Posts Tagged Systems

Sandcastles in Boracay

Gdański Festiwal Rzeźby z Piasku 2009 mnisineed a permit which costs per day (link) – or else police kick them down. Amusing to read from the land of alleged over-regulation called Germany. I wonder if a municipal ordnance of that kind (link) would even be legal over here. The goal of preserving the “natural symmetry of the beach” would fall under Landschaftsschutz or landscape protection over here in Germany, but I doubt if any judge here would accept measures that temporarily change the appearance of a landscape as relevant. Somewhat like advertising on a car is legal here as long as it can be driven away anytime.

Keeping things orderly

Thus, Giesinger Bräu, one of the newcomers in the Munich brewery scene, often has a small car parked on a road leading from the Goetheplatz underground station to the Oktoberfest – during the time of the Oktoberfest were many people can see. I don’t think it is a coincidence, but as long as the car is not violating any parking rules, nobody can do anything. Now the problem of Boracay seems to be people asking for money to have pictures of those sandcastles taken. Well, that might be a matter for the Ordnungsamt over hereYes, Ordnung means order. The Office of Order.

Mark Twain wrote that long German words sounded like parades with marching music included. The tune played can be a fine. Even the places on the sidewalk where pubs and restaurants are allowed to put chairs are delineated by fine white dots. Place the chairs outside the dots, color outside the dots so to speak, and the Ordnungsamt passes by and sees it – fine. You pay a fine. Get caught doing any kind of business you have no city hall permit for, even just selling cans of Coke to people in the park – fine. Pay one. Put up a stand in a flea market – pay the fee, they will collect it.

Levels of jurisdiction

These are not cops, although they can be accompanied by cops or call them if they think necessary.  Just municipal employees. They also check for the enforcement of the smoking ban in Bavaria. Imposed by a referendum since 2010 (link). Every German state has a slightly different rule here. The Federal Constitutional Court (like the Supreme Court) decided that the implementation of EU rules to protect the health of non-smokers is Ländersache – a state matter. Just like shop closing laws since 2006. In Bavaria shops must close by 8 p.m., in Berlin there I think are no limits.

The old Federal law from the 1950s, once meant to protect retail employees, was loosened gradually over 30 years. Used to be shops closed at 6:30 p.m. every day and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Only on Sundays and on public holidays, shops still must remain closed in all states – something which is harder to change as it is in the Federal Constitution, brought in by conservative Christians who did not want Sunday to be commercialized. Social Democrats did not say no to a day of rest either. Youth protection laws (age for buying drinks etc.) are Federal. Noise protection laws are state-level.

So what can cities still decide, except what part of the sidewalk may have chairs on it in summer? For one thing, they can decide which parts of the city are to be free of prostitution – legal over here. But in Munich, the Sperrbezirksverordnung defines a Sperrbezirk (restricted area) which is most of the city (Verordnung means ordnance) of Munich, save commercial areas where there are almost no residences, schools or similar. Berlin I think has no Sperrbezirk. In conservative Munich, families and kids are kept away from “the trade” – whose legality in Germany is very controversial.

Flow of money

But where do the different levels – municipal, state and federal – get their funds do to their jobs? Aside from taxing brothels of course, which would be paying Gewerbesteuer or trade tax just like any store, gasoline station or car repair shop. Gewerbesteuer is a fixed percentage of income tax or Einkommenssteuer times a Hebesatz or multiplier. Municipalities that want to attract business will have lower multipliers than those like Munich which have high multipliers. Municipalities even get to keep 15% of all income tax, 42.5% of which goes to federal and state levels respectively.

This is an incentive of course to try to attract not only strong businesses but also good earners. There are people in Munich who complain that “the Social Democrats like to attract low wage earners because those are their voters”, but the incentive to attract professionals is still higher than in the Philippines with its Lina Law for informal settlers and its population-based Internal Revenue Allotment for Local Government Units. Meanwhile here in Munich, there are more that now write that housing for working-class people is getting too expensive. Success has its problems as well.

How about stores with branches – the usual model nowadays as the old Mom-and-Pop stores (Tante Emma Laden in German) are becoming less and less? What I have understood is that the likes of SM in the Philippines pay their taxes only in the place where the headquarters is. Since there is nothing like the Gewerbesteuer over there, it probably does not matter. Here in Germany, chain stores with branches in many municipalities have to divide their income taxes to provide the basis for the business tax to be paid in each municipality. The law for that is a bit complex (link).


Delegation and Subsidiarity

Sand castle in Kaunas, Lithuania - panoramiois defined as dealing with matters at the closest level possible to the citizen. Thus, no German has to go the the Federal Foreign Ministry to get a passport, or the Federal Interior Ministry to get a national ID. Both are applied for at city hall, even if the actual printing of both in done in Berlin. Driver’s licenses and car plates are applied for at the Straßenverkehrsamt or “Street Traffic Office” which is also municipal level – not at any Federal or State Transport Ministry. The rules of course are usually made at Federal level. Most significant databases are managed federally or at EU level.

Of course municipalities take care of their own matters as well such as water, garbage and drainage – or kindergartens and cemeteries. This is aside from the tasks delegated to them by the federal level (Auftragsaufgaben is the composite word for that, Hi Mark Twain) . Schools are also partly a responsibility of municipalities, but also a state-level responsibility – yes education policies are coordinated federally but each state has its own policies, ensuring healthy competition. Health centers and hospitals are also a mandatory municipal function. But here the next level may help.

In Bavaria these are the government districts (Regierungsbezirke) which pool resources of the municipalities in them and also get help from the state level for specialized clinics such as drug rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment. Specialized schools and academies may also be put up by the districts. Subsidiarity can mean that certain other matters can be delegated to district level. The district of Upper Bavaria, for example, takes care of air traffic and mining in its geographical area. Further north, the Cologne district makes the speed limits for the Autobahns within its own area.

Top-down and Bottom-up

This is all reminiscent of a large corporation where you will have global policies that are uniform over all location, national policies that take local conditions (including legal requirements) into account, and a few local specialties which will not be many in a typically well-run multinational. Usually this works because people tend to adapt. And of course in a corporation people want to earn their money. In nations you need the buy-in of people more than in a corporation, because they can of course vote governments out of power, or resist governments they dislike in many ways.

Top-down measures are based on command and control while bottom-up relies on community. Bohmte, a small town in Lower Saxony state, has gotten rid of all traffic signs (link). Of course, the first rule of the German Straßenverkehrsordnung (traffic law) still applies which roughly says (link) that all have to pay attention and give consideration. Plus the basic right of way rules. I guess this works on a small scale. The human mind and heart did evolve in small Stone Age communities. It might not work in Lower Saxony’s state capital Hannover, much less in Munich or in large Berlin.

Berlin still has “only” 3 and half million people. Metro Manila officially has 13 million people. The only megacity worldwide which seems somewhat orderly is Tokyo. Japanese style order of course. And sense of community in a very closed society. Metro Manila has many different income levels even if all are Filipino. Filipino style order never really worked. I remember how people im Metro Manila always muddled through on unwritten rules and it somehow worked. At a density of people where Central Europeans would not budge or even stampede. But I guess it can wear people down.


Agglomeration and Distribution

Ultimate Sand CastleCertainly smaller cities can be more livable. But why does Munich, which had only 1.2 million people around 20 years ago and now has around 1.4 million, not try to prevent further growth? An article about the New York Subway provides a clue (link): Cities create density, and density creates growth. Economists call the phenomenon agglomeration. Not only does geographical proximity reduce costs, but it also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and spurs innovation. But neither did the USA or Germany just have one central place where everything happened, like in Manila.

Distributed growth is also important. In fact Germany has rules for how richer states should help poorer ones. Bavaria was a donor state for the first time in 1989 after being a recipient for long. Leaving behind major areas of any country, just like leaving behind major groups of people there, is always a recipe for disaster. And different agglomerations competing is healthy. Thus you have Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne as cities with a million people at least. Frankfurt might have a million population during the day when people come in to work, most of them via suburban train.

Finally you have the connections between major centers. Munich to Cologne, Munich to Berlin are just over four hours ride in a high-speed train nowadays. Net travel time just a bit higher than flying. Exchange of goods, ideas and people energizes all places. But this was built over centuries. Many German cities in the Middle Ages were free imperial cities (link) under the Emperor and not any local prince. Examples are Frankfurt and Hamburg. Others like Berlin, Munich, Hanover or Stuttgart were capitals of kingdoms. Others under major rulers like Cologne with its Archbishop.

Keeping energy flowing

Free imperial cities had more self-government and thus developed a more confident citizenry, used to earning their own money and managing their own affairs – Hamburg being a prime example. The port of course and centuries of trading with others honed a pragmatic form of cosmopolitanism. Others developed modern elites in the 19th century due to the ambitions of their ruling classes. Bavaria (link) and Prussia excelled in the war for talent during those days. Frankfurt and Cologne both benefited from their role in the middle of major trading routes and along major rivers.

Frankfurt’s momentum of course was helped along by its becoming the de facto hub of West Germany after the war. That and its being a major place for American military presence until the early 1990s made it attractive for international firms and made it more cosmopolitan than before. Cologne had the luck to be close to Bonn which was the provisional capital of West Germany – this included the airport the two cities share (link). Many factors made Munich move up after the war – my impression is that city and state worked together well, even under different political parties.

Getting priorities right

In fact it was the two major political parties that just brought out a plan for the future of Munich’s public transport system to connect underground and suburban lines better, connect growing areas and make capacity for the future. Making the pie bigger for everybody instead of quarreling over who gets a larger slice. This is what makes me more confident about here and less hopeful about the Philippines, where the pie was growing – but those who have the most were too “hungry” to wait. And now plan federal sand castles – without a true master plan, and without alternative solutions.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 13 January 2018

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Up to 200 Filipino children risk severe dengue

Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes (26444925321)based on three numbers: 730K vaccinated, 87% previously infected (link) and 2 of 1000 risk (link) of severe dengue according to Sanofi among those vaccinated but not previously infected: “The increased risk identified from the new analysis translated to two additional cases of ‘severe dengue’ out of 1,000 previously dengue-uninfected people vaccinated over five years of follow-up,” the company said in an emailed statement. Certainly not good, but a far cry from the panic in a video (link) by “major blogger” Sass Rogando Sasot implying that 700 thousand kids were at risk.

Who said what

997 children got sick after vaccination (link) say a Philstar headline – in the article it says that the Department of Health (DOH) reported that between March 18, 2016 and Aug. 20 of the same year, there were 997 “adverse events following immunization, 30 of which were considered serious cases that needed hospitalization.” The 30 serious cases included two deaths. But the DOH said these “were not related to the immunization program,” which was launched in early 2016. Other cases are claimed outside the DOH statistics, and insufficient monitoring is alleged.

There is also a difference between articles that claim WHO recommended Dengvaxia (link) and clarifications by WHO itself that it (linkdid not include a recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs. Rather, WHO outlined a series of considerations national governments should take into account in deciding whether to introduce the vaccine, based on a review of available data at the time, along with possible risks. Among other things recommending to vaccinate in areas with over 70% dengue exposure.

When what happened

Who published its position on the dengue vaccine in July 2016, based on a preliminary advice by an expert group from April 2016. The Philippines started vaccinating in April 2016 (link) – ignoring or setting aside opinions like those of UP College of Medicine Prof. Dr Antonio Dans, who warned that while the vaccine could reduce the number of dengue cases, it could later increase the disease’s severity, a phenomenon known as “antibody- dependent enhancement” – or Dr. Anthony Leachon who said the DOH should first wait for the WHO study – which came out in July 2016.

Further doubts Dr. Leachon had were also about long-term safety (link) especially with previously non-infected persons. Studies in September 2016 (link and link) and articles in CNN (link) and Voice of America (link) in late 2016 also mentioned those risks, but the DOH under a new administration continued the program (link) while having doubts on efficacy. There was a Senate hearing in December 2016 (link) but it seems it was more about the way the program was funded.  The decision to end the program after the third round of vaccination was taken in May 2017 (link).

Still, it seems that 67 thousand kids in the Central Visayas got vaccinated in August 2017 (link). Other countries like Malaysia (link, June 2016) and India (link, Oct. 2016) were more reluctant – even in April 2017 (link) and November 2017 (link). Brazil was the other country that vaccinated, the observations from there are going to be interesting. Sanofi was right to pull the brakes in late November 2017. Imagine if, let us say 20 million Filipinos had been vaccinated at a prevalence of 80% – that would have been 0.2% of 20% of 20 million at risk of severe dengue, meaning 8000.


Science and Risk

ICE4 FrontA major derailment happened in Eschede in 1998 (link) when the German speed train or ICE was hardly a decade old. A train derailed and folded together at high speed due to wheel fracture (link). 101 people died, tabloids reported scenes of horror. Yet no witch-hunts. Causes (link) were analyzed and consequences (link) – also legal ones – were decided upon. The program was not stopped, instead ICE model 1 was improved, later new models came out, new routes were built. This Friday, the Munich-Berlin route (link) shall cross 623 km in about 4 hours. Using ICE 4 (link) trains.

A book I read (link) mentions how the aircraft industry and airlines improved a lot of things by analyzing black boxes from airplane crashes and other incidents – but mentions issues in introducing similar measures in medicine. I wonder if the touch of arrogance attributed to the medical profession in the book also applies to the pharmaceutical industry. Many circles also accuse the pharma industry using third world countries as guinea pigs. But only a modern, evidence-based approach will help prove what is true. And pin down possible accountability. 

Capulet and Montague

There will probably be a hearing in aid of legislation at the Philippine Senate – once again. Which I do not expect much from. The usual political stuff, names of Presidents and Health Secretaries. VACC loudly claiming deaths NOW from last year (link) added to the fray, hardly looking credible.

Better not just allege deaths without proof as in hard evidence. Sanofi might go for an international case. Not like the De Lima case or the wannabe impeachment against Sereno. Real lawyers will be needed – like Sereno for Fraport or Carpio for ITLOS. The kind of talent the country hates (link).

One should also see that around half of the vaccinations were during the Aquino administration, the other half during the Duterte administration. Finding out the entire truth will be a long process – if the Filipino public is really interested in the truth and not just own emotional or group needs.


Galileo and Newton

The modern world is too complex for the petty village mentality on show in Filipino politics, the lack of getting the big picture. India seemed to have dealt with Dengvaxia way more maturely – but then again they send rockets into space (link). How could one deal with this in a rational manner?

200 kids are at risk, if one is to believe a certain set of numbers. What is the solution? First – monitor things. Senator Hontiveros wants that to happen in form of a database (link). Possibly, measures from this experience could be used to improve health monitoring in the Philippines.

Second – all lab data on present alleged cases (link) should be gathered in a transparent manner. Just in case there really was negligence on part of Sanofi, it can be proven in an auditable way. There is a certain self-discipline needed here, as Filipinos very often lack objective attitudes.

The Big Picture - The Noun ProjectThird – look at the big picture. Few newspapers, few experts, few leaders in the Philippines are good at that. Data is not information is not knowledge is not wisdom. This Rappler timeline (link) of what happened locally is at least information. Knowledge? We know a little, need to learn more.

In some papers I read about 3.5 billion being for vaccines only. In some I read it was for the vaccines and the entire program including monitoring for five years. Some state that monitoring was insufficient in the beginning. How was the experience in Brazil? And the more cautious countries?

India wanted to make own tests with monkeys before starting, later on Assam state decided to make a random test to check for at least 70% prevalence before going for vaccination. Malaysia wanted to wait for fourth phase tests. All in the sources quoted above. Where is the best balance?

Finding scapegoats is too easy as well – especially if the issue could be caused by weak institutions with systemic problems (link) that go beyond individual leaders. Maybe Dengvaxia could be an opportunity to learn and reform some things? There is a lot of ground to be covered I think.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
Munich, 6 December 2017

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Close to Collapse

Munich subway GBRis what Munich’s underground is according to a local paper (link). It is “not that bad” (link) Harry Roque might say if he rode here, as the elevators and escalators mostly work. Meaning that among 100 underground stations in 100 km. of underground, a non-working escalator is pretty rare. Yet people do crowd a bit more recently. The reason is that some new wagons don’t work yet (link). Haha, in Germany? Yes, from Siemens. Wagons of the C2 series from Siemens that look space age. While the quaint 1970s style old wagons keep on going it seems. What is happening over here?

Voltage spikes and squared wheels

U-Bahn-Wache

Munich U-Bahn after a soccer game

Well, the electrical transmission of the C2 series seems to generate voltage spikes that could cause the trains to stop or even damage the electrical systems of the Munich U-Bahn or underground. They are in the yards for maintenance, while the old wagons are stretched thin. People are not yet waiting up to the streets though like in Metro Manila. That only happens during the Oktoberfest. Then, extra staff make sure drunk people don’t push each other onto the rails. Central Europeans – which Bavarians are – are not as patient in waiting as Filipinos. And tend to like their own space.

What also happened according to a speaker of the MVG or Munich Transport Corporation is that when autumn came in, the sludge from rain and autumn leaves on some overground stations (yes, the underground also has stations above ground) caused “squaring” of wheels while braking. Making train wheels round again is specialized metalworking. Took some work in depot to get the wagons back into full function. Good thing, even if there was some inconvenience for everyone, as I can imagine the damage squared wheels can do to rails. Or voltage spikes to transmission systems.

Politics and colors over here

Well, is the Reichstag in Berlin discussing this under its modern dome? Is the Maximilianeum (link) in Munich, the Parliament of the Free State of Bavaria, going up in (self-)righteous anger? After all, the ruling party there is different from the ruling party in Munich city hall, so why not? Strangely it is a party that is not ruling that seems to make occasional comments about the SPD or Social Democrats, whose friends in the Philippines are Akbayan. It is the FDP or Liberals or if one wants yellow color – same party whose Naumann Foundation invited VP Leni to South Africa.

But one only knows that if one reads a bit deeper in some papers. No buzz in social media. If ever people are mad at yellow, it is at the OBikes (link) from Singapore which anyone can book and use via simple App. Tourists and others just leave them all over the place. And conveniently, they are of the color some Bavarians will think all Asians are – yellow. Yellow and Chinese, or maybe Japanese. You are only Japanese though if you take pictures of the central square, the Marienplatz, in spring. Now you finally know why Irineo sees the world so differently. I am on the other side, so to speak.

It was not long ago

Munich subway Goetheplatz

Munich’s oldest underground station today

In fact, I am red. Red as in Bayern München, not DDS. More a sympathizer than a fan or a diehard. Reds crowd the very same U-Bahn wagons – or underground trains – as commuters crowd daily when there is a game up in the Allianz Arena. The plans for the a north-south line were really old. Goetheplatz station was finished between 1938 and 1941 (link). The regime behind that probably never said “Bauen, Bauen, Bauen” (Build, Build, Build) as it sounds too much like barking, even if the one who shouted a lot did not come from the Bavarian Forest, where some say people “bark”.

The war stopped the project. Goetheplatz station and the tunnel to Sendlinger Tor were made part of the new underground lines built for the 1972 Olympics. Until now, Goetheplatz station is a little bit longer than the standard full underground train, as it was planned for another kind of wagons. And the design is more similar to Berlin underground stations built before the war. More cramped, and not always with escalators. The modern norm is deeper and with escalators always, often with elevators for PWDs, mothers with children and bikes. I don’t know if yellow OBikes are allowed.

Almost yesterday

Karte der S-Bahn München

The Munich suburban train network

another system in Munich was the subject of complaints. The Munich S-Bahn or suburban train. 150 stations and 434 kilometers into the suburbs of Munich. The trunk line or Stammstrecke (line) was also built for the 1972 Olympics. That was a Build, Build, Build period – without dictatorship. Half of Munich, especially the Marienplatz where U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines converge in a common station under the city hall, was excavated or tunneled then. No space for Japanese to make fotos. But then again, it is mostly the S-Bahn or U-Bahn that brings them there, escalators bring them up.

Almost yesterday is a decade ago or more. I don’t even remember the exact years when the S-Bahn was catastrophic as I lived outside town then – it only affected me when I went in on weekends. Frequent delays. Often the signalling systems at the Ostbahnhof (Eastern train station) got stuck. Electrical and signalling systems in the trunk line, the busiest train route in Germany they say, had to be renovated step by step as they had aged since the early 1970s. There was a time, I think an entire year, where the S-Bahn trunk line was closed for entire weekends – technical overhaul.

Some were bothered

Bothered me a bit coming from outside, as I had to switch to the yet seemingly perfect U-Bahn when I rode into the city. But new rails, signalling systems and more improved the S-Bahn. Meanwhile, the U-Bahn increased stations, covering more and more of the city, always having interoperability in mind – with the S-Bahn which belongs to the Deutsche Bahn or German railways, and of course with busses and trams, which together with the U-Bahn all belong to the MVG (Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft / Munich Transport corporation) which is city-owned.

I have heard that Günther Beckstein (link) used to take the tram 19 to work in the Maximilaneum. Very probable during the time he was in the parliament, even when he was Bavarian Interior Minister. It is a beautiful ride which I won’t tell the Japanese about, passing historical monuments. Used to be the main ride between the East and the West of Munich, before the S-Bahn was built. Now a second Stammstrecke is being built to increase capacity, get the suburbs connected better. This goes until 2026, work has started. Even if it may get delayed, I think it will never just stop.

Tram München - Baureihen P, R und S - Betriebshof Einsteinstraße - April 2014

Tram depot Einsteinstraße with different generations of wagons

Why should it stop? And why should relatively young systems like the Munich U- and S-Bahn fall apart. What is 1972? 45 years ago. Berlin has really old systems. A major line of the Berlin S-Bahn had to be closed for MONTHS, also about a decade or so ago for complete overhaul. Under the management of Communist East Berlin, the citywide system had rotted. Not as much as New York (link) it seems which is of similar vintage. How Filipinos lost the late 19th century Spanish railway to Dagupan, the 1930s railway to Legazpi and may lose the MRT is another story. A sadder one.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 November 2017

 

 

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