroner’s reports contain information about peasant work, Samuel Pepys’s diary is a unique source of day-to-day detail, and Ken Starr’s report accidentally tells us more about White House routine than any political memoire. Anything that causes secret services to violate people’s rights to privacy will record details of everyday life otherwise lost to posterity. On a lighter note, today’s Bundestagsfloskeln websites, where people can submit examples of classic German parliamentary speech phrases, real or “pastiche,” are accidentally excellent teaching aids to people unfamiliar with parliamentary democracy or the intense German “discussion” tradition.
One wonders what technology, customs and rules might lead to a future Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-type encyclopedia in which important events are narrated in 3D video with realistically embarrassing detail.
(OLL togs geh SHICHH teh.)
“The Last of Their Guild,” an excellent show by the Bavarian Broadcasting Channel (BR). Just as the future is here, but not evenly distributed, so is the past still here in surprising ways. The few episodes I saw captured craftsmanship traditions, obsolete and obsolescing technology, old things being preserved by traditions, old things being preserved by new purposes being found for them and giving them new usefulness, and surviving traces of central Europe’s medieval self-limiting labor organizations. By interviewing the people and filming their workshops and methods, they showed viewers the nuts and bolts of a thrilling variety of old jobs, including barrel makers, wheelwrights, and of course the great one about the guy who still braids buggy whips.
Episodes may include working windmills and water wheels.
(Dare LET stah z eye n ess SHTOND ess.)
This military rank looks like it means “upper-level liberated person,” but it is translated into English as e.g. “private first class” or “lance corporal.”
(DARE OH brrr geh FRY tah.)
“People-counting judgment,” the census decision made by the German constitutional court in the 1980′s. An online article I found on the history of Germany’s strongest interest in Datenschutz und Datensicherheit (data protection and data security) explained that country’s aversion to census-taking from a historical perspective. The Nazis took an infamous census of “greater German” territories in the 1930′s that collected data used to kill people later, supposedly with the aid of early computing machines. Later generations of Germans, especially the authority-questioning “1968 generation,” were early adopters of fears about the way a fact that is harmless in one context may become dangerous in another, meaning there is no longer such a thing as a harmless datum. It was and is the combination of mandatory registration with the local government of your residence and contact data, which all German residents still have to do, and a proposed resumption of census taking that set off the large protests against a census in Germany. Eventually the German constitutional court issued its decision reaffirming the first sentence of the German Civil Code, the right to human dignity, and saying control and protection of one’s information was protected by that right.
My source said the logic and humanity of the court’s granting of this protection, and seeing that the state obeyed the court’s decision and canceled the census, calmed the fears of the 1968 generation of antifaschist protesters and did a great deal to integrate them into civil society, which they now control.
(Folks TSAY loongs oor tile.)
“The news question.” Where do you get your news? What reliable news selecters and sharers have you found? What conduits bring you your news?
(Dee NOCHH richh ten froggah.)
Telekom’s decision against net neutrality might have given permission to its competitors to take similar steps. In April, internet policy activists were concerned that Arcor purchaser and important ISDN competitor Vodafone had started looking into data throttling as well, but that company responded by saying it was not currently considering so doing.
In a 30 May 2013 interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the president of the German anti-cartel authority [Bundeskartellamt] said that if Deutsche Telekom planned to allow providers to buy their way out of Telekom’s plans to slow down data to its flat-rate consumers, this might be anticompetitive because smaller providers might have trouble paying the new fees charged to resume normal data access or “purchase a priority treatment” as he put it. Yet the anti-cartel authority had decided to neither investigate nor prosecute for anti-competitive market access limitations in this case, merely to get “the clearest possible picture” of the situation. They were concerned that Telekom provide better information its customers about whether they were close to exceeding data limits and about which services were counting toward customers’ volume limit (companies have until 2016 to make priority partnership agreements with Telekom to have Telekom stop counting their content toward Telekom customers’ volume limits). Also, the president of the anti-cartel authority said, the networks authority [Bundesnetzagentur] would be determining whether network neutrality was being violated enough to require further investigation. The F.A.Z. noted that Telekom is considered a major market player because it controls ~45% of the German DSL market, with ~12.4 million connections, according to the Bundesnetzagentur.
(DROSS ell com.)
In the first of its two current scandals, Deutsche Telekom wants to use so-called “vectoring” technology to reduce interference between bundled strands in copper-wire DSL internet connections by increasing and decreasing signals to balance out a more efficient overall electric signal transmission. “Vectoring” requires the Kabelverzweiger, the “cable brancher” or “cross connect” gray box by the side of the street, to be connected to a fiber optic line. Powerful computing is required at the phone company end to “precalculate” the “error suppression” for all transmissions on all DSL lines in the bundle simultaneously in real time. Maximum efficiency requires one central administration of all DSL lines, by one company in other words.
Telekom claims its vectoring only works when a single company controls all the lines at the gray box; “no other companies could then install their own technology there,” the F.A.Z. wrote, voicing the worry about fairness to companies in competition with Telekom. Fairness at the consumer end is also an issue, inter alia because vectoring requires modems specially modified for vectoring technology. Manufacturers such as AVM are already shipping only “vectoring-friendly” modems.
Just before the long Christmas break in 2012, Telekom submitted a request to the Networks Agency (Bundesnetzagentur, BNetzA) to modify BNetzA rules to allow its vectoring. After receiving the petition, the Bundesnetzagentur asked companies in the sector to amicably agree on solutions amongst themselves in order to reduce regulatory intervention to a minimum. Deutsche Telekom also tried to calm remonopolization fears by e.g. saying that if competitor companies had connected their own fiber optic lines to gray branching boxes, they could use its vectoring technology too. It also had some new last mile products it wanted to rent out to them.
On 15 May 2013 the Bundesnetzagentur issued a draft approving the partial deregulation—which still must be approved by the EU Commission and the regulatory authorities of the Member States which would have one month to review the proposal after BNetzA’s 24 Apr 2013 hearing—allowing Deutsche Telekom and its competitors to use Telekom’s vectoring while imposing conditions intended to mitigate the old monopoly’s sole control of branching boxes, though the items in this list indicate apparently not to mitigate possible data privacy repercussions caused by the central computational process managing the balancing out of every DSL line. These conditions included:
Alternatively, non-”vectoring” options for speeding up DSL connections include so-called “bonding,” bundling in which incoming data packets are distributed through two of the usually four available lines of a DSL connection rather than just being sent through one. Routers that can bundle the unsorted incoming packets will have two DSL inputs instead of just one. There is also a “phantom bundling” option that can take two (four-line) DSL connections and use one line from each connection to create a third, “phantom” circuit that will suffice to “modulate up” DSL signals. It is claimed that Deutsche Telekom’s “vectoring” would be faster than these bundling alternatives and/or speed them up by balancing away the signal bleed between copper wires.
Some Germans are concerned that their internet service providers already are claiming internet speeds they don’t actually deliver or secretly throttling cheap connections; to address these concerns the Bundesnetzagentur studied German broadband quality in 2012 and posted a link to a “broadband test” and a “net neutrality test” (that can’t be run on a wireless network) for consumers on an “Initiative Netzqualität” website scheduled to be shut down in late June 2013. The net neutrality test requires Java. Both tests are for stationary internet connections; neither can be run on a mobile network. Speaking of mobile internet: now that Deutsche Telekom has received approval from US antitrust authorities to merge T-Mobile with competitor Metro PCS, they plan to use some of Deutsche Telekom’s new cash liquidity to build mobile infrastructure in the USA.
“I’m an old cabinet that has a lot of drawers,” said actor Hildegard Krekel, known for playing the Sally Struthers daughter character in Germany’s excellent version of the Johnny Speight “All in the Family” family of television series, called “One heart and one soul” (Ein Herz und eine Seele). She was also the dubbing voice for Bette Davis and Helen Mirren, according to her obituary; Hildegard Krekel died of cancer on 26 May 2013.
Episode 4 of “Ein Herz und eine Seele,” under the Hitler-like Archie Bunker patriarch known as Disgusting Alfred, is about a funeral and was the reason a friend once explained to me that, in certain regions of Germany, the funerals are more fun than the weddings.
(Bin eye n oltah come MODE ah dare FEEL ah SHOE blod en hot.)
“Collision protection.” In a surprise move ~14 May 2013 the German Defense Ministry [Bundesverteidigungsministerium] cancelled its Euro Hawk drone development cooperation with the USA because the drone was not going to receive permission from civilian authorities to fly in European airspace. When the cancellation was announced, GDefense said they’d spent 550 million euros on the project, but now they’re saying 660 million. The F.A.Z. Sonntag reported GDefense knew about the “Euro Hawk” civil-airspace permission problems in 2004, three years before they signed the procurement contracts to purchase the drones. Airspace permission was denied to the unmanned surveillance drone because it lacked an adequate “collision protection” system ["fehlende Kollisionsschutz"]. Air safety authorities, business people in the aerospace industry and the German Defense Department’s own licensing office warned the Defense Ministry about the paperwork problems in 2004. Furthermore, the opposition SPD and Green Party accuse, GDefense subsequently “massively interfered” in the German Federal Court of Auditors [Bundesrechnungshof]‘s attempt to do their job by investigating what the hell was going on there. On 18 May 2013 the Bundesrechnungshof auditors said they’d still not received all the documents they’d requested and some of the status reports they did receive were blacked out by censors.
Half the project’s money was spent on developing the drone vehicle in the USA and half on developing the drone’s special electronic surveillance system in Germany. The surveillance system is supposedly too large to go in other drones but could be carried by a normal plane. One Euro Hawk prototype was delivered and four more drones were going to be ordered.
The F.A.Z. Sonntag reported that serious problems occurred during the drone prototype’s delivery flight from California to Bavaria in 2011, when contact with the controlling satellite was lost twice for about ten minutes at a time and the drone deviated from its course. But the Defense Ministry did not report these problems to the Bundestag. US air safety authorities also had refused to issue airspace permission to the drone, before its 2011 transfer flight. Anti-drone activist Medea Benjamin, author of “Drone warfare: Killing by remote control,” said in a 24 Sep 2012 interview that the US air force admits about one-third of these drones have been crashing. She said apparently it’s OK for them to crash on some countries but not other countries.
The German Defense Ministry’s reason for refusing to share the information requested by the controlling authorities, the Bundesrechnungshof auditors, was agreements made with “industry partners” not to share information with third parties. A spokesman for the federal auditing authority said not receiving all the information they needed to do their jobs was “unusual. We don’t experience something like that very often.” And: “The Bundesrechnungshof has an unlimited right of inspection which the Defense Ministry cannot nullify via agreements with third parties. We can and will not accept the Defense Ministry’s limitations of our access to the files.”
On 22 May 2013, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) said he will let the federal auditors see all documents now, even despite putative contractual conditions agreed with the USA.
Germany has also contributed ~483 million euros to NATO’s Hawk drone (“Global Hawk”?) which is based on the same US drone and thus might also have civil airspace licensing issues.
(Coe LEE zee OWNS shootz.)
“Please insert your ATM card and enter your PIN,” as it appears in Vatican City. From the book Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche.
There have been concerns about the Vatican Bank (the “Institute for Works of Religion,” IOR) and money laundering, to the extent that the European Central Bank even blocked Vatican Bank ATM and credit card terminals at one point, practically excluding Vatican City from the EU. In response to pressure from the Roman district attorney’s office, the Bank of Italy, Italy’s central bank, froze electronic transfers with EU banks for the IOR, which initially instead of cooperating tried to find a new banking partner in Switzerland. Now, the Vatican’s government has created a financial oversight authority which presented its first report on 22 May 2013, the first time in history such a thing has happened. The head of the authority announced that six suspicious cases had been reported to them. After investigating, they forwarded two of these cases to Vatican district attornies.
“Having a go at tax savings models for large companies,” what the EU is doing now that US firms have started testifying before Congress about still-legal systems of international tax loopholes partially revealed by the “Offshore Leaks” data trove.
From the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s description of some results from the 22 May 2013 EU summit in Brussels:
“At their meeting Wednesday the 27 leaders also talked for the first time about actions to be taken against tax savings models for large companies. With an eye on corporations like Apple, Amazon or Google, which avoid taxes on a large scale, British leader David Cameron said it is time to close the loopholes. He said one has to be sure that companies are really paying taxes. France’s president François Hollande demanded action against the ‘corporations’ tax tricks.’ Irish premier Enda Kenny was put under pressure because for years Apple has been using Irish subsidiaries to save billions of euros. Kenny said there aren’t any exception rules for international corporations. Ireland’s rules for taxing companies are ‘transparent and clear.’ The EU commission now plans to submit proposals for closing corporate tax loopholes by the end of 2013.”
(SHTOY ah SHPAH mode elle ah foor GROSS oont ah NAME en ON gay hen.)
“The Ball is Round.” Famous soccer quotes from Sepp Herberger.
(Dare BOLL isst ROOND.)
“A Match Lasts 90 Minutes.”
(Eye n SHPEEL dao err t NOYN tsig min OO ten.)
“After the Match is Before the Match.”
(NOCHH dame shpeel isst FORE dame shpeel.)
“Goal line technology.” After considering options such as attaching magnetic chips and/or accelerometers to game balls, FIFA has decided to test the use of 14 HD cameras in the July 2013 Confederations Cup to verify ref calls on whether soccer balls have crossed the line into the goal box. When the technological request for proposals was issued, FIFA estimated the new equipment would cost about EUR 200,000 per stadium, whatever they ended up using.
(TOOOOOR lean ian TECHH nick.)
“Referendum against tuition fees.” The states run the universities in Germany. Usually they charge very low tuition fees by US standards or university is free and students just have to pay registration and student union fees and buy subsidized cheap universal health insurance (includes dental and medicine). After some states experimented with introducing tuition fees in the 1990′s, almost all the states unintroduced them except Bavaria and Lower Saxony. In 2012, Bavarian citizens collected the 25,000 signatures required for a referendum to let people vote directly to eliminate college tuition throughout the state.
Though Bavarians have the Volksbegehren option, it’s hard to pass a referendum in practice. In 1968 the Bavarian state parliament (Landtag) made conditions for passing direct referenda much tougher, reducing the time frame from four weeks to two, banning public solicitation of signatures in the street or door-to-door, while requiring signatures of 10% of all registered voters for passage and, writes Hans Herbert von Arnim, making mail-in ballots much more difficult [von Arnim, Die Selbstbediener, pp. 162–3].
Before the voters had a chance to decide on the anti-tuition referendum however, Bavaria’s Interior Ministry (CSU) filed a complaint against it with the Bavarian constitutional court or Verfassungsgerichtshof in Munich saying the referendum was unconstitutional because it would affect Bavaria’s budget. The Bavarian constitutional court has interpreted the state’s so-called “budget caveat” or Haushaltsvorbehalt to mean that referenda that would cost money, i.e. most of them, can be kept from a vote if they will impact the state budget in a way that isn’t slight [von Arnim, p. 173].
Bavaria’s supreme or constitutional court is a bit unusual in Germany [von Arnim, p. 27] and possibly one reason voters might be glad to have a direct referendum option. Federal German constitutional court judges have to be elected by a 2/3 parliamentary majority, to prevent judiciary dominance by one party; they have a 12-year term; and they cannot be reelected. Bavarian constitutional court judges have been mainly elected by the CSU party, because it has governed the state since 1946; they have an eight-year term; and they can be reelected an unlimited number of times.
In October 2012, the Bavarian constitutional court decided eliminating college tuition would not affect the state budget and allowed the referendum to proceed. In January 2013 the referendum passed with over 1.3 million signatures. In response, the Bavarian Landtag or state parliament quickly passed a law eliminating college tuition on 24 Apr 2013.
(FOKES beg AIR en GAY gen SHTOO dee en geh BOO ren.)
“Untranslatable gender-based English euphemisms” that have to be explained or described because no equivalent was coined in German at the time.
“Violated” is one. You can say “raped” but I still don’t know how to say “violated” in German. Another is the Indian concept of “eve teasing,” public-space harrassment or molestation of women for being women.
(Oon über ZETS bar ah geh SHLECHH ts bet soh gen ah ENG lish ah OY fem miz men.)
“Floating gas harbor as a landing point for international liquid gas tankers.” Steve Coll wrote that the first liquid natural gas (L.N.G.) contract was signed between Britain and Algeria in 1961, with conversion plants and transport ships that used refrigeration. Figuring out how to engineer natural gas into liquid forms made it possible to ship it cheaply around the world and created an international gas market. Initially the big oil companies searched for and developed gas fields outside their home countries, liquefying and exporting Middle Eastern and African natural gas instead of the pre-shipping method of just burning or flaring it off at the wellhead because building, protecting and maintaining pipelines requires quantities of time, money and cooperation that companies and countries aren’t always prepared to invest. Later, fracked gas from doing… terrible things to domestic rock was sold in the new gas market created. Much initial L.N.G. tech investment was driven by South Korea and Japan’s need for power, Coll wrote.
South Korean shipyards are now building giant floating harbors where international L.N.G. tankers can dock and unload. These giant floating harbors—they must be interesting-looking!—can be sailed around the world. They will make it possible for countries that previously had no natural gas or were dependent on e.g. one pipeline to buy gas at relatively competitive international prices. Might also reduce the total number of lands willing to frack themselves to a few fracking “specialist” countries.
(SHVIM men dare GAUZE haw fen olz ON lond ah POONKT foor internot SEE OWN ALL ah FLOOSS ig gauze tonk ah.)
“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.
(SHPON soar ingk CAW ten.)
“The thickmaker,” sugar. On 23 April 2013 the European Federal Cartel Authority carried out razzias at sugar processing plant company offices in four countries for suspected price fixing from 2004 to 2011. Sugar’s well-meant but interestingly unusual regulatory status in Europe has led to a lack of transparancy that apparently made it possible for pricing questions to arise. By law, 15% of European sugar must be imported from developing countries. European farmers who grow the roots from which the remaining 85% is processed are guaranteed a minimum price, but at strictly controlled quantities. Sugar beet farmers have to sell their product to the sugar-processing factories; very little sugar is traded on the open market. The six largest sugar processing companies control 80% of the European sugar market, writes the Süddeutsche. Two German sugar processors control 40% of the European market. The processing factories set the prices, which do not always track with world sugar prices. German consumers have been paying between EUR 0.60 and 1.00 per kilo (annual consumption averages ~36 kg/year/German). Sugar root farmers were getting 27 euros per ton until 2012 when, after a good harvest, the price jumped to 45 to 50 euros per ton.
(Dare DICK maw caw.)
The German Federal Cartel Authority‘s fining guidelines. Appeals to the record-breaking fine imposed on some cement companies for anticompetitive behavior in the 1990′s have prompted discussion of the rules governing Germany’s current maximum limit on cartel fines and how those rules do or do not fit into European and other international structures.
According to Hans Jürgen Meyer-Lindemann’s 08 May 2013 article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Cartel Authority updated its relevant rules in 2006 to match European regulations. IIUC, the German fine for collusion is based on the company concerned’s total collusion sales, averaging 20% of that for the “base fine”; but according to European and now German law the fine cannot exceed 10% of the total worldwide gross from the fiscal year before the year the sanction is imposed. Mr. Meyer-Lindemann wrote that the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg decreed for this purpose the definition of the company should be given a broad interpretation, and thus according to the ECJ not just a national subsidiary’s but the parent corporation’s entire worldwide sales should be used in calculating a maximum upper limit for fines for cartel law violations.
Mr. Meyer-Lindemann felt there remain some loose ends in conforming German to European regulations on this issue. Under European law, he said international corporation parent companies have responsibility in antitrust violations committed by their European subsidiaries. The German supreme court in Karlsruhe’s recent decision on the appeal to the cement companies’ cartel fine merely dealt with how to use international corporate assets to calculate more appropriate maximum antitrust fines and did not deal with assigning responsibility when international corporations are involved in such matters. The European approach of having a 10% maximum limit to cartel fines, he wrote, “has been massively criticized by some German commentators.”
(BOON dess car TELL omt lichh ah BOOSS geld LIGHT lean ian.)
“Here come the historians.” For about a year now, reported tagesschau.de, 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.)
To sally forth, break camp, hit the road, dehisce. After the SMV didn’t get the supermajority required at the recent German Pirate Party convention, party chair, trained economic sociologist (Diplom-Sozialwirt) and Defense Department employee Bernd Schlömer gave a very brief and inspiring speech:
“Ja ja ja, times are bad, we’re all going to die. We can abrade ourselves down with this. We can reflect on it. We can feel sorry for ourselves. We can curse, seek process solutions, propose tools. We can keep doing these things, but we shouldn’t. Let’s move on out, make things clear, make change. Now is the time to have fun, show joy, talk unencumberedly with people. Let’s attack.”
“Ja ja ja, es gibt schlechte Zeiten, wir werden alle sterben, man kann sich daran abarbeiten, reflektieren und sich bemitleiden. Man kann Schuld zuweisen. Man kann schimpfen, nach Verfahrenslösungen suchen, Tools vorschlagen. Man kann so weitermachen, aber sollte es nicht tun. Aufbrechen, klarmachen, ändern. Es ist jetzt an der Zeit Spass zu haben, Freude zu zeigen, unbelastet aufzutreten: greifen wir an.”
(OW! f brechh en.)
“Europe-wide.” A controversial Arte documentary has drawn attention to the new EU water guideline the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier (of Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party) is about to issue in which local European government water projects will accept bids from all of Europe. Water activist Jean-Luc Touly warned the current plans for the guideline will make it difficult for public utilities to compete against profit-driven private utilities that are, he said, not primarily motivated by consumers’ best interests. 80% of the French water market has been privatized, the 2010 Arte documentary “Water Makes Money” claims to show instances of corruption in that French privatization and there was an increase in French water quality problems post-privatization, Touly said.
Around the world, many privatization contracts appear to have gone to subsidiaries of just a few big companies such as Bechtel (USA), Enron (USA, now spectacularly bankrupt), RWE (Germany) and Suez/Veolia (France). Opening privatization of city water utilities to Europe-wide bidding might encourage reductions in international competition among these providers.
(Oy ROPE a v eye t.)
“Recommunalization,” remunicipalization. A twenty-first-century response to the twentieth century’s privatization trend. After experimenting with water privatization for over a century, for example, many French towns are now reacquiring privatized, for-profit utilities and turning them back into not-for-profit services.
This accords with the ideas of the great groundbreaking French engineer Henry Darcy who experimented with pipe, sand filtration and spring sources to create a technologically and socially advanced water system for the town of Dijon in 1840, a project he then carefully documented in a beautiful book published in 1856. My Texas colleague Patricia Bobeck translated it into English, including the following:
“As much as possible, one should favor the free drawing of water because it is necessary for public health. A city that cares for the interest of the poor class should not limit their water, just as daytime and light are not limited.”
[The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon, 42.]
Austerity measures may be increasing pressure on governments of financially troubled EU countries to sell off their water and other utilities such as Greece’s recent sale of 33% of the Greek state lottery and gambling organizer OPAP to the Czech-led consortium Emma Delta for 712 million euros (of which 60 million was dividends on profits from 2012). Wikipedia says OPAP is Europe’s largest betting firm and as of 2008 the Greek government only owned 34% of it.
(RAY com you noll iz EAR oong.)
“Arbitration board for air passengers.” Created on 03 May 2013 by the Bundesrat to support consumers traveling by air. Starting November 2013, passengers in Germany can contact this office to seek information about passenger rights and financial remuneration from airports and airlines after e.g. delayed connections, missed connections and/or lost luggage. What airlines owe passengers after which screwups is also being defined in regulations.
(SCHLICHH toongz shtell ah foor FLOOG rye zen dah.)
“Perpetual members meeting” online, a new system the German Pirate Party is discussing creating to make it easier for them to vote planks into their party platform, closing gaps in their still-too-small election program. Currently they and their “base democracy” goal seem bottlenecked because they only manage to work through and vote on substantial numbers of issues at face-to-face conventions, which only happen twice a year. Hundreds of proposals are submitted online but at most a few dozen can be discussed over a weekend meeting. A 24/7 permanent online meeting tool would not only enable more frequent voting on more issues but also let more people participate in discussion, another Pirate goal. Also the presumable automated history tracking possibilities and potential to reduce redundant effort sound interesting.
Pirates against the SMV criticize the loss of online anonymity necessary to reduce potential sock puppetry by hackers and sysadmins. Among proponents, the excellent Marina Weisband blogged that the Pirate party did promise its voters to be more permeable to their ideas, and this software structure would correct their failure to do so.
Update on 13 May 2013: At 58% yea, the SMV did not get the 2/3 majority vote required to pass.
(SHTEN diggah MITT glee dah fer ZOM loong.)
“Start of construction,” on 10 May 2013 for the world’s biggest solar energy plant so far, at the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco. Electricity from this plant will eventually be exported to Europe, among other places. The plant should be operational in late 2015. Morocco plans to build five other solar power plants by 2020, for a total output of 2000 MW.
Dii (Desertec industrial initiative), the group behind this 700-million-euro, 160-MW project, is an international nonprofit that helps plan MENA solar energy projects and is headquartered in Munich. The first Desertec project to be built, this Ouarzazate plant was cofinanced by the German government via the KfW development bank group (“credit institution for reconstruction” created as part of the Marshall Plan after WWII and now owned 80% by the German government).
Germany is maneuvering to meet its Energiewende goal of getting ~20% of its electricity from solar power plants in Africa and the Middle East by 2050.
(B OW! begin.)
“Seeds guideline.” The European Commission voted on 06 May 2013 to accept draft proposals for new regulations for harvested agricultural products that are going to be used as seed. The new rule requires seeds to be registered and tested before they are sold, perhaps including for genetic modifications and the virulent E. coli O104:H4 strain that turned out to be in salad sprouts seed in 2011.
(ZOTT goot RICHHT lean ee ya.)
“Morning air,” freshness, energy. This tailwind is said to be enjoyed by antisemites in Hungary right now, some of whom are friends with Prime Minister Orbán’s party and/or are themselves regime members. An openly antisemitic party is the third strongest in the Hungarian parliament after their most recent election. Which is why the World Jewish Congress made the wise decision to hold its annual meeting in Budapest this year, to draw attention to what looks like a terrible problem starting to grow in the middle of Europe.
Mr. Orbán’s right-wing government recently passed constitutional reforms about which Europe and the USA have expressed concerns. The questionably democratic amendments included restricting the Hungarian supreme Constitutional Court’s ability to adjudicate laws passed with a 2/3 parliamentary majority, changing people’s right to vote and making it possible to outlaw homelessness.
(MOAH genn LOOFT.)
A tatterdemalion carpet of many colors, a rag rug, a patchwork quilt. As a metaphor it means a medieval landscape of organically-grown legacy laws that vary unpredictably between numerous small zones (whose locations and borders may also be unpredictable). These countries are fun to visit and very instructive to the historian.
Though most modern economies are trying to make their laws simpler, more uniform and thus more predictable for businesspeople, some are not rationalizing their inherited lawscape and some are even heading in the opposite direction.
(FLECK en TEPP ichh.)
“Democracy quality.” Twenty years after “the West” set up ways to monitor, motivate and report on the democratization of former Eastern bloc and other countries around the world, it appears some Western countries could also use some polish. Timm Beichelt of the Europe University in Frankfurt (Oder) wrote inter alia in his essay “Verkannte Parallelen. Transformationsforschung und Europastudien” that many eastern European countries have done quite a good job of organizing new structures while, e.g., France and Italy would have trouble with freedom of the press as measured by now-standard democracy indicators. Italy because of Berlusconi’s media empire, but France…?
(Dame awk rah TEE qvoll ee TATE.)
“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.)
“Western, educated, industrialized, rich und democratic,” biases ethnologists are trying to counteract in the interdisciplinary kulturvergleichende Kognitionsforschung, culture-comparative cognitive research. They recently met for an interesting conference in Bielefeld on “cultural variety in causal thinking.”
The F.A.Z. summarized a few of the presentations in its article “Difficult causality” (24 Apr 2013). One interesting point about what they said is a current trend in the field of thinking about children as “little scientists” exploring the world is yet another thing kids have in common with adults:
“Children, just like scientists and consumers, get most of what they know not from their own experience but from other people. [When deciding whom to believe], they orient themselves based on the skills/knowledge of the information source but also on their personal relationship to the source and how it all fits in with what the children already know.”
–Dave Sobel, Brown University
“Shellack rarities,” rare old records. Hildesheim University is working with Teheran’s Music Museum of Iran to digitize thousands of old Iranian records, preserving them, cleaning up the recordings and making it possible to share them on a large scale. The first recording devices were brought to Iran by caravan about 100 years ago through Istanbul, reports the F.A.Z.
Hildesheim Uni’s Center for World Music has done this before. They worked with Germany’s Foreign Office to collect old records of popular music from markets in Ghana, Malawi and Sierra Leone, saving them and digitizing them. Now African radio stations can play their countries’ old music.
(Shell OCK rawr ee TATE en.)
“Bicycle wanderer red-wine route.” Paths that not only take you from town to town the pretty way, through medieval villages and farmers’ fields and along rivers, but past restaurants offering, in this case, red wines. Just follow the signs. Maps are unnecessary.
(ROTE vine ROD vonder ah ROUTE ah.)
“New requirements for domestic and for foreign banks.” A week after the EU passed a new package of bank reforms on 16 Apr 2013 intended to force European banks to operate on a more stable basis, an EU commissioner sent a letter to the USA’s Federal Reserve criticizing the Fed’s intention to impose similar terms not just on US banks within the US but on foreign banks in the US as well.
The key points in the Fed’s proposal would be to require large foreign banks to create North American holding companies for their activities there and to meet the standards US banks must fulfill for capital reserves and liquidity buffers in order to make the banks less vulnerable to failure. The Fed said in addition that the new rules were intended to mitigate risk from foreign banks’ recent tendencies in the USA to bet more strongly in capital markets, on short-term capital. The proposed provisos would apply for “large” foreign banks in the US, defined as having >$50 billion internationally and >$10 billion in the USA. Such as Barclays and the embroiled-in-scandal Deutsche Bank, “both of which have attempted to use modifications under corporate law to avoid stricter constraints in America” and both of which have received large bailouts from US taxpayers despite being foreign, the F.A.Z. pointed out.
This seems like a smart initiative taken by the US government and apparently before other governments such as the EU’s. There are dystopian science fiction novels about future earths in which only domestic banks are regulated and foreign banks go a-raiding abroad until they don’t much resemble banks any more.
(NOY ah OW! f log en foor in LEND ish en oond ow! SLEND ish en BONK en.)
“Intelligent electricity counters,” so-called smart meters, but “only with intelligent data protection.” German data protection officer Peter Schaar (his official title is Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) praised some recent developments on the data protection front but criticized weaknesses remaining in protecting e.g. employee data and the data that can be gleaned from smart meters. Schaar has been warning against excessive technology-driven transparency of electricity consumers since at least 2011. His office produced a pro-consumer guideline in 2012 to supplement the 2011 Energiewirtschaftsgesetz (Energy Industry Act) amendments that enabled the smart meters which the smart grid will need for flexible management of renewable energy sources and which so-called “smart customers” are to be able to use to manage their own utility consumption. The guideline points are to flow into law eventually.
(In TELL ee GENT ah SHTROAM tsay lah noor mitt in TELL ee GENT em DOT en SHOOTZ.)