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Developments in Austria

by generic Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 10:07:22 AM EST

Austria's new chancellor Christian Kern, former manager of the Austrian state railways gave an interview. (behind paywall and German). The only remarkable thing about it is that I actually read this one.
Some points with my comments in brackets:

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (1 comment, 476 words in story)

What 9/11 liberals ignore

by DoDo Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 11:41:43 AM EST

There is a group of liberal atheists in the Anglosphere – people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Bill Maher – whose reaction to 9/11 was to view Islam (in general) as the problem, and religion as the elephant in the bathroom in mainstream discussions about the cause of terrorism. Their views were not all the same – for example, while some became liberal hawks, strange bedfellows with would-be Crusaders in supporting the so-called War on Terror, others remained thoroughly critical of Bush –, but there is enough affinity to speak of a group. I took the "9/11 liberals" moniker from Bill Maher (in a video I saw recently which made me write this diary).

I am an atheist whose view of the net effect of religion on society is barely less negative than that of Richard Dawkins (especially when it comes to child indoctrination). Even in matters where I don't think religion is the original source of problems, I think it tends to make things worse. Yet, I think 9/11 liberals are missing some quite basic facts, and only contribute to Islamophobia.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Yves Smith On Voting For Hillary

by ARGeezer Thu Jun 2nd, 2016 at 02:43:40 PM EST

Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary   Yves Smith in Politico Magazine

Why do progressives reject Hillary Clinton? The highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don't just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say "Hell no!" to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.

And they don't come by these views casually. Their conclusions are the result of careful study of her record and her policy proposals. They believe the country can no longer endure the status quo that Clinton represents--one of crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate--and any change will be better. One reader writes:


"If Clinton is the nominee 9 out of 10 friends I polled will [do one of three things]:

A. Not vote for president in November.
B. Vote for Trump.
C. Write in Bernie as a protest vote.

"We are all fifty-somethings with money and college educations. Oh, and we are all registered Democrats."

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Peculiar US presidential elections

by das monde Thu Jun 2nd, 2016 at 10:00:01 AM EST

As all political junkies know, the US president is elected not directly by a citizen vote but by the Electoral College - an archaic original compromise of the Founding Fathers and States. (Yes, we will have a powerful President, but the States will be influential in its election.) There were four presidential elections when the popular vote was different from the elected president: 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. Besides, the first few elections were confused by the issue of Vice-Presidency (especially in 1796 and 1800), leading to the more specific 12th Amendment.

The most bizarre elections were in 1824 and 1876, by far. They were also influential or highly educative. If you thought that the 2000 election was a steal...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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France on Strike

by John Redmond Mon May 30th, 2016 at 10:06:47 AM EST

For much of the past month, large portions of the French economy have been hit by strike action, effecting in particular the transport and energy sectors, in response to the Valls government's proposal to overhaul French employment law. Public transport has been hit by rolling strikes both nationally, via work stoppages at the national rail company SNCF, as well as locally via commuter rail grids such as Paris' RATP. Similarly, petrol refineries have also been hit, with up to six (out of eight nationally) refineries either offline or at below output capacity at various points last week, with between a third and 40% of petrol stations running out of petrol to sell, causing long lines at the pump and a fair bit of consumer stress as regards future supplies.

Even France's vast nuclear industry, which provided 75% of the country's electricity needs, has been hit by strikes, though production is not (yet) reported to be impacted. And, similarly, maritime shipping has also been struck, with the ports of Le Havre, Marseille, Dunkerque, Saint Nazaire, Bordeaux and Rouen all either brought to a standstill or severely hampered from an operational standpoint. The strike actions have been accompanied by regular, numerous street protests, with heavy student participation, with a good number of street actions turning violent. Indeed, even a young American has been recently arrested for participating in a particularly violent act on the margins of a recent street protest, while the Police unions have equally taken to the streets to protest both being undermanned as well as the nature of the instructions they have received from the Ministry of the Interior as regards management of the protests they are working.

The strikes show no signs of letting up, with an outlook for the month of June, during which the European Cup football tournament is scheduled to be played in France, being at best similar to the month of May.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Böhmermann

by DoDo Sun May 29th, 2016 at 07:42:40 AM EST

ET first heard of German satirist Jan Böhmermann during the austerians' showdown with Greece's new government, in particular, when he trolled the entire German mainstream media with Varoufake-fake, a video claiming that a YouTube video used by them against then Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis was manipulated by his team. Recently, he earned international notoriety when he provoked a lawsuit from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with an intentionally offensive poem. But Böhmermann refused to be defined by the Erdoğan affair and returned on TV with an undercover piece exposing the malpractices of a trash TV show.

In this diary I attempt to give a more in-depth picture of the Böhmermann phenomenon, and give my view of what he's about.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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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. The Republic of Ireland has prospered, whilst Northern Ireland was stagnating before and during the "Troubles", and has not recovered since.

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. 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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)
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News and Views

 19 - 25 September 2016

by Bjinse - Sep 20, 24 comments

Your take on today's news media

 12 - 18 September 2016

by Bjinse - Sep 12, 29 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 19 - 25 September

by Bjinse - Sep 20, 7 comments

Here's another nice thread you've gotten me into

 Open Thread 12 - 18 September

by Bjinse - Sep 12, 23 comments

If you want something, go thread it

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