A Trip to Baden-Baden

Last week I spent a few days in Baden-Baden, a German town so bath-like they say so twice. The springs there have been known since Roman times and nowadays one can visit the Friedrichsbad bathhouse, which is a classic 19th century building containing pools of various temperatures which I assume are similar to the Széchenyi baths I went to in Budapest.  Alternatively, you could do what I did and go to the much more modern Caracalla Therme complex, which is fantastic.

I’d not been to one quite like it before. What made this one different is it had dozens of jets, waterfalls, currents, bubbles, and baths which all did different things. There was a row of seats which blasted bubbles around your lower back; there were powerful underwater jets which could massage your legs, glutes, and back; there were fixed hoses which would massage your neck, shoulders and upper back, and waterfalls which would do the same thing. Somebody had obviously spent a lot of time thinking about how much water to send where and at what pressure, or how much to fall from which height, to allow you to get a proper massage without it stripping skin or killing you. There were also several jacuzzis of various temperatures, and each was set on a time-cycle: half were switched off for ten-minute intervals while the other half worked, then they swapped over. This was to stop people hogging the things all day. All you had to do was sit in something that wasn’t working and wait for it to start. There were also steam rooms, saunas, solariums, and a half-decent cafe (although the whole place was alcohol-free).

One amusing point is the upper floor is a compulsory nudist area, i.e. no bathing suits are allowed. For anyone rushing to book tickets with hopes of sharing a hot tub with a naked Maria Sharapova and two of her closest friends, I must warn that you’re more likely to be rubbing up against fat Germans the wrong side of sixty who don’t know their way around a Bic razor. I didn’t hang about in there long, but I spent three hours in the main complex one day and five the next: it was good for my bad back.

Something else I found interesting was the designers’ estimations of their clients’ intelligence. They had arranged three identical water fountains in the foyer as per the photo below:

The little sign on the nozzle on the two end fountains was like this:

But the sign on the one in the middle was like this:

Only in Germany would somebody install three identical fountains, make Nos. 1 and 3 dispense drinking water and the one in the middle non-drinkable, and rely on people reading signs to differentiate between them. Anywhere else in the world and they’d have to put the fountains on different floors. Inevitably, somebody told me that non-Germans (meaning, Russians) often end up drinking from the middle fountain. Nevertheless, the baths are well worth a visit: clean, accessible, and very well organised.

Germany is still an odd place, though. One evening I went with my friends to buy copious quantities of alcohol from a supermarket to drink in the apartment we’d rented. We arrived at about 9:45pm and the place closed at 10pm. For some reason I faffed about and by the time I got to the checkout it was 9:55pm and there was a large queue in front of me. For reasons known only to the people running the place, there was only one checkout working and three supermarket staff watching. As I moved along, the Germans in front of me started pointing to the bottle I’d placed on the conveyor belt and saying things like “Nein! Nein!” I couldn’t work it out until I saw the woman on the till frantically shoving the bottles of the customers in front over the scanner. Apparently once the clock on the till passes 10pm it’s not possible to buy alcohol. By the time my turn came it was about 10:02 and the bottle wouldn’t scan. The woman harangued me in German for a full minute, which I utterly ignored as if she were talking to somebody else about her dog: there was no point in arguing and I wasn’t interested in her explanations. I got the last laugh though: my bill came to €10.01 and I handed her a €20 note. She asked me if I had a cent and I said no, even though I did. Flexibility works both ways: you help me, and I’ll help you. After some huffing and puffing she gave me a €10 note in change. I left hoping she’ll be shot in the morning for that missing pfennig.

I wasn’t bothered about not being able to buy the booze, I had plenty of it already and my friends had gotten through ze German till with ein minute to spare. But it did highlight the difference between France and Germany. In France they’d have found a way to get around this restriction, one way or another. Either they’d have fiddled with the till or they’d have got a supervisor to override the block, or something. But they’d not tell a customer they couldn’t buy drink because the till said it was too late.

There were other reminders that I was in Germany, too. Last time I went was in 2012 and I thought the food was good but then I was living in Nigeria. Alas, this time around I found the food bloody awful: grey sausage on a bed of sauerkraut sitting in watery gravy. That’s what three years in France does to a person, it renders them unable to eat practically anywhere else. In one place I ordered a dish which came with two very small pork chops, which I found hiding under some cabbage. Halfway through the meal the waitress came over with a small bowl, like the kind you put sugar in, containing another two pork pieces. She said “These are for your meal,” and walked off. I dumped them on my plate and carried on eating. I was sat with a Frenchman at the time and I asked him if he could imagine this happening in a French restaurant, a chef forgetting to add half the meat and sending it out in a bowl later. He couldn’t, and neither could I.

The beer was good though, and cheap. Some things never change.


Knee-Jerk Evacuations

While I was in Germany I read that thousands of people were being evacuated from tower blocks in the UK after it was found they had the same cladding as the Grenfell Tower.

It started as a normal Friday night in north London. Some people were down the pub, others were watching TV or eating dinner. In some flats children were doing homework, preparing for exams.

But over the space of the following few hours around 3,000 people on the Chalcots estate were told to leave their homes and get out – immediately.

The call to evacuate came from Camden council after London Fire Brigade told it the safety of residents “could not be guaranteed”.

I am absolutely amazed that more hasn’t been made of the unfathomable levels of stupidity in this decision. My only explanation is that a lot of people find it sensible.

Suppose a passenger ship in the mid-Atlantic gets word that its sister ship has sunk with all souls lost because of a fire in the engine room. What does the captain do? Does he give an abandon ship order and have everyone take to the lifeboats? No, he doesn’t, because that would put the passengers in more danger. He would instead post a watch in the engine room, put his crew on full-alert for a possible fire and abandonment, maybe cut back on the throttle a bit, close the bar, and either complete the voyage as planned or set sail for the nearest port with suitable passenger-handling facilities. Even if there was a fire he’d not abandon ship: he’d attempt to get his crew to fight it first, while having everyone on standby to get the lifeboats launched. If he panicked and launched the lifeboats at the first word of a potential fire, he’d go down in history as one of the worst captains ever to take command.

Back in 2010 the engine of a Qantas A380 failed, forcing it to return to Singapore and make an emergency landing. The result was the grounding of all A380 aircraft using those engines while inspections were carried out and Rolls-Royce consulted. Note that these other planes were not immediately ordered to make emergency landings: that would have seriously endangered the passengers.

The evacuation of towers with similar cladding to that of the Grenfell Tower is a decision made in panic with seemingly no consideration of actual risk. It is the equivalent of the captain ordering everyone into the lifeboats too early or planes making emergency landings. Yes, the cladding is dangerous – but only once a fire has occurred in a flat and reached the outside. Resources and efforts would be far better spent on ensuring these two don’t occur – information campaign, inspections, temporary fire-fighting measures, posted watches – than ordering everyone out of their homes immediately.

Perhaps a risk analysis would recommend people evacuate, but none would say this needs to be done immediately. The risk might have been high, but it was not imminent: anyone who understood risk and safety ought to have known this, and been aware that ordering unnecessary emergency evacuations would put the residents in greater danger than leaving them in situ. Firstly, emergency evacuations and temporary housing are stressful and not good for people’s overall wellbeing, and secondly next time they’re told to move immediately some people might conclude it’s just a bureaucrat covering his arse.

The situation required cool heads and mature decisions, instead we’ve got headline-grabbing knee-jerk reactions. The people running things have not got a grip on how to manage risks in residential properties, but then we knew that already: we have a burned-out shell and dozens dead as proof. But what it shows is the clowns in charge haven’t learned anything in the aftermath: an irrational approach to risk and safety is still dangerous whether it comes in the form of callous neglect or panicked decisions.

Incidentally, this:

German authorities on Tuesday evacuated a high-rise apartment building in the western city of Wuppertal, over fire safety fears in the wake of London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Wuppertal authorities said they had carried out a fire safety review following the Grenfell inferno, which left 79 people presumed dead, and found that the insulation on an 11-storey building posed a risk as it is flammable.

So much for the idea that the oh-so-clever and perfectly-regulated Germans would avoid a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower, eh? Some proper journalism wouldn’t go amiss occasionally, would it?


Taking the lead, German style

From the BBC:

Angela Merkel has said she sees no obstacles in the way of beginning Brexit talks as scheduled after Theresa May failed to win a majority in Thursday’s UK election.

The German chancellor said she believed Britain would stick to the timetable, adding the European Union was “ready”.

I don’t know if it was always like this, but the EU seems to have given up all pretence that it isn’t the Germans running things. A few weeks ago we were told there was an EU negotiating team and that Britain would have to deal with it, rather than individual countries. We were told the EU member states had such faith in their team that they took fifteen minutes to agree on the approach they’ll take when negotiating.

Yet here is Merkel apparently speaking on behalf of the EU. Would the Czech prime minister get away with that? And note that she made these remarks pretty much immediately the election result was known, so she obviously didn’t run any of this by the EU negotiating team or the member states. She’s just assumed that Germany can speak on behalf of the entire EU and isn’t even bothering to hide it any more.

A half-decent negotiator on the British side could use this to drive a coach and horses through the EU strategy. The trouble with that is we have almost no chance of getting one. Either way, mainland Europeans seem quite content with Germany assuming the leadership. Let’s hope they don’t change their mind on that at some point.


More dick-waving in the Middle East

What sort of empty-headed statement is this?

Qatar Rift May Boost Extremism, Germany Warns.
‘A dispute among partners and neighbors will…make the wrong ones stronger,’ says German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel

Who is this statement even intended for? Who is being warned here? Qataris? Saudis? Are they going to listen to the German foreign minister? Or maybe it’s aimed at Germans. Okay, so what are Germany’s interests in the Middle East (other than flogging luxury cars) and what leverage do they have? Or is Germany appealing to others to help out? Who, then? The US? The UK? Heh.

I think the German foreign minister spoke these words hoping it would make Germany look “concerned” and clued-up, and imply they should be involved in any plan to make things better. To me they smack of desperation to appear relevant in a potentially serious situation which is going to pan out one way or another wholly unaffected by what the German government says, does, or thinks. Of course, the rise of extremists in the Middle East would not be so much of a problem were Germany not so keen on inviting tens of thousands of them into Europe.

Anyway, irrelevant German warblings aside, things appear to be getting interesting over in the Gulf. Turkey is offering to send troops to prop up the beleaguered Qatari government, and Iran has thrown in its support as well. This means the two sides in the argument are:

1. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt

2. Qatar, Turkey and Iran

Kuwait is staying well out of it, sensible chaps.

The surprising element is Iran coming in on the side of Qatar, or more accurately, the Qataris appearing to accept their help. Iran is quite happy to prop up the governments of other countries, e.g. Syria but it comes at the price of ceding a degree of control to Tehran and allowing Hezbollah and other Shia militias to set up shop on their turf. Perhaps the Qatari rulers think they’ll be toppled without Iranian help and so don’t have much to lose. For a country which is 90% Sunni, this might not end well.

Turkey’s offer of troops is also more for show than anything else. Are Turkish soldiers really going to be fighting in the streets of Doha if it comes down to it? If they’re fighting Saudis they’re going to find themselves running out of ammunition and supplies pretty quickly, and will have to rely on Iran for logistics and air cover (assuming there is any), whereas the Saudis can amass all their stockpiles right next door. If Turkey wants to project power abroad, fighting Saudis in Qatar is probably not a smart way to go about it (but who knows how much of his own bullshit Erdogan believes at this stage?)

Perhaps Turkish troops will be deployed to stop a rival Qatari faction usurping the ruling families, but that’s unlikely to end well either. Are Qataris and other Arabs really going to just let a bunch of isolated Turks who don’t even speak the language swan around in Doha unmolested? I doubt it. The bloodshed will start on day one and won’t let up until the day they leave.

Russia is probably wondering what to do right now. They have usually sided with Iran in that part of the world, but there’s no love lost between them. For all the kissing and cuddling that went on between Russia and Turkey as they buried the hatchet over the shooting down of the plane in 2015 I am far from convinced the two leaders see eye to eye on much – other than to keep Iran’s influence in Syria to a minimum. But most importantly, Qatar with its enormous LNG cargoes has been the biggest threat to Russia’s dominance of the European gas market. Russia will be shedding no tears if Qatar’s LNG shipments get blockaded and the plants shut down. If the Russians have any sense they’ll stay right out of it, except of course to flood the region with as many weapons as it can sell.

The US should also stay right out of it, but it’s going to be hard to see how they can with two of their most important allies squaring off against one another. Iran is already blaming Saudi Arabia for the ISIS attack on its parliament yesterday, and people on Twitter are saying the Americans gave them the green light to do so. This is bollocks, but the Saudi move on Qatar is surely a result of their having been buoyed by Trump’s recent visit and his reconfirmation of the Saudi-US relationship. The US is going to have to work pretty hard to stay out of this one especially if things get nasty, but that’s what they need to do.

Today we have a General Election in the UK which Theresa May’s Conservatives are looking likely to win by a handsome margin. I am hoping that the first thing the new government does is draft up a law saying that anyone who advocates Britain getting involved in any capacity whatsoever amid calls for “something to be done” – even if staged photos of weeping children are plastered all over our media for the umpteenth time – shall be taken into Parliament Square, placed in the stocks, and kicked square up the arse by a serving member of the Parachute Regiment wearing a pair of steel-toed boots.

My guess is that this whole thing is mostly posturing and will be over within a few weeks.


Wir gegen sie

The BBC has gone all-in for Angela Merkel as Germany prepares for an election in the autumn:

The German chancellor caused a storm this Sunday, particularly in the English-language press and Twittersphere, when she declared: “The era in which we could fully rely on others is over to some extent.”

That this comment should come immediately after the US asked Germany to cough up more for its defence obligations was, if the liberal press is to be believed, purely coincidental.

Mrs Merkel is now on the campaign trail and not at all above injecting some populism into her politics.

President Trump is hugely unpopular among German voters and his failure to commit to the Paris climate accord, at the G7, and to Nato’s Article Five last week angered many Europeans.

I think it speaks volumes about the state of German politics that Trump-bashing is a central platform of all potential candidates. When is Germany going to address some of its own problems, instead of complaining about the US president? Or don’t they think they have any?

Mrs Merkel’s pointed comments about no longer being able to rely fully on allies were delivered to rapturous applause while on the campaign trail in the (conservatively) pumped arena of a Munich beer hall.

If not being able to rely fully on allies is something to cheer, then why the insistence on these alliances and agreements in the first place? If Germany wants to go it alone, nobody is stopping her. Indeed, the issue seems to be Germany’s insistence that the US commits to doing what Europeans want – with them picking up the bill.

Campaign Trail Merkel, as we’ll call her for the moment, is also aware that German voters aren’t just partial to a bit of Trump-thumping – but also to a full-on promotion of Europe.

Liberal Europeans have felt immensely frustrated at the constant Brussels bashing by nationalist politicians over the past couple of years.

Or, put another way, Liberal Europeans are looking to German leaders to promote something an awful lot of their own countrymen don’t like. Apparently this is a healthy state of affairs.

Resentment has built up, too, over Russia seemingly being able to do whatever it wants in Crimea, Syria and the cyber-sphere despite supposed international norms.

Like the shooting down of MA-17? What was the German reaction, again? A barely-audible squeak. Did the likes of BASF and Siemens have anything to do with that, perchance? If Europeans are hoping Germany will confront Putin more than Trump will, they are seriously deluded.

And there’s real anger and fear about Donald Trump the Unpredictable, a man many in Europe judge to be ignorant about world politics, diplomacy and the workings of a democracy.

They said the same about Bush, Jnr. too. Yes, we get it: Europeans prefer Democrat presidents and they think all Republicans are thick rednecks. Americans know this, and are getting a little fed up with it. Hence they are only too delighted to hear Germany isn’t going to be relying on them any more. If I were Trump, the American troops based in Germany would be on their way home already. Bush should have pulled them out years ago.

Germans believe more than ever now that Europe needs be assertive; to stick together and be strong together.

They are feeling more confident, too, with pro-EU, pro-Merkel Emmanuel Macron as French president.

Good for them! Now what does this have to do with Trump?

Enter Chancellor Merkel’s emotive language à la “take back control’, except what she says is “Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands”.

The Bavarian beer hall loved it, as do many Germans, giving Mrs Merkel that edge over her political rivals.

When Brits do this they are deluded Little Englanders. When Germans start bashing foreigners and making assertive, nationalist remarks in Munich beer halls, progressives go all giddy with delight. Perhaps Germany doesn’t have such a chequered history in this area as Britain, or something?

She believes Europe must co-operate more on defence: pooling resources, spending military budgets more intelligently and bolstering itself as much as it can.

But not increasing military budgets to meet Nato commitments.

Britain leaving the EU means the bloc only has one military power left – the French one – and one seat on the UN Security Council.

The French military power? Bwahahahahahahaha!

Nato is now more important than ever for EU safety.

How best to safeguard the alliance than by insulting the American president and those who voted for him?

Chancellor Merkel has been around the political block more than a few times, and she is not now biting the hand that feeds

No? Well, let’s see, shall we?

Donald Trump may not be so sure about Nato, but the US vice-president and the defence secretary say they are fully committed.

Was this before or after Merkel threw her toys out of the pram when the Americans asked her to cough up a bit more?

When Angela Merkel says Europe needs to be take its fate in its own hands, she means keeping transatlantic links open and strong, but being politically, emotionally and – if possible – militarily prepared if it all falls apart.

Presumably this nuance got lost in the original German.

Rather than closing the door on the US, she hopes very much the US isn’t turning its back on Europe.

And with articles like this appearing in Der Spiegel, I’m sure the Americans feel so very appreciated in Germany and are keen to stick around.


Are the German Greens suffering the same fate as UKIP?

Staying on the subject of lunatic Greens, they are facing electoral gloom in Germany:

Germany’s once high-flying Green Party is foundering in many states. After a disastrous election result in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party is promising change, but it may come too late for September’s national poll.

The whole article is worth reading and gives some idea as to why the Greens, who were once a powerful political force in Germany’s coalition governments, are now in trouble:

Following the widely publicized incidents on New Year’s Eve 2015 in Cologne, which saw widespread sexual assaults committed largely by asylum seekers, the party struggled to come up with a clear position on its refugee and security policies (they still aren’t even clear today).

It seems the Germans haven’t quite rejected populism, either.

The party successfully helped block deportations of Afghan nationals whose asylum applications had been rejected, but it did little to communicate what the rest of its asylum policies might look like.

Quite how deluded one would need to be to do something like this and expect electoral success, even in Germany, is difficult to imagine.

Furthermore, in a state that has undergone deep structural changes, with the end of coal mining and much heavy industry, the party could have benefited by positioning itself more strongly as an environmentalist party. Instead, the party placed its focus almost entirely on education — despite the fact that only 4 percent of voters in the state consider the Greens to be truly competent in this policy area.

I think that paragraph offers the best explanation, although the author doesn’t quite say it. The fact is, all mainstream political parties adopted the Greens’ more sensible environmental policies years ago, as well as too many of their idiotic ones. Germany has already agreed to close its nuclear power plants and impose the strictest environmental legislation in Europe on its industries and households. The same pattern is repeated across most of the developed world now: every major political party has signed up to the hysteria on climate change (even Trump has yet to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as he promised he would), air pollution is a permanent hot-topic particularly now the results of pushing everyone to switch to diesel engines is becoming clear, recycling has been firmly adopted as the new religion in the west, and useless windmills are being built at an ever-increasing pace to meet ludicrous renewable energy targets.

This has left the Greens outflanked on most environmental subjects. In order to differentiate themselves they’ve been forced to propose utterly insane policies (ban motor cars, stop eating meat, etc.) and to venture into other areas (e.g. education) where they are useless or social matters (e.g. immigration) where they are out of whack with the majority of the population. The mainstream parties have stolen their popular policies leaving them looking like a bunch of nutjobs on the fringe. Which they are, of course.

A reasonable similarity may be drawn between the fate of the Greens in Germany and that of UKIP in Britain. UKIP have found their defining policy – Britain leaving the EU – adopted by the Conservatives, leaving little reason for voters to stick with them. Whenever UKIP have tried to branch out from their main policy into other areas they’ve proved themselves to be an incoherent, squabbling mess which no sensible voter would go anywhere near. With Brexit underway, their raison d’être has vanished and they lack the competence to transform themselves into a serious party. Perhaps the Greens in Germany and elsewhere are treading the same path. I certainly hope so.


Martin Schulz

Herr Schulz seems to be a tad confused:

The candidate named by Germany’s Social Democrats to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel, Martin Schulz, has vowed to fight populism if his party wins the elections due in September.

At an SPD party meeting in Berlin, he denounced Eurosceptics and the “racist” rhetoric of US President Donald Trump.

Mr Schultz also said that as leader of the EU Parliament he had always stood up “to those who attempt to destroy this project of unity”.

“Those people find in me a determined opponent,” he added.

Referring to Donald Trump, he denounced what he called the president’s “misogynistic, anti-democratic and racist” rhetoric.

What does any of this have to do with Germany? Is Trump running for office there? Or is that all it takes to win votes in Germany, parrot what global lefties are saying about Trump? God help them if he wins.

Francis Turner has more on Schulz here.


German Court Endorses Antisemitic Attack

There are still some things which really make my jaw hit the floor.  This is one of them:

A regional court in Germany has decided that a brutal attempt to set fire to a local synagogue in 2014 was an act meant to express criticism against Israel’s conduct in its ongoing conflict with Hamas.

A German regional court in the city of Wuppertal affirmed a lower court decision last Friday stating that a violent attempt to burn the city’s Bergische Synagogue by three men in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.

Firstly, note the fact that the judge has endorsed the belief that there is a direct link between a Jewish building of worship in Germany and the state of Israel, i.e. to attack one is to protest the other. Secondly, the judge has endorsed arson as a legitimate form of protest. Add those two together and the judge has effective legalised violent attacks on Jews on the grounds that it is merely a form of political protest.  This in Germany, of all places.

It’s been my opinion for a while that Germany is fast disappearing up its own arse.  After WWII they fell over themselves at every opportunity to show they were no longer warmongering racists and over time this led them to believe they are the epitome of peace and tolerance.  Two or three generations on and they are so self-absorbed with their own sense of superiority that they have lost the ability to condemn and punish certain acts of violence that happen on their soil.  If they were to do so it might shake the foundations of what for the Germans is now religious dogma: when it comes to tolerance and forgiveness, nobody is purer than we.  For the German establishment and middle classes, it is better to excuse away certain things than to risk losing that mantle.

We saw it with Merkel’s decision to accept a million “refugees” into Germany without bothering to consult those who would be affected.  We saw it with the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015/16.  This happened in Austria, but the mentality is much the same. Now we’ve got German judges refusing to condemn the attempted murder of Jews.

The problem, as this latest incident shows, is one that plagues self-righteous establishments in general, especially organisations like the BBC.  By refusing to condemn X they effectively endorse Y, and often by default they are inflicting on Y a judgement they cannot bring themselves bear on X.  Over time it becomes increasingly clear that they are working in the interests of X and against those of Y whether they realise it or not: to an outsider it is obvious.  Germans would probably be aghast if one were to tell them that at least one of their regional courts appears to be deeply prejudiced against Jews, because they would be so blinded by their self-righteous tolerance of Islamic violence that they’d not be able to see it.  But to anyone reading that report and noting German government policies over the past couple of years, it is becoming increasingly clear that Jews might want to consider putting in place a Plan B, probably one involving Israel.

I don’t think Jew-hatred runs through Germany like it did in the late 1930s, I’m not saying that.  I’m saying that they have fallen into the same trap as American academia and assorted social justice movements worldwide: by convincing themselves they are the epitome of tolerance and understanding they have actually become extremely intolerant towards anyone who doesn’t rank highly on their list of favoured clients.  There might be a difference between the German government sending brownshirts to smash up Jewish stores and a regional court giving the all-clear for Muslims to torch synagogues, but it is one that Jews might not appreciate too highly – especially if they happen to be sitting inside the synagogue at the time.  As we learn from the article:

The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazis during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.


There are elections coming up in Germany this year, and how German vote will determine whether they intend to continue taking their country in this direction or not.  I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and she was fairly surprised that I thought we might see a civil war, or something akin to the Northern Ireland troubles, in a European country before too long.  Incidents like the one in Wuppertal do little to assure me that I might be wrong.


Ze problem with ze Germans

Streetwise Professor has a post up about the difficulties facing Deutsche Bank and the arbitrary nature of the $14bn fine the US has foisted upon it.  It is worth reading in full, as are the comments, but I want to expand on this paragraph left by SWP himself below the line:

German hypocrisy on these issues is pretty amazing. It’s not just an incestuous relationship among companies, but between companies, unions, and the government. A very corporatist model.

There is a general view of the world, which is probably held by a majority of people, which goes something like this.

The Western world is in decline because they don’t make stuff any more.  China will soon take over the world because they are making stuff and building things.  Europe is screwed because they aren’t making things and their economies are in freefall.  The only thing keeping Europe going is Germany, because they make things.  They make good cars and machinery that works, and so they have money and are rich, and they support everyone else.  Britain could have been like that but switched their economy to financial services which is just making money out of nothing for a handful of people and not producing anything of real value.

There are some grains of truth in this, but it is largely wrong.  Reinsurance, legal, and project financing services delivered out of London are equally valuable and viable as a cornerstone of an economy as a fleet of BMWs delivered out of Munich.  But that doesn’t really matter, Europeans are about to find out post-Brexit how “unsustainable” Britain’s financial sector is (hint: those banks won’t move to Paris).

What makes the view dangerous is that Germany is viewed as the model to aspire to in terms of how to run an economy and get a population doing something productive.  When in doubt, look at how it’s done in Germany.  Germany has become the father figure of Europe (Fatherland?): provided he is alive and bringing home the bacon, everyone else will be taken care of.  But putting Germany on this pedestal has meant too many people are turning a blind eye to what is actually going on.  European politicians, state bodies, and regulators believe that what is good for German companies and banks is good for Germany, and what is good for Germany is good for Europe as a whole.  I am certain that this is what led to the VW emissions cheating being tolerated for so long (please don’t tell me nobody knew it was going on), and the interests of German companies always seem to be at the forefront of their relations with Russia (Gerhard Schroeder’s appointment to the board of Gazprom’s Nord Stream days after he signed off on it as Chancellor being the most egregious example).  In other words, provided Germany is seen as a father figure in the provider role, everyone will pretend not to notice that Dad is stopping by the casino on his way home from work, taking in a hooker or two at the weekends, and his credit cards are maxed out.

People have been turning a blind eye to Germany’s structural and ethical issues for a long time in the hope that the engine will keep running.  The $14bn fine levied on DB by the US might seem unfair and destabilising, but if it exposes what has been swept under the carpet and bring in transparency and better corporate governance without which Europe’s leading economy might collapse taking the continent with it, it will be a bargain.