To Coin a Craze

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

The hashtag #mintthecoin is currently white-hot in the Twitterverse. In case you’re not following the discussion, it has to do with the idea that one option President Obama has, should House Republicans be determined to deny the necessary rise in the debt ceiling so as to force the US government to default on many of its financial obligations sometime around mid-February, is to take advantage of the statute allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins of any denomination to fashion a, say, $1 trillion coin and present it to the New York Federal Reserve to, in effect, create that money to spend.

This is the idea advanced particularly vehemently these days by Nobel Prize-winning economist and NYT blogger Paul Krugman, who notes that while it might seem a silly idea on its face, any notion that the Republicans can be persuaded to stop holding the credit-worthiness of the US Federal Government hostage is “just ridiculous – far more ridiculous than the notion of the coin.”

Some do not agree, so that a full-fledged debate on the advisability of #mintthecoin has erupted among the American punditocracy. But don’t think no one outside American borders has also noticed:

Lese: Debatte um Eine-Billion-Dollar Münze in USA geht weiter – Wirtschaft – Süddeutsche.de http://t.co/ULhPNfzu

@blicklog

Dirk Elsner


This includes the prominent Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, as picked up by Dirk Elsner on his @blicklog feed.

The piece, by Jannis Brühl, is entitled “Heads or Tails,” and its essential function is to describe to German readers what is going on – or, rather, just what the heck is going on over there in the USA with this crazy-sounding coin-minting plan that, as Brühl puts it, beflügelt die Phantasie – basically, is mind-blowing. (more…)

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FIFA Loses the American Market

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Remember the Hand of Henry? You do if you’re Irish. That refers to the blatant handballs committed by star Barcelona striker Thierry Henry, playing last month on the French national team in a World Cup playoff game, that enabled the winning goal to be scored and sent the French to South Africa instead of the Republic of Ireland. These fouls were evident enough to the millions watching the match on TV, but not to the crew of officials actually in charge of the game, and this result which robbed the Irish of their World Cup 2010 participation was allowed to stand.

Now down in the Southern Hemisphere, the French team isn’t doing very well and will probably fly home after only the three games of the tournament’s first round, but that is not the point. The point is rather the continued refusal by FIFA officials (i.e. from the international football organization in charge of the World Cup) to install any sort of modern technology (e.g. televised replay review) to ensure that officiating travesties like what happened to the Irish can never happen again. This only ensures, of course, that such a thing will happen again, at least one more time, and this during that organization’s signature event that draws the sustained attention of billions of spectators from all over the world – a substantial portion of whom tune in to cheer on their own nation’s team.

Sure enough, another such travesty has come along on cue, namely the denial yesterday to the United States team of a perfectly-valid third goal which would have capped a tremendous rally from a 2-0 deficit by half-time with a glorious win. Instead, the US team earned a 2-2 draw, which gave them a mere one point towards advancing further in the tournament rather than the full three to which the victory they deserved would have entitled them. (more…)

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No Slurping Porsche in Your Future

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

“Sports car maker Porsche has a problem in America,” an article up now in the “Autoworld” section of Holland’s Algemeen Dagblad announces. And indeed it does, as you might figure out from that piece’s headline, whether you understand Dutch or not: Porsches slurpen te veel voor VS (even though slurpen in Dutch does not mean “slurp,” not quite, it means “gulp,” as in “to drink something fast.”)

That’s just the problem: Porsches do “gulp,” they don’t just “slurp.” But up to very recently no one really cared about what sort of MPG a Porsche would get – if you had to worry about that, then you certainly could not afford the car in the first place. In these energy-conscious times, however, that’s not allowed anymore: everyone has to worry about MPG, says the US government, and that includes Porsche. Or eventually it will, at least, for the American authorities did grant Porsche an exception to the requirement put out last year that all autos sold in the US meet minimum MPG requirements – that in exchange for collecting from the German company a couple hundred dollars as a “fine” for every such car that is presently sold.

But that’s a temporary exception, and it expires in 2016. For Porsche cars to meet the requirement then, the article reports, they would have to achieve an average 10% improvement in MPG each year in-between. Yes, hybrid Porsches are on the way, but not in time for 2016. And that’s when that little “fine” presently being collected balloons up to amounts that can reach $37,500 per vehicle sold.

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A Better American Obesity Report? Fat Chance

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Looks like it’s that time of year again for the latest review of the USA’s epidemic of corpulence, issued jointly by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Associated Press writer Lauran Neergaard’s account of the ever-worsening news on that front was posted on-line by (among others, I’m sure) the Washington Post.

Over here in Europe, the only on-line publication that I can catch in my RSS-net handling the subject is Flanders’ leading newspaper, De Standaard. Inevitably, the piece (no by-line, just credited to the Belga news agency) is entitled Americans keep getting fatter; and the accompanying photo meant to illustrate the theme does get things rather ass-backwards. This is a somewhat briefer treatment than Neergaard’s, but it nonetheless is able to repeat for De Standaard’s readers all the main statistics: 23 states listed as having even more obese people than last year, Mississippi as always at the top of the list, etc. The Flemish piece does add a bit of new material about the impact that the authors of the report think the current financially-troubled times will have on the situation. You might think that impact on people’s health would be favorable (folks not being able to afford so much food, etc.), but you would be wrong. Rather, cheaper food tends to be less healthy, and plus we can also expect the rolls of Americans not covered by any health insurance at all to rise, in parallel with cases of stress and depression.

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Euro Election Reax

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

It’s Obama! Let’s take a broad range of European editorial responses to his historic presidential victory and look at each briefly in turn – using what we could even call the Andrew Sullivan format, but with translation. (more…)

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Four French Election Lessons

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

The excitement is mounting . . . in less than a day we should all know who the 44th President of the USA will be! That is, unless we come up against another vote-counting disaster such as occurred in the state of Florida back in 2000, Patrick Sabatier reminds us in his article for the French news-magazine Le Point: The four lessons of an historic campaign. Thanks for that, M. Sabatier, and unfortunately what you foresee could well come true, what with the unprecedented flood of voters expected to show up at the polls today, even after the similar throngs that flocked to the early-voting sites opened by some (but by no means all) states.

If we do get some sort of definitive result out of the day’s proceedings, Sabatier points out that it can only turn out one way, if you pay attention to the pollsters and other experts, namely a victory for Barack Obama. So why not go ahead and offer “four lessons” out of the American electoral campaign, as seen from a French perspective? Although, that said, Sabatier at the same time does take care to factor the possibility of a surprise McCain victory into his conclusions. (more…)

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Longest – and Dirtiest? – Campaign Ever

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Tired of all the US election news? (“Obama, McCain, Obama, Palin, William Ayers, Rashid Khalidi . . .” and on and on.) Well, today is the day before Election Day 2008: here at EuroSavant I just can’t stop now – and you can be quite sure that I’ll be monitoring foreign coverage of the results later this week as well. Just be patient, all of this will soon pass . . .

In the meantime, you have the occasional foreign article about the US elections that you rather wish did not have to be there, like what we see today in the main Czech daily Mladá fronta dnes: You’ll be arrested at the polls, leaflets mislead American voters. The lede:

In the last hours before the presidential elections American voters are being flooded with dirty tricks. Misleading e-mails go to Americans, disquieting telephone calls occur, and people find under their doors slanderous pamphlets. Their purpose is to dissuade people from voting, to mislead and confuse them. A part of these tricks this year have a racist flavor due to Barack Obama’s dark skin.

The article (no by-line given) proceeds to give a pretty good list of the various don’t-get-out-the-vote schemes that have been uncovered so far; some of them I hadn’t even heard of yet. (more…)

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Danish Eyes Behold American Politics

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

In my troll through the European-press Net today for something interesting in reaction to Hillary Clintons’ speech to the Democratic National Convention of early this morning (CET), I made it through quite a bit of the French and the Danish but didn’t really find any sort of contrary view or interesting perspective to pass on. I guess the key to judging the New York senator’s performance was listening and watching very closely to spot any signs of left-over rancor or half-heartedness in the support for Barack Obama that she was professing for herself and urging all Democrats to share, and no doubt that sort of analysis is always best left to those closely sharing both her American English idiom and cultural background. The coverage I looked at basically swallowed her professions of loyalty hook, line, and sinker – and who knows, maybe she did really mean it – although I did discover the French equivalent of her new tag line “No way, no how, no McCain.” It’s D’aucune façon il ne faut McCain – and for once, my friends (as the presumptive Republican candidate himself would put it), I have to admit that the French language comes up second-best in the hard-hitting slogan department.

(Oh, and why French and Danish today? Just following this weblog’s general modus operandi, i.e. because I felt like it, although I also had a sense of not having discussed anything French or Danish lately and wanted to re-balance things a bit.)

However, I did run across an interesting piece by Johan Vardrup, the reporter sent to Denver by the well-respected Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, entitled Republicans hold happy hour for Hillary. From its very first line in the lede (“What won’t one do to fish for votes?”) you get a clear-cut sense of Vardrup’s attitude here: Damn, these Americans truly play some electoral hardball! (more…)

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Good-Bye Putin

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The hostilities in Georgia seem to be dying down now. Russian forces are withdrawing – or at least they are supposed to withdraw, under the terms of the cease-fire they signed, but there is considerable doubt as to whether they are actually fulfilling that obligation.

In the meantime, the countries of the NATO alliance struggle to come to terms with the new ruthless military face Russia has shown in this crisis. Germany now stands central in that military alliance, in the same way it has stood central for some time now within the European Union, again because of its sheer weight of population and economic power (and, who knows, maybe also its reputation for military ability in the past), which makes German commentary on these recent developments particularly interesting.

A very good contribution comes from Jochen Bittner, who writes a weblog, called Planet in Progress, that is carried off the Die Zeit webserver. (more…)

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Dutch Evangelicals Find US Inspiration

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

I’ve mentioned before in this space the fascinating evangelical outliers to the usual crowd of stolidly-secular European on-line newspapers, the Dutch publications Nederlands Dagblad (“Christianly engaged”) and Reformatorisch Dagblad. Damn (- whoops! Sorry . . .): two of them, even, and in a country of only 16 million souls!

At least these papers definitely provide an alternative take on happenings in the public sphere, both national and international. (more…)

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Pimp My Golfcart

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Pimp it purple!

Pimp it purple!

Yesterday we had occasion to examine the delightful article from the Frankfurther Rundschau by Dietmar Ostermann about the Hummer SUV. Sad to say, Ostermann could not avoid the conclusion that this Monster Car’s days seem to be numbered. But fear not! Hope for resurrection is at hand, as we learn today from Der Spiegel (With the Hummer to the Putting Green) – if you can accept a cut-down model designed to roam on the manicured grass of golf courses, and with electric drive, that is. (more…)

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Give the Israelis the Dirty Work

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Sorry, the Olympics get started today, but that doesn’t mean that EuroSavant coverage will be dominated by them. You wouldn’t want that anyway, no? . . .

One aspect of the ongoing crisis around the alleged attempts by the Iranian government to develop nuclear weapons that usually goes unexamined is the attitude of Arab states, especially those in Iran’s immediate neighborhood. (Well, it’s true that the vagaries of the Iraq-Iran relationship have certainly received their fair share of attention – but let’s treat that as a special case.) Sami Al Faraj, President of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies (all I could find on the Net was this), gives an enlightening interview to Der Tagesspiegel about the Gulf state perspective on Iran (specifically, that of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia) in the article “Against Iran Much Harder Economic Sanctions Are Necessary”. (more…)

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High-Tech Poker Conquers Denmark

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Ludomani – there’s your Danish word for the day, meaning “compulsive gambling.” Plagues to society are one of my fascinations, and so will often be encountered on these pages, but make that plagues to rich societies. Europe is after all my self-appointed beat. So don’t expect to come to EuroSavant and find anything about the mysterious Marburg virus stalking Angola, for example. Instead, take a situation where national payment systems evolve to the point where you can send money almost anywhere, almost instantly; and where you can receive anywhere, on your mobile telephone, attractive, easy-to-look-at data. Two “goods,” right?, which must characterize a nation riding modern technology’s leading edge. Unfortunately, as the Danes are now finding out, what all this must also mean, sooner or later, is an explosion of high-tech gambling – and ludomani. (more…)

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Another Near-Miss in US-German Relations

Wednesday, May 7th, 2003

Europe is being rude to the US again, it seems – but thankfully this time only a few of our English friends noticed.

Strangely enough, my regular forays through the American and European press had led me to believe that Chancellor Schröder’s government in Germany, above all, was eager to to mend relations with the US after the rather serious difference-of-opinion about Iraq. Nonetheless, we apparently have one Jürgen Chrobog, State Secretary of the German Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office), instructing a regularly-scheduled meeting of all German ambassadors that the US is becoming a “police state,” as it is “restricting more and more its civic liberties at home.” (more…)

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GI’s in Czech

Tuesday, May 6th, 2003

US military bases in the Czech Republic! There is now talk of that, and Czech politicians are now arranging themselves on either side of that issue.

The talk up to now has been not about the Czech Republic but rather about Romania and Bulgaria, which SACEUR chief General James Jones recently described as “extremely good candidates” for US military bases. Indeed, the Sarafovo airbase in eastern Bulgaria proved extremely handy during the recent war in Iraq as a location to base US refueling aircraft. But now it seems the Czech Republic is also in play – even though no official request or inquiry has yet been forthcoming from the American side. (more…)

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