Cuckoo for austerity

So what’s happening in world economics?

Steepest drop in German private sector output for three years. Euro crisis leads to survey-record monthly fall in service providers’ business outlook.

Of course, an economist could explain this better, but let’s see:

Germany is the leading voice for an austerity strategy for dealing with Europe’s economic problems. When countries practice austerity, jobs and services are cut. When that happens, citizens have less money to spend. German economic strength is based on product manufacturing. People throughout Europe buy German products. But governments throughout Europe are practicing austerity. With austerity, people don’t have money to buy products (fewer jobs, fewer payouts in social services, higher taxes, less money). When people don’t buy products, German businesses make less money.

So austerity is bad for Germany.

But Germany insists austerity is the way to go.

And now German service providers are experiencing a record fall in their business outlook.

Who could have seen that coming? Cue Paul Krugman:

Basically, it seems that even as the euro approaches a critical juncture, senior German officials are living in Wolkenkuckucksheim — cloud-cuckoo land.

Now, I know the phrase normally refers to a state of naive optimism, not normally something one attributes to German officials. But a broader interpretation would be that of believing, despite all the evidence, that the world is the way you want it to be, and acting on that false belief.

So the man from the finance ministry asserts that the euro crisis was brought on by fiscal irresponsibility, and in particular by “short-termism” — so that the remedy is to focus on long-run fiscal irresponsibility plus structural reform, which he insists has never failed.

All one can say is, My God. You have to be willfully blind not to know that private excess, not public, caused the problems in Spain and Ireland — and nowhere, not even in Greece, did Keynesian stimulus efforts have anything at all to do with the crisis. As for fiscal responsibility plus reform solving the kind of problem we face now — massive real overvaluation with a fixed exchange rate — it would be truer to say that this has never worked.

Spanish bombs

This is a cover of the Clash song “Spanish Bombs” by the Mexican punk band Tijuana No!

The footage is from the actual Spanish Civil War, the precursor to World War II, which was fought from 1936 to 1939. The significance of that war was it allowed Germany, supporters of the fascist regime of Generalisimo Francisco Franco, to test weaponry it would use to take over Europe. In this case, the fascists won. Franco took control of the country from the established government in 1939 after a military coup and a long war of attrition and maintained rule until his death in 1975.

And as of today, Generalisimo Francisco Franco is still dead.


I didn’t realize YouTube was running full length movies!

Years ago, I bought a DVD of Fritz Lang‘s “M” at a video store in Brussels. But the photo quality was grainy, and since I wasn’t in an English speaking country, the subtitles were in French (which is fine, because I can read French).

But this version on YouTube has a great picture, and the subtitles are in English.

And if you’re up on film history, you know that this is a classic.

Peter Lorre, in the role that made him a star, is a child murderer in 1931 Germany. This is probably one of the most despicable characters ever to appear in film, and yet by the end there is something incredibly pathetic about him. Lorre makes you feel sympathy for a totally evil psychopath. Nevertheless, every time I see the movie, I want the guy dead. And so does everyone else in the movie. Which brings us to an even more profound issue.

The movie never says it, but Adolf Hitler is on the rise (he doesn’t take power until 1933, but historically, he’s a well established political figure in Germany in 1931). The story of the child murderer is horrifying enough, but when you consider what was happening in German society at the time, and you see the reaction of the public, this oddly predicts which way the country is headed, and what the power of the mob will lead to.

So, if you have a couple of hours to spare, here’s “M.” It is definitely worth your time:

Killer sprouts

From the AP:

Consumers were awaiting the release of official test results Monday that will most likely confirm that vegetable sprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany caused the terrifying E. coli outbreak in Europe that has killed 22 people and sickened more than 2,200.

All of a sudden, I’m not hungry

Low-temperature electron micrograph of a clust...

Image via Wikipedia

This is not encouraging (from the Washington Post):

The bacterium that has killed more than a dozen Europeans, sickened nearly 2,000 more and raised international alarms would be legal if it were found on meat or poultry in the United States.

If the bacterium were to contaminate fruits or vegetables grown here, there would be no way to prevent an outbreak, because farmers and processors are not required to test for the pathogen before the food heads to supermarkets.

“If somehow this strain got into that same environment and spread rapidly, it would represent a major disaster in terms of the U.S. food industry and risk to humans,” said J. Glenn Morris, a former official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who directs the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. “The regulatory framework is a couple of steps behind.”

This strain of E. coli is lethal. Thousands are sick. Two Americans, who were in Germany, are now in hospitals here in critical condition because of this. And we don’t even test for something like this.

E coli is found in the lower intestine of animals, including humans, so the way to best understand this is that, somehow, crap got on food, and people ate it. (The authorities are saying it was either from a malfunction at a sewage treatment plant, or runoff from a farm.)

I try to refrain from profanity, but this is the true meaning of the term “eat sh-t and die!”