Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Tegel Meeting

About a week ago, I brought up the topic of a big meeting (occurred yesterday) in Berlin over Tegal Airport, and the future plans.

To set the stage, there is a written plan (agreed upon from almost twenty years ago) that once BER (the new Berlin Airport) opens and is operational.....there is a count-down to closing both Tegal and Schonefeld Airports. Tegal would be torn down completely (gutted) and a new technology sector would arise out of this area of town.  Schonefeld would convert in some way to a VIP airport (no one has ever explained what this really meant....I think they meant for visiting dignitaries and government airplanes).

The meeting ended last night around midnight.  What N-TV reports is:

- The Transport Minister (Dobrindt) has hinted strongly that events have changed over twenty years and that the original plan probably doesn't fit the current situation (higher numbers of people flying out of Berlin in general).  Both Tegal and Schonefeld are stretched to the limit.  BER remains at least eighteen months away from completion and operation (being nine years late on completion).

- Both the regions of Bandenburg and Berlin agree that whatever decision is made.....has to be made with both of them, and the federal government in agreement.

- There are legal issues if they decide to change the two-decade plan, and it'll mean a fair amount of paperwork.

- Another meeting will take place in Berlin....24 September....to be a legally but non-binding decision on Tegal staying open....either beyond BER's opening or permanently.

- Some exploration and talks are going on to look at BER and just how much they can add onto it....which now figures into the long-term plan.  I suspect twenty years ago....they figured that they were thirty years away from discussing BER version 2.0 (another terminal building and possibly another run-way).  The trouble is now....you'd have to start working on this within five years, and come up with the capital for the added area.  And this would bring up the topic of how long before BER vesion 3.0 comes up (a third terminal?).

- The cost of renovating Tegel for long-term use?  Someone threw the number of one-billion Euro out on the table.....a fair sum of money.

Out of this whole meeting, I would ponder through it and say two key things are on the table:

1.  Some people may be thinking to jump on enlarging BER (going for terminal two), and go ahead on closing Tegel but make it after 2025.  They would avoid the billion-Euro renovation job, and squeeze as much out of Tegel as possible.

2.  The other group might believe that BER....even after a enlargement plan went into the works....might not be the real long-term answer and two major airports (keeping Tegel) is the best long-term agenda item.  Schonefeld?  Practically everyone is set to keep it open as a VIP type operation.

I hate to suggest the final outcome here, but I think the Berlin city leadership would like to keep Tegel on the closure list....go with the new technology center after they gutted the airport.....build the added terminal at BER, and wake up in 2025 to say that a WHOLE NEW airport must be added in the Berlin region by 2035 to handle more air traffic.  They would be that incompetent to suggest this idea.

Locomore Version 2.0

About a year ago, I brought up a new concept business.....Locomore....which was a private railway situation that would use the Bahn railways and Locomore' s trains for a particular route (Stuttgart to Frankfurt to Berlin, and back each day).  The deal was centered around a low-cost ticket...22 Euro one-way.

At the time, I felt that it was a good idea and might have a fair number of people who would use the once-a-day route.

Problems occurred with the start-up, and financially....they did not seem to be ready for the issues that occurred.

Today, in Hessen news....it came out that Locomore will be taken over by Fixbus and the Czech railways.  It'll restart next week (24 Aug).

The general change?  Flixbus appears to be the folks operating the ticket business (which they have lots of experience to draw upon).

There is some talk of a start-up ticket (at least for the first week or two) of 9.99 Euro (one-way).

What caused the original failure of Locomore?  On paper, I think they made sense.  They were operating a theme-like train (each car being different), with pricing that beat the typical Bahn price.  The catch was....it ran only once a day.  You'd start at mid-morning in Stuttgart, and arrive in Berlin by mid-afternoon....then return by mid-evening to Stuttgart.  The reality was that they weren't prepared for the various problems that would come up, and didn't have ready-capital to pay for last-minute maintenance issues.  The ticket-business....if you go and read reviews....occasionally hit snags and probably needed more development.

They probably have a year or two with version two of the operation....to prove it can be profitable, or to just close it down and admit the concept won't ever pay off.

Migrant TV Show

I sat and watched twenty minutes of German public-TV last night....Channel Two....ZDF.  The show at roughly 10PM....Dunja Hayali and her public forum-chat show.  The topic last night.....immigrants, refugees, and the rescue ships in the Med.

Generally, it was a feel-good-for saving-refugees type forum, with the rescue ship coordinators hyping their operations and how Europe needs to accept the rescued migrants.

ZDF's moderator....Dunja Havali did have a token retired political figure to counter the discussion but the hype here was to discount any real opposition....that it's just the right thing to go and rescue these people and bring them to Europe.

I sat and paused over the naive thinking and logic demonstrated. For me....it would make more sense to just have an airline deal set up in Africa, and fly the folks straight into European cities with paperwork already done (stamped) and put them right to work.  Why waste time on rescues?  Why involve smuggling operations and black markets?  Why allow human trafficking to be a real business?  The charity-rescue crowd was like a group of fourth-grade kids....no real grasp of the landscape.

Naturally, if you went in my direction....then you'd have say that there is no limit on entry and everyone was welcome to come in.  Oh yeah....that topic of limited jobs for marginal educated or skilled folks would come up.  The topic of adequate and affordable housing....would also come up. In fact, hundreds of subjects would come up.

At some point, Dunja cut to a video-piece....she'd gone down to Italy and encountered the local Italian town which wasn't pro-asylum or pro-immigration.  These folks felt that the whole rescue thing was bringing in a lot of migrants who weren't going to be adaptable or find jobs.  It was also discussed that most of the migrants in Italy weren't interested in stay (Italy doesn't offer prime-support or help). They wanted to head north (hint: Germany).  Border check-points have been put up....so crossing the border isn't that easy anymore.  Course, I looked at this and noted that Germany could just issue visas down in Italy and fly the folks up....legally....if they wanted to make a show out of this.

I've come to a sense of reality over the past year in Germany.  This whole discussion and opera going on.....is more of an illusion, than reality.

You have wannabe-saviors for the migrant crowd, but none of the rescue-ship folks really ask who is fronting their cost or giving them the info on where the rafts will be rescued.

You have the pretender-political crowd who is hyped to be pro-asylum, but if you bring up paperwork and the approval process...with the failure rates on visas.....these people never seem to want to be in the room and talking.

You have the illusionists-turned-news media crowd who hype something to fit some agenda but they can't really show the whole landscape because then you'd ask stupid questions which can't be answered.

It's like being in a AA-meeting where all the alcoholics are talking about how they made it through the week without a drink.....trying hard not to grin because they'd all broken their promise at least once.

As for the Dunja Hayali Show?  Here's the thing....it came on fairly late....10PM roughly, and I doubt if more than a quarter-million Germans out of 82-million watched it.

Germany Getting Five Guys

It came up in business news this morning that the American burger operation....Five Guys....will market into Germany starting this fall.

For those unfamiliar with Five Guys....it hasn't exactly been around that long (2001 was the start-up). Their popularity (after having eaten at one) is that they make the old-style hamburger....thick....and the buns are different (sweet comes to mind as a description).  It was mostly a Virginia-type operation for a couple of years and has branched out.  I would take a guess that most folks in the south will say they've never eaten at Five Guys.  If you live in Arlington, VA....probably fifty-percent of the public will say they've eaten at one.

One of the chief features of a Five Guys shop?  Bacon-flavor milk-shakes.

So the deal in Germany?  It'll appear this fall in Frankfurt....at the Zeil shopping district of town.  According to EKitchen....Munich, Koln and Dusseldorf will also have operations open by the end of this year.

Will it work in Germany?  I would have mixed feelings on this idea.  Both Burger King and McDonalds are well established.  Where Five Guys will probably find success is in mall-type situations, and tourist-type zones (Heidelberg is a good example).  I also don't think this will turn up into a big footprint situation (maybe a max of a hundred across Germany).

My only knock against the franchise operation?  They tend to have very limited seating.  If they say they have an area big enough for 150 people....that tends to mean a large standing counter for about a quarter of the 150 people, and elbow-to-elbow space for the remaining folks.  It's not a place where you'd go to spend an hour....eating and chatting. It's mostly designed to be a place where you stop in....eat....and then leave...all in the space of twenty minutes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Mental Facility Story

Germans will typically tell you that if you are 'nutty' and a threat....the German system is built in a way that a judge can sign the paperwork and put you into a mental facility....permanently if necessary.

This topic comes up today because of a legal case up in north Germany....in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The basic case, which went all the way to the top (Federal Constitutional Court) revolved around this woman who was forced in a mental facility.

Around the summer of 2014, the lady was told by the county health office that her issues with delusions and schizophrenia were bad enough....that papers were going to be signed and that was the end of the discussion.

Well....she disagreed.

While the doctors signed off that she was a danger to herself and others....she felt that there should have been out-patient-like episodes and treatment....not full-blown institutionalism.

The woman was able to lay out several complaints (always unsuccessful) about this forced treatment deal.  What the high court now says is that she should NOT have been treated like this. An individual should have some basic right to self-determination and physical integrity.

The forced institution route?  It should only be done as a last resort.   The court suggests that more trust has to be accepted in this whole situation.

It means from this point on...the minute you come up with some crazy cousin or aunt with the schizophrenia episode....there has to be some paperwork trail....some doctor noting every single treatment and how it went right or wrong, and detail out how trust could no longer be applied to the individual.  A few more dead folks?  Well....yeah.  A few folks are going to have to give up their safe situation because you have to be overly fair to the schizophrenia folks.

My guess is that a decade down the road....some new law will be created to get around this court concept, and fast-pace folks once again into facilities.

The lady in this case?  I'm guessing that she will be released within days, and put on some treatment plan....to be monitored.

German Weather and 2017

I'm waiting for the end of 2017 and the anticipated announcement of a major global warming phase in Germany for the year....which I'll mostly laugh about.

For me, a hot day in Germany is typically one where the temperature rises above 30-Celsius (meaning 86-degrees F).  It's hot mostly because there's no air conditioning except in a handful of coffee shops or department stores.

In a typical average summer, you can figure around thirty days go to 30-Celsius or above...in my region.  It'll typically run three or four days in a row, and then cool off.

In 2003, the worst year of the past hundred, there were probably sixty days minimum of 30-Celsius, and half of those days it went above 35-Celsius (meaning 95-F).  Almost four weeks of consecutive heat occurred that year. Dozens of French folks were dying daily....mostly because of dehydration.  It's suggested that most French folks drank more wine in the mid-afternoon, and folks would find them dead on the couch from heat stroke.  The Germans?  Not so much.  

For 2017?  It's probably a total of ten days with the temperature above 30-Celsius.  Weather fronts came in....shifted around....and left.  For the majority of August....we are expecting it to be between 20 and 25-Celsius....which is awful mild.

It is untypical and ought to be part of some global cooling chatter, but the enthusiasts hate that topic.


New Polling Report

It got brought up by Focus today....that almost 26-percent of the German public is undecided on the election choice (in roughly four weeks).

It's a fair sum of folks.  They could literally swing their vote and really change the whole outcome of this election.

What the polling also says is that most are satisfied with Merkel....they want her to remain.

There's also this other problem drilling down into this election.  At present, the numbers of the CDU-CSU parties, and the FDP....figured to the coalition that the new government will form under....will not NOT have enough votes at the current trend.

The secondary coalition....the CDU-CSU and Green Party?  Even less so.

So there's this unspoken criticism coming up.....there will have to be another CDU-CSU and SPD government.  Neither of these two groups are very happy about this situation.

One poll (INSA) has even gone and suggested that the AfD Party (the anti-immigration folks) could get 10-percent of the vote (dated in the past week).  That's somewhat of a shocker.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Berlin Cop Story

I noticed this in Berlin (regional) news today....the cops there are in a big hiring expedition.  The first round came and went.....and they didn't recruit enough folks.  Curious episode.

What RBB says is that ONLY 10-percent of those who applied....passed all of the requirements...meaning 90-percent failed.

The requirements?  You have to be a German or a EU-member state citizen (no visa-folks in this episode).  Pass the background test....meaning you don't have an arrest record.  You need a Class-B license to drive.  You must be able to swim 200 meter.  No tattoos visible with summer shirts on (that's a problem for a lot of young Germans).  A clean medical exam.  And you must be 160 cm tall for a gal and 165 for a guy.

There is a discussion going on that they might relax the tattoo situation a bit, and that the height deal might go down a notch.

Why the problems?  Unemployment is down in the four-percent range, and frankly....being a German cop isn't exactly on the top ten jobs list of most German kids.  If you go and look at middle-class young men and women...probably over fifty percent have a couple of tattoos.