Sunday, July 22, 2018

From Friday Afternoon Attack

If you follow local news from L├╝beck, and look at the Friday afternoon bus attack.....things have simmered down a bit.

What the German cops now say is that an arrest warrant is prepared and the German-Iranian guy will be charged with attempted homicide (multiple),  dangerous bodily injury, assault and attempted severe arson.

The odds of a mental exam being required?  Absolute 100-percent chance.  For this reason, I suspect in three to four months, a court action will occur and the guy will be declared insane enough to avoid the court case, but set permanently in some fairly guarded facility.  He will never walk freely, in my humble opinion. 

Luckily, no one has died from the episode.  The driver is being recognized for several clever actions, and it's pretty ended now.  Terror action?  No.....the guy is just plain nuts, and may have been a threat for several years. 

The 3:30 AM Alarm

I was awaken this morning in my German village by the local city fire siren.  Like most village with a decent population, we have a local volunteer fire department, with a couple of trucks.  What typically happens is the siren in the village will go off with a 25-second warble sound.  It's a particular warble and you know precisely what it is.  On average, I'd say in a typical year....there's around twenty-five occasions when it goes off.  To be honest, in the mid-day...Monday through Friday....they might be lucky to get eight guys who are either farmers or work in the village who can tend to one single truck and make an appearance.

This alarm this morning at 3:30?  Well....it went to a two-second strong pitch....then went way down quickly to a 35-percent pitch (slow-motion would be the best description) and then faded by the 8th second.  Then a minute later, it repeated.  A minute later, it repeated again.  On and on, for maybe forty-odd minutes, this weird alarm kept going.

The village emergency crew will tell you that there are only two pitches or tones for the system....one is a continuous 'blast' which means full-up emergency (massive storm or impending doom), or this firemen's alert.  But this weak warble tone didn't fit either episode. 

Around the 5th warble, my German wife made the comment that this might mean a chemical disaster, or some massive airplane crash.  I tried to disregard it and go back to sleep (that's the Alabama stoic type guy that I am).  It took me maybe ten minutes but I did fall back to sleep. 

This morning, the emergency folks explained to the news folks in Wiesbaden.....that....well...the back-up power battery had started to fail or short-out, and this was the only way to get to the attention of the maintenance folks.  They did come to admit that there were dozens and dozens of calls.....from the residents of the town....asking if this was a special alarm that they need to react upon.

I would take a guess that well over half the town was fully awake by 4 AM, sipping coffee and wondering if they should take some action, but they just didn't know what kind of action. To add to the whole episode, there's two adjacent villages within a mile, and those folks could also hear the warble and also reflected upon this being a special but unknown type disaster as well. 

Just my observation but it kinda shows the difference here.  Germans were fixated upon the odd warble and how it didn't fit any of their diagrams or actions of 'trouble.  They wanted to know the shape and size of the emergency.  Me the American, once I tuned into it not being warble 'A' or 'B'....I more or less turned over and went back to sleep. 

People Don't Vote in EU Elections

I spent an hour this morning....looking over the 2014 EU representative election.  It's an interesting short story.

It was an record low crowd who came and voted......42.5-percent of registered voters.

In most countries, for a normal in-country situation.....you'd be talking about 60-to-70 percent of registered voters showing up.  In the old West Germany days, it wasn't uncommon to see 85-percent of registered voters show up.

In 2014, there were roughly 396-million registered voters in the 28 EU countries.

Why lesser participation?

1.  People don't really see any plus-side to the EU in their lives.

2.  The campaign season is 'lukewarm' at best.  Most of the parties are careful not to get people hyped up because then they'd actually expect some accomplishments of a particular nature.

3.  The timing of an election in mid-summer?  Well, folks tend to go on vacation and are less likely to get hyped up in this period.

Will 2019 be different?  Presently, with the set conditions.....I'd say no.  If this Bannon-effect were to occur, and maybe some enthusiasm with right-wing groups?  They might approach the 55-percent point, and trigger some significant worries by left-wing groups.  To suggest that AfD or other right-wing groups might occupy 25-percent of EU seats?  That would freak people out. 

The Yellow Sack Story

Back in the 1990s when I returned to Germany, I was introduced to the 'Gelben sack' (the yellow bag).  This was the invention of the pro-environmental crowd on disposing of aluminum-type recyclable materials. 

It was a extremely thin plastic with a ultra-thin plastic 'string'.  You would have this 'can' in your kitchen with a lid, and you'd attach the sack to the lid.  As trash day came up each two weeks....you would take your one or two yellow bags out for pick up. 

The chief complaint was that the bags easily broke (in an average year....I probably had six bags to break), and that the tie-up string simply wasn't capable of achieving success unless you limited the bag to roughly two-thirds of it's capability.  At that point in time, it took only a year for me to be discouraged with the 'gelben sack' routine.  In simple terms....it was crap.

The topic got brought up this week via ARD (public TV here in Germany, Channel One).

The Ministry of Environment has picked up the topic.  There's a discussion going on to dump the stupid 'gelben sack' and force everyone (in particularly community garbage bosses)....to adapt to the plastic can (similar to the paper can and the bio-can that everyone now has).

In my area (Wiesbaden), they flipped over years ago, and dumped the yellow bags.....mandating that everyone have a plastic dumpster (on wheels). 

Why having to make this a national policy?  That's the thing about it.  You would think with all the negativity....at least a decade ago....that various communities on their own would have dumped the stupid bags and gone to a plastic dumpster instead.  So now it takes some national agenda to make things happen rather than simply listening to people locally in the first place. 

A Program Story

The German government.....with the Ministry of Development at the head of this project, wanted to demonstrate that you could lessen migrant issues in Germany, by helping find potential returnees who wanted to go 'home', but needed help in finding a job.

ARD, the public TV of Germany....discussed this matter today.

The project?  It's called "Perspektive Heimat".  So far (from spring of 2017 to today).....they've made the program effective enough to connect NINE migrants to leave.

Yes....just nine.

On paper, the government has committed 150-million Euro to the project.  Yes, nine people who passed through the door, with a 150-million Euro ready to be spent.  Presently, I doubt that they've even crossed the 100,000 Euro point on expenditures (oddly, that part of the story was not told).

I sat and read through the piece twice.  It's aimed primarily at seven countries:  Afghanistan, Ghana, Iraq, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. 

On paper, and probably via someone's university thesis coming out of the 1980s.....it probably makes sense.  It's just that when you take this idea into the reality of today, and you venture into the seven countries suggested....where exactly are employment opportunities. 

I looked up the unemployment rate of these seven countries: Nigeria (18.8-percent), Ghana (2.4-percent), Iraq (14.8-percent), Afghanistan (8.8-percent), Tunisia (15.4-percent), Morocco (10.5-percent), and Senegal (15.7-percent). 

In the case of Ghana, if you packaged up low-interest or no-interest business start-up loans....where a guy only needed 3,000 Euro to start up his own business, and maybe even employ two or three additional folks, it might make more sense to get into the entrepreneur business. 

In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, stability is questionable and enticements like this probably don't work. 

At the current pace of things?  Well....this program is designed to run through 2020, I doubt that they exceed more than 50 total success stories. 

2019's EU Election Fear: The Arrival of Bannon

I was scanning this morning over various bits of news, and came to this short Focus (the German news magazine) piece....over Steve Bannon and the EU.  Generally, when you put those two into a circle....it's bound to cause friction of some type.

What Focus says.....is that Bannon is going to create a foundation out of thin air....which will be very active in the months leading up to the EU election (June 2019).

The aim of the foundation?  Give platforms to various right-wing movements in Europe. The name to be used for this foundation?  The Momvement.  I know....it's not exactly catchy.

Location for it?  Oddly enough....Brussels.

How this might matter?  Well, when you go around Europe, the smaller of these right-wing movement parties tended to lack structure, budgets or a 'message'. So the Momvement would be there to start surveys....talk to people and build up data, and then form 'messages' that would be used in public forums.

A massive structure?  No....in fact, here in the start-up situation....they are talking about only ten employees.

Would this matter?  I would offer these observations:

1.  In the past, across the 28 nations that be in the voting pattern for EU representation....you won't find that great of interest.  In most all cases, you never had more than half the voting public in a nation that showed up for a EU election (held every five years). 

Germany is a great example.  For 2014, of the 62-million registered voters.....only 29.3-million showed up.  In 2009, there were only 26.3-million that showed up.  For 2004, there were only 26.5-million that showed up. (Wiki facts)

Why the lesser numbers?  The bulk of German society doesn't think the EU elections amount to much.  The fact that these are held in the summer, when some portion of society is on vacation....might also play into this.

2.  Most of the big 'brand' political parties in Europe rely upon public TV media to convey their message for the EU election.  The public TV media can exclude or condemn the right-wing political folks.  Bannon is aware of that theme, and would go straight to social media to bypass the public TV media. 

Likely reaction?  I would expect various attempts by the EU to stomp down on social media and label a lot of the themes as 'fake news'.  The problem is....the more you label things in such a manner....you simply drive a deeper wedge into the crowd who disbelieves the current trends of the EU. 

3.  The strategy of current foundations (linked often to Soros 'movements')?  They've never faced a Bannon-like 'Frankenstein'.  A Bannon-Twitter theme could be decided upon at noon today, and would have reached 100-million Europeans by 6 pm.  As quickly as the opposition groups view and try to counter the Bannon-message....by noon tomorrow....there's another Bannon-Twitter theme out and following the same routine. 

By the end of the year, I would expect Bannon to be on some forbidden-entry list and having problems in Brussels.  So I tend to think that the headquarters for his organization to pack up from Brussels and move likely into Hungary or Poland.  The EU forbidden-to-enter situation will be countered by a member state suggesting that they run their own list, and this will become one of the top ten problems of the EU summer election focus of 2019. 

As for the change you might see out of this?  I would suggest that from the German voting numbers....while they've never crossed the 30-million voting potential....this 2019 election will be different.  I'm going out to predict near 35-million Germans vote, and that the AfD ends up with a twenty-percent-plus vote tally.  Around the rest of Europe....I would expect much of the same.

The Tariff Problem

If you go and scan through German business news this morning, via N-TV....there's a short news bit coming from the Institute for Macroeconomics and Business Cycle Research (IMK).

IMK is basically predicting that if the tariff 'war' proceeds on....the cost to Germany over the next year is 20-billion Euro.  A fair sum, one must admit.

The slant to this?  IMK says that there would be some type of recession or 'crash' of the market in this type of scenario.  The German economy would have to rely upon the internal market of Germany or that of the EU for make-up situation and that won't be enough to cover the shortfall.  In the end, the 'big' market of the US....matters. 

Somewhere on a white-board at the Bundestag, there's some numbers written down, and the leadership of the Merkel coalition knows the direction of the economy if this tariff situation isn't settled.  The problem here is that they really aren't in control of the trade business anymore....they gave that 'duty' over to the EU.  Getting this resolved isn't going to be a pleasant task. 

The Kasten Story

I noticed this little clip of news off N-TV (German commercial news) this morning.  If you ever been around Germany, you know that German beer is sold generally in a kasten (crate).  These are constructed in a manner that offers maximum protect for the glass containers as they make their way from the brewery to the destination.

2018 is looking great for brewery operations right now, except for one thing.....kastens aren't coming back at the normal rate.  Right now, breweries are running at maximum rates...which is a big positive.  But some brewery operations are beginning to assess how they will manage the situation with limited number of kastens.

The typical German practice?  Germans will go out and buy several kastens at the beginning of summer and store them in their basement or garage.  If a guy is noted for having two or three grill-parties during the summer....with a number of guests, then you might go and find three or four varieties of beer, and at least five kastens of beer each. 

With the deposit law in effect, each beer bottle has a deposit, and so does the kasten.  So there's zero chance that people are throwing the kastens away.  I would suspect that a lot of these are getting filled back up with the empties, and the German guy simply hasn't returned his bottles or kastens to the beverage dealer.

N-TV lays out one interesting fact.....Germans hold around 500 million reusable kastens, of which  180 million are beer-related (the rest are water or soda-related).