Fischer’s gain, America’s loss?

Michael Moore gives us a thoughtful article about Joschka Fischer (and some priceless Fischer anecdotes) in Slate today. Before going any farther I should make clear that I refer not to the notoriously fat filmmaker but to Michael Scott Moore, an American novelist living in Berlin. Of his fatness or otherwise I am entirely ignorant.

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Portugal’s Deficit Plans

The Portuguese government has announced plans to reduce its fiscal deficit. The aim is to cut the deficit from an expected 6.2 % of GDP this year to below 3% – the theoretical maximum ceiling permitted under the EU’s growth and stability pact – by 2008. Most of the savings will come by addressing the cost of public sector workers – of whom there are some 700,000 in Portugal (total population a little over 10 million). Promotions are to be frozen, salaries pegged to a 2% rise, and retirement ages raised from 60 to 65. All this is provoking a storm of threatened protests, so I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Show your love

You will all remember the Satin Pajama awards with great fondness, I trust. Lots of new blogs for everybody, staggeringly opulent prizes for the favoured few, and a juicy whiff of scandal into the bargain — good clean fun for the whole family.

Well, if you like that sort of thing, you’ll want to check out this year’s Koufax awards at the Wampum website. Unlike the Satin Pajamas, the Koufax awards are American, and unabashedly leftist1. But they will introduce you to some terrific writing, and your blogroll will be the better for it.

Here’s the thing, though: in America, bandwidth (like quality health care or influence over Republican politicians) apparently costs money. And because they are feckless socialist layabouts, the Wampumites aren’t showered with bushels of sweet, sweet cash from Richard Mellon Scaife and his like. So if you want to help them spread embittered Marxist-Leninist falsehoods, you should send them some money. PayPal and Amazon make this easy and painless. Or, if you prefer, you can send big chests stuffed with pirate gold to their snail mail address.
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Never Change a Winning Team.

Gentle readers, as you may have noticed, following our recent move to a new hosting provider, afoe has been riddled with problems, both on the front and on the back end, making it rather diffictult for us to post, and sometimes for you to read and comment. Should you publish something online yourselves, be warned – if fiddling around with servers and software configurations for hours is not your favorite passtime and changing hosts is not entirely unavoidable, just don’t do it.

We had to, unfortunately, due to a number of considerations. So as much as we would like to concentrate on non-technical issues, a lot of our energy is currently absorbed by bits and bytes flowing in the wrong direction. We are working on the problems, but doing so might include some open heart surgery. So don’t be surprised should some parts of afoe not work as expected. Please bear with us.


Meanwhile on the borderlands, SueAndNotU sends a reminder that Azerbaijan will be holding parliamentary elections on November 6. The country’s current president, Ilham Aliyev, essentially inherited the job from his father, who had also been Azerbaijan’s communist boss before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Add oil, ubiquitous corruption, the loss of nearly a fifth of the country’s land in a dispute over an Armenian-settled area called Nagorno-Karabakh and something like half a million internally displaced persons resulting from this conflict, and you have a situation ripe for popular discontent. Which is indeed what we find.
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Behind the Scenes

This is just to let everyone know that we are doing various things behind the Euro curtain right now: fiddling with our MovableType installation, evaluating a new design, and so forth. Most of it takes place in the dead of night, Central European Time. If you’re reading us in the late afternoon or early evening from the US west coast, you might notice, but we hope there are no interruptions.

Also, if you’re getting errors when you view any of our pages, or comments, please let us know in the comments to this entry. Thanks.

This Just Looks Bad

Is the new double-decker Airbus vulnerable to sudden drops in cabin pressure? That’s the kind of problem suspected in this summer’s crash of a Helios Airways plane that killed all 121 people on board.

The former chief engineer for the company that designed the microchips controlling the motors that runs the pressure valves thinks so. The company, TTTech Computertechnik AG, of Vienna, fired him for going public with his concerns. For good measure, it has sued him in both civil and criminal court. Austria has no laws to protect whistleblowers.
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Prodi vs Belusconi

It now seems to be more or less official: after Romano Prodi won a convincing 75 percent support among centre-left voters in what were effectively the first American-style primaries in Italian history, and Marco Follini resigned as leader of the Union of Christian Democrats (UDC) after a failed attempt to persuade his coalition colleagues that Berlusconi should not be their candidate for premier, the stage now looks set for a Berlusconi-Prodi showdown in next years Italian elections.

Currency Volatility and Hungary

As I noted last week, Hungary now seems to have lost the ‘anchor’ of a 2010 eurozone entry expectation. (see also this, and this ). As I am also indicating currency markets may well be driven at the moment by a combination of interest rate yield variations and expectations of future movements, and this may lead to increasing volatility.

Now, if we assume that between the relatively calm waters of ‘eurozone closing’ and the choppy waters of swimming alone in the open sea there must be a break point somewhere, it might not be unreasonable to ask whether Hungary may not be presently in danger of crossing that imaginary thin red line? With Hungarian interest rates currently at 6% clearly growth-needs indicate a measured pace of reductions (particularly with core inflation around 1.5%) , but CA deficits and government funding deficits in the 6% to 7% range anything substantial in the way of rate reductions looks problematic. This is why ‘slipping anchor’ on the euro-docking objective could turn out to be especially problematic in Hungary’s case, in particular given the high levels of non-forint-denominated borrowing, and the potential for secondary ‘balance sheet’ effects.