The Narcissism of Andreas Lubitz

Erica Goode looks at mass-killers-for-fame, the modern-day Herostratuses:

He was described, in the immediate aftermath of the Germanwings crash, as a cheerful and careful pilot, a young man who had dreamed of flying since boyhood.

But in the days since, it has seemed increasingly clear that Andreas Lubitz, 27, the plane’s co-pilot, was something far more sinister: the perpetrator of one of the worst mass murder-suicides in history.

If what researchers have learned about such crimes is any indication, this notoriety may have been just what Mr. Lubitz wanted.

The actions now attributed to Mr. Lubitz — taking 149 unsuspecting people with him to a horrifying death — seem in some ways unfathomable, and his full motives may never be fully understood. But studies over the last decades have begun to piece together characteristics that many who carry out such violence seem to share, among them a towering narcissism, a strong sense of grievance and a desire for infamy.


Why Does the Reunification Treaty Foreclose Greek Reparations?

The issue of war reparations to Greece is becoming more mainstream in Germany, as Reuters reports some leading SPD and Green figures cautiously suggesting that Germany should re-open the question of reparations.

One of the standard responses of German conservatives (and many Germans who would never consider themselves conservatives) is that the treaty of German re-unification, the so-called 2 + 4 treaty of 1990, forecloses the issue of Greek reparations. But I have yet to see an actual argument showing this -- generally there's just a bunch of hand-waving about how it was all settled in 1990, Greece 'accepted' this outcome back then, which now means it's irresponsible for Greece to try to reopen this can of worms. Frankly, the only convincing argument I've read is Helmut Kohl's statement that Germany caused so much suffering during World War II that any reparations sum that might be at all proportionate would bankrupt Germany for all eternity.

I've looked, but have yet to find any argument about why the 1990 treaty should affect Greece's reparations claims, except for the suggestion that since Germany only officially 'surrendered' to the four Allied powers in 1990, only these countries could legally claim reparations. But I don't really understand that reasoning, either.

Can anyone point me to something convincing? 


Kosovars Fleeing for Germany

Thousands of Kosovars want to flee their crumbling country and come to Germany, the Times reports:

In a region plagued by aging demographics, it is Europe’s youngest territory, with 27 the average age of its two million citizens. Kosovo would need an impossible 7 percent annual economic growth to offer work to the 25,000 to 30,000 youths the government says finish school each year. Direct investment from foreign sources is about $270 million a year, half what it was in 2007, said Lumir Abdixhiku, executive director of Riinvest, an independent research group.

Austria registered 1,901 asylum applications from Kosovo citizens in 2014, but saw 1,029 in January alone, said Karl-Heinz Grundböck of the Interior Ministry in Vienna. By mid-February, Germany had some 18,000 applications from Kosovars since Jan. 1.

Within Kosovo, the Education Ministry counts some 5,600 absent pupils.

But Western Europe is already swamped with refugees from war and turbulence in the Middle East and Africa, and is struggling to integrate Muslim immigrants. Accommodation is so scarce that some Kosovo arrivals were housed in old United States Army barracks in Heidelberg, Germany.

In Germany, the flood from Kosovo has now slowed to about 200 arrivals a day, from 1,400 a day in early February.

I visited Kosovo in 2010, where a friend of mine was doing development work. The Kosovars I met were friendly and very excited to meet an American, but it was hard to avoid the impression that the country was going down the tubes. The guy who drove me to the airport at the end of the visit had once worked in Stuttgart as a machinist, but had returned to Kosovo to fight for its independence and basically got stuck there. He politely asked to see my passport, and when he saw my German green card allowing me indefinite residency, he ran his fingers over it reverentially, and almost started crying.

I won't even tell you how many millions of Euros in development aid Germany alone has pumped into Kosovo in the past 16 years, to little visible effect. It would make your eyes water.

Here are some pictures of Kosovo.

011 - Prizren - Hillside with Houses in Various States of Repair 028 - Prizren - Election Posters on Wall060 - Prishtina - Ulpiana - Cafe032 - Prishtina - Loni's Bar007 - Prizren - Man with Handcart079 - Prishtina View of Jewish Cemetery with Velania in Background088 - Prishtina National Library Card Catalog080 - Prishtina Man Walking Up Martyr's Hill Carrying Window Frames100 - Gracanica Monastery Church077 - Prishtina Auto Repair Shop SefaliaGinger Bookstore Bag105 - Prishtina Airport Security Kitten 1040 - Youth and Sport Palace Disused Props015 - Prizren - Mutilated Doll in Courtyard of Abandoned Serbian House030 - Prizren - Man Trimming Traditional White Felt Hat055 - Prishtina Dardania Self-Determination Mvt. Graffito 026 - Prizren - Statues of Famous Kosovars in Museum009 - Prizren - View with Stone Bridge086 - Prishtina National and University Library025 - Prizren - Interior of Gazi Mehmet Pasha Mosque053 - Prishtina Hat Salesman051 - Prishtina Statue of Bill Clinton 2






American Economist Asks Dying German Social Democratic Party Why They Destroyed Themselves

American economist Mark Blyth got an award from Germany's dying center-left Social Democratic Party for his writings on the failure of European austerity policies, and decided to explain to the German Social Democrats exactly how they managed kill their own political party for no reason:

I sat in my office at Brown University on December 16, 2014, an email popped into my inbox with the title “Herzlichen Glückwunsch – Sie sind der 1. Preisträger des Hans-Matthöfer-Preises für wirtschaftspublizistik.” This was the award given by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the research foundation closest to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Hans-Matthöfer Stiftung for the best economics publication in German in 2014. I was, to say the least, surprised.

My 2013 Oxford University Press book, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, had recently been translated into German by the publishing arm of the FES. Indeed, I had been there a month earlier, in Berlin, to do a book launch, which was very well attended. Since then the book has been reviewed, positively, in the German press, with Suddeutsche Zeitung giving it a rather glowing review. Something odd was going on.

...

Consider that during the negotiations to form the current coalition with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the SPD could have made an issue out of how the policies designed to heal Europe were causing great harm, a fact acknowledged even by the International Monetary Fund by 2012. But they chose not to do so....But not speaking up when such inappropriate policies are being applied to Germany’s European partners is collectively disastrous. Indeed, what is so tragic in this crisis is how the center-left throughout Europe have not just accepted, but in many cases actively supported, policies that have done nothing but hurt their supposed core constituencies.

[Following excerpts are from the prize acceptance speech. I've put the really juicy bits in my own added italics:] There can be no doubt that the debtor countries of Europe need major reforms in taxation systems, labor markets, business regulation, and a host of other areas.

But…

    1. When we say “structural reform” we really have no idea what those words actually mean, and we often fall back on them as a back-handed acknowledgment that austerity has failed, or
    2. We misunderstand what we did when we refer to prior episodes of structural reform, and thereby miss that it is impossible for anyone else to do what we once did.

Let me explain. “Structural reform” used to be called “structural adjustment.” And European lefties like us used to condemn it as absurd, ridiculous, “neoliberalism gone mad” — and yet we seem quite happy to unleash these policies, despite the damage that they have done in the developing world, upon our European partners.

When you ask for the content of what structural reform means, it seems to be a checklist of lower taxes, deregulate everything in sight, privatize anything not nailed down, and hope for the best. But are these policies not disturbingly American, if not Thatcherite? Indeed, isn’t this everything that the SPD is supposed to be against, and much of which the German public would never put up with?

...

Today it is a profound irony that European social democrats worry deeply, as they should, about the investor protection clauses embedded in the proposed Transatlantic Investment Treaty with the US, and yet they demand enforcement of exactly the same creditor protections on their fellow Europeans without pausing for breath for the money they “lent” to them to bail out their own banking systems’ errant lending decisions.

Something has gone badly wrong when social democracy thinks this is OK. It is not. Because it begs the fundamental question, “what are you for — if you are for this?” The German Social Democrats, for we are all the heirs of Rosa Luxemburg, today stand as the joint enforcers of a creditor’s paradise. Is that who you really want to be? Modern European history has turned many times on the choices of the SPD. This is one of those moments.

It’s great that my book has helped remind you of the poverty of these ideas. But the point is to recover your voice, not just your historical memory. Your vote share isn’t going down because you are not shadowing the CDU enough. Its going down because if all you do is that, why should anyone vote for you at all?

I hope that reading my book reminds the SPD of one thing: that the reason they exist is to do more than simply to enforce a creditor’s paradise in Europe.

I recall writing a few years ago: "Yet in Germany, coverage of the Greek healthcare collapse virtually always attributes it vaguely to 'the crisis' in general, not to the austerity measures forced on Greece by the troika, which are anything but inevitable (or alternativlos in Merkel's infamous phrase) and to which there are plenty of reasonable alternatives that would not impose massive suffering on ordinary citizens." But Blythe has much more credibility than I do. As is often the case, it takes an outsider to point out the hypocrisy of another country's elites. Or, as Orwell once put it, to see what is in front of one's face requires a constant effort.


Europe, Land of the Free

Ask many American expats and they'll tell you that they feel more free living in Germany than in the States, the land of the free and home of the brave.

One of the many reasons: in America, your boss can require you to piss in a cup, test it for signs that you've ever used drugs. If the results are positive, the company can immediately fire you, without further explanation or any chance to appeal. They can require every employee, from IT consultant to file clerk, to take these tests -- even if their jobs don't implicate safety, they have never shown up to work impaired, and they have only used drugs in their free time. Companies can still do this, even when the employee has a medical marijuana prescription, and even in states where marijuana is now legal

Americans, those rugged, craggy, self-reliant individualists, meekly bent over, grabbed their ankles (so to speak) and consented to letting their bosses demand their bodily fluids from them at the pain of dismissal. Unions might have prevented this, but Americans let unions be destroyed.

In Germany, by contrast, routine drug tests are illegal. Companies can test workers who operate heavy equipment or do other risky jobs, but even then the employer generally has to prove individualized suspicion that a worker may be impaired on the job. Blanket drug testing of all workers without suspicion is blatantly unconstitutional and does not exist.


The Exaggerating Nun

The usual suspects (feminists and Christians) are lobbying for Germany to ban prostitution. They're not likely to get very far -- the current government is only contemplating punishment for men who knowingly hire women who have been forced into prostitution. How you're supposed to prove that is anybody's guess. As usual in these debates, nobody seems to even acknowledge the existence of male prostitution, or the possibility that men might be forced into selling their bodies. When it comes to human dignity and exploitation, apparently gays get a free pass!

The politics of prostitution in Germany are interesting: the educated urban bourgeoisie (EUB) is generally against it, likely because (1) that's the position of many (if not all) German feminists; and (2) prostitution involves capitalism, for which German EUB-types are expected to evince a genteel disdain (they aspire to high-prestige government jobs with excellent benefits). Yet being anti-prostitution puts them in the same boat with American puritans and conservative Catholics, two perennial bugaboos of the EUB. 

What to do? Most seem to favor banning or limiting prostitution. Which means when a German journalist interviews an anti-prostitution campaigner (just as when they interview an anti-GMO, anti-death penalty, or anti-nuclear activist), the questions are softballs and not even the craziest claim is challenged. Not to put too fine a point on it, German reporting on these issues is riddled with outlandish claims and bare-assed lies (GMOs cause cancer! Fukushima engineers died by the dozens!) passed on uncritically by cheerleading journalists.

Case in point, a nun named Sister Lea Ackermann, who heads a group called Solwodi (g), short for Solidarity with Women in Distress -- doubtless an extremely worthwhile organization. In this interview (g) Sister Lea says she wants Germany to combat prostitution by making it a crime for men to buy sex from women, as some Scandinavian countries have done. Note that she doesn't seem to have any opinion on whether men who buy sex from other men shoud also be punished. At one point in the interview, she makes a rather startling assertion about 'flat-rate' bordellos (my translation):

Heuer: [So you want to ban] things that violate human dignity such as 'flatrate-sex'. The governing coalition wants to ban that as well.  

Ackermann: Yes! Why haven't they done this long ago? A woman, a beer and a sausage for €8.90. Can you imagine anything worse?

Heuer: No, I can't. I find it exactly as horrible as you do. But the question is whether such things can be banned by law. How would you be able to enforce it?

When I read this, I nearly did a spit-take. Are there places where you can actually get a beer and a sausage and a sex act for €8.90 (about twelve bucks)? That sounds shriekingly implausible, yet the interviewer lets Sister Lea assert it without a shred of proof. And it fails the bullshit test on many levels. For one thing, given Germans' love for beer, sausages, and most of all bargains, there would be a line of men (and perhaps even a few women) stretching halfway across Germany to get into this place.

Just a few seconds' searching on the Internet reveals that this horror scenario is fake. Since prostitution is basically legal in Germany, bordellos can advertise openly, with price lists (Here's the Wikipedia entry for Pascha, a bordello in Cologne that's Europe's largest). I won't link to any here, since this is a family-friendly blog, but you will find that even the cheapest German house of joy literally won't even let you in the door for less than 25 Euros, and the costs surely mount quickly (so to speak) once you're inside. The average price for a 1-hour visit to an 'entertainment lady' (to translate the German phrase literally) seems to be between 80 and 150 euros, depending on what services are on offer.

By all means debate the proper policy on prostitution, German journalists, but don't treat your readers like idiots.


More Great News About How Much Safer Our World Is

Here in the West, we are all benefiting from an unprecedented, steady drop in many kinds of social dysfunction, including crime and teen pregnancy. And it's likely to continue. The explanation, I'm increasingly convinced, is the fact that the West outlawed lead in gasoline in the early 1970s. Kevin Drum, who's been on this beat for a while, points to a new study finding a strong correlation between lead reduction and drops in teen pregnancy. For those new to this debate, it turns out that exposure to lead in early childhood permanently damages the brain in ways associated with impulsive conduct in later life. So if lead levels go down, we would expect a drop in impulsive behavior with about a 15-18 year lag. And that's just what we see, in many different areas, right now:  

The neurological basis for the lead-crime theory suggests that childhood lead exposure affects parts of the brain that have to do with judgment, impulse control, and executive functions. This means that lead exposure is likely to be associated not just with violent crime, but with juvenile misbehavior, drug use, teen pregnancy, and other risky behaviors. And that turns out to be the case. Reyes finds correlations with behavioral problems starting at a young age; teen pregnancy; and violent crime rates among older children.

It's a funny thing. For years conservatives bemoaned the problem of risky and violent behavior among children and teens of the post-60s era, mostly blaming it on the breakdown of the family and a general decline in discipline. Liberals tended to take this less seriously, and in any case mostly blamed it on societal problems. In the end, though, it turned out that conservatives were right. It wasn't just a bunch of oldsters complaining about the kids these days. Crime was up, drug use was up, and teen pregnancy was up. It was a genuine phenomenon and a genuine problem.

But liberals were right that it wasn't related to the disintegration of the family or lower rates of churchgoing or any of that. After all, families didn't suddenly start getting back together in the 90s and churchgoing didn't suddenly rise. But teenage crime, drug use, and pregnancy rates all went down. And down. And down.

Most likely, there was a real problem, but it was a problem no one had a clue about. We were poisoning our children with a well-known neurotoxin, and this toxin lowered their IQs, made them into fidgety kids, wrecked their educations, and then turned them into juvenile delinquents, teen mothers, and violent criminals. When we got rid of the toxin, all of these problems magically started to decline.

This doesn't mean that lead was 100 percent of the problem. There probably were other things going on too, and we can continue to argue about them. But the volume of the argument really ought to be lowered a lot. 

Obviously, correlation does not itself prove causation, etc. etc. But every time the lead-crime hypothesis has been tested, as far as I'm aware, the results have suggested a link. So, our societies are getting safer and safer, all due to a wise environmental policy decision we made 40 years ago (in the U.S., under President Richard Nixon!). Which, at the time, was of course fought tooth and nail by our friends, corporate lobbyists.

Can anyone point me to German studies on this? I'd really be interested to see whether a similar argument can be made here.


Public Defecation, Religion, and IQ In India

IQAveragebyCountry-954x442

(World map by average IQ, from here).

In the new atheism debates, you sometimes see two people -- most prominently, Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair -- sparring on the subject of whether religion does more harm than good. I'm not going to weigh in on this question, except to note that a recent study of sanitation in India delivers ammunition for the does-harm side: scientific proof that religion (in this case, Hinduism) literally makes people stupid.

The mechanism is public defecation. Anyone who has been to India has seen this happening routinely, and it's impossible to get used to. Large urban areas in India are literally covered in a thin film of human waste, which is dangerous. It gets on crops at their origins, and flies deposit it on food all over the country, which is why Delhi belly is an all-too-horrifying reality for any visitor. (The irony is that all the Green/lefty friends of mine who accompanied me on my India trip ate everything so as to respect the cultural heritage blah blah blah, and stayed healthy. I politely refused to drink the water, ate practically nothing but crackers, and got a mild case of DB anyway.)

But I digress. It turns out the consequences are much farther-reaching than a few inconvenienced tourists:

As a result [of public defecation], children are exposed to a bacterial brew that often sickens them, leaving them unable to attain a healthy body weight no matter how much food they eat.

“These children’s bodies divert energy and nutrients away from growth and brain development to prioritize infection-fighting survival,” said Jean Humphrey, a professor of human nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When this happens during the first two years of life, children become stunted. What’s particularly disturbing is that the lost height and intelligence are permanent.”

...This research has quietly swept through many of the world’s nutrition and donor organizations in part because it resolves a great mystery: Why are Indian children so much more malnourished than their poorer counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa?

A child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the planet’s poorest countries. Stunting affects 65 million Indian children under the age of 5, including a third of children from the country’s richest families.This disconnect between wealth and malnutrition is so striking that economists have concluded that economic growth does almost nothing to reduce malnutrition.

And why is public defecation so prevalent? The Economist explains:

Hindu tradition, seen for example in the “Laws of Manu”, a Hindu text some 2,000 years old, encourages defecation in the open, far from home, to avoid ritual impurity. Caste division is another factor, as by tradition it was only the lowliest in society, “untouchables” (now Dalits), who cleared human waste. Many people, notably in the Hindu-dominated Gangetic plains, today still show a preference for going in the open—even if they have latrines at home.

So there you have it: a religiously-based custom causes profound developmental problems in children, leading to stunting and irreversible losses in intelligence. Christopher Hitchens, call your office! Oh wait...


We're all Drinking Wawa Beer Already

AIDS might 'kill more Australians than World War II'. Whew, glad the Aussies dodged that bullet.

Epidemiology_rulez_ok commented, to the last post:

Drink Wawa-beer! The risk of becoming infected with life threatening bacteria is only 0.4% each time you drink Wawa-beer! Don't think about what happens if you drink Wawa-beer once a week, year after year!

Don't forget that the .04% risk figure is based on the number of sex acts with an HIV-positive person. Assuming you sleep with 10 different people a year, how likely is it that any of them is (1) going to be HIV positive; and (2) also be in a phase of the infection in which they are shedding enough viruses to infect others?

If you're straight, don't associate with IV drug users, and don't live in sub-Saharan Africa, the chances of you sleeping with someone who is HIV positive is tiny -- and it's only then, when you sleep with that HIV-positive person, that you'll encounter the 1 in 2500 chance of infection. So the real chance, for people outside the high-risk categories, is probably not even 1 in 2500, but something like one in a couple of million. Which explains why verifiable, recorded instances of HIV transmission resulting from casual sexual encounters among people outside the risk categories are almost unknown.

Obviously, ERO is snarking a bit, but it got me thinking: isn't the attitude he or she mocks the basic logic we all use every day? Take, for example, unpasteurized cheese. I eat it, as well as millions of Europeans, every day, even though there's a small chance it will make us seriously ill. In fact, the United States bans or regulates the import 'dangerous' European cheese made from raw milk, and US government organs officially warn people of the dangers of raw milk and cheese. Yet probably half the cheeses in my ordinary grocery store are labeled rohmilchkaese (cheese from raw milk). Or how about the people I see every day riding their bicycles around without helmets, as I do myself? We are knowingly encountering a tiny chance of death that we could eliminate completely by wearing a helmet, but we don't.

My point is, as a matter of policy, it was foolish and irresponsible to try to frighten people outside the main risk groups. It spread irrational fear far out of proportion to any real public-health benefit. Also, it reduced the credibility of public-health figures. They cried wolf once (see the ad above), so who's to say they won't do so the next time some alleged threat looms on the horizon? It's also worth noting that the people responsible for the notorious 'Grim Reaper' ad later acknowledged it was a mistake, since it led to a backlash by straight Australians against gay men. Some people took the Grim Reaper to be a dramatization of the supposed danger of a virus localized in the gay community now threatening heterosexuals -- even small children.