Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Early Retirement Story

Early retirement in Germany.....is something that rarely happens.  Typically, it's a guy who was cop, fireman, or successful businessman.  Beyond that group, it's tough to go and get a doctor's note to say that your health (mental or physical) is so bad.....that you should be allowed your social pension early.

So in today's news, I noticed this piece from WDR (public TV) which chatted about this issue and the prosecution office in Munster.

No one says precisely how this suspicion started up or if it was just statistical averages that pointed this out.....but there were a lot of folks coming up in Munster with notes from a particular psychiatrist (out of the Bochum region).

The claim here is that roughly 600 episodes came up in this one region, from this one doctor, and it's higher than it should be.....leading to a court review.

The accusation?  Only an accusation.  The talk is that he gave a false opinion for people to get early retirement.  Added into this story is that people paid this guy money under the table....so the tax evasion folks are interested in this because it's all cash, and he never reported the income.  The amounts suggested?  Two thousand to seven thousand Euro.  You can do the math here and figure that it's in the ballpark of 200,000 Euro or more that he made....tax-free....IF true.

Right now....at least twenty-seven cases are identified as fraud.

Prosecutors say that some folks were even coached on how to act (mentally ill) when boards were convened to push forward the paperwork to be approved.

A national problem?  This was simply one particular area, but I would take a guess that across Germany (82-million)....there are hundreds each month working on some scheme, with some doctor and trying to find a way to get early retirement.

The general problem is that the national social pension program is not exactly healthy and with the birth-rate problem....you really can't allow fraudulent early retirement to occur.

When you normally see early and legitimate early retirement in Germany....it's usually back issues, or extreme stress (where yearly visits to the 'Kur' have occurred), and there's just no way for the guy or gal to go back into work.  My father-in-law (long passed) was a German roofer, and by his early 60s.....he was one of the legit early retirees.

The curious thing to this is that all of these people identified under this doctor's medical notes....will be dragged back into another review board, and most will be told to "un-retire", and go back to work. Imagine these characters showing up at the local jobs office....fifty to sixty years old, and having to find some kind of job to get them back into the real world.

Germany, Cars, and A Short Discussion

There are a couple of car-related things going on in Germany, which deserves one's attention, and a fair amount of pondering.

First, this past week....the Bundestag (the parliament) said 'no' to the EU proposal for more stringent controls (regulations) on auto emissions.  DW reported this.  One of the interesting aspects of the EU plan for control....was that they'd actually go and conduct on-the-spot emissions tests.

You can imagine German politicians (from both the SPD and CDU) standing there and having to react to some EU bureaucrat chatting away about tests conducted in Dresden or Munich, and you can't be a 100-percent sure about the reliability of the tests or the agenda tied to the tests.

One of the curious pieces of the regulation that the Germans pushed back against....was that if a German auto maker made a car and sold it.....and it was later found to be conflicting with emissions standards, then the car company would have to take possession of the car (compensating the owner in some way), and then pay the EU 30,000 Euro per vehicle as a 'fine'.  You imagine how VW, Opel, or Ford managers felt about that type of threat. One screw-up could basically bankrupt a company.

Funny how even the Germans can hate the EU for its regulation-creation ideas.

So, you come to the second big car discussion....diesel emissions.  It's openly discussed now that even with the new level of diesel vehicle categories (Euro-6)....even with the most modern diesel cars made and sold in Germany....they aren't clean enough for the standards now set.

All of this naturally leaves the experts looking at filter-systems that would have to be added onto vehicles.  The experts around Stuttgart, where this discussion originally started up....say the filter kit is 1,500 to 2,500 Euro.  So far, no one wants to talk much on who is going to pay for the kit (the vehicle owner obviously).  A month ago, I read a piece by one diesel owner who voiced the concern that you'd go and do this really stupid thing of paying for the kit out of your own pocket....only to learn two years later that his installed filter needs to be replaced with another newly developed and much improved kit....for another 1,500 Euro.  He might have a point on this discussion.

Finally, you come to the electrical car discussion, with the 2030 date sitting there in full view.  By 2030, unless something changes.....new car sales will be limited in Germany to strictly electric cars.  The general public doesn't chat much on this.  The general public at this point....aren't very hyped up about electric cars, with the yearly sum sold in the 4-digit range at present.

In virtually every direction you turn....there's impending or doomed regulation approaching on automobiles in Germany.  No one can say with any real authority, how things will be in twenty years with cars on German roads.

Monday, April 24, 2017

CSU Leadership Story

The 'sister' party of Merkel's CDU Party.....is the CSU, who only operate in Bavaria.  It's a handshake deal.  Typically, in a national election....the CSU can deliver around 3.5 million votes (8-percent of the national vote).

For the past nine years....Horst Seehofer has run the regional party.  He's 67 years old and last year....he hinted very strongly that he'd be retiring in the summer of 2018.  The schedule talked about last year was that a Bavarian state election would happen in September of 2018, and new leadership would stand up and carry the party forward.

Yesterday, Seehofer said...well....things changed.  He won't stand down, and he'll be the primary carrier of the CSU election in Bavaria in 2018.

Reason?  Some people believe that Seehofer sees this comeback of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg occurring.  After the scandal of the thesis episode, Guttenberg has lived outside of Germany for around seven years.  There's been an invented way for Guttenberg to participate in this national election (Sep 2017)....with a couple of districts carved out where he will speak...shake hands...and talk up the future of conservative politics in Germany.

The belief is that Seehofer wants to see the CSU leadership role come to Guttenberg after this 2018 Bavaria election.

Oddly, this insider plan has one problem.  For several years....the Bavarian finance minister....Markus Soder, has been sitting there and planning his moment where he'd become the next head of the CSU. For him, this Seehofer deal is a bit frustrating.  For him to accept this, it means putting off his chief goal.

Guttenberg?  He says mostly nothing.  My guess is that Seehofer would announce some retirement in early 2019, and the party would quietly appoint Guttenberg into the leadership of the party.  Nationally, Guttenberg might be the come-back-kid in 2021.

I know....a lot of speculation, and people preparing 'chess-like' moves way ahead of time.

The news media reaction?  No one sees Guttenberg coming back, so this topic of conversation doesn't go far.  Typically, no German politician after a big scandal has ever come back.

So, if you were looking for an odd political story, this is it.

The Statistics Story

At some point today (Monday), an official report will be handed to the public by the Interior Minister (de Maiziere).  It's going to be a difficult report for journalists, intellectuals, and politicians to handle.  Basically, the Interior Minister says that crime number in 2016 show a hefty contribution by immigrants, migrants and asylum seekers.  The national numbers involving immigrants for crime investigation rose 57-percent, which worries the leadership within the Interior Ministry.

Hidden also within the numbers....more juvenile participants....both in violence and bodily harm.

Chief reason for migrant number surge?

There is this belief that a lot of young men arrived in 2014, 2015 and 2016 into Germany....and that a fair number drifted over into the occupation of crime.  For some, without a family connection or stable lifestyle....it simply made sense.  You can also say that a fair number arrived without any real plan....no real occupation or skill-set....and found that welfare payments in Germany won't cut it.  Even if they did get a job....it's a basic pay situation....eight to nine Euro an hour.  After you take out rent and heat from your check....there's just a limited or marginal amount of money left in the pot.

Chief reason for the juvenile issue?

No one took the statistics to the next level and asked if they relate to urban and rural splits....which I suspect they would show most of the juvenile surge came from major urban sectors of Germany.  If you toss around the 15-percent number of Germans now and still on welfare....there's not much positive to say out of life as a kid in this atmosphere.

Fixing the increase in crime?  All parties in the Bundestag, even the opposition folks....are super hyped-up on hiring more cops.  It's one of those amazing things.  You can't find a single political player in Berlin who is against the hiring of more cops now.  Time period for hiring more cops?  Well....here's the comical side of this story....it might be five years before the increase in cops is really felt across the 16 states.  So, don't get too hopeful on things getting fixed soon.

One might look ahead over the next four years, and leading up to the 2021 national election....assuming that the crime problem continues and maybe even gets worse for 2017 and 2018.  In which case....a lot of pressure will occur with the Bundestag to kick young male migrants out of the country if arrested for serious crimes.

One suggestion from the ARD article was that more language training needs to occur.  But if you had burger-flipper skills and German ability.....it only leads to a marginalized job future and no real hope.  So you drift over to crime anyway.

 So you come to the last part of this story.....why release a report like this?  Le Maiziere is slated to absolutely retire at the end of 2017.  He has no more interest in staying on, and is of retirement age.  I think he wants to stir the pot a bit.....with the Bundestag, Merkel, and the intellectual crowd.  He's basically saying that hiring more cops won't really fix the root cause of the crime issue in Germany.  You can discuss this in a hundred ways, but you come down to a large segment of people who have a very limited future...very unfocused on a path ahead....and a fairly easy entry into crime.

The Outcome in France

Round one is wrapped up.

Macron (Progressive Party) and Le Pen (National Front) advance on.  Macron had 23.75-percent and Len Pen 21.50-percent).

Fillon, with his fake-pay scandal, had 19.90-percent, and Melenchon had 19.6-percent. Hamon from the Socialist Party rounded up things with 6.3-percent.

There are several observations that one can make out of the election.

1.  Urban vote results appear to show Macron getting 35-percent in most areas around France....Le Pen in most urban areas got from marginal numbers to 10-percent in the same areas.  Heartland affect is demonstrated.

2.  The Socialist Party and the Republicans were the two big losers out of this election.  Both had been major players in French politics for decades.  Together, they barely got to 26-percent of the public vote.  It's a massive indicator that the public have lost confidence with 'old' politics.

3.  Corruption used to be an acceptable part of French politics.  Something in this election occurred and shifted the corruption business to the unacceptable side of things.  The fake pay issue really killed off Fillon.  Right now.....he and his wife might get dragged into a court and charged.  My suspicion is that he will quietly come up with the money and offer to repay every penny if they halt the process.

4.  No matter who you watch from the European press, they all refer to Macron as an investment banker.  He was an investment portfolio handler for the Rothschild Bank. They hired him with the ultimate desire that he did what he claimed he was an expert at.....preventing trails for audit by the national authorities.  He was very successful at that.  Using the term 'banker' is mostly a joke....he was the portfolio manager and saved some special clients a lot of stress.

5.  Macron probably shocks the journalists the most because his party....the Progressive Party....has only existed for 13 months.  How were they financed?  No one seems interested in that amusing detail.

Looking ahead.  The final election occurs in two weeks.  I would speculate that Macron likely wins this with a 65-percent showing, and Le Pen might be able to generate at best a 35-percent showing (maybe even less). I would guess that fewer than a quarter of Fillon's voters, who ought to be the nearest base group, will be interested in Le Pen.  From the rest of the candidates....fewer than two-percent would slide to Le Pen.

What this means?  You can draw some conclusions:

1.  BREXIT negotiations with Macron as the French President will be fairly difficult, and I suspect that within the two year timeframe.....no treaty occurs.  (my humble guess)

2.  Along about spring of 2018, some journalists in France will wake up and ask questions about the competence or capabilities of Macron.  "Empty suit" will be uttered, and by the end of 2018....his positive numbers with the French public will have fallen to the mid-30's.  By the summer of 2019....the public will be prepared for replacing him but they have to wait till April of 2022.

3.  Le Pen will quietly work on the legislative elections and ensure that the National Front does get a record number of seats.  She will still be around in 2022, and likely run one final time.

4.  Germany and the EU are very happy with Macron....mostly because he gives good speeches.  Zero chance of the EU dissolving (although Greece might eventually find itself removed).

5.  The cabinet figures under Macron?  Almost no French journalist has chatted about this.  The party, being new, doesn't have a bunch of known figures attached to it.  My humble guess is that it'll be a lot of business-related figures....some leading back to Rothschild.

My Le Pen view is that she needs to take the National Front onto the next stage.  As corruption occurs with the Progressive Party bosses....challenge them and make the public feel accountable for putting them into positions of power.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Everyday Things

Sometimes, you come across some article in the news and start to ponder the ultimate meaning of the article.

Today, I was reading a piece that the British insurance company Aviva wrote up.  They put some guys up on a study of household functions and surveyed 2000-odd people.

Roughly 20-percent of people don't know how to change a bulb.  Roughly one-third of people admitted they couldn't cook a true dinner from scratch.  37-percent said they were sure about being able to change a tire, while the rest were either unsure or definitely not able to change a tire.

Roughly two-thirds of people surveyed said they could read a map.....leaving you to wonder about the remaining one-third.

Just above one-third knew how to check the oil level in their car.....leaving you to wonder about the other two-thirds, and if they ever checked their oil.

I got to near the end of the actual report (something you can read in 30 minutes) and there's this interesting thing about do-it-yourself skills, and where people picked these skills up.  Fifty percent admitted that it was trial and error situations where they attempted to do something and learned from the mistakes. Only 12-percent said they got this skill from TV, and 20-percent said it was via YouTube videos.

I have this opinion that along the last year or two of your grade school experience.....there ought to be a mandatory two-hours per day dedicated to oddball skills which aren't really things you'd normally pick up....like: map-reading, investing, understanding loans, rewiring a plug, replacing a florescent light bulb, changing tires, changing oil, or painting.

In some ways, if you read through this Brit research project, you kinda wonder about the knowledge level of just normal regular people.  If you introduced the BREXIT deal to them....could the group make a wise decision on voting (for or against)?  Could the same group grasp how to use their vote and put the right people into leadership positions?

In the end, Aviva leaves you with some distrust of society....that we might not be capable of handling the majority of things in our lives.

The "Concentration Camp" Statement

Somewhere yesterday, with the Pope officiating in some ceremony....he harped up on that a number of Europe's refugee centers are simply "concentration camps".  Yeah, he actually used the phrase itself.

I sat and pondered over the statement.

First, it doesn't matter where you go as an immigrant, migrant or asylum seeker.....you end up as the 'guest' of such-and-such country.  Being a guest doesn't really mean much.  In some countries, it simply means bland food for your daily needs, a heated shelter, and running water.  If you wound up in Germany....you'd get more than most countries would dish out, but it's not exactly a hotel operation.

The thing is that there's a fair increase in immigrant traffic, and it's not not exactly an emergency or war-time situation for a fair number of folks.  I would take a guess that well over sixty-percent of the 'guests' being handled by most European countries.....are really migrants in search of a better economic condition or improved job.  The folks from Syria and Iraq can talk about ISIS and war, and they deserve some type of safe environment until the war is settled.

If there had been some doorway and control over the economic migrants?  The refugee centers would have been limited in size and scope....with likely a better atmosphere resulting.  But no one wanted to stand at the doorway and limit entry.

What the Pope doesn't say in his statement....is that once you get past the refugee center....with a visa and government support....then you come to look for an apartment in some urbanized area and a job.  Then you discover the next reality beyond the refugee center, over-priced marginalized apartments, and jobs which mostly only pay the basic wage.

A fair number of people have taken the 'concentration camp' statement by the Pope and dumped on it. In their mind, it is an unfair statement because these were created mostly at the last-minute, with minimum planning, and not intended to be long-lasting operations.  The general negativity about the camps is that it's a densely populated type situation and lots of people with different views on life are occupying space in the camp....some can live with other folks, and some can't.  Toss in frustrations, stress, bored days, religious preferences, and arguments that break out daily about mundane things.....and you got a mess to control.

The topic of the Pope's statement will be around for another day or two, and then likely be forgotten.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Alcoholic Story

This week, in the Frankfurt area, a case wrapped up in court.  The basic description of the episode is that "Joe", an asylum-seeker, lived in a immigration center in the Frankfurt region.  "Joe" returns back one evening to the center.....goes into tirade....tears up the place....causes a fair amount of damage, and cops come to arrest "Joe".  I should note that the same cops looked at "Joe's" room in the center and found some inappropriate things (I'll get to this detail later).

So the German judge had the whole thing explained to him.  You see...."Joe" has a alcohol problem, and was fairly drunk when he did all this tirade business and damage.

Maybe "Joe's" attorney thought this would all help to explain things and settle the episode.

The judge finally says 'enough', and says that "Joe" needs to go to the German version of Alcoholics Anonymous.  "Joe" basically says that he didn't think that would work, and he didn't really care that much for treatment.

The judge then said.....you can do it the easy way, or we can put you into a full-scale in-patient situation and you don't come out for a number of weeks.

I sat there pondering over this.  "Joe" isn't a German, and I'd take a guess that "Joe's" German language ability on a scale of one to ten....is at best a three (my humble guess).  These Alcoholic Anonymous meetings tend to get chatty and wordy.  You can imagine "Joe" just sitting there in a group of twelve Germans, and mostly getting ten-percent of the whole discussion.

The judge will ask for an evaluation in a couple of months, and the AA-chief will respond that "Joe" attended but no one thinks that he got much out of the episode....because "Joe" doesn't speak that much German.   What the judge does next is anyone's guess.

So, we turn to the inappropriate stuff in "Joe's" room.  It's all right-wing extreme stuff....stickers, music, etc.  I should note, "Joe" is from a society which would be typically the target of right-wing extremism.  So the cops asked "Joe" about this.  All "Joe" could say was that he used the stuff to jab psychologically at  other residents of the immigration center.

I came to the end of the story and had this odd question....which the cops and judge apparently didn't want to ask.  For the amount of alcohol that "Joe" was consuming daily (he appeared to me to be a daily binge drinker)....."Joe" needed cash.  The immigration folks aren't paying much on pocket money per month.  To be a heavy drinker like "Joe" is talking about.....daily.....then in an average month, you'd need at least 150 to 250 Euro....even for the cheap stuff.  Where exactly is "Joe" getting the money?

Germany has this one odd feature about life, which most 'new' residents aren't that familiar with.....everywhere you look, there's alcohol.  Beer, wine, cognac, fruit-beer, ale, Gin, Ouzo, vodka, whiskey, Tequila, etc.

I can remember arriving in Frankfurt in 1978, and coming to grasp that there are literally thousands of various choices of alcohol to consume.  Unless you sat down and really used some common sense, you'd easily end up like "Joe".

Maybe "Joe" will get some benefit out of the AA meetings and curtail his drinking habits.....but I kinda doubt it.