Thursday, November 23, 2017

Explaining the US Gun Situation to a German

You tend to notice a fair amount of German news media attention on gun control within the US, and Germans will tell you that they absolutely understand the topic.  At this point, you have to lead them into an educational moment.

You start with the exact wording of the 2nd Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

German translation: Eine gut regulierte Miliz, die zur Sicherheit eines freien Staates notwendig ist, das Recht des Volkes, Waffen zu behalten und zu tragen, wird nicht verletzt.

Infringed or verletzt, is an interesting word.  It typically means unchanged.

So you then note that if you wanted to dump the word infringed or verletzt.....all you have to do is go and change the Constitution.

There are two methods stipulated to change the Constitution: (1) The House and Senate meet and propose the change with two-thirds of a vote in each. (2) Two-thirds of the state legislatures can call for a constitutional convention.  The convention would then write/draft the proposed change and vote upon it.

No matter which method you use....you then come to the more significant issue.  The change offered up by method one or two....then has to go back to all fifty states, and three-quarters (75-percent) of the states must review it and pass legislation to accept the change. 

While it may not be obvious to the German....you can ask them....why can't a ten-word sentence be added to allow gun control?  The answer is that you can't get that type of change accepted across the states required for a Constitutional change.

So all of this leads only to one alternate outcome....the fight to use the Supreme Court to invalidate the 2nd Amendment or to skip on the Constitutional change by saying a different interpretation exists. That's what this entire discussion is really about.  You can't find a group of people from all fifty states to accept a ten-word change. 

The German use of licenses?  When you go and examine the whole German method of issuing weapon licenses, the term of guns is not a right, and so this German word 'verletz' (infringed) doesn't exist.

As much as the German news media tries to play the intellectual game and pretend they understand the whole system....they fail to grasp this term 'verletz', and the methods required to change things.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hessen Traffic Topic

Anyone who lives around the state of Hessen (Germany)  will grumble to a fair extent about traffic jams, and near-shutdowns of the autobahn system. 

Yesterday, the SPD Party within the state....called upon the state government to develop some type of concept to 'fix' the problem.  To be honest, it'll just generate a couple of PhD-type folks in traffic management to admit in a year that you can't fix traffic jams, unless you lessen the number of cars. 

The number of hours for the whole state with jams?  31,600 hours for 2016.

My wife travels 20.8 kilometers (13 miles, each way) to work each morning.  You can expect this trip to take near 45 minutes.  One might laugh over the trip and the amount of time required.  I've driven it with her on at least a hundred occasions.

There are at least five bottlenecks in this 13-mile drive, which add at least two to four minutes in a waiting pattern.  Rain?  You can add another five minutes onto the trip.  Snow?  Add at least fifteen additional minutes. 

The urbanization of the region?  Well....this is really where you go and discuss the bulk of this topic. As you look across the Rhine Valley area....I doubt if anyone back in the 1960s would have envisioned this number of cars moving within the region and the dense nature of traffic.

This Topic of Article 81

Deep into the German news today and centered on this effort to prevent another election from occurring, is this chat about Article 81 of the Basic Law (German Constitution).

The brief wording of the article basically says that in a situation where the Bundestag is not dissolved (thus requiring an election)....the Federal President (Frank Walter Steinmier, SPD), MAY declare a state of legislative emergency.

This 'state period' means that the government would continue to operate, with a minority government.  The party with the most votes....automatically has the the government mandate.

It was designed in some ways for a temporary period....say a couple of months, in a period of 'emergency' (undefined in the Constitution). 

No one is saying this is a good solution or such.  It's a sort of band-aid to get by for a period of months probably (certainly not for four years).

I suspect a lot of political folks in Berlin are now wondering how a second election would turn out, and if both major parties (CDU and SPD) would be heavily punished if a second election were to occur.  Might the two parties get less than fifty percent of the vote combined?  Yes, that's a major possibility....thus showing a major weakness in the government, and the future.

One might guess that Steinmier sees this as a year-long period to cool off the political flame, and give some time for the parties to repair their public appeal.

The decision on the Article 81 approach?  One might see this announced by Monday of next week....otherwise, it'll be an announcement for a new election coming up shortly.

The actual wording of Article 81?

"Legislative emergency 

 (1) If, in the circumstances described in Article 68, the Bundestag is not dissolved, the Federal President, at the request of the Federal Government and with the consent of the Bundesrat, may declare a state of legislative emergency with respect to a bill, if the Bundestag rejects the bill although the Federal Government has declared it to be urgent. The same shall apply if a bill has been rejected although the Federal Chancellor had combined it with a motion under Article 68. 

(2) If, after a state of legislative emergency has been declared, the Bundestag again rejects the bill or adopts it in a version the Federal Government declares unacceptable, the bill shall be deemed to have become law to the extent that it receives the consent of the Bundesrat. The same shall apply if the Bundestag does not pass the bill within four weeks after it is reintroduced. 

(3) During the term of office of a Federal Chancellor, any other bill rejected by the Bundestag may become law in accordance with paragraphs (1) and (2) of this Article within a period of six months after the first declaration of a state of legislative emergency. After the expiration of this period, no further declaration of a state of legislative emergency may be made during the term of office of the same Federal Chancellor. 

(4) This Basic Law may neither be amended nor abrogated nor suspended in whole or in part by a law enacted pursuant to paragraph (2) of this Article."

The odd side to this story?  Typically, the German President's job is just to meet and greet folks, conduct ceremonies, and travel in the interest of the nation.  It's not to run the Bundestag, which is where Article 81 is leading the discussion.  Steinmier's work probably would double for this period. 

Whoever wrote Article 81 originally....probably did not have this scenario in their mind....otherwise, it would have added some more features and laid out a more concrete path. 

My last observation?  I think if this is pulled out and used....you can probably anticipate some kind of election announcement by the end of 2019.  They might be able to survive out twelve months with this sort of 'fix', and convince the public for that period that things are fine. 

Oddly, the topic of immigration (the cap, the allowing of family members to enter)?  Well....yeah, that's a funny thing.  This would halt that entire discussion and nothing over immigration or asylum would likely occur.  Some Germans would sit there and just laugh about the effort to avoid this entire topic and how Article 81 gave the government a chance to skip this mess. 

SPD on 22 November

As various German news sources report it today.....a fair number of the upper-level SPD members want Schulz (their chief) to sit and at least have a chat with Merkel over the idea of a coalition.  It's to the level that they might demand he ask for a vote, and it could reach the level where half the members that matter....force the idea. 

The issue is....a growing number of folks don't want a second election.  I suspect there is some fear over numbers getting worse (more so for the SPD), and the best cards on the table...exist right now.

What the SPD might demand?  Merkel to retire?  Well....they could suggest this.  They could go and suggest a comprehension reform package that their voters would be thrilled about.  There are literally dozens of things that could be on the table. 

I won't say that the second election is definite yet...but they probably have to decide by Monday morning of next week....for sure. 

Discussing Jobs and Trump with a German

Germans often want to cite things and get off on some tangent without really grasping facts, so this is a 'cheat-sheet' to use in this situation:

1. The unemployment rate for the US in January of 2017 was 4.8-percent.  As of October 2017, it was 4.1-percent.  The highest rate in the past decade....was in October 2009, while at 10.0-percent. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

2.  As of August of 2017, there have been 1,070,000 jobs created under the Trump era.  (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

3.  106k jobs were in leisure and hospitality jobs for 2017. 41k jobs were in education and health services.  Construction jobs were added at a rate of 15k per month for the first nine months of 2017.  Wholesale trade was 63,000 jobs up for the first nine months of 2017.  Air transportation gained 4,000 jobs for this period.  Professional and business services, were 50,000 jobs up for the period. Social assistance added 16,000 jobs.  Food and drinking establishments added 89,000 jobs.  (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

4.  Typically (not always the fact), the first year of anyone's presidency.....has a bump-up on jobs.  It's the second, third and fourth year that typically tell the rest of the story.  Any news source saying otherwise.....is laying down bogus news. If the tax reform effort fails, then jobs will be looking lesser for 2018. 

5.  State with highest unemployment rate for 2017 so far: Alaska (7.2-percent) State with lowest unemployment rate for 2017 so far: Hawaii (2.2-percent).  At least 23 states with 4.0-percent or less.  (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

6.  To suggest that all jobs created in 2017 are low-income jobs would also be a false analogy.  Most construction jobs, along with air transport....would pay higher than average incomes.  Food and drinking jobs....lesser incomes.  So it is a mixture of jobs created. 


How the Immigration 'Cap' Fell into the Political Mess of Germany

Germany, and going all the way back to the times of West Germany.....never had a 'cap' to exist over immigrants and migrants entering the country.  Until the last decade, it never needed to be discussed.  For the most part, going back to the late 1980s, the nation had roughly 250,000 folks a year who did the asylum, immigration or migration effort. 

After 2015, and the 1.1-odd million (sometimes told by the government to be 900,000)....various folks felt the need for a top number to exist....a cap. 

So after this September election....the number discussed by the CSU (the Bavarian sister party of the CDU), was 200,000.  To make the CSU happy, Merkel and the team agreed to the 200,000 number.  Then it went to the coalition talks with the Greens and the FDP, with this 200,000 cap number as the base of any topic relating to migration or immigration.

For the Greens, this 200,000 number is a problem.  They'd prefer no number to exist.  For the FDP, 200,000 is where they want the whole coalition to be in agreement.

So, a new agenda topic came up....quietly and rarely discussed in public TV forums...family members of those already allowed into Germany....would get a chance to enter and NOT be listed under the 200,000 number.  The limit on family numbers?  No limit.  How far this might reach?  No one wanted to really talk about in public.  If you made into the German system and had a visa....bringing Mom and Dad would be simple....but what about your cousins?  Your cousin's wife?  Their extended family?  You could be talking about one single guy, who wanted to bring 20 members of his family into Germany. Maybe you'd be talking about 25,000 in one single year.....maybe 75,000.....or perhaps even 300,000. 

You can sense how it would be in the room and these number discussions being carried out.  And if you brought these twenty relatives into the country.....might each of them have another twenty relatives extended out, and over ten years.....this might add up to three to five million?  Well, that's the thing, you just didn't know what the numbers would add up to.

The problem of an ID?  Well, yeah, that's another issue.  What if X wanted to bring four nephews into Germany....with a marginal ID for each, and you found out two years later that none of the four are actual nephews...just fake nephews.  What if X wanted to bring twelve members of the family in, and you found that the twelve were all fake and had paid X some fee.....like 60,000 Euro....to claim the fake family? 

For the Greens, none of this doubt existed in their mind.  They were obsessed with just keeping this vast door open.  The 200,000 cap that the CSU created....looked nice on paper and made their voters in Bavaria happy....giving Merkel some breathing room.  But in the real world....the 200,000 cap meant nothing, if this family open door was existing with no cap.

So here we are....a remaining problem from 2015 and the 'kids' running the candy store.  Merkel can't resolve this or move forward. 

Even with another election likely in February now.....the topic of the family immigration policy will still come back.  You can't resolve this, unless you establish a cap on the family issue. 

The other minor issue over this....if X had twenty family members he wanted to bring into Germany....would they all come to where X is located....is NRW (the northwestern part of Germany), where unemployment is significant now, and the communities overloaded already with refugees and migrants?  Would you force the incoming family members to migrate to another state....say Bavaria? Would this be legal to force them into another region to settle?  All problems, with no real room for discussion. 

So, when you sit and see the public news crowd try to step around this topic and barely discuss it in front of the nation.....this is the core of the situation.  It's a topic with no answer and no foundation. 

The Three Things You Might Expect out of Another German Election

Considering the likely situation of a second German election, I pondered over the various outcomes and have come to three likely things to expect:

1.  In the September 2017 German election, the SPD was able to generate 9,539,381 votes, which equaled around 20.5-percent of the national vote.  The charm, charisma, and hype for Schulz?  Not there.  If you go and repeat this election....the odds of getting at least the same number of votes or more?  Probably less than fifty percent.

If the SPD were to see 500,000 less votes?  It would be a disaster for Schulz and he'd likely have to resign.  Even if they get the same general number of votes, it's not exactly a success story.

So I would be watching polls over the next two months, and generally expect the SPD to marginally hit 20-percent.

2.  The AfD mess.  After the September election (basically 24 hours later).....Frauke Petry and a couple of folks on the winning situation....walked out the back-door of the AfD.  They hold legtimate seats in the Bundestag and had figured to start their own party (the Blue Party).  With four years in the Bundestag, Petry would have had time to build the party and maybe overtake the AfD in the long-run.

Now?  If the election occurs, and Petry with her small team don't win.....they are out of a job and the whole Blue Party idea is a disaster.

The odds of the AfD getting 5.3-million votes again?  That's an interesting question.  Disenchantment with the CDU and SPD exists.....with some votes actually coming from the Linke Party as well.

Could Petry and the Blue Party actually talk half of the 5.3-million AfD voters to flip to their party?  Maybe.  So maybe you'd see two minor parties with six-percent each?  Well....it might shock some folks, but it's a possibility. The problem with the AfD was that they hadn't put a lot of thought into other topics of political discussion. 

3.  Repeat of another zero-coalition episode?  Well, it's best not to suggest this to a German.

Lets say that the election repeats....the CDU and SPD both lose 2-percent each over what they had in September, and everyone else more or less balances out with one-percent more.  You would have Merkel standing there, with the CSU....the Greens (again) and probably the FDP.  The odds of an agreement this time?  Zero.

The odds of the SPD getting 30-percent, and overcoming Merkel/CDU efforts?  Almost non-existent.  I doubt if Merkel agrees to more than one single debate (like in September's episode), and the numbers sway only slightly.

If you ended up with another zero-coalition situation?  In a remarkable statistics challenge, it presents a massive worry now.  You really can't afford to reach the same conclusion.

Added to this burden now....the coming state elections in Hessen and Bavaria in the spring of 2018 as well.  Both will be affected by this Merkel failure.

All of this, in some curious way....leads back to 2014/2015 and the immigration process.  There was no real plan then, and we now have the clean-up action to contend with....with Merkel unable to grasp this, and the Greens dedicated to an open-door system to achieve success with migration.  Forming a government that includes the CSU and FDP?  How?  Both want a immigration door that closes, and has a limit.

In my general view of the future....come late February.....we may be looking at a repeat of the current mess, and a dismal view of 2018 for the German government, with the state elections heavily impacted by these failures.  It's odd how this played out with the 2015 immigration issue which has never really been resolved (three years later).  The Greens seem determined to keep various doors open, and this is making the odds of a coalition unlikely.

So to end this discussion....is it possible that the Feburary second election might fail, and lead onto a June third-election?  Well....yeah.  And in this case, I would expect the SPD to fire Schulz in a dramatic fashion and Merkel to quickly retire in March/April.  You might end up with an entirely new cast of characters for all of the political parties.  It would be a highly dramatic turn of events and really put a negative view of the news media and political scene into the minds of most Germans..  So, in some ways.....they need the outcome of the next election to be the absolute answer to the problem.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How the SPD Screwed Up

This got brought up by Focus today, in that an internal effort was discussed by some upper-members of the SPD to open up some talks (not that it would go anywhere) about a coalition partnership with the CDU (since the alternate deal failed).  This brief moment....where around thirty of the members thought it was worth discussing....quickly disappeared when party chief Schulz said 'no'.  The suggestion by the Focus is that the 'no' rubbed these thirty folks the wrong way, and that Schulz might not have full support anymore.

It's amazing that the SPD holds some enormous cards right now, and if they did have a dozen-odd things that they wanted to push through....they could play all of the dozen and probably get Merkel and the CDU to agree to them....just to get the coalition and four more years. 

But the other side of this coin is that the SPD probably doesn't have a full plate of projects that they'd like to achieve.  Some folks might even go to suggest that the agenda direction of the SPD right now....is the weakest of the past forty years. 

As for Schulz, and the way ahead?  It's hard to say that he'll be around in for four years.  They need to win heavily in several state elections and for 2018, that's doubtful. 

In this case, it's surprising that you hold a great poker hand within your grasp and could demand major changes to benefit your voting public, and you won't play that hand at all.  They could even walk into a negotiation and demand a coalition situation which forces Merkel to retire and I think that the CDU would grant their wish.