German Journalists Avoiding the Obvious, Part 425

Not another post about migrants, you're thinking. Please. Haven't you banged on about this enough?

I sympathize. I don't like it any more than you do. I start thinking about something interesting and non-political to write about. Then I browse a few German news websites. Invariably, within 5 or 10 minutes, I encounter some piece of reporting makes me do a spit-take. And then, more in sorrow than in anger, I again take up my soiled spade to shovel out the Augean stables of German journalistic self-delusion.

Today's candidate is Vanessa Wu, who has written an article (h/t SW) for Die Zeit on whether migrants who commit crimes in Germany can be shipped back where they came from. Overall, the article is informative and reasonably balanced. But then we get to this passage (my translation):

According to the federal immigration ministry, at least 60 percent of all asylum-seekers arrive in Germany without any identity documents. The reasons for this are diverse. Some come from countries without reliable government ministries for identification and passports such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, or Nigeria. People from these countries may never have had personal identity papers. Others were considered members of the opposition and therefore were not given travel papers. Others lost their papers or gave them away during their flight. Smugglers often take identity papers away from their customers to prevent security agencies leaning about smuggling routes and networks. Some smugglers keep the passports as deposit for debts. Finally, some people destroy their papers out of fear that they may be rapidly sent back to their countries of origin. How many cases of missing identity papers are explained by each of these reasons, or the number of people in general who arrive without papers, have never been statistically measured.

I have no idea where the author gets the idea that Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Iraq don't have passport agencies. They do. They're probably not as efficient as Western passport authorities, but then again, that is true of every other institution in these countries. You can definitely get an Afghan passport. The German press, in fact, has published dozens of articles (like this one and  this one (g)) about people waiting for the passport agency in Kabul, Afghanistan to issue them passports so they can leave the country and go to Europe. I happen to know any number of Nigerians who have passports.

Further, the vast majority of people who reach Germany have transited at least 5-6 other countries before even reaching the outer border of the EU. How did they do this without passports? Doesn't the fact that Afghans know they need a passport to emigrate to the west, and are able to get one, raise any questions for the author?

Yet the main problem with this passage is the author provides a seemingly-exhaustive list of reasons why people show up without papers without daring to mention the one reason which almost certainly explains most of these cases. Can you think of that reason? I can! 

They intentionally destroyed or got rid of their passports. In Neuhaus, a German border town which became a key transit point for migrants in 2015, the mayor complained that toilets were being clogged (g) with all of the passports and identity papers migrants threw away before they were processed by intake authorities. (Once again, this shows that many migrants had passports, but threw them away as soon as they got to Germany.)

Why did they do this? For two reasons.

Reason One: So they could pretend to be Syrians. Everyone knew that the one nationality with the best chances of getting refugee status in Europe -- that is, Germany -- was Syrian. Even in the very newspaper Wu writes for, there have been articles (g) about how many migrants presented fake documents claiming Syrian nationality. A Dutch journalist showed how easy it was to get a fake Syrian passport for €750. For a picture, he used the Dutch prime minister (g).

Dozens, if not hundreds of cases of falsche Syrer -- "fake Syrians" are discovered in Germany every day. One family of Ukrainians even got residency papers by claiming to by Syrian. Since there was no personal interview or background check, they simply filled out a for claiming to be Syrian and and got recognized as Syrian refugees (g), despite not speaking a word of Arabic. They are now appealing their deportation order on the grounds -- believe it or not -- that they are entitled to rely on the government residency permit, even though they obtained it by fraud. The German government is now spending millions of dollars on specialized machines (g) and interpreters to detect fake passports and debunk false claims of Syrian nationality from Algerians, Tunisians, Egyptians, and even Pakistanis.

Reason Two: You can't deport people if you don't know where they came from. Wu just barely touches this reason when she mentions people who destroyed their ID papers to avoid "rapid" deportation. Of course, she knows, or should know, that there is no such thing as rapid deportation in modern Germany. As soon as a migrant pronounces the two syllables "Asyl" (asylum), this automatically begins a long, expensive administrative proceeding in which the asylum-seeker's claims are tested. If he loses at the first level, he can appeal. If he loses all his appeals and gets a deportation order, this begins a second set of court proceedings about whether the deportation order can and should be enforced (g). Even Green Party politicians (from the tellingly-named "realist" wing) complain that deportations take too long (g).

Wu observes that German law requires migrants who arrive without papers to "actively cooperate" with the authorities in proving their identities. She then notes that there are no real mechanisms for enforcing this theoretical duty. Why would you help the authorities find out that (1) you lied to them when you said you were a Syrian, and that (2) you're actually a Tunisian, when that means you will be (eventually) deported?

Wu notes the case of one rejected asylum seeker who missed nineteen (19) appointments to apply for a passport to enable his deportation. When authorities brought him to his home country's embassy, he remained silent. His punishment? A reduction of € 130 in pocket money. Housing, clothes, and food will continue to be provided gratis by the German state.

The case is a microcosm of the absurdity of German immigration law: The man came from Cameroon, which is a multiparty democracy and net oil exporter with "solid" economic growth. His asylum application was denied in...wait for it...

2004.

Yet when his welfare benefits were reduced (as allowed by German law) for failing to cooperate with the German authorities (as required by German law), he filed a complaint alleging that his constitutional rights to a minimum level of financial support had been violated. The case went all the way up to the highest social-benefits court in Germany, which decided the case in March 2017 (g) -- thirteen years after his asylum application had been denied. And he's still nowhere near being deported.

Every asylum-seeker knows that if you don't want to identify yourself, the German state cannot force you to, and you can live the rest of your years in Germany collecting welfare benefits (while augmenting your income, no doubt, with a variety of colorful black-market pursuits). 

This is why most people destroy their travel documents.

Wu's trying to be a Good German by avoiding any comment which might imply a negative judgment of migrants' conduct. They are coded as victims, after all, and therefore are sacrosanct and may not be judged (that would constitute "blaming the victim", a cardinal sin). But this reflects a kind of condescension toward migrants, whether intentional or not. They are portrayed solely as helpless, fearful objects and victims of anonymous social forces and bureaucracies, not as people capable of taking responsibility for their fate and their decisions.

Articles like this fail to take migrants seriously as responsible adults capable of rationally following incentives. As long as that mind-set dominates German politics and journalism, there can't be a productive debate on immigration.


In Which I Admire Millions of Tiny German Lawsuits And Annihilate Several Canards About the Law

The U.S. is famous in Germany for its 'runaway' juries which hand down zillion-dollar lawsuits against poor defenseless companies. Yet, as I told my dumbfounded students, Germany is a far more litigious society than the USA. In fact, according to a book-length 1998 study, Germany is the most lawsuit-happy country on earth:

Country Cases per 1,000 Population

• Germany 123.2
• Sweden 111.2
• Israel 96.8
• Austria 95.9
• U.S.A. 74.5
• UK/England & Wales 64.4
• Denmark 62.5
• Hungary 52.4
• Portugal 40.7
• France 40.3

My German students were dumbfounded by this fact. Most of them got their image of the world from the mainstream press. And, as usual, German journalists tended to obsess over the real or imagined failings of other countries, while remaining ignorant of what was going on in their backyard.

But aside from the good clean fun of this tu quoque response, it's interesting to think about why Germany is so litigious. I think there are 4 main reasons:

  • Legal insurance (Rechtschutzversicherung). Millions of Germans have legal insurance policies that pay for lawyers both to file claims and defend against them. This insurance is affordable because litigation costs in Germany are low. Legal insurance is actually an excellent idea, every country in the world could benefit from widespread legal insurance. What it means in Germany, though, is that if you have a policy, you don't have to think twice about filing a lawsuit. Granted, the lawyer is not supposed to file if you don't have a claim, but many do anyway. Legal insurance also provides a lifeline for many small-time lawyers -- they can patch together a decent livelihood by having a constant docket of 40-50 small time cases going on at any time. None of these cases will generate a huge verdict, but a steady stream of small payments is enough.
  • Lawsuits are a fact of life. Nobody really takes them seriously. If your landlord hikes your rent, you use your legal-insurance lawyer to fight it. The landlord uses their legal-insurance lawyer to defend. After all, if you don't sue, you'll certainly have to pay the extra 10% in rent. If you do sue, you might end up with a discount. The landlord would probably do the same thing in your position, and knows this.
  • Close neighbors make bad blood. Germany is a small country packed with people. Everything you do in public is going to have some effect on your neighbors. If a potted plant falls off your city balcony, it's going to hit someone or something below. If your cat likes to relieve themselves on your neighbor's lawn, they're going to notice. And might just take lethal action. Your barbecue smoke is going to trigger someone's asthma 5 houses down. The list goes on and on. Every German state has a long, complex "neighbor law" (here's the one (g) for my state), and many lawyers do nothing else. And once again, these petty squabbles are going to end up in court because it's so easy to go to court because of legal insurance. 

And finally, no lawsuit is too tiny. As Wagner once said, a German is someone who will always do something for its own sake. Which means Germans will file a suit over anything. Why, here's a story (g) from the excellent criminal-defense blog lawblog. Two retirees went fishing for deposit bottles in Munich, a favorite pastime of poor Germans, or just ones who need some way to fill their days in the fresh air.*

They approached a large man-sized glass-recycling container, whipped out their grabbers, and started fishing around inside the container. Recycling containers are supposed to be reserved for bottles which don't have a deposit on them, like wine bottles. But many people don't care or don't know how to tell a deposit from a non-deposit bottle, and just toss everything in.

Sure enough, our two hunters found 15 deposit bottles with a total value of € 1.44. Two other Germans, who were certainly feeling very German that day, called the police and reported the bottle-fishers for theft. Wait, what? Two people minding their own business, helping recycle glass, augmenting their puny incomes, harming nobody, and their fellow Germans report them to the cops? Welcome to Deutschland, my friends.

Now German prosecutors are obliged to investigate every credible accusation of crime that comes to their attention, the famous "Principle of Legality"**. This they did. The first thing they had to determine was what the value of the theft was. Technically, this was a theft -- once you throw a glass bottle into a recycling bin, it becomes the property of the recycling company. So you might think that the amount of the theft was the deposit value of the bottles. But no! It turns out that the recycling company does not separate out deposit bottles from other ones. Scandalous, I know. So all the bottles just get melted down. The prosecutor asked the recycling firm how much value the bottles would have as recycling material, and the firm said: basically, it's too small to even put a number on.

At this time, the prosecutor chose to halt the proceedings (einstellen) based on the idea that there was no public interest in prosecuting the offenders. The writer at lawblog thinks this was the wrong reason to stop the prosecution -- he thinks a better theory is to deny the people had any attempt to commit theft, because they had no intent to take possession of the bottles -- their ultimate goal was simply to transfer them to a different owner. 

Be that as it may, the main thing to notice here is that several different government employees spent hours of their time and used considerable resources to investigate an accusation of a crime which, at the very most, involved the lordly sum of € 1.44. It's probably only a slight exaggeration to say that the German state spent 1000 times more money investigating the theft than it was actually worth in the first place.

Now, am I going to snigger about this? Of course I am, and so are you. But at the same time, I'm not going to go too far. The most important thing to keep in mind about high numbers of lawsuits is that they are an important sign of social health. In the vast majority of societies, lawsuits are prohibitively expensive and courts are woefully underfunded and corrupt, so nobody trusts them. Germans and Americans trust courts to usually resolve legal disputes in a fair and equitable manner, otherwise they wouldn't seek them out so often. They're right to do so; both the USA and Germany have exceptionally fair and efficient legal systems, despite their imperfections. A fair, professional, and generally non-corrupt legal system is one of humanity's most important achievements, full stop. Most countries don't yet have one. If you happen to live in a country which does, take a moment and thank your lucky stars. 

Continue reading "In Which I Admire Millions of Tiny German Lawsuits And Annihilate Several Canards About the Law" »


Shipping the Mentally Ill to Germany as Asylum Seekers

I've pointed out repeatedly on this blog that I suspect a large portion of the young males who've poured into German in the past few years are not right in the head. Say you live in a place like Kosovo or Tunisia or Afghanistan and you're stuck with a young male child who is borderline mentally retarded or is displaying bizarre and erratic behavior which could affect your family's honor.

He's not exactly marriage material, since your whole extended family (which is where you'd first look for a wife) knows about his problems. You hear that if he can somehow make it to Germany and merely says the word 'asylum' in any language, he will be furnished with an apartment, pocket money, food and clothing, and free education and medical care. He might even be able eventually to get some sort of a job and begin sending money back. And in the best-case scenario, he might be able to import other family members in the name of family reunification. Germans have been incredibly generous with that.

So you scrape up $5000 to bribe a smuggler, and send him off. You now have one less mouth to feed, one less ticking time bomb which could erupt into family shame, criminal liability or litigation at any moment. Plus, you may even get financial remittances from him if everything works out.

As a result, there are now thousands, if not tens of thousands, of reports of very bizarre behavior in Germany coming from young males freshly arrived from the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East. Probably the least harmful and disturbing signs of mental instability are the countless cases of public masturbation (see above link, if you really must).

But there are other incidents immeasurably more terrifying and bizarre, such as the Syrian asylum seeker who threw his three young children out of a first-floor window onto a concrete parking lot, injuring the two eldest children severely. In November 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison (g) on three counts of attempted murder. Of his own children.

And now comes a 36-year-old Kosovar man, Fatmir H., who yesterday went on an axe-mutilation rampage in the Düsseldorf central train station:

The suspect in an ax attack at a German train station that wounded nine people on Thursday was a mentally disturbed asylum seeker from Kosovo, officials said Friday. They said there was no indication of any political or religious motive for the attack.

German police swarmed the main train station in Düsseldorf around 9 p.m. Thursday after a man on a commuter train began striking exiting passengers with an ax, officials said.

The suspect in the attack was identified in the German news outlet Spiegel Online as 36-year-old Fatmir H. On Friday, police found a doctor’s diagnosis inside the suspect’s apartment, some 20 miles away in the city of Wuppertal, as well as medication indicating that he was paranoid schizophrenic, according to Dietmar Kneib of the North Rhine-Westphalia state criminal police.

The suspect was being treated at a hospital for severe injuries suffered after he jumped off a bridge to try to escape police. Of the nine victims, four suffered serious injuries, though none were in critical condition, officials said....

The suspect, however, was not part of the wave of more than 1 million migrants who have arrived in Germany over the past two years, officials said. He arrived in 2009 and was granted a residence permit on humanitarian grounds

The attack occurred as a commuter train pulled into Düsseldorf central station shortly before 9 p.m. local time. The attacker suddenly started to hit passengers with an ax from behind, officials said. One of the passengers managed to push the attacker off the train, and the conductor closed the door, preventing potential further injuries, officials said....

According to police, the attacker tried to get back into the train by beating and kicking the door. When he was unsuccessful, he began walking up and down the platform and downstairs into the main hall. When police officers approached, the man fled across the tracks. The chase ended with the attacker jumping off a nearby bridge.

The brother of the 36-year-old suspect, who knew about his mental issues and knew that he had recently bought an ax, had reported him missing the day of the attack, authorities said. Police said Friday that they have not been able to question the suspect yet because of his injuries.

Among the victims was a 13-year-old girl who suffered severe arm injuries and two Italian tourists. Besides the girl, the other victims are between 30 and 50 years of age, officials said.

More than 500 officers were involved in the police operation, including special forces.

So Fatmir H. enters Germany in 2009. He is put under treatment for schizophrenia. All of this is happening at the German taxpayer's expense, of course -- I rather doubt Fatmir ever had a legitimate job. The authorities give him a residency permit based on humanitarian grounds, presumably because it would be 'inhumane' to send him back to Kosovo since he has a mental illness.

Of course, this raises many more questions: Does Kosovo have a healthcare system? Why yes, it does. It also has mental hospitals. Certainly not ones that meet German standards, but then again, that's true of most countries. Does every mentally ill person in the world have a right to transfer to Germany, so that they can receive care which meets German standards?

If it is inhumane for Kosovars to be treated in Kosovar mental hospitals, doesn't Germany therefore have an obligation to ship every mentally ill person in Kosovo to Germany to receive better care? Where is the justice in permitting one mentally ill Kosovar to 'escape' to Germany and receive Germany-level care, while leaving all the others to their fate? The only distinction is that this guy happened to make it to Germany. That's why he gets the advantage. Is that rational or just?

I'm sure the judge or bureaucrat who allowed Fatmir to stay in Germany thought they were doing the humane thing by bestowing a priceless benefit on Fatmir (a residency permit, something thousands of educated, skilled, law-abiding Kosovars and Albanians crave) simply because Fatmir happened to have illegally entered Germany. But these individual decisions add up to a deeply irrational policy.

And a few more questions: How would you propose to explain to an ordinary German why it's a good idea to let mentally unstable, potentially dangerous people relocate to Germany to live the rest of their lives on welfare?

How does this policy help the thousands of mentally ill Kosovars who can't smuggle themselves into Germany illegally?

Why should Germans add to the risk and expense created by their own indigenous mentally ill people by needlessly importing yet more mentally ill people from other countries?

What benefit does Germany derive from a policy which lets people like Fatmir stay in Germany, costing the German taxpayer millions of Euros, until they explode into violence and mutilate random strangers?

Oh, and in other news, the German government just announced that for the second year in a row, expenses for caring for migrants were higher than expected, over €20 billion (g) for the year 2016. Regional studies show that only about 5% of the migrants (most of whom are young, healthy males) have found any kind of job (g). And the Green Party and Left Party have used their representation in the German government to block the designation (g) of the Maghreb states as 'safe countries of origin', making it more difficult to deport the tens of thousands of young male criminals who recently flooded into Germany from these peaceful, stable countries. 

Germany's immigration policy is not just incoherent, it's masochistic.


Bambi's Friends the Communist Spy and the Viennese Whore

Bambi

[from the extremely NSFW website Slutbambi]

If you're a fan of Roald Dahl, you know that in addition to the beloved children's classics such as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he also published a collection of erotic stories entitled Switch Bitch.

But that's nothing compared to what the author of Bambi got up to. Bambi was originally published in Austria in 1923 as Bambi, eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde (Bambi, a Life in the Woods) by the Austrian writer Felix Salten.

Now before we get to the Viennese whore, it's time for a detour to visit with the Soviet spy. Bambi was translated into English in 1928 by none other than Whittaker Chambers, one of the most notorious American figures of the Cold War. Take it away, Wikipedia:

Whittaker Chambers ... was a 20th-Century American writer, editor, and Soviet spy.

After early years as a Communist Party member (1925) and Soviet spy (1932–1938), he defected from communism (underground and open party) and worked at Time magazine (1939–1948). Under subpoena in 1948, he testified in what became Alger Hiss's perjury (espionage) trials (1949–1950) and he became an outspoken anti-communist (all described in his 1952 memoir Witness). Afterwards, he worked briefly as a senior editor at National Review (1957–1959). President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom in 1984.

But Bambi's unwholesome associations go even further. Long before he wrote the story of the cuddly deer baby Bambi, Felix Salten wrote what one critic called "the only German pornographic novel of world-wide status", the 1906 book entitled Josefine Mutzenbacher, or the story of a Viennese Whore as Told by Herself (Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt) (full German text here). The initial printing was subscription-only to avoid censorship laws.

Salten never explicitly admitted authorship of Josefine Mutzenbacher, and because neither he nor the publisher submitted it for copyright protection, it was freely pirated, and remains in print to this day, having sold some 3 million copies to date. It furnished the basis for not one but 11 German soft-core porno films made between 1970 and 1994 (the original film's English title was "Naughty Knickers").

But even that's not all. The original novel itself was put on an "index" of books harmful to minors by the Federal Republic of Germany's Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors in 1969. This didn't mean the novel was banned, but it did severely restrict sales and marketing. The Wikipedia summary of the book's plot may give you an idea of why they made this decision:

The story is told from the point of view of an accomplished aging 50-year-old Viennese courtesan who is looking back upon the sexual escapades she enjoyed during her unbridled youth in Vienna. Contrary to the title, almost the entirety of the book takes place when Josephine is between the ages of 5–12 years old, before she actually becomes a licensed prostitute in the brothels of Vienna. The book begins when she is five years old and ends when she is twelve years old and about to enter professional service in a brothel.

Although the book makes use of many "euphemisms" for human anatomy and sexual behavior that seem quaint today, its content is entirely pornographic. The actual progression of events amounts to little more than a graphic, unapologetic description of the reckless sexuality exhibited by the heroine, all before reaching her 13th year. The style bears more than a passing resemblance to the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom in its unabashed "laundry list" cataloging of all manner of taboo sexual antics from incest and rape to child prostitution, group sex and fellatio.

Adding to the general perversion, Bambi himself makes a cameo appearance in one of those group-sex scenes [no, he doesn't -- ed.]. In the late 1970s, a legal campaign was launched to remove the book from the index. In 1990, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court issued a landmark decision on the case.

Although the court acknowledged the book had plenty of potentially child-endangering pornographic elements, including a rather eye-popping amount of pedophilia and incest, it also had literary qualities which qualified it as a work of art, thus entitling it to protection under the artistic freedom provisions of Article 5 of the German Constitution.* The Court decision held (g) that some parts of the youth protection law were unconstitutional infringements of artistic freedom.

Nowadays, Felix Salten is largely forgotten, but that didn't stop the Austrian government from sending an official delegate (g) to the Jewish Museum of Vienna (Salten was Jewish) to open a 2007 exhibition on the man and his work.

Continue reading "Bambi's Friends the Communist Spy and the Viennese Whore" »


Danisch v. MDR: Clash of the Titans

Godgam
MDR (right) has the full power of broadcasting behind it (see tower). Danisch, on the left, is armed only with time, a fast Internet connection, and a ZFG attitude.

One of the most amusing and distinctive voices on the German blogging scene is Hadmut Danisch. He studied computer science for years but didn't get a doctorate. He is convinced that this was because of a conspiracy against him. He has documented this conspiracy in a book called Adele and the Bat (Adele und die Fledermaus) (g) which you can download from his website.

The book is 797 pages long.

That should probably give you an idea of the fanatical dedication Danisch brings to his projects. Danisch also doesn't like gender ideology, mass immigration, university bureaucracy, and a few other things, and has written copiously about them.

Now, I've never met Danisch and I don't read his blog regularly. I do check in once in a while, and am never disappointed. You could call Danisch a bit of a crank because of his obsessive tendencies. But he's a highly intelligent, dedicated crank, and unlike most cranks has a sense of humor.

Which makes his latest feud, with the German MDR public broadcasting agency, so fun to read. The background, in a nutshell: The right-wing AfD political party hosted an event at the University of Magdeburg. Students there decide to try to prevent this exercise of freedom of expression by blocking the entrance to the lecture hall, interrupting the presentation and even hurling fireworks. The protest degenerated into a fistfight (g). The AfD speakers had to be escorted from the room under police protection, which they termed a complete success for their cause, as it surely was. As we can see, the odious trend of no-platforming has reached Germany.

Danisch used large excerpts of several MDR articles to comment on these events, and shortly thereafter received a warning letter from a lawyer claiming to represent MDR and the author of one of the pieces. The letter accused Danisch of all manner of sins, including using copyrighted material without permission and painting a false picture of MDR's reporting of these events. The letter demanded that he sign and return a cease and desist agreement within days.

This sort of thing is depressingly typical in Germany, especially against bloggers who have no powerful institutional backing. German law provides outstanding protections for freedom of speech on paper, but in reality there are all sorts of doctrines, from the law of insult to an over-broad interpretation of intellectual property, which can be used to intimidate critics whose statements are well within the bounds of freedom of speech. Many bloggers, confronted with a long letter from a lawyer citing dozens of statutes and legal decisions and threatening € 250,000 fine, will sheepishly delete the blog entry and sign the cease-and-desist order.

As you might have guessed, Danisch is not that kind of blogger. Instead, he puts on his lawyer hat (g) and mounts a thorough critique of the warning letter, invoking everything from legal precedents on the fairness of short deadlines to the amenability of the plaintiff to service to the lawyers' ethical creed to the latest interpretations of copyright and free speech laws. There's even a long and instructive disquisition on whether someone who gets a warning letter from a lawyer is allowed to post it online. His overall point is that the MDR and its reporters have zero legal grounds to object to his free-speech commentary, and that their lawyer is simply trying to intimidate and confuse a critic with bogus legal arguments: "They wanted to neutralize (kaltstellen) me."

I'm not going to tell you to read the whole thing, because it goes on for a loooooong while, and even I haven't had the time to read it all. But even a brief overview leaves you with the impression that MDR really screwed with the wrong guy here. I'll be waiting for the next stage in what promises to be an epic battle.


Mitten in Deutschland -- German History X

A huge conglomeration of public and private foundations put together a three-part series on the early 2000s murder spree of the National Socialist Underground called Mitten in Deutschland (In the Middle of Germany) in Germany and German History X when it was released by Netflix with English subtitles.

It's basically a trilogy of feature-length movies. I found it surprisingly good. German television and movies punch below their weight in general, but have shown some intermittent signs of improvement in recent years. Deutschland '83 is much more than watchable, and so is German History X. 

The first movie, about the formation of the 2-man one-woman 'trio' which formed the core of the NSU, shows the protagonists coming together in the 1990s neo-Nazi scene in Jena. The three core performers are stellar. The film also does a fine job of demonstrating how young people in the damaged, demoralized East often sought fellowship and a sense of purpose in violent Nazi groups. The second movie focuses on the victims, and is held together by a strong performance by Almila Bagriacik, who emerges from adolescence under the shadow of the murder of her father. The police immediately seek the killer in the 'milieu' of foreign small businessmen, without considering the possibility of a terrorist motive even after numerous other foreign shopkeepers are killed with the same weapon used to kill the first victim. 

The final movie, which focuses on the investigation, is the slackest of the bunch. This is hard to avoid, since the subject is, by definition, an investigation that went nowhere. The early-2000s murder spree of the three NSU members was discovered only posthumously, when two of them committed suicide after a botched 2011 bank robbery, and the murder weapon was found in their accomplice's apartment. The third movie paints a picture of detectives who develop solid leads, only to be frustrated by the machinations of the Thuringia state Verfassungsschutz. The Verfassungsschutz claimed to have deeply infiltrated the groups supporting the NSU trio, and fought against any arrests, questioning, or surveillance which could theoretically blow their agents' cover. Which meant, in the end, that they provided an enormous amount of cover, and even financing, to out-and-out Nazis who were committing sundry violent crimes. The movies' clear implication is that the Verfassungsschutz was operating at least in part out of sympathy for the right-wingers' goals.

The English translation of Verfassungsschutz in the movies was "secret service", which obviously doesn't do justice to this peculiar organization. English-language viewers certainly missed many of the implications of what was shown in the third film. Basically, the "Agency for the Protection of the Constitution", as the title means in English, is an originally West German domestic spying and intelligence agency. As its name implies, it is theoretically supposed to monitor, document, report on, and suppress any nascent threats to the German constitutional order. This includes right-wing and left-wing extremists, religious organizations, and cults. Each German state has one of these agencies, and there is a federal one as well. To call them controversial is an understatement -- they are often accused of putting far more energy into surveillance of left-wing militants than right-wing groups, and are also accused of chilling free speech by singling out politically-charged organizations and publications for scrutiny in their public reports. In fact, the right-wing weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit -- successfully sued to prohibit the Verfassungsschutz from mentioning them in its reports.

The agency has also been involved in innumerable scandals involving -- at the very minimum -- incompetence. The most recent in a very long list is the hiring of Roque M. (g) -- a German citizen of Spanish descent who was hired as a Verfassungsschutz spy in the State of Northern Rhine Westphalia despite a history of mental instability and bizarre behavior, such as acting in gay porn films even though he was a married father of 4, running his own gay porn publishing house, running a website selling "German Military Underwear. Strong. Manly. Sexy.", and converting to radical Islam. The Verfassungschutz -- apparently unaware of the possibility of running a Google search -- only found out about him when he bragged about being a mole in the agency and working on plans to destroy it in an online forum which was being monitored by his co-workers.

In fact, the picture of the German law enforcement authorities in all of the films is devastating. The Keystone Kops of East Germany let the three neo-Nazis go underground even after finding bombs and weapons in one of their hideouts. Cops invent a hare-brained drug-smuggling conspiracy theory to explain the totally unrelated murder of ethnic-minority shopkeepers all over Germany with the exact same weapon. (Although this isn't mentioned in the film, they also chased a phantom serial killer whose existence was based on botched DNA testing). Their attitude toward murder victims' surviving relatives is callous in the extreme; Germany still has only a vestigial state infrastructure for providing counseling and care to surviving family members of murder victims. And in the third movie, the police actively allow and sometimes even assist neo-Nazis to commit violent crimes and spread propaganda, either out of incompetence or covert sympathy for their goals.

The general portrayal of police agencies is counterbalanced by sympathetic portrayals of individual cops, but they are seen as constantly having to fight against institutional blindness, rivalry, and silo-mentality thinking. When they're not fighting against moles in their own and other agencies who actually intentionally assist the neo-Nazis. The picture of police is probably a bit exaggerated, but there is no doubt much of it was justified -- there are still dozens of very strange unanswered questions surrounding the fruitless investigation of the NSU murders. And, given the authorities' mania for secrecy and the lack of a culture of vigorous investigative journalism fed by leaks from inside the government, they'll probably remain unanswered forever.


Video Surveillance Leads to Arrest in Rape-Murder Case

Police have finally arrested a suspect in the case of a student at the University of Freiburg who was raped, murdered, and thrown into the Dreisam river (g) on the 16th of October. News reports say that the clue came from a video surveillance camera which caught a man with an "unusual haircut and hair color" near the crime scene. Unconfirmed reports say that plainclothes cops rode the #1 streetcar looking for the haircut, and found it. More details to follow at an afternoon press conference. 

Strange haircut and color, riding a purple women's bicycle? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Sascha_Lobo

Relax, it's a joke. But seriously, folks, it's obviously far too early to speculate. However, that's never stopped me before. I think the unusual haircut could be the shaved-sides long-on-top popular among certain spirited young lads, such as the ones on the left side of this picture:

Silvester-koeln-107-_v-videowebl

Also, it seems a bit odd for a man to be riding a purple women's bicycle such as the one found at the crime scene. Unless, of course, he had no choice because the bicycle was donated (g).

From a policy perspective, this is another argument for video cameras. The typical Green argument against them is that even if they may help solve some crimes, they don't prevent crimes (g). This is the sort of argument they repeat like a shibboleth in front of like-minded audiences who nod in eager assent, but which withers when subjected to any scrutiny.

First and most obviously, why exactly is their role in helping solve crimes only mentioned in passing? People prefer living in societies where cops are able to solve crimes, and video surveillance is a reliable tool. The number of mistaken identity cases involving video surveillance is tiny, and vastly outweighed by the number of cases in which camera footage caught the right person. Cameras are certainly much more reliable than eyewitnesses.

Also, video cameras do prevent crime, as many studies have shown. Otherwise, insurance companies, generally not composed of idiots, would not encourage their use and advise on proper placement. The fact that we don't know exactly how much crime they prevent is the case of the impossible negative counterfactual: it's impossible to precisely measure things which do not occur. We know about how many cases of lung cancer were avoided by reductions in the smoking rate but will never know precisely how many for the same reason.

Second, video cameras prevent crime not only by deterring would-be offenders but by incapacitating the people who get caught. If the Freiburg Rapist turns out to be a serial killer, it is almost certain he will strike again. If he is caught and imprisoned for the rest of his life, he will never be able to do so. That means there will undoubtedly be several women who, unbeknownst to them, will owe their lives to this video recording and the police who found the killer with its help.

This is not an argument for cameras on every street corner, as you find in London. But it is an argument for evaluating the usefulness of cameras based not on abstract principle, but based on pragmatic, case-by-case evaluation.


Freiburg Rape-Murders Still Unsolved

In October and November, two young women were attacked, one in Freiburg, one nearby. They were apparently seized at random, raped, and murdered. It is possible both attacks were committed by the same rapist/murderer. So far, despite cash rewards, the use of scent hounds, and comparisons with volunteer DNA samples, there are no solid clues.

The police have male DNA from one of the crime scenes with which they could construct an accurate visual profile of the suspect and precisely define which ethnic group he comes from. But Section 81(e) of the German Criminal Procedure code outlaws this, although it is common in other countries. The contains no exception for extreme situations, such as the possibility of active serial killers.

The police took hundreds of DNA samples from men who attended a medicine faculty college party with one of the victims just before she was killed. Let's assume 90% of the men where white. If the DNA sample could have been tested for ethnicity, and it showed the suspect was black, the police would not have had to waste thousands of man-hours on this fruitless search. The police will probably broaden their search to other ethnic communities. But if the DNA sample showed someone of Northern European ancestry, these searches would also be superfluous -- or at least could be targeted much more precisely.

There should be a national debate about changing this law, but the only commentary I have seen so far about this questionable law has been in the conservative Junge Freiheit. And, of course, here on German Joys.

If another young woman is dragged into the bushes, raped, and murdered -- and it turns out a DNA profile could have helped solve the crime before her death -- maybe the mainstream press will notice this issue. But it shouldn't have to come to that, should it? 


The New German Illegal Immigration Policy: Discourage, Detain, Deport

A prominent CDU politician has just advocated (g):
  • Actually deporting the 500,000 migrants currently in Germany whose asylum claims have been denied and who have no legal right to be here.
  • Turning back illegal migrants at the border.
  • Turning back migrant boats launching from Africa and establishing a detention center in Egypt.
  • Sanctioning and then deporting people who "lost" their identity papers and refuse to cooperate in getting new ones.
  • Disallowing illness as a reason to prevent deportation (an extremely common tactic, enabled by sympathetic doctors) if the person migrated to Germany with the illness.

In other words, adopting the sort of immigration policies the rest of the developed world has always had. Any one of these proposals would have been -- and was -- denounced as tantamount to fascism in 2015. It's unlikely all of these proposals will be enacted, but the reaction will be a lot more muted, and many of them will have a chance at passage.

We're a long way from the heady days of 2015, when seemingly every German was entranced by the moistly sentimental dream of proving Germany's enduring moral superiority by throwing open its borders to anyone. A year of dealing with the resulting increased crime; soaring expense; dismal integration results; visible decay and danger in lower-class neighborhoods; abuse of the asylum system; child marriages; honor killings; street stabbings, terror scares and terror attacks; and conflicts over resources, cultural differences, and funding priorities has taken its toll.

Turns out there was no magic pixie dust.

Of course nobody could have predicted the problems or the backlash. Except, of course, me, and millions of other observers. Who were mocked, insulted, and even threatened for the crime of clinging to our common sense in a period of national self-delusion.

We're a long way from Willkommenskultur.

  


Working Sort of Hard to Find a Serial Rapist/Murderer

Freiburg, Germany, is an idyllic university town located at the edge of the Black Forest. It is the sunniest spot in Germany. And the site of 4 brutal crimes in the past 6 weeks. One man was beaten to death near the main train station. One 13-year-old girl gang-raped by four young men.

And most disturbingly, two young women, one 19 and on 27 years old, were raped and murdered in apparent random attacks -- one just behind the main football stadium, one in a small community 30 kilometers from Freiburg. Police think it's possible the same man might be behind both attacks. So, there may well be a serial rapist/murderer currently active in Freiburg now. Or perhaps two. I would say this kind of thing is almost unknown in Germany, but we all know that's no longer the case. Still, it's got all of Freiburg on edge. 

And as the video below from the conservative weekly Junge Freiheit shows, the police are being hampered by German law from pursuing the killer. They found a DNA sample which they believe is from the killer at one of the rape/murder crime scenes. Using modern DNA technology, it's possible to determine the eye color, hair color, and ethnicity of someone from a good DNA sample. In fact, it's possible to generate a fairly good likeness of their face, as this photo accompanying a New York Times article shows:

24faces_otherpeople-master1050

As you can see, the images aren't perfect, but they are certainly a far cry better than the recollection of a traumatized witness or someone who saw a man run past them in a dark alley. In particular, DNA is extremely good at predicting ethnicity and skin tone, which can allow investigators to immediately cross huge pools of suspects off their list and focus only on a narrow subset. Another article looks at the use of this technology in an American criminal case.

But not in Germany.

According to Section 81(e) of the Criminal Procedure Code, DNA can be used only comparison to potential suspects, determining family relationships, and determining gender. Every analysis going beyond these is expressly forbidden. Here is the provision in English:

(1) Material obtained by measures pursuant to Section 81a subsection (1) may also be subjected to molecular and genetic examinations, insofar as such measures are necessary to establish descent or to ascertain whether traces found originate from the accused or the aggrieved person; in so doing the gender of the person may also be determined by examination. Examinations pursuant to the first sentence shall also be admissible to obtain similar findings on material obtained by measures pursuant to Section 81c. Findings on facts other than those referred to in the first sentence shall not be made; examinations designed to establish such facts shall be inadmissible.

The prohibition, like so many others in German law, is based on the idea of data protection -- in a society in which mass surveillance caused so much harm last century, there must be strict limits on the amount of data the state can gather on its citizens. As I've pointed out before, this idea trumps many other legitimate public concerns, such as preserving historical monuments. And here, it trumps public safety. Here's a video from the conservative website Junge Freiheit featuring an interview in which the Freiburg policy confirm that they are obeying this restriction. The head of the German police union complains about it, and citizens interviewed in Freiburg are dumbfounded that the law prevents police from using a reliable, proven strategy which could lead to the apprehension of a possible serial killer in their midst. 

This is yet another cultural mismatch between the USA and Germany. I have explained restrictions such as this to many colleagues in the USA. These colleagues are mostly criminal defense lawyers and civil libertarians. That is, they spend each day defending the rights of criminals, and forcing the state to uphold its case. To say they don't have an authoritarian bone in their body is an understatement -- they don't have an authoritarian cell in their body.

Yet when I describe things like this, many of them register, to their own shock and amazement, disapproval and consternation. Sure, DNA isn't miraculous, it has to be handled carefully, it's not a panacea. But it is an extremely powerful tool which, used properly, can help ensure the guilty are imprisoned, and which has been used now hundreds of times to free the innocent from unjust confinement. Building a profile from DNA, as long as it's done responsibly according to the best scientific protocols, is definitely a legitimate means of law enforcement. Especially since it is likely to be much more reliable than eyewitness testimony.

Yet in Germany, only the right-wing website Junge Freiheit considers this an important policy issue. I have never seen it addressed by the more left-liberal press.

So there you have it: DNA profiling is so mainstream in the USA that even most civil libertarians approve of it. In Germany, apparently, only the right-wing does.