Saturday, February 25, 2017

Iceland and Numbers

One of the things that I tend to point about some European countries....is the declining birth-rate.  Germany is typically a country that I will mention often on this topic.

Another good example is Iceland.  I'll use Wiki-numbers to tell this story.

Back in the 1930s....the birth-rate for Iceland was 2.99, having dropped from 1916 point of 4.0

By the late 1960s....Iceland was looking at 3.06 as the average reproduction level.

By 2000?  2.06 was then the average.

The 2015 numbers? 1.81.

That means for every two people....they are only producing 1.81 to replace them.

You can do the statistical sheets....it doesn't matter....they've hit their peak.

In the case of Iceland, over the next decade....they will have to open the immigration door and start to discuss recruitment angles.  Why the lower number?  A lot of this has to do with birth-control being readily available and females tending to have careers where large families are not a consideration.  Add to this....a small group of male-only or female-only pairs, and the standard high-cost of living.

Roughly 7-percent of the 325-thousand are immigrant....from forty-odd countries (even a hundred folks from India).

How do you go and recruit for the environment in Iceland?  That's the thing.  Once you explain the 23-hour summer days or 23-hour winter nights....toss in snow-storms....limited lifestyle....fair taxation...and a Viking-like existence with fairly stoic people.....well, it's a tough matter to make this wild adventure deal.

So, if you were sitting there and some email popped into your box talking about the great life situation in Iceland....well, it's a recruitment deal for immigration.

Cheap Pizza Story

At some point two years ago in Finland.....the cops (no one suggests how they arrived at this topic)....came to discuss pizza prices in Finland.

What they said was.....you CAN'T make a normal pizza for less than six Euro.  It's simply not possible unless you are cheating the government out of taxes or have employees who are not getting full wages.

This was based on the fact that roughly 35-percent of the normal price of a pizza is labor costs.  Roughly one-third of the cost is related to the materials of the pizza.  And the rest?  Well....that's related to rent, tax, heat (you need that in a typical Finn winter), and advertising.

After the cops arrived at this analysis, they then informed the public that they needed to report such cheap pizza sales to them,, and they would conduct an investigation.  Yes, you'd just call your local city cops in Finland and they'd take down the report.....stating what you paid, and they'd go and check this out.

An economic crime? Yes.  Cheating the government out of taxes?  More than likely.

You can imagine the two-man cop team arriving and citing some report that they'd received about 'cheap' pizza. They'd have a talk with you and you'd show the pricing list....likely to be 6.25 or such.  They would respond that you seem to have done a special on Friday night....offering three pizzas for the price of 17.50 Euro (beating the six-Euro per pizza situation).  You'd respond that there was a special but you had to buy at least three to get that deal.  In fact, you would probably state if a customer would buy 100 pizzas at a whack....you'd offer them at 5.25 Euro each....thus violating the law in some way (yet to be proven).

I sat and surveyed the story....it's from 2015 and got a fair amount of traction.  Number of arrests?  Well....that's the thing.  No one can cite from 2015 or 2016....a single arrest related to cheap pizzas.  There might have been some reports turned in and some cop visits.....but no one suggests a single pizza owner was arrested or charged with 'cheap' pizza.

Why pizza?  No one really says reason to this.

Having been to Helsinki, I can vouch that there just aren't that many burger-joints around town.  There are a couple of McDonalds and Burger Kings.....but most fast-food shops don't do much other than Asian-food and pizzas.

How did the cops ever arrive at the right-price idea for pizzas?  No one says much.  It had to be some PhD guy out of Helsinki....likely some economist who was sitting there one day at a local pizza shop and looking at a 5.75 pizza price and realizing it just didn't make sense.  He probably put 300 man-hours into an analysis review, with statistical data and economic graphs....coming to the realization that you can do the complete job for less than six-Euro.  He probably ran straight over to the Mayor's office and showed them the charts, and they realized there was a massive cheating scandal going on.

The sad thing.....is that people like the PhD guy....don't go and waste their time examining incompetence in government,  corruption, or wasted revenue spending by the government.  Instead, they center their project on pizza.

What happened to the PhD guy?  One can only imagine that he got himself a reputation, and eventually some foundation hired him for future Nobel-Economic-Prize work.  Somewhere down the line in a decade....he'll write some massive theory up and be talked about with his report on comparing pizza prices, GDP, tax revenue, employment statistics, and overweight people.

Note: I should hint here, that I did have a pizza while in Helsinki....paying 18 Euro for a standard regular pizza....which I felt was not exactly top-of-the-line pizza.  I would have liked to have reported crappy pizza to the cops.

How the September Election May Go

The morning of 25 September 2017 will dawn in Germany, and the results of the election will be laid out.

While the election revolves around 40 political parties....it really comes down to six parties and how the public perceived the past, present, and future.

Sixty days ago, I would have predicted that Merkel (of the CDU) would easily win with roughly 35-percent of the vote (combined with the CSU of Bavaria).  Today?  With the arrival of "Mega" Schulz as the new front man for the SPD Party....things have changed.  The SPD is sitting around 32-percent....two points ahead of the CDU (depending on which poll you read).

There is a trend underway.  The general public has three basic things on their mind.

1.  Immigration, safety, and crime.

2.  A fresh new Chancellor with a new prospective.

3.  Promises of new benefits for the middle-class and families.

The SPD can deliver on two of these.  They will avoid the immigration, safety and crime topic as much as possible.  The news media will help on this matter by not focusing as much within the weekly news and chat forums.

The odds of a SPD win?  They've yet to see any results of the three state elections, which might suggest some public discontent with "Mega" Schulz and the SPD Party.  They've yet to see any real campaign efforts.  They've yet to experience togh questions in debates.  And "Mega" Schulz has yet to face any terror acts or serious criminal talk.....which he'd have to make some positions known....one way or another.

What happens if Merkel loses?

The general talk is that the SPD will form the next government with the Green Party and Linke Party.  Some SPD members aren't happy about this team episode of the Linke Party and the consequences of them running two or three of the cabinet positions.  Just to suggest that the Linke Party might get the Interior Minister position or the Finance Minister position....would bring on serious debate within the SPD Party.

All of these programs that "Mega" Schulz has promised?  Well....they all cost money, and would require more taxes.  Some would have a harsh affect on companies and the way that they do business.  Somewhere along the third quarter after the SPD win.....I'd expect a couple of companies to announce that some part of the operation was going to move out to France, or Poland.  The idea of the BREXIT bank jobs leaving London and going into Frankfurt?  That idea would immediately halt and I think either Amsterdam or Paris would suddenly be the chief point of interest for the bank jobs.

My best guess is that some elements of the economy would slow down, and a minor trend would occur with less tax revenue occurring, and the unemployment rate would shift (presently 5.9-percent)....with a 7-percent rate likely by the end of 2018 (if this election result were to occur).

Of all the EU members.....Germany is one of the very few with a low rate of unemployment.  If they did have the 10-percent number....as a number of countries currently suffer from....this would be a totally different election and about different complaints.

With "Mega" Schulz in charge....the migration and immigration trends would continue.....as is.

The 2021 election?  Oddly, this would be a very critical election with negativity brewing across all sectors.  Greater unemployment, more migrants, more safety and crime issues, high taxation, etc.

The bully-tactics or bias of the news folks?  They might be able to carry things for a year....but there is such a negativity about the news media in Germany....that long-term help for "Mega" Schulz and the SPD Party just isn't possible.  They'd have to take down comment-boards and avoid letting the public comment on various stories (a trend that already exists to some degree).

Micky Mouse-politics?  I give it this title because of gimmicks involved.  A lot of promises are laid out which involve funding.  If you don't deliver, the public becomes disgruntled.  So you start to tax more to reach a 'magic kingdom' stage.  Those taxes end up making you less competitive....which might make other European countries happy because they can now get contracts easier and hire up more folks.  Germans will wake up in the middle of this great cartoon....wondering what happened and eventually realize that they were all part of some great episode.

Maybe I'm wrong and Merkel stages some last minute changes to retake the lead.  Maybe.

The Turkey-Germany Meeting

It was not front page news, and really was ONLY reported two days after the fact.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey came visiting to Germany's Minister of Finance (Wolfgang Schauble).  The main topic?  Opening some door where the economy of Turkey could be assisted by Germany.

If you haven't followed Turkish events over the past year....there's been a spiral of tourism and a fair number of hotels and tourist-related situations have simply been shut down....not enough tourists to operate.

Chief reason?  On one side is the terror acts by the jihad folks which has been seen for a couple of years, but for 2016....it jumped a notch or two.  It doesn't matter who you talk to in Germany, Italy or France....most everyone has seen the headlines or watched the news and obviously know that terrorism is now a trending topic.

On the other side?  The coup of 2016....where Erdogan (the head of government) mounted a massive arrest campaign and has made life miserable for probably one-third of Turkey's citizens (some would argue that virtually everyone is miserable now as we enter the ninth month of this episode.  A lot of German tour companies had insurance to cover things like coups so they offered cancellations for July and August of 2016 to folks, and a lot accepted.   So far, there's no indication that the German crowd is returning.

This means that hotel owners are facing bank loans on the construction of their hotel, and meeting obligations is practically impossible.  Added to this....employees are dismissed from non-functional hotels. In the past, unemployed hotel folks could look around and find easily another place to work....but this is affecting the entire nation.

I doubt if Erdogan comprehended this fragile part of the Turkish economy.  That was pure cash coming into Turkey, and all you had to do was smile, get people into the country without hassle, and seem to operate a half-way republic.  This was not rocket science.

So you can imagine this meeting with the deputy under Erdogan and Schauble.

If you've never studied Wolfgang Schauble.....it's a bit entertaining.  He's 74 years old.  He claims at the end of 2017....he will retire.  He claims that....anyway.

He is probably one of the most clever and insightful Germans alive.

Up until October of 1990....most Germans felt that Schauble would follow Helmet Kohl, and be the next head of government.  But in October of 1990....at the age of 48....Schauble was the target of an assassination.  He was severely wounded, and since has been wheel-chair bound.  He went through a recovery period, and lessen his status in the party.  This was the period where Merkel moved ahead, and the rest is history.

Schauble is also one of the more blunt Germans in existence....who happens to run the finance ministry....so he's counting every single 'nickel and dime' in existence.  He takes the financial situation of Germany serious and hands out advice when people asks....but it tends to be tough advice.

No one says much over what Schauble and the Turkish deputy minister talked about.  Maybe a short-term loan got brought up, but I doubt that Germany really wants to enter this type of situation because there is no recovery period planned out in Turkey....so one loan only opens the door to a second, third and fourth loan.

Schauble probably mentioned that the whole coup thing is crap, and that the arrests of thousands (tens of thousands really) has soured every single German.  People read the news and they think the nation of Turkey is not safe.  Just releasing fifty or a hundred detainees won't be enough.  Letting the newspapers operate....won't be enough.  I would imagine Erdogan is reviewing the options this weekend after this meeting and trying to find some minor way of making Turkey seem like it was in June of 2016....before the coup.

Frankly, you have to undo the whole coup business....to get the German and European tourists to come back.  You need to make this happen in the next thirty days, or the whole window of vacation planning for 2017 is screwed-up.  Most Germans (other nationalities as well) tend to plan and pay for their vacation in January through the end of March.  I would take a guess that sixty-percent of folks know where they are going in August, and it'll be finished with reservations very shortly.  From the remaining folks....half will wait until May (90 days away) to make reservations.  The remaining crowd are the type who will make reservations within 30 days (usually the younger crowd).  The clock here is ticking.....if something doesn't show by early spring, then the tourist season for Turkey in 2017 is finished off.

If you were wondering about the Russian influence on this?  Prior to the Syrian war.....lots of Russians also went to Turkey for vacations.  I'd take a guess that between May and September, at least a hundred planes a week brought Russians into Turkey.  Some Russians still come but it's nowhere what it was prior to 2014.  A fair amount of negativity still rests between Russians and Turks over the Syrian conflict.

If I were a betting person, I'd guess that Erdogan will have some small group of arrested folks released (maybe a thousand).  In this case, it's too little and too late to affect 2017.  I have my doubts on 2018 being any better.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Viking Dracula?

Around 110 years ago....some Icelandic writer (there were a handful at that point)....that had taken the work of Bram Soker and rewrote Dracula, with some Icelandic slant.

Not much is remembered over this....but the topic came up in the last week or two.  There is a Icelandic film producer  who is working out the idea of bringing this to a TV series.  The working title so far?  "Powers of Darkness".

The 1900 book was written by Valdimar Asmundsson (he died in 1902 curiously enough).  Some suggest that correspondence did occur between Stoker and Asmundsson....so there is some connectivity between the two.

If you've never been to Iceland....it is a place where you could imagine a Dracula-like character hanging out and being part of the culture.  Naturally, there would be some problems.

In July, the sun really never sets....so for a six-week period, there just isn't any darkness.  An Icelandic Dracula would have some problems.

In December, the sun is up for barely 90 minutes, so an Icelandic Dracula would be carousing for more than 22 hours out of the day.

There is also the problem in that there are only a limited number of people in Iceland....so victims disappearing would trigger a national emergency.

Then you have the fatal character flaws of most Icelandic people....Viking-like coldness and stoic in attitude to the ninth-degree.  The Icelandic Dracula might go a whole week without saying much beyond 'good morning'.

It's hard to say if this TV series idea will be a serious Dracula-piece or some Icelandic comedy over a wannabe Dracula-viking guy.  The odd thing is that this will attract more attention to Iceland, and ensure even MORE tourists in the future.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MEGA Slogan

Amusing German trend now.

"Make Europe Great Again".....campaign slogan for SPD's Martin Schulz.

Younger crowd from SPD are all hyped up over his EU enthusiasm and are uttering MEGA in their chats and forums.

(Source: BR)

Sounds Trumpish?  Yeah....but don't tell the Germans.

A Footnote on Rinkeby Riot

The Rinkeby, Sweden riot probably got worldwide coverage....but when you stand back and look at the whole episode....it is a fairly minor riot.

First, the riot only starts as the cops snare one of the local guys somewhere around the tram/subway station (T-bana) for supposed drugs.  The riot did not start up because of Trump....unlike what some would like to suggest.

The cars burned?  Only local vehicles from the neighborhood....NOT from Stockholm itself.  They burned cars from their own neighbors.  Yeah, that's how stupid they are.

The one person injured in this whole thing?  A photograph journalist (from a left-of-center newspaper) who walked into the neighborhood around two hours after the crazy stuff started.  Once the provocative crowd noted the guy...they attacked him.  How many in the attack group?  He says roughly 15.  The punks stole his camera, and he basically got up and wandered around over (maybe 300 to 600 meters) to the Rinkeby gas station.

There at the gas station....he called the cops and asked for help.  "No" was the answer from the cops.....they had a fair amount of stuff going on, and it might be a while before they'd get there.  So the guy stayed around the gas station....waiting.  It's safe to say that it was past midnight before help arrived.

Cops finally arrive....write some report.  No one says if they took him to a hospital or simply back to his car (his vehicle wasn't burned).

So far, no one can show that there were more than thirty folks at this 'riot', and the whole story suggests that they might have some relationship to the punk who was arrested in the subway station for drug activity.  More likely to be defending their 'turf' than anything else.

Is it a story worth front-page news?  No.

Does it really need vast analysis by CNN or Fox News? No.  It's a ten-line story at best.

With the exception of burning cars....stuff like this happens in Chicago almost nightly....so I wouldn't get to excited.  For Swedes, it might be a twist to their safe environment....but they are the creators of this ghetto in Rinkeby.

Where'd I get all the info?  Local news folks from Stockholm....you just need to piece together the story from different prospectives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Explaining Rinkeby

Before we get all hyped up on Sweden and recent riot talk, with a wide array of commentary.....let's establish some facts.

1.  This recent riot episode started not in Malmo.....but in a suburb of Stockholm.....Rinkeby.  It's about five kilometers northwest of the city of Stockholm...and mostly considered a suburb. It's safe to say that it's on the far end of city.....and it was planned that way.

2.  This riot?  It started Monday evening (8PM) around the local cop station.  The charge?  Illicit drug sales of some type.  However, what happened over the next four hours at the suburb involved car-burning and public damage.  It would appear that the cops mostly just stood back, and did a minimum amount of action against the youths involved in the act.  One cop was noted firing a warning shot.  For personal injury....other than one reporter that was roughed up and his camera stolen.....no one can report anyone injured (oddly, with all the action going on).  Total cars burned?  Six (at least the locals report that).  Drug gang situation?  I can only guess that's the connection.

3.  Rinkeby?  Well....there's a story to the area.  Size-wise....I'd say it's no more than 50 acres.  It's around forty apartment buildings.

The history?  It's far from the waterfront, the old medieval part of town, and away from tourists.  It was designed that way in the mid-1960s.

Around 1975/76.....they completed the project. Let's be very honest....in 1965, this was supposed to fix up a major housing shortage that existed in Stockholm.  Presently, around 16,000 to 18,000 people live there.

It was supposed to be built to be affordable housing for the MIDDLE class.  Please note....that was the 1965 idea.

On the planning side....they built it with bike paths, plenty of parking, and green space surrounding the whole thing.  But here's the curious thing....it was built as a dense structure.  Oddly, by the time that they completed the project.....the economy had slowed down and the urgent need for the housing seemed to diminish.  Yeah, that's generally the problem with government planning.

Over roughly a twenty-year period after wrapping up this project.....Stockholm lost 20-percent of it's population.  They built something that the middle class really didn't need.  By the 1990s....immigration was starting to occur in higher numbers.

Wanna take a guess where they pushed the migrants and immigrants?  Rinkeby.

Yeah....it made sense.  Empty apartments....all in a dense location.  Perfect ghetto design.

Lots of different migrants.....all regions of Africa, southern Europe (Albania, Serbia, etc), Middle East, etc.  Muslim.  Non-Muslims.

Public housing....dense design....cheap look.  It was a perfect ghetto.

Wild kids?  Yeah.  Accepted poor behavior in this entire neighborhood?  Yeah.

No one from the city does unemployment statistics for this one single neighborhood.  It would be curious to know the rate but then it'd draw the social workers into a difficult position....you can't really fix this unless you threw everyone out of this ghetto operation and forced them to live in normal neighborhoods and start to act more "Swedish".

Rinkeby was planned out over fifty years ago, and it's design is what creates a lot of these problems of today.  Urbanization, ghetto life, and youths with no maturity.