Sunday, March 26, 2017

German Industry and the Migrants

One of the more impressive bureaucrats that the German government has....is Frank-Jurgen Weiss.  I've sat over the past three years and seen at least three forums or interviews with the guy.  If you were looking for a clever German guy, with some common sense and ability to read through lots of data to reach conclusions....he's that guy.

Unfortunately for Germany....Weiss is retiring this year (he's 65 years old).

For fourteen of the past years....Weiss was the head of the German Federal Agency for Labor.

In his youth....he spent twelve years with the German Army.  They offered him a chance for advanced studies and he took advantage of that.  He went into reserve duty, and worked as a civilian for the German Army.  Lot of people were impressed with his competency and drive.  He's a guy who puts a lot of effort into thinking about a problem before arriving at a decision.

At some point in late 2015....the head of the BamF (the German agency over migration and immigration) quit.  It's safe to say that for the entire year prior....Manfried Schmidt (the boss) was under constant criticism from all sides of the German government.  Schmidt had problems in getting changes made within his agency....he had manpower issues....and the agency was ill-equipped to perform at the level required.

As Schmidt handed in his resignation....the Merkel coalition was stuck having to find a replacement.  Basically, they needed someone who simply didn't exist.  They needed an administrator, a genius, a general, an innovations guy, a tough disciplinarian, and a person with Einstein-like thinking skills.  They called Frank Jurgen Weiss up and asked if he'd take the job.

The problem was....legally by German law, he could not take the 'salaried job' because of obligations.

So, he basically continued to work as the head of the German Federal Agency for Labor, and became the 'CEO' of BamF.

For twelve months, Weiss led BamF out of the mess they were in.  He forced the employees to accept change.  He brought in more manpower.  He instituted various changes that were not easily accepted. In some ways...he fixed what was really broke, and made the job for the new incoming guy in late 2016 a lot easier.

I bring up this topic of Weiss because he's done an interview in the past week.  He quietly admits something which will not make the Merkel coalition government happy.

From all the immigrants and migrants who came into Germany since 2012....Weiss notes that only 10-to-15 percent have some skill, craft, or degree....which will result in a job within twelve months after arrival.

The rest?  It's divided into two groups.  The bulk (maybe 60-percent) have some background or work experience that means something....but there's no certification or the depth that German companies would expect.  This group will require some type of program....meaning not just a year, but maybe two or three years of some support and training help.  The remaining group?  Nothing.

In Weiss's own words....if German industry had some faint hope of using these people....it's a false hope.

At the end of 2016....there were only 34,000 of the million-plus migrants/immigrants who had real full-time jobs.  The rest?  They fell into training programs, 1-Euro an hour jobs which companies were training the employees while the government paid subsidy checks to cover the cost of living for the employees.  Some were part-time employees.

Toward the end of 2016, Weiss made a comment in public that if German industry needed more employees....they'd best aim at European countries....more so than immigrants or migrants.

This is a topic which rarely gets discussed by anyone from the CDU or SPD.  They both have gone deep into Merkel's migrant plan, and have little room to maneuver.  The problem here is that industry managers and planners have to view this great idea of using new talent from the migration deal....as mostly a failure.

Since the Greece crisis and the Spanish downturn on the economy....there's been some educated and trained Greeks and Spaniards showing up for German employment.  I would expect this to continue and possibly expand.

I imagine if you asked Weiss a wide set of questions of the migration policy....he'd probably tell you some blunt truths, and want to fix the whole system.  But I doubt that the Merkel coalition would be happy with those blunt truths.

Sweden and the Chief Story

For six months, I kinda follow on a weekly basis....news and events going on in Sweden.  I should note....I've never been there.  It's just that it started to make the news last summer, and I'd pick up a Swede newspaper (via Chrome translations) and go over headlines.  The immigration thing, and crime interested me.

For months, I've been trying to understand how the Swedish cops have been dragged down and seem to be totally disconnected from reality.  It would seem like the cops on the street knew what was going on, and the managers at the top did not.

Today, some story came out via Speisa....a news service out of Sweden. The chief of police for the nation (9.6 million residents).....came out this past week and introduced a new strategy.  Police investigators have been told to re-prioritize their efforts.  More time on traffic violations....less time on serious crimes.

Now, a normal guy....not even a cop....would sit there and ask some stupid questions.

What the head office of the national police has said is that this effort to focus on traffic situations will result in a higher percentage of closed cases.  On numbers, it'll look great in six months.  The serious crime numbers?  Well....yeah, they didn't say much.  They did say that murders would still get their full attention and full investigative power.

Someone from Speisa pointed out that with the new 'creative' talk suggested....if you busted some dude with 30 marijuana plants....it would end up as thirty separate cases of marijuana, and each would be easily accomplished....thus showing a terrific rate of case closure.

So I looked up the head of the Swedish national police....Dan Eliasson.  He's an interesting character.  Mid-50's, lawyer background, career government employee. Early on in his career....he was the head of the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (their version of Social Security).  Later, he headed up the chiefs job at the international affairs section of the Justice Ministry.  Then he served five years as the chief of staff for the Justice Minister.  For a short period, he was the acting chief of the Swedish Security Service, then he headed up for four years the Swedish Migration Agency.  

In 2015, he was picked and chosen to be the head of the national police in Sweden.

You'd look at the guy's resume, and ask.....what police background or experience does he have?  Well....none.

My guess is that the cops kinda felt that way when he arrived, but it's the political system that delivered Dan to them, and you can't fix this.

So I come to this last piece of the resume business.  In the mid-70s....for a short period, Dan headed up a punk rock band in Sweden, and they had this big national hit in 1979....."*ucking in Bangkok".  I double-checked the translation to this,

In a way, the political system has delivered this guy to be the chief of police, who has no police background or experience.  He is a pure bureaucrat in nature.

The idea of building some fortress-like police complex in the thug neighborhood of Rinkeby?  Tens of millions will be spent on this....mostly to make it secure enough that cops feel it's safe.  Eliasson had to approve this idea and press the government to spend the money.  It makes sense now how this idea was pushed forward and accepted by the government.

The national election comes up in 2018....so maybe there is some massive change of government, and the chief of police is changed out.  Until then, you have to live with the problem created.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Drug Trade in Europe

So, you come on a Saturday afternoon, in Europe, and you'd really like a hit of Cocaine, LSD, or Meth.  Well....some folks would.  Maybe you'd like some Captagon, or Heroin.  If you live in a rural area....it's going to be a problem.  If you live in Duisburg, Stockholm, Malmo, Koln, Frankfurt, or Berlin?  It's basically a 10 to 30 minute subway ride, and you can buy all the stuff you need.

No need to worry about cops.  They rarely enforce any law on the drug zones in most urbanized cities.

I can draw you a map to Koln, Stockholm, Frankfurt or Berlin's best places to get the drugs.

No drug enforcement?  On rare occasions, the German cops will stage some run through a drug district....like in Frankfurt's Taunus Strasse district.....mostly with journalists hanging on and taking pictures to assure the public that enforcement is a big priority.  Then the cops disappear and stay mostly out of sight for six months until the next public show of non-existent enforcement.

If you follow the news (at least in Germany), there are various mafia groups now....all leading to ethnic attachments (Kurds, Turks, Albanians, Serbs, Russians).  I admit Bavarian gangs, Scottish gangs, and Icelandic gangs are rarely if ever noted in the news.

You end up with different levels or special features of these gangs.  Meth labs for the most part are talked as being mostly in Czech, and gangs arrange for purchases, and then have specialized folks who drive the stuff in and make a central delivery.  The gang then has it's distribution group....which these days are said to be mostly North African gentlemen and some central African guys.....mostly those without any occupation or trade, and they don't worry much about jail.

Cash and profit gets generated, and then?  Well....no one much talks about the black market of cash flow.  It's hard to laundry out millions per week of cash.  Transferring it around?  Practically impossible.  This is one of the parts of the whole drug sales story that never seems to be told by any news source.

Locals not angry?  That's an odd part to this whole thing.  If you live around these drug districts....you are fairly angry and want the city to clean up the mess.  But if you live outside of the district....you will never notice any of the drug trade, or the doped-up punks.

I stood six months ago in a park in Wiesbaden and noted two young guys who were totally spaced out....my guess....heroin.  With the exception of some misty rain coming down, there wasn't much to worry the two guys.  Cops were going to come and mess with them.  The general public won't see the business or worry about this.  If they were out in some public street and jumping in front of cars.....maybe the cops would get pepped up and do something.  But this is the reality of where Europe is today....just accepting the business as long as it's not by your front-door.

In Germany, we are fairly close to a point where the general public (my guess 50-percent) will accept marijuana as a logical and non-problem drug.  Twenty years ago....it would have been 25-percent.  Times have changed people perceptions.

Even the use of MCMA (Ecstasy)....has become an accepted thing among probably one-third of the German youth (18 to 25 years old).  It's affect?  Mostly putting you into a trance-like state for a couple of hours.  A bad batch or excessive use?  Yeah, it might kill you.  On a Friday night across Germany....I would take a humble guess that 350,000 of the 82-million are easily taking it....maybe as many as half-a-million.

If you look around the Middle East at the growing use of Captagon....I'd take a guess that in less than three years....it'll be a major drug within Germany.  In this case....people might be show signs of violence, and the general public might not be as accepting to it....as the other drugs.

As bad as Detroit?  You can't say that....at least not yet.  Maybe in twenty years it might reach that stage, but with the standard of living where it is....a lot of folks just don't have the extra cash for recreational type drugs.

It might shock Americans that the drugs are that open and acceptable....without the threat of arrest....but the other shock is that much in drug trafficking is done daily....without taxation.  That part should anger a lot of Germans.

The Dublin Agreement

Around 25 years ago....Sep 1997....a group of EU members sat down and wrote up what would be called the Dublin Convention.  The countries involved?  Denmark, UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Greece, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands).  About every decade, it gets updated or slightly changed.

The basis of the agreement is this....when some immigrant, refugee, or asylum seeker arrives in the member states....if they don't have a visa, then they will be returned to their original country, or they will be offered a chance to submit paperwork for immigration....ONLY in the country of arrival.

Basically, you are from X-country and hate the place for whatever reason.  You find some way (by boat or aircraft) to enter a EU host country with the Dublin Convention in place.  You arrive....ask for asylum, and they present the paperwork.

In the process of feeling great that your new country will accept you....you come to two odd realities (you didn't do any homework ahead of time).  Your new host country lets you know of a high rate of NOT accepting applications from your country (reasons don't matter).  By the words of the Dublin Agreement, that's the end of your game....you can't go to France, or Germany....to restart your whole process on a second attempt.

The second issue in your discover is that some countries offer lousy and marginal benefits.  Portugal, Poland and Greece area fairly well known for marginal help for immigrants. So you wake up and realize this, then want to to just disappear to a better country (like Germany, Sweden, UK, or Iceland).  By the agreement, you can't do that.....at least until you've become a full up citizen of that country that you applied into.

If you went and asked a hundred Germans about the Dublin Agreement....you might have maybe two folks who know the basic rule.  The rest will comment that they've never heard of the agreement.

In recent months, folks in Iceland have gotten all hyped up (mostly by social media and news site) to come out and support such-and-such poor character from Iraq, or Syria, or wherever.....who apparently signed up in some country, and came to realize some disadvantage.  They've made their way into Iceland, and sought a new immigration or asylum situation.  Well....the authorities hand them the paperwork....review the application, and come to realize they are under the Dublin agreement.  They need to finish up the process where they started.   So they are attempting to send individuals or families out of Iceland.

The Icelandic social media side is condemning all deportations....while not understanding this Dublin Agreement.

In some ways, it's fake news, and a fair number of the public being drawn into a topic which they understand little about.

How did the Dublin Agreement ever come about?  There aren't a lot of details.  If you look at the way it's constructed.....countries on the exterior of Europe are the ones who might get stuck with a large number of asylum seekers, while France and Germany are mostly protected by this agreement.  Only by cross through Greece and continuing on....never asking for help or attention....doing the same in Hungary, Serbia, and Austria.....then asking for asylum in Germany....do you avoid the Dublin Agreement situation.

Effect in Iceland?  This all draws upon political parties and puts the conservative folks into a bind.  They are branded as unfair and unable to support the poor young gentlemen or families who've arrived but have already registered in places like Spain or Greece.  Asking the naive folks to update or change the Dublin Agreement?  Oh my....they'd freak out.

Just one single example of dozens which affect immigration and asylum in Europe, and few understand it enough to chat on the topic.

Sommerzeit

Tonight....I will be traveling through time....putting one hour onto my household clocks here in Germany.   It's always two weeks behind the US switch to daylight savings time.

This is a topic which comes up twice a year, and generally gets very negative criticism by most Germans.  I'd say roughly 80-percent are fully against daylight savings time (Sommerzeit).

Roughly a hundred years ago (one year into WW I), Sommerzeit was introduced (forced) onto German citizens.  To be honest, it was a joint deal with the Kaiser and the Austrian Empire agreeing to do this.  The year was 1916.  Within twelve months, the UK....opposing Germany....had oddly agreed also to daylight savings time.  The US?  It would not be until 1918 that they went to the idea.

If you went to the general German public and asked them (not the politicians) to align priorities and ID things to fix....then dumping Sommerzeit would likely make it into the top ten issues.  The only discussion would be if you just went forward with normal time, or with the Sommerzeit option as the permanent fix.

Odds of this ever becoming a Bundestag discussion item?  Less than ten-percent chance (my humble opinion).

The Return of Guttenberg?

It was a news piece not covered by the primary news organizations in Germany.  Roughly two weeks ago....a meeting was held down in Bavaria.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) is the sister political party to Merkel's CDU.  Roughly eight years ago, they had this guy who'd quietly made his way up through the Bavarian political party and was probably one of the more dynamic political figures on the landscape of Germany.  Most figured that he'd take over for Merkel back in 2013.  The guy was Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Guttenberg ran into this unique problem.....he wrote a thesis for a degree, and he used bits of pieces of items without acknowledging it.  No one ever asked who brought this up or how the topic came to be worth investigating....but in German circles....it's a disgraceful thing to be accused of writing material and not acknowledging who the source was.

So Guttenberg gave up on his political career....packed up and left Germany.  He's been in the US for six years....mostly serving for a foundation and acting as an analyst.  Quietly, he will fly into Germany occasionally and be an expert that Merkel or members of the CDU/CSU can draw upon for expert advice.

I've probably watched at least forty interviews or chat forums with Guttenberg, and have to admit....if you wrote up a list of 1,000 chat subjects....to even include diesel cars, the use of chemical additives in cigarettes, or the list of problems with pension reform, then Guttenberg is the only man alive who can talk to the whole list of a thousand topics.  He is impressive.

So this meeting from two weeks ago?  Well....Guttenberg was there and chatted with CSU's Seehofer (the party boss).  Guttenberg wants to test the waters.

This years election might be the place to start.  So Seehofer has given Guttenberg seven districts in Bavaria where he's supposed to come out....give speeches and represent the CSU Party.  If there is any heavy criticism or problems.....Guttenberg will quietly leave.

My guess is that Guttenberg will get some heavy-handed criticism from state-run/public TV (ARD and ZDF), but most of the newspapers will focus on his comments at these political speeches....rather than chat over something from 2010 and the thesis episode.

The CSU is in a fairly favorable position within Bavaria....figuring 3.5 million votes (at least from the 2013 election).

The thing is that Guttenberg's speeches and pep talk will be used as a national forum.  What he says....will attract attention and draw some CDU views.

If this comeback was somewhat successful (even if Merkel loses in September)?  Then some reintroduction of Guttenberg into the CSU apparatus would occur in the spring of 2018.  Several individuals who've been gearing themselves to succeed Seehofer won't be happy over this.  But I suspect that this will be the gameplan.  Seehofer will retire in the spring of 2018, and Guttenberg might be the solution for the party.

Four years of Schulz, the Linke Party and the Greens as the government....while the CSU uses Guttenberg as their device for the 2021 election?  Yes, that's my assessment.  All of this is simply laying out the future without Merkel and the dismal collection of characters that the CDU has in the next five years to replace her.

Turkey and the Summer Vacation Dilemma

I was looking this morning at Turkey resort vacations and pricing, and it's a staggering change from a year ago.

There is this outstanding resort chain known around the world as "Robinson Club" hotels.  When you walk in....you get the feel of a five-star resort, with every employee working to make your stay the trip of a lifetime.  Food and drink (beer, wine, soda), are all included in the price, with a mid-afternoon tea and cake session included.  Airfare?  It is also worked into the price.

So I checked out the Robinson Club Masavi pricing.  Normally for late June, as you enter the German vacation high season.....it should be 1,700-Euro for two weeks....PER PERSON.  Right now?  It's running for 1,382 Euro (roughly 30-percent off).

In a normal summer, the place would be packed with limited rooms left to pick from.  Because of the coup business and the anti-Erdogan sentiment in Germany....they've got lots of rooms still left, and they've reached the stage of lessening the price to a significant level.

The thing about the Robinson Club situation is that it's more of a resort than a hotel.  There are shows every evening.  It's located right on the beach but features a fine pool complex.  Dinners are a gourmet delight for each evening.  Breakfast offers every type of fruit in existence, with tons of normal items (bacon and omelets included).  Private security around the clock to ensure you feel safe. Activities planned around the clock for your kids, if you did drag them along.

If you did go down the list of resort hotels along the southern Turkish coast....even from the top-end type resorts....they've all settled upon a twenty-to-thirty percent discount.  If you went to lesser hotels....in the three to four star range....most have gone onto a forty percent discount.

Would I go?  No.  All this chatter and hype from Erdogan has even unsettled me. It's sad in a way.  You could get the vacation of a lifetime for a fairly reasonable price now....with airfare and even have a bus pick you up at the airport to deliver you to the front door of the hotel.

Painted into a Corner

Yesterday, a plane was supposed to lift off from Frankfurt carrying a Tunisian guy....forcibly....back to Tunisia to stand court action.

This action was set off in early February when the German cops did a search warrant and came to note a number of issues with this guy and some terror planing going on (for acts in Germany).

The Tunisians were interested in the guy, because he'd helped to plan terror acts there as well.

The Tunisians say he was on the planning side of the Bardo National Museum attack where 20 tourists were killed (note nationalities of the dead: Italy, France, Japan, Tunisia, Belgium, Russia, UK, Columbia, Poland, and Belgium).  No Germans among the dead.

As he got to the airport....he asked for asylum paperwork.  By law, the Germans have to provide such paperwork.  He filled it out, and then as the plane sat on the tarmac ready to go...cops stopped it, and removed the guy.

By German law, they must consider him for asylum.  Chief reason?  If he goes back to Tunisia....they have a capital punishment law and can execute him for the connection to the 20 tourists dead.

As far as I know....no terrorists has ever enacted this German law in this particular way.

His history?  Well, this gets to an interesting point.  He came to Germany fourteen years ago on a student visa.  At some point, with details left out by journalists, this student visa was going to run out so he went and married a German woman.  Little is said about this marriage.  Perhaps it was a cash-related marriage where the woman got paid off.  But in the end.....with the marriage....he got an indefinite visa and could stay forever.

You would think that the guy would go on and get a regular job and make a success out of his situation.  Well....no.

At some point, he gives up and goes to return to Tunisia.  Little is said about his profession, or ability to turn an income.  That's more or less a mystery in this whole story.

By mid-summer of 2015....he'd returned back to Germany....five months after the Bardo Museum attack.

He's been picked up by the German cops on a couple of occasions....little is discussed on his crimes....theft is the only thing that journalists will comment upon.

As you sit and ponder upon the guy.....you come to realize if he was connected to the Bardo Museum episode....he's fairly dangerous.  He's not the kind of guy that you can allow into the general population.  Because of the house search and various planning activities....there are some minor charges that the Germans could hustle up, but none will get him more than a couple of years in prison.

By the unique features of German law....if anyone enters Germany....even if this were a African-Hitler-like character who'd killed thousands, the German law requires an asylum application to be reviewed and if the threat of death is likely in the old country, then Germany must accept the guy.  A fair number of Germans will complain about this feature, but it's the law.

My guess is that the review of the guy will require approximately 100 days....putting this into the middle of summer.  It'll be approved for asylum, but note that he's fairly dangerous.  They will have to hustle up planning charges here in Germany, and hopefully have a court case by early 2018....which deems he guilty of something and simply puts him in prison for a couple of years.  Then what?  He can't be sent back to Tunisia....so he'll be a permanent German in the end.

Here's the thing....if you were a Tunisian sitting there in Tunis and observing all of this....angry as heck over this terror act at the Bardo Museum and the harm to the tourist profits that Tunisia used to enjoy....you'd view Germany's behavior in a pretty negative way.

The Germans, with all of their niceness laid on the table....have painted themselves into a harsh corner.  There is no escape....they have to welcome a guy who is a potential threat.