Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category.

Swiss banks not exempt, but can we hope for change?

Later this week, UBS and Credit Suisse will declare they had losses last year of nearly 30 billion Swiss francs, the largest in Swiss history, the AFP reports.  And all due to the subprime crisis that began in the U.S. (thank you Barney Frank and Chris Dodd — but that’s another post). Risk analysts, the canaries in these coal mines, foresaw and documented over-investment in U.S. mortgage-backed securities in a report to UBS in 2002, according to this article from last summer’s Telegraph.

Is this really recent news? No — there were several articles last summer and in October about the credit crunch on Swiss banks, and fears that they would collapse like Lehman Bros. UBS didn’t…yet. And why? They took warnings to heart — eventually — and did some smart selling of their “toxic assets” early last year. Good for them — oh if only banks around the world had done the same. But last year UBS relied on funding from the Swiss government, while Credit Suisse received funding from…Middle Eastern parties.

So, they may not collapse just yet, but we note that the Swiss government is not big enough to bail out the banks completely — together UBS and Credit Suisse have balance sheeets still worth 7 times the Swiss GDP. And with the price of oil plummeting, just how deep are the pockets of Middle Eastern investors?  We wonder.

Those tempted to respond by regulating banks as much as possible (especially with meaningless political gestures like salary caps on executives), could end up causing more problems in the long term. Overreaction is often the worst reaction.

The world’s verdict will be harsh

Jonathan Freedland: The world’s verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for | The Guardian

Perhaps Jonathan Freedland has not heard, but in 1776, the United States officially broke with the British government. And even then, there were many doubts, especially abroad, that the U.S. could possibly survive. Who were these upstart colonists to think they could run their own government? George III and others doubted it very much indeed.

Well, she did survive. And prosper. Yes, thanks France for your warships in the 1770s — we couldn’t have done it without you. Seriously. And thanks, The Netherlands, for your generous loan once we had won freedom. And thanks to all the other countries around the world who, due to their own poor governance over the last two hundred years, led many of their most driven and intelligent citizens to become Americans.

And now that we’re all grown up and have actually helped you out several times (and yes, according to our national interest. We’re generous, but we can only be generous if we have stuff to give away. Simple economics — don’t bother your pretty head about that), we have the temerity to think that we can make our own decisions?!

Yes. .. Yes We Can.

Die Deutschen lieben Obama

Germans Overwhelmingly Favor Obama Over McCain, Poll Shows

This is a shocker.

It’s shame that Barack Obama isn’t running in Germany.  Except — he doesn’t speak German. In fact, he doesn’t speak a second language at all. Not even Spanish.

And may we just add that it wouldn’t be the first time Germans didn’t have the best political judgment?  Stick to the music, the Rieslings and the art, bitte. Danke.

The French Revolution and American Politics

So, I just finished slogging through Simon Schama’s Citizens.  It’s not nearly as good as Carlyle, but it does make some interesting points.

Historians are also much given to dinstinguishing between the “verbal” violence and the real thing.  The assumption seems to be that such men as Javogues and Marat, who were given to screaming at people, calling for death, gloating at the spectacle of heads on pikes or processions of men with their hands tied behind their backs climbing the steps to the rasoir national were indulging only in brutal rhetoric.  The screamers were not to be compared with such quiet bureaucrats of death as Fouguier-Tinville who did their jobs with stolid, silent efficiency.  But the history of “Ville-Affranchie” of the Vendee-Venge, or of the September massacres suggests in fact a direct connection between all that orchestrated or sponstaneous screaming for blood and its copious shedding. It contributed greatly to the complete dehumanization of those who became victims.  As “brigands” or the “Austrian Whore” or “fanatics” they became nonentities in the Nation of Citizens and not only could but had to be eliminated if it was to survive.  Humiliation and abuse, then, were not just Jacobin fun and games; they were the prologues to killing.

- Citizens, A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Schama. pp.859-860

It never ceases to amaze me that the French Revolution presages every revolution of the 20th century with almost mirror-like quality.  It starts with the highest of rhetoric, The People (always capitalized); the Patrie (or Fatherland or Motherland); Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.  And it ends in organized violence on a massive scale.  In the Vendee, the Revolutionaries didn’t want to waste bullets and gun powder so they filled barges with recalcitrants, towed them to the middle of the Loire and then sank them.  People who could swim though bound were bayoneted.  They lined people up in front of cannon and shot one ball through as many as they could.  People who thought the Nazis invented this kind of thing are sorely mistaken

The rhetoric of violence, as Schama points out, creates the necessary groundwork for the butchers to go forward.  Your opponents, who aren’t really “enemies” at all though they are called that, must be dehumanized before they can be slaughtered.

When one is pursuing the perfect, all things are allowable.  Utopia cannot be stopped by troglodytes, or rednecks, or ChimpyMcHitler Bush.  The dehumanizing language the Left uses to stigmatize and marginalize conservatives and their ideas in this country are part and parcel of the rhetoric of Marat and Robespierre, Mao and Stalin.

Apropos of the escalation, how about burning in effigy?  On the flip side, the Movement must have angelic leaders, idealized symbols of Hope and Change, an Obamassiah perhaps?