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A Tale of Two States

by Frank Schnittger Thu May 26th, 2016 at 07:02:20 AM EST

The relative performance of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland economies since independence provides a stark case study in how political decisions can have a dramatic impact on the relative economic performance and social progress of two neighbouring states. Now Brexit threatens to put that sharp divergence into even starker contrast, re-igniting the political tensions that led to the Troubles, and putting a United Ireland back on the agenda again.  It may even be good news for almost all in the longer term, but at what cost in the short and medium turn? Follow me below the fold for an exploration of the chain of events that Brexit might unleash on the island of Ireland.

Read more... (19 comments, 1859 words in story)

Nicholas Stern on The New Climate Economy

by gmoke Sun May 15th, 2016 at 11:15:58 AM EST

On May 2, 2016, Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics spoke at Harvard:

The Logic, Urgency and Promise of Tackling Climate Change
Monday, May 2
4:15 pm
Harvard, CGIS-S020, Belfer Case Study Room, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge

The Energy History Project hosts Nicholas Stern, London School of Economics, who will discuss "The Logic, Urgency and Promise of Tackling Climate Change."

These are some of the numbers for the greenhouse gas context he laid out:

We are at 450 CO2 equivalent [CO2e] now [400 ppm CO2 and another 50ppm equivalent in warming potential in other greenhouse gases like methane]

The rate of increase is increasing.  It was
.5 ppm per year from 1930-1950
1 ppm per year from 1950-1970
2 ppm per year from 1970-1990
and is 2.5 ppm per year increase now.

We are at the edge of the temperature range in our present geologic era, the Holocene, with about 1º C of heat cooked into the atmosphere from our industrial greenhouse gas emissions already.  The 2015 Paris agreement is designed to keep the globe below 2º C, and 1.5 º if possible.  Paris anticipates and tries to avert a looming catastrophe.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (15 comments, 723 words in story)

Can Trump really win the White House?

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 11th, 2016 at 05:20:43 AM EST

People who know I am interested in politics often ask me things like "Can Trump really win the Presidency?" while at the same time shaking their heads in disbelief that such a thing might be possible. To those accustomed to European sensibilities, he seems more like a cross between Berlusconi and Le Pen, with none of the "charisma" or political experience of either. Are things really that bad in the USA that wanton ignorance, rampant misogyny, crass narcissism, racist demagoguery and an authoritarian complex are what turns people on?

Trump keeps breaking through the ceilings that the political commentariat seek to place over his head. His appeal was said to be limited to 30% of the most committed Republican Primary voters. Then that became 40%, then 50%+. It was said that the Republican establishment would never allow his nomination at their convention in Cleveland. Except that now they have effectively thrown in the towel and conceded he will be their nominee. Most have made their peace with him and now seek influence within his inner circle. House Speaker Ryan and the Bush family are some of the few remaining hold-outs.

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The Confidence Fairy Strikes Again

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 9th, 2016 at 06:09:48 AM EST

David Folkerts-Landau, Chief Economist at the Deutsche Bank, has a screed in the Financial Times which is wrong on just about every level that can be imagined. Arguing that the ECB's policy of negative interest rates is undermining public and business confidence, Folkerts-Landau asks:

What should be done? The priority is breaking the negative spiral of lower confidence engendered by ever-looser money. The ECB needs to begin reversing its policy of negative interest rates. Moving back into the black would raise confidence across the eurozone.

Apparently lower interest rates cause people to save more and invest less. Recovery will only come when governments implement "reforms" which involve reducing investment and spending  (and employment) still further. The ECB is causing further stagnation and deflation in the Eurozone by reducing interest rates and buying Sovereign and Corporate debt, not responding to it with the main tools at its disposal.  The problem is that there are rising debt levels - not the excess savings identified by Draghi as a cause of the crisis.

Has it not occurred to Folkerts-Landau that excessive savings and debt might in fact be two sides of the same coin?

Read more... (12 comments, 379 words in story)

Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 7th, 2016 at 08:38:08 AM EST

On the surface the Northern Ireland assembly elections have resulted in a return of the status quo with the larger parties winning broadly the same number of seats. However there has been a generational change in many of the personnel involved, and in some ways the election marks a further milestone on the road towards the normalisation of Northern Ireland politics post the Good Friday Agreement.

Read more... (6 comments, 375 words in story)

New Irish Government formed

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 6th, 2016 at 02:41:36 PM EST

After 70 days of Political paralysis in Ireland, Enda Kenny has become the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be re-elected to that role, and also the first leader of a country that underwent a Troika bail-out programme to be re-elected to government.  However his election today, by 59 votes to 49 with 50 abstentions, underlines the weakness of his political position.  His government will be made up of 50 Fine Gael TDs (Members of Parliament) and a rag bag of independents who can rarely agree on anything and it is anyone's guess how long his new Government can survive.

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Edging closer to a new Government in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 4th, 2016 at 01:30:38 PM EST

The two major parties in Ireland, Fine Gael (25% support at last election) and Fianna Fail (24%) have finally, after over two months, come to an agreement which will allow Fine Gael to form a minority government with the support of a handful of independent or small party members of parliament. The agreement stipulates that Fianna Fail will abstain on major confidence and financial votes in the Dail (Irish Parliament) for roughly the next three years but retains the right to vote down or introduce legislation on other matters. Such an arrangement became unavoidable when Sinn Fein, Labour and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People before profit parties all refused to coalesce with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.

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Mafia methods

by DoDo Sun May 1st, 2016 at 07:46:55 AM EST

Last year, Viktor Orbán, Hungary's right-populist prime minister, decided to regain voters lost due to endemic corruption by starting an anti-refugee hate campaign. With success. But that success made his minions only more brazen.

I recount two recent tales with comical elements: the rise and fall of shopping-free Sunday (or: the mystery of the baldies), and the secrets of the central bank.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (21 comments, 1147 words in story)

Ireland to get a Government at last?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 08:54:50 AM EST

In Political Paralysis in Ireland? I wrote about the inconclusive outcome to the Irish general election of February 2016 and predicted that we were in for a prolonged period of Kabuki theatre where the major parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, would be dancing around each other without holding hands and with everyone else trying to force the unwilling couple to mate.

It is now over two months since that election, and I have revisited that diary on occasion to see if an update was required and concluded that no, nothing much new was really happening. Fianna Fail have been anxious to avoid the fate of minority partners in previous Irish coalition Governments which traditionally get hammered at the next election. So a straightforward coalition which would have provided a large working majority was out of the question.

Read more... (13 comments, 1670 words in story)

To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 08:50:23 AM EST

Given that it is the great Bard's 400th. Anniversary, a Shakespearean soliloquy seems apposite. What are the arguments for and against a British exit from the EU, and what are the views of European Tribune contributors on the subject?

President Obama has just swung by on his way back from being snubbed in Saudi Arabia, before giving Merkel some much needed succour on the refugee problem.  His emphatic endorsement of Britain staying within the EU inspired Brexit lead campaigner Boris Johnson to the heights of Trumpian abuse.

Basically Obama said Britain should stay in the EU to maximise its global influence, and suggested that the UK would have to go to the back of the queue if it wanted bi-lateral trade deals post Brexit. And in case anyone should think that Obama is on the way out and therefor cannot speak for the USA on this issue, it should be noted that Eight former Republican and Democratic Treasury Secretaries have just written a letter endorsing his point of view.

This struck at the heart of the Brexit case - which has always maintained that Britain could have all the benefits of EU market access, without the costs of EU membership.  Britain, the argument goes, is so important in its own right, that other countries including the rump EU Block would be falling over themselves to cut bilateral trade deals with a newly independent UK.

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ECB Independence, Then and Now

by Bernard Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 04:28:46 PM EST

This was then.

Spring 2012: the financial crisis that struck four years ago has thrown more people into unemployment and the economy has still not recovered. The ECB is running a tight money policy and the official priority of the Eurozone is to reduce state debt and budget deficits. Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have been subjected to austerity policies, with the understanding that Italy and maybe France may be further down the line.

In France, outgoing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for re-election. It's an uphill battle: unemployment has increased during his term and for those who still have a job, their wages have stagnated or even receded. The economy hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels. Many are calling for the ECB to do more to "support economic growth" in addition to its main mandate to keep inflation in check; Sarkozy eventually joined this choir:

Sarkozy puts role of ECB back on French election agenda -- EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics (17 April 2012)

Sarkozy launched the last week of his difficult re-election campaign with a veiled swipe at the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB).

"On the role of the Central Bank in supporting growth, we are also going to open a debate and we will push Europe forward," he told an election rally on Sunday.

"If the Central Bank does not support growth, then we will not have enough growth."

Despite the so-called "Merkozy" alliance, reaction from Berlin was swift:

Germany stresses ECB independence after Sarkozy comments | Reuters  (17 April 2012)

Germany on Monday rebuffed calls by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to extend the mandate of the European Central Bank (ECB) to include supporting economic growth, citing the central bank's independence.

"The German position on the ECB and its independent role is known and is also known in Paris and has been unchanged for a long time," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

[Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger]

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Obama's Legacy: How will he rate as a President?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 06:10:36 AM EST

It is becoming increasingly clear that the next US President is likely to be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many have remarked that this is like a choice between the risible and the almost unthinkable. Indeed President Obama's approval ratings have been moving steadily north as this pantomime has unfolded - even as he sits marooned in Office, without a legislature he can work with. Shortly after his election in 2008 I had this to say of the incoming President:

Behind his winning rhetoric of Change, Obama has managed to maintain a remarkable opacity about what he would actually do as President, particularly when it comes to the USA's pre-eminent role in world affairs. Sure he will try to get troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later and redeploy some of those resources to Afghanistan. Sure he is more predisposed to multilateralism and diplomacy rather than starting more wars - for example with Iran. True, he won't be a climate change denier, a free market deregulater, a cold warrior, or a bombastic proponent of the "New American Century" where all other powers are supposed to supplicate to the shining city on a hill. But what will he actually do, and do his early appointments give us any clues?

The first thing to be said is that he brings a new world view to the office - one explicitly opposed to the neoconservative neo-imperialism so characteristic of the Bush regime. Obama's African heritage, his Kansas roots, his Indonesian schooling, and his Hawaiian youth all help to give him a sensitivity and appreciation of the world outside continental USA. His actual foreign policy experience may not be much greater than Sarah Palin's, but at least he doesn't believe that living next to Russia and Canada constitutes a qualification for high office.

But besides his stimulus package, which helped the recovery from the 2008-10 recession which had threatened to become the deepest since the Great Depression, and the Affordable Care Act, what has he actually achieved? Has it gotten to the stage where we have to give credit to a US President for not actually starting any more wars, and for having used diplomacy to lessen tensions with Iran and Cuba? To what extent is he responsible for the mess in Syria and Libya, or was there simply no good solution there? Has the Israeli/Palestinian situation improved, and is there more he could have done? No doubt he would have achieved far more had the Democrats not lost the 2010 mid-term elections, but should he bear some responsibility for that defeat? Could he have done more to turn his 2012 re-election into a victory in Congressional elections as well?

Please use the comments below to give us your assessment of his Presidency.

Comments >> (42 comments)

IMF discusses when to crash Greece

by fjallstrom Sat Apr 2nd, 2016 at 07:54:24 PM EST

Wikileaks has released transcripts of an IMF discussion of how to get Germany to accept IMFs proposal for austerity and debt relief for Greece. The method seems to be to create a crisis in April by threatening to pull out.

WikiLeaks - IMF Internal Meeting Predicts Greek 'Disaster', Threatens to Leave Troika

Thomsen said internally that the threat of an imminent financial catstrophe is needed to force the other players into a "decision point". For Germany, on debt relief, and In the case of Greece, to accept the IMF's austerity "measures," -- including raising taxes and cutting Greek pensions and working conditions. However the UK "Brexit" referendum in late June will paralyse European decision making at the critical moment.

Wikileak has the transcripts as PDF or HTML Greece government is not amused according to Greece demands IMF explanation over leaked debt transcript | Reuters

Greece demanded an explanation from the International Monetary Fund on Saturday after an apparent leaked transcript suggested the IMF may threaten to pull out of the country's bailout as a tactic to force European lenders to more offer debt relief.

EU/IMF lenders will resume talks in Athens on Greece's fiscal and reform progress next week aiming to conclude a bailout review that will unlock further loans and pave the way for negotiations on long-desired debt restructuring.

The review has been adjourned twice since January due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece's fiscal gap by 2018, as well as disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

frontpaged - Bjinse

Read more... (57 comments, 504 words in story)

Germany votes against Immigration!

by Colman Mon Mar 14th, 2016 at 06:32:26 AM EST

The english language press assure me that Merkel's "Open Door" immigration policy has been repudiated by the German people, 70% of whom voted for either her party or parties who criticise her policy for not being liberal enough.

Comments >> (12 comments)

Super Tuesday Open Thread

by Bjinse Tue Mar 1st, 2016 at 08:22:04 AM EST

For comments and debate on the Super Tuesday results and other topics related to the US presidential primaries.

Comments >> (161 comments)

Taubira resigns

by eurogreen Wed Jan 27th, 2016 at 02:18:48 PM EST

Well, that's a relief...

French minister Christiane Taubira resigns after fallout over terror policy | World news | The Guardian

Taubira's ultimate showdown with Hollande and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, was over the president's controversial plans to strip convicted French-born terrorists of their citizenship if they have a second dual nationality. The measure - known as the "loss of nationality" plan - was to be written into the constitution next month.

The move, which the government had admitted was purely symbolic, was seen by critics on the left, such as Taubira, as having the dangerous side-effect of sending a message that French citizens could be divided into two categories - with those who were "pure" French worth more than those with mixed backgrounds.

As Justice Minister, it would have been her job to defend the amendments to the Constitution, and the ensuing legislation, creating two-tier citizenship.

This may seem a minor thing to nationals of countries which were founded along ethnic lines. But for the French Republic, it's a definitional issue, and in practice, a clear-cut left/right divider.

frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse

Read more... (11 comments, 356 words in story)

Stockholm mass sexual assault coverup uncovered

by Starvid Mon Jan 11th, 2016 at 10:35:52 AM EST

The shock created by the mass sexual assaults in Köln is spreading like rings on the water. It has now reached Stockholm - and uncovered an alleged police/media cover-up of mass sexual assaults here as well.

Swedish police face allegations of covering up mass sex assault

Sweden is facing its own version of Germany's Cologne scandal with police in Stockholm pledging to investigate allegations of covering up mass sexual assault at a festival two years ago.

Swedish police promised urgently to investigate the claims reported first by liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter that a gang of youths -- reportedly mostly from Afghanistan -- groped and molested girls as young as 11 or 12.

The allegations, which date back to the 2014 youth festival We Are Sthlm, are yet to be confirmed. But they are still likely to cause a political scandal perhaps even greater than the reaction in Germany because of the success in the Nordic country of an anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, that has in recent months periodically topped opinion polls.

This is what has happened.

front-paged, discussion about events in Cologne in the comments - Bjinse

Read more... (87 comments, 812 words in story)

Spanish general election

by Migeru Sun Dec 20th, 2015 at 06:58:12 AM EST

Apart from providing low-tax tourism destinations, European microstates also provide a way to skirt anachronistic election silence laws, such as the one banning the pubilcation of election polls in Spain for the last 5 days prior to an election. Indeed, El Periódic d'Andorra has been publishing a daily running poll all week long, with perhaps surprising results: Podemos overtakes PSOE, and PP solidifies its lead (19.12.2015)

Use this as an open thread before, during and after the poll.

Read more... (92 comments, 135 words in story)

To save Schengen, federalize border control?

by Migeru Sat Dec 12th, 2015 at 07:03:48 AM EST

It is being argued that this taking control of Schengen's external border from Brussels is the only way to avoid countries restoring their national borders, given the current mutual mistrust, lack of coordination and lack of information-sharing among Schengen member states.

Read more... (9 comments, 168 words in story)

Regional elections in France

by eurogreen Sun Dec 6th, 2015 at 04:27:15 AM EST

[UPDATED] Sunday evening 13th December

On Sundays 6th and 13th of December, regional elections will be held in France. It is to be expected that the Front National will win two of the twelve regions on the French mainland, with a possibility of a third or even a fourth.

The left held 20 of the 21 regions (before the recent mergers) in the previous two elections, in 2003 and 2009. Instinctively, one expected a near wipeout this time around, but France's electoral geography doesn't work like that. It will hold at least four this time, quite likely six or seven (my estimation), possibly even more...

[I will be updating this diary over the next week or so as the situation evolves]

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

Seven for the right; five for the left; zero for the FN. Oh, and one for the Corsican regionalists/nationalists.

CORRECTED national figures :

Right 40.6%, Left 31.6%, FN 27.4%

Bearing in mind the absence of the left in two of the most populous regions. But still...

Verdict : Sarkozy wins the second round on points.

[editor's note, by Migeru] Front-paged - use as an open thread.

Read more... (95 comments, 1106 words in story)
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News and Views

 23 - 29 May 2016

by Bjinse - May 25, 39 comments

Your take on today's news media

 9 -15 May 2016

by Bjinse - May 4, 66 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 23 - 29 May

by Bjinse - May 25, 9 comments

The stuff threads are made of

 Open thread 18 - 25th May

by Helen - May 18, 37 comments

New thread, NewSpeak

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