Accountability, Please

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After every new terror attack in Europe, there are a flurry of articles congratulating the residents of Paris, or Stockholm, or Dortmund, or Berlin. They're congratulated on their sensible, low-key reaction to the attack, and their commitment to resuming their lives without interruption, which is said to "deny the terrorists a victory" or some such.

This is the wrong reaction. The reaction to a spectacular crime or mass killing should differ according to the circumstances.

Category 1 of mass killing is something like Winnenden (g), in which a 17-year-old German boy took his father's gun and killed 15 of his classmates before ending his own life. This is the sort of attack in which a measured response is appropriate. These kinds of mass killings can't be prevented in a modern, free society. They will occur at irregular intervals, and nothing can be done to completely prevent them. They are just a tragic but inevitable incident of life in a free society with a lot of social alienation. A calm, measured response is appropriate, because it is foolish to get extremely upset about something that cannot be prevented.

Category 2 of mass killing is a terror attack carried out on European soil by a foreigner. Like the Stockholm truck attack, which was carried out by an Uzbek man, a failed asylum-seeker who had already been denied residency in Sweden. Or the Berlin Christmas market attack, carried out by a known violent criminal and radical Islamist who also was supposed to have been deported from Germany, but who was allowed to stay in the country (g) because of a series of bureaucratic snafus so long, and so buffoonish, that it beggars imagination. As a result, 12 people were killed, and dozens of others grievously mutilated. Or the case of the Afghan man who raped and murdered a medical student in Freiburg in 2016. He had been let into Germany despite having been sentenced to 10 years prison in Greece for attempting to murder a young woman there -- he threw her off a 10-meter cliff (g), severely injuring her.

We shouldn't be responding to Category 2 events calmly. They should never have occurred at all. The only reason they did occur here in Germany, or Sweden, or Paris, is because of the incompetence of politicians and bureaucrats. None of these men had a legal reason to enter Europe. Two of them had already lost their asylum claims and were supposed to be deported. Yet the authorities failed to enforce the laws, and people died and were horribly injured as a result.

What citizens should be saying is not "They can't intimidate us, we're going to go on about our business, we'll show the terrorists how mature we are." That's the right response to a homegrown, under-the-radar crime.

What citizens should be saying is: "It's time to find out exactly who let these homicidal maniacs into our country, and who let them stay. And once these people are found, they should be fired for incompetence -- at the very minimum. And then the laws should be changed so that we can finally stop letting killers into our country."

To meekly accept this incompetence and recklessness from public officials is a sign of failure, resignation, and complacency. They're the signs of a failing democracy in which the public has given up on ever being able to hold their elected officials accountable, even for gross recklessness.

None of this is "right-wing". In a democracy, demanding accountability from elected officials isn't just a right, it's a duty. One that Germans seem to be forgetting lately. 


What Are Uzbeks Doing in Stockholm?

From the Washington Post article about the Swedish truck massacre:

"The police did not give any details about the man. But the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that he is a 39-year-old from Uzbekistan, and is a supporter of the Islamic State."

...

“There is no way to really prevent this kind of thing,” said Stefan Hector, an official with Sweden’s national police.

You might try importing fewer young males from unstable Islamic countries. Why exactly does Sweden need young Uzbek males?


American Liberals' Image of Sweden: Evolving!

The reaction to Donald Trump's comments on Sweden among American liberals has...developed.

At first, there were the reflexive, snarky "What? Unrest in idyllic Sweden, land of luxury prisons, Pippi Longstocking, and the wholesome musical stylings of Abba? What's Trump been smoking?" tweets. And then, just a few days later, there actually was unrest in an immigrant Stockholm suburb, apparently triggered by police attempts to arrest a drug dealer. As happens in immigrant ghettos all over Europe (actually, all ghettos everywhere), a social media flash-mob of young men appeared out of nowhere to interfere with the police action. Shots were fired.

Many liberals then dropped the snark, perhaps because they got the sense there may be something more to this issue than they first thought, and they didn't want to look too nonchalant.

The issue used to be so clear-cut: Because right-wing news outlets highlight Sweden's immigration problems, they must not exist. Yet, upon closer inspection, they apparently do. As Orwell once said, 'some things are true, even though the Daily Telegraph says they are true.'

And here comes James Traub, editor of Foreign Policy, to (ever so gently) notify American liberals that the reality in Sweden is, indeed, a bit more complex than they might assume:

The Swedes have a word, “asikstkorridor,” which translates as “opinion corridor” and describes all those things considered incorrect not only to say but to think. One of those taboos, as I discovered when I visited Sweden at the height of the refugee crisis in the fall of 2015, is the idea that refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians.

President Trump’s offhand comment last month about how dreadful things are in Sweden provoked an outraged reaction from Swedes rightly proud of the country’s longstanding commitment to accepting refugees from all over the world. The incident of violence the president appeared to be describing hadn’t happened. But then it did, in the form of a riot in a suburb of Stockholm heavily populated by immigrants. That’s where the opinion corridor can make you look foolish.

It is too early to know whether the net effect of the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees on Sweden, Germany and other European countries will be positive or negative. Certainly Mr. Trump’s habit of blaming refugees for terrorism, used to justify his signing a revised executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries on Monday, flies in the face of the evidence. But so does the reflexive claim that the refugees will fit easily into European society or expand the labor force. Our liberal opinion corridor thus offers the perfect pretext for cynics and xenophobes to parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage.

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia. For mobile, prosperous, worldly people, the cherishing of diversity is a cardinal virtue; we dote on difference. That’s simply not true for many people who can’t choose where to live, or who prefer the familiar coordinates of their life. That was the bitter lesson that British cosmopolites learned from Brexit. If the answer is to insist that the arrival of vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals, then we leave the field wide open to Donald J. Trump and Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen.

...

I believe that liberalism can be preserved only if liberals learn to distinguish between what must be protected at all cost and what must be, not discarded, but reconsidered — the unquestioned virtue of cosmopolitanism, for example, or of free trade. If we are to honor the human rights of refugees, we must find a way to do so that commands political majorities. Otherwise we’ll keep electing leaders who couldn’t care less about those rights.

"It is too early to know whether the net effect of the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees on Sweden, Germany and other European countries will be positive or negative."

Is it?


Cautious Words on Swedish Immigrants

Trump's comments about Sweden have sparked interest in the USA on the subject of just how well Sweden's immigrants are doing. This is unfortunate, since anything related to Trump immediately becomes mired in controversy. But a number of American news outlets, after looking into the matter, have determined, ever so cautiously, that Trump sort of has a point.

The New York Times recently spoke to "Henrik Emilsson, an international immigration researcher at Malmö University." In Germany, "immigration researcher" has basically become shorthand for "open-borders lobbyist". The battle lines are hardened, and many German "immigration researchers" are still unwilling to concede even a single downside to mass low-skilled immigration to Germany, and usually end up arguing some form of "mass immigration into Europe is inevitable, so people who live here might as well just get used to it".

Perhaps because Emilsson teaches in Malmö, which is 40% immigrant, he strikes a somewhat more reality-based tone:

Is there any evidence that recent immigrants are having an impact on crime in Sweden?

Not the recent ones. There is a huge debate in Sweden about immigration and crime. And we know from earlier statistics that the foreign-born commit three times as many crimes on average as native-borns. But these riots and crimes in the suburbs, they are related mostly to drugs and gangs. Those people are born and raised in Sweden. It has nothing to do with the recent immigration. It’s the children of migrants and maybe people that came when they were young.

There has been this issue of sexual harassment. And there is some evidence that the new refugees are somewhat involved in this. But there are no official statistics on it.

What about terrorism?

Not particularly, because the people for example who have gone and fought for ISIS, they are also quite established — they are Swedes that have grown up here.

...

Have recent immigrants done more poorly in Sweden than people who came in previous decades?

It depends on how far back you look. For example in the civil war in Yugoslavia in the early 90s, it was a catastrophe when they arrived. There was the same panic. It took a long time for them to find jobs. But if you look at that group now, they are very successful. They have like 70 percent employment rate.

We don’t have these low-skilled jobs, so it takes a lot of training and education, and patience. Since 2006, the migrants have been more from failed states like Afghanistan and Somalia and Iraq, so they probably will have a more difficult situation. So in the short term it will be a big cost for society. In the long term maybe if they end up doing as well as Bosnians, it will be an asset.

Do you think that maybe the Bosnian — or, broadly speaking, the Yugoslav — experience is different because they are also European?

It’s mostly that often they were professionals. They didn’t necessarily have very high education, but they were specialists in different crafts. But they were mostly also Muslim, so it has less to do with religion, I think.

Stripped of all the hedging and padding, Emilsson basically says (1) Yeah, foreigners actually do have higher crime rates and are at least part of the reason for the increase in sexual assault; (2) the main problem is with second or third-generation immigrants; (3) it was really hard integrating the people from the former Yugoslavia; and (4) these newcomers are going to be a whole lot harder to integrate than the Yugos, since they have no skills, and (4) this is all going to cost Sweden a lot of money and effort.

The clear implication is this: a disproportionate amount of crime in Sweden is committed by the sons and daughters of former immigrants, and we just imported a huge new wave of immigrants who are likely to do even worse in Swedish society than the last wave. And they'll soon start having sons and daughters, too.

Emilsson then praises Sweden's integration efforts, saying they've done better than Denmark or Norway. But even though he wants to convey an overall positive impression, his interview does pretty much the opposite


One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Over at the Washington Post, an American and a Swedish professor team up to write an op-ed entitled "No, Sweden isn't Hiding and Immigrant Crime Problem, This is the Real Story". They run through the litany of excuses and explanations (expanded definition of rape laws, a culture which encourages crime reporting) without providing any relevant citations or links which I can see.

But the most remarkable claim is that Sweden provides its citizens with much more information about crime than American does because of Sweden's ideal open-information laws, which go back to the 18th century. Let me provide a few quotations -- not in the original order:

[T]he government of Sweden is a model in making data accessible and actions transparent...

Sweden’s information landscape [is] a model for other countries to emulate...

Citizens in Sweden can use this information to hold their government accountable...

...Swedish police do not collect information on the ethnicity, religion, or race of perpetrators or victims of crime, which means there’s no evidence for claims that Muslim immigrants are committing crimes in record numbers.

Can you tell which of the four statements is not like the others? 


Kevin Drum Sees a Glimmer of Light on Sweden, Crime, and Immigrants

Donald Trump seemed to suggest that some terrorist incident happened in Sweden a few days ago. For this he was justly mocked. Then it turned out he was merely commenting on a news report he had seen on Fox about crime in Sweden in general. This is the report he was referring to: 

As with most Fox reporting, this is a mixture of exaggeration, anecdote, and legitimate information. Like many reports you'll see anywhere, for that matter. American liberals have jumped quickly to Sweden's defense. But as Kevin Drum points out, some of the defenses are bogus:

Donald Trump at his pep rally yesterday on immigration:

You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.

Nothing happened in Sweden last night, which has prompted lots of IKEA and ABBA joke memes. However, Zack Beauchamp thinks Trump was probably referring not to something that happened recently, but to the alleged "rape epidemic" in Sweden ever since they started taking in lots of Middle Eastern immigrants. This is apparently a staple of the Breitbart-o-sphere. Unfortunately, Beauchamp then says this:

The problem, though, is that this “rape epidemic” is as fake as the Bowling Green Massacre.

Canadian reporter Doug Saunders rigorously investigated the narrative, and concluded that it “falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.” Official Swedish statistics do indeed show a high rate of rape, but that’s because Swedish law has an extremely expansive definition of what qualifies as rape under the law.

....These panics about immigration, instead, reflect a long history of sexual panics in the West about non-white immigrants. Etc.

Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off. Sure enough, Saunders didn't "rigorously" do anything. He linked to an old report that tallies crime rates for the years 1997-2001—which is all but useless in 20171—and then glided quickly past his eventual acknowledgment that the foreign-born have "a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born." If you're interested, here's the actual data from the report (tables 3 and 6 in the appendix):

These are very big differences. Now, Saunders also links to a study which suggests that "half to three-quarters" of the difference can be accounted for by socioeconomic status. Maybe so. But crime is crime. If you're the victim of assault from a Syrian refugee, you don't really care if it happened because he's Syrian or because he's poorer than average.

There's plenty more to legitimately say about this. If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous. Other statistics suggest that the children of the foreign-born have much lower crime rates than their parents. And as Beauchamp says, "rape" in Sweden is defined pretty broadly.

Still, if we bring up this subject at all, we have to present the statistics fairly. In the US, immigrants seem to commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Sweden is a different country, and the statistics suggest that foreign-born immigrants do indeed commit crimes there in much larger numbers than native Swedes.

UPDATE: I don't know just how interested everyone is in the minutiae of Swedish crime, but here's the crime rate over the past decade:

Some are up, some are down, but the overall trend appears fairly flat despite the large rise in immigrants over this period. On the other hand, preliminary figuresshow that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.

1Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent.

A few observations:

  1. "These are very big differences."
  2. "If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous." Sweden already provides some of the most generous social welfare benefits in the entire world, including to asylum-seekers.
  3. "And as Beauchamp says, 'rape' in Sweden is defined pretty broadly." No, it's not
    "I think it is a bit of a myth that the Sexual Crimes Act is so much tougher than in most other countries. The truth is that it is not that different,” Mårten Schultz tells IPS.
    In 2005, the definition of rape in the Swedish Sexual Crimes Act was broadened to include, for instance, having sex with someone who is asleep, or someone who could be considered to be in a “helpless state”. This applies to situations when someone would not be capable of saying “no”. A typical situation where the law could be applied is if someone who is drunk at a party falls asleep only to wake up and realize that someone is having sex with them.
    That would constitute rape according to the 2005 law, and not “sexual abuse”, which was the case before the law was amended. In this respect the new law did not criminalize behaviour that previously had been legal, but rather broadened the definition of what constitutes rape to include a larger number of sexual crimes." 

     

  4. The second graph in Drum's post shows steady crime rates. As I've pointed out before, this is what you would expect in a country with an aging native population committing fewer crimes, mixed in with a burgeoning immigrant population committing far more crimes per capita than native residents. If Sweden's immigration policies were different, crime rates would be on a steady downward trajectory.
  5. "Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent." I do.

And now, the tiresome but necessary caveats.

1. Does this mean all immigrants are criminals? No, the majority of immigrants in Sweden have never and will never commit a violent crime. The statistics show there is a higher crime rate among immigrants. That is all. If the rate of sexual assaults per year is 2 per 100,000 for native Swedes, but 20 per 100,000 for immigrants, this means it is indeed 100% accurate to say that the rate of sexual assault by immigrants is 10 times as high as that of Swedes. However, it is still extremely rare even among immigrants.

2. Does all of this mean that Sweden is collapsing? No, Sweden has imported a raft of complex social problems, but is not going to drown in a sea of flames.

3. Do I think Sweden should stop allowing immigration? No, I think Sweden should stop allowing immigration of too many of the wrong kind of people. Many fewer semi-literate unaccompanied young males with no job skills. Many more women and children refugees (for humanitarian reasons) and well-educated people (for reasons of enlightened self-interest. It's really not that hard, it's how most countries manage things.