Sunday, June 17, 2012

In Motion

Laughing, Fit To Bust
SKYWALKER: Can You see what will happen to them?
YODA: Difficult to say. Always in motion is the future.

Star Wars: "Episode Five; The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
When in doubt, quote a hand puppet: Greece and the Egyptians have gone to the polls this week in two sets of circumstances that are pivotal for the regions involved (the Eurozone, and the Middle East), and through them the rest of the world.

The Greek drama is more critical to the West. It's a straight up-or-down vote on agreeing to accept Austerity policies which EU fiscal conservatives (and politicians like Angela Merkel, specifically) have imposed on Eurozone countries as the price for receiving billions in loans to prop up their banks and then their economies.

Merkel and other believers in a common vision of a united Europe are committed to Austerity. It's what they believe is the only method to burn away excess debt, balance the books, and come out the other side in better economic condition than any other nations on the planet. They are forced by their own beliefs to double-down; the future of their political parties are at stake, not to mention their own: Angela doesn't want to go the way of Sarkozy, and neither does her CDU Partei want to lose power to the SPD.

However, proof of Austerity's failure won't stop with Greece. Spain, Portugal and Italy are all teetering on the edge (the Spanish have just "accepted" arranging for new loans from the ECB). Each will face new rounds of bank bailouts, new loans to "calm the markets", new loans to support more bond issues. And with each new round, their governments will have to agree to more budget cuts, more control of their national economies handed over to others.

But it won't work. Five years of Austerity has not and will not produce economic growth -- jobs -- which is what's desperately needed to escape what seems fated to occur. The cycle of more loans from the ECB or the European Stability Fund can't continue indefinitely. There just isn't enough money in the world to keep pouring into the black hole of debt.

Some kind of implosion (a shrinking of the Eurozone and the political EU to a few core countries, or the complete collapse of the Euro, followed by an international restructuring of currency exchange and a run on the Markets) is the only probable result. If it isn't triggered as a result of ballot box action in Greece this weekend, it will happen later. And the only question is, How bad will it become?

In Egypt, it's an even more volatile situation. The Revolution that played out (on CNN, the BBC or Al-Jazeera for Americans) in Tarhir Square in Cairo was a mass uprising against decades of corruption and repression. All facets of Egyptian society -- liberal, secular; religious conservatives and fundamentalists -- were united for a time.

That ended when Murbarak left office. Egypt's Military Council is still a caretaker government. The Parliamentary elections from the spring were effectively nullified this past week by the country's Supreme Court, and the voting for President of Egypt this weekend is a Morton's Fork -- a Murbarak appointee on one hand, and an Islamist who is precisely what you think he is on the other.

This election is as much about divisions in the culture being played out as anything, and should the Islamist be elected then Israel has one more serious concern beyond the possibility of a nuclear Iran -- and the rest of the world will be forced to deal with a national government that accepts Al-Qaeda as legitimate spokesmen for a movement to unify the Islamic world. Nothing good will come of that.

But secular liberals feel betrayed as well. What is their choice; to vote for a representative of the deposed, despised regime? Or for someone who they feel will impose Sharia law on the country and roll back decades of democratic process?

What will happen? We'll all get to see. Welcome to living through history -- something we believed we had outdistanced. Our technology, and the belief that we had all learned from the past, that modern politicians were wise and our modern political institutions would prevent financial collapse and regional or world war.

There is no expiration date on human avarice and hubris -- which is why we're here, now -- and no known antidote, either. Shakespeare, Dante, Voltaire and Göethe must be looking down on us and laughing, fit to bust.

MEHR: The Krug Man weighs in:
June 17, 2012, 2:41 pm
And Then What?

So it appears that the governing coalition in Greece has pulled out a narrow victory — winning only a minority of votes, but getting a narrow majority in the parliament thanks to the 50-seat bonus New Democracy gets for coming in first.

So they will now have the ability to continue pursuing an unworkable policy. Yay!

Joe Wiesenthal tells us that there’s a meme in Greece to the effect that Syriza didn’t really want to win, because it would rather see the current government flail some more. Conversely, establishment types should actually be dismayed by this outcome: if current policies fail completely, which seems almost a given, and Greece exits the euro anyway, which seems highly likely, the entire Greek center will end up discredited; better, in a way, to be able to blame the radicals.

And I gather I’m not the only one thinking along these lines...
Any Questions?

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