Monday, May 30, 2016

Building a Failed Society

RBB (the Berlin state-run network) did an interesting piece on refugees and housing.

So, what can be said is that Berlin is overflowing with refugees (really, the issue is more that X number of applicants have gotten visas finally and ready to exit from the camps or refugee centers).  This is when you need housing of a more permanent and upgraded nature.

The Berlin city government has determined the best way ahead was to go and procure on their own (using tax-payer money) a number of modular buildings.  These aren't the steel container type, but they aren't exactly the type that would be around for a hundred years (like so many buildings built today).

Based on the type that I've seen in the past....these modular buildings are the type that you can develop a plot of land....bring in the pieces of the building, and assemble it in four weeks.  When it's done, you have an apartment building with walls, a roof, and standard expectations.  Typically, for the first couple of years....it's OK.  Somewhere between five and ten years, there's some noted decline.  Typically, around year fifteen to twenty....unless some refurbishment occurs....the building is heading toward ghetto status.

I've never seen a price-tag comparison on these modular buildings.  Because of the speed in construction, I'm assuming it's probably half the cost of a normal building.

The city of Berlin was going to erect sixty of these modular buildings around the city.  In fact, there were a number of meetings.....heated meetings I hint....where people questioned the location of these modular buildings around the city.  For several months, I've followed this story off and on.  The city council was often in conflict with neighborhood groups over this planning process.

So, we've come to a point now where they will erect only ten of the originally planned sixty modular buildings.  Chief reason?  What they say is that the huge numbers of refugees that they anticipated.....didn't come through.  The downward trend from January....has reset the whole view on numbers.

But now, we've come to this odd change in the plan.

In the various meetings held....one complaint was that if these modular buildings were put up....would they also be used for regular Berlin people (the non-refugees)?  It was a comment to slam the city council on the fact that they'd done nothing much for years for the homeless folks of Berlin....to include homeless families as well.

The change to the plan now incorporates the idea of a joint living circumstance....refugees and affordable housing candidates (yeah....the homeless).

There's a term for this which has been developed by the agenda folks....."mixing".  The original use of the word meant that you created a neighborhood where rich, middle-income, and poor lived side by side.  In an ideal world.....it works (at least on paper).

I sat and pondered upon this idea.  Migrants and refugees really don't have any room to complain because it's all free living and a benefit by the German government....paid for by the German tax-payer.  But if you sit and imagine this scene.....Mr X from such-and-such country has arrived with the family and is now on the process of integration and getting their life sorted out.

Next to Mr X, is Mr Y.....a German homeless guy (no family), who seems to be down on his luck.....a lot.  He's got a free place to live, compliments of the German government and tax-payer.

As the weeks go by, Mr X will sit through integration classes and ask some stupid questions about life in Germany, and how these down-and-out folks (the ones living next door to him).....don't seem to be going anywhere.  He'll comment to the instructor that several of the down-and-out folks sit around the park out front of the house....sipping beer from mid-morning on, and they don't seem to appreciate this great German lifestyle or the opportunities that exist.

The integration instructor (likely a Green Party guy) will talk of the great and wondrous opportunities that exist and that some need time to sort out their chaotic lifestyle.  Some will take other paths to success.  Mr X, being very appreciative of his new life, in a wonderful land such as Germany, won't be able to understand this situation.  Day by day.....he continues to observe the neighbors and questions them on their work ethic.

At some point, the integration experts (the PhD types) will come to analyze this relationship and neighbor issue....finding that this really didn't work well.  The immigrants and the homeless folks....in one central apartment complex....didn't fit well.

Books will be written about this 'experiment' and people will appear on German TV chat forums to explain about a failed concept.

Somewhere around twenty years from now....some Berlin city council will pay several million Euro for some demolition crew to dismantle these ten-odd modular buildings and just quietly close the chapter on this episode.

Swiss Vote Coming Up

On the 5th of June in Switzerland.....people will vote on this odd idea.  To set a minimum life wage of 2500 Euro a month for each adult.  It would mean that if you unemployed.....the state would simply hand you your wage of 2,500 Euro each month, and it would not mean welfare.

A serious vote or just a play on words?

The guys who came up with this idea....have not exactly thought the whole thing through.  For example, for such a small country.....they haven't said in absolute terms what this magic number for the state might add up to.

Several countries have picked up on this idea....mostly for discussions.  The odds of this passing?  I'd give it no better than a 30-percent chance.  Few newspapers are saying much on it, and it lacks public support.

If you've never been to Switzerland....it's one of those countries that you just don't find poor people around on the streets.  From the five or six times that I've been through the country.....you kinda admire the culture and society.  Houses are kept up.....streets are maintained....parks are first-class. Does all of this hide some welfare class?  Unknown.  I will vouch for this.....it is expensive to live in Switzerland.  I'd say if you were bad off and unemployed....you'd be in a tough country to survive.

Does the renaming of this money really fix anything?  That's the curious thing about what they will vote on.  It's called a wage....not welfare.  If the state pays you a wage.....typically, you are doing work for them.  For me....if I were the local mayor....I'd be putting you to work....mowing grass, hauling leaves, wiping down windows on city hall.  If you ask me....it's opening up a mess of problems down the road if you pass this draft law.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Wilhelm III What-If Years

In mid-summer 2013.....I started to pick up six different books going over WW I, the Kaiser, the 1800s Germany, and the general culture of the period around the war.

There is no doubt that WW I resets German politics and puts a harsh reality upon most Germans.  The Germans without the war, in some 'what-if' situation?

I have no doubt that a Kaiser-dominated German government would have continued on, with Prussian military authority as a key part of the government.

If they'd avoided using the Austrian assassination as a lead-in to a European conflict.....I think they would have simply found another episode three years or ten years later for some orchestrated conflict to tie up loose political issues within Germany.

A smaller and more direct conflict....just against Austria, or just against Russia.....might have prevented the massive world war scenario.

Few people realize that the Kaiser, after leaving Germany in 1919, survived on til 1941 in Huis Doorn, Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Netherlands....his health only declining in the mid-1930s.

The son?  Wilhelm III?  Well, this gets into an interesting side story.  The crown prince was already noted in 1901 as heaving a healthy appetite for women (numerous women in fact).....at the age of 19.

You can go through the next twenty years and find that Wilhelm III's chief interest was soccer (he helped in the start-up of the German Football Association in 1908 (he actually paid for the cup to be awarded) and tennis.

What happened after the family was sent out of Germany?  This gets to being interesting as well. Wilhelm III got into German politics....at least in the discussion of such things.  By 1932, turning fifty....he actually got into some talks of running for the office of Reichspräsident, under the umbrella as a right-wing candidate.  The opposing and assured winner was Paul von Hindenburg.  For some reason, Wilhelm III's father got into this discussion and really didn't want the son (as royality and assumed prince-to-be-Kaiser one day.....to be an elected official.  So he dropped out.

It should be noted....for the 1932 election....Wilhelm III strongly endorsed the Nazi Party.

Two years would pass after the Nazi win in November of 1932, and the night of the "Long Knives" occurred.  A friend and associate of Wilhelm III.....Kurt von Schleicher....former Chancellor of Germany....was assassinated by Nazi enthusiasts.  Wilhelm III had known von Schleicher for years and this one event changed his entire perception of the Nazi rise to power.

From 1934 on....Wilhelm III simply stayed in the background and never really participated in any government talks.  The rumors of Hitler before 1934....that maybe the royal family could be brought back into Germany and be part of some future monarchy?  Simply rumors.....they never went anywhere.

Wilhelm III, without the WW I conflict?  He would have been there in 1941 to assume the position of Kaiser.....at age fifty-nine years old.  He might have been a different style of Kaiser, and maybe by this point....smarter than his father.

It should be noted....by early 1945....Wilhelm III had serious health issues (gall bladder and liver).  One might guess that he had a fair amount of alcohol consumption throughout his life.  And he ended up passing away ten years after his father.  His last six years was mostly as a war criminal and held under house arrest....never being charged but never being allowed any freedom.

Germany has a a number of positives and negatives without WW I.  The US depression period (which has a world effect) would still affect German economics, and bring a harsh reality into Germany for the 1930s.  Without WW I, there is no WW II.  Hitler?  He probably ends up married in the mid-20's to some Munich gal with a taste for culture, running some house-painting service, and often hanging out at art museums in Munich to criticize modern art.

What-if situations are always curious to lay out, but they never seem to really answer any questions.  We are left with what did happen.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Cake Episode

The party boss of the Linke Party in Germany is Sahra Wagenknecht.  If you've ever spent some time watching chat forums.....she's one of the more clever and responsive political minds in Germany....sadly, she's left-wing (to the extreme).

Last night, the Linke Party started a weekend party meeting and in the midst of things.....some left-wing radicals came up near Wagenknecht and popped a cake in her face.  Pictures taken and she's kinda peeved about the matter.

You see....of the top five folks associated with the Linke Party, she's the only one for the past six months who has chatted about immigration and said that the current SPD-CDU program, Merkel's vision, is a failure and there needs to be fewer immigrants entering the country.

The issue is.....the current Linke Party position on immigration is that all people have the right to enter Germany, while they agree that the Merkel program under the CDU and SPD has been a failure.  Beyond that.....they say mostly nothing about how to fix this other than pushing more money into it and correcting the shelter discrepancies.

The party in the past week has even gone to the extent of a statement which says that they support immigration and can't understand why they are losing votes in the state elections of the past six months.  Obliviously.....as they say.....people just aren't getting the message and understanding what the message is about.  Wagenknecht looks at the message and you can tell....she's just not charged up about it or thinking it'll ever work.  Immigration is hurting the working class German guy....with no doubt.

What might happen after this cake-episode weekend?

There are two state elections in the fall in eastern Germany.  Normally, in Berlin....for state polling from last time.....the Linke Party ought to clear 11.6 percent.  In Meckinburg, the Linke Party polled 18.4 percent.  At the very least....they ought to get the same votes as last time (2011).  Frankly, I'm not of the opinion that they will have that much success....mostly because of the immigration and asylum business.

For Meckenburg, they likely will go from 18.4 percent (2011) to 9-percent (losing half of their support).  For Berlin, I think the 11.6 percent of 2011....will drop to around seven to nine percent.

Wagenknecht might look at things, the polling ahead and just quietly say that the Linke Party with it's attachment to immigration will not survive well in the federal race of 2017.  I kinda anticipate by December that she will step away, quit and resign from the party.

Maybe I'm wrong on this but a month later.....I think she will show up in the Saarland and team with the local AfD Party to go after a major voting win in March (their state election).  The Linke Party did well in 2012 in the Saarland, with 16-percent.  With the immigration trend, and Wagenknecht as the PR front for AfD?  I think they could easily take 25-percent, and the Linke Party suffer a massive loss of vote (maybe half as many as in 2012).

At that point, you really have to wonder about the two other German state elections in 2017, and how the Linke Party might be walking toward a 4.9-percent national win....which means they won't be part of the Bundestag (if they don't clear 5.0 percent nationally).

If you reshuffled the deck in the 2017 national election, and suddenly the Linke Party was not a significant player....you really start to see a totally different election.  It's possible to see a 25-to-30 percent win for AfD....maybe not enough to be the clear-cut winner but it really puts a tough coalition situation in place for the CDU.

So, maybe the cake in the face of Wagenknecht might reset the deck in some ways.  The Linke Party doesn't really represent the working class guy anymore.  It's almost a Green Party-Lite type organization that pretends to be extremely socialist and pro-worker.  If you were to dig up the common member of the group from the 1990s....he'd probably say that they don't represent him anymore and he doesn't really know who they represent.

Germany as a Monopoly Game

I came to this moment of realization today....of fitting life in Germany for a non-German into a Monopoly-style game.

So, after a fair amount of pondering.....I came to these observations if I were to design it as a table game.

First, there'd have to be approximately 19,500 rules to the game.  Some would be written down....some would be unwritten and simply explained at inappropriate times by a German himself.  Some rules would date back to 238 AD and Roman times.  Some would date back to 1619 and the Thirty Years War.  Some would date back to the Nazi era.  And some would date back to 1978 and some freaked out Bundestag bureaucratic era.

Second, there would be twelve different dice rolled, and each of the potential dice would have six different settings, tied to six different landscapes, tied to six different religious or cultural settings, tied to six different economic failures or successes, tied to six different tax interpretations, tied to six different perverse sexual settings, tied to six different degrees of German creativeness.  The move after the twelve dice rolled and results displayed....would require nine minutes of thinking over the dozen dice rules and how you could screw up on just one single bad dice display.

Third, there'd be no winner or loser.  You could play for fourteen hours straight, and eventually come to realize that the most you could get at the end is 750 Euro a month on a pension, and end up living in some old folks home run by Russian mobsters.

Fourth, the bonus card series during the game offers six potential bonus cards: (1) a five-star cheesecake with gourmet coffee, (2) six minutes of sitting in a train cabin with neo-Nazi skinhead, (3) an entry into a fest tent in Munich where an urgent visit to the bathroom reveals mostly throw-up and urine over the floor of the toilet, (4) a chance to sit for an hour with four intellectuals explaining why you are so stupid, (5)  a chance to be the first person to fly out of BER (the Berlin airport that is forever under renovation and further work before allowing a flight to occur), or (6) a chance to sit for two hours in a traffic stau between Frankfurt and Koln in the midst of July's heat period.

Fifth, a potential punishment phase often arriving on the board with three key phases of German life often being the reward: (1) riding on a German modern train in the summer with a failing AC unit and sitting there in 99-F temperatures while you sweat in comfort, (2) listening to an hour of political chat on pension reform by nine different German political figures, and (3) paying a 17.50 Euro monthly fee for TV options via state-run TV which just make you laugh and cry at the same time.

Sixth, the symbology  for the game pieces?  All ultra-highend cars like BMW, Audi, Porsche or Mercedes.  There's a diesel VW game piece, but whoever gets it....usually loses in the end, one way or another.

Seventh, about every eighth move, you'd land on some German cop or German tax-man position.  It'll be a roadblock, a alcohol-stop, a customs audit of your car's contents, or a review of your speed. Ninety percent of the time.....you survive with no problem.

Eighth, while in the process of playing the game, you notice several non-Germans have entered the room and appear to be in some state of playing the game....when they slip in and out of the room, and seem to be in some stage of pretending to play the game.  To be honest, they don't care for the 9,500 rules, the lack of substance for winning, or the continued necessity to always play the game (day in and day out).

Ninth, you notice after a while that environmentalists seem to write most of the rules.

Tenth, for some reason, you always play the game better when consuming German beer....in abundance.

Eleventh, you notice after a while.....it seems more fulfilling playing this game.....after eating a full and complete German dinner of schnitzel and pan-fried potatoes.

Twelfth, after you've played the game for a while, you learn never to utter Hitler or Nazis while with other game players.

Thirteenth, you learn after a while that while playing the game....it's best to always carry change with you because there are no such things as a free-toilet and Germans freak out if you urinate against a tree or the side of a building.

Fourteenth,  Players of the game seem to be urged to freak out when the words "Trump", "capitalism", "EU", "free trade", "Islam", "nuclear power", "republic", "Greece" or "diesel" are uttered.

Fifteenth.  after a couple of rounds of play....you eventually learn that it's best never to win any money because it'd just be taxed out of existence.

Sixteenth.  Integration gets uttered often during the game....to the point that you start to notice that some emigrants seem to know more about German history and law, than native Germans themselves.  You'd like to discuss this with a German but eventually learn that during this particular game....such discussions are frowned upon and discouraged.

Seventeenth.  As part of the game strategy....you continually need to spend all the money in the big public pot of money....even if it's for one-star marginalized art, 300-million Euro renovation project worth 50 million in value, or a fine traffic circle that leads only back to the original road you started from.  You ask about transparency rules or suggest audit threats to correct bad spending behavior in the game, but discover that the rule-makers really hate making those kind of rules.

The game is typically played by eighty-one million players, and some will admit after a while, it's very entertaining.....at least in their mind.  A handful of folks will admit in public that they'd like to expand the 19,500 rules to 66,000 rules....smiling as they say that.

The Whole Story

Sometimes....when you dig into a story.....you come to realize that there is more to it....than a news service provided.  This occurred with me today, and the story of a German Protestant Church holding a funeral for a Islamic guy.  A local news source really told the bulk of this story.

There's a fair amount of outage in Hamburg and throughout Germany over this funeral episode.

What can be said is that a 17-year-old "kid" ended up as a Islamic guy fighting for ISIS in Syria.  He died, and the decision was made by the local pastor in Hamburg...Sieghard Wilm of the Saint Pauli Church to hold a service for him.  It should be noted....it's not really a Muslim funeral, as one might imagine.

Anger and hostility?  Yes.  Locals got pretty frustrated with this and have vented their anger at the church and the pastor involved.

The story made it across the Atlantic and is prime news in the US market as well.

Most say that a Muslim guy should not end up with a Christian environment funeral, and that the pastor was absolutely wrong in what he did.

Wilm has said as much as he could.....trying to explain and defend the position of the church.  I'm taking a guess that some folks in the Hamburg area who were church-tax-payers.....might quit, and it might have some affect across Germany.

But, we come to the 'rest of the story' as I observe the bigger picture here.

This kid?   'Florent' was a German-immigrant of sorts.....(not a refugee or Turk).  He'd come to Germany as an infant from Cameron and been adopted by a German family.

At some point within the last three years....he got curious into Islam (he was in a Christian family) and ended up converting into Islam.  Weeks later, the local enthusiastic religious scholar scores big as 'Florent' drops his education and stable life in Germany, and heads off to Syria for a glorious campaign to fight the evilness standing against ISIS.  The mere fact that he would be fighting other Muslims.....never did register in his mind, nor do I think the religious scholar in Hamburg ever explain that detail to the kid.

So the kid arrives in Syria back in July of last year.  The family, in particular the mother (as the pastor explains to the local press in Hamburg).....believed that 'Florent' quickly came to realize what he'd stepped into and how screwed up the situation really was.

The wrong path, criticism of Salafism behavior, and the lack of any defensive training.....are cited by the mother in whatever communications that she had from her son.

Somewhere around 14 years old....'Florent' converted to being 'Balal'....identifying himself in the Middle Eastern culture.  He survived roughly three years of this....before dying in Syria.

For fourteen years, this German family tried to raise 'Florent' and did it under the Christian umbrella.  Based on misfortune and the lack of mature decisions by the young kid.....he's dead today.  I kinda agree with the pastor....the family is Christian and would like for some memorial-type service to occur....to remember 'Florent' rather than 'Balal'.  They probably deserve that right.  You can talk all you want about this being a Muslim funeral, but it's to remember the Christian kid 'Forent', not Balal'.

Statues to remember these ISIS warriors?  None.  That's the one observation you can make after a while of observing radical Muslim ideology.....they don't bother remembering anyone who dies for their cause.  You end up as a faceless and nameless creation.

TV Show Review

I have Netflix as an option here in Germany and am a participant.

About two weeks ago, I sat down and decided to watch a new Netflix-produced series called Marseille.  It's a an eight-show series....set in southern France around Marseille.

To be kinda honest, I probably got about 30 minutes into the one-hour opener, and ended my viewing.

The script to this?  Well....there's this old French guy (actually played by Gerald Depardieu) who is the declining mayor of Marseille.  He's been there as mayor for twenty years and got himself a little empire established.

The city election is coming up and there's some former friend/associate/protege who has decided to play into the election.  The old guy probably ought to gracefully retire and just enjoy his life remaining but this former friend is forcing him to play out another election.

The problem with new series is that we all kinda have a huge expectation of a "hook" which grabs you in the first part of episode one and really makes you interested in continued viewing.

Lost, the TV series, started this trend.  The first twenty minutes of the series Lost was a game-changer for viewing TV series.

For the series Marseille?  There just isn't anything much in the first thirty minutes that spells out interest or real attention-getting.

I thought that my negative feeling might have been unfair, but I noted over the week after viewing Marseille.....that most French newspapers and outlets also were negative.  The script was weak....the dialog led to nowhere.....and it was mostly Depardeiu laid out in some scene against a grand landscape....uttering a line or two, and moving on.

Netflix probably got talked into this series.....thinking that someone could just throw together a reasonable script.....talk a big-name French actor into showing up....and get eight decent episodes which would lead onto a second and third season.  Based on what I saw in the first episode.....they might ought to forget about additional seasons.

The thing is....there are tons of great stories and fine landscapes to run simple eight-episode season productions from Netflix.  True, this was a failure but I would hope that they simply learn a lesson or two and continue on with more productions.

I can think of a dozen script ideas (Greeks in trouble, refugees, lost Nazi art, Nazi nukes, bought-off royal titles, Russian mafia episodes, and intellectuals forced into reality situations).

So, if you see Marseille listed on Netflix and just want to see landscape of Marseille, with the sound turned low.....then it might not be such a bad deal.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The German Obsession with Hiroshima

Every year in Germany, on the 6th of August, for the nightly news at 8PM.....state-run German TV will feature a 30-to-60 second note near the end of the broadcast about the events of the day in Hiroshima, and note that once again that the use of a nuke weapon on a civilian city was unnecessary.  Then about two hours later....either on ARD or ZDF (both state-run networks) there will usually be at least a five-minute update and explanation by some German historian about the reckless nature of American leaders in 1945, and how unnecessary this really was.

I started to notice this in the 1990s (yes, it's a yearly thing and always repeats itself).  Sometimes, they do find an American or British historian to repeat the emphasis of it being an unjust or unnecessary use of warfare.

Few Germans, even Germans who claim some authority on the topic of history.....have any understanding of Operation Downfall.....the invasion of Japan, planned toward the end of 1945.

Downfall was planned into two parts.  The first would occur toward October of 1945 and would be called Operation Olympic.  This would have involved landing and capturing the southern most island of Japan, and being able to establish some control over roughly one-third of that island.  If curious, the island measures roughly 100 km by 100 km.

Okinawa?  It was to be used for staging operations and for a large assortment of US fighters and bombers.

Nothing else would be moving much for four to six months.  Naturally, you'd ask why and you come to something that Germans never seem to grasp.  The invasion of Japan was considered a massive problem and based on the amount of fight that had been put up for each island battle in 1944 and 1945....the US needed to take the bulk of Army personnel who'd fought through to the heart of Germany, and move them across the Pacific....putting them in a stage to invade again.

You can imagine the gut feeling of most Army personnel who'd fought one entire war and survived.....now being told that their participation really isn't over and that at best....they get a six-month reprieve.

While this wait is going on....what exactly do you think the Russians would be doing?  Think about it.

German defeat for them.  A long train ride, and you would have transferred the bulk of the Russian force to one side of Japan as well.

The expect death toll just for the Americans?  150,000 dead troops minimum.  Some estimates....thinking it'd take 18 months to take the entire country....thought the end result for dead American troops would have been 500,000 dead.

The Japanese tally, with both military and civilian dead?  Some estimates put it at 1.5 million, and another half million dead from starvation during the possible 18-month war.

Fear of a chemical attack against the Americans?  This was reality because they'd used chemical weapons against the Chinese.

In short summation.....there was never any shown tendency of the Japanese to easily surrender during the whole island campaign of 1944 or 1945.   If the Germans or the Japanese had put emphasis into the nuclear program and built it before the Americans.....yes, they would have used it on New York City or some west coast urban area.

This will talked about on the German news tonight of President Obama's visit to Hiroshima and the almost apology that he issued.  It's not worth much but it gives the German obsession one more bit of emphasis.