Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Parking Story over Wiesbaden

In my local news....from around Wiesbaden, I noticed a short article which got folks hyped up in the city.

Apparently, the city council folks came to vote and agree on some measure around the Kurt Schumacher Ring of Wiesbaden.  For those who might have been stationed around city in years past and need a refresher to the 'ring', the city has two 'rings' (fast-access streets, four-lanes).  There's the inner ring (the Bismarkring), and then this outer ring which has like three names (depending on which part of it you are traveling).  The Kurt Schumacher Ring is on the far west end of town...maybe 1.5 km in length. 

So with all this hype of pollution and bad air, some Green Party guys convinced enough folks to vote on the idea of removing 150 parking spaces along Schumacher Ring.  Their idea....if there is no parking there, then you won't have cars around to pollute.  If you've ever been around Wiesbaden, you would know of the ever increasing issue over finding parking for your car.  The city just doesn't have enough parking for all the people who live in the city.

Naturally, locals who live around the ring will stand up and ask.....where the heck would you want us to park?  So in some amusing way, the city council and this Green effort....has created a case where folks might be driving for an extra five to fifteen minutes....going into other neighborhoods....to find parking.  In a way, they probably doubled up pollution numbers.

What happens now?  For a year or so, they will play out this decrease parking and decrease pollution game, and then come to admit that the numbers didn't go down on pollution, and it's a mystery why air in the city isn't cleaner.....then resolve things by putting the 150 parking spots back into action. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

On Emergency Room Costs

I was reading through health-related news this morning in Germany, and came to one short piece by Focus magazine.

Doctors and hospitals are getting to a point of frustration with German consumers coming to the emergency room, with non-emergency situations.  The way it works here....you show up....present your health card, and the charge goes to the insurance company.

What is suggested here in the article, which had an interview session with the German Chairman of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV)....Andreas Gassen....is this idea of a fee when you appear (coming out of your pocket, not the pocket of the insurance company).

The amount?  Unknown.  He doesn't really want to suggest how much.

The problem I see is that you might go and suggest forty Euro (roughly $50), and folks would show up and say that they don't have it, and expect you to still provide service (which they'd have to).

Some folks won't care, and just pay the fee.  I have my doubts that a fee would really change much of anything.

The odds of this fee occurring?  There would have to be some study done to show cause and effect, and to suggest a basic level of cost.  So far, this is just simply talk. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

This German Harley-Davidson Story

I essayed a piece on Friday, and it's been on my mind.  The basic story is that a Berlin-city team (they work for the city) that tries to entice business operations to move into Berlin.....wrote up an invitational letter to Harley-Davidson, and encouraged them to make their home in Berlin.  The simple odds here?  Toss in taxation and cost of living....one in a million.

But I've sat for a number of hours trying to imagine how this would work.

Imagine the Harley-Davidson crew coming in, and setting up the factory, and hiring up the first 300 assembly-line people....all Germans.

So on day one, you can imagine the German machinists and engineer-detail people looking at the master plan and parts on the floor. 

After a while, young Hans says to the American 'chef'....well....we could fix this problem.  'What problem' responds the American chef?  Well...your motorcycle is built wrong, and this change on the master plan would fix this problem....pointing at the front assembly.

Then quickly.....Manfred would speak up....well, yes of course, and there's this other problem here...pointing at the clutch assembly.  Manfred notes in quick detail that two small changes would fix this problem.

Then quickly, Ernst would get all excited and talk about the stupid way that the brake-assembly is situated and that he could design a much better brake in twelve hours. 

Suddenly....the American Harley 'chef' would stop everyone.  He would say, "Listen guys, this is a Harley, and we have standards.  We don't want a Germanized Harley-Davidson.  I absolutely forbid you fixing or changing the master plan."

Weeks go by, and without saying much....Ernst, Manfred, Hans and a dozen others....have quietly modified the Harley with the changes.  These Germanized bikes start to go out.  A year later....the American 'chef' is at some Harley meeting in Hong Kong, and everyone is all hyped up about this one Harley-Davidson bike made in Berlin.  The boss can't understand why.  The bikers are showing him the improvements and wonders of the new bike.  Shocking as it sounds....some have ridden their Germanized Harleys for six months straight, and NOT a single breakdown.

The boss goes back to Berlin...all frustrated.  Don't you people realize what you've done, is the comment thrown to the team.  You've gone and made Harley-Davidson into a bike of perfection.  We were never supposed to be that kind of bike.

Ernst, Manfred, Hans and the others....all have tears coming down.  It was the best bike ever assembled. 

The 'Good' Putin

N-TV (the German commercial news network) ran a piece this morning, which I found interesting.

The hype?  The polling organization....YouGov....went and did a poll on 'risk to world peace'.

The German public says (roughly two-thirds of them) that President Trump is MORE of a risk than Russian boss Vladimir Putin.  The same group hinted that Putin is just all plussed-up on points of being sympathetic and competent.

I would imagine that Putin is sitting there and talking to the KGB chief....wondering....what the heck happened here?  I used to be the grand enemy of Germans, and blasted daily by the German public news media.

The KGB guy takes a deep breathe, and say: 'Boss, Trump has all this public relations business going on....Twitter talk.....hyping fake news.  And us?  Well....people are starting to talk about in a positive way....the 'nice-Putin'.  The Kremlin souvenir shop is selling your signed copies of the picture with you on the horse with no shirt, and it's a big-money-maker.'

Putin then responds angrily: 'Damit, don't the Germans know who I really am?  Donald isn't near as bad as me.'

So you sit back and ponder over this YouGov poll and what this really means.  The blunt truth?  Well....German public news works hard to convey a message.  In a few months, as exports to the US lessen and business numbers drop slightly....they will have to figure a way to convey that Trump's tariff talk didn't have real effect anticipated. 

Then when Trump and Putin reach lesser military tensions....the same news media will have to be creative to say that this lesser period....is really more. 

At some point, a few Germans will wise up and suggest that believability in news.....is a problem.

The Deportee Story

I sat and watched an N-TV (German commercial news) report this morning.

The topic?  In the first five months of 2018....the German federal cops attempted to deport 23,900 folks.  I say attempted here....because as N-TV tells the story....only 11,100 actually left. 

Yes, roughly every other person who was supposed to deport....never left Germany.

Reasons?  They go in various directions.  In some cases (150 of them)....the pilot of the airline which was supposed to take the guy as a passenger....refused to do it.  In some cases, the deportee put up resistance, and they returned him to a holding point.

The problem here is that this information gets out into the public, then you have a fair sum of Germans (probably over 50-percent) who get all furious because the system appears to them to be 'failing'.  So then they'd turn and suggest that they'd like to hold someone responsible (you know....fire them)....but they can't really wrap their hands around who to fire.  The Chancellor?  Well...no, she's really not handling much of this.  The Interior Minister?  The Justice Minister?  BamF Chief? 

The other side of this is that you have some guy who gets dragged through all the bureaucratic drills, told over and over....he's going to be deported.  Then the cops come and the guy packs up his bags.  Then this last 24 to 72 hours....waiting on the final part of the drill, to find out that the deportation on this moment failed.  An adventure like this would bother most folks. 

 A theme that will get political attention?  There are only two elections this year in Germany (Bavaria and Hessen state elections).  Next year come a few others....with the EU election.  All of this might add up and have some affect within the EU election (a fair number of Germans have relatively little interest in this election). 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Sami A. Story

It's a short story by Focus Magazine that I picked up today and read through.  In a way, it's a bit amusing....in another way, it's sad.

Germany had in it's hands....the former bodyguard of Al Qaeda boss....Osama bin Laden.  For a number of months, they debated what to do with him.

At some point recently, they made the decision that he just couldn't stay in Germany.  No visa....just deport the guy.

So the deportation exercise started up.  Appeals were launched.  At some point, it appeared that most appeals were finished, and the German authority put the guy (Sami A.) on a plane to Tunisia.

Well, a German court opened up an appeal and said late yesterday.....he could stay in Germany.  But by that point, the guy was sitting in Tunisia, and they are pushing on internal charges of terrorism.

The German court?  They say "grossly unlawful and violates fundamental constitutional principles."  That court wants the guy retrieved.  They've order the state (NRW) to start a retrieval.

Will Tunisia send the guy back?  Unknown.

Who screwed up?  That's hard to say.  The problem is that the German court system is loaded with appeal cases over deportation, and they probably need a specialized court system that ONLY handles deportation episodes.

The odds of the guy ever returning?  I think that after Tunisia gets all the insider information that the guy has.....there might be some deal made to return him to Germany.  But a regular German looking at this whole court action deal....deportation....with the back-and-forth action?  He'd just start shaking his head.  This is fairly messed up.

Friday, July 13, 2018

German Harley-Davidson?

I noticed with business news on N-TV today (the commercial news network in Germany) that the Berline city-owned business development agency.....Berlin Partner....had sent a letter to Harley-Davidson boss Matthew Levatich...to emphasize the "dynamic business location Berlin".

The attempt here?  To get Harley-Davidson....to move some portion of it's production line into Germany. 

Here's the thing.  If Harley-Davidson came over....looked at the cost of living in Berlin, and the salary structure....just for one particular line of manufacturing....you'd have to add around 35-percent onto the cost of the bike (where ever it is manufactured today).  In fact, with taxes figured in...maybe even closer to 45-percent.

What idiot would do something like that?

Just on taxes alone, it would be pure stupidity.  But the idea is to needle Trump.  The likely Trump comeback?  Getting US company HR people to approach German engineers for jobs in the US....go after their best and brightest. 

'Regime Change' Talk

There's a piece by Focus Magazine (the German news magazine) today, which chats over this new topic: 'Regime Change in Germany'.

Naturally, it's a anti-Trump piece. 

Trump in his European 'tour' didn't actually say 'regime change' but he kinda hinted that the relationship would require some fresh perspectives (hint, some new faces).

So the former Foreign Minister of Germany (Sigmar Gabriel) came out and said you really need to put 'force' against Trump, to make him understand how strong you are.

It was a nice short piece....direct...a little bit hyped-up, and then you stood there wondering.....who exactly is this magnificent German character that Gabriel is talking about?  Chancellor Merkel?  Well....no, it can't be her.

The Finance Minister (#2 in leadership, SPD Party member, Olaf Scholz, former mayor of Hamburg)?  Well....no, it can't be him.

The President of Germany (Frank-Walter Steinmeier)?  Well.....no, it can't be him.

The next dozen-odd SPD, CDU, CSU, Linke Party, Green Party, FDP and AfD political figures?  Well, not, it can't be any of them.

Over the past twenty years, you could suggest that Germany has assembled a fine cast of characters for a bureaucratic team of technocrats.   They give splendid speeches, present decent arguments in forums, and make fine 'actors' for public TV theatrics.  Beyond that, no....they really don't have that type of forceful character that Gabriel is talking about.  Nor is there anyone on the horizon for the next four years that seems to fill those shoes.

So here's the odd thing that you would need to worry about, if Trump's strategy seems to lift off and carry weight.  What if the US industrial machine were to repair itself, and go back to the GDP-type heavyweight that it was in the 1970s?  What if Trump had created by the end of 2019.....four million new jobs from day one?  What if the national unemployment rate was near 2.5-percent? 

What if industrial HR people started to arrive in the spring of 2019 in Germany, and began to look for engineers and PhD type people for major projects and industry?  What if the German machine skipped a beat and saw a slight rise in unemployment (say one-percent up in 12 months)?  What if 10,000 Germans packed up in 2019 and took jobs in the US?  What if the US started to raid the best and brightest Germans to US jobs?

That's the thing about this whole theatrical thing underway.  The Germans want to envision Trump and the game plan in a particular way.  Trump?  In his book, there are no enemies....there are competitors, and he's playing the game as if the US actually can compete on a massive scale.  The comeback to this.....can Germany compete in this type of situation?