Friday, April 18, 2014

Local Windmill Feud

Here in the rurals of Wiesbaden....as urban rural as a guy can get....there's a fight underway between the environmentalists, the urban-ites, the progressive folks, the windmill enthusiasts, and just about anyone who doesn't have hobbies to keep themselves busy.

From the map you see.....I live over on the far right side....in the tiny village of Naurod.  The red striped areas?  That's the areas where the windmill folks have done the studies and project lots of wind.  Naturally, it's a ridgeline on a hill, which is about 1.5 to 2 miles from Wiesbaden.

Folks get peppy about landscape....especially from Wiesbaden.  They believe God descended down from the heavens, and blessed them with the best darn landscape that you could ask for.  Never mind the fact that TV towers can be seen in six different directions, on various hilltops overlooking the region.

The anti-windmill mafia?  Well, they've gotten to organizing. Part of the scheme is to get locals writing letters to political folks and the newspapers.  Naturally, most folks aren't bright about this.....so there's a hint to help them along in writing their thoughts on this.

What they suggest is that you need to lead off and really harp on landscaping damage and recreation limitations.  If you just see a windmill....it gets you depressed and negative....especially if it's two miles down the road.  Yeah, I'm not sure how you'd get this across....other than admitting you were drinking a lot and it was all caused by windmill viewing.  The more windmills.....the more booze.

So, we move onto issue point two.....fire, ice thrown from the blades and lightning.  Yeah, the 200 meter tall windmills are a magnet for lightning.  Frankly, it'd be kinda nice to sit on my balcony in a thunderstorm and watch bolts of lightning struck the blades.  Course, TV towers also are a magnet.  In fact, most houses now in my village have lightning rods on the roof.....to absorb the bolt and send it to the ground.  The logic in this political statement?  Well.....your very own house is a problem, if you start talking like this.  And the ice?  Unless you are standing underneath the blade there on some cold afternoon when the ice breaks off from the blade....that's the about the only way to get whacked.

Issue point three?  It's bound to affect drinking water.  I sat there for five minutes....trying my best to think how water would be affected.  You see....most everyone in the entire region.....drinks water coming off the ridge.  There's underwater caverns on the ridge, which pump out tens of thousands of gallons per hour.....to twenty different communities in the region.  An effect on water?  If there were chemicals involved in windmill usage, maybe so.  But I've yet to see any windmill that had some chemical gimmick.  Bad excuse....if you ask me.

Issue point four?  Bird strike.  What the windmill mafia will readily admit.....birds get into some dive related to the blades, and get whacked.  No one wants to talk numbers, but you can assume one single windmill with three blades....likely kills at least a dozen birds a month.....minimum.  Maybe it's a decent reason to forbid them.....ALL of them....but then we kinda opened this Pandora's Box a long time ago.

Issue point five?  Infrasound.  A lot of folks in smaller towns where the windmills were built near.....have complained in recent years of continued issues of dizziness and a throbbing sound.  If you live within a kilometer of a windmill.....you might have an issue to complain about.  The locations on the map?  Well....to be honest....it's at least one kilometer from any community.

Issue point six?  Air safety.  Supposedly.....a low flying plane might get whacked by the blades.  In the nine months I've been a "prisoner" of the village here.....I've never seen a low-flying plane.

Issue point seven?  Property loss.  If you throw up a windmill farm of five windmills....they consume around ten acres of property.  There's not much way to avoid this issue.  Course, all of the regions under discussion are state forest properties, and in the middle of walking trails.  It's not taking away village property, farming land, or urban acreage.

Issue point eight?  Bats and wildcats.  Yeah....it's a pretty long stretch.  The woods are full of bats and I'm guessing it might be a problem.  Course, all these bikers and hikers disturb the bats, and no one says much about that.  The wildcats?  I have walked the woods on dozens of occasions, and never seen such an animal.  Lynx and wildcats?  Maybe you should make up stories about the wolves of Naurod, or the wild bears that roam the woods....with little girls wandering around in red capes....going to grandma's house.

Issue point nine?  Beetles.  Yeah, somehow, it'd disturb the various bugs and beetles of the region.  Roads also disturb them....as do bikers and hikers.  It's a lousy argument.

Issue point ten?  The all inclusive UNESCO heritage project.  They seek to have the town put into the sacred category of spa resorts of worldly renown statue.  The only issue is that the resort spa town status died off in 1914, and most of the hotels that were part of that tourist scheme are long gone....as are most of the spas.  Course, there is the enteral worry that this windmill deal would really screw up the application.  Never mind the fact that no one really believes it will do much for the city except add one more sign, and one more status symbol to the city.  

I will admit.....these guys are bright in their endeavour to stand against the windmill project.  The fact that they are the same ones who stand against nuke power, believe in climate change, and generally always side with environmentalists.....taking a stand against windmills....makes them look hypocritical.  I'm guessing they will get at least three thousand of the locals charged up and each will write a letter.  Chatting up a storm over their precious landscape.....talking about the wildcats of the woods, and harping over the UNESCO project.  At least it keeps them busy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Black" Money and Luxembourg

The Local.de put up an article today....related to German customs folks and the search of an older German couple crossing Luxembourg into Germany.  The story goes....customs folks stop them....ask to search, and then come across 200,000 Euro....taped onto the various body elements of the two (yeah, even the genitals as the article described the situation).

There's a hefty fine involved in this cash and carry deal.  Questions will be asked.  Time in jail?  I doubt it.  But of the 200,000 Euro....I suspect they will lose at least a quarter of the money in fines and lawyer costs.  Additional money in Luxembourg?  Well....they will be questioned and asked to sign statements.  Basically, if you lie.....you could owe more money.

All of this brings one to the topic of Luxembourg and hidden money.  Generally, for the past fifty-odd years....Germans have hidden money in Luxembourg.  They'd done in simple ways, and in complex ways.

Banks in Luxembourg used easily allow German customers....but times got tough and regulations more difficult.  Then Germans got into buying property....quietly....and putting secret money into assets like that.  Some Germans even get into deals of investing with some Luxembourg resident to buy a pub or hotel.....letting them hold the asset until they are ready to part company.

German society is fairly negative about tax episodes.  Germans work hard for their money, and don't see much reason to hand over thirty to fifty percent of what they make.  You have lots of craftsmen now....carpenters, roofers, plumbers....who do weekend work and make 30,000 to 100,000 Euro a year in secret money.  Taking a weekend job....you could easily make 4,000 over two weekend, and you really don't care to admit the money and pay taxes.  So it makes sense to hide it.

German customs folks got smart over the years.  Every single road leading out of Luxembourg is generally monitored at various times of the day.  You can cross the river....into Germany....make it three to five miles....thinking you are completely safe, then turn the corner and find a roadblock.  I had this to happen once.  They ask to look in the car, and if nothing suspicious is noted....they let you go (as in my case).

Round the clock coverage?  For the most part.  Patrols lessen at night, I am told....and if you transit via the autobahn....you might have a higher chance of no customs stops.  However, even on the autobahns....the customs folks have authority to pass you.....give you the light, and pull you over.

A decade ago....I was watch German news and they had this craftsman with a RV.  He and the wife were driving from Germany into Luxembourg and were likely less than 500 yards from the border.  Pulled over....the customs folks search the whole vehicle top to bottom....then come to the coffee can.  Bundled up....there must have been around 25,000 Euro in the can (in big bills).  They asked his intent but he kept quiet.  They end up filing a report on this, and some audit will be done down the line.  Lawyer costs?  You can figure he had to engage a big-name guy and pay out at least 15,000 Euro to clear himself.

My general advice on this?  It's best to avoid these situations entirely....but if you were stupid enough to desire crossing into Germany with 200,000 Euro.....I'd find myself a rubber raft.....cross the river at midnight, and drive safely out of the Luxembourg region on secondary roads between midnight and 6AM.  I doubt if any of the customs folks are on duty at that time....and if so....most are likely around the autobahn area.

Finally, I'm pondering over what this elderly couple was intending to do with the 200,000 Euro they were sneaking over.  A new house?  Paying off some debt?  A big villa?  A new business?  It would have been curious to know how they were going to use the money.

The Berlin Memorial Episode

Two German newspapers today took an unusual step with a public petition of sorts that is being pushed to remove tank memorials in the middle of Berlin, near the Soviet WW II memorial on 17 June Strasse....leading up to the Brandenburg Tor.

If you've been to Berlin, the 17 June Strasse is the main drag running east to west in the center of town.  The Tiergarden area takes up a fair amount of space in town, and the memorial was built in 1945....just six months after Soviet forces took the city.  Impressive?  It's as grand as the WW II Memorial in DC.  What few people realize after visiting the site is that it's really the burial grounds for roughly 2,000 (at least that's what the Russians say) Soviet troops during the Berlin last day's fight.

The memorial has two tanks, one at each front edge.  All of the WW II variety.

The petitions involved?  The memorial itself should stay, but the two tanks represent a problem for the new German mentality of supporting Ukraine.  Bad guys, bad memorial tanks, etc.

The newspapers pushing the agenda?  Bild is the national paper which is generally read by the working class guy.  You can best describe Bild as a paper writing up the top twenty significant items of news....in forty words or less.  It's a paper that a guy can read on the way to work and be done by the end of morning break.

The second paper is the Berlin Zeitung (BZ)....which works along with the same ingredients....working guy's paper.....short on details....etc.

The memorial has faced a number of public episodes over the years.  In 2010....near Victory in Europe Day.....the memorial was vandalized with red paint.  The city was accused by the Russians as doing little to protect the memorial.

The effect of the petitions?  I would imagine that they will get 300,000 signatures within a month, and put the city council in a very difficult position.  Of course, the Berlin city council IS NOT known for making quick or sudden decisions....so even if they were to go with the petition....it could be two years before a final decision is made, and they might only remove the tanks to some WW II museum within the boundary of the city of Berlin.

One possibility?  The German-Russian Museum at Berlin-Karlshorst.  It'd be a natural fit and give defining history to the tanks.

What's this all add up to?  Well....it only brews more hostility and frustrations over the regular Russian guy, the Russian image machine, and Putin.  A thousand Russian thugs show up for some Russia-Germany soccer match....dispatch 2,000 Germans to medical facilities, and it just heats up another notch over the Ukraine business.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Germany, Ukraine, and Russia

For whatever reason....Germany has started this week off with comments over dire consequences of the Ukraine and its situation.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier made the quote of the day:  “It cannot be, seven decades after the end of the second world war and 25 years after the end of the cold war, that we start changing borders based on ethnic, linguistic or religious factors.“

One of Merkel's spokesmen put in the best sense.....you've got paramilitary guys wandering around....pretending to be military....then pretending to be civilian.  This opens up a can of worms, if any armed conflict starts up.

Since the Berlin Wall went down....Germany has been disarming it's military.  Between the SPD and Greens....with mild cooperation by the CDU/CSU.....it's been a step-by-step process.  Logically, it didn't make any sense because everyone saw Russia as a somewhat warm friendly neighbor.  No one foresaw any bullying tactics as a future problem.

The US master plan for disarming?  Well...since the early 90's....we've been cutting on installations and troops in Europe.  There's no need....as we continually viewed the future.  Even now.....there's likely dozens of minor cuts hidden on future plans of this administration until 2016 for European deployed US troops.

The odds of Russia being able to invade Europe itself?  Zero.  But there's this curious thing that has occurred over the past twenty years.  Russians have packed up and left Russia.

They are mostly disinterested in staying because of economic issues, jobs, and corruption.  3.5 million Russians have come to live in Germany today.

If you stop any Russian on the streets of Wiesbaden.....ask them over local conditions and if they'd like to go back to where they were.....most would laugh and say no.  They found better circumstances.

The Russians in the Ukraine?  To some degree....it was a easy entry point, a simple job, and one step up in the world of economics.  The Ukraine had deals brewing with various European countries, and a number of companies were showing profit margins....something you can't find with most Russian companies (unless you talk natural gas or oil).

All it took were some thugs to enter the Ukraine picture, talk negative about government, and a week or two later.....you've got problems.  In some ways.....I'm guessing that the Germans are asking some stupid questions now.

In the spring of 1914....nobody in Europe foresaw a war being imminent.  From 1870 to 1914....what Prussian military generals generally said.....was that a short war was just around the corner.  They saw this as their mark of confidence.  They'd fight some threat, who didn't have any support from other countries.....and run a twelve-month war.  For several decades....the Prussian military ran things in full confidence of their abilities.

The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand occurred on 28 June.    The dozen-odd events to start the war ran up to 1 August, and then spilled over with dissolved relations taking less than a day or two.  No German really believes in a repeat of the 1914 episode.....but no one really saw the Ukraine falling this way either.....over a silly trade deal with the EU.  No weapons.....no threats....no annexations....no hostility....just a stupid trade deal to open up markets and put more jobs and money into Ukraine.  All of this?  Worth fighting some guerrilla war or Russian invasion over?  That's the sad part of the story.

The Fake Montage of Wiesbaden

 The picture you see....is a montage....a fake.  Sadly, it's one off the Wiesbaden Burgerliste magazine that comes out monthly.

There's a fight underway....primarily by the SPD party in Wiesbaden, and a number of landscape lovers....who believe this idea of putting windmills up on the Taunuskamm (the ridgeline overlooking Wiesbaden)....is a terrible idea.

Yes, the same folks talk excessively about climate change and global warming, but the idea of putting windmills in the valley?  Oh no....you just can't do that.

The suggested project was one that would place a couple of windmills on the farthest hillside that you see.  The chief reason?  Wind flow and dependable wind strength.  the actual size of a windmill, if you used the same Picture?  About a third of the size that you see in this picture.  You have to remember....the hills in question are about two miles beyond Russian Orthodox Church that you see with the shiny roof.

I'd take a guess that 200,000 copies of the Burgerliste gets printed and delivered to all households within the Wiesbaden city limits.  Everyone will note the frontpage....note how the landscape is scarred with the windmills, and thus go anti-wind mill.  Though....the same crowd wants to talk excessively about climate change.  Yeah, go figure.

Where will the electrical power come from when the nuke power systems are turned off?  Somewhere else....with scarred landscapes and purity of wind energy driving the agenda.....that's the general consensus.  So if you were wondering what the additional games are in the Wiesbaden UNESCO application....yeah, this is one of the issues that cannot be allowed to occur.

Casino Rules of 1857

In the spring of 1857.....the Nassau police commission sat down and established some rules and regulations over gambling within the city limits of Wiesbaden.  Since the casino was the only authorized place to gamble....it was chiefly meant for the customers who utilized the casino (the out-of-town crowd and the rich and elite).

Rule 1: Play could start at 11AM each day, and run for twelve hours....except for Sundays or holidays where casino gambling was stopped promptly at 3PM.

Rule 2: The dealer can only start play into action, when he utters: "Ca va!"  It basically means....all bets are now valid.  Only after uttering that word....will the game go into the next stage of play.

Rule 3: Roulette is treated slightly different than rule two.  Instead of "Ca va", the phrase uttered will be "Rien ne va plus"....which means don't put anymore more money on the table....the game is about to be played.

Rule 4: The casino bank is not responsible for errors of those playing.  If you were that stupid to walk in, then this rule erased blame on the casino operators.

Rule 5: At the game of Thirty and Forty or Black and White.....a poker-related game that French usually play but was widely accepted at Wiesbaden's casino....once the cards are cut by a bystander at the table....the dealer is no longer responsible for the outcome of the game.  Again, it protected the casino against losses.

Rule 6: Counterfeit or chipped coins, no payment is made.  One could say that counterfeit issues were always an issue at any casino, and the police rule on this simply fixed potential issues from happening.

Rule 7:  Paper money will not be accepted within the casino, for any game.  So, you had to deal with the casino bank, and buy their chips....redeeming your winnings later.

Rule 8: The casino bank will not loan money.  I should note, the city of Nassau operated a state-run pawn shop, with a separate list of rules.....to engage the loan industry and help the poor guys who showed up with only a minimum amount of cash to pay their resort bills.

Rule 9: Money limits were placed on various games.  For example, for Thirty and Forty, you were limited to 400 Fredrich d'or's (the Prussian gold coin currency at the time).  It should be noted that the Fredrich d'or currency was replaced within a year or two of the regulations set by the Nassau police on this issue.

Rule 10: If any accident befalls the roulette wheel....for any reason....then all bets are off.

(Source: Wiesbaden and Its Environs, published in 1864)

Book Review: Sixteen Months in Four German Prisons

By Henry Charles Mahoney, 1917

It is the true story of a Brit, who has been given travel directions and tries to make journey around the first of August, 1914.  Sadly, he arrives in the midst of Germany....as the war is about to start.  They look over his baggage....find cameras.....sort through things, and decide he is a war criminal....then spends sixteen months in the worst possible situations.

Never in uniform....he is continually believed to be a spy.  Sadly, his treatment is about as bad as it comes.

The Prussian military mentality is displayed as Nazi-like in a number of ways.  Those from Britain, France, Russia and Belgium are treated terribly.

Mahoney will make his way around Germany....getting released from prison camp but forbidden to leave the country.  Then arrested again.....then released.  It's a pretty lousy experience.

So when he comes back sixteen months later....he writes the book.  It's taken to the public.....in newspaper articles and tends create what the Prussians never calculated upon.

From the 1870s on....Prussia enjoys fairly good economic times....with a fair amount of tourism due to the rich and elite of various neighboring countries coming and enjoying the landscape and lifestyle.  I doubt if the Kaiser, the Prussian military, or leadership of various states in Prussia understood what would occur as the war ended.

Prussia came to 1919 and likely thought that the war would end, and things would go back to the 'norm'.  It never did.  The 1920s and 1930s....saw little to none of the tourism traffic return.  After WW II.....it's hard to find any real tourism traffic within Germany except for Germans themselves, and Americans.  It's not until you get to the mid-1970s....that you notice tourism picking up.

What economic calamities came after 1919....can be attributed to a fair degree to the anger and frustrations from the rest of Europe.  If you drive around Wiesbaden and note the upper scale homes built around town....all came before 1914.  All came from business and resort enterprise success stories in Wiesbaden's spa district.  The rich and elite came....they spent money....and the money stayed in town.  The same is true for Baden-Baden.....Stuttgart.....Berlin and a dozen other major vacation spots before WW I.

The book?  Worth reading, but you have fairly negative view of Prussian military officers after reading  it.  Those who'd say it's a fictional account?  I'd just suggest to read around and find others who write similar stories.  The reason we have a Geneva Convention....are the accounts that came out of WW I.

The History of the Taunus Railway

As fall approached in 1838....Wiesbaden was set to change forever....because of a simple priority in infrastructure.  The Taunus Railway project was underway in September of that year.  The plan was to lay out a track.....the first in the region.....from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden.  A length of 42 kilometers (roughly thirty miles).

It was a project had to be signed onto by two different entities....the free-city of Frankfurt (unattached to any state but itself), and the Duke of Nassau (Wiesbaden's controlling authority in this period).  It wasn't an easy sales job.  What most people in the Nassau saw....was a threat to the port operation presently at work in Mainz.  Fewer ships stopping to off-load....meant less revenue for the Nassau area.  The general perception was that ships would stop in Frankfurt....off-load....and shipment would be delivered by the railway.

This argument went on for a number of months, and finally was resolved enough to convince the Duke of Nassau to buy into the project. The chief finance vehicle behind the expensive railway?  Well....two Frankfurt banks got into the discussion and saw it as an investment opportunity....too big to miss. The syndicate players?  Gebrüder Bethmann and Rothschild.  What the investment planners found....was extreme interest via the rich and elite in the region in a 'can't-miss' opportunity.  Bluntly, they had more money in their hand than they probably expected.

Roughly a year later, the track was complete on phase one and the stations set into motion.  You could basically go from Frankfurt inner city to Hochst.....a distance of twelve kilometers (roughly nine miles).  No one says much over the travel between the two points....you could walk it in three hours for free.  I doubt if they had that many folks doing the trip unless it was for the thrill itself.

The completed job from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt?  May of 1840....roughly a year later.

What occurred in the weeks after this completion is a rather odd story.  The port guys over at Mainz....still frustrated over the approval and construction....continued to believe that the railway was bringing bad economic times to their business traffic.  This frustration also crossed over into the merchant trade of Mainz.  At some point in 1841....the merchants and port folks decided to cross the river....to Biebrich (on the Wiesbaden side of the Rhine), and try to shut down the port.

The simple act?  They found enough boats and heavy stones, and put a barrier into the area around Biebrich's port.....which basically diverted ALL traffic away from their port....to the nearest port (Mainz of course).  It was a pretty thought plan, and required a good bit of work to accomplish.  Legally, all that Nassau (Wiesbaden) could do....was complain to the local government structure over Mainz.....then residing in Darmstadt.  Needless to say....nothing got solved quickly.  It was the spring of the next year before the stone obstacles were removed.

During this same period.....the same crowd came to threaten the railway line between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden.  In this case....the crowd met up with armed policemen....willing to shoot.

Stability then occurred, and the railway prospered.

The Taunus Railway then takes up the one of three major developments, which turn Wiesbaden into a resort status vacation spot....for the rich and elite of Europe to come, enjoy the spa waters, gamble in the casino, enjoy the Kur Park, local food and dining, and of course....spend money.

Without the railway development, there is no expansion of Nassau or Wiesbaden, and the magnificent houses along the main streets of the city....never get built.