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The House of Commons petitions committee is investigating allegations of fraud in connection with a petition calling for a second EU referendum.
Its inquiry is focused on the possibility that some names could be fraudulent –77,000 signatures have already been removed.
More than 3.2 million signatures are on the petition, but PM David Cameron has said there will be no second vote.
The UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU in Thursday's referendum.
Helen Jones, who chairs the cross-party petitions committee, said in a statement posted on Twitter that it was taking the allegations "very seriously".
Of course, the fact that massive fraud has been obvious for days (10,000 signatures from the Vatican) didn't stop the credulous muppets of the German public televisions news shows from reporting all those signatures with a condescending smirk, as if they were real.
For all the praise she gets, Angela Merkel has been one of the most disastrous European leaders in my lifetime. She's as responsible for Brexit as anyone I can think of, thanks to two catastrophic decisions she made.
The first was her insistence on punishing Greece following its collapse after the Great Recession. There's plenty of blame to go around on all sides for the Greece debacle, but as the continent's economic leader Germany held most of the high cards during negotiations over Greece's fate. Merkel had a choice: (a) punish Greece for running up unsustainable debts and lying about them, or (b) accept thatGermany bore much of the blame itself for the crisis and that Greece had no way of rescuing itself thanks to the straitjacket of the common currency. The former was a crowd pleaser. The latter was unpopular and would have required sustained, iron-spined leadership. In the event, Merkel chose to play to the crowds, and Greece has been a basket case ever since—with no end in sight. It hardly went unnoticed in Britain how Europe treated a country that was too entangled with the EU to either fight back or exit, and it made Britain's decision to forego the common currency look prescient. And if that had been a good choice, maybe all the rest of "ever closer union" wasn't such a great idea either.
Merkel's second bad decision was more recent. Here is David Frum: "If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany—and then all Europe—to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come." It's hard to fault Merkel for this on a humanitarian basis, but on a political basis it was a disaster. The barely-controlled wave of refugees Merkel encouraged has caused resentment and more all over Europe, and it unquestionably played a big
role in the immigrant backlash in Britain that powered the Leave vote.
I'm outsourcing this prediction to Kevin Drum:
My sense—though I'd prefer actual data if anyone has collected it—is that secession votes usually follow a pattern: the leavers get an upward bump a few weeks before voting day, but stayers get a bump in the few days before voting day. A fair number of people flirt with the idea of leaving, but then get scared at the last minute and decide to vote for the status quo instead. Basically, in any secession referendum, I figure that Leave needs to be polling at 55 percent or higher to have a realistic chance of winning.
As of today, the polls are still tied, so my guess is that Brexit will fail on Thursday. If I'm right that about 5 percent of the leavers will get cold feet and change their minds, the final tally will be something like 53-47 percent in favor of remaining in the EU. We'll find out in a couple of days.
Megan McArdle talks to ordinary middle-class English people about immigration in Luton:
I bought some Polish sausage and pastry at an off-license, some Indian dumplings and Thai noodles at a couple of food trucks, and I sat on a bench in the mall, listening to people from three continents chat with each other in more than half a dozen languages, none of which I spoke.
As an American, this did not strike me as odd; this is what our cities have been like for centuries, particularly on the coasts. One group of immigrants moves in, creates an enclave, then gets rich, assimilates and moves out, making way for the next group that will throw a little of their food, their language and their customs into our vast melting pot. But this is not normal in most of the world. Nor is it necessarily welcome.
Anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. is often found in places that don’t have enormous immigrant populations, and wonks who proclaim this to be irrational seem not to grasp that those people may be looking at the places that have been transformed by immigration and responding with a fervent “No, thank you.” There’s a lot to be gained from globalism, the mixing of two or more cultures into something new. But something specific and local and much-loved is inevitably lost at the same time, and the people who feel that loss most keenly are the inward-looking people who stay in place, not internationalist elites.
So it’s not that my food was bad — it was all quite good — or that there was anything wrong with the immigrants serving and eating it. They all looked like quite nice people. But it was all very different from traditional British food, traditional British people. And no matter how hard we try to argue that it doesn’t matter, it does — politically, if in no other way. Especially when things aren’t going all that well for the natives.
Somehow, over the last half-century, Western elites managed to convince themselves that nationalism was not real. Perhaps it had been real in the past, like cholera and telegraph machines, but now that we were smarter and more modern, it would be forgotten in the due course of time as better ideas supplanted it.
That now seems hopelessly naive. People do care more about people who are like them — who speak their language, eat their food, share their customs and values. And when elites try to ignore those sentiments — or banish them by declaring that they are simply racist — this doesn’t make the sentiments go away. It makes the non-elites suspect the elites of disloyalty. For though elites may find something vaguely horrifying about saying that you care more about people who are like you than you do about people who are culturally or geographically further away, the rest of the population is outraged by the never-stated corollary: that the elites running things feel no greater moral obligation to their fellow countrymen than they do to some random stranger in another country. And perhaps we can argue that this is the morally correct way to feel — but if it is truly the case, you can see why ordinary folks would be suspicious about allowing the elites to continue to exercise great power over their lives.
Much of what is foolish and tendentious in the German immigration debate is caused by the failure to realize that immigration affects people in different social classes differently. The Europhile consultants in Prenzlauer Berg associate immigration mainly with delectable ethnic food and cheaper home renovations. As long as they are unable to understand why supermarket cashiers don't share this view, they will continue being (hypocritically, disingenuously) baffled by anti-immigrant sentiment.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung has discovered something awesome: Migrants are a hidden gold mine (g)! When it comes to cricket, that is. Before 2015, there were only 1500 cricket players in all of Germany. After "Angela Merkel opened the borders," (the article actually puts it this way) though, cricket-mad migrants from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India streamed in. Now the phones are ringing off the hook at the German Cricket Federation, which still "can't believe" its luck. Officials there are hoping for a dramatic increase in Germany's international cricket standing, which is currently, er, not particularly impressive.
Now, being the Gloomy Gus that I am about these matters, I have to spoil the batsmen's delight with a few nagging questions. First of all, which war was it that Pakistanis and Indians were fleeing, again? Why are people from these stable, peaceful countries still in Germany?
Also, there's are a few things nagging me about this cunning plan to improve Germany's standing in the world of cricket. First, do Germans give a flying fuck about Germany's standing in the world of cricket? Second, if they do, wouldn't the best approach be to import really good cricket players, rather than anyone who happened to make it across the border?
This is like choosing astronauts by running an ad saying: "Astronaut signup day! First ten thousand get in!" Then you randomly select groups of 50 from the 10,000. After forcing them to take off their Chewbacca and Star Trek costumes, you shoot them into space, and see how many survive. After a few decades, billions of euros, and a mere 3,562 dead or disabled, you finally have your crack squad of astronauts!
A briefing room somewhere in the federal ministry for immigration, 2021: "Well, sir, the downside is we let in 40,000 young males from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Only 20% have learned proficient German. Oh, and it turns out 85% of them have no grounds for asylum, they were just economic migrants. 70% are still unemployed and living on government welfare benefits, so the total cost for their maintenance and support has been € 3 billion over the past four years. But the upside is that Germany has moved from #178 to #42 in the international cricket standings!"
The head of the American Republican Party has one of the strangest names you will ever encounter: Reince Priebus. The Onion mocked it with the headline: "Reince Priebus Forced Back Into Ancient Puzzle Box After Being Tricked Into Saying Name Backwards":
Startled sources at a GOP fundraiser confirmed Thursday that after being duped into saying his own name backwards, ancient elfin mischief-maker and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus was cast back into the gilded puzzle box that has confined him for millennia.
Priebus, a wily, mystical creature who has reportedly carried out right-wing political trickery at numerous points throughout recorded history, was said to be delivering a speech on traditional family values when he unthinkingly read the words “Subeirp Ecnier” aloud off the teleprompter, immediately causing the lights in the Omni Hotel to flicker and sending a powerful, chilling wind through the convention hall.
This weirdness, like so much other weirdness, came from the Fatherland, according to a recent New York Times profile:
“Priebus” is a German name, pronounced like the Toyota Prius with a “b” stuck in the middle. Reince (short for Reinhold, rhymes with “pints”) is 44 but has an older-man’s vibe.
Reinhold! Now that's old school, for an American of German ancestry. Clearly the Priebus family is proud of its German roots. Two things struck me as a bit odd. First, I've never encountered the name Priebus or anything like it here in Germany — although it's a big country. Second, no German in their right mind would abbreviate Reinhold as Reince, right? I'm thinking Reini.
The Economist looks at why the most high-middlebrow shows and books about Germany are written by Brits:
This popularity of Anglo-Saxon storytellers “really is astonishing”, says Hermann Parzinger. He is a German archaeologist (best known for his work on the Scythians) and president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which owns museums, libraries and archives in Berlin. He is working with MacGregor in dreaming up how to curate the Humboldt Forum’s exhibits.
German academics, Parzinger says, write books to impress the five most important experts in their field. Popularity is suspect in German academia. The German word unseriös, etymologically the same as “unserious”, in fact means “lacking credibility”. But Anglo-Saxons, Parzinger thinks, “have it in their blood to make these things suspenseful and interesting even for lay people”. In particular, they know how to integrate into their storytelling “both the high and the low, without anything being banal”. Thus MacGregor effortlessly mixes Luther and Goethe with sausages and garden gnomes into one analysis that makes Germans feel they’ve understood something about themselves.
The Anglos also come across as likeable rather than belehrend, says Parzinger. That German word means “lecturing”, and is often used by Germans of Germans. The greatest fear of intellectuals in Germany and other continental countries is to appear shallow. The greatest fear of Britons is to seem pompous, says MacGregor. So they enliven their knowledge with good delivery and showmanship….
But even among outsiders the Anglos have the edge in Germany over, say, French, Polish, Dutch or Danish intellectuals. These neighbours were often part of German history – as enemies, victims or collaborators. German audiences expect them to reflect that perspective. A French historian talking about the 1940s, say, should probably also expound on Vichy and French collaboration.
The Brits, however, were always “geographically more outside”, says Parzinger, which makes them appear credible. Since the 1960s, for example, it has been all but taboo for German writers to argue anything other than that Germany bears sole responsibility for starting the first world war. Clark gleefully ignored that taboo in “The Sleepwalkers” – and outsold all the Germans, even in Germany. Clark can say the question of guilt is complicated, says Parzinger, but hearing it “from a German would have been more difficult”.
This goes back to a fundamental cultural difference which virtually every Anglo-Saxon picks up on quickly in Germany: Most Germans just aren't funny in ways Anglo-Saxons recognize, and a substantial minority aren't funny at all. Free-floating, value-neutral absurdity; obscene wordplay; sarcasm and irony; casual teasing insults among friends — these styles of communication are much rarer in Germany than in the Anglo-Saxon world. Unless you know someone fairly well, the safest mode of communication is straightforward communication about mundane details of everyday life or anodyne remarks about current affairs which do not reveal a controversial personal opinion.
This is not to say there ain't no funny Germans, etc. etc. As with everything in life, this is a matter of probability distributions and bell curves, not of absolutes. Behold this scientific-looking graph:
The more to the left you are on this graph, the more sincere and loyal. You become more entertaining as you move to the right. Germany is the bell curve with the peak of 52. England with the peak of 76. The separation is too wide, but it still makes the point. There's plenty of overlap (i.e. decent and funny people) in both directions, but the average Brit you meet is likely to be more entertaining than the average German.
The canon of values the average German has been raised with tend toward sincerity, honesty, credibility, punctuality, and loyalty. You can be a worthy, admirable person on this scale while being crushingly boring. In fact, being crushingly boring can actually be a helpful strategy, since humor, used inappropriately or at the wrong time, can undermine your reputation. Leave humor to the professionals. Or if you are called upon to be funny yourself, have a few memorized jokes or sayings on tap, just in case. Even if they're crushingly unfunny, people will laugh. Out of politeness.
Maybe I can't make you laugh, says the German, but I will take time out of my busy schedule to visit you in the hospital, and bring a thoughtful gift. Which is more important?
Growing up in the Anglo-Saxon world, there's a premium on being entertaining. Your cultural heroes are likely to be comedians rather than violinists or human-rights activists. You're likely to spend hours each day consuming humor. Dull people are ostracized. Unlike in Germany, where you might bring them along even though you know they'll just sit there silently, in England and the USA you will simply avoid them and mock them.
In this atmosphere, even renowned historians often learn to be decent storytellers and amusing chaps, because everyone is expected to be a decent storyteller and an amusing chap. In Germany, you can live a life that you and others would consider rich and full without ever (1) intentionally provoking (2) sincere laughter in another human being.
The most useful phrase a world traveler can know is, of course, "My hovercraft is full of eels." Here is a website with the phrase translated into dozens of languages, including — importantly — Sardinian.
For all other needs, Spy Magazine has you covered:
The Atlantic summarizes a recent study:
Why do some societies not encourage casual smiling? I got my answer, or at least part of one, when I stumbled across a new paper by Kuba Krys [Kuba Krys? Didn't he lay down a smokin' freestyle on that Kendrick Lamar album? – ed.], a psychologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences [Oh, that Kuba Krys – ed.]. In some countries, smiling might not be a sign of warmth or even respect. It’s evidence that you’re a fool—a tricky fool.
Krys focused on a cultural phenomenon called “uncertainty avoidance.” Cultures that are low on this scale tend to have social systems—courts, health-care systems, safety nets, and so forth—that are unstable. Therefore, people there view the future as unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Smiling is a sign of certainty and confidence, so when people in those countries smile, they might seem odd. Why would you smile when fate is an invisible wolf waiting to shred you? You might, in those “low-UA” countries, even be considered stupid for smiling.
Krys also hypothesized that smiling in corrupt countries would be, um, frowned upon. When everyone’s trying to pull one over on each other, you don’t know if someone’s smiling with good intentions, or because they’re trying to trick you….
He found that in countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people. But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and—you guessed it—Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent. Even after controlling for other factors, like the economy, there was a strong correlation between how unpredictable a society was and the likelihood they would consider smiling unintelligent.
In countries such as India, Argentina, and the Maldives, meanwhile, smiling was associated with dishonesty—something Krys found to be correlated to their corruption rankings.
I've lived here in Tschermany long enough to witness a change or two. One is the increase in smiles on websites. Just anecdotally, I think the percentage of people smiling in websites about firms and universities has risen steadily. At one point, smiling too much in German would get you the reputation of being 'unseriös', but that seems to be fading these days. Also, cosmetic dentistry is becoming mainstream and affordable here. With the standard delay — about 20 years after this happened in the USA.
Doing a bit of tidying-up recently, I found a business card I got during a recent trip to Sofia, Bulgaria. I was minding my own business, waiting by the side of the street to be picked up by friends, when I watched a nice, but unspectacular late-model sedan park in a nearby parking lot. A guy dressed in a nice but unspectacular suit, perhaps mid-30s, well-groomed, emerged from the car carrying a briefcase. He spotted me and walked directly over.
He said, "Can I help you?" "No, I'm just waiting for a friend," I replied. Then he said "Well, in case you would like some company," and gave me a business card. I assumed it was his business card, and that he either wanted to buy me a drink to practice his English, or to do something more, er, Greek. Then he walked away. This was the card:
I noticed that there's only one phone number, but the rates on the front and back of the card are different. This hardly speaks for the conscientiousness of Bulgarian pimps. Unless there's actually a difference between 'top models' and 'pretty girls for pleasure'.
The more I thought about it, the more questions I had. The guy who gave me the card looked like a mild-mannered accountant. I was waiting right in the middle of Sofia, not in some park where odd grunting sounds come from the bushes. Do Bulgarian pimps just hand out cards to ordinary Bulgarian men and tell them to give the cards to anyone who looks like a horny tourist? Or is this mere hospitality, like a tribal chieftain offering his wife to a traveler?
In any case, since I was staying with friends, I didn't enjoy the company of any pretty girls for pleasure. But t then again, the minute you exit a German train station, you see that you don't have to leave Germany to enjoy the company of Bulgarian prostitutes (g).
Nabiel Peter Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff, born Nabiel Bagadi, and known in the U.K as Peter Mark Emanuel Graf von Wolffersdorff Freiherr von Bogendorff, may have to remain a man of two identities and many more names following a ruling by Europe’s top court on Thursday.
Bringing a years-long legal battle to an end, the European Court of Justice decided that Germany can refuse to recognize the new names of citizens when their new monikers contain outlawed titles of nobility. The ruling may ease fears of so-called name tourism, where EU citizens take advantage of laxer laws on name changes in another member state.
Mr. Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff, a German national, acquired British nationality while living in the U.K. and had his names changed to Peter Mark Emanuel Graf von Wolffersdorff Freiherr von Bogerndorff. In German “Graf” and “Freiherr” mean “Count” and “Baron” respectively.
On his return to Germany, Mr. Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff requested the registry office of the city of Karlsruhe to register his new name, which would allow him to update his German identity papers. The Karlsruhe registry refused. The 1919 Weimar constitution abolished noble privileges and titles and prohibited the creation of titles giving the appearance of noble origins, in order to ensure the equality before the law of all German citizens.
The first version of this article was a bit different: "Nabiel Peter Bogendorff von Wolffersdorff, born Nabiel Bagadi, is an evidently insane man known in the U.K as …".