I wrote the bulk of this entry before discovering that today is Angela Merkel's 61st birthday.
German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel making her signature "Merkel-Raute" hand gesture.
Also called the "Merkel diamond" or "triangle of power," it is how the Chancellor bends all people -- including deeply impoverished Mediterranean ones -- to the will of her and her German bankers.
I think I've developed an odd fixation on, or at least strong curiosity about, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Of course, this was triggered by my pondering the awful situation involving Greece, specifically, what she is allowing (indeed, directing) her government to do. Greece cannot now or ever pay back its crushing debt and the austerity is must endure will only make it worse and worse -- "world without end, amen" -- and it's all the more galling given how much debt forgiveness Germany was shown after World War II.
Angela Merkel bathing at the Aphrodite thermal baths on the Italian island of Ischia, March 2013. Picture source.
This is too lengthy a topic to go into now, but Paul Krugman has been on it admirably here, here, here, here, and here, among other places -- and not allowing to go unchecked all the lies and bullsh!t of neoliberal overclass and its media minions that are part and parcel of the decaying, insular oligarchy that forms the Washington Consensus.
Fred Hiatt's neo-liberal Washington Consensus (with a heavy mix of neo-conservative warmongering).
If you want that approach, read Neoliberal Washington Consensus Central: The dead-tree version of the Washington Post. (OK, I admit that I'm going politically beyond what Krugman is saying. He is talking about the economics of it all.)
Angela Merkel and her husband, quantum chemist Joachim Sauer, at the thermal baths on the Italian island of Ischia, March 2013.
That big pastel green robe is practically the same hue as the outfit she wears in the images below.
I especially liked in this blog entry when Prof. Krugman referred to being on the euro zone as a "roach motel":
So we have learned that the euro is a Roach Motel -- once you go in, you can never get out. And once inside you are at the mercy of those who can pull your financing and crash your banking system unless you toe the line.
I and many others have had a lot to say about the politics of this reality. But let me say a word about the economic implications for the euro area as a whole -- which are basically that Europe has created a system that treats surplus and deficit countries asymmetrically, even more than the classical gold standard, and leads to a severe deflationary bias.
As much as Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang "Lord Voldemort" Schäuble, Angela Merkel is the essence of the German mindset toward Greece, and lately, it has turned outright vindictive and ugly, not even pretending to be anything else. Merkel herself is a strange person embodying a kind of weird German brand of moralistic puritanism that I can't quite figure out but I shall refrain from any late night armchair (or rather, keyboard) psychologizing.
But then today, I came across this article on the Huffington Post about the Good Austerity Chancellor fielding questions from school children during a televised forum called "Good Life in Germany" (nice name ...) that aired on German television in the past few days (I tried and tried but could not find when it was recorded). It is on a totally different topic but I found myself oddly captivated by it and the whole thing actually raised my estimation of her a bit.
Oh, yes, the pictures below are various screenshots of the recorded event plus there is an embedded video of it (for however long it remains an active clip).
One question was from a young girl of about 13 years old identified as "Reem" and who is a Palestinian refugee in Germany with her family and face deportation even as her father is not allowed to work in the country. She is also fluent in German and clearly a very thoughtful and intelligent young lady.
The backstory to this is how the German government is handling a wave of Middle Eastern and African refugees (450,000 so far this year) arriving in a country where they are really not wanted and the simple answer to the problem is to house them in camps -- including on the sites of former concentration camps (that's just so wrong but apparently many Germans see it as a good thing) -- until they can be deported to wherever.
In the clip, Reem relates her and her family's situation about being refugees in Germany to Frau Doktor Merkel (yes, she has a Ph.D. -- in physical chemistry -- I'm not being a wise-ass) and adds so touchingly, "I have goals in life like everyone else. I want to go to university. That's a goal I want to achieve." Then she relates her fear she and her family could be deported at any time.
Merkel's response is that she understands this but that "politics is hard sometimes" and launches into a matter-of-fact explanation of how there are so many refugees trying to settle in Germany with "thousands and thousands" more in camps in Lebanon, not to mention more in Africa, but that Germany can't invite all of them to come because it can't "cope" with them.
Let me just say here that if Germany doesn't have enough space for these Palestinian refugees, I'd like to invoke the solution of the late, great Bartcop: Give the Palestinians the whole State of Oklahoma, or for that matter, any American Great Plains state. Consider the following two key points:
1. There's lots of empty, available space.
2. We need the tax base given that the superrich and giant corporations effectively pay no taxes anymore here.
Anyway, at that point, the young girl started to cry and the Chancellor's reaction is, well, human, as she hurries over to her, although she says, "You did so well." The young moderator cuts in and says, "It's not about doing it well, Mrs. Chancellor, but about it being a wearing situation for her."
The Chancellor retorts that she understands this is a "wearing" situation and that she just wants to comfort the girl. She then clarifies that what she meant is that the young girl had done a good job of showing to many others how one can get into such a difficult situation.
Here is the clip as it appeared on the UK Guardian site. (I couldn't embed the Huff Po / AOL / one.)
To be clear, the media coverage on this has been to the effect that the old Chancellor made a young girl cry and she was kind of a heartless bitch for doing that. My own view is she gave a very clear-cut, matter-of-fact, and as-the-world-is-and-not-as-we-would-wish-it truthful answer and then showed some basic human decency in a situation between her and another much more helpless person.
I can find no fault there. For what it's worth, the moderator of the show has the same view.
Angela Merkel about 1,500 years ago during her "East German Lumberjack Temptress" phase.
As an aside, Merkel has no children of her own. She is on her second marriage although, interestingly, Merkel is the name from her first marriage that she kept.
Wait, I said I wasn't going to do any keyboard psychologizing and I'm not. For that, watch this.
Oh, yes, doesn't anyone remember when George W. Bush basically groped her:
What an clueless, pathologically narcissistic idiot. But the Washington Consensus and the GOP "red' half of its enforced Manichean political entertainment complex couldn't get enough of Jesus W. Bush and his "greatness."
Of note, this occurred just about 9 years ago to the day at the G8 Summit in July 2006 -- and, per my comment at the very top, if it was in fact 9 years ago today, then it was also on Merkel's birthday.
Returning to Merkel and the catastrophe in Greece, the "bailout" that the country is receiving combined with the "reforms" (of the sort that make Fred Hiatt smile sweetly) will be used solely to pay back German and European bankers (so there is a sort of money-laundering quality to the whole thing) while pushing Greece further into depression economics, which only increases the debt-to-GDP ratio.
To this point, honestly do not understand what Alexis Tsipras is thinking. I just don't even perceive a strategy.
I'd like to end by taking a slightly different direction to this topic and post a link to this Patrick L. Smith piece (link embedded):
The untold story of the Greece coup: Another democratically elected leader tossed overboard for not submitting to economic orthodoxy.
I'm not going to excerpt it since it would take too long and this entry has gone on for long enough. Just read it if you get a chance.
Happy Birthday, Mrs. Chancellor.
OK, and with that, I am signing off and going to bed. I'll try to post a more regular update tomorrow and the New Horizons Pluto pictures over the weekend.