Monday, July 31, 2006

A Stick - and no Carrot

Ah, there's still a stick lying around here. In case you don't know what a stick is: it's a blog socializing tool, which is very popular in the German blogosphere. You receive a (virtual) "Stoeckchen" and some more or less interesting questions attached to it. After you've answered the questions, you pass the stick to four other bloggers, pretty much like a chain letter. Let's give it a go:

Warum blogst du? (Why do you blog?)

For different reasons. Sometimes, to vent my anger. Sometimes, to share information. And sometimes, to have a reminder for the future.

Seit wann blogst du? (Since when do you blog?)

On September 23, 2005, Mad Minerva made me crossing the Rubicon. I started this blog on December 8, 2005. And on February 24, 2006, I was introduced to the German blogosphere.

Selbstportrait? (Self-characterization?)

Is this a job interview or what? Okay, never mind. Mind-boggled globalization cheerleader. EU-bashing pro-Asian racist. Radical neosocialliberal centrist (no, you can't look up "neosocialliberal" in the Wikipedia, because this doctrine was invented by me, and I don't care to stuff this label with content) with a softspot for neocons and a dislike for diehard pacifists. Devastating GTD-record, btw.

Warum lesen deine Leser deinen Blog? (Why do your readers read your blog?)

I don't know. Some, because they like me. And some others, because they don't.

Welche war die letzte Suchanfrage, über die jemand auf deine Seite kam? (What was the last query to let someone find your blog?)

I have no idea. I don't even know how to check that out. Judging from the comments, "Roy Orbison" would be a good guess, I think.

Welcher deiner Blogeinträge bekam zu Unrecht zu wenig Aufmerksamkeit? (Which of your entries got wrongly too little attention?)

None. If I want an entry to get noticed, I take action ;-).

Dein aktuelles Lieblings-Blog? (Your favorite blog at the moment?)

Um, Sex and Shanghai? Or FP Passport? Judge for yourself, taking into account my previous answers. (It's this one from Switzerland, in fact.)

Welchen Blog hast du zuletzt gelesen? (Which was the last blog you read?)

Letters from Rungholt (Israel, in German) and The Dignified Rant (Ann Arbor, Michigan).

Wie viele Feeds hast du gerade im Moment abonniert? (How many feeds are you subscribed to at the moment?)

You mean blog feeds, right? I don't know. Bloglines tells me: 360. But that includes newspaper feeds as well. As a member of the German Social Democrats, I don't care for numbers anyway ;-).

An welche vier Blogs wirfst du das Stoeckchen weiter und warum? (To which four blogs do you forward the stick, and why?)

To Maddie, Bruce, Joerg and Oliver. Because I'm happy to get rid of it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dating a Girl and Going to War

One of my teachers, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, used to say that going to war is not like asking a girl out on a date. It is a very serious decision, to be made on the basis of carefully crafted answers to even more carefully crafted questions.

Martin van Creveld

For me, there's no difference in going to war and dating a girl. I know, it's my mistake, I know. I'm always taking it too serious. Add this to the two crunching verdicts I received in China ("Mark, you are too sensitive!" and "Mark, you are too honest!") - and you can see, why dating a girl is such an annoyance for me.

And now excuse me. I'm off to...try to date a girl. (Where's my full metal jacket?)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wal-Mart says "Auf Wiedersehen"

It's the top story of Deutsche Welle: World's Biggest Retailer Wal-Mart Closes Up Shop in Germany. That gives David's Medienkritik reason for a German-hostile rant and Merkel-bashing (wtf? - too bad, that they were inept to blame Joseph Fischer or Joseph Goebbels this time).

I've never been to a Wal-Mart in Germany. No, I did not boycott them or something; it just didn't happen, because there hasn't ever been a Wal-Mart close to me. I have my Wal-Mart experiences, though: Moscow in 1997 (the store was quite... um, Russian). And Nanning, PRC, in 2004 (too expensive in comparison to local options, if you ask me).

Diehard multicultural lefty that I am, I'm more like the "think global, buy local" kind of guy. I prefer the next door 16/7 shop (run by Turks), the polish baker woman at the market with her disarming smile (even if the temperature is 14 F) - and at work, I can't wait the lunch break to visit my Korean grocery lady (NO! It's not about her looks! Not in this case. She is such a lovely, caring person. The other day, I met her on the street near my home, and we found out that we're neighbors! What a joy!)

Talking about Korean ladies: Germany isn't the only country in the world where Wal-Mart is losing a battle (my emphasis):

Is Globalization Succumbing to Glocalization? (via Yale Global)

The Korea Times, 26 July 2006

The success story of E-Mart, a domestic retailer, and the failure of multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart, the world number one retailer, and Carrefour, the strongest retailer in Europe, are not enough to say globalization is succumbing to glocalization. This situation is merely another incident of intense competition resulting from free trade and Americanization. Glocalization is defined as the mix of global standards and local preferences.


To sum up, the famous story of E-Mart and Wal-Mart maybe significant because a company of the size of Wal-Mart failed, but other than that, these things happen all the time. That is what the market is all about. Glocalization has no reason to fit in this story because neither Wal-Mart nor E-Mart was 'glocalized' in the first place. Some people try to make this story an accomplished fact of glocalization but, in my perspective, I see no glocalization in this story.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's so darn hard to be a (social) democrat

Mr. Reich, Sir, I hear you:

I'm sitting on the beach last week trying to relax into an abbreaviated summer vacation when someone I barely know comes up to me with a scowl. "Did you read that dumb-fuck middle-class agenda Hillary just put out? If that's all the Dems have to offer to deal with widening inequality, we're screwed," he says, and walks off.

I know exactly what you're talking about. In my case, it isn't Hillary the people are blaming me for, but Kurt or Gerd (yes, still!) or Heidi or... you name it!

I feel my spine tingle, my shoulders begin to ache.

Same with me!

To distract myself I pick up the paper and skim the headlines --

Um...nope. I never ever pick up the paper to distract myself. Big mistake, Sir! Because, here's what you get:

Hezbollah and Hamas attacking Israwl, Israel bombing Lebanon, Iraq tumbling into civil war, more chaos. (...)

By now I'm feeling nauseous. My cell phone rings. It's my good friend John, a welcome distraction. "How'dja like to go to a movie tonight?" he asks, a welcome distraction. Great, I say, eager for any escape. "Fine, he says, I just got tickets to Al Gore's film on global warming."

*giggle* That could not happen to me either, since global warming isn't that hot a topic in Germany. Because, as you probably know, Germany is world champion in fighting global warming and "extreme kyotoing".

People, go read Robert Reich's Rules for a Sane Vacation, three simple, easy to follow rules included.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A very old couple on integration and Iraq

Mark Thoma quotes extensively from a WSJ interview ($) with Rose and Milton Friedman. As always with reading Milton Friedman interviews, I'm a happier person afterwards. Just two quotes:

"At the moment I oppose unlimited immigration. I think much of the opposition to immigration is of that kind -- because it's a fundamental tenet of the American view that immigration is good, that there would be no United States if there had not been immigration. Of course, there are many things that are easier now for immigrants than there used to be. ..."

Did he mean there was much less pressure to integrate now than there used to be? Milton: "I'm not sure that's true ..." Rose (speaking simultaneously): "That's the unfortunate thing ..." Milton: "But I don't think it's true ..." Rose: "Oh, I think it is! That's one of the problems, when immigrants come across and want to remain Mexican." Milton: "Oh, but they came in the past and wanted to be Italian, and be Jewish ..." Rose: "No they didn't. The ones that did went back."

Mrs. Friedman, I was learning, often had the last word.

"(...) In 2008, you may very well get a Democratic president" -- (Rose, interjecting: "God forbid!") -- "and if you can keep a Republican House and Senate, you'll get back to a combination that will reduce spending."

Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression." Mrs. Friedman -- listening to her husband with an ear cocked -- was now muttering darkly.

Milton: "Huh? What?" Rose: "This was not aggression!" Milton (exasperatedly): "It was aggression. Of course it was!" Rose: "You count it as aggression if it's against the people, not against the monster who's ruling them. We don't agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don't agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously -- such as, I don't want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out -- but big issues, this is the first one!" Milton: "But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it." Rose: "And we will!"

Mrs. Friedman, you will note, had the last word.

Sounds like the perfect marriage to me. *sigh*

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Soccer and Death

Couple of weeks ago, I sent two pics of soccer urns to the Queen of Soccer Madness. For more information on soccer urns, see this article (in German, sorry) by business daily Handelsblatt: Bestattung per Fußball

Today, MM hit back by pointing me to this story:

German football team plans cemetery for die-hard fans

By Michael Atkins

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German football club plans to open a cemetery next to its stadium so that die-hard fans can rest in peace alongside their favourite team.

Hamburg SV, a Bundesliga side from the northern port city, aims to open the graveyard some 15 metres (50 ft) from the stadium's main entrance (...)

With 42,000 registered supporters at the club and just 500 graves up for grabs, competition for places promises to be fierce. Officials have already begun taking reservations.


Fans get 25 years in the turf and can choose from a range of burials: ashes in an urn from 2,500 euros (1,708 pounds), a single grave at 8,000 euros and a two person plot at 12,500 euros.

Plans for the 70,000 euro graveyard, due to be completed in September, include a war memorial from the team's former stadium, as well as commemorative stones honouring former Hamburg players (...)

(Link added.)

At least, in Germany soccer isn't such a deadly matter as it is in China:

11 Chinese fans die from 'World Cup Syndrome'

By Wang Wei (
Updated: 2006-07-05 16:58

According to statistics from an overseas blog called "Worldcupdeathwatch", 50 soccer fans around the world have died as a result of the World Cup since it began on June 24. Eleven of those fans were from China, the most of any country.


(Link added.)

For the record: "Worldcupdeathwatch" is not a blog, but a blog category of a blog named "WFMU's BEWARE of the BLOG". Plus, the soccer world cup began on June 9, not June 24.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"About half" - The Pew Blog Report

From Slate (via A Glimpse of the World):

Who Are All These Bloggers? - And what do they want?

When I hear the word "bloggers," I tend to think of the A-listers. But the top 100 are not the quarry of the Pew Internet & American Life Project telephone survey of bloggers (pdf), published today. They're stalking the larger universe of 12 million adult Americans who blog.

Who are all those bloggers? Why do they blog?

(...) The most immediately startling for me was the repetition of the phrases "about half " or "nearly half" to describe various blogger attributes. About half of all American bloggers are men, says Pew. About half are under the age of 30. About half use a pseudonym. About half say creative self-expression or documenting personal experiences is a major reason for blogging. About half think their audience is folks they already know. Half say changing people's minds is not a major reason behind their blog, and about half had never published before starting their blog. (The margin of error for the telephone survey was plus or minus 7 percentage points.)

Pew's blogging masses couldn't be more different than the American A-listers. Most A-listers are men over 30; have published before; are in it primarily to change public opinions and not to share their experiences; know only a fraction of their readers; and don't conceal their identities.

Continuing the Pew half-theme, we learn that about half the bloggers surveyed say they don't know anything about the size of their audience, and only 13 percent claim to get more than 100 hits a day.


(my emphasis)

Um... me? On this blog?

male? jep
under 30? nope
pseudonym? nope
audience already known? nope
creative self-expression? no, not really
documenting personal experiences? sometimes; not essential for me, at least so far
changing people's minds? well... yes, kind of
never published before? hmmm... nope
size of my audience? no idea (four? five?)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Guest Blogging: Was American independence a good thing?

Couple of days ago, commenter Don submitted the following comment to my Independence Day entry. For I consider it too thoughtful and elaborate to go unnoticed in the comment section of a week-old entry and because I want to show my appreciation for Don's efforts to keep this blog a two-way thing, I'm making his comment an entry of it's own:

Was American independence a good thing? Taken as a whole the answer is clearly yes, although many people would probably disagree.

Those who disagree might include some American Indians and some people of the EU, particularly French, Germans, Japanese, and perhaps the English, though the Polish, Danish, Dutch might not agree with them. But even among these peoples many would agree that US independence has been a good thing.

No new thing comes into the earth without consequences both positive and negative; the US is no exception to that. The emergence of the US eventually led to a diminuation of European influence and power which had varying negative effects as perceived by some Europeans, a fact that goes some way to explaining the strong strain of anti-Americanism which Europeans have harbored for a long time.

The French feel that the US has put their cultural influence in the shade, and the fact that the US probably saved France from defeat in WWI and liberated it in WWII seems to bear little weight with many French. Absent US intervention there is small doubt that Germany would have won WWI.

The very act of revolution which was the cradle of the American state was an offense to the British Empire - most particularly it's government, which then could best be described as being of, by, and for the aristocrats, gentry, Nabobs from India, and sugar plantation owners of the British Islands and the sugar islands of the Carribean.

Many modern 'scholars' argue that "Taxation Without Representation" had little or nothing to do with the revolution. They could not be more wrong; it had everything to do with it. The events of the 1760's and 1770's were occasioned by a fiscal crisis caused by deficit spending incurred by the UK in winning the Seven Years War of 1756-63, the first global war. This was exacerbated by a corrupt political system, the so-called 'Rotten Borough' system used in selectcing Parliament.

The wisest course in dealing with the fiscal and political crisis would have been political reform resulting in a representative Parliament possessing the political legitimacy to raise taxation on those who could best bear the burden (such as the sugar planters and nabobs from India). That could not be done because these people possessed major factions in the House of Commons and the King's govrnment depended upon them.

The British Crown instead sought to raise taxes on those who had no voice in the Commons - the North American colonies. Once the Crown's right to do so had been established those taxes would have soared and probably would have strangled the economies of the 13 colonies. It was this which drove the delegates of the Constitutional Convention to pledge "life, fortune, and sacred honor" to what was really a very desperate enterprise - taking on the most powerful monarchy on the earth with no assurance they would win. These men knew that if they lost and were captured by British forces they would be hung for treason and their families impoverished - yet they revolted anyway.

As we know they 'won'. Many of the signers lost everything in the ensuing war and very few grew richer except in the long term. Nevertheless the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1789 created a new thing on the earth - a government based upon the suffrage of free men which granted no privilege to advanteges of birth nor allowed a state religion. It was not perfect; neither women nor slaves were allowed to vote. But those failings were ultimately made good and the idea itself exploded like a bomb on the world stage; most notably and violently in France.

The world has not been the same since. I would argue that it is the most significant political idea since the Roman Republic.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chinese Foreign Students in the EU - and in the U.S.

While doing some research on Chinese graduates related to the previous entry, I came across this Chinaherald post (my emphasis; Wikipedia-Link added):

Chinese students want more work experience

European universities continue to report a dropping number of foreign students, a drop that is most clear among Chinese students. In Britain their number dropped 22.5 percent in 2005 compared to the year before.
Lack of the possibilities to obtain work experience is the major reason, warned the consul for education at the Chinese embassy in London, according to the Financial Times.


In Scotland and England limited work experience is possible, but elsewhere in Europe - especially in the so-called Schengen-countries - students have to leave right after graduation, making, greatly diminishing the value of the education in the eyes of the students. On the contrary, in the US at least one year of work experience is allowed after finishing a study.


Make sure to read the whole entry, including the comments from Australia and the Netherlands!

To insert a Mad Minerva stylish comment here: Just a big *SIGH*.

You can find more verbose information at the Auswaertiges Amt site and over at the EU site. The EU praises the Schengen Agreement as a cornerstone to create an Area of freedom, security and justice. Yo!

China Faces Employment Crisis

From the Worldwatch Institute (via China Digital Times)

China Faces Employment Crisis; Recent Graduates, Rural Migrants Among Hardest Hit

Despite record-shattering economic growth rates and swift industrialization, a major jobs crisis is brewing in mainland China, reports China Economic Weekly [article, Chinese]. The number of people entering the job market this year is expected to reach 17 million and the labor surplus could reach 14 million, according to an April report by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).


Over the last five years, the two major demographic groups entering the job market have been rural migrants and college graduates. Millions of new graduates now face limited employment options, and the likelihood of being unemployed or being forced to accept low-paid work is expected to only increase. According to China’s Ministry of Education, 4.13 million students will graduate from universities and colleges in 2006, 750,000 more than last year and three times the number in 2001.


Soccer World Cup Madness in China

The Washington Post has an article about the worldwide Soccer World Cup Madness, which puts China on the spot:

World Cup Final Kicks Up Frenzy Around Globe
Game Shows 'Soccer Is the Only Sport Which Makes the Whole World Crazy'

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 9, 2006; A12

BEIJING -- A taxi pulled up to the entrance of a leafy city park at 3 a.m. The car's radio crackled with the live broadcast of the World Cup semifinal between Germany and Italy as an announcer cried out in Mandarin the disappointment of a miss.

A few hundred yards away, another voice rose above the trees, mixing with the sound of cicadas.

This time, English blared from speakers in the center of the park as hundreds of Chinese and foreign fans settled in to watch the match on a huge screen. Chinese beer and Italian pizza were served, and a German fan hunched over, muttering, "Nein, nein, nein." Italy went on to beat Germany, 2-0, in overtime.

Even though the World Cup was in Germany this summer, and even though for the first time since 1982 it came down to an all-European final four, soccer fans around the globe have remained captivated by the matches, with millions intending to watch the final between France and Italy today.

"Except America, everyone else all over the world is watching the World Cup. For 20 years, we've been watching," said David Wang, 35, an information-technology manager who was rooting for Germany with his friends Tuesday night. "I've followed almost all the 3 a.m. games, it doesn't matter who, whoever plays best."


In China, which first aired a live soccer match in 1978, passions are strong. A commentator for China Central Television, Huang Jianxiang, apologized to millions of viewers after shouting, "Long live Italy," and, "I don't care about the Australian team," after the Italian team scored a last-minute goal to advance to the quarterfinals last month.

"Soccer is the only sport which makes the whole world crazy," said Sun Wen, a star on the national Chinese women's soccer team who reviews games for Shanghai's Xinmin Evening News. "During the World Cup, almost every light in every neighborhood is on. I remember clearly when I was young, in the early 1980s, so many neighbors crowded in the living room of one family who had a TV set just for a soccer game broadcast."

All month, Chinese fans have gone to bed early and set their alarm clocks for just before 3 a.m. to catch live broadcasts. Most Chinese watch from home, but thousands make a beeline for bars and restaurants.

"The Chinese have an unusual passion for football, even more than the Europeans," said Dario Magri, an Italian who used to coach and manage in Britain and was selling pizza to fans Tuesday. "The other night it was pouring with rain, and they were huddled under the umbrellas. I was on the bench for many years in England. Fans are passionate there, but here, they show the same passion watching it on the box in the middle of the night."

Professional soccer came to China in 1994, bringing exhibition matches and marketing dollars. Chinese players have gone to England to play with clubs such as Crystal Palace and Manchester City. In addition to the Summer Olympics in 2008, China also will host the women's World Cup next year.

"It's like a festival," said Zhang Jing, 26, a television producer who recalled that classmates mourned Italy's loss to South Korea four years ago. "We get to be wild; we get to be mad. I don't think Chinese people have a very outgoing personality, most of us, so it's great to get an opportunity to get away from the routine daily pressure."


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

The rest of the article gives glimpses from Saudi Arabia, India, Mexico and Baghdad.

My contributions re "Soccer World Cup and China" can be found here (quotes in English included) and here. In the latter post, I referred to Mr. Huang Jianxiang, the ... enthusiastic CCTV commentator.

Friday, July 07, 2006

China: Girl drowns self after hair code bans her

From Shanghai Daily:

Girl drowns self after hair code bans her: "LIKE it or not, some schools are very strict about dress code, hair cut and the importance of punctuality for class and exams. This rigid adherence to discipline can have deadly consequences. This was the case in the elite No. 7 Middle School in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. On January 16, Wu Wenwen, a Junior Two student of Wenzhou No.7 Middle School, went to sit for the end-of-term Chinese exam. But the 16-year-old was barred because her hair was down, not pinned up. Her teacher, Qiu Xuemei, ordered her to leave and fix her hair. Half an hour later, Wenwen returned, her hair in order. But she was told the exam had started and she was too late to take it. Wenwen phoned her mother in tears, saying that she could get a zero in the final - and then she disappeared. Her body was found in a nearby lake. She left a 'good-bye' letter to her parents. After the 16-year-old's suicide, the grieving parents sued the school and educational bureau


A survey by the Zhejiang Health Education Institute says that over 13 percent of the students at primary and middle schools in the province have had suicidal tendencies.


I blogged about Chinese women and suicide last month over at B.L.O.G.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, USA!

It's the first 4th of July in my carrier as self-proclaimed pro-American blogger and so I have to write something about it, right?. Then again, I'm pretty exhausted from watching the Germany vs. Italy semi-final of the FIFA soccer world cup, unhappy ending for Germany included.

Well, first of all: Happy Birthday, USA! And a happy 4th of July, y' all! I envy you to have your "National Day" in July. The NYT has the answer why (my emphasis; Wikipedia link added):

The signers of the Declaration of Independence had a lot on their minds, the least of which was our need, 230 years later, for a good midsummer holiday. The rhythms of our lives are awfully distant from the rhythms of theirs. But what you celebrate comes to depend, in time, on when you celebrate it. The Declaration was fundamentally a political event, a short, sharp document that made a powerful statement about human nature and human expectations. But the fact that it was dated July 4 guaranteed that in time, given the practical nature of Americans, it would be celebrated with hot dogs down by the lake while the sky erupted overhead.

And the NYT editorial also sums up what (in my opinion) is so special about this day (my emphasis):

The Fourth of July might seem like (...) a day to worry about the very real and practical matter of keeping our democracy alert, alive and undiminished. But this is also the best of days to admire the long continuity of our history, the profound American talent for compromise, the simple beauty of what endures. It's a good day to hope that every part of this country gets what it needs — a dry night in the Northeast, a long morning rain in the Rocky Mountain West, and truly thunderous fireworks in a clear sky just after dark.

I want to end this post with a pointer to a pointer: Daniel Drezner refuses to answer the question "[W]as American independence a good idea?", which is being discussed by Matthew Yglesias and Tyler Cowen, and he leaves the answer to Jefferson. Very clever, Dan ;-).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Meet Soccer Babe Angie

Ah, it's always good to see someone expressing my thoughts before I dare to blog. Whereas Mad Minerva is going wild about Germany's and Italy's advance into the FIFA soccer world cup semi-finals and states:

I enjoyed also watching the Kanzlerin cheering in the stands too.
James Forsyth over at Passport brings on the real point, by asking

why on earth did the Argentine coach take out his most dangerous player, Riquelme?
and taking a look behind the curtain of the boozed, flag-waving, car horn nation, which happens to be "my country":

But the more FP point I want to make is that Angela Merkel is as much a winner as the German team. Not only is Merkel getting great publicity with every Germany game (the TV cuts to her even more than it does to Posh Spice aka Mrs Beckham during England games), but she is also using the tournament to push through a series of controversial measures. The Times of London had a great article a few days ago about all the bills that Merkel is sneaking through while the public is captivated by the heroics of Ballack, Lehman[n] et al.
A quote from the above mentioned Times article (Merkel makes hay while Germans watch the play):

Political conflicts have barely flickered on to German television screens. The Upper House of parliament reluctantly gave the go-ahead to a 3 per cent increase in VAT last Friday — with some heavy-hitting regional barons voting against or abstaining. Normally there would have been a nationwide howl of protest — indeed, the mass circulation Bild called it the “biggest single tax rise in German history” — but the critical article, as Frau Merkel, the Chancellor, had calculated, was buried under a mountain of stories on the German football team. The big tabloid revolt fizzled out.

Little wonder, then, that ministers are now required to meet in the Chancellery every Sunday until the end of the World Cup to fine-tune other unpopular Bills that will quickly canter through parliament. Three key pieces of legislation are supposed to be wrapped up before the World Cup final on July 9.

Let's have a look at those key pieces:

First, a reform of the system redistributing power between central government and the regions.


Bundestag Passes Bumper Reform

The German parliament voted Friday to overhaul the federal system of government, marking the broadest change to the constitution since 1949 with what has been billed "the mother of all reforms".

Next key piece, please:

Second, the essentials of the health reform, a source of deep conflict between the governing partners, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, must be agreed before July.
Not settled yet (my emphasis):

Merkel changing her tune on taxes

Eight months into her term as chancellor, Angela Merkel is on the verge of raising taxes for the second time, in this case for a vast and bureaucratic health care system.

The proposal by her coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats envisions an expansion of the system to cover children that could cost taxpayers from €16 billion to €25 billion, or $20 billion to $31 billion.


Merkel came to office promising to cut taxes, reduce bureaucracy, and encourage competition and transparency.

But after spending several Sunday nights closeted in the chancellery with health experts from her conservative union and the Social Democrats, a plan is in the works that seems likely to create more bureaucracy at a higher cost to the government.

The decision has the makings of "bureaucratic monster," and an expensive one at that, said Winfried Fuest, economics professor at the Institute for the German Economy in Cologne.

Germany is beset by spiraling costs for medication, a declining birth rate and an aging population. All that is adding pressure on the health care system that insures 90 percent of German adults through 250 health care insurance companies, a system that eats up money with little accountability.

"There is absolutely no transparency in the way doctors charge patients in the public health system," said Fuest, whose institute is one of five economic research centers that advise the government. Nor is there transparency in the ties between drug companies and the doctors, he added.

Patients in the public system do not receive bills. Instead, the doctor is reimbursed through the patient's public insurance company. Conversely, in the private health insurance system, patients receive a bill that meticulously records the cost of each treatment.

But under the plan being fashioned, analysts say it is unlikely that the public health system will become more transparent and subject to competition.

The rest of the article is insightful as well! For more information about the German health care system, see:

German University Clinic Doctors End Strike, New One Looms

After a three-month health care workers' strike, university clinics in North Rhine-Westfalia resumed normal business on Monday. However, doctors at municipal hospitals are threatening to walk out.

Lid Lifted on Corrupt German Health Service

In its annual corruption report, Transparency International estimates that corruption costs Germany's healthcare system between 8 and 24 billion euros ($10 and 30 billion) a year.
Finally, the third key piece as mentioned in the Times article:

Third, the 2007 Budget has to be passed through parliament. At present it looks as if the extra VAT revenues will be largely swallowed up by the extra cost of labour reforms.
Labor reforms? What labor reforms? Oooooh, maybe that one:

SPD admits naivety in German labour reforms

Germany's Social Democrats yesterday admitted their landmark reform of long-term unemployment payments was poorly designed and acknowledged their naivety when they introduced the scheme that has since sent welfare costs skyrocketing.
I'm sorry but I can't enjoy cheering soccer babe Angie. Her "Iron Lady reloaded" reputation and her approval rates, skyrocketing like welfare costs, are as undeserved as Germany's victory against the best soccer team of this world cup. I cry for you, Argentina!