Tag: Buenos Aires

Merkelism grounded. A metaphor is needed

Friday, 30 November, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will miss the opening of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires today after her Airbus A340 plane made an unscheduled landing in Cologne last night when it developed technical problems. The German government aircraft plane turned back while it was over the Netherlands and Mrs Merkel will now travel on to Buenos Aires today via Madrid in the company of the huddled masses. Well, Business Class, of course, but still it’s a bit of a come down.

By the way, the very same plane was grounded in Indonesia in October after rodents gnawed through its electrical cables during a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. It would be insensitive at this point to make a joke about rats boarding a sinking ship instead of leaving it, so we’ll leave that to others, but these aircraft incidents offer rich pickings for those seeking metaphors. Merkel’s ebbing chancellorship is the obvious one, but there’s Airbus itself. President Emmanuel Macron’s recent plea for an EU army was welcomed by most factions in Berlin, and Franco-German co-operation on the development and production of Airbus aircraft was cited as example of what can be done when the neighbours agree to bury their bloodied old hatchets. The elation didn’t last long, however, because reality, in the shape of Putin, has given the fantasy army a nasty knock on the head. Despite all the lauded EU mediation over the years, Russia continues to violate Ukrainian sovereignty by waging a brutal, slow-motion war in eastern Ukraine, and Moscow’s thugs took the aggression to the sea at the weekend when they upped their harassment of Ukrainian ships transiting the Kerch Strait.

In response, Merkel and Macron made the usual bleating noises, of course, but boots on the ground in the Donbass region and Ukrainian sailors being paraded before a Crimean kangaroo court show that in the world’s wilder places the belief that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, as the Chinese mass murderer Mao Zedong once said, continues to rule the airwaves.

Maybe it’s best to stick with George Orwell’s dictum: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”


Vienna, World

Saturday, 9 May, 2015 0 Comments

A recent stop in Vienna during a train journey to Budapest led to time spent looking at local newspapers, which in turn led to the news that Austrian guitarist and singer Wolfgang Muthspiel has released an album titled Vienna, World. It was written and recorded with the help of a global group of musicians in locations as diverse as Buenos Aires, New York City, Tibro in Sweden and, naturally, Vienna.

Vienna


Greece as Zimbabwe or Argentina

Friday, 20 February, 2015 1 Comment

What will happen if Greece exits the eurozone? For starters, the banking sector will collapse as everyone tries to move their euros to German banks. Although word on the street is that most have done so already. Athens might consider reintroducing the drachma, but no one would want it, so people would just keep using the euro. This option is not without precedent. Back in 2009, Zimbabwe gave up the pretense of monetary sovereignty and the United States dollar is now the official currency for all government transactions. Just as Robert Mugabe has no influence over the Fed, Greece would no longer have a seat at the ECB but life goes on and there are reports that nightlife in Harare is picking up again.

Instead of going the way of Zimbabwe, Greece might become another Argentina and things won’t be as bad as the pessimists say. Given that what the Argentines call “viveza criolla” is very much at home in Greece, a tango-sirtaki morph may be on the cards. That being the case, here are some useful viveza criolla phrases:

Total, si no robo yo, robará otro.” (In the end, if I do not steal, another will steal.)
Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa.” (Made the law, made a loophole.)
El vivo vive del zonzo y el zonzo de su trabajo.” (The smart guy lives off the fool, and the fool lives off his job.)

Back on the 11th of this month, STRATFOR looked at the two countries in Greece and Argentina, Similar But Not the Same. Conclusion:

Even though Syriza used Argentina’s case as an example during the electoral campaign, and many Greeks are aware of the country’s history, Athens has considerably less room for action than Buenos Aires did. Many of Buenos Aires’ moves since 2001 have been ill conceived and poorly executed, but unlike Greece, Argentina was a fully sovereign country when it made them. Greeks elected Syriza to fix the country’s debt problem without leaving the eurozone and the European Union. Greece’s main problem is that it will be extremely hard for Athens to achieve both goals simultaneously.


Pope Francis I

Wednesday, 13 March, 2013 1 Comment

The Time of Pope Francis


Verbal Edge: Borges & Buckley

Friday, 23 March, 2012

There’s a plethora of fine words in Up in the Air by Walter Kirn. The main character, Ryan Bingham, expands his vocabulary with words from the Verbal Edge cassette tapes as he flies around the US. Lots of great words, too, in Buckley: The Right Word. The late William F. Buckley was a marvellous interviewer […]

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Patacombos for the PIIGS!

Thursday, 16 February, 2012

Because the PIIGS are prevented from getting their grubby trotters on the printing presses by the European Central Bank, all they can do is stand idly, impotently by as money flows out of their economies and into more stable havens. This is exactly how it was in Argentina a decade ago except that Buenos Aires proved more imaginative when faced with this dilemma. The Argentine treasury began issuing a raft of IOUs with exotic names: lecops, porteños, quebrachos and patacones, for example. These were greeted with disdain by the global money markets, but McDonald’s, that beacon of capitalism and proletarian cuisine, was more humane:

“The Buenos Aires outlet of burger behemoth McDonald’s is preparing to accept one-year bonds in payment for food, as a cash crisis grips the Argentine economy tighter with the continued lack of conclusion to talks between the country and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bonds, nicknamed patacones after a currency that became defunct 120 years ago, will be issued as part-payment of wages for the 150,000 state workers in Buenos Aires who earn more than US$740 a month… McDonald’s has launched a special new meal deal called the ‘Patacombo’, consisting of two cheeseburgers, French fries and a drink.”

In the end, the patacones didn’t do the business and at the beginning of 2002 Argentina defaulted on its international debt. The peso’s 11 year-old tie to the US dollar was rescinded and the country was plunged into an enormous financial and socio-economic crisis. Unemployment rose to 25 per cent and wages dropped to their lowest level in 60 years. Moral of story: PIIGS should think carefully about how they intend to pay for their Patacombos, or else change their diet.