Ukrainian wives discovering the superiority of being married to the German taxpayer

Western Ukraine is safe enough for elderly Americans to visit (example). Friends of friends go about their daily work there without any thoughts of becoming a war casualty. One guy, however, misses his wife and kids (elementary school age). They fled to Germany during the early days of the war, taking 100 percent of the family savings with them. Now the wife is established in the German welfare system, getting per-child payments, and has discovered how much more pleasant life can be without a husband in the house (does Germany have Tinder?). The father has sought to recover the children at least, but a German court agreed with the wife that Ukraine is not safe enough for anyone to live in (though the Ukrainian mom and teenage son whom I wrote about in April 2022 moved back long ago).

In the pre-globalized pre-welfare-state world, a live husband with a good income would become more valuable in the event of a war that killed a lot of working-age men. But in our current world, the husband, despite being a high-status professional in Ukraine, became surplus when he couldn’t compete with the German government (and German Tinder?).

Context from the BBC:

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A public library in Portugal

As a companion to my pieces on what public libraries offer in Palm Beach County (in Florida, where books are purportedly banned) and in Maskachusetts, some March 13, 2023 images from a library in Ponta Delgada, Portugal.

What’s the neighborhood like? Here’s the building next door, a museum of sacred art:

Who uses the library on a Monday late afternoon? A lot of studious school kids:

Does the library promote social justice? Here are the books recommended for adults:

I would love to see someone actually read that 700-page book on Max Weber (who envisioned our current bureaucratic world)!

Are there books on skin-color-based victimhood promoted to children? I don’t think so. Here’s the rack:

(I thought that “O Protesto” might be about a mostly peaceful social justice protest, but the star is a gorilla rather than a martyr in the struggle against racism.)

The library seems to take a more neutral position on what to read than do its counterparts in the U.S. A larger majority of books are simply shelved spines out. My Portuguese wasn’t good enough to enable me to identify the 2SLGBTQQIA+ section within the teens’ room so I don’t know whether they have anything corresponding to what we found in Cambridge last week:

The library devotes a fair amount of space to Portugal’s Nobel laureate in literature, José Saramago. I had no idea that he wrote a badly-reviewed travel guide to Portugal.

The library has a complex layout due to its location in a historic building. There is a nice little café for patrons.

Overall, there seems to be much less emphasis on the divisions among groups within Portuguese society than one finds in U.S. libraries regarding divisions among groups within American society.

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How are the Europeans doing with their Cheat Our Way to Economic Prosperity plan?

Back in September, the Europeans decided to deal with energy price inflation by cheating. They’d hide the market prices from consumers by borrowing (printing?) money. “Germany will borrow nearly $200 billion to cap consumers’ energy bills” (CNN, 9/29/2022):

The German government announced plans to borrow €200 billion ($195 billion) to cap natural gas prices for households and businesses. That’s a bigger price tag than the £150 billion ($165 billion) the UK government is expected to borrow to finance its own price cap.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is trying to cope with surging gas and electricity costs caused largely by a collapse in Russian gas supplies to Europe. Moscow has blamed these supply issues on the Western sanctions that followed its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Prices have to come down, so the government will do everything it can. To this end, we are setting up a large defensive shield,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday.

The package will be financed with new borrowing this year, as Berlin makes use of the suspension of a constitutionally enshrined limit on new debt of 0.35% of gross domestic product.

Lindner also said the steps would act as a brake on inflation, which has hit its highest level in more than a quarter century.

Consumer prices rose 10.9% in the year through September, provisional data from the country’s statistics office showed on Thursday.

As in the U.S., when the government spends more, inflation is guaranteed to come down (our “Inflation Reduction Act”). It’s been a few months How has the decision to pretend that gas prices didn’t go up gone? This December 14, 2022 report says that inflation across Europe is typically in the double digits. How about in Switzerland, where they deny the Science of printing money? From December 1: “Swiss inflation steady at 3.0% in November as expected”. The U.S. Congress and Federal Reserve have proven that there is no need to work harder in order to become richer and yet the Swiss reject this proven scientific result.

At least back in October, inflation wasn’t keeping folks in Paris from partying:

What about our own stagflation? “Home Depot co-founder says ‘socialism’ killed motivation to work: ‘Nobody gives a damn’” (New York Post, 12/29/2022):

The 93-year-old billionaire co-founder of Home Depot blamed “socialism” for Americans lacking the motivation to work and warned that the future of capitalism is in danger.

Bernie Marcus — who along with Arthur Blank built Home Depot into a nationwide empire from just two stores founded in Atlanta in the late 1970s — told Financial Times on Thursday, “Nobody works.”

“Just give it to me. Send me money. I don’t want to work — I’m too lazy, I’m too fat, I’m too stupid,” Marcus said about what he perceived as the attitude permeating the country.

“Nobody gives a damn.”

The longtime Republican backer ticked down a list of people he blamed for standing in the way of private enterprise, including President Biden, “the woke people,” the news media, Harvard graduates, MBAs, lawyers and accountants.

“I’m worried about capitalism,” said Marcus, whose net worth is estimated by Bloomberg at $5.25 billion. “Capitalism is the basis of Home Depot [and] millions of people have earned this success and had success.”

Billionaires can’t buy this Bernie because he already is one!

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Why don’t the British withdraw from the asylum system?

“The Tory immigration failure” (UnHerd, 11/28/2022):

Over the past year, according to data released last week, net migration into Britain has soared to 504,000, the highest on record. This means half a million more people are coming into Britain than are leaving – that’s a city the size of Liverpool every year.

But not only are the Tories presiding over record amounts of legal migration, they are also overseeing a rapid rise in numbers of people arriving in the country unlawfully, in small boats across the Channel.

The number of people arriving in this manner has now rocketed from 300 to nearly 40,000 in five years. The largest single group of foreign nationals on the boats come not from a war-torn country but Albania, a country that is currently in talks to join the EU.

… the number of outstanding asylum claims has just reached its highest point on record, with 140,000 asylum-seekers waiting decisions and fewer than one in five being processed.

Who voted for this? Who wants this? If you look at the latest surveys, only 10% of Britain thinks immigration since the Brexit referendum has been “too low” and only 19% want it increased in the years ahead.

By pushing on with mass immigration, by failing to genuinely take back control of Britain’s borders, by refusing to reform modern slavery legislation and Britain’s relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the only things that would enable the country to truly regain control of its borders, the Conservative Party is about to send British politics all the way back to the early 2010s, where a divided society gives rise to an ugly populism.

A majority of Brits voted for Brexit and, therefore, implicitly for a reduction in low-skill immigration. The UK is a sovereign nation. What stops the UK from saying “We withdraw from the The 1951 Refugee Convention and, therefore, asylum is no longer available”?

October 2022:

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Italy as tax haven (living under fascism for 100,000 euro per year)

I was chatting with a Dutch friend on WhatsApp on Thanksgiving Day, reminding him that we were celebrating our theft of an entire continent from the benevolent peace-loving Earth-preserving Native Americans. I shared a photo from the morning golden retriever walk:

For his part, he shared the European perspective: “There are two ways to live life. Short and violent or long and miserable.”

What else did I learn? “The left-wing parties control Dutch cities and say that they want immigrants to Holland, but don’t want the immigrants congregating in the cities that they rule. So they’ve been trying to force immigrants to settle in the conservative country towns. That hasn’t worked because the provincial towns have refused to provide free housing for migrants. So the Hague just passed a law forcing the country towns to take these immigrants.”

What are the Dutch with money doing? “Moving to Italy,” he responded. “The Italians let foreigners who move there pay 100,000 euro per year in tax. After that you can have 100 million euro in capital gains, dividends, etc. and they won’t even ask about it. It’s actually better than moving to a Caribbean tax haven because you get rebates on all of the withholding taxes on dividends because Italy has a tax treaty with the Netherlands.” (fact check: the scheme seems to have started in 2017) He said “You have to make sure that you don’t stay more than 182 days per year in the Netherlands or have kids in school here. Like New York State chasing after people who move to Florida, the Dutch government will try to find any excuse it can to continue collecting taxes. But it is really not a hardship to live in a Tuscan villa.”

Separately, the newspapers that warned us of the fascist takeover of Italy have gone silent regarding Giorgia Meloni’s dictatorship. Based on this Reuters article, it looks like the main program of fascism is stoking inflation via bigger government:

Italy’s new right-wing government signed off on its first budget in the early hours of Tuesday, a package focusing on curbing sky-high energy bills and cutting taxes…

Next year’s budget deficit is targeted to fall to 4.5% of gross domestic product from 5.6% this year. The package is still expansionary because under an unchanged policy scenario the deficit ratio was headed for 3.4%.

The budget contains almost 35 billion euros ($35.95 billion) of increased spending or tax cuts. Some 60% to be financed through increased borrowing.

Over 21 billion euros to help firms and households pay electricity and gas bills, mainly through subsidies for energy-intensive firms and low income families.

Next year Italians will be able to draw a pension from the age of 62 provided they have paid in at least 41 years of contributions.

That compares with the current rule, put in place for just this year by the previous government, allowing people to retire at 64 provided they have worked for 38 years.

The budget also extends to 2023, with adjustments, an early retirement scheme for women. Beneficiaries will be able to draw a pension at 58 if they have at least two children, at 59 with just one child, and otherwise at 60.

So, just like Americans under transferism, the Italians under fascism are going to work less and spend more!


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The Brits don’t love the world’s best health care system

From a bookstore in Kensington:

A Guardian review says it is all about the death panels:

Side Effects forces us to face up to – rather than ignore or deny – the realities of balancing the vast sums that can be spent on a single, seriously ill patient against the “distressing conditions in which many frail and elderly people live out their final years, often as a result of lack of adequate funding”. It is all too tempting, Haslam recognises, to dismiss as abhorrent the act of attaching a price tag to a person – as though their worth can be measured in pounds and pence. A human life, surely, is priceless? No amount of mere money or stuff comes close? But anyone who is actually involved in the real, messy world of healthcare knows full well this is nothing but rhetorical posturing.

Later that afternoon I was talking to a guy who is married to an emergency medicine doc in London. With the cost of living adjustment, she can expect to earn 80,000 pounds per year (i.e., $80,000!) after 15 years of slavery for the NHS (age 40). “A train driver will earn more,” he noted, “because their union is actually effective.”

Who is smarter than the Brits for running a universal health care system that doesn’t bankrupt everyone? Africans! “Middle class Nigerians who need any kind of advanced medical treatment will come here on a tourist visa,” my friend explained, and go straight from Heathrow to an NHS hospital. Once they’re in the system they get treated just like anyone else. After consuming what might be hundreds of thousands of pounds in services and recovering, they go back to Nigeria.”

What else did they have in the bookstore? It’s “smart thinking” to fight structural racism:

An American hero who inspires Biden voters can also inspire the British:

Although the age of consent in the UK is 16 (e.g., a 16-year-old could consent to have sex with a rich guy after a Gulfstream flight to somewhere luxurious) and prostitution is a legal career for an 18-year-old, the British are apparently shocked about what Jeffrey Epstein was allegedly up to:

Anyone who isn’t a cisgender heterosexual white male is in trouble:

England was saved from German invasion by women of color who were willing to risk their lives in combat while white men relaxed in the safety of their country homes:

Despite the fact that some heroines exist, the entire Earth is, literally, toast because of those who Deny the Science (i.e., unlike World War II, this is not a war that can be won by women alone):

An entire section of the front of the bookstore was devoted to a personage who by right should have been King of England and was denied this position purely on account of her gender ID:

Circling back to the British health care system… if we aren’t willing to use death panels or at least a quality-adjusted life year calculation the way that the Brits do, how are we going to keep health care from growing to consume 25 percent of American GDP (a shrinking quantity in the aggregate and, since the population continues to grow via immigration, an even more dramatically shrinking quantity on a per-capita basis)?

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The only defense against mass tourism is to become a mass tourist?

In observance of Veterans Day, let’s look at the territory that the Greatest Generation fought for in the 1940s…

In the old days there was a tradeoff between being an independent tourist and joining an organized tour. As an independent tourist perhaps you wouldn’t see as many things per day, but you could wander around a city and enter museums and other attractions as the whim struck you. Today, however, due to mass tourism combined with a touch of coronapanic, the headline tourist sites of Europe require booking advance reservations and organizing transportation to arrive on time for those reservations. In other words, the independent tourist now needs to do all of the stuff that a tour company ordinarily does. Three weeks in advance, for example, we tried booking a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Everything was sold out (we eventually got onto a guided tour for 3X the price, but let’s not call it scalping!). The Louvre was sold out a week in advance. Some of this can be navigated around via memberships (Amis du Louvre) or a Paris Museum Pass. But I’m wondering if the best defense against mass tourism is to become a mass tourist (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em). An organized tour of Paris could hit all of the major sites in a three days and the participants wouldn’t have to spend evenings pre-booking on the Web and then fretting about how to get from one reservation to another. If desired, spend a couple of extra days as independent tourists seeing the second- and third-tier sites.

Here’s our Eiffel Tower experience. Because we had to book it weeks in advance, it fell on the only rainy day of our trip:

I guess we shouldn’t complain about the lines. If not for the combat veterans of World War II and the desk veterans who kept them supplied, we might have needed to learn German to visit the Eiffel Tower.


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Taking kids to the Louvre

I’m leaving this here as a reminder to my future self.

One month before any trip to the Louvre: join Amis du Louvre (Adhérent) to get a membership for however many adults are in your household (kids are free). The cards will be mailed out and then you can skip the lines at the Pyramid and other places. You might be able to talk your way in from the Passage Richelieu or Carrousel (underground mall) entrance if you say that you’re going to buy a membership. With the membership, you don’t need to get a timed ticket and then wait in line for 30 minutes to use that time slot.

Once in the Pyramid, skip the Nintendo-based audioguides, which are complex and confusing (and the commentary is limited to a handful of works and isn’t very interesting).

Enter via Richelieu and the French sculptures, especially the Barye animal fights.

Upstairs to Napoleon III’s lavish crib.

Upstairs again to the two Vermeers (one was in Abu Dhabi; one here). Here’s how much demand there was at 1 pm on a weekday to see a painting not called “Mona Lisa”:

Then the huge Rubens salon and walk through French painting to see if the battle scenes catch their eye.

Finally to the Mona Lisa room, which should be revisited on a Friday night around 9 pm if anyone actually wants to see the painting. Note the surgical mask as protection against aerosol viruses in the most crowded room of the world’s most visited art museum (at least 15,000 visitors per day). Fortunately, the ventilation system was upgraded in the 50s… the 1850s.

A mostly-European crowd in which we see reliance on masks, typically mere surgical or cloth ones:

In other kid news, ours enjoyed this stinky cheese from the supermarket:

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Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton museum

A heroic reader suggested that we visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne and was kind enough to pick us up and drive us there. Frank Gehry designed the building in 2006 when he was 77 years old. In other words, he did a few sketches and let a platoon of nameless architects and engineers figure out how to make it happen. Some of the sketches are shown in the museum and they look like a 3-year-old’s art.

The museum is a triumph of form over function. There’s a building and then a bunch of decorative glass is attached to the exterior, supported by a frame. The galleries inside are chopped up so that a recent show was spread over 10 separate galleries for no reason other than each gallery is fairly small. A prefab aircraft hangar would actually work better for the required function of designing an art exhibit.

The exterior is striking and includes a staircase waterfall.

The museum lacks a permanent collection so it is all-special-exhibitions-all-the-time. We visited during a visit comparing Claude Monet, whom most people have heard of, and Joan Mitchell, who never met Monet and whose name is unfamiliar even to art nerds.

From the signage I learned that Monet cranked out 400 paintings from 1900 through 1926 and 300 of them were of water lilies at Giverny. Here’s a triptych that had been scattered to three different museums in the U.S., reassembled on a long wall:

What does Joan Mitchell’s work look like?

Tickets are timed, but the museum was jammed.

Note that a fair number of folks had elected to stay safe from an aerosol virus by voluntarily entering a crowded indoor public environment while wearing surgical and cloth masks. There aren’t enough books and movies featuring Monet’s art so it was impossible to stay home and #StopTheSpread?

My favorite part of the building, though unlikely to be of much use in typical Paris weather, was the series of outdoor terraces.

(Note the Heroes of Faucism, wearing their masks while outdoors.)

When you leave the museum, whose restaurant gets terrible reviews on Google Maps, you’re in the Jardin d’acclimatation:

From 1877 until 1912, the Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation was converted to l’Acclimatation Anthropologique. In mid-colonialism, the curiosity of Parisians was attracted to the customs and lifestyles of foreign peoples. Nubians, Bushmen, Zulus, and many other African peoples were “exhibited” in a human zoo. The exhibitions were a huge success. The number of visitors to the Jardin doubled, reaching the million mark.

The Fondation LV is not part of the Paris Museum Pass system and the trip out to the park might not be cheap or simple. I give this place a thumbs-up on a beautiful day and a thumbs-down if the weather is less than perfect.

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How much more successful would Rishi Sunak have been if he had been born white?

The UK has a new prime minister. Because they could not find anyone 78-86, which Science proves is the age range in which a human exhibits optimum decision-making skills, they’ve chosen 42-year-old Rishi Sunak.

“Rishi Sunak to become first British PM of colour and also first Hindu at No 10” (Guardian):

Rishi Sunak is about to become the UK’s first prime minister of colour and the first Hindu prime minister, both milestones in Britain’s evolution as a multicultural and multi-faith society. … the UK has never had a black or brown prime minister before.

Neema Begum, assistant professor in British politics at the University of Nottingham, said Sunak’s appointment “shows how far ethnic minority representation has come in politics”. “Sunak as prime minister is not necessarily a cause for celebration for all ethnic minorities. It shouldn’t be used to refute the ongoing existence of racism or obscure the fact that there are well-documented systemic racial and ethnic inequalities in housing, health and education.”

“New British PM Rishi Sunak is richer than King Charles III. How wealthy is he and where did it come from?” (Forbes):

Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, have a combined net worth of around £730 million ($826 million), … That’s around twice the estimated wealth of King Charles III.

So… this guy overcame racism and, as a “brown” person navigated a society in which white privilege is a huge advantage. This leads to the question How much more successful would Rishi Sunak have been if he had been born white? Instead of having to wait to age 42, at what age would he have become prime minister? Instead of being worth $826 million, how much would he be worth if he’d enjoyed white privilege?

Here’s a recent sunny Saturday near the Palace of Westminster. Almost impossible to walk on the bridge because nobody can decide whether to walk on the left or on the right.

And a young Heroine of Faucism who is wearing a non-N95 mask as defense against an aerosol virus while on a 30-minute nearby London Eye ride in close proximity to the unmasked:

Just for fun, a photo at the top:

On the subject of systemic racism, a newspaper that I picked up on my way into a multi-million-dollar electric vehicle:

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