England just introduced a 5p charge for plastic bags at stores, which is apparently engulfing Albion in pandemonium, madness. While clawing over the bodies amid the stinging smoke, the editors of one English tabloid came up with a brilliant, devious, cunning plan to evade Big Brother's latest overreach: Bring your own shopping bag. The article prompted this inspired tweet:
Germany has suffered under the yoke of bag fees for generations now. Which means any and every self-respecting environmentally conscious German -- and that's pretty much all of them -- has become an expert in bag technology. In a German store, you are expected to whip out your own reusable bag and pack your own groceries aber schnell bitte. Any deviation from this standard of conduct will be met with disapproving glances.
You need the right bag. Everywhere I go, I carry a foldable ChicoBag which expands from the size of a pack of cigarettes to basically infinity. That's for spontaneous purchases. For more intensive shopping, you need a bag that will (1) fold up flat like IKEA furniture; (2) maintain its shape on its own when unfolded, (3) has various sized handles; and (4) has a velcro strip on the top inside so you can seal the top and make sure bulky objects don't fall out.
The very best bag for this -- and I've tried a hell of a lot of them -- is the Edeka shopping bag. This comes from the high-end Edeka line of German supermarkets, which are the cleanest, most orderly supermarkets you will ever see. They fill all 4 criteria and are big, stable, and indestructible. They even have little flanges on the inside so you can stabilize bulky objects against the side of the bag. They're fucking ingenious.
England, fear not. The survivors will crawl out of the smoking ruins of a once-great land, painstakingly knit their own reusable bags from scraps of torn, bloody fabric, and get on with their lives. Germans will soon send over shipments of recycled, reusable bags in the spirit of European solidarity, and you can put the bloody-fabric bags in the Museum of the Great 5p Bag Crisis.
GE: Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce the German Green Party’s new plan for integrating refugees. We have decided to call it the 10-10-10 plan. It’s as simple as you could imagine. Every German between the ages of 10 and 110 will sacrifice 10% of their annual income and volunteer 10 hours a week to integrate refugees. That way we will be able to integrate 10 million refugees in 10 years!
This is the kind of bold and innovative thinking we need to overcome our horrible past and serve as a beacon of humanity to the rest of the world. Further details are in the press release and position paper.
I’ll take your questions now.
Russia Today: Are you insane?
FAZ: Were you by any chance at that conference where all those German homeopaths overdosed on a powerful hallucinogen and were found staggering around screaming?
GE: Yes, but I’m stable now. And I achieved some profound insights into our shared humanity.
New York Times: Is this some kind of elaborate social media prank?
Le Monde: When you say ‘all Germans’, does that include prisoners, drug addicts, and the insane?
GE: Of course! What better way for a chronic schizophrenic or child-murderer to re-integrate into society than by helping others integrate?
N-TV: What if people don’t cooperate?
GE: Of course they will. Humans are all profoundly generous by nature, which is why every day, billions of them invite complete strangers into their homes to stay as permanent guests.
N-TV: Follow-up – then why aren’t Germans doing that already?
GE: Because they needed courageous and deeply humane political leaders like me to give them the idea.
DIE WELT: Are you being paid by the CSU to say these things?
taz: There are currently 26 million people who say they want to relocate to Germany. How can you sleep at night knowing your plan relegates 16 million humans to the inhuman torture of living in countries other than Germany, you crypto-fascist sell-out?
GE: Frauke, that language is completely unnecessary. We’re not crazy dreamers, we realize there are unavoidable real-world limits on Germany’s ability to save humanity. Therefore we are strictly limiting the first 10-year phase of the plan to 10 million people. In the next phase, we’ll bring in the remaining 16 million.
Der Spiegel: Are you sure you’re not insane?
GE: Well, smarty-pants, let’s put it this way. If you think it’s insane to want to invite every single beautiful innocent little child with big brown saucer-shaped eyes everywhere in the world into Germany to share in our prosperity, then yes, I’m insane.
Times of London: How much will this plan cost?
GE: Typical Anglo-Saxon question! Tell me, when you look into the beautiful eyes of those innocent children, do you see pound signs?
Times of London: You didn’t answer my question.
GE: We managed to come up with billions to save the banks. Surely we have a few trillion Euros laying around here and there that we can use to save those beautiful, precious innocent children.
Washington Post: Have you suffered a recent head injury?
GE: No. No more questions! This press conference is over!
There are millions of Germans who favor open borders, among them some of the most powerful people in the country. Case in point:
Katrin Göring-Eckhardt is one of the leading members of the German Green Party. It wins between 10-15% of the vote in national elections, which is a lot in a parliamentary system like Germany. Easily enough to make or break coalitions. The Green Party has been in governing coalitions in many German states and was in the ruling coalition for all of Germany just recently. She has said (g, my translation) "I really hope Chancellor Merkel decides to go to a refugee hostel sometime, listens to the stories the people tell, and then says: 'Yes, these are the new citizens of our country'."
She did not say "These are the migrants whom we will house humanely while their legal status is decided." Nor did she say: 'These are the refugees to whom we will provide temporary refuge to until conditions have improved in their home countries and they can return." Nor did she say: "These are the immigrants who may one day qualify for permanent residency status in Germany."
She said that Chancellor Merkel should expressly promise all the migrants she meets that they are already citizens of Germany, merely by virtue of arriving on its soil.
This is open borders, pure and simple. No country in modern history has ever implemented such a policy, for very good reasons.
I hope this settles the argument about whether 'open borders' is merely a straw-man argument. Real people with real power in Germany want it to happen, or at least claim they do.
Yesterday I biked down to the Urdenbach Marshes south of Düsseldorf. It's a large nature reserve which used to be on the path of the Rhein until the river made a curve. City planners are now diverting brooks in the nature reserve to allow it to revert to marshland. It's now home to plenty of waterfowl, and the authorities are even planning to introduce water buffalo, although the locals aren't all that thrilled and may stop the plan. Unlike marshes in most parts of the world, this one isn't full of things that want to kill you. The sweet, intoxicating odor of decay and burgeoning life is everywhere. Before I move on to the pictures, one bleg: can anyone identify the light-purple labiate flowers? They're everywhere near the raised path. I looked everywhere, but could only find flowers which look a lot like these, but not quite the same. Frustrating.
In a Germany publication called Laboratory Journal (Laborjournal), Ralph Bock, Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Biology in Golm pens a long polemic against German hypocrisy on the subject of genetic engineering. I don't have the time to translate it just now, although that might be interesting, but I thought I would at least pass it along for my German-Powered™ readers.
Basically, Bock argues that setting aside whether products made with modern genetic engineering are safe (like most scientists, he thinks they are), Germans' aversion to them is hypocritical. Politicians try to curry favor with green voters by banning certain kinds of gene technology in Germany, but that doesn't stop massive imports of products made with gene technology into Germany:
A life without genetic technology on our dinner place, in our medicine cabinets, in our wallets, and in our closets is already well-nigh impossible in Germany, whether we want it or not. Our limitless consumption of meat, our dependence on imported plant raw materials, price competition in the food sector and the absolute necessity of genetic engineering in medicine and pharmaceuticals have ensured this. Nostalgic people among us may deplore this, but that shouldn't lead us into a bizarre culture of (self)deception which can only be upheld by ever-more-absurd camouflage tactics or ever-more-dubious political sleight-of-hand -- aspects of German culture which foreigners quite rightly find puzzling.
I've blogged before about social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, especially his writings about 'sacralization' and political discourse. Crudely oversimplified by me, the theory goes: he proposes that much of what we consider someone's political ideology is choices about who is open to criticism or mockery. Humans have a strong tendency to divide ourselves into tribes in many different ways. In politics we define ourselves by sacralizung certain people, groups, values, and institutions. Conservatives identify with family, authority, church, entrepreneurship. Thus, they exempt these institutions from criticism among their own tribe, and rush to their defense when they are attacked by left-liberals. Left-liberals, for their part, have just as strong a desire to find sacred objects or ideas that elevate human life above selfish struggle and identify individuals with a greater cause.
The sacralized groups and objects can change over time; many conservatives no longer think marriage has to be protected from gays anymore, and few seriously think the Pope's ex cathedra pronouncements are infallible. For liberals, the workers were once sacred, but then came the 1960s and 1970s, when a lot of the workers turned out not to have very educated or progressive views about women, minorities, and gays. So left-liberals tended to identify with these historical targets of discrimination. And, as things go, sacralized them. Each member of a particular minority group was considered a living embodiment of social injustice, and liberals worldwide began to identify each other by deep concern over how these groups were treated. These social movements, of course, brought plenty of wholesome social progress which only reactionaries would want to turn back.
But it also brought plenty of excesses, such as mid-1980s gay pride parades, those cavalcades of perversion that, as the Onion put it, set back acceptance of gays by decades. Another part of sacralizing victims is taboo on criticizing the statements or actions of gays, ethnic minorities, women, the disabled, and other designated minority groups.
Which brings us to the German Green Party. Founded in the late 1970s as the Alternative List, it was at first a chaotic but stimulating party for people who felt excluded by the three-party system prevailing in Germany. The early Greens comprised gays, environmental activists, pacifists, vegetarians, and the like, and its platform was green, anti-nuke, pro-gay, and multicultural. In the following decades, the Green party itself and most of its concerns have become completely mainstream, so we can say the 'march through the institutions' worked. In the early 1980s, a widely-despised social group found a home in the Green Party: pedophiles. They analogized themselves to gays: people ostracized by society by their unconventional sexual orientation.
And some (not all!) regional Green Party branches, disastrously, bought the argument. Pedophiles were permitted to join the party and even hold leadership positions. Pro-pedophile groups called the 'Urban Indian Communes' protested Green party political gatherings, insisting (g) that the Party adopt planks advocating the decriminalization of sex between adults and children. Fred Karst, convicted of pedophile offenses several times, started a 'working group' within the Green party called 'Old and Young.' It was an official party organization within the 'Gay Issues' group of the party. The members of the group often organized special trips where men could cavort with boys (my translation):
The working group was a meeting-point for pedohiles, who among other things organized special road trips for young men -- and abused them. The group belonged to the 'Gay Issues' group within the Green Party and was thus an official component of the overall party. "We are ashamed for the institutional failure of our party" says Berlin regional Green Party director Bettina Jarasch. "This blindness to abuse of power still baffles and enrages me."
Things could go so far because of a special characteristic of the Berlin greens. A so-called "minority dogma" guaranteed the "Young and Old" working group far-ranging autonomy and a special rule: opinions which couldn't command majority support could still be propagated for years in the party's name -- including the idea that sexual relationships with children were legitimate.
The last pedophiles were kicked out of the party only in the mid-1990s. The Greens, faced with renewed revelations in 2013, commissioned a political scientist from Göttingen, Franz Walter, to create a report on how pedophiles were allowed to gain so much influence within the party. One of his conclusions in the report (g, pdf) was that of the four main factors contributing to acceptance of pedophiles, two were (1) a tendency to 'affective solidarity' with excluded outsider groups that led the Greens to unconditionally accept their demands and grant them disproportional influence in the party; and (2) a 'strongly anti-repressive' tendency within the party which led members to sympathize indiscriminately with those who faced 'repression' by the state, including pedophiles and imprisoned RAF murderers.
Fortunately the Green Party has finally realized what a horrible mistake the party made, has unequivocally denounced pedophilia, and has promised counseling and compensation to victims. But the startling prospect of a major political party with national representation allowing child molesters to propagandize from within its ranks demonstrates the dangers of exempting marginalized groups from all criticism.
So, Germany's going to be inundated this year with up to 500,000 unsolicited immigrants, who for some reason are referred to as 'refugees' by most mainstream German media outlets even though most aren't. Meanwhile, Germany already has a backlog of 200,000 asylum applications, and local governments are begging for billions of Euro (g) -- not millions, billions -- to house, feed, and monitor these immigrants, as well as processing their asylum requests and teaching them German. Many cities have had to shut down sports facilities (g) and pack thousands of people into them.
Something like half of these refugees, if not more, come from West Balkan states. There is currently no war in those states and they are government by more-or-less democratic governments, so there is no justification in German law for them to receive asylum unless they can prove a specific threat to themselves, which most of them can't. Many of the immigrants come from Bulgaria and Romania, which are EU Member States.
These people need to be warehoused before their (mostly unverifiable and unprovable) asylum claims are evaluated, so governments are either requisitioning or hastily erecting housing. And where do they put the immigrants? In the areas with the cheapest rent, of course! Where they live right next to working- and lower-middle-class Germans who don't want them there and don't want them allowed to compete for German jobs. This, of course, leads to immigrant housing being defaced and damaged, and to right-wing rallies. The arson and defacement are ugly criminal behavior, but anyone who didn't see this coming is a fool. Many on the German left derive tremendous satisfaction from denouncing the racism of the working-class Germans who resent refugees, but I can't help noticing that these self-righteous fulminations don't actually help anyone. Perhaps the leftists should be working on developing magic pixie dust which will make working-class people approve of a large influx of foreigners.
A friend of mine who probably would like to remain nameless proposed a simple answer to housing refugees in Germany. Find out which neighborhoods have the highest number of open borders / quasi open-borders supporters (Green party vote % could be a proxy). Then put all the refugees in those neighborhoods. Putting the immigrants where people don't want them is a recipe for disaster. Put them instead among the people who claim to want them there! Surely the bien pensant left-liberal urbanites who urge Germany to open its borders won't have a problem with the apartment next to theirs being requisitioned by the state to house an extended family of 10 Roma from Bucharest. I'm sure they will also volunteer to teach immigrants German in evening classes after they leave their day jobs as graphic designers and marketing consultants . And isn't converting your basketball, volleyball, or handball court to shelters a small price to pay for humanity? You could also move all the treadmills and stairsteppers out of your €80-per-month Holmes Places gym if more room were needed.
Prenzlauer Berg, get ready to have your lifestyle cash the checks your ideology has been writing!*
* Adding, just to prevent confusion, the target of my mockery is reality-denying German fantasists, not the immigrants themselves. Refugees from war zones certainly should be relocated in Germany. And you can hardly blame people from rural Albania or Romania for wanting to get out of those places. If I were them, I would try to get into stable, prosperous Germany, too! But that doesn't mean Germany has any moral duty to oblige these people, and it certainly doesn't mean Germany has the practical ability to host them all. They should be processed quickly, and sent back. Except, of course, as Franziska Giffey, the Social Democratic mayor of Neukölln notes, Germany has no way of knowing if they actually did go back when they were ordered to.
Section 25 of the State Hunting Law in Northern Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) provides (g, my translation)
(4) Those who are entitled to protect hunting conditions (Jagdschutz) are permitted:
1. To detain persons who enter a hunt area without permission or who commit another violation of hunt regulations or who are found equipped for hunting outside the general approved hunting paths, to gather personal information from these persons and to seize from them killed animals, firearms and other weapons, traps, dogs, and ferrets.
2. To shoot and kill dogs and cats which are becoming feral. A feral dog is defined as a dog which hunts, follows, or seizes wild animals outside the control of its master (orig. Führer!). A feral cat is defined as a cat found in hunt area more than 200 meters from the nearest house....
According to the German nature group NABU, German hunters in NRW alone kill around 8,000 cats a year (g) under this law. The Green Party in NRW is trying to eliminate this law (g), but the hunters are fighting back, claiming that culling cats protects songbirds and other species. The controversy rages!
Germans, or at least German journalists, are obsessed with nuclear energy. Any list of the themes on which the German press is the most openly biased campaigning coverage, nuclear energy has to be in the top 10, if not the top 5.
So it's not surprising that the nuclear accident in Fukushima prompted an flood of hyperventilating scare stories in the German media, which were enough to actually prompt a major change in policy -- the so-called Energiewende. And this isn't just my impression: a study of Fukushima coverage in Germany concluded that coverage of the earthquake in Germany was dramatically different than in other countries: the German-language media focused more on the reactor catastrophe, provided more dramatic pictures, explicitly linked the reactor disaster to the question of German nuclear reactors, and included more direct journalistic editorializing against nuclear energy and demands that Germany shut down its reactors.
I don't have time to look up the views of ordinary Germans on nuclear energy, but it's hard to imagine the wall-to-wall indoctrination hasn't had its effects. I was thinking of this because of a recent post from Razib Khan's excellent Gene Expression blog. The subject is what Americans think about the dangers and potential of nuclear energy, broken down by political views and education:
Nuclear power dangerous to the environment N ~ 1300
Not very dangerous
As you can see liberals do tend to be more skeptical of nuclear energy, but it is not stark. In fact, attitudes toward nuclear power seem to be as strongly, if not more so, variant on a populist vs. elite axis than conventional ideology. Here’s the second question replicated for education:
Nuclear power dangerous to the environment N ~ 1300
Not very dangerous
But, when you look only at college educated individuals the ideology divide doesn’t go away. In fact, it seems more extreme.
Nuclear power dangerous to the environment N ~ 370
College educated only
Not very dangerous
That’s strong circumstantial evidence that the gap here is one of cultural norms and values, and not facts.
Note that many people favor nuclear energy while at the same time conceding that it's dangerous or harmful to the environment. It's also interesting to note that college-educated people think it's less dangerous than those who didn't attend college.
I've been following with fascination the debate in the U.S. about the relationship between crime rates and early childhood lead exposure. One of my favorite bloggers, Kevin Drum, recently wrote a fantastic piece for Mother Jones arguing that America saw dropping crimes rates in the 1990s in part because the U.S. banned leaded gasoline in the 1970s, saving an entire generation of children from exposure to lead, a fiercely potent neurotoxin which permanently lowers intelligence and disrupts impulse control in children. Read it here. Drum reports on reactions to the article and takes on critics here.
There has been a surprise 8% drop in crime across England and Wales,
according to official figures, suggesting the long-term decline in
crime since the mid-1990s has resumed.
As near as I can tell, crime declines are always a surprise
to the folks who look for answers solely in social trends. But Britain's
continuing decline isn't a surprise to everyone. Europe adopted
unleaded gasoline in the mid-80s, and EU countries all showed drops in
lead emissions in subsequent years. In Britain, lead emissions began to
decline about a decade later than the United States, but they made up
some of that gap via a much steeper drop. So, to the extent that the
crime decline is a function of less lead exposure among children,
they're about five years or so behind us. This means they probably still
have a few years of crime decline ahead of them.
So, you might be wondering, if Germany began seriously reducing lead emissions in the the mid-1980s, what impact might that have had on teenage criminality in the late 1990s, when children born in the mid-1980s became adolescents? Here's the relevant graph for Germany, from this source (g, .pdf):
The top line shows total criminality, the middle line criminality among German adolescents, and the bottom line among immigrants. Interesting, isn't it? The much smaller decrease you see among non-German offenders could well be explained by the fact that some percentage of them probably did not grow up in Germany.
Of course, the standard caveats apply that correlation is not causation, other factors are at work (especially the crime increase following reunification), etc.. But if you want to be convinced that lead exposure is a powerful (though, of course, not the only) explanatory factor, read Drum's piece -- and, more importantly, the studies it links to.
If this theory holds, it has to be one of the best pieces of news in a long time: because of a wise policy choice made decades ago, we will enjoy less crime -- and less of all the social ills and expense it causes -- for years to come. Kind of restores your faith in humanity, doesn't it?