Venice: Where Ignorant Artists Clash by Night

When I visited the most recent documenta, there were dozens of dull didactic installations meant to indoctrinate visitors into the proper attitudes toward everything from organic farming to the Western Sahara. Fortunately, there were also intriguing works of art.

Yet the trend toward unoriginal laments on the state of the world from art bureaucrats continues unabated. Here is Okwui Enwezor, the curator of the current Venice Bienniale, writes in his introduction to the show:

One hundred years after the first shots of the First World War were fired in 1914, and seventy-five years after the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, the global landscape again lies shattered and in disarray, scarred by violent turmoil, panicked by specters of economic crisis and viral pandemonium, secessionist politics and a humanitarian catastrophe on the high seas, deserts, and borderlands, as immigrants, refugees, and desperate peoples seek refuge in seemingly calmer and prosperous lands. Everywhere one turns new crisis, uncertainty, and deepening insecurity across all regions of the world seem to leap into view.

...blah blah blah. To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every single word of this is wrong, including 'and' and 'the'. 

A few charts from Our World in Data, the site run by economist Max Roser which turns the best and latest data into informative charts:

Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke
Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke
Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke
Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke

Nrewabspov

Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke
Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke
Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke
Wars-Long-Run_military-and-civilian-fatalities-from-Brecke

 


Corey's Awakening

A story very loosely based on my many interactions with activists over the years.

There was once a sensible, compassionate progressive (SCP). Let's call him Corey. Corey is a gender-fluid freelance graphic designer who lives in Seattle.

Over a period of months several blatant injustices suffered by Members of a Disadvantaged Community (MDCs) came to Corey's attention. He and his SCP friends exchanged many messages on Facebook and Twitter sharing their outrage. They also shared many tweets from MDC activists. But not the ones that contained death threats. Corey saw a highly articulate Assistant Professor on television who put these injustices into historical context.

Eventually Corey and his SCP friends decided that merely sharing social media outrage was empty symbolism. They decided to go to a local meeting of Outraged Activists to show their solidarity and support. Let's follow Corey's train of thought at the meeting: 
  1. Man, it feels good to be really attending one of these meetings. I am in the middle of MDCs but I feel completely safe. People are giving me approving glances.
  2. This first speaker from the local church is really eloquent. 
  3. Time for the next speaker, from the local No Justice No Peace campaign.
  4. Feels a little uncomfortable chanting No Justice No Peace and raising my arm. I'm really not much of a group person. But it's also exhilarating!
  5. Wow, this guy is sure using a lot of, er, uncompromising phrases. But then again, he's justifiably angry about real problems, so who can blame him?
  6. Some of his demands are reasonable, but some are really pretty much totally unworkable. I mean, do we really need to disband the police?
  7. Hmm, that statement about Hillary Clinton made me a bit uncomfortable. Not sure that's the vibe we need.
  8. Oh cool, another speaker, this one from the Local Branch 45 of the Unapologetic Militant Task Force.
  9. Wow, that's some salty language.
  10. Uh, are you allowed to say that about the President in public? Besides, I don't think that would fit in Obama's 'booty'. Do men even have booties? Well, he's probably just using metaphors and exaggeration for rhetorical effect. And the crowd seems to be loving it. 
  11. Wait, what do the Jews have to do with any of this? Doesn't this guy realize we're on his side?
  12. Is that dope I smell? Not that I'm against ganja -- to the contrary! -- but not sure this is the time and place.
  13. Wait, how did we progressives become the bad guys?
  14. I'm really not sure these Auschwitz comparisons are helpful. Besides, wasn't this guy just dissing the Jews?
  15. Speech over. Whew. Now people from the audience are being asked for their 'interventions'. This should be interesting.
  16. Wow, this guy is really taking that Auschwitz analogy to bizarre new lengths. 
  17. And now that I look closer, he's not wearing pants! Shouldn't someone tell him he's not wearing pants? Doesn't the audience care he's not wearing pants?
  18. Now two heavyset women have kicked him off the stage and started screaming talking points from a crumpled piece of paper.
  19. My friends and I have decided to discreetly exit the building now.
  20. Over some really hoppy IPA at One-Eyed Jeremiah, my friends and I have decided we will never speak of this experience again.

Balkan Migrants Are Not Refugees And Should Be Quickly Repatriated

DWO-IP-Asylbewerber-as-Aufm

Horst Seehofer wants to create detention centers on the borders of Germany to detain migrants from the Balkan states and send them back swiftly.

Great idea. As I've pointed out on this blog ad nauseam, the mainstream German press is manipulating its readers by referring to all illegal immigrants to Germany as Flüchtlinge (refugees). That is factually false.

There are currently two main sources of illegal immigration into Germany.

The first of these are economic refugees from certain Balkan countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo) and certain states on the Russian periphery. Their home countries aren't rich or particularly well-governed, but they are stable and not at war. This group makes up between 50 and 60% of current illegal immigration into Germany by land. The above graph shows that between January and March 2015, 61.6% of 'refugees' came from West Balkan countries.

By and large, they are immigrating illegally -- that is, without any legal right to remain on German territory for a long period (many can enter legally). Over 99% of them will never qualify for political asylum, because they are merely economic migrants -- people fleeing a relatively poor country to a richer one. They are not facing starvation or epidemics, they are merely facing a relative lack of promising economic opportunities. While their motives are understandable, economic migrants are not, and have never been recognized as refugees under international law. No country is obliged to accept or accommodate economic migrants. No country has ever or will ever do so, except for reasons of ethnic affinity (such as when Germany permitted ethnic Germans to immigrate from Russia).

The second group are people fleeing war, deadly persecution, and extreme hardship in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and a few other countries. These are about 50% of current immigration flows. Many of these people -- especially Middle Eastern Christians or Shiites facing genocide by ISIS or other extreme Islamic groups -- have a legitimate claim to political asylum in Germany. Almost all of them actually do get legal recognition as refugees and are awarded political asylum. 

Seehofer is proposing changes to make rapid processing and deportation of migrants in the first group easier. This is not populism, it's not rabble-rousing, it's a good idea. Economic migrants in the first group have no legal right to be in Germany, and paying to house them while their frivolous asylum claims are processed is a waste of scarce resources. Currently, stories are circulating in Albania and Kosovo that Albanians are welcome (g) in Germany and will be allowed to stay if they can only get in, and that life is great up here in Germany. Of course, they aren't welcome, and have no legal right to stay. They should be detained humanely, fingerprinted and quickly deported. As large charter buses arrive back in Tirana and Prishtina, word will get around that Germany actually is beginning to enforce its humane and reasonable laws, and perhaps Albanians will set about working to improve conditions in their own homeland.

Migrants from the second group are genuine refugees. Germany and many other countries should offer these people political asylum and access to housing and support until the severe problems plaguing their homelands are resolved. This is both a moral and a legal obligation. Ensuring the swift and reliable deportation of illegal immigrants in the first group will free up vastly more resources to provide humane accommodation to refugees in the second group.

Once you clear up the confusion caused by the misleading labeling of all migrants as refugees, the reality becomes clearer, and a possible way out of the current horrible disaster of German immigration policy becomes clearer.


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.


The Success of Germany's Cautious, Self-Interested Foreign Policy

Parke Nicholson joins the chorus of Americans urging Germany to increase military spending intervene more abroad foreign policy. Problem is, Germans don’t want this:

A majority of the German public for the first time favors an “independent approach” from the United States. Yet besides spending more on foreign aid, most prefer to “continue to exercise restraint” in dealing with international crises, and there is a deep ambivalence about the use of military force or sanctions. Although it is true that Germany remains constrained by its past, its recent success may have also instilled in it a sense of complacency. 

For example, Germany is often singled out for its meager defense spending. Although Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble recently announced a six percent increase in defense spending over the next five years, much of this will replace aging equipment and infrastructure, and overall spending will remain small relative to the country’s size. More frustrating to American observers, however, is the government’s reluctance to openly discuss security challenges and commit to planning for future contingencies. This is odd given that Germany provided the third-largest contingent of troops in Afghanistan and well over 200,000 soldiers to international peacekeeping missions since 1993….

In the longer term, Germany must recognize that it can no longer simply remain a convening power and rely on the initiative of other “shaping powers,” the European Union, or the United States. It will have to better articulate and publicly defend its foreign interests. Meekly reflecting on its limitations is an excuse to avoid responsibility and take concrete steps when international rules are ignored. If Germany wants to forge a stronger Europe and a peaceful world order, it needs to ignore the hype about its power and think more courageously about how to use it.

At another point in the article, Nicholson states without proof: ‘Nor can Germany truly shape, let alone protect, open markets for its goods without the backbone of U.S. military power.’

Hardly a day goes by without some pundit, usually American, chastising Germany for having a barely-functional military and for staying out of most international conflicts. Usually, the argument boils down to: "We're the only ones who are combating Al-Shabbab in the Horn of Africa and ISIS and the Houthis and the Taliban and al-Nusra and Chinese demands for islands and Russians in the Ukraine and a thousand other global threats and what are the Germans doing to help us? Nada! Germany, you're rich and popular and still have a semblance of a military -- start meddling in dozens of foreign conflicts!"

To which most Germans respond: Why? Germany faces no direct or indirect military threat. Its citizens overwhelmingly oppose sending troops into harm's way in remote places. What on earth would that achieve, other than dragging Germany into conflicts where its interests aren't at stake and making it a target? With no threats at home and no reason to interfere abroad, Germany hardly needs a military at all.

Its leaders prefer not to hector other countries about human-rights issues, especially when that would get in the way of lucrative contracts. The author provides no instance of American military power helping Germany economically, and I can't think of one. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating: Germany's the most popular country in the world, and one of the most prosperous, and much of the credit goes to its low-key foreign policy. Why would it change course?


Germany's Refugee-Resettlement Plans Praised

 Germany's migrant policies get a cautiously optimistic review from Canadian journalist Doug Saunders: 

What about all those tens of thousands of Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis who don’t end up bobbing lifeless in the Mediterranean or steered at gunpoint back to the southern shore? Where do they wind up?

The answer, overwhelmingly, is found here on the western edge of Germany, in the urban quilt around the Rhine and Main rivers. It is here, the booming heartland of the world’s most successful economy, that perhaps the greatest concentration of the war-weary of Africa and Asia are being received, sorted, cleaned up and placed in (figurative and literal) boxes.

No other country comes close to hosting so many fleeing people: Last year, Germany received 173,000 refugee applications (and accepted most), a third of Europe’s total and more than twice as many as the second-place country, Sweden. (Canada took 13,000 refugees last year, and expects 16,000 this year.) It is a human tide not seen since the Balkan wars of the 1990s, when as many as 438,000 refugees a year came to Germany.

In Germany...the public and their politicians are receiving the majority of Europe’s refugees with surprising calm, even optimism. While there was a brief flare-up of anti-immigrant politics earlier this year in cities of the former East Germany (where there are almost no immigrants to be found), those died away quickly. Here, even refugee advocates say they’re surprised by the broadly positive reception.

“I am really amazed at how much this country has changed – even a decade ago this would have created anger and distrust, but today I’m hearing nothing but welcome for the new refugees – people are being really open,” says Zerai Kiros Abraham, a former Eritrean refugee who now runs Project Moses, a refugee-settlement charity in Frankfurt.

They particularly want the Syrians, who tend to be middle-class and have the professional degrees and technical skills needed here...

It helps considerably that Germany has recently ended its policy of banning refugees from seeking employment: This had left many earlier asylum seekers loitering in public squares and shopping malls, falling into marginal lives and giving a bad image to immigrants in general – and depriving Germany of badly needed labour. Now they can work after three months, and employers and municipalities are pressuring Berlin to let them work sooner.

The optimism may be short-lived: Refugees, unlike immigrants, often have a difficult time settling, as they lack the language ability, the savings and connections needed to start businesses, and are often deeply traumatized. For now, the big question, across the country, is where to house them all. Many are living in thousands of state-issued shipping-container shelters, which are a blot on the landscape and tend to become undesirable.

Saunders is cherry-picking here: he focuses only on refugees: people who are actually fleeing war and persecution. Not a word about the 'refugees' from Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Still, it's good to see the foreign press looking past the spray-painted swastikas for once.


Green Party Pedophiles: A Case of Sacralized Victims

 

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.


Freund hört mit, or: Under US Law, Germans Have No Privacy Rights and Can be Spied on at Will

Feind_hoert_mit

I slapped together a little something (g) for Germany's Legal Times Online about the Snowden case. The editor pepped up the language a bit, but that's fine with me, it's supposed to be a popular format.

What I said is that the Fourth Amendment guarantees US citizens privacy in situations in which they have a 'reasonable expectation of privacy'. Email and (especially) phone calls certainly belong in that sphere. So if the NSA is collecting massive amounts of emails and telephone data randomly, without a specific search warrant, then it is violating the privacy rights of US citizens. According to recent revelations, the NSA has developed internal 'minimization procedures' that instruct agents to stop listening or reading if they find out that they are spying on a US citizen, similar to regulations the German Federal Constitutional Court has required in cases of spying on telephone calls or private apartments. But since the court meets in secret, we have no way of independently verifying these claims. Also, since the Obama administration has blocked all privacy lawsuits with the legal doctrine of the state secrets privilege, no American court has yet ruled on whether these programs are constitutional.

However, the situation in Germany is not very different. German spy agencies have extremely broad powers under existing law, and will gain new ones under the new Telecommunications Law which takes effect on 1 July. There is a parliamentary committee which provides general oversight of requests for surveillance and a so-called G-10 committee which rules on individual requests. They are supposed to follow strict minimization procedures and insist on adequate proof of possible wrongdoing before authorizing spying measures. However, since both of these committees operate in secret, we have no way of knowing how carefully these guidelines are respected. Plus, since there have been no German whistleblowers, we have no real insight into the scope of German programs. As the Green Party speaker Konstantin von Notz recently remarked, it is high time that Germans learned more about what their own spy agency is up to.

One thing that has really angered Germans is the fact that communication to and from and even within Germany are being spied on by the US and the UK. The official position of the US government (in the form of a Senate report) is that foreigners 'foreigners outside the United States generally are not entitled to the protections of the Fourth Amendment.' Thus, the current version of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides no protection for the privacy rights of foreigners. The secret court which orders surveillance can authorize blanket data collection on all foreigners, everywhere. The only limitations kick in when it appears that an American citizen may be involved. In the words of the report itself, 'Section 702 thus enables the Government to collect information effectively and efficiently about foreign targets overseas and in a manner that protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans'.

Of course, this wouldn't matter so much if American and the UK didn't have, and use, spying technology that can sweep up massive streams of data from everywhere and anywhere. As far as remedies for Germany, it's not clear what Germany can do, except send sternly-worded letters (g) to American officials. I'm not aware of any treaty that the US has ratified without reservation which would give Germany a basis for complaint before international tribunals. But I'm happy to be corrected in comments if I've overlooked something.