Tuesday, June 30, 2015

O Syriza e a sociedade grega

Greece in chaos: will Syriza’s last desperate gamble pay off?, por Paul Mason:

If it all ends on Monday, with the Greeks voting for austerity in order to keep the euro, the first far-left party to hold office in modern Europe will be judged by its critics a failure. (...)

If they win, on the other hand, they will be seen as heroes by opponents of austerity across Europe.

But win or lose, Syriza in office has been a work in progress, impossible to read for people ignorant of Greece, let alone people who don’t know there are subcategories to moderate Marxism. (...)

It was the young people radicalised amid this landscape who pitched a tent camp outside parliament in 2011. They organised a movement most foreign journalists didn’t see: local assemblies in small squares across the city and its suburbs, where young mums, migrants and outraged pensioners could have their say. The communists denounced them; the socialists sent riot police to disperse them; Tsipras is said to have looked out of the window of his office and delared: those are the people who will put us into power.

But Syriza is different. Syriza is a coalition whose colours are red for socialism, green for ecology and purple for feminism. But it is primarily red. It was born out of Eurocommunism – when the communist parties of the west declared loyalty to parliamentary democracy instead of Moscow. Its most influential activists are aged 50 and above: people who have read all three volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, plus the Grundrisse, Theories of Surplus Value and Friedrich Engels’ Anti-Dühring. A lot of them are MPs now, or special advisers: you’ll find them in greying huddles in their old haunts – the radical bars and cafes of Exarchia and Plaka. (...)

Their strength was that they understood the significance of the youth revolts of 2008 and 2011. Some pitched their own tents in Syntagma Square and were tear-gassed out of it. But in the process, the party built something more official and resilient. (...)

Yannis Dragasakis, Greece’s deputy prime minister, was in many ways the embodiment of Syriza’s long-term dreams. His team of advisers included those most attuned to the “horizontalist” agenda emerging out of the networked social movements; people whose main desire was to nurture the 70-plus small-scale economic experiments they had promoted: local currencies, Wi-Fi networks in the mountains, producer co-ops.

But Dragasakis was given “operations”: to operate the government, to firefight the banking system, to sort out the state energy company. Those who expected his department to unleash a wave of entrepreneurship and experimental projects have had to wait. (...)

The ultimate question for Syriza, with the banks closed and the referendum due, is: can it now function as a movement? It has ridden to power on the back of social movements but, unlike Podemos in Spain or Sinn Féin in Ireland, has never really been a mass movement itself. (...)

We meet at a council-run clinic where, after midday, the official GPs and psychiatrists give way to a team of volunteers. It is run this way because the austerity under the previous govenrment means they can’t staff the clinic with paid employees. The volunteers include doctors, psychologists and qualified pharmacists, but I find them engaged in the menial task of hand-sorting donated medicines. They note the sell-by dates, count the pills and sort them. This is Syriza’s mass base – but it is not Syriza.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Boas ideias postas em prática por péssimos meios

Depois de Row vs. Wade, temos a legalização "à força" do casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo pelo Supremo Tribunal dos EUA.

Ainda acerca deste assunto - Sobre o "activismo judicial" nos EUA.

" A arma usada..."

A respeito do mais recente atentado terrorista na Tunísia, o Expresso escreve "Dois homens armados com espingardas de assalto AK-47, a arma usada em março durante o ataque ao Museu do Bardo, na capital".

Isso será muito relevante (em ambos os atentados terem sido usadas AK-47s)? Afinal, a AK-47 deverá ser a arma mais usada em todo o mundo (e ainda mais para ações "irregulares").

Thursday, June 25, 2015

As taxas moderadoras na IVG

Existindo taxas moderadoras, parece-me fazer todo o sentido a IVG estar sujeita a taxas moderadoras.

Sim, as mulheres que praticam IVG (por definição) estão grávidas, e as grávidas estão isentas de taxas moderadoras. Mas a única razão que pode justificar essa discriminação a favor das grávidas serão considerações de favorecer a natalidade ou coisa parecida, logo não faz grande sentido essa isenção abrangir a IVG. Na verdade, até suspeito que a isenção de taxas moderadoras na IVG ocorreu mais por acidente do que por outra coisa qualquer (suspeito que na altura ninguém se lembrou que a conjugação entre as várias leis existentes iria isentar a IVG de taxas moderadoras).

Percebo as posições "ninguém deve pagar taxas moderadoras", "toda a gente - incluindo grávidas - deve pagar taxas moderadoras" ou "para fomentar a natalidade, as grávidas devem ser isentas de taxas moderadoras (mas não na IVG)"; já a isenção de taxas moderadoras às grávidas incluindo na IVG não faz sentido nenhum.

Na verdade, até suspeito que a isenção de taxas moderadoras na IVG ocorreu mais por acidente do que por outra coisa qualquer (suspeito que na altura ninguém se lembrou que a conjugação entre as várias leis existentes iria isentar a IVG de taxas moderadoras).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A história do "politicamente correto"

What the Hell Does 'Politically Correct' Mean?: A Short History, por Jesse Walker (Reason Hit and Run):

Amanda Taub's Vox piece denying the existence of political correctness does get one thing right: The phrase political correctness "has no actual fixed or specific meaning." What it does have, though Taub doesn't explore this, is a history of meanings: a series of ways different people have deployed the term, often for radically different purposes.(...)

[F]or our purposes the story begins in the middle of the 20th century, as various Marxist-Leninist sects developed a distinctive cant. One of the terms they liked to use was "politically correct," as in "What is needed now is a politically correct, class-conscious and militant leadership, which will lead an armed struggle to abolish the whole system of exploitation of man by man in Indonesia and establish a workers state!" It was a phrase for the sort of radical who was deeply interested in establishing and enforcing the "correct line," to borrow another term of the day. If you were the sort of radical who was not interested in establishing and enforcing the correct line, you were bound to start mocking this way of talking, and by the end of the '60s the mockers were flinging the phrase back at the drones. In 1969, for example, when Dana Beal of the White Panther Party defended the counterculture against its critics on the straight left, he argued that freely experimenting was more important than trying "to be perfectly politically 'correct.'" A year later, in the seminal feminist anthology Sisterhood is Powerful, Robin Morgan derided male editors who had "the best intentions of being politically 'correct'" but couldn't resist butting in with their own ideas. In the new usage, which soon superceded the old Leninist lingo pretty much entirely, "politically correct" was an unkind term for leftists who acted as though good politics were simply a matter of mastering the right jargon.(...)

In '80s issues of magazines like Mother Jones or Ms., "politically correct" could describe a consumer good or a lifestyle choice. The tone here was usually lightly self-mocking, as you'd expect when words once associated with a shifting Maoist party line were now being applied to an exercise book or a fake fur. But some people did use it earnestly, perhaps because they weren't in on the joke, perhaps because they just thought the term was too good to go to waste. (...)

My favorite mid-'80s manifestation of the phrase has to be this ad that Mother Jones ran in 1985—mostly because I'm not entirely sure if it's being partly ironic or completely sincere. It's clearly one of the funniest things anyone wrote that year, but I'll be damned if I know whether the person who produced it knew that:

Reflexões sobre a Grécia

Last Greek thoughts, por John Cochrane:

Greece seems to be coming to a standstill. (...)

... many [Greeks] have simply stopped making payments altogether, virtually freezing economic activity. (...)

“Business-to-business payments have almost been paused,” one Athens businessman says. “They are just rolling over postdated cheques.”

(...) If a Greek goes to the ATM and takes out a load of cash, where does that cash come from? The answer is, basically, that the Greek central bank prints up the cash. Then, the Greek central bank owes the amount to the ECB. The ECB treats this as a loan, with the Greek central bank taking the credit risk. If the Greek government defaults, the Greek central bank is supposed to make the ECB good on all the ECB's lending to Greece. It's pretty clear what that promise is worth. (...)

The argument is not about "lending" to Greece, i.e. covering this year's primary surplus. The argument is whether the IMF, ECB, and rest of Europe will lend Greece money to... pay back the IMF, ECB, and the rest of Europe. This is a roll over negotiation, not a lending negotiation.

The loans were not intended to be paid back now. The loans were intended to go on for decades. But with conditions. The negotiation is about enforcing or modifying the conditions for a roll-over. (...)

The latest proposed agreement includes sharp increases in tax rates. Now? Are you kidding?

I am reminded of the story of a town, that had a bridge, that had a 50 mph speed limit. A drunk driver, going 85, caused horrific crash. The town lowered the speed limit to 25. (...)

I think of taxes in terms of incentives. Keynesians look at aggregate demand. Either way, raising tax rates, now, in an economy where nobody is paying much of anything because they see the big explosion ahead seems destined, pragmatically, to raise no revenue. And, incidentally and humanely, to further crater the economy. (...)

Rolling over post-dated checks is a fascinating story to a monetary economist. Money is created when needed, apparently. (...)

Without the banks, this would all be simple. Greece could default, stay in the Euro (unilaterally if need be) and Euro zone. One government defaulting on debts to other governments is not a crisis.
All along though, the involvement of the Greek banking system makes it much harder.

Greece has 11 million people, $242 million GDP and 51,000 square miles. That's as many people as Ohio, the GDP and land area of Louisiana. Why does Greece need its own banking system in a common currency and free market zone? (...)

Imagine if Greeks deposited money in a local branch of a large pan-European bank, backed by assets spread throughout Europe. Imagine if Greeks borrowed money from the same bank, funded by deposits spread throughout Europe. A default by the Greek government on its bonds would be inconsequential to Greek banking.

[Como relembro de vez em quando, eu citar um artigo não implica necessariamente concordância]

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Porque é que a "fantasia" tem sagas?

No New York Times, Ross Douthat, a propósito da "Guerra dos Tronos", especula sobre a baixa popularidade da "fantasia" como género literário:

Of course some of this is part of the general disdain for “genre” in all its forms that permeates the respectable literary world. But I also suspect that there is a particular obstacle with fantasy that doesn’t exist with, say, horror novels or murder mysteries: The sheer immensity of the standard-issue fantasy saga, and the fact that committing to a bestselling fantasy author takes much more, well, commitment than reading Dean Koontz or Peter Straub, Michael Connelly or Tana French. (...)

Fantasy, by design, is an exercise in world-building, and many of the most famous examples of the genre, from Lord of the Rings and Narnia and the Gormenghast novels and Earthsea down to Martin and Pullman and Rowling and so many others in the present day, are multi-volume affairs that require a serious investment to actually finish. (The multi-volume expectation has an unfortunate tendency to encourage today’s bestselling authors to never … actually … finish their stories, which as Lanchester notes is the great fear gripping Martin’s fans today.) So it would make sense that there would be a higher bar for mass success than in many other genres: Reading a bad murder mystery only sets you back a day or two, and the satisfaction of finding out whodunit can compensate for lousy prose, whereas I’ve definitely found myself flagging at page 300 or so even in many highly-regarded fantasy novels I’ve dipped into.
Essa explicação deixa uma coisa por explicar - porque é que a "fantasia" normalmente funciona em grandes sagas, com continuações que nunca mais acabam?

Uma explicação poderia ser que criar um mundo completamente imaginário dá trabalho, logo é mais simples colocar as histórias todas a passarem-se no mesmo "universo ficcional" do que estar a criar um cenário diferente para cada história. Mas o facto das histórias se passarem no mesmo universo não obriga a que sejam continuação umas das outras; veja-se os policiais: os livros de Sherlock Holmes passam-se todos no mesmo universo, mas pouca continuação têm; provavelmente todos os heróis de Agatha Christie (Poirot e Hastings, Miss Marple, Tommy e Tuppence, Anne Beddingfeld, etc.) existem no mesmo universo (até porque algumas personagens secundárias aparecem em vários livros com heróis diferentes), mas cada livro existe independentemente uns dos outros.

Aliás, na própria fantasia há um bom exemplo da diferença entre "mesmo universo" e "história em continuação" - "O Hobbitt", "A Irmandade do Anel", "As Duas Torres" e "O Regresso do Rei" (e mais uma porção de outras obras) passam-se no mesmo universo (e com uma continuidade entre elas), mas, se "A Irmandade do Anel", "As Duas Torres" e "O Regresso do Rei" seguem uma continuação que só faz sentido em conjunto, "O Hobbitt" não precisa da continuação para fazer sentido (nem os outros três precisam de "O Hobbitt").

Assim, a minha questão - porque é que a fantasia tem tendência histórias intermináveis? Será por uma questão de hábito? Como a obra mais famosa do género - "O Senhor dos Anéis" - é uma trilogia, toda a gente se põe a escrever n-logias?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Um default grego pode melhorar o seu rating?

Talvez sim.

Missing IMF payment may not put Greece ‘in default’, por Joseph Adinolfi (Market Watch):

Even if Greece fails to make a payment to the International Monetary Fund due at the end of June, ratings firms likely won’t describe the country as “in default.”

And, if Greece tells the market it intends to honor all privately-held debt, but not the 72 % held by the IMF, ECB and eurozone governments, the value of its bonds might appreciate. (...)

“The Greek government has repeatedly committed itself to excluding private-sector creditors from any further debt reprofiling,” a representative for Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said in an email. 
Mas é bocado irónico um governo de esquerda (e internacionalista) não pagar as dívidas às instituição públicas internacionais mas pagar aos capitalistas privados.

[Em rigor, o artigo só fala em não piorar o rating, e nada sobre melhorar; mas admitem a hipótese de os títulos da dívida grega valorizarem, o que quereria dizer que os investidores privados estavam a ter mais confiança neles]

Nomes que Republicanos e Democratas dão aos filhos

Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on baby names, por John Sides (Wonkblog):

To understand whether Democrats and Republicans choose different kinds of baby names, the researchers compiled an unusual set of data. They took all of the births in the state of California from 2004 -- about 500,000 in all. For each baby born, the data contained the child's first name, the mother's first name, the father's first name (where available) and the mother's education, race and address. Using these addresses, they then matched each mother to her Census tract and thereby determined whether she lived in an area that was predominantly Democratic, Republican or somewhere in between. (...)

Unique baby names were more common among blacks and Asian Americans than among whites and Latinos. Within any racial group, unique baby names were more common when the mothers had less formal education or lived in a lower-income neighborhood.

But among whites, partisanship and ideology mattered, too. Mothers who had at least some college education were more likely to give their child an uncommon name -- and less likely to give the child a popular name -- when they lived in relatively Democratic or liberal areas. If neighborhood characteristics corresponded to the mother's own characteristics, better-educated Democrats or liberals were more likely to give their babies unusual names than better-educated Republicans or conservatives.(...)

Oliver and colleagues also emphasize that these partisan or ideological differences were largely confined to better-educated whites.

E com outra prespetiva, Of Names and Politics: The Palin Story (BabyNameWizzard):
For the past two decades, a core set of "cultural conservative" opinions has served as a theoretical dividing line between "red" (Republican/conservative) and "blue" (Democratic/liberal) America. These incude attitudes toward sex roles, the centrality of Christianity in culture, and a social traditionalism focused on patriotism and the family. If you were to translate that divide into baby names it might place a name like Peter—classic, Christian, masculine—on one side, staring down an androgynous pagan newcomer like Dakota on the other. In fact, that does describe the political baby name divide quite accurately. But it describes it backwards.

Characteristic blue state names: Angela, Catherine, Henry, Margaret, Mark, Patrick, Peter and Sophie.

Characteristic red state names: Addison, Ashlyn, Dakota, Gage, Peyton, Reagan, Rylee and Tanner.

Even when biblical names are trendy in conservative, Christian-focused communities, they're typically not the classic names of Christian tradition. They're Old Testament names that summon up a pioneer style with an exotic flair, often with a modern spelling twist. Names like Malachi, Levi and Kaleb are hot in Alaska, while names like John and Elizabeth rule in liberal Washington D.C.

Why is it the blue parents who name with red values? Because in baby naming as in so many parts of life, style, not values, is the guiding light. The most liberal and conservative parts of the country differ on key style-shaping variables, like income, education level, and the age when women marry and have children. A community where the typical first-time mother is a 22-year-old high-school grad is going to have a very different style climate from the community where the typical new mom is a 28-year-old with a college degree.

As conclusões parecem quase opostas, mas os dois artigos não estão a estudar a mesma coisa: o primeiro está a comparar os bairros ricos e maioritariamente brancos e Democratas da Califórnia com os bairros ricos e maioritariamente brancos e Republicanos da Califórnia; o segundo está a comparar os estados (normalmente ricos e urbanos) que votam nos Democratas com os estados (normalmente rurais e não tão ricos) que votam nos Republicanos.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Revisitando o "resgate" de 2010 à Grécia

Greece, The Euro and Gunboat Diplomacy, por Karl Whelan:

With everyone talking about Greece being on the verge of exiting the euro after Monday’s summit meeting, it seems to be forgotten that the current crisis is not really about Greece’s currency arrangements at all. The Greek people are not demanding a return to the drachma and few within the country are arguing for the competitive benefits a currency devaluation would entail. And there are no formal rules that Greece is breaking that must lead to an exit from the euro because, legally, the euro is a fixed and irrevocable currency union. (...)

Europe’s governments and the IMF made an enormous mistake in bailing out Greece’s private creditors in 2010 and then overseeing a botched debt restructuring in 2012. In turn, the Greek governments of this era made the mistake of accepting official loans to pay off private creditors, perhaps not realising they were jumping out the frying pan straight into the fire. Now the Greeks are learning that defaulting on private creditors is one thing (not so hard it turns out, once you’ve got Lee Buchheit in your corner) but defaulting on governments of rich European countries is quite something else.

Blaming the euro for the current impasse is actually pretty strange because the euro’s founding fathers explicitly warned member states to not to get themselves into this situation. The story of the demise of Europe’s “no bailout clause” is an interesting one. (...)

By and large, the policy heavyweights of the day, such as Rudi Dornbusch, believed there was a “categorical no-bailout injunction.” As such, it was expected that markets would understand that European governments were more likely to default once their devaluation option was taken away and that financial markets would price the sovereign debt of countries differently depending on the health of their public finances. (...)

Well, the economists got it all wrong. Financial markets hadn’t seen a default in Europe since the Second World War but had grown tired of repeated currency realignments. The apparent end of devaluation risk was celebrated and, in the benign macroeconomic conditions of the early years of the euro, sovereign default was more or less forgotten about. (...)

Economists also got it wrong about the “categorical no bailout injunction.” It turned out that no such clause really existed in the European Treaty. The relevant article (No. 125 of the current treaty) merely stated that the Union and its  (.member states “shall not be liable for or assume the commitments” of other countries. This isn’t really how bailouts work: Those doing the bailout rarely announce “we’re taking over this country’s debts.” Instead, they provide loans to the government that is in trouble and these loans allow this country to honouring its existing loan commitments. (...)

So why were Europe’s politicians so keen to provide massive loans to Greece in 2010? One answer that comes up time and again is that European governments were using the loans to Greece as a way to protect German and French banks that had built up large exposures to Greek sovereign debt. (...)

Still, the figures in this area don’t really add up. The total exposure of European banks to Greek sovereigns was always fairly modest. These banks may have engaged in lobbying but, on its own, I’m not sure how important this element was. (...)

If the direct impact of a Greek default wasn’t going to be so great, there were lots of people in 2010 ready to scaremonger the potential indirect effects of such a default. The Europe of early 2010 was a place where the mere mention of the word “default” triggered visions of Hank Paulson’s decision to let Lehman brothers go into bankruptcy.(...)

Over 2010 to 2012, members of the ECB Executive Board, such as Lorenzo Bini Smaghi regularly gave speeches depicting the depicting a potential Greek default as provoking “an economic meltdown”. For example, Bini Smaghi argued that a default should be avoided because it would “punish patient investors” who believed in the adjustment program could restore sustainability, that a default would discourage investors from providing money to any euro-area member state and that “the payment of debts should be enforced, through sanctions if need be.” Or gunboats perhaps. (...)

My favourite theory, however, as to why European governments bailed out Greece is political hubris. European politicians were so sure the euro was a fantastic political success that a nasty event like a default was simply unthinkable for a euro area member state. If one euro area member state could default, the thinking went, surely this meant it could happen to others. So it needed to be stopped.