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Tag: Merkel

Time for a new Conversation

Monday, 28 October, 2013 0 Comments

The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival was The Conversation, a cautionary technological tale written, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Cindy Williams, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford. Since then, The Conversation has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

What made the film especially significant was that it employed the same surveillance equipment that members of the Nixon Administration used when spying on political opponents. Because the film was released just before Richard Nixon resigned as President, many interpreted it to be a commentary on the Watergate scandal and on the dangers of technology in the hands of those determined to use it for personal or political advantage.

So what are the chances of Hollywood producing a Conversation for our times? You know, one that would highlight any theoretical abuse of surveillance power by the Obama administration. Don’t hold your breath. “Obama fundraiser at George Clooney’s home nets $15 million” reported CNN in May last year. Attendees included, “DreamWorks studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg; designer Diane Von Furstenberg; Barbra Streisand and her actor husband James Brolin. “Folks are still hurting out there and those frustrations with Washington and the nonsense they see on the news is making them more cynical than they were in 2008,” Obama said. How true. But Hollywood “folks” ain’t hurting too bad so it’s unlikely they’ll be making movies about “the nonsense they see on the news” anytime soon. Anyway, they’d prefer not to offend their candidate.

Note: A few short years ago in Germany, a rabid hatred of George W. Bush was regarded as a sign of sanity but the mania ended in 2008 and was followed by a wave of Obama idolatry, equally terrifying in its obsessiveness. This fever has cooled, too, and Germany’s yellow press is now comparing Obama to Nixon using words that evoke Watergate.

Bild and  Obama

Better a horrible end than horror without end

Friday, 10 August, 2012
Better a horrible end than horror without end

There’s a German saying, Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende (“Better a horrible end than horror without end”), that’s storming up the local charts and the current Economist cover brilliantly expresses the mood behind its popularity. Then there’s the Merkel memorandum.

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It’s time for Michael Lewis to visit Madrid

Thursday, 7 June, 2012

What’s happening in Spain? Depending on who and what and where one reads, Spanish banks have lost between €300 billion and €1 trillion and the situation is so frightening and overwhelming that no one believes a single word that the government in Madrid is saying anymore. Time to send in Michael Lewis, we say. Perhaps because he’s an “outsider”, the Vanity Fair writer has the courage to see through the numbers and the lies in a way that European journalists cannot or will not. The result is remarkable clarity. Two examples:

“The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true.” Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds

“Since 2000, lending to construction and real estate had risen from 8 percent of Irish bank lending (the European norm) to 28 percent. One hundred billion euros — or basically the sum total of all Irish public bank deposits — had been handed over to Irish property developers and speculators. By 2007, Irish banks were lending 40 percent more to property developers than they had to the entire Irish population seven years earlier.” When Irish Eyes Are Crying

The agonizing decision facing German Chancellor Angela Merkel now is whether to support Spain, and thus risk German stability and integrity, or let it pay the price for handing over its economy to property speculators. Merkel would be on solid ground at home if she supported deposit guarantees that would protect Spanish savers, but that’s as far as it goes. The Spanish banking system is broken and cannot be shored up. The greed, corruption and incompetence that led to this sad state of affairs is perfect material for a Michael Lewis masterpiece. Bring it on.

Angie, Angie, where will it lead us from here?

Friday, 16 December, 2011
Angie, Angie, where will it lead us from here?

“My own favorite Merkel story comes from 1981, when she left the husband whose surname she still carries, Ulrich Merkel. They had met while studying physics in Leipzig, married, moved to East Berlin, and for three years Ulrich had the apartment done up while Angela completed her doctorate. When the place was spick-and-span, she decided to leave. ‘One day, she just packed her things and moved out,’ her ex-husband recalls. An almost wordless operation, apparently. She took only one item — the refrigerator, removed while Ulrich was out of the house. That’s Angela Merkel for you: a woman who runs away with a refrigerator.”

So writes Roger Boyes in Newsweek. His profile of the German chancellor “Angela Merkel and the Euro Crisis: Women in Leadership” is highly entertaining but it’s not going to go down well in Germany where it will be perceived as British payback for the recent Merkozy humiliating of David Cameron in Brussels. This is a pity as Boyes has spent 35 writing about Germany and he’s one of the most perceptive analysts of the country, its politics and its culture.

Beyond Berlin, though, the blush is well off the rose and much of austerity Europe now sees Angie through the perceptive eyes of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who peeked into their crystal ball in 1972 and wrote, “With no loving in our souls and no money in our coats / You can’t say we’re satisfied.” That’s Angie.

Angela Merkel

AEP picks his Unwort: Fiskalunion

Monday, 5 December, 2011 0 Comments

This is going to be a critical week for the beleaguered euro, and the common currency’s most incisive critic is starting the week in top form. We’re talking about AEP (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard) of the Telegraph. With “Fiskalunion is worst of all worlds for Europe“, AEP comes out of the blue corner, hitting hard: “None of Mrs Merkel’s proposals — whether enshrined in EU treaties or not — offer any meaningful solution to the crisis at hand. They continue to ignore the cancer in the EMU system: the corrosive 30pc currency misalignment between North and South, and the German-Dutch trade surplus.” After that jab, comes the right hook: “Her plan clings to the Wagnerian myth that Club Med fiscal extravagance is the cause of all the trouble, though Spain had a budget surplus of 2pc of GDP five years ago and never broke the Stability Pact — unlike Germany — and Italy has long had a primary surplus.”

By the way, the EU might not be the ideal organization to enforce Fiskalunion as its auditors have for the last 17 years running refused to sign off its own budget because of “material errors” amounting, last year, to 3.7 per cent of all its expenditure.

It’s going to be a critical week.