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October 2016

...And There Is an Alternative

It's 2016. Centrist liberal Barack Obama is still in the White House. And the policy of his government is to deport people who illegally enter the U.S. and commit crimes:

Uruchi’s sudden fall — from immigrant advocate to undocumented inmate — has stunned many who knew her. At Casa, the immigrants rights organization where Uruchi worked, colleagues were caught by surprise. Two weeks before pleading guilty to drunken driving, she had led a demonstration outside the Supreme Court urging the justices to support undocumented immigrants, but she never hinted she was one of them. She had spent threeyears helping others fight deportation. Now she faces that very fate.

Her arrest has exposed her husband’s undocumented status and upended her children’s lives. Any day now, Uruchi, 33, could be sent back to Spain. Under Obama administration guidelines, her DUI conviction makes her a priority for deportation. And under the visa waiver program she used to enter the country 14 years ago, she forfeited her right to legal appeal. Her only chance is a plea to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for a stay of deportation, citing her otherwise clean record, community service and two American-born kids.

“These stays are not commonly granted,” said Kim Propeack, communications director for Casa, which is helping Uruchi. “And they are not granted without a fight.”

Will she get a stay because of her overall good record? Maybe, maybe not. But she illegally stayed in the USA, and then committed a crime by driving while her blood alcohol was over twice the legal limit of 0.8. She is in a bad legal position because, unlike millions of other people, she did not follow a legal route to residence in the U.S. She could have, but she didn't. She took unfair advantage of a visa-waiver program which makes things a lot easier for law-abiding Spaniards, thus endangering the entire program.

Despite what you read, the U.S. is not a police state. It has an immigration policy far more liberal than Germany's. For instance, it grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil. Even if Trump were elected, its attitude toward immigrants would still be far more accepting than almost any other country. 

But it also has enough self-respect to pass laws saying:

  • if you lie to gain access to the country, jumping in line past people who obey the law,
  • have no valid reason to be there because you don't qualify for asylum,
  • and then violate one of its laws --

-- you're gone.

I would call that  a wise, sensible, balanced immigration policy. If it were applied in Germany, the drug dealers in the Görlitzer park and the Frankfurt Central Station would be long gone. And the benefits to everyday Germans would be enormous.

In the immigration debate, it can't be repeated often enough: the current German mainstream consensus on immigration is, in international comparison, way off on the crazy extreme fringe. Other nations governed by the rule of law and (comparatively) humane ideals have a mainstream, centrist policy which permits controlled, beneficial, legal immigration and actively combats the other kind. As it should.

Germany, alone among advanced nations, abandoned border enforcement and allowed its laws to degenerate into such chaos that almost nobody can be effectively deported. The AfD has a lot of positions I disagree with. But on immigration, a vote for the AfD isn't a vote for repression and quasi-fascism, it's a vote to bring Germany back into the mainstream after a bizarre experiment in which it allowed its legal system to collapse into a state where deportation is nearly impossible, then opened its borders to hundreds of thousands of people who have no business being in the country.

The winners of this bizarre experiment are the AfD. And they'll keep winning until Germany moves much farther back into the mainstream on immigration than it has so far.


Junkies to the Right of me, Dealers to the Left

Selbstsicher-die-dealer-in-der

Underneath the central train station in Frankfurt am Main is a large network of underground passageways lined with shops. It's ugly, but it lets you navigate to the various parts of this massive central transportation hub without crossing the busy streets which surround the central station.

And now, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports (g), it's home to gangs of drug dealers, mostly young males from North Africa who "arrived with the stream of refugees". They hang around in small groups, openly offering and selling marijuana, crack, heroin, and pills. With them, of course, come the junkies, who sometimes shoot up in crevices and under stairways, in view of passers-by.

The police no longer bother to arrest them, since simple drug dealing is not a jailable offense in Germany, and they're back later the same day. The fact that these are illegal immigrants committing crimes on German soil in a highly public place means nothing, since drug dealing does not affect their asylum applications. Of course, the vast majority of these applications are frivolous, but they will take years to decide anyway. And, of course, won't result in actual deportation even if the asylum application is rejected.

This is all happening in literally one of the busiest transport hubs in the world, used by 450,000 (g) people every day. Which means every day, probably hundreds of parents have to come up with answers to questions from their curious children: What's wrong with that man? What' sticking out of that woman's arm? What's 'grass'? And thousands of foreigners get their first impression of the financial capital of Europe as a place where the state is so disorganized or bankrupt or weak that it can't even stop a drug market in the heart of the city.

And, of course, thousands of Germans commuters will ask why their elected representatives and their legal system can't seem to stop this humiliating spectacle. They live in a heavily-regulated society which has red-light cameras to detect traffic violations, requires an ever-increasing number of special permits which motorists must buy to drive various places, and has teams of roving enforcers making sure mom-and-pop shop owners don't play the radio without paying royalty fees.

But this state cannot prevent people who are not even legally in the country from openly dealing drugs and ruining yet another public place.

I find it hard to blame more and more Germans for voting for the only political party to bluntly say: "This is unacceptable and must stop immediately, and if that requires changes to the law and to our funding priorities and especially to our immigration policies, the time to start with those changes was yesterday." What mainstream opinion denounces with that tiresome cliche "populism" sounds like common sense to more and more Germans. The AfD is quickly catching up with the rapidly-imploding Social Democratic Party.

Americans are familiar with cities like Frankfurt going to hell in a handbasket, 'cause we watched it happen to New York on our TV sets: "New York City is depicted as a dysfunctional, crime-plagued, vermin-infested, smog-choked, polluted, grimy, sleazy, seedy, corrupt, racially-divided, poverty-ridden, morally-and-financially-bankrupt Wretched Hive filled with Apathetic Citizens, hostile jerkasses, violent psychotics, drug addicts, deviants, a crumbling infrastructure, and not enough parking spots."

Unless there's a big change, many of these German citizens (and not just the ethnic Germans) will turn their back on the decaying, increasingly lawless public sphere by sealing themselves off in gated communities and secure apartment blocks, putting their children in private schools, and buying a car.

Germans, to escape all this, will begin living like Americans. Just look up the phrase "white flight".


4% of Americans Tell Pollsters They Have Been Decapitated

From an NPR interview with a writer who worked on a game show in which contestants tried to guess how Americans answered various questions: 

SMITH: So when you say you're a writer for a game show, what does that mean?

WILK: Great question. Nobody knows. I have no idea.

SMITH: (Laughter).

ROMER: David gets to work cooking up questions to give the polling company. The polling company does its job.

WILK: And it was the only question that we ever wrote where we ever got a response from them saying, is this actually what you want us to be polling? And we said, yes. And the question was - we were going to ask people, have you ever been decapitated?

SMITH: (Laughter). But...

WILK: They were sure we had made a mistake, and we had not.

SMITH: As far as David remembers, by the way, 4 percent of Americans answered that they had been decapitated.

ROMER: Seems high.


Iceland's Comfy Jesus

While we're on the subject of Iceland, a Facebook pal writes: "a friend of mine traveled extensively through the country and came across this fresco of a tanned male supermodel Jesus in a woolen turtleneck sweater. In comparison to this vision of The Utter Beyond, Michelangelo's Last Judgment or Bernini's St. Theresa just evaporate into insignificance. I name it Comfy Jesus:"

Img_1681


Thefts in German Trains and Stations up 25% from 2014 to 2015

German authorities have just released data showing a 25% increase (g) in thefts in German trains and train stations from 2014 to 2015, from 35,800 to 44,800 cases. Even the 2014 number, 35,800, represented a 20% increase from 2013. The authorities blame foreign organized-crime gangs.

You know who this affects? Every able-bodied person in Germany. Millions of Germans use trains every day, and therefore have to enter into areas where thieves are increasingly active, and the government is powerless to stop them. The police can do nothing but issue helpless-sounding tips on how to avoid being targeted.

Another communal public amenity which Germans must use becoming increasingly dangerous, another Nice Thing gone, another data point showing the gradual -- in this case, not so gradual -- decline in living standards in Germany.

Drip, drip, drip.

A lot of Germans are going to ask the perfectly reasonable question: "Why can't our government stop foreign criminal gangs coming into our country to rob us?"

And getting no straight answer from any party except The Irresponsible Populists.


Iceland is a Prosperous American Suburb

If there is one thing the world has enough of, it's "why can't we all be like Iceland?" articles. Here's the latest:

I wanted to know about the kind of society Iceland had cultivated and- what its outlooks were. How did women and men see each other and themselves? What was their character like compared to other countries I had lived in? Were women more confident, men more open-minded, children better cared for? Was life there, in any way, more balanced?

I suspected I would find enlightened ideas that benefit society, not just business, although I found that the two weren’t mutually exclusive. I spoke to innovators across genders in education, health, industry, science and the arts whose ideas exceeded my imagination.

And guess what? The author's gee-whiz tour of Iceland finds all sorts of wonderfully progressive policies. Paid family leave for daddies! Mandatory quotas for women! The world's first openly gay female head of state! Great schools filled with sensitive, caring social-pedagogues! And so on, and so on.

Many will remember probably the most stomach-turning piece of virtue-signaling the world has ever seen -- the Facebook campaign in which 11,000 Icelanders volunteered their homes to Syrian refugees, under the founder's motto: "They are our future spouses, best friends, the next soul mate, a drummer for our children's band, the next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finishes the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, a fireman, a television host. People of whom we'll never be able to say in the future: 'Your life is worth less than my life.'"

Are you dabbing the second tear of kitsch from your eyes yet?

But guess what? None of those 11,000 virtue-signalers ever had to make good on their promise, and of course they knew that full well, since the government has a cap of a whopping 500 refugees a year.

Whoops! Did I just write 500? Sorry, the actual number is 50. Fifty. Per year.

But the empty promises of all those smug Icelanders earned Iceland yet another round of fawning publicity. The article continues the typical litany of the nauseatingly goody-two-shoes oh-so-gentle progressive paradise:

Icelandic society is proactively striving for gender equality, which sits at the centre of progress, and there are policies in place to promote gender equality in all spheres of society. Many stepping stones have led to the current gender equality legislation, including the use of gender quotas. As proven by the need for affirmative action policies in the USA, we are not yet evolved enough to choose fairly of our own volition.

After this rather sinister aside, the author does point to some of the more gloomy facts about Iceland, including this: "Iceland recently outranked the US in adult obesity (67.1 percent of Icelandic adults are overweight or obese compared to 66.3 percent of US adults)." Ha! Take that, Icelandic self-image!

You know what Iceland is? Iceland is a rich American suburb. (Or a German suburb, for that matter.) The population of Iceland is a laughably miniscule 330,000 people. And Iceland is 93% Icelandic, and 98% Northern European. Further, Iceland's median national IQ is 101, placing it 6th in the world. If you go to any large well-off suburb of the United States, you will see Icelandic living conditions: orderly homes, quiet evenings, honest officials, clean schools, smart students, modern gender roles, almost no violence, nice people, organic food, wooden toys, recycling, wine importers, futuristic espresso machines, tasteful earth-toned natural-fiber clothing, clean-lined architecture, yoga studios, women earning more than men, soccer, the whole nine yards. The one difference will be that the American suburb, although majority white, will still be more ethnically diverse than the Nordic purist's fantasy of Iceland.

Iceland is a fine place. I plan to visit one day, and I'm sure I'll be as enchanted as everyone else seems to be. But the world should stop looking at Iceland for lessons, because Iceland is a suburb, not a model society than can be replicated at will anywhere else.


Other Peoples' Indians; or Why the Soviets Loved James Fenimore Cooper for All the Wrong Reasons

1989_cpa_6128-6132_strip

The Paris Review is first mystified by the Soviet Union's love of American frontier novelist James Fenimore Cooper, but is soon set straight by someone who points to the ideological jockeying it represented:

I was perplexed to learn that the Soviet Union, in its waning days, produced a series of five vivid postage stamps devoted to James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. It seemed as if some lazy Soviet bureaucrat must’ve made a mistake. Why, after all, would the USSR want to commemorate some of the foundational texts of American lit, especially when Natty Bumppo stands as a paragon of rugged individualism? In other words, how had one of our folk heroes found an audience in a place where he should’ve been reviled?

Sandra Nickel, an author of young-adult novels, got the answer from her daughter’s Russian godmother, whose youth was apparently filled with totally authorized American classics:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas by Thomas Mayne Reid. Almost every Russian child had read these by the age of twelve—and read them more than once.

I am sure the Soviet state approved these books because of their propaganda value. Put together, these three volumes could portray Americans as slave-owning destroyers of Native Americans, who are bigoted against Mexicans. Racists, across the board, in other words.

Instead of finding the disgusting evidence of prejudice and imperialism, though, young Russian readers tended to see the novels as ripping good yarns, so much so that their characters were inducted into public life.

As I've said before and will say again, other people's Indians.


The German Press Edits Out Another Inconvenient Truth

As might be expected, German news sources have been all over the shooting of Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old unarmed black male who was shot by police near Tulsa, Oklahoma a few days ago. The German TV channel RTL even calls him a "pastor", which is guaranteed to awaken false associations in Germans, who are unaware that this title is meaningless in the USA. (Ministers of the established German Protestant Church are staid, well-educated civil servants.) The Bild-Zeitung, Germany's highest-circulation tabloid, confidently announced (g): "These pictures leave hardly any questions." Another story suggests it's murder.

The police officer who fired the fatal shot claims Crutcher had repeatedly refused to follow instructions, was behaving erratically, and reached into his car. She claims she thought he was going for a weapon.

None of the many reports I've seen in the German press mentions a fact that is in almost every US news report: Police found PCP in Crutcher's car. There's no evidence yet whether he was actually under the influence of the drug at the time of his shooting, but officers at the scene claim he was acting in a bizarre manner which they thought looked like intoxication with some strong hallucinogen (and this was before they had searched his car).

What is PCP intoxication like? Let's turn to Drugs.com:

A moderate amount of PCP often causes users to feel detached, distant, and estranged from their surroundings. Numbness of the extremities, slurred speech, and loss of coordination may be accompanied by a sense of strength and invulnerability. A blank stare, rapid and involuntary eye movements, and an exaggerated gait are among the more observable effects. Auditory hallucinations, image distortion, severe mood disorders, and amnesia may also occur. In some users, PCP may cause acute anxiety and a feeling of impending doom; in others, paranoia and violent hostility, and in some, it may produce a psychoses indistinguishable from schizophrenia. Many believe PCP to be one of the most dangerous drugs of abuse....

At high doses of PCP, there is a drop in blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration. This may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, flicking up and down of the eyes, drooling, loss of balance, and dizziness. High doses of PCP can also cause seizures, coma, and death (though death more often results from accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication). Psychological effects at high doses include illusions and hallucinations.

People on PCP can display unusual strength owing to the adrenaline rushes caused by terrifying hallucinations. I worked for a while at a public mental hospital in Texas when I was younger. Every couple of weeks, we would get a new admission of someone who had done PCP and then been found in public screaming and/or naked and/or covered in feces and/or wandering in traffic, or some combination of the above. Often, they'd injured themselves or attacked people. The cops brought them to the mental hospital, where we had to deal with them. Usually the effects had worn off somewhat by the time they were delivered to us, but their behavior was still unpredictable. One of them, while locked in an isolation cell because of his violent outbursts, chewed his own thumb off and ate it.

PCP isn't 'just another drug'. It's incredibly dangerous, and everyone knows this. Anyone who would try it even once has serious psychological problems simply for wanting to try it. Here is a video of people under the influence of PCP, which is definitely not for the faint of heart:

Obviously, there should be a full investigation, mere drug possession or intoxication doesn't justify an unwarranted killing, etc. This could still turn out to be an unjustified shooting, in which case the officers should be punished and reforms introduced.

Nevertheless, evidence Crutcher possessed this drug and that officers believed he was under its influence is relevant to understanding the context of the video. But alas, the purpose of German news reporting on American is almost always to reinforce prejudices, not to foster understanding.


They Wended Their Way to Texas

Fffff

Reading an interesting blog post about Danish genetic structure (they're very homogeneous), I came across mention of the Wends. Ignorant clown that I am, I had no idea what they were. It turns out the Wends really got around, as befits Slavic nomads. In fact, there's a Wendish Heritage Museum in rural Lee County, in South Central Texas:

The Museum is a complex of buildings which are connected by porches. In the center is a new facility with a display interpreting the history of the Wends. It also houses the Offices, Gift Shop, Library, and Archives. To the right and left are the old St. Paul school buildings. Exhibits include relics from the old country and Texas. Folk dress of Lusatia, the traditional Texas wedding dresses, and the beautiful Wendish Easter eggs are a few of the colorful exhibits.

Outdoor exhibits include two log buildings and farming equipment.The 1856 log room, built by the Kurio family, originally part of a dog trot home, is furnished as a bed room. A section of the earlier 1855 room is also preserved on the Museum grounds. The Mertink family log room is used to exhibit carpenter’s and farming tools.

The Lillie Moerbe Caldwell Memorial Library specializes in the history and genealogy of the Wendish people. It welcomes donations of family histories and genealogies.The Archives includes rare books in Wendish and German, manuscripts, personal papers, and a photographic collection.

The Texas Wendish Heritage Museum preserves the history of the Texas Wends, Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany. Today the Wends of Lusatia are called Sorbs.

Wendish families began arriving in Texas in 1849, followed by a group of 35 in 1853. In 1854, a congregation of over 500 Wends immigrated on a chartered sailing ship, the Ben Nevis. This group founded a new homeland on 4,254 acres in Bastrop County (now Lee County) and named their new town Serbin. Other Wendish towns and congregations were soon organized.Many more Wends immigrated during the second half of the 19th Century.

The Museum is located in historic Serbin, near the St. Paul Lutheran Church, school and cemetery. The present Church building, built in 1871, is one of the painted churches of South Central Texas.

It's heartening to see how active the site is: the Wendish fest is coming up on September 25. Some highlights of last year's fest:

Wendish-Fest-2015-8-image-montage

And here's a recipe for Wendish noodles from 'The Noodle Lady':

[The] following is the recipe for homemade Wendish noodles that Hattie Mitschke Schautschick learned to make as a child cooking alongside her grandma – Anna Matthijetz Mitschke – and her mama – Louise Mertink Mitschke. Hattie, as I’m sure you well know, is known around here as the Noodle Lady and the one in charge of producing the noodles we sell in our gift shop.

Two things to know upfront about making noodles: (1) If you use yard eggs, you can usually eliminate the water; and (2) try to avoid making noodles when it’s damp outside – the weather affects how fast they’ll dry.

  • 3 eggs
  • Water to fill half-eggshell 3 times (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 3 cups flour plus additional for rolling out dough
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Break the eggs into a large bowl, saving the most intact half-eggshell. Beat eggs and water together. Add 3 cups flour and the salt to form stiff dough. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick on a well-floured cutting board or countertop. Allow dough to dry about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

When dough is dry but still pliable, cut into long sections about 3 inches wide. Take 3-inch sections and cut into thin strips about 1/8-inch wide. Cut strips into preferred length for cooking. Place cut noodles on a dish towel and fluff noodles so air can circulate around them. Allow cut noodles to dry thoroughly, at least overnight or longer if necessary. If noodles won’t be cooked right away, store them in a sealed plastic bag in either the pantry or the freezer for up to six months.

When ready to cook noodles, bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Stir in butter, parsley and dried noodles. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until tender. Be careful not to overcook. Remove pot from heat, leaving lid on, and let sit another 10 to 15 minutes. Do not drain. Makes 1 pound of noodles or 20 servings.

I love tiny museums, and I plan to visit this one next time I'm in the Lone Star State.


ULT FTW: "Us Runs the Water in the Mouth Together"

English shop

A literal translation of the German phrase 'mouth-watering'. This is part of the thriving ULT (ultra-literal translation) subculture, whose patron saint is Heinrich "Equal Goes it Loose" Lübke:

The term Lübke English (or, in German, Lübke-Englisch) refers to nonsensicalEnglishcreated by literal word-by-word translation of German phrases, disregarding differences between the languages in syntax and meaning.

Lübke English is named after Heinrich Lübke, a president of Germany in the 1960s, whose limited English made him a target of German humorists. For example, it was alleged that Lübke said to Queen Elizabeth II when they were waiting for a horse race to start:

  • Lübke's statement: "Equal goes it loose."
  • The sentence Lübke had in mind: "Gleich geht es los."
  • Meaning of the statement: "It'll start very soon."

In 2006, the German magazine konkret unveiled that most of the statements ascribed to Lübke have been coined inside the editorship of Der Spiegel, mainly by staff writer Ernst Goyke.

I once saw a woman wearing a T-shirt saying "With me is not good cherry-eating". I told her "Your T-shirt favors me."