Greece will hold a second round of national elections in late June, in essence a referendum on whether to remain in the European Monetary Union or attempt an exit from the euro zone and a return to the drachma. If the election were being held in Germany, the Greek exit would stand an excellent chance of winning: Half of Germans want Greece gone. Since the first, inconclusive election on May 6, Greece’s stock market has declined by 27 percent, its banks have suffered credit downgrades, and speculation has increased that it will leave the euro — voluntarily or otherwise. But there is no easy way out: With its government finances in disarray and its banking system on the verge of collapse, Greece is in no position to start from scratch with a new currency. At the same time, export-driven Germany is in no position to weather the economic disintegration of southern Europe and the bankruptcy of its trading partners there. A northern bailout of Europe’s south would probably entail the loss of the last vestiges of national sovereignty in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and possibly Italy — an outcome not entirely abhorrent to the powers that be in Brussels. Come what may, the Greek tragedy has shown the dream of a semi-federal Europe to be a folly, and an expensive one.
Queen Elizabeth has spent 60 years on the throne, and the British partied for four days to celebrate it. Who says they’re reserved? The country treated this Diamond Jubilee as a carnival of patriotism. Thousands of street parties were held. There were balloons, fireworks, bell-ringing, and beacons set on fire throughout England and the 16 other countries of which the Queen is head of state. Picked at random out of an immense and enthusiastic crowd for an interview on television, an unidentified woman with a Union Jack in her hand said, “This is who we are, this is what we do”; she spoke for millions. History was acknowledged by a flotilla of a thousand small boats on the Thames, led by the Queen, a person and a figurehead all in one, as she stood in the prow of an ornate and stately barge. Then, in acknowledgement of the present, with the entire royal family in attendance and Buckingham Palace as a backdrop, pop stars and other celebrities staged a huge concert. Addressing his mother at the end of it, Prince Charles thanked her “for making us proud to be British.” Britain may have changed almost beyond recognition during the Queen’s reign, but the Diamond Jubilee seems to show that the British remain the people they always were.
Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Jan Karski, a hero of the Polish resistance in World War II who later became a professor at Georgetown, was meant to honor a great man, show respect for a NATO ally, and woo Polish-American voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It all blew up when President Obama referred, in his remarks, to Karski’s having been smuggled into a “Polish death camp.” The death camps in Poland were built and run by Nazis; Polish Catholics joined Polish Jews among their victims. This was no impromptu blunder: Obama was reading off a teleprompter, so numerous sets of eyes had seen his words. After matters were made worse by a mere expression of regret from a White House spokesman, Obama himself wrote a letter to the Polish government. It’s either the jitters of an administration that fears its time is short, or the tone-deafness of one that is little interested in European affairs. Take your pick, and may we soon be spared the choice.
Why do women’s haircuts cost more than men’s? Well, women’s hair tends to be longer, and is more likely to have been dyed, making it fragile; also, women actually care how it looks, and they know what things like conditioner are for. That’s why, according to one stylist, it takes twice as long to cut a woman’s hair as a man’s. These simple truths are lost on New York City’s gender police, who recently fined 200-odd barbershops and salons for charging women more than men. Such raids have been occurring sporadically since the mid-1990s, yet the pricing differential stubbornly persists. If forced to charge men and women the same, most shops would have to boost the men’s price — which is why the law is enforced only now and then, when the relevant bureaucrats are feeling neglected. So barbershops and salons will continue to charge sensible prices, and to pay the occasional fine for violating liberal pieties.