28 May 2012

The euro crisis -- the basics

There's a good chance that the euro crisis could come to a head in June.  I'll get to the reasons for that in a moment; first a few basic points which are important for understanding what's going on, but not widely realized by Americans, mainly because the standard MSM talking points about the crisis obfuscate them.

1) The EU is not analogous to the US.  Comparisons are often made between the EU and the US or between the euro and the dollar.  The EU and the US are roughly similar in population and GNP size, and the US is superficially structured as a federation of smaller units.  But the analogy doesn't work, and the reasons matter.  The US really is one country, in the same sense that France is a country or Germany is a country; it just happens to be a very large country.  Each of the 27 nations making up the EU has a separate identity, history, culture, and (often) language, dating back generations or in some cases centuries; in this sense each individual country, not the whole EU, has a feeling of nationhood similar to what the US has.  The US grew to its present size by expansion from the original string of former British colonies on the Atlantic coast -- first the country bought or conquered new territory to the west, then Americans moved in and settled, and finally the new territories were divided into states to fit into the country's existing organizational structure.  This is why, when you look at a map of the US, the western two-thirds of the country is mostly a mass of rectangles.  These states were not ancient nations that joined a federation; they were sketched in with a ruler, in the interior space of a single nation, once the settler population density had become high enough to justify the structure of state government.  The EU was formed by distinct, long-established nations joining a loose federation.

A better analogy in American terms would be to imagine the creation of a unified pseudo-government and common currency for the whole of North and South America.  Think how unworkable such a merger of dozens of culturally and economically distinct nations would be, and you'll get a better sense of why the EU project can't succeed.

2) The EU cannot become a nation-state.  This is why the above matters.  There is now much talk of "fiscal transfer", meaning a continuous flow of subsidies in some form from the EU's economically-vibrant Germanic core to the stagnant "PIIGS" (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) -- "eurobonds" are the latest incarnation of the idea.  If this became a permanent feature of the EU, it could probably save the euro and the EU, but it won't, because German taxpayers will not stand for it.  Large-scale fiscal transfer exists in any unified state with economic disparities -- from rich south-eastern England to the rest of Britain, from richer western Germany to poorer eastern Germany, from blue to red states and from urban to rural in the US.  Taxpayers tolerate this because the people they are helping are of their own nationality.  But a German or Dane will never feel a Greek or Spaniard to be his fellow countryman the way people within a single nation do.

The same problem applies to other aspects of creating a unified nation-state. Consider the free movement of people.  In my state, Oregon, half the population was born outside the state, but no one cares much, since most of them came from other parts of the US and are fellow Americans.  No European nation would tolerate immigration on such a scale from other EU member countries with their different cultures, languages, and identities.  Then there's military power.  France and Britain, the only real military powers in the EU, will never hand over their navies and nuclear weapons to the fake government in Brussels.  That "government" is not even taking the lead in the euro crisis; it's Angela Merkel, the elected leader of the biggest actual nation in the EU, who is calling the shots.

3) Austerity is exacerbating the problem.  The EU authorities (meaning Merkel and her toadies) insist that the problems of the PIIGS are caused by too much spending and debt, and thus have imposed a regime of cuts and a goal of deficit reduction.  With unemployment already sky-high in the target countries, the result has been terrible suffering as more jobs are cut and the social safety net frays -- and austerity is hurting deficit reduction, not helping, as rising unemployment means fewer people paying taxes and more claiming benefits.  Austerity has the same effect as using leeches to cure anemia.  What the PIIGS desperately need, as François Hollande understands, is economic stimulus and a focus on job creation.  More people working and paying taxes, and fewer claiming benefits, will reduce the root causes of the deficits.  The EU and its supporters appear blind to this, however; see for example this German interview with Greek far-left leader Alexis Tsipras, in which Tsipras explains the reality of the situation while the interviewer robotically regurgitates mindless austeritard clichés.

4) This is a currency crisis, not a debt crisis.  Normally, the PIIGS could greatly alleviate their troubles by currency devaluation, which would make their products cheaper to foreign buyers, thus increasing exports and creating jobs.  They can't do that now because they are locked into the euro common currency.  If they abandon the euro and return to separate national currencies, they will suffer a period of turbulence, but then begin to recover.  However, the EU elites (including almost all the establishment political parties in the various countries) are determined to avoid this because they have a deep attachment to the euro for non-economic reasons.  Most PIIGS citizens, especially in Greece, themselves don't yet realize that abandoning the euro is the key to solving their problems.

5) So what's the big deal about June?  First, Greece is holding a new election on June 17.  If Tsipras ends up as head of government and keeps his pledge to openly defy the EU and reject austerity, the EU will likely cut off the bail-out loans and force the Greek government into bankruptcy, from which it can escape only by abandoning the euro and bringing back its own currency which it can control independently.  Once this first domino falls, especially if Greece rapidly starts to recover, others will follow.

Second, Spain has reached the brink of default (see this explanation); given German resistance to large-scale fiscal transfer, it too may soon face leaving the euro as the only way to avoid total collapse.  Again, the fall of one domino is likely to start a chain reaction.

6) What happens next?  Whether in June or later, it seems almost inevitable that most or all of the euro-zone countries will eventually go back to separate currencies, and the euro will vanish entirely or else survive only in the Germanic core (essentially the old D-mark under another name).  As to the effects on the world economy, and specifically the US economy and thus our upcoming election, there is plenty of speculation, but nobody really knows.  There has never before in history been anything like the euro-zone -- several major nations sharing one currency -- so its break-up, too, will be an unprecedented event.  But I think the upheaval will be less damaging than we fear.  Because the crisis has dragged on so long, governments and financial institutions have had many months to prepare.  The US could even benefit, if foreigners see its institutions and currency as a safe haven in which money can be sheltered from the European storm; this might partly offset whatever bad effects we suffer.

As an American, to speak bluntly, I hope that the euro collapse can be staved off for a few more months so that it doesn't endanger Obama's re-election.  But make no mistake, it's coming.  The euro experiment has already failed.  The only question is how much longer hundreds of millions of people will be forced to suffer needlessly to avoid recognizing this fact.

[For earlier posts on Europe and the EU, see here.]

27 May 2012

Link round-up for 27 May 2012

A new titan of bad art emerges.

Why does England copy the US?

I love the smell of religion in the morning.

Check out these steampunk arthropods (found via Mendip).

Watch those commercials or else.

Some religions seem more fun than others (found via Deity Shmeity).

This art rocks!

Why doesn't Superman have a girlfriend? (found via Mendip).

Republicans continue to have trouble with music.

Murr Brewster looks at the death of Hitler.

The Christian Right has succeeded -- "God hates fags" now defines Christianity (more here), to the despair of moderates.

Rock stars don't age well (except women, apparently).

Obama's own history shows the insanity of our present drug laws.

This looks stomach-turning to me, but apparently people once found it enticing.  Here's the underlying reality.

Having failed to get Ellen DeGeneres fired, OMM targets The Gap.

Here are some cute family pictures.

Seamus is dead, yet lives forever, a way of dogging Romney.

How do fundies explain animal homosexuality?  Gay demons.

Green Eagle looks at more of Bain Capital's parasite capitalism.  And there's even more to Romney than Bain.

Over-stressed employees are bad for business.

Mario Piperni corrects Richard Grenell on gay Republicans.

Despite the polls, there's still a chance in Wisconsin -- turn-out will be critical.  But the DNC's failure to invest in the recall is alienating the unions (personal note: this month I've donated to the recall effort rather than to the party).

Don't be fooled by that poll supposedly showing fewer Americans are pro-choice.

The US car industry, rescued by Obama, is now booming again.

We need to stop playing the wingnuts' game.

Christian "morality" is so warped as to be worthy of hatred.

Gay marriage matters -- Republicans keep fighting it, but Obama's leadership is boosting acceptance.

No, both sides are not equally to blame.

Americans Elect failed because there is already a centrist party.

Gun range targets modeled on Trayvon Martin are selling well.

Even some moderate right-wingers have weirdly condescending views about women -- see comments 8, 18, 23, 31.  And Romney's not so moderate -- maybe it's his friends.

I take back everything good I ever said about John Derbyshire.  But to the right, his crime was to be too explicit.

British feminist bloggers take on the MRA clique.

The 16-year-old was suffocated to death in front of her sister -- worse yet, the murderers were their parents.

Maryam Namazie gets an insider's view of Europe's fascist fringe.

As Hollande asserts himself, Europe's focus shifts from austerity to growth.  The EU elite still dreams of abolishing the nation-state and weakening democracy, but instead it's the euro currency which must disappear because it is the real cause of the crisis; time to plan for the end.  Britain is preparing to fend off a flood of economic refugees.

The disastrous effects of laissez-faire dogma in eastern Europe should serve as a warning to the Arabs.  And Asia's 1997 experience with austerity is a warning to the EU.

It's not just toxic food any more -- China floods the US military with fake parts.  But its own economy is stagnating amid rampant corruption and may already be in recession.

Here's more on the mass slaughter of African elephants and rhinos being fueled by idiotic human superstition.

As the Arctic melt becomes more menacing, global-warming denialism loses ground even among fossil-fuel corporations (but teabaggers remain deluded).

26 May 2012

Quote for the day -- the moralists

"Romney is the most qualified candidate in the last 50 years. He’s competent, mature, seasoned and he’s a doer, not a talker.  However, many people who like him would have big trouble voting for him, for one thing is certain:  as soon as he would take the oath, the socially conservatives would be all over him.  The same people who voted in droves against him in the primary, would be on his case day in and day out. Should he want to pass legislation or be reelected, he would have to cave to the SoCons. He would do it, since he doesn’t really care about social issues, one way or the other. He was just as gleefully pro-choice as he’s now against it.  Make no mistake:  the bible thumpers are relentless, they have countless requests and are more then willing to impose them on everybody. The same hypocrites screaming against the government for allegedly taking away their freedoms are itching to shove their “moral values” down everybody’s throats.

"An example:  In Virginia, the republicans ran on economy and jobs. As soon as they got in power their priorities switched to inserting vaginal probes into women wanting an abortion.  Another one: in 2006 before elections, in order to please the base, the republican Senate majority leader Frist, together with Kyl of Arizona, sneaked a piece of legislation (UIGEA) together with a must pass Port Authority act, by which they practically destroyed the online poker in US. The weasels didn’t dare to go after the American players, but they banned the banks processing of credit card transactions. So if you, like millions of other Americans (estimation was around 3 millions), enjoyed playing a hand of poker online for a few dollars, with your after-tax money, in the privacy of your own home, then bad luck. You can’t do it. Why? Well, because the bible thumpers don’t allow you to. No country in the world (save the dictatorships) banned their citizens to play online. They did it in the “land of the free”.  Recently Romney and Santorum told a Nevada tv station they are against online poker. Why? Because it’s “bad for the people”, especially “poor people”. So here they are, the “fighters for freedom”, ready to enforce the nanny state’s power to protect people from themselves, exactly what their hypocrite base claims to hate the most.

"So why anybody loving their personal freedoms would vote for Romney? Everybody saw the appeal that contraceptives, porn banning and other such issues had in the primary. Forcing a 14 year old girl raped by her father to another atrocity like actually carrying the child? The bible thumpers justify such an atrocity with a straight face. I saw Santorum on CNN doing just that.  Sure, the far right was against Romney, who is sane and balanced, but once he’d win the election… birds of a feather stick together.  At least, with the Dems, you know where you stand. Maybe some more taxes, but if you are not rich, it doesn’t touch you too much. And if you are rich, do you really care?  Maybe more regulations, but at least those might bring some cleaner air and water. However, the dems don’t itch to control your bedroom and basic personal freedoms.  Personally, I would rather starve then trade my freedom for the so-called “morality” of bible thumpers. Millions others think the same way. They will vote democratic, especially the women.

"For such a competent candidate like Romney, being so behind in the polls has but one explanation: social issues. Fiscally conservative? Good. Conservative on defense ? Perfect. In the same boat with nutty social conservatives? A deal-breaker.  If you are voting just the man, the competency and accomplishments, then Romney deserves to be elected. However, if you look at the whole picture, at the constituency that a candidate must keep happy, then Obama should win hands down. Sure, the environmentalists, the unions, the socialist egalitarians and the peaceniks day-dreamers are a pain in the neck, but are far more benign then the bible thumpers.  So let the dems win, then have the SoCons justifying the loss by “we didn’t choose a real conservative” and in 2016 nominating a real far-right nut job, only to lose even worse, and so on until they go into oblivion. Good riddance."

Conservative (?) commenter "TruthTeller" here

23 May 2012

Video of the week -- not one of them is respectable

From Robin Hardy's 1973 film The Wicker Man about a modern-day pagan community in Scotland (mildly NSFW).  If you haven't seen the film, do -- but be warned, it turns suddenly nasty at the end.

20 May 2012

Odds and ends

I didn't have time to do a link round-up today, but here are a few items that caught my attention:

This week brought us the best Romney quote yet: "I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was."  Like the etch-a-sketch thing, it fits the guy like a glove.

The National Review accused Elizabeth Warren of plagiarizing a book which, as it turns out, was published after her own book was.  This is really kind of sad because the National Review, long ago, was actually a pretty respectable magazine.  In the 1980s I subscribed to it.

The most barbarous regime on Earth has just banned the use of the English language in business.  Well, we'll soon see how much the endorsement of some tinpot medieval theocracy matters to the global status of our language.  Interestingly, the place where I read this was the English-language website of Russia TV.  Apparently a strong, confident non-Western society does not feel slighted by using English to communicate internationally.

The Washington Post reported that, as of last year, slightly more than half of all the babies born in the US were non-white -- and so naturally everyone has to pick up on this claim and ruminate on it.  Of course, as I've pointed out earlier, the claim itself -- like the claim that half the total US population will be "non-white" by 2050 -- is true only insofar as the person pictured at the top of this post is "non-white".  (It's highly unlikely that the racial categories we use today will still be meaningful in 2050, anyway.)  Such reports may be useful to the right wing for keeping their knuckle-dragging legions agitated and ready to rumble (and vote), but they don't reflect reality.

As Europe and (much of) the United States have become essentially de-Christianized over the last century or two, science has flourished and forged ahead there.  Unfortunately the process also works in reverse.  South Korea, unlike its neighbors Japan and China, has proven highly susceptible to Christian proselytizing -- about 30% of the population is now Christian -- and now we see the fruits of this:  the Ministry of Education has agreed to remove evolution from school textbooks after a campaign by Christian groups.  PZ Myers thinks this suggests a possible strategy for intellectual warfare.

David Frum critiques OWS:

.....hobo camps.....defined OWS as a movement of its own oddball 1% rather than the American mainstream. If instead OWS had staged daily 1-hour teach-ins—followed by trash pick-up in the parks where it convened—it might have proceeded to build on its first success.

Commenter "ItsTimeNow" responds:

We did. We had daily cleanups, sometimes more. We had multiple teach ins going on all the time. Is it our fault the media didn't report this and instead focused on the fringe elements? The homeless who will naturally wander in? There were incidents were the city drove up with vans, and released mentally insane people right there, across the street from Zuccotti! We accepted them instead of forcing them out on the street, and for that we got a bad reputation.

Don't believe every impression you get from the MSM.  They're pushing a narrative.

The G8 summit just concluded in Washington ended with Obama endorsing the new pro-growth, pro-jobs, anti-austerity wave sweeping Europe, strengthening France's new President Hollande who is the most powerful representative of that movement.  Let's hope that this will embolden the Greeks (who return to the polls next month) to give even more of their votes to Syriza, the far-left anti-austerity coalition, which is committed to defying the EU on this issue.  The cut-spending austerity-mania pushed by the EU and by US Republicans has already inflicted horrific suffering and sent country after country into an economic death-spiral.  The faster it is swept away by Hollande, Obama, and other enlightened leaders hopefully to be elected in other countries soon, the better.

As if bitter-end über-austeritard Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, weren't having a lousy enough day already, she had to stand next to British Prime Minister David Cameron and watch as a British team squashed Germany in some big-deal soccer game.

Finally, a couple of video tributes to Mitt Romney:

(found via Smartypants)

(found via Dogs against Romney)

18 May 2012

Man, beast, and the big lie

[I'm without much access to my own computer for a few days, and only on the internet sporadically, so I won't be posting much.  However, this post at Progressive Eruptions, about the ethics of meat-eating, led me to write a comment which I think deserves a post of its own.]

I've held for many years that the one great central error in all of human thinking is the belief that humans have souls. That is the original error from which all our other errors flow.

This question here -- the ethics of meat-eating -- is a good example. Most people's thinking about it starts from an unstated premise that there is a qualitative rather than quantitative difference between humans and other animals -- it's not just that we're more intelligent, more emotionally sophisticated, have more elaborate social organization, etc. than other species (just as some other species are "more" each of those things than yet other species -- we're at one end of a spectrum). It's that there's some kind of fundamental, un-bridgeable gulf of difference between, on the one hand, one particular great-ape species, and on the other hand, the other four great-ape species and all the other animals in the world. Everything from the chimpanzee to the dust mite is in one class, we're alone in the other.

This is biologically absurd, but it's taken deep root in our thinking, even in our language, as in the use of "humans" and "animals" as contrasting categories, as if the former were not a subset of the latter. "Humans have rights, but animals do not" is obviously a mere statement of dogma rather than a description of reality -- but beyond that, the more subtle error is in the very categories themselves. To state the same stance realistically -- "One animal species has rights, all other animal species do not" -- would at once force attention toward all the real questions that such a stance raises.

Today millions of people who would consider cannibalism (and certainly the systematic raising of humans to be slaughtered for food) to be an unspeakable outrage, have no qualms about eating bacon; many of those who would march in the streets to protest inhumane conditions in Guantanamo are unmoved by the far more inhumane conditions in factory farms. This is only possible because of that fundamental error in our thinking, that other animals are not just our inferiors in degree but are somehow fundamentally different, not the same "stuff" as we are, so that their sufferings -- and, yes, rights -- can simply be ignored as if they did not exist.

16 May 2012

Quote for the day -- religion vs. freedom

A note

Posting will be light to non-existent for the next few days due to other activities.

13 May 2012

Link round-up for 13 May 2012

What a wanker.

Who's the real hero of the Bible?  (Aside from this guy.)

Here's the US-Mexico relationship in one cartoon.

Religionists draw the line on free speech.

There are reasons to ban gay marriage.

Can you go to Hell for tone of voice?

This is the real difference between a cult and a religion.

Retronaut has some deep dark illustrations of Poe (found via Mendip).

If you shop at Wal-Mart, read this.

Show us your papers.

In 1932 this was considered humane, apparently.

Here's some advice for rich people (found via Norbrook).

There's misogyny, and then there's misogyny.

Sorry, but stuff like this is completely ridiculous, and stuff like this is disgusting.

Obama's change of heart on gay marriage could be a political winner (while Republicans' anti-gay stance looks like a loser).  "Flip-flop" won't work as a response.  Here are some headlines.  And some right-wingers are going completely bonkers.

The story of Romney's high-school cruelty matters because it fits his life-long pattern (more here).  No, the story has not been "debunked".  See this comment thread for some stomach-turning right-wing excuse-making and minimization.

Here's another equally weird comment thread -- yes, it's the 21st century and there are still people who think like this.

If you're a hot chick, the TSA is interested.

Romney's record shows he's a member of the parasite class -- and a sociopath.

Anti-gay hatred is frightening, but doomed to decline.

Of all Romney's lies, this one is perhaps the most brazen.  Granholm talks tough.

Some Christians get it (more here).

Gallup's demographic data explain why its polls are less favorable to Obama than others are.

Engineer of Knowledge looks at nine Republican lies about women.

This is one of the best assessments I've seen of Romney's character.

The Ron Paul stealth campaign moves forward and could cause problems for Romney (my assessment here).

Romney represents the failed ideas of the past.

Austerity has led to economic disaster in Britain.

France's new President promises to fight for "an end to austerity" in Europe, as democracy fights back and triumphs.

The best countries to be a mother are the most secular ones (found via The Immoral Minority).

If we're not careful, Canada could destroy the world, but the Dutch are preparing.

Fleabag dinosaurs farted global warming, but didn't explode.

The protein bmp8B could be the key to easier weight loss.

The Old Testament is fiction (actually, as I've written before, it's a forgery).

"Segmented sleep", not eight straight hours a night, may be the true human norm.

Maria Konovalenko has photos from a major recent conference on aging in Moscow -- and hints of an imminent breakthrough.

Be kind, when you can.

[Image at end found via Smartypants.]

12 May 2012

Video of the week -- the outer worlds

Assembled from actual film from our space probes to the outer planets.  Found via Mendip.

10 May 2012

Sharpening distinctions

One of the few remaining Republican giants of the old school, Senator Richard Lugar, was teabagged into political oblivion this week.  The Nutty faction of Republicans, no longer able to stomach Lugar's record of compromise with Democrats and concessions to reality, demanded a properly insane ideologue instead -- and they appear to have gotten one, in the person of new Republican candidate Richard Mourdock.

This was a sharpening of distinctions, the presentation of a starker choice, one which more realistically reflects the contrast between the parties today.  Moderates and centrists who felt comfortable voting for Lugar will feel much less so about Mourdock.  Can the Democrats now pick up this seat?  It's far from a sure thing -- Indiana's a pretty red state, and Mourdock isn't as obviously out in orbit around Pluto as, say, Christine O'Donnell was.  But our chances have surely improved.

An even greater sharpening of distinctions took place this week around another hot-button issue -- gay marriage.  North Carolina's already-infamous Amendment One passed, not only affirming the ban on gay marriage but also obliterating all intermediate rights such as civil unions and domestic-partner benefits (it has been claimed that many North Carolina voters favored such concessions and would not have voted for Amendment One if they had realized it prohibited them -- if so, let's hope buyer's remorse is settling in).  Within days of this triumph for the Godhatesfagsian theocratic right, the President of the United States personally endorsed gay marriage.  Again, a stark contrast, highlighting the real differences between the parties.

Some have argued that Obama was pushed into this move by Biden's recent remarks about gay marriage (the latter branded as a "gaffe"); others consider the administration too savvy to have let itself be put in such a position, and insist the whole thing was orchestrated.  To me it seems just as likely that Obama had "evolved" to his newly-stated position some time ago, and felt it appropriate to make a public statement now in order to reassure a reliable but embattled constituency in the wake of the North Carolina vote.

Was it risky?  I question how many extra knuckle-dragger votes the Republicans will really gain from Obama's announcement.  Those who believe him to be a Muslim communist Nazi Kenyan America-hater have no doubt long been convinced that he's pro-gay-marriage whether he explicitly said so or not; their votes were in the bag for the Republicans all along.  It's the less-motivated part of the left, the naïve both-parties-are-the-same cynics, the ones who aren't paying attention, who are more likely to be reachable here.

I myself, for example, have been somewhat relieved at the victory of the Sane faction of Republicans in nominating Romney -- while Obama is far better, and is guaranteed my vote, at least we don't need to worry about Bachmann or Perry becoming President.  A site I regularly read to follow thinking among the Sane faction is the pro-Romney Race42012, far removed from the ravings of RedState or Hot Air.  Yet even there, when Obama's announcement hit the news, the same old dehumanizing clichés and knee-jerk bigotries ambled forth (see comment thread here), knuckles dragging, to remind us that these people, whether Sane or Nutty, are The Enemy.  (For the Nutty faction, there was this.)  One would have to be an impossibly naïve cynic to look at all this and still claim there is no meaningful difference between the parties.

Remember, getting people fired up is good for us.  When turn-out is high (2008), we win.  When turn-out is low (2010) they win.

As Mourdock himself recently said, "We are at that point where one side or the other has to win this argument. One side or the other will dominate."  If that's what they want, I'm up for it.  Let's make sure it's our side.

08 May 2012

The liberation of Europe -- socialism rising

Next week François Hollande will be sworn in as the first Socialist President of France in 17 years.  This is the beginning of the end for Europe's EU-imposed austerity madness, the euro currency, and hopefully the EU itself.

At last we have the leader of a country too large and powerful to be bullied back into line by the EU, openly rejecting the austerity mandate (massive cuts when unemployment is already near 20% in some countries!) and calling for fiscal stimulus, to be paid for by higher taxes on the rich and corporations.

The markets, pundits, EU bureaucrats, etc. will throw a fit, but as other countries see France succeeding, they’ll follow suit.

It's already starting, in fact.  Last week's local elections in Britain produced major losses for the Conservative party, which has also been pursuing austerity (though not at the EU's behest).  Part of this was due to a major loss of votes to the upstart UK Independence Party, which won an average of 14% of the vote in those constituencies where it ran a candidate.  But that should be of no comfort to EU supporters and austeritards, since the UKIP, as its name suggests, is a single-issue party whose defining aim is to get Britain out of the EU.

Greece's election on Sunday produced an utter mess, with several radical and extremist parties winning big -- but the clear theme was a mass voter rejection of both major mainstream parties, because of their acquiescence in the EU's austerity decrees.

In Spain, Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere, Europeans have been backed against the wall by austerity policies and the un-democratic EU pseudo-government that imposes them -- and the backlash is ready to begin, as the new France shows the way.

There will be a need for those of us who understand what’s happening to explain it to Americans. Republicans constantly blame Europe’s crisis on socialism and debt, whereas it’s really caused by austerity policies similar to what they themselves advocate for this country. When France begins to escape the austerity death spiral, we need to make sure that Americans understand the significance of it.

Update:  Greece's likely new leader explicitly abandons the country's commitment to the EU's austerity demands -- and thus, implicitly, renounces the EU's bail-outs.

[For background posts on Europe and the EU, see here.]

06 May 2012

33 days to go

There's a new Prometheus trailer out with lots of new imagery (discussion here).  No one does it like Sir Ridley!

Link round-up for 6 May 2012

A new terror haunts rural America -- exploding pig farms.

Here's a Presidential candidate who should satisfy the teabaggers (found via Mendip).

Who is that person on the right?  I honestly have no idea.

A returning soldier gets an enthusiastic welcome.

The trouble with working from home is seeing others having fun while you're working.

Meghan McCain befriends Sandra Fluke, righties freak out.

Fundies resort to a horror film to promote their idiocy.

Product names do matter (fundies might buy the gum for their teens, though).

Mission accomplished, America.

You can get a really good fake ID from China, but it could cost you plenty (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Doubling down on failed abstinence-only policies, Tennessee officially discourages hand-holding by teens -- who are they getting advice from, the Ayatollahs?

Gingrich did a true service to his country -- by shedding light on so many of Romney's negatives.

The right wing has plans for your retirement.

Another example of the barbarity of the "good old days", debtor's prison, makes a comeback.

Obamacare has saved seniors $3.4 billion on prescriptions so far.

The crazy right wing is doomed to decline -- if we can just beat the Republicans this year.

Some of the Occupier movement is committed to political non- participation and irrelevance, while activists struggle to save protests from being subverted by violence -- but others are preparing to fight the parasite class on its own turf.

In citing Obama's achievements, it may be best to focus on just the top ten.

On job figures, take the long view.

Sarah Posner has more on the Grenell fracas and the Christian Right's mistrust of Romney.

Here's fake and real persecution (found via Lady Atheist).

If your son seems "effeminate", hit him.

As a libertarian, Ron Paul lives in a world of theory, not data.  Here's more on his plan for the Republican convention (my discussion is here).

Protests are fine, but to actually get things done, we must engage with the political system.

Some Mormons won't be voting for Romney.

Teabaggers are about to take down one of the best Republican Senators -- and perhaps hand his seat to a Democrat.

Confused by poll fluctuations?  Read this.

One of these things is not like the others.

Obama's way ahead in the Electoral College, according to this analysis by Karl Rove.  Michael Tomasky agrees.

Children see through the fake morality of religion.

Michigan Republicans resort to technicalities to prevent a referendum on the emergency-manager law.

Here's an example of the fissures dividing the right wing these days.

The main reason high national debt harms economies isn't that it's intrinsically bad -- it's that it encourages austeritard politicians to cut spending.

Alex Pareene doubts that the right wing can truly repudiate racism.

Romney is well suited to lead a party of lies and viciousness.  Truth, not so much.

The theocrats of the Christian Right are following an old tradition.

In the US and world-wide, inequality is still growing and still a danger.

In Ireland, the Catholic Church that shielded abusers now condemns reformists.

Socialist François Hollande, who will be elected President of France today, talks tough and has Europe's austeritard elite quaking.  Greece, too, is voting today.  Über-austeritard Angela Merkel faces threats on three fronts.

UpdateHollande wins, Merkel loses.

France's Front National has become the "protectionist, anticapitalist party of the dislocated working classes" -- this is "far right"?

Everyone wishes Dominique Strauss-Kahn would just go away, but he won't.

As Putin claims his tainted victory, Muscovites protest.

Egypt takes a giant step backward as a comedian is convicted of "insulting Islam".

In Saudi Arabia, it's actually a sign of progress when a woman isn't whipped for driving (sent by Robert the Skeptic).

From Pakistan, another case of religious barbarity.

Free-trade dogma devastates the working class in India.

Brahma Chellaney takes a realistic look at the rise of Asia.

What will happen when North Korea collapses?

An intelligent species is being slaughtered for the sake of human superstition.

I can see right through you.

Intense religiosity correlates with brain atrophy and reduced compassion.

The invention of the wheel was far from easy, and may have happened in eastern Europe (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Want to be more rational?  Try thinking in another language.

A new form of wind power generation avoids the drawbacks of turbines.

04 May 2012

Quote for the day -- congratulations, fundies

"I had dinner with my ex-wife a few weeks ago, and she’s gone from a down-the-line Republican voter in 2008 to vowing that she’ll never cast a vote for a GOP candidate again, all due to the contraception brouhaha, the trans-vaginal ultrasound bills, etc. And she’s (marginally) pro-life, for God’s sake.  I honestly think most of the commenters on this site have no idea the breadth and depth of the damage that’s been done in only a few months. Romney absolutely cannot win with the type of gender gaps he’s posting across the board, and it’s going to damage other candidates down the ticket.  In Washington state, we’ve fielded an outstanding gubernatorial candidate who’s considered the odds-on favorite to win. But at every turn, he’s being besieged with questions and confrontations about his stand on contraception, abortion, etc.....Congratulations, social conservatives, you’ve once again shat the bed with your overzealousness."

Republican commenter "Win M." here

03 May 2012

Stealth insurrection on the right

The Gingrich and Santorum camps have folded their tents, and the Christian Right and the teabaggers have (mostly) reconciled themselves to supporting the despised Romney in order to remove the hated Obama.  But below the MSM radar, a stealth insurrection soldiers on.

My observation of the right wing of the internet includes the Ron Paul cult, an alternate reality far more divorced from real reality than the "normal" right-wing bubble is.  In that alternate reality, Ron Paul is the only true voice of the people, virtually a messiah -- if he hasn't actually won any states, that's because of deluded voters, or fraud, or media conspiracies.  If he gets almost no news coverage, it's not because he's a fringe crank with no chance of winning, it's because of a "media black-out" conspiracy.  Think of the kind of person who sits in a remote cabin in Montana writing unreadable pamphlets "proving" that Federal Reserve notes aren't real money, fuming about the Illuminati and the gold standard and CIA mind-control rays*, and gloating about some vague impending "collapse" of society.  Now imagine a whole subculture made up of such people.  You'll be pretty close.

And the hard-core Paultards are not falling into line behind Romney.  They have a plan, and it involves exploiting arcane procedural rules of the Republican party to achieve two goals:

1) Securing enough Paul-loyal delegates, despite the actual popular vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses, to win the nomination for Paul at the convention.

2) Taking over control of the Republican party at the state and local level, the ultimate aim being to take over the party nationally.

For a sense of the mind-set at work, check out the comment threads (more than the actual posts) here and here and here.  Mainstream Republicans have started to notice the problem.

Why is this happening now?  Paul has run for President before without his cult resorting to such measures.  But he's now 76, and this is probably his last shot.  And the Paultards are at least as paranoid about Obama as the teabaggers are.  Some believe that if Obama wins a second term, he'll become a dictator and there will be no more elections.

What's the likely actual outcome of this insurrection?  If Paul did somehow win the nomination, Obama would have an easy victory -- he'd be running against an aging fringe crank whose ideology would horrify most voters once they understood it, while the millions of rank-and-file Republicans who voted for Romney at their state primaries and conventions would be outraged at seeing their votes swept aside by an organized minority exploiting obscure rules and technicalities.  Such a scenario is, of course, very improbable.  But if (as is likely) the Republican establishment swats down the insurrection and Romney's nomination goes according to plan, the party will have another problem.

You really need to spend some time in the Paultardosphere, soaking in its ambiance, to grasp how utterly cut off from reality these people are.  They really think they can do this.  And they've been telling themselves for months that Paul must be nominated or the country is doomed.  At the convention, when their bubble world is inevitably burst by collision with reality, the shock will be profound.  The results could include a massive tantrum disrupting the convention, a third-party run pulling some percentage of votes from Romney, and the Devil knows what else.  It probably won't include falling quietly into line behind the nominee.

Romney will likely try to buy off Paul with a major speaking slot at the convention, which he's said to covet.  But for all we know, Paul himself may endorse the insurrection and expect it to produce results; and in any case, the cult may not renounce its dreams and fall into line even if the messiah commands it.  They're too worked up for that.

Years ago the Republicans made a pact with the Devil, embracing teh crayzee in various forms to win the support of small but fanatical armies of true believers, and lately the Devil has been coming round to collect.  O'Donnell and Angle were just the beginning.

[*I don't mean they believe in those specific things, though some of them may -- I'm trying to give a sense of the general mentality.  Actual Paultard conspiracy theories are too boring to form any clear impression.]

02 May 2012

The Grenell resignation -- who's the boss?

The resignation of Richard Grenell, just a week after being hired by the Romney campaign as its foreign-policy spokesman, is more than merely one more example of right-wing anti-gay bigotry.  Bigotry was certainly there, notably from Bryan Fischer and the "Family Research Council".  But the real story here is the affirmation that, in today's Republican party, it's the Christian Right that calls the shots -- and Romney is willing to let them.

That might seem an odd assertion since Grenell quit rather than being fired, and the campaign issued a statement that "We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."  Romney, however, never stood up to the pressure over Grenell.  The campaign did not even make use of him for "the position he was hired to fill", since he immediately became the target of a firestorm of fundie fulmination.  As for Romney himself, a "Sister Souljah moment" might have been too much to hope for, but given the virulence of the attacks on a member of his campaign, a firm public statement of support and a finessed but clear rebuke of Fischer would not have been amiss.  In fact, as far as I can see, the campaign did nothing meaningful to prevent Grenell from being hounded out.

I even wonder if hiring Grenell was something of a trial balloon, via which Romney was testing how much tolerance the Christian Right would show toward deviation from its orthodoxy as he tries to pivot toward the center for the general-election campaign.  If so, he has his answer.

And we have ours.  To all those who think Romney is a closet moderate who only took extreme positions for the sake of the primary contest, and would govern from the center if elected, think again.  He likes to claim that the only reason he governed as a moderate in Massachusetts was that he had an overwhelmingly-Democratic state legislature to contend with, and I think he's telling the truth there, in the sense that matters most.  It's not that he is or isn't a closet moderate; I don't know, and that isn't the point.  The point is that he's willing to be a captive of the political forces acting on him.  If he won't stand up to Fischer over an issue of campaign staffing, why should we think that, as President, he'd stand up to Boehner and McConnell and the whole menagerie of theocrats and bigots that infest the right wing these days?  Look at the right wing of today as a whole, and what you're seeing is what you'd get from a President Romney.

Update:  For more on the true cowardice and appeasement displayed by the Romney campaign, see here, especially the updates at the end.

01 May 2012

Quote for the day -- the radicals

"I think the general election will be as sharp a contrast between the two parties as we've seen in a generation. You have a Republican Party, and a presumptive Republican nominee, that believes in drastically rolling back environmental regulations, that believes in drastically rolling back collective-bargaining rights, that believes in an approach to deficit reduction in which taxes are cut further for the wealthiest Americans, and spending cuts are entirely borne by things like education or basic research or care for the vulnerable. All this will be presumably written into their platform and reflected in their convention. I don't think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, "Everything I've said for the last six months, I didn't mean." I'm assuming that he meant it. When you're running for president, people are paying attention to what you're saying."

President Obama