Thursday, March 30, 2017

German Integration Booklet

I have the work booklet for the German integration course for government and law....one of these classes I'll have to take in the next year.  Roughly eighty-odd pages.  So I went through it this week.

Generally, I can say five things about the book.

1.  It is very limited on German history....basically starting in the 1930s...talking to a fair extent over Nazis, a page to the 1945 to 1960 era, and has a couple of pages to talk over the past thirty years....the Wall, DDR, and the new Germany.  Roughly 2,000 years missing but it'd just overwhelm most immigrants I think, if you told the whole story.

The emphasis on Nazis?  Well, you tell the Holocaust in thirty lines and throw up a picture of the Berlin Memorial.

2.  It's supposed to be 60 hours devoted to this material.  The instructor must have a bigger booklet to toss out wisdom and bits of history.....because the booklet is awful limited.

3.  There's probably about six hours of material over German law, the Constitution, and basic rights.  For some guy from a hard dictatorship...it's like reading a condensed version of Lawrence of Arabia of two pages.  

4.  Maybe there's some movies or video material attached to this....to enhance the whole theme.  I won't discredit the book but it's similar to a fifth-grade government studies book (just with better graphics).

5.  I imagine there was some big meeting held, and a lot of arguing going over the amount of material.  Some history geeks wanted a 300-hour episode....with Kaiser Wilhelm II, Karl Benz, Max Zorn, and Erwin Rommel featured.  The integration guys probably didn't want immigrants weeping away at the complex nature of German history.  Oddly, Roman history is barely mentioned in this booklet, yet most of everything about Germany is dependent on the Romans.

The thing is....some type of introduction to Germany is required.  Somewhere in the thinking....60 hours is a nice round number.

Future Coalition Talk in Germany

From yesterday, if you follow German political news.....a six-hour meeting occurred with the CDU and SPD folks.

Topic?  The potential coalition, after September's election.

Previously, the SPD had hyped up to a major extent that they would win, and they would not form a coalition with the CDU.  Instead, they would only partner with the Greens and Linke Party.

Well....for several weeks, everyone was hyped up over Martin Schulz being the new candidate of the SPD, and those wonderful coalition would be coming in September.

Over the weekend in Saarland, the SPD lost by a fair margin, and polling says that SPD-likely voters are NOT happy over the Green and Linke Party partnership deal.  To the point....they'd vote CDU to avoid this partnership.

Yeah, shocker.

Results out of this six-hour meeting?  Nothing.

Both parties laid down their big topics, and simply nodded.  No agreement.

For Schulz, it's a big dose of reality.

Schulz will have to give a couple of speeches to indicate that they could partner with the CDU....angering elements of the left who'd like this dream-team of SPD, Linke Party and Greens.  At some point, journalists will want more of a promise to come out, and I have doubts that Schulz really wants to make a promise like that.

A win by the CDU?  This creates an interesting game that might develop.  If Merkel could pull a 41-percent win, and the Greens got 9-percent....then they might try to develop a CDU-Green coalition (like you see in Hessen today in the state government).  It works although some Greens are a bit angry over the established relationship.

If Merkel wins with only 35-percent?  She'd have no choice but to partner up with the SPD, and Schulz would end up as vice-chancellor or some cabinet job.

So, settle back and enjoy the theatrics at work.

Immigration and Housing Topic

Focus put up a piece today talking to the subject in Germany of housing issues for migrants and immigrants. It stimulates a good conversation.

In this story, they used Duisburg....a German city to the far north and just 10 km west of Essen.  This region of NRW (North Rhineland Westphalia).....has been the magnet for the past five years drawing a large migrant population.  Part of the issue is the population that existed prior to this surge in 2013 to present, and part of it is due to the 'key' business (a German state agreed upon ratio where you get paid money out of the national pot of revenue depending on various economic and population features of your state).  The key is used as well for distributing refugees and asylum-seekers coming into Germany.

If you were looking for more key reference material....Google up Konigstein Key.

What Focus points out is that there is a problem noted now in the city of Duisburg.....486,000 in population.  Affordable housing is practically impossible to find.  When you do find such housing, most landlords now have a personal preference NOT to rent to immigrants.  In their mind, while somewhat illegal....there are 99 different ways of denying the apartment to such migrants.

A decade ago....credit checks on potential renters were rarely if ever done.  Today?  It's a growing trend.  If you don't have a job, or have a real work contract (doing hour-by-hour work instead)....then it's fairly easy and legal to deny you the apartment.

Face it....apartment construction isn't going on to any big degree, and if they are being built....these are not at the low affordable level.

Dragging this into court?  Unless you said something really stupid in your speech denying the migrant the apartment....most lawyers can get you off the hook.  At some point, some political folks will likely create a heavy fine for apartment owners and try to push them into a corner with no way out.

There are primarily two issues at work here.

The first is the fact that major urban cities in Germany aren't in some era of mass construction of affordable housing.  In the Frankfurt area, if you ask about construction trends....large condo buildings are being built....not apartment buildings.  If you did have an interest in the condo deal....you'd need at least 300,000 Euro to talk about buying a nicer 1-bedroom deal in the upscale part of town.  Why no surge on affordable housing?  Where's the profit that you'd take home?  It's nickles and dimes.  If you had ten million and had a valuable piece of real estate.....it's 90-percent chance it's going to be a condo building rather than affordable apartments.

The second issue is that all of these migrants and immigrants are drawn to metropolitan cities which they think is the 'promised-land' on jobs.  It's true, but then these aren't high paying jobs, and if you look at cost-of-living situations across metropolitan Germany....it's a lousy landscape.

Go look in Essen or Frankfurt for a 3-bedroom to cover a couple and their three kids....you could be talking about 900 Euro (assuming you accept 100 sq meters or less) and a structure over 40 years old.
Maybe if you were 15 to 25 km outside of the Frankfurt shadow, you might find something in the 600 Euro range, but then you'd need to have a dependable car to get to work....where will that purchase money come from, and the insurance to ensure it?

This is one of the odd realities of this whole migration period of the past five years.  No one ever sat down and asked about where they'd all stay.  Oddly, at the same time....throughout rural Germany....thousands of empty houses sit.  Their problem is no jobs in the local area and too far a distance from any major city to be of any use.

On the political spectrum, this topic promises to be around for the next decade.

The Public Chat Forum Topic

Focus wrote a piece today over a SPD political figure and his analysis of public TV chat forums.

So, Marco Bulow, the SPD figure....analyzed 204 talk-shows from ARD and ZDF.

For those who aren't into this public TV thing.....it's a remarkable amount of chat forums that are arranged on a weekly basis.  Some come late at night and likely resemble a Johnny Carson Tonight-Show format.  Some are very political in nature.  All are usually live, which means nothing gets cut out.  So if you uttered something of a shocking nature, well, it's going straight to the home and viewers will get the full dose of your comment.

Average amount per week?  I'd take a guess that 20 hours of chat forums on political or national topics occur each week.

The variety will shift.  You could have 15 hours over an entire week just on the US government or Trump.  You could have 90 minutes dedicated to just pension reform.  You could have six hours in one week devoted to just Erdogan and Turkey.  You could have an entire hour wasted on the reason to pick the FIFA Soccer Championship for Qatar and how it was so legit (while grinning at the camera).

I should note....it's rare that anyone talks over how many people watch the public chat forums.  From the age group of 18 to 25....I doubt if more than 10-percent watch more than one hour per week of these chats.  From the over-40 age group....maybe thirty-percent will catch one to two hours a week.  The idea of someone watching all twenty hours a week?  Maybe one guy out of five-hundred.  In some cases, if given a choice of watching Knight Rider, Japanese cartoons, or a chat forum, you might be shocked that fewer than 10-percent would be interested in the chat forum (total depending on the topic selected for the evening).

So the SPD guy came to this conclusion....from 204 talksshows done over the past 18 months....which include: "Maishberger", "Anne Will", "Hart but fair", "G√ľnther Jauch" and "Maybrit Illner"....roughly a quarter of all these broadcasts were about refugees.  If you included refugees, Islam, terrorism, ISIS, and populism......it's almost fifty percent of the 204 show topics.

So, Bulow says that this is a "distortion of reality".

I sat and read the piece....roughly forty lines.

What interested me is that he carefully picked 18 months (going from summer of 2015 to the past month).  When you cherry-pick your data collection, it begs questions. What happened in this previous 18 months?

I have some memory over the period and readily say that a quarter of chat forums from early 2014 to December of 2015...were pro-immigrant or pro-migrant in nature.  The forums even lined up the guest invited so it'd always be four pro-immigrant talkers and just one anti-immigrant talker.  At some stage toward the end of 2014, this chat forum arrangement even helped to create the various political groups that brought AfD and the anti-immigrant situation to the stage of today.  A segment of Germany society simply felt that the cards were stacked on free and open discussion.

Various Germans would say from early 2014 to the end of 2015....this chat forum cycle was a "distortion of reality".

The overall problem here is the intellectual and news media folks from public TV in Germany, have a perception that the vast number of citizens in the country watch the chat forums, and these arrange the political situation of which the CDU, the SPD, the Greens, etc.....all get support or non-support. I would imagine that roughly half the nation will tell you that they watch less than five hours per year of chat forums.  Maybe in an election year.....it might mean more to watch....but that only occurs once every four years for roughly eight months of a campaign cycle.  From the other half?  You might find that fewer than a quarter of the nation watches two hours a month.

Polling or surveys?  Never done.  This is one of the hundred-odd things in German society that you probably don't want to ask because it would reflect in a negative sense on public TV giving lots of attention to something that the vast majority don't care about.  Put up a Germany versus Italy soccer game?  Oh, that would easily get forty to fifty percent of the viewers on for two hours.

So, maybe this suggestion of lesser chat on migrants and immigrants will push the two public TV networks in Germany to reshuffle their chat schedule....at least until public sentiment goes very negative.  But don't worry, somewhere on the vast number of menu options....there's always Gunsmoke (with Hoss having a Bavarian accent), Baywatch (Germans seem to like the beach scenes), or some French zombie love-movie on, and you can select that instead of chat forums.

Observation Over BREXIT

In recent days, with the BREXIT paperwork sent over to the EU, I've sat and noted a number of observations.

First, this talk from the EU of the UK owing around 60 billion Euro (more or less) to the EU, and it has to be settled as part of the 'divorce' process.  There's a two-year period written down into the EU rules about this 'divorce'....but no one has ever used the process before so, it's questionable about the nature of the process.

The 60 billion Euro?  If you walk into a Brit pub, I think a working class guy would stand there and call it a 'whore-tax'....meaning you can't quit working at the bordello unless you pay some debt that the pimp wants.  Working-class Brits are that direct in their commentary.  EU bureaucrats will get all sensitive about such language being used.

Where'd the 60 billion number come from?  Some budget guys at the EU have done some studies and reflect upon what they would have been paid over a certain period, and they have already built a funnel device or revenue pay-out device....requiring such funds.  A business would be laughed out of existence if they tried to someone over future services which have yet to occur, and there was no contract for such services.  But, in this case, the EU is NOT a business.

How this will work out?

My guess is that the Brit rep will walk in and offer 6 Pounds 60 or 250 Mongolian Tughriks (roughly 100 US dollars).  The EU guy won't be laughing.  So they will talk over this, and any chance of the UK getting a 4-star trade deal out of this whole treaty business....will revolve around the payment of this 60 billion Euro.

Talk will go on for two years, and then the UK will announce that it's done....they will exit, with no treaty.  Yes, the rules say a treaty must exist, but it's difficult to imagine the Brits being willing to pay more than maybe 5 billion in cash and maybe another five billion over five years.  The EU won't accept that, and so some massive negative trade situation will be triggered.

But here's the thing that should bother the EU.  Across the continent right now....probably 20-percent of the public (in Poland and Hungary, it might be sixty-percent)....are talking anti-EU sentiments.  In Germany, I'd take a guess that 10-percent of the public has negative comments about the EU.  

A number of nations would jump in and immediately sign trade agreements with the UK and unseat the power value of the EU headquarters.  For negative propaganda value, handling this in a bad way would be a bigger problem in the end.

The second issue, which few look at....is this Scottish referendum to separate from the UK.  It will happen prior to the end of the treat talks with the EU.  The last vote?  Three years ago.....11-point difference, with NO winning.

This time around?  I think YES could take 50 to 52-percent at this point.  Scotland would then separate and likely try to enter the EU (don't expect this to be very quick).

It is very likely that the dozen districts of Scotland on the south side of the country....will then ask for a referendum themselves....to separate from Scotland.  My humble guess is that this area (I'd call it New Caldonia), about the size of Belgium, would turn around and ask to join the UK.

Reason for this?  Go back 2014 and look at district by district voting.  This southern area was mostly 70-percent NO.  That kind of trend would be hard to overcome.

If this unfolds....London or at least the inner-city of London, would go and ask for it's own referendum to exit.  From the inner-city, it's a population of 3.2 million.  I think they could swing the vote to exit from the UK.  Although one major problem would exist....there's only one single airport serving the inner-circle of London.  The other five regional airports?  All well outside of the circle.

While the EU guys might be gleeful in the first couple weeks of this episode of the UK....other regions of the EU might find themselves with unhappy voters and asking to separate as well.  In five years, instead of 28 EU members....you could be looking at 50 members, and a number of city-states trying to exist by themselves.  The formula for the EU wasn't built for a large scale group and so many diverse issues.

I point back to the 1970s and the 30-odd problems confronting various countries and individuals in Europe.  There were various repairs needed to fix what was a highly evolving economic sphere.  There was an absolute necessity for the EU to exist and fix those issues.

So here we are....forty-odd years later, and the thirty-odd problems mostly fixed.  The EU device now?  They want to continue on fixing things, which this remarkable list now include regulation over electric tea-pots, vacuum cleaners, and toasters.  Every month, people wake up and there's some rumor about some odd EU discussion underway, which wasn't discussed with the general public.  You can't do much to hinder them or to suggest to cut back the days of meeting.  In some ways, the EU has made itself into more of a problem now, than a solution.

I might suggest that you spend some fair time looking around Europe today, and the 28 members of the EU.  In a year or two....you might be shocked over how the landscape looks, and start to wonder where it'll all end.

TV Observations

I sat last night and watched two information-related shows last night on German TV.

The first?  MEX....an HR information show.  They take various topics and go over these with legit experts.  The big topic last night?  Germans and their lack of sleep.

The people who collect statistical data say that 80-percent of all German adults have a problem with sleeping.  So the HR folks went out on the street and asked folks about remedy list.  Alcohol, sleeping pills, reading books. etc.

One German pharmacy manager was questioned over this, and noted that there are near 300 different sleeping pills now on the market in Germany.  Some are herbal in nature....some go to the stronger level.

The emphasis of the whole report is this odd statistic.....eight years ago, it was 47.5-percent of folks who said they had sleep issues.  Now?  It's almost 80-percent.  What changed in eight years?  Unknown.  They really couldn't find anything that stands out.  Maybe it's stress....maybe it's more of a society worried about something.  You just don't know.

The second show of interest was the Mario Barth Show.  Mario is a German comedian who covers a number of topics.  But he has a TV show which focuses on governmental waste of money.  As much as you'd like to think America is the king of wasting tax-payer money....the Germans work hard at wasting money as well.

So the show is entirely focused on various projects....from federal to state, and onto local city council projects.

Last night's lead topic was BER.  BER is the new Berlin airport which is now roughly seven years over their delivery date.  Most folks are confident that the airport won't open in 2017, and fairly confident that it won't open in 2018 either.  2019 is a 50-50 shot at this point, in my humble opinion.

What he pointed out last night covered several BER topics, but my favorite was the BER operations manual.  The airport has installed all of the phones and intercom devices.  To orientate yourself (if they were operational), you need to read the BER manual.  There's an entire page to explain how to use the phone.  Yeah, all phones are the standard type, and you'd think that instructions would not be necessary, but there's an entire page with a picture of identification of buttons.  Same for the intercom device.  The booklet has hundreds of tips but the curious thing is that it's been around for probably the whole seven years.  Nothing about the airport is operational, but the book is sitting there and waiting for someone to open the door and start landing planes.  In fact, the book appears to be the only thing that works as designed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What If the Trump-Merkel Story was True?

It is rumored....no one can say it occurred in a factual way....that when Chancellor Merkel met with President Trump....he laid out the cost of the period now that Germany has not paid 2-percent of it' GDP into the NATO pot.

It may or may not be true.

The rumored cost?  370-billion dollars.  Some say it's with interest.  Some say it's without interest.

It sounds like a great story, but it also sounds like fake news.

The thing about this story, if you start to think about it, is that up until the period of Gerhard Schroeder (the last Chancellor of Germany)....they had been on cutting edge of paying the 2-percent of the GDP into the NATO pot.

So, if this was true, it brings you to one odd question.

Merkel has been Chancellor since the end of 2005.  Where exactly for the past 12 years, did she go and spend the 370-billion dollars?  It wasn't given back to the public or granted as some tax credit.  It was spent somewhere.  So, where?

Eventually, some Germans will wake up and ask....if it's NOT a fake story, then where did the German government go and spend this money?

It might be interesting to know how it got spent.  Maybe into the EU pot?  Maybe for bridges?  Maybe for nuclear energy?  If you just play with the numbers....that's 30-billion dollars roughly for each year that was spent elsewhere.  So, where?

I'm kinda hoping it is a fake story.  If it's true, then there's going to be a problem in explaining the use of the money.

Looking Back at the Los Rodeos Airport Disaster

Yesterday was the 40 year anniversary of the 27 March 1977 Los Rodeos Airport disaster (Canaary Islands, Spain) where two 747 jets collided on the runway.  Total dead, 583.  It was the deadliest accident in aviation.

Few ever sit down and analyze the accident and understand what exactly started around 15-odd problems to occur.

At some point in the morning....a bomb goes off at the primary airport in Tenerife....at a flower shop.  The bomb was set by CIIM....a local group who were hyping up independence for the island chain (from Spain).  They'd actually been around for 13 years....but in January of 1977....had decided to go for bombs to make their impression.  The first was set off in a airline office at Tenerife (no one dead or injured).  The flower shop episode on 27 March? Only eight wounded.

Spanish authorities reacted that morning and decided that Tenerife's airport was not safe.  So they rerouted incoming aircraft to land at an alternate runway.....Los Rodeos.

Los Rodeos did have an exceptionally long runway (11,000 ft long)....but there a long list of problem issues in terms of being a major airport.  No ground radar existed at the time.  On the day of the accident, the ground lights weren't working.  This was an airport which had a history of fog which would roll in and give very limited viability.  On this particular morning....with low expectations of traffic for the day....there were only two guys for air traffic control (it was a Sunday).

The KLM flight (the other was Pan Am) would have had one chance to lift off and possibly fly over the Pan Am 747....except they'd done something untypical for them....they'd loaded the plane completely with fuel.  A plane with the normal fuel load....would have been lighter, and given them this one opportunity to fly over the top of the Pan Am plane.

There's a list of problems here...at least fifteen odd issues which triggered the crash to occur.  But I tend to go back to the CIIM bomb and ask some stupid questions.

CIIM is an odd group.  All they wanted was Canary Island independence from Spain.  No one ever cites much in terms of public support on the islands for the group.  Their base of operations?  This is strangely enough....Algeria.  Roughly two years after this accident, caused mostly by the CIIM bomb, a public statement is issued by CIIM in that they are ceasing operations and the 'struggle'.

Who financed CIIM?  That's the amusing thing to this story.  No one has ever gone back to dig into the group or ask about the financing.  The fact that they lead to Algeria....makes you wonder if there were some Warsaw Pact country and their secret service-type group helping to run CIIM, and if this accident draw a lot of review and unsettled the political agenda at work.

Without the flower shop bomb?  None of the events of the day would have unfolded.