Sanity in the Extreme

So, the Alternative for Germany party convention (g) rejected a platform plank that would have declared that Germany is "not a country of immigrants" and instead approved the following: "Immigrants who have relevant qualifications for the labor market and who demonstrate a high degree of willingness to integrate are welcome here."

Whenever the AfD is criticized as extreme and xenophobic in the coming years -- and it will be, constantly and unrelentingly, in a barrage of propaganda -- remember that sentence:

"Immigrants who have relevant qualifications for the labor market and who demonstrate a high degree of willingness to integrate are welcome here."

That is the party's official stance on immigration. Not only is there nothing extreme about this, this is currently the policy of the overwhelming majority of countries on the face of the earth. All countries to which a rational person might want to immigrate -- and many others -- openly and frankly say to potential immigrants: we only want you if you can contribute to our society. Otherwise, we won't let you in. Our country's immigration policy puts the interests of existing citizens first, and there is nothing shameful, wrong, or even questionable about that.

Noted racist authoritarian backwater Canada, on an official government website, lists the factors it uses for its own immigration point system:

Screenshot 2016-05-01 15.07.14

In Canada, you have to score at least 67 points. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that current German immigration policy, driven by a bizarre form of cultural masochism, is drawing mainly people who score less than 20 points on this scale. Many less than 10. Many less than 5.

It's hard to know where to place on this scale the tens of thousands of (often illiterate) 2015 immigrants to Germany who have already committed serious crimes. They are, after all, not only not benefiting Germany in any way, they are actively harming the country. Perhaps we need to expand the scale below 0 to capture Germany's current immigration policy.

-20? -50?

So remember, whenever les bien-pensants accuse the AfD of xenophobia, they are condemning the current immigration policies of virtually every developed nation.

That may give you a new perspective on who the extremists are.


Migrant Assaults Back on the Omertà List in Germany, But Not in Australia

After a brief period of honest discussion in January, the mainstream national press has returned to a policy of silence on sexual offenses committed by migrants. Those offenses haven't stopped, of course, but they are now reported on only in local newspapers and websites.

Nevertheless, sites which aggregate these reports point to what is clearly a significant public-safety issue in Germany. If we ever get reliable statistics on sex assaults in Germany in 2015-16 broken down by ethnicity of offender, we will certainly see a large increase driven by assaults and rapes committed by recent migrants. (Which is why those statistics will likely never be collected.)

Since the national German media are ignoring this public-safety issue, Australia has decided to step in. Here's a relatively balanced but critical story from the Australian NewsCorp website:

GERMANY, Sweden and other European countries are facing growing public unrest amid a wave of reports of sexual assaults since the Cologne attacks.

New York-based conservative think tank Gatestone Institute has compiled ashocking list of sexual assaults and rapes by migrants in Germany in just the first two months of the year.

Drawing only from German media reports, the list documents more than 160 instances of rape and sexual assault committed by migrants in train stations,swimming pools and other public places against victims as young as seven.

German police use terms such as “southerners” (südländer), men with “dark skin” (dunkelhäutig, dunklere gesichtsfarbe, dunklem hauttyp) or “southern skin colour” (südländische hautfarbe) to describe the alleged perpetrators.

Authorities across the country have been accused of downplaying the true extent of the problem by suppressing information about migrant-related crimes, ostensibly due to a “lack of public interest”.

Police are also wary of fuelling civil unrest amid a rising number of attacks on migrants and shelters by right-wing vigilante groups. In response, Germans are increasingly turning to social media to spread information.

A German Twitter account, @XYEinzelfall (“individual cases”), has created aGoogle map to track police reports of crimes allegedly committed by migrants across the region. “Cologne was just the tip of the iceberg,” the page says. “Cologne is every day.”...

However, refugee advocates have warned against tarring all migrants with the same brush, noting that the alleged crimes are rare incidents in the context of the enormous number of migrants who have come to Europe.

More than 1.1 million migrants flooded into Germany in 2015 and the country is expecting 3.6 million to arrive by 2020, according to internal government estimates.

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Šimonović told Timethat “against this background, we are currently speaking about incidents that must be carefully studied to establish any patterns and links”....

The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) announced that migrants committed crimes at the same rate as native Germans.

“It’s becoming clear that at bottom there is a higher absolute number of criminal cases only because of the increase in number of people living here with the arrival of the refugees,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said at the time.

Mr de Maizière said he had ordered the report in order to provide proof to “dispel rumours about an increase in criminal acts in Germany”, DW reported.

“The majority [of migrants] do not come here with the intention of committing crimes,” he said. “They come to Germany to find protection and peace.”

The same report, which was based on crime statistics from January to the end of September 2015, noted a “marked spike” in crime at migrant centres, which it attributed to overcrowding.

According to BKA, the majority (67 per cent) of crimes committed by migrants consisted of theft, robbery and fraud, while sex crimes made up less than one per cent....

On Monday, police in the Swedish city of Östersund advised women not to go outdoors alone following a string of public assaults and sex attacks in the past three weeks.

Sweden, which has a population of just under 10 million, took in around 163,000 migrants in 2015, making it by far the most generous on a per capita basis.

National broadcaster SVT reports what police area manager Stephen Jerand described as a “worrying trend” of unprovoked violence on women in public places.

Speaking at a press conference, police said they had never experienced crime of this nature in the small city of Östersund, which has a population of just 44,000.

“This is serious,” Mr Jerand said. “We care about the protection of women and that is why we go out and talk about this.”

Police said there had been six reports of attacks since February 20, including a 10-year-old girl who was molested at a bus station in the centre of the city....

It comes after a poll conducted by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet found nearly half of all women in the country are now scared to exercise alone at night.

According to the survey, 46 per cent of women aged over 16 felt either “very” or “somewhat” unsafe when they are alone in the dark, compared with 20 per cent of men.

Almost one third said if they were caught by sunset, that they would rather stay at a friend’s house than try to get home alone.

Speaking to the newspaper, 34-year-old Ellinor Andersson said she carried a bunch of keys in her hand at night, ready to strike out at any attacker.

“I would never go running by myself on a Friday or a Saturday night,” she told the paper. Another said she would never go out alone after 7pm.

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported of an all-female, bikini-clad group of ‘vigilantes’ called the ‘Groping Guards’, who patrol swimming pools in Sweden to prevent migrants molesting bathers.

“Swimming pools have become prime hunting grounds for gangs of men looking to prey on vulnerable women,” 24-year-old Siri Bernhardsson told the Daily Mail.

“Loads of women here say they have been touched. We are tired of men thinking they can come to Sweden and molest women. We want to teach these boys how to behave and be left in peace to swim without being felt up.

“It happens in train stations and in swimming pools. This should not be the case in 2016 in Sweden.”

In January, it emerged that Swedish authorities had covered up sexual assaults on teenage girls by mostly migrant youths at a music festival in Stockholm for fear of “[playing] into the hands” of the anti-immigration right-wing party the Sweden Democrats.

In an editorial for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper at the time, Ivar Arpi wrote: “We Swedes pride ourselves on our unrivalled record on respecting women’s rights. But when women’s rights conflict with the goal of accommodating other cultures, it’s almost always women who are pushed to the side.”

It's almost as if the Australian news media trust their readers to be able to read balanced but direct reports about a sensitive subject without immediately rushing out of their houses to form mobs and hunt down foreigners.


Hegemonic Self-Righteousness

Wolfgang Streeck on Merkel in the LRB. Occasionally too polemical, but an interesting argument:

A master politician like Merkel will never let a good crisis go to waste. It wasn’t just media stories about suffering migrants that led her to invite the refugees in Budapest to come to Germany, no papers required and no questions asked. What Merkel called ‘showing a friendly face in an emergency’ was meant to shame those who, during the euro crisis, had enjoyed the cartoons of Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in Nazi uniform. By opening the German border while the French and British borders remained closed, Merkel could hope to recapture the moral high ground occupied for so long by those accusing the German government of sado-monetarism, or worse.

Another factor was the tight labour market that German employers, still Merkel’s main constituency, were facing, especially after the introduction of a statutory minimum wage was forced on Merkel by her coalition partner, the SPD. Rumours spread in the German press that Syrian refugees in particular, many of them allegedly with degrees in engineering and medicine, had all manner of skills. German economic research institutes predicted a newWirtschaftswunder, while employers promised to invest heavily in training the presumably tiny number of less skilled immigrants. Everybody assumed that most if not all the refugees and asylum seekers – a distinction soon lost in the general excitement – would stay in Germany for a long time if not for good. For Merkel, who in October 2010 claimed that ‘the multikulti approach [had] failed, absolutely failed,’ this was no longer a problem. In fact, it had become a solution: in the first half of 2015, several studies indicated that the expensive measures taken over a decade of Merkel rule to induce German families to have more children had had next to no effect. Early that summer, to avert what was perceived as a looming demographic crisis, Merkel got her closest aides to test the mood in the party and among the general public on immigration legislation, but was met with firm resistance.

Budapest was what the ancient Greeks called a kairos – a lucky moment when a number of birds were positioned in such a way that they could be killed with one stone. Politics, as always with Merkel, trumped policies. ‘Showing a friendly face’ would make it possible for the Greens at the next election in 2017 to do what their leadership has long wanted to do but never dared: enter into a coalition government with the Christian Democrats. Merkel acted exactly as she did on neoliberal reform in 2005 and nuclear energy in 2011: quickly, on her own, and without wasting time explaining herself. Just as she did when she ordered the Energiewende (‘energy transition’) while the law extending the lifespan of the nuclear power plants was still on the books (several energy supply companies are suing for damages), she counted on the opposition parties in the Bundestag – Linkspartei and the Greens – not to ask awkward questions, and they obliged. The members of her party couldn’t complain: they had been backed into a corner by the SPD’s approval of Merkel’s stance, and by their desire not to damage their leader. Once again, a decision ‘that will change our country’, as Merkel herself put it, was made without regard for democratic process or, for that matter, constitutional formalities.... 

There were good reasons for asking questions. The refugees, more than a million of them, who arrived in Germany in 2015, all arrived from safe third countries. Under German and European law, they had to register in the country where they entered the European Union, and then wait to be assigned a legal residence in a member state. Merkel seems to have decided that she could safely ignore all this. When anyone complained that this was both a huge stress test on German society and a giant social engineering project, Merkel regally announced that if she had to apologise for ‘showing a friendly face’, ‘then this is not my country’ – an extraordinary statement for a democratically elected leader to make. In fact, as the Energiewendedemonstrated, she has for some time been governing not like a parliamentary leader but like a president with emergency powers. For some time, inquiries into the wisdom of her immigration policy were answered by her entourage – which in this case included all the Bundestag parties – by claiming that the mere expression of dissent ‘played into the hands of the right’, a potent rhetorical device in Germany. Until Cologne, concern over the government’s handling of the refugee crisis was effectively suppressed.

One problem with hegemonic self-righteousness is that it prevents the self-righteous from seeing that what they consider morally self-evident is informed by self-interest. The self-interest of German export industries, for example, underlies Germany’s identification of the ‘European idea’ with the single European currency. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the national interest that is mistakenly seen as identical to the interest of all reasonable human beings, in Europe and beyond, is necessarily shaped by the political interest of the government and its dominant social bloc in preserving their power. This puts peripheral countries at the mercy of the national power games and the moral and semantic ethnocentrisms of countries at the centre, which are hard to decipher for outsiders – especially with a postmodern leader like Merkel who, free from substantive commitments and constitutional constraints, has perfected the art of staying in power by means of unpredictable changes of course.

As the refugee crisis unfolded, Europe was dragged into the complicated twists and turns of German domestic politics. Merkel early on informed an astonished German public that controlling national borders had become ‘impossible in the 21st century’, and backed this up by aggressively criticising the Hungarian government for preparing to close its borders. After Cologne, of course, the closing of borders suddenly became possible again, and Hungary re-emerged as a model for the rest of Europe, in particular for Greece, which was threatened by Germany with exclusion from the Schengen area if it didn’t seal its borders. German law forbids, or is said by the German government to forbid, sending would-be immigrants away once they have expressed a desire to apply for asylum. So Merkel had to get the Greeks, and Europe as a whole, to observe this principle, lest her German pro-immigration constituency smelled the rat that was heading in its direction. The burden of keeping the migrants out of Europe fell on Turkey, which was supposed to put an end to the illegal trafficking of migrants to Greece – on a country, that is, whose human rights record suggests it may not be particularly careful when dealing with Syrian or any other refugees. Of course, Turkish co-operation had a price, and though Merkel had in the past steadfastly opposed the country’s bid for EU membership, now, having changed tack again and speaking on behalf of Europe as a whole, she promised Erdoğan expedited negotiations on accession as a reward for preventing the Syrian refugees she had invited to enter Germany from entering Greece....

The result of all the equivocation, double-talk and Merkelspeak, this difficult-to-disentangle mix of self-interest and sentimentality, is an immense political and institutional mess caused by the imposition on Europe of German policies disguised as European policies to which, supposedly, there is no alternative. This includes a restructuring of the citizenry through immigration, not just in Germany where it might seem economically or demographically expedient, but also in other European countries where it definitely isn’t. The result is rapidly rising anti-German sentiment in the form of anti-European sentiment, not only among political elites but also, most powerfully, among the electorate.


Heard in the West: The Left Party's Death Rattle

Another victim of the recent round of voting was the German Left Party. Despite a few last-minute rhetorical feints here and there, the party supported Merkel's open-borders policy. And were crushed: shut out of Parliament in the two western Länder. Most of the Left Party's base of working-class and unemployed Germans who abandoned them went to the right-wing AfD (g).

It turns out that working-class Germans think open borders is a foolish and dangerous idea, emphatically reject the argument that they should feel guilty about the meager level of prosperity they enjoy, and want their government's resources to be directed primarily to assisting the needy among current legal residents of their country.

Who could have predicted this shocking lurch to the extreme right?


This Just in: Unpopular Policies Lose Elections

My hot takes on the AfD's victories last night:

No Rightward Lurch, Just Opposition to Open Borders

This doesn't mean Germany's drifting, or lurching, or goose-stepping to the right. It's quite simple: 80% of Germans oppose Merkel's open-borders policies. Every single mainstream party, however, has decided to back them. Immigration is currently by a wide margin the most important issue for German voters.

If every political party except one supports a policy that is (1) important to, and (2) rejected by, a vast majority of a country's population, then that one dissenting party represents the only choice, and will benefit.

We don't need Hannah Arendt to understand this vote, we only need Occam's razor.

Insults Aren't Arguments

The mainstream parties' tactic was simply to shriek ever-more hysterical insults at the AfD, in an blatant attempt to use superficial in-group signaling as a substitute for actual arguments. Racists, Nazis, xenophobes, intellectual arsonists, thugs, madmen, NPD-lite -- you name it, they've been called it. By the end, I was surprised they weren't just calling them out-and-out votaries of Cthulhu. This is the schoolyard strategy: call someone a nerd and a dork enough, and soon all the kids who want to be seen as cool (or at least not as nerds and dorks) will start avoiding them.

This doesn't work as well with adults. Especially when you're ignoring their express policy wishes.

Nobody Cares About Internal Party Squabbles

The CDU is trying to spin its defeat by arguing that the candidates who tried to distance themselves from Merkel's policy did poorly, while the ones who embraced it did well. This argument can safely be ignored. The vast majority of voters neither know nor care which local CDU politician said something nice or less-nice about Merkel. This sort of information is considered important by lazy reporters copying quotes from newsfeeds, but is rightly ignored as irrelevant static by most voters. It's irrelevant because these trivial verbal spats will have no influence at all on national policy. Unless Merkel changes her mind or is forced out, the policy which 80% of voters disagree with will continue.

Auf Wiedersehen, SPD

'nuff said.

The Cordon Sanitaire Will Backfire

German mainstream politicians will certainly try to draw a cordon sanitaire around the AfD, consigning the 15-20-30% of voters who favor its policies to permanent political irrelevance by means of an undemocratic center-cartel. Those who vote for the 'wrong' parties must be chastised by exile into political powerlessness until they learn their place. They will learn that even though they may get two, three, or even four times the vote share of 'acceptable' parties, their preferred party will never exercise power. This approach is currently breaking down all over Europe, as unruly voters keep defying the wishes of their betters. It will fail in Germany, too.

The AfD Will Go Away When Immigration Is Under Control

The AfD is a one-issue party in that most of its policy stances are actually not very popular. It will try to argue that its success represents a vote for all of its platform, but this is unconvincing. If Germans see the hundreds of thousands of frivolous asylum applicants being removed from Germany and the influx of new ones stopped, immigration will drop in importance, then the AfD will fade into irrelevance.

If.


Frauke Petry's English: A Solid 'B'

I'd give her a solid 'B' in English, about comparable to the German '2'. Like many Germans, she seems to have learned her English from someone in the UK, so she has a German-English accent, which I always find amusing. Germans, for their part, find it amusing when I speak with a Rhineland accent.

The Times also publishes a short profile of Petry:

Ms. Petry and other nationalist-minded leaders ousted the more Europe-oriented founder of the party, then locked onto the identity issue as the embodiment of how Ms. Merkel and the German establishment were ruining the country and ignoring ordinary folk, said Hajo Funke, a politics professor at the Free University in Berlin.

Starting in the former Communist East Germany, in Ms. Petry’s home state of Saxony, they whipped “unhappiness about political and economic alienation” into anger and double-digit scores in opinion polls, Professor Funke said.

Ms. Petry has stood out, he added. “She wants power, she wants to get into government.”

Professor Funke and other leading political scientists are doubtful her success will last. But the immediate impact of the migrant crisis is undeniable, cutting across age, education, class, region and political persuasion....

In a shabby hall on the outskirts of Mannheim, a city of 300,000 about 60 miles south of Frankfurt, Ms. Petry got a sympathetic hearing from some 250 listeners.

“Germany is crazy,” said Katja Kornmacher, 46, who said she works in a publishing house and holds two university degrees. “We have the feeling that we can’t say anything” against the leftist view in Germany. “It starts in school, where we are told what is correct.”

“And those who follow this line land better in life,” she continued. “The line is: ‘Right is bad, left is good.’ And then the leftists are outside shouting against this democratic event.”

Apparently the New York Times hasn't gotten the memo that any article about Frauke Petry must be liberally salted with phrases like 'rabble-rouser', 'liar', 'cynical', and 'inhuman'.

It's almost as if they think their readers can make up their own minds.


"Almost Beyond Human Power to Deal with This"

The Washington Post reports on chaos in Berlin.

“I read about how industrious and successful the Germans are,” said Hamadich, who worked as a lab technician in Damascus. “But this,” he said, using both hands to indicate the refugees bundling up for another night on the sidewalk, “is not working.”

Germany is trying to distribute refugees to its states, cities and towns based largely on population and tax revenue. The city of Berlin, for instance, is set to receive more than 5 percent of all those coming and is attempting to manage the arrival of more than 9,000 asylum seekers in just the past three weeks. Shelters are so full that some of the refugees are receiving vouchers for private hostels.

But volunteer aid workers say the city is so behind on payments that many hostels are no longer accepting the vouchers. A city spokeswoman said that she could neither confirm nor deny the problem but that the city is trying to make good on its payments as soon as possible.

The national and local governments are racing to hire thousands of new police officers and bureaucrats to manage refugees. Schools, meanwhile, are desperately looking for new teachers to help with an estimated 300,000 new students. Irina Wissmann, principal at Berlin’s An der Bäke Elementary School, said none of the 300 qualified instructors provided to her in a list by city officials were available to work. She said that with 20 new refugee students already and double that number expected by year’s end, she is afraid of surging class sizes as well as issues with traumatized children.

“This is going to be very difficult,” she said.

...Outside the capital, meanwhile, allegations of rape at refugee centers are emerging. In the central city of Giessen, officials are investigating four cases of sexual assault at one temporary shelter. Civic groups say there was a lack of proper separation between men and women at the facility.

Coming at a time when the Volkswagen emissions scandal is tainting the reputation of Germany as a country of law-abiding winners, the strains of the refugee crisis are challenging perceptions of national competence.

“The state has clearly nothing under control here,” said Leila El-Abcah, a volunteer with Moabit Helps, a refugee aid group in central Berlin. In the evenings, she is trying to guide some refugees on the streets to the private homes of people willing to offer them shelter for the night. “If it weren’t for the many volunteers,” she said, “nothing would work, everything would collapse.”

...

“We are talking about numbers for the past two weeks that we are normally seeing in one year,” she said. “It is almost beyond human power to deal with this.”

The system described in this article will have to feed and house one new city of Frankfurt every 10 weeks.


Albanians and Pakistanis (Why Are They Here?) Stage Hours-Long Riot in Kassel

Yesterday, there was an hours-long riot (g) in a migrant shelter near Kassel. Apparently the cause was an Albanian teenager hitting an 80-year-old Pakistani who the teen thought was cutting in line for food. The riot kept going in waves. Albanians and Pakistanis attacked each other with sticks, pipes, clubs, and tear gas.

Yes, the migrants have tear gas.

50 police were needed to break up the riot. Fourteen migrants and three police were injured, some seriously. Police have now separated the two nationalities. German officials are now calling for migrants to be separated on the basis of ethnicity. Meanwhile, the German police union notes that outbreaks of violence are a daily occurrence (g) in shelters. (h/t MM). Oh, and in the past years, Germany has eliminated 16,000 police jobs, just in time for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of violent young male strangers.

There are many, many questions raised by this latest riot (including how did migrants get tear gas?!) but I'll focus on just one: What are Albanians and Pakistanis doing taking up expensive, scarce space in German migrant shelters?

Albania, as I've pointed out before, is a peaceful, stable country and attractive vacation spot which is very prosperous by world standards, and has been receiving hundreds of millions of Euros in EU aid to get it ready for its admission to the European Union.

Pakistan is not at war, and has problems no more serious than dozens of other developing countries. Add to that the fact that Pakistan is far away from Germany, so only the middle class can afford the bribes necessary to get here. A recent Daily Mail article interviews a few:

It is the same story when I meet Janaid Jamshad, a 25-year-old former student.

Also from Lahore, he has been here for ten days. ‘I came to Germany first in 2013 and they pushed me out again,’ he says with a laugh. ‘I came back when I heard Mrs Merkel was opening the doors. I have claimed asylum and they are processing my application. Because I am young, I hope they will take me.’

Not that everything is rosy for him now. ‘The camp is overflowing,’ he says. ‘I have just been to the doctor in the shopping centre because I have a headache. Even there, there are queues of migrants waiting. The doctors at the camp will only give one pill at a time. So we find other places for medical help, and pay for it.’

Back in the Giessen curry house, I continue talking to asylum claimant Atif. ‘We think having children will help us,’ he says. ‘Our house is very big, and they give us money, too.’

I point out that Karachi, despite the political violence there, is not in a war zone.

He still hopes to persuade the authorities he is a genuine refugee, though, and hopes he won’t be returned to Pakistan because he now has no official national identity — in a deal with the smuggling gang, he handed them his own passport and those of his family when they arrived in Germany. They were the ‘payment’ in exchange for the family’s fake visas and will be used again to smuggle more customers into Europe.

Do these sound like victims of political persecution to you?

Why are they still here, rioting, firing tear gas, and injuring each other and long-suffering German police?