Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Greece: Turning and Turning in a Narrowing Gyre

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

It appears we may finally be reaching the endgame of the endgame on Greece.

Greece is suffering a bank run and owes just over $2 billion in debt payments due Friday, but shows no signs of having the money or meeting the Troika’s conditions for obtaining more. Quite the opposite. Greece’s left-wing Syriza government is increasingly acting like an erratic heroin addict refusing to check into rehab and howling through the streets at night in search of an angry fix, heedless that there’s an arrest warrant out in his name.

“The International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s main three creditors, was reported to have called Greece ‘the most unhelpful client’ the Fund has dealt with in their 70-year history.”

“During the teleconference, the Greek representative said his government wasn’t prepared to talk about the country’s finances with technical experts and instead wanted European Union leaders to discuss the issue at a summit in Brussels, one of the European officials said.”

I’m sure telling your bank that you’re “not prepared to discuss my finances” when asking for your fifth bridge loan would go over really well.

Also this: “There was a general feeling that the Greek side is completely out of touch with reality.”

You think? How about the fact that Greek parliament just passed a raft of anti-austerity spending measure, which is rather like a man with stage 4 lung cancer lighting up a couple of stogies in route to the operating room.

Some are wondering if Syriza wants to see Greece kicked out of the Euro.

EU institutions seem far more ready for what lies ahead. “The European Central Bank (ECB) is preparing for a possible Greek exit from the euro zone.” Conversely, EU insiders have also floated the idea of imposing capital controls to prevent Greece from leaving the euro.

And the one person whose opinion matters the most? “German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Greece has no choice but to carry out economic reforms if it wants to receive more financial aid, dashing any hopes Athens might have had for a softening in Berlin’s stance.”

Carrying out real reforms (like stop spending more money than the government takes in) is what Greece in general, and Syriza in specific, has steadfastly refused to do. And the reason they refused is that the European cradle-to-grave welfare state has become more sacred to voters than the capitalist economics and fiscal discipline necessary to support it.

This is not a recipe for happiness.

There’s a chance that all of this is posturing on both sides, and that a kabuki compromise involving small reforms in exchange for still more loan extensions may yet kick the can a few more feet down the road. But there is every sign that EU institutions have finally tired of Greece’s show, and are willing to see the final curtain drop. And the Greeks are about to learn that the vengeance of the gods of the copybook headings cannot be delayed indefinitely…

Should Jews Leave Europe?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

I was going to put this long Atlantic piece on whether Jews should leave Europe or not into the Friday LinkSwarm, but I think it deserves it’s own post.

A few excerpts:

France’s 475,000 Jews represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population. Yet last year, according to the French Interior Ministry, 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews. The statistics in other countries, including Great Britain, are similarly dismal. In 2014, Jews in Europe were murdered, raped, beaten, stalked, chased, harassed, spat on, and insulted for being Jewish. Sale Juif—“dirty Jew”—rang in the streets, as did “Death to the Jews,” and “Jews to the gas.”

In Greece, a recent survey found that 69 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views, and the fascists of the country’s Golden Dawn party are open in their Jew-hatred.

Yes, I think we all remember the perfidy when Jews marched on Athens and held guns to the heads of elected officials until they agreed to take loans from Germany.

Anne Frank has become an obsession of modern anti-Semites. Her story—universally known, and deeply affecting—is a threat to the mission of the Holocaust-denial movement, and her youth and innocence challenge those who argue that Jews are innately perfidious. In Rome last summer, the slogan “Anne Frank is a liar” was spray-painted on walls in the former Jewish ghetto.

Read the whole thing.

Between this and that long Grahame Wood piece on the Islamic state, it appears as though readers of the Atlantic are finally being brought up to a level of awareness of the rise of Islamic radicalism that readers of The Weekly Standard achieved some 15 years ago. Progress.

More EU Election Fallout

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

It’s hard to know just how much weight to put in widespread gains by Eurosceptic parties in EU elections, mainly because the EU decision-making process seems so opaque to outsiders. Even if Eurosceptic Parties had won significant majorities, you get the impression that they would be like Patrick McGoohan’s character on The Prisoner after he got elected #2, issuing orders and flipping switches to no effect whatsoever:

Even were the Eurosceptics to form a coalition, power would still lie in the Council, or, some feel, in the permanent unelected EU bureaucracy. The entire apparatus seems designed specifically to thwart popular will and keep all power in the hands of the continental elite.

More reactions to the election:

Roger Kimball:

The architects of the EU envision a European superstate in which national identity is subordinated to the abstraction of “Europe.” The regime would be internationalist but only titularly democratic: the real power (as has been traditional on the continent) would reside in a technocratic elite, not the people. But the people, it seems, have just awakened to this reality and it turns out they don’t like it.

One take-away from yesterday’s election is this: when conservative parties cease providing a natural home for the community-binding sentiments of patriotism and national identity—when, that is to say, conservative parties cease being conservative—those parts of the population not indentured to the apparatus of dependency look elsewhere.

John O’Sullivan in National Review:

These results are merely the latest evolution of a very ominous long-term trend for the Tories. As Anthony Scholefield and Gerald Frost pointed out in their 2011 study Too Nice to Be Tories, the Conservative Party has been steadily losing one region of the United Kingdom after another in the last 40 years. It used to be able to depend on nine to twelve Unionist votes from Northern Ireland for its parliamentary majority; it gets none now. It won half the Scottish seats in 1955; the last three general elections each returned one Scottish Tory to Parliament. It wins eight seats out of 40 in Wales. And from the 158 MPs elected from the North of England, the Tories got 53.

This is a dreadful record, but it could get worse. UKIP is now starting to replace the Tories as the main challenger to Labour in northern working-class constituencies. The new party takes votes in particular from culturally conservative and patriotic working-class men whom both major parties have abandoned in their pursuit of urban middle-class progressives. UKIP may therefore be a threat to both parties, but the local elections suggest that it is a bigger threat to the Conservative party.

All this leaves Cameron with difficult choices:

Either he does the electoral deal with UKIP that he now says he won’t do, in which the Tories agree to support UKIP candidates in a given number of seats in return for UKIP’s not fielding candidates elsewhere. In London, for instance, that would give UKIP an electoral base of something just above 40 percent — in Britain as a whole an even larger one.

Or he contrives to lose the Scottish referendum on independence, which would remove only one Tory from the House of Commons but 41 Labourites and 11 Lib-Dems.

France’s ruling class are in a panic following the strong showing of Le Pen’s National Front.

Here’s a piece from the Jewish magazine Tablet in 2011 suggesting that Marine Le Pen has worked to purge the party of the antisemitism her father exhibited. Maybe.

Could UKIP and Eurosceptic parties even form a majority coalition in the European parliament? Possible but doubtful.

Then there’s the question of who would lead such a coalition, Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen. Anglo-French rivalry is not exactly unknown…

Walter Russell Mead Visits Europe

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

The indomitable Walter Russell Mead has been traipsing around Europe, and has much of interest to report from various countries there regarding the continuing slow-motion Euro crisis.

The Italians? Not happy.

The Italians feel caught in a cruel trap; the euro is killing them but they don’t see any alternative. When a German visitor gave the conventional Berlin view (the southern countries got themselves into trouble by bad policy, and austerity is the only way out; budget discipline and cutting labor costs are the only way Italy can once again prosper), a roomful of Italians practically jumped on the table to denounce his approach.

The Italian position is basically this: it’s crazy to blame Italy or the other southern countries (except Greece, which nobody seems to like very much) for the euromess; Germany played a huge role in designing the poorly functioning euro system in the first place and remains its chief beneficiary. When German banks lent billions to Spanish real estate developers and hoovered up the bonds of southern countries, where were the German bank regulators? German politicians, say the Italians, don’t want to admit to their voters that incompetent German bankers and incompetent German bank regulators wrecked the German financial system by making stupid loans worth hundreds of billions of euros. In a “normal” world, German politicians would have to go to their taxpayers to fund a huge bailout of insolvent German banks thanks to their cretinous euro-lending. Pain would be more equitably distributed between borrowers and lenders.

From an Italian point of view, much of Europe’s austerity isn’t the result of German moral principles; Italians think that a cynical absence of moral principles led the German political class to scapegoat garlic-eating foreigners in a desperate attempt to prevent the voters from noticing just how recklessly incompetent the German elite really is. Germany is using the mechanisms of the euro to force southern governments to bail out German (and French and other northern) banks at immense social pain and economic cost. The Italians, even sensible and moderate ones who want to cooperate with Europe, totally reject the logical and moral foundations of the German approach to the crisis, and they feel zero gratitude or obligation to make life easier for Germany as the drama unfolds.

The French? Not happy.

In France, the people I spoke with worried about the rise of the National Front. According to some polls the ultra-right could emerge as the biggest party in France in the next round of regional and European elections. The French Socialists under the increasingly unpopular President Hollande don’t seem to have much idea about how to move forward; their most popular politician at the moment is a Minister of the Interior who is trying to compete with the National Front for the anti-immigrant vote by breaking up encampments of Roma and denouncing them as immigrants who don’t want to assimilate.

Also they, and the rest of Europe, seriously misunderstand the Tea Party:

One of the reasons Europeans are so fearful of the Tea Party is that they assume that because it is right wing and populist it is like the National Front in France or Golden Dawn in Greece. Today’s small government American Tea Partiers are much farther from Huey Long and Father Coughlin in their political views than some European right wingers are from the darker demagogues of Europe’s bloody past, and until the European establishments understand this, they will likely continue to misjudge the state of American politics.

The Germans? It’s complicated.

There are Germans who sympathize with the Italian critique of EU austerity policy, but Germans on the whole seem to feel that in pushing a tough reform agenda in Europe, and linking further payments and bailouts to that reform agenda, they are doing their neighbors a favor. They sincerely believe that their own relatively strong economic performance is the result of their willingness to accept some liberalizing reforms coupled with a commitment to fiscal prudence. They think that by exporting this model they are helping other European countries on the path to lasting prosperity, and they believe that with some patience, the other European countries will soon begin to experience the benefits of German-style economic reform.

Europe, of course, has a very unhappy history with things labeled “German-style.”

Mead feels that Europe is rich enough to continue subsidizing it’s Euro-folly for the immediate future, but it comes at a cost:

The bitter public feelings generated by the euro crisis and its long, painful aftermath are still working their slow and ugly way through the European political system. In country after country we are seeing steady gains by political movements that bear a superficial resemblance to the American Tea Party, but in fact flirt much more with the kind of dangerous nationalist and chauvinist ideas that have proven so destructive in Europe’s past.

It’s a sobering, moderately lengthy read, and I commend all of it to your attention.

European Debt Crisis Update for July 10, 2013

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The ongoing European Debt Crisis hasn’t ended, it’s merely undergoing a summer hiatus while the various bankers and Eurocrats involved in the shell game take their customary 8 week vacations. As such, expect a new round of crisis headlines to come rolling in during the fall.

Remember: The purpose of the shell game is to let insiders unload their bad debts onto taxpayers. (Look how it was done in Ireland for pointers.) The shell game will continue as long as the insiders can get away with buying off restive electorates with an unsustainable cradle-to-grave welfare state.

Europe’s present is our future.

  • Once again, Greece is being given money to pretend to reform. Look for more fake austerity, and another bailout in six months.
  • “Greece will never repay the money it’s been lent to ‘save’ it. The current debate over whether Greece has done enough by way of reform, tax hikes and spending cuts to have earned the next tranche of bailout funds is largely beside the point. If Greece is cut loose, or walks away, its euro-zone creditors will lose their money. The Greeks and the Germans are surely both aware of this. They’re also aware that Greece’s external debt position is far worse than when the bailouts began—when its debt stood at a mere 129% of GDP—and that any talk of debt sustainability in Greece has become a joke.” It’s now at 157% of GDP.
  • Predictably, Greek unions respond to more fake austerity and staff cuts by extending strikes.
  • Europeans realize that their governments are corrupt. Those who think they’re not corrupt? “In Spain that number is just 8 percent. In Italy, it’s 13 percent. And Greeks and Portuguese have the least trust in the world regarding their governments’ efforts: Just 1 percent of respondents say their government is making strides against corruption.”
  • And just how corrupt is Greece? “Politicians and journalists are viewed as on the take by most Greeks with 50 percent also saying they’ve had to bribe public officials to get services.”
  • Eurozone unemployment hits all time highs.
  • The EU is preparing a banking union bill. No word on whether it will require depositors to take haircuts like those in Cyprus in the event of a bank failure.
  • And speaking of bank failures, there are rumblings that Slovenia will require a bailout.
  • Portugal is still trudging through their own bank bailout…
  • …despite which they may still need another bailout.
  • Italy could be forced to beg for a bailout in six months.
  • UK actually proposes to roll back some 35 EU laws. This may be the first sign that Cameron’s wet Tories have actually noticed how effectively Nigel Farge’s UKIP is eating into their base…
  • UKIP itself says it’s a threat to the entire political class Well, let’s hope so…
  • Latvia is now set to join the Euro on January 1, 2014.
  • LinkSwam for May 31, 2013

    Friday, May 31st, 2013

    The season has switched from not Summer to Summer here in Texas, so here’s a hot, humid LinkSwarm:

  • In Europe, youth unemployment is climbing to scary, stratospheric heights. So scary I’m going to swipe their chart:

    Notice how countries that have kept their deficit spending relatively low (Germany and even the UK, where deficits has at least decreased under Cameron) are doing much better than the PIIGS. Again, Austerity hasn’t failed in Europe, it’s been declared difficult and left untried.

  • Harry Reid calls his close personal friend and business associate Harvey Whittemore (and his wife) “wonderful people.” Oh, and Whittemore is now also a convicted felon.
  • Eric Holder: Obama’s sin eater. “The attorney general has done little in his tenure to protect civil liberties or the free press. Rather, Holder has supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process. This ignoble legacy was made possible by Democrats who would look at their shoes whenever the Obama administration was accused of constitutional abuses.”
  • Pentagon Papers lawyer James Goodale talks about just how bad Obaama is for freedom of the press.
  • ObamaCare rates next year in California: “Obamacare will increase individual-market premiums by an average of 116 percent.”
  • Britain remains in denial over Islamic terror.
  • The Gang of 8 proposal implements amnesty and gives conservatives nothing in return.
  • Ted Cruz actually tries to fix the bill. Gang of 8 tells him to get stuffed.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times lays off their entire staff of photographers. Including a Pulitzer Prize winner.
  • LinkSwarm for May 6, 2013

    Monday, May 6th, 2013

    Time for another LinkSwarm!

  • Silly Joanne Chesimard. If she had just served her time, she’d have tenure by now.
  • Europe is “bleeding out”. Youth unemployment? “59.1% of those under 25 are unemployed in Greece, 55.9% in Spain, 38.4% in Italy, 38.3% in Portugal, 26.5% in France.” More: “Hope and Change economies are crony capitalist systems which pick winners and losers. They maintain the status quo at all costs — and reward those who have captured government over those who innovate.”
  • So which is funnier, violence against women, or intimidating crime witnesses? Mountain Dew puts both in the same ad! Hilarity ensues! (Oh, and some people think it’s racist. It is, but not any more than a random gangsta rap video.)
  • People don’t like being bossed around by the political class. But that’s the Democratic Party’s entire model!
  • Will the welfare state dstroy democracy?
  • Did the Boston Bombers kill illegal alien amnesty?
  • “We found 15 Trial Court cases, and 12 Appellate Court cases, where Shariah was found to be applicable in these particular cases. The facts are the facts: some judges are making decisions deferring to Shariah law even when those decisions conflict with Constitutional protections.”
  • Another day, another green car bankruptcy filing.
  • According to the IRS, the sins of the mothers are, in fact, the sins of the sons.
  • War on terror? What war on terror?
  • Israel hits Syrian weapons bound for Hezbollah. World yawns.
  • And just in case it wasn’t clear before, Syria’s army sucks at fighting Israel. Though they seem quote adequate for killing their own people…
  • Gun businesses continue to leave Colorado.
  • Former New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson says that Ted Cruz isn’t allowed to be a Hispanic because he opposes illegal alien amnesty. Maybe they should just declare that you can’t be Hispanic unless you’re a Democrat and be done with it.
  • Speaking of Cruz, here’s a piece in The New Republic that, when stripped of standard TNR talking points, boils down to “Yes, Ted Cruz could be elected President.”
  • Another day, another another 20 dead in an Islamist attack on a Christian church.
  • Obama vows to stick hands into the open flame even longer this time.
  • Three year old black girl is the NRA’s youngest lifetime member.
  • China’s new Communist Party headquarters looks like a wang.
  • There are some Williamson County elections coming up May 11. None I’m voting in, but lots of city and ISD elections.
  • Nothing says “confidence” quite like insulting the genitalia of a stranger’s 11-year old child on the Internet.
  • Spain IS Beyond Doomed, But It’s Not Practicing Real Austerity

    Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

    Take a look at these charts. Unemployment in Spain is up over 25%, and most have been unemployed more than 2 years. Matthew O’Brien is correct when he says that Spain’s inflexible labor laws contribute greatly to the unemployment, but errs when he says that “austerity hasn’t been the path to prosperity. It’s been the path to perma-slump.”

    Austerity hasn’t failed in Spain. It hasn’t been tried.

    Spain last ran a budget surplus in 2008, and since then it has engaged in deficit spending. In 2012, Spain’s budget deficit was 9.4% of GDP, and this year it will be 10.6% of GDP.

    Remember, real austerity isn’t trying to tax-and-spend your way to prosperity. Real austerity is cutting budgets until outlays match receipts. Estonia bit the bullet and balanced its budget, and its economy is now growing at a steady clip. Meanwhile, governments all across Europe continue to try the same deficit spending Keynesian pump-priming, and keep having the same recession. In most of Europe, “austerity” has meant digging their own graves more slowly rather that stopping digging.

    And European elites refuse to stop digging because their power and perks all stem from swaddling voters in an unsustainable cradle-to-grave welfare system.

    If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Europe makes the same mistakes, gets the same results, and keeps doubling down on stupid, content to keep the farce running as long as they possibly can. Instead actually of solving the interrelated problems of debt, unsustainable entitlements, and the Euro, the Euroelite seem content to preside over the world’s slowest, most boring train wreck. Yes, it’s a pity the train is sliding inexorably toward the chasm, but there’s such fine vintages to be had in the saloon car, and it offers such a magnificent view of the coming crash…

    Greece: More Bailouts, More Fake Austerity

    Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

    While attention was focused on the Boston bombing, Gosnell, and gay marriage, Greece just got another bailout. This is in exchange for further “austerity.”

    What sort of “austerity” is Greece practicing? The sort that involves deficit spending at 10% of GDP, which is up from 9%. It was supposed to be cut to 7.5%.

    So Greece wants more money because it can’t even keep to its previous promises on its fake austerity goals.

    Let me explain it once again: Real austerity is cutting spending until it matches incoming receipts. Not reducing the rate of deficit spending. Not raising taxes so politicians can continue to spend.

    No country in the EU (at least outside the Baltics) has practiced real austerity. That Forbes piece on the Baltic nations includes a lot of good advice that EU nations are largely ignoring:

    Don’t run up big debts. It is a lot easier to manage when things go bad if you aren’t overextended to start. Observed Rosenberg: “Estonia’s experience shows that prudent policies during the boom may not avoid a bust, but they can put the country into a better position to deal with shocks.”

    Don’t engage in an orgy of “stimulus” spending. That will run up big debts without generating long-term growth. When budgets eventually are cut, as they will have to be, the economic loss and political pain will be even greater.

    Make tough decisions early. People typically are ready to act after the crisis hits. In the case of Latvia, argued Asmussen, by acting swiftly “most of the required painful budgetary decisions could be passed before the so-called ‘adjustment fatigue’ kicked in.”

    Maintain fiscal responsibility. Otherwise any progress will be transitory. Growth is the natural result of reform. Delaying reform exacerbates the problem while prematurely terminating reform short-circuits the recovery.

    Emphasize budget cuts. Expansive and irresponsible public outlays usually contribute to economic crisis. Moreover, the state as well as citizens should sacrifice after a crash. The answer is to cut expansive and irresponsible public outlays. In fact, economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna found that “spending cuts are much more effective than tax increases in stabilizing the debt and avoiding economic downturns. In fact, we uncover several episodes in which spending cuts adopted to reduce deficits have been associated with economic expansions rather than recessions.”

    Finally, don’t rest on one’s laurels. There always is more to do. Even nations which have implemented serious reform programs, like the Baltic States, could make further improvements.

    As far as I can tell, none of the core EU states (and certainly none of the PIIGS) has tried this approach since the 2008 recession hit. They keep trying Neo-Keynesian pump-priming and deficit spending to keep both the Euro and their unsustainable welfare state afloat, and they keep experiencing endless recession. Their fake austerity comes in slightly reducing the amount of their deficit spending enough to pretend they’re in compliance to keep the bailouts coming. Ireland hasn’t practiced real austerity. Neither has Portugal, Spain, or Italy (though Italy has come closest).

    The shell game of bailouts and fake austerity will continue as long as the Eurocrats can keep getting away with it.

    LinkSwarm for April 4, 2013

    Friday, April 5th, 2013

    Been a while since the last Friday LinkSwarm, so here it is!

  • The problem with Europe’s economy? It’s the spending, stupid.

    Government spending on bailouts, subsidies, grants, salaries and entitlements commands a much larger share of these economies than it did just a few years ago. European austerity has been focused on the private sector — namely, taxpayers with high incomes.

    That is the second thing the PIIGGS have in common. The highest income tax rate was recently increased in every one of the troubled PIIGGS except Italy (where it was already too high at 43%). The top tax rate was hiked from 40 to 46.5% in Portugal, from 41 to 48% in Ireland, from 40 to 45% in Greece, from 40 to 50% in Great Britain, and from 48 to 52% in Spain.

  • Immigration “reform:” Distrust and Then Verify.
  • News flash: Getting a PhD in Literature is not a surefire path to financial security. Stop the presses!
  • Female Princeton grad tells current Princeton women that maybe they should consider getting married in college. Naturally the Ivy league/feminist/MSM complex threw a fit. (Pro-tip: There are few surer signs of leftwing PC think than the word “hetronormative.”)
  • Homicide Trends in the US: 1980 to 2008.
  • Dwight brings up another case of journalistic malpractice. “Meet the Sniper Who Killed 2,200 People in Iraq.” As Dwight notes, anyone with even passing knowledge of snipers should know that this claim is ludicrous from the git go. In sports terms, it’s like someone claiming they threw 20 Major League no hitters, or ran a two minute mile. It reminds me of Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s smears about troops in Iraq in The New Republic. (If you remember the Beauchampo affair, it turns out that he was engaged to Elspeeth reeve, who just happened to be a TNR fact-checker. Somebody should make them read Stolen Valor.
  • Also from Dwight: This interesting piece about a gay man talks about coming out at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty university.
  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: UN Treaties don’t trump the Bill of Rights.
  • Left-wing bigots pat themselves on the back.