It’s All Greek To Me

Every day brings a new twist to the Greek/Eurozone debt drama.  It’s as confusing and quick-moving as a whirling Greek folk dance.  One day it’s general euphoria because another bailout deal has been struck.  The next day it’s back down in the dumps because the markets question whether the bailout will work.

The most recent outlook change is stunningly abrupt, even when judged against by the roller-coaster turnabouts that have characterized the ongoing European solvency crisis.  The decision by Greece’s prime minister to put the new round of austerity measures up for approval by referendum has shocked other European governments and put the latest deal in peril, causing markets around the world to plummet.

People are afraid that the Greeks won’t approve of the deal because they don’t like the austerity measures that have been imposed on them already.  No kidding!  So far as I can tell, the Greeks have borrowed to the hilt to finance a lavish, benefits-rich lifestyle that has been effectively underwritten by the Germans and the rest of thrifty Europe.  The Greek grasshopper just wants the German ant to save it, again, from the ravages of the approaching winter.

Although I don’t sympathize with the Greeks, who created their own predicament, isn’t the European response to the notion of a referendum a bit . . . awkward?  A plebiscite is in the finest traditions of democratic government, — which was invented in Greece, after all.  Is having a referendum really such a bad idea, when the alternative is to have unpopular austerity measures shoved down the unwilling throats of the Greek people, who are likely to respond with general strikes, work stoppages, and riots that will just make the situation that much worse?   Why not let the Greek people have their say?

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I Question The “Question Of The Day”

One of our local NPR stations, WOSU-FM, has introduced a new feature that gets hyped every morning during my commute. The new feature is “Question Of The Day.”  During the morning drive, the announcer mentions the feature, gives you the “question of the day,” and then asks you to go to the WOSU website and type in your response.  The responses then are supposed to be read during the afternoon news shows, although I haven’t heard that done yet.

Today the “Question Of The Day” was actually two questions:  “When does life begin” and “When do we become ‘persons'”?  Pretty weighty questions, eh?  You could really get into a serious philosophical/religious/ethical/legal discussion about such questions.  So far as I can tell, however, the questions haven’t provoked that kind of debate.  The “Question Of The Day” appears to have received a handful of brief comments after 10 hours.  Other recent “Questions Of The Day” — questions like “Are you worried about the growing population?” — look to have gotten similarly skimpy responses.

I’m not sure what the point of the feature is — I suspect the real hope is to drive traffic to the WOSU website — but I think the “Question Of The Day” concept is a dud.  In my view, the media already spends way too much time “surveying” and “sampling” the shifting, often uninformed tides of public opinion, and I particularly don’t care what a handful of self-selected people have to say about whatever intentionally provocative questions WOSU might decide to ask.  How about just reporting actual news, instead?

Who’s No. 7,000,000,000?

Yesterday, the United Nations reckons, the world’s seven billionth inhabitant was born.  The UN has determined that no. 7,000,000,000 is Danica May Camacho, born in the Philippines.

The UN has shouldered the burden of designating a kid to represent each of these population milestones.  Resident Of Earth No. 6,000,000,000 is a Bosnian boy named Adnan Nevic, now aged 12.  Adnan got to be held by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he was an infant, but says he hasn’t heard from Annan since then.  How did a Bosnian birth get picked from all of the births happening worldwide, virtually simultaneously?  Who knows — except to say that the selection undoubtedly was the product of the byzantine politics and horse-trading that seems to characterize all UN decision-making.

Of course, even the UN doesn’t presume to have the omnipotence to time births and deaths and determine precisely who is no. 7,000,000,000 — although it isn’t too far-fetched to imagine legions of self-important UN functionaries instructing expectant women the world over to take “short, quick breaths” until the lucky grunting Mom in Manila got the job done.

What is the UN’s message with these designations?  With all the hoopla, are we supposed to drink a toast to Danica — her Mom certainly seems proud of giving birth to the official no. 7,000,000,000 — or are we supposed to shake our head in dismay at the thought of seven billion humans treading the soil of Mother Earth?  If it’s the latter, why pick the second child born to unmarried parents in a country where, according to the first story linked above, one in ten girls aged 15 to 19 has been pregnant?