A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘germany

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • The Cranky Sociologists notes the dynamics and statistics of global aging.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the effect of tides on Mercury, Jupiter’s moon Io, and exoplanet Kepler 10c.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the deployment of Russian nuclear-armed missiles within range of China and questions the possibility of an astronomical event in the 9th century.
  • The Financial Times‘s The World notes that Germany and Italy are disputing the governance of the Eurozone.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the United Nations is now recognizing the legal same-sex marriages of its workers.
  • Language Log looks at the new Chinese tradition of water calligraphy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the risk of cruise missile proliferation in Southeast Asia versus China.
  • Window on Eurasia notes concern among some Russians that China might want to take over parts of Siberia Crimea-style.

[LINK] “Right-Wing Provocation: Russian and German Populists Meet”

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Spiegel Online writes about a recent conference in Germany that seems to have been a platform for the Russian government’s particular new brand of homophobic cultural conservatism.

In the run-up to it, the event attracted significant controversy, in no small part due to the second half of the title to Saturday’s program: “Are Europe’s peoples being abolished?” German Middle East expert Peter Scholl-Latour and former news anchor Eva Herman — who gained notoriety in Germany and was fired from her job at a public broadcaster several years ago for making favorable remarks about family values during the Third Reich — had both been scheduled to attend. But both withdrew at short notice, Scholl-Latour citing scheduling issues while Herman said she was doing so out of fear for her family’s safety and “because I don’t want to expose myself to media mud-slinging.”

Herman instead addressed conference participants with a pre-recorded audio message. “Family policy in Germany nowadays is scarcely distinguishable from the East German model,” she said. While Herman’s views are well-known, they pale in comparison with the conference’s other speakers. Another last-minute cancellation came from Frauke Petry, spokesperson for the new euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party. Presumably party strategists had decided that the Alternative’s mantra-like promise to not enter into coalition with right-wing populists in the European Parliament would sound hollow if Petry participated in a conference that played host to crude theorizing about issues as diverse as demography, heredity, the evils of day care centers or youth they claim can become gay as a result of homosexual proganda.

Several speakers from Russia took part in the Leipzig conference, sparing no effort to promote President Vladimir Putin’s family policies. Among them was lawmaker Yelena Mizulina, chair of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Childrens’ Affairs and co-author of the country’s infamous law banning “homosexual propaganda.

[. . .]

Mizulina’s family policy wish list is a long one: Among the legislative initiatives she’d like to pursue are a tax on divorce, recommendations for married couples to have at least three children and a ban on emergency contraceptive pills. Mizulina denied claims that her country’s gay community is subjected to violence while standing in front of a wall with the inscription “Courage to speak truth.”

[. . .]

The conference was organized by Jürgen Elsässer, editor-in-chief of the right-wing populist magazine Compact and himself a former West German communist back in the 1970s. He later became a teacher while continuing to write for German left-wing publications like Konkret and Freitag. His politics have since shifted to right-wing populism and conspiracy theories, and he has a penchant for preaching about family values and Europe’s supposed imminent decline. Elsässer’s partner in France is Paris’ Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a think tank sponsored by private individuals from Russia that is considered to be closely aligned with the Kremlin.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2014 at 8:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • James Bow mourns the loss of the Northlander train route connecting northern Ontario with the south.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Saudi Arabian announcement that it will be boosting military spending by 20%.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes growing Brazilian confidence in the outcome of the World Cup.
  • At A Fistful of Euros, Alex Harrowell notes the complexities of governance and procedure in the European Parliament.
  • Language Hat notes the long and changing history of ethnic identity in the Crimean peninsula.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair notes from first-hand experience the complex language and script situation in Macau and Hong Kong.
  • The New APPS Blog features suggestions for institutional reform in the European Union.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that, to ingratiate itself with the European Union, Albania won’t accept transit fees for the impending Trans-Adriatic pipeline.
  • Spacing Toronto remembers the time when Toronto’s subway network was the best in North America.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs notes how a steamship disaster helped erase the Manhattan neighbourhood of Little Germany from the map of New York City.
  • Torontoist fact-checks an Olivia Chow speech, finding it boringly accurate and unambitious.
  • Towleroad notes how a Dutch town proposed setting up a gay ghetto to call out local homophobia.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how Ukrainian Orthodox Christian leaders are rejecting the Russian church’s authority, and observes that the Ukrainian government is now demanding that ethnic Ukrainians in Russia receive good treatment as an ethnic minority.

[DM] “The “Hot Labour” Phenomenon”

Co-blogger Edward Hugh has posted a translation of a German-language interview where he talks about “hot labour”, large surge of muigration fueling boom/bust cycles.

Strong growth. Rising real estate prices. Rapid job creation. Surging immigration. This list sums up the Switzerland of 2014 down to a tee. However, it also sounds like a description of what things were like in Spain in 2007 – shortly before the country’s economy fell off a cliff. What follows is a conversation between financial journalist Detlef Gürtler and economist and crisis expert Edward Hugh about possible parallels and differences between the two booms, and the role of a new phenomenon which Hugh describes as “Hot Labour”.

Hugh argues that this is a new phenomenon, and on the increase as a result of central bank bubble inducing activity. While immigration is a vital tool aiding economies to manage the population ageing process, it is important that economic activities be balanced. Immigration fueling boom/bust cycles is far from innocuous, and harm a country just as much as a sudden stop in capital flows if the immigration is followed by emigration.

Detlef Gürtler: Well Edward, you personally lived through one of the most important real estate booms in European history – the recent Spanish one. Is the real estate boom we are witnessing in Switzerland in any way comparable?

Edward Hugh: Before I start, I think it’s worth pointing out that it goes without saying the Swiss are quite different from the Spaniards; and the Swiss economy is completely different from the Spanish one. In this sense every boom or crisis is in its own way different from anything before. That said, such “trivia” doesn’t normally stop economists like me from trying to draw comparisons, even if in this case I have to be extremely careful, since while I know quite a lot about Spain I know much less about Switzerland. So perhaps you will help me.

Detlef Gürtler: Yes, economists do make comparisons, and you were even so bold as to draw one between the German 1990s housing boom and the one which took place in Spain after the start of the century.

Edward Hugh: Well this comparison isn’t so strange as it may seem. Many talk today about Spain becoming the new Germany – in the sense of an export powerhouse – and while this idea may have a rather dubious basis in reality the shift from domestic consumption to exports is quite striking.

In both cases the subsequent “regeneration” was preceded by a significant consumer boom, in both cases there was a strong increase in real estate prices including a construction boom, in both cases there was an increase in household indebtedness, in both cases the current account deficit deteriorated. And then in both cases there was a rude awakening. The only real difference was one of scale, and in this case scale is important. Spain had what was at the end of the day the mother of all housing bubbles.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross announces his support of Scottish independence on political grounds. Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen takes issue with him.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes movingly about self-critical voices.
  • The Cranky Sociologists’ SocProf shares sociology-related World Cup infographics.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Homo erectus picked up the herpes virus from chimps.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes that German attitudes towards the United States and the United Kingdom have cooled in recent years.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the election of out lesbian Kathleen Wynne as premier of Ontario.
  • Language Hat notes the increasing prominence of languages other than English in India, particularly in mass media.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the economic effects of recessions make people in recessionary economies more inclined towards racism.
  • Torontoist notes that many employees of the provincially-owned Beer Store chain have been active on social media in arguing against allowing convenience stores to sell beer.

[LINK] “The Russian-Chinese geopolitical game”

I suspect Immanuel Wallerstein’s column at America Al Jazeera might have Chinese motives off. Chats with Chinese netizens make me suspect China places much less importance on the Russian link as grounds for a permanent and enduring alliance than Russia does. Still, it’s worth noting.

The unilateral sanctions that the United States has already imposed on Russia because of its alleged behavior in Ukraine and the threat of still more sanctions has no doubt hastened Russia’s desire to find additional outlets for its gas and oil. And this has in turn led to much talk of a revived “cold war” between Russia and the United States. But is this really the main point of the new Russia-China agreement?

“What China wants is not consonant with the prevailing ideological language in the United States. Nonetheless, there seems to be quiet support for such an evolution of alliances within the United States, especially within major corporate structures. ”

It seems to me that both countries are really interested in a different restructuring of interstate alliances. What Russia is really seeking is an agreement with Germany. And what China is really seeking is an agreement with the United States. And their ploy is to announce this “forever” alliance between themselves.

Germany is clearly internally divided about the prospect of including Russia within a European sphere. The advantage to Germany of such an arrangement would be to consolidate Germany’s customer base in Russia for its production, guarantee its energy needs, and incorporate Russia’s military strength in its long-term global planning. Since this would inevitably mean the creation of a post-NATO Europe, there is opposition to the idea not only within Germany but of course within Poland and the Baltic states as well. From Russia’s point of view, the object of the Russia-China friendship treaty is to strengthen the position of those in Germany favorable to working with Russia.

China, on the other hand, is fundamentally interested in taming the United States and reducing its role in east Asia. But this said, it wants to reinforce, not weaken, its links with the United States. China seeks to invest in the United States at the bargain rates it thinks are now available. It wants the United States to accept its emergence as the dominant regional power in east and southeast Asia. And it wants the United States to use its influence to keep Japan and South Korea from becoming nuclear powers.

Of course, what China wants is not consonant with the prevailing ideological language in the United States. Nonetheless, there seems to be quiet support for such an evolution of alliances within the United States, especially within major corporate structures. Just as Russia wants to use the friendship treaty to encourage certain groups in Germany to move in the direction it finds most useful, so China wishes to do the same with the United States.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 6, 2014 at 7:21 pm

[LINK] “Why Wal-Mart Hasn’t Conquered Brazil”

Renee Dudley, Christiana Sciaudone, and Jessica Brice argue that WalMart is doing worse than expected in Brazil because its lowest-price model doesn’t fit Brazilian shopping patterns. This after the chain has ended its ventures in Germany, South Korea, and India, and even faces serious problems in China on top of a slowing American market.

When asked where she does her shopping, Ivanira de Pontes Duarte, a 51-year-old maid in São Paulo, says it depends on what she’s looking for. If she needs olive oil, a small shop in the middle of her two-hour commute is her go-to spot. Hypermarket chain Extra, a unit of France’s Casino Guichard-Perrachon (CO:FP), has the best deals on cleaning supplies, but only on Wednesdays, when they’re on sale. And a local street fair is where she finds the cheapest produce. One place the store-hopper hasn’t tried is Walmart. “I’ve seen their ads on TV, and their prices don’t seem that much better than everyone else’s,” she says. “It’s a question of savings. Most Brazilians don’t make very much and we need to save where we can.”

[. . .]

Wal-Mart executives have said the company needs to more clearly explain its pricing to Brazilian shoppers eager to stretch paychecks that average about $900 a month. Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon, who ran the international division for five years, acknowledged at an October analysts’ meeting that “we’re not making the most” of Brazil, where the company has had four local CEOs in a decade.

Better communication is probably beside the point, says Thales Teixeira, a Harvard Business School professor, because Brazilians will shop at several stores if that’s what it takes to get the lowest prices. “They’re cherry-picking the promotions. They care more about that and less about Wal-Mart’s one-stop shopping convenience,” says Teixeira, who grew up in Brasilia. “At Wal-Mart, they’re finding a fair price for their basket, but it’s not necessarily the lowest price for all the items in it.”

Sticking with the everyday low price strategy is hurting the company, says Richard Cathcart, a retail analyst at Banco Espirito Santo de Investimento in São Paulo. The hyperinflation of the 1980s that once drove Brazilians to stock up at large stores such as Wal-Mart’s no longer exists. “People would get paid, and then they would go to the hypermarket and buy as much as they could for the whole month—that is not the situation anymore,” Cathcart says. “You either have to bring people in by changing their culture and the way they like to shop or you’re stuck.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 13, 2014 at 2:03 am

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly promotes Greenwich Village’s Bleecker Street, in New York City, as her favourite street.
  • The Crux argues that the apparent existence of multiple planets capable of being broadly Earth-like argues ill for our future. (The question “where is everybody?” becomes much more worrisome if it appears that there should be people out there already.)
  • Cody Delistraty writes about the ways in which travel can be a negative phenomenon, unmooring people.
  • Edward Hugh, at A Fistful of Euros, is pessimistic about Spain’s economy.
  • Joe. My. God. shares video from a New York City cat cafe.
  • Language Log reports on the exceptional difficulties of Macartney’s mission to China in the late 18th century in writing Chinese.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the legacies of the Cold War are still felt in central Europe, in the movement of deer herds which do not cross the German-Czech border.
  • Towleroad reports on the grief of a lesbian couple in Iowa after their adoptive son died in the care of his parents.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the unstable and questionable nature of the “Russian world” model and observes the sympathies of some in Tatarstan for Crimean Tatars.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • At the Financial Times‘ The World blog, Gideon Rachman is skeptical about Tony Blair’s Middle Eastern vision.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that five men recently arrested for a gay-bashing in Brooklyn were part of a Hasidic Jewish group involved in policing their neighbourhood.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that budget cuts will make travel around Seattle on mass transit difficult.
  • John Moyer engages with the idea of non-binary gender in science fiction.
  • The New APPS Blog rightly observes that Tennessee’s proposed bill SB 1391, which would make women criminally liable if anything happens to their fetuses, is outrageous.
  • Otto Pohl observes that the former Soviet German diaspora has collapsed in numbers hugely became of mass emigration.
  • The Signal reports on a personal digital archiving conference. People need to know what to do, why, and how.
  • Towleroad notes a study suggesting that, if beards become too popular, they may start becoming less attractive.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy engages in discussion as to how people should respond to opponents of same-sex marriage, as bigots or not.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Lithuania, apparently by offering refuge to Crimean Tatars, is now being accused of sponsoring Islamic extremists.

[BRIEF NOTE] On different religions and irreligions, in Germany and France and the world

Deutsche Welle had an interesting article up, “Ghanaian pastor seeks to ‘re-Christianize’ Germany”. An evangelical Christian is trying to convert Germans but finding little success beyond the immigrant sector.

In just a decade, the number of evangelical Christians in Germany has doubled – and Ghana-born evangelical Rev. Edmund Sackey Brown has grand plans to ride this new wave. In 2011 he purchased a former Edeka supermarket in Mülheim an der Ruhr, in the heartland of Germany’s industrial region, and converted it into an evangelical house of worship: The House of Solution.

He is convinced that within 10 years his 600-member congregation, comprised mostly of African immigrants from the surrounding areas, will swell to 5,000. He has pledged his commitment on the number plate of his Mercedes “MH FJ 5000″ (Mülheim for Jesus 5000). “Centuries ago, Europeans came to Africa with the word of God. But these days Europe is a godless center. It needs redeeming,” says Sackey Brown, “My mission is to re-Christianize Europe.”

According to Sackey Brown’s vision, Christianity’s sweeping re-embrace of Europe will not come from an increase in African immigration, but from first-generation African-Germans spreading the word of God to their peers. “Hope is with the new generation. They can be disciples of God,” he says. But the children of African immigrants are a minority group within a minority group – hardly the catalyst for a near-future boom – and the fact that the church’s weekly youth service has been scaled back to every other week is a signal that things are not going to plan.

[. . .]

German-born Jan Sickinger, now the coordinator for community outreach programs at The House of Solution, is the son of a Protestant pastor. As he came of age, he grew wary of Protestantism’s increasingly “liberal social theology” and craved a closer connection to the Gospel. So he found salvation as a born-again believer, married an African evangelical and started working at

Despite handing out thousands of advertising pamphlets and organizing expensive stage productions in the city center, Sickinger has struggled to bring outsiders to the church. “I don’t think there’s any church in Germany that is actually growing at the moment,” he says, defending his own church’s sagging numbers more than lamenting the larger situation in Germany. “I mean, the first German missions to Africa and South America didn’t change things overnight.”

But in the greater historical context, The House of Solution’s plan for radical growth in just 10 years is ambitious. Other German evangelical churches, however, are enjoying steady growth. Though evangelicals account for only about 3 percent of the German population, they are an relatively devout group; the number of those who attend church regularly is comparable with the Protestants, one of Germany’s two major faith groups, together with Catholics.

This reminded me of a 2005 post where I noted that evangelical Christianity in France tended to be dominated by immigrants, whether from the French Caribbean or eastern Europe or elsewhere.

Territory like this has been explored elsewhere, by Philip Jenkins among other scholars. I’m skeptical as to whether or not missionary endeavours in multiethnic societies will actually take off. Different religions, and irreligions (non-practice of a dominant religion is not the same as practising nothing), can plausibly survive for quite some time.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 19, 2014 at 2:59 am

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