Saturday, January 20, 2018

If You Wanted a Tangy Mustard

Over the years in Germany, I've probably 'tested' at least three-thousand German products.  Some of which I'd give negative views of.  Some that I'd say were average.  A number of them which I'd give very high ratings upon.

On the topic of condiments....ketchup and mustard....especially ketchup, I've never found any exceptional German-made ketchups.  My son would vouch for the German McDonalds ketchup but I'd generally rate most of them as average.

On the topic of mustard, there's probably a dozen German mustards which I'd rate awful high.  Germans take an awful lot of pride in making a fine mustard.

At the very top by itself, I generally rate the Feldmann Senf (mustard) as the best of the best.

It's got the level of spicing (not enough to burn a hole in your mouth), but enough to taste awful tangy.

No, I don't generally recommend it for hot-dogs (French's is my preferred for them).

But when you talk about Bratwursts and general pork products that require a good mustard....then the Feldmann Senf does an outstanding job.

It comes in a toothpaste-type tube, and in a plastic container (a year's supply for most folks).

Finding it?  Well, yeah....this usually requires a bit of shopping.  I'd say that about a quarter of all German grocery operations carry it so you might have to visit five or six to find it.

If 'mild' is your preferred taste for mustard, then skip it.  Finding it in the US?  Practically impossible. So if you are visiting Germany, you might want to pick up a tube or two.

The Make-of-Break Weekend for the SPD

Politically, this is a critical weekend.  The SPD leadership needs to conclude the deal with the Merkel led CDU-CSU folks and produce a coalition government.   The draft right now rests at 28 pages. 

At the heart of this weekend....there's several SPD associations who are supposed to meet, and journalists suggest that the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD folks (NRW) and Hessen SPD folks will meet and issue a statement.

According to Focus, there's three key things which the two will demand to be part of the 28-page draft agreement....which isn't there now.

1.  The abolition of non-material imitation over employment relationships.

2.  The alignment of fee control over privately health-insured folks.

3.  Finally, a hardship view written into some type of regulation for the family reunification with immigrants and migrants.  On this matter, I think they are suggesting that waivers could be written and possibly allow individuals to bypass the monthly limit (1,000).  They've been careful avoid explaining what this term 'hardship' really means.

As for the CDU-CSU reaction on Monday, if this is the demand put upon the SPD leadership?  Totally unknown.

The CSU went fairly strong on the monthly limit to family reunification numbers, and I would suspect that they'd realize the gimmick that the SPD folks are suggesting in some hardship waiver deal....that you could easily go around the thousand-per-month limit.

For the SPD leadership?  They would have to walk back to Merkel and ask for another week of talks. If these aren't that productive (say only one of the three recommendations are achieved)?  Well....the vote with the SPD would occur again (another week of talking over the expanded draft) and another weekend vote. 

For most Germans, this whole coalition business here this time....has become a muddled mess. You can't blame it on anyone except to say that if the AfD didn't exist or win 12-percent in the election, then this would all be fairly easy to develop a coalition.  In a sense, the immigration and migration business got you to this level of frustration, and there's still no exit or solution on the horizon.

Don't Insult German Cops Story

There's probably a hundred bits of advice I give 'new' Americans in Germany....but up toward the very top of the list....don't insult or provoke German cops or border-control authorities.

I sat this morning and was reading through regional news in Hessen, and HR put out this short story of an American's little adventure or tirade at the Frankfurt Airport.

Germans perform a fair amount of security now, and there's a list of things that you don't bring along in your hand baggage.....one in particular is liquids.  The rule allows a bag to exist of a particular size, and whatever fits into the bag in terms of liquids....is IT.

So this American gal....actually noted in US peace circles....C. Christine Fair (professor at Georgetown University)....got into a little argument over their rules.  She had a can of deodorant (liquid), and they told us the standard solution....either it fits into your plastic bag, or you throw it into the garbage can because you can't bring it with you. By the new item, it appears that her plastic bag was practically full already....so they went to the routine of you having to throw the item away.

I've sat and watched the German security guys and border control folks on dozens of occasions enforce the rule.  They are awful polite but strict.  You can argue about the matter in a respectful way but it won't matter....whatever liquid you dragged along....won't go through the system or be allowed in the carry-on.

Well....the professor went to the next routine which I strongly recommend to avoid.  She uttered the words: ""fucking bastards" and "fucking German Nazi police". Yep....that was a serious problem for the cops, and they felt insulted.  In German law, that gets you into some legal trouble, with a fine.

I'm guessing they tried to calm her down but it didn't work.  The German cops then pulled out the paperwork and processed her on a charge of insulting the police.  A preliminary investigation on suspicion of slander exists.  To exit the country at that point, you have to deposit roughly 200 Euro.  That's not the fine but just a deposit.

I guess at this point, she stopped talking and just went to Twitter to 'jab' at them. They monitored that and noted that bad behavior as well.  Then she even suggested via Twitter....that the German cops robbed her.

Needless to say.....the professor has probably extinguished her welcome on the next trip into Germany and will have issues.  On the insult level, there will be some court activity likely coming out of this and she will fail to show (my humble guess).  What can the German court system issue in terms of slander?  Well....the judge controls the process, and you have two possibilities.  One is s a fine.  The other is a period of jail....NOT to exceed twelve months in a state prison.

Actually, there's even another German criminal code (section 189) which says you can't insult or slander anyone who is dead.  That could get you a fine, or possibly up to two years in prison.

To be honest, I've only heard of two episodes ever where folks went to the slander episode and had court activity which they were convicted and got jail-time.  In both cases, it was 30 to 60 days of jail-time.  So it's awful rare that you get jail....but I also think it's awful rare that any German will insult the cops, and particularly rare to insult dead people.

I should note here....just suggesting someone is crazy...could be enough to suggest slander and have the cops and court involved.  A lot of this business goes back the 1800s in Germany and the various rules which were developed to control people's anger.

In the professor's case?  I think the court episode will come up....she probably won't show, and they will process her through some guilty point.  A fine of probably a thousand Euro or less will be the likely outcome....with probably no jail-time.  However, IF the professor continues the tirade on Twitter enough (they will monitor it) then they will have evidence to go onto the next level and suggest to the judge that a month in jail might be necessary.

My advice to the professor is to turn off the Twitter chat business for a month....say a few apologies, hire a German lawyer and just pay the fine as quickly as possible.   Otherwise, don't plan on an entry into the EU or the enforcement business will affect you.

Bottom line....if ever dealing with German cops or border control....don't do anything stupid.

Added note: If you want Fair's version of what happened, it's up on Huffington Post.  HR basically told a 15-line story.  Fair wrote out a 200-line story, and noted a number of behavioral issues with the cops....whether true or not....it's up to you the reader to decide.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The TB Story

A German newspaper....Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung....put up this piece in the last couple of days....which kinda surprised me.

The Swiss routinely go and test incoming migrants and immigrants for diseases.  Typically Tuberculosis will pop up, and you put the gal or guy through the standard medication program. A couple of months of the medication and the individual situation is resolved.

Well...the Swiss folks found this one unusual guy from Somali who showed up and he's got a new variant of TB.....which is drug-resistant.  It's one of those moments when a science or medical guy takes a deep breathe because you've got nothing in your bag of tools to bring this to a conclusion, and you start to think about the implications of this deadly disease spreading.

The discovery?  Well, it goes back to early spring of 2016....almost two years ago.

As time went by, they found a couple of other migrants, with the same situation. All came out of the eastern region of Africa near Somalia.  Naturally, they did the right thing in isolating the folks and ensuring that this strain of TB didn't get out into the public.

Additional folks?  Well....there is some suggestion that more folks have it and come from the same region.  The bothersome thing here, if you think about it.....all of these people find a smugglers route that goes through to Libya, and then they spend weeks and months there waiting for a chance for the right boat will take them to be dumped off and rescued.  They wait in conditions where it'd be easy to meet up with a highly contagious guy and get this strain of TB.

The worry by the science folks is that you could be easily moving something pretty bad into a funnel and ensure lots of people end up with  disease that you can't solve or fix (at least right now).

It was about a hundred years ago that we finally got to a point of controlling and decreasing death by TB.  Most folks don't think it'll ever come back as a serious disease.  I'm one of those folks who've had TB, and done the standard medication business.  I'm also respectful of the serious nature of the disease and how some drug-resistant TB could be a pretty serious topic.

Wiesbaden 2030

I often write over issues around the Wiesbaden area for the benefit of readers who lived for a period at Lindsey Air Station....a popular place for Air Force and Army folks over the years.  This is one of those essays.

In 1975, the population of the city was figured at 250,000 roughly.  Today, the number is openly discussed (2017) at 285,000.  With various trends underway (the private university coming in, the tram line, the HSK hospital, etc), most folks are thinking along the line that in 2030 (twelve years away)....the city ought to hit 310,000. 

In comparison, across the river into Mainz, the population today of the city is figured to be around 212,000....a grow from the 1995 period (183,000).  Some might suggest Mainz would expand out by 2030 to a minimum of 225,000. 

Both cities are magnets now for small business growth, immigrants, and apartment construction. 

Over the past year, Wiesbaden has hyped the arrival in two years of the 'tram'.  Going from the Mainz-Kastel area to mid-town Wiesbaden and on to the western part of town....it's part of some growth plan.  It wouldn't be much of a shock to see a second and third tram line added and working by 2030.  All of this would lead onto more housing development, and a serious problem with traffic congestion in the city (already noted now at morning and evening rush-hours).

Crime in the city?  It was mostly a non-issue in the 1980s.  In the past decade....between drugs, break-ins, and assaults....it's a bit different.  This week, we had some kind of argument develop between a bus-passenger and bus-driver....then the passenger (young guy) launched into a physical assault on the driver.  Passengers jumped into the mess and held down the passenger until cops arrived.  You'd think that the guy would have wised up by then, but then he launched into a fight with the cops. Needless to say....he's got various charges.  You wouldn't have dreamed of an incident like this in the 1980s.

In some ways, Wiesbaden is becoming a major metropolitan city, with all the woes that would usually accompany such a place. 

Hessen Trend

We are in a political election year for Hessen (my local German state). It's about eight months away.

The current trend politically?  They did a poll and suggested where the party numbers are:

CDU: 31-percent
SPD: 25-percent
Green Party: 13-percent
Linke Party: 8-percent
AfD: 12-percent
FDP: 8-percent

No real shocks with the poll (it came from HR, the public TV for Hessen).  The CDU will obviously win....the real issue is the coalition effort required after the election.  Will the Greens have enough votes to repeat the same coalition?  A majority of Germans from Hessen would say that the current setting of the CDU and Greens running the coalition....has worked very well.

The heated topics in this state election?  Folks would suggest that migration/immigration has moved from the number one issue to probably around issue number four or five.  Amusingly enough, the suggestion by the news media is that education has moved up to issue number one.  Personally, I think the Frankfurt Airport will likely fit into the top ten issues in some way (through growth or limitations). 

Dogg is Dead?

Over the past two years, I've essayed a couple of pieces over an ISIS thug/terrorist that was originally a Berlin rapper.....Denis Cuspert....otherwise known in the Berlin rap scene as Deso Dogg.

It is an epic story which I've already told on two or three occasions and I won't repeat the whole story. 

There's been at least five or six occasions where the German government came out and said Dogg is dead on the battle-front of Syria.  The Americans have said for sure....Dogg is dead....at least once. 

Then you have some brief period where someone says 'no'.....Dogg ain't dead.

I noticed today in Focus, another 6-line piece....saying now that a foundation (The Intelligence Group), who often studies ISIS propaganda now says for sure.....Dogg is dead and was killed in the city of Gharanij. 

The odds that they are correct?  It's hard to say.

Frankly, it's an epic story over Denis Cuspert, who was a born trouble-maker as a kid, flipped into being a rapper, got heavily into drugs, ran through some brief big-name career as a rap artist, then converted to Islam, ran off to the ISIS war, and about every six months is said to be dead, then magically appears again. 

Personally, I would speculate that by mid-summer, someone will report that they've seen Denis (Dogg) once again, and set off a period of speculation that he's still alive. 

If I were making this movie....I'd call it the "Guy With Nine Lives".  Yeah, it'd be a black comedy. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

German Farm Story

The German government has a Minister of the Environment, and a Minister of Agriculture.  It used to be, at least ten years ago....that these two would not step on the toes of each other. In the past couple of years....things have changed.  So, this negative episode arose today between the two (remember....the Agricultural guy is a CSU guy, who is Bavarian and conservative, while the environmental minister gal is a SPD figure and has a problem with numerous agricultural aspects) .

The Environmental Minister (Hendricks) said that German farmers actually handle too many animals (pork and beef in the hint) and this all relates to higher exports....using the phrase...."every Chinese fridge" has German pork.

Part of the negativity about farming also relates back to the licensing required, and regulations established over large barns (for pigs and chickens).  It's not the agricultural ministry that controls that....it's the environmental ministry.  So if a farmer came up with an idea to double his income in five years, but he needs to plan and build a sizeable barn to handle the added pigs.....it comes down to some paperwork and having work with various stringent rules on excess waste and such from the barn 'critters'.

It's simple to say that some farmers, especially in the southern half of Germany....are a bit peeved with the agricultural ministry. They see various opportunities to get ahead of the game....grow profits....and they have some hopes that the governments see this as a chance to make an income and return tax revenue  to the pot at the end of the day.

The odds that this difficult relationship will continue with the new coalition government?  It's very likely. 

Course, if you were across the border into France, Poland or Czech....they love this type of German meddling with farmers because it increases the chance that their products will grow in sales, and take away business from the Germans.  The SPD folks?  Without much thought to it.....they probably wouldn't mind German production shrinking and tax revenue downsized.