Opinions May Vary

by Corey Robin on January 27, 2015

On Hugo Chavez…

John Kerry: “Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power.”

New York Times: “A Polarizing Figure Who Led a Movement” “strutting like the strongman in a caudillo novel”

Human Rights Watch: “Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”

On King Abdullah…

John Kerry: “King Abdullah was a man of wisdom & vision.”

New York Times: “Nudged Saudi Arabia Forward” “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer” “a force of moderation”

Human Rights Watch: “Saudi Arabia: King’s Reform Agenda Unfulfilled”

Crying Babies

by Eszter Hargittai on January 27, 2015

    I seem to remember more events from our deportation in 1944-45 than from many of the subsequent years. But these memories are like still pictures to me rather than a continuous movie. It is probable that some things that I seem to remember are merely a reflection of what others have told me. I vaguely remember that between our triple-decker beds at the camp there was a little space that mother converted into a “home” consisting of a small stand with some belongings. There was a small container, which I now imagine to be of the size of a very small glass. Once my mother got hold of some butter, which filled this container. She asked us to decide whether to eat it all at once or make it last for a while. I was for saving it, and this made quite a story in our camp, the lager, because everybody knew that I was hungry all the time.

    In the camp, I cried day and night, especially night, and my crying kept everybody awake. This I do not remember, but I had to listen to comments about this for many years by survivors from the lager. If they recognized me, they would tell me immediately about their predicaments due to my crying. Mother must have gone through additional suffering because of my crying. She must have felt sorry for me and for her fellow inmates, too. When I hear a child crying in a bus, on board an airplane during a long flight, or similar situations, I have great understanding for the child and its mother.

Excerpted from my father István Hargittai’s book Our Lives: Encounters of a Scientist posted here in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. My father was three years old when he was in the camp described above.

A one-horse troika

by John Quiggin on January 27, 2015

I’m a lot further from the action than DD, but I’m still surprised his confidence in the judgement and resolve of the Eurocracy in the coming confrontation with Syriza. Whatever you think about Greece, the failure of austerity in the Eurozone generally is patently obvious. It has already been admitted by the IMF (at least in its research, if not by its political leadership) and just last week by the ECB, with the shift to massive quantitative easing and the abandonment of the (supposedly unbreachable) ban on financing government deficits. That leaves the European Commission as the only horse still pulling the troika hard in the direction of austerity.

But the European Commission is almost as discredited as austerity. Apart from the appalling Olli Rehn, there’s the problem of Jean-Claude Juncker, who faced unprecedented resistance before getting elected, only to be exposed as complicit in tax avoidance/evasion on a scale that makes the dodges of Greek doctors look trivial. I just can’t see the IMF and ECB risking utter disaster in support of a policy they no longer believe in, at the behest of a shambles like the Commission.

That leaves the possibility that the German government will exert its (assumed) veto power more directly [I don’t understand the nature of this power, and would be happy to be enlightened]. My guess is that Merkel won’t be willing to take the risk of lumbering Germany with the responsibility of destroying Europe (again).