Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sometimes the truth hurts - but it's still true


The new Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, may be a rabid Socialist - not far off a full-blown Communist, judging by some of what I've seen and heard and read from him - but he's spot-on in an interview he gave to CNBC today.  You can read the article here, and view the video interview in full (which I highly recommend).

For those who don't want to click over there, here's the money quote.

Q:  You owe the European Central Bank six billion Euros between July and August.  Are you not going to pay?

A:  Well, if you look at the existing agreement, the existing agreement recognizes that, ah, we can't pay.  And it imposes upon us the very strange notion that as a bankrupt state, we must borrow money from our partners - even more money than they've already given us - to repay a central bank which is in the process of printing one trillion Euros.  Now, you only have to state this to realize that this is not a God-given, Divine imperative which Europe shouldn't be discussing.

That's precisely the right answer, irrespective of Mr. Varoufakis' politics or ours.  Basically, the European Central Bank (and most commercial banks in Europe) lent money hand-over-fist to Greece from the moment of its entry into the European Union, even though it was plain as a pikestaff that the country was economically and politically incapable of paying back those loans.  When the whole mess eventually blew up during the 2007/08 financial crisis, Europe insisted on Greek austerity measures to repay the debt that have resulted in a 25% contraction in GDP and an unemployment rate of something like 50% among young people.

At long last the Greek people have demonstrated that they've had enough.  They've proven themselves to be, on the whole, fiscally irresponsible, self-centered and greedy, but I can't disagree with the step they've just taken.  They've elected a government that's dedicated to restoring Greek financial sovereignty, and in the process will punish those who lent irresponsibly.  If banks lend responsibly, to credit-worthy borrowers, they tend to get their money back with interest.  If banks get greedy and lend to anyone who's capable of signing a piece of paper, they should by rights lose their shirts.  In the case of Greece at least, it looks like that may now happen.  It should have happened to many banks in this country during and after the financial crisis, but thanks to the Fed's "too big to fail" mantra we, the taxpayers, were forced to pick up the tab for the bankers' recklessness and fecklessness.  We're still on the hook for it.  It's a big part of the doubling of the US national debt that's occurred under President Obama's administration (although, to be fair, it began under his Republican predecessor).

(Note, too, that from 2008-2011 Iceland chose not to follow the Greek model, but held its nose and took its medicine the hard way.  It rejected calls from politicians and central bankers to assume national responsibility for the bad decisions of its banks.  It showed them the finger, allowed its financial institutions to go bankrupt, and rode out the resulting national and international fiscal storm.  Guess what?  Six years later it's doing very nicely, thank you.  I've no doubt that the lessons learned - and imparted - by Iceland have been absorbed by the upstart wave of rebellious Greek politicians . . . )

Perhaps it's time for a Yanis Varoufakis of our own in Washington.




Peter

Another pilot saved by an aircraft parachute


The crew of a Coast Guard HC-130 patrol aircraft filmed a Cirrus SR-22 parachuting into the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles north-east of Hawaii yesterday.  Flight Global reports:

After alerting the authorities to his plight, the pilot ... was directed by the US Coast Guard towards a cruise ship in the area and ditched in the Pacific Ocean. The pilot was able to exit the four-seat aircraft onto a life raft and was rescued by crew from the ship. Crew on a USCG Lockheed Martin HC-130, flying overhead, coordinated, and filmed, the rescue.

The pilot, who had left California for Lahaina on the island of Maui on 25 January, contacted the authorities at 12:30 local time to say he had 3h of fuel remaining and would be forced to ditch in the sea.

Cirrus says it is the 51st time the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System has been deployed, “resulting in 104 persons returning safely”.

There's more at the link.  Here's the video.





That's another save for a very innovative system.  I still can't figure out why more light aircraft manufacturers aren't offering it as a factory-installed option on their planes.

Peter

Monday, January 26, 2015

The ultimate in canine contentment?


Doggie bliss!





I wonder if hair in the mechanism might cause a problem . . . ?




Peter

Climate change fraud in a nutshell


Here's an admirably succinct summary of how climate change alarmists are 'cooking the books', falsifying data to support their claims (and, naturally, to demand ever more money and resources to continue their spurious 'research).  I've inserted links to information about relevant organizations, individuals and information, for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the field.


How have we come to be told that global temperatures have suddenly taken a great leap upwards to their highest level in 1,000 years? In fact, it has been no greater than their upward leaps between 1860 and 1880, and 1910 and 1940, as part of that gradual natural warming since the world emerged from its centuries-long “Little Ice Age” around 200 years ago.

This belief has rested entirely on five official data records. Three of these are based on measurements taken on the Earth’s surface, versions of which are then compiled by Giss [NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies], by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and by the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit working with the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, part of the UK Met Office. The other two records are derived from measurements made by satellites, and then compiled by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in California and the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH).

In recent years, these two very different ways of measuring global temperature have increasingly been showing quite different results. The surface-based record has shown a temperature trend rising up to 2014 as “the hottest years since records began”. RSS and UAH have, meanwhile, for 18 years been recording no rise in the trend, with 2014 ranking as low as only the sixth warmest since 1997.

One surprise is that the three surface records, all run by passionate believers in man-made warming, in fact derive most of their land surface data from a single source. This is the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN), managed by the US National Climate Data Center under NOAA, which in turn comes under the US Department of Commerce.

But two aspects of this system for measuring surface temperatures have long been worrying a growing array of statisticians, meteorologists and expert science bloggers. One is that the supposedly worldwide network of stations from which GHCN draws its data is flawed. Up to 80 per cent or more of the Earth’s surface is not reliably covered at all. Furthermore, around 1990, the number of stations more than halved, from 12,000 to less than 6,000 – and most of those remaining are concentrated in urban areas or places where studies have shown that, thanks to the “urban heat island effect”, readings can be up to 2 degrees higher than in those rural areas where thousands of stations were lost.

To fill in the huge gaps, those compiling the records have resorted to computerised “infilling” or “homogenising”, whereby the higher temperatures recorded by the remaining stations are projected out to vast surrounding areas (Giss allows single stations to give a reading covering 1.6 million square miles). This alone contributed to the sharp temperature rise shown in the years after 1990.

But still more worrying has been the evidence that even this data has then been subjected to continual “adjustments”, invariably in only one direction. Earlier temperatures are adjusted downwards, more recent temperatures upwards, thus giving the impression that they have risen much more sharply than was shown by the original data.

An early glaring instance of this was spotted by Steve McIntyre, the statistician who exposed the computer trickery behind that famous “hockey stick” graph, beloved by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], which purported to show that, contrary to previous evidence, 1998 had been the hottest year for 1,000 years. It was McIntyre who, in 2007, uncovered the wholesale retrospective adjustments made to US surface records between 1920 and 1999 compiled by Giss (then run by the outspoken climate activist James Hansen). These reversed an overall cooling trend into an 80-year upward trend. Even Hansen had previously accepted that the “dust bowl” 1930s was the hottest US decade of the entire 20th century.

Assiduous researchers have since unearthed countless similar examples across the world, from the US and Russia to Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, an 80-year cooling of 1 degree per century was turned into a warming trend of 2.3 degrees. In New Zealand, there was a major academic row when “unadjusted” data showing no trend between 1850 and 1998 was shown to have been “adjusted” to give a warming trend of 0.9 degrees per century. This falsified new version was naturally cited in an IPCC report (see “New Zealand NIWA temperature train wreck” on the Watts Up With That science blog, WUWT, which has played a leading role in exposing such fiddling of the figures).

By far the most comprehensive account of this wholesale corruption of proper science is a paper written for the Science and Public Policy Institute, “Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?”, by two veteran US meteorologists, Joseph D’Aleo and WUWT’s Anthony Watts (and if warmists are tempted to comment below this article online, it would be welcome if they could address their criticisms to the evidence, rather than just resorting to personal attacks on the scientists who, after actually examining the evidence, have come to a view different from their own).

One of the more provocative points arising from the debate over those claims that 2014 was “the hottest year evah” came from the Canadian academic Dr Timothy Ball when, in a recent post on WUWT, he used the evidence of ice-core data to argue that the Earth’s recent temperatures rank in the lowest 3 per cent of all those recorded since the end of the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.

There's more at the link, including graphs.  Useful reading.

So much for the 'scientific consensus' that globull warmening is all humanity's fault and is going to kill us all and woe is us . . .

Peter

Islam in Europe and its cultural implications


I came across an article at the Twenty Committee blog that has had me thinking for three days now.  It's titled 'The West, Islam, and the Last Stand of the WEIRD', and offers some unique perspectives on why Muslims have not been able to assimilate into European society.  With the author's permission, here's a fairly lengthy excerpt from a much longer article.

Islam, being a programmatic faith not confined to the mosque, provides detailed commentary and rules on daily life, including matters sexual that invariably seem strange to post-modern Westerners, who view any infringement on personal sexuality as oppressive. This is a subject of regular mocking in parts of the Western press. Few care to note that Islam is very like Orthodox or Conservative Judaism in such matters.

Islam as actually lived by its adherents easily breaks down into three basic groups that are replicated everywhere there is Islam. Seeing how people live their faith, day in and day out, is illuminating. There is a genuinely radical element — perhaps ten percent, rather more in the West — that advocates Islamism, that is applying Islam in politics, by force if necessary. The aggressively pious vanguard of this sort pushes violence, even murderous barbarism, to further its aims. It has no sympathy for the West and seeks confrontation and victory, not dialogue. Its loudest adherents are usually dysfunctional sorts with a criminal past.

On the other side, maybe another ten percent, there are Muslims who actually reject the faith, de facto, but if they’re living in a Muslim country they keep relatively quiet about it, lest they be denounced as “apostates.” Many are well educated. Such atheists, or at least serious Islam-skeptics, are frequently encountered in the West; it’s seldom noted that many such people emigrate to freer countries precisely to be able to live their skepticism openly.

But the vast majority of Muslims fall into a big group that lives the faith as best they can, without questioning its essentials. They try, they fail, they keep trying. They usually make an effort during Ramadan, at least, and if a life crisis appears, they will pray and seek the comfort of the mosque; the rest of the time their lived faith is rather hit-or-miss. In other words, they are completely normal human beings.

. . .

It must be deeply confusing to any Muslim newcomer to France to encounter a place of such unbelief and debauchery as Paris, where raw sexuality is everywhere, women run free in every sense, and faiths of all kinds are mocked openly. Free speech is not a French priority, and certain kinds of speech are protected, while others are not. Since I cannot rationally explain why French law protects certain speech, and not others, I don’t expect an unlettered immigrant from West Africa to make sense of it all either.

The list of things that can get you thrown in a French jail for saying is long, including “offensive” speech against various racial, religious, and sexual minorities, but it must be mysterious to Muslims why gross public indecencies against the Prophet are tolerated when denial of the Holocaust, a purely human affair, is not.

. . .

Short of a coercive reeducation program worthy of Mao’s Cultural Revolution I’m not sure what can be done about all this in 2015. Even if Muslim immigration were halted tomorrow — which is surely not on the table yet — Western Europe will still possess twenty million Muslims, many quite unassimilated, who are reproducing at a rate far beyond the native population. It’s difficult to see how this can end well — or peacefully.

. . .

How, then, are European countries today doing such a terrible job of assimilating Muslim immigrants? In the first place, Christianity has been replaced by secularism, often of an aggressive kind. We have changed; Muslims have not. The sort of in-your-face secularism that’s commonplace in Europe now is difficult for Muslims to relate to, having no resonance with their historical experience, and is viewed with contempt by many of them. Bonds of tribe and kin that have frayed in the West remain powerful among Muslims. Post-modern permissiveness in sexual matters is likewise met with bemused anger by many Muslims, some of whom gleefully rape European women they view as whores.

Crime is one of the great unmentionables in all this, preventing honest dialogue. In 2010, Éric Zemmour was convicted of racial incitement for stating that Muslim immigrants were grossly overrepresented among France’s violent criminals, though few could plausibly state he was wrong on the numbers. Over the last generation, France has created a serious problem in the suburbs of Paris, among other major cities, where Muslim ghettos are crowded with young people who seldom if ever work, living on welfare while plotting crimes of various sorts, while seething with resentment and hate for “infidels” around them. For some, this path of hatred leads to jihad. Here the Paris killers, with their obsession with angry American rap music, were a walking, vapid, and murderous cliche.

Many are now worried about low-grade warfare erupting across Western Europe, as jihadist cells go active and plant bombs and open fire. All over the European Union, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, police and spies are watching would-be killers closely. Although there is no enduring security fix to this daunting problem, as I’ve explained before, consistent police and intelligence pressure on Salafi radicals can reduce terrorism, if the will exists to sustain such aggressive operations by the security services.

While more terrorism seems likely, it may not be anything as dramatic as alarmists and thrillers would promise. France already faces an Islamic insurgency of a low-grade kind — it is habitually downplayed by the authorities as “isolated incidents” that happen “at random” when shootings and driving cars into people is anything but random — that may continue on low-boil for years, claiming a few victims at a time, not dozens, much less hundreds. French inner cities may come to resemble shambolic American inner cities like Detroit or Chicago, where war-like casualty rates among civilians are similarly dismissed as “street crime,” with the difference that France’s troublemakers will be inspired by Salafi jihadism while being shockingly well armed. Needless to add, more militarization of police and society will follow.

It’s all too soon to tell. All-out civil war — think more Mad Max than Gettysburg — cannot be ruled out at this juncture. What is clear, however, is that Europe has no idea how to respond to this mounting crisis in any politically coherent fashion.

There's much more at the link.  It's very long, but well worth reading, IMHO.

Peter

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Night Will Fall" is a must-see documentary


Tomorrow, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a documentary program will be presented by HBO:  'Night Will Fall'.  The New York Daily News describes it:

The Hitchcock documentary was about the Allied liberation of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and many other Nazi death camps. It was commissioned by the British Ministry of Information with Sidney Bernstein producing and Hitchcock as supervising director. But as reconciliation took place, the Brits needed post-World War II Germany as an ally in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

And so the damning film with footage taken by military cameramen of living skeletons, acres of Jewish corpses and warehouses stuffed with human hair and teeth was shelved to placate the shamed Germans, and has remained buried until now.

The never-before-publicly-seen footage is so graphic, so stunning, so disturbing — even seven decades later — that it almost makes you ashamed to be a member of the same species as those responsible for it. You could almost hear your thumping heart breaking amid the pervasive, shocked silence in the dark auditorium.

“Night Will Fall,” produced by Brett Ratner and Sally Angel, and directed by Andre Singer, premieres on HBO and in 15 countries worldwide on Monday as part of Holocaust Memorial Day. Its title comes from a quote in the film’s voice-over, “Unless the world learns the lessons these pictures teach, night will fall.”

There's more at the link.  Here's a trailer for the documentary.





The tragic thing is, because this documentary has been suppressed for so long, and because footage of Holocaust atrocities is so seldom broadcast, a whole generation - more than one generation - has lost touch with just how horrifying this part of history really was.  Partly as a result, there have been more such atrocities in the years since:  the Killing Fields, Srebrenica, Sabra and Shatila, Rwanda, and heaven knows how many more.

We need to see these images . . . these people.  Man's inhumanity to man, personified.  We need to remember, so that they may never be forgotten.  May their souls rest in whatever peace is possible to them.

Apart from this documentary (which I intend to buy on DVD as soon as I can), I highly recommend the movie 'Schindler's List' and the 'Genocide' episode of the award-winning series 'The World At War', as well as the two-part bonus documentary 'The Final Solution' in the extended DVD edition of that series.  (The latter is available on YouTube at present:  Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.  However, they may be taken down soon, as most uploads from 'The World At War' seem to be removed fairly quickly, presumably for copyright reasons.)  All are (or will soon be) part of my permanent library.  I think everyone should own them, and re-screen them periodically so that we never forget.

Peter

Movie sword fights as you've never seen them before


Here's a magnificent compilation of sword fights from no less than 60 films.  Blink and you'll miss something!  Watch it in full-screen mode for the best effect.





The movies (listed only the first time each one appears) are:

00:01 - Kill Bill
00:06 - Hero
00:08 - Seven Samurai
00:09 - The Princess bride
00:11 - Hero
00:13 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
00:14 - Gladiator
00:16 - Conan the Barbarian
00:17 - Troy
00:19 - Batman begins
00:21 - Dragonslayer
00:23 - Kill Bill Vol. 2
00:26 - The Empire strikes back
00:29 - Crouching tiger, hidden dragon
00:33 - Zatoichi
00:35 - Hellboy 2
00:37 - The mask of Zorro
00:40 - The phantom menace
00:45 - Peter Pan
00:47 - Pirates of the Caribbean: The curse of the Black Pearl
00:49 - Revenge of the Sith
00:52 - The duelists
00:54 - LadyHawke
00:55 - The Count of Montecristo
00:56 - Kingdom of Heaven
00:58 - Blade
01:03 - The 13th warrior
01:05 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
01:06 - The Fellowship of the Ring
01:07 - Highlander
01:12 - Cutthroat Island
01:13 - Dangerous liaisons
01:14 - The adventres of Robin Hood (1938)
01:20 - The attack of the clones
01:26 - Stardust
01:28 - House of Flying Daggers
01:30 - Matrix Reloaded
01:32 - The flame and the arrow
01:35 - Willow
01:36 - Cyrano de Bergerac
01:48 - Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
01:49 - Monty Python and the Holy Grail
01:50 - Hamlet (1996)
01:52 - Rob Roy
02:02 - Young Sherlock Holmes
02:08 - The Crow
02:12 - Casanova
02:20 - Star Wars: A new hope
02:29 - The Four Musketeers (1974)
02:31 - Dragonheart
02:33 - The return of the Jedi
02:38 - Hook
02:40 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
02:44 - Army of Darkness
02:55 - Azumi
02:57 - 300
03:01 - Excalibur
03:03 - Blind Fury
03:05 - The Curse of the Golden Flower
03:38 - Equilibrium

Congratulations to Vimeo user ClaraDarko for a spectacular piece of editing.

Peter

Wheels within wheels in the Middle East


Keep your eyes firmly on the Arabian Peninsula over the next few weeks.  Some very interesting - and threatening - developments there could destabilize the entire Middle East, and conceivably the entire world.

  1. The Houthi tribe, members of the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam, have taken over the Presidential palace in Yemen. They're said to be backed by Iran. The government of Yemen has resigned following the takeover, which threatens the position of the Sunni Moslem Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in that country.  AQAP is aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), sometimes referred to simply as Islamic State, which currently dominates proceedings in Iraq and Syria.  Full-scale civil war appears likely in Yemen.
  2. Iran is supporting Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIL, and has sent its own military forces to the battlefield. If it's behind the Houthi takeover in Yemen, it's likely it got involved there to block any increase in influence by the ISIL-supporting AQAP.
  3. If AQAP can maintain and strengthen its position in Yemen, then ISIL can infiltrate Saudi Arabia from the North while AQAP does the same from the South. The King of Saudi Arabia died last week, and his successor is reported to be in poor health and suffering from senility.  Whether he is or not, the government of Saudi Arabia is currently in a state of flux.  The handover of power, with at least thirty princes more or less eligible for the succession and thousands of minor royalty jockeying for position and influence, is never easy in such a nation.  That offers an opportunity for ISIL and AQAP.  If they strike before the Saudi administration settles down, they may be able to exploit its current weakness and uncertainty.  It's a perfect time for them to attack - and perhaps take over - the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  I'll bet my next decade's income they're discussing it as you read these words.
  4. Remember the speed with which ISIL took over huge swaths of Iraq?  Their black-bannered convoys of fundamentalist terrorist fighters appeared to sweep all before them as demoralized government troops melted away like snow in the sunlight.  If you think Saudi Arabian ground forces will perform any better, you don't know the situation in the Middle East very well.  That's why US and Coalition forces had to be the prime movers and fighters in both Gulf Wars - our Arab 'allies' were incapable of doing so for themselves.

If there's a move by ISIL and AQAP to invade Saudi Arabia, then that country's mortal enemy, Iran, might find itself (however reluctantly) forced to support its rival for power in the Persian Gulf, the Saudi royal family.  What's more, you'll see the price of oil, which has tumbled in recent months, just as swiftly reverse itself.  I'm betting it could hit $150-$200 per barrel within four to six weeks if things go badly wrong.  Just imagine what that would do to the already fragile world economy.

Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the Arabian Peninsula.  I'm thinking we ain't seen nothin' yet . . .

Peter

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pictures of the German Air Force in World War II


A tip o' the hat to Glen W. for sending me the link to this outstanding collection of photographs of aircraft of the German Luftwaffe during World War II.  There are some amazing shots there that I've never come across before, as well as some that are more familiar.  Here are a few that may be new to many of you.  Click each image for a larger view.

First, the six-engined Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant, the biggest German transport aircraft of the war.  It began life as the Me 321 glider, and was then redesigned as a powered aircraft.  It could carry up to 12 tons of cargo, or 130 men, or 60 patients on stretchers.  (Compare that to the most common US cargo aircraft of the war, the C-47 Skytrain, which could carry up to 3 tons of cargo or 28 men, including the crew.)






The slow, lumbering Me 323 featured in one of the greatest German aviation disasters of the war.  As Wikipedia reports:

On 22 April 1943, a formation of 27 fully loaded Me 323s was being escorted across the Sicilian Straits by Bf 109s of JG 27 when it was intercepted by seven squadrons of Spitfires and P-40s. Twenty one of the Me 323s were lost while three of the P-40s were shot down by the escorts.

My late father had a role in that Allied victory;  he was an engineer officer in the Royal Air Force, and fighters from his airfield were among those involved that day.  He described the party in the pilots' mess that night as being 'epic'.

Here are a couple of less well-known German seaplanes.  First, the Heinkel He 115, often used as a torpedo bomber against the Arctic convoys to and from the Soviet Union.




Next, the Arado Ar 196, standard equipment on German Navy capital ships.  They were carried for communication, reconnaissance and gunfire 'spotting' purposes.  The famous battleship Bismarck carried four of them on her one and only voyage, and tried to launch one just before she was sunk to carry important records to safety.  Unfortunately, shellfire damaged the launching mechanism, preventing the aircraft from taking off.




Finally, here's a very famous individual, one of the finest fighting men of any age.  Hans-Ulrich Rudel was a legend in his own lifetime, respected by fighting men around the globe despite his ardent and unwavering devotion to Hitler and the Nazi cause.  His combat record is well-nigh incredible:  he flew 2,530 combat missions and destroyed over 500 enemy tanks (among many other victories).  He was shot down or forced to land 32 times, several of them behind enemy lines, and was wounded in action five times, including the loss of one leg (which didn't stop him flying and fighting).  He was the only person in the entire German armed forces to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.  I highly recommend his book 'Stuka Pilot'.  Here he's shown demonstrating how to attack the Soviet T-34 tank, using a model to illustrate his points.




There are many more images at the link. Fascinating viewing for aviation and military history buffs.

Peter

Workout partner


I don't know who's having the most fun!








Peter

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fancy a (very big) cookout?


I note with bemusement that what's claimed to be the world's largest barbecue grill is for sale on eBay.  Asking price is a mere $350,000.00 - plus $3.58 standard shipping!




According to the Telegraph:

The "Undisputable Cuz", as the [present owners] call it, can cook four tonnes of meat at a time from a surprisingly small fire.

But if you're not sure a 24-door barbecue with seven chimneys is enough to make your summer party go down in history, the trailer is also fitted with a walk-in cooler, beer taps and space for a television and stereo.

There's more at the link.  Here's a video clip of the beast in action.





Hmm . . . if we took up a collection, I wonder if we could get that for our next Blogorado gathering?

Peter

Can Europe remain intact?


Last week we looked at diversity in Europe, citing a Stratfor article titled 'A War Between Two Worlds' that examined the conflict between diversity and nationality in European nations.  Now Stratfor has followed it with another, equally thought-provoking article titled 'The European Union, Nationalism and the Crisis of Europe'.  With Stratfor's permission, here's an excerpt examining the European Union's adoption of quantitative easing to ease the supranational economy.

The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing.

The United States did this in 2008. In addition to government debt, the Federal Reserve also bought corporate debt. The hyperinflation that some had feared would result from the move never materialized, and the U.S. economy hit a 5 percent growth rate in the third quarter of last year. The Europeans chose not to pursue this route, and as a result, the European economy is, at best, languishing. Now the Europeans will begin such a program — several years after the Americans did — in the hopes of moving things forward again.

The European strategy is vitally different, however. The Federal Reserve printed the money and bought the cash. The European Central Bank will also print the money, but each eurozone country's individual national bank will do the purchasing, and each will be allowed only to buy the debt of its own government. The reason for this decision reveals much about Europe's real crisis, which is not so much economic (although it is certainly economic) as it is political and social — and ultimately cultural and moral.

The recent leaks have made it clear the European Central Bank is implementing quantitative easing in this way because many eurozone governments are unable to pay their sovereign debt. European countries do not want to cover each other's shortfalls, either directly or by exposing the central bank to losses, a move that would make all members liable. In particular, Berlin does not want to be in a position where a series of defaults could cripple Europe as a whole and therefore cripple Germany. This is why the country has resisted quantitative easing, even in the face of depressions in Southern Europe, recessions elsewhere and contractions in demand for German products that have driven German economic growth downward. Berlin preferred those outcomes to the risk of becoming liable for the defaults of other countries.

. . .

The European Central Bank is providing the mechanism for stimulating Europe's economy, while the eurozone member states will assume the responsibility for stimulating it — and living with the consequences of failure. It is as if the Federal Reserve were to print money and give some to each state so that New York could buy its own debt and not become exposed to California's casual ways. The strangeness of the plan rests in the strangeness of the European experiment. California and New York share a common fate as part of the United States. While Germany and Greece are both part of the European Union, they do not and will not share a common fate. If they do not share a common fate, then what exactly is the purpose of the European Union? It was never supposed to be about "the pursuit of happiness," but instead about "peace and prosperity." The promise is the not right to pursue, but the right to have. That is a huge difference.

There's more at the link.

It's sobering to realize that issues of diversity, tolerance, etc. can be completely overwhelmed by social and economic turmoil.  Remember what hyperinflation did to the Weimar Republic?  It was one of the factors that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.  Concurrent economic turmoil in Italy gave rise to Benito Mussolini and the Fascist Party.  In Greece, rocked by economic chaos for the past five years, a radical far-Left coalition is expected to win elections on Sunday, with right-wing opponents already saying darkly that they're not to be trusted.  In Germany and France anti-immigrant sentiments have led to an increase in support for extremist parties on both the left and the right wings of politics.

Who's to say that economic issues might not spark another decade like the 1930's in Europe?  And if so, what's to prevent them from (God forbid) segueing into another decade like the 1940's?

Peter

The joys of coming home to a cat


Our cat, Kili, was overjoyed when Miss D. and I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon. She was drooling with happiness, purring, rubbing herself all over us - very touching (you should pardon the expression).

Then the fun started.

You see, she'd been deprived of playing with us for a week, and our main function in life is to keep her entertained. (According to her, anyway.)  So, almost as soon as we'd caught our breath, she was belly-trapping us all over the house.  "See me flop on my back!  See me expose my cute fluffy belly to your fingers!  I double dare you to try to scratch it!"  Followed, of course, by murder and mayhem, kitty style, when we did so.

Last night, she decided that having allowed us one good night's sleep on Wednesday, now it was her turn. She paraded up and down the length of each of us several times, kneading away with her paws, purring loudly. When we protested sleepily and brushed her off, she'd wait a few minutes, decide that we hadn't really meant it, and come back for more.  Her favorite sleeping place is against my calves, so when I rolled over she'd mutter indignantly to herself and try to stick a claw in me to make me hold still (which usually has the opposite effect). Last night she was in fine form, managing to get at my toes under the edge of the comforter on two separate occasions.  It's a hell of a thing to wake up with a claw in your big toe!

This morning she's been quite relaxed. She clearly worked off most of her excess energy last night. Now, if only we weren't so tired . . .

Peter