Saturday, December 17, 2016

It's Groundhog Day...All Over Again


I know that somewhere out there sits a Greek man or woman patiently waiting to begin writing about the soon to be exploits of our President-Elect.  But until then, I’m afraid they’ll just have to sit back and watch me comment from afar on their nation’s affairs.

Don’t worry, dear poised posters, your chance will soon be upon us…and far too quickly.

I think a good place to start this week — after thanking Greece’s Ekathimerini for news stories inspiring this week’s post – is with that Greek Deputy Education Minister who remarked to the press it’s “no big deal if Greece loses some islands” to Turkey.  You can just imagine the uproar that created.

Sort of like an American government Secretary saying, “it would be no big deal to loose some [fill in the blank] to Russia.”


Moving right along … for those of you who’d forgotten all about Greece’s debt relief situation, have no fear, it’s still here.  In fact, think “Groundhog Day.”  The Europeans continue to say “you agreed to this,” the Greeks say “no we didn’t,” or “it doesn’t really change things if we don’t do it quite as we said we would.”

As background to this week’s rerun, Greece’s Prime Minister had promised during his election campaign that he would see to it that pensioners received a reinstated Christmas bonus (so to speak) and that VAT tax levels would not be raised on islands affected by the migrant crisis. HOWEVER, as a condition for receiving bailout funds from Europe, his government had committed to doing precisely the opposite—no bonus and a VAT increase.

This week, with his party’s poll numbers at double digits lower than its main opponent’s, the Prime Minister introduced a measure in Parliament doing what he’d promised his voters he’d do, and his nation’s lenders he’d not do. In response, Europeans froze their debt relief package for Greece.  

As no politician wants to be painted at election time as voting against helping pensioners--and the Prime Minister called for all votes to be recorded for attribution--it passed on Thursday. Greece's creditors are not pleased, and the sides are feuding again.  Plus, the Prime Minister is once again scampering about for a way to blame whatever goes wrong on his parliamentary opponents. Or the Europeans…at least some of them.

As I said, Groundhog Day.  But with sequels about to start playing worldwide.

Speaking of world-class events, some great news came out this week running to what Greece truly is all about. According to Archaeology Magazine, of the “Top 10 Discoveries of 2016,” two are in Greece! The Antikythera Man, and a mass grave in the Phaleron (Faliro) Delta two miles southwest of Athens.

At Phaleron the searchers found at least 80 skeletons, their wrists clamped in shackles.  The project’s director took it as a sign of “what took place during the struggle between aristocrats in the seventh century [BCE] and led through a long process to the establishment of a democratic regime in the city of Athens.” 

Sounds uplifting, but it sort of makes one wonder how long it will take our world to work out its current struggles among the classes.

At Antikythera, an island northwest of Crete, only one skeleton was discovered, but it’s significant for several reasons. They are the first remains to be found in 40 years at the site of a 1st century BCE shipwreck discovered in 1900 by sponge divers.  I’ve seen nothing to indicate there is any evidence linking this skeleton to the Antikythera Mechanism found at this site in 1901, and often referred to as the world’s first computer.

Front of Antikythera Mechanism

Back of Mechanism

Schematic of Mechanism

Recreation of Mechanism

But DNA sampling is underway, and somehow I see a suspense thriller brewing out there, featuring a 2000-year-old Steve Jobs-like Indiana Jones character and his Antikythera Apple.

Sad, though, isn’t it that we have to look back 2000 plus years for inspirational thoughts, but what joy is there in today’s news?  Then again, I wonder what sorts of tales will be written of our civilizations by those 2000 years hence…assuming Steven Hawkins was wrong in saying we only have 1000 left to go.  Maybe we’ll learn we’ve been living through joyful times.

I think not.

God bless those poor souls in Aleppo.



  1. Brother of mine, thank you for this very helpful post. I applaud the Greek president's refusal to punish the Greek pensioners for the sins of corrupt rich people and rapacious bankers. And for not taxing the rescuers of refugees to pay rich countries that treat the migration of the desperate like someone else's problem. AND you've added Groundhog Day to my list of movie distractions. AND you've given me a whole new interest in the Antikethera Mechanism. Fascinating.
    What a pal you are! I am so much happier now than when I started reading this post. BRAVO!

    1. If that made you happy, I'm happy. And while we're on the subject of topical Bill Murray movies, Sis--or at least their titles--Lost In Translation is looming as a biggie.

  2. Neverfails. The Siger laser cuts through all the BS to show where we should have been paying attention while noisy hysteria confuses this awful year of no good news less than several thousand years old. Hard for Greece to be above the fold these days with so much competition. But gotta hand them a blue ribbon for trying.

    1. Thanks! I think the laser could be put to better use on behalf of the Greeks cutting their debt in half. Otherwise, I doubt they'll have a shirt left on their back on which to pin the blue ribbon. :)

  3. Oh, boy, oh, boy, what a mess again and again... how long until things get better? Thank you for a most enlightening post as usual!

    1. Thanks, Maria. If I knew the answer to your question I could probably apply for that job opening at Delphi...or any number of investment banks. :)

  4. Well, agree with Anna Maria about the refusal to cut pensioners' benefits. Friends with relatives in Corfu tell me it's terrible for seniors with low pensions.

    Anyway, it's hard to get one's mind off the nightmare right here. Is this really happening? I'm buried in crime fiction and chocolate; that's it.

    With that, happy holidays!

    1. Truth be told, about as many Greeks feel the same way about Tsipras as Americans feel about Trump. "Now you'll know how we've been feeling" is a phrase I've heard several time since November 8.

  5. Whatever Tsipras' faults, and he has them, and we may disagree about what they are and what he should do, he didn't whip up neonazis, white supremacists, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim individuals and groups to win an election.

    He didn't commit crimes to swindle people like at Trump University or discriminate against African Americans in his family's apartment buildings. He didn't not pay taxes and lie about it. He didn't appoint a Steve Bannon as chief strategist, etc., etc.

    Over the weekend, a grouping of young people of color, some gay, went to an event in NYC. Afterwards, as they were walking away from the venue, a group of white supremacists confronted them, yelling, "Trump, Trump, Trump" and "f----t," an anti-gay slur.

    The right-wingers beat up three enough to send them to the hospital. In seeing photos of two of the young men, they had bad injuries on their faces, one in his eye, another with a broken nose.

    This is what Trump unleashed by his behavior during the campaign. Tsipras did not do that. Golden Dawn didn't support him nor did he support them, and I don't think anyone is calling his name while beating up people of color, etc.

    And we don't know what will happen here with the press, civil liberties, First Amendment issues, etc.

    1. Kathy, not to torpedo your view on Tsipras-- or to suggest that Trump is not as you say-- I think you should consider who Tsipras formed his party's coalition with in order to form a government before praising him for all the things you say. I doubt you'd say the same things about the partner he chose in order to gain and maintain power.

  6. I'm not for Tsipras. I would be out protesting against some of the things he agreed to and did, especially to pensioners and other low-income people. And any agreements acceding control of Greek islands, antiquities, land, etc., I'd oppose.

    But he's not Trump. However, I do know that he formed an alliance with a right-wing party, which I wholly disagree with. I wouldn't support anyone doing that, from a Democrat to a Green to a Socialist. No.

  7. I understand! By the way, isn't it interesting how so many who voted for Trump denounced Obama as a Marxist, and Sanders as a Socialist? Wonder how they reconcile that with the Putin/Trump's complicated.

  8. Putin is not a socialist. The USSR ended over 20 years ago. Putin has his own agenda and interests.

    But I tell you I don't know the Trump voters' thinking. Watched Bernie Sanders doing a town hall meeting with MSNBC's Chris Hayes in Kenosha, Wis.

    Their thinking is so strange. When they were asked, "what about Trump's threats to build a wall, deport people, ban Muslims or coerce them to sign a registry," they said that Trump couldn't do that; it's unconstitutional. And that Congress and the courts wouldn't agree. (Bernie asked them why they'd vote for a "liar.")

    And I wondered if they knew about the Japanese internment or the quotas against Jewish immigrants and others.

    And then they said they needed Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and they shouldn't be cut. And they want the Affordable Care Act improved, not repealed. But why don't they know the GOP has wanted to repeal the ACA and cut back Social Security programs, privatize Medicare, cut funding to Medicaid.

    So they didn't believe Trump on the one hand, but they believed he'd support Social Security and Medicare and fix the ACA.

    They also believe that Trump and Bernie listened to them and heard them. I'll agree about Bernie.

    A bundle of contradictions is what I heard from them. But as a friend said to me, the U.S. is not New York. Yep. Also, not everyone reads decent newspapers.