'Other People's Indians' and Germany's Minority-Filled Prisons

In one of his essays from the 1976 book Emperor of the Earth: Modes of Eccentric Vision, Czeslaw Milosz reminisces about the 19th-century American novelist Thomas Mayne Reid. Reid wrote Western novels which became popular after they were translated into Russian, and is probably still more famous in Eastern Europe than in the USA. Milosz noted a curious fact: Reid's novels contained matter-of-fact scenes in which European Americans slaughtered and multilated American Indians and vice-versa -- but when it came to the fate of Montezuma at the hands of the perfidious Papist conquistadores, Mayne penned a gushing tribute to the nobility of the hapless Aztecs. Milosz notes in an aside: 'as often happens, Reid loved Indians, but only “their” Indians.'

'Other peoples' Indians': The tendency to attribute poor integration of minorities in other countries exclusively to the majority's racism, but the poor integration of minorities in your country to deficiencies among the minorities. And the OPI effect is alive and well. Let's take an example. Here's a graph of the percentage of foreigners (adapted from statista) among the prison populations in a variety of European countries:


Switzerland tops the list with a whopping 74.2%. Yes, you read that right: 74.2% of the people in Swiss prisons are not Swiss. Germany is nowhere near as skewed; only 27.9% of its prisoners are foreigners. But keep in mind that German only counts foreign nationals in its prisons. If you are of Turkish or Moroccan ancestry but have a German passport, you are not included.

If you define an ethnic minority in Germany the way most legal systems do -- someone whose external appearance is different from the native population and who has been the victim of discrimination by the majority native population -- then the number of ethnic minorities in German prisons, I am sure, would be at least 50%. There are no reliable statistics I have yet seen to prove this, because Germany doesn't keep them (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). But I've visited many German criminal courts, talked to cops, prosecutors and defense lawyers, and been to German prisons. Everybody recognizes the vast over-representation of ethnic minorities in German prisons as an everyday fact of life that only the most reality-resistant Green Party ideologue would ever contest. I am happy to be corrected on this, but nobody has so far succeeded.*

So, Germany's prisons are filled with a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities, just as America's prisons are. Now is where things get interesting. Why is that the case? Here is the explanation you will find in the average German newspaper:

  • Blacks and certain other minorities are over-represented in American prisons. It is inconceivable that this could be the product of higher rates of violent crime among American blacks. The reason for this over-representation must be discrimination in the American justice system. [Illogical but frequent further conclusion:] Therefore, America is an irredeemably racist society.
  • Ethnic minorities are over-represented in German prisons. Since there is no racial discrimination within the German criminal justice system, which is staffed by honorable professionals, these conviction rates reflect reality: minorities commit crimes that get you in prison more frequently than ethnic Germans commit them. This is because minorities tragically fail to adapt properly to German society, despite the noble efforts we Germans make to help them. [Illogical but frequent further conclusion:] The fact of their crime rates must be concealed and obfuscated as much as possible, since it could feed into right-wing stereotypes of 'criminal' immigrants.

I could find dozens of examples to back up these narratives, but since we all know that, I'll just skip it. I will point to an interesting counter-example, though, from Focus of all places: in an article about German prisons, the author notes (g) quotes an expert and a study showing that German judges gave noticeably longer sentences for the same crime when the offender had a Turkish name rather than a German one. But that's still the exception.

Continue reading "'Other People's Indians' and Germany's Minority-Filled Prisons" »

When Can German Police Stop and Question You?

Public service time! In the USA, there is a cottage industry of people spreading the word about what rights citizens have during encounters with police. One of the best videos is from 'Flex Your Rights'. It's just below. The video addresses automobile stops and house searches, but I decided to concentrate on this post on police stopping and questioning people on foot. The video starts just as a a police car pulls up to question a young black male. The cops are investigating illegal graffiti in the area. The lawyer comments on each step of the transaction: 

So what's the situation in Germany? A popular German legal website has a short but informative article here (g). The basic ground rules:

Police must always give you a reason for stopping and questioning you. However, this reason does not alway have to be a concrete suspicion. In certain circumstances police are permitted to stop people as a preventive measure to avoid dangers to public safety (Gefahrenabwehr). These are not intended to assist in investigating a crime, but rather preventing one.

For this justification to apply, it needs to be shown that a danger to public safety exists at a particular location -- for instance, a demonstration in which disturbances are likely to take place, or a well-known drug market where crimes are routine.

Such places are often named specifically in your local state's local-policing law -- for instance Bavaria allows suspicionless public-safety searches where large numbers of prostitutes gather. Also, in special circumstances police can declare entire regions of a city 'danger zones', as Hamburg did in 2014 during left-wing demonstrations.

And what if the police do stop you based on general location? You are required to answer basic questions: your name, your address, your nationality, date and place of birth. The police can ask you to present an identification card (either the German national identity card or a passport), but you are not required to carry this identification around with you everywhere, so if you don't have it with you, that is not against the law.

The police may ask you further questions, such as where you are coming from and where you are going, but you are not required to answer them. A lawyer quoted in the article recommends that you do answer them in a polite but very curt manner, since this is likely to de-escalate the situation.

Note that this applies only when the police stop you without any concrete suspicion you have committed a crime. If they do have such a suspicion, they may be entitled to ask more questions.

The police are also permitted to engage in questioning of random people without individualized suspicion of crime at airports and train stations and trains. The purpose of these stops is usually to try to find illegal immigrants. A German court has found that stopping someone based solely on their appearance or skin color is unconstitutional according to the German Basic Law. (The lawyer in me says they will almost certainly find other ways to justify the search, though.)

Everyone in Indonesia Will Want U.S. Style Air-Conditioning Soon

The Washington Post reports that 87% of American homes have air conditioning, and as every European knows, they don't just have it, they use it, baby, to create nipple-shattering indoor Arctic coldscapes (see how accurate stereotypes are?):

Overall, it's safe to say that Europe thinks America's love of air-conditioning is actually quite daft. Europeans have wondered about this particular U.S. addiction for a while now: Back in 1992, Cambridge University Prof. Gwyn Prins called America's love of air-conditioning the country's "most pervasive and least-noticed epidemic," according to the Economist. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it's getting worse: American demand for air-conditioning has only  increased over the past decades.

The U.S. has been the world's leader in air-conditioning ever since, and it's not a leadership Americans should necessarily be proud of. According to Stan Cox, a researcher who has spent years studying indoor climate controlling, the United States consumes more energy for air conditioning than any other country. In many parts of the world, a lack in economic development might be to blame for a widespread absence of air-conditioning at the moment. However, that doesn't explain why even most Europeans ridicule Americans for their love of cooling and lack of heat tolerance.

Of course, Northern Europe is still colder than most regions within the United States and some countries, such as Italy or Spain, have recently seen an increase in air-conditioning. "The U.S. is somewhat unusual in being a wealthy nation much of whose population lives in very warm, humid regions," Cox told The Washington Post in an e-mail. However, the differences in average temperatures are unlikely to be the only reason for Europeans'  reluctance to buy cooling systems. It's also about cultural differences.


"The bottom line is that America's a big, rich, hot country," Cox told The Post. "But if the second, fourth, and fifth most populous nations -- India, Indonesia, and Brazil, all hot and humid -- were to use as much energy per capita for air-conditioning as does the U.S., it would require 100 percent of those countries' electricity supplies, plus all of the electricity generated by Mexico, the U.K., Italy, and the entire continent of Africa," he added.

That's not at all an unlikely scenario: In 2007, only 2 percent of Indian households had air-conditioning, but those numbers have skyrocketed since.  "The rise of a large affluent urban class is pushing use up," Cox explained.

"I have estimated that in metropolitan Mumbai alone, the large population and hot climate combine to create a potential energy demand for cooling that is about a quarter of the current demand of the entire United States," Sivak concluded in a paper published by the American Scientist.

"If everyone were to adopt the U.S.'s air-conditioning lifestyle, energy use could rise tenfold by 2050," Cox added, referring to the 87-percent ratio of households with air-conditioning in the United States. Given that most of the world's booming cities are  in tropical places, and that none of them have so far deliberately adopted the European approach to air-conditioning, such calculations should raise justified concerns.

Nope, Brazilians, Indonesians and Indians are definitely not going to adopt a 'European' approach to air-conditioning, because those countries don't have European climates. Anybody who lives in a humid climate falls in love with air-conditioning the minute they experience it, and never go back. So we'd better get crackin' on much more efficient air-conditioners yesterday. Some Indian zillionaire should sponsor a contest: $10 million to the first team that develops an 80% more efficient air conditioner. The Future of Humanity™ could well at stake.

Projection and Discrimination

The reason I'm posting a lot about criminal justice stats recently is first because I find it interesting but also because I'm working on a piece about German (and perhaps also French) coverage of crime in the USA. 

Specifically, and not to put too fine a point on it: (1) the fact that German reporters, out of ignorance or prejudice, use bogus statistics to exaggerate claims of discrimination in the American justice system; and (2) the reason for this is projection: ("a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.").

Specifically, the thesis is that German and French journalists are (whether consciously or not) distracting their readers from the problems in their own criminal justice systems by projecting discrimination onto the USA. I don't know, that formulation's pretty edgy, but sometimes edgy is fun!

Still in the research phase, but I'll let you know if I can get a German press outlet to publish it.

Understanding Comparative Crime Rates

Some comments I've been getting here and elsewhere show some people may be unfamiliar with demographic statistics. So here's a short post to put things in perspective:

  1. The Country of Utopia has 1 million inhabitants, split between two population groups: the Martians and the Plutonians.
  2. There are 900,000 Martians and 100,000 Plutonians.
  3. In 2014, there were 27 murders committed by Martians, and 30 murders committed by Plutonians.
  4. So, the raw number of murders committed by each population group is similar. However, raw numbers are meaningless.
  5. The most common measure in criminology, sociology, and demographics is rate per year per 100,000 people. Almost every population-level statistic you see uses this measure.
  6. So, in 2014 there were 3 murders per 100,000 committed by Martians, and 30 murders per 100,000 committed by Plutonians.
  7. This means the murder rate among Plutonians is about 10 times higher than the murder rate among Martians. (This is generally the ratio in the USA when it comes to murder rates among whites and blacks.)
  8. This also means that only .003% of Martians and .03% of Plutonians committed murder in 2014.
  9. In other words, when it comes to murder, the vast majority of both Martians and Plutonians are law-abiding citizens.

So, the statement that 'those Plutonians are all criminals' is an moronic over-generalization. The statement: 'there is a much higher rate of murder among Plutonians' is accurate.

Now if only .03% of Plutonians are murderers, why is it that some Plutonian neighborhoods may be unsafe to visit? That's because the murder rate within the Plutonian population is not evenly distributed. 50% of Plutonians are female, and 50% of Plutonian males are under 10 or over 45. These groups present very low risk of violent crime. For simplicity's sake we'll leave out socio-economic status (poorer people universally have higher crime rates) and focus only on age. 90.5% of all homicides are committed by males, and the vast majority are committed by young males. So to continue with our example:

  1. Let's say that 24 of the 30 homicides were committed by Plutonian men between 10 and 45 years of age: that is, 25,000 people.
  2. That means the murder rate among young Plutonian males is 96 per 100,000. That is 3.2 times higher than the general murder rate for all Plutonians, and 32 times higher than the rate among all Martians.
  3. Let's assume the same effect holds for Martians (not 100% true but close): the murder rate for young Martian males is 3.2 times the overall base rate of 3, or 9.6 per 100,000.

So this means that all things considered, if you want to minimize your risk of being the victim of a homicide, you should probably avoid neighborhoods with large concentrations of young Plutonian males, since they have the highest homicide rate in Utopia. Nevertheless, of course, even in this sub-group, the vast majority of young Plutonians are law-abiding, so your risk of being killed is still very low (especially since these rates are for an entire year and you'll just be there a day). However, assuming that the rates for other crimes show similar characteristics for the rate of homicide (again, this is generally true, but lots of caveats apply), your risk of being the victim of some crime in a high-young-male-Plutonian neighborhood may well be non-trivial.

I hope that clarifies things.

'European Awakenings' and Dead German Tourists

Following up on the last two posts, here's a term I coined a while ago: 'European Awakenings.' This refers to the eye-opening experience Europeans have encountering ghettos in the US. Europeans, you see, are fed a constant, unrelenting stream of naked propaganda about how racist the United States is, because the assumption of enduring, inherent, systematic racism of the USA is one of the fundamental building blocks of the left-liberal urban bourgeois European worldview. You know, the people who used to control what Europeans see and read.

As a result of this  world-view, African-Americans are sacralized victims. European documentary producers routinely send camera crews to rough neighborhoods and stenographically report whatever the residents have to say without any attempt at fact-checking. Reports on the place of blacks in American society are filled with errors and exaggerations like this one and this one. And the errors and exaggerations always, without exception, portray blacks as helpless, innocent victims of pervasive racism by white Americans. No unflattering portrayals of American blacks are permitted in the Northern European media.

As a result, ordinary Europeans have a thoroughly one-sided view of race relations in the US, and are unaware of facts such as the ones mentioned in the last post. This means that when Europeans visit the USA, they scoff at Americans who tell them of the potential dangers of certain neighborhoods. In fact, German tourists getting killed in Florida has become such a cliche that there's a Miami punk band named Dead German Tourists.

The ones who survive -- and, of course, most of them do -- have a 'European Awakening'.

Example: I once visited Baltimore, recently in flames and routinely among the top 5 most dangerous cities in the USA, with a couple friends, one of whom was from, say, Slovakia. Let's call him Gumbo. Like many Europeans, Gumbo is fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe, who thanks to Baudelaire is even more of an intellectual hero in Europe than the US. Gumbo wanted to visit the historic Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore.

I said 'sounds like a great idea. I'll call a cab.' He said 'No, no way. It's a nice day. I'll walk there!'

I said, 'Uhh, that might not be such a good idea.' He said: 'Why?' I said: 'Because it's in a not-very-nice neighborhood, and you'll also have to walk through some not very nice neighborhoods to get there.'

'Oh I get it, you mean black neighborhoods,' he said.

'Well, yes. Poor black neighborhoods. There are plenty of middle-class black neighborhoods in Baltimore which are fine to walk through, but these aren't.'

'Well, I have to say I think that's a bit racist of you. I'm sure nothing will happen.'

'Yes, it's 99% likely that nothing will happen to you. But this isn't Europe. If the 1% happens, the person making it happen will have a gun. Anyway, I can't stop you, so go nuts!'

So then Gumbo, with his extremely pale skin, sandals, and bulging backpack, set out on a trip through Baltimore. I made sure his cellphone was fully charged.

A few hours later he returned, safe and in one piece, but a bit shaken. I asked him how it was. He said, 'Uhh, well, I can sort of see what you mean. Lots of people pointed at me and talked to me, and I couldn't understand them, and boys on bikes were always circling around me. And I saw some things I wish I hadn't seen. Many things, actually.'

From that point on, he took my advice about which parts of American cities to not choose for a leisurely stroll.

UPDATE: Here's a website that features current warnings about dangerous parts of Houston, Texas. This helpful contribution was written by a person who actually lives in one of those areas:

Welcome to Houston , I'm a 36yro native . I grew in north and northwest houston . The Northside is low income/middle class . The worst parts of it are Northeast and Northwest .Some of the reviews are correct and some are based on opinion . I'm going to explain the inner suburbs in this region . 


3. White Oak Terrace * 

* denotes seriously deadly area 
A. White Oak Bayou 
B. Metro Rt 85 , 45 , 79 
Most Dangerous Streets 
Before I mention the streets , They will have * denoting very high crime and deaths . Some info will be mentioned .
I. Antoine *- Metro Rt 85, This street is very busy around the clock . It junctions with two major rail lines BNSF to the north and UP to the south . It intersects with streets listed above . It runs north to Veterans Memorial and south to Memorial Dr. . It runs through the western portion of Oak Forest near 290 in White Oak Terrace . From Pinemont intersection to intersection of South Victory across White Oak Bayou to the north is White Oak Terrace . This is very high crime area normally at night especially on the side streets . Antoine is safe . Do not get on the side streets . There are many apt clusters on this stretch that are riddled with drug trafficking , prostitution , and murder .
IA . * Desoto St. - This street is to be avoided at all costs day and night . This street is two segments . It runs west from White Oak Bayou to Antoine and from White Oak Bayou east to Ella in Acres Homes both segments are deadly to be driving on especially at night . This street is known as the most deadliest street in the city namely the western portion . It got its name and reputation from the Hurricane Katrina / Rita period when the evacs were here and the crime was high then . There would be two or three murders in a day or a week . Every night I would hear sirens going and coming . Today ,it is now drug trafficking in and out of there because of a recently rebuilt property by the city and drugs have taken it over .It got so bad that it poured into the complex I'm currently residing in . But we kicked it out before it got started . Sadly it ended up at a property across the street . Stay off Desoto St period . If you are moving do not move there . 
IB ** Antoine/Tidwell to Tidwell/Bingle - This stretch is to be extremely advoided at anytime day or night .Walking , biking or driving. If you don't live there or know someone who lives there, you don't have no business around there period . There have been many murders take place there . Summer 2012 , two people man and woman have been shot to death and there have been death by stabbing . Gangs are known to hide out there . Go on though and don't stop for anything .It is best to go through there during the day and not at night . This stretch is a cluster of apts from one intersection to another . Pay close attention to this vacinity . 
IC. * Hollyview- This street is located to the north of the property I'm currently residing in . It is a dead end street like Desoto but it curves southeast from Antoine . The last major incident that took place on this street is a police officer was gunned down in his cruiser. Over the years that have been major drug busts . It has toned down but never take it lightly that it has the potential of increased crime . The area is somewhat dark at night but there is plenty of lighting due to any old complex that was demolished by the city as an eyesore . Don't chance it with Hollyview St. Keep going . 

And here's a somewhat poetic contribution, also focusing on Desoto Street:

I am a missionary from London UK and on a Saturday evening my friend
invited me to go jogging as I did not know the area I thought it was ok but we ended up on
a park at Desoto st called Highland Park in Acres Homes I only found out later
where I was as I don't know the area and we live in some houses complex nearby
I was attacked by about 8 black youths ( I am black) my friend is white
And I was seriously assaulted I could have died, when we saw them coming
We tried walking away but 3 followed and hit me from behind.
I was shocked, so Stay Away At All Cost.
I work and leave near so I have to get the 45,40 and 44 bus but as others have 
Said if you have no business here stay away.
Not even when I was on the streets of Rio I suffered an assault like here.
Thanks and God Save America

Yet More Context for Black Prison Population

In response to a few comments on the last post, here are a few graphics from a major recent paper on black crime rates in the USA. The full citation is: Steffensmeier et al., 'Reassessing Trends in Black Violent Crime, 1980-2008: Sorting out the 'Hispanic Effect' in Uniform Crime Reports Arrests, National Crime Victimization Survey Offender Estimates, and U.S. Prisoner Counts. Criminology, 2011; 49 (1): 197 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00222.x.

The problem with some American crime statistics is they lump in Hispanic offenders with whites. A part of the abstract reads:

We argue that prior studies showing a shrinking Black share of violent crime might be in error because of reliance on White and Black national crime statistics that are confounded with Hispanic offenders, whose numbers have been increasing rapidly and whose violence rates are higher than that of Whites but lower than that of Blacks.

The paper later explains why failing to separately count Hispanics may distort the true size of the Black-White gap in violent crime:

Because most Hispanics identify as White (approximately 93 percent) and few as lack (approximately 4 percent) and because crime-reporting programs typically record Hispanic arrests as White arrestees, failing to separate ethnicity from race—in particular, failing to separate Hispanics from non-Hispanic Whites—not only limits understanding of ethnic involvement but also hides the true disparity between Whites and Blacks. Rates that blend Hispanic origin across race inflate White rates and deflate Black rates, making 1) the disparity between the two groups seem less extreme than when Hispanic ethnicity is considered (Demuth, 2002, 2003; Hartney and Vuong, 2009; Steffensmeier and Demuth, 2000) and 2) possibly creating an illusion of Black–White convergence or a shrinking Black proportion of overall violence.

The authors then apply a corrective for this problem, and report the results:

1. A small-to-moderate increase in the Black fraction of homicide from 57 to 65 percent (vs. virtually no change [49–50 percent] in the confounded Black fraction).

2. A small increase in the Black fraction of robbery, from 67 to 70 percent (vs. a small decline in the confounded Black fraction from 60 to 57 percent).

3. A small increase for aggravated assault, from 42 to 44 percent (vs. a small decline in the confounded Black fraction, 37 to 34 percent).

4. A large decline in the Black fraction for rape, from 54 to 42 percent (vs. an even larger decline in the confounded Black fraction, 48 to 33 percent).

As with all modern survey, the authors consider both arrest and victimization rates, as well as other measures. Here are some relevant graphics from the paper:

Pages from Steffensmeier et al reassessing black criminality for hispanic effect criminology 2011So, as you can see, Blacks make up 12.6% of the US population, but according to the revised statistic in this paper, account for over 63% of all arrests for homicide. Even under the old, confounded number the percentage was 51%, still far in excess of their representation in the population. The authors then provide graphics for the multiple of how much higher black v. white crime rates are for specific crimes:

Pages from Steffensmeier et al reassessing black criminality for hispanic effect criminology 2011So these charts show how many times greater the Black crime rate for various crimes is than the white crime rate. The Black murder rate is about 11 times higher than the white murder rate, the black robbery rate is about 15 times higher. The gray lines are from victimization surveys, which as might be expected differ somewhat from arrest-rate surveys.

This study isn't the last word -- what study is? -- but it's well-respected and frequently cited. It shows no matter how you calculate it that rates of violent crime among Black Americans are significantly higher than those among White Americans. Since violent crimes such as these are the most likely to be punished with prison sentences, this information is essential to any assessment of potential racial discrimination in the US justice system. Any comment on the US justice system that leaves it these data is much, much worse than useless.

This is not to deny discrimination in the US justice system -- many studies show Black and Hispanic offenders receive 10-15% longer sentences than Whites for comparable crimes, and of course the imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders is heavily racially-loaded. But the huge disparities between Black and White violent crime rates shown above are doing a lot of the work explaining the over-representation of Blacks in US prisons. And I'm sure that the statistics of crime and incarceration rates for non-ethnic Germans in Germany probably would reveal similar trends.

The Necessary Context on Black Crime Rates

M6227a1f3(source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

The mere fact that blacks are overrepresented in American prisons relative to the population does not even come close to proving the American justice system is racist, because:

One of the most well-known statistics pertaining to the criminal justice system is that a disproportionate amount of African American males are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated. Although the precise estimates vary across studies and reports, in general African American males are arrested at a rate (relative to their proportion of the population) several times that of White males, with these racial differences being quite robust across a wide range of offenses, including property offenses and drug-related offenses (Cooper, Fox, & Rodriguez, 2012; Peterson, 2012; Sampson & Wilson, 2005; Steffensmeier, Feldmeyer, Harris, & Ulmer, 2011; Tonry, 2010). This disparity is even more pronounced when examining the most serious and violent types of criminal acts (Chan, Myers, & Heide, 2010; D’Alessio & Stolzenberg, 2003; DeLisi, Dooley, & Beaver, 2007; Gabbidon, Higgins, & Potter, 2011; Tapia, 2010; Tillyer & Hartley, 2010; Tonry, 2010). In short, no matter how the data are cut, no serious criminologist, sociologist or any other academician interested in the topic can deny that African American males are much more likely to be processed through the criminal justice system than are White males.

Where opinions differ sharply, however, is in regard to the exact mechanisms that predict disparities in criminal justice processing. While several causal pathways have been proposed, the explanation garnering the most attention from scholars is that of a racially biased justice system (Kennedy, 1997; MacDonald, 2003; Wilbanks, 1987). More specifically, the null hypothesis, so to speak, has been that of a system which unduly targets racial minorities, especially African Americans. Certainly there is evidence pertaining to the increased likelihood of African American males (in particular) being stopped, questioned, arrested and ultimately sentenced by the criminal justice system (Blumstein, 1982; Carmichael, 2010; Kennedy, 1997; Peterson, 2012; Tonry, 2010; for some dissenting evidence, however, see Franklin, 2010, as well as, Tracy, 2002).

This is the introduction to an article with the self-explanatory title: No evidence of racial discrimination in criminal justice processing: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, published in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences. Many commentators seek to explain higher crime rates among American blacks as a product of discriminatory enforcement, so the authors decided to look at self-reports of behavior given as part of a huge anonymous US federal study. They found that self-reporting closely tracked official crime statistics. The authors of course note that self-reporting has limitations, but they observed that (1) since the study was anonymous, participants were unlikely to be distorting their answers to influence peers, and (2) in any case, people asked to report on their own antisocial behavior consistently understate it, for reasons that should be obvious to everyone.

Nevertheless, the amount of criminal activity reported by blacks was largely in line with statistical evidence of higher proportions of blacks being processed through the justice system. I wouldn't go so far as to absolve the US criminal justice system of all discrimination, but merely citing the over-representation of one group in US prisons without this vital context is misleading and German journalists should stop doing it. Nor, for that matter, should American journalists conclude from the fact that 27% of all German prisoners are foreigners (g) that the German criminal justice system is biased.

Iraq War 2005 = (sort of) Greece Bailout 2015

American economic historian Jacob Soll notes the self-righteous anger shown by German economists at a recent meeting:

But when the German economists spoke at the final session, a completely different tone took over the room. Within the economic theories and numbers came a moral message: The Germans were honest dupes and the Greeks corrupt, unreliable and incompetent. Both parties were reduced to caricatures of themselves. We’ve heard this story throughout the negotiations, but in that room, it was clear how much resentment shapes the views of German economists.

Clemens Fuest, of the Center for European Economic Research, who has advised Mr. Schäuble, kept reciting numbers about Greek debt and growth, and said the Greeks had failed at every level over the past several years to manage their debt. He believed they should simply be thrown out of the eurozone. Henrik Enderlein, of the pro-European Jacques Delors Institute, said that Greece should stay in the eurozone, but only if it applied more austerity and better management. Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies, theorized that Greek debt and economic woes could be countered only with better export numbers.

All points were important, but to hear it from these economists, Germany played no real part in the Greek tragedy. They handed over their money and watched as the Greeks destroyed themselves over the past four years. Now the Greeks deserved what was coming to them.

When I pointed out that the Germans had played a major role in this situation, helping at the very least by insisting on austerity and unsustainable debt over the last three years, doing little to improve accounting standards, and now effectively imposing devastating capital controls, Mr. Enderlein and Mr. Fuest scoffed. When I mentioned that many saw austerity as a new version of the 1919 Versailles Treaty that would bring in a future “chaotic and unreliable” government in Greece — the very kind that Mr. Enderlein warned about in an essay in The Guardian — they countered that they were furious about being compared to Nazis and terrorists.

When I noted that no matter how badly the Greeks had handled their economy, German demands and the possible chaos of a Grexit risked political populism, unrest and social misery, they were unmoved. Debtors who default, they explained, would simply have to suffer, no matter how rough and even unfair the terms of the loans. There were those who handled their economies well, and took their suffering silently, like Finland and Latvia, they said. In contrast, a country like Greece, where many people don’t pay their taxes, did not seem to merit empathy. It reminded me that in German, debt, “schuld,” also means moral fault or blame.

Here lies a major cultural disconnect, and also a risk for the Germans. For it seems that their sense of victimization has made them lose their cool, both in negotiations and in their economic assessments. If the Germans are going to lead Europe, they can’t do it as victims.

I agree that Nazi comparisons are moronic (the better historical analogy is the Treaty of Versailles). But many mainstream German commentators react with outrage to any criticism of Germany’s handling of the Euro crisis, no matter how well-informed.

The German reaction to criticism reminds me of the reaction of certain Americans (and some others) to criticism of the Iraq War in, say, 2005. In both situations, countries which were pursuing their own self-interest (probably a very short-sighted and foolish version of it, but self-interest nonetheless) wanted everyone not only to let them pursue it but to admire them for doing so.

The other dynamic, which proved so fatal to many European America-philes, was a version of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Some of the critics of the American invasion were delusional leftists who always criticize the United States in harsh and often unreasonable terms. Since I despise these sorts of people and everything they stand for, the America-defender thought, I must instinctively support anything they oppose. This dynamic, known as ‘punching the hippies’, reappears throughout history and has been responsible for millions of dumbass decisions by otherwise generally smart people.  

Because of these two dynamics, any criticism was chalked up to resentment, ignorance, or prejudice. Sober questions about whether the policy was effective or morally justified were met with the kinds of deflection and misdirection that people universally resort to when defending a decision an action they vocally supported, but which is rapidly, publicly going pear-shaped. The conversations went a little like this:

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified and will lead to positive results?

-- What are you implying? Have you seen the protesters with their Bush = Hitler signs? Let me tell you, if morons like that are against it, it’s probably a good idea.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- Why don’t you ask a Kurd or a Marsh Arab or one of Saddam’s countless torture victims that question?

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- Europe is full of anti-American cranks who are going to hate us no matter what we do, so I don’t particularly care about their opinion.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- People who think modern problems can always be solved peacefully are foolish, naive, and irresponsible.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- You’re trying to make this into an American thing. Don’t you realize the coalition of the willing includes Britain, as well as many Eastern European and Micronesian nations?

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- The historical analogy you’re implying in your question is both inaccurate and deeply offensive.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- I see this is the thanks we get from Europe for saving their asses twice during the last century.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- If America has to go it alone in spreading democracy and freedom in a troubled part of the world, I guess that’s just what it will take.

And so on and so on, ad infinitum. I see basically the same dynamic playing out now in Germany, as the agreement reached after the recent summit is being roundly attacked by the vast majority of non-German observers, and not a few German ones as well.

My advice to Germans still clinging to the Finance Ministry’s viewpoint: give up. There's no defending the indefensible. It’ll make your life, and everyone else's, much easier.

UPDATE: Krgthulu's mailbox is buzzing with angry Germans:

You see, I’ve been getting a lot of mail from Germany lately, in a break from (or actually an addition to) my usual deluge of right-wing hate mail. I’m well aware that this is a highly distorted sample, since I’m only hearing from those angry enough and irrational enough — seriously, what do the writers expect to accomplish? — to send such things. Still, the content of the correspondence is striking.

Basically, the incoming missives take two forms:

1. Obscenities, in both English and German

2. Bitter accusations of persecution, along the lines of “As a Jew you should know the dangers of demonizing a people.” Because criticizing a nation’s economic ideology is just like declaring its people subhuman.

Again, these are letter-writers, and hardly representative. But Germany’s sense of victimization does seem real, and is a big problem for its neighbors.

American Law Professor Wants to Keep the Death Penalty

The perennial question from Europeans: Why does a 'civilized' nation like the USA hang on to a barbaric punishment like the death penalty? If I am in the mood, I reel off my 5-pronged answer (sometimes I miss a prong or add a few, depending on level of drunkenness).

One of those prongs is that in Europe, the entire law professoriate, and the entire educated class, is uniformly against capital punishment, with trivial exceptions. They act as elite opinion gatekeepers, making sure no pro-capital punishment arguments are ever aired in the mainstream media. Even Germany's leading tabloid, Bild, has always been against capital punishment.

Not so in the USA. Staying with the New York Times, here's an op-ed from William Baude, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago. He's commenting on a recent court decision, Glossip v. Gross, in which liberal Justices Breyer and Ginsburg advocated abolishing the death penalty in the USA: 

Next let’s turn to Justice Breyer, who argues that it is “highly likely” that the death penalty as a whole violates the Eighth Amendment, because it is unreliable, arbitrary, slow and rare. This argument went well beyond the specific challenge to the use of the midazolam that was the focus of the case. Rather, Justice Breyer explained that he would stop trying “to patch up the death penalty’s legal wounds one at a time” and likely bury the whole thing. Justice Breyer (whose opinion was joined here by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is the first member of the current court to call for such a radical step.

We should not be too quick to embrace Justice Breyer’s thinking. If his conclusion is something other than a personal moral intuition, it rests on deeply contested claims about the accuracy, goals and costs of the death penalty. And while Justice Breyer’s dissent advanced extensive evidence for his claims, they are nonetheless claims that are hard for a judge, even a Supreme Court justice, to resolve dispassionately. Moreover, even if those claims are proved true, the more appropriate judicial course would be to invalidate the problematic parts of the system, not the system as a whole.

If we reject the broad legal claims of both Justices Scalia and Breyer, what is left? The court’s job is to continue resolving the fact-specific claims that a given punishment is cruel and unusual, even if that means that the court must only “patch up the death penalty’s legal wounds.” And the bigger question that Justice Breyer would have us confront — whether our death penalty system is necessary or oppressive — is best left to the states and the people.

Note that Baude himself never states his own preferred position on capital punishment, except that it should be 'left to the states of the people'. A German law professor might well consider this pusillanimous, but of course you could also call it admirably restrained.