Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘germany

Pointless smoke-detector tests and waste of other humans’ time and money in Germany

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I have repeatedly written on both undue government interventions and undue invasion of privacy and other intrusions through various service/test/measurement/whatnot companies, e.g. in A German’s home is not his castle / a few issues around inspections and meter readings ([1]).

Earlier this week, I had the yearly smoke-detector test: a professional service company (Objektus) came by, a man walked in with a broom stick (or something similar), used it to push the test button on the two smoke-detectors, noted that they made a hellish noise, and left again—after having spent likely less than twenty seconds in my apartment and doing nothing that I could not have done myself.

This for a legally mandated yearly check that involves paid professionals, a load of travel and bureaucracy, and which forces the victims to take large chunks out of their days to meet the dictated times, with direct and indirect costs that are in no proportion to the value* of the service.

*Even assuming that smoke-detectors bring significant value to begin with, to which I am at least somewhat skeptical (this appears to be more propaganda and lobbying than science and data, cf. parts of [2]); and even assuming that a yearly test, as opposed to e.g. simply swapping the detectors every three-or-so years, has more than the slightest value added, to which I am extremely skeptical.

For instance, this particular company dictates a yearly date with short notice (around a week) and allows one dictated back-up date with (this year) six days’ notice. At least the back-up date had a two-hour interval (12:15–14:15). For many, the time of day, length of interval, and a bit of a commute might well mean that half the work-day is gone. For someone with a longer commute, it might take out an entire day—in extreme cases, an entire week!*

*I have repeatedly done weekend commutes over very long distances, e.g. Düsseldorf–Munich. The current date was a Tuesday, implying that I would have had no realistic choice but to miss both Monday and Tuesday. With five-or-so hours of travel in each direction (main station to main station, not including “local” travel, not including time to deal with hotels, whatnot), I might then have been better off foregoing the entire week. Had the date been on a Wednesday, I more or less would have had to. If the lost time is not enough, consider the considerable travel costs relative the smaller amount of billable hours per travel.

Last year, at least, some actual work was done in that the smoke-detectors were swapped, but this is apparently not a yearly task. (I have owned the apartment for longer, but in prior years various factors have lead to no service at all taking place, including one case of my being entirely oblivious to the dictated dates as I did not occupy the apartment and one case of the service company simply not showing up on their own dictated date. But, apparently, the legal mandate extends even to uninhabited apartments.)

A much saner system would, as in the past, leave smoke-detectors to the discretion of those actually living in the apartments. Barring that, a system where a service company replaces them every X years and the inhabitants are simply mandated to confirm that “we pressed the buttons and a painfully loud noise followed” once a year, would be much better. Barring that, some better solution of date handling must be found (some variations are mentioned in [1].)

Excursion on opportunity costs:
The opportunity costs do not just involve time and money, but can also include lives—and I am far from convinced that this mandated yearly check leads to a net-savings in lives. For the check to bring value, we have to assume that the batteries run out (or some other problem occurs) between changes, that the inhabitants do not voluntarily make tests, that a fire actually does occur, and that the circumstances are such that the smoke-detectors actually would have saved lives in that fire. (Which they would not have e.g. if a crucial exit was blocked, if the fire was too small, or if the fire was discovered by someone awake before the smoke-detectors triggered—and I do suspect that most fires take place in the day time.) How many lives this will be per year, I cannot judge, but it will not be many—it might even be none in a typical year. Against this we have to measure deaths caused by the checks, e.g. through unnecessary traffic accidents due to travel by testers or inhabitants, increased stress at work,* negative effects through extra costs,* and similar. Here, too, I cannot judge the number of lives, except that it will be a low number. The relevant question is, will it be a higher or lower number? Here I would strongly suspect a higher number …

*Looking at aggregates over sufficiently many humans such factors are relevant, even if they are highly unlikely in any given case (and far less spectacular than a car crash).

Right now, there is also the whole COVID-thing to worry about. Considering how much else has been banned in wild panic, I find it inconsistent that the comparatively high-risk task of having service staff move from apartment to apartment and contact with stranger after stranger has not been banned. This, however, is likelier to be an issue with the Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey approach to policy than with the current topic.

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August 28, 2020 at 10:19 am

The insanities of political hypocrisy

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Want proof that the world is sick, that there is as ridiculous difference in treatment of Leftist and non-Leftist ideologies, individuals, etc., and how unjustified the constant German Leftist cries of “Rechtsruck” are? Happy to oblige.

I just received an automatic email from the city of Wuppertal, which in its footer contained:*

*Some minor typographic changes have been made for technical reasons. Links have been removed.

Engels2020 – Denker, Macher, Wuppertaler.
Wuppertal feiert den 200. Geburtstag von Friedrich Engels!
Jetzt geöffnet: Sonderausstellung “Friedrich Engels – Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa” in der Kunsthalle Barmen

Translation:
Engels2020 – Thinker, Doer, Wuppertalian
Wuppertal celebrates the 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels!
Now open: Special exhibition “Friedrich Engels – A spectre is haunting Europe” in the Barmen* art-hall.

*A part of Wuppertal and Engel’s birth place.

Now, that there is a focus on Engels around his 200th birthday in Wuppertal is unremarkable—but a celebration?!?! No, that is simply insanity, in light both of the result of his collaborations with Marx, which ultimate have resulted in more deaths than Hitler, and the incompatibility of his ideas with the norms that Germany (and other Western democracies) claim to support.

At the same time, even the slightest connection to anything even remotely Nazi, or even migration critical, even slightly nationalist, often even just traditionally Conservative, can be cause of condemnation.

In extreme cases, listening to Wagner can be a greater cause of suspicion than reading Marx or Engels …

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August 27, 2020 at 9:21 am

Continued problems with gas company and chimney sweeps / Follow-up: Life as a (bad) cosmic joke, disturbances, and my rotten-to-the-core building

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As I wrote a while back:

I have terminated my contract with the gas supplier, seeing that I use very little gas and have to pay an entirely disproportionate amount through fix monthly fees and that I can avoid the annoying chimney sweep (cf. at least [1], [2]) . I received a notification from the gas supplier that my contract was terminated—and, a little later, a second notification amounting to “someone has terminated the gas supply to apartment XYZ, likely an old tenant moving out. Because you are the owner, we have automatically opened a new contract for you.”, an interpretation of events and an action that is utterly absurd. (I have written back.) To boot, the chimney sweep also refuses to accept either that I have terminated my gas supply or that a terminated gas supply would be a valid reason to not check the heater, which from my point of view is just scrap-metal still hanging on the wall. Performing this check without any gas might be an interesting challenge. I wonder whether physically removing it would be enough …

In the mean time, I have sent I-do-not-know-how-many emails and letters to the gas supplier in order to get this fraudulent contract terminated. About six weeks ago, this Kafkaesque situation seemed to be concluded. However, today, as I went through this week’s mail, what do I find? Yes, you guessed it: a second message of “Someone has terminated the gas supply to apartment XYZ, likely an old tenant moving out. Because you are the owner, we have automatically opened a new contract for you.”, which is absolutely intolerable.

I have just written a very, very angry email to the management, demanding immediate actions. I will also make a complaint about fraud to the police and more general complaint to the mayor (this being a city-owned enterprise).

I will also at this stage abandon my policy of being cautious with naming names, especially of individuals: The culprit is WSW (Wuppertaler Stadtwerke), involved people who have not done their job sufficiently include, but is likely not limited to, Diane Rieke and Aline Scheffler.

At the same time, the aforementioned chimney sweep is now illegally and through defamation attempting to force a visit to my apartment to make an impossible check (no* gas, remember) by involving the Ordnungsbehörde (a German law-enforcement agency with an unclear translation). This has caused me immense additional, unnecessary efforts, including emails and letters back-and-forth with the Ordnungsbehörde and a four-page complaint to a supervisory agency. This has been made the harder, because the replies from the Ordnungsbehörde are often delayed in an inexcusable manner—for instance, the last letter was dated on the 28th (!) of July and was marked as delivered on the 10th (!) of August.

*With some reservations for an existing gas supply through the fraudulent pseudo-contracts above. I have not turned on the heater since the end of February, and I do not intended to do so even to check “whether”, because I fear that the result will be a message from WSW along the lines of “You are using gas after all, so our contracts are legitimate, Pay up!”.

Consistent with my policy change, I explicitly name Uwe Heinbach (running his company under that name) as the chimney sweep and his co-worker Sabine Wacker as the incompetent, lying, irate, and spoiled brat that I have been forced to interact with (cf. e.g. [2]).

Written by michaeleriksson

August 23, 2020 at 11:28 am

Tax filings for 2019 / The German IRS and Elster (again)

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Earlier today, I filed my (German) taxes for 2019—and, for once, with a few days to spare. This through a combination of a general increase in the last date for filing (July 31st; previously, Mai 31st), my less stressful workload, and the fact that I had less positions to file.* It still cost me several hours distributed over two days, to get everything in order and to use ElsterOnline, that utter bullshit tool that the German “IRS” has forced down the throat of the users.

*I spent half of 2019 on a sabbatical and then switched from IT consulting to writing novels, with no bills issued, no income, and much less costs for e.g. hotels and travel than in previous years.

I am not going to give a complete overview of Elster, as I have discussed it repeatedly in the past.* However, a few new (?) observations:

*Search for “Elster”, “IRS”, and/or “Finanzamt”.

  1. There is a new free-text field where the user can add a message to the IRS within the filing—finally: this has been years overdue.

    But: It is not possible to add line-breaks in this message. This repeats an inexcusable error, hostile to both the user and the IRS staff that later works with the filings, which was previously present in the specialized form for sending (external) messages. In that separate form, this error has been fixed—but it is still repeated here. Absolutely incredible!

  2. On several occasions, I tried to run my mouse over a field with outdated values to mark the contents, hit backspace, and then enter the new data. This was simply not possible, which is absurd for a functionality that works out of the box with a regular HTML form—unless somehow sabotaged, be it out of incompetence or malice. Instead, I had to click into the field, right-arrow until I was at the end, and then hit backspace until the field was empty.* This is the more annoying as the form based input and the structure of the forms more-or-less forced use of a mouse for tasks like navigating. This way, the user is forced to constantly switch between keyboard and mouse in a manner that goes too far. (And does it for no legitimate reason.)

    *In my impression, I was always, by force, put at the beginning of the field, with no ability to “click” to another position; however, I did not verify whether this was true. It is also conceivable that I could have “deleted” my way backwards with the “delete key”, but it is awkwardly placed and requires a simultaneous “shift” on my notebook, so that would have been more work—if it actually did work at all …

  3. One of the forms had two (times three; cf. below) fields for the Steuernummer*, one in a “cover” part, one in a content part. The latter was correctly imported from last years forms; the former had to be entered manually. WTF!

    *An identification number used by the IRS.

    To make matters worse, the forms insist on dividing the Steuernummer into three parts, each with a field of its own, which implies that a simple one-step copy-and-paste is not possible. To copy it within a form, with no additional sources, the tax payer then has to go forward one (or more?) page(s?), copy part one, go back to the original page, paste, go forward again, copy part two, etc., until all three parts are filled. (Personally, I committed parts one and two to memory and copied just the third part, trading a slight risk of errors for a reduced work load.)

  4. The data import from my previous filing was not complete. At least the VAT portion likely had not one single data field filled, which makes the new filing harder: there are a great number of obscure, poorly named, and poorly explained fields, and having the ability to just look at the old fields makes it much easier to identify which to use this year. Moreover, when I cannot rely on the old fields being pre-filled (if with outdated values), I do not just have to identify the correct fields, I also have to go through the sum of all fields on a just-in-case basis.
  5. While data import from the old filing was possible, I had no way of actually looking at the old filing, e.g. for comparisons per the previous item. For some reason, likely an arbitrary, unnecessary, and destructive time limit, they cannot be opened.

    And, no, there appears to be no way to save them locally in a reasonable format. (Something that I tried with my new filings, and likely last year too.) The only possibility to download the data, short of taking screenshots or saving countless individual HTML files, is a “save as PDF” functionality. This is sub-optimal and limiting to begin with, but, worse, this does not work at all on my computer (for reasons unknown). Odd: This should be a trivial task if implemented correctly: generate the PDF file server-side and then just let the browser download it. Possibly, the idiots are actually stupid enough to try generation client side, which is a recipe for unknown errors.* If it is server side and they still have bungled it, well, that is even worse.**

    *No, it cannot be justified by data protection. Such concerns are often legitimate, but here we had no data that was not already present and (at least somewhat) permanently stored server-side.

    **Software errors happen even to competent developers, but here we have a system that has been handling the 2019 taxes for almost seven months and is now in a high intensity phase. Not having fixed the problem by now, or having introduced it in the last few days, would be horrifyingly negligent. I also note that there was no error message of any kind, which would have been a must, had there been e.g. a temporary back-end problem, say, due to a temporary overload or system failure.

  6. Two fields were mandatory despite my having no value to provide (regarding transfer of assets from the private to the business sphere and vice versa). Here I had to add two entries of “0’, for no good reason. And, no, I could not just pick an existing field and enter the value “0”: these fields (in a wide sense) contained lists of fields, where each entry had to be manually added. Presumably, the IRS expects a detailed and enumerated list of each individual asset transferred, and it would then make sense to allow an empty list when no transfer has taken place. (This is indeed the case with other “list fields”.) But, no, an empty list was not allowed, and to signify that I had transferred no assets, I had to create two single list entries with the value “0” and an additional dummy “reason” (“name”, “details”, or whatnot).

    This is a “Software Development 101” mistake.

    (I have no recollection of this problem from prior years.)

I can only reiterate my yearly observation that this tool moves on a level of incompetence that is mind-numbing, including obviously faulty behavior, a complete disregard for established conventions, an extremely confused (and confusing) user interface, etc. As a former software developer, it boggles my mind that this type of shit can be made by (alleged) professionals—and while wasting tax payers money. Yes, I know, the government and incompetence, but still …

Written by michaeleriksson

July 29, 2020 at 6:34 pm

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Another bites the dust

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Almost exactly one year ago (15th vs. 17th of July 2020 resp. 2019), I discovered that my favorite store in all of Düsseldorf had been closed ([1]).

If I had made a list of private “must visit” stores in Düsseldorf before last year’s trip, it would have contained exactly two entries: Stern Verlag (books) and the local Conrad (electronics).

I am in Düsseldorf again, for the same reason (to avoid construction noise), and wanted to visit said Conrad. As you probably have guessed, it too has closed.

Looking up Conrad on German Wikipedia, it appears that there is a total of 20 German stores left (with an additional 9 internationally). Since 2017, no less than 6 (or almost one-in-four) have closed. The Düsseldorf store is the latest, on the 15th of February 2020. I doubt that the COVID restrictions will be helpful for the remaining stores.

On the positive side, there actually are other Conrads left, while Stern Verlag was a single store and likely the second best bookstore in Germany (after Dussmann in Berlin).

Excursion on my current “must visit”:
In my current situation, my list would only have one entry: the largest of the Mayersche, which by default has become Stern Verlag’s successor as best book store. The local Saturn as the largest electronics store is a close call, but fails on the presence of a decent size Saturn and a ditto Media Markt* in Wuppertal (where I live)—there is a major size difference here too, but the Wuppertal Saturn has at least reached a “critical mass”, much unlike the Wuppertal bookstores. (Conrad was smaller, but better priced and with a different product profile.)

*Another electronics chain, perversely under the same ownership as Saturn.

Excursion on cosmic jokes:
Add in that I actually picked* a hotel that is in the next parallel street to the former location, a literal stone’s throw away, and I cannot help suspecting another cosmic joke. Someone up there is having yet another big laugh at my expense …

*Not, admittedly, by design, but I did have a “Hey, its next to Conrad!” moment when I noticed.

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July 15, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Feminist nonsense in Germany / Disturbing news

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Another cosmic-joke day:

Checking the news shortly after wakening*, I am met with two absurd German news-items in the “poor discriminated women” genre:

*Viz. being prematurely awakened by some type of ruckus, which, from its length, is almost certainly a part of the construction works.

  1. CDU, an allegedly Conservative party, has decided on an internal women’s quota of 50 (!) %. In effect, women should be guaranteed at least half of all positions for “group elections of board members, such as deputy chairpersons and assessors” (according to an English source ([1])).

    Apart from the general dubiousness of quotas and the observation that equality of opportunity does not lead to equality of outcome, through e.g. different preferences and priorities, I note that: (a) An effective minimum of 50 % for women implies a very strong distortion that could move the party even further* into Leftist ideas and/or deepen its cowardly hiding under the label “Center” (instead of “Right”). (b) This is a party with traditionally more male voters and members than female ones, implying that the quota is inherently unfair and amounts to a massive pro-woman/anti-man step away from equality of opportunity—a woman who wants to make a CDU career will have it much easier than a man. (c) It is likely to move the party further away from the wishes of its voters, as women tend to have different political preferences than men.** (d) This, obviously, is yet another case of a women’s quota, despite there being no reason whatsoever to not use a generic sex/gender quota (if a quota is used at all).

    *Note a drift towards the Center in more than name for a long time, repeated absurd coalition governments with nominal archenemy SPD (Social-Democrat), increased acceptance of “New Left” ideals (including e.g. Gender-Feminist/-Studies propaganda), and a disturbing past of doing more to increase than decrease the redistribution state and the nanny state. As to why I am concerned about too many women, see e.g. [2].

    **The rise of the allegedly extreme “Right-wing” AfD is to a large part old CDU voters defecting due to alienation and disappointment with CDU’s behavior in the Merkel era.

    Ah, and this is apparently a “compromise” … To me, it looks more like a blanket capitulation.

  2. “Minister of Family” and SPD member Franziska Giffey is pushing a “national strategy for equality of women and men” (“nationale Strategie zur Gleichstellung von Frauen und Männern”, see a German source ([3])).

    Newsflash: Men and women have been equal in Germany since before I moved here in 1997—almost 23 years ago. (How long before, I leave unstated. On paper, it is much longer.) Looking at my own experiences in the office, being a woman appears to be a career bonus, in and by it self. Looking at overall society, very much of is geared at women. Looking at laws and redistribution, women appear to be heavily favored, through e.g. mechanisms like paid baby-breaks that come out of the pay of everyone else and the way that men’s health-insurance fees subsidize women’s.

    Particularly annoying is that Giffey is quoted as mentioning a payment difference of more than twenty percent and requiring governmental intervention. This despite the 77 cents on the dollar fraud having been debunked countless times, by countless people, in any major Western country where a version of it has been claimed. This staple of Feminist rhetoric is one of the worst cases of “fake news” in the history of politics.

    The claim amounts to demanding that women receive equal pay for unequal work, including shorter working hours; and it disregards the result of personal priorities, e.g. risk taking during negotiations and whether someone loses career years through a baby break. It also disregards the extensive transfers that take place from men to women.

    This is yet another case of women being given a major leg up based on the lie that they would be the victims of “discrimination” and whatnot.

Excursion on baby breaks:
At least in Sweden, I have seen the actual, but likely fringe, opinion that women who come back from even a lengthy baby or child break should not only have the right to be rehired by their old employers into the old position, but that they should actually receive promotions and pay raises on par with the men who did not take the same break … Say that a woman drops out today to have a baby and comes back seven-or-so years later, when the kid enters school. She has now been out of the game for seven years, she no longer knows the company internals*, she is unlikely to have kept up with the field (and whether she has is irrelevant to this fringe opinion), she has not put in the years of hard work to prove her dedication to the company, etc. (And she has not had to face the risk of a major screw-up leading to a firing or side-ways “promotion” into a career dead-end during those seven years.) Nevertheless, she is to be reinstated with a promotion and a pay raise …

*The importance of this can vary depending on the exact job and company, but the effect can be quite large, especially for more qualified positions. In e.g. software development, my own old field, it is not just a matter of forgetting large parts of the often enormous amounts of knowledge needed, but the world can have changed so much that she might have to start over from scratch. We have changes to the domain knowledge, internal processes, technologies used (possibly, even the programming language), best practices, … We are not talking weeks to get up to the old speed, but months or even years.

The motivations for this nonsense, in my recollection, has fallen into two families: It is only fair (how?!?) and being a mother will have brought so many new skills that she will be more valuable than before (naive beyond belief).

To the latter, I note a parallel in nonsensical calculations like The Telegraph on housewives—-who “deserve an annual salary of £159,137”.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 8, 2020 at 9:17 am

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Thirty years ago

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Around thirty years ago, sometimes and somewheres a little earlier or a little later, it appeared that the world was breaking free from the Leftist insanities of the 20th century:

The Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe had fallen—as had their greatest symbol in Western eyes, the Berlin Wall. Germany was in the process of reuniting. Gone were the likes of Honecker and Ceaușescu. The free West had won over the enslaved East.

China under Deng Xiaoping was turning away from Mao and his abominable heritage (Tiananmen Square notwithstanding).

In the U.S., Reagan had undone some of the damage caused by the likes of LBJ, and, if nothing else, managed to bring an era of economic optimism, which seemed irreversible and irreversibly non-Swedish to my young* eyes.

*I was born in 1975, so the Reagan-era proper fell mostly in my pre-teens. My early impressions are likely even based more on the brief continuation under Bush the elder.

In the U.K., brought to the edge of disaster by Labour and the unions,* Thatcher had turned the ship around.

*And which had never seen the post-war recovery of e.g. Germany, before the 1970s depression-era hit.

In my native Sweden, the 1991 election saw a rare non-Leftist victory; the iron alliance between the Social-Democrats* and the unions** was rusting; and the main Communist party, VPK***, re-branded it self as a mere Left party in the wake of the collapsing dictatorships. More: many members suddenly loudly protested not just that they were Communists no longer—but that they had never been Communists to begin with: They had either just been hibernating in VPK as a least evil or the name had just been a misleading legacy for years.

*Which ruled Sweden for most of the 20th century.

**Most importantly in the shape of the umbrella organization LO, which was immensely powerful in its own right and had very tight ties to the Social-Democrat party, including that a membership in an LO organization automatically and unavoidable lead to a membership in the Social-Democrat party—never mind what political opinions the member actually had.

***“Vänsterpartiet Kommunisterna” (“the Left party the Communists”; odd in Swedish too). With the re-branding, it became “V” and “Vänsterpartiet” (“the Left party”).

In my eyes, we were heading into a bright new era of freedom, prosperity, and enlightenment.

Today? In 2020, a mere thirty years or roughly one generation later?

How short is human memory …

Today, the West is collapsing into Leftist populism and extremism, most often in form of various PC and Feminism movements, quasi-Marxist ideas like identity politics, etc., void of reason and basing their success on cheap propaganda and reality distortion. At the same time, the “old Left” has recovered in e.g. Sweden and Germany, despite its ideas having been long outdated even thirty years ago.

Look at the current U.S. Look at the destruction of U.S. colleges, dominated by Leftist ideas and Leftist intolerance. Look at the fiasco of ObamaCare. Look at the racial and other hate mongering by the Left, and the Weimar-Germany level of chaos that it has caused. Indeed, in some areas, like the purification of thought, the common blanket condemnation of people based on being White Men (resp. Jews), or the Kristallnacht-like activities of some “peaceful protesters”, I am reminded more of the (pre-war) Nazi dictatorship than of the failing Weimar republic. The replacement of real science with ideologically correct “science” is a particularly dangerous parallel. Indeed, note how the Nazis could condemn a scientific theory for being “too Jewish”, while the modern U.S. can do so for being “too Western” or “too Dead-White-Men-y”.

Sweden is crippled by Gender-Feminism, officially subscribed to even by the allegedly non-Left* parties. The current government is Social-Democrat and since that 1991 election, we have had a mere eleven years of non-Leftist government to twenty** Social-Democrat years. And, yes, the formerly Communist (still Marxist-Socialist and additionally Feminist) party is still present in parliament. It even has a larger share of the votes than it did before the fall of the Communist dictatorships. The situation in higher education and science is as bad as in the U.S.

*Who, just as in Germany, are hiding under labels like “Center”, because “Right” has somehow become a label of evil, while “Left” somehow, absurdly, has become a label of good and enlightenment, despite all evidence to the contrary, despite the events of the 20th century, despite its lack of arguments, despite its (almost always) highly egoistical and (often) hateful nature, despite its the-end-justifies-the-means mentality, …

**Counting the on-going four years in full.

Germany, since I moved here in 1997, has had eight years of outright Social-Democrat rule, five years of outright Conservative rule, and twelve* (!) years of joint** Social-Democrat/Conservative rule. Those five years include the last year of the Kohl era, which stretched from 1982 to 1998—centering on exactly 1990. As to “Conservative”, Frau Merkel has turned out to be very far from Mrs. Thatcher.*** The SED, the old East-German Communist party, hiding under a new name, still sits in parliament. When the re-branded SED took a third of the vote in the state of Thüringen, media and politicians went into panic—but not because of this truly negative development. No, instead they panicked over the “Rightwing” AFD having made some progress, which still left it well short of the SED.

*Again, counting the on-going four years in full.

**This type of unholy and anti-democratic alliance raises a whole set of other questions, but they are off-topic today.

***But I stress that my own political position is more Libertarian or Classical(!) Liberal. This still leaves Conservatives as a much better choice than Social-Democrats.

Etc.

The old Communist nations, admittedly, have not re-descended into Communist dictatorships, but that does not change the horrible truth—that the tables from thirty years ago have been turned. Idiocracy is no longer a future threat—it is current reality. All factors considered, Der Untergang des Abendlandes might be progressed too far to be stopped by now. The barbarians are already well past the gate.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 25, 2020 at 12:08 pm

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German anti-Rightwing law is coming

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Among the many, many problems with reductions of civic rights, declining Rechtsstaatlichkeit, censorship, and Leftist dominance of public debate, one quite severe is the recently suggested German “Gesetz zur Bekämpfung des Rechtsextremismus und der Hasskriminalität”. I simply do not have the time to analyze and discuss it in detail,* but I want to clearly point to one thing—its name.

*But see e.g. an analysis in German by a data-protection company.

The name translates to “Law for combating Rightwing-extremism and hate-criminality”. (Fairly literally, with added hyphens to avoid potential misinterpretation. An official translation or a corresponding “native” English law would likely have a more idiomatically conventional name.)

Why make this anti-Right agenda so programmatic? Especially, when Germany has a very severe problem with Leftwing extremists, like Antifa*, MLPD**, Die Linke***, and others.

*Needs no explanation.

**A Marxist-Leninist party which is publicly calling for revolution and bans of all other parties that are not sufficiently compatible with their opinions.

***A direct descendant of SED, the ruling Communist party of the old East-Germany—currently established in (the German-wide) parliament and a co-ruling party in the state of Thüringen.

In addition, the combination with “hate” continues Leftist attempts to push a Right-equals-hate/hate-equals-Right agenda, despite Leftist hate being a far greater problem. (Similar to the White-equals-racist/racist-equals-White pushing that is increasingly common in the U.S., despite, as far as I can tell from abroad, racism being more prevalent among Blacks.)

Any legitimate, objective, and not-outrageously partisan law* would have spoken of e.g. “political extremism”. Including a “Rightwing” discredits the law ab ovo and equally discredits anyone who votes for it.

*Whether and to what degree such a law would have been justified over regular laws against e.g. violence can be disputed (I would be skeptical); however, the current type of programmatic anti-“Right” law is inexcusable.

Excursion on problems with variations of “Right” and “Rightwing”, without or without “extremism”:
As I have repeatedly stated in the past, the concept of a political “Right” is, on the outside, definable as something not Leftist, due to a too large heterogeneity, and the “extreme Right”, in particular, does not constitute a more extreme version of the “Right”. Nevertheless, in the current Germany (and not only there) there is a very strong trend to put anything even remotely “Right” in one basket, often with an implicit stamp of “racist”, “Nazi”, or similar. What is “Right” is increasingly one-sidedly defined by the Left, and traditional “Rightwing” parties, e.g. CDU, are increasingly hiding behind a “Center” label.

Excursion on “hate”, etc.:
Implications of “hate” are often hard to prove, yet equally often assumed in a blanket manner. (Just like the blanket “racism” accusation in the George Floyd situation.) Moreover, this is another area where the Left presumes to one-sidedly dictate what is or is not hate. Cf. e.g. [1] (ten years ago—things have not improved) or my series on hate speech ([2], [3], [4]).

Excursion on other programmatically wrongful laws:
Unfortunately, this type of angle is not something unique. For instance, Swedish laws for protection of minorities explicitly includes (the majority!) women but not (the minority!) men—why not simply make a law that protects against mistreatment based on group, without any such ridiculous and arbitrary inclusions or exclusions? If in doubt, a good-faith attempt to justify this with claims about women being more exposed or mistreated more often (a highly dubious claim for several decades, in Sweden) is untenable, because there is no guarantee that what holds today holds tomorrow. It would be trivial to make a more generic law that is not vulnerable to such issues and the failure to do so reeks of anti-equality Feminism. (But, in all fairness, pure incompetence could also explain it—we are talking about politicians.)

Written by michaeleriksson

June 18, 2020 at 10:34 pm

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Some follow-ups based on receipts (and some thoughts on VAT)

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Sorting my private and business receipts for the past quarter for my VAT declaration, I found two that have some impact on past texts:

My receipt from the the Swedish book sale:

As I see from the receipt, the VAT on books (and in general) in Sweden is an absurd 25 %. The German rate is a more civilized rebated 7 % (to a standard rate on most products of 19 %—already very hard to defend).

This is something that I failed to consider when complaining about prices, and it does explain a portion of the price disparity. Say, for easy numbers, that the pre-VAT price of a book is 10 Euro (or its equivalent in SEK). Then the post-VAT price is respectively 10.70 and 12.50. At least for cheaper books, this might explain most of the difference in price. For more expensive, unfortunately, the lion’s part remains.

(A completely fair comparison would also consider factors like purchasing power, but that would require too much research. However, for the record, the purchasing power of low earners tends to be higher in Sweden, but that of high earners lower, relative Germany.)

My receipt from the post-flight meal from my Finnair fiasco:

In the text, I write that “We hit the ground again at 18:48; the time until official landing was obviously longer, and likely left us still about an hour late (scheduled landing was 17:55).” and “At this point, I had no eye on the time anymore, but I was likely done [with the meal] shortly before eight.”.

The receipt claims that my “tab” was opened 19:09 and closed 19:47. Add a few minutes before and after, and this would be a good estimate of my stay. The “shortly before eight” is verified, and the “about an hour late” seems plausible, as I had no checked luggage and could move fairly directly to the restaurant.

Excursion on VAT:
The above is a good illustration of one of my own pet theories: Governments like VAT, because the enormous amount of money diverted to the government usually flies under the radar.

With income tax, the earner knows that he has earned amount X*, but for some reason only received amount Y. Why? The government. With VAT, he sees the price tag including** VAT to begin with and if the price is too high, who is to blame? The store. (Or the manufacturer, capitalist greed, whatnot.) That the government might well be the single party earning the most money on the purchase, and might well be responsible for the lion’s share of the difference between end-price and accumulated costs, that does not register with most people.*** (And, cf. above, even those who are aware of it, might fail to consider it in all circumstances.) Assume, in contrast, that customers saw the pre-VAT price of products cited and, again and again, had to shell out that Swedish 25 % extra at the cashier’s. The acceptability of VAT, I suspect, would drop very considerably.

*However, this amount is also often distorted, if not so blatantly as with VAT. Consider e.g. the Swedish “arbetsgivaravgifter” or the portion of social-security and health-insurance the German employers pay on behalf of their employees. In both cases, the increase of employment costs push the nominal salary down by a similar amount, implying hat they are actually paid by the employee, but in such an indirect manner that many are unaware of it.

**At least in every country that I have made purchases in. From fiction, I have the impression that this is different in at least some parts of the U.S.

***This will depend on factors like the overall markup on an item and what business has charged what business what amount during production. Note hat Value Added Tax is fairly agnostic on how the value has been added, and treats hard work by employees no better than a luxury markup. (Of course, this is just looking at VAT, without factoring in e.g. the income tax on salaries and taxation of company profits. Overall, the government is almost always the main earner in e.g. Germany.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 13, 2020 at 5:59 am

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Unwort des Jahres / Intellectually dishonest Leftist propaganda

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As the recurring reader knows, I am both very interested in language use and political questions. The latter notably as a frequent critic of Leftist propaganda and attempts to control debate or thought in an unethical, often even Orwellian, manner.

The attempts by a group of Leftist populists to push their own “Unwort des Jahres”* has annoyed me for years: It pretends to be a group of linguists** acting in a linguistic capacity, but in reality it works to further its own political and ideological ideas in an entirely non-linguistic manner. Not only are words chosen in a manner as to (backed by its faux credibility) paint political opponents in a negative light, there even seems to be a tendency to pick whatever area “The Cause” has received the most push-back during the past year and choose a word specifically to hit back in that area. This behavior is, obviously, grossly unscientific and intellectually dishonest.

*“Unword of the year”. Cf. e.g. other German expressions like “Untier” (“monster” or “beast” in a modern sense) to “Tier” (“animal” or “beast” in an older sense). Also see German Wikipedia and (with less content) English Wikipedia, as well as the official website of the group.

**And might well be—the point is that the members do not act as linguists or using linguistic (or other relevant) criteria, but political and ideological ones. Of course, if non-linguistic criteria, including those mentioned below, are to be used, linguists have no authority and are, in fact, inferior to those with a more relevant background.

Indeed, while the shallow-most* outward presentation is “linguists”, even the official criteria almost precludes a scientific approach and clearly demonstrate that it is not a matter of e.g. good or poor use of language. One of the official pages gives e.g. “gegen das Prinzip der Menschenwürde” (“contrary to the principle of human dignity”) as a criterion—but even these criteria are usually hard to reconcile with the actual choices. Looking at the motivations given, it is often clear that no attempts has been made to see the perspective of the users or to understand the use in context. I would even argue that the activities of the jury are contrary to its own alleged principles. Certainly, these principles are not applied in a politically neutral manner, but in a manner slanted very strongly, in U.S. terminology, pro-Democrat and anti-Republican.

*For instance, the video-text of ARD, a public German TV sender, speaks of “eine Jury aus Sprachwissenschaftlern” (“a jury of linguists”).

Consider e.g. this year’s choice: “Klimahysterie” (“climate hysteria”) While climate issues are very important, we do have a problem with excesses and misguided propaganda, that might well even justify the use of “hysteria”—and certainly, indisputably, there are many individuals who are hysterical on the issue. Note e.g. the ridiculous “Greta Thunberg” phenomenon or how the climate debate is increasingly dominated by emotional arguments and cheap rhetoric instead of reason and scientific arguments. Also note that exactly this type of behavior has strongly contributed to the current climate situation through prioritizing a reduction of nuclear power over a reduction of fossil fuels for decades. (Nuclear power once filling the same propaganda role as global warming does today—and with far less justification.)

Or consider the 2014 “Lügenpresse” (“liar press”): While it can be disputed to what degree the German press is actively lying,* there is no doubt that the average journalist is both incompetent and poorly informed. It is also well established that the average journalist is further to the Left than the non-journalist population; and there are plenty of examples of journalist and media at least deliberately filtering the facts in a manner that violates my suggestions for a new press ethics. Notably, the mentality that the facts need to be filtered, lest someone comes to the “wrong” conclusion (i.e. another conclusion than the journalist), seems to be extremely common. Also note that outright journalistic fraud is by no means unheard of (cf. e.g. [1], [2].)

*The expression, in my opinion, is to a large part based on misattribution of intention.

Particularly negative is that the frequency of use does not appear to play in. For instance, the 2012 “Opfer-Abo” (“victim subscription”) seems to refer to just several uses by a single person—the unjustly-accused-of-rape Jörg Kachelmann. While this phrase could be disputed as linguistically almost nonsensical, the underlying problem is a very real one: The fact is that, contrary to Feminist propaganda, false rape accusations are quite common. The narrow-minded jury, however, decries this use as being too accusatory of women—in a manner that exemplifies his claim that women can position themselves as victims even when they are the perpetrators. (See excursion for additional details.)

It is also notable that many true “unwords” have gone without attack, e.g. the atrocious “NGO”, an untranslated adoption of the already misleading and idiotic English abbreviation (and unabbreviated term), and the ever recurring “Rechtsruck”.

Something quite telling is that there is also a “word of the year” published by the (much better known and much more renowned) Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (roughly, “Society for German language”). When the unword was introduced in 1991 it was published by the same source—but two years later some row caused a splinter group to move away and publish the unword independently. Unfortunately, the lower credibility and disassociation rarely finds mention, leaving many with the impression that the unword is chosen by an entity of true noteworthiness, instead of reflecting the private political opinions of an ideologically motivated splinter group.

Excursion on “Opfer-Abo”: German Wikipedia describes the use with:*

*Here and below: Some minor typographic changes have been made. I leave “Opfer-Abo” untranslated. Some translation might be approximate due to differences in idiom and whatnot.

Im Herbst 2012 hatte Jörg Kachelmann in mehreren Interviews geäußert, dass Frauen ein “Opfer-Abo” hätten. Mit ihm könnten sie ihre Interessen gegenüber Männern zum Beispiel in Form von Falschbeschuldigungen durchsetzen. Die Wortschöpfung selbst stammt laut Aussage Jörg Kachelmanns von seiner Frau Miriam. In einem Interview der Zeitschrift Der Spiegel, bei dem er gemeinsam mit seiner Frau Miriam interviewt wurde, sagte Kachelmann: “Das ist das Opfer-Abo, das Frauen haben. Frauen sind immer Opfer, selbst wenn sie Täterinnen wurden. Menschen können aber auch genuin böse sein, auch wenn sie weiblich sind.”

Translation: In the Autumn 2012, Jörg Kachelmann declared in several interviews, that women had an “Opfer-Abo”. With it, they could enforce their interests against men, e.g. through false accusations. The word it self was, according to Kachelmann, created by his wife [sic!]. In an interview by the magazine Der Spiegel, which interviewed him together with his wife Miriam, Kachelmann said: “This is the Opfer-Abo that women have. Women are always victims, even when they turn into perpetrators. Humans, however, can be genuinely bad, even when they are female.”

This is by no means an unreasonable claim and well matches much of female behavior that I have seen myself and observations by others around e.g. rape accusations, divorces, and similar. Consider e.g. a great number of discussions on Minding the Campus. I note e.g. that I spent a considerable amount of time reading relationships forums some ten or fifteen years ago, and found a horrifying double standard, including instances where the exact same behavior from a man and a woman received opposite “advice”, often putting the blame on the man in all cases.* Much of Feminism amounts to finding a reason why someone or something other than the woman at hand, preferably a man or men in general, is to blame for everything negative that happens to her, with no thought of own responsibility.**

*E.g. that if a man hit a woman it was because he was an ass-hole and she should leave him immediately; while if a woman hit a man, it was because he (!) was an ass-hole, who drove her to violence, and he should forgive her and start behaving better.

**E.g. that if a woman does not get a promotion, it is not for lack of competence but discrimination; if a woman is insecure about her looks, it is not her weakness but brain-washing by “society”; etc.

Wikipedia further says:

Die Jury [member list omitted] begründete die Wahl damit, dass das Wort Frauen “pauschal und in inakzeptabler Weise” unter den Verdacht stelle, sexuelle Gewalt zu erfinden und damit selbst Täterinnen zu sein. Die Jury behauptet, dass nur fünf bis acht Prozent der von sexueller Gewalt betroffenen Frauen tatsächlich die Polizei einschalteten und dass es dabei in nur drei bis vier Prozent der Fälle zu einer Anzeige und einem Gerichtsverfahren komme. Der Begriff und die damit verbundene Aussage sei sachlich grob unangemessen. “Das Wort verstößt damit nicht zuletzt auch gegen die Menschenwürde der tatsächlichen Opfer.”

Translation: The jury [member list omitted] justified the choice by the claim that the word “in a blanket manner and unacceptably” would accuse women of inventing sexual violence and thereby become perpetrators. The jury claimed, that only five to eight percent of the female victims of sexual violence would notify the police and that only in three or four percent of the cases a charge and a judicial proceeding would follow. The term and the implied statement would be factually grossly inappropriate. “The word thereby also violates the human dignity of the actual victims.”

There is a lot wrong with the above, including that Kachelmann himself has been harder hit than the wast majority of rape victims and that it is quite clear that he, himself, has been falsely accused—years of anxiety, a ruined career, a (temporarily) ruined reputation. What is with his human dignity and whatnot as an actual victim? As for the numbers, I note that there is no* mention of the rate of false accusations, which is high, and that the low numbers given sound more like Feminist propaganda than true numbers. (Cf. e.g. an older text on rape statistics, including links, and the older text on Kachelmann linked to above.) Even had these numbers been true, however, they would be largely irrelevant, because they do not address the issue behind Kachelmann’s claim. (They could indeed be seen as support of his claim, because a low rate of true reports would increase the proportion of false reports, and give a strong argument that rape accusations should be scrutinized more closely than is often the case.) To claim that it would be unacceptable for the victim of a false accusation to complain about false accusation is it self unacceptable and in extremely poor taste. The claim that Kachelmann would raise a blanket (“pauschal”) suspicion is at best exaggerated and seems motivated by bad faith.

*There might have been in a larger context than what Wikipedia quotes, but it would be an odd thing to leave out. Moreover, the official Feminist “truth” is that a woman would never, ever lie about being raped, which reduces the probability that realistic numbers would have been given.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm