Monday, December 31, 2012

Flashmob for the new year

As (both of) my readers know, I am a sucker for flash mobs, which are nothing short of proof that some things are indeed getting better. Here's my favorite one I discovered this year -- my son has seen it (and now knows how it's done), but, unfortunately, so has my daughter. Skip to 1:30 for the good part.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The Wire" – why realistic is increasingly unreal

I finished watching the last episode of "The Wire" this week on DVD. Currently, the show has one of the highest ratings of anything ever produced at IMDB – 9.5, compared to 9.4 for my favorite show, Breaking Bad. While I think "The Wire" is very well done – and I admit I will miss some of the characters in the show (does Bubbles' sister read the newspaper article on him and finally let him in? will McNulty and Beadie make it? does Carver deservedly move up the ranks? does Greggs ever shack up again? does Gus get punished or rewarded? does Dennis make it with his boxing school and his new nurse friend? and can we please get rid of Marlow?) – I don't quite understand everyone's excitement.

The best thing about the show, as others have already stated, is that it reveals how individuals deal with their organizations – police departments, drug rings, schools, newspapers, the government, labor unions, to mention the main ones – to different extents. Some decide that it is simply in their best interest to follow orders. Others fight against the system from within the system. A few outliers buck the system entirely and break the rules in order to do what they think is right regardless of personal setbacks they might experience (Omar, my favorite character, and McNulty come to mind, as does the labor union head in season three).

At times, I found certain parts to be a bit exaggerated – not so much the plot, which does stretch the imagination at times, but mainly character behavior. One minor example is Senator Clay, who becomes known for his tagline, "shiiiiiiit." It's a nice effect for a while, but it becomes overworked, and at one point in the fifth season he drags out the vowel for several seconds, which comes across as completely overwrought.

McNulty increasingly becomes a sex fiend, whereas he was more of a loser in the first season. Perhaps his manly jaw makes him more believable as a sex fiend than a loser, but he eventually had the ladies dropping like flies, and the scene where he has sex with a blonde in the parking lot and flashes his badge at the cop car passing by to show that everything is okay was a bit over-the-top for me.

I say that even though I know that crazy things go on at US police departments. I used to work at a bakery in New Orleans, where the best fringe benefit was close contact with so many born-and-bred New Orleanians (I am merely a born New Orleanian, having gone to all 12 years of school in Mississippi). A local policeman (no, our bakery did not make doughnuts, though I did marvel at the frequency of Dunkin' Donuts cups in "The Wire") who frequented our shop told us all kinds of stories – such as the time he wrecked his police car while driving drunk on patrol and receiving fellatio. He told his higher-ups that he had discovered the damage the next morning when he woke up – and reported it as a drive-by accident, suspect unknown....

Here's my dilemma: I know these things in the show are probably not even exaggerated, but they are still unbelievable – even if they somewhat realistically reflect real-life urban America, at least in struggling cities like Baltimore and NOLA.

To my knowledge, no cop show in Germany has ever shown its own police force in such a light, and it may be some time before any does because it seems so far removed from reality here. The cops in the show hang out in the middle of nowhere getting drunk, and they even drink six-packs in their own parking lot – and throw empty beer cans and bottles onto their own roof. German cops are too grown-up for such behavior and would be ashamed to do any such thing. They get together in nicely decorated Kneipen for a beer or two. Or three. And I doubt many of them regularly drive home drunk.

I remember a Doonesbury cartoon from a few decades ago in which a policeman tells his son (sitting shotgun) that he needs to start behaving and not cave in to peer pressure. They are driving down the street in the cartoon, and when his son tells him that he needs to slow down, the policeman responds, "I can't drive the speed limit, son, people be dissin' me."

While there are certainly acts of police brutality over here, it is understood that the police have to follow the same rules as everyone else. One recent example of police brutality is illustrative: residents of the thriving city of Stuttgart protested the construction of a new train station, which is far over budget. The police came out with water cannons and forcibly removed people, many of whom were middle and upper class citizens, including the elderly. Some of the peaceful protesters were injured in the process.

This is modern-day Germany at its scandalous worst. Imagine how boring the TV show would be.

I have never once seen a police car going above the speed limit anywhere in my 20 years in Germany unless it had its siren on. And speaking of sirens, I almost never hear them here, whereas there seems to be one every 30 minutes in Washington DC based on my regular Skype conference calls with two different locations in town.

Drugs? Yeah, we have them over here, too. Marijuana for personal usage is largely decriminalized, though. The Swiss hand out clean syringes and heroine to addicts to help them get off the drug. During a recent visit to Portugal, I stumbled across a neighborhood in the old part of town where lots of people looked like drug addicts, but the neighborhood did not seem scary. Portugal has some of the most liberal drug laws in Europe. Drug addicts tend to be treated like victims over here, not criminals.

The entire situation described in "The Wire" therefore seems absurd. Why are US cities taken over by drugs? Breaking Bad is another series based on the drug trade – why is this so remote from the experience over here in continental Europe? Spain has 45 percent unemployment among young people; Greece, 55 percent. I am no expert, and I have read that drug use is on the rise. But are these urban environments being taken over by drug gangs like in the US?

In a way, Germany – the only country I can speak somewhat knowledgeably about – is boring. Practically everyone here acts like a grown up. People are reasonable, ideological opponents (there are relatively few) generally still talk to each other, there is no hate radio, and there are no media watch groups – because the media are not partisan. TV news does not try to get "both sides of the story" but rather tries to get the facts right. Once they have the facts right, they don't go looking for people who disagree. And no newspaper or other media outlet is a party hack.

Another US TV series, Newsroom (which I have not seen), is another good example. One of Germany's most prominent TV news moderators recently stated that the US show is about as close to the reality of newsrooms in Germany as "the Earth is to the moon."

I'd say the same holds true for "The Wire" (and Breaking Bad). But maybe that's what makes these shows interesting in the end. Americans are frequently childish (by which I specifically mean not just that we refuse to accept the consequences of our own actions, but that we should not do things with consequences we do not wish to face), and our political system (and much of civil society) is absurd. "The Wire" shows why having an area in Baltimore where even hard drugs are tolerated simply would not work. In Europe, such things are tried out, and if they work, they are kept. If it fails, nobody "takes the heat" for anything because decisions are made by consensus. It's called democracy.

Some of the organizational constraints exist over here as well, and Robin-Hood-type outliers such as Omar, a man of his word, exist over here as well. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, for instance, fell on his sword when he refused to divulge the source of some campaign financing, probably (it is still not known) because it was from then-French President Mitterrand. (Unlike Omar, Helmut Kohl is not one of my favorite characters.)

So while modern cable TV series are praised for accurately depicting life in the US, the situations are not completely unfamiliar to foreign audiences. But as someone who left the US 20 years ago and has only had sporadic contact with the country since, I find the shows become more unreal as they get more realistic. Then again, maybe that's what a lot of US viewers feel as well. And maybe that's what actually makes the shows so popular.

"When you walk through the Garden / watch yo' back"

Monday, November 12, 2012

German and American nudities

Finally, a blog post with the title that is likely to get some hits…

But seriously, I am writing today because a new magazine has hit the stands over here in Germany. Its title?  “The Germans” – no,  the magazine is not in English.

More surprising is the first cover (right).  And even more surprising is the description of the cover at Die Zeit:

Das Titelbild zeigt einen nackten, bärtigen Mann im seichten Wasser liegend und ein auf seiner Brust herumturnendes Kind.

Translation: the cover shows a naked, bearded man lying in shallow water with a child playing on his chest.  No mention of a clearly visible limp penis (I can't wait to see the statistics for my page impressions now).

As chance would have it, it turns out that there is lots of evidence of nudity being a non-issue over here in Europe. For instance, Apple continues to ban certain books from its store because of nudity. The Europeans don't understand why a private firm should be able to do what governments should not, and there's something else that I don't get – why can't Apple have European censorship standards in its European stores, where I can't even buy a lot of stuff from the US because of stupid licensing restrictions?

The movie Love, Actually is another great example. It is rated R in the United States, but 6-year-olds can watch it in Germany (see the list of international parental guidance categories for the movie at IMDB).  The movie is one of my favorites, and I watched it with my kids when they were 11 and 14; the movie has a couple of quite funny scenes where a couple standing in as lighting doubles get to know each other in various scenes for a porn movie (I'm going to have to monetize this site after this post).

In contrast, movies that contain a lot of violence generally have lower age restrictions in the US than they do in Germany.

Hope you enjoyed this post – given that it is hosted by Google, another US firm, it may not be up forever...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Video of Camille

I was in this storm as a one-year-old baby in a trailer home in Slidell LA.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quotation marks versus capitalization

In German, nouns are capitalized whether they are proper or not. In order to distinguish between a proper noun and a common noun, Germans are forced to put their already capitalized noun in quotation marks.

In English, we can distinguish between an action plan and a Action Plan with simple capitalization, however. Our quotation marks serve a different purpose – signifying that we don't quite believe the word, a bit in the way we might say something like "so-called friends."

The result, when Germans write in English, is quotation marks around nouns already marked as proper by means of capital letters.

Today, I see that my translator colleague Jill Sommer has posted a nice cartoon along these lines.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Money vs. message

Yes, it's propaganda, but this speech is probably the best defense of just about everything I believe in that I have ever heard, and I couldn't have written it that well, much less delivered it that well. And the fact that it was delivered by a healthy, good looking, eloquent black woman is something that I was not sure I would ever see in my lifetime back when Jesse Jackson made a mostly symbolic attempt at the White House.

I was feeling fairly pessimistic about US politics after Citizens seemed to tip the scales once and for good in favor of big money, but the main Republican message at their convention was, of course, based on an intentional misreading of a sloppy, but nonetheless unambiguous wording by Obama.

So it looks like it's money versus message in November. I was afraid money would, as so often, win, but after Michelle's message I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Central Europe"

The Germans use the term "Mitteleuropa" (Central Europe) which has no real equivalent in English (but see this entry at Wikipedia). Now, the Economist has published an interesting video, which argues that the term Eastern Europe is also out of date.

Some of the new terms proposed must be in jest, but it is interesting that the term "Central Europe" is not among them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Charges for stolen goods

Over here in Germany, the music industry, the movie industry, and book publishers have put a surcharge on just about everything from printers to USB sticks in order to make up for losses they say they incurred because people increasingly copy music, movies, and books. You pay several euros, for instance, for that memory card in your digital camera. (Not sure how many people use digital cameras to copy material.)

Now, a website has been put up to show you what you pay where. You can also enter the number of items you purchased over the past few years, and the site shows you how much you paid in charges for stolen goods. In my case, it is around 275 euros.

I have always found interesting the claim that copied material would've otherwise been purchased. I wonder how many people copy or download something to see whether they like it and then decide they don't.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Before and after photos of Germany

I just came across this collection of photos of Eastern Germany taken around the time the Wall fell and then years later, after the buildings had been renovated. The contrast is stark, and I can tell you from personal visits that they are not exaggerated exceptions – this is what has happened to eastern Germany over the past 20 years.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I'm in Berlin for a few days, and while riding my foldable bike back to my hotel from a business meeting, I realized how many memories I now have here – even though I have never lived in Berlin.

I left the Heinrich Böll Foundation (the German Greens) building just across the street from Deutsches Theater, where I sang on stage at open mike night two years ago, and only a few streets down from where I was offered a job as editor of the German photovoltaics magazine in 2008; rode across Under den Linden, where I purchased a real East German copy of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto back in June 1989 (just a few months before the wall came down, but even then no one saw it coming); passed by Galarie Lafayette, where I went shopping with Nelson Mandela's daughter back in 2001, when I served as an interpreter for her on an official visit here; took a right before reaching Kottbusser Tor, close to where some of my in-laws live and two streets from a German journalist who did my first two magazines with me in 2006 and 2007 (the person who was the German exchange student at the University of Texas in 1990 brought us together) – and a few blocks from the bar where a jazz trio used to offer open mike once a week (but, alas, it is no more); and finally back to my hotel just down the street from Postdamer Platz, where I have sundry memories not worth listing in detail.

Next life, I'm moving to Berlin.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Pirates are coming

Take 6
Cover of Take 6
The Pirate Party has now entered Parliament in the last two state elections over year in Germany (Berlin and Saarland). They have no comprehensive political platform (it is unclear what their position is on energy policy, for instance); they mainly campaigned on a battle against copyright, especially on the Internet.

I have already commented on the failure of Harpers and the New Yorker to take my money, and I also blogged about how I was not able to buy my own book (after contacting the publisher, a change was made, and my book is now available worldwide if you are looking for something to put you to sleep when you go to bed at night). The situation is ridiculous. A cartoonist has put together a strip on the general inability to purchase media when it comes out – even though the material is already available illegally.

And while there is a lot of talk about how copyright protects authors and creators of content, the fact remains that publishers (in the widest sense of the term) use copyright against content creators – one reason why a lot of artists (such as the one formerly known as Prince, but also lesser-known musicians such as Take 6) leave the major labels and create their own.

Want another example? Yesterday, my fellow blogger Margaret Marks also mentioned the case of a translator who was manhandled by the publisher of Harry Potter and by Warner Bros., which later did not want to pay royalties.

My material is widely plagiarized on the Internet, including by some organizations whose work I theoretically support. But I am not really worried, and I do not believe that copyright needs to be made stricter. The German version of my book is essentially an update of previous articles already published on the web, and they are accessible for free.

We do need to protect content creators and researchers, so we need copyright and patents. But we are also giving people reasons to justify breaches of copyright by making the system so ridiculous. Copyright needs to be reformed. I don't know if the Pirate Party will manage to do that itself, but maybe their very presence will force the issue onto the agenda.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Translation notes: don't do it in-house

Last month, a German company I had not yet done business with contacted me, saying they already had an English translation of their sales brochure, but they were not happy with the quality. I had a look at it and assumed it had been done in-house, or at least by someone German.

One of the most egregious mistakes was (and I don't mind listing it since you cannot find the firm in Google with this sentence): "Finally this investment is amortised". What they meant was "in the end, this investment pays for itself," but the confusion about what "finally" means produces quite the opposite meaning – an exasperated "we finally got our money back."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Equal Pay Day

Harald Schmidt
Cover of Harald Schmidt
One of the bizarre things about Germany is how openly German men belittle women. Today is Equal Pay Day, and an article over at Die Zeit talks about the matter. The eight comments displayed below the article are all critical, charging that women are themselves at fault and should stop complaining.

These comments are based on the distinction between the 21.6 percent wage difference that is "not adjusted" and the eight percent that is adjusted – meaning, as this article previously published at Die Zeit explains, that women with the same qualifications get eight percent less pay than men do in the same positions, but that the overall difference (including differences in qualifications, etc.) is 21.6 percent. In other words, most of the difference between male and female pay relates to actual differences in qualifications, ambition, etc. This distinction apparently is enough to send German men blasting away at their keyboards.

One interesting difference between Germany and the US for me has always been the acceptance of jokes on women on late-night TV. As I once blogged, Harald Schmidt (Germany's most famous late-night moderator) used to have a hard time doing without such jokes, and the Heute-Show – basically, a copy of the Daily Show – also has a male fake newscaster who does not refrain from remarking about how stupid women are. Germans tend to laugh at the jokes.

Humor is different in the US, as the Daily Show shows. Jon Stewart would never joke about how stupid women are – he would have one of his female staff members do that. If he wants to blindly discriminate against a group, it will probably be the Jews – because he's Jewish. If he wants to slander blacks, he'll have his Black Correspondent do so, etc.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Myths and facts about Germany's switch to renewables

The Heinrich Böll Foundation (of the German Green Party) has just published a layouted version of my article entitled "Myths and facts about the German switch from nuclear to renewables" (PDF).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Next FDP "plagiator"

Just in case you are counting, yet another member of Germany's libertarian party (FDP) has had his PhD taken from him because his dissertation was found to be plagiarized. His name is Bijan Djir-Sarai; there does not seem to be much information about him in English on the Web.

What I find amazing is how many members of this party, whose slogan used to be "Leistung muss sich lohnen" (performance should be rewarded), cheated to get where they are.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fukushima = Hukushima?

Last night on the nightly news here in Germany, the newscaster pronounced "Fukushima" in a way I had never heard before: Fu-KU-shi-ma – which led me to wonder how the word is actually pronounced.

There is no dearth of information on the subject online. There is this sample, which does not sound completely unusual, whereas this guy felt strong enough about the subject to put up a dedicated website explaining that the SHEE that practically everyone in the English and German-speaking world is stressing is actually schwa, but that's not what I'm hearing in the song video below (warning: Japanese babe alert) – but before you listen to it, you might want to read this explanation of how the fu sound is actually very close to hu (take a look at the way people's lips are positioned in the video for that first syllable):

The hu certainly sound like the first sound in the English name "Hugh" in this rendition.

I have no idea what they're saying in that song (aside from "I love you baby, Fukushima. I need you baby, Fukushima" – if anyone has a translation, feel free to post as I could only find Portuguese, which I do not speak), but it is touching to see that the video seems to have been made only a few weeks after the disaster with various people expressing their affection for Fukushima – and this version is adorable.

Another thing that struck me from the video is how easy it seems to pronounce Japanese, which is indeed considered one of the easiest languages in the world in terms of pronunciation. And though this website does not directly comment on the pronunciation of Fukushima (aside from reader comments), I did enjoy the man's obvious annoyance in all of his instructions  along the lines of "it's To-kyo, not Tow-kee-yo." And while Japanese may be easy to pronounce, see if you can get your head around the proper pronunciation of Hiroshima.

On a similar note, I saw a documentary this week on German television, and a resident of the nearby town of Minamisanriku was actually in good cheer as he talked about what life was like now. He smiled as he said something I found especially interesting: "Since the disaster, everyone has been talking with everyone else."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Culture shock in reverse

About a month ago, I was visited by three engineering students from Korea. As you may remember, I visited Korea in late November – and wrote about the culinary experience here.

I thought I had done quite well for those eight days with all of the unknown kinds of food I had to eat with metal chopsticks, but when I saw the three young men trying to cut open a German bread roll at a breakfast buffet, I realized how awkward I must've looked the whole time.

The guys had filled their plates with cheese, salami, and jam from the buffet, and one of them put all three things on his bread before I had a chance to warn him. When the second guy looked poised to do the same, I tried as diplomatically as I could to explain that we generally don't throw our meats together with our jam.

But the joke was on me later that night, when I took them to have a schnitzel. I ordered two different kinds for them, and for me I ordered some venison with cowberry sauce (Wildgeschnetzeltes mit Preiselbeeren) -- a staple here in Baden, but for the life of me I cannot find a decent picture of it online to share with you.

Anyway, it is essentially chunks of venison with jelly, aka meat with jam. Why the Germans don't mix the two for breakfast, but only for supper – I was at a loss to explain it. And indeed, I had not even realized the conflict until then.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

RIP Whitney

Although I did not own a single album of hers at the time, I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard that Whitney Houston had married rapper Bobby Brown. I remember thinking, "what a waste."

Things actually went much worse for her then I imagined at the time. And while we now have Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and a slew of other melisma signers with an incredible range extending over four octaves or more, it was Whitney who took all this to a new level.

"How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us."
-- Barbra Streisand

Sing it for us one more time, Whitney....

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Good ol' Bismarck

This week, a recently discovered audio recording of former German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck popped up on YouTube. It is the only recording of this man from the 19th century.

I found it absolutely remarkable because of what he says on it. He starts off with some light-hearted verse in English, followed by a trivial poem in German, a few sentences of Latin, and the Marseillaise (the song of the French Revolution and the current French national anthem) in French.

Bismarck has a reputation of being Germany's first militaristic leader in modern times – which he certainly was, but the British and the French in particular were not exactly pacifists with their battle for global colonialist hegemony. If anything, Bismarck has gone down in history for his Blood and Iron approach because it proved successful; at a time when soldiers stood in a row facing each other because they had to load their muskets standing, Bismarck sent in an army with the first rear-loading rifles, allowing his soldiers not only to re-load their guns faster, but also do so lying down.

It also does not help that we perforce view history in reverse, so it's hard to see anything German in the 19th century without interpreting it as part of the fatal developments that eventually led to the disaster of Nazism.

True, Bismarck reunited the Protestant northern and Catholic southern German states, thereby creating a single Germany that could be a dominant force, but as this audio recording shows, Bismarck was not a Führer, but a cosmopolitan who spoke several languages, enjoyed the good life and, when he had the chance, chose to record himself for posterity with a display of his linguistic talents – and his penchant for light humor.

The recording ends with some advice to his son: don't work too much, but don't eat or drink too much either. Good idea. Sounds like Otto was the kind of guy you might want to have a beer with.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fascinating German rhythm

One of the most fascinating things about the United States is our musicality. Our pop music is full of complex rhythms, and we clap on 2 and 4 – which practically no one else in the world does (I am leaving out our influence on neighboring cultures like Canada and the UK).

Germans clap on 1, 2, 3, and 4, and the unbearable season of Carnival is about to begin filling up evening TV with such clapping. To get an idea of how terrible German clapping is, take a look at this video clip I've put together of two TV shows. The first is an afternoon cooking show, and it begins every day with a demonstration of Germans' incapacity to clap. It then segs into a nightly TV show on which a young (and quite rhythmically adapt) German guitarist plays an easy-to-follow rock song, but the audience nonetheless cannot clap to its rhythm.

Now, you might argue that the audience may not have been able to properly hear the music in the studio, though that seems doubtful in the second case, where the boy is standing in front of a stack. But no matter, it is hard to imagine any composer counting in Beethoven's Fifth with "a one, a two, a one two, three four"; classical music is nearly bereft of rhythm as we understand it in pop music, and German pop also remains quite straightforward rhythmically.

Indeed, the same could be said for large parts of Europe. As one American funk musician once said of Abba, they never were quite as big in the US as they were in Europe because they are "100 percent funk-free."

Obviously, at some point Americans also clapped on 1, 2, 3, 4 (or one & three, depending on how you count), so when did we switch over? Fascinatingly, I have found a video on YouTube of chubby Checker singing "The Twist," and if you listen to the first minute, you will hear the audience clapping on 1 & 3 – the way, Germans do even today to pop, swing, funk, etc. But just after the first minute, the crowd seems to lose its bearing, and by 1:20 the audience has switched over to clapping on 2 & 4 the way, Americans would automatically do today – though they can't keep it up.

Unfortunately, the video does not indicate when it was recorded, but "The Twist" was first recorded in 1959 and became a hit for chubby checker in 1960. I imagine the US did not switch to clapping on 2 & 4 all at once. Rather, the people listening to "race records" (as R&B was originally referred to) probably started it off, and in that chubby Checker video we are witnessing the last vestiges of white-bread America around 1960 not yet clapping as we Americans all do today.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Haiti: aid pledged and aid paid

Dirk Niebel
Dirk Niebel, Germany's aid czar. Image by Liberale via Flickr
In one of the translations I am working on, this UN report on the percentage of aid actually paid out (compared to the amount pledged) to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake is referenced.

Typically, while the United States is probably very proud of its overall pledged volume to Haiti, which is second in the world behind Venezuela, only 23.9 percent of that money has actually been made available two years after the earthquake. If I read those two columns for "dispersed" correctly, it seems that the 40 million people in Spain have out-donated more than 300 million Americans.

Along with Finland, Japan actually delivered on more than 100 percent of its pledge.

Disappointingly, the German government (representing some 80 million people) has only made good on 36 percent of its pledge, which was meager to begin with at less than half of what the 5 million people of Norway promised.

Chancellor Merkel appointed a man named Niebel as the Development Cooperation Minister when she took office a few years ago. Although his Wikipedia site in English does not mention it, Niebel (like the US's John Bolton, who was appointed ambassador to the UN after calling for the dissolution of that organization) is uniquely qualified for that position as he called for the BMZ (Germany's Development Cooperation Ministry) to be abolished and subsumed under the Foreign Affairs Office so that the emphasis could be on promoting German exports.

Since becoming head of German aid, Niebel has not only failed to make good on his word in Haiti, but he also reneged on his promise to get rid of the ministry he now heads. Instead, he has chosen to fill it up with members of his own political party. The German Bundestag is currently looking into the matter.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

David de Rothschild for 50% peak tax

In an interview over at Die Zeit, David de Rothschild – the American-born head of the famous banking family who now runs the bank from France – says the following:

If the rich only paid 20 or 30 percent tax (the current peak tax rate in the US is 35 percent), I would say that that is unacceptably low. But we currently pay just over 50 percent. I think that's perfect. I earn 100 euros, keep half, and share the other half.…
If the government decides that there needs to be greater solidarity and the tax rate needs to increase to 58 or 60 percent so we can get out of this crisis, then it has my support… but I would not offer to do so voluntarily because that would leave the impression on people that the rich have done something wrong.

The current peak tax in Germany is 43 percent, though there is a Reichensteuer that brings that level up to 45 percent. At the moment, the majority of Germans still seem to be in favor of higher taxation, but it is interesting to see that so many rich people who would be affected also don't really have a problem paying higher taxes.

And of course, as I wrote yesterday at Renewables International, Germans are also willing to pay more for green power.