Accountability, Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tens of Millions Headed Europe's Way

The IMF just published a short paper which a development specialist characterized by this tweet:

A few passages:

How does the historical experience of the African countries compare with the performance of the low-income Asian economies? Historical data for Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam over the 2000–10 period (Figures 8 and 9) reveal the strength of employment growth in industry and services for the
south and east Asian countries relative to average growth.

The change in employment shares for both industry and services for these countries is higher than for almost all of the sub-Saharan African countries with the exception of services employment growth in Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, and Tanzania (Figure 8 compared with Figure 6). This result was possible for a variety of reasons:

-- There was a very labor-intensive pattern of growth in industry, with annual industry employment growth rates between 6 and 8 percent for Bangladesh and Vietnam and almost 20 percent for Cambodia. This compares with an average employment growth rate of 4 percent per annum for low-income countries with limited natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa.

-- A much lower labor force growth in the Asian economies meant that a lower share of labor got stuck in agriculture. 

-- Even though overall productivity rose rapidly, the strongly labor-intensive growth in industry and services actually dragged down relative productivity slightly in these sectors (the data points for these sectors are found in the lower right-hand side of Figure 9)....

With the majority of new jobs created in countries currently classified as low income (such as Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), the agricultural sector remains important for creating employment. Stronger growth in other sectors could push this estimate down slightly, but it is unlikely that the labor force in agriculture will shrink over the nextdecade—young people seeking jobs will simply have no other option. If African agriculture realizes its potential, however, agricultural jobs could be more productive, higher-earning jobs.

A major factor in the slow-moving employment distribution is the very high growth rate of the labor force. Indeed, the share of industrial wage jobs in total employment rises only from 2.3 to 3.2 percent because the jobs are growing from such a small base relative to the projected increase in the labor
force.

A major element of structural transformation is the movement of workers from low-productivity to more productive activities....

The analysis shows that a major, and often underappreciated, factor behind the slow employment transformation in sub-Saharan Africa compared with the Asian benchmarks was demographics—a labor force growing much faster in sub-Saharan Africa. But another factor was the importance of the mining sector in the growth and employment patterns of sub-Saharan Africa’s industrial sector, and weak productivity in the service sectors because of the high share of household enterprises. Sub-Saharan Africa has a large labor productivity dispersion within the services sectors, including a highly productive financial sector but a number of low-productivity household enterprises in the trading and personal services sectors. Looking forward to 2020 and using optimistic assumptions on output growth, the prospects are good for overall productivity growth in the region. But the employment absorption in the nonagricultural sectors will occur mainly in the services sector and nontradables industrial sector (construction, utilities) rather than in manufacturing.

This report's interesting for a few reasons. First, it disproves a cliche you see invoked incessantly on German talk shows. This is the idea that Africa's economic problems are caused by Europe's agricultural policies, which favor native farmers over African ones. Because Europe subsidizes cane sugar, goes the cliche, it is no longer economical for African farmers to grow similar crops. This, in turn, causes poverty, which sends people to Europe.

The first problem with this cliche is that it's never accompanied by numbers. The typical set-up is for some German journalist to interview some African farmer, who points to his fields and says European competition is destroying him. The assumption is, as always, that no ordinary person living in a third-world country is capable of being mistaken or, God forbid, shading the truth. I have yet to see a credulous German journalist ever critically examine these statements.

If they interview anyone for backup, it's always some "expert" (as often as not with a nose-ring, ponytail or the like) with an advocacy group, who uncritically repeats the canard that Western agriculture policies are screwing African farmers, without ever explaining exactly how this is so, or how significant a factor it actually is, or whether other causes might also contribute to the problem. Oh, and as with all experts with whom the German reporter agrees, no mention is ever made of actual qualifications.

Nor do any of these development experts ever explain how we might eliminate European agricultural subsidies. These subsidies exist because European farmers are politically powerful, and generally popular. The average European wants to see mid-sized (especially organic!) farms continue to operate near them inside their own country, and therefore they support farm subsidies. It's perfectly rational for them to do this. There's nothing wrong with preferring policies which assist people 10 kilometers away from you instead of people 10,000 km away. This is how human nature has always worked, and you defy it at your peril. Especially in France, where farmers can and do bring the whole country to its knees whenever prices drop.

But even aside from these points, the paper shows this argument's just wrong. The point should not be to make it easier for Africans to operate small-scale, low-productivity farming operations. They should be discouraged from doing this. Asian economies became richer by reducing the share of workers in small-scale farming, and redeploying them to more-productive sectors of the economy. Of course, the remedy might come from greatly increasing the productivity of African agriculture by consolidation, but we all know what that means, and how popular that sort of thing is among European Greens.

It would be one thing if population growth were small. But alas, as the paper points out, it's still much too large. Too many young people chasing too few reasonably-paid jobs.

The upshot is clear: For the next decades, without radical policy changes which don't seem likely, sub-Saharan Africa will produce tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of millions more young people than its low-productivity economies can provide meaningful employment for. All of these young people see every day how rich Europe appears on their smartphones. Uncounted millions will try to get to Europe by any means possible.

European politicians pride themselves on how seriously they take the challenge of long-term global warming. But very few are taking the short-term challenge of massive population flows from Africa seriously.


The Notary, Our Noble Master

Gardeavue

Watched this classic again last night. Lino Ventura plays a detective who subjects a wealthy local lawyer -- suspect in the rape and murder of two young girls -- to an hours-long interrogation in police headquarters. Lino Ventura intensely watchable as always with his Easter Island head and ludicrously gigantic hands. And Michel Serrault is perfectly cast as the clever, oleaginous yet despairing suspect. Romy Schneider, as his wife, is just plain Romy. She never really becomes anyone else no matter what role she plays, but you won't hear me complaining.

I first saw this movie years ago, before I was even a lawyer, in the U.S. Part of a Romy Schneider film festival. As I watched it again, a few memories of my earlier reaction to the movie came back. First of all, I remember being surprised when the detective tells the suspect that he can call a lawyer, but the lawyer is not entitled to meet him. "Whoa," I thought back then, "that's totally unconstitutional!" Which it would have been, in America.

The second cultural misunderstanding comes from the fact that everyone keeps mentioning that the suspect, Jérôme Martinaud, is a "notary". As an American, I said: "Who cares?" Yet this fact is mentioned several times, and the script calls attention to when and whether characters refer to the suspect as Master (Maître, the official designation for French lawyers and some other professionals). 

In fact, at the time I saw the movie, I was a notary, even though I didn't even have a college degree. In the U.S., the only function of a "notary public" is to put a stamp on official sworn documents. You just ask someone if the document is accurate, get them to sign it, and stamp it. Anyone over 18 who doesn't have a serious criminal record can be a notary. Anyone. You just fill out a form, pay a small fee, and bingo! you're in.

The situation is vastly different in Continental Europe, where notaries must be lawyers. Not only that, they benefit from an ancient privilege system that (1) requires dozens of different kinds of documents to be notarized, and (2) limits the overall number of notaries. This grants most notaries a regional monopoly, reducing competition and driving up costs. The Economist describes the cultural divide:

Notaries are important gatekeepers in many economies, in particular when it comes to establishing property rights—the bedrock of markets. At best, notaries are facilitators who, for instance, verify the identity of the signatories of contracts and the veracity of their statements. At worst, they are overpaid bureaucrats who delay the passage of simple transactions and bloat their cost.

By contrast, notaries are unknown in many common-law countries, such as Britain and its former empire, which take a more freewheeling approach to contracts. America is the odd country out: although its legal system is based on common law, it boasts 4.8m notaries, many part-time. Yet these exist mainly to satisfy America’s maddening appetite for stamps and seals, and have little in common with their highly qualified European namesakes. “They are butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers,” scoffs a European notary.

Both traditions have their drawbacks. In Europe notaries’ highly regulated work has made them the most prosperous of lawyers. Tax returns suggest that Italian notaries are paid better than any other professionals (though perhaps they are most honest about their earnings). A report in 2004 found that notaries made up 22 of Slovenia’s 100 highest earners. French ones are the most privileged of all, says Gisela Shaw, an expert on the profession. They can compete with solicitors to provide legal services. They may sell their practice when they retire.

A website on French property law notes:

With about 5,000 offices, 7,500 notaires and 40,000 assistants, the notarial profession has representation all over France and has an effective monopoly. The Notaire is the public official responsible for receiving all the "actes" and contracts to which the parties wish to confer the seal of authenticity, to assure their date, to hold them in trust and to deliver authentic copies of them.

The Notaire is under the authority of the Minister of Justice (Ministère de la Justice) and is appointed by decree. The Notaire's office (Etude) depends geographically on the area in which he lives.

So the status Jérôme enjoys result from the fact that he is a member of perhaps the most privileged group in French society: lawyers who have gained a coveted notary position. One of Jérôme's first lines of defense is that people are always starting rumors about him because they envy his wealth and social status, which explains why people are circulating unfounded rumors about his involvement in the murders.

It doesn't happen often, but there you have it: an instance in which comparative-law knowledge deepens your understanding of art!


What Are Uzbeks Doing in Stockholm?

From the Washington Post article about the Swedish truck massacre:

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

...

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

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


"Every Other American" Thinks Like the German Right

Der Spiegel interviews (g) the Israeli-American-German journalist Tuvia Tenenbom, who's been called the Jewish Hunter S. Thompson. He's a rubicund old Jewish kibitzer who travels the world and reports what he sees in blunt, unvarnished, politically-incorrect language that you'll either find crudely oversimplified or refreshingly direct.

He's written books about Germany, America (this one was called "brutal, irreverent, and cutting"), and just published in German a book called "Alone Among Refugees" (g), which recounts his travels through Germany visiting refugees and activists on all sides of the issue. A few of his thoughts on comparative freedom of the press and opinion: 

Spiegel: Mr. Tenenbom, what is your opinion on the media landscape and freedom of opinion here in Germany?

Tenenbom: There's no more journalism, especially in Germany. Instead there's activism. Journalism no longer just report what happens, but what we're supposed to think....

Spiegel: So to you, the best journalists are those who...

Tenenbom:  ... report facts. And don't tell us what's right and wrong.
The reporter asks him about positive comments he has made about the personalities of German right-wingers such as neo-nationalist intellectual Götz Kubitschek and anti-immigration activist Lutz Bachmann: 
Tenenbom: I'm not naive. I know very well what they say and think. But to treat someone respectfully or like them doesn't require that I share their opinions. And by the way: Every other American thinks the things which Götz Kubitschek says, and what Lutz Bachmann says.

Spiegel: Well, that hardly makes it better.

Tenenbom: I just want to say: Should we treat all Americans this way [i.e. ostracize them because of their views]? No. And you know what? Many Germans think the same way, they're just afraid to say it aloud. And so what? All these people are entitled to call themselves Europeans. There is simply a difference of opinion between one point of view which existed earlier, which is based on the preservation of one's own culture -- you could call that narrow-mindedness -- and another movement which doesn't want borders or nation-states and wants to see cultures mixed. Those are two valid arguments, two acceptable wishes. Let the voters decide! But don't call these people Nazis merely because they want to preserve German culture.


The Audits Suck, But The Food's Tasty

Here's a screenshot of the Google entry for the Düsseldorf-South tax headquarters:

Order your tax office

The tax bureaucrats get only 2.3 stars? Sounds like a certain ungrateful city on the Rhine could use a lot more tax audits to boost morale.

But what's more surprising: At the bottom there's a link to the meal-delivery service lieferando! Click on it (g), and you find that Düsseldorf's tax bureaucrats will be happy to whip up some vegan sweet potato curry, chia pudding with chocolate, or a Japanese teriyaki plate.


Who Was Behind the Leverkusen (Near-)Riot?

Once again, it's time to play guess the real story. The papers today are full of praise for the police for hindering a planned riot (g) at the Leverkusen bus station. Around 200 people had planned to travel there to engage in some sort of planned gang fight. The police intervened, arrested some people, conducted ID checks, and managed to prevent the worst. They didn't find any firearms, but did find various kinds of knuckle-dusters.

Neither the police nor any of the news outlets have given any details about who these people were or why they were gathering.

Which means one thing to any informed reader of German news: they must have been non-Germans. And indeed, the German tabloid Express gingerly informs us that most of those arrested had "an immigration background".

Now, it's by no means unheard-of for ethnic Germans to get together in planned fights. These are usually fanatical 'ultra' football fans -- young, working-class types. Here's a documentary about them called "Category C" -- after the classification schedule German police use to judge how "violence-ready" different groups of football fans are:

Whenever ethnic Germans get together and beat the crap out of each other, there's invariably detailed reporting, extensive hand-wringing, and musing about What It All Means.

When non-Germans do the same thing, a soft, comforting blanket of euphemisms is spread over the events, obscuring any interesting facts.

So, does anyone know what exactly was going on in Leverkusen? Was it Turks v. Kurds? Or two extended clans? Albanians v. Serbians?


The Students Without Qualities

The German newspaper Die Welt reports (g) on the case of a 14-year-old Jewish student from in the Friedenau suburb of Berlin who was harassed and attacked by his fellow students after he revealed he was Jewish. According to him, one of his fellow students told him: “Listen, you are a cool dude but I can’t be friends with you, Jews are all murderers.” He eventually had to leave the school.

A Jewish student being harassed, beaten, and insulted in the capital of Germany? This should be a major scandal, right?

Well, no. It has gotten some press coverage, as the Welt article shows, but not very much. Does this mean Germany really doesn't care about violent anti-Semitism?

Well, yes and no. To explain the response, we need, as always, to ask the question: Who is engaging in anti-Semitism? The Welt article, of course, never tells us. In that story, the young man is being attacked "by other children" or "by his classmates". Male? Female? Older? Younger? Ethnicity? Nope, none of that, thank you very much. All the Welt thinks you need to know about these violent anti-Semites are that they are "students".

They're the Students Without Qualities. Fans of the American sitcom Community might be reminded of the Greendale Community College mascot, the "Greendale Human Being": 

Only at the end of the story do we get a brief hint of who might be behind these attacks: "According to Tagesspiegel, 75% of the students at the school do not speak German as a native language, and many come from Turkish and Arab families."

Let's now turn to Tagesspiegel, the Berlin newspaper that first reported on the case in German. There, we come gingerly closer to the truth. After indeed reporting that there were many Turkish and Arab students at the school, the Tagesspiegel states (g) laconically, almost in passing: "According to the school's principal Uwe Runkel, this is also true of the criminal suspects [in the anti-Semitic harassment]." Blink and you might miss it, but here we finally have the truth: the anti-Semitic harassment did not come from Germans.

Fortunately, in this case we don't have to rely on the cloudy abstractions of the German press. The incident was originally reported in the English-language Jewish Chronicle:

Emma, who is British, said her son, Phillip (not their real names), 14, had been moved to an English language high school in Berlin .

Emma said she and her husband had originally been attracted to the school, Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule, which has a large proportion of Arab and Turkish children, by the fact it was so multicultural.

She said it had never occurred to Phillip to deny his Jewishness, and one day he mentioned it to his classmates.

One of them responded: “Listen, you are a cool dude but I can’t be friends with you, Jews are all murderers.”

The verbal abuse escalated to physical violence, until earlier this month, “when he was attacked and almost strangled, and the guy pulled a toy gun on him that looked like a real gun. And the whole crowd of kids laughed. He was completely shaken.”

“It was terrible,” Phillip said, “but I didn’t have time to think what’s happening at the time. Now when I look back, I think, oh my God.”

Emma said she decided then and there that “I am not sending him to this school any more, and that was it.”

...

The case underscores concerns that educators and parents have expressed for years in Berlin about the antisemitic harassment of Jewish pupils, particularly by Arab and Turkish children.

Berlin’s Jewish high school receives between six and 10 applications a year from parents who want to move their children away from schools where they are being subjected to antisemitic harassment, said Aaron Eckstaedt, principal of the Moses Mendelssohn Jewish High School in Berlin.

The requests generally are “in reaction to antisemitic statements coming overwhelmingly from Arabic or Turkish classmates,” he said, adding that “in most cases, the families complain about the relative lack of response from state schools” to the problem.

Being the target of anti-Semitic attacks seems to motivate people to actually want to know who's behind them. Indeed, the sub-head of the article reads: "Case illustrates long history of antisemitic harassment of Jewish pupils, particularly by Arab and Turkish children."

Now, to be fair, the principal has expressed dismay and regret:

When contacted by the JC, [the principal] Runkel said he regretted the antisemitic bullying of Phillip. He added he had hoped to help the student feel safe and also to make perpetrators face the consequences of their actions, but that obviously “for the parents it wasn’t fast enough”.

He said “a general approach in the school to antisemitism” was clearly needed, and was being developed.

Ahh, the "general approach" -- the Gesamtkonzept! You can't do anything in Germany without one. I am sure the principal actually is disgusted by a Jewish student being insulted and "almost strangled" at his school. But things get quite awkward when the anti-Semites in Germany turn out to be, er, not so German after all.

Although Turks and Arabs are allowed to point out the fact that anti-Semitism is endemic in Turkey and the Arab world, ethnic Germans can't really come right out and do so, for fear of being charged with stoking prejudice against Germans of Turkish and Arab descent. And there are a lot more of those than there are Jewish residents of Germany.

It's delicate, you see. Very, very delicate.

The problem with all this delicacy, though, is that sometimes people need clear information: "Emma said she and her husband had originally been attracted to the school, Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule, which has a large proportion of Arab and Turkish children, by the fact it was so multicultural." Apparently, nobody informed these folks that sending a Jewish child to a German school with a large Muslim population might not be such a good idea.

Euphemisms can be dangerous.

In any case, Phillip got the message: "As for Phillip, he would not necessarily recommend that other children reveal their Jewishness to classmates unless it’s 'a nice, quiet school.'"


Dr. Boll's Brilliant Career

Not that readers of this blog need it, but Vanity Fair's great piece on Uwe Boll gives us a bit of background: 

Boll made his name, such as it is, mostly by dragging the already abhorred genre of the “video-game movie” to previously unthinkable new lows. His video-game adaptations BloodRayne, In the Name of the King, and House of the Dead are rated 4 percent on Rotten Tomatoes; Alone in the Dark has a 1 percent rating. In 2007, BloodRayne received Golden Raspberry Award (Razzie) nominations for worst director, worst picture, worst actress, worst supporting actor, worst supporting actress, and worst screenplay. Two years later, Boll received a “Worst Career Achievement” Golden Raspberry Award.

“The man simply cannot direct,” Razzies co-founder John Wilson told me. “He doesn’t know where to put the camera. He doesn’t know how to suggest to an actor how to deliver their lines. Doesn’t know how to come up with an edit where you can tell where the hell you are and what’s going on. That’s kind of basic.”

Cast and crew members have denounced the films. “BloodRayne was an abomination,” said BloodRayne star Michael Madsen. “It’s a horrifying and preposterous movie.” Willam Belli, who acted in and had a co-writing credit on Blubberella, compared viewing the finished product to “watching a car accident with clowns.” ...

At the height of his infamy, a petition titled “Stop Uwe Boll” garnered 357,480 digital signatures, and the domain uweboll.com simply contained the entreaty, “Please stop making movies.” Now, at last, he has. With no fanfare—with hardly any acknowledgement at all, in fact—Boll’s swan song, Rampage: President Down, was recently made available on iTunes and Netflix.

And then Uwe quits filmmaking and...opens a restaurant in Vancouver!

We meet at Bauhaus, in the Gastown district of Vancouver, the restaurant he opened just before he decided to quit filmmaking. “That’s the wiener schnitzel,” Boll says over the pounding noises coming from the kitchen. “They have to hammer it.” There is one gigantic painting on the Bauhaus wall that says, in giant letters: “ART.”

Boll’s passion for food rivals his passion for film, and the reviews for Bauhaus are far more positive than those he received for his movies. A Globe and Mail food critic praised the veal tenderloin in demi-glace as evoking a “voluptuous Boll-inspired warrior goddess easing into a mud bath.”

Summing up the appeal of his new calling, Boll says, simply: “It’s less complicated than filmmaking.”

And I bet you didn't know it was Dr. Boll: "Along with a doctorate about narrative structure in television and literature—yes, technically, it’s Dr. Uwe Boll—Boll wrote around 15 screenplays by his early 20s."