Nukes: Eradicate or Modernize?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Ever hear of the B-61? Sounds like a US warplane, and that’s close but not quite right. Or maybe you’re not interested at all in the B-61, whatever it is – but, to modify the quote attributed to Leon Trotsky, the B-61 could well be very interested in you, at least in the event of nuclear war. For the B-61 is actually the leading thermonuclear bomb in the American arsenal, first designed back in 1963 at the height of the Cold War. And a there was a recent article in Der Spiegel (US Ministry wants to modernize old atomic weapons) about the drive that is now underway on the part of the US Department of Energy (which formally controls all American atomic weapons) and the Department of Defense to spend quite a lot of money to modernize the many B-61s still in stockpile.

Aside from being refreshingly arcane – anybody see any sort of coverage of this at all in the American press? I thought not – how is any of this important? In a couple of ways, actually. First there’s our old friend German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who explicitly campaigned during the last German nationwide election to have the Americans withdraw all of their nuclear warheads from Germany. It’s even a separate policy-point in the coalition agreement that undergirds the current CDU/CSU/FDP federal government in power in Berlin.

Obviously, though, if the Americans are seriously contemplating going forward with B-61 modernization, including for the many such warheads stored in Germany (the exact number is surely classified), then the German Foreign Minister can yell and demand all he wants, but it will remain painfully apparent that he has no say in the matter. Hey, they’re just devices sitting on German soil, each capable of annihilating a major city – but it’s highly unlikely that even Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel herself has any say, either, due to the web of defense agreements governing NATO military installations and US-German relations dating from back when Central Europe was a much more dangerous place.

It’s all something rather alarming to be made aware of, especially if you’re a German citizen, but this still is plainly the main message of this article’s author, Otfried Nassauer, even as he goes on in his article to describe – in what sometimes reads like rather unseemly detail – exactly what the proposed B-61 modernization plans entail. Right now there are five B-61 models, and that’s too unwieldy; those five are to be transformed into just two, namely Model 11 (which already exists and is said to be an atomic “bunker-buster” for tactical use) and Model 12 (brand-new, a multi-use model to take up the roles now covered by all the other models which are to be phased out). Further, in a yet more- explicit sign of the clear intention to keep these weapons in Europe for a long time to come, another aspect of the modernization will involve making sure these bombs are modified so that they can be delivered by the next generation of NATO tactical aircraft, such as the Joint Strike Fighter.

There’s yet another point Nassauer intends to make as well, however. Didn’t President Obama, in his speech to the adoring crowd last April in Prague’s Hradčanské náměstí (Castle Square), speak of his ambition to abolish nuclear weapons entirely? What ever happened to that notion? It’s true that Obama gets the last word in this modernization decision, which he will present in the “Nuclear Posture Review” that his administration is due to deliver to Congress shortly. But – surprise! – no sort of radical move to put aside the proposed modernization entirely is expected. There is too much money at stake, i.e. too many vested interests pushing for it both in DOE and DOD. Indeed, the main point of contention currently is whether the envisioned modernization will end up paving the way for the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons or instead just serve as a substitute for that.

But as for the Germans? Forget ’em.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

It’s the End of the World As We Know It – And Your Appeal’s Denied!

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Here’s another obscure blast from the past – the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better-known by its initials (in French) CERN. Do you happen to remember the brief stir of publicity from around two years ago when that institution’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was finally built and could start smashing sub-atomic particles into each other along a 27 kilometer-circumference magnetic track? That fleeting bit of excitement (among those who cared, at least) quickly evaporated when the huge thing didn’t work quite right when they first flipped the proverbial switch, and so had to be repaired.

Don’t worry, though, because the scientists finally got the LHC to function properly late last year. Or rather, if you do need something to worry about, consider the possibility out of theoretical physics that has been looming ever since the LHC finally started operations, and which was also certainly known about before the gigantic thing was even built. When it smashes these sub-atomic particles into each other, you see, one by-product is black holes – small black holes, to be sure, but there has always been some possibility of one or more of them getting bigger and basically swallowing up the whole Earth. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Digital Revolution Falters in Germany

Monday, October 19th, 2009

On the old media/new media front, a couple of German on-line sources give us an update on how the landscape is evolving over there.

First there is a brief piece in Der Spiegel about the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung or FAZ. The FAZ’s fortunes are worth tracking because, like the New York Times in the US, it is really Germany’s own “newspaper of record.” (You can even call it the Teutonic “Grey Lady” as well if you like, since it still publishes no illustrations of any kind on its front page, but always has instead two commentary articles over on the right side, with their headlines in the old Gothic script.) Of course, as with the Times it’s also true for the FAZ that it is currently suffering heavily from declining subscriptions and declining advertising revenues, to the point that it expects to suffer a financial loss this calendar-year “in the area of the high single-millions [of euros]” – the precise number will of course depend upon how things turn out over the holiday period rounding out the year. Still – and here’s a contrast with the Times – management has ruled out any lay-offs. Of course, they’ve also had a hiring-freeze in place for a year, and the “no lay-offs” stance is also dependent upon an anticipated upturn in the paper’s fortunes sometime in the second half of next year, so that it will be able to actually turn a profit through 2010. So maybe the difference here with American employment practice is not the German’s being more “compassionate” in holding on to employees, but merely being more deluded about the future. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Ding-Dong The Recession Is Dead!

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Word is from over there on the West side of the pond we call the Atlantic Ocean that your Great Recession is coming to an end, to the point that the Federal Reserve is starting to move “back toward normal policy.” Well, it seems the same is true for Europe’s largest economy, Germany, as we learn today in the Frankfurter Rundschau: new data out from the Statistical Office there show that there was growth of 0.3% in the second quarter, even though 35 analysts surveyed by Reuters had earlier collectively counted on further GDP-shrinkage by about minus 0.3%.

In fact, that Office reports that there were signs that growth actually re-commenced already in this year’s first quarter, although the cumulative total for 2009 does stand now at minus 3.5% (and is still expected by the government and some leading economic institutes to come out at minus 6% for the year). Even better is the year-on-year comparison with 2008’s second quarter, which itself was minus 7.1%. (I’m assuming all these growth/shrinkage percentage figures are normalized to an annual basis.) Increased private and governmental consumption, as well as construction, get the main credit for the upturn – plus the singular fact that German imports have lately contracted even more than their exports, thus sharpening further the world-beating performance of that champion German export-surplus machine.

Still, you don’t have to be too much of a skeptic to ask “So what? What does this new, surprising, but small growth number really mean?” So the (uncredited) FR reporter turned to a handfull of economic analysts from leading banks and think-tanks to get their opinions. Analysts from Commerzbank and Unicredit (an international bank, Italian in origin) are very optimistic, stating for example that “The recession is over, and has reached its end earlier than everyone thought. . . . According to our calculations we will see a V-shaped recovery in the second half of this year.” Call me congenitally gloomy, but I find the remark from Jens-Oliver Niklasch, of the Landesbank Baden-Württemburg, to be rather more enlightening:

The question is, how enduring [this “end-of-recession”] is. Many problems we have not solved, the banking sector just like before is especially reliant upon the State’s debt-shield. As long as it is not clear that the banks’ capital base is robust, we cannot assume that the Crisis is past. Japan is a cautionary example here.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Baring Their Electoral Assets

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

busenAs we’ve mentioned before in this space, but in other contexts, there is a German general election due on Sunday, 27 September. To mention yet another context: that happens to be the middle-Sunday of the two weeks of Oktoberfest, so perhaps we can expect reduced electoral turnout among Munich polling-places and/or increased incidents of voting-while-drunk.

Berlin, on the other hand, is already having to deal with a new (yet also very, very old) method of trying to provoke a cleft within the body politic, as you can see from the above illustration, and as Die Tageszeitung columnist Ines Kappert – that’s a woman’s name – complains about in a brief essay entitled Aha, Titten (which I won’t translate for you from the German; I think you can get the sense on your own). Vera Lengsfeld is the lady with the green necklace, which stands in stark contrast to her more-natural adornments, on the right side of this electoral poster from Germany’s CDU, or Christlich Demokratische Union, also the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is the similarly-adorned lady to the left. Lengsfeld posed explicitly for this poster, while Merkel’s picture comes from her appearance last year at the ceremony for the inauguration of the new Oslo (NO) opera house, where her choice of apparel excited considerable comment in the German media. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Germany in EU Budget Doghouse Again

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Die Zeit today brings doleful news: Germany has a relapse! What the unnamed journalist (no by-line) is referring to here specifically is what he calls the “Maastricht Criteria,” according to which EU member-states are supposed to keep their government budget deficits to 3% of GDP or less. (That’s OK as a name, but it would be more accurate to call this requirement part of the Stability and Growth Pact that was agreed to as a pre-condition for the establishment of the euro.) Sure enough, the European Commission now calculates (in a report released today) that the German debt this year will amount to a full 3.9% of GDP – and next year even 5.9%! And all this, the Die Zeit article notes, just two years after Germany had managed to get itself out of the Commission’s bad graces (actually, out of a full-scale official EU “penalty process”) for violating this rule!

Well, to offer a quick bit of economic analysis: No sh–, Sherlock! (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Germany’s Dr. Doom Speaks!

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I hate to be a “downer” here at EuroSavant, but nonetheless feel an obligation (as explained below) to bring up recent alarming pronouncements about Germany’s immediate future made by a prominent economics professor there, Dr. Max Otte (full last name: “Otte van Ullstein”) of the University of Worms. The main coverage I found in Die Welt (Crash-guru demands vacation-ban for Germans, no by-line), although that article references and orients itself around a brief interview Prof. Otte recently gave to Berliner Kurier (The crash-professor prophesies: the crisis will hit us this hard), a Berlin-based tabloid. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Škoda Free-Trade Success

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

fabiaNeed a little bit of good recession-related news? Maybe even something with “rejoice” in the title? We get that from the mainstream Czech daily Lidové noviny, reporting on recent Škoda auto sales: Germans fall in love with the Fabia, Škoda rejoices. Yes, Škoda’s Fabia (pictured here) was the second-most-sold automobile in the German market in February, 2009, behind only that perennial favorite the VW Golf. At 9,190 units sold, Fabia sales were triple what they had been only the previous month, while sales of the Octavia also improved enough to push that sister Škoda model (more of a luxury auto, I believe) to 19th place on the auto-sales hit-parade of what is of course a very competitive German market. One important result of all of this is that Škoda has cancelled the plans it had to go to a four-day work-week until the end of June; the five-day work-week (meaning five-day pay for personnel) will stay. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Opel Must Die! (For Your Motoring Sins)

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

opel_400I almost missed it, but here is the article I had been waiting for about the big question now confronting the German government. With Opel allegedly only having about a month’s worth of cash left – should it stay or should it go? We have recently touched upon this affair here, although that previous treatment was shaped around the emergence of an Opel fan club whose members certainly see both a notable past as well as a promising future as perfectly good reasons for the German State to intervene to help see the car company through.

Wolfgang Münchau, of both the Financial Times and Financial Times Deutschland, although evidently German himself, clearly does not class himself among that group of Opel fans. His commentary piece is cheerily entitled Have a good trip into bankruptcy!, and he begins it with the generic tale of what has happened to him at many a rent-a-car stand in Germany: sorry, the friendly lady behind the counter informs him, but we’re all out of our VW, Mercedes, and BMW models for you to choose from, how about that Opel there in the corner? Münchau says that, at such times, he is always sorely tempted to simply rent a bicycle instead.

OK, so it’s evident from the start that Opel can expect no favors from this particular FT/FTD columnist. Unfortunately, the analysis that ensues about why the German government should just stay hands-off and let the firm go meet its demise is precise and mostly incontrovertible. Opel does not embody any sort of key technology that would need to be preserved by keeping the firm alive. (Actually, although Münchau does not bring it up, even if Opel did possess some snazzy proprietal technology, it would inevitably be owned by the parent company, GM. More on this below.) And its closing would not overwhelmingly hit any particular region or industrial sector, he writes. (I have my doubts about the former; Rüsselsheim, a German city in Hesse near Frankfurt and the Rhein and Main rivers where the main Opel factory-complex is housed, would become quite a forlorn place if Opel were to shut its doors.) (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Germany Most Beloved!

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Here’s another entry in the series we seem to have fallen into lately of “Countries Tooting Their Own Horns.” We already have learned, from the Danish, that the Danish economy can be a “supermodel” for the rest of the world, and (from the Belgians) that Belgium is the most-globalized country. Now, as a current article in Die Welt puts it, Germany is the most-beloved state in the world!

Ah yes, we know – those cuddly Germans! But wait: looking beyond the headline, what this is really all about is a worldwide poll, undertaken yearly for the BBC World Service by the firm GlobeScan, asking respondents to react to a list of fifteen prominent countries by stating whether, in each case, they feel that country has a positive or a negative influence on world affairs. This year, for the first time, Germany was tops, with 61% positive and only 15% negative. Canada was second (57/14), the UK was third (58/19).

(OK, the UK was third even with a slightly-higher positive rating than Canada; obviously GlobeScan uses some ranking formula that combines the two inputs. The good thing about this poll is that the sample was a rather-large 13,575 people, from among 21 countries. The bad thing is that I can’t find any mention of it on the BBC World Service website or any affiliated BBC webpages.)

And the losers? In tenth place was China, at 39/40 – yes, despite those marvelous Summer Olympics. In eleventh place came the USA, with 43% evaluating its influence on world affairs as negative (40% positive). Keep in mind that this poll was conducted after Barack Obama was elected president last November 4 – but at least that negative rating for the Americans is down from the 48% that it was in last year’s poll. Then Russia at twelfth place (30/42). Israel is at fourteenth place (21/51), but at least the Jewish state beats out Pakistan (17/53).

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Lotto Anti-Recession Policy

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Here’s a solution for dealing with hard times, from Germany’s Die Zeit: Game of chance: Rush on Lotto-shops – 25 million euros has its attractions. The lede:

The prospect of winning the Lotto-jackpot of 25 million euros has led to a rush on the sales-points in many places in Germany. Lotto-players file through the tobacco-shops and Lotto-shops one-per-second.

The report comes from on-the-scene in Stuttgart, mainly because the last big German Lotto winner – picked up a €4 million prize last 20 December – came from there. To win that €25 million you have to get the seven numbers picked exactly right; if no one does that in four further drawings, then it will be split among all those who pick at least six numbers correctly for the next drawing.

The article also passes along comment from Klaus Sattler, press-spokesman of the Deutscher Lottoblock that runs these lotteries: “It’s a misconception that people in hard times turn increasingly to games of chance.”

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

German Stimulus Plan: Too Little, Too Late?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

It’s over: they caved. Maybe some of us had been looking forward to a real-world macroeconomic experiment with Germany boldly carrying the banner for that strain of economic opinion – that is still out there, loud and boisterous – according to which massive government spending is the wrong way to counter the current economic crisis. But now, with the €50 billion Konjunkturpaket II it just announced, the German federal government has hopped on the mega-spending bandwagon with everybody else. It seems it’s just too hard, even for Germans, to be prudent and thrifty in front of the voters when you face a general election later in the year.

The FAZ gives a good summary of what is involved – as you would expect from the FAZ: The main points of the Konjunkturpaket: Car turn-in premium, debt-limitation, and rescue-shield – and at its core lies the usual combination of infrastructure investment and tax-cuts, just this time auf deutsch. Most of the infrastructure investment will go into schools; to help the auto industry, people will get a payment of €2,500 if, upon buying a new car, they turn in their old one; and there will be set up to assist small businesses finding it hard these days to get credit a counterpart to that “Soffin” we’ve discussed here so much lately, i.e. the government-run fund for bailing out troubled banks. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Germans to Repeat US Banking Mistakes?

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Ah yes, as I observed in a post a few days ago, when it comes to state funds made available to prop up failing banks, the German bank bailout demand is low. But “low” does not have to mean “non-existent,” and in fact on Thursday the German government made use of the Sonderfonds Finanzmarktstabilisierung (“Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization,” or Soffin) it had established to provide Commerzbank with €10 billion in exchange for taking up a 25% ownership stake. More precisely, of that €10 billion €1.8 billion actually buys that equity quarter-stake while the remaining €8.2 billion goes to a “silent participation” that gains no voting rights. By the way, at roughly the same time Commerzbank also took advantage of that other facility offered by Soffin – namely State debt guarantees – to bring in another €5 billion in new capital via a guaranteed bond-issue.

If you were to use your imagination to put yourself in the German federal government’s place – say, if you were a German taxpayer in whose name all this money was being spent – you might very well wonder what those civil servants in charge of the Soffin were thinking by accepting in exchange for the lion’s share of that €10 billion amount a mere “silent participation.” After all, it’s clear that insisting on a 100% active participation would have resulted in the purchase of the entire bank, with money to spare. (Do the math: that €1.8 billion bought a 25% interest, yet constituted not even 25% of the €10 total spent.) Instead, the remainder of that money gains for the government the “silent participation” that is in effect a loan, charging 9% interest. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

German Bank Bailout Demand Low

Monday, January 5th, 2009

It’s a New Year, and now time for us all to head back to work. But I did want to call forth to the light an interesting article of 31 December 2008 from the Frankfurther Allgemeine Zeitung about the experience so far with the structures the German government put in place last fall to prop up its banks (Few banks seek State protection).

FAZ reporter Manfred Schäfers gives an interesting outline of the monetary amounts and structure involved there. First the former: the German government is ready to issue bank-guarantees in the amount of around €400 billion (the exact amount is unclear because Schäfers mentions two different figures even within the confines of this relatively-short article) and is making available an additional €80 billion in outright capital-injections. The program, run out of the federal Finance Ministry, is the Sonderfonds Finanzmarktstabilisierung (meaning “Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization,” abbreviated as Soffin), headed by a three-person committee of banking worthies that includes Gerhard Stratthaus, former Finance Miniser for the state government of Baden-Württemberg and Schäfers’ main information source. Strangely, the participation on that committee of two other named individuals, who are supposed to be Stratthaus’ colleagues, is still up in the air.

I guess that’s OK, though, because the point of the article is that Soffin’s agenda is not really chock-full. “Up to now we’ve got 15 applications,” Stratthaus reveals, “and most [financial] institutions are interested in the guarantees.” Of those that are seeking a chunk of actual money – i.e. a piece of the €80 million budgeted for capital injections – their requests to this point add up only to less than €15 billion, and other indications point to Commerzbank as responsible for €8.2 billion out of that alone. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Obama in Berlin: A Serious German Press Review

Friday, July 25th, 2008

It’s all a bit bizarre: Here at EuroSavant we consider the Economist’s on-site blog Certain Ideas of Europe to be something of a watered-down competitor, in that its (anonymous) writers evidently command a few European languages themselves and take advantage of that often to remark upon noteworthy articles in the European press (really only the French and the German). Yet in its own day-after Obama-Berlin coverage, what else does Certain Ideas of Europe choose to highlight out of reaction to Obama’s Berlin speech from the German Fourth Estate than a breathless piece from the Bild Zeitung (Britons: think The Sun; Americans: maybe The New York Post but – as we’ll see – with a bit greater tolerance for female nudity.) The blog entry is entitled Obama and the ‘BILD girl’. Wow – 27-year-old Bild reporter Judith Bonesky (stifle the puns!) finds herself together in the gym of the Ritz Carlton hotel with HIM! Oh, he’s much taller than she had expected! They exchange some “How are you?”s! Then he goes and starts hefting some impressively-big weights, in such a manly fashion, without breaking a sweat! Naturally, when it’s time for him to go (he’s got a speech to deliver), she grabs her chance for a smugshot with the candidate. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Other Holocaust?

Monday, April 11th, 2005

Germany is an interesting country (among other reasons) because, although it is a liberal democracy, there are still certain things you’re not allowed to be or say. You’re not allowed to be a Communist or Nazi, for example; both these parties are outlawed. You’re not allowed to publish Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

However, there is an important exception where you can at least say whatever you like – if you happen to be a member of parliament (either the houses of the federal parliamant – the Bundestag or Bundesrat or of any of the state parliaments), and you’re speaking either on the floor of that parliament or in one of its committees. In those places, it seems about the worst that can happen in response to something impolitic you might say is that part (or, I guess, all) of your audience may decide to walk out on you.

This happened recently in the parliament of Saxony – a German federal state, or Bundesstaat, in what used to be Communist East Germany, whose capital is Dresden. That is, a number of Saxon lawmakers left the parliamentary assembly last January, in response to some remarks on the floor by Holger Apfel, fraction-leader there for the NPD. The Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany – sorry, you’ll have to find the link to their website yourself if interested) carries the “right-extremist” label, at least from one credible source, and that is Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. That paper recently reported on this incident, which was touched off by Apfel’s characterization of the destruction of Dresden in February, 1945, by allied bombers as a “bomb-holocaust,” and of the Allies as “mass murderers” (No Charges Against NPD-Chief Due to “Bomb-Holocaust”). (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Barroso Faces the German Press

Saturday, August 21st, 2004

Things are moving along rapidly with José Manuel Barroso and his new European Commission, scheduled to come into office next November 1. As I noted a week ago, Barroso came up with his set of twenty-four portfolio-name pairs two weeks before the deadline he had promised, and yesterday these twenty-four met together in Brussels for a first “getting-to-know-you” session. At the same time, Barroso gave his first interview to the press since being named Commission President last month, which turned out to be a collective interview to reporters from five German newspapers. (Among which Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. Note that this SZ article is not in interview form per se, but instead reports the points Barroso made.) That they happened to be German newspapers was not just a tribute to that country’s position as the Union’s leading population and greatest economic power. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Germany! Become More American!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

It looks like I’m on something of a German roll here – but maybe that’s OK, since I noticed that articles from the German press tended to get short shrift in EuroSavant recently. (For instance, click the category for Germany to the left and see what’s there for the month of July.) In any case, who could resist a headline like “Germany Must Become More American” (free registration required)? (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Warsaw Uprising and Faltering Polish-German Rapprochement

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

You might not have heard about this; after all, it has nothing to do with Boston or John Kerry’s nomination, or his speech, or the Republican reaction. But other parts of the world do continue to have their own concerns. Believe it or not, in some cases these still involve the Second World War, for which 2004 contains the sixtieth anniversary of various of its events. In particular, Sunday was the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 against the Nazi occupation, and German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder paid a visit to Warsaw to participate in the ceremonies. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Grinning and Bearing it in Germany

Sunday, July 4th, 2004

We recently reviewed German commentary on how the Dutch economy is going to the dogs. Fair is fair: An analysis of current German economic problems from the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende (The Titanic or Germany) goes far to suggest that German comments about the failure of the Dutch “polder model” were an instance of the fabled pot calling the kettle black. (Now, to keep the chain going, I need to find some on-line article – maybe from the French press? – revealing current Danish economic problems.) (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Germany Considered

Sunday, June 6th, 2004

The anniversary of the D-Day landings as a pretext to take up the Danish newspaper Politiken’s cultural survey of Germany? Especially given that D-Day has never been that big a deal to the German people – just another bloody WWII defeat? Oh, why not – this was after all the first year that the German Bundeskanzler agreed to be present at the commemorative ceremonies, and that supposedly reflects new attitudes among the German people that the D-Day landings actually represented the beginning of the long process of their liberation. So an examination of the German mentality through the ages is warranted. Besides, I’ve been itching to cover the German cultural portrait for some time now. Ultimately, you can just forget about the EU’s other pissant small-fry – Luxembourg, say (Charly Gaul, indeed!), or even Denmark: Germany is the true European colossus, for which there should be a cornucopia of cultural artifacts to choose among (persons; music/song; poems; events!) that should even exceed France’s. One can only hope that the German writer chosen is up to the job. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Controversy over the Head-Scarf Ban

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

Wow: the split-up of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez is homepage news even for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (“Jennifer Lopez Gives Ben Afflek Walking-Papers), with column titles such as Doch wieder Puffy? (“So It’s Back to Puffy?”). That’s pretty tempting to get into. But it’s not like there isn’t anything else a bit more “legitimate” to discuss – like recent setbacks for the idea of banning the wearing of religious symbolism (primarily the Muslim head-scarf for females), in both France and Germany. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

It’s Official: France Wins the Budget Deficit Battle

Friday, October 31st, 2003

You know that has to be true when the hardest-liner on the side of making France pay a fine for its flouting of the 3%-of-GDP budget deficit limit, Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm, finally throws in the towel. That he is now doing so is clear from an interview published in today’s Het Financiële Dagbald (subscription required). The scheduled meeting next Monday evening of EU finance ministers, long thought to be a setting for confrontation, will now merely be a formality as the lenient stance proposed by EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Perdo Solbes is approved. Even though for him personally Monday’s meeting is sure to be, as the article puts it, “a long and unpleasant session,” in the end Zalm himself might even vote to approve Solbes’ proposal, if only to head off even more-lenient treatment of the French that some may use that occasion to advance. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

An Interim IGC Evaluation: Buy Your Dollars Now!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The German and French Posture on Iraq

Friday, September 19th, 2003

EuroSavant veterans will recognize the following as the latest manifestation of a tried-and-true formula: commentary out of the German newspaper Die Zeit as reflected in Thomas Friedman’s column for the New York Times. I shouldn’t do too much of this, over and over – I don’t like to fall into predictable formulas – but lately commentary on the French and German reaction to America’s need for help in Iraq has come together in a propitious way, to include in addition a contribution today to that same New York Times Op-Ed page (and so in English, of course) from German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Holland Takes Aim at Stability Pact Violators

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

Today is “Holland Day”! (To read why, see my previous post for today, below.) And this time I have a fairly serious subject to treat, namely the seeming determination on the part of highest Dutch government officials that the Stability and Growth Pact (hereafter just “Stability Pact”), which was added to European law in 1997 and whose key provision is that governments are not allowed to run budget deficits of more than 3% of their GDP, be enforced. When governments violate this rule, they’re supposed to be fined millions of euros by the European Commission; Germany and France are about to violate it for the third year in a row (Italy is also apparently a violator), and, as we’ll see, the Dutch together with some of their friends within the EU want to see those fines applied, even if it happens to be the two most influential countries against which that would happen, the very “motor” of EU development. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Implications of Sweden’s “No” – A Dutch View

Monday, September 15th, 2003

The votes are in, the Swedish people have spoken: 56% of the voters said “No,” and so they prevail, for a while at least.

I had hoped to find something interesting to tell you about the referendum’s result in the national press of Germany: the nation that, after all, was once the guiding power behind the idea of one single currency for all of the EU, yet which now, by its misbehavior in getting its own fiscal house in order and staying under the 3%-of-GDP limit for government budget deficits, is quite possibly driving away those EU members (such as Sweden) who do not use the euro but are/were contemplating that. But the on-line German newspapers that I’ve looked at for today aren’t very on-the-ball: they’ll tell you little else than what you already will have been able to find out from your own newspaper of choice (with one exception, noted below). OK, they quote Bundeskanzler Schröder lamenting the continued absence of Sweden from the ranks of EU countries using the euro. Well, he would lament, wouldn’t he? I’d definitely file that bit of news under “dog-bites-man.” (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

“The Sinners are We”

Sunday, September 7th, 2003

That’s the title of an interesting commentary piece in the latest Die Zeit by Uwe Jean Heuser – a remarkable mea culpa for Germany from a German writer, which puts into stark relief the striking (if rather unfortunate) ironies attending the birth of the Euro and the current state of finances in Euroland (that is, in those twelve-out-of-fifteen EU countries that have adopted it as their common currency). (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Reconciliation for Schröder and Berlusconi

Monday, August 25th, 2003

We’ve been following this story in EuroSavant: the war-of-words between Italy and Germany that sprung up shortly after Silvio Berlusconi took up the EU presidency at the beginning of June and, following his inaugural speech before the European Parliament, declared in the heat of accusation and counter-accusation that German MEP Martin Schulz would make a good Nazi concentration camp Kapo in an Italian film currently under production. Italian Minister for the Economy and Tourism Stefano Stefani followed this up with some unkind words about German tourists in Italy, whereupon German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder decided not to join their ranks this summer, as he usually does. (Apparently he simply stayed home and vacationed in Hannover, where he is from – a particularly appropriate choice in light of the millions of his countrymen, and others across the EU, forced to do the same thing by financial considerations in this year-of-recession 2003.) (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Belgian General Speaks His Mind

Saturday, August 16th, 2003

Belgian Lt. General Francis Briquemont: Ever heard of him? Quite probably not, for although he did emerge onto the international stage in the early 1990s, his appearance there was brief – in fact, briefer than anyone could have expected. He was placed in command in July, 1993, of 12,000 multinational troops constituting UN forces in the former Yugoslavia – in the middle of the period of inter-ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina – for a tour of duty of one year. Yet he resigned this command after only six months, in early January of 1994, claiming that his job was impossible in view of the “fantastic” gap between UN rhetoric about Bosnia and what it was actually prepared to commit manpower and resources to accomplish.

So General Briquemont speaks his mind, and backs it up with action. Now retired, he is back again, “thinking outside the box” – to put things mildly – in a pair of thoughtful articles in Belgium’s La Libre Belgique that step back and examine the implications – and the fall-out – from the Anglo-American drive last spring to go to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the divisions exposed by the EU’s (failed) attempt to formulate a unified response. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)