Hidden Purposes

Yesterday two stories were brought to my attention, which share a connection. Here’s the first:

All new police officers in England and Wales will have to be educated to degree level from 2020, the College of Policing has announced.

It said the training would help address changes in crime-fighting.

Prospective officers can either complete a three-year “degree apprenticeship”, a postgraduate conversion course or a degree.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said the changes would “help modernise the service”.

Many people are unhappy with this, saying it will remove yet another formerly respected career path for the working classes. They are probably right, but this is a feature not a bug. As I wrote here, New Labour and their successors made it central policy to get more women into the professional workforce, and for more people to go to university. Well, a generation later we now have lots of middle class graduates, but what are we supposed to do with them? A sizeable chunk will have graduated with liberal arts or other degrees which are near-worthless to an employer, yet these people have been sold the lie they can expect professional employment anyway. One answer is to stuff them into state institutions and provide them with what passes for a career, sitting in pointless meetings, dreaming up rules, and shoving paper around, and that’s what’s happened. Eventually the institution in question will become little more than an employment scheme providing what is effectively welfare to the dim but entitled middle classes, its core function forgotten. I’ve provided plenty of examples in support of my opinion that the British police long ago stopped being police in the commonly-understood meaning of the word, and this latest announcement is fully consistent with that. Consider this statement:

The college’s Chief Constable Alex Marshall said the feeling was the nature of police work has changed significantly and officers were just as likely to be “patrolling online” as on the street.

“Cyber-enabled crime has increased,” he said, “So has the need for officers and staff to investigate and gather intelligence online and via information technology.”

He also said protecting vulnerable people has become a “high priority”, with officers now spending more of their time working to prevent domestic abuse, monitor high-risk sex offenders and protect at-risk children.

Even investigating a pub fight – which used to mean interviewing the victim, perpetrator and the bar staff – now also extends to researching videos, pictures and comments published online.

You don’t need a degree to be able to research videos, pictures, and comments online. Nor do you need one to work with vulnerable people. What this is about is shifting police work from the wet, windy streets to comfortable chairs in front of computers in air-conditioned offices – the type of job the government promised graduates with worthless degrees from mediocre universities. Also, I am sure it is no coincidence that this shift is occurring a few years after the police made considerable efforts to recruit more women, and made policing an attractive career choice for young mothers. It is a lot easier to comprehend this latest move if you understand what the British police is actually for.

Here’s the second story, provided by Phil B in the comments:

Germany’s armed forces are suffering from severe shortages of weapons and equipment that put the country’s ability to meet its Nato commitments in doubt, a parliamentary watchdog warned yesterday.

The German military is “not equipped to meet the tasks before it”, Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces said as he presented his annual report.

Operational readiness is “dangerously low” and the country’s ability to take over a frontline Nato taskforce next year must now be “in question”, he warned.

The current purpose of the German army is not to defend Germany from outside attack or to fight anywhere. It could be argued that until 2011 it was a way of deferring university or employment for young men by making them do national service, but nowadays it doesn’t even do that. Its true purpose can be divined from these two paragraphs, though:

The hard-hitting report was seen as a direct attack on the current defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, who is said to be unpopular with troops.

Ms von der Leyen has presided over a series of shortage scandals during her time at the defence ministry, at the same time as introducing initiatives such as creches and flexible working hours for soldiers.

So it’s basically an employment scheme for the progressive middle classes, much like the British police. Last November I wrote this about the US army:

In part, the purpose of the military is to serve as a vehicle (one of many) for progressives to enact their deranged fantasies as part of an overall aim of undermining society and the institutions on which it depends as far as possible.

I don’t know if this applies to the Germany army – is it even possible to make German institutions more progressive so they can undermine the country further? – but it certainly applies to the British police. So there’s it’s other purpose.

Does the BBC story make a little more sense now?

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Europe’s choices over Iran

A response from Germany following Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it, urging the continent to “take destiny into its own hands.”

“It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands. That’s the task of the future,” she said during a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Agence France-Presse.

This will be music to the ears of many Americans, who are wondering why the US remains committed to defending Germany from…well, who? Russia? Germans have made it quite clear they prefer Putin’s Russia to Trump’s America, and who else is there? Oh, but wait:

German defense spending will fall far short of levels demanded by President Donald Trump’s administration for years to come, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense minister said.

Those levels are actually NATO commitments; Trump’s demand is merely that Germany meets them. The problem Germany has is that it is dependent on the US for security (assuming it is actually required) and hates it, but they don’t hate it enough to reach in their pockets and pay for it themselves. Like a spoiled teenager who hates the rules in their parent’s house, they don’t want to move out either because that would involve hardship.

What will be interesting is the response of Germany, France, and the UK to this:

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was in Moscow on Monday, as Russia tries to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive in the wake of Washington’s pullout, pushing it into rare cooperation with Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was scheduled to discuss how to try to save the nuclear deal with Zarif, the Interfax news agency reported.

Zarif’s tour also took him to Beijing at the weekend and will see him visit Brussels later in the week, as the international backers of the 2015 accord scrabble to save it.

“The final aim of these negotiations is to seek assurances that the interests of the Iranian nation will be defended,” Zarif said at a news conference with Lavrov.

Lavrov, meanwhile, said Russia and Europe had a duty to “jointly defend their legal interests” in terms of the deal.

A few months ago, Russia was accused – perhaps fairly – of conducting a chemical weapons attack on British soil, and there were expulsions of diplomats and lots of tough talk from European leaders about solidarity with Britain. Then a few weeks ago Russia’s client in Syria allegedly used poison gas against civilians and everyone went mental, with Britain and France joining the US in launching missile strikes against targets in Syria. Russia was a pariah nation run by a gangster regime, we were told, so it’s going to be very interesting whether the commercial interests of European businesses consign all this rhetoric to the dustbin. It’s going to be particularly interesting to see what Britain does, given Boris Johnson and Theresa May’s recent criticism of Russia. At least nobody is pretending it’s about nuclear security any more.

Something the media has failed to mention is the difficulty of doing business in Iran even without US sanctions in place. I can’t find the link now (Google search results are swamped by recent developments) but a few years ago one of the big Chinese companies effectively walked away from an Iranian oil and gas project having utterly failed to make any progress, citing the intransigence of the locals as the primary reason. Anyone who has read the history of Iran, particularly the bit concerning Britain’s dealings with Mohammad Mosaddegh over BP, will get a clear idea that doing business there is fraught with difficulties, not least because the Iranians are severely tough negotiators. There has been nothing preventing Chinese, Russian, or Turkish firms making hay in Iran in the absence of American and European countries for decades, but they haven’t, and for good reasons.

One of the main problems facing western companies concerns the ownership of Iranian companies. As is to be expected under such a regime, pretty much every major company is in some way owned by the government or powerful individuals connected to it. In many instances it is the The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which controls the company. From Wiki:

IRGC first expanded into commercial activity through informal social networking of veterans and former officials. IRGC officials confiscated assets of many refugees who had fled Iran after the fall of Abolhassan Banisadr’sgovernment. It is now a vast conglomerate, controlling Iran’s missile batteries and nuclear program but also a multibillion-dollar business empire reaching almost all economic sectors. Estimates have it controlling between a tenth and around a third of Iran’s economy through a series of subsidiaries and trusts.

The Los Angeles Times estimates that IRGC has ties to over one hundred companies, with its annual revenue exceeding $12 billion in business and construction. IRGC has been awarded billions of dollars in contracts in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, as well as major infrastructure projects.

Last October Donald Trump sanctioned the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, independently of the nuclear deal. Leaving aside the difficulty of executing major projects in Iran without falling foul of US sanctions on the IRGC, can you imagine having an IRGC-owned company as a partner or contractor? Would they carry out the work as per the contract? To whom would you turn if they didn’t? It’s hard enough doing business in Russia with companies run by well-connected gangsters; now imagine what it’s like contracting with the private army of the Ayatollahs.

Major European nations risk creating an enormous political and security rift with the US over this Iranian nuclear deal, all for the benefit of a handful of companies who reckon they can make money in Iran. The way they’re talking, and the way it’s being reported, you’d think the money was already in the bank. It’s not, and probably never will be. Politicians should heed this point.

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Deutschland gebrochen

Regular readers will know I take a dim view of Angela Merkel’s Germany, and not just because of her lunatic decision to open the borders to millions of migrants a year or so back. In May last year I made the following comment:

I think [Merkel] presided over some serious economic skulduggery and corruption, the VW emissions scandal being just the tip of the iceberg. I think Germany has happily taken on the role of the economic engine of the EU, as it allows it to ensure the economic structure and interests of the EU are perfectly aligned with those of Germany. The entire Euro project appears to have been set up to ensure poor European countries could magically afford German products (mainly cars), and Germany’s treatment of Greece a couple of years ago showed exactly how Germany sees the rest of Europe. I think there is a prevailing attitude around the EU that what is good for German companies is good for Germany, and what is good for Germany is good for the EU. German companies have been given a free-hand in writing much of the industrial legislation (particularly environmental stuff) imposed by the EU on the whole bloc, and stuff like corruption (Siemens), dodgy financial dealings (Porsche takeover of VW), and emissions cheating are all ignored in favour of German corporate giants (it seems to fall to non-EU governments to complain).

I think there is a lot of rotten structure under Germany at the moment which everyone – particularly the EU lot – are turning a blind eye to. How robust is Deutschbank, for example? And would we be told if there was anything amiss? Merkel might be long-gone by the time all of this comes to light and unravels, but she’s presided over it and much of it will be deliberate policy not benign neglect.

A few months later I came across this story:

Russia has delivered electricity turbines made by Germany’s Siemens to Crimea, a region subject to European Union sanctions barring EU firms from supplying it with energy technology, three sources with knowledge of the delivery told Reuters.

Reuters was unable to determine if Siemens knew of or condoned the equipment transfer, but the move exposes the German company to potential accusations of indirect sanctions-busting and of not taking sufficient safeguards to ensure its equipment does not end up on territory most countries view as illegally annexed, say legal experts.

Streetwise Professor has written about the rather incestuous and opaque relationship between Deutsche Bank and the German government. He also wrote a post on Germany preaching European unity in one breath while stitching up eastern Europe in the next in order to preserve their commercial interests with Russia.

I was therefore not particularly surprised to read this:

The longest investigation in EU history found that the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom has used its enormous power to pressure vulnerable states in Eastern Europe, and to fragment the EU’s unified energy market with coercive pricing policies.

The report suggests that Germany has been enjoying a sweetheart deal with Gazprom, gaining a competitive advantage in gas costs at the expense of fellow EU economies and leaving front line states at the mercy of Moscow’s strong-arm tactics.

Hundreds of pages leaked  from the European Commission paint an extraordinary picture of predatory behaviour, with Gazprom acting as an enforcement arm of Russian foreign policy. Bulgaria was treated almost like a colony, while Poland was forced to pay exorbitant prices for imported flows of pipeline gas from Siberia.

But it doesn’t stop there. Raedwald has this to say:

In 2017 Ernst & Young investigated the extent to which corruption has become embedded and institutionalised within the German economy. This second phase roll out of German corruption proved as insidious as an invasion of Japanese knotweed, with crooked tentacles reaching into every crevice of German economic life. The rapid growth of online trading in Germany in the last five years has exacerbated the criminality – German firms trade corruptly and criminally with impunity on the internet as the German legal system provides few affordable remedies for their victims. And all this is done with the complicity and support of the German government.

And all done under Merkel’s chancellorship. More damning is this:

Whilst Germany is not alone in seeing a rise in economic corruption, the country is unique in being able to roll it out on an pan European industrial scale, leading an entire continent in implementing then covering up emissions testing, and now corrupting the trade in two-thirds of the continent’s gas imports. The corrupt appointment of the German zealot Martin Selmayr to the heart of the EU raises suspicion that the repression of the truth and blocking of all measures to tackle corruption has begun with a German takeover of key appointments.

And in regarding the latest Gazprom revelations:

The southern nations will be aggrieved that they have been bullied, coerced and hectored by a deeply crooked nation wearing a false disguise of moral superiority. And eastern nations such as Poland and Bulgaria, countries Germany has robbed of billions of Euros in corrupt complicity with Gazprom, will be looking at concrete measures to get their money back.

I have an inkling that others in Europe, and particularly the US, are beginning to get a whiff of the rotten state of Merkel’s Germany:

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempts to engage President Donald Trump just got harder.

Trump lavished praise on the U.K. and France at the weekend “for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military,” after they joined the U.S. in hitting Syrian targets. All Merkel earned was U.S. criticism for not taking part.

The U.S. disregard for Germany’s postwar aversion to using military force adds to a sense in Berlin of being sidelined by the Trump administration at a time when global challenges are multiplying. The cooling ties are both a personal snub to Merkel, the longest-serving leader of the Group of Seven and the European Union, and economically alarming, with the threat of U.S. trade tariffs hanging over the EU, and Germany especially.

Where Merkel was feted by President Barack Obama, the Chancellery in Berlin now struggles to even make contact with the White House.

I think there is more to this than simply Germany’s declining to take part in the attacks on Syria. When Trump was elected, Merkel took the lead in offering only grudging congratulations through gritted teeth, and was only too happy to self-righteously bash the 45th president during her re-election campaign. Trump is particularly sensitive to this sort of criticism, but is no stranger to handling brazen hypocrisy from ageing women whose own house stinks to high-heaven. Trump is a smart guy in many ways, and will know damned well what sort of corruption is going on in German companies with the blessing of the German government. After all, the VW scandal broke on his watch; you can be sure he asked questions about it. And this is smart politics:

Merkel’s cold shoulder contrasts with Trump’s attitude to French President Emmanuel Macron, whom he has invited to Washington next week for a state visit. Merkel’s team is still trying to finalize the chancellor’s visit to the White House later that same week.

The French did not hesitate for a moment in supporting the U.S., and Macron was superb, said the official. Macron and Trump have a great relationship, the official added.

When Macron was elected, everyone assumed this youngster with no experience would fall into line and do whatever Merkel told him to do. But Macron, perhaps because he already has one older woman in his life telling him what to do, had other ideas. He surprised everyone by rolling out the red carpet for Trump, neatly sidestepping any suggestion he was not his own man, elevating France, and leaving Merkel somewhat isolated. Trump, to his credit, played along and relations between France and the US are probably at their highest point since the D-Day landings. Or since the Iraq War, anyway.

This isn’t to say that France is about to abandon Germany and the EU project, but it did undermine Merkel, who is only still in office by the skin of her teeth. Now we have France, the UK, and US cooperating on military strikes against Syria, Merkel is finding herself increasingly out on a limb, which might explain the timing of these revelations over Gazprom. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a minority in Germany, the EU, and abroad who have long-waited for an opportunity to expose the corrupt mess that is German industry, but can’t while Merkel is still in charge. Now she’s wobbling, some might be making their move. I think we can expect more of this.

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Farce Masquerading as Justice

The ZMan talks about this subject from time to time:

A German court has sentenced an 89-year-old woman to 14 months in prison for Holocaust denial.

Ursula Haverbeck, dubbed the “Nazi Grandma”, has been convicted several times but is yet to spend time in jail.

She was first given a jail term last year but received additional punishment for handing out pamphlets repeating her beliefs to those attending court.

Under German law, Holocaust denial constitutes a crime and carries a sentence of up to five years in jail.

I think the law on Holocaust denial is stupid, but that’s the law in Germany. What I find silly is the next sentence:

Haverbeck and her late husband were members of the Nazi party during the Second World War.

If Haverbeck is 89 in 2018 she was 16 or 17 when the war ended and 10 or 11 when Germany invaded Poland. Her membership of the Nazi party is absolutely meaningless, given her age and the fact it was compulsory.

As the ZMan is fond of pointing out, this hounding of supposedly octogenarian Nazis isn’t about justice, it’s about virtue-signalling. Everyone who was in any position of authority during WWII is now dead or so old they might as well be. Even those in their mid-nineties were little more than kids, and those they still insist on dragging from their care homes in front of a court are charged only with having been there at the time and doing admin work:

PROSECUTORS in Munich confirmed today they have opened a probe into a 92-year-old woman who served in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

They said the elderly woman from Chiemgau in Bavaria served at the Stutthof camp near Danzig – now Gdansk in Poland – where 60,000 inmates suffered and died.

Prosecutor spokesman Florian Weinzierl said that the investigation into her role in the camp was ongoing, but it is known she worked in the telephone exchange of the camp.

This would mean she transmitted and received orders about prisoner arrivals, departures and liquidations.

The passage of time has dealt with any Nazi who ever existed, regardless of what they did or didn’t do. The next step, if they continue like this, will be to hound the children of Nazis, thus giving prosecutors an entire new generation to go after. This stopped being about justice a long time ago, and it’s time this farce was stopped.

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Ve have vays of making you not talk!

I’ve written before about governments outsourcing political censorship to social media companies, and also about Germany’s suppression of free speech. Today I read this:

A German satirical magazine’s Twitter account was blocked after it parodied anti-Muslim comments, the publication said on Wednesday, in what the national journalists association said showed the downside of a new law against online hate speech.

Titanic magazine was mocking Beatrix von Storch, a member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who accused police of trying “to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men” by putting out a tweet in Arabic.

Twitter briefly suspended her account and prosecutors are examining if her comments amount to incitement to hatred.

So not only is the German government forcing social media companies to block their political opponents under the guise of counteracting online “hate speech”, the people doing the blocking are too dim to spot a parody account. How the Germans can’t see that such a law, in the hands of the wrong party, could be devastating is a mystery. I can only conclude such occurrences have no precedent in their country from which they could draw obvious lessons.

Titanic said on Wednesday its Twitter account had been blocked over the message, which it assumed was a result of a law that came into full force on Jan. 1 that can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on social media sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly.

A lot of people will rightly ask who defines hate speech. What they should be asking is how easy is it to change that definition.

Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are scrambling to adapt to the law, and its implementation is being closely watched after warnings that the threat of fines could prompt websites to block more content than necessary.

This is a feature, not a bug. The German government and those who would emulate them want the social media companies to self-censor everything that doesn’t explicitly conform to progressive standards of right-think. That way they can hold their hands up, adopt an innocent face, and say “We never told them to censor X, Y, Z”.

Merkel’s conservatives accused the AfD of undermining the post-war democratic consensus in Germany.

By winning so much support at the ballot box that she stands to lose her job?

“The racism that AfD lawmakers have been tweeting for days is intentionally violating, with criminal intent, the basic consensus which democrats have built up since 1949 despite all disagreements,” Armin Laschet, party deputy of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, tweeted.

There ought to be a law against it! Well, there is now. It’s ironic that a German politician coming out with this believes citing war-era precedents is an argument in his favour.

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Babylon Berlin

I’ve spent the past few weeks watching the TV series Babylon Berlin which has been airing on Sky Atlantic (the second season has just finished). My Dad recommended it, and IMDB tells us:

Most expensive non-English language drama series ever made in history and also most expensive German TV series at the time of its first season release with a budget of approximately 40 million Euros.

As far as I know it’s not been dubbed and all the dialogue takes place in German with some Russian thrown in, but the subtitling is excellent: no Chinese DVD effort here. It takes place in 1920s Berlin and follows the path of a young detective sent over from Cologne to investigate vice, corruption, and blackmail in Germany’s capital.

The first thing that struck me is that the actors can actually act. All of the leads are capable of portraying a range of emotions, in stark contrast to most American TV shows. I recently watched The Man in the High Castle and found the leading woman wore the exact same facial expression from start to finish, and her boyfriend wasn’t any better. How these people ever got through an audition to secure the part is beyond me, but thankfully the Germans playing roles in Babylon Berlin are proper actors.

The characters are more interesting too. I’ve written before about how I like characters to be complex and not squeaky clean or cartoon villains, and I was delighted to find that few of them in Babylon Berlin were one-dimensional. Nobody is wholly good, many of them are morally compromised, and the bad guys aren’t going around raping people to let everyone know they’re bad. (I recently got introduced to the series Outlander. Sure enough, by the second episode a dastardly English redcoat is raping a bonnie Scottish lass in front of her brother, the hero of the series. I switched it off right there.) You’re never too sure who to root for because you don’t really know who’s who in the swamp of corruption and intrigue they’re all operating in. There are a few clichéd moments, but none bearing the saccharine we’ve come to expect from American or British TV series, which often seem like they replaced the scriptwriter with software.

The producers have also shown some balls in choosing to set it in the 1920s. It would have been very easy to set the show in the 1930s and beat the audience over the head with a “Nazis are bad” message, but instead they picked an era of surprising complexity which isn’t well known. The First World War looms large over several of the characters, former soldiers and widows alike, and we get a glimpse of the German perspective and the impact it had on their lives. I can’t think of another series or film that addresses this in any way. A large part of the plot concerns the social and political changes taking place in Germany, especially the threat of Communism supported by the fledgling Soviet Union now under Stalin, but the audience is never told what to think. They managed to capture issues of considerable complexity without taking sides, which is a rarity these days. The plot is complicated and I lost my way a few times, but it was at least believable. The Man in the High Castle only managed to advance the plot by portraying the totalitarian, ruthlessly paranoid Japanese occupying government as utterly incompetent, incapable of performing basic background checks. Babylon Berlin thankfully doesn’t use blithering idiocy to get the script working, although there are a few too many coincidences and chance encounters for my liking.

Finally, the production quality is superb. The clothes, set design, and attention to historical detail meets the standards set by Boardwalk Empire and on these measures you’d believe you were watching a big-budget American series (only with some money set aside for a scriptwriter and some actors). There are several scenes which are beautifully shot, and visually it is a pleasure to watch. The score is probably good too but, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t notice.

Babylon Berlin was the second German TV series I’d watched recently which I was very impressed with, the other being Deutschland 83. I’m rather hoping they keep this up.

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A Detail of the Berlin Wall

Once, when watching a documentary on the history of the Berlin Wall, I learned something I’ve never been able to forget:

That rounded piece on top of the wall was obviously put there to make it harder to climb over. When I visited Berlin in 1995 and saw a preserved section, I assumed it was moulded as part of the wall itself. But according to this documentary, it was just a bog-standard piece of concrete pipe with a longitudinal section cut out and plonked over the top. I always thought this level of crudity was apt for what the wall was, and what it represented.

I also read last week that the Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up. If anyone were to look around now, they’d scarcely believe the thing ever existed or the Communists lost the Cold War and the right side won.

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Germany’s Suppression of Free Speech Online

I don’t know how accurate this article on Angela Merkel’s clamping down on digital free speech is – perhaps Bloke in Germany could comment? – but it’s an interesting follow-up to my earlier post:

Absent of an easy route to get at the netizens themselves, what the government really needed was a quick way to force social media firms to make their platforms inhospitable environments for critical, dissident expression; But taking action against social media networks did not turn out to be all that easy.

But coercively targetting social media companies remained an attractive option for the German government. Outsourcing censorship to privately-owned social media firms presents a neat way to circumvene the high bar of constitutional scrutiny that would apply to the state if it tried to enact such censorship directly.

As Germany has economically boomed under Merkel‘s leadership, social compassion and honesty in the public sphere has reached a record low. Corrupt property developers, ruthless drug dealers, and organised crime are being allowed to take over economically deprived parts of Berlin, Frankfurt, Bremen and Colonoge with impunity, while police simply watch. As Berlin‘s political-corporate elite shops in an ever-growing number of luxury all-organic supermarkets, they cheer on the financial rape of Greece and other Southern European countries by the German-led EU‘s austerity programs; Brutal regimes of cuts and privatisations have left some ordinary, hard-working people in those countries unable to afford even basic essentials such as food and medical care. The supposedly anti-racist, pro-equality mainstream media in Germany outdoes itself day-on-day in finding new, politically-useful ways to implicitly suggest to their readers that ‘lazy‘, ‘heat-dazed‘ Greeks deserve all the degrading austerity they get.

Unsurpringly, Vladimir Putin‘s authoritarian United Russia party has already moved to replicate the Network Enforcement Act. In July, it presented an extremely similar draft social media bill in the Russian parliament, the Duma, that even goes as far as explicitly referring to the German law as its inspiration. Proving that imitation is the sincerest flattery, Russian legislators even copied the exact, expedited content deletion timeframe of 24 hours directly from the German government‘s law.

They’re all at it, aren’t they?

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No Fun in Germany

When I opened my letterbox on Saturday I was rather surprised to find a speeding notice sent all the way from Germany. Apparently when I was in Baden-Baden I was travelling at 41kph (38kph after tolerance adjustments) in a 30kph zone. Or in English, I was doing 23.6mph in an 18.6mph zone.

Until recently I wasn’t even aware that speed limits below 30mph existed, but I see some 20mph zones have appeared in London down residential streets full of chicanes and speed bumps. In France, the general limit in built-up areas is 50kph and occasionally 40kph. So what did this road in Baden-Baden look like? Well, street view is banned in Germany (along with most everything else) so we only have the aerial view of Geroldsauer Straße:

Geroldsauer Straße is a 2-lane road forming part of the B-500, which puts it in the Bundesstraße category:

In the German highway system they rank below autobahns, but above the Landesstraßen and Kreisstraßen

In other words, if you drive at more than 19mph along sections of Germany’s second-tier highways you’re liable to be photographed and fined. The photo is quite funny, it shows my Russian pal and me on our way somewhere, but the road is wide and clear. The fine is only 15 Euros which I have no problem paying, either in practical terms or in principle; that’s not my point here.

My point is that Germany looks about the least fun place to live or visit, especially when compared to France. I suppose mind-numbing sterility is what happens when a largely secular nation’s middle-classes get wealthy and comfortable enough that they find it necessary to meddle and proscribe to an ever-increasing degree. But hey, if this is what the Germans want, then who am I to complain? I’ll just keep to my side of the border and laugh at things like this:

It’s also going to be interesting seeing how the Germans will enforce their millions of petty laws in a few years’ time when the effects of their immigration policies begin to take hold. Historians might find some bemusement in a country that fined people for driving at 38kph down what would be a major highway in most of the world, but couldn’t stop mass sexual assaults in its city centres.

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