Respect our Privacy, say Germans About Germans

The Washington Post writes an article about Germans' odd protectiveness of Andreas Lubitz: 

Had the crash happened in the United States, pundits might be screaming for the heads of the psychiatrists who did not ground Lubitz, or furiously condemning the rules and company procedures that allowed the troubled 27-year-old to step into the cockpit of Flight 9525. But at least by American standards, many Germans are expressing neither a strong sense of moral outrage nor a clamor to point the finger of blame.

The reason may lie in the sense that the crash is suddenly challenging some of the fundamental tenets of German life: that its titans of industry do not make mistakes. That well-thought-out rules — including those severely limiting the sharing of medical data — are things to be trusted in and strictly enforced. That in a country where Edward Snowden is nothing less than a folk hero, personal privacy must trump all else.

In fact, the strongest debate to emerge here since the crash so far is whether the foreign press and more aggressive domestic outlets are rushing to judge Lubitz before all the facts are known. A variety of voices here say that Lubitz, even in death, deserves a measure of privacy, as does his family. And if he is guilty, some say, it may be due to mental illness, and thus he should not be judged as harshly as, say, a suicide bomber.

...

Many German publications quickly printed the names of the Muslim assailants in January’s terror attacks in and around Paris. Yet even though prosecutors have publicly named Lubitz and evidence suggests he deliberately crashed the plane, a number of respected German media outlets have still refused to print his full name or photo. They argue that the extent of his guilt is still not clear and that their readers are demanding greater sensitivity because Lubitz is German and his story is unfolding on home turf.

The domestic outlets that are aggressively reporting the story, like the tabloid Bild, have suffered withering criticism.

“Germans often shy away from certain realities — realities of war, realities of violence,” said Kai Diekmann, Bild’s editor in chief, responding to the criticism aimed at his paper. “I think much of this debate has to do with a refusal to face realities.”

I understand that reflexive Bild-bashing is the hallowed shibboleth of the educated bourgeoisie in German society, but Diekmann has a point here. Generally, I find the tendency of Germany to respect privacy and avoid snap judgments admirable. Perhaps the most important thing a politician can say to the public is that there is no such thing as 100% security, and that the government will never be able to prevent all accidents.

But there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy and ethnic tribalism about the German response to Lubitz. The German press immediately reported the full names, pictures, and all the details of the lives of the Charlie Hebdo attackers. If you think that had nothing to do with the fact that they were not German -- and especially, the fact that they were not of Northern European ancestry -- I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

So let's examine the potential distinctions between Lubitz's case. True, he was not a terrorist in the conventional sense, since he doesn't seem to have had any broad political demands and didn't want to intimidate society in general. However, if his ex-girlfriend is to be believed, he boasted that he was going to do something spectacular that would 'change the way things worked' and that everyone would know his name. 

Germans seem to want to treat this crime as a private family tragedy, such as when a man kills his ex-wife and children. In that sort of event, with no public-policy implications, I agree that discretion should be the preserved. But this is the equivalent of walking into the Cologne Cathedral and murdering 149 people with a bomb or weapon. In that case, would anybody seriously argue that his right to privacy must be respected?

And in fact what Lubitz did is even more worthy of full investigation and open public debate, since it involves a major public-policy issue that affects everyone. The system for screening airline pilots is of urgent concern to anyone who may fly in an airplane in the coming year, which is just about all of us. Making sure that system works well enough to prevent another such tragedy is much more important than protecting the privacy of a corpse, or even of Lubitz's relatives and friends. It's not fair that they should receive such scrutiny, but Lubitz was the one who put them there, and we, the flying public, have a right to know every fact relevant to preventing a recurrence of such an act.


Germanwings and The Public's Right to Know

William Langewiesche interviewed in Vanity Fair:

Is it unusual for an investigator or prosecutor to make such a bold announcement so soon after a crash?

Yes, it’s unusual, and, in a way, it’s a little inexplicable. The French system is different from the American system. It’s quite good, but it divides into two parts. There’s the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (B.E.A.), which is the technical investigators—the equivalent of our N.T.S.B. They’re very cautious, when it comes to releasing information—too much so. But there’s also always, in France, a parallel criminal investigation, because deaths are involved, and a Napoleonic mindset requires this.

That’s who this prosecutor in Marseille is. These are not people who are experienced with airplane accidents. The quality of these criminal investigations varies, depending on the quality of the consultants they bring in. Sometimes they’re quite good, even better than the B.E.A. In this case, I don’t know.

Were this an N.T.S.B. investigation, we would see a very different kind of information release. I would expect that we would see a neutral release of what we found in the recorder, and not pointing the finger at the co-pilot. You can include that we heard breathing, and the pilot hammering on the door, and that the cruising altitude was reselected, but leave it at that at for a few days. Let others point fingers, I say.

Langewiesche has a point, but I think it only goes so far. There's complaint especially in the German-speaking media about too much information being revealed about this plane crash, the use of the co-pilot's full name, commentators jumping to conclusions, etc. 

I think the authorities have done well. They have made important, reliable information available as soon as they had it. Especially by European standards, the level of transparency has been excellent. When 149 people have just been murdered, the public deserves answers as soon as the authorities have a basis for giving them. That's just what the French and German authorities have been doing.

As for releasing the co-pilot's name, what is this, 1995? Most countries do not see any reason to conceal the image or name of adults involved in major accidents or crimes (except for sexual assaults), so it seems a bit silly for German newspapers to continue coyly referring to him as 'Andreas L' when his name is available everywhere on the Internet. 

Perhaps in the fulness of time we'll learn something different about how this crash occurred, but that's true of any breaking story. People who are complaining about speculation aren't thinking things through. By releasing lots of information soon after they've learned it, the authorities have actually greatly reduced the amount of speculation about the cause of the crash.


Still Just Hand-Waving

Hexagon in a comment, points me an article (g) in Die Welt (thanks hex!) which argues that German documentary archives show that the oft-discussed 'forced loan' some Greeks want Germany to repay shouldn't be considered a loan, but rather a demand that Greece finance the costs of its own occupation by Nazi Germany, which the author says was authorized by the international law at the time. Near the end of the article the author asserts:

Zwar könnten im Rahmen von Reparationsverhandlungen die Besatzungskosten formal doch eingefordert werden. Doch alle Reparationsansprüche sind seit dem Zwei-plus-vier-Vertrag von 1990, den auch Griechenland völkerrechtlich bindend zur Kenntnis genommen hat, erledigt.

My translation:

"To be sure, the repayment of the occupation costs could be formally demanded as part of reparation negotiations. But all reparation claims are now foreclosed by the two-plus-four treaty of 1990, which Greece has recognized as binding under international law."

This is what I mean by hand-waving. It's just an assertion, without any proof or argument. The questions I'd like to see answered are:

  1. Why should a treaty involving the four occupying powers and Germany affect legal relations with Greece?
  2. What specific part of the treaty deals with war reparations payments? Does it specifically state that all reparation questions are now closed?
  3. What is the evidence that Greece officially accepted or recognized these provisions in a binding manner?

I don't care about the morality of the issue, I'm just interested in actual arguments with specific proof. Also my mind is not made up -- I'm not being snarky or coy, I just have yet to see anyone actually prove this assertion. Here is Albrecht Ritschl on the subject:

To explain that, let's delve a little bit into the legal position at the time of Germany's reunification in 1990. Germany received this kind of baptism certificate for a unified Germany which is incredibly subtly worded and whose only purpose was, apparently, to prevent reparation or restitution claims against unified Germany being raised on the grounds of the fact that there is a unified German state now and that something like article 5 of the London debt agreement could all of a sudden be reactivated. The German point of view is essentially that the so-called 2+4 treaty of 1990 is not making any mention of any reparations or wartime debts of Nazi Germany, and given the fact that this issue is not covered by the treaty, the issue is essentially dead. This has consistently been the position of the German government. The German position has so far been quite successful . . . several attempts to challenge it in the European court have been unsuccessful, and it seems to me that from a legal standpoint, there is relatively little chance that this will be successfully challenged.

So according to Ritschl, Germany has argued that because the 2 + 4 reunification treaty could have mentioned reparations but did not, this means the question is closed. If this is an accurate characterization of Germany's argument, it strikes me as pretty weak.

 

 

 

 


Why Does the Reunification Treaty Foreclose Greek Reparations?

The issue of war reparations to Greece is becoming more mainstream in Germany, as Reuters reports some leading SPD and Green figures cautiously suggesting that Germany should re-open the question of reparations.

One of the standard responses of German conservatives (and many Germans who would never consider themselves conservatives) is that the treaty of German re-unification, the so-called 2 + 4 treaty of 1990, forecloses the issue of Greek reparations. But I have yet to see an actual argument showing this -- generally there's just a bunch of hand-waving about how it was all settled in 1990, Greece 'accepted' this outcome back then, which now means it's irresponsible for Greece to try to reopen this can of worms. Frankly, the only convincing argument I've read is Helmut Kohl's statement that Germany caused so much suffering during World War II that any reparations sum that might be at all proportionate would bankrupt Germany for all eternity.

I've looked, but have yet to find any argument about why the 1990 treaty should affect Greece's reparations claims, except for the suggestion that since Germany only officially 'surrendered' to the four Allied powers in 1990, only these countries could legally claim reparations. But I don't really understand that reasoning, either.

Can anyone point me to something convincing? 


American Economist Asks Dying German Social Democratic Party Why They Destroyed Themselves

American economist Mark Blyth got an award from Germany's dying center-left Social Democratic Party for his writings on the failure of European austerity policies, and decided to explain to the German Social Democrats exactly how they managed kill their own political party for no reason:

I sat in my office at Brown University on December 16, 2014, an email popped into my inbox with the title “Herzlichen Glückwunsch – Sie sind der 1. Preisträger des Hans-Matthöfer-Preises für wirtschaftspublizistik.” This was the award given by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the research foundation closest to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Hans-Matthöfer Stiftung for the best economics publication in German in 2014. I was, to say the least, surprised.

My 2013 Oxford University Press book, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, had recently been translated into German by the publishing arm of the FES. Indeed, I had been there a month earlier, in Berlin, to do a book launch, which was very well attended. Since then the book has been reviewed, positively, in the German press, with Suddeutsche Zeitung giving it a rather glowing review. Something odd was going on.

...

Consider that during the negotiations to form the current coalition with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the SPD could have made an issue out of how the policies designed to heal Europe were causing great harm, a fact acknowledged even by the International Monetary Fund by 2012. But they chose not to do so....But not speaking up when such inappropriate policies are being applied to Germany’s European partners is collectively disastrous. Indeed, what is so tragic in this crisis is how the center-left throughout Europe have not just accepted, but in many cases actively supported, policies that have done nothing but hurt their supposed core constituencies.

[Following excerpts are from the prize acceptance speech. I've put the really juicy bits in my own added italics:] There can be no doubt that the debtor countries of Europe need major reforms in taxation systems, labor markets, business regulation, and a host of other areas.

But…

    1. When we say “structural reform” we really have no idea what those words actually mean, and we often fall back on them as a back-handed acknowledgment that austerity has failed, or
    2. We misunderstand what we did when we refer to prior episodes of structural reform, and thereby miss that it is impossible for anyone else to do what we once did.

Let me explain. “Structural reform” used to be called “structural adjustment.” And European lefties like us used to condemn it as absurd, ridiculous, “neoliberalism gone mad” — and yet we seem quite happy to unleash these policies, despite the damage that they have done in the developing world, upon our European partners.

When you ask for the content of what structural reform means, it seems to be a checklist of lower taxes, deregulate everything in sight, privatize anything not nailed down, and hope for the best. But are these policies not disturbingly American, if not Thatcherite? Indeed, isn’t this everything that the SPD is supposed to be against, and much of which the German public would never put up with?

...

Today it is a profound irony that European social democrats worry deeply, as they should, about the investor protection clauses embedded in the proposed Transatlantic Investment Treaty with the US, and yet they demand enforcement of exactly the same creditor protections on their fellow Europeans without pausing for breath for the money they “lent” to them to bail out their own banking systems’ errant lending decisions.

Something has gone badly wrong when social democracy thinks this is OK. It is not. Because it begs the fundamental question, “what are you for — if you are for this?” The German Social Democrats, for we are all the heirs of Rosa Luxemburg, today stand as the joint enforcers of a creditor’s paradise. Is that who you really want to be? Modern European history has turned many times on the choices of the SPD. This is one of those moments.

It’s great that my book has helped remind you of the poverty of these ideas. But the point is to recover your voice, not just your historical memory. Your vote share isn’t going down because you are not shadowing the CDU enough. Its going down because if all you do is that, why should anyone vote for you at all?

I hope that reading my book reminds the SPD of one thing: that the reason they exist is to do more than simply to enforce a creditor’s paradise in Europe.

I recall writing a few years ago: "Yet in Germany, coverage of the Greek healthcare collapse virtually always attributes it vaguely to 'the crisis' in general, not to the austerity measures forced on Greece by the troika, which are anything but inevitable (or alternativlos in Merkel's infamous phrase) and to which there are plenty of reasonable alternatives that would not impose massive suffering on ordinary citizens." But Blythe has much more credibility than I do. As is often the case, it takes an outsider to point out the hypocrisy of another country's elites. Or, as Orwell once put it, to see what is in front of one's face requires a constant effort.


US Department of Justice: No Charges for Michael Brown Shooting

After an exhaustive analysis of all the evidence surrounding the Michael Brown shooting, the U.S. Department of Justice concludes (as I predicted long ago) that federal charges against Darren Wilson aren't justified, since his story of what happened is supported by the evidence and provides him with a defense:

Witness accounts suggesting that Brown was standing still with his hands raised in an unambiguous signal of surrender when Wilson shot Brown are inconsistent with the physical evidence, are otherwise not credible because of internal inconsistencies, or are not credible because of inconsistencies with other credible evidence. In contrast, Wilson’s account of Brown’s actions, if true, would establish that the shootings were not objectively unreasonable under the relevant Constitutional standards governing an officer’s use of deadly force. Multiple credible witnesses corroborate virtually every material aspect of Wilson’s account and are consistent with the physical evidence.... The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under Section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never punched and grabbed Wilson at the SUV, never struggled with Wilson over the gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive. Not only do eyewitnesses and physical evidence corroborate Wilson’s account, but there is no credible evidence to disprove Wilson’s perception that Brown posed a threat to Wilson as Brown advanced toward him. Accordingly, seeking his indictment is not permitted by Department of Justice policy or the governing law.


Should Europe Open its Borders?

The UN Special Rapporteur says Europe should open its borders:

Europe needs to embrace the migrants appearing on its shores and create a meaningful refugee settlement program that will put human smugglers out of business and save countless lives, says the United Nation’s special rapporteur on human rights of migrants.

European Union attempts to “seal” borders will continue to fail and more migrants will lose their lives at sea if fleeing refugees aren’t given the right to settle where they want, François Crépeau said on Thursday from New York.

“I don’t see any other solution for Europe,” he said. “They need to open the borders.” 

François Crépeau is a law professor at McGill University. I'm sure he's a decent fellow, but his statement is the kind of thing that gives legal academics a reputation for being out of touch with reality. There are about a billion Africans, and hundreds of millions of people living in war-torn Middle Eastern countries, within a 7-hour plane ride of Europe. It's hard to put a precise number on how many of them are ready and willing to migrate to open-border Europe, but I'd say 70 million is hardly farfetched. And let's not forget that they aren't interested in migrating to Romania or Poland, their goal is prosperous, stable Northern Europe. And once they come and glimpse living standards light-years ahead of those in their own countries, they will never go back. Of course they will pine for their ancestral homelands, cook their traditional dishes, and deplore their host countries' formal manners and icy climates. But stay they will, and why shouldn't they?
 
If Crépeau thinks Northern Europe is ready, willing, and able to accommodate millions more poor immigrants, he is gibberingly insane mistaken. We have already seen the rapid rise of anti-immigrant parties all over Northern Europe except Germany (but watch this space). And despite the soothing sweet nothings whispered into your ear by certain commentators, these anti-immigrant parties are actually driven by anti-immigrant sentiment. When they say they don't like immigrants, it's not code for anything. They really don't like immigrants. Any European government that proposed a plan to bring a million new poorly-educated, unskilled immigrants into its borders would be ejected faster than you can say 'Présidente Le Pen.' New parties would come along that would make Europe's current anti-immigrant right look like a convention of transgendered social workers.
 
How exactly would Crépeau proposed to prevent this? I imagine he wants European leaders to 'educate' their voters on the need to open Europe's borders to millions of immigrants. This is the time-honored tactic known in German as Vermittlung (education or explanation). Policies which European elites favor but their voters reject -- and there are a surprising number of these -- cannot fail, they can only be failed. The fact that voters reject it is not proof that voters reject it, but that they misunderstand how wonderful / necessary it is because government officials and opinion leaders have not yet found the magic formula to convince them. While leaders search for the formula -- a process which may take decades and often fails -- elites do what they wanted to anyway.
 
In the case of immigration, there is no magic formula. Crépeau really should know this. Given a choice between opening Europe's borders and ruthlessly ratcheting up border controls, European leaders will mouth the appropriate platitutes about human rights and enhancing opportunity, then send out the warships to mine the Mediterranean. And in the cold hard light of political reality and modern statecraft, there is no reason they shouldn't, since that's what their voters prefer. European immigration policies certainly need re-thinking, but policy proposals that ignore reality are hardly worth taking seriously.

Bad Kaarma: 70 Years for Montana Burglar Trapper

Remember Markus Kaarma, the Missoula, Montana man who waited outside his garage for someone to come burglarize it, then fired his shotgun into the garage, killing German exchange student Diren Dede?

Well, as you might expect in America's gun-obsessed paranoid fanatic culture of cowboy-style vigilantism, he claimed self-defense under the frontier-style 'Castle Doctrine' and acquitted. He is now on a celebrity speaking tour among American gun-rights groups.

Sorry, having a bit of fun there. You didn't think I could pass up a chance to poke a little harmless fun at German Besserwisserei, did you? Kaarma was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced by a judge to seventy (70) years in prison:

He dismissed Kaarma's claim he suffered from "anxiety" and an "anti-social disorder," saying it "doesn't excuse the anguish you have caused."

"You pose too great a risk to society to be anywhere else but the Montana State Prison. Good luck to you, son," McLean said.

"I'm sorry my actions caused the death of Mr. Dede," Kaarma told the judge before learning his fate.

He will be eligible for parole in 20 years. As a law-talking guy, I feel compelled to use this as a teaching moment. Right after the shooting, both Kaarma and his wife, apparently believing Montana law gave them the right to do what they did, spoke in detail. They described how they had been burglarized many times, got fed up, and set a 'trap' by leaving their garage door open and waiting until a motion sensor told them someone was inside. Then Kaarma fired.

When a lawyer reads about people talking so freely about their involvement in a homicide, our reaction is similar to a doctor seeing a pregnant woman down a liter of vodka. If you're ever arrested -- and I hope  some of my readers live life loud enough to risk this -- do not say a word to anyone, no matter what, until you have spoken to a lawyer. This rule applies to everyone, everywhere, no exceptions. It's the equivalent of a fundamental physical constant, one of the basic building blocks of the legal universe. By chatting so volubly about his motives and actions, Kaarma didn't just tie his lawyers' hands, he practically chopped them off.

FWIW, I should add that this penalty, like most American criminal penalties, strikes me as Draconian. It is certainly longer than he would have gotten for a comparable crime in most European countries, including Germany. 


German Parents Dismayed at American Media Campaign Against Their Son

Paul Nungesser, the German exchange student at the center of a major campus-rape scandal in the United States (the woman who accused him of rape was invited by a US Senator to Obama's State of the Union address!) has decided to come out and publicly fight for his reputation, and his parents -- from Germany -- are supporting him:

“What really struck us as outrageously unfair,” says Nungesser’s father, Andreas Probosch, a schoolteacher who speaks near-perfect English, “was the university’s non-reaction to Emma Sulkowicz's public campaign. After investigating the allegations against Paul for seven months they found them not credible, but when Ms. Sulkowicz went to the press and claimed Columbia had swept everything under the rug, why didn’t they stand by his side and say, ‘We do have a process and we followed that process and we stand by the acquittal’? Instead they declined to comment and just threw him under the bus.”

Both Probosch and Nungesser express bafflement at the practice of letting colleges handle allegations of violent rape. But if such a process must exist, says Probosch, “doesn’t [it] only make sense if people accept its outcome?” In this case, he says, “Paul went through this whole process with endless hours of hearings and interviews and cooperated in every way possible. And yet if you Google him, in half of the articles you´ll find, he is still labeled a serial rapist.”

For Nungesser’s mother, Karin, the situation is laden with additional irony as a self-described committed feminist. Paul Nungesser’s comment to The New York Times, “My mother raised me to be a feminist,” caused predictable controversy; but his mother, at least, agrees. She points out that she and her husband took an equal role in parenting and that gender issues, which were part of her journalistic work, were often discussed in their home when her son was growing up: “I think we did not just tell him that men and women are created equal, but we lived it.”

Karin Nungesser fully understands the desire to support someone who comes forward with an accusation of rape: “This is a good cause—but even in a good cause, you have to try to check the facts.” What she views as the failure to check the facts in this case appalls her not only as a feminist but as a journalist. “We can’t understand to this day why the major media never asked Paul about his side,” she says. “Going back to our own history, the media in western Germany were built upon the model of The New York Times. It was the idea of good journalism, of good fact-checking, of not doing propaganda.”

You know, I can't give legal advice and this is not legal advice, but even under American libel law, which is much less restrictive than its German counterpart, you are not allowed to go around referring to an identifiable person as a 'rapist' unless they are, you know, a rapist. No legal system worthy of the name permits citizens to falsely accuse each other of serious violent crimes. This is defamation. Nungesser was cleared of all charges by the university and Sulkowicz declined to press criminal charges against him because it was 'too draining'. So at least since December, when his name became public, she should think very very carefully about continuing to refer to him in public as a 'rapist', assuming she is still doing so. And Nungesser and his parents should consult a lawyer.


Two Truths About Greece

Boarded Doors Psirri

I've been to Greece several times and have Greek friends, so the recent election has sparked my interest. It seems to that the polarized debate over the Syriza victory is a classic case of motivated reasoning and opinion overkill on both sides. I want to make two brief, seeminly-but-not-genuinely contrary observations which you don't often see made in the same spot by the same person.

First, Greece is a corrupt, inefficient second-world country. This is something Greeks complain to one another about endlessly, but are hesitant to fully admit to outsiders on grounds of national pride. But it's the truth. Access to many jobs, including government jobs, is regulated by informal patronage networks, which often keep the best candidates sidelined. The Greek public education system varies hugely in quality and large portions of it are horribly dysfunctional, which means every parent who can afford to sends their children to private school. There is an ingrained culture of rule-breaking, tax evasion and black-market work that is only now slowly beginning to change. (Many Greeks will tell you this is a product of centuries of Ottoman rule). Kickbacks and bribes are still part of life, although apparently receding slightly. Much of the Greek economy is made up of labor-intensive, low value-added, non-export-generating jobs that generate little economic vibrancy. Greece has its own kind of license raj, in which sloth-like bureaucrats enforce pointless or antiquated regulations. Greece still doesn't have a modern, functional, reliable system of land title registration. There's only a weak culture of civic engagement and participation. For most Greeks, it makes more sense to simply adapt to the current horribly dysfunctional system, since challenging it as an individual is pointless and potentially even dangerous. This may well be changing, but the main reaction to Greek social dysfunction I witnessed during many visits in the mid-2000s was basically a sort of jovial what-are-ya-gonna-do despair.

In other words, when scolds say Greece needs massive reform, they are right. Most Greeks would enthusiastically agree with that sentiment when expressed by a fellow Greek.

Second, the troika's policies caused needless suffering among ordinary Greeks. The approach of the troika, which basically forced Greece into a round of significant austerity just as its economy was collapsing, was deliberately chosen from among a broader palette of options. Greece could have exited the Euro, of course, although that might have been even worse. Or Germany could have followed expansionary policies to increase inflation in Northern Europe while providing generous support to Greece. Germany, and Northern Europe more broadly, chose not to do so for a number of reasons, including the difficulty of selling such a policy to voters and the not-unjustified concern that it would ease the pressure for Greek reforms. But the fact remains that the EU and international institutions could have chosen policies to address the Euro crisis that would have had much less disastrous effects on southern European countries, but chose not to do so. Northern European countries consciously chose to put their own economic interests ahead of European solidarity.

The reason German politicians have looked so cynical during this crisis is that they want the world to interpret their calculated pursuit of their own economic interests as the principled, neutral enactment of strict but commonsensical policies with which every decent person must agree. In other words, like most of us, they want not only to pursue their own self-interest, but also be praised and admired for doing so. They often become angry when this doesn't happen, but they shouldn't be surprised.