The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Henke Goes to Paris; plus World Cup Safety

Update: 22 May 2006. In today's WP, Craig Whitlock reports on the upsurge of violence in Germany.

Yesterday in Paris, Henrik Larsson the most lauded Swedish soccer player of his generation finally won a major championship. Playing his last game for FC Barcelona, he won the Champions League, the top club competition in Europe – and perhaps the world. Henke, as he is affectionately known, came on with half an hour to go and set up both of Barca’s goals against Arsenal of London.

(c) Michael Probst AP

His teammate Ronaldinho, generally considered the best there is, had this to say about Larsson: "At Henrik's age many players announce their retirement from international football but no-one I know his age is at the great physical level Henrik is at right now. He could play at the highest level for a long time."

Henke used to play for Celtic FC in Scotland and here’s what a reporter from a Glaswegian paper said this about yesterday’s heroics. Under the headline “Talismanic Larsson provides parting gift for Celtic and Barça”, James Morgan writes:

“HENRIK LARSSON's decision to leave Celtic for Barcelona two seasons ago was vindicated last night after the Swedish striker transformed the Champions League final with a second-half contribution which wrote his name into the history books of another famous European club. Sprung from the bench in the 61st minute, the 35-year-old, who was playing his last game for the Catalan giants before a return to his homeland with Helsingborgs, turned a game which was slipping away from Frank Rijkaard's cosmopolitan side. Larsson, as ever, displayed his usual humility afterwards and preferred to concentrate on the effort shown by his team-mates."It was a tough match and the whole team deserve credit for the win," he said. "It was an unbelievable way for me to finish my career at Barcelona. I have had a fantastic experience here in my two years, with two league titles and now this. It's amazing."

Click here to read the entire tribute

As one of the first visible minority Swedes (Swedish mother, Cape Verdian father) to break into the homogenous national team, Henke is a pioneer of sorts. But above all, he is just a good guy, great player and a talismanic presence for any team he blesses with his humble nature. In July – after playing for Sweden in the World Cup in Germany this summer – he will return to his native Helsingborg in southern Sweden. The season tickets are already sold out. Welcome home, Henke!

Speaking of the World Cup and tying into a previous post on the Swamp, today’s International Herald Tribune has a good column by Richard Bernstein. Here’s an excerpt:

“With the World Cup only a few weeks away, people here are asking this basic question: Is Germany safe?
According to the German police, in their annual crime report released last week, the country is, as Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble put it, "one of the safest places in the world.
But it wasn't safe for Ermyas Mulugeta, a German national of Ethiopian descent who was beaten senseless, allegedly by neo-Nazis, in the fashionable former East German city of Potsdam a couple of weeks ago. Mulugeta, who, the police say, has now awoken after about three weeks in a coma, was assaulted at the Potsdam train station by two bottle-wielding thugs who called him "nigger," the police have said.”

Click here to read the entire piece

It seems a former spokesman for the German government has sounded warnings regarding potential no-go areas in Germany. And naturally the powers that be have castigated him for soiling Germany's reputation and trying to ruin the World Cup party. C'mon....

I really don’t know why some folks are in such denial that they would jeopardize the safety of foreign visitors, not to speak of their own fellow citizens. What’s wrong with recognizing that there is both a low crime rate (pat, pat on the back of German society) AND in some areas a greater discomfort, real danger even, for those who are obviously members of a minority?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

As I was Saying: Assimilation Policy....Bad

In my last post, I was going on about how assimilation is a process that cannot be crafted into a workable policy by starry-eyed bureaucrats. And if you pick up tomorrow's edition of The Hill (a Washington daily about the shenanigans in Congress) you will see more of the same. Not by yours truly but courtesy of Oxford Analytica. Under the headline "Assimilation Policies Carry Risks" the anonymous OA writes:

"The integration (assimilation) models currently utilized in these (EU) states have a variety of structures, but they share some key similarities that may impede their effectiveness.

Integration processes often reflect one-way integration, in which the immigrant is expected to take the initiative to accomplish the level of integration that the state prescribes. However, in practice integration occurs as a two-way process: the state changes along with the immigrants it accepts.

However, this two-way process also can produce a backlash. Majority populations frequently are unhappy with the idea of their national culture changing. It is for this reason that integration programs are often portrayed by states as one-way processes, and why the majority population appears to change less quickly than a country’s immigrants..."

Please read the entire piece, click here

This is why I usually lambaste European countries: they created a problem, i.e. lack of assimilation; and are now selling a toxic concoction, i.e. bad "policy", as some kind of panacea. For whatever reason, they never seem recognize the fundamental differences between the Swedens and Germanys of say, 1906 and 2006. I mean, assimilate to what? To what the minorities are already part of? Seems redundant, no? Or to a subjective version of e.g. Germany that, at best, only existed in the past?

To me, it seems that it is the majority population, and at least many politicians, who are the ones who need to get on the assimilation train. Folks, it left Trans Central some three to four decades ago....

Backlash risks occuring by stigmatizing those suddenly expected to assimilate overnight, preferably by becoming as Western (?!) as possible. Any little difference previously seen as normal or even "exotic" could now be seen by the majority as evidence of lack of assimilation. And the backlash will be reinforced when the desired results of these misguided intentions are not forthcoming.

Lastly, I just wanted to mention that the OA piece also addresses the contrast between the U.S. and European approaches to assimilation:

" The state may either proactively or passively seek the successful integration of immigrants. For example, the United States has no formal immigrant-integration policy, other than a citizenship test requiring the demonstration of basic English language skills and knowledge of U.S. history.

Evidence suggests that integration is more successful when governments make education programs accessible and provide individualized integration plans.

The recent rise in perceptions of insecurity and deep social divides between immigrant and existing populations are prompting immigrant integration reform in most European states.

Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and parts of Belgium now all mandate integration....

Assimilation policies place the impetus on immigrants, asking them in essence to change their identity. However, making assimilation mandatory may actually impede the integration process it is designed to facilitate.

Indeed, integration is not achieved merely by labor-market and community participation; it also requires that the immigrant identify with and have loyalty to his new country. Mandating integration compels a speed of assimilation which may impede the developments of loyalty."

Mandating assimilation!!!! - what would Voltaire, Swift, Twain, Mencken, Wilde, Colbert et. al. write about such a Wonderlandesque concept? I laugh at that thought while crying about the rest of this sorry saga.


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Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's the Process, Stupid!

Some may think I was a little harsh on Germany in my last post. At the very least, I might have been more succinct. But there are just so gosh darn many angles to cover...

Accordingly, here's a link to the NYT's reporting on the new naturalization procedures for those wishing to become German nationals. I think Ms. Dempsey gets it right when she writes:

"In a decision that reflects the widespread debate toward the European Union's immigrant population, the interior ministers of Germany's 16 states Friday agreed for the first time to a package of measures aimed at setting new guidelines for obtaining citizenship.
The decision, made during a special two-day meeting in Bavaria, is a major change for a country long hesitant of accepting that there was a need for an integration policy despite Germany's 6.7 million immigrants make up nearly 9 percent of the country's population..."
(click here to read the entire piece)

She does a good job of tying it into the general immigration debate in Europe ( for more Swamp reporting click here, here and here), seeing both similarities and differences among the EU states, not to speak of non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland.

But I have to raise at least some doubt regarding the term "integration policy". This expression raises the hope that the decades-long neglect of immigration and immigrants can somehow be resolved by policy, with a little social engineering. She is right in using the term since it's all the rage in Europe. But I would not call this "policy".

Unsurprisingly, this hoop-la is about creating the impression that politicians have acted, that they have done something that will then lead to a concrete result. And now it's laurel resting time. Wrong. Assimilation (integration is just another faux term for the same thing) is not about policy, it's about process. And as such it takes time and requires patience. Having a normal labor market that allows job creation and permitting, even encouraging, people to become citizens can facilitate the assimilation process. But it cannot be made to happen.

Back in the olden days, i.e. until very recently in all Western countries, there were 'assimilation policies': people were told to do this and become that. These policies succeeded only in their cruelty, stupidity and inhumanity, and failed in every other regard, especially in creating citizens out of immigrants. Let's hope the good folks of Europe know their own history.

But what do you know, here's a positive note to sign off on! On Tuesday as I was half-way across the Atlantic, new German citizens were being sworn in near my Kreuzberg home. In the neighboring area of Neukölln - a rather impoverished working class part of the former West Berlin with an interesting history of immigration, read the Wikipedia link - 54 immigrants from 15 different countries became Germans.

Becoming German. Neukölln, 9th May 2006.

Forget that the headlines were the usual moronic ones, e.g. on the 24-hour news channel N24 "Naturalization in Multicultistan: The Federal German Eagle and the Half Crescent". Neukölln is a part of Germany last time I checked. According to N24´s reporter Annette Bräunlein, 18-year old Ahmet Ügrenci "hid his (Muslim) half crescent medaillon" before the ceremony. Whatever, Anette....maybe you should hide your prejudice instead.

Anyway, Ahmet is now German. Too bad I missed it, after they all sang the national anthem there was a little party in the City Hall! Congrats, dude!


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