Tag Archives: Merkel_Angela

Italy: too big to fail, too big to save

The phrase “too big to fail, too big to save” in this case comes from an essay in Der Spiegel by Henrik Enderlein which says that the time to act is now, but also says that all the options available for action will fail. I take it he’s saying that Italy must take ownership for its debt, but Germans must also stand in solidarity or the speculators on the demise of the euro will have a field day.

The article by Der Spiegel staff Italy’s New Government Is Bad News for the Euro is pessimistic. Continue reading Italy: too big to fail, too big to save

Saturday salon 16/6

1. You don’t need enemies when you have friends

You’ve probably been living under a log if you haven’t seen this photo:

They say Trump does not like G-7 meetings because they are short on people who massage his ego.

According to this account the photo was released by Angela Merkel’s office. Trump looks like a naughty school boy, recalcitrant and unrepentant. The bloke behind him is John Bolton, the National Security Advisor. Not sure what he was doing there. Continue reading Saturday salon 16/6

Saturday salon 17/2

1. Turnbull’s political priorities

Waleed Aly in a piece written presumably just before Turnbull announced his changes to ministerial code of conduct suggested Turnbull’s effort in furthering the Uluru Statement from the Heart and in responding to the Close The Gap report was limp and routine:

    Meanwhile you could be forgiven for missing Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the Close the Gap Steering Committee’s assessment that the policy launched after the Rudd apology had been “effectively abandoned” by extensive budget cuts since 2014. In brief, Turnbull commenced talks on how to refresh the policy, and announced a new inquiry into the matter of constitutional recognition, to be done by a joint select committee.

Continue reading Saturday salon 17/2

Saturday salon 12/12

1. Ataturk’s ‘Johnnies and Mehmets’ ANZAC speech shrouded in doubt

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a commander of Ottoman forces at the Dardenelles during the first world war and later the founder of modern Turkey, has been quoted far and wide as saying in 1934:

    Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

There are no contemporary references to the speech. Continue reading Saturday salon 12/12

Friedman’s top five events of 2014

In a season of lists, George Friedman, Chairman of the global intelligence company Stratfor, has made a list of his top five events for 2104.

1: Europe’s Persistent Decline

The single most important event in 2014 was one that did not occur: Europe did not solve its longstanding economic, political and social problems.

Europe, taken together, remains the world’s largest economy and a centre of global commerce, science and culture. It’s inability to solve its problems or make any significant progress has the potential to disrupt the world system. There is general economic malaise and huge unemployment in the south.

Friedman tends to think that if Europe’s problems were soluble then they would already have been solved. He notes the rise and rise of anti-EU parties. In the coming Greek election a party favouring withdrawal from the EU may “become a leading power”. As Europe redefines itself we could all be affected.

2: Ukrainian and Russian Crises

Historically, tensions between Russia and the European Peninsula and the United States have generated both wars and near wars and the redrawing of the borders of both the peninsula and Russia.

The Ukrainian crisis has opened “a new and extended confrontation between the European Peninsula and the United States on one side and Russia on the other.”

At the same time the Russian Federation is internally unstable, which is likely to become critical in the long run.

While he does not expect Russia to collapse, nor the Ukrainian crisis to evolve into a broader war, the destabilisation of a country with massive nuclear capability is a concern to everyone.

3: The Desynchronization of the Global Economy

Europe is predicted to see little to no growth in 2015, with some areas in recession or even depression already. China has not been able to recover its growth rate since 2008 and is moving sideways at best. The United States announced a revision indicating that it grew at a rate of 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Japan is in deep recession. That the major economic centers of the world are completely out of synch with each other, not only statistically but also structurally, indicates that a major shift in how the world works may be underway.

Economic theory is no help. All we can say is that the world is full of things that need explaining.

4: The Disintegration of the Sykes-Picot World

Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were British and French diplomats who redrew the map of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia after World War I. They invented countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.

The fragmentation and the crippling of national governments matters more than Islamic State.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad is just a warlord now, and the government in Baghdad is struggling to be more than just another faction.

All this matters less than it did 40 years ago, when the Middle East dominated oil supply. Turkey is the only force with a prospect of stabilising the region, but it currently lacks the capacity, even if it wanted to.

5: The birth of Friedman’s grandchildren

Two more grandchildren were added to Friedman’s progeny. Life goes on in myriad particular and personal ways.

Some random comments

Intrigued by Friedman’s complaint about economists, I took a quick look at Immanuel Wallerstein’s commentaries to see whether any address the issue directly. They don’t, more is the pity, since he’s been writing about the instability of the world system for over 40 years. One intriguing piece is very relevant: “The Center Isn’t Holding Very Well”.

Wallerstein says that it is natural to assume that elites acting politically are in control. The assumption is that things work in a top-down political manner in each country.

This seems to me a fantastic misreading of the realities of our current situation, which is one of extended chaos as a result of the structural crisis of our modern world-system. I do not think that the elites are any longer succeeding in manipulating their low-level followers. I think the low-level followers are defying the elites, doing their own thing, and trying to manipulate the elites. This is indeed something new. It is a bottom-up rather than a top-down politics.

So what we do in local action matters, to us and potentially on a broader scale.


As our existing historical system is in the process of dying, there is a fierce struggle over what kind of new historical system will succeed it. Soon, we may indeed no longer live in a capitalist system, but we could come to live in an even worse system – a “rough beast” seeking to be born? To be sure, this is only one possible collective choice. The alternative choice is a relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian system, also seeking to be born. Which one we shall see at the end of the struggle is up to us, bottom-up.

Meanwhile individual powerful actors can be important within broader trends. Wallerstein has commented on the importance of Germany and Angela Merkel in particular, at least for a time. For example, Merkel and Putin are both fluent in German and Russian and have spoken over 40 times about the Ukraine crisis. But influences can go beyond personalities. Commenting on Ukraine back in February, he points to a long-term Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis because of mutual interest, but it also gives France and Germany greater independence from the USA. Sanctions against Russia have a sunset clause, and it’s possible that over time Germany and Europe may allow them to lapse.