A foreign-sounding name significantly increases the acceptance of sanctions amongst Germans


Since the reforms of the Social Code Book II in 2004/05, sanctions in the minimum income system have been considered a central pillar of the activating welfare state. However, in terms of social policy, it is often debated whether sanctions are generally permissible, since those affected then live (temporarily) below the socio-cultural subsistence level. In addition, the Federal Constitutional Court classified cuts above 30 % of the minimum income benefits as unconstitutional in 2019 and called for a reform process. A broad public acceptance of the changed sanction practice may be achieved if empirical evidence on the perception of such sanctions accompanies the reform process. This article investigates – based on a Vignette analysis – which sanctions are considered acceptable by the population, when hypothetical welfare recipients violate their obligation to cooperate. A majority of the representative German sample (N = 2621) favours sanctions up to 30 % of the minimum income benefit. Sole factors such as low levels of motivation to look for work, missed appointments with the specialist advisors or having a foreign-sounding name significantly increase the acceptance of sanctions amongst the wider public. Especially a combination of these factors increases the acceptance of placing sanctions on welfare recipients. In contrast, the age of the hypothetical benefit recipients plays a marginal role.


Social segregation via messenger app

“Apple’s color-coding of SMS communications in green in iMessage plays a role alongside other feature in getting teenagers to switch from Android to iPhone, a report claims, with a pressure to fit in with their peers promoting moves to turn their messages blue.

The use of green and blue to show whether a message to a user is made through iMessage or via other devices has become more than a simple convenience indicator for users. It’s also a form of status indicator, showing the user not only owns an iPhone, but can also make use of features on the platform that others cannot.

In a profile of the color-indication system by the Wall Street Journal, teenagers and students explain how not having an iPhone and seeing green messages are seemingly a negative to them.”

More here

When New Immigrants First Go to an American Supermarket

Roya Hakakian came to the United States from Iran in 1985. She is the author of two books of poetry in Persian and three books of nonfiction in English, including, most recently, A Beginner’s Guide to America: For the Immigrant and the Curious (2021). An excerpt:

Everyone who has visited the US or lived there for a while can relate to her shopping experience. Those vast acres of fruit, presented like in a Photoshop image and professionally illuminated. Apples, the size of small melons and without any flaw, dimple or color speck, one like the other. The only difference is that no fruit has a typical smell. Joghurts are available in containers the size of bigger color cans in home improvement stores.

You head for the produce section to see familiar things you know and know what to do with. But these fruits will astound you. It might be the middle of December, yet the shelves are stocked with cherries, apricots, and watermelons so ripe that they might have been picked in the sunlight of June. And they, like most American things, are mammoth versions of what you are used to. An apple here will be three times the size of the apples of your past. Gleaming and curvaceous, without a flaw on their skins, these apples are not in the messy mounds you remember, specks of dirt dotting their figures. They are the apples of still-life paintings, well lit and dewy. But when you pick one up to enjoy the apple smell you love, there is no scent. Other similarly fetching fruits are scentless, too. You had come to the supermarket to find familiar sights and aromas but feel mildly betrayed by the antiseptic air reminiscent of the air of a pharmacy. This is the first of many instances when the new you encounter resembles the old, but only superficially.

America is about meat, so you head to the meat section.

In one particular aisle, you find cans of beef, chicken, and fish priced much lower than others you had seen in previous aisles. Pleased with your find, you pile them into your cart. Then you hesitate when you see a picture of a dog or a cat on each can. You remember the feral cats and emaciated dogs that used to roam your streets. They were sometimes hunted, sometimes banned for being unclean, and always unloved. It is not until you see leashes, rubber bones, and miniature sweaters in a large bin in the same aisle, all 40 percent off, that you realize the unthinkable is true: Americans feed proper food to their pets here, and even dress them. To think that you were about to stock your cabinets with animal feed! What would your former countrymen say if they got wind of this? You can hear the wisecracks: He went all the way to America to eat dog food! It will be years until you learn that pets are venerated in this country, at times even as much as, if not more than, children. For now, you gingerly put the cans back and hurry into the next aisle.

If you are from the European continent you are used to the social system. In the US fund raising for all conceivable purposes are being conducted.

You used to give a coin or two to the poor of your city, or drop a banknote in the collection box at your place of worship, or help a neighbor or a friend with a loan. But these were a few small exercises at best. Here, people give regularly. Squirrels collect acorns, and Americans raise money. It is as natural as any instinct for them. Children offer lemonade on sidewalks to raise money for the kittens at the animal shelter. Girl Scouts go door-to-door selling cookies so other aspiring girls can become Scouts too, and do the same. Mothers organize bake sales to help pay for a new neighborhood playground. Teens give to the GoFundMe campaign of a filmmaker working on a documentary about the endangered aardvarks of Angola. Even Santa, the nation’s gift giver in chief, appears at the threshold of major department stores every December, ringing a bell at the side of a siren-red donation bucket. Overworked cashiers will not scan your items before listlessly asking if you would like to donate a dollar to the fight against something or other. Once a year, arsonists take a day off so firefighters can stand at intersections holding up their rubber boots, charming drivers into pitching in a few dollars. At the registers of greasy gas stations, two things are always guaranteed: the noxious smell of fuel and the cardboard quarter receptacle for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In some movie theaters, films cannot start unless the ushers have walked aisle to aisle passing the empty popcorn container to collect money for whatever the star in the public service announcement urged the viewers to donate to. Entertainers hold telethons to raise money for this disease or that. Rock bands compose songs for disaster victims and give them their proceeds. Radio broadcasts are interrupted so the hosts can make appeals for a donation, which the local attorney or dermatologist matches. Runners run, bikers bike, and comics crack jokes, all to help raise money for the needy. Politicians bombard their supporters with emails, asking them to give five, ten, twenty, or more dollars toward making a better tomorrow, when, in addition to a higher minimum wage and universal healthcare, there will also surely be more emails asking you to donate again. Corporations have charitable arms. Dignitaries ask for money to build homes for the destitute. In television commercials, celebrities, holding doe-eyed babies in their arms, urge viewers to adopt a child on another continent through a monthly contribution. Anything is possible in America, even raising a baby by subscription.

Money is money, they say. Not in America. Travel the world and you will see bank notes that are all different, in a single country, that is. Different colors and different sizes of the notes. In the US one size fits all except the bloke on the front.

The currency is stranger yet. In your former homeland, banknotes came in all kinds of colors, shapes, and sizes. A bill of a small value could never be mistaken for a larger one because it would be discernibly smaller or come in a different shade. In the mecca of capitalism, on the other hand, where choice and variety reign supreme, banknotes may as well have been designed by communists. They are uniform in both color and size. Their only variation is the portrait of the president on one side, though they, too, are all men, and mostly whiskered. Why? If the sly marketers had a say, it could well be to make the hundred-dollar bill look like the ten-dollar, so spending one in lieu of the other might happen more easily.

The book is available at Amazon (no link) and a Pdf here. Should be fun to read.

Sounds familiar?

Madmen then led an easy wandering existence. The towns drove them outside their limits; they were allowed to wander in the open countryside, when not entrusted to a group of merchants and pilgrims. The custom was especially frequent in Germany; in Nuremberg, in the first half of the fifteenth century, the presence of 63 madmen had been registered; 3 1 were driven away; in, the fifty years that followed, there are records of 2 I more obligatory departures; and these are only the madmen arrested by the municipal authorities. Frequently they were handed over to boatmen: in Frankfort, in 1399, seamen were instructed to rid the city of a madman who walked about the streets naked; in the first years of the fifteenth century, a criminal madman was expelled in the same manner from Mainz. Sometimes the sailors disembarked these bothersome passengers sooner than they had promised; witness a blacksmith of Frankfort twice expelled and twice returning be;.. fore being taken to Kreuznach for good. Often the cities of Europe must have seen these “ships of fools” approaching their harbors.

It happened that certain madmen were publicly whipped, and in the course of a kind of a game they were chased in a mock race and driven out of the city with quarterstaff blows. So many signs that the expulsion of madmen had become one of a number of ritual exiles.

The madman’s voyage is at once a rigorous division and an absolute Passage. In one sense, it simply develops, across a half-real, half-imaginary geography, the madman’s liminal position on the horizon of medieval concern-a position symbolized and made real at the same time by the madman’s privilege of being confined within the city gates: his exclusion must enclose him; if he cannot and must not have another prison than the threshold itself, he is kept at the point of passage. He is put in the interior of the exterior, and inversely. A highly symbolic position, which will doubtless remain his until our own day, if we are willing to admit that what was formerly a visible fortress of order has now become the castle of our conscience.

Michel Foucault – Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Probability of stupidity


The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

In this regard, Nature seems indeed to have outdone herself. It is well known that Nature manages, rather mysteriously, to keep constant the relative frequency of certain natural phenomena. For instance, whether men proliferate at the Northern Pole or at the Equator, whether the matching couples are developed or underdeveloped, whether they are black, red, white or yellow the female to male ratio among the newly born is a constant, with a very slight prevalence of males. We do not know how Nature achieves this remarkable result but we know that in order to achieve it Nature must operate with large numbers. The most remarkable fact about the frequency of stupidity is that Nature succeeds in making this frequency equal to the probability quite independently from the size of the group.

Thus one finds the same percentage of stupid people whether one is considering very large groups or one is dealing with very small ones. No other set of observable phenomena offers such striking proof of the powers of Nature.

The evidence that education has nothing to do with the probability was provided by experiments carried on in a large number of universities all over the world. One may distinguish the composite population which constitutes a university in five major groups, namely the blue-collar workers, the white-collar employees, the students, the administrators and the professors.

Whenever I analyzed the blue-collar workers I found that the fraction å of them were stupid. As å’s value was higher than I expected (First Law), paying my tribute to fashion I thought at first that segregation, poverty, lack of education were to be blamed. But moving up the social ladder I found that the same ratio was prevalent among the white-collar employees and among the students. More impressive still were the results among the professors. Whether I considered a large university or a small college, a famous institution or an obscure one, I found that the same fraction å of the professors are stupid. So bewildered was I by the results, that I made a special point to extend my research to a specially selected group, to a real elite, the Nobel laureates. The result confirmed Nature’s supreme powers: å fraction of the Nobel laureates are stupid.

by Carlo M. Cipolla

Wait for it, there is a sixth law.

The Sixth Law of Stupidity: A Biophysical Interpretation of Carlo Cipolla’s Stupidity Laws