2017-05-31

 

Suppe a la clown: or what if Trump is right?

Trump is a cumbersome buffoon. No doubt about that. But while his approach certainly is counterproductive and not that relevant to the US, he is right about Germany's role on global (mostly EU) macroeconomics, defense and I would say even climate---even though Merkel and most Germans try to address some of these concerns. On macroeconomics, we all know that Germany is living off a depreciated euro for its export surpluses. If it still had the mark, it would be much higher given Germany's spectacular trade surpluses. So, especially for the Eurozone, but also with all its trading partners, it should increase consumption, raise salaries, etc. Of course it has no rational, self-interest reason to do that, but since Europeans do not have the power to do it, a little pressure from the US could be a good thing---if it did not come from a mean, dictator-loving, unprepared president following behind on a golf cart. On defense, it is clearly under spending (1.2 of GDP). There are historical reasons for that, but it is time for Germany to live up to the NATO commitments it signed on to, especially given the trade surpluses it has. Finally, on climate. While Germany signs all the right treaties, when it comes to enforcing them, it is not so good. I am convinced that German automakers are involved in the greatest environmental con job ever. The fallacy of diesel engines (on which German automakers have put so much stock and are still defended by Merkel) should make all Europeans furious. We have known for so long that Diesel engines, despite best technical efforts, pollute more than gasoline engines---especially when not well tuned, which is what happens 75% of the time. But with the Orwellian labeling of Diesel engines with green Eco labels, and with criminal lies, German automakers are responsible for filling European cities with Diesel engines. No wonder so many cities, from Madrid to Paris, are struggling with air quality. Yes, other nations' automakers have followed in the diesel fallacy too, but European countries have long created incentives for people to buy those cars (probably with pressure from German automakers), so of course all automakers will try to respond to the market demand. In summary, it is not only the loud mouths we have to worry about. The quiet "experts" and "serious people" in Germany have been pushing failed economic orthodoxy and dirty technology, while not stepping up to their commitments on economics (no penalty for Germany's current account and budget surpluses against Euro rules), security (under-paying what they agreed to in NATO), and climate (the corporate lying on Diesel engines most probably was or should have been known at the highest levels).

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2017-05-15

 

E agora para uma perspetiva glam: para quê cercas musicais?

Adoro a canção portuguesa que a Luísa Sobral escreveu para o seu irmão e que venceu a Eurovisão---aliás a Luísa Sobral é uma das melhores cantautoras do Mundo neste momento. Mas sinceramente não gostei do discurso de aceitação do Salvador Sobral, nem de algumas entrevistas que ambos mais tarde deram. Desconfio sempre de um artista que diz que faz "musica de qualidade" em comparação com o que os outros fazem; não há necessidade. Tantas músicas excelentes foram feitas para ser dançadas e encenadas mesmo para o fogo de artíficio e até para as macacadas--por falar nisso, acho que a canção Italiana é também uma canção Pop perfeita, inteligente, e sentida mesmo com, e até por causa do macaco. Por exemplo, o grande Cole Porter escreveu quase todas as suas obras primas para peças da Broadway com muitos brilhantes, figurantes, luzes e fogo de artifício. Mas tarde ficaram standards de Jazz com outros como Bille Holiday, Frank Sinatra ou até Caetano Veloso. Alguém duvida que estas músicas têm sentimento? Como se o Glam dos Roxy ou Bowie, e mesmo a Pop maquilhada dos ABBA e do Disco/Funk não fossem imensamente sentidas? Por isso acho que são peneiras desnecessárias estar a dizer mal das músicas de "fogo de artificio." A musica da Luisa Sobral é tão boa que não necessita que se deite abaixo as outras por serem dançadas, encenadas, etc. Até o Miles Davies tocou esse grande mago do fogo artifício que era Michael Jackson (também Caetano o fez), ou Cindy Lauper, essa nada subtil "performer"---e a própria Luisa é conhecida pelas suas fantásticas versões. A autenticidade é apenas uma outra encenação, outra "persona". O Ziggy Stardust a cantar "Song for Bob Dylan" já demonstrou isso há muito tempo. Deixemos as cercas intelectuais para trás, pelo menos na eurovisão. Life is a Cabaret, don't fence me in. #NoFences.


2017-05-03

 

"Save us from the innocent and the good"

Dear Ross Douthat, you need to get out more often. Your column comes from such a constrained lens of XX-century, American, religious, self-righteousness that all I can think of is Graham Green and his quiet American. In what country do you live that you can claim that Europe has a democracy deficit vis a vis the US? The US legislative body systematically votes against the opinion of its vast majority, ranging from reasonable gun control to health care, passing through net neutrality, government surveillance and many others---least of which is electing a president who lost the popular vote by a lot and a severely gerrymandered congress! What about the rights of minorities within a democracy? Have you heard of #blacklivesmatter and the disproportionate number of African-Americans on death row (how religious is death penalty, by the way?), or the unemployment and otherwise horrible conditions of Native Americans? On Europe: the Euro is certainly a bad invention as implemented, but it could be improved. We should not scrape a Union that has brought unprecedented peace to the continent because religious conservatives feel threatened by a secular society---especially one that works quite well in practice, as demonstrated by fact-based (not opinion-based) health, life-expectancy, education tests, and democracy indices---all higher than the US (21st below most EU countries in democracy index, from the Economist, not a leftist, pro-European outfit, by the way). Both sides of the North Atlantic have problems as well as successes. Shallow analysis in support of Populists who only point to the downsides and not the many demonstrable upsides, is "Innocence", which, as Greene put it best, “is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.”

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