Merkel's Superfluous and Irritating Election Statement

Merkel's statement scolding congratulating Donald Trump for his election victory is getting a lot of press:

Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.

The statement's being met with mixed reviews even in the German press, with center-right commentators like Alexander Kissler (g) denouncing it for its self-righteous sanctimoniousness.

I tend to side with Kissler on this one. America neither needs nor wants lectures from Germans on protections of minority rights. One thing most Germans will never understand is that even when interpreted by conservative Republican judges and officials, the US constitution and laws offer more protection for religious and racial minorities than German law does. Let's look at a few highlights:

  • Gays can marry in the United States, but cannot in Germany.
  • Women have just as many opportunities in the USA as in Germany. They participate in the labor force at a slightly higher rate in the USA than in Germany, and they have a higher median income in the USA than in Germany.
  • The US has banned racial and religious discrimination in private contracts since 1964, Germany only since 2006.
  • German anti-discrimination laws are toothless. Discrimination lawsuits are notoriously hard to win, and the penalties for discrimination are much too weak to have any deterrent effect. Verified accounts of blatant discrimination in housing and employment are easy to find in Germany.
  • American class-action discrimination lawsuits regularly result in damages verdicts of tens of millions of dollars. This is impossible under German law.
  • The US has an official federal government agency, the EEOC, which sues American companies who engage in racial, gender, or other forms of illegal discrimination. This agency forces the companies to pay massive damages judgments, accept public responsibility for their action, and remedy their policies. This level of accountability is unknown in Germany. The only thing Germany has is a federal agency that publishes reports and non-binding guidelines.
  • Foreigners and people not born in Germany are over-represented in Germany prisons at a rate comparable to blacks in American prisons. And for the same reasons -- crime is more common in these populations.
  • American laws do not discriminate among religious faiths; German laws do, giving massive privileges to the two established churches -- including a € 460 million yearly subsidy (g) based on obscure 19th century state contracts. Scientologists and members of other odd religious groups can operate freely in the US, while in Germany they are spied upon and harassed by officials who consider them dangerous cults.

This is not to say that Germany is backward or oppressive. All societies make different policy choices and have different levels of protection for minorities. All societies have failings when it comes to providing equal opportunity. But the USA is, objectively, ahead of Germany in many ways. Disputes about voter registration or transgender bathroom use are side issue. America's core protections for minority rights are firmly entrenched in powerful, popular laws and institutions which transcend partisan politics and which are fully accepted by all mainstream political actors. 

A Trump presidency will do absolutely nothing to change that, just as two Bush presidencies didn't. Merkel's condescending warning is as superfluous as it is irritating.


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

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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.


Jörg Albrecht's Drive-By Insult of Charles Murray

If Germans often have peculiar ideas about the rest of the world, you can often chalk it up to the journalists on whom they rely for information.

Case in point: I open up German's leading broadsheet, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and there's a long article (g) by the German science journalist Jörg Albrecht.* Much of it is a detailed discussion about Nicholas Wade's recent book A Troubled Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. Albrecht prefaces the discussion thus (my translation):

Since the book has been on the market, there has been a reprise of the discussion triggered twenty years ago by the psychologists Richard Herrnstein and the political scientist Charles Murray. Their message, put forward in an 800-page doorstep called 'The Bell Curve', was, to abbreviate slightly, that negroes (Neger) are on average dumber than whites, that this is true from birth onward, and that therefore there's not much reason to invest in their education.

Wade's book is not quite this coarse (grobschlächtig).

There is no higher responsibility for a translator or someone writing about a book in a foreign language than to give a reasonably fair representation to his or her readers. I read The Bell Curve shortly after it was published to see what all the fuss was about, and I can say Albrecht's characterization is, as it was intended to be, nothing but a drive-by insult. Like so much German journalism, his description of The Bell Curve is not meant to enlighten readers, but to condescendingly warn them away from ideas the journalist disagrees with. 

Also, importantly, the word Neger, which I translated as 'Negro', is a racial insult. In context, in German, it's not as explosive as 'nigger' in English, but it's regarded as intentionally insulting and is never used in polite conversation. Blacks are never referred to by racial insults in The Bell Curve, except in quotations from other works. Whatever you think of Charles Murray's ideas, he never uses racially insulting language.

I think I'll tweet this to Charles Murray in case he might wish to pursue matters.

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Swedish Immigration Policy is a Disaster, not a Model

When German journalists try to persuade their readers that Germans should take even more migrants than it currently does, they usually point to Sweden. Sweden has accepted 57 migrants per 10,000 residents in the current crisis as opposed to Germany's 15.

What these journalists rarely mention is that Sweden's immigration policy is a total failure. 14% of the Swedish population have migrant roots.* Gunnar Heinsohn, in Die Weltquotes (g, my translation) brutally revealing statistics compiled by Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji (himself an Iranian Kurdish migrant) on how they are doing:

48 percent of working-age immigrants are unemployed. Even after 15 years in Sweden, only 60 percent have a job. Sweden has the largest gap between labor-market participation between immigrants and natives in Europe.

42 percent of the long-term unemployed are immigrants. 58 percent of all Swedish social-welfare payments go to immigrants. 45 percent of the children with the worst school performance are immigrants. Immigrants earn, on average, 40 percent less than natives. Since the 1980s, Sweden has had the greatest increase in inequality of all OECD nations.

As I've noted before, Sweden's immigrants moved away from the boring rural towns they were placed in and concentrated in urban ghettos which have become riot-prone no-go zones where police only go in force. Just a few months ago rival immigrant gangs carried out four hand-grenade attacks in a week in Malmö.

Imagine that: hand grenades exploding in Swedish cities.

The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party "have surged in the polls from 5.7 per cent in 2010 to 12.9 per cent at last year’s elections and a poll by Sentio Research this month [September 2015] put the party at 26.5 per cent." They are now the most popular political party in Sweden, although, incredibly, mainstream Swedish parties are still trying to exclude them:

Nicholas Aylott of Sodertorn University says consensus among the other parties on immigration has left the field open for the Sweden Democrats. “The degree to which the other parties loathe the Sweden Democrats is amazing. But the debate is now taking place on the fringes,” he says.

Paula Bieler, a Sweden Democrat MP and the party’s spokesperson for integration, revels in the antagonism. “This is dividing the country. People are now seeing that what we have said for a long time isn’t that weird,” she says.

The party went into the last elections promising to cut immigration by 90 per cent, saying that there was a choice between accepting more immigrants and maintaining high welfare standards. 

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Why does Sweden Have One of the Highest Sexual Assault Rates in the World?

Every year when comparative crime statistics are updated, there's a head-scratcher: why does the nation of Sweden have one of the the highest rates of sexual assault in the world? The Wikipedia article "Rape in Sweden" consists of little other than a long series of convoluted explanations for this puzzling state of affairs, including expansive legal definitions of sexual assault, awareness campaigns to encourage reporting, and other factors. The problem, of course, is that all Nordic countries have similar cultural and legal environments, but Sweden's rate of sexual assault is 6 or 7 times higher than all neighboring countries. According to a Gatestone Institute report by Swedes Ingrid Carlqvist and Lars Hedegaard:

[I]n 2008, Sweden's neighbor Denmark only had 7.3 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 53.2 in Sweden?

Danish legislation is not very different from Sweden's, and there is no obvious reason why Danish women should be less inclined to report rape than their Swedish counterparts.

In 2011, 6,509 rapes were reported to the Swedish police -- but only 392 in Denmark. The population of Denmark is about half the size of Sweden's, so even adjusted for size, the discrepancy is significant.

The report cites a statistic from the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention that 58% of these sexual assaults were by strangers, which is a lot. The report goes on to suggest a different explanation for Sweden's dubious distinction: immigration. This is total immigration and emigration from Sweden for the past 150 years:

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After observing that Sweden, like many other European countries, does not keep records on the ethnicity of criminals (how can you be accused of discrimination when you don't keep the numbers that would reveal it?), the Gatestone Report notes that there have been a few -- very few -- academic studies on the prevalence of sexual assaults by immigrant Swedes. The ones that were performed came to rather startling conclusions:

Since 2000, there has only been one research report on immigrant crime. It was done in 2006 by Ann-Christine Hjelm from Karlstads University.

It emerged that in 2002, 85% of those sentenced to at least two years in prison for rape in Svea Hovrätt, a court of appeals, were foreign born or second-generation immigrants.

A 1996 report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reached the conclusion that immigrants from North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) were 23 times as likely to commit rape as Swedish men. The figures for men from Iraq, Bulgaria and Romania were, respectively, 20, 18 and 18. Men from the rest of Africa were 16 times more prone to commit rape; and men from Iran, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, 10 times as prone as Swedish men.

Now, I don't read Swedish, and can't thus vouch for the accuracy of these statistics. But the previous article from the conservative Gatestone Institute largely checked out, so I am willing to bet they are right.

In any case, I cannot find any detailed refutation of this report, which is packed with statistics, citations and references to original-language sources. It seems to have been met, as is usual with these sorts of reports, with uncomfortable silence. The report cites a telling story of Swedish journalists misleading their readers about who exactly committed a highly-publicized gang-rape:

This month, all major Swedish media reported on a brutal gang rape on board the Finnish Ferry Amorella, running between Stockholm and Åbo in Finland. Big headlines told the readers that the perpetrators were Swedish:

  • "Several Swedish Men Suspected of Rape on the Finland Ferry" (Dagens Nyheter).
  • "Six Swedish Men Raped Woman in Cabin" (Aftonbladet).
  • "Six Swedes Arrested for Rape on Ferry" (Expressen).
  • "Eight Swedes Suspected of Rape on Ferry" (TT – the Swedish News Agency).

On closer inspection, it turned out that seven of the eight suspects were Somalis and one was Iraqi. None of them had Swedish citizenship, so they were not even Swedish in that sense. According to witnesses, the group of men had been scouring the ferry looking for sex. The police released four of them (but they are still suspects) whereas four (all Somalis) remain in custody.

In any event, if it is the case that immigrant males from Arab nations are "23 times as likely" to commit rape as Swedish males once they reach Sweden, wouldn't that perhaps be of relevance, considering that Sweden is currently slated to import tens of thousands more young males from Arab countries? What can Sweden do to reduce the risk of this group of immigrants behaving in a similar fashion? Should immigrants receive special instruction on Swedish laws about sexual assault? I consider these to be important public-safety questions that deserve discussion, not paranoid right-wing fantasies.

And now let's look at it from a left-wing angle. Unless your trust in the Swedish justice system is absolute, you might be tempted to raise another question: is the fact that 85% of all men in prison for serious sexual assault in Sweden are foreigners a true representation of social reality? Or is it possible that they are being singled out or discriminated against? Perhaps Swedish judges are less likely to believe foreigners' explanations for disputed sexual encounters. Perhaps the language barrier or lack of resources plays a role. Perhaps immigrant suspects are getting longer sentences than ethnic Swedes for similar crimes ?

European journalists immediately assume that the over-representation of black Americans in prison signals racism in the justice system. Could something similar be going on in Sweden? Why aren't crusading journalists like Mikeal Blomkvist trying to find this out? Is it because they trust the Swedish justice system to always reach the right conclusions, no matter what? Is it because they are afraid of finding out that the conviction rates actually do reflect reality?

An another question: conservative (but not just conservative) Europeans denounce the mainstream press for actively downplaying immigrant crime, giving citizens an inaccurate picture of what is actually happening in their societies. And looking into the matter, it is clear that European journalists actually do this. It's not just a crazy accusation by right-wing tub-thumpers. If you refer to rape suspects who don't even have Swedish citizenship as "Swedish men", you are lying to your readers. Since this actually happens, the conversation should move on: why does it happen? Perhaps journalists have an explanation for deceiving their readers on this point. Perhaps this explanation might be convincing. But they never even give one. They simply deceive their readers, and then when caught, perhaps make a few hasty edits.

Can anyone point me to an example of a European journalist giving an open, honest, forthright, thoughtful explanation of why many press organs downplay immigrant crime?

Fragen über Fragen, as the German saying goes: Question upon question...


The Forced Conversion of Ali S.

One of the things that began making me skeptical about the German press was breaking Rule of the Internet #2: Never Read the Comments. Amid the racist insults and moralizing lectures, there were nuggets of information that I laughed off as obvious exaggerations. Until I decided to look into them, and some of them turned out to be true.

For example, I once saw a comment to some FAZ-or-similar article about a political dispute over German deportation policy. Queefburglar69 or whoever he was (thanks, BoJack!) wrote: "What a pointless argument. They never deport them anyway." I looked into it, and sure enough, the number of deportations every year in Germany is far, far, far below the number of immigrants who are ordered deported. As of January 2015, 600,000 people were living in Germany even though their asylum application had been denied and their temporary refugee status expired. So Queefburglar had a point. 

Which brings me to sites like Politically Incorrect, a right-wing, anti-immigrant German website. Amid the rants and name-calling, of which there is quite a bit, there are also reports of amusing PC cowardice on the part of German news outlets and mainstream politicians. As I was posting Soeren Kern's exhaustive catalog of sexual assaults by asylum seekers in Germany earlier, I read in that piece: "in an effort to protect the identity of Ali S, a Munich newspaper referred to him by the more politically correct 'Joseph T.'"

Wait, what?

And it turns out to be true. In June 2015, a Somali migrant named Ali S. allegedly tried to rape a woman in a Munich disco bathroom. Fortunately, the woman fought back, smashed open the door, and alerted police. Ali S. had been previously convicted of a sex crime. He said he was high on the African stimulant Kat. He was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison. The Bild-Zeitung reported much of this, calling the suspect Ali S. But when the Munich tabloid Münchener Abendzeitung covered the case, the last line of the report was: "Joseph T. wurde von der Disco-Security festgehalten." (By the way, you now know how to say disco security in German). From Ali S. emerges Joseph T.!

Sultan2On the left we see the writer for the Münchener Abendzeitung confronting the former Ali S.: "Ali S.! Put aside your wicked idolatry! Cease and desist from worshiping the wrong God! In the name of the Father, the Son -- who was much more than a prophet, mind you -- and the Holy Ghost, who definitely does exist, I hereby christen you Joseph T. Go and sin no more. Also, stop raping people. Seriously."

This whitefacing of Ali S. was noticed by Politically Incorrect, who mocked it heartily and asked its readers to let the Münchener Abendzeitung know they didn't fancy being lied to.

The article now reads: "Der Täter ("The criminal") wurde von der Disco-Security festgehalten." So the current version of the article just calls the man "the suspect", no mention of "Joseph T." Were the right-wing trolls of Politically Incorrect wrong? Did they invent an absurd story about a newspaper changing the name of a criminal suspect to hide his foreign identity? Was this all just a scam? 

There was only one way to find out. I went over the Internet Wayback Machine and found out, sure enough, that the original version of the article did in fact re-christen Ali S. to Joseph T. and that it was later changed, doubtless after the bumptious readers of Politically Incorrect had their say.

Ali S. / Joseph T. could not be reached for comment about his new faith.


Handelsblad, Are You Crazy?

The Dutch broadsheet Handelsblad ran a review of three recent books on the state of race relations in America. Here are the graphics and the headline accompanying the review. You will notice the headline needs no translation:

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The Washington Post was not amused

How a group of Dutch editors decided to publish an attempt to examine race and racism in the United States, using the English n-word and blackface in a major newspaper is beyond comprehension at the least, and rage-inducing at worst. Indeed, the Twitter reactions were swift and angry. Michel Krielaars, editor of the Book supplement for NRC, said that the paper had taken down the illustrations online, in order not to “offend non-Dutch speakers who only read Twitter.” The illustration still appears on their online reader, however.

To summarize the backlash so far: the author of the review says he had nothing to do with the illustrations or headline choice, which is plausible. The editor who did make these choices has pointed out that the content of the review was sympathetic to the plight of black Americans. The quotation used as the headline comes from one of the books. The illustrations were not meant to be offensive: in fact they show black Americans cowering before well-armed white figures (90% of American black homicide victims were killed by blacks, and the white-on-black homicide rate is extremely small). He admits that there are no black editors in the book review section of the paper (although there are in other sections), and that he didn't get any input from any black people on the graphic. 

I read enough Dutch to know that the review is, of course, sympathetic and praises the books. But you'd hardly need to read Dutch to know that. It's Charlie Hebdo redux, fortunately without the mass murder. Europeans create a caricature graphic design incorporating centuries-old tropes about how to portray black people. They are either unaware that these tropes are considered offensive in the Anglosphere, or they think the Anglosphere are a bunch of PC hypocrites who should lighten up already. The Europeans point out, correctly, that the content of the caricature or text is anti-racist. The Anglosphere, usually unable to evaluate this claim, insists that's not the point; these stereotyped depictions are inherently evil and must never be used.

A few more points about this amusing kerfluffle:

  • You may be wondering why a Dutch newspaper should be so concerned about the state of race relations in America. After all, that country is across a vast ocean. America's race relations have negligible effect on Dutch society, and Dutch people can do nothing to affect them. Yet you will find wall-to-wall coverage of American race relations in the Western European news media. To understand this, you should understand that...
  • ...a bourgeois urbanite's opinions on race relations in America are a shibboleth, just as opinions on immigration are. The idea that America is an irredeemably racist society in which helpless blacks are excluded, oppressed, and harassed at every turn is part of the standard European urban-liberal catechism. This attitude has complex roots. Partly anti-Americanism, of course. Partly a response to mindless American crowing about being the Land of Opportunity. Partly a matter of compensation: 'Sure I supported austerity for Greece, but that doesn't prove I'm a reactionary -- look at my righteous outrage about America's blacks!' Soviet bloc countries denounced American racism as a defensive counterpoint to critiques of their own human-rights failings, as does China today. Europeans who denounce US racism may also harbor genuine concern for the plight of black Americans, but I've found most of them have never taken any concrete action. In any case, one of the reasons modern European left-liberal issues loud denunciations of American race relations for the same reason frogs issue mating calls: signaling.
  • This is what makes being called out by actual black people for using offensive caricatures and language so disturbing to people like Handelsblad editors. They consider themselves to be on the right-on progressive side of the issue of race in America (as to the issue of race in the Netherlands, it's complicated. Other People's Indians, you see). It strikes at a fundamental component of their identity. It's like accusing a devout Catholic of having recited an incorrect version of the Our Father her entire life.

In any case, I predict that Anglosphere norms about how to depict people of other races will soon spread throughout Europe. The pressure of international outrage in the era of Twitter is likely to prove irresistible. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I leave for you to hash out in comments, if you care to.