Friday, March 6, 2015

German TV Tax Episode

It's a rare thing when some German tax revenue collection deal goes above the line and has TOO MUCH money at the end of the day.  Yesterday, the folks who collect the German TV tax had to admit this.

At the current rate, by the end of 2016, TV tax revenues would be 1.5 billion Euro ahead.

So, the government announced that there will be a 48-Euro-cent reduction within the next sixty-odd days.  The extra money?  Well, by law, the state-run TV mafia folks cannot retain it.  Imagine that....they actually wrote it into the law....you can have up to X amount and after that point, you hand it to the government to hold.

Sent back to the tax-payers?  No.  What the discussion now indicates is that the excess funds will simply be held by the government until there is a need for funding within the TV empire.  Some folks anticipate that another rate hike would come up in talks within five years, and this money might delay the hike for several years.

The new monthly TV tax?  17.50 Euro.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Explaining Borgwald

Once upon a time.....as corny as it sounds.....there was this car company in Germany named Borgwald.  Prior to WW I, they were in a position to take off and be noted.  Things soured in Germany after WW I because of the economy.  Somewhere in the middle of the 1920s.....Borgwald was at a point of failure.  For Carl Borgwald, there was only one thing to do.....design a radical car and move ahead.

The 1924 "Lightning Cart" was this radical car.  Three wheels.....two horse-power....it was a mini-racing type vehicle....."fun factor" was written all over the car.

Borgwald continued on through the 1930s, and emerged out of WW II with a fair amount of business.  The Isabella design came up in 1954, and became the 'ace' of the companies designs.  It was popular and had a sporty look to it.  

Air suspension and automatic transmissions were the novelty items that you could get with the Isabella.  

By 1961, Borgwald was in serious financial straits.  There are various arguments that a conspiracy helped to bring them down.....yet never proven.  Carl Borgwald?  He would die in 1963 and never see a recovery.  The odd thing about the demise of Borgwald as a car company?  Every single person or business that was owed money.....got paid.....in full.  There was no debts left on the table.  

So, Borgwald sat there for the past fifty years.....mostly as a historical type discussion.  They were known for innovation and daring engineering.  They designed cars that people beg to have. 

Well....it's an odd thing.  The big international car show for Frankfurt (later in the fall) is going to have a new Borgwald car for display.  The company, with some type of Chinese partnership, is going to begin a comeback.  The design or look?  No one knows.  In fact, it's fairly secretive and might end up being the biggest draw of the car show.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

US Army Properties Flipping to Wiesbaden

An agreement of sorts was worked out today and signed....by the city of Wiesbaden, the federal office for property for Germany, and the US Army.

The focus of the agreement?  More or less....there's a simplified method to the Army property being turned over, and the city will get to be the planning source for usage.  No one said much but I would imagine there was some worry over 'other' parties barging into the Army property situation and Wiesbaden city officials wanted to make sure they were the sole source of planning.

The short-term priority?  The American Arms Hotel and the Mainz-Kastel housing/barracks area.  Both are set to flip over, and the usage plan needs to be pretty quickly determined.

The long-term plan?  There's two additional properties set to turn....the Amelia Earhart Hotel complex (it's apparently not finalized yet and I suspect the US consulate in Frankfurt might have some interest in the property).  And there is the second Mainz-Kastel property.....the storage station or AAFES property (depending your memory of the site).

From about a year ago, there was intense interest in reusing the American Arms Hotel as a student-housing complex (something of a big deal in Wiesbaden with several university operations in the local region).  There's two issues with this idea.....a parking garage might be required, and there's a funding requirement for some renovation to make it into apartments.

The Kastel housing/barracks area?  There's two ideas.  One was a mini-mall-type operation with some housing.  The locals preferred a green solution with a couple of business operations and some housing.  The green idea would have meant taking out a vast amount of concrete and asphalt.....landscaping.....and adding trees.  Map-wise, I was looking over the site and doubt that it's more than thirty-five acres.

The Amelia Earhart Hotel?  No one says much but it's likely another project for student housing.  It's in great condition and has the parking garage already.  Location-wise, it's a five-star location....near bus lines and within walking distance of the railroad station of Wiesbaden.

The Kastel storage site?  At best, it's forty acres, with mostly large-scale warehouses.  Most were built in the 1960s and 1970s.....so it's hard to see them being retained in anyway by the city.  My guess is that the whole thing is bulldozed and most of the site ends up as a commercial site, with a quarter of it as some Kastel park (my suggestion, not theirs).

More sites to flip?  No.  Presently, no one has suggested any other property.  The old BX on the hill?  It'll be torn down at some point as the new BX opens but no one is talking of that property flipping to the Wiesbaden authorities.

Cops and Trouble

It was one of those situations that will barely get mentioned in German news, but it displays some of the continual situations arising from rapid immigration.

Somewhere along 6PM on Tuesday night (3 Mar)....up in Altendorf (a smaller town near Essen in the north of Germany).....the cop station had this situation develop with Lebanese families from the area.

Based on various descriptions.....the scene came up this way where someone from one of the Lebanese families felt that he'd been screwed over on a deal with a guy from another Lebanese family.  You can compare it to mafia-like situations or Scottish clans....where it became a family versus family episode.

So as guy number one and his assorted friends arrive at this Altendorf station to lodge a complaint.....some guys from the opposing family began to arrive as well.  It's not completely clear but you get the impression that they were going to counter-complain.

As both groups of families grasped the situation.....they apparently called out to associate families and they began to show up as well.    In the words of one reporter....."dozens" of family members descended upon this one station.

For small town police stations, like Altendorf.....a burb of Essen....the population is around 20,000.  A typical cop station, on an evening shift.....might have thirty to forty folks, at least at the beginning of the shift.  The situation reached a point within an hour of the first guy arriving....where the cops in the station didn't think they had enough people to control the situation.  They called out to surrounding towns for more reinforcements.

After these other cops arrive.....the situation starts to chill out and tensions lessen.  The cops took the original guy's complaint and it would appear that the second guy got a chance to lodge his counter-complaint.

What'll happen now?  The prosecutor will get the complaints and assign some junior guy to read them over and invite witnesses. None of this may ever go to some city magistrate, but you can't be sure where the facts will lead this case.

The odds of something like this occurring with a German?  Virtually zero.  You simply don't have German clans or mafia-like families.  If there was some disagreement to erupt between two Germans.....it typically gets turned to lawyers and they drag this off to a court area with a magistrate making a decision.  In some radical situations......a guy might come over to burn down or damage the second guy's business.  But some massive family or mafia-like episode?  No.....it just doesn't happen.

An episode like this will get some notice locally....mostly as a immigration issue and why things aren't working the way that German political figures try to suggest.  As for the cops?  It says a lot about the way that German cops defuse a situation....put plenty of people into the mix and let them know more are coming.  Strength in numbers....usually works.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Asylum, the Bio-Hotel, and Hessen

Up in north Hessen (over two hours away from me), there's this small village of Gilserberg.  It's a village of nowhere.....three-hundred-odd residents.....with an old railway station that was converted a decade or two ago into a 'bio-hotel'.

Defining a bio-hotel?  Well....it has to be all natural.  That means when you step into the room....it's a wood floor, natural materials, wood (no plastics), real cotton sheets, goose-feather pillows, and a restaurant that serves robust home-cooked meals with no additives. Somewhere nearby is a significant walking trail, plenty of open landscape, and flowing streams.

Things have gotten stirred up in Gilserberg for an odd reason.  The town council (with the mayor) are firmed up to offer the bio-hotel operation for an asylum holding point.  Yeah, they want to take the whole hotel operation and flip it over for a minimum of thirty asylum seekers.  The selling point is that it's a quiet village and near a kindergarten.  The locals?  They've gotten pretty hostile about this offering deal....they don't want asylum seekers in the town.

The size of the rooms?  From the various descriptions offered, these are your typical single bed or double bed rooms.  You might be able to cram a couple with one kid into room.

From what the journalists say, there's a two-phase approach to this.  Thirty folks would come in early March, and another group would come by May (making the final total between eighty and ninety).

Why seek a contract for the asylum hotel?  I can only make a guess that the bio-hotel scheme for business isn't paying off.  No one says what the government pays, but you'd have to assume they'd pay for each room rented and cover lunch and dinner options via the small restaurant within the hotel.

One might assume forty rooms....renting out at forty Euro a day, meaning 1,600 Euro a day, multiplied by thirty days?  Over 48,000 Euro.....then toss in the lunch/dinner option, and you might be up around 58,000 Euro a month flowing through the hotel.  That might be three or four times the normal amount of money that the hotel generates.  Profit-wise, you might actually clear 200,000 Euro a year (before taxes).

The question is.....what type of characters will you be attracting?  What will they be doing in their off-time?  Will there be trouble?   You can't predict this.  You might run such a facility for two years and never have an ounce of trouble....ever.

My prediction is someone will watch over this and eventually make a commercial TV comedy over such a Hessen refugee center in some remote village, and make a hit out of it.

Local Snake Story

About twenty miles southwest of where I live....near Darmstadt....cops got called this past weekend to a point on the banks of the Rhine River.

Dead boa constrictor snake.

Yeah....eleven foot long.....laying there on the side of the river.

What the snake experts say is that the snake probably expired from the low temperatures of the past week or two.

Shocking?  Well....here in Germany, you don't typically don't find snakes of any type.  So, naturally, there are questions.  No owner has come up to say anything....mostly because there's some big rules that he violated.

The only folks happy about this?  The Senckenberg Museum is the organization that ends up with the snake and intend to make some type of display out of it.

I sat and read over the whole story, or what facts do exist.  The thing is.....this snake could have been 'lost' for a year or two in some local building and simply surviving off mice.  Perhaps winter came along....low supply of mice....and the boa left the warm comforts of the building in search of food down near the river.

Monday, March 2, 2015

One-Way Cans/Bottles?

Around a decade ago....Germany passed regulations that required all soda cans and bottles (glass and plastic) to be re-usable.  This meant a 'pfund' situation where you paid a deposit and got the money back later at some gas station, grocery, or drink shop.  Generally, most Germans all grumbled about this regulation, accepted it, and continued on.

Over the past year....there's this new expression that has come about in German society....one-way drinks.  It's basically a container that cannot be reused.  The chief company pushing the product?  Coca-Cola.

Coke looked over the regulations and it plainly says that all containers must be in a recyclable container....but it's less stringent that it must be the type collected with a pfund (deposit).

Naturally, in the last few weeks....the folks who press hard on recycling believe that Coke is not playing by the rules and have been suggesting additional layers of rules to prevent this avoidance.  Yeah, you read it right....obeying the current rules and thus skipping the pfund gimmick.....so more rules need to be written.

The Federal Environmental Ministry has so far denied any plans exist and aren't talking about making such rules.

The environmentalists are suggesting a standard pfund of 20-cents for all one-way containers.....so you'd have to return a non-reusable container.....for simple waste collection.  As stupid as it sounds.....it's the only way to make this work the environmental way.

The comeback used in this argument is that precious resources are often used in bottle/can production.....so re-use simply makes sense.

A month or two ago, I sat and watched a news piece from the state-run network HR, which oddly covered the re-used plastic bottles for sodas.  The science guy got to some point where he kinda admitted degradation occurring with the plastic bottles after X number of uses.  Yeah, a breakdown of plastics.  Bad for humans?  He didn't get to the point of this......or it was removed from the discussion.

Eventually, I expect some science guys to show up and note that bottles are the only safe item for re-use, and we are contaminating society with this stupid recycling pfund/deposit gimmick.  But don't worry....this is probably another decade away from Germans realizing it and changing the rules back to the old system.

As for Coke and their one-way cans/containers?  Don't worry.....various shops and distributors are already buying sodas made outside of Germany and just avoiding the government's gimmick.  It might not be obvious or legal.....but it's going on already.  Coke is simply playing the game legally.

The Illusion/Delusion Factor

There is a slight difference between an illusion and a delusion.

An illusion is simply a false concept or idea where your mind sees something but notes it as simply 'unreal'.

A delusion is where impression of an event or situation, where there is some action going on, where someone or some group is trying to convince you of the wrong thing....in essence fooling you or deceiving you.

Over the past couple of months, there's been this environmentalist type fight going on against wind-mill construction here in Hessen.

The big part of this issue is that wind-mill investors got smart over the past twenty years and know there's only three places where you want to put up wind-mill farms....coastal waters, plateau areas and hill-tops.  This is the only way that you get maximum power for the majority of days throughout a year.

So, the companies have taken up the option of finding forested areas....especially in Hessen....acquiring usage of the property.....which usually state-owned property, and building their wind-mill farms there.  This typically means a fifteen-acre section gets trimmed down drastically of trees and six to ten wind-mills get put up.  Adding to the solution.....you have to find somewhat remote areas now because putting such an operation up....near a village or town...draws negativity and complaints.  It just makes sense to find forested areas.

Well, all of this attracted the negative attention of certain environmentalists.  The pro-tree and pro-green crowd are taking political stands against the pro-wind-mill crowd.

This past week, in Fulda (east Hessen)....roughly six hundred folks came to a local protest against wind-mill episodes.  Last week, using a court injunction.....they stopped the placement of the wind-mills in the Fulda region.  The trees were already knocked down but the enthusiasts were able to stop any further development of the small acreage.  The current political gimmick being suggested is a voter initiative....removing this topic from politics.

How a local vote might come out?  No one can be sure.  Added to the problem.....just how far do you allow the vote?  If this was a local forest.....there might be five or six local villages or towns involved.  If it's a state forest.....I don't see how you allow the voter initiative to occur without the entire state of Hessen voting on it.  Perception by locals?  I suspect if you asked a hundred folks over twenty-one....most would say it's not much of a topic for them to worry about and there's dozens of more pressing issues (immigration, jobs, pension reform, refugees, robberies and assaults, etc).

So, I come to the topic of wind-mills and environmentalism....then stir up illusions and delusions.  For years, everyone felt that something good would come of this magnificent crusade that environmentalists were engaged upon.  Clean power, anti-nukes, cleaning up lakes and river, etc.  Was this crusade an illusion....just something that we felt was going to come and be pure and wonderful?  Or was it a delusion, where some people manipulated the system and deceived us on purpose?

Putting wind-mills on a largely underpopulated and flat area....out of sight....might sound wonderful, but there's no high capacity gain on the wind being there for three-hundred days out of the year.  They need to be on hill-tops and plateaus.   Strangely enough....these are the areas that the German states staked out decades ago....as state-owned forests, and sought to protect.  As much as the environmentalists are trying to achieve one result.....they are screwing up the priorities that were originally part of the system.

And mixing a voter initiative into this?  I hate to say this, but it's purely delusional, with some odd manipulation standing in the midst of the whole topic now.