Tag: Germany

A Trojan Horse in Berlin

PIIGS is an unfortunate acronym for the relatively poor countries in the EU (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), but the real pigs in Europe are now and forever the Germans.

The top German pigs have been imposing a reasonable facsimile of the neo-con agenda on their unwary population for about a decade of stagnant wages and increasing job-insecurity…

Especially over the past decade, German manufacturers — already juggernauts of industry — became some of the most globally competitive companies. Just as American firms did, they turned to outsourcing and overseas production hubs. They kept salaries down at home, with average wages stagnating in Germany for a decade. Germany still has no uniform minimum wage, and aggressive cost-cutting has resulted in more and more Germans laboring in temporary or contract jobs with lower pay and less job security.

German consumers responded by saving their pfennigs, and German domestic consumption crashed while exports ballooned to a trade surplus of $184.9 billion, second only to Saudi Arabia.

So the benefits of neo-Reaganism in Germany accrued almost entirely to bankers and other billionaires, while the rank-and-file repaired their old cars and appliances, and patched up their pitiful overcoats.


Even in prosperous countries, almost everybody gets screwed!

Meanwhile the PIIGS used their brand new credit in the Eurozone to borrow piles of money, expand government services, and increase public-sector salaries.

But according to the dogma of globalization, neo-Reaganism’s Democratic twin, all that debt would eventually be repaid by the rising tide of global prosperity, which lifts all boats, turns slumdogs into millionaires, and…


It never happened! Globalization was bullshit and top-down predation, and while Germany exported BMW’s, Greece exported olives, and went broke.

Now Greek government bonds are about to turn into junk-bonds, and that would set off a godawful chain-reaction, because the forward-thinking Eurozone is about to disallow junk-bonds (rated less than A2) as loan collateral, and German banks are holding a heck of a lot of Greek sovereign debt.

That’s the Trojan Horse in Berlin.

If the Greeks default (and junk-bond status for their bonds would push interest rates so high that default would be more or less inevitable), then German banks (and others) are faced with ugly write-downs, and aren’t you glad to know that this alarming possibility has produced a booming market in credit default swaps!

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin, Nelson D. Schwartz and Eric Dash report in The New York Times.

Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.

These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.

“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house — you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.

Now the Germans want the Greeks (and the rest of the PIIGS) to slash public salaries and services, raise taxes, and turn themselves into globally respectable poverty-zones, and Ireland’s neo-con government has already complied.

“I can’t even keep up with my own debts, never mind the nation’s,” Cullen said, shopping for cut-rate sausage at a discount supermarket he disdained to visit in better times. “I’ve got to spend 30 hours a week taxiing just to break even. Something else has got to give. I can’t give any more.”

Despite the pain its cutbacks are imposing on ordinary people, the conservative Irish government of Prime Minister Brian Cowen has won praise from the European Union and the bond markets for its efforts to cut debt, prices and salaries.

But Greece is resisting, mainly on the basis of a (slightly veiled) threat to default on all those bonds German banks have already swallowed, and it would probably be a very good thing for all of us if all the PIIGS refused to implement the draconian austerity program which the Germans (and their tools at the ECB) want to impose, and a very bad thing if Europe stymies its feeble recovery with a lethal combination of higher taxes and diminished spending.

Tax and don’t spend! What’s not to like? It worked for Hoover!

“This premature fiscal tightening is the route to the Second Great Depression” – or at the very least, a long period of economic stagnation, warned Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

Behold, what courtly statecraft!


Greece: “Oh, yeah?  What happened to our WWII reparations, Nazi gold thieves?”

Germany: “Fuck you, Greek deceivers, swindlers, beguilers, double-dealers, fraudsters, scammers, dupers, impostors, peculators, embezzlers, cheats.”

Thus, by first gently and graciously grooming one another’s perceived character flaws, without excessively slavish preening, the negotiations can grind directly into the brass tacks.

It’s called finesse.

On The Futility Of War, Part One, Or, Snow Becomes A Lethal Weapon

We have another one of those “amazing history” stories for you today-and this one’s a real doozy.

We’re going to spend the better part of four years in the Italian Alps (or, to be more accurate, what was intended to be the Italian Alps), and by the time we’re done, nearly 400,000 soldiers will have been killed-and 60,000 of those will have died as a result of avalanches that were set by one side or the other.

In the middle of the story: a mountaineer and soldier who was so highly regarded that even those who fought against him accorded him the highest honors they could muster, creating a legend that lives on to this very day.

And even though a young Captain Erwin Rommel fought in these battles…it’s not him.

Oh, by the way: did I mention that there are also some handy object lessons for anyone who might be thinking about fighting a war in Afghanistan?

Well, there are, Gentle Reader, so follow along, and let’s all learn something today.

Fascism and the Rise of Nazism

Blurb here: By Mick Brooks via Socialist Appeal.

This is an audio with the MP3 available for download.  There’s also a link on the page.

Obama, McCain and Learning The Lessons of Buchenwald

“It was Soviet troops that liberated Auschwitz, so unless his uncle was serving in the Red Army, there’s no way Obama’s statement yesterday can be true,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant. “Obama’s frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief.”

link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/…

The above is a confident statement from a confident American political operative, working for a jittery party that senses its own demise. Desperate for any political traction, they grasped today upon Obama’s mis-statement that his relative liberated Auschwitz, and not Buchenwald.

For this small historical gaffe, the GOP would have us infer that Barack Obama is not fit to be President of the United States.

But what is the greater gaffe, mislabeling one of several Nazi concentration camps, or misunderstanding the lessons of the Holocaust as our country stumbles, and trips, and reaches for light straws of hope as we seek to restore our moral authority as the world’s leader on human rights after the abuses at Abu Ghirab and the ongoing detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay?

Updated: China Plans Tour For Select Journalists As Western Opinion Sides With Dalai Lama and Tibet

First, more news about brutality being used against protesters in Qinghai:

“They were beating up monks, which will only infuriate ordinary people,” the source said of the protest on Tuesday in Qinghai’s Xinghai county.

A resident in the area confirmed the demonstration, saying that paramilitaries dispersed the 200 to 300 protesters after half and hour, that the area was crawling with armed security forces and that workers were kept inside their offices.

The Beijing source said resentment at the paramilitary presence around Lhasa’s monasteries prompted one monk at the Ramoche temple to hang himself.


“It’s very harsh. They are taking in and questioning anyone who saw the protests,” the source said. “The prisons are full. Detainees are being held at prisons in counties outside Lhasa.”

link: http://www.reuters.com/article…

Climate Change: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

With the world we know in just a little bit of trouble, thanks to global warming/climate change and other human-caused environmental disasters, three different countries are pursuing three very different approaches to dealing with it.

In Germany, Spiegel Online reports:

The cabinet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel approved a package of emissions reduction policies representing a 2008 commitment of €3.3 billion ($4.8 billion) on Wednesday. Cabinet members say it is among the most ambitious national initiatives of its kind in the world.

“The government is taking a big step forward to achieve its climate protection goals,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said, according to the Associated Press. “Germany will maintain its leadership role.”

The plan breaks down into 14 new laws and regulations, each designed to encourage businesses to conserve energy or expand Germany’s production of renewable energy.

Germany’s goals are to cut their greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2020, which would put it in compliance with the the overall European Union’s target, and to increase the share of its energy consumption that comes from renewable sources from a current 14% to 25-30%, by the same date.

Some other countries, however, are backing off previous promises.


Pony Party! WWFSMVF? Yo-ho! R’men! w/poll

Yes, indeed.  It’s the single most important issue of the campaign!  It’s the single most sought after endorsement of the year!  It’s the question of the ages: Who Would Flying Spaghetti Monster Vote For?

Follow his noodly appendage below the break!

Load more