Götterdämmerung for Europe's Meritocratic Elites

Ivan Krastev in the New York Times:

When you can’t understand why people behave in a certain way, the easiest thing to do is to convince yourself that people do not know what they are doing. This is what European political, business and news media leaders have done in response to the populist wave that is sweeping the old Continent. They are shocked that many of their compatriots are voting for irresponsible demagogues. They find it difficult to understand the sources of the rage against the meritocratic elites best symbolized by the well-trained, competent civil servants in Brussels.

Why are the “exams-passing classes” so resented at a time when the complexity of the world suggests that people need them most? Why do people who work hard so that their kids can graduate from the world’s best universities refuse to trust people who have already graduated from these universities? How is it possible that anybody can agree with Michael Gove, the pro-Brexit politician, who said people “have had enough of experts”?

It should seem obvious that meritocracy — a system in which the most talented and capable, the best educated, those who score highest on the tests, are put in leading positions — is better than plutocracy, gerontocracy, aristocracy and, perhaps, even the rule of the majority, democracy.

But Europe’s meritocratic elites aren’t hated simply because of populists’ bigoted stupidity or the confusion of ordinary people....

What makes meritocrats so unbearable to their critics is not so much their success but their insistence that they have succeeded because they worked harder than others, because they happened to be more qualified than others and because they passed the tests that others failed....

In the eyes of the meritocratic elites, their success outside of their country is a proof of their talents, but in the eyes of many people, this very mobility is a reason not to trust them.

People trust their leaders not only because of their competence but also because of their courage and commitment, and because they believe that their leaders will remain with their own in times of crisis rather than being helicoptered to the emergency exit. Paradoxically, it is the convertible competencies of the present elites, the fact that they are equally fit to run a bank in Bulgaria or in Bangladesh or to teach in Athens or Tokyo, that make people so suspicious of them. People fear that in times of trouble, the meritocrats will opt to leave instead of sharing the cost of staying.

Unsurprisingly then, it is loyalty — namely the unconditional loyalty to ethnic, religious or social groups — that is at the heart of the appeal of Europe’s new populism. Populists promise people not to judge them based solely on their merits. They promise solidarity but not necessarily justice....

The American philosopher John Rawls spoke for many liberals when he argued that being a loser in a meritocratic society was not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. In his conception, the fairness of the game would reconcile people with failure. Today it looks as if the great philosopher may have been wrong.

He was wrong, because losers in a meritocracy get the message that they are losers because they are less hard-working, disciplined, and intelligent than the winners. Regardless of whether this message is true (it often is), it will be unpopular. In fact, the truer it is, the more unpopular. For endless examples, see Chris Anrade's twitter feed.

I remember debates with friends in the mid-2000s about the so-called European Constitution. I observed that the public-relations campaign for this thing was moronic. The document itself was ridiculously long and complex, the opposite of what a constitution should be. The public relations campaign mostly involved ancient stuffed shirts like Giscard d'Estaing writing pompous op-eds in respectable broadsheets -- i.e., the kind of newspapers read by people who were already going to vote for the constitution in referendums.

My friends would respond by pointing to all the progressive, thoughtful, ingenious elements of the constitution. People should vote for it, because it's a good idea. I had to chuckle at how naive their idea of politics was. Now, my friends are highly intelligent people, winners under the meritocratic European system, many have passed the notoriously difficult Concours! But what European elites never learn about is marketing. Or mass psychology. Or practical leadership.

As we all know, the European Constitution project fizzled out after it was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands. So it was eventually turned into the Treaty of Lisbon, which avoided the danger of asking people in EU countries whether they wanted it. In retrospect, the disaster of the European Constitution project seems like a harbinger of the deeper rot within the EU. Now the EU itself is teetering on the brink of collapse. If you ask me, one of the many reasons why is the inability of EU meritocrats to effectively communicate with the 70% of Europeans who've never graduated from college.

In fact, not only are they unable to communicate, they're unable to imagine why they should try. Still. The fact that the arguments in this post and in Krastev's op-ed will be dismissed by these folks as "irresponsible" and "populist" just proves the point.

 


The History of the German Press "No Ethnicity" Policy

Okinawa

(source)

Given that recent migrants have been committing a goodly number of crimes in Germany since 2015, the question facing reporters and editors is whether to tell their readers when crimes are committed by foreigners.

The German Press Code, a non-binding voluntary code of conduct put forward by the German Press Council, contains the famous Guideline 12.1, which specifies that news reports should not mention a that a criminal suspect is a member of an ethnic or religious minority unless there is an "objective reason" to do so linked to the specific circumstances of the crime. The rule further warns journalists that violating the guideline can "stoke prejudices against minorities".

This provision has come under a lot of scrutiny lately, with critics claiming it is a form of politically-correct censorship which patronizes readers. Readers can be trusted not to generalize, these critics say, and deserve a full picture of serious crimes. A few smaller German newspapers, including the Rhein Zeitung (g) and the Sächsische Zeitung (g), declared that they would no longer observe the guideline in their reporting. Most national press outlets have stuck by it, although they stress that they reserve the right to decide for themselves whether a suspect's ethnicity or nationality is relevant.

Yesterday I found out the interesting origins of this provision, thanks to this Deutschlandfunk (g) article. This long article (g) at the German Protestant Church's website gives an even more detailed history of the guideline's origins.

It turns out the provision goes back to a 1971 suggestion by Federation of German-American Clubs. They were dismayed that whenever black American soldiers were arrested for crimes in Germany, they were identified on the basis of their race. The Press Council incorporated the first "anti-discrimination" provision into the Press Code in 1973, and it's been updated several times since.

I found this enlightening and a bit surprising. I don't have all that much to add, except that the original context giving rise to Article 12.1 is hardly relevant anymore. There's a difference between merely identifying the skin color of a criminal suspect who is and will always remain a foreigner and who will certainly leave your country in a few years, and identifying the ethnic background of a person who is either living in your country for the foreseeable future, has its citizenship, or is actively claiming a a legal right to live there indefinitely (by getting asylum).

Tourists and soldiers on 2-year rotations are one thing, but Germans have every right to accurate information about whether people who have been invited to permanently resettle into their country or are seeking the right to do so are adapting well and contributing. And the amount of crime foreigners are responsible for is a legitimate indicator.

Yet even if this distinction doesn't convince you, gentle reader, I still think papers should ignore this guideline. Everyone already knows that certain kinds of crime are much more frequent in majority-black American ghettos and in heavily-immigrant areas of German cities. When flash-mobs pour into the streets of German cities (g) to attack policemen stopping cars or parking cops giving tickets, there is not a German alive who thinks the young men beating the cops have names like Ulf, Karlheinz, Alexander, and Torsten. Merely reporting what everyone is already going to suspect -- or (rarely) surprising them by showing the suspicion was false -- is hardly a breach of ethics.


Returning to Hell -- Voluntarily!

The date: mid-2015. Here and on my Facebook page, I point out that most of the migrants arriving in Germany come from countries which aren't at war -- Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, the Maghreb states, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran -- and therefore aren't likely to be refugees. I dare to wonder why Germany is letting them into the country without even a background check.

One-world Germans, caught up in the fever dream of Wilkommenskultur, immediately zap over to Google, looking for reasons why it would be unethical, even inhumane, to send them back. And boy, do they find them. These Germans came back with shocking news: Those countries are poor! They have political corruption! They have backward customs that oppress women! (although women aren't coming). They have high unemployment! They have discrimination! They have regional insurgencies! Their education systems are flawed!

For a few months, the German press was filled with articles revealing to an unsuspecting public that many countries in the world apparently have less money than Germany, and flawed institutions to boot.

How could anybody possibly be heartless enough to send back anyone to such apocalyptic hellholes, I was asked repeatedly. What are you, some kind of xenophobic fascist? I'd like to see you go live in Albania!

And then the belligerently naïve delivered the killer argument: Nobody would ever voluntarily uproot themselves from their homeland and undertake a dangerous and expensive trek to Europe unless they were absolutely desperate and in fear for their lives. 

Nobody.

After all, nobody ever leaves Germany to go live in other countries in search of a better life. Well, 3.4 million have, but let's not get distracted. 

Yet now something strange is happening: Thousands of migrants are returning to these countries. So far in 2016, about 55,000 (g) have voluntarily left Germany, lured by nothing more than free plane ticket and a modest financial incentive ranging from €500 to €1200 per person depending on circumstances.

15,000 back to the smoldering toxic inferno of Albania, 5,000 each back to the desolate, bandit-plagued moonscapes of Serbia, Iraq, and Kosovo, 3200 back to Afghanistan. Amazing, given that there are only 30.5 million people left alive in that unlivable charnel-house.

You could almost be forgiven for thinking these folks were merely economic migrants who just wanted to see if they could live in a richer, more stable country than their own, and found they couldn't, or didn't want to.

Almost.


Why Most of the 2015 Arrivals Will Never Integrate

Sure, people like commenter Ralph concede, letting in all those young males in 2015 without any background checks was foolish, but now we're stuck with them. So we have to "integrate" them into German society. Not to single out Ralph, who's a great guy -- you hear this line on every talk show. It's the standard trade-off for mainstream politicians: "I can no longer credibly defend the 2015 influx. So admitting it was a mistake preserves my credibility. But I can insist that all the problems can be solved by the magic panacea of integration. Of course, I have to add that it will be 'difficult', but I must continue to hammer on it. Because the alternative is too awful to think about."

News from an ambitious longitudinal study of young people in New Zealand give the lie to this optimism:

The research – based on New Zealand data but involving an international team – also revealed that such “high cost” adults can be predicted when as young as three years old from an assessment of their brain health.

The study, which followed around 1,000 children from birth, found that at 38 years of age just 22% of the group accounted for 81% of its criminal convictions, 78% of pharmaceutical prescriptions, and 66% of welfare benefits.

“About 20% of the population is using the lion’s share of a wide array of public services and we found that the same people use most of the national health service, the criminal courts, insurance claims for disabling injury, pharmaceutical prescriptions and social welfare benefits,” said Terrie Moffitt, co-author of the research from Duke University, North Carolina.

...“The implications are that we have really underestimated the long-term benefits of investment in early years education for disadvantaged children, both in terms of the benefits for the children themselves but also in terms of the payback for the public purse,” he said.

At first, this seems to be just routine confirmation of the 80/20 rule of thumb: 20% of the population causes 80% of the crime. 

But notice the implications for Germany. Conditions in every single country from which 2015 migrants arrived are light-years behind stable, prosperous New Zealand. Also, as the study's authors implicitly concede, treatment of these disturbed people when they are adults is generally ineffective. That is why they stress early childhood intervention. There is, of course, a hereditary component which nobody dares to mention, but let's leave that to one side for now.

That is why most of the 2015 arrivals will not integrate into German society: (1) many new arrivals had formative childhood experiences much worse than even the most deprived of the New Zealanders; (2) it is too late to do anything about them by early childhood intervention; and (3) the 2015 arrivals don't have to figure out how to live in their own society, they have to figure out how to live in another, completely different one.

Most of them will fail, of course. Most will not actively harm German society, but they won't contribute anything much, and will be a significant drain on resources.

This is why it's time to step up deportations. Hundreds of thousands of these young males are here for no reason. They are not subject to persecution, have no legal right to be in Germany, and have zero prospects for successfully integrating into and contributing to German society. They should be returned to their homes, families, and communities. The experiment is over.


Germany's Extreme Refugee Masochism, Part XXIV

In the New Haven Independent, the outreach director of a refugee resettlement charity in the United States takes issue with Donald Trump:

When asked in the most recent presidential debate about the Syrian refugee crisis, Donald Trump Jr. said his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. has become a plan of “extreme vetting … because we don’t even know who they are.”

But we do know who they are.

The U.S. vetting process for refugees is already the most rigorous in the world. Refugees who are being considered for resettlement to the U.S. undergo seven background checks by national security agencies and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security personnel. But refugees are not just threats we need to vet, nor are they simply victims we need to save.

I have the privilege of knowing who refugees are. Through my work at IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a not-for-profit that is resettling almost 500 refugees to Connecticut this year, I interact with refugees every day.  The refugees I know are not terrorists or just victims. They’re the gay man from Baghdad who shows me pictures of his cat, the Afghan single mom who does YouTube yoga, the Congolese toddler who’s learning to wink, the fisherman who Skypes with his parrot back in Iraq, the Syrian teens who text while they ride their bikes.

Two things. First, note that the refugees mentioned here are almost all women and children, or people who, like the gay man from Baghdad, obviously appear to have grounds for refugee status. This is what happens when you screen migrants before you let them into your country.

Second, note that the woman who wrote this anti-Trump article, a proud liberal who actually helps run a refugee charity, does not complain about the background checks. She even seems proud of the fact that the U.S. vetting process is "rigorous". That is, even as a liberal who is intimately familiar with the problems of refugees, she accepts that every single asylum applicant will be exhaustively screened by "national security agencies".

Contrast this with the reaction to the latest bomb-maker migrant in Germany, an ISIS terrorist named Jaber Al-Bakr who entered Germany as a "refugee". This case is worth a short digression. Albakr had already prepared 1.5 kilograms of the high-explosive TATP in an ordinary apartment building in Chemnitz, Germany. Watch what just 10 grams of that stuff can do here. If this notoriously unstable compound had exploded, dozens of his neighbors would have been killed and injured. The police, acting on information given to them by the American NSA (g), which had gathered it through phone surveillance, found out about his activities. But Albakr escaped blanket surveillance (g) by elite German security services, was on the loose for days, and was only captured by fellow Syrians who recognized his wanted photo and tied him up while he was sleeping

His capture was celebrated by the German mainstream press as a victory for Germany's intelligence services, despite the fact that German intelligence would never have known of him had it not been for the NSA, and that he was literally allowed to walk right past German cops and escape from surveillance, and that Germany was on edge for days with a known terrorist free in their midst, and that police were unable to catch him on their own.

I'd say celebrating this train-wreck as effective intelligence work shows how low standards are in the German mainstream press, who are desperate to reassure readers that everything's fine with the refugees, move along here, nothing to see.

But then something else happened. Albakr was allowed to hang himself in his prison cell. There is no video surveillance in the cell where this experienced bomb-maker was being held, and authorities, after initially ordering checks every 15 minutes, decided there was no need for such precautions and reduced the suicide checks to once only every 30 minutes. He seemed "calm" in interviews, you see.

After this orgy of SNAFUs, the conservative CSU party demanded background checks for all refugees and that German intelligence services be given full access to the database of information on migrants (which, surprisingly enough, they don't have now). The reaction from left-wing German politicians was a litany of the same old cliches: More surveillance won't help (g), we shouldn't put all refugees under blanket suspicion (g), there's no reason to act (g).

The contrast is clear again: the liberal American friend to refugees accepts that background checks are necessary and uses that fact to reassure Americans that it's appropriate to take more refugees. Humanitarian relief must be balanced by legitimate security interests.

The German center-left political mainstream, despite several attacks and many more close calls, continues to resist universal background checks on refugees prior to entry, the policy of just about every other nation on the planet.

Who are the extremists here?


German Immigration Policy is Extreme, Vol. XXII

The point can't be made often enough: Germany's immigration policy is extreme and irresponsible. 

Letting hundreds of thousands of able-bodied young males from the world's most violent and unstable areas into your country is extreme and irresponsible.

Not subjecting them to background or security checks is extreme and irresponsible.

Allowing thousands people with obviously fraudulent passports (g) to enter your country is extreme and irresponsible. Over 2200 people entered Germany with fraudulent passports. Although this is a crime with a sentence of up to 5 years in Germany and presumptively disqualifies you from claiming asylum, nothing was done.

And now for a look at a non-extreme policy. Here's an excerpt from the second US Presidential debate in which Hillary Clinton explains her proposal to permit 65,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war to relocate to the US:

Well, first of all I will not let anyone into our country that I think poses a risk to us. But there are a lot of refugees - women and children - think of that picture we also that four-year-old boy with the blood on his forehead because he'd been bombed by the Russian and Syrian air forces. There are children suffering in this catastrophic war, largely I believe, because of Russian aggression. And we need to do our part. We by no means are carrying anywhere near the load that Europe and others are.

But we will have vetting that is as tough as it needs to be from our professionals, our intelligence experts, and others.

The point is not whether you agree with this plan, or whether you think Clinton will do it right. The point is that this is the center-left position on refugee relocation -- women and children first, and strict security checks. A policy that balances humanitarian refuge with the legitimate interest in protecting domestic security.

The German government, by contrast, followed (and is still somewhat following) a kind of extreme left, open-borders, masochistic policy. It has intentionally refused to balance security with humanitarian imperatives, instead deciding to allow hundreds of thousands of random strangers into its country with no background checks at all, despite blatant evidence of fraud and concealment. The recent revelation that a 22-year-old Syrian male "refugee" was an ISIS operative who planned to bomb a German airport is only the latest evidence of how this policy has increased risks for ordinary Germans.

This is the necessary context to understanding why support for Merkel's party is dropping and the right-wing AfD party is increasing. Merkel, for reasons historians will speculate about forever, abandoned the sensible center-left consensus on this issue embodied by Clinton and instead chose an extreme-left policy which no other nation on earth thinks is responsible.


43% of Criminals in Hamburg...; or Why Germans Are So Ignorant About Crime in Their Country

Much debate in Germany revolves around the question of whether foreigners commit more crimes than Germans. Whenever this subject comes in mainstream German television talk shows, the responses fall into four predictable categories:

  • Those on the center-left (and everyone to the left of them) get up on their hind legs and immediately start lobbing rhetorical smoke-bombs about "over-generalizations" and "stoking prejudice" and "doing a disservice to the millions of hard-working...", etc.
  • Those on the far right consider all immigrants potential criminals, but hardly care, since they would oppose even the most law-abiding immigrants because they want to keep Germany Deutsch. However, their views don't really matter, since people this far right are never given a chance to air their views on mass media.
  • Those on the center-right do occasionally mention statistics, but are too afraid of being labeled xenophobic to say anything specific. They quickly revert to waffle about "criminal structures", "inadequate integration", "challenging and supporting", etc.
  • Those on the right (including the AfD, which contrary to common belief does not (g, pdf) oppose all immigration) say what the numbers show: that foreigners are over-represented in crime statistics. Representatives of this political tendency were almost never invited onto German talk shows until the rise of the AfD made this inevitable. Aside from the AfD, the only other talk-show guests who mention this are are representatives of the Hungarian or Polish or Czech governments who are invited to be the ceremonial punching bag of everyone else on the show, including the moderator.

These programmed responses and euphemisms make informed debate on this issue nearly impossible. One by-product is that most Germans have no idea that foreigners are vastly over-represented in German crime statistics. Dozens of times, I pointed this fact out in class, only to be challenged by students who didn't believe the numbers, some accusing me of "peddling right-wing propaganda". Needless to say, all of the students were keenly aware that blacks are over-represented in American prisons relative to their numbers in the population. Yet they had no idea the same thing was happening in their own country.

So now, in the service of just plain information, a story that appeared in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper a few weeks ago, then quickly fell down the memory hole. The report was based on a confidential police report leaked to the newspaper. The story appears to be pay-walled, but a confidential source furnished me with the paper originals at a 4 AM meeting in an abandoned parking garage, in return for guarantees of confidentiality and a substantial cash payment. I can now reveal the following statistics:

  • In the first half of 2106, Hamburg police investigated 38,000 criminal suspects.
  • Of these, 16,600, or 43%, did not have German nationality.
  • 3882 suspects, or 9.5% of the total, were "refugees" (that is, recent migrants)
  • These numbers do not reflect offenses merely against immigration laws, those were removed from the calculation to avoid distortion.
  • In all of 2015, Hamburg authorities investigated 68,868 criminal suspects, of which 28,400 (41 percent) were foreigners.
  • The crimes most often committed by refugees were assault (1014 cases). Refugees were also responsible for 30.6% of all thefts and 27.5% of all drug smuggling and distribution offenses.
  • Refugees also committed 18.2% of all cases of "sexual insult" and 18.9% of all more serious sexual offenses. A majority of these cases resulted from New Years' Eve in Hamburg.

There are currently about 25,000 refugees in Hamburg, out of a population of 1,814,597 (g) million. So refugees are 1.37% of the population. But it sure looks like they are committing crimes way out of proportion to the raw numbers.

We can't say exactly how over-represented refugees are among criminals in Hamburg, since it's entirely possible a single refugee enriched the crime stats with 7 pickpocketings, 3 simple assaults, and one sexual assault. This is known to police and criminologists as the 80/20 rule of thumb: 80 percent of all crimes are committed by 20% of the people; 80% of all police calls are to the most unruly 20% of the city, etc.

Without a detailed breakdown of the identity of the offenders, we can't know for certain just how disproportionate the rate of crime among refugees is. And of course cops and politicians will use this gap in the knowledge -- which they themselves created -- to constantly muddle the issue: "This doesn't necessarily mean refugees are more criminal, because it just might be a small number of refugees committing most of these crimes." Kind of like the boy who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. This also raises the question of why Germany imported these one-man crime waves and allows them to stay, but those are questions for another post.

It should also be remembered that there is some unknown number of people who have German citizenship, and are thus accounted for as German nationals, but were not born in Germany. German authorities intentionally fail to keep records on these numbers, but they're probably at least another 15-20% of criminals.

So, to sum up, here are a few : Most immigrants aren't criminals, but most criminals are immigrants, or were not born in Germany. Most immigrants are law-abiding, but immigrants as a whole commit crimes at a much higher rate than Germans.

See, now you know the truth. Let it set you free!


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.


Goodbye, Nice Thing: German Train Personnel to be Given Pepper Spray, Attack Dogs

Attacks on German train personnel (g) have risen 28% over last year, with 1100 such incidents reported in the first six months of 2016. Both Deutsche Bahn and the train conductors' union are now reviewing plans to equip conductors with pepper spray and give them self-defense training. Security personnel will be provided with police dogs.

Does this mean that German pensioners are turning violent in their old age? Or that middle-class commuters have decided to save their Excel spreadsheets, close their laptops, and go in for a spot of ultra-violence?

If you're one of the dwindling band of belligerently naive Germans, you will insist this must somehow be the case. If, on the other hand, you're a sentient homo sapiens capable of Noticing Things, you will understand that this increase in violence against authority figures may have something to do with the influx of over 700,000 uneducated foreign males from the most chaotic countries on earth. A lot of them fit into most of the categories below:

  • speak neither English nor German
  • have mental problems
  • have no means of private transportation
  • no money to buy train tickets
  • no understanding of how to buy train tickets
  • no understanding of train etiquette in a modern society
  • no respect for authority figures

In fact, a lot of them fit into all of the above categories. I personally have witnessed more detentions and shouting matches on German trains (4) in the past year or so than I had in the previous decade. And yes, with heavy heart and bowed head, I am constrained to report that every one featured a young male migrant.

So now there will be pepper spray and police attack dogs on German trains. I can't wait to see the fun that ensues the first time a conductor uses pepper spray in a sealed train compartment traveling 300 km/hr.

This is why we can't have nice things. 

To be more precise, one of the Nice Things we are losing in Northwestern Europe is the existence of very safe and orderly public spaces in which members of all social classes can mingle freely with minimal risk of a threat, disagreeable spectacle, or bodily injury. Parks, public swimming pools, trains, plazas, outdoor festivals, sidewalks, etc.

They're still safe, of course -- stories about Germany descending into general chaos are silly hyperbole. However, the probability of encountering a weird, disagreeable, or dangerous situation on any random long train ride or long walk in the park has increased. Everyone senses this, and lots of people are talking about it. Lots of people. And definitely not just ethnic Germans. Experience and studies show that it takes only a small increase in perceived danger and lawlessness to drive large changes in individuals' risk-perception and behavior.

If nothing's done to intervene, what will happen is the creeping privatization of German life. Your neighborhood park will become too nasty, so you'll chip in with your middle-class neighbors to create a private one, or just get a Schrebergarten. After seeing your Xth unsettling confrontation in a German train, you'll finally say "screw this" and get a car. Certain neighborhoods will go from being the kind of place where you might not want to live to the kind of place you definitely would never want to live, increasing residential segregation to Parisian or Chicagoan levels.

It'll all happen gradually to us frogs in the warming water. But before long, Germans will start prizing (and paying for) insulation from the lower orders just as much as Americans do. An they'll know whom to thank.


Bayer buys Monsanto: 'Und es mag am Monsanto'schen Wesen Einmal noch die Welt genesen.'

Monsanto-Logo-Monsantod-Gift-Pestizid-lebensmittel-nahrung-Gentech-Schaedel-Loeffel-Gabel-Tod-vergiftung-qpress

[One of countless German anti-Monsanto memes; 'Tod' = is German for 'death'. Source

That faint popping sound is heads exploding all over Germany, as Bayer -- known to Germans as that Solid, Responsible, Traditional German Company Which Practices Soft, Gentle, Humane Rhineland Capitalism™ -- buys Monsanto, known to Germans as the Soulless American Hyper-Capitalist Death-Juggernaut Which Drives Indian Farmers to Suicide, Forces Frankenfoods Down Our Throats, and Poisons our Children's Ice Cream, Mandrake™.

In America, this would be the equivalent of the Little Debbie Snak Cake Company merging with the Church of Satan and the North American Man-Boy Love Association and announcing a line of Little Debbie Sphincter-Shaped Sweet Sugary Sodomy Stars™, to go with this other product:

Little debbie devil squares

Germany, I love you, I really do. But the only way to stop me from mocking your disingenuous faux-naïveté will be to pry the jokes...