Mitt Romney has me counting the days until the Olympics (164 as of Tuesday.) Since he's not always eager to talk about his largely-moderate record as Massachusetts governor, we've gotten to hear a lot about Mitt's role planning the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. There was that lingering animosity between Romney and Rick Perry, supposedly because Romney didn't give the Boy Scouts enough of a role. Of course, most of it's been about the boring stuff, like how he turned around a potentially disastrous event and made it profitable. But, when he starts talking about it, I mainly just imagine people competing in sports I've usually forgotten exist.
As violence surged over the weekend in Athens in reaction to a parliamentary vote on a harsh new fiscal-austerity plan, it became readily apparent that Greeks bearing gifts, however suspect, would be a welcome reprieve from the ones hurling homemade petrol bombs at banks and businesses. There have been innumerable showings of popular rage in Greece over the past couple of years, but here’s why this most recent one is important:
She wasn't as famous as Whitney Houston. Her singing was the kind best appreciated quietly, inside the mind. The shy, Nobel-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska died on February 1, 2012, at the age of 88, having given the world a handful of absolutely perfect sentences in perfect order. Her work makes me think of poet W.H. Auden's famous line that the purpose of poetry is, "by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate."
ATHENS, GREECE—After a night of high drama, both inside and outside parliament, the Greek government passed the slew of new austerity measures demanded by its official lenders in return for a second bailout package worth 130 billion euros. The deal slashes the minimum wage by 22 percent, reduces pensions, and will result in public-worker rolls shrinking by 150,000 employees, among other measures. The final count for the controversial package, which was announced after 1 a.m. Monday morning, was 199 in favor and 74 against. Politicians accused each other of national betrayal, and tensions erupted into angry exchanges about a deeply divided country on the verge of desperation. Meanwhile, outside parliament, a vast swathe of downtown Athens was once again left defenseless against violence, with smashing, burning and pillaging until the early hours of the morning. Protests also turned ugly in other parts of Greece, from Salonica to Crete.
After days of intense negotiations during which its membership in the eurozone seemed to hang by a thread, Greece finally reached an agreement today on the measures that will accompany the new loan package from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.
Bashar al-Assad has not yet fallen. I note this only because of the tone of inevitability in some news reports on Syria's civil war. The downfall of Tunisia's Ben Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi may be no more predictive than a roulette ball falling on red in the last three spins. Arguably, the popular convulsion in the Middle East began not in Tunisia in late 2010 but in Teheran in mid-2009, when the Iranian regime—Assad's patron—crushed a popular revolution and erased the immense hopes it had raised.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM—The specter of Greek default haunted Monday’s informal European Union summit. Despite valiant efforts by EU leaders to focus on promoting growth and jobs, an issue they finally seem to have woken up to, and on finalizing the new fiscal compact agreed on last December, Greece’s debt odyssey hovered menacingly over the proceedings. And, as if the Greek situation were not enough, nerves were further frayed by the evolving Portuguese disaster. As talks were under way in Brussels, ten-year Portuguese bond spreads were reaching euro-era highs of more than 15 percent amid growing fears that the Iberian country would follow in Greece’s footsteps and restructure its debt.
Last night in Brussels, the leaders of 25 of the 27 European Union countries agreed to become more like Germany. Not in so many words, of course. There was talk of spurring growth, creating jobs, and liberalizing trade. But at the heart of the pact was the so-called debt brake.
We’re witnessing a remarkable shift in China’s relationship to global fashion: once “the world’s factory,” in Asian American fashion scholar Thuy Linh N. Tu’s words, China is now poised to be the world’s mall. While China remains a poor country with an average annual per capita consumption of $2,500 (in contrast, the U.S.
On January 25, Egyptians marked the one-year anniversary of their revolution with another massive demonstration in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of what has become known variously as the Arab Spring, the Arab Awakening, or the Arab Uprising. Whatever term one chooses for the events that began with the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor in December 2010 and soon swept through Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria—the last year has marked a decisive shift in the modern history of the Arab world. Though the situations in different countries have and will continue to take different paths, the people of the region have voiced their unmistakable rejection of the political and economic arrangements that have dominated their countries for decades.
Greece is once again the focal point of efforts to stem the bleeding of investor confidence and save the eurozone. Intense negotiations continue on the precise terms of the restructuring of privately held debt in the struggling Mediterranean country. Agreement is a necessary condition for the approval of a second bailout package from Greece’s eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which, at 130 billion euros or more, will exceed the first one.
Isn’t that how wars start? Someone tells a story about what happened to them. Another person tells a different story. And so a fissure forms and widens. Fiction between ostensible allies leads to disasters. Honesty is the best policy.
You know the colloquial definition of "chutzpah" as well as I do: the man who murders his parents and then throws himself at the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. As you know by now, our good buddy Newt is steadily exercising more chutzpah than our homicidal orphan. Do you remember that, way back while he was trying to impeach President Bill Clinton for, um, perjury, Newt Gingrich had to resign as speaker because he was cheating on Marianne? And now he is shocked that the liberal media would bring all that up, despite his career as a moral scold.
Friday was another very bad day for Europe’s crisis managers. Within the space of a few hours, it was revealed that talks between Greece and its international creditors had reached a dead end and were being put on hold and that Standard & Poor’s had downgraded nine eurozone countries, including France and Austria, which formerly held AAA ratings. Both developments are alarming, but the Greek situation is the more immediately pressing.