Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Zimbabwe sinks lower

The ultra-slow motion disaster that is Zimbabwe continues. It remains a horrible fascination for me to watch as Tyrant in Chief Bob Mugabe slowly and inexorably grinds his once prosperous and healthy nation into dust.

The IHT has the latest round-up of grim news, along with a glimmer of hope: his own party is beginning to make noises of disapproval.
For close to seven years, Zimbabwe's economy and quality of life have been in slow, uninterrupted decline. They are still declining this year, people there say, with one notable difference: The pace is no longer so slow.

Indeed, Zimbabwe's economic descent has picked up so much speed that President Robert Mugabe, the nation's ruler for the past 27 years, is starting to lose support from parts of his own party.

In recent weeks, the national power authority has warned of a collapse of electrical service. A breakdown in water treatment has set off a new outbreak of cholera in the capital, Harare. All public services were cut off in Marondera, a regional capital of 50,000 in eastern Zimbabwe, after the city ran out of money to fix broken equipment. In Chitungwiza, just south of Harare, electricity is supplied but four days a week. [...]

In the past eight months, "there's been a huge collapse in living standards," Iden Wetherell, an editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, said in a telephone interview, "and also a deterioration in the infrastructure — in standards of health care, in education. There's a sort of sense that things are plunging." [...]
The cause of the latest crisis? Hyperinflation. It currently runs over 1,200%/month. Not to worry, though, Mugabe--in a stunning King Canute moment--has decared inflation to be illegal.
The central bank's latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who increases prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a "firm social contract" to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor Gideon Gono.

The speech by Gono, a favorite of Mugabe, was broadcast nationally. In central Harare, the last half was blacked out by a power failure. [...]

Many experts now believe that Zimbabwe faces a political showdown within months, as the governing bodies of ZANU-PF wrangle over whether to grant Mugabe an extended term or to put less-radical members of the ruling party in power. Few expect a democratic revolution; the one rival party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is riven by splits and lacks a competent leader. [....]
As is typical, only the threat of losing power (perhaps through revolution) is the most effective goad in such corrupt states.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

More Germans emigrating

A troubling statistic for many Germans: Germans leaving for other lands are outpacing Germans returning home. The angst involved seems to be caught up with how Germans see themselves, but the implications are concrete: the German brain drain continues.
There has been a steady exodus over the years, but it has recently become Topic A in a land already saddled with one of the most rapidly aging and shrinking populations of any Western nation. With evidence that more professionals are leaving than in past years, politicians and business executives are warning about the loss of the best and brightest. [...]

Demographic experts say, too, that the nature of the emigrants is changing. These are not just young, unskilled workers, like those who fled the economically blighted eastern part of Germany after the country was reunified in 1990 to work in restaurants in Austria or Switzerland.

They are doctors, engineers, architects and scientists — just the sort of highly educated professionals that Germany needs to compete with economic up-and-comers like China and India.

"It's not a problem of numbers as much as brain drain," said Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. "What we desperately need in the near future are talented and qualified people to replace those who will retire in 15 to 20 years." [....]
Here in Switzerland--the number one destination of emigré Germans--the hospitals are filled with excellent German physicians trained in Germany at great cost to the state. I saw the same thing in St. Louis. Aside from the loss of brain power, the costs of educating the emmigrants is painfully high. The article reports that 2,300 physicians left Germany in 2005. At an average cost of $500,000 to train each (which I believe to be a conservative estimate), the costs add up quickly. Moreover, the ones who leave are often the brightest and most ambitious.

Although not stated, I imagine the number one reason why Germans choose to leave: economic opportunities are better elswhere. Given their training, German professionals have enormous marketing advantages. Even if they intend to return after several years of working abroad, such plans are easily deferred or cancelled once they settle into their new land.

RINOs are rampant at Enrevanche

The latest Carnival of the RINOs is up at Enrevanche. Barry did a great job ordering the posts and provided each with excellent commentary and visual aids (you'll have to click over to see what I mean).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Some things in Europe are timeless

Like the French urge to appease:
President Jacques Chirac said in an interview that an Iran that possessed one or two nuclear weapons would not pose much of a danger, adding that if Iran were ever to launch a nuclear weapon against a country like Israel, it would lead to the immediate destruction of Tehran.

The remarks, made in an interview Monday with the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times and the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, were vastly different from stated French policy and from what Chirac repeatedly has said.
To his credit, he called back the journalists, admitted his mistake, and repeated the party line. Nevertheless, it shows how difficult it is for some nations to get over their history of capitulation. It's practically part of France's genome by now.

Of course, for France, there is also the possibility to reap financial rewards by being the first to accept Iran's soon to be nuclear status. They played the same coalition busting game with Iraq.

In the end it merely points up why France cannot be considered a trustworthy ally.

Another European constant: Italian men are flirts.
"Dear Editor," began a letter published Wednesday on the front page of La Repubblica, the newspaper that Silvio Berlusconi hates most. The scalding letter demanded a public apology from Berlusconi — and it was signed by his wife.

And so, a nation bored and a little down at its return to semi-normal politics woke to a truly juicy news cycle with an inescapable conclusion: In or out of power, Silvio Berlusconi may be reprehensible, but Italy cannot keep its eyes off him.

It turns out that the 70-year-old former prime minister, who recently had a pacemaker implanted, attended an awards ceremony last week and was overly friendly with two young and beautiful guests.

"If I weren't already married, I would marry you right now," he reportedly told one. And another: "With you I would go anywhere."
Just like Chirac, Berlusconi later retracted his statements, using a written, public apology to his wife. Good for her not to take his behavior any longer. His constant flirting and philandering must have been humiliating.