Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Society

Follow-up II: Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey

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As I wrote last week ([1]), the German government has been jumping back-and-forth on the topic of an Easter ease-up, clamp-down, or business-as-usual (by the COVID standards).

It appeared that the last bid had been “business as usual”, but, as I learned a few days later,* this was not the case. The individual German Bundesländer (“states”), to some degree individual municipalities**, are allowed to set their own rules, within some limits, and it appears that they are doing so. In the case of Wuppertal, where I live, I have been unable to find a reasonable description of the exact rules that will apply, but it appears that stores may only be visited after a “rapid test” (“Schnelltest”) during the Easter days. I am taking the safe course and treating the situation as a five-day*** everything-will-be-closed. Correspondingly, despite having been grocery shopping yesterday, I went again today to load up a little.

*I had not originally looked into the details, but merely noted the repeated pin-the-tail attitude.

**With reservations for what exact word applies.

***There appears to be some unclarity over the time spam, but my impression is that the Sunday (everything closed anyway) and the two holidays (everything closed anyway) are complemented by restrictions for both tomorrow/April 1st (ha!) and Saturday (April 3rd).

Here we have two issues: Firstly, does it really matter from a COVID-POV whether I went to the store today or whether I had done so on Saturday (as originally planned)? I doubt it. Secondly, quite a few other people seemed to have had the same idea, making the store unusually full for the time of day (and likely to grew much worse as the day progresses). Considering the governmental obsession with keeping distance, would this not make matters worse from a governmental perspective than if the store visits had been spread over several days? It would not surprise me.

The bigger picture also raises at least two other issues:

Firstly, federalism and subsidiarity. Normally, I am in favor of this more often than not; however, here we see it backfire. One of the most important points behind these principles is to protect the citizens (and other entities, including individual states and municipalities) from too arbitrary, too undiscriminating, too self-serving, whatnot decisions “from above”. If we look at the U.S. and the COVID approach of e.g. Texas and Florida, we see how this can work well.* In Germany, however, there appears to only be two approaches—hard lockdowns and harder lockdowns. Here subsidiarity does not serve to protect the citizens from the federation but to screw them over even when the federation does not. (While I have not looked into the details on other issues, my general impression is similar: if the federation does not screw something up, count on the Bundesländer to do so; if the Bundesländer do not, count on the municipalities.)

*Generally, my fears of the complete corruption of the U.S. in the wake of Biden have been slightly reduced in light of my growing awareness of the power remaining with the individual states and that the GOP might have fared better on the local level than on the federal level. (Nevertheless, the picture is very, very bleak. By the next federal elections in 2022, the damage will be absolutely horrifying, if things continue down the current path—even COVID aside.)

Unfortunately, I have no good solution to offer that would also preserve the positive aspects of federalism and subsidiarity, but a general principle might be that a “lower” entity may only ever weaken restrictions and regulations, reduce taxes, and whatnot compared to what a “higher” entity suggests. (Possibly, with some exemptions for extraordinary circumstances, say a local natural disaster or local riots.)

Secondly, communication: It absolutely, positively, must be mandatory that the involved entities communicate various rules in an explicit, clear, and timely* manner. This, notably, not restricted to COVID but in general. For instance, I have had massive problems, because my (now de-installed) gas heater was subject to various obscure, counter-intuitive, internationally unusual laws and regulations, spread over several different texts, none of which I had even encountered during my twenty-something years in Germany—until a belligerent and incompetent piece-of-shit of a chimney-sweep sics the authorities on me.** Given these laws, even discounting that they are unreasonable to begin with, it should have been the governments responsibility to inform me that I had to pay attention to certain regulations—which would have been trivial in light of both the heater being on registry and my purchase of the apartment being registered. Given the extreme size and complexity of current laws, and how often they go against common sense and/or vary drastically from place to place, the principle of ignorantia juris non excusat simply is neither conscionable nor compatible with Rechtsstaatlichkeit when the government has not actively informed the citizens or when the need for citizen to inform himself is obvious.

*To the degree that the situation allows. That e.g. an explosion in the infection rates can force a short-term measure is understandable, but this is not the case here where politicians have just been pinning-the-tail, and often concurrently.

**I will not go into details of the overall situation, but as a for instance: portions of the regulations are buried in the “Schornsteinfeger-Handwerksgesetz” (“chimney-sweep trade law”). That a regular citizen would even contemplate investigating what appears to be regulations strictly for the chimney-sweep trade is highly unlikely. Would you bother to read a “dog-groomer trade law” in order to find out e.g. whether pets must be spayed and neutered? Hardly. Would you even be aware that one existed? I doubt it. (That there is a “chimney-sweep trade law”, at all, might be seen as proof of over-regulation, even if the justification is larger than for dog grooming.)

As a minor correction to [1], it appears that Merkel’s back-tracking was only partially caused by the public outcry. Another part came from a business outcry, a “we simply cannot reasonably shutdown with such short warning”. This is certainly a legitimate concern, but one that should have been obvious to the government and one which I assumed had been taking into consideration, e.g. through discussing this with relevant business organizations. Apparently, this was not the case, and that makes the approach the more amateurish. To take just one example from my own professional experiences: In my last project, the topic of bank holidays was important, e.g. to calculate payout dates, often a week or more in advance. Assume that such a date is calculated and communicated today, and arrangements are made for payouts and book-keeping, based on a certain set of bank holidays, possibly spanning several countries. Assume next that tomorrow someone adds a new holiday, retroactively making these dates incorrect. Now, how are we going to resolve this? Without massive additional effort and chain-reactions affecting other businesses, the best bet might be to just send apologies (“due to circumstances outside our control, blah blah”) and hope that no-one is sufficiently dissatisfied as to sue, shorten payments, or jump to another provider.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 31, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Follow-up: Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey

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I have repeatedly compared government policy regarding COVID to pinning-the-tail, most notably in [1]. This especially regarding my local German situation.

This includes a statement that I considered hyperbole at the time:

Grab a pin-board. Pin notes with possible counter-measures on the board. Put on a blindfold. Throw darts at the board. See what counter-measures were hit. There we have this weeks policy. Next week? Who knows.

Today, I am wondering whether it actually was that hyperbolic: A few weeks ago, there was considerable talk of easing up on the restrictions over Easter, to allow this special-to-many occasion to actually take place in a reasonable manner. But, no, suddenly there was a drastic course reversal—the lockdown must be made even harsher than before, lest Easter turn into a major occasion for infections instead of celebrations. Cue public outcry—and suddenly the harsher lockdown is off the table again.

We still have a few days left. I wonder whether Frau Merkel will throw another dart …

Written by michaeleriksson

March 26, 2021 at 2:54 am

COVID Anniversary / Follow-up: COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?

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As I have gathered from some recent readings, the first anniversary of COVID is upon us—according to at least some criteria. From my personal point of view, we are days away from the anniversary of my first text on the topic. I posed the question “COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?”, to which the answer, one year later, appears to be a resounding “Yes!”.

As this blog remains closed-ish, I am not going to go into a major review of events and my many earlier texts. I note, however, that almost* everything that I have written on the topic appears to be validated by later events, including e.g. that the risks of isolation are severe and that the damage to the economy outweighed any gains from the lock-downs. Above all, perhaps, that politicians do not act in a reasonable and reasoned manner, based on scientific evidence (and a reasonable evaluation of such) and a holistic view that takes side-effects and opportunity costs into consideration. Even were the countermeasures justified and beneficial, which seems even less plausible today than back then, they do not constitute good decision-making but, on the outside, luck with pinning the tail on the COVID-donkey.

*Off the top of my head, I can name only one exception (but others might very well exist): In that first text, I was skeptical to the set of reactions at a time when COVID did not seem to have a foothold in e.g. Germany (where I live). However, this foothold manifested very soon after that. Still, even removing my then thoughts on the timing, the countermeasures appear to be a massive overreaction and to do more harm than good overall.

Worse, and something that I might have failed to predict or deduce, is an amount of misinformation which goes beyond what reasonable could arise, even taking the understandable early lack of knowledge into account. This might be sheer incompetence, but I cannot deny a very strong suspicion that politicians have deliberately lied in order to get the people to do what the politicians wanted. (Remember that slowly boiling frog?) For instance, few would go to the barricades over “two weeks to flatten the curve”, but very many would have over “it will be months and months and no end in sight, even a year later”.

(Of course, the overall information flow, the attempts to suppress dissent, behavior of journalists, etc., play in well with my other writings on e.g. free speech, the right to form one’s own opinion, and whatnot.)

From my recent readings, I would like to recommend* a particularly interesting third-party article on the case against lockdowns. I would also like to point to e.g. the claim that the lockdowns are the biggest public health mistake ever made—which I at least approximately agree with.**

*Disclaimer: I have not yet finished my own reading of this very long analysis.

**Such categorical claims are unlikely to be true, considering the long human history. However, it is a whopper and it is one of the greatest public policy (not just health) mistakes of my own lifetime.

Finally, a few words on masks: In light of sharper German regulations, I have taken to wearing FFP2/N95 masks (previously, a scarf) while in stores. I often precede my grocery shopping with a rapid walk up and down a few nearby hills, and am often a little out of breath for some time afterwards. The masks not only make the recuperation much slower, to the point that I am still a little out of breath when I leave the store, but I suspect that the reduction in oxygen supply is outright unhealthy. Moreover, while I am technically within the limits of the regulations, any positive effects of the masks might be neutralized by the breathing, as air is noticeably exiting the mask around its borders when I breathe heavily. (Yet another reason to suspect that masks have more to do with psychology than medicine—at least, with the current set of German regulations.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 11, 2021 at 10:16 pm

Follow-ups based on third-party texts (political violence, gender-studies, homeschooling)

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A few follow-ups to earlier texts:

  1. I recently noted that, among other things, “political violence tends to come from the Left” ([1]).

    To this, I want to point to an excellent overview of the U.S. situation by Pat Buchanan.

    As an aside, I also wrote “the [Left–‘Right’] difference has historically been far smaller in the U.S. than in e.g. Sweden and Germany”. Buchanan’s list makes me wonder whether this is actually true. It might well be that I based my judgment too much on the Democrats as opposed to the U.S. Left as a whole, the change over time possibly being that the “extra-Democrat” portions have now become “intra-Democrat”; or it might be that the historical* reporting on various U.S. events, developments, and attitudes has been too lacking in objectivity and completeness** in Sweden and Germany. I note e.g. a much harsher take on the-U.S.-in-Vietnam than on the-USSR-in-Afghanistan in Swedish news.

    *I was born in 1975, and significant portions took place before I was born or was old enough to follow the “live” reporting. (Not that I necessarily expect this “live” reporting to have been stronger in objectivity and whatnot.)

    **Foreign news and history are, usually and naturally, given less space than domestic news and history.

  2. A while back, I wrote about a recanting Homeopath, her journey and problems, and how this was similar to the quackery of large parts of the modern Left ([2]). I recently encountered a similar text by a recanting gender-studies Ph.D.. While her journey is somewhat different, there are similarities, and some additional insight can be gained into how educated people can believe idiotic things. Further, the text shows quite a few of the problems with e.g. gender-studies that I have discussed in the past.
  3. The aforementioned text mentions that homeschooling might be under attack—something which would remove a refuge from Leftist indoctrination and the inefficient school system, and which I have long feared (cf. portions of [3]). My fears have been increasing greatly recently, as even many Conservative debaters are yelling that children must be brought back to the classroom in the wake of COVID-enforced remote education.* She points to a specific attack in Harvard Magazine, which makes a number of poor arguments.

    *This is not strictly comparable to homeschooling, e.g. because the home-schooling parents of today (or pre-COVID) show a greater dedication than generic teachers, because remote education has many issues to be sorted out, because not all children are necessarily suited for the greater responsibilities, and similar. Nevertheless, this increases the threat against homeschooling proper.

    These include:

    That abusive parents might go undetected, never mind that these form a small minority and that the purpose of school is not to serve as a means of spying on parents. In fact, doing so is ethically dubious and might be a greater evil than the small proportion of abusive parents, as this type of spying can easily be extended to other areas, e.g. parents with the “wrong” political opinions. By rumor, it is indeed often extended. This argument also fails to consider the (much?) larger risk of abuse in school.

    That some might homeschool who are bad at it, never mind that this could be easily solved by requiring (unless this is already the case) that students pass recurring tests—if in doubt, high-school diplomas are not just handed out willy-nilly to anyone who applies. Moreover, the reason for the wish to homeschool is often the abysmal quality of a local regular school … I note that this implicitly repeats one of the most common Leftist and/or educator myths, namely that the teacher and/or school matters far more than the student.* In reality, of course, it is the other way around, and the failure to realize this is one of the greatest reasons why school is an inefficient, and often ineffective, way of gaining an education.

    *This is largely a special case of the long disproved “tabula rasa” / “nurture only” view of the human mind.

    That children should “grow up exposed to…democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints”. While partially laudable on paper, the exact opposite is what happens in today’s schools, where they are to be turned into obedient little drones with the right anti-democratic values and an intolerance to those with the “wrong” opinions. As to “nondiscrimination”, this is an abuse of language and we really, really would benefit if students learned to discriminate more and better (cf. [4]). However, even if the distorted Leftist meaning of the word is applied, this is not what schools teach—anti-White, anti-man, and anti-“Right” discrimination is par for the course. Moreover, homeschooling is a valuable aid to ensure that there are differing viewpoints in society, while school often seems set on exterminating them.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 4, 2021 at 12:33 pm

The 2020 Nobel Prizes: Women and the Nobel Prize

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I have traditionally posted on the Nobel Prizes and women once a year. I had not intended to do so this year, as I have more-or-less closed this blog. However, the results of 2020 were unusually interesting, and I will make an exception. I might or might not make future exceptions.

(I refer to earlier years for background, assumptions, etc.)

Looking at the three core Prizes, women provided 3 out of 8 Laureates and took 1.25 out of 3 Prizes, including the entire Chemistry Prize and a share of the Physics Prize—both of which are historically quite rare.

Considering 2018, there might be some change underway:* The female Laureates of 2018 and 2020 have doubled the number of female winners in Physics from two to four and almost doubled the Chemistry winners from four to seven. Moreover, the 2020 Chemistry Prize was won without joint male Laureates, which is a further rarity.

*Or just coincidence. If there is change, I leave unstated what type of change, for want of sufficient data. (But I note that I am highly skeptical to ideas like “STEM fields oppress women”, which was an original motivation in this series.)

The last ties in well with a portion of my discussion from 2019: The possibility that some women* have received a (partial) Prize more through having the right husband or male team-member(s) than through own merit. Here there is little risk of that.

*Men too, obviously, but in the context of the proportions of male respectively female winners, these would have a far smaller impact.

The “extra-curricular” Economy Prize went to two men; while the out-of-competition Literature and Peace Prizes went to a woman respectively an organization. We, then, have a total of 4 women to 7 men and 2.25 Prizes to 2.75. Whether looking at the core Prizes or the overall situation, this is arguably the best women’s year of all times.

Excursion on Literature:
Unfortunately, I suspect that some type of quota is in place, striving for approximately alternate male/female winners, or at least a rough long-term 50–50. In the last eight years, we have the sequence* F M F M M F M F, for four male and four female winners, and only one exception to the alternating pattern—and that exception might have been caused by the choice of Bob Dylan.

*F(emale) and M(ale). I tried W(oman) and M(an), but that was near unreadable.

Looking back further, since 2004 and the unfortunate win of Elfriede Jelinek, we have the following sequence: F M M F M F M M M F M F M M F M W. Here the trend is weaker, with three (new) and seven (in all) female winners to six (new) and ten (in all) male winners, with the difference being carried by a single three-in-a-row for men 2010–2012. Noting that other non-literary concerns, including other “diversity concerns”, might have played in, and that woman might well have a harder time as authors in the non-Western parts of the world, this is still suspect. For instance, having an only second (!) Chinese Literature winner in 2012 might have trumped the fear of having three men in a row, as might having the first Peruvian (in any category) in 2010.*

*True, this leaves open why yet another male Swedish winner was needed in 2011, but the general point of sex not being the only concern holds. Indeed, as Wikipedia on Tomas Tranströmer claims: “The Swedish Academy revealed that he had been nominated every single year since 1993.” A “this year might be the last chance” criterion could have played in; and he did die just a few years later.

This type of regularity is unlikely if chance was the only thing playing in. By analogy, flip a coin thrice and there is a chance of 1/4 that it will be three-of-a-kind over just these three throws,* while here the entire series of seventeen only contained one three-in-a-row and no four-or-higher-in-a-row. Further, the above sequence sees a full twelve transitions out of sixteen possible; flipping a coin, the expectation value would be eight.** If the sexes, unlike a fair coin, do not have a 50–50 probability, then the regularity becomes the more remarkable.***

*The first flip is uninteresting, there is a 1/2 chance that the second has the same side up, and another 1/2 that the third does too, for 1/4 in all.

**There is a 1/2 chance of a transition with any throw (excepting the first). 16 x 1/2 = 8.

***For instance, if we assume 60–40, then the chance of three-in-a-row over just the first three throws rises to 0.6^3 + 0.4^3 = 0.28 compared to the original 1/4 = 0.25. 70–30 gives 0.37, etc.

(But I stress that the above is merely suspect—not outside what can legitimately happen by chance.)

Excursion on the Chemistry Prize:
My first reaction when reading the motivation “for the development of a method for genome editing” (cf. Wikipedia on Chemistry Laureates) was that this was more a matter of Medicine/Physiology than Chemistry, which would have made a female win less unusual. However, the last few decades, similar motivations appear to be quite common. I am not certain whether I agree with general idea, but it is, then, not likely to be very important in the current context.

Excursion on references:
I did not keep track on references during writing, but mostly various Wikipedia pages. I am loathe to track them back, as this text has taken much longer than intended—exactly the type of problem that moved me to close this blog.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 25, 2020 at 7:24 pm

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Apologies for endorsements or non-endorsements of politicians (extraordinary post)

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Preamble: The blog remains closed-ish. Cf. Remark at the end.

I have already apologized ([1]) in passing for once calling Bernie Sanders a lesser evil than Trump.

This apology I hereby re-iterate: While Trump has not been a perfect POTUS, he has been far better than I had expected—to the point that I suspect* that he has been one of the best in the post-Reagan era. Two recent, very positive developments, include several peace accords (putting the presumed WWIII starter well ahead of premature Nobel Prize winner Obama) and his very clear position against the pseudo-scientific “Critical Race Theory” and the infamous and history-distorting “1619 Project”. (See [2] for some earlier comments on the “1619 Project”.)

*A full and fair comparison would require very extensive research.

The latter is particularly positive as even non-Leftist mainstream parties in e.g. my adopted Germany and my native Sweden officially subscribe to equivalent astrology-level nonsense, if usually in the guise of Gender-Feminism/Studies, Patriarchy, etc.

In [1], I say that “[Kamala Harris] appears to be more moderate than many other Democrats”—and here, too, I apologize: my later readings point in a different direction, even after adjusting for the U.S. (even non-Left) tendency to demonize and exaggerate political opponents. For instance, she appears to be rated* as the “most liberal” senator for 2019, rivaling Bernie Sanders. Cf. CNN and Fox News.

*I caution, however, that any such rating is unlikely to give a complete picture. I further note that she might have been more moderate in previous years.

Once I wrote of Obama, “Obama did very little good, but (with some reservations for yet unknown long-term effects of ObamaCare) he also did very little harm, and by that standard he deserves a passing mark.” and, again, I apologize:

Not only had ObamaCare already proved a fiasco at the time of writing, but my overall impression (apart from ObamaCare) was too superficial.* For instance, I was not yet aware of how many judicial activists he had appointed within the court system; for instance, my awareness of a certain “dear colleague” letter and its consequences was too small**.

*As a European with a full plate of other interests, I had only a superficial interest in U.S. politics for most of his presidency.

**Or even non-existent, depending on issues of timing that I have not investigated.

I was long a semi-fan of Angela Merkel, repeatedly giving her a thumbs up for being someone with an actual brain and education entering a political field dominated by the ignorant and the power-hungry. To boot, she was a shining example of how the non-Left often beats the Left to giving a woman a key post, e.g. as head of government, through “promoting” based on competence—not pushing women for being women.* And again, I must apologize: Over the years, Merkel has turned out to be a horrible disappointment. Not only does she often appear to have more in common with the Left than with the “Right”, but she has also engaged in repeated unholy alliances with the German Social-Democrats, with three (!) of her four cabinets being (allegedly) Conservative and (real) Social-Democrat alliances. Even the second of these unholy alliances (2013?) had me groaning; With the beginning of the third (2018) I can but strongly suspect that she is more interested in staying in power at all costs than the average politician … Never mind why voters supported her or what they expected her to do for them.

*In contrast to e.g. the Swedish Social-Democrats, who have been very heavy on female quotas and ideas like “it is high time that we had a female prime minister”, and have, in 2020, still not managed, while Merkel first gained the Chancellorship in 2005 and Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 (!), while both representing Conservative parties and both being party leaders for years before that.

Remark on “extraordinary post”:
This blog remains closed in intent. However, the abrupt closing (a decision of five minutes) left a number of open issues that have irked me since then. One is my misestimation of Trump, Obama, and Merkel (Harris less so), which grew with recent developments around Trump. I will likely deal with the most important of the others, jointly and minimally, in another upcoming post. Depending on developments, I might or might not also make some further extraordinary posts for blogroll updates, some words on the U.S. election (when it takes place), and an update on visitor statistics around New Year’s (cf. previous discussions on topics like traffic vs. post frequency, for which my current non-posting could provide an interesting comparison).

Written by michaeleriksson

September 19, 2020 at 7:42 pm

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Pointless smoke-detector tests and waste of other humans’ time and money in Germany

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I have repeatedly written on both undue government interventions and undue invasion of privacy and other intrusions through various service/test/measurement/whatnot companies, e.g. in A German’s home is not his castle / a few issues around inspections and meter readings ([1]).

Earlier this week, I had the yearly smoke-detector test: a professional service company (Objektus) came by, a man walked in with a broom stick (or something similar), used it to push the test button on the two smoke-detectors, noted that they made a hellish noise, and left again—after having spent likely less than twenty seconds in my apartment and doing nothing that I could not have done myself.

This for a legally mandated yearly check that involves paid professionals, a load of travel and bureaucracy, and which forces the victims to take large chunks out of their days to meet the dictated times, with direct and indirect costs that are in no proportion to the value* of the service.

*Even assuming that smoke-detectors bring significant value to begin with, to which I am at least somewhat skeptical (this appears to be more propaganda and lobbying than science and data, cf. parts of [2]); and even assuming that a yearly test, as opposed to e.g. simply swapping the detectors every three-or-so years, has more than the slightest value added, to which I am extremely skeptical.

For instance, this particular company dictates a yearly date with short notice (around a week) and allows one dictated back-up date with (this year) six days’ notice. At least the back-up date had a two-hour interval (12:15–14:15). For many, the time of day, length of interval, and a bit of a commute might well mean that half the work-day is gone. For someone with a longer commute, it might take out an entire day—in extreme cases, an entire week!*

*I have repeatedly done weekend commutes over very long distances, e.g. Düsseldorf–Munich. The current date was a Tuesday, implying that I would have had no realistic choice but to miss both Monday and Tuesday. With five-or-so hours of travel in each direction (main station to main station, not including “local” travel, not including time to deal with hotels, whatnot), I might then have been better off foregoing the entire week. Had the date been on a Wednesday, I more or less would have had to. If the lost time is not enough, consider the considerable travel costs relative the smaller amount of billable hours per travel.

Last year, at least, some actual work was done in that the smoke-detectors were swapped, but this is apparently not a yearly task. (I have owned the apartment for longer, but in prior years various factors have lead to no service at all taking place, including one case of my being entirely oblivious to the dictated dates as I did not occupy the apartment and one case of the service company simply not showing up on their own dictated date. But, apparently, the legal mandate extends even to uninhabited apartments.)

A much saner system would, as in the past, leave smoke-detectors to the discretion of those actually living in the apartments. Barring that, a system where a service company replaces them every X years and the inhabitants are simply mandated to confirm that “we pressed the buttons and a painfully loud noise followed” once a year, would be much better. Barring that, some better solution of date handling must be found (some variations are mentioned in [1].)

Excursion on opportunity costs:
The opportunity costs do not just involve time and money, but can also include lives—and I am far from convinced that this mandated yearly check leads to a net-savings in lives. For the check to bring value, we have to assume that the batteries run out (or some other problem occurs) between changes, that the inhabitants do not voluntarily make tests, that a fire actually does occur, and that the circumstances are such that the smoke-detectors actually would have saved lives in that fire. (Which they would not have e.g. if a crucial exit was blocked, if the fire was too small, or if the fire was discovered by someone awake before the smoke-detectors triggered—and I do suspect that most fires take place in the day time.) How many lives this will be per year, I cannot judge, but it will not be many—it might even be none in a typical year. Against this we have to measure deaths caused by the checks, e.g. through unnecessary traffic accidents due to travel by testers or inhabitants, increased stress at work,* negative effects through extra costs,* and similar. Here, too, I cannot judge the number of lives, except that it will be a low number. The relevant question is, will it be a higher or lower number? Here I would strongly suspect a higher number …

*Looking at aggregates over sufficiently many humans such factors are relevant, even if they are highly unlikely in any given case (and far less spectacular than a car crash).

Right now, there is also the whole COVID-thing to worry about. Considering how much else has been banned in wild panic, I find it inconsistent that the comparatively high-risk task of having service staff move from apartment to apartment and contact with stranger after stranger has not been banned. This, however, is likelier to be an issue with the Pinning the tail to the COVID-19 donkey approach to policy than with the current topic.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 28, 2020 at 10:19 am

The insanities of political hypocrisy

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Want proof that the world is sick, that there is as ridiculous difference in treatment of Leftist and non-Leftist ideologies, individuals, etc., and how unjustified the constant German Leftist cries of “Rechtsruck” are? Happy to oblige.

I just received an automatic email from the city of Wuppertal, which in its footer contained:*

*Some minor typographic changes have been made for technical reasons. Links have been removed.

Engels2020 – Denker, Macher, Wuppertaler.
Wuppertal feiert den 200. Geburtstag von Friedrich Engels!
Jetzt geöffnet: Sonderausstellung “Friedrich Engels – Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa” in der Kunsthalle Barmen

Translation:
Engels2020 – Thinker, Doer, Wuppertalian
Wuppertal celebrates the 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels!
Now open: Special exhibition “Friedrich Engels – A spectre is haunting Europe” in the Barmen* art-hall.

*A part of Wuppertal and Engel’s birth place.

Now, that there is a focus on Engels around his 200th birthday in Wuppertal is unremarkable—but a celebration?!?! No, that is simply insanity, in light both of the result of his collaborations with Marx, which ultimate have resulted in more deaths than Hitler, and the incompatibility of his ideas with the norms that Germany (and other Western democracies) claim to support.

At the same time, even the slightest connection to anything even remotely Nazi, or even migration critical, even slightly nationalist, often even just traditionally Conservative, can be cause of condemnation.

In extreme cases, listening to Wagner can be a greater cause of suspicion than reading Marx or Engels …

Written by michaeleriksson

August 27, 2020 at 9:21 am

Continued problems with gas company and chimney sweeps / Follow-up: Life as a (bad) cosmic joke, disturbances, and my rotten-to-the-core building

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As I wrote a while back:

I have terminated my contract with the gas supplier, seeing that I use very little gas and have to pay an entirely disproportionate amount through fix monthly fees and that I can avoid the annoying chimney sweep (cf. at least [1], [2]) . I received a notification from the gas supplier that my contract was terminated—and, a little later, a second notification amounting to “someone has terminated the gas supply to apartment XYZ, likely an old tenant moving out. Because you are the owner, we have automatically opened a new contract for you.”, an interpretation of events and an action that is utterly absurd. (I have written back.) To boot, the chimney sweep also refuses to accept either that I have terminated my gas supply or that a terminated gas supply would be a valid reason to not check the heater, which from my point of view is just scrap-metal still hanging on the wall. Performing this check without any gas might be an interesting challenge. I wonder whether physically removing it would be enough …

In the mean time, I have sent I-do-not-know-how-many emails and letters to the gas supplier in order to get this fraudulent contract terminated. About six weeks ago, this Kafkaesque situation seemed to be concluded. However, today, as I went through this week’s mail, what do I find? Yes, you guessed it: a second message of “Someone has terminated the gas supply to apartment XYZ, likely an old tenant moving out. Because you are the owner, we have automatically opened a new contract for you.”, which is absolutely intolerable.

I have just written a very, very angry email to the management, demanding immediate actions. I will also make a complaint about fraud to the police and more general complaint to the mayor (this being a city-owned enterprise).

I will also at this stage abandon my policy of being cautious with naming names, especially of individuals: The culprit is WSW (Wuppertaler Stadtwerke), involved people who have not done their job sufficiently include, but is likely not limited to, Diane Rieke and Aline Scheffler.

At the same time, the aforementioned chimney sweep is now illegally and through defamation attempting to force a visit to my apartment to make an impossible check (no* gas, remember) by involving the Ordnungsbehörde (a German law-enforcement agency with an unclear translation). This has caused me immense additional, unnecessary efforts, including emails and letters back-and-forth with the Ordnungsbehörde and a four-page complaint to a supervisory agency. This has been made the harder, because the replies from the Ordnungsbehörde are often delayed in an inexcusable manner—for instance, the last letter was dated on the 28th (!) of July and was marked as delivered on the 10th (!) of August.

*With some reservations for an existing gas supply through the fraudulent pseudo-contracts above. I have not turned on the heater since the end of February, and I do not intended to do so even to check “whether”, because I fear that the result will be a message from WSW along the lines of “You are using gas after all, so our contracts are legitimate, Pay up!”.

Consistent with my policy change, I explicitly name Uwe Heinbach (running his company under that name) as the chimney sweep and his co-worker Sabine Wacker as the incompetent, lying, irate, and spoiled brat that I have been forced to interact with (cf. e.g. [2]).

Written by michaeleriksson

August 23, 2020 at 11:28 am

No defamation charges against Krister Petersson (murder of Olof Palme)

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In an earlier text, I noted that prosecutor Krister Petersson risked prosecution, himself, for defamation of a dead suspect for the murder of Olof Palme ([1]; cf. [2] for more context).

It appears that he will remain unprosecuted:

A (likely paywalled*) Swedish site cites the överåklagare** Anders Jakobsson as saying:

*This newspaper usually is. Currently, 2020-08-19, it claims that all articles are free until September 1st.

Min bedömning är att Krister Petersson visserligen pekat ut en person på ett sätt som kan vara förtal enligt brottsbalken, men sedan är frågan om det var försvarligt att lämna ut namnet. Och det anser jag. Mordet på Olof Palme och den utredning som sedan har genomförts har varit föremål för ett betydande allmänintresse, och i massmedierna och av så kallade privatspanare har den så kallade Skandiamannen vid flera tillfällen pekats ut som mördaren. Då menar jag att med hänsyn till dessa omständigheter har det varit försvarligt av Krister Petersson att i sitt beslut namnge den personen.

Translation:*
My estimation is that Krister Petersson did point out a person in a manner that could be defamation according to brottsbalken [roughly, “criminal code”], but then the question is whether it was justifiable to provide the name. And I am of that opinion. The murder of Olof Palme and the investigation that followed has been of considerable interest to the public, and in mass media and by so called privatspanare** the so called Skandiamannen*** has been pointed out as the murderer on several occasions. Then**** I opine that, with consideration of these circumstances, it has been defensible for Krister Petersson to name this person in his decision.

*The original is in overly complicated and poor “government language”. I have not made any greater attempts to provide additional clarity or to translate into a more English idiom (governmental or otherwise).

**A term that probably arose during the Palme investigations, to refer to amateur investigators with an interest in the Palme murder. A somewhat literal translation is “private scouts”, but “investigator” is likely more idiomatic than ‘scout”. These, however, are typically not “private investigators” in the U.S. “P.I.” sense.

***An anonymizing alias commonly used for the man whom Krister Petersson mentioned by name.

****Translation of the idiomatically awkward word “då”, which I will discuss in a later text.

I am far from certain that I would concur with the above, as I am highly skeptical to “the public has the right to know” arguments,* as fingering Skandiamannen seems unnecessary to me, and as there was no true gain from mentioning him by name (as opposed to alias). Note that Anders Jakobsson, himself, uses the alias and not the name. Krister Petersson could simply have said something like “Personally, I favor Skandiamannen, but as things stand, we can never know for sure.”, but he went a fair bit further and did mention the name. I stress that I would see a considerably stricter standard for a public official speaking in his official capacity than I would for a private individual expressing his private opinions, including the privatspanare.

*Excepting matters that are truly of public interest and public nature, say governmental policy, professional misbehavior by politicians and civil servants in office, and similar. The fact that Palme was murdered qualifies, that this-or-that celebrity has a drug problem does not, and whether Krister Petersson’s statements is on the right side of the border is disputable.

As an aside, I would not necessarily reason “it is very easy to find out the name of Skandiamannen; ergo, there is no harm done in mentioning the name over the alias”, as Anders Jakobsson might have. The opposite might be more reasonable (“[…]; ergo, we should not mention the alias either”).

Written by michaeleriksson

August 19, 2020 at 12:17 pm

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