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Archive for October, 2007

Rhetorical Exchanges

I’ve heard many of my fellow PPPlers lament the weakness of the US dollar, and indeed, at current exchange rates we’re paying an implicit 40 percent tax on many things we buy with converted currency. For us, the pain of a weak dollar is immediate and obvious.

My fellow sojourners might be surprised, therefore, to learn that many policymakers in the Eurozone–Monsieur Sarkozy being foremost amongst them–are positively livid at the strength of the euro because a strong euro means Europeans exports are relatively more expensive and thus less competitive. Given that Europe’s economy is driven by exports, the rise of the euro has been troublesome. American exporters, on the other hand, are raking in the profits because a cheap dollar is good for selling overseas.

It may seem odd that Europeans would not want a strong euro, but their reaction is no stranger than the knee jerk American disdain for a weak dollar. The reason is because “weak” and “strong” function not to clarify but rather as a sort of semantic stop sign; as soon as one hears that the dollar is weak, one’s mind has instantly registered it as bad . No matter that a “weak” dollar actually can have many benefits–we Americans don’t like no pansy currency.

The same is true of the trade deficit (which, incidentally, is helped by a weaker dollar)–after all, how can a deficit be good? Well, the trade balance is definitionally equivalent to the inverse of the current account balance, which means that a trade deficit is exactly mirrored by a capital account surplus. In other words, any newspaper could just as accurately claim a record trade deficit as a record capital account surplus. And who doesn’t like a surplus?

Point is, economic truths can often be blurred by poorly (or deviously?) chosen rhetoric. Anyway, here’s hoping the dollar can tender some hurtin’ on the euro until I’m ready to repatriate myself and my hard earned coal.

Update: It appears the weak dollar also causes illicit drugs to be diverted from the US to markets in Europe. The War on Drugs: Winning with Weakness.

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Fall Back

Due to latitude and a recent clock adjustment, it’s pitch black in Rostock before 5 PM.

I’m not sure which is worse: the sinking feeling of loneliness and isolation or the fact that I have an instinctual desire to eat dinner at 5:30.

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From The Globalist:

In some of the major European leagues, the share of foreign players now reaches up to 60%. The 18 clubs of the German Bundesliga, for instance, currently employ 153 EU and 60 non-EU foreigners, adding up to a total share of 46%…

However, the globalization of the soccer economy has also aggravated xenophobic violence in stadiums all over Europe…

National soccer authorities are also continually fighting to eradicate the scourge of racism from the game. A year ago, soccer fans in Aachen, a town in Germany close to the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, almost experienced what could soon become a reality in stadiums. The referee threatened via loudspeakers to suspend the match between Alemannia Aachen and Borussia Mönchengladbach — after fans had called Brazilian player Kahe an “asylum seeker.” The incident came only a week after racist slurs were made against Schalke striker Gerald Asamoah in Rostock…

In a more recent case, Dortmund goalie Roman Weidenfeller allegedly called Asamoah a “black pig” after a physically painful clash with the sturdy striker.

My hypothesis for explaining such deplorable behavior on the part of footballers?

Genetic inferiority.

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Good Jobs!

Today I was happy to see that the few shares I bought in Apple have gained nearly 50 percent in the 4 months since I purchased them.

My joy, however, has been tempered by the fact that the optical drive on my MacBook is almost assuredly kaput and has been so since before I came to Germany.

On net I’m still satisfied with my Apple experience–so long as my stocks don’t lose any value, of course.

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From an article about Ayn Rand, referring to Atlas Shrugged:

To the dismay of [Rand’s] more enthusiastic admirers, this popularity doesn’t indicate total agreement with her “Objectivist” philosophy so much as it is a tribute to the author’s talent for telling a rip-roaring fasten-your-seatbelts story.

Now, what little I know of Objectivism I’m sympathetic to, but describing Atlas Shrugged as a “rip-roaring fasten-your-seatbelts story” borders on the delusional. The fact that I finished it is testament of sheer masochistic willpower on my part and nothing else.

My incredulity at this article is only exceeded by the fact that a move version is due to come out in 2008 with Angelina Jolie and perhaps Brad Pitt playing main roles. Say what you will about the ethos of Hollywood, but I simply can’t imagine this film will be released with its basic message intact–it’s just so…so….non-progressive.

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I’m really, really, really irritated.

For the two years immediately prior to my coming to Germany, I worked for an economic institute working to improve the economy of my home state, South Carolina. One longstanding project was researching ways to improve agriculture in South Carolina. Last year, this clip by native son Stephen Colbert came to our attention. Seeing a golden opportunity, I immediately began pressing on the director of the institute the need to try and get Mr. Colbert’s cooperation in some of our efforts (in whatever form it might take). I left however unsuccessful.

Well, today I get an e-mail from one of my old co-workers  with the following attachment :

I speak with little hyperbole when I now claim to have sacrificed the most of anyone by coming to Germany.

And one last fun fact: my last day at work was mostly spent ferrying around baskets of local peaches to board members.

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So reports Financial Times Deutschland:

 

Zudem blicken 76 Prozent optimistischer in die Zukunft und glauben, dass es ihnen in den kommenden Jahren besser oder etwa gleich gut gehen wird. Das sind elf Prozentpunkte mehr als im Vorjahr. Optimismus herrscht vor allem bei den unter 30-Jährigen: 47 Prozent erwarten eine Verbesserung der Lebensumstände, unter den 40-49-Jährigen sind es 21 Prozent und nur sechs Prozent der Senioren.

So 94 percent of German seniors believe that next year will be worse than this one. Besides the sobering reality that death could come at any time, what could possibly be getting the old fogeys so down? Read on!

 

Nur zwei Prozent der Befragten sind überzeugt, dass die gesetzliche Rente künftig ausreichen wird.

Could the old-timers’ negativity stem from the fact that virtually no believes the retirement pension will be sufficient for paying the bills? Or might it be something even more pernicious, like loud-mouth teenagers or the closing of a favored breakfast eatery?

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