Europe Slowly Coming to Its Senses

The Wall Street Journal reports on the EU migration compromise:

Migrants setting off from North Africa in makeshift boats are mainly rescued in international waters by ships run by nongovernmental organizations, who then bring castaways to ports in countries such as Italy.

Under the new arrangement, such search-and-rescue operations, which Italian authorities have said are facilitating mass migration, would be more strictly regulated—and would eventually have to send the migrants ashore to designated African ports.

Migrants rescued in EU territorial waters would be brought to European ports, but kept in detention centers until their status were clarified.

The concept is inspired in part by the model long used by Australia, which turns back all migrant boats and sends them to third-country centers run by local authorities. That system has been criticized by human-rights campaigners and the media for what some call inhumane conditions…

Australia’s tough policy has prompted international outrage, said Elisabeth Collett, director of Migration Policy Institute Europe, a think tank. But the measures have curbed mass migration and prevented people from drowning at sea while trying to reach Australia, she added.

I used write rather a lot about immigration on this blog. The basic themes were pretty simple:

  • European countries were not built on immigration and don’t see themselves this way. They are built on a vague but very real centuries-long sense of identity and cultural resemblance, manifesting itself in hundreds of attitudes and customs, some quite trivial. Things like how to cook certain kinds of foods, whether to cross the street on a red light, coffee v. tea, when to make eye contact in trains, shaking hands in the workplace, when to talk about religion, what counts as private life, how to address people, whether saunas are mixed, etc. These attitudes are absorbed by osmosis, people don’t even have to discuss them — unless an outsider brings them up.
  • Europeans become nervous and insecure when they see too many people around them who don’t ‘look like’ them and who don’t understand, or who reject, their unspoken cultural assumptions. They haven’t been socialized to embrace cultural diversity. Efforts by left-leaning European political elites to try to change their mind on this point failed. Maybe that’s too bad; maybe Europeans should be more accepting of difference. But that’s irrelevant — they’re not, and they never will be. Policy needs to be made on the basis of who the voters are, not who you might wish them to be.
  • As Douglas Murray proves at interminable length in his book The Strange Death of Europe, large majorities in almost all European countries have always opposed mass immigration. They never wanted it, and didn’t like its consequences. The emergence of right-wing parties was and is primarily driven by the desire of European voters to get their mainstream political leaders to recognize this fact.
  • The large influx of 2015-2016 resulted in far too many of the wrong kind of people (specifically, uneducated young males from culturally-remote countries such as Ertirea, Syria, Algeria, and Afghanistan) entering Europe all at once.
  • As did most skeptical observers, I predicted the destabilizing shock of 2015 would have two main results: strengthening right-wing parties, and further weakening the center-left. These things duly happened. Boy, did they ever happen.
  • I also predicted that sooner or later, a delayed reaction of self-preservation would kick in, and European leaders would, after much hemming and hawing, and much inconsequential blather about European values, eventually come to the same conclusion Australia did: Allowing unregulated immigration of mass numbers of largely uneducated young males from crisis-torn countries was a disastrous policy that had to be stopped.
  • I advocated a system in which asylum claims would be evaluated before a person is legally admitted to European territory, since finding and deporting people once they’ve been allowed in is unworkable. European countries simply cannot manage to deport anywhere near the number of people who legally should be deported.

And now, three years too late, European leaders seem to have finally accepted reality. The plan is still a long way from implementation, and there definitely be court challenges.* But reality seems, at last, to have registered.

Continue reading “Europe Slowly Coming to Its Senses”

The Life-Changing, Unmissable ‘Rhine-Swing’

A curious thing about Google Maps — At the very northern tip of Düsseldorf, right next to the Rhine, is a “tourist attraction” (as shown by the camera icon)  called Rheinschaukel, or Rhine-swing.

rhein

There is no further description of the “Rhine-swing” on Google, or for that matter anywhere in the Internet. There is, bizarrely, one review, which just gives it three stars but leaves no comment. What is it? A restaurant? A carousel? Some sort of park?

After wondering about this for years, I said to myself: Self, why don’t I get on my bike and go visit it? Of course, I didn’t just go for the Rhine-swing, the banks of the Düsseldorf in summer are a pageant of lush green, and the scent of linden trees in bloom hangs everywhere in the air. There are also some great old-fashioned Rhine markers along the way:

2018-06-26 19.05.29.jpg

But I was there to find the swing, and so I did. It took a lot of hiking and riding among the banks of the Rhine, but I found it. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Rhine-swing:

2018-06-26 19.12.48.jpg

There has to be a story for why this limp, moist length of rope has become a Google™-endorsed Tourist Attraction™. Does anyone know it?

German Word of the Week: Bekenntnisschrein

This GWOW is special, because it’s new.

It occurs in a short piece by Christoph Seils in the German politics mag Cicero about the hapless German Social Democratic Party, which has been circling the drain along with every other Western European center-left party. The title, appropriately, is Warten auf den Untergang — ‘Waiting for the Collapse’.

As I read along, I came across this sentence: “Das Bemühen das Thema soziale Gerechtigkeit aus dem Bekenntnisschrein zu holen und für die unterschiedlichen Zielgruppen der Partei konkret herunterzubrechen, wirkte ideenlos.”

“Efforts to take the subject of social justice out of the shrine of beliefs and to break it down for the party’s various target groups made the party seem out of ideas.”

Bekenntnis is the German word for a profession of belief or an article of faith; lip service is called Lippenbekenntnisse. Schrein is a shrine, obvs. “Shrine of beliefs” is just my clumsy way of translating Bekennnisschrein. And why did I have to resort to a clumsy approximation?

Because the word Bekenntnisschrein does not exist. Check out this Google search:

He made it up!
He made it up!

Seils, you magnificent bastard, you made it up! You used German’s endless, Lego™-like flexibility to create a brand-new word that never existed before, at least according to Google. And if Google don’t know it, it ain’t worth knowing.

It conjures up a great image, too. I imagine the Bekenntnisschrein to be a sterile, vacuum-sealed chamber, let’s call it the Brandt Chamber, where the temperature is kept just above absolute zero. Whenever elections time rolls around, a senior operative of the SPD party dons a clean suit and enters the Brandt Chamber:

Bildergebnis für clean room

Here, the Sacred Core Principles of Social Democracy (SCPSD) are arranged, in careful alphabetical order, in glass cubes. Each sentence is composed of glowing, ethereal script composed of pure Bebelium. Upon contact with ordinary oxygen and party infighting, the principle slowly deteriorates, but the original, inside the Brandt Chamber, regenerates using a mystical source of energy: the Simple Faith of the Common Man.

But lately, the SCPSDs grow dimmer and dimmer. The Simple Faith is depleting with each passing year. One day, the glowing sentences will eventually flicker out and die forever. And, joined my millions of doughty dockworkers and contumacious costermongers, I will shed a silent tear.

And then return to absolutely slaying it on Grand Theft Auto IX.

People who Look Like Us

Vox reports on a new study:

White people become significantly less likely to support welfare programs when told that black people might benefit from them.

That’s a crucial conclusion from a newly released study by Berkeley sociologist Rachel Wetts and her Stanford colleague Robb Willer in the journal Social Forces. The authors conducted two different experiments to see how white Americans’ attitudes toward nonwhite people affect their views on welfare spending. Both experiments found that showing white Americans data suggesting that white privilege is diminishing — that the US is becoming majority nonwhite, or that the gap between white and black/Latino incomes is closing — led them to express more opposition to welfare spending.

Wetts and Willer are hardly the first scholars to argue that racial animus is a powerful factor motivating opposition to social spending and redistribution in the US. Jill Quadagno’s The Color of Welfare in 1994 and Martin Gilens’s Why Americans Hate Welfare in 1999 credited racial factors — in particular, stereotypes of black people as lazy and overly dependent on government aid — with substantially reducing support for welfare spending since the war on poverty began in the 1960s.

This study was carried out in the U.S., but studies from other developed countries reach similar conclusions (pdf).

When I point out that increased ethnic diversity saps support for generous welfare provisions, people often respond with an is/ought conflation. They suppose I’m actually saying it’s good that people are less likely to favor welfare if it goes to others who are ethnically distinct from them. Or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, they suggest that only conservatives believe that this effect exists, and they abuse it to construct a “false choice” between ethnic diversity and generous social welfare provisions.

No, this is descriptive, not prescriptive. I think it’s regrettable, in the abstract sense, that many people oppose welfare when you tell them it will help someone who doesn’t look like them. I would now appreciate it if you would congratulate me on my tolerance and open-mindedness.

Bildergebnis für i am a good person

However, in addition to being pure and noble of spirit, I’m a pragmatist, so I think abstract moral judgments about the attitudes of people I’ll never meet are a waste of time. People are the way they are, and policy should be designed to work with people as they are right now, not people as they should be after a beautiful revolution in mass consciousness.

The choice between generous welfare states and increased ethnic diversity is pretty real. There have already been cutbacks in welfare spending in Germany attached to more stringent supervision and work requirements. One reason is likely that the largest group of immigrants to Germany, people of Turkish descent, receive welfare at higher rates than native-born ethnic Germans — and this effect continues into subsequent generations (pdf). Even among Germans, who are quite tolerant in international comparison, people prefer government welfare to go to people who look like them. This is human nature.

I predict the recent spike in migration from 2015 is going to greatly accelerate this trend in Germany. And my predictions have a way of coming true.

‘Cold-Blooded’ Horses

Taking a spin around the Urdenbacher Kämpe today, I came across a group of three handsome horses happily consuming huge quantities of fresh grass:

Urdenbacher Kämpe Rhenish-German Draft Horses 1Urdenbacher Kämpe Rhenish-German Draft Horses 2

These are Rhenish-German draft horses, which were once the main source of local transportation in this part of Germany. After the advent of the automobile, the breed went into decline, but a local horse-breeding family, the Reuters, continue breeding them (g), and make a living by offering wagon and carriage rides.

The German name for this general variety of draft horses is Kaltblutpferde — ‘cold-blooded horses’. As the Wikipedia entry po-facedly explains (g), this does not mean that these horses are reptiles: “they are warm-blooded mammals which have an average body temperature of 38°”. They’re called cold-blooded because they are mild-mannered, unflappable, and don’t mind being harnessed for man’s purposes.

They are pretty friendly: one came up to me and stuck his head at me over the fence. He just stood there, chewing a big ball of grass, and examined me with mild curiosity.

Fün with Dändy-Döts

I have never stopped loving the perky pairs of pronunciation-permutators, and the great Berlin Typography blog now has an entire post dedicated all the different ways German graphic designers have had fun with these dandy dots over the ages:

U-Umlaut-11

U-Umlaut-13

U-Umlaut-31

U-Umlaut-19

If German mandarins ever decide to try to eliminate Umlauts in the name of anti-discrimination or ease of learning German as a second language or what-have-you, I will go underground and begin a campaign of direct action to save the dots. Non-violent, of course. At least at first.

Tino Sanandaji on Swedish Immigration Policy

Tino Sanandaji asks whether a “Trump Moment” might happen in Sweden’s upcoming general elections, driven by an immigration backlash:

The generous refugee migration championed by parties on the Left was not particularly popular in the first place, never really enjoying majority support outside culturally liberal urban areas. Today, opinions towards restricting migration and the generous support migrants receive has hardened among all segments of the Swedish population, and is particularly strong among blue-collar union members.

In-depth polling indicates that the majority who favour restrictive refugee migration policies are fairly well informed.3 Most express sympathy for refugees, but offer specific arguments for restrictive policies. Many offer some version of the view that Sweden can help refugees in other ways. In polls, very few Swedes express fear that migrants take native jobs, but tend to point to crime, pressure on the welfare state and, most importantly, the lack of integration into Swedish society. These views are not unique to low-educated rural voters, although they may be more common among them, but rather are held by many people across social and educational groups….

At the core of it, shifting Swedish politics is simple, and has little to do with either deindustrialisation, racist deplorables or bitter clingers – however emotionally appealing it is for progressives to blame these factors. Sweden’s highly generous refugee policy never had majority support among voters, including Social Democratic voters. Blue-collar voters who dared to express even mild protest were bullied and branded as hateful or ignorant by their own party. The only outlet for that built-up resentment has been the Sweden Democrats, and while in the run up to the election the Social Democrats have moved sharply to the Right on migration and crime issues, the mistakes of the past years may prove difficult to repair for this once invincible party.

One of the remarkable things about mass immigration policies in European countries is that they went on for decades despite being opposed by most of the population.

I think this is all about salience: For decades, ordinary voters weren’t happy about the levels of immigration national political elites were allowing, but the issue wasn’t salient enough to drive their vote. Other issues (economy, education, foreign policy) were more important, and that’s what drove voters. Recently, though, the problems associated with large-scale, low-skill immigration have become so glaringly obvious that the salience of immigration has skyrocketed — voters all across Europe now rank immigration as their top concern (g).

More voters are willing to make immigration their primary, or even only, issue. And when they do, they will find parties in every European country ready and waiting for their vote. In Sweden, that’s the Sweden Democrats:

Support for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats has surged ahead of an election in September to the point where it could be hard for the government or opposition to form a working majority without their support, a poll showed on Tuesday.

Immigration has dominated debate ahead of the Sept. 9 vote, which has helped the Sweden Democrats whose support increased to 18.5 percent from 14.8 percent in November, according to the poll by the government’s Statistics Office.

This Sizzling Girl-on-Girl Action Brought to You by the German Government

The center-left Social Democratic Party has been slipping into irrelevance for two decades now:

Bildergebnis für umfragewerte SPD

To try to get some attention — any attention at all — the Berlin branch of the Young Socialists (called Jusos), the party’s youth organization, calls for state funding of “feminist” pornography, which is apparently something Sweden (of course) already provides. The reason? To combat non-state-funded pornography, which they claim is degrading to women and trades in racial stereotypes.

And thus German political discourse is diverted into yet another whirlpool of pointless debate (g) on trivial issues, something which happens every week, sometimes more than once.

But the most revealing thing is how out-of-touch these self-styled Young Socialists are. All of their arguments could have been made, and were made (g), in the 1970s. And back then, they might have had some force. But anyone not living under a rock today knows a few things:

  1. The Young Socialists complain about “male-dominated” porn studios, but professionally-made porn is on life-support these days thanks to the huge increase in the amount of amateur porn available online. Turns out when cheap filming becomes possible, lots of ordinary folks are more than happy to copulate (or do even more exotic things) on-screen for little or even no money.
  2. The era in which women were routinely “forced into” pornography against their will (or at least claimed that this was the case) is long past. Aside from some isolated incidents, most women doing porn these days in advanced countries like Germany know exactly what they’re getting into and have balanced the pros and cons. They have Twitter and Instagram accounts (NSFW!) in which they share their mundane political thoughts and post pictures of their dinners.
  3. The notion that “feminist porn” needs state funding to survive is laughable. Thousands of hours of women-created and/or explicitly “feminist” porn is just a Google search away. There are even Feminist Porn Awards.

This proposal permits us to examine a few aspects of German political culture more closely.

First, we note the lack of originality: The Jusos didn’t come up with this idea, they copied it from Sweden.

Second, this is pure symbolism. Even were it to be implemented, this proposal would result only in a tiny droplet of cash being sprinkled on a few lucky winners. Nothing will change for Germans, 99.9999% of whom couldn’t care less (except for perhaps wondering why the state would need to support an industry devoted to showing naked ladies, something humans have always been happy to pay for). Yet words like “feminism” and “pornography” are catnip for the swollen ranks of opinion-mongers in the German mainstream press, who are already treating this proposal as a license for endless bloviation.

Third, we see the childish truculence common on the German left (which prizes the “critical” pose). The Jusos have proclaimed that they’re in favor of pornography! Yes, we Jusos are proudly standing up in favor of government funding to show naked people, and we don’t give a good goddamn what you squares and realos and fundamentalist fuddy-duddies think about it. You’ll sputter in outrage, but we spit on your outdated social conventions!

Meanwhile, the rest of the world (which has actually seen a Game of Thrones episode) chuckles in bemusement.

Fourth, this is how the kind of strait-laced, rule-following German who would actually join a political youth organization tries to appear hip and relevant. A friend of mine once remarked that when the mild-mannered dowagers who run Goethe Institutes want to show they’re in touch with the cutting-edge youth of today, the result is usually a poetry slam. Or perhaps a hacky-sack tournament. Maybe a rave!

This is all a bit annoying, but then again, it’s a privilege to live in a country which can afford the luxury of these debates.