Thursday, February 23, 2017

Viking Dracula?

Around 110 years ago....some Icelandic writer (there were a handful at that point)....that had taken the work of Bram Soker and rewrote Dracula, with some Icelandic slant.

Not much is remembered over this....but the topic came up in the last week or two.  There is a Icelandic film producer  who is working out the idea of bringing this to a TV series.  The working title so far?  "Powers of Darkness".

The 1900 book was written by Valdimar Asmundsson (he died in 1902 curiously enough).  Some suggest that correspondence did occur between Stoker and Asmundsson....so there is some connectivity between the two.

If you've never been to Iceland....it is a place where you could imagine a Dracula-like character hanging out and being part of the culture.  Naturally, there would be some problems.

In July, the sun really never sets....so for a six-week period, there just isn't any darkness.  An Icelandic Dracula would have some problems.

In December, the sun is up for barely 90 minutes, so an Icelandic Dracula would be carousing for more than 22 hours out of the day.

There is also the problem in that there are only a limited number of people in Iceland....so victims disappearing would trigger a national emergency.

Then you have the fatal character flaws of most Icelandic people....Viking-like coldness and stoic in attitude to the ninth-degree.  The Icelandic Dracula might go a whole week without saying much beyond 'good morning'.

It's hard to say if this TV series idea will be a serious Dracula-piece or some Icelandic comedy over a wannabe Dracula-viking guy.  The odd thing is that this will attract more attention to Iceland, and ensure even MORE tourists in the future.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MEGA Slogan

Amusing German trend now.

"Make Europe Great Again".....campaign slogan for SPD's Martin Schulz.

Younger crowd from SPD are all hyped up over his EU enthusiasm and are uttering MEGA in their chats and forums.

(Source: BR)

Sounds Trumpish?  Yeah....but don't tell the Germans.

A Footnote on Rinkeby Riot

The Rinkeby, Sweden riot probably got worldwide coverage....but when you stand back and look at the whole episode....it is a fairly minor riot.

First, the riot only starts as the cops snare one of the local guys somewhere around the tram/subway station (T-bana) for supposed drugs.  The riot did not start up because of Trump....unlike what some would like to suggest.

The cars burned?  Only local vehicles from the neighborhood....NOT from Stockholm itself.  They burned cars from their own neighbors.  Yeah, that's how stupid they are.

The one person injured in this whole thing?  A photograph journalist (from a left-of-center newspaper) who walked into the neighborhood around two hours after the crazy stuff started.  Once the provocative crowd noted the guy...they attacked him.  How many in the attack group?  He says roughly 15.  The punks stole his camera, and he basically got up and wandered around over (maybe 300 to 600 meters) to the Rinkeby gas station.

There at the gas station....he called the cops and asked for help.  "No" was the answer from the cops.....they had a fair amount of stuff going on, and it might be a while before they'd get there.  So the guy stayed around the gas station....waiting.  It's safe to say that it was past midnight before help arrived.

Cops finally arrive....write some report.  No one says if they took him to a hospital or simply back to his car (his vehicle wasn't burned).

So far, no one can show that there were more than thirty folks at this 'riot', and the whole story suggests that they might have some relationship to the punk who was arrested in the subway station for drug activity.  More likely to be defending their 'turf' than anything else.

Is it a story worth front-page news?  No.

Does it really need vast analysis by CNN or Fox News? No.  It's a ten-line story at best.

With the exception of burning cars....stuff like this happens in Chicago almost nightly....so I wouldn't get to excited.  For Swedes, it might be a twist to their safe environment....but they are the creators of this ghetto in Rinkeby.

Where'd I get all the info?  Local news folks from Stockholm....you just need to piece together the story from different prospectives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Explaining Rinkeby

Before we get all hyped up on Sweden and recent riot talk, with a wide array of commentary.....let's establish some facts.

1.  This recent riot episode started not in Malmo.....but in a suburb of Stockholm.....Rinkeby.  It's about five kilometers northwest of the city of Stockholm...and mostly considered a suburb. It's safe to say that it's on the far end of city.....and it was planned that way.

2.  This riot?  It started Monday evening (8PM) around the local cop station.  The charge?  Illicit drug sales of some type.  However, what happened over the next four hours at the suburb involved car-burning and public damage.  It would appear that the cops mostly just stood back, and did a minimum amount of action against the youths involved in the act.  One cop was noted firing a warning shot.  For personal injury....other than one reporter that was roughed up and his camera stolen.....no one can report anyone injured (oddly, with all the action going on).  Total cars burned?  Six (at least the locals report that).  Drug gang situation?  I can only guess that's the connection.

3.  Rinkeby?  Well....there's a story to the area.  Size-wise....I'd say it's no more than 50 acres.  It's around forty apartment buildings.

The history?  It's far from the waterfront, the old medieval part of town, and away from tourists.  It was designed that way in the mid-1960s.

Around 1975/76.....they completed the project. Let's be very honest....in 1965, this was supposed to fix up a major housing shortage that existed in Stockholm.  Presently, around 16,000 to 18,000 people live there.

It was supposed to be built to be affordable housing for the MIDDLE class.  Please note....that was the 1965 idea.

On the planning side....they built it with bike paths, plenty of parking, and green space surrounding the whole thing.  But here's the curious thing....it was built as a dense structure.  Oddly, by the time that they completed the project.....the economy had slowed down and the urgent need for the housing seemed to diminish.  Yeah, that's generally the problem with government planning.

Over roughly a twenty-year period after wrapping up this project.....Stockholm lost 20-percent of it's population.  They built something that the middle class really didn't need.  By the 1990s....immigration was starting to occur in higher numbers.

Wanna take a guess where they pushed the migrants and immigrants?  Rinkeby.

Yeah....it made sense.  Empty apartments....all in a dense location.  Perfect ghetto design.

Lots of different migrants.....all regions of Africa, southern Europe (Albania, Serbia, etc), Middle East, etc.  Muslim.  Non-Muslims.

Public housing....dense design....cheap look.  It was a perfect ghetto.

Wild kids?  Yeah.  Accepted poor behavior in this entire neighborhood?  Yeah.

No one from the city does unemployment statistics for this one single neighborhood.  It would be curious to know the rate but then it'd draw the social workers into a difficult position....you can't really fix this unless you threw everyone out of this ghetto operation and forced them to live in normal neighborhoods and start to act more "Swedish".

Rinkeby was planned out over fifty years ago, and it's design is what creates a lot of these problems of today.  Urbanization, ghetto life, and youths with no maturity.

The Malmo Story

Once upon a time....that's the way that most Swedish epic stories tend to start, with some Pippi Longstocking-like character charming their way through a slew of minor and laughable problems.  In today's world....Malmo (the city) would start their story with 'once upon a time', and then kinda halt there because it's not exactly a story that you'd like to weave or entertain people with.

Malmo isn't a household name to most Americans.  It's the first major city you come to....once you cross the bridge from Denmark.  It's the third largest city in Sweden, and mostly known for the past seventy-odd years as an industrialized city.

Part of the story of Malmo circles around the population shift.  In the late 1950s....as Sweden was quietly building up an industrial base....the city had a population of roughly 190,000 residents.  By the mid-1960s....they were up to the 230,000 range.  People came to Malmo....not just from within Sweden, or from Finland or Norway or Denmark.....but they came from across Europe because there was plenty of work.

Malmo was about hustle and bustle.....growing industry....urban growth....and essentially becoming some doorway of import/export between the rest of Sweden and Europe.

In the 1970s....the city hit some peak with 270,000-odd residents.  The business sector had outpaced itself, and reality set in.  A decade later....most agree that 10-percent of the city had packed up and left (they were down into the 233,000-odd level of residents).

Over the past seventeen years....they've gone from a base of 260,000 residents to 320,000 (roughly a 30-percent increase).

Roughly 40-percent (Wiki numbers) of the population of Malmo are non-ethnic Swede.  They either came decades ago or recently.  Fourteen-percent of the city are visa-carriers....which you can interpret as newly arrived or recently arrived.  The drive to immigrate or stay in Malmo?  Generally, at least in the earlier stage of the period....there were jobs and an average guy with limited resume could find himself a position.

The unemployment rate in Malmo now?  That's part of this story as well.  Nationally, Sweden has a problem with roughly 8-percent unemployment.  But in Malmo?  It's closer to fifteen-percent.  Added to this picture is that fact that Malmo wages are fairly stagnant....you'd make more in Stockholm or Gothenburg, for the same type labor.  Generally, this gets explained because of the large group of unemployed staying in town and refusing to leave....so employers don't have to edge up cost or salaries to attract more workers.

Various arguments will be made about the no-go myth or the no-go reality.  The thing is....like almost every other single European metropolitan area....the new immigrants (not just yesterday or the last decade....but over thirty-odd years)....settled into certain neighborhoods in Malmo, and these neighborhoods became highly ethnic territories.  Swedes living in these neighborhoods?  For the most part....no.  It's the same way in metropolitan areas of Belgium, France, and England.  No one thought much about this in the 1970s or 1980s.  Today....it's part of the big-story.

Some job growth does continue in Malmo....but we are talking about a couple hundred jobs on average per year.....not thousands.  So there are a fair number of people sitting there with not much to do, and some might suggest that a bad image of the city has become accepted (not just in Sweden).

Oddly, it's a historic city.  There's a major university.  There are various architectural structures to see.  And there's some art-related projects underway.  The Swedes do have a basis to be proud of the city.

What you end up with is a tale of two cities.  There is Malmo....the city whose image is being protected by the local resident Swedes and trying to correct everyone on the non-existence of no-go areas.  There is also Malmo....the city where violent assault, rape, and street crimes are a daily event which the cops now realize they are deep into a long-term problem.  If the cops do come out at night to a reported problem area....it's usually in a large group (not the two-man patrol unit as you'd see in France or Germany).  Most cops, by their own public admission....depending on the neighborhood.....will say that you have to have an effective plan of entry into a situation...detain whoever is designated....and then leave the area as quickly as possible.  That means that they really don't want any interaction with the locals because they expect trouble.  We can laugh over this plan of operation, but it's basically the same mentality that you'd see in Iraq....not some westernized society.

So, where does this all lead onto?  I would suggest three eventual issues that will end up being resolved:

1.  In September of 2018, there's a national election slated for Sweden.  Based on trends and public comments....there's a lot of hype that the Swedish Democrats (the right-wing party) will take a fair number of votes....much higher than the 12.9-percent of the last election.  My humble guess is that they will likely move to near 25-percent.  The Social Democrats of Sweden (the left-of-center party) took in the last election around 31-percent.  They might still be able to cling to some mid-20's number but it's apparent that they will lose somewhere around one-third of their public support.

I should add....this election won't really fix anything because most of the seven other parties to the Swedish Democrats....have already said they won't form a coalition with them, and so it's likely to be the number two winner of the election forming a weak and marginalized government with a minimum of two partners.

2.  Most of the city council of Malmo are moderate or left-of-center related political parties.  I would expect that trend to continue.  But I would also expect immigrant-candidates within the parties to be more noticed in the next city election.  Social programs, welfare programs, and improved social housing will be the likely promises made to entertain votes.  All relate to money, and to meet those programs and votes.....you will have to deduct the money or funding from other projects (street renovation, park upkeep, etc).  It may take a decade but the locals will eventually notice this and ask why the city appearance is sliding.  So the Malmo trend by 2030 will be a fair number of people who live beyond the city....20 to 60 km away...riding in by train or driving into their job.

3.  Cities out on the far side of Malmo....like Eslov (17,000 population currently) and Svedala (10,000 population currently) with railway access....will grow because of the exodus of people from Malmo.  Other cities will benefit and find new housing construction and urban growth to be the norm.....while Malmo stagnates.

Malmo, I think.....ended up like some 'magic kingdom' attraction where a lot of migrants and immigrants heard great things of the 1980s and the job atmosphere.  So they came.  Swedes there in Malmo never saw this as a negative situation.  Course, they never had much of a crime problem to exist in the 1960s or 1970s.  At the present point, unless politics change....the only way a local Malmo resident can fix the problem....is by moving beyond the shadow of the city.  Just drive or ride in...to do your job...and quickly leave at the end of the day.

It's a simple solution....which no one really wants to talk about around some pub, or drill down into at some televised TV forum.  You see the same mentality in most urbanized US cities with urban decay and no ability to change the direction of the city.  For those who stay....mostly because of their marginal income levels?  Well....they have to be shaking their heads because this isn't the magic kingdom that they dreamed about a decade ago, and it's more or less a ghetto in some dark state of existence for five months out of the year.  If you did plan on escaping....where?

Pardon me.....if I'm not writing a some pro-Malmo story.  But it's really a story about urbanization and how easily things can get out of control.  Once you have an urgent need for cops in your neighborhood, and there has to be a minimum of ten of them to show up, with a master plan of entry and exit.....that's the point where you know things are not relatively safe anymore.

As a footnote, I should add that the Swedish interior minister visited Malmo yesterday....mostly to listen.  Three folks shot dead over the past four weeks....with a fourth guy (local janitor shoveling snow still in serious condition) has some folks worried.  Typically, at least in Sweden, you don't get shot shoveling snow.

Monday, February 20, 2017

SPD: Agenda 2020

A big speech got delivered by Germany's Martin Schulz (vice-chancellor, and SPD's candidate for the fall election against Merkel).

He listed out his big seven points for the public to get energized about.

1.  He wants to establish a stable pension level for all Germans so that no one slips off into poverty upon retirement.

The problem with this?  Basically, the government would have to raise taxes and artificially dip into the pot to retrieve enough money cover some imaginary level of adequate pension.

Presently, you could be a low-wage earner and wake up at age 66....getting 600 Euro a month....which isn't really enough to live off.  So you prepare your paperwork, and show the social office of the inadequate nature...and they pay you currently out of the welfare pot.  So, it'd be the same money but just out of one single pot instead of the present two-pot system?  More or less.  But they haven't really said what this imaginary level of adequate pension would be, and a lot of people would argue pensions in urban areas like Berlin need to be fairly high, while in rural areas....much lower.

2.  Stable pension level.  He wants a particular level of pension....currently, it's set at 46-percent of your pay.  It sounds like he wants it raised but I doubt that there money exists unless you raise taxes.

3.  A change to the contract system.....with no limitations.  He indicates that some type of future view would involve your contract having to do with education, family, the home, honorary offices and possibly the care of relatives. Companies probably don't want him messing with the contracts of present, and it could entice some companies to relocate outside of Germany.  Course, politicians never come through with half their promises anyway.

4.  More protection for the unemployed.  It was an odd quote: "People must be treated with decency and respect. People who have paid their contributions for many years need our support if they get into trouble. Everyone must have the opportunity to do their own job in the job center. "

He says some stuff about better training opportunities....which is usually a catch-phrase for these private companies who specialize in some computer classes.  Most Germans laugh about these classes and take them to be more of a joke.

5.  Change Temporary part-time status.  This was a mystery comment (at least for me).  He hints that women need to reshape their career, and that part-time work is a key-part of this.  It's generally a company decision on how many part-time slots they create, and it's hard to imagine the government forcing more part-time slots to exist, without some hostility about it.

6.  Free education.  Schulz says that everything....from daycare to university....ought to be free.  To be honest....some cities do offer subsidized daycare already.  But in this case....he wants it to be totally free....meaning a massive amount of taxation and government running the whole thing.  The university thing?  Well....it's mostly free (with a few fees currently).  Sounds nice on paper, but taxes would have to be part of this deal.

7.  More protection of unions.  Frankly, unions kinda left the SPD movement in the last decade and aren't that hyped up over the party.  Maybe he's trying to get them back with some kind words and law changes.

My view?  Most of the seven involve more government taxation, and have limited pay-back.  If you were a family and in the middle-class....you might like some of the talk.  If you were worried about your company folding up and moving outside of Germany.....his talk might make you even more worried.

The Swede Story

Over the past week, Swedish social program folks have met and discussed an ongoing crisis....young immigrant/migrant males who are committing suicide at a noticeable pace (7 have attempted in the past three weeks, three successfully).  I should note, all were Afghan.

The general story?  There are a large number of young migrant folks under the age of 18 who've made their way into Sweden.  All were told to fill out the immigration papers and submit.....because it's NOT a guaranteed matter to get a visa and be allowed to stay.  The current trend?  Roughly 80-percent are granted a visa....meaning a fair sum (600-odd folks for 2016) fail.

What bothers the Swedish social folks is that it's mostly all young men attempting suicide and in some cases....they were pushed on (peer-pressure) by other migrant teens to 'go ahead and do it'.

Few people talk about this but in general.....Sweden has one of the higher suicide rates of any European country.....17.5 per 100,000 residents.  Reason?  They generally give two reasons.  The first is the darkness factor of winter (you are talking about roughly 22 hours of darkness in December).  A lot of people can't handle that.  The second factor is that Swedes generally don't get aggressive about seeing a mental health person when behavior or emotions require it.

In the case of these Afghan teens?  I would add several other factors to the list:

1.  The behavior or maturity level of a Afghan 15-year old isn't exactly at the same point or level as a Swedish or German or American 15-year old.  I've noticed this here in Germany where local Germans wanted to perceive everyone acting and behaving at the same age-level, and it's simply not that way in real life.

In the case of a lot of these Afghan 15-year olds.....they've made some big adventure and come all the way into Sweden without any family connection and no adult-mentor.  While the Swedes may operate some dorm-like structure and try to guide the kid.....I think it's more show than a legit program.

2.  Lack of structure.  If you are sitting around after school for eight hours and have basically nothing constructive going on....especially as a 15-year old kid....you'll likely to get yourself into trouble or start doing some really stupid stuff.

I doubt if the Swedes want to sit there with some authoritarian "Sarge" dumping jobs and activities on some kid for eight hours everyday and sixteen hours per Saturday.....but that's basically what they need.

3.  The 'sum-total-factor'.  If you were young, immature and not really grasping of this whole deal....so what happens after you get to the "magic kingdom"?  You have to prepare yourself for a rough period of not just days or weeks.....but months and years of adjustment.  There's the language business where you probably won't speak reasonable Swedish until you've wrapped up nine months of intensive language classes.  Acceptance by the locals?  It might be three or four years before you have a couple of Swedes who you can call a "friend".  Occupational training?  High taxation?  High cost of living?  These are all realities of the adventure that you undertook but really didn't think to a great degree of the sum total of this adventure.

These Swedish social program folks are likely sitting in some conference room and going over the rate of suicides and how they really need to lessen the numbers very quickly.  If this trend were to continue....you could be looking at 50-to-100 dead Afghan males by the end of 2017.  Someone may suggest that each and every young male needs to have some local Swede assigned and trying to mentor them.  I personally doubt that people want this kind of responsibility.  I also doubt that this is a problem that you can just throw money out and hope for some quick solution.

It'll be curious how this gets solved in the end.

That Spain Demonstration

Over the weekend, there was this massive demonstration in Barcelona, Spain.  The authorities say that roughly 160,000 folks showed up.  The topic?  They want to push the Spanish government to go ahead and accept 16,000 immigrants into Spain....which was the quota set up by the EU.  This quota (from 2015)  hasn't exactly been an easy thing for the government, and in the 18 months since it came out....there's been roughly one-thousand accepted.

The curious thing about this enthusiasm?  Well....Spain has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the EU....currently at 22-percent.

If you look at youth-unemployment.....it's roughly 42-percent.

If you look at the southern one-third of Spain....general unemployment is close to 30-to-35 percent (2016 numbers).

What happens when the 16,000 are accepted and pumped into Spain?  Well...after completing a Spanish language class....they would go to the unemployment office and talk with the counselor.  If they have no job background or craft....then Spain would have to put them through a one-to-two year program. The odds of a job after that?  I'd give it a 50-50 shot....mostly because you could hire the new immigrants at a fairly cheap price.

Adding migrants and immigrants in the midst of a 22-percent unemployment rate?  Stupid.  Fairly stupid. You only set up more revenue expenditures by the social welfare office and the state unemployment office.

It's hard to say who pumped up the agenda and got the 160,000 people to show up.  I doubt if any of them really sat and thought about the employment situation.  All this does in the end is create an atmosphere where people come into Spain....quickly drift into social welfare....live in the cheapest housing possible...and grumble day-by-day over a fairly negative social atmosphere.  Four to six years down the line....everyone wants to run off to Germany because they think the jobs are there.