German Melody Thieves

Every time I whip out my favorite collection of German mainstream pop music, Schlager für Millionen, I can’t help noticing that many of the songs have melodies which are directly copied, note for note, from American or British pop songs or traditional ballads. The brazen theft is never noted on the album info, and I’d imagine that the vast majority of German fans aren’t aware they’re listening to musical copies. Given that the German rights-enforcement agency is blocking thousands of Youtube videos in an attempt to ensure (what they consider) proper payment for artists, I’d also be interested to know whether the German Schlager stars at least licensed and paid for the music they used that was still under copyright when they stole the tune.

Just a few examples. First, Udo Lindenberg’s 1983 hit Sonderzug nach Pankow:

which is a copy of the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s Chattanooga Choo Choo. To be fair, Lindenberg never tried to conceal this fact, and his song itself is about trains. But still, he copied the music note-for-note from Glenn Miller.

And now the ‘hymn’ of the Cologne football team, FC Köln, being sung by thousands of fans.

How many know it’s a note-for-note copy of this traditional Scottish ballad?

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Christan Schorn, who reminded me of one of the most shameless thefts, Bert and Cindy’s transformation of Black Sabbath’s scorching ‘Paranoid’…

into this abomination:

Double derivativeness points for the German text drawing from Conan Doyle’s ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’.

Iraq War and Occupation Toll: 461,000

A new study puts the death toll from all causes related to the invasion and occupation of Iraq at 461,000:

From March 1, 2003, to June 30, 2011, the crude death rate in Iraq was 4.55 per 1,000 person-years (95% uncertainty interval 3.74–5.27), more than 0.5 times higher than the death rate during the 26-mo period preceding the war, resulting in approximately 405,000 (95% uncertainty interval 48,000–751,000) excess deaths attributable to the conflict. Among adults, the risk of death rose 0.7 times higher for women and 2.9 times higher for men between the pre-war period (January 1, 2001, to February 28, 2003) and the peak of the war (2005–2006). We estimate that more than 60% of excess deaths were directly attributable to violence, with the rest associated with the collapse of infrastructure and other indirect, but war-related, causes. We used secondary sources to estimate rates of death among emigrants. Those estimates suggest we missed at least 55,000 deaths that would have been reported by households had the households remained behind in Iraq, but which instead had migrated away. 



Europe’s Coming Lost Decades

The Guardian reports on a forthcoming Red Cross report on the long-term consequences of austerity:

Europe is sinking into a protracted period of deepening poverty, mass unemployment, social exclusion, greater inequality, and collective despair as a result of austerity policies adopted in response to the debt and currency crisis of the past four years, according to an extensive study being published on Thursday.

"Whilst other continents successfully reduce poverty, Europe adds to it," says the 68-page report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "The long-term consequences of this crisis have yet to surface. The problems caused will be felt for decades even if the economy turns for the better in the near future … We wonder if we as a continent really understand what has hit us."

The damning critique, obtained exclusively by the Guardian, of the policy response to the debt crisis that surfaced in Greece in late 2009 and raised fundamental questions about the viability of the euro single currency, foresees extremely gloomy prospects for tens of millions of Europeans.

Mass unemployment – especially among the young, 120 million Europeans living in or at risk of poverty – increased waves of illegal immigration clashing with rising xenophobia in the host countries, growing risks of social unrest and political instability estimated to be two to three times higher than most other parts of the world, greater levels of insecurity among the traditional middle classes – all combine to make a European future more uncertain than at any time in the postwar era.

And on a related note, Dissent recently published a special issue on the ineffectual response of the European left. From the introduction:

Those interested in the European left may be the most depressed of all. Despite widespread economic problems and suffering, there has been no upsurge in support for the left. Indeed, when the crisis first hit, most electorates initially turned to center-right parties for solutions. Similarly, the mainstream left has not been able to put forward convincing, coherent, or effective responses to European publics’ cultural fears, first ignoring and then incoherently addressing identity and immigration issues, and vacillating on the role of Europe. 

Photos from the ‘Garden Axis’

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Düsseldorf Volksgarten (g) is one of the world's great parks. One of its many charms is a 600-meter long 'Garden Axis' combining 2 sections of the park. The axis contains 16 different themed gardens, including large plantations of irises and dahlias, and an artificial moor-landscape which you can explore on brick and wooden platforms. Here are some early fall views, including a parakeet feasting on an apple and shitloads of dahlias, which I consider one of the eerier flowers:

Germans and Registration

Conor Friedersdorf notes the German privacy paradox:

Any inquiry into privacy in Germany would be incomplete without a look at the West German census of 1987 and the huge backlash against data collection it provoked. Opponents of the census challenged the very right of the West German state to know so much about what went on inside its borders, and argued that the census rules would permit personal information to be shared too widely among state agencies. A nationwide boycott movement went mainstream, a bitter debate about its propriety divided West Germans, and the Green Party made opposition a core issue. Even today, asking Germans about the subject, I noticed several repeating the same talking point: that a pre-WWII census in the Netherlands permitted Nazis to more easily round up Jews and other condemned classes when they invaded. This was intended to illustrate that even information collected with good intentions can be unexpectedly abused.

What a lot of foreigners in Berlin couldn't understand, and that confuses me too, is why the 1987 census, as well as Google Street View, caused such a fuss in the country, yet there seems to me no controversy about a longstanding requirement for everyone to register their address with authorities* when they move to a new city or apartment. Germans don't seem to be bothered by that policy, which would provoke widespread controversy even in some less privacy-conscious nations.

The immediate tu quoque riposte most Germans would think of: 'If Americans are so privacy-conscious that they would reject a registration law or government ID card, why is it they allow private companies such as Facebook, Google Street View, credit-rating agencies, etc. so much power over their lives?' Another thing that shocks Europeans is that there are no protections for your reputation if you become involved with the criminal justice system. Suspects are identified by name and address as soon as they're booked. In fact, as the New York Times recently noted, there are websites whose sole purpose is to collect mugshots (like the one above), publish them online, and charge victims hundreds of dollars to remove them later. Even if all charges against you are later dropped, the fact that you were once arrested can remain public knowledge to anyone, anywhere for the rest of your life. This could never happen to an ordinary citizen in Germany.

But on to the German privacy paradox. Why are Germans so nonchalant about informing the authorities where they live? A few hypotheses:

  1. Path-dependency. It's been going on for all of living memory, so nobody thinks to question it. The U.S. census is similar — the Constitution has required one every 10 years for all of American history, so everyone except a tiny radical fringe just accepts it.
  2. Neighborhood. Almost all European countries have a similar policy, so Germany would stand out if it didn't keep these records.
  3. Staatsvertrauen. Germans have a high level of trust in their civil servants and public officials, so they simply don't envision that these data will be abused. They are much more concerned about private companies collecting information on them, which explains the controversy when some German local governments considered giving private firms access (g) to registry data. The odd thing, though, is that during the Nazi era and in East Germany the citizen residence registries (as well as the 1933 census) were abused (for instance, registry data was one of the sources for the 'Jew registry' (g) that enabled the Nazis to track down almost all Jewish citizens), but somehow that hasn't tainted residence registries in the German historical consciousness.
  4. Citizens benefit. Germany showers its citizens with cash and benefits. Parents get money for having children, the state subsidizes mortages, there's a meagre but still substantial permanent welfare scheme, etc. Although these benefits are now done mostly by bank transfer, the government still wants your address, since some of the benefits are calculated based on, e.g., how large your apartment is or what the living expenses in your area are.
  5. City planning. Germany is one of the global leaders in urban planning, and many of its cities are some of the best-planned in the world. Having a good base of information about what sort of people live where helps in this.

Those are a few reasons I can think of off the top of my head, but none of these explains why Germans would accept mandatory registration but fear a census. That, I think, is just a partially irrational distinction based on the fact that registration has always been a fact of life, but the census has not. 

Habermas on GTA

"I date my spiritual rebirth — the day I finally began to live — to August 13, 2004, the day I ran down my first helpless, shrieking pedestrian in Grand Theft Auto.'

— Jürgen Habermas

Who Doesn’t Love Grand Theft Auto?

I have it on good authority that Grand Theft Auto is extremely popular among senior European Commission officials.

Because it's magical! Why just yesterday I was ordered to pick up a hoodlum near a park and drive him to meet other hoodlums. To pick up a pedestrian, you have to honk, otherwise they don't respond. After blazing through several red lights and vehicularly murdering a few pedestrians, I finally arrived at the park, jumped up onto the sidewalk, and accidentally struck the guy I was supposed to give a ride to, dragging him under my car for a dozen meters or so. He yelled at me: 'Hey, watch where you're going, [expletive deleted]'. Despite leaving a long blood trail on the sidewalk, he got up after a few seconds and stood up, patiently waiting for the honk. Just for fun I backed up, accelerated, and smashed directly into the wall behind him, pinning him between my car and the wall crushing his spine and pureeing his internal organs. He groaned in agony and collapsed to the ground.

Then I finally honked, whereupon he stood up, brushed some dust (and presumably spine fragments) from his jacket, climbed into the passenger seat, and said: 'Hey friend, thanks for the ride!'