BRUSSELS—Depending on whose narrative you believe, the deepening economic crisis in Greece proves (a) that the dysfunctional and dissolute Greeks just couldn’t get their act together and keep the reform commitments that they made in exchange for debt relief from the European authorities; or (b) it only proves that austerity breeds more austerity.
Cut public spending and wages, and raise taxes in a recession, and you just dig yourself a deeper hole. Since only about 20 percent of the Greek economy is exports and less than 40 percent of export costs are wages, slashing wages just doesn’t produce much of a bounce, especially when the rest of Europe’s economy is contracting too.
Ever wonder what it'll be like when we can finally live forever? Oh, come on, sure you have. In case you're new to this subject, there are essentially two possibilities out there. One is that an ever-growing series of advances in the science of aging allows us to arrest the process to where we can keep our bodies going indefinitely, or at least for a very long time. The other is that advances in brain science eventually allow us to map your entire brain down to every last neuron, and we're able to upload your mind. At that point, provided nobody drops the thumb drive containing your consciousness down the toilet by mistake, we can either transfer the file into some kind of robotic body, or, more plausibly, download you into a virtual environment where you can exist forever. And presumably, by the time we're able to do that, the virtual environments we're able to create will be orders of magnitude more realistic, complex, and vivid than what we can create today. In other words, you'll live in the holodeck.
Last week, several dozen nonprofit organizations hosted events across the country to train more than 100,000 Americans in nonviolent direct action. Dubbed the 99% Spring, the training was spearheaded by several national nonprofit organizations. If you didn’t hear about it, you’re not alone. Other than a few anticipatory stories from the Associated Press and NPR, the week’s worth of meetings and actions flew below the national radar. Whether that’s a bad thing depends on what role you expect nonprofit social-movement organizations to play in our current political discourse.
By the end of this week, teachers in Tennessee will likely have new protections if they teach creationism alongside evolution or rely on dubious reports that climate change is a myth.
A measure awaiting gubernatorial approval explicitly protects teachers who give countering theories to evolution, climate change, and the like, in an effort to foster critical-thinking skills. The bill received overwhelming legislative support, and the governor is expected to approve it.
Near the end of 2010, the Interior Department tried to revive the idea that keeping public lands wild might serve the public interest. But House Republicans have made quick work of that idea. They defunded the policy in April, and although the Obama administration could have picked it back up again once the next fiscal year started, Interior announced yesterday that it had given up on its wild lands policy.
Yesterday marked the 41st anniversary of Earth Day. Since its creation in 1970, Earth Day has encouraged people across the globe to get involved in projects that help our environment. Above is an Earth Day volunteer planting flowers.
El Salvador and Central America take climate change seriously because they are getting nailed by these intense storms. As I always say, I never thought the future would come so soon. Last year El Salvador got hit so badly that the cost of recovering from storms and floods was much more than the costs of recuperating landscapes to build in more resilience to climate change. Now they see adaptation as the primary goal — it is the cost-effective thing to do.
In light of the terrible tsunami that has hit Japan and threatens to reach the United States, it's worth noting that -- as part of their continuing resolution -- the House GOP proposed deep cuts to the National Weather Service, which houses the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center:
A bill in the House of Representatives is proposing to cut the National Weather Service's 2011 budget by reportedly 30 percent or about $126 million. The proposal is part of the Full Year Continuing Resolution Act. [...]
The Wall Street JournalEuropereports that Greece is turning to its diasporic community to buy up its debt, issuing bonds. The piece quotes Greek Americans, from the unemployed to cafe owners in Astoria, all saying they'll pony up money largely for the sake of ancestral pride.
Greece wants to sell 3 billion Euros in bonds to its diasporic community. The Greek American population is estimated to be around 2.5 million people. Canada and Australia are also said to have large populations.
Kathleen Parker thought it was noteworthy that the the president's speech about American Exceptionalism didn't actually use the term "exceptional," so in an exclusive interview with John Boehner, she asked him about it. Replyeth the speaker: "They've refused to talk about America exceptionalism. ... They reject that notion." I assume by "they" Boehner is referring to the bunch of socialists who call themselves Democrats, but I digress. Perhaps this is just a way for conservatives to cope with the fact that the president took away one of their chief criticisms of him.
Mitch McConnellexplains the governing strategy of his political party: "If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway, we're not going to say no." In other words, McConnell doesn't believe in politics. You know, give and take, compromise, deal-making -- all that stuff. I'm surprised he believes in democratic government at all. I mean, why bother having elections if sometimes people end up choosing representatives who aren't Republicans?
What the hell, let's engage in some irresponsible 2012 presidential speculation. I see that the Republican primary is essentially (I don't consider the former governor of Alaska to be viable) down to Romney and Huckabee, which, as David Weigelputs it, "emphasizes the power Mike Huckabee has to shape the race." Why is this? Because Huckabee won Iowa in 2008. Romney came in second. Romney also came in second in New Hampshire, behind McCain. Nevada? All Romney. South Carolina?
One of the benefits of blogging is that those of us who have a deep-seated need to force our opinions on other people have a ready forum to do so, and not merely on matters of national import. This includes inveighing against our own pet peeves. For instance, a few months ago I scolded America for the profligate use of the phrase "I could care less," when what people mean when they say that is precisely the opposite, "I couldn't care less." And today, I have to applaud Slate's Farhad Manjoo for taking on the use of two spaces after a period:
Are all politics local? Nate Silver looks at the truism coined by Tip O'Neill and finds trends toward nationalization at the presidential, country, and congressional level. But what does this mean? If the parties are increasingly nationalizing races, does this change the basic calculus that outside of presidential contests (which shouldn't even be considered for this question) politicians need to pay special attention to their constituents? Or does this all hinge on how we interpret Mr. O'Neill's truism? I appreciate the data, of course, but does it tell us anything interesting about contemporary politics?