Stanley Kurtz….

…is at it again.

Gay marriage undermines marriage….okay, I admit it. I’m a cranky, stick-in-the-mud conservative who keeps making the same tired old point.

And again, he fails to provide proof, sticking instead to his familiar method of talking out of his ass.

So, once more I get to remind people that Stanley Kurtz is a quack who got his Harvard PhD by expanding Freudian quackery from the mere individual to entire peoples (“psychoanalytical sociology” it’s called. You should read Kurtz on the Oedipus Complex of the Trobriand Islanders). Quackety quack.

(Crossposted at Hollandaise)

New OECD Economic Outlook….

…below the fold.

But first an introduction. I’m guestblogging from Amsterdam and my site can be found here. Very much honored to post at the Fistful (I would be, they’ve got visitors), although in all honesty they might be better served by a Francophone blogger.

As it is, they are grossly misunderestimated by the French part of the blogosphere (le sphère au blog?).
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The European culture of free speech

Her lies in the naturalisation process notwithstanding, it seems that, one way or another, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial feminist, Islam critic, and former Dutch parlamentarian, will be able to retain her Dutch citizenship. If she still wants it.

Even though she had reportedly planned to move to the United States to work for the American Enterprise Institute for a longer time and a number of reasons – not the least of which may have been that, as argued by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German), the Netherlands had grown a little tired of paying the bills for her non-compromising, crusadesque stance against Islam (as opposed to her new employer) – the circumstances causing her immediate resignation from the Dutch Parliament are a significant event in Dutch, maybe European politics, although I suppose it will only later become clear what exactly it means.
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They’re at it again, Miss. It’s appropriate that Doug used the phrase “ramming speed”, because that was just what the Greek and Turkish fighter planes were travelling at when they collided. This has been going on for ages. Among Greece and Turkey’s catalogue of territorial disputes is one over the line between the Athens and Istanbul Flight Information Regions, the basic units of state sovereignty in the air. The Turkish air force regularly probes the Greek air defence, and the Greek QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) is scrambled, and they try to force each other to turn away or land. A form of hypermodernist ritual combat.

It’s not new. In the cold war, Soviet aircraft would roar down the North Sea to prod the NATO radar chain, and (mostly) British and Norwegian fighters would red-alert into action to intercept them. And then the jousting would begin, often in distant corners of the Arctic seas. Both parties put a lot of effort into this; sometimes there might be US F15s from Iceland, Norwegian F-16s, British Lightnings, Phantoms or Tornados, British VC10 tankers, US KC135 tankers, British Shackleton AEW aircraft and perhaps a US or NATO multinational AWACS involved at the same time. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that this was because it was fun, something the governments would never admit and the pilots would be the first to declare with suitable gestures.

Greek-Turkish relations aren’t great, but are not bad at all compared with almost any other period except the burst of fraternity after the Turkish earthquake. So why all the drama? After all, a high rate of FIR violations has been going on for a year or so. Well, the best explanation is that it’s the internal culture and preferences of the air forces involved. If you ask fighter pilots if they’re up for a bit of supersonic aerobatics, you’re only realistically going to get one answer. Fortunately neither side has nukes, given the short distances and hence warning times involved. (Although there is an argument that it was precisely the balance of nuclear terror that meant it was possible to piss around and survive.)

The danger is that someone will take it all too seriously, which happened back in 1996 when the Greek-Turkish situation was considerably more poisonous than it is now. A Greek Mirage-2000 shot down a Turkish F-16, the only F-16 ever shot down in air-to-air combat. But the grown-ups stepped in and war was avoided. There’s only one lasting answer, of course-which group of countries with highly developed air forces and common borders don’t do this? The European Union. Greece and Turkey amply show that NATO doesn’t cut it on its own. Whe EU member states feel the need…the need for speed, they take it to somewhere like the RAF’s instrumented range in the North Sea to settle it like gentlemen.

Montenegro: Over and Out

It looks like Europe has a new country.

As of 6:00 am this morning, with over 99% of the ballots counted, it appears that the “out” votes have just barely won in Montenegro. Secession from Serbia required a 55% supermajority; the unofficial, not-quite-final count has 55.2% of the voters approving.

Now, in a jurisdiction the size of Montenegro, 0.2% of the total is a few hundred votes. Literally a couple of hatfuls. So we can pretty much guarantee that the count will be contested. Still, at this point it appears that the secessionists have won the day.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog regularly knows my thoughts on this; I see no need to repeat myself. I wish the Montenegrins good luck with their new endeavour.

Some thoughts on Serbia below the fold.
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Zombies Finnish First

Krrrrushing the opposition in the Eurovision Song Contest!

Monster hard rock heavy metal zombie mask wearing whatever group Lordi from Finland dominated the contest, though some Russians think it’s a sign of European conspiracies against Russia. Like everything else in the world.

I used up my snark quota for this week already, so I don’t have anything to say about the contest, but those hardy souls at Manolo’s Shoe Blog even watched some of the semi-finals. So we didn’t have to.

(533kr1t m3554ge 4 4m3r1c4n5: Next time a European gets shirty about his or her sophisticated culture and your supposed lack of same, just mention the time five Finns in monster masks became songmeisters of the whole continent…)

UPDATE: “Sadly, No!” gets it. And points to a YouTube of the performance, plus an interview with someone who has magenta hair and claims that naked people were running in the streets of Helsinki, bars were offering free champagne and 100,000 people will greet Lordi when they land in Suomi. Monster Finland r00lz! 1!!

The “Teuro” Dissected

Did prices really go up when the Euro arrived? The public mind, or at least the dominant media discourse, says they did. The inflation indices say they didn’t, or at least the prices that did go up were outweighed by the ones that went down. This paradox may have been solved. Erich Kirchler, of Vienna University’s Institute for Economic Psychology, tells Der Standard how.

Kirchler formed three representative groups of volunteers, and showed them prices in Schillings, then in euros. One group’s price was exaggerated by 15%, one reduced by 15%, and a control group saw correctly converted prices. All three groups were convinced the prices had risen…yes, including the second group. When he repeated the experiment with wages, rather than prices, the guinea pigs were convinced the opposite was the case.

He theorises that two well-known cognitive biases are at work – irrational perception of risk (the difference between accepting €10 now, or a 90% chance of €90 later) and the salience heuristic (unrepresentative but extreme events are over-perceived).

I was in Austria for the introduction of cash Euros, and I recall not so much that prices went up, as that the standard sums of money one withdraws from ATMs (20, 50, 100 etc) were suddenly considerably more and hence it was easy to spend more. Everyone was convinced that prices went up, though. And the German-speaking press had been hammering the word “Teuro” (roughly: “dearo”) into the meme-pool for months before the switch. (Especially, of course, Bild Zeitung and the execrable Krone..)

Montenegro: Ramming Speed

So Montenegro votes this weekend on secession from Serbia. (Or, to be precise, secession from the dysfunctional and largely notional Federal Union of Serbia and Montenegro.)

Dedicated readers may recall that this vote was the subject of AFOE’s first intra-blog debate a few weeks back. My post on Montenegrin independence can be found here; Brussels Gonzo’s response to it is here; and my reply to his response is over here.

But it’s up to the people of Montenegro now.

Polls in this part of the world tend to be rather shaky, but right now it looks like support for independence is hovering tantalizingly between 50% and 55% — the so called “gray zone”. If we end up with a clear majority of votes in favor of independence, but one that still falls short of the 55% supermajority… well, things will get interesting.

A couple of notes on the campaign, below the fold.
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Signs of Summer

The first banners for the coming World Cup have been hung here in Munich. The stadium that will host the opener on June 6 has been finished for more than a Bundesliga season; the autobahn enlargement is done; and I think even the renovations on the main subway station will be finished on time. Teutonic efficiency strikes again.

Apparently, World Cup is something of a big deal, though as an American I’m obviously predestined to be completely ignorant about all of that. In fact, I’m so ignorant that I’m not even telling my friends and colleagues here that the US team is currently fifth in the FIFA rankings. The only European teams ahead of them are the Czechs and the Dutch. Rounding out the top five are Brazil and arch-rival Mexico.

Where does Germany rank? Funny you should ask. I’m not sure, I sorta quit looking after a I got to Cameroon, Egypt and Japan. It’s that famously short American attention span. I’m sure they’re on the charts somewhere.

Journalists spied on in Germany


The German government admitted Monday that the Federal Intelligence Service had recruited and spied on journalists from 1993 until as recently as last year.

“The government regrets the incidents,” said Ulrich Wilhelm, the government spokesman after he had been bombarded with questions during the Monday regular news conference.

Wilhelm said the Chancellery had ordered the Federal Intelligence Service to stop such activities following a string of allegations emerging over the last few days that the agency had recruited journalists to spy on their colleagues.

The parliamentary controller’s committee, which monitors the activities of the intelligence services, will hold a special session Tuesday amid calls by the German Association of Journalists and the Association of Newspaper Publishers for a “rigorous investigation.”