So, the Eurozone and the Greeks have dodged a bullet…or have they? and should they have? Below is a slightly edited exchange between an American former expat retiree and his friend who has lived in Europe for over twenty years. The former (A) lived in Munich and Prague for ten years; the latter (B) an American lawyer/businessman who has lived and worked in Europe for over twenty years.
A: What are your thoughts on Merkel and her Finance Monster – ur – Minister?
B: Repulsion. Same as for Greek governments of all denominations. Lying #### the lot of them. . Plague on German Volk and Greek governments. Tyrants and enslavers. There are no tyrants but that there are slaves. Politicians (particularly Greek ones) are slaves to the indulgence of their own power and so sell their people into slavery to keep their personal indulgence. And Hollande, …. He is a nothing. He was fighting Merkel just so as to keep France punching far above its weight for another few years.
In my opinion Greece should vote itself out of the Euro and the currency would soar (to my benefit admittedly). That not good for Angela. Good for Greek people who could get on with their lazy ways and devalue their currency whenever it was convenient for them. Good for principles. Good precedent for Portuguese, Spanish and probably Irish people. Bad for their incumbent governments.
If the people do not want an EU then there should not be one. If they want one they should have fiscal and political union and give up nation states except during the World Cup. That is the point my favorite economist misses. Wolfgang Munchau (Financial Times) is usually better but I think he has never known a non=integrated Europe and often forgets that indeed it is a utility for the benefit of people. Mostly of little people. :
A: Most of what I have read leading up to last night’s “negotiations” started with the premise that the Euro without political unity of some sort was doomed to struggle if not fail. Pickety, Stiglitz and Krugman, and many other professional economists have suggested that the best answer for Greece is to leave the Eurozone and work out their troubles with a new Drachma. In fact as Munchau says, it might be good also for other countries. (i.e. Ireland, Portugal, Spain) I have felt that Germany had simply found a new way to dominate the rest of Europe for its own parochial benefit, this time in a less obviously malign way. And sure, the Greeks have been led by crooks for years and many Greeks don’t work as hard as they might….and of course not as hard as the Germans claim to work. But austerity is a self indulgent exercise designed by Schaeuble, implemented by Merkel for the self interest of Germany, and the rest of Europe ends up participating in their own damage. As for the Greeks sleeping in the street waiting for the ATM s to,open and picking through garbage, they are simply collateral damage.
It is especially galling for me to see Merkelmania produce a heroine out of a local politician playing to her Calvinist voters while humiliating a fellow European country and forcing that country to accept absurd, counter-productive austerity programs designed to impoverish itself so it can accept so-called bail out money, which they then give to German banks. Ergo, a perfect ploy by the Germans, who then applaud themselves for their moral stance. This is not going to end well.No Comments
Has anyone ever produced more nostalgically beautiful music about the United States than the ultra-Canadian McGarrigle Sisters and their talented offspring Rufus and Martha Wainwright, especially in their communal album “The McGarrigle Hour”? If you don’t know what we mean, get yourself a copy of this splendid cd, listen to cut 17, “Talk to me of Mendocino”, the almost heartbreaking love song written by Anna McGarrigle to a California that will soon no longer exist, and move on to cut number 18, “Baltimore the Beautiful City”, listed as a traditional song that they sang as buskers in US cities.This song was of course not written about the fires that ravaged Baltimore, the northernmost of southern cities, in the spring, but it captures the essence of the emotional drain that followed in its wake and no doubt found resonance in the nightmare that followed in Charleston, South Carolina.
Strong Men in anguish prayed
calling out to the heavens for rain
while the fire in ruins laid
Baltimore their beautiful city.
Between March 23rd and June 30, 2015 there were 100 homicides in Baltimore. The excellent and historic Baltimore newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, recently published the basic facts about these 100 homicides: name of victim, place of residence, age, gender and race. Three of the victims were white, one Asian, and 7 female, all the rest were black males. and almost all of them were under 35. No doubt each one of these cases has a backstory worth hearing, but one thing is very clear: It is dangerous to be a young black man in Baltimore, and there is every reason to feel that you have very few prospects of an improved life through hard work or better education if you were born into this syndrome. There are of course exceptions, but such exceptions tend to move out into the safer areas of town or out of town, which is also where the white population has been drifting for years. The city centre is simply too dangerous and if you can afford to leave it, you do leave. There is no information given on this list about the perpetrators of the homicides, but it is certainly not the case that the police force, which has been too easily identified as the cause rather than the solution of Baltimore’s racial problems, (by most estimates about half of the police officers in Baltimore are black) was involved with many, or even any, of these homicides. Any serious improvement in this situation can only occur when the basic problem of an understandable feeling of hopelessness in young black males is met by a willingness in the population as a whole to deal with the underlying problems for it. Baltimore, the beautiful city, still has some of that southern grace at its northernmost outpost, but also much of an understood racial division that too often is a destructive part of it. The solution has to start in finding a way out of this social structure.
Congratulations to the Boston Globe for publishing an article with the above title that underlines a festering problem which has only begun festering more in the 6 years of the Obama regime. It is yet another disappointment for those who thought Obama would bring in a fresh breeze after the Bush years, which is when the border problem began festering. But Bush did have a desperate security problem on his hands after 9/11 and clamping down on border crossing was a reasonable, if apparently, temporary, step. Instead as The Globe put it:
“Since the 9/11 jihadist attacks, the 5,525-mile-long border between Canada and the United States has been transformed from the world’s friendliest to a high security zone marked by fortified crossing points, thermal “body detectors,’’ swiveling surveillance cameras, and the occasional low-skimming Blackhawk helicopter or spy drone.”
Anyone who got stuck in the four-hour long waits at the US/ Canada crossing at the so-called Peace Arch on the Victoria Day long weekend was surely asking why and how this could happen in a century in which no such border checks interrupt the flow of economic, regular and tourist traffic in all of western and central Europe. You can drive from the UK to the Ukrainian border without encountering a single checkpoint but if you drive from Vancouver to Seattle you could well be stopped after 40 minutes for four hours by a checkpoint which costs many millions of dollars in economic terms and more than that in lost friendliness, while serving no real purpose. What is now called the mexicanization of the Canadian border will be a legacy of the Obama years. Let’s hope someone now comes in to put an end to the increasingly hostile border, before it’s too late, and grounds the drone planes which continue to spot no terrorists but many moose crossing a border in the wilderness.
It’s been a long dry spell for sports – a Marx Borthers so-called Super Bowl, a good Grey Cup after a Marx Brothers season, overhyped US semi-pro (i.e.) college football and basketball tournaments, and now the US tv moguls are trying to add semi-pro hockey of all things, of zero interest in real hockeyland, no soccer of note except when the Faroe Islands beat Greece in the European Championship prelims, baseball struggling almost pitifully with drug abuse, and with a potential summer race of interest a long way off, And all the while an overly long regular season NH L hockey agenda , half to it played in southern or near southern US cities with little or no interest in ice, and then – poof – suddenly the premier playoff schedule blazes forth in today’s papers. The real season of hockey begins – and finally a playoff scenario for the next 6 weeks is in store that will be terrific.. This time lady luck played its hand beautifully in forming the schedule.
Some of the usual suspects are present:New York Rangers have won the President’s Cup as the league champions, and their former world’s best goalie is just coming back from a lengthy injury (watch out!), the Detroit Red Wings, after a scare, are right in the middle of things, where they always show up at a minimum, and they are always welcome. They may be a bit old, but they have tons of skill and some young studs are working there way in nicely with the big boys (watch out!). Ditto for Chicago. The Pittsburgh Penguins, should by all rights be out of the playoffs, after a complete collapse, but just managed to stagger in as the last team on the last day, despite the fact that they think they have the best star players in existence – they’re wrong and will make a quick exit. The untalented but ruffian Boston Bruins are out and deservedly so – too old, too tired, too unskilled. And the incomprehensibly incompetent Toronto Maple Leafs outdid even their own seemingly endless disappointing seasons with a total turkey. Their supposed big scorer scored one goal after new year. Most of the rest of the country began to feel sorry for them. But not very. What is with that city? Maybe the endless snow got to them.
But look who is in and how they got there. Mordecai Richler can look down from above with delight on his beloved hometown Montréal Canadiéns . With the current best goalie on earth, an inherently modest First Nations chap from the splendid wilds of the Chilcotin plateau of British Columbia, and with plenty of help from a sassy Torontonian, of all things, this team has brought real excitement to the wonderful city where hockey really counts (watch out!!). And Vancouver, destroyed last year by self-destructive coaching, replied this year with a minor-league coach with major league talent, and a return to game-changing form by their superlative Swedish twins (watch out!!!). And this time no less than five Canadian teams are in the playoffs who will all be chomping at the bit, the last three after breathtaking final runs – none more than the Ottawa Senators who thumped Boston out of contention behind a supposedly mediocre minor-league has-been (or never was) goalie who was an injury call-up and then won 19 of the last 22 games. No matter what now happens, this team will be the sentimental favourite, but they shouldn’t be able to get past Montreal in the first round this year, though the do have the best defenceman in existence and home team support will be tremendous, but it also will be down the road. It is in any case easy to predict that this will be a great opening round series. Winnipeg hasn’t played a playoff game since 1996, so their new arena will be hopping, and their bigness and toughness may give Anaheim more trouble than they should expect from the eighth place team. And Calgary was picked for last by most pre-season experts, and came through in the end in hair-raising fashion game after game with a bunch of young guys who will make them a real contender in the future. The start against arch -rival Vancouver, and that too will be a sizzling series. Prediction, Vancouver vs Montreal in the final. Anybody’s series then, but the weather will be nicer in Vancouver. Bring it on!!!9 Comments
Anyone who has visited the great state of California in the last couple of years could not fail to notice dramatic signs of a rapidly approaching potentially disastrous problem. When you drive down from the north the reservoirs that used to be filled are shockingly low, even close to empty everywhere and in the east there is virtually no snow in the great Sierra Nevada Mountains, no sign of a snowpack that is crucial for almost all the water that has traditionally been pumped wastefully south to fill the golf courses and pools of southern California. It seems pretty obvious – California may be the seventh leading industrial power among the “states” of the world, but without water they cannot come close to maintaining that position. Ans now many experts feel that the aquatic demands of the great central valley which provides a significant percentage of the entire agricultural production of the US is in imminent danger of permanent serious damage as wells are dug ever deeper into the underground water supply.
Governor Jerry Brown has now ordered a 25% cut in water usage in most areas of the state. For those of you who who missed it, yes that is the same Jerry Brown who was called Moonbeam when he governed the state 40 years ago and who has done an excellent job of stabilizing the California economy now at 76, but this kind of drought may be unmanageable. Palm Springs – refuge of the very rich and famous – will lose its golf courses and swimming pools, Los Angeles its lawns and the glass of water in restaurants, not to mention anything but short showers. Wildfires will be a real threat all over the state. Agricultural production will drop like a rock.There is no doubt about it. This is the real thing, and only prolonged heavy rain and colder weather can bring things back to where they were not long ago. Much of California is a beautiful place and the rest of us can only hope that this is somewhere on the horizon. But the truth is that there is no sign of it.1 Comment
“The Armed Forces Are the Instrument of Foreign Policy, Not Its Master”, Hans Morgenthau
Some see war as a failure of diplomacy; others see it as a substitute. Twelve years after the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq those who prefer war to diplomacy are back and priming the pump for what could be the next exercise in American folly in the Middle East. This time it is Iran that looms as the target.
President Obama has chosen diplomacy joined with sanctions to reduce Iran’s likelihood of attaining a nuclear capability. And while success in this effort is by no means guaranteed, neither is the likely success of a military intervention despite claims by some that we should cease our diplomatic efforts and move apace to war.
In recent weeks our two major newspapers -the Washington Post and the New York Times- have published clear calls to bomb Iran on its op ed pages. In the once great Washington Post Joshua Muravchik, a Fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Politics, argued that “war [[against Iran] is probably our best option” and was explicitly critical of any diplomatic efforts. This is a reprise of his November, 2006 op ed in the L.A. Times which opens with: “We must bomb Iran” and predicts Iran’s creating conflicts all over the world, including Southeast Asia. He then urged then President Bush to attack at once, despite the “unpopularity” of his Iraq war.
Similarly, last week in the New York Times, John Bolton, analyst at he American Enterprise Institute and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, provided an op ed titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”. This is consistent with Bolton’s predilection to send other people’s sons and daughters to fight unnecessary wars in places like Iraq, and to view diplomacy as a sign of weakness.
Add to this mix the views of politicians like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and what seems to be the entire Republican membership of the House of Representatives and we have the seeds of an effort to move the country toward acceptance of yet another irrational attempt to change that part of the world in which we have been notoriously ineffective-even destructive-in the past. It is all too reminiscent of the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq which has provided much of the impetus for an energized battle between Shia and Sunni forces throughout the Middle east.
The press was instrumental in building support for the invasion of Iraq and that alone should be enough to warn us of the danger of accepting press reports and untested analyses without careful vetting. The fact that U.S. intelligence agencies participated in driving the argument to invade Iraq adds to the need to be careful whom we trust. The quality of the press is of fundamental importance and unfortunately there are reasons to be skeptical.2 Comments
“Netanyahu’s shrill public statements during the last two or three days before the vote may account in part for Likud’s startling margin of victory. For the first time since his Bar Ilan speech in 2009, he explicitly renounced a two-state solution and swore that no Palestinian state would come into existence on his watch. He promised vast new building projects in the Palestinian territorial concessions, anywhere, since any land that would be relinquished would, in his view, immediately be taken over by Muslim terrorists.” from,
“Israel The Stark Truth” by David Shulman, New York Review Blog, March 21, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s thinly veiled attacks on President Obama – and indeed on the office of the American Presidency – have opened the door to a long overdue reassessment of American policy in the Middle East, where we have invested a lot and gained little.
U.S. foreign policy is – or should be – based on analysis of what serves the strategic national interest of the United States. Most of the time that national interest is consistent with that of its allies — but not always. The United States has historically played a major role in the ongoing security of Israel and, in fact, Israel’s security has been a linchpin of American foreign policy since the post WWII years. It has included billions of dollars of military aid to Israel, and a Middle East foreign policy built on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. It has also been a forgiving policy. When Israel bombed the America ship U.S. Liberty in 1967, killing some 34 Americans, domestic politics led to the U.S. government joining in a pretension that it was simply a mistake by Israeli pilots, later proved to be false, and therefore arguably, a killing of Americans by Israeli pilots flying planes paid for by American taxpayers. Also, Israel’s nuclear force is at least partly a result of Israeli spies stealing secrets from the U.S. This is also largely winked at by the U.S. although one man remains in jail for that crime in spite of annual public relations efforts by the Israelis to get him released. While there have been other minor blips in the U.S.-Israel relationship over the years it has been largely collaborative until recently.
Domestic political pressure supporting Israeli interest in America is strong. Currently the U.S. provides annually ca. $3.1 Billion to Israel – a country of just over 8 million people. Israel supporters such as Sheldon Adelson have been willing to commit significant financial resources to politicians willing to support Israeli interests even when those interests are in conflict with U. S. interests. While America’s foreign policy has always been influenced by national or ethnic diaspora in the U.S., it is hard to imagine a more intrusive and negative influence on American foreign policy than what we have seen over the last several years with Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister. He joined forces with American extreme conservatives to help push American foreign policy towards the absurdly counter-productive 2003 invasion of Iraq and continues his attempt to destroy any hope of detente with Iran. And never mind peace with the Palestinians – both by 8 years of action and now open speech – Netanyahu has declared that a dead issue, while waffling slightly – and unbelievably – after he won reelection earlier last week. Netanyahu’s campaign was characterized by a not so subtle attack on Israeli Arabs and his spoken commitment to walk away from the possibility of a Palestinian state, the latter an open disagreement with long agreed Israeli-American Middle East policy.
Netanyahu meddled in American politics when he worked openly for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election – a foolish act mostly ignored by the American press some of whom now wonder why President Obama hasn’t been friendlier to Netanyahu. More recently Netanyahu worked with John Boehner in an attempt to join forces with the anti-Obama right wingers in the Congress to destroy a multinational negotiation with Iran. These negotiations involve France, Germany, the UK, U.S., Russia and China and represent the only realistic possibility to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear military capability. At this point Netanyahu’s arrogant bumbling has increased Israel’s isolation and raised the possibility of the U.S. – for the first time – supporting the concept of a Palestinian state in the UN. It puts at risk America’s historic relationship with Israel.
The U.S. has expended billions of dollars in the Middle East and has little to show for it other than a nuclear armed Israel that has managed to isolate itself from much of the Western world. The memory of the Holocaust and Israel’s strong democratic traditions have argued for almost unconditional love of Americans for Israelis but Netanyahu has managed to put that relationship at great risk to satisfy his narrow, personal political agenda. For many Americans this is now seen as an opportunity to loosen the ties that bind.No Comments
The has never been more dramatic proof of the threat of global warming than what has happened on the west coast of Canada this winter. Here it is February 20 and Vancouverites are faced with all the consequences. The cheery tree are in full bloom on the streets, and the leaves leaves smudge marks on parked cars. The sound of lawnmowers has awakened the hibernating animals, coming two months early out of their burrows, to see what’s up this early in the day. And the gras iss unusually thick due to sudden surge of too warm sun. After working up a sweat from the hand-mowing work, it is an old tradition to take a run down to the beach for a swim, and many are doing that only to find the lifeguards are not on duty. and red warn ing flags are waving. The water is nevertheless refreshing if dangerous . The orcas have shown up much earlier than usual in the bay and we are all delighted to see more than the usual little ones following Mama around. And the skiers, bereft of snow in the local mountains, have to drive north for an hour and half before hitting the powdery slopes. Frustrating it is too for those who like to shovel snow or push a snow blower, as they must seek some other form of exercise.
People who have had to travel east or to the high arctic come back with a different story. It’s hard to believe but they say that it hasn’t been nearly as warm and green out east. No doubt as a piece of satire, the New York Times claimed that the mayor of New York closed the city subway system down one day in advance of a two-inch snowfall, fearful that the white stuff would fill the subway tunnels. The mayor of Winnipeg offered him a week’s vacation there to clear his mind, but he has not had a reply. And the Peg has always been the place for the true winter fans.4 Comments
As predicted in the same-titled blog of not so long ago, (Part One), a 60 year-old woman who does not care about charisma, and lives in a modest apartment in Berlin, rather than a mansion, is now the undisputed most powerful woman in existence. Angela Merkel has also earned the right to at least be considered the most powerful and respected political leader in the world. The German Kanzlerin seems to be the only one still willing to take her position seriously.as someone who just might be able to talk to enough lions who might be convinced to see solutions other than aggression, killing and warfare to solve the world’s miserable problems these days. She may well fail, but at least somebody is trying.
Seconded only by a large security detail, and in Europe by the President of France, die Kanzlerin pushed herself to the edge of exhaustion by visiting Kiew, Moscow, Munich , Berlin (f0r a pit stop) Ottawa, Washington and Minsk in one week, delivering speeches and talking with leaders who are missing in action in all of them except Russia, where Putin is very much in action. By skipping London and spending as much time in Ottawa as in Washington, whose leader recently refused to meet either with the President of Israel or the Dalai Lama, Merkel made a statement of her own about the support she could have expected but has not received in attempting to stop an all out war in Europe. She herself has said that all that it has resulted in only a shimmer of hope. But that’s one more shimmer than anyone else has been willing to risk his/her own health to produce.4 Comments
Why was Iraq in 2003 not a “vital American interest” while in 2014 it is. Bush certainly made an awful mistake in his judgment, no doubt aided by lousy advisors, but the US is once again attacking in Irag – and Syria -, and did not leave Afghanistan during most of the Obama presidency – and actually still hasn’t. This time it is on Obama’s orders. How come Bush was a fool while these military actions are (still?) supposed to be considered wise diplomacy?
Comment to earlier blog from Flaming Bombadier
Hey Flamer: Whoa!! take a deep breath and sit down. Fan yourself and relax. And consider some history and some contemporary events.
1. Iraq invasion in 2003 was an illegal invasion of a country, based on fabricated intelligence which led to the dismemberment of an (unpleasant, but recognized) government to satisfy the wet dreams of Dick Cheney and possibly W. Bush. It involved over 200,000 American troops, killed nearly 4000 of them, added hundreds of thousand of Iraqis to the death list, sent some 4 million Iraqis to refugee camps and cost the U.S economy between 2 and 3 trillion dollars. In terms of national interest it was an enormous deficit and we continue to pay the price., Which brings us to number:
2. U.S. troops sent into Iraq by Obama were and are sent specifically to support the currently existing Iraq government – not a terribly difficult to understand difference from sending in troops to overthrow a government – but it is a government produced by the Bush/Cheney war. It is a great example of the consequences of stupidity, but Obama has sent 1500 – soon to be 3000- and maybe more later – in response to a real threat. Ask The Parisians. Ask London, Ask Madrid. There is – in my view- a threat to not only our national interest, but the interests of all Western liberal democracies iby a theocratic, existential movement opposed to Western ideals and our right to hold them.
3. It has taken a long time (too long) to get out of Afghanistan, but to say the U.S. is ttacking Syria is a rather bizarre comment. Obama has been butchered in the U.S. by McCain, Lindsey Graham and their ilk for not invading Syria. He is holding back and resisting anything more than plane attacks on ISIS. And it is very hard to argue in favor of letting ISIS go its merry way unmolested.
It is an ugly world out there and today’s murder of journalists in Paris, and the beheadings of American and British journalists and the random bombings of innocent people every day, yes, every day, makes this battle one of national interest for us all.
Obama has been criticized for 6 years for being who he is – a thoughtful, careful, rational leader who has led America out of most of their foreign battles. It has become easy to just criticize him without thinking about what came before, what he was left with and what he has accomplished. Perhaps Flaming Bombadier would have been happier with a McCain or a Chamberlain, but I think not. There are always disappointments but in these issues Obama has acted wisely and with restraint.
Maybe Flaming Bombardier has some thoughts on how best to negotiate with ISIS, Al Queda, et alia and how to bring diplomacy to the process. if not maybe a bare chested Putin can do it. We shall see. But probably not4 Comments