Posts

Showing posts from February, 2015

Getting Close to the "Darkest Hour": Ancient Art Destroyed, Lives Lost, A Voice for Freedom Silenced

Image
We are getting close to Mankind's "darkest hour". The Voice for Freedom, silenced in Moscow on 27 February, was that of Boris Nemtsov. It was close to midnight, he was gunned down not far from the Kremlin, as he was walking home from a radio interview in which he had dared to take Putin to task for his warmongering in Ukraine.

He was a liberal politician, a fighter of corruption, one of the most important leaders in the opposition to Putin. As a young man, he'd been close to Yeltsin, serving as his first deputy minister and many thought that since he was Yeltsin's right arm, he would succeed him; instead, Putin, Yeltsin's left arm, the man picked to spy on several of his colleagues, was the one ultimately chosen - with the catastrophic results we all know.

And of course Putin is behind the failed cease-fire in Ukraine. Merkel and Hollande unwittingly played their part: the agreement they brokered was faulty, the rebels quickly took advantage of the loophole …

What's Wrong with Europe? Ukraine, Greece and Libya: All Unfinished Businesses

Image
Libya is sinking into a fundamentalist Islamic chaos, the cease-fire in Ukraine is breaking down and Greece's debt problems are far from resolved.

And this in spite of the the so-called agreement reached in Minsk between Putin and the Merkel-Hollande couple. And in spite of the news coming out late Friday evening (20 February) that the Eurogroup (the Euro-zone 19 finance ministers) had agreed to extend by four months Greece's bailout, thus avoiding a financial shutdown of Greece.

Anyone following the news in Ukraine can see that the cease-fire hasn't got a ghost of chance, with Russia still fully supporting the rebels' advance in the East.  Yet, both Hollande and Merkel confidently talk about taking new sanctions and Kerry echoes them. One wonders how anyone can still believe in the power of sanctions. Surely Putin doesn't care.

As to the Greek bailout extension, it's a sham: this coming Monday (23 February), as reported in the New York Times:
"Greece mus…

France, Taking the Pulse

Image
I spent the past week in Paris and it has opened my eyes.  Several widely-held opinions and ideas struck me:

1. I am not Charlie

I met NOBODY who evinced support for Charlie Hebdo - now with the killings in Denmark, there has been a revival of that "let's defend freedom of the press" mood, but it is sure to soon pass away. The Charlie Hebdo cover that came out a week after the murders caused everyone to tell me, with emphasis on the "not", "I am not Charlie".

You may wonder who I met and to what extent the people I talked to were representative of French people at large. I can't prove it but I am convinced that they were in fact very representative.

First, everyone in the French opposition to the French President François Hollande felt that way. Even the most rabid supporter of the French government were upset that taxpayer money was used to finance what they saw as a "dirty sheet" (my opinion too, I never bought it) - one that just went …

Greece vs. Germany: A Game of Chicken Or Cat and Mouse?

Image
Paul Krugman in the New York Times has called the rapidly unfolding Euro crisis a "game of chicken" (here). I think it's more like a  cat-and-mouse game played by Germany against Greece, in which Germany is a Big Fat Cat trying to immobilize a darting Greek mouse.

As I explained in my previous blog post, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Finance Minister, Varoufakis, started by refusing to talk to the "troika" (European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission) and traveling all over Europe to raise support for a renegotiation of the bailout that has caused so much suffering in Greece - from unbearably high unemployment (over 40%) to a collapse of the national health system and a 25% shrinking of the economy.

Yes, a darting mouse.

Next, last Wednesday (4 February) , the European Central Bank (ECB) made the first move,  announcing that it would no longer accept Greek government debt as collateral for loans. And the annou…

How Greece Plans to Solve the Euro-crisis

Image
Europe is trembling - rather the Germans are, and all those behind the austerity policy promoted by Merkel. Why? Because Greece has just voted in a totally new party very much on the Left (Syriza) and a dashing young man (Alexis Tsipras, the new Prime Minister) determined to put an end to austerity at any cost.

The fear rose when everyone saw what minority party Tsipras took on board to control the Greek Parliament: ANEL, a tiny rightist party led by Panos Kammenos, a product of the conservationist establishment but a man who is just as determined as Tsipras to stop austerity and relaunch the Greek economy.


Then, to negotiate with Europe a reset of the Greek debt, the new government picked as Finance Minister an unusual economist Yanis Varoufakis:


Born in 1961, he is a maths and economics graduate of the Universities of Essex and Birmingham and has taught in several universities in Britain and 12 years in Australia (U. of Sidney - he has dual citizenship, Greek-Australian). He has S…

Climate Change and The Collapse of Western Civilization

Image
To anyone living in Europe, it is truly puzzling that Americans continue to deny Climate Change.  The anger, recklessness and vehemence displayed by American "climate deniers" are something of a mystery. And their favorite argument is that there is no scientific "evidence" of global warming - in spite of the rising number of "extreme" weather events, the floods, the fires and the melting ice, and some of it happening right on their doorstep.

Now, finally, two American scientists - one from Harvard, the other from the California Institute of Technology - have given us the key to the mystery.  Naomi Oreskes who is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University and Erisk M. Conway,  an award-winning historian of science and technology at the California Institute of Technology, have used in their latest book, The Collapse of Western Civilization, a remarkably effective dramatic device. Inst…