Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Papa Johns to Germany?

Papa Johns Pizza to Germany?  Well....the announcement came in the past week....at least fourteen initially will open, with the first up in the NW region of Germany. 

Germany and American-style pizza?  This was a big deal in the 1980s, and Pizza Hut walked in to create their image here.  In the past three years, Dominos bought into a German chain operation, and set itself up as a competitor. 

More room for Papa Johns?  Maybe. 

The problem I see is that after you've had an Italian-style pizza, made by Germans at local pizzerias.....it's hard to really say the American-style is better.  Then you do the pricing of a XL American-type pizza, and Germans kinda shake their head to some degree. 

I do see a market in some of the metropolitan cities....especially those with a big traffic-flow of pedestrians.  I could even see a Papa Johns operation in the Wiesbaden train-station area making a fair profit. 

Railway Story

I sat and watched the early morning commercial German news and they had this piece on.....talking about the national issue of railway problems. 

If you've looked around Germany since the early 1990s....a lot of tracks were 'turned-off' (discarded) because of the strategy ahead.  Most of the tracks simply remain there....unused. 

So there is this chatter of activating (renovating) 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) of the retired tracks.  Chief reason?  Well, the demand for more passengers and lesser car usage....leads to higher demands.  Two groups have surveyed this idea (outside of the Bahn circles) and they say around 180 sections of track can be brought back online.  Some of them are just a kilometer long.....some are up to sixty kilometers long.

Renovation costs?  Well....no one says much over that and the Bahn would have to approach their financial plan and probably find another billion or two....to fund this idea. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Update on Wahl-O-Mat

Around a week ago, I essayed a piece on the Wahl-O-Mat, which is the App that you can use to determine issues, and the 'best' party to vote for in elections.  Cost-free, and easy to operate.....taking less than twelve minutes to determine your best way of voting.

Well....it came out today via a German court....that judges handed down a ruling.....that Wahl-O-Mat has to shut down unless they can find a way of also handling 'small' parties.  There are more than forty parties that generally register themselves in German elections.  In most German elections, there's at least ten new parties that appear (for the first time ever), and ten parties that disappear (some were only existing for one single election).

The judges say....Wahl-O-Mat's crew have to make it totally available.  The party that brought this case up?  Volt-Germany.  I know....it's a fairly unknown party (been around since 2017).  They claim 25,000 members or supporters. 

The key phrase in the ruling?  After you answer the forty-odd questions....you then have to select EIGHT parties to compare the weight of your answers against.  Volt said that 'eight' was unfair, and the judges agreed.  To resolve this?  You'd have to open up the comparisons and allow all forty-odd parties to be used in the weight mechanism.  It's not impossible but it'll take a code-guy to write this and a week or so to test out the mechanism. 

On Madonna's Show

Over Saturday night, the European Song Contest aired (live) out of Israel.  It's typically a three to four hour contest, with a winner announced at the end.  Ten to twenty years ago.....you got mostly all two-star songs and acts....but I would say over the past five years...it's improved a lot.  You get the best song of the year from twenty to thirty-five countries.  It used to be solely European, and lately....they've added Australia and Russia.....and Israel.

So toward the very end of this (around 11:30/11:45), came Madonna.  It was a 9-minute piece.  I think most fans were sitting there in anticipation of some magnificent five-star concert act (perhaps going a bit longer than 9 minutes).  It became something like you'd expect in Vegas for some Brittney Spears-type act, and less than a five-star moment.

Complaints?  A number of Germans whined about the act.  Some complaints were over the political slant in the act (a Palestinian flag being shown).  The network folks claim this was not supposed to be part of the act.

The cost of her being there?  Roughly a million dollars. 

I think part of the problem is that Madonna's 'hay-day' was the 1980s/1990s, and most watching the ESC....just weren't from that generation. 

Are Germans Hyped Up on Anti-Right-Wing Extremism?

If you asked prior to 2013, is there a German issue with right-wing extremism....journalists would have said only that the NPD Party was a threat (the Nazi-like party that rarely got more than 2-percent of the national vote).

Once we entered the migration period (mid-2013) and emerged out into the public view in early 2016....things changed. 

From early 2014 to the very end of 2015....public TV viewers were greeted with pro-asylum news and themes.  You could almost predict that this was not being accepted well by the general public, and that it was merely creating an audience with questions that could not be answered. 

After the Koln 31 December 2015 event....I would suggest that about a quarter of the German public was galvanized on the topic of immigration and integration.  They didn't believe the news stories any longer, and were becoming negative about the whole topic. 

In terms of voting, there's no doubt that the AfD Party (the anti-immigration party) has arrived and has around 13-percent of the German public supporting them.  There's also no doubt that various elements of the CDU Party aren't thrilled about immigration....preferring that Merkel retire and some changes occur. 

The existence of right-wing extremism?  Well....you can believe in this fairly tale.....if you consider that left-wing extremism also exists in Germany.  One might suspect that both groups are about the same number (10 to 15 percent of the public), and maybe they've always been there but unnoticed. 

Five Takeaways for the Upcoming Austria Election

Because of the video scandal (I talked about it yesterday)....there's to be a new election in approximately three months for the legislative branch.  Here are five things to be thinking over:

1.  The parties.  The OVP (the People's Party) took the big chunk in 2017 with 32-percent of the vote.  You'd typically place them right-of-center.  Their partner in the coalition....FPO (the Freedom Party) was in third-place with 26-percent, and are more of a far-right group.  The scandal probably didn't hurt the OVP guys much, and it's hard to judge the FPO crowd (it was their scandal).  They might lose four or five points.....or perhaps lose nothing. 

The Social Democratic Party (SPO, left of center)?  They took 27-percent in the last election.....a lot of that vote came from people turned-off on the Green Party.  The NOW - List Pilz Party?  In the last election, they took around 4.5-percent of the vote.  It's a new party (at least at that point) and what is a hard-left-of-center group.....described as pro-Green, pro-liberal, etc.  The party formed after frustration by this guy Pilz, who'd been a big member of the Green Party, and they failed to recognize his brand of politics....so he exited and formed his own party.  Nothing suggests that they've improved since 2017. 

Then you come to the NEOS Party.  They took around 5-percent of the vote in 2017.  They've been around for seven years.  Their description?  It's more of an agenda group?  They want conscription gone (strictly a volunteer force).  Pro-EU.  They want more direct ballots by the public on important decisions.  No rises in taxation rates.  There's nothing to suggest that they've moved up since 2017.

At this point, I'll mention four additional parties which are 'fringe' and unlikely to take that many votes, but they are part of the big picture. 

'My Vote Counts' Party is more of a comical effort to say you don't care....run by a comedian in Austria.  They actually took 48,000 votes, and one might suspect they move up a step.

The Greens, with roughly 4-percent of the vote in the last election....they are in a rough spot. 

The KPO-plus Party is really the former Communist Party of Austria who formed up with the young Green 'juniors'.  The Green 'juniors' reached a point where they were fairly radical when compared against the Green Party themselves.  What this amounted to in 2017?  Roughly 1-percent of the vote.  It's doubtful that they added numbers since then.

Finally, the Free Party Salzburg (FPS).  Fairly right (well, extreme right), and based mostly around Salzburg itself.  They took around a quarter of one-percent in the last election.  They've been around for four years, and were a break-up unit from the FPO group.  It's doubtful that they gained any votes.

2.  The vote?  Eighty percent of registered voters showed up in 2017.  That's up five points over the previous election.  From the 2008 election, they had around 78-percent show up.  Better percentage than you'd see in Germany, but it's based off a lot of public interest in outcomes.

3.  The chief interest in this 2019 election?  Journalists have their hype and suggest that being pro-EU is the big deal.  I might go and suggest that for half of the population....immigration, integration and asylum is still the number one issue.  Fear of right-wing extremism probably fits into the top five priorities. 

4.  Why the Germans are hyped up about this election?  There is perceived feelings that the current government was too far right-wing and that extremism was taking place.  So their hope is that the FPO got knocked down a good bit, and that Social Democrats regain five or six points, to either lead or co-lead the new government.  The issues of migration and integration?  Whatever existed in 2017....still exists today, and remains a major issue.  It's hard to imagine that many voters walking away from the FPO to make this 'balanced' government idea of the Germans possible.

5.  The chance of another fake Russian collusion episode occurring?  Forget about it.  If anything, the comedians of Austria might come out and all pretend to be Russian mobsters, and enticing various parties to fake interviews.  In fact, you might have fake Austrian comedian-politicians attempting to entice Russian mobsters to meet them and do interviews. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Chatter over Railways

I sat and watched a news piece this morning over the German railway system (oddly coming up each week now as a national news topic), but this item was over something that few people ever discuss....bridges.

Most people never think about it, but there are over 26,000 railway bridges in Germany today.  It might surprise you....that at least 9,000 of them are one-hundred years old or older. 

So the Bahn has to go out every three years by regulation, and test them.  Those in poor condition....get on a rehab or replacement plan.  Right now on the list?  Projects are (not just bridges but track as well) going up to around 28 billion Euro....a fair sum.

Part of the big saga over the national railway system?  By the time you add in the complaints, the trains themselves, overcrowding, late deliveries, cancellations, the tracks and the bridges....it's a five-star problem now confronting the German public. 

Explaining This Austria 'Situation'

The Austrian government, after the October 2017 election, ended up in a coalition government.  The OVP Party ended up with 31-percent of the vote (they are right-of-center types).  They partnered with the FPO Party (far-right) who had 26-percent of the vote (they were actually in third-place).  The Greens did awful (getting around 3-percent of the vote).

In this partnership deal.....the head of the FPO (Heinz-Christian Strache) ended up with the Vice-Chancellor job.

So in the past week.....this video comes out with Strache sitting in a room and offering Austrian government contracts to a Russian investor.

This all led to a crisis meeting, and finally the OVP Party said enough.....letting the coalition dissolve, and ordering up a new national election.

Date?  Unknown....but probably by late August.

The hype?  A number of German journalists are suggesting that this will bring down the FPO Party entirely, and sweep in the Social Democratic Party (left of center).  There is a problem here in that a large number of people who voted for the FPO in the last election.....tend to still be very negative about immigration and asylum.....which the Social Democrats aren't exactly offering anything to attract that 26-percent or any element of that group over.  So I'm not really buying much into this story.

An odd part of this approaching election?  From the five top parties (there are eleven additional parties out there as well), at least four of the main candidates leading the parties are known.....are led by women.  An accident or just luck, or planned out?  Unknown.

So lets get back to this video and the corruption scandal.  Back in July 2017....several months BEFORE the election, there was a meeting set up in Ibiza, Spain.  Strache shows up with a second party associate.  They are there to some gal who claims she's the niece of a Russian oligarch.  We are left in the dark about this woman posing as the niece, and the name of the Russian oligarch mentioned.  She had cameras set up and picked up the entire offer of insider Austrian contracts. 

Why didn't she offer the tape before the October 2017 election?  No one can explain that. 

Why post the tape out now, just prior to the EU election?  No one can explain that.

How did she get an invitation relied onto Strache to arrange this meeting....being a virtual unknown to him?  No one can explain that.

The fact that one German comedian knew of the tape at least six to eight weeks prior to the public release?  Yeah, that's an odd part of this story, and leads one to suspect that various non-Austrians might have been part of the planning on this episode and it was a long-term deal.

So will this election flip the government over to something else?  I would suggest three factors at work.  First, the NEOS Party (getting 5.3-percent in the 2017 election) is a relatively new party and has had some growth in public recognition.  It's possible that they might take two or three points off the SPO folks. Second, there's still hostility brewing in Austrian over immigration.....that hasn't decreased a single bit in the last two years.  Third, eventually....someone is going to ask about the fake Russian Oligarch gal, who set her into the game, and why it took two years before the tape appeared in public.  This might lead some to ask about the scandal to the scandal.   

In an amusing way, this was Russian collusion....faked-up.