Posts Tagged ‘Germany’
The business of acting to make a difference.
The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi
Yesterday, I republished a long essay from Bill McKibben under my title of Stop, read, reflect and Act! Bill’s essay was called Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math and terrifying the numbers are!
If you didn’t read it yesterday, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. Why? Because the process of change cannot start until we truly want to change; a total emotional commitment. And the formation of those emotions, that realisation, requires a new understanding of the world around us, who we are and who we want to be. An outcome that is all part of being better informed, which is why the McKibben essay is so profoundly important.
Tomorrow, I want to explore that process of personal change.
But before then, let me go back and repeat some words in Bill’s essay that really jumped off the page and hit me between the eyes.
Writing of Germany, Bill said, “… on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. That’s a small miracle – and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems. But we lack the will.“
We lack the will!!
Then in the next paragraph, Bill went on to write,
This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don’t work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.
This is what hit me between the eyes, “the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs.” That describes me to perfection. OK, we have installed solar panels as well but I admit to a significant degree of ambivalence! “ tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself“
Let me remind you of Bill’s next paragraph,
People perceive – correctly – that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that “while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper,” only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter – but time is precisely what we lack.
So it comes down to change; change in a timely manner, to boot!
Let’s hold that until tomorrow and I will leave you with this: Put your future in good hands – your own.
The story that could run for an awfully long time!
I rather revealed my newness as a US resident by posting my review of David Kauders’ book The Greatest Crash over 2 days last week, one of them being Thanksgiving Day. Despite that 1,895 people viewed my review which was entitled The end of an era.
A week has now passed since that review. I was curious to see what sorts of headlines had been making the news in the last 7 days. It’s just a random trawl through those items that have captured my attention.
Let’s start with the Financial Times, November 27th,
The eurozone really has only days to avoid collapse
By Wolfgang Münchau
In virtually all the debates about the eurozone I have been engaged in, someone usually makes the point that it is only when things get bad enough, the politicians finally act – eurobond, debt monetisation, quantitative easing, whatever. I am not so sure. The argument ignores the problem of acute collective action.
Last week, the crisis reached a new qualitative stage. With the spectacular flop of the German bond auction and the alarming rise in short-term rates in Spain and Italy, the government bond market across the eurozone has ceased to function.
Wolfgang concludes his article thus,
Italy’s disastrous bond auction on Friday tells us time is running out. The eurozone has 10 days at most.
Then my print copy of The Economist that arrived on the 26th had this lurid cover page,
Unless Germany and the ECB move quickly, the single currency’s collapse is looming
The leader article contains this paragraph,
Past financial crises show that this downward spiral can be arrested only by bold policies to regain market confidence. But Europe’s policymakers seem unable or unwilling to be bold enough. The much-ballyhooed leveraging of the euro-zone rescue fund agreed on in October is going nowhere. Euro-zone leaders have become adept at talking up grand long-term plans to safeguard their currency—more intrusive fiscal supervision, new treaties to advance political integration. But they offer almost no ideas for containing today’s conflagration.
and a few paragraphs later, this,
This cannot go on for much longer. Without a dramatic change of heart by the ECB and by European leaders, the single currency could break up within weeks. Any number of events, from the failure of a big bank to the collapse of a government to more dud bond auctions, could cause its demise. In the last week of January, Italy must refinance more than €30 billion ($40 billion) of bonds. If the markets balk, and the ECB refuses to blink, the world’s third-biggest sovereign borrower could be pushed into default.
Then on Sunday, 27th, MISH’s Trend Analysis blogsite reveals,
ICAP Plc, the world’s largest inter-dealer broker (one that carries out transactions for financial institutions rather than private individuals), is now Testing Trades In Greek Drachma Against Dollar, Euro
ICAP Plc is preparing its electronic trading platforms for Greece’s potential exit from the euro and a return to the drachma, senior executives at the inter-dealer broker said Sunday.
ICAP is the latest firm to disclose such preparations, joining the growing ranks of banks, governments and other key players in the global financial system whose officials are worried enough about the stability of the common currency to be making contingency plans for a possible break-up.
Investors sent Europe’s politicians a painful message last week whenGermany had a seriously disappointing government bond auction. It was unable to sell more than a third of the benchmark 10-year bonds it had sought to auction off on Nov. 23, and interest rates on 30-year German debt rose from 2.61 percent to 2.83 percent. The message? Germany is no longer a safe haven.
Ultimately, an integrated currency area may remain in Europe, albeit with fewer countries and more fiscal centralization. The Germans will force the weaker countries out of the euro area or, more likely, Germany and some others will leave the euro to form their own currency. The euro zone could be expanded again later, but only after much deeper political, economic and fiscal integration.
Tragedy awaits. European politicians are likely to stall until markets force a chaotic end upon them. Let’s hope they are planning quietly to keep disorder from turning into chaos.
Finally, on the 29th the BBC News website carried details of the Autumn Statement made by British Chancellor, George Osborne, to Parliament.
Osborne confirms pay and jobs pain as growth slows
Chancellor George Osborne has said public sector pay rises will be capped at 1% for two years, as he lowered growth forecasts for the UK economy.
The number of public sector jobs set to be lost by 2017 has also been revised up from 400,000 to 710,000.
Borrowing and unemployment are set to be higher than forecast and spending cuts to carry on to 2017, he admitted.
Just look at that figure of public sector job losses – 710,000!
Well that’s more than enough from me but it does surely endorse the opening views that David Kauders expounded in his book, as carried in my review, and reproduced here,
Starting with the first sentence, David sets out the core problem;
This book argues that it is impossible to expand the financial system much further.
expanding this a few paragraphs later,
This is the financial system limit: lack of new borrowing plus excessive weight of debt obligations from past borrowing combine to slow economies down. This is the barrier whichever way policy makers turn. It is like the lid on a boiling kettle. Enough steam can lift it for a while but it always snaps back into place. The financial system limit is a roadblock preventing growth.
A few pages later in this opening chapter ‘The roadblock preventing growth‘ this limit is explained thus,
Policy contradictions also show us that the financial system has reached a roadblock. The glaring conflict between bailout and austerity is at the core. Each bailout or stimulus requires creation of more credit, leading to false financial speculation, and for a short while markets recover their poise. The threat of inflation returns. Later, bad debts rise, the markets tumble again and a new crisis emerges. Austerity, the alternative policy, cuts spending thereby cutting the immediate level of economic activity and bringing economic decline more quickly than the stimulus alternative. Whichever way they turn, the authorities are damned.
You can understand why I called this Post a ‘footnote’ not an endnote.
This beats the annual Christmas Pantomime
Well, every day the eurofarce gets more surreal. Yesterday, Frau Merkel said this:
“The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced in decades. If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”
What on earth does she mean by “Europe fails”? Why this recourse to sensationalism?
If the euro is sinking it is because people don’t think it is serious. If that is the
case, the only thing to do is MAKE it serious. This is not to be done by borrowing EVEN MORE money.
In the worst-case scenario (which Merkel’s antics are rapidly talking us into) the euro collapses and we go back to our old currencies. This would be a failure of the EURO, not of EUROPE.
Germany would return to being the economic powerhouse of Europe under the strong Deutschmark. Italy, Greece and other usual suspects would return to their quaint old ways with frequent devaluations.
So what? Better to be honest than go on suffering from a vast ego-bubble that will inevitably collapse in an explosion of hubris. (Thank you for the vocabulary, dear Greeks)
I told you so!
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and its coalition allies have been defeated in regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia.
German Chancellor Merkel appears to have lost the state vote in NRW and may see her control of parliament reduced or eliminated. It’s her own fault.
Germany and in particular NRW (the industrial powerhouse of Germany) are in a serious economic situation with enforced cuts left, right and centre and yet she has loaned (aka given) billions to feckless, idle, corrupt and shambolic Greece.
The Germans have had to tighten their belts and are still paying vast sums to bring East Germany up to speed, yet Merkel feels she can fritter away her people’s money to “save the euro“. It won’t save Greece or the euro.
The Greeks fully deserve to go bankrupt and are incapable of complying with the degree of “cuts” the Germans are demanding. Other European countries will lose money if Greece defaults. Tough.
Better to suffer a one-off loss than an endless shelling-out into a black hole. No bailout of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland or Britain. Did the PEOPLE of ANY of the rest of EU countries have ANY say in this at all?
It seems the French pushed hard for a bailout. What a coincidence that some of their insurance companies have invested heavily in Greece. TOO BAD. Greece’s problems have been well-known for years; which moron poured billions into their black-hole, retire-at-53, inherit-your-sister’s-pension, go-to-work-if-you-feel-like-it economy?
And the Greeks? They seem to feel it is the fault of the REST of us that they have to make cuts. Was a reality check ever more fully needed? Sadly, but inevitably, there will be social breakdown in Greece from which something new will emerge. What that is, one cannot say, but I do not believe it can include membership of the Euro.
The Brussels Overlords think differently. Their little Euro brainchild must be saved at all costs. But they are all personally very well off and have no problems with money, unlike the majority of their constituents thanks to the despicable fraud perpetrated on them by the banks under the appallingly-negligent supervision of a multitude of governments.
I have written about Greece several times in recent weeks since to me it is a symbol of the combination of arrogance and utter folly of many of Europe’s governments – and in particular Brussels – who have overspent wildly, who have allowed their banks to make fraudulent loans and have imposed an ever-increasing burden of bureaucracy, Human rights, paperwork and regulations on the peoples of Europe.
How we are supposed to compete effectively when we A) price ourselves out of the market and B) wildly overspend is a mystery.
Has Europe now to prepare itself for a long period of decline and retrenchment in living standards as Asia maintains its inexorable growth and raw materials rocket in price? I fear so, but it’ll be the ordinary people bearing the brunt of all this, not the increasingly-remote politicians in national governments and Brussels.
Greece is a warning for the rest of us. There is no law that says we cannot go the same way. The UK and France in particular have bloated, feather-bedded public sectors. The chickens always come home to roost, and they are now flocking rapidly towards the hen-house.
By Chris Snuggs
Fancy a Greek Isle?
Germany is baulking at a Greek bailout ….. 84% of the people are opposed according to polls, and Frau Merkel is decidedly lukewarm. This is no surprise; the Germans are pretty commonsensical after all. They are going through a “spot of fiscal turbulence” themselves and hardly in a mood to bail out a feckless, tax-avoiding, economic basket case on the flaky south of the Brusselian Empire ….
Instead, they have come up with a cunning plan; the Greeks should sell some of their islands. I can see the attraction; at knock-down prices, no doubt a good many Germans themselves – short of coast in the homeland – would be only too keen to snap up a firesale bargain.
But if I were Greek I would beware of Germans with cunning ideas. After all, it could be the islands today and the Acropolis tomorrow. Selling capital assets to clear debts built up on a binge of tax-avoided short-term consumption is hardly the long-term solution, and it is remarkable how we humans do tend to go for short-term, quick-fix solutions (see my post on the Fat Pill) . Of course, in Europe at least the Sun (can I capitalize it? It is after all the source of my existence …) plays a large part here, for the further south you go the hotter it is, the more corruptly-shambolic the taxation system, the flakier the economy and the higher the debt. Of course, Britain is an exception to the rule, since it must be put in the Mediterranean basket of cases even though it is far up in the north. Still, Britain was ever exceptional ….
No, I would advise the Greeks to hang on to their islands for a rainy day and do the right thing, which is take the medicine, invest long-term rather than on frivolous consumption and in general live within your means. Selling the islands is desperation stakes, even if the ultimate solution would be to sell the whole country to the Germans and let them sort out the mess, and – more to the point – pay for it all as they did with East Germany.
But though this is hardly a laughing matter – especially for innocent Greeks (I assume there are some!!) – I did have a chuckle yesterday when I saw the headline.
“Greece calls for EU to play its part.” – in other words, bung in billions to bail them out. I am I confess mystified to understand exactly why the thrifty Danes should play their part in bailing out the hapless Greeks, though I suppose we do still owe them for democracy and stuff. When does the statute of limitations run out on this?
Well, good luck Greece, but don’t count on my pfennig, and don’t sell the islands either!
By Chris Snuggs
A King’s folly?
We are lucky enough to live near Füssen in the Allgäu, Bavaria. This is where King Ludwig built Schloss Neuschwanstein as his retirement home. Sadly, he never lived to inhabit it, dying in somewhat mysterious circumstances before it was completed.
His death may have had something to do with the astronomical amount he spent on it, yet ironically, it was a magnificent long-term marketing coup, for today it is one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions. Millions visit it each year, and for the Japanese tourist on his one and only lifetime visit to Europe it is top of the list of sights.
So, was it a humongous folly and waste of money or a shrewd investment that has given pleasure to countless millions since 1886?
Sometimes in life, it is difficult to be categorical about certain things ….. and one can’t help wondering, will Britain’s Millenium Dome one day rival the Schloss?
Here’s another picture of the Castle and one of the Dome – just to help you answer that last question …