Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

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Feminist nonsense in Germany / Disturbing news

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Another cosmic-joke day:

Checking the news shortly after wakening*, I am met with two absurd German news-items in the “poor discriminated women” genre:

*Viz. being prematurely awakened by some type of ruckus, which, from its length, is almost certainly a part of the construction works.

  1. CDU, an allegedly Conservative party, has decided on an internal women’s quota of 50 (!) %. In effect, women should be guaranteed at least half of all positions for “group elections of board members, such as deputy chairpersons and assessors” (according to an English source ([1])).

    Apart from the general dubiousness of quotas and the observation that equality of opportunity does not lead to equality of outcome, through e.g. different preferences and priorities, I note that: (a) An effective minimum of 50 % for women implies a very strong distortion that could move the party even further* into Leftist ideas and/or deepen its cowardly hiding under the label “Center” (instead of “Right”). (b) This is a party with traditionally more male voters and members than female ones, implying that the quota is inherently unfair and amounts to a massive pro-woman/anti-man step away from equality of opportunity—a woman who wants to make a CDU career will have it much easier than a man. (c) It is likely to move the party further away from the wishes of its voters, as women tend to have different political preferences than men.** (d) This, obviously, is yet another case of a women’s quota, despite there being no reason whatsoever to not use a generic sex/gender quota (if a quota is used at all).

    *Note a drift towards the Center in more than name for a long time, repeated absurd coalition governments with nominal archenemy SPD (Social-Democrat), increased acceptance of “New Left” ideals (including e.g. Gender-Feminist/-Studies propaganda), and a disturbing past of doing more to increase than decrease the redistribution state and the nanny state. As to why I am concerned about too many women, see e.g. [2].

    **The rise of the allegedly extreme “Right-wing” AfD is to a large part old CDU voters defecting due to alienation and disappointment with CDU’s behavior in the Merkel era.

    Ah, and this is apparently a “compromise” … To me, it looks more like a blanket capitulation.

  2. “Minister of Family” and SPD member Franziska Giffey is pushing a “national strategy for equality of women and men” (“nationale Strategie zur Gleichstellung von Frauen und Männern”, see a German source ([3])).

    Newsflash: Men and women have been equal in Germany since before I moved here in 1997—almost 23 years ago. (How long before, I leave unstated. On paper, it is much longer.) Looking at my own experiences in the office, being a woman appears to be a career bonus, in and by it self. Looking at overall society, very much of is geared at women. Looking at laws and redistribution, women appear to be heavily favored, through e.g. mechanisms like paid baby-breaks that come out of the pay of everyone else and the way that men’s health-insurance fees subsidize women’s.

    Particularly annoying is that Giffey is quoted as mentioning a payment difference of more than twenty percent and requiring governmental intervention. This despite the 77 cents on the dollar fraud having been debunked countless times, by countless people, in any major Western country where a version of it has been claimed. This staple of Feminist rhetoric is one of the worst cases of “fake news” in the history of politics.

    The claim amounts to demanding that women receive equal pay for unequal work, including shorter working hours; and it disregards the result of personal priorities, e.g. risk taking during negotiations and whether someone loses career years through a baby break. It also disregards the extensive transfers that take place from men to women.

    This is yet another case of women being given a major leg up based on the lie that they would be the victims of “discrimination” and whatnot.

Excursion on baby breaks:
At least in Sweden, I have seen the actual, but likely fringe, opinion that women who come back from even a lengthy baby or child break should not only have the right to be rehired by their old employers into the old position, but that they should actually receive promotions and pay raises on par with the men who did not take the same break … Say that a woman drops out today to have a baby and comes back seven-or-so years later, when the kid enters school. She has now been out of the game for seven years, she no longer knows the company internals*, she is unlikely to have kept up with the field (and whether she has is irrelevant to this fringe opinion), she has not put in the years of hard work to prove her dedication to the company, etc. (And she has not had to face the risk of a major screw-up leading to a firing or side-ways “promotion” into a career dead-end during those seven years.) Nevertheless, she is to be reinstated with a promotion and a pay raise …

*The importance of this can vary depending on the exact job and company, but the effect can be quite large, especially for more qualified positions. In e.g. software development, my own old field, it is not just a matter of forgetting large parts of the often enormous amounts of knowledge needed, but the world can have changed so much that she might have to start over from scratch. We have changes to the domain knowledge, internal processes, technologies used (possibly, even the programming language), best practices, … We are not talking weeks to get up to the old speed, but months or even years.

The motivations for this nonsense, in my recollection, has fallen into two families: It is only fair (how?!?) and being a mother will have brought so many new skills that she will be more valuable than before (naive beyond belief).

To the latter, I note a parallel in nonsensical calculations like The Telegraph on housewives—-who “deserve an annual salary of £159,137”.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 8, 2020 at 9:17 am

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Thirty years ago

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Around thirty years ago, sometimes and somewheres a little earlier or a little later, it appeared that the world was breaking free from the Leftist insanities of the 20th century:

The Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe had fallen—as had their greatest symbol in Western eyes, the Berlin Wall. Germany was in the process of reuniting. Gone were the likes of Honecker and Ceaușescu. The free West had won over the enslaved East.

China under Deng Xiaoping was turning away from Mao and his abominable heritage (Tiananmen Square notwithstanding).

In the U.S., Reagan had undone some of the damage caused by the likes of LBJ, and, if nothing else, managed to bring an era of economic optimism, which seemed irreversible and irreversibly non-Swedish to my young* eyes.

*I was born in 1975, so the Reagan-era proper fell mostly in my pre-teens. My early impressions are likely even based more on the brief continuation under Bush the elder.

In the U.K., brought to the edge of disaster by Labour and the unions,* Thatcher had turned the ship around.

*And which had never seen the post-war recovery of e.g. Germany, before the 1970s depression-era hit.

In my native Sweden, the 1991 election saw a rare non-Leftist victory; the iron alliance between the Social-Democrats* and the unions** was rusting; and the main Communist party, VPK***, re-branded it self as a mere Left party in the wake of the collapsing dictatorships. More: many members suddenly loudly protested not just that they were Communists no longer—but that they had never been Communists to begin with: They had either just been hibernating in VPK as a least evil or the name had just been a misleading legacy for years.

*Which ruled Sweden for most of the 20th century.

**Most importantly in the shape of the umbrella organization LO, which was immensely powerful in its own right and had very tight ties to the Social-Democrat party, including that a membership in an LO organization automatically and unavoidable lead to a membership in the Social-Democrat party—never mind what political opinions the member actually had.

***“Vänsterpartiet Kommunisterna” (“the Left party the Communists”; odd in Swedish too). With the re-branding, it became “V” and “Vänsterpartiet” (“the Left party”).

In my eyes, we were heading into a bright new era of freedom, prosperity, and enlightenment.

Today? In 2020, a mere thirty years or roughly one generation later?

How short is human memory …

Today, the West is collapsing into Leftist populism and extremism, most often in form of various PC and Feminism movements, quasi-Marxist ideas like identity politics, etc., void of reason and basing their success on cheap propaganda and reality distortion. At the same time, the “old Left” has recovered in e.g. Sweden and Germany, despite its ideas having been long outdated even thirty years ago.

Look at the current U.S. Look at the destruction of U.S. colleges, dominated by Leftist ideas and Leftist intolerance. Look at the fiasco of ObamaCare. Look at the racial and other hate mongering by the Left, and the Weimar-Germany level of chaos that it has caused. Indeed, in some areas, like the purification of thought, the common blanket condemnation of people based on being White Men (resp. Jews), or the Kristallnacht-like activities of some “peaceful protesters”, I am reminded more of the (pre-war) Nazi dictatorship than of the failing Weimar republic. The replacement of real science with ideologically correct “science” is a particularly dangerous parallel. Indeed, note how the Nazis could condemn a scientific theory for being “too Jewish”, while the modern U.S. can do so for being “too Western” or “too Dead-White-Men-y”.

Sweden is crippled by Gender-Feminism, officially subscribed to even by the allegedly non-Left* parties. The current government is Social-Democrat and since that 1991 election, we have had a mere eleven years of non-Leftist government to twenty** Social-Democrat years. And, yes, the formerly Communist (still Marxist-Socialist and additionally Feminist) party is still present in parliament. It even has a larger share of the votes than it did before the fall of the Communist dictatorships. The situation in higher education and science is as bad as in the U.S.

*Who, just as in Germany, are hiding under labels like “Center”, because “Right” has somehow become a label of evil, while “Left” somehow, absurdly, has become a label of good and enlightenment, despite all evidence to the contrary, despite the events of the 20th century, despite its lack of arguments, despite its (almost always) highly egoistical and (often) hateful nature, despite its the-end-justifies-the-means mentality, …

**Counting the on-going four years in full.

Germany, since I moved here in 1997, has had eight years of outright Social-Democrat rule, five years of outright Conservative rule, and twelve* (!) years of joint** Social-Democrat/Conservative rule. Those five years include the last year of the Kohl era, which stretched from 1982 to 1998—centering on exactly 1990. As to “Conservative”, Frau Merkel has turned out to be very far from Mrs. Thatcher.*** The SED, the old East-German Communist party, hiding under a new name, still sits in parliament. When the re-branded SED took a third of the vote in the state of Thüringen, media and politicians went into panic—but not because of this truly negative development. No, instead they panicked over the “Rightwing” AFD having made some progress, which still left it well short of the SED.

*Again, counting the on-going four years in full.

**This type of unholy and anti-democratic alliance raises a whole set of other questions, but they are off-topic today.

***But I stress that my own political position is more Libertarian or Classical(!) Liberal. This still leaves Conservatives as a much better choice than Social-Democrats.

Etc.

The old Communist nations, admittedly, have not re-descended into Communist dictatorships, but that does not change the horrible truth—that the tables from thirty years ago have been turned. Idiocracy is no longer a future threat—it is current reality. All factors considered, Der Untergang des Abendlandes might be progressed too far to be stopped by now. The barbarians are already well past the gate.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 25, 2020 at 12:08 pm

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German anti-Rightwing law is coming

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Among the many, many problems with reductions of civic rights, declining Rechtsstaatlichkeit, censorship, and Leftist dominance of public debate, one quite severe is the recently suggested German “Gesetz zur Bekämpfung des Rechtsextremismus und der Hasskriminalität”. I simply do not have the time to analyze and discuss it in detail,* but I want to clearly point to one thing—its name.

*But see e.g. an analysis in German by a data-protection company.

The name translates to “Law for combating Rightwing-extremism and hate-criminality”. (Fairly literally, with added hyphens to avoid potential misinterpretation. An official translation or a corresponding “native” English law would likely have a more idiomatically conventional name.)

Why make this anti-Right agenda so programmatic? Especially, when Germany has a very severe problem with Leftwing extremists, like Antifa*, MLPD**, Die Linke***, and others.

*Needs no explanation.

**A Marxist-Leninist party which is publicly calling for revolution and bans of all other parties that are not sufficiently compatible with their opinions.

***A direct descendant of SED, the ruling Communist party of the old East-Germany—currently established in (the German-wide) parliament and a co-ruling party in the state of Thüringen.

In addition, the combination with “hate” continues Leftist attempts to push a Right-equals-hate/hate-equals-Right agenda, despite Leftist hate being a far greater problem. (Similar to the White-equals-racist/racist-equals-White pushing that is increasingly common in the U.S., despite, as far as I can tell from abroad, racism being more prevalent among Blacks.)

Any legitimate, objective, and not-outrageously partisan law* would have spoken of e.g. “political extremism”. Including a “Rightwing” discredits the law ab ovo and equally discredits anyone who votes for it.

*Whether and to what degree such a law would have been justified over regular laws against e.g. violence can be disputed (I would be skeptical); however, the current type of programmatic anti-“Right” law is inexcusable.

Excursion on problems with variations of “Right” and “Rightwing”, without or without “extremism”:
As I have repeatedly stated in the past, the concept of a political “Right” is, on the outside, definable as something not Leftist, due to a too large heterogeneity, and the “extreme Right”, in particular, does not constitute a more extreme version of the “Right”. Nevertheless, in the current Germany (and not only there) there is a very strong trend to put anything even remotely “Right” in one basket, often with an implicit stamp of “racist”, “Nazi”, or similar. What is “Right” is increasingly one-sidedly defined by the Left, and traditional “Rightwing” parties, e.g. CDU, are increasingly hiding behind a “Center” label.

Excursion on “hate”, etc.:
Implications of “hate” are often hard to prove, yet equally often assumed in a blanket manner. (Just like the blanket “racism” accusation in the George Floyd situation.) Moreover, this is another area where the Left presumes to one-sidedly dictate what is or is not hate. Cf. e.g. [1] (ten years ago—things have not improved) or my series on hate speech ([2], [3], [4]).

Excursion on other programmatically wrongful laws:
Unfortunately, this type of angle is not something unique. For instance, Swedish laws for protection of minorities explicitly includes (the majority!) women but not (the minority!) men—why not simply make a law that protects against mistreatment based on group, without any such ridiculous and arbitrary inclusions or exclusions? If in doubt, a good-faith attempt to justify this with claims about women being more exposed or mistreated more often (a highly dubious claim for several decades, in Sweden) is untenable, because there is no guarantee that what holds today holds tomorrow. It would be trivial to make a more generic law that is not vulnerable to such issues and the failure to do so reeks of anti-equality Feminism. (But, in all fairness, pure incompetence could also explain it—we are talking about politicians.)

Written by michaeleriksson

June 18, 2020 at 10:34 pm

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Some follow-ups based on receipts (and some thoughts on VAT)

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Sorting my private and business receipts for the past quarter for my VAT declaration, I found two that have some impact on past texts:

My receipt from the the Swedish book sale:

As I see from the receipt, the VAT on books (and in general) in Sweden is an absurd 25 %. The German rate is a more civilized rebated 7 % (to a standard rate on most products of 19 %—already very hard to defend).

This is something that I failed to consider when complaining about prices, and it does explain a portion of the price disparity. Say, for easy numbers, that the pre-VAT price of a book is 10 Euro (or its equivalent in SEK). Then the post-VAT price is respectively 10.70 and 12.50. At least for cheaper books, this might explain most of the difference in price. For more expensive, unfortunately, the lion’s part remains.

(A completely fair comparison would also consider factors like purchasing power, but that would require too much research. However, for the record, the purchasing power of low earners tends to be higher in Sweden, but that of high earners lower, relative Germany.)

My receipt from the post-flight meal from my Finnair fiasco:

In the text, I write that “We hit the ground again at 18:48; the time until official landing was obviously longer, and likely left us still about an hour late (scheduled landing was 17:55).” and “At this point, I had no eye on the time anymore, but I was likely done [with the meal] shortly before eight.”.

The receipt claims that my “tab” was opened 19:09 and closed 19:47. Add a few minutes before and after, and this would be a good estimate of my stay. The “shortly before eight” is verified, and the “about an hour late” seems plausible, as I had no checked luggage and could move fairly directly to the restaurant.

Excursion on VAT:
The above is a good illustration of one of my own pet theories: Governments like VAT, because the enormous amount of money diverted to the government usually flies under the radar.

With income tax, the earner knows that he has earned amount X*, but for some reason only received amount Y. Why? The government. With VAT, he sees the price tag including** VAT to begin with and if the price is too high, who is to blame? The store. (Or the manufacturer, capitalist greed, whatnot.) That the government might well be the single party earning the most money on the purchase, and might well be responsible for the lion’s share of the difference between end-price and accumulated costs, that does not register with most people.*** (And, cf. above, even those who are aware of it, might fail to consider it in all circumstances.) Assume, in contrast, that customers saw the pre-VAT price of products cited and, again and again, had to shell out that Swedish 25 % extra at the cashier’s. The acceptability of VAT, I suspect, would drop very considerably.

*However, this amount is also often distorted, if not so blatantly as with VAT. Consider e.g. the Swedish “arbetsgivaravgifter” or the portion of social-security and health-insurance the German employers pay on behalf of their employees. In both cases, the increase of employment costs push the nominal salary down by a similar amount, implying hat they are actually paid by the employee, but in such an indirect manner that many are unaware of it.

**At least in every country that I have made purchases in. From fiction, I have the impression that this is different in at least some parts of the U.S.

***This will depend on factors like the overall markup on an item and what business has charged what business what amount during production. Note hat Value Added Tax is fairly agnostic on how the value has been added, and treats hard work by employees no better than a luxury markup. (Of course, this is just looking at VAT, without factoring in e.g. the income tax on salaries and taxation of company profits. Overall, the government is almost always the main earner in e.g. Germany.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 13, 2020 at 5:59 am

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Unwort des Jahres / Intellectually dishonest Leftist propaganda

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As the recurring reader knows, I am both very interested in language use and political questions. The latter notably as a frequent critic of Leftist propaganda and attempts to control debate or thought in an unethical, often even Orwellian, manner.

The attempts by a group of Leftist populists to push their own “Unwort des Jahres”* has annoyed me for years: It pretends to be a group of linguists** acting in a linguistic capacity, but in reality it works to further its own political and ideological ideas in an entirely non-linguistic manner. Not only are words chosen in a manner as to (backed by its faux credibility) paint political opponents in a negative light, there even seems to be a tendency to pick whatever area “The Cause” has received the most push-back during the past year and choose a word specifically to hit back in that area. This behavior is, obviously, grossly unscientific and intellectually dishonest.

*“Unword of the year”. Cf. e.g. other German expressions like “Untier” (“monster” or “beast” in a modern sense) to “Tier” (“animal” or “beast” in an older sense). Also see German Wikipedia and (with less content) English Wikipedia, as well as the official website of the group.

**And might well be—the point is that the members do not act as linguists or using linguistic (or other relevant) criteria, but political and ideological ones. Of course, if non-linguistic criteria, including those mentioned below, are to be used, linguists have no authority and are, in fact, inferior to those with a more relevant background.

Indeed, while the shallow-most* outward presentation is “linguists”, even the official criteria almost precludes a scientific approach and clearly demonstrate that it is not a matter of e.g. good or poor use of language. One of the official pages gives e.g. “gegen das Prinzip der Menschenwürde” (“contrary to the principle of human dignity”) as a criterion—but even these criteria are usually hard to reconcile with the actual choices. Looking at the motivations given, it is often clear that no attempts has been made to see the perspective of the users or to understand the use in context. I would even argue that the activities of the jury are contrary to its own alleged principles. Certainly, these principles are not applied in a politically neutral manner, but in a manner slanted very strongly, in U.S. terminology, pro-Democrat and anti-Republican.

*For instance, the video-text of ARD, a public German TV sender, speaks of “eine Jury aus Sprachwissenschaftlern” (“a jury of linguists”).

Consider e.g. this year’s choice: “Klimahysterie” (“climate hysteria”) While climate issues are very important, we do have a problem with excesses and misguided propaganda, that might well even justify the use of “hysteria”—and certainly, indisputably, there are many individuals who are hysterical on the issue. Note e.g. the ridiculous “Greta Thunberg” phenomenon or how the climate debate is increasingly dominated by emotional arguments and cheap rhetoric instead of reason and scientific arguments. Also note that exactly this type of behavior has strongly contributed to the current climate situation through prioritizing a reduction of nuclear power over a reduction of fossil fuels for decades. (Nuclear power once filling the same propaganda role as global warming does today—and with far less justification.)

Or consider the 2014 “Lügenpresse” (“liar press”): While it can be disputed to what degree the German press is actively lying,* there is no doubt that the average journalist is both incompetent and poorly informed. It is also well established that the average journalist is further to the Left than the non-journalist population; and there are plenty of examples of journalist and media at least deliberately filtering the facts in a manner that violates my suggestions for a new press ethics. Notably, the mentality that the facts need to be filtered, lest someone comes to the “wrong” conclusion (i.e. another conclusion than the journalist), seems to be extremely common. Also note that outright journalistic fraud is by no means unheard of (cf. e.g. [1], [2].)

*The expression, in my opinion, is to a large part based on misattribution of intention.

Particularly negative is that the frequency of use does not appear to play in. For instance, the 2012 “Opfer-Abo” (“victim subscription”) seems to refer to just several uses by a single person—the unjustly-accused-of-rape Jörg Kachelmann. While this phrase could be disputed as linguistically almost nonsensical, the underlying problem is a very real one: The fact is that, contrary to Feminist propaganda, false rape accusations are quite common. The narrow-minded jury, however, decries this use as being too accusatory of women—in a manner that exemplifies his claim that women can position themselves as victims even when they are the perpetrators. (See excursion for additional details.)

It is also notable that many true “unwords” have gone without attack, e.g. the atrocious “NGO”, an untranslated adoption of the already misleading and idiotic English abbreviation (and unabbreviated term), and the ever recurring “Rechtsruck”.

Something quite telling is that there is also a “word of the year” published by the (much better known and much more renowned) Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (roughly, “Society for German language”). When the unword was introduced in 1991 it was published by the same source—but two years later some row caused a splinter group to move away and publish the unword independently. Unfortunately, the lower credibility and disassociation rarely finds mention, leaving many with the impression that the unword is chosen by an entity of true noteworthiness, instead of reflecting the private political opinions of an ideologically motivated splinter group.

Excursion on “Opfer-Abo”: German Wikipedia describes the use with:*

*Here and below: Some minor typographic changes have been made. I leave “Opfer-Abo” untranslated. Some translation might be approximate due to differences in idiom and whatnot.

Im Herbst 2012 hatte Jörg Kachelmann in mehreren Interviews geäußert, dass Frauen ein “Opfer-Abo” hätten. Mit ihm könnten sie ihre Interessen gegenüber Männern zum Beispiel in Form von Falschbeschuldigungen durchsetzen. Die Wortschöpfung selbst stammt laut Aussage Jörg Kachelmanns von seiner Frau Miriam. In einem Interview der Zeitschrift Der Spiegel, bei dem er gemeinsam mit seiner Frau Miriam interviewt wurde, sagte Kachelmann: “Das ist das Opfer-Abo, das Frauen haben. Frauen sind immer Opfer, selbst wenn sie Täterinnen wurden. Menschen können aber auch genuin böse sein, auch wenn sie weiblich sind.”

Translation: In the Autumn 2012, Jörg Kachelmann declared in several interviews, that women had an “Opfer-Abo”. With it, they could enforce their interests against men, e.g. through false accusations. The word it self was, according to Kachelmann, created by his wife [sic!]. In an interview by the magazine Der Spiegel, which interviewed him together with his wife Miriam, Kachelmann said: “This is the Opfer-Abo that women have. Women are always victims, even when they turn into perpetrators. Humans, however, can be genuinely bad, even when they are female.”

This is by no means an unreasonable claim and well matches much of female behavior that I have seen myself and observations by others around e.g. rape accusations, divorces, and similar. Consider e.g. a great number of discussions on Minding the Campus. I note e.g. that I spent a considerable amount of time reading relationships forums some ten or fifteen years ago, and found a horrifying double standard, including instances where the exact same behavior from a man and a woman received opposite “advice”, often putting the blame on the man in all cases.* Much of Feminism amounts to finding a reason why someone or something other than the woman at hand, preferably a man or men in general, is to blame for everything negative that happens to her, with no thought of own responsibility.**

*E.g. that if a man hit a woman it was because he was an ass-hole and she should leave him immediately; while if a woman hit a man, it was because he (!) was an ass-hole, who drove her to violence, and he should forgive her and start behaving better.

**E.g. that if a woman does not get a promotion, it is not for lack of competence but discrimination; if a woman is insecure about her looks, it is not her weakness but brain-washing by “society”; etc.

Wikipedia further says:

Die Jury [member list omitted] begründete die Wahl damit, dass das Wort Frauen “pauschal und in inakzeptabler Weise” unter den Verdacht stelle, sexuelle Gewalt zu erfinden und damit selbst Täterinnen zu sein. Die Jury behauptet, dass nur fünf bis acht Prozent der von sexueller Gewalt betroffenen Frauen tatsächlich die Polizei einschalteten und dass es dabei in nur drei bis vier Prozent der Fälle zu einer Anzeige und einem Gerichtsverfahren komme. Der Begriff und die damit verbundene Aussage sei sachlich grob unangemessen. “Das Wort verstößt damit nicht zuletzt auch gegen die Menschenwürde der tatsächlichen Opfer.”

Translation: The jury [member list omitted] justified the choice by the claim that the word “in a blanket manner and unacceptably” would accuse women of inventing sexual violence and thereby become perpetrators. The jury claimed, that only five to eight percent of the female victims of sexual violence would notify the police and that only in three or four percent of the cases a charge and a judicial proceeding would follow. The term and the implied statement would be factually grossly inappropriate. “The word thereby also violates the human dignity of the actual victims.”

There is a lot wrong with the above, including that Kachelmann himself has been harder hit than the wast majority of rape victims and that it is quite clear that he, himself, has been falsely accused—years of anxiety, a ruined career, a (temporarily) ruined reputation. What is with his human dignity and whatnot as an actual victim? As for the numbers, I note that there is no* mention of the rate of false accusations, which is high, and that the low numbers given sound more like Feminist propaganda than true numbers. (Cf. e.g. an older text on rape statistics, including links, and the older text on Kachelmann linked to above.) Even had these numbers been true, however, they would be largely irrelevant, because they do not address the issue behind Kachelmann’s claim. (They could indeed be seen as support of his claim, because a low rate of true reports would increase the proportion of false reports, and give a strong argument that rape accusations should be scrutinized more closely than is often the case.) To claim that it would be unacceptable for the victim of a false accusation to complain about false accusation is it self unacceptable and in extremely poor taste. The claim that Kachelmann would raise a blanket (“pauschal”) suspicion is at best exaggerated and seems motivated by bad faith.

*There might have been in a larger context than what Wikipedia quotes, but it would be an odd thing to leave out. Moreover, the official Feminist “truth” is that a woman would never, ever lie about being raped, which reduces the probability that realistic numbers would have been given.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm

More issues around perverse incentives, evil, and lack of concern for others

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Two issues in the overlap between some recent texts ([1], [2]):

Firstly, one particularly common source of negative effects on others through disregard is children. Now, children themselves cannot necessarily be blamed for their behaviors, as they, depending on age, often are victims of nature, naturally lack the intellectual capability to see a non-egoistical view-point or to see that some actions are disturbing to others, are so used to being around other children that they see screaming and noise as the normal state of affairs,* whatnot. The great problem is the many parents who should know better but either do not or do but willfully ignore the interest of everyone else when their children are concerned, e.g. by bringing a small child into a library and letting it scream its head off for several minutes before silencing it or removing it from the premises.**

*Yet another reason why it is idiotic to put children in large groups of other children with few adults, as e.g. in a typical school.

**An actual situation that I encountered last summer.

A critical point is the risk that this type of parenting has a negative effect on the behavior of the next generation: if the children are never told to behave themselves, show concern for others, respect the rights of others, …, and if the parents never set good examples, chances are that many will keep this type of egocentric behavior into adulthood, compounding the problems in [2] and likely leading to a new generation repeating the same type of negligent parenting.

My own and my sister’s upbringing was already comparatively lax, and the attempts to impose discipline usually came from the grand-parents. For instance, my maternal grand-mother repeatedly tried to set limits on the out-of-control behavior of my sister, but my mother let her get away with anything, even overruling my grand-mother (her right, obviously, but rarely a good decision and definitely a contributor to sister’s “hyper-millennialism”).* For instance, I was a few times told the Swedish equivalent of “children should be seen and not heard”**—always by the grand-mother, never by the mother.

*With time, my memories have grown vague, but one example was my sister deliberately breaking a cheese dome (?), my baby-sitting grand-mother saying that she would make sure that my sister would have to pay for it, and my mother later letting the matter slip.

**Taken to excesses, this attitude can be harmful, but I consider it a sounder attitude than today’s extreme laissez-faire, and there is no contradiction between a moderate use of it and an independent development of the child, e.g. by silencing screaming and trying to move as much play as possible to the playground. There certainly is no contradiction between being an independent adult and a considerate one.

Today, not even this appears to take place. A very common German attitude, e.g., is “Kinder machen Lärm” (“Children make much noise*”), which is then taken as an excuse to allow them to cause disturbances wherever they are, as well as admitting them to places where they should not be, for want of maturity, e.g. “adult” restaurants. (A saner conclusion would be to keep them away from situations where they would disturb others.) I have heard** at least one story of a child putting its hands in the food or drink of an unrelated guest in cafe or restaurant and the parent just wanting to laugh it off. I have myself had a strange child trying to climb (!) on me to get a better view in a zoo, without the parents intervening. Etc. The children, then, go through years of doing what they want, when they want, where they want, never learning to pause and consider anyone else, never learning about personal boundaries, etc.

*“Lärm” might normally be translated with “noise” (without “much”), but this is too weak as “noise” could also be the translation of e.g. “Geräusch”. An overlapping English expression is “children will be children”.

**And seen a fictional parallel on a TV show, possibly “Sex and the City”.

Secondly, a common reason for current societal issues is that humans are built for a different kind of society, and that the (in some sense) disturbance of the old environment leads both to imbalances and to unwanted behaviors being more beneficial (to the perpetrator—not society) and/or receiving less punishment.

Notably, we used to live in a society where too negative behaviors, sooner or later, had direct negative consequences for the perpetrator, e.g. in that a misbehaving child was given a slap* on the behind, that someone who repeatedly violated the rights of others might have been punched** in the nose, or that someone who committed fraud might have ended up with a knife in the back. (Also consider the saying “a dueling society is a polite society”.) Today, the population is almost helpless, having to rely on governmental assistance over own force, and this assistance not always being intended by the system, rarely forth-coming when it is intended, and error-prone and slow*** when it actually is attempted. This implies that the risk–reward balance for a great number of behaviors have changed in favor of the perpetrators of negative**** behaviors.

*While the slapper today is put in the same box as someone who gives a child two dozen strokes with the belt, because all violence against children is considered unacceptable.

**Today, the puncher would usually be in worse legal trouble, regardless of (non-violent) provocation. In theory, the state should intervene to protect against such behavior, but it usually does not.

***The lack of a direct connection and a short time between action and re-action makes an adjustment of attitude less likely, while a deterring effect might be absent altogether. (Compare the deterring effect of e.g. “if I try to rob old man Smith, his sons might beat me up within five minutes” and “if I try to rob old man Smith, I might be caught, might end up in court, and might go to jail in a few months time, but more likely I will just receive a slap on the wrist”.

****Similar, for the worse, can apply to positive behaviors, as with e.g. someone who supports the neighbor’s family in [1].

(Of course, this does not necessarily imply that a system of self-justice would be better—just that it has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. I would definitely argue, however, that the limits on self-justice are too heavy in e.g. Germany, in light of the abysmal job that the state does of protecting the citizens.)

Secondly, consider hard work and economic prudence: In the past, someone who was lazy, spent his money on entertainment instead of necessities, whatnot, risked a quick death due to starvation. Today? Governmental aid will come to the rescue, even of those undeserving*, changing the balance to favor the imprudent. Have too many children back then, and some would starve; today, and the government keeps them fed, implying that the “imprudent reproducers” can eat their cake and have it too. Etc. A particularly interesting case of perverse incentives is the German ALG II** (likely with many other similarly flawed schemes around the world), where existing wealth prevents people from receiving this income booster. This might seem reasonable on first glance: why should the government give handouts to those who can support themselves for months or years based on exiting wealth? However, now consider two individuals, both identical in income, career development, and whatnot, but differing in that the one saves 200 Euros a month and the other spends all his surplus money on entertainment. After ten years, both are fired and unable to find a new job. Eventually, the time for ALG II comes: the prudent saver is now denied ALG II, because he has roughly*** 24 thousand Euro; the prodigious spender will have an empty bank account and will receive ALG II. What incentives does this bring? (Especially, to those at risk of being in need of ALG II, who should be saving as much as they could to protect themselves while they still have an income.) Of course, those who have very poorly paying jobs might be tempted to avoid work at all, draw ALG II instead, and lose little or no money while gaining that much more spare time.

*The idea behind aid schemes was typically originally that those willing-but-unable to provide for themselves should be helped. This is not where we are today.

**A scheme intended to cover the difference between actual income and the existential minimum (or some similar standard). This is particularly relevant for those with no income after exceeding the time limit for unemployment benefits (“ALG”—hence the misleading “ALG II”); however, it also includes a wide range of cases where income is present but insufficient.

***The exact number will depend on factors like saving/consumption during unemployment, interest rates, prior emergencies, whatnot, but in doubt it is the principle and not the exact number that matters.

(Again, this does not necessarily imply that a system of self-X would be better—just that it has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. However, the balance has definitely been pushed far to far towards reliance on the state in many countries, including Germany.)

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January 4, 2020 at 11:32 pm

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Evil and disregard for others

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The topic of evil has popped up repeatedly in my writings, including a few texts from earlier this December. I have long been tempted to write a more in-depth piece, attempting to classify and explain evils (but I probably will not), including the great influence of some characteristics that are very wide-spread among humans, e.g. stupidity and irrationality.* Another aspect is the difference and overlap between evil actions and evil outcomes.**

*Such characteristics are another reason why I take an “evil is as evil does” stance and why I see much greater similarities between the “extreme Right” and the “extreme Left” (often even the more moderate Left) than with other parts of the “Right”, e.g. traditional conservatives: the members of these groups are often very similarly minded, e.g. in that they are stupid and irrational, and might well have ended up on the “other side” had they been exposed to the other side’s propaganda first or more strongly. Similarly, Nazi-Germany and the USSR, and their respective ideologies, were in many ways evil twins, sides of the same despicable coin, opposites only in the sense that the two sides of any coin are opposites.

**Throwing a stone at a political enemy to prevent him from speaking is an evil action, but it need not lead to an evil outcome (e.g. because the stone lands harmlessly on the ground after a too weak throw). On the other hand, many well-intended acts can have evil outcomes (“the road to Hell …”), e.g. attempts to protect one group that reduces civic rights for everyone. Depending on context and point of view, even natural accidents, e.g. a lightning stroke, might be considered an evil outcome. At least for the purposes of this text, I will gloss over the differences.

One specific such characteristic (or family of characteristics?) that has been on my mind over the last year: a lack of concern for the rights and interest of others, or even the inability to understand that others do have rights and interests. This, obviously, in part due to the excessive renovations and other unnecessary noise-making that has taken place in my building during the last year (cf. earlier texts and below). However, a great many other examples can be found, including some having a society-wide impact, notably (kept) promises made by politicians for the sole purposes of ensuring re-election and “after me, the flood”,* warfare for personal glory, gross violations of civic rights to stay in power, … Or, on a more individual scale, murder for a wallet, suicide bombings, pyramid schemes, …

*Here some reservations has to be made for the intent behind this-and-that, e.g. in that a political promise might instead be explained by stupidity or ignorance in the area at hand. Similar reservations might apply elsewhere.

However, it is the many small examples that truly depress me, that prove how large the problem is, and that make me fear that this issue will be almost impossible to resolve, because e.g. replacing one crop of politician with another will merely replace one group of people prone to this attitude with another, proving that farmers and pigs have much in common. For instance, during a very recent four-day excursion to Bonn (where I spent hours each day walking around the city), I observed e.g. (a) how many willfully drove bikes on sidewalks* in order to increase their own convenience, (b) how employees of some type of “electric scooter” rental deliberately placed scooters in the middle (!) of the sidewalks, in order to increase the visibility (and, presumably, chance of a rental), with no regard for the obstacle this posed to pedestrians, (c) some marketing company or pseudo-charity** aggressively approached by-passers, even those obviously and deliberately trying to avoid the employees. (Of course, none of this is unique to Bonn or this time of year.)

*This is illegal in Germany, for good reasons, unless an explicit, announced by signs, exception has been made.

**A very sizable portion of the major charity organizations spend a disturbing amount of money on their directors, organizational costs, marketing, etc., with the well-being of the directors or the organization often taking precedence over the actual cause. (Analogous to problems around e.g. the IOC, FIFA, whatnot.) The employees harassing people in the street, at least in Germany, are typically not volunteering do-gooders—they work for a marketing firm hired by the charity.

Why was I on a four-day excursion to Bonn? Renovations started up again on the 19th, in form of hours upon hours of very, very loud hammer strokes. Even a conservative estimate lands at thousands of strokes that day alone (to what purpose, I do not know). I barely got through the day. On the 20th, the hammering started again, but this time less loudly, and I thought that I would manage. Then the drilling began … This at a volume that made a further presence intolerable. I left the building and made the impromptu decision to go to Bonn until the evening of the 23rd, having received notification that the works would allegedly be ended on the 23rd. (Going by the noises today, the 24th, the main Christmas day in Germany, this was not true, even though the disturbance today was much smaller.)

This provides yet another example of the complete disregard for others discussed above, even the works*, themselves, aside: it would cost next to nothing to just put up a sign at the house-door two weeks earlier, warning those living in the house that e.g. “I have ordered renovation works between the 19th and the 23rd. There might be some considerable noise. For any questions, please call [etc.]”—something which would have both lessened the impact of the negative surprise and made it easier to work around, e.g. through a better planned** trip. How did I know that the works were supposed to end on the 23rd? No sign, that is for sure: I had contacted the authorities for advice on my situation on the 19th, and there was apparently some type of record.***

*I have serious doubts as to whether this type of work, especially in a year which has already had months upon months of loud renovations, can be justified; however, there is at least an obvious “egoistical trade-off”: the renovator improves his apartment and someone else takes the hit. With the lack of sign, there is no such trade-off, the costs of a sign being dwarfed by the benefit to the others living in the house. Is the perpetrator truly too stupid to understand the damage done or is it a matter of simply not giving a fuck? (Other explanations exist, but all seem far less likely to me, e.g. that there was a sign, that someone tore it down, and that the perpetrator did not discover this until it was too late.)

**Indeed, because I made up my mind long after leaving the apartment, even deciding on the destination only after my arrival at the train-station, I did not even have a change of clothes or a tooth-brush with me.

***I have not investigated the details of or reasons for this, but it is remarkable that someone would bother to notify the authorities without seeing the need to notify those actually exposed to the disturbance.

Excursion on stupidity as a root cause/characteristic:
A problem with stupidity is that it tends to pervade a person’s being, development, other characteristics, whatnot. For instance, someone more intelligent is more likely to have an awareness of others and the potential consequences of actions on others, more likely to have a better developed ethical system, more likely to be able to put himself in the other party’s shoes (“do unto others …”), etc. In this, stupidity is the root cause of many other problems, be they related to evil or not. (Unrelated examples include a lesser likelihood of being proficient at a given task and a lesser return on education.) Both Hanlon’s Razor and the Dunning–Kruger effect are notable in this context.

Excursion on this Christmas:
If today is the main day of Christmas in Germany (and Sweden), why am I writing and not celebrating? The days in Bonn contained a never ending stream of Christmas decorations, trees, sales, whatnot—I need to come up for non-Christmas air. There will be some food and Christmas related DVDs tomorrow.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 24, 2019 at 8:25 pm

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Thoughts around social class: Over-estimating our own class

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Preamble: About a year ago, I worked on a series of texts about social class. At some point, I lost interest and the remaining intended texts were forgotten. The below text was left half done, and I only realized that it was still unpublished today, as I contemplated a short text with some observations on “Hornblower” and class. To get it out of the way, I have done some minor fixes, including proof-reading. A number of points-to-be-expanded have been removed. The previous installments include at least [1], [2], [3]. Further texts might or might not be added (“Hornblower”, probably; the removed points-to-be-expanded, possibly; other originally planned texts, probably not).

Until the mid-20th century, Germany used three train classes—1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Even further back, there was a 4th class. Today, there are two—1st and 2nd. Surely, this is a sign of societal progress? That the for-the-poor 3rd class has become redundant and been abolished, as everyone in modern society can afford at least the 2nd class?

Not so: What happened was quite the opposite—the 1st (!) class was abolished, while the other classes were promoted in name. It can be argued that today’s 2nd-class passenger is actually a 3rd-class passenger, while the alleged 1st-class passenger travels in the 2nd class… Indeed, looking at some trains (e.g. the “S-Bahn”), the difference between even the current 1st and 2nd class is often just cosmetic, making everyone a 3rd-class passenger.

It is true that various advancements have increased the comfort and quality of the current classes compared to their incarnations in the day of yore. This to the point that the current 2nd-class might compare favorable not only to its “true” correspondent (i.e. the old 3rd class), but also to the “real” 2nd class of yore. In some* regards, it might even surpass the abolished “true” 1st class. However, in others it still trails or might even have lost ground. Most notably, travelers in the current 2nd class are regularly packed like sardines and/or forced to stand (even in Germany!)—and even when everyone has a seat, there is not necessarily a plenitude of room for legs, movement, and luggage available…

*Definitely travel speed and the availability of on-board Internet… Note, here and elsewhere, that I lack the personal experiences to make a detail comparison of the many attributes over time and class. Some of the statements might need revision in detail, but they remain true in principle.

The same development matches overall society well: Many people with some success in life believe that they are 1st-class or 2nd*-class citizens, because it say so on the virtual door or because some attributes of the higher classes are present in their lives. The reality is that they are one or two train classes below what they believe that they are.

*Note that the use here contrasts the 2nd to the 3rd and the 4th class—not to the 1st class (as would be the case with most uses of “2nd-class citizen”). I stress that the delineation is mostly one of money and influence—not true worth. (Just like a worthier human might not have the money for 1st-class travel, or might prefer a cheaper ticket to greater comfort.)

Now, being a class or two lower than perceived still makes for quite a good life by the standards of our grand-parents. Materially speaking, the vast majority of Germany’s population is in a state that would fill most of our ancestors (and most of e.g. the current African population) with envy and a wish for the same. In some ways, e.g. entertainment and dentistry, the “poor” of today’s Germany have it better than medieval kings. We have reached a point where the increased risk of obesity is commonly cited as a one the largest problems with being “poor” in many Western countries.*

*To a large part, because many politicians and poor social scientists assume that this increased risk is caused solely through lack of money or a college diploma, and ignore the difference between correlation and causality. In reality, much of it is caused by e.g. the unwillingness or inability to read the nutrition labels on the packages and adapt eating habits in accordance. (In addition to those problems that are fairly income-and-whatnot independent.)

The hitch is that there are many areas where even the perceived 1st-class passenger is nothing of the kind. Look at 19th-century English literature*—and consider how anyone even remotely “someone” had at least one servant or how there was no end to politeness towards those in a higher standing.

*Fiction should always be taken with a grain of salt; however, there are so many instances of similar depictions from so many contemporaries that more than minor exaggerations and idealizations are unlikely.

Disclaimer: The below servant discussion was a mess in the draft, with problems including a single too-long paragraph, inconsistent footnote references, and unsourced numbers. (How did I get from 100,000 to 65,000, e.g.) I have tried to straighten it up a bit, but might not have put in enough effort for clarity and correctness. In particular, I suspect that the numbers used were bordering on place-holders, with most of the work still remaining. Also see e.g. [4] for some words on the extremely large non-tax mandatory payments, which would cut away even more money.

Outside the truly rich, very few people in today’s Germany can afford* more in the way of servants than e.g. a once-a-week cleaning lady. Even hiring a handyman to do some minor work can be sufficiently expensive** that most people only do so grudgingly.

*In a sense that includes a reasonable cost–benefit comparison. The proportion that could pay for, say, a house-keeper at all is larger, but most would be forced to far greater compromises in other areas than the house-keeper would bring benefit.

**With VAT and other taxes, a travel surcharge, the often low work tempo, and the hourly fee. This assuming that no deliberate cheating takes place, which could move us to yet another ball park.

Consider e.g. a hypothetical scenario where a family with 100,000 Euro (well above average) in yearly earnings would try to hire a live-in house-keeper for 20,000* Euro a year + food and lodging. Naively calculated, the prospective employer would have close to 80,000 Euro left, assuming that the additional living cost for the house-keeper can be kept reasonable. This should leave enough to grow the bank account, even in the face of two children, two cars, some amount of travels, and whatnot—the house-keeper might well be worth it.

*I have no idea what is a realistic value, but I doubt that there would be many good takers without the “food and lodging” part—and a bad house-keeper is likely worse than no house-keeper… The principle of the example is more important than such details, however.

In reality, the numbers are very different. For starters, the taxes and whatnots on those 100,000 Euro will diminish the available money to some 65.000, not counting e.g. fees to the pension systems and the mandatory health-insurance systems. At the same time, taxes and various fees* that hit the house-keeper will force the employer to pay well above 25,000 Euro for a net of 20,000 to arrive to the house-keeper. This not counting any side-costs that might or might not be necessary or beneficial, e.g. work-place insurance; and not counting the food and lodging, which is now far more relevant in terms of margins. To boot, there is some risk (I have not researched this) that food and lodging would it self be considered taxable by the IRS, driving the cost up even higher. In other words, we land at a surplus well below 40,000 Euro, instead of close to 80,000. Even this could make for a decent life, depending on how far below, but the money for the house-keeper would be much better kept for other purposes. This even assuming that the original 100,000 Euro was the family’s earnings and not the total salary, tax, whatnot cost put on the adults’ employer(s)—otherwise the family would bankrupt it self with a house-keeper… More generally, the insane cost increase on hired work compared to bartered** work has strongly limited service levels and what can be done with even an over-average amount of money.

*I have not done the leg-work for this constellation, but a regular employment sees considerable increases on top of salary. See e.g. [4]. (There might be special regulations for e.g. household services and private employ.)

**Consider e.g. the relative cost to each party when an electrician and a plumber trade services for their private homes or pay “under the table” respectively when they send each other official bills. (And the government wonders why “under the table” deals are so common…) The house-keeper example (food and lodging) is another partial example—servants of old were often border-line “au pairs”, being paid less through money than food and lodging, which could be provided a lot more cheaply. (Compare e.g. the cost of a servant using an otherwise spare-room and having shared access to an existing kitchen and bathroom with the cost of a taxed-and-whatnot pay increase to rent even a small own apartment.)

(Also consider portions of [3].)

Or consider the many instances in life where being a 1st-class citizen brings no value—just like a 1st-class passenger cannot* arrive in time with the same train that leaves the 2nd-class passengers an hour late. The analogy immediately provides a good examples of this (even be it one that applied equally to 19th-century England—while the truly rich of today have the option of buying a helicopter and avoiding both delayed trains and “Stau” on the Autobahn). Another example, with many sub-examples, is influencing local (let alone national) politics—the very rich can do so, the nominal 1st-class citizen can do little more than the 2nd-class and 3rd-class citizens.

*Depending on circumstances, there might be some work-arounds available using money; however, (a) those will rarely be worth the price, (b) will not always be available. For instance, leaving the train at an early station in order to take a taxi could cost many times the train price; might not be successful, because the train would still be faster in most scenarios; and might not even be attemptable, because there is no halt between here and the end-station or because the delay becomes known at a too late stage.

I have no interest in having people bow, call me “guv’nor”, or similar—on the contrary, excesses in this regard is a major fault in some past societies (including 19th-century England). However, the mixture of a general lack of respect for others (even towards those intellectually superior) and complete absence of service* mentality (even towards paying customers) which manifests so often in Germany is truly deplorable. For instance, the typical civil servant, train conductor, building super, whatnot, appears to see his job as keeping the customers in line for the benefit of his employer—while it should be to provide services to the customers on behalf of the employer. This, of course, only as far as they even try to do their job—shirking of duties to the disadvantage of the customer is no rarity. Or consider the attitude of bicyclist, who often ignore every even slightly inconvenient traffic rule—and often (illegally) spend more time on the pavement than on the street. What is the effect of pointing out the illegality and lack of respect for others involved, even in a factual tone? In my experience, it ranges from being ignored, to stupid comments, to attempts at pseudo-justifications, or even, in one case, a threat of a fight.** Or consider how the advertising industry increasingly presumes to call their intended victims “Du” instead of “Sie”—despite being the last group of people I would ever grant this privilege.***

*To which degree this is rooted in the individual employee and to which in the respective business, I leave unstated. Both are likely problematic, however.

**“More on this in an upcoming post.” according to the original footnote. I do have a text on problems with bikes in Germany in my backlog, but I cannot guarantee that it will ever be written.

***German (like e.g. Shakespearean English; unlike e.g. modern English) has both polite (Sie/you) and familiar (Du/thou) forms of address. The use of “Du”, without explicit permission, between non-child strangers is it self border-line unacceptable. In a business setting, e.g. when trying to sell something, it is extremely rude and presumptuous. Coming from a grossly unethical and human-despising group like the advertising industry, it is utterly unacceptable and a presumption that borders on the incomprehensible. (Imagine Professor Moriarty addressing Sherlock Holmes with “Sherlock”.)

Written by michaeleriksson

November 16, 2019 at 3:35 pm

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Follow-up: Osthyvlar and cheese in Sweden and Germany

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I have earlier written about my disappointing experiences with osthyvlar in Germany.

Since then:

  1. My osthyvel was so over-challenged by a stubborn piece of cheese that it slipped, hit my left thumb, and sliced roughly half a cm2 of skin and flesh almost off. (The piece remained connected by a thin strip of skin on one side.) I used osthyvlar in Sweden from a fairly early childhood until I left for German at age 22, and nothing even remotely similar ever happened.

    Obviously, I resolved to never use this particular osthyvel again. Equally obviously, someone with no prior experiences, e.g. the typical German, would have been quite likely to curse osthyvlar as pointless and dangerous, making the introduction of this wonderful tool even harder than it already is (cf. the orginal text).

  2. The next few weeks, I took the opportunity to look for another osthyvel in any likely store that I came across. Most had none at all. The few that I found were usually severely over-priced. This includes other examples of the substandard model that I had rejected at 9.9x Euro and other models going up well above twenty Euro. This for an item that is basically quite cheap and can be had for just two or three Euro in Sweden,* and in a situation where it would make sense to buy several models for experimentation. At this point, I was torn between asking my father to send me a good model and just canceling the experiment entirely (note the other complications mentioned in the original text).

    *As with many such products, there is no real upper limit on price, be it in Sweden or Germany, and the functionality and quality does not correlate well with the price. The problem seems to be that the German stores only go for over-priced “design” or “brand” models (if any at all), while the Swedish market covers the entire spectrum.

  3. At this point, looking for something else, I stumbled upon a 3.9x Euro item in a store that I already had visited without success.* I bought one—and found it to be clearly superior to my original 9.9x Euro specimen, again proving that prices tell little about quality. Most of the issues in my original text remain, but slicing Emmentaler and (even young) Gouda is now possible without effort and risk.

    *Specifically, Kodi. I do not know whether this item will continue to be sold or whether it was a short-term experiment.

Excursion on a previous injury:
While I have never had any prior incident with an osthyvel, I did once get a similar cut through a knife (and on the same thumb): My first year in Germany, with little money and equipment, I used a too blunt (non-bread) knife to cut a too stale piece of bread. I held the bread in my hand to try to get more (for want of a better word) traction than on a cutting board. The knife slipped with considerable force and a similar result. With the knife, I was behaving stupidly and the result was, with hindsight, not that unexpected; with the osthyvel, I did nothing wrong and the event would not have taken place, had the osthyvel been of an acceptable quality.

On the upside, this time I was sufficiently wise to immediately press the almost-sliced-off piece back onto the wound and applying a band-aid. It reconnected very soon and the resulting scar looks to be a lot smaller than the last time around, even after adjusting for the smaller wound.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 1, 2019 at 3:50 pm

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Extreme Left gains in Germany / paradoxical German panic over “Right” gains

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A constant annoyance, and a sign of a deep underlying problem with public perception, is the treatment of the Left* and the “Right”** in Germany, manifested e.g. in widely different rules and reporting, attempts to ban “Right” (real or alleged) extremist parties while tolerating equivalent or worse Left extremist parties, or the constant Leftist complaint about a “Rechtsruck”*** of society, public opinion, politics, whatnot.

*Note that the German Left corresponds roughly to the U.S. “Old Left”, with a lesser (but growing) emphasis on e.g. PC issues and a greater (but diminishing) on economic issues. Also note that the German Left is Left of the U.S. Left.

**While I disapprove of the Left–Right scale in general, for a number of reasons, the concept of “Right” is almost impossible through being too heterogeneous, which is why I put it in quotation marks. I note in particular that the “extreme Right” is not an extremer version of the “regular” “Right”, but is almost solely defined (by its enemies …) based on positions regarding e.g. immigration. Often the alleged “extreme Right” has more in common with the Left than with the rest of the “Right”, when it comes to other issues.

**Approximately, “[sudden?] move to the Right”.

This “Rechtsruck” label is applied to any and all change away from the opinions the Left declares that people should have and grossly ignores that such a move is often* nothing more than a move towards sanity from the extreme Leftist opinions and politics that are so common in Germany. A highly Leftist populist Social-Democrat party is currently a part of the government and has been involved in roughly half all historical democratically elected governments in German history. Die Linke, Leftist extremist/populist and a direct descendant of SED, the dictatorial Communist rulers of East Germany, are represented in parliament. MLPD, an extreme Left and Marxist-Leninist party, is regularly and openly calling for revolution and the ban of other parties.

*The question is made more complicated by the uselessness of the term “Right” (cf. above). Note that “Rechtsruck” is not applied just to e.g. immigration policy, but also to e.g. taxation, union issues, and similar.

A good example (and the impulse for this text): Yesterday, there was an election to the state parliament of Thüringen (Thuringia; a state within the German federation). The aforementioned Die Linke arose as the largest individual party, with almost a third of the votes, and will likely* become the core of the next state government. This after already having reached number two in the last election (2014), which resulted in it being a part of the ruling coalition, joined by the Social-Democrats and the “Green” party.

*It will be impossible to say for sure before the various negotiations that will follow have been concluded. Note that Germany has a multi-party system, which by its nature leads to different consideration and complications that the two-party system of the U.S. Ditto the difference in parliamentary approach, where Germany is closer to the British Westminster system. In 2019, six parties made state parliament; in 2014, five.

In any sane world, this would have been a considerable cause for concern. But, what do I find, as I go looking for suitable references? That we now have an anti-“Right” panic! [1]*, because AfD, a migration critical party, often (rightly or wrongly) labeled as extreme or populist “Right”, managed to become the second largest party. Still, in the current Germany, it is a lesser evil than Die Linke, it has very little chance of joining any government arising from this election, and its success, I suspect, reflects the divide** between the politicians and the people more than it does any “Rechtsruck”. In contrast, the success of Die Linke has a strong component of reactionary Leftist opinions, as shown e.g. by how Thüringen was a part of the old East Germany and how Die Linke has a long history of doing better in the “East” than in the “West”. It is true that the absolute change pro-AfD is considerably larger (cf. footnote), but it is less dire both in its immediate consequences and its implications about opinions (again, cf. footnote). Moreover, AfD remains smaller than Die Linke by a considerable margin.

*I found this link on “Spiegel Online”, but it lands on another site. I am an uncertain about its exact relation to “Spiegel Online”. However, other site-internal sources include e.g. [2], where more traditional “Right” and “Center” parties are called to “ihrer staatspolitischen Verantwortung gerecht werden” (“take their political responsibility”) by keeping Die Linke, a natural political archenemy!, in power. [3] collects opinions from other news sources under the title “Der Schock ist groß” (“The chock is great”): Most of this chock seems to be directed against AfD. (Disclaimer: I have only skimmed through the collection of opinions.)

**Apart from the normal issues in this area, we have the repeated “great coalitions” between Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social-Democrats, especially on the federal level. We can indeed see that the 12.8 percentage-point increase for AfD corresponds well with the 11.7 percentage-point drop of CDU—two changes that are each of roughly the same size as the sum of all other changes for all other parties. (For instance, Die Linke +2.8, SPD -4.2. While a similar effect might very well be present between those two parties, it is a lot smaller and more likely to reflect a natural drift of voters according to what party best matches opinions.)

Again: Die Linke has almost a third of the vote—a party corresponding not the U.S. Democrats but to the extreme Left sub-sections of the U.S. Democrats, or possibly even ranging too far left to be willing participants even in the Democrat party. In this situation, there are complaints about “Right”-wing gains!

Indeed, even the possibility of a CDU–Die Linke coalition has been broached, as if the GOP would form a coalition government with someone Left of Bernie Sanders.

Note on sources: I have additionally drawn on pages from the German Wikipedia for the elections in 2019 and 2014.

Excursion on “democracy”:
In Germany, the word “democracy” (and its variations) is increasingly used to denote “having the correct opinions” (or similar), e.g. in that banning a “Right” wing party, censoring members of the “Right”, etc., is seen as being democratic, while the “Right” is considered anti-democratic based on e.g. immigration critical ideas (as opposed to attempts to restrict civic rights* or attempts to ban other parties**). Indeed, [1] complains that German schools spend more time on explaining words like “gross” and “net” than on explaining “democracy”. In this, the author might well address a genuine problem, but the problem is to the disadvantage of e.g. the AfD and to the advantage of the Leftist parties, because attempts to curtail democracy, proof of a lacking understanding of democracy, and so on, is predominantly a problem with the Left in Germany.

*As e.g. CDU and its Bavarian sister CSU has repeatedly attempted with regard to e.g. computer privacy.

**As the Leftist parties are quite fond of doing.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 28, 2019 at 11:22 pm