Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Google-EU Fine

The EU came out today and said that basically....Goggle has it's search-engine rigged to hype products that people pay them to hype.....when you do a product search.  Shocking?  No.  It's been a known fact for a decade.  It's just a shock that the EU said there's a fine involved in this now....to the tune of 2.75-billion Euro.  A fair sum of money.

What happens now?  Court action probably.  The Google folks will say that it's a very unfair sum of money (suggesting 10-percent of that sum probably).  I don't see any payoff coming for at least three years minimum.

So what does the EU do with 2.75-billion....if it all did come?

Well....the EU building in Brussels is deemed now as mostly unfit (I now....it's been around since 1993 and folks are shocked that this topic has come up).  The price to replace the structure.....in Brussels?  Back in 2015, it was quoted around at 450-million Euro.  That's probably without the fancy art, the parking lot, or furnishings.  That's also without cost-over-runs.  So a nice tidy.....one-billion Euro is the likely end-cost.  All from the Google fine?  Maybe.

But there is this big problem if you sit and think about it.  Google only makes massive profit off it's advertising scheme which is what the EU got angry about.  Now that everyone realizes it's a problem....who else will sue?  Will Google have to admit that it's only mechanism for profit.....is a problem in all countries? This really brings out a hundred possible scenarios on the future with Google and how they survive into the next decade.

If I were to bet on the final outcome?  I think the EU will get the bulk of the fine suggested, and Google sits there in some shock at the damage done to it.  If you can't make a profit off advertising in the way that they did......why bother making it a tool for any EU resident to use?  I might even go to the extent of making Google a private tool....that you have to pay 20-Euro a month....to be an inside-user.

Gay Marriage Coming to Germany

Up until now....civil unions were the tool that you used in Germany....if you wanted to be a same-sex pair.  Generally, the public didn't put gay-marriage on their top ten issues (maybe not even the top twenty-five issues).

For the CDU and CSU (the right of center political parties)....there was simply not going to be any serious interest in changing the law.

The Greens and Linke Party were mostly all for gay-marriage occurring, and the SPD in recent months went to favor this heavily.

So, this past week....Merkel went and modified the CDU platform yet again (basically taking another theme from the SPD).....making gay-marriage now likely to be voted upon.

For sixteen years.....civil unions have been the norm.  It was pretty much a simple task....go down to the local Rothaus...do some paperwork, and it's stamped official.

Polling suggests that 70-percent of the German public supports gay-marriage.

An EU shift?  No one says that.  It might take another decade for the EU to step up and push on this.

A rush to have large numbers married?  I'm not so sure about that.  A fair number are already in civil unions and some might conduct the marriage just make a public statement.

Cop Story

Cops from all over Germany have been moved and placed in the past ten days in Hamburg for the G20 summit episode.....to occur in roughly a week.  Massive show of police force for this brief weekend 'show'.

Well....some Berlin cops among these folks....got kinda bored and started drinking.  Their behavior....after work....got reported.

Focus reported on one of these episodes.....where several cops from Berlin were dismissed and sent back home.  Gun-play?  Well, yeah, that did get mentioned.

One might get the impression that a review will occur and some folks will get reprimanded/warned.  Some alcohol abuse classes?  Maybe.


The Rental Story

Over the past decade, two unusual events have come to arrive in Germany, and created some anger and frustrations.

First, affordable housing in most urbanized areas is becoming non-existent.  If you drive around Frankfurt and look for something in the 500 to 800 Euro range....you will find that it's fairly hard to find empty apartments.

Second, second-home 'owners' are now becoming noticed.  No one says the numbers that existed prior to the 1990s....but in the past decade, it's become apparent that people have a primary residence and a secondary residence.  Some of this is due to purchases made two decades ago by people who were single....now they've married or they've moved into an apartment to share with their partner.  So if you look on-line for 'holiday'rentals'.....there are roughly 1,500 situations around Frankfurt now.

So, naturally, the Frankfurt city-government wants to get involved in this, and stop it (the rentals of second-home owners).

HR does a good job of telling this story.

The humor side of this is that even if you took away the 1,500 second-home situations....statistically, it'd only amount to one-quarter of one percent of the homes/residences....in Frankfurt.

I suspect that this will get dragged into some court and the question for the judges to decide....where does property reach the level of being government-controlled yet personally-owned.  The hint here by the city management folks is that they don't want anyone to rent out residence (actual apartments) to the holiday crowd.  If you look at the trend.....there's roughly 1,500 'mini-hotels' now existing in Frankfurt.

The actual hotel-owners angry?  No one has suggested that, but it is unfair competition....if you think about it.

Black-money worries as well?  Well, the article didn't touch on that little issue. You see....if you were going into Frankfurt for three weeks in some job-capacity.....you could find some guy to rent out his 'flat' for cash-only.  This might amount to a thousand Euro....which isn't reported as income.  Somewhere in the mix of this whole government involvement business....I suspect that tax problems also bother some folks.

German News, Tuesday Morning

Diesel review coming:  Focus wrote up a piece this morning and says that the Germans are going to stop this city-by-city effort to ban diesel cars and to mount a 12-million diesel car 'upgrade' (retrofit, software, etc).  Who would pay for this effort?  Left out of the political talk and the article.  Diesel owners won't be pleased to pay for much of anything.  The talked about ban in Bavaria really didn't sell well.  A good quote out of the article was from Bavaria's Seehofer, who said: "Nice that you bought a diesel but all that advice was wrong"....which he is correct....everyone was told for decades that for long distance travel, diesel cars were the better choice.  I don't expect this topic to end in 2017....or 2018.

Ten year old kid gets paid 2-million dollars:  Pretty weird Focus sports report.  Investigation going on about FIFA (world soccer 'boss').  In 2010, some kind of 'pay-off' was mounted for people voting on the next country to get the soccer championship....and to make the judges with votes happy.....their 10-year old kid was paid off.  Simply demonstrates the amount of corruption going on within the sport.

Lawsuit over refugee container 'villages': To meet the 2015 needs of housing for immigration centers and refugee compounds....states and cities in Germany turned toward innovation.  In this case, they hired a container company to manufacture and set-up several villages.  Millions were set into motion and obligated for these.  The states and cities had no idea what to expect, and simply put a round number on the wall.  Well, a year goes by and it's obvious in 2016 that they can cut back on the effort because of the Turk effort on human smuggling.  The contracts for the contain-villages?  As far as the company are concerned....money is still obligated.  Hessen (the one who signed the deal) says no.  Court episode moving forward.  Judge will have to determine wording on the sales document and what the obligation was about.  One can blame the German federal government for failing to control the whole business and plan ahead.

Italian banks saved:  Basically, there's a EU-rule that says that individual countries can't save banks deemed 'failures'.  The bank should fail and the credit-holder (the stock-holders) would be the losers of a loss.  However, this week.....the EU waved its rule (Brits would be shocked over that)....saying that the government of Italy could come up with 17-billion Euro and save two major banks.  About a month ago, as the failures were predicted....the Italians kinda hinted that they were going to save the banks....even if the EU-rule stood in the way.  Reason for the failures?  N-TV article suggests that a large percentage of losses added up and were simply failed loans that the banks couldn't get their money back.

Sheldon Cooper of German politics:  Wonderful piece by N-TV on Chancellor Merkel as a political figure.  Most Germans do prefer her over all over choices as Chancellor, which is making this election in 2017 rather routine.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Turf-Battles

In the drug sales game.....controlling 'turf' is the central theme.  You don't want competition.  If you have two or three groups that appear on your turf, and start selling at a discounted price.....then your entire business plan is destroyed and you have drugs on your hands....which can't be sold without a loss.

German cops up in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein have basically laid out this unusual problem....turf-fights.  It's broken out in the last couple of months and groups are meeting on the street and conducting brawls to win over territory and kick out the competition.  This means some folks get sent off to the hospital.

The groups that the cops are encountering?  North African, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yes, refugees, migrants and immigrants.

Why?  The newspaper S-H Zeitungsverlag didn't get into these details.

Typically, after you arrive in Germany and get some real dose of reality as a new immigrant.....you come to realize that real jobs don't pay what you thought they would.  You don't have the background, the certificates, or the education to ask anything beyond minimum wage.  You go and talk to a couple of guys and they refer you to some gang who deals in drugs..  You offer your services.....you wake up a month later with a couple thousand Euro in your pocket and a pretty regular schedule.  The great thing about this?  No taxes....no pension deductions....nothing removed from your pay.  Maybe the cops get onto your deal but that's weeks or months down the road.

If you were aggressive and out there everyday.....building up your clients.....you might be sitting on 5k Euro a month minimum.  Maybe as much as 10k Euro.

But all of this is built on controlling turf.  If you wake up one day the typical group of Tuesday shoppers don't show up and you find out that they got a better deal with some new Afghan guy down the street.....well, then you call the boss, and some turf-battle starts up.  Cops?  They typically don't arrive until some serious damage has been done.

The public?  They talk about this stuff....mostly from the prospective that they've never seen such stuff like this before.  It's the kind of stuff that you'd see in New Jersey or Chicago...not in some urbanized German city.

German RV

N-TV from Germany wrote up an interesting piece on specialized RVs.  The new trend in German RV travel is the Steyr 12M18.

You basically take an all-wheel drive truck (diesel) and put a fairly large RV package on the back of it.  It's the kind of vehicle that you could take into the 'boonies' of Germany, or down into some African jungle region, or off to some remote Russian plateau.

It's a hefty package....with a rebuild of the RV itself set at between 70k and 120k Euro.....with whatever you had to use to buy the truck itself.  It's for the guy who is on the extreme end of travel and has the money to do just about anything he desires.  Article by N-TV is worth a read.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Germany and Electrical Cars

SWR (the public network from Baden-Wurttemberg) had a piece to cover the Green Party and the criticism being dumped upon the chief Green 'boss' from the region.  The B-W Prime Minister (Kretschmann) has been criticized over comments about the Green policy of stopping all new gas/diesel-powered cars in 2030 (the current German government law).

What you find is that more than a few Germans really don't think or care much about the law.....with a very limited number who think that the country will arrive in 2030 and reach this mythical stage of no gas or diesel 'new-car' sales. The curious thing is that no other European country has gone in this direction, and a fair number of what Opel, VW, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW produce.....go beyond German borders.  They will continue to manufacture gas/diesel powered cars (much to the shock of the Green Party members, I think).

The piece by SWR talks to comments by Anton Hofreiter....one of the top five Greens in Germany.  His vision of this 2030 period is that each 'parking lot' instead of standard gas stations....would turn into a charging station.

One has to sit and ponder upon these concepts.  First, you look at apartment buildings around Germany and the idea of charging stations being installed and the cost of each station within an apartment building.  If you had a 100-apartment building....you are likely talking about 150 parking spots in the basement garage, and 150 of them having some kind of port-installation of chargers.  Cost?  Home Advisor did a study and put the rough average between $373 and $892....with the very high end upwards to $1,500.  If you did the rough average of $1,000 and 150 stations required.....then the building cost would be near $150,000.  Who would pay?  It'd be assigned to each resident and come out with some rental increase.  The odds that for the next 25 years that half of the residents would still have gas cars and NOT ever use the charging port?  Well....one might speculate at this point and take an educated guess that at least one-third of the building residents might fall into that category.

Another issue?  Charging stations at work.  Some German government entities would get grants and hook up 100 chargers in their 300 parking spot lot.  Another race would be on each day as people drove in and attempted to get into position to charge their cars.  Taking the attitude of making all of the 300 parking spots chargeable?  Maybe, but then you'd start to look at government (federal, state, and city) across Germany, and each parking lot requiring a massive infrastructure change....going into the billions over a decade.

The black-out scenario?  Last year, I was reading a Brit blog piece and the clever guy got around to the scenario of a highly populated electric car situation....and the grid of some region or a country being taken down for two or three days (storm front or terrorism).  You could wake up to realize a large portion of society was unable to reach work.

In some ways, you can sense that a Green 'divide' is occurring and there are some Greens (not a lot) that live in some world where this electric-car utopia isn't that readily apparent.  I might be able to agree that Hybrid (combination of gas and electric) is likely to be a major part of the future.  But to suggest to me that a quarter of the cars in my village by 2030 will be electric-only?  No.....I don't buy into that idea.

I noted that as 2016 closed out....there are approximately 75,000 electrical cars registered in Germany (not hybrid but pure battery-power).

Norway leads Europe presently with the vehicle number....with a 2016 number of 135,000 vehicles. The chief reason for the surge there?  No sales taxes on the electric vehicles.  All parking fees waived on electric vehicles.  Toll payments?  Waived.  I should add....these weren't permanent incentives....but having a time limit attached.  If you look at their commentary....there was a big burst of activity to a degree, but these nice incentives will end, and then normal purchases will likely go and lag until another incentive is put into place.

About a decade ago....Iceland talked of having most all new cars being electric.  Today?  For 2016, roughly 5-percent of all cars sold 'new' were hybrid or electric-only.  It's a good trend, but part of their plus-side is a very low electrical cost rate (compared to the rest of Europe).

So you turn and look at the Berlin crowd of Green Party members (the leadership), and you kinda wonder if they've been out into the rest of the country and looked at the general problems and limits of this whole electric car business.  Maybe if they offered no sales tax, and brought the electrical grid cost down a notch.....they might get people charged up a bit, but at the present rate....it's hard to see this 2030 plan working well in the end.