Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Bahn Story

ARD put up a serious story on the Bahn system (the national railway network) today.  The emphasis?  A state of financial failure.

The German Federal Court of Auditors finally published fairly in depth piece and it's pretty critical on the German government.

Their hint is that for 25 years....there's been no real national plan or agenda for the Bahn.

Present debt by the Bahn?  Twenty billion Euro.

Adding to the year by year mess....in this 25-year period, there's been barely any real rise in the number of people using it.  The freight traffic?  That has gone down by almost 20-percent over the same period.

The chief organization in the government holding the 'stick' over the Bahn?  The Transportation Ministry.  You can go through various coalition governments and find the same tendency.....a lot of talk, but no real path to controlling the debt or improving the mess.

Since 1978 when I first rode the German railway, I've come to three conclusions about the Bahn:

1.  Between on-time service and reliability.....there's no network in Europe that matches their level of competence.

2.  Cost-wise, it's relatively cheap.

3.  In terms of safety, you find their efforts to be something that you can appreciate.

But if you take this debt thing, and the zero-plan situation serious...it leads to two serious issues which people don't want to face.  First, ticket probably need to improve or rise by 50-percent, which would shock the hell out of most Germans.  Second, most metropolitan areas with built-up tram and localized networks.....need to increase their cost level even more (probably another 50-percent rise).

For me, that one-way ticket in the Wiesbaden-Mainz region which runs 2.70 Euro?  It probably ought to be closer to 3.70 Euro.  This new 365 Euro a year ticket for kids (for school purposes)?  It probably needs to be closer to 500 Euro a year. 

So what will happen with the audit report?  Nothing.  None of the political parties have the guts to do anything over the Bahn, or the 20-billion in debt. 

More Hack Stories

From this big hacker story in Germany story, we've come to a new piece of the story today.  Focus reports (the news magazine) that the kid (now 20 years old) apparently got peppy on hacking into the national police folks (BKA)....and two years ago, had already hacked into their system.

These were the folks who said a few days ago that they doubted the kid's skills and simply don't believe he was the sole hacker. 

What this generally leads onto?  Well.....if this kid was that successful, there's not much doubt that the Chinese and Russians were also hacking into the Bundestag or BKA system.  All of this speculation will end up leading the Bundestag to some major committee effort to bring confidence to the political parties. 

TV Series Story

Public TV in Germany has to fill 'air-time', so they go out and create various series which are geared to attract viewers.  Some of these are built like a National Geographic series (mostly about nature and animals)....some are about some societal problem (drug abuse, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, poverty), and some just focus on regular people or their jobs/hobbies/passions.

So WDR (a regional public TV network under ARD)....went out over twenty years ago and developed this series called 'Menschen Hautnah', which basically means 'People Up Close'.  The series has been on the air for more than 20 years.  What the director of the series typically does....is go and assign stories to WDR journalists, and occasionally freelance people. 

Do people watch Menschen Hautnah?  It's best not to ask that question.  Most youth-viewers (Germans under the age of 25 years old) will say they've never watched a single minute of it.  I've probably watched two episodes in the past decade.

The show came up in the news today, in an odd way.  Someone sat there and viewed a particular episode....then it occurred to them that they'd seen this particular couple featured.....on a prior episode, except they had different names.  So they alerted the network, and they investigated.  What WDR says now....is that there are three of these episodes made by this one free-lance guy....featuring the same couple, and each apparently true but with differing names involved.   

Yes, a true report but three different sets of names.

In some way, it's amusing because you can assume the storyline told of all three episodes....was true.  He didn't care if the names were true or fake.....he conveyed the theme to just entertain you. 

Theft Story

One of the odd crime developments over the past thirty years in Germany that I've come to observe....is the escalation on theft of bicycles.

Germans have attached themselves to using bikes and their preference is for bikes that range from a couple of hundred Euro, to five to ten thousand Euro.  If you want the battery-powered bicycles, then you are talking about a minimum of thousand Euro. 

To safely protect the bikes?  Well....folks go to an extreme.  Some folks will drag their bike up to their apartment or ensure it's safely in their garage.  Even upon arriving at work, they will make an effort to secure the bike in some protected room or shelter.  Some railway stations will even rent-out protective cabins to ensure protection of bikes. 

Chains to lock the bikes up?  It really doesn't matter....virtually all chains can be defeated. 

The cops?  All you can do upon discovering your bike was stolen....is call the cops and report it.  The cops really don't have the manpower to do anything, and there simply isn't a strategy on handling on this type of theft.

So I noticed today a bike recovery story here in the local Wiesbaden news. 

This German lady had her bike stolen.  It apparently had some unique features.  Some days pass, and she's browsing through want-ads on the internet (I assume Ebay or Craig's List).  Here's the bike.  She contacts the sales person, and arranges for an inspection to purchase.  Then she calls the cops and they show up. 

Yep, it's the bike.  Oddly enough....there's other items there that have been reported stolen.  So they conduct an inventory.  They bring the individual down to the station and do a full report, and then they issue a summons to report to the court. 

All of this effort though.....only comes about because of the determination of the German lady in recovering her own stuff. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Fake Hacker?

About two weeks ago, I laid out an essay over the 'hack' of the German Bundestag in Berlin.  Eventually, with all the evidence gathered....cops were pretty certain about this 20-year old student in the Homberg area (here in Hessen).

The cops got a search warrant....came to the house, and accused the kid of the crime.  Political figures and journalists are all hyped up about the episode, and it's consumed a good bit of public TV crime.

So today, we come to this one last piece of the story.  The cops, from the moment they detained the 'kid'.....have felt that while he's admitting to things....he just doesn't have the skill required to be a hacker.

HR (our public TV network in Hessen) talked about this today.

So the federal cops (BKA) sat the kid in a room with a computer, and asked him how he did it.  Based on this 'test'....the kid failed.  The cops simply state that this kid (while admitting he did it)....just isn't capable of doing the work required.

What now? 

The cops might go and interview friends and the inner circle of folks that the kid knows.  Based on suspicion....they can do charges against the 'kid' but he'll be treated as a juvenile and probably only get a year or two in some detention center. 

Is the kid faking them?  I might go and suspect that he has no reason to prove his skills.  Another friend in the background?  Someone could have written a page of instructions and told him how to hack in, and then the kid disposed of the instructions. 

I'll just say this....it's a bit amusing to be at this point, and the cops just not believing in the admitted confession. 


If 'Hard' BREXIT Occurs?

In this treaty that is often discussed.....there was a settlement 'fee' talked about, in the range of 44-billion Euro, that the UK would have paid to 'leave'.

In a normal year, for the sake of argument, the UK paid around 14.6-billion Euro into the EU pot, of which the EU 'gave' back to the UK in the form of allocations....around 4.5-billion Euro.  The rest?  It got swept around the poorer nations of the EU and helped to finance the EU government system (pensions for EU political figures). 

You can do the math, but if hard BREXIT occurs, there's a serious shortfall in cash, and bank loans will have to be procured while the EU sorts out it's cash shortage problem.  In certain words over the past two years.....they've admitted that they really can't cover shortfalls in a quick manner. 

Macron

I sat last night and watched a German news piece on President Macron of France....having a 'huddle-meeting' with 600 French mayors.  The aim here, was to show some kind of civil discourse....that he could sit and talk in a public forum with them. 

I went back to YouTube this morning and watched the video of this meeting....with the sound turned off. 

Macron is having serious trouble in convincing the French public that he can lead them.  He wants a national dialog.

At some point, the journalists were even suggesting that he wants the public to identify what tax cuts they want, and then what benefits they want lessened.  Basically....he would give them a couple of hundred Euro back in their, but the cut 'something' (maybe education, maybe street renovation....you just don't know what).  For a brief moment, he'd probably win this public display.  The real losers though?  It'd go back to the mayors, and they'd have to sit there with public frustration over cut benefits. 

Curious episode, I must admit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Stassi-like Device to Monitor the AfD Party?

So, in simple terms....the coalition (with support from the FDP, Linke Party and Greens) want to implement a Constitutional 'watch' action over the AfD Party and it's members.  For about a year, in the Bundestag circle, this chatter has been going on and it's simply just a matter of time when the vote is carried out, and the Stassi-like monitoring will start up.  In the last week....it's gone a step or two higher. 

An embarrassment?  No.  Various parties will openly say that 'threats' made in speeches and talk by AfD members....require monitoring by police.  Some AfD folks will use the term 'secret' police....just to hint of Stassi (the old East German secret police). 

Will this all lead onto a 'victimhood' situation?  This is likely the next step as authorization to spy on the AfD starts up.  It's comical to suggest they represent a victim situation, but it starts to put the coalition parties (CDU-CSU and SPD), along with the Greens, Linke and FDP.....in a bad light. 

If AfD were to ever reach a majority of voters...would they flip the mechanism to then authorize spying on the CDU, SPD and others?  Yes, and that's the sad part of this story....retribution is likely to occur, if votes flips.

But here's the amusing thing about the spying business.  The AfD folks could start fake rumors of Russian agents being part of the Green Party support mechanism, or the Chinese were lobbying the CSU in Bavaria, and these reports would get dragged out in the monitoring meetings....where the fake rumors might get accidentally released (intentionally) to the public TV news crowd.  Yes, suddenly....you'd wake up and have some fake story leading you (the German public) to think that Bulgarian agents were sitting with big names of the Linke Party, or that the Americans were paying off members of the CDU mechanism. 

Rumor-wise, the AfD could turn this mess into a much bigger mess.