Although we publish Strafor's geopolitical analyses almost every week I do not always have time to read them in full. But I have just read the whole of George Friedman's article on Europe which we have republished today, and for the first time have seen the debt crisis there from the Greek (and Italian and Spanish...) point of view (Germany is to blame for our misery) rather than the German viewpoint (no, you are). There does seem to be a case for blaming some of the backwardness of the Mediterranean economies and now their impossible debts on the fact that the European free trade zone has allowed Germany to massively overproduce and flood Europe with its exports.
Here's a quote from Friedman:
It is not hard to imagine the disaster that would ensue if the United States were to export 50 percent of its GDP, and half of it went to Canada and Mexico. A free-trade zone in which the giant pivot is not a net importer can't work. And that is exactly the situation in Europe. Its pivot is Germany, but rather than serving as the engine of growth by being an importer, it became the world's fourth-largest national economy by exporting half its GDP. That can't possibly be sustainable.
There's a lot more wrong with Europe -- and the rest of the world -- I suppose, than German industriousness. Back in November Pope Francis put his finger on the demographic problem when he described the Continent as "elderly and haggard". I wonder what those two likely lads from Syriza and Podemos (see picture with Friedman's article) have to say about that.
Good News today for Android lovers! We have a new app opening unsuspected horizons, new perspectives, welcome vistas, etc. etc. You can now access MercatorNet easily on your phone and check the latest articles 24/7. (Well, we are not encouraging that.)
The free Android app can be downloaded here at the Google Play Store. Our free iPhone and iPad app, which we launched earlier, can be downloaded here at iTunes.
Samsung and Google phone users et al -- feel free to tell us how happy you are with this great leap forward.
As a child in a small American town I used to visit a tobacco shop to buy my sweets. It was hot one summer’s day and the quiet man behind the counter with a thick accent had rolled up his sleeves. I remember seeing a number tattooed on his inner forearm. Tattoos weren’t fashionable then and the only ones I had seen were the anchors on the bulging forearms of Popeye.
A six-digit number was an odd choice for a tattoo, but I didn’t ask him about it. I was more interested in my sweets. Perhaps I should have. All these years later, that man’s tattoo spells out the theory and practice of dehumanisation for me better than any textbook.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Red Army troops. It was not the only death camp, but it has become the best-known one, so it has also become International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is worth commemorating, for reasons I have sketched in my article below.
I once taught a course on report writing for adult education. Being an admirer of Winston Churchill's prose, I used his pithy advice about the craft of writing to embellish my handouts. Unfortunately, I suspect that many of the students had never heard of Churchill, let alone luxuriated in the rolling thunder of his speeches. To be fair, he did live a long, long time ago. In fact, tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of his death in 1965, so he predates Facebook and Twitter.
Anyhow, one can learn a lot from Churchill. I shall never forget his tribute to the noble British (sic) sentence. He was deeply grateful to his high school English teacher for beating into him the secrets of its structure and rhythms. "Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English," he wrote in his autobiography. "I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for would be not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.”
I cannot say "Amen, brother" to that because I would then be endorsing corporal punishment. But basically I agree.
Sorry, no newsletter on Monday, which is both Australia Day and Indian Republic Day.
I sometimes find myself at odds with friends who are suspicious of all Muslims, especially after the recent atrocities in Paris and Nigeria -- and probably many other places too remote for the news to filter through. While such events are undeniable, most Muslims are people of good will. For centuries, in the regions which are now Syria and Iraq, Christians lived relatively peaceful lives, even if they were second-class citizens.
I have found some confirmation of this in two recent documents from Catholic prelates in the Holy Land, as we report in the article below. Without being in the least starry-eyed about the dismal situation of Christians in that part of the world, they point out that "Faced with Muslim extremism, the Christian is called to discern, making distinctions between Muslim extremists and those Muslims who are friends, neighbors and compatriots, between extremism and those manipulated by the extremists."
Their views form an interesting corrective to the temptation of indiscriminate hostility toward Muslims. They are well worth reading.
President Obama has just delivered his State of the Union address. Such speeches are largely aspirational hot air, although Mr Obama's hot air is more eloquent than most. But what struck me about it was the emphasis on family issues. He began by telling the story of Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis, and their two children, "a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times" and concluded by describing America as "a strong, tight-knit family".
I wish that the President had a clearer idea of how to support working families. His main idea seemed to be lots more childcare so that mothers can stay in the workforce. "In today's economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It's not a nice-to-have -- it's a must-have," he told his listeners.
In a speech about aspirations, is that really what Americans need: less time with their kids? I'd prefer if Mr Obama dreamed about an America where both parents don't have to go to the office or factory every working day. What do you think?
Hi, we're back on track. Our web developers discovered the glitch which did not allow us to upload images fairly quickly. Thanks for your patience.
On another front, we have changed our Twitter feeds. Before we had two, @media_mn and @mercatornet. We are no longer using @media_mn, so if you want to follow us on Twitter, please follow @mercatornet.
Oops. Just before we were about to put the newsletter to bed, something crashed. We cannot upload images. Perhaps the North Koreans have targeted MercatorNet, or ISIS. Anyhow, we should have the site running smoothly tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the latest articles. I have commented on the Supreme Court's announcement that it will consider the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage. Karl Stephan writes an obituary for Google Glass. And Denyse O'Leary examines the cult of the selfie.
We offer you a varied and interesting menu for the weekend. Just to highlight three items: Sheila Liaugminas has done a helpful roundup of what Pope Francis' has been saying during his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Michael Cook tackles the issue of blasphemy. And Marcus Roberts introduces us to the weirdest (but also strangely moving, I find) answer to population decline that you are likely to come across in a good while. Only the Japanese, surely, could think of it. But why can't they grasp the natural solution that is within their power?
Oh, one more thing: do have a look at the little video by Ikea that Tamara Rajakaria has put up. It's a bit of a tear jerker but certainly rings true.
By way of light relief Michael Cook has come up with a most interesting list of the best films of 2014, plus a look at the year's worst. As official action and journalistic commentary on the jihadi murders of 17 people in Paris continues, Ethan Zuckerman of the Center for Civic Media at Massachusetts Institute of Technology asks why there has been so little attention to, and mourning for, the estimated 2000 villagers of Baga in northern Nigeria killed by Boko Haram in the same week. His article includes some telling diagrams of media coverage of drawn from MIT's Media Cloud project. Zuckerman concludes:
It’s right to mourn those killed in Paris, to celebrate the city’s resilience and to honor the heroes. But if we fail to mourn and to understand Baga as well, we see a picture of terrorism that’s simple, clear and deeply inaccurate.