Germany is Not 'Doing Away with Itself' and Will Never be Islamized

I must say, following the migrant crisis is most stimulating. But just for clarity's sake, I want to draw a few lines.

I am definitely not a believer in the silly thesis of Eurabia, or, to quote the title of Thilo Sarrazin's 2010 book, that Germany is 'doing away with itself' ('Deutschland schafft sich ab'). It's also silly to talk about the 'Islamization' of Europe.

Germany is not destroying itself and will never be Islamized. There are 4 million Muslims living in Germany right now, and most are, of course, productive, law-abiding citizens. Residents of German with non-German roots have in aggregate lower incomes and less education than ethnic Germans. They are also disproportionately likely to commit crimes and live on social welfare benefits. But the vast majority don't do these things, of course. And the social deficits of 'Muslims' as a whole mask huge differences within the German Muslim population. The principal reason for these somewhat disappointing numbers are Germany's 2.2 million Turks, who do much worse than Germans on almost every measure of social adjustment. Other Muslim subgroups do better than ethnic Germans.

Even the incorporation of 3 million new mostly-Muslim migrants won't change this state of affairs much. We're just beginning to get information about the migrants coming in now. The consensus seems to be that about 20% have college degrees, and the average level of education seems to be about 6th grade. Assuming they stay, about 30% will probably be able to learn fluent German, and another 30% will learn acceptable German. The top 20-30% in terms of cognitive ability and education -- the engineers, lawyers, doctors, accountants, nurses, teachers, pharmacists, dentists, etc. -- will adapt successfully to life in Germany. They may not be able to practice their former profession, but they'll find work and integrate easily.

The next-lower 30-40% will get some sort of work, possibly after a very long delay. They'll find work in areas in which a limited knowledge of German isn't a problem. Warehouse worker, tailor, cashier, butchers' or bakers' assistant, mover, electrician, nurses' aide, home healthcare worker, helper in a family-run shop or waiter in a family-run restaurant, Uber driver, park groundskeeper, janitor, etc. The kind of thing that immigrants do now in Germany.

The least-qualified 30-40% will live off social welfare benefits and odd jobs. They won't ever learn more than a rudimentary vocabulary of 500-1000 words, and will be disproportionately likely to commit crimes.

The Magic Pixie Dust crowd wants us to see all the new migrants as a wonderful opportunity. They will immediately start inventing fabulous new products, obediently work themselves stiff, teach Germans how to love again, and fill our neighborhoods with nothing but Vibrant Diversity™. The doomsayers say they'll never find jobs, they'll all turn into criminals, they'll carry out terrorist attacks, live off social welfare benefits for generations after generation, and drag Germany down into poverty and mediocrity.

Neither the Magic Pixie Dust crowd nor the doomsayers are right, if you ask me. The current crop of migrants will have hugely diverse experiences. Some will turn out successful, others,. as I have argued, will greatly increase the scale of existing social problems in German inner cities. I think this is not a good policy outcome, which is why I have been highlighting the very real problems migrants will bring with them. But none of these problems will come within light-years of destabilizing German or any other European society. All West European countries currently have severe social problem in their inner cities, and most have much worse problems than Germany. At no point have these social problems come anywhere near close to threatening the overall stability or prosperity of these countries. And they never will. The numbers just aren't there, and never will be.

And as for Islamization, this is also a chimera. The new immigrants are also going to have a huge variety of approaches to Islam, from fervent fundamentalism to a totally secular viewpoint. Most of the women wear headscarves, but I know from experience that you can't tell anything merely from this practice. So they'll build more mosques in Germany. So what? Doesn't bother me. More than 9 out of 10 Germans will still not be Muslim. The number of Germans who convert to Islam will continue being infinitesimally small. Contemporary Germans are simply not interested in any traditional religion of any flavor, except perhaps Buddhism.

As for undermining 'German values', this is also a silly nebulous fear. How can a country in which the most popular movie in recent years was called 'Fuck You, Goethe!' (misspelled in German!) claim that the masses are still nourished by the elegance of Weimar classicism? As is the case all over the world, Minecraft and Apple will be a thousand times more culturally influential on the average German, whatever their religion, than supposed 'traditional' German values which are kept alive only among aging cohorts of the educated bourgeoisie.

And no, Muslims are not going to take over Europe. Muslim families will probably continue being somewhat larger, but only for a few generations. And as for the notion of millions of Muslims totally swamping Europe, that is not going to happen. As foolish as I find current EU/German policy, the notion that Europe would actually admit massive flows of tens or hundreds of millions of Muslims is just silly. As we have seen recently, European governments can be moved to swift action once they (belatedly) realize the scope of the crisis. There are still open-borders dreamers in the ivory tower, but in the current political climate, they are being totally ignored. 

OK, Now the One-Migrant-Post-A-Week Rule Takes Effect

OK, enough with the seemingly-hourly updates. It's just too fun / depressing to point out the disaster Europe and Germany have brought down on themselves. The fun part is Schadenfreude and the dubious satisfaction of seeing my dire predictions come true again and again, like some kind of digital Cassandra.

Do you remember just a few months ago when predictions of 500,000 refugees were denounced as exaggerated myths propagated by xenophobic right-wing extremists?

Ahh, the good old days.

The depressing part is knowing that, once the initial (German-only) savior-euphoria wears off, there will be tremendous conflict and resentment -- not to mention drastic political sea-changes -- unleashed by Germany's decision to encourage hundreds of thousands of people from distant lands, with no identification, to stream across national borders without any meaningful control or verification. Get ready for the collapse of Schengen, increasingly vicious intra-EU conflicts, and the ascendance, all across Europe, of durable, powerful coalitions of center-right and nationalist anti-immigrant parties.

I've made my predictions clear enough here, now I'll just sit back and see how many of them come true. For everyone's sake, I hope I turn out to be wrong. Once a week, I'll check in. For now, on to more cheerful topics!

Wealthy Qatar Rejects Refugees Caused by its Policies, Scolds Europe

Al-Jazeera, the international news agency (owned by Qatar, an absolute monarchy), posted an article titled: 'If these images don't change Europe, what will?' containing  images of drowned Syrian refugee children. It begins:

 Heart-rending pictures of a toddler's lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach sparked horror as the cost of Europe's burgeoning refugee crisis hit home.

The images of a child lying face down in the surf at one of Turkey's main tourist resorts has once more put a human face on the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk life and limb to seek a new life in Europe.

Effrontery on this scale can only be met with a loud, long 'fuck you and the horse you rode in on, al-Jazeera'.

Permit me to elaborate.

Al-Jazeera is "owned by the government of Qatar". Qatar is lavishly funding Sunni militants in Syria. Wikipedia notes that "The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that Qatar had sent the most weapons to Syria, with over 70 weapons cargo flights into Turkey between April 2012 and March 2013." That aid is going to Sunni extremist militias, mainly the al-Nusra front, a Sunni militia responsible for suicide bombings and massacres:

The incident happened in the Druze village of Qalb Lawzeh in the Jabal al-Summaq region, a place where al-Nusra fighters have dug up historic graves and destroyed shrines in recent months, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It says Nusra first tried to confiscate the house of a Druze government official and shot one villager dead. Another villager then seized a fighter’s weapon and killed him. Nusra then sent reinforcements into the village and they opened fire.

Qatar wants al-Nusra to win the Syrian civil war outright and establish an Islamic state, although it would prefer them to be somewhat less bloodthirsty.

And what is Qatar -- which has sent billions to militias in the Syrian civil war -- doing to help with the refugee crisis its policies have helped create?

Well, it's certainly not opening its borders to them, that's for sure:

As the crisis brews over Syrian refugees trying to enter European countries, questions have been raised over why they are not heading to wealthy Gulf states closer to home.

Although those fleeing the Syrian crisis have for several years been crossing into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey in huge numbers, entering other Arab states - especially in the Gulf - is far less straightforward.

Officially, Syrians can apply for a tourist visa or work permit in order to enter a Gulf state.

But the process is costly, and there is a widespread perception that many Gulf states have unwritten restrictions in place that make it hard for Syrians to be granted a visa in practice.


Without a visa, Syrians are not currently allowed to enter Arab countries except for Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.

The relative wealth and proximity to Syria of the states has led many - in both social and as well as traditional media - to question whether these states have more of a duty than Europe towards Syrians suffering from over four years of conflict and the emergence of jihadist groups in the country.

Here's a cartoon recently published in Saudi Arabia:


So, does Qatar have the resources to host any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees it helped create? Funny you should ask. Qatar just happens to be literally the richest country in the world. It will spend over $200 billion to host the 2022 World Cup. It's currently employing tens of thousands of workers building those massive stadiums. But instead of offering those jobs to desperate Arab brethren, it's bringing in workers from half the world away.

So, the article with heart-rending photos appears in a news organization run by the richest country in the world. A country that is actively prolonging the Syrian civil war by delivering arms to religious extremists. And which has turned away the refugees fleeing the chaos it helped create.

This news organization is scolding Europe for failing to open its borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees. Qatar, Earth's richest nation, thinks Europe is demonstrating moral cowardice and selfishness.

The mind boggles.

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.

Europeans Don't Seem to Fancy Roma or Muslims Very Much

Pew recently studied the views of various EU nationals toward certain minorities. The main results in three graphs:

Unfavorable Views of Roma Widespread

Italians Most Critical of Muslims

Greeks Divided about Jews

A few observations:

-- Italians really don't like minorities very much, do they? All the ones I know do, though!

-- Roma (formerly called gypsies) come off worst of all. Even in Germany, which bears the historical guilt of having murdered hundreds of thousands of them, opinion of Roma is evenly split. And this after the EU's much-ballyhooed Decade of Roma Inclusion. The Guardian in 2003 noted:

Statistics on education and employment show how overwhelmingly the odds are stacked against them. In the Czech Republic, 75% of Roma children are educated in schools for people with learning difficulties, and 70% are unemployed (compared with a national rate of 9%). In Hungary, 44% of Roma children are in special schools, while 74% of men and 83% of women are unemployed. In Slovakia, Roma children are 28 times as likely to be sent to a special school than non-Roma; Roma unemployment stands at 80%.

Of course, this being the Guardian, these dismal numbers are attributed solely to discrimination by non-Roma. Now -- mandatory disclaimer -- I am not denying or advocating discrimination against Roma. I am a nice, caring person with properly Advanced and Tolerant views on all important Social Questions, and I also would like to note that I have excellent personal hygiene! I do, however, happen to know a number of people who have worked in/with Roma communities who would violently reject beg to differ from the argument that nothing about Roma culture or values contributes to their problems:

The following day, while chatting with a group of Gypsies in the small Transylvanian village of Dealu Frumos, I get an insight into a side of the Roma that I have been constantly warned about but have not yet encountered. A young man and his friends are telling me about tsigani de casatsi—house Gypsies—"bad ones, who don't work on the land like us but just steal for a living." Without warning, he wrenches my notebook from my hands and shoves me against the car. I am punched in the kidneys, and my arm is twisted behind me. A blade is held to the side of my neck, and suddenly I am surrounded by roaring Gypsies, maybe 30 of them, more appearing every few seconds from the surrounding houses. My translator, Mihai, is punched in the head. "Money! Money! Money!" his tormentors bellow. I am allowed into the car to retrieve my bag, but Mihai is kept outside, a hostage to my ransom. I offer all the money from my wallet, and Mihai pulls free and throws himself into the back seat. As we drive off, we do an inventory of our injuries. Apart from bruises and shock, my main injury is to my hitherto benign image of the Roma as a wronged and misunderstood people.

The average Guardian reader is apparently expected to believe on faith alone that it is per se impossible for a minority group to display any distinct social characteristics, even though they have been breeding largely among themselves for 32 generations. It may be of interest to note that the most recent and reliable study puts the mean IQ of some European Roma populations in the mid-70s. I suppose we can just be glad the pollsters didn't ask these questions in Bulgaria or Romania, countries with huge Roma populations.

-- As I've noted before, this survey tends to undermine the notion of a wave of anti-Semitism sweeping Western Europe. Anti-semitic opinion in Western Europe is largely concentrated among Muslim populations. As this poll shows, the farther south and east you go in Europe, the more mainstream anti-Semitism becomes.

American Economist Asks Dying German Social Democratic Party Why They Destroyed Themselves

American economist Mark Blyth got an award from Germany's dying center-left Social Democratic Party for his writings on the failure of European austerity policies, and decided to explain to the German Social Democrats exactly how they managed kill their own political party for no reason:

I sat in my office at Brown University on December 16, 2014, an email popped into my inbox with the title “Herzlichen Glückwunsch – Sie sind der 1. Preisträger des Hans-Matthöfer-Preises für wirtschaftspublizistik.” This was the award given by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the research foundation closest to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Hans-Matthöfer Stiftung for the best economics publication in German in 2014. I was, to say the least, surprised.

My 2013 Oxford University Press book, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, had recently been translated into German by the publishing arm of the FES. Indeed, I had been there a month earlier, in Berlin, to do a book launch, which was very well attended. Since then the book has been reviewed, positively, in the German press, with Suddeutsche Zeitung giving it a rather glowing review. Something odd was going on.


Consider that during the negotiations to form the current coalition with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the SPD could have made an issue out of how the policies designed to heal Europe were causing great harm, a fact acknowledged even by the International Monetary Fund by 2012. But they chose not to do so....But not speaking up when such inappropriate policies are being applied to Germany’s European partners is collectively disastrous. Indeed, what is so tragic in this crisis is how the center-left throughout Europe have not just accepted, but in many cases actively supported, policies that have done nothing but hurt their supposed core constituencies.

[Following excerpts are from the prize acceptance speech. I've put the really juicy bits in my own added italics:] There can be no doubt that the debtor countries of Europe need major reforms in taxation systems, labor markets, business regulation, and a host of other areas.


    1. When we say “structural reform” we really have no idea what those words actually mean, and we often fall back on them as a back-handed acknowledgment that austerity has failed, or
    2. We misunderstand what we did when we refer to prior episodes of structural reform, and thereby miss that it is impossible for anyone else to do what we once did.

Let me explain. “Structural reform” used to be called “structural adjustment.” And European lefties like us used to condemn it as absurd, ridiculous, “neoliberalism gone mad” — and yet we seem quite happy to unleash these policies, despite the damage that they have done in the developing world, upon our European partners.

When you ask for the content of what structural reform means, it seems to be a checklist of lower taxes, deregulate everything in sight, privatize anything not nailed down, and hope for the best. But are these policies not disturbingly American, if not Thatcherite? Indeed, isn’t this everything that the SPD is supposed to be against, and much of which the German public would never put up with?


Today it is a profound irony that European social democrats worry deeply, as they should, about the investor protection clauses embedded in the proposed Transatlantic Investment Treaty with the US, and yet they demand enforcement of exactly the same creditor protections on their fellow Europeans without pausing for breath for the money they “lent” to them to bail out their own banking systems’ errant lending decisions.

Something has gone badly wrong when social democracy thinks this is OK. It is not. Because it begs the fundamental question, “what are you for — if you are for this?” The German Social Democrats, for we are all the heirs of Rosa Luxemburg, today stand as the joint enforcers of a creditor’s paradise. Is that who you really want to be? Modern European history has turned many times on the choices of the SPD. This is one of those moments.

It’s great that my book has helped remind you of the poverty of these ideas. But the point is to recover your voice, not just your historical memory. Your vote share isn’t going down because you are not shadowing the CDU enough. Its going down because if all you do is that, why should anyone vote for you at all?

I hope that reading my book reminds the SPD of one thing: that the reason they exist is to do more than simply to enforce a creditor’s paradise in Europe.

I recall writing a few years ago: "Yet in Germany, coverage of the Greek healthcare collapse virtually always attributes it vaguely to 'the crisis' in general, not to the austerity measures forced on Greece by the troika, which are anything but inevitable (or alternativlos in Merkel's infamous phrase) and to which there are plenty of reasonable alternatives that would not impose massive suffering on ordinary citizens." But Blythe has much more credibility than I do. As is often the case, it takes an outsider to point out the hypocrisy of another country's elites. Or, as Orwell once put it, to see what is in front of one's face requires a constant effort.

Answering for America

Ann Jones, who lives in Norway, presents a list of questions she's constantly asked about America that will be drearily familiar to any expat in Europe. The main issue is why the US doesn't yet have universal healthcare. She praises the Norwegian social-welfare model, which is a bit unfair, since Norway is rich enough from its oil wealth to triply gild every tree in the country if it wanted. But of course, other countries with fewer resources have done this as well. 

Jones goes on to list more questions: 

Implications of brutality, or of a kind of uncivilized inhumanity, seem to lurk in so many other questions foreign observers ask about America like: How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba, and why can’t you shut it down? 

Or: How can you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty?

The follow-up to which often is: How could you pick as president a man proud of executing his fellow citizens at the fastest rate recorded in Texas history?  (Europeans will not soon forget George W. Bush.)

Other things I've had to answer for include:

* Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?

* Why can’t you understand science?

* How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?

* How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?

* How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?

* How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?

* Why do you Americans like guns so much?  Why do you kill each other at such a rate?

To many, the most baffling and important question of all is: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up more and more trouble for all of us?

...It’s hard to know why we are the way we are, and -- believe me -- even harder to explain it to others. Crazy may be too strong a word, too broad and vague to pin down the problem. Some people who question me say that the U.S. is “paranoid,” “backward,” “behind the times,” “vain,” “greedy,” “self-absorbed,” or simply “dumb.”  Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely “ill-informed,” “misguided,” “misled,” or “asleep,” and could still recover sanity.  But wherever I travel, the questions follow, suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others. It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around.  There’s another world out here, an old and friendly one across the ocean, and it’s full of good ideas, tried and true.

Ann Jones knows where she prefers to live, and so do I. And the list is not the dumbest, since it concentrates on areas in which the U.S. actually is exceptional, not areas in which the US merely shows one form of a social disorder which is present in every other nation. For the past 15 years, we really have been going all the world bombing and invading, and it certainly has caused problems for lots of European nations.

But still, let me provide a few correctives:

"Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?" The US can be largely exonerated on this one. Sure, there's a political controversy about abortion and a large and active anti-abortion movement. But American abortion regulations are, from a purely legal perspective, comparable to many European nations' laws, and more liberal than many Catholic countries. The United States provides more freedom to women and men in many other areas: it allows practices such as in vitro fertilization, surrogate parenting, and fertility treatments which are banned or regulated in many European countries. 

"Why can't you understand science?" Pfft. This is a product of biased press coverage: American fundamentalist yahoos and fanatics are favorites in German and French newspapers, but represent the views of only a minority. The questioner here is ignoring the basic ground rule of comparing like with like. The cognitive upper class understand science well in any country, and the cognitive underclass in any country either don't know about, don't understand, or reject many key scientific findings. Your ability to be a good clothes-stacker in a mall in Keokuk, Iowa or Dibbersen, Germany is totally unaffected by your belief in Biblical creation or ignorance of the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. Most humans think it's a waste of time to spend a lot of time learning about abstract ideas that are completely irrelevant to how they spend all their waking time. And irrational beliefs are omnipresent. Germans eagerly follow horoscopes and take homeopathic sugar pills. In Japan, one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world, millions of people believe beckoning cats and various other charms and tokens will bring them love, financial success, and good luck, yet Europeans delicately refrain from criticizing these ludicrous superstitions, presumably on grounds of multi-culti delicacy.

"Blind to climate change?" Simple, because it's in the financial interest of certain powerful sectors of the American economy to question climate change, and they have convinced a minority of the population to do so as well. This is foolish and potentially harmful, but the US, unlike most European countries, has a massive and powerful resource-extraction sector. Every country has disproportionately powerful and aggressive lobbies. French and Japanese farmers, for instance. In any event, the real damage to the climate is going to be done by the billions of Indians an Chinese acquiring cars and air-conditioners and other energy-using gadgets, and that's going to happen regardless of what Americans believe about climate change. 

"Why do you murder each other?" The overall U.S. murder rate is about 2-3 times higher than in most places in Europe, but still low by international standards. And here's another interesting fact: if you count only murders among white Americans, the murder rate, 2.64 per 100,000, sits comfortably between the overall murder rate of Norway (2.2) and Malta (2.8). Here's a January 2014 study on the subject (pdf):

According to the FBI SHR data, in 2011 there were 6,309 black homicide victims in the United States. The homicide rate among black victims in the United States was 17.51 per 100,000. For that year, the overall national homicide rate was 4.44 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide rate was 2.64 per 100,000.

Black Americans, about 13% of the US population, commit somewhere between 60 and 70% of all murders in the USA, for a murder rate 5-6 times higher than that of white Americans. Just as in Germany and France, violent crime is not distributed evenly across the entire population, it is markedly concentrated among ethnic minorities. About 70% of all prison inmates in France, after all, are Muslims. Let that sink in for a minute. To be sure, the overall murder rate in America is high by European standards, and that can mostly be explained by guns. Most studies conclude that about 50% of the difference between the USA and economically and demographically similar countries is explained by the prevalence of guns -- especially unlicensed handguns -- in the US.

"Your Presidents break the law to make war whenever they want." A bit starkly formulated, but I would say 'guilty as charged'. Also torture, rendition, black sites, etc. 

"Power to blow up the planet to one man." Actually, considering the likely aftermath of any nuclear strike anywhere, there are probably at least 7 men who have the power to blow up the planet. In any case, the likelihood of nuclear weapons ever being used is incredibly tiny, and the likelihood of the US starting a nuclear exchange is basically nil. President Obama has announced that he would like to see a nuclear-free world, and has presided over historically unprecedented reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles. I'm not sure what the 'one man' complaint is supposed to mean, either. Is the US supposed to surrender control over its nuclear weapons to some sort of international commission? Six words: Not. Going. To. Happen. Anywhere. Ever.

So those are a few rebuttals, or at least new perspectives. The US is never going to resemble Norway or Germany .

Raw Meat Punches Holes in Your Brain


European friends often mock me for my aversion to raw meat. 'So American', they say, fingering their monocles and twirling their mustaches. But I defend my disgust for raw animal flesh. Mankind realized fire made meat good thousands of years ago -- forgoing cooked meat makes as much sense as trying to live without wheels. You wouldn't decapitate a pig and drink the blood spurting from its arteries, so why would you bite into its raw muscle? Besides, raw meat is full of bacilli, viruses, cysts, spirochetes, worms -- you name it.

Yet the Europeans, disdaining my advice, continue to eat it raw. Germans in the form of Mettwurst (seen above spread on a roll -- würg), the French in the form of steak tartare. Generally, they survive. The key, they will tell you, is freshness and quality.

But no matter how fresh the meat, it still contains nasty brain-changing parasites, says this fascinating article in The Atlantic about toxoplasmosis:

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.

But if Flegr is right, the “latent” parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

You can avoid toxoplasmosis by not eating cat parasites. So far, sounds pretty simple. But not eating cat parasites is harder than it might seem:

After an infected cat defecates, Flegr learned, the parasite is typically picked up from the soil by scavenging or grazing animals—notably rodents, pigs, and cattle—all of which then harbor it in their brain and other body tissues. Humans, on the other hand, are exposed not only by coming into contact with litter boxes, but also, he found, by drinking water contaminated with cat feces, eating unwashed vegetables, or, especially in Europe, by consuming raw or undercooked meat. Hence the French, according to Flegr, with their love of steak prepared saignant—literally, “bleeding”—can have infection rates as high as 55 percent. (Americans will be happy to hear that the parasite resides in far fewer of them, though a still substantial portion: 10 to 20 percent.) Once inside an animal or human host, the parasite then needs to get back into the cat, the only place where it can sexually reproduce—and this is when, Flegr believed, behavioral manipulation might come into play.

The rest of the article details the mind-breaking human behavior changes caused by those hundreds (thousands? millions?) of toxoplasmosis cysts in your brain, including reduced attention, risk-taking, even changing your reaction to smells.

Germans, I've found something new for you to be terrified of. You're welcome!

Conan O'Brien Inspects a Kotzbecken and Confronts Harald Schmidt's Producer

I stumbled on this 1997 Conan O'Brien segment recently. Far from his best work, but of sociological value for showing Americans a genuine German Kotzbecken (puking-sink) and, even more entertainingly, exposing Harald Schmidt's relentless plagiarism of American late-night television:


Arrgh, what I would have given to read those. Perhaps we can re-create some COUNTRY BASHING right here, folks -- what do you say?