Put the wheels back on again already

“It was never meant to be like this. A reunified Germany, at the heart of an expanding European Union and single currency, was supposed to offer a decent, stronger alternative to the “casino capitalism” that Germans have long thought of as represented by the US model that they love to hate.

When the credit crunch first broke in the autumn of 2007, bringing banks such as Northern Rock down almost immediately, the Germans allowed themselves a quiet chuckle of schadenfreude along the lines of “we told you so”.

But that was before the financial crisis swept through Germany’s banking system, which turned out to have had its tentacles deep into the sub-prime mortgage market in the United States. And it was before the collapse in world trade that Germany had previously depended on to drive its economy.”

“The Opel crisis is part of a much wider problem.”


The six months aren’t even up yet

The six month honeymoon between Germany and President Obama, I mean. Well at least that’s how much time I gave them.

Can we just be friends?

There’s already a wide spectrum of wonderfully hurt feelings out there everywhere these days. Chancellor Merkel’s pampered days of back-rubs, barbecues and regularly held video conferences seem to have been replaced by what many see here as intentional slights coming from Washington. These seem to have begun sometime in, let me see, well, in January.

And then this Opel number yesterday. Sure it’s evil GM all over again, but they are not alone this time. At an all-night “Opel summit” rescue session held especially in the Chancellery (this needless to say big medicine for Merkel and Co. in an election year) only a few low-level reps from Treasury even bothered to show up. And the American government has a lot to say about the matter at the moment, as you well know. The “summit” was a mega flop, of course, and the Germans are clearly outraged at not having their concerns taken seriously, yet again.

Stay tuned and let’s see what doesn’t get taken seriously next. I’ll still give the honeymoon another month or two, though. I’m just that kind of an optimistic guy.

„Some in Berlin have suggested that Obama is still punishing Merkel for not allowing him to speak at the Brandenburg Gate when he passed through Berlin last summer in the midst of his rousing campaign for the presidency.“

Join the club

Well why the hell else does one have contact with Landsleute (countrymen) im Ausland (abroad) if not to get embarrassed by them? Grow up already, Germans. That’s what they’re there for (or that’s what you’re there for, for that matter). That’s their job.

Landsleute in action.

Yet another recent poll has indicated that Germans are ashamed of German behavior when confronted with it abroad (45 %!). This isn’t really news though, is it? If they could just be ashamed of German behavior when confronted with it at home, now there they could finally start making a little progress, maybe.

„Sie tapern mit kurzen Hosen in Kirchen und saufen, was das Zeug hält.“

How much longer is it going to take to read all this stuff?

As long as it takes, I guess. After an accidental discovery in the Stasi spy archive put an interesting new twist on a shooting “that changed West Germany” forever (back in 1967), everyone is wondering again just how many more dark and dirty unread secrets are still buried there. And please keep in mind; these archives have been researched by hundreds of thousands of Germans for nearly twenty years now.

I finally came in from the cold.

Someone found out that a West-Berlin cop who shot a demonstrator at an anti-Shah of Iran demonstration was not the capitalist lackey of the evil reactionary West German establishment he was supposed to be but an East German Stasi agent instead. This shooting is said to have ignited the more militant German left-wing protest movement which then followed, by the way.

Hmmm. Makes you wonder, or it makes me wonder. But I’m always wondering about stuff like this so who cares. Anyways, about 100,000 Germans apply each year to get a look at their own Stasi files, but the director of the archive says that even extensive rifling through these old folders barely makes a dent in the whole collection. Germans have always been good at keeping records, you see. They’re just not very good at destroying them. And this is a good thing.

“It’s said that if the files were lined up in a row, they would stretch for well over 100 km.”

Dangerous ideas

Questioning Germany’s economic model, I mean. Everything is sacrosanct here, nobody rocks the boat and nothing ever changes for the Germans. Not even (or especially so?) when everything else around them appears to be changing faster and faster all the time.

Things are as they are...

„The questions go to Germany’s future. Simplified, they ask: Can its economic model, the so-called social market economy, survive a crisis in which some of its assumptions and conceits have been devastated? Or: What does the country do about re-establishing or refashioning its dependence on exports, which are imploding as the Great Recession drags on?

The issues are essentially political because both mainstream parties spoke for months with a single voice in offering Germans and the world a fib (kind hearts might call it a misleading misjudgment): the idea that the German economy and its banking system were robust, oblivious to the implosion of American-led speculative schemes and a model of regulated, state-supervised capitalism that Chancellor Angela Merkel said the planet should follow…

The social market economy was an empty shell, Wolfgang Münchau wrote in The Financial Times Deutschland, referring to it as a “discontinued, one-off model. Its network of social protections is sanctified. But trade-offs among its interest groups, he said, have taken over the system’s fulcrum of power.“

“I think we’re in a kind of tape delay, cushioned by our welfare state.”

Sex and taxes

Or was it death and taxes? Anyways, if you absolutely positively must auction yourself off online somewhere, don’t do so at a German site.

Representation without taxation!

This of course being tantamount to prostitution, and with Germans taxing their prostitutes at 50% of their earnings, you could, well, really get screwed or something.

„Die Brünette hatte sich eine höhere finanzielle Entschädigung erhofft.“

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

I mean President. Actually, “supreme federal notary” is probably the best term for it. Hey, somebody’s got to do it.

Vielen Dank für die Blumen.

The degree of power actually conferred upon the President by the Basic Law is ambiguous. However, in practice, holders of the office treat it as a ceremonial, non-political one, and act in accordance with the advice and directives of the Federal Government.

“Mr Koehler’s re-election is a symbolic victory for Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of national elections in September.”

Tanks but no tanks

Vatertag (Father’s Day in Germany): „Motley crews of men drink until they drop, either in traditional fashion, tugging a handcart full of beer and spirits across the countryside, or by downing schnapps in a local bar.“

But this year a company in Brandenburg has come up with an alternative alcohol-free present for dads: tank-driving lessons. “Tanks fascinate all boys, big and small,” the Panzer Fun Driving School wrote in a recent press release. “We offer trips in armored tanks, driving around Germany’s biggest playground for men — it’s an ideal gift for Father’s Day.” Too late, Vatertag was yesterday. Maybe next year.

Tanked up for Father’s Day.