Monday, 7 May 2012

Greece and Political Parties

I blogged a comment this morning over Greek elections....which probably deserved some additional explanations for folks who don't understand how thing run in Greece.

With around nine million Greek citizens....you typically see around four million votes typically in a national election.  Unlike the US....where we have two major parties, and occasionally two or three other very minor parties....Greece is a bit different.

So there's two significant parties in the country.....Panhellenic Socialist Movement (kind of a centralist party that leans toward Socialism) and the New Democracy folks(kind of leaning in the center). Together, they take in around 3.2 million votes. Then you start to have the lesser parties: the Communist Party (maybe 400k vote), the Popular Orthodox Rally (a mix of everything and takes around 300k votes), the Coalition of the Radical Left (leans mostly far left and pulls 250k votes usually), the Ecologist Greens (pro-environmental and picks up around 170k votes), the Panhellenic Macedonian Front (pro-Macedonia...whatever that means, and picks up around 65k votes), the Party of Greek Hunters (yep, you know their emphasis...who get around 64k votes nationally), the Action party (lots of talk about common sense, and they pull 38k votes), the Ecologists Greece party (30k votes), the Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow party (21k votes, and you can guess their emphasis), Union of Centrists (mostly neutral, and 19k votes), the Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (13k votes, not like the regular Communists...leaning more to Marxism), the Workers Revolutionary Party (mostly union guys with 6k votes), and the Organization for the Reconstruction of the Communist Party of Greece (2k votes, and yeah....a third Communist party group).

I left out a number of minor parties....but there's also this New Dawn party which picked up around seven percent of the vote on Sunday.  The New Dawn guys?  Nazis.....pure and simple.

The problem in Greece is that you get some guy all hurt because the bosses in some party didn't approve his agenda....so he exits the party and take two thousand folks with him.  He builds up his own personal party, and then challenges the folks that he left.

You can imagine the Panellenic folks and the New Democracy folks.....they have to build some type of majority from this cast of characters who came in third, fourth, fifth, etc.  Everybody and their brother....has an agenda.

So take a moment to ponder this....if the US had the Greek version of politics:

The Republicans and Democrats would barely control forty-five percent of the national vote.

From the west coast, the Pacific Democracy Union would have three California Representatives, two Oregon Representatives, and one Washington state Representative.

From Florida, there would be the Cuban-American Alliance, with four Representatives coming from the southern part of the state.

From west Texas....the Texas Cowboy League would have five Representatives.

From NY City, there would be two representatives from the Big Apple Party.

From Chicago and surrounding regions....three Representatives from the Progressive Union Party.

And from Alabama, three Representatives from the Heartland of Baptist party.

Nothing would ever get done.....although we can already confess that nothing currently gets done....so it'd be even less than less.

So when you watch a Greek update on CNN or ABC....you can grasp just how screwed up things really are....and why you should appreciate American politics.

The Spiral of Football

There's an interesting story over at Grantland.....which lays out the possible scenario of the NFL going away.  The reason?  The concussion business and continued reports linking brain injury to the NFL.  If you've got five minutes....it's worth reading.

The emphasis of this scenario is that lawsuits will eventually come around....year by year....and chip away at the NFL.  Profits will disappear eventually.

The historical aspects of football always interest me.  Up until the 1960s.....it was a contact sport with limitations.  TV contracts and mega-million salaries drove the sport to be extremely physical.  Now....some folks are likely paying for physical ailments caused by the game.

I might be amongst the few.....but I can see 2030 rolling around and football in a non-existent status.  Lawyers and courts will eventually make the game into a joke.  And all our arguments about the NCAA bowl selection process will be null and void by that point.

Europe and Elections

There were a couple of elections over the weekend in Europe....with various implications.

First, the French folks voted Nicholas Sarkozy out of the President's office in France.  France has a unique system....you win the Presidency and then get six years before the next Presidential run.  It's not exactly something that a US political figure would enjoy.  You can imagine both Clinton and Bush having huge problems if they had to run again for office in their sixth year.

For Sarkozy....he had to run while in the midst of an economic trend (negative in nature).  His strategy?  Cutback on spending and just wait for better times to come back.  This naturally got a number of folks upset because government spending was going to be curtailed and cut.  The guy who won?  His strategy was stimulus....using most of what the Obama team did in 2009/2010.

My humble observation here?  The stimulus has to come from somewhere, and it just makes practical sense to tax companies and rich folks more.  So I'm kind of guessing that the French unemployment rate will slip a bit and French companies will lack any positive news for the next year or two.  The new guy will have time to create a fair dip in the economy, discover that austerity measures might help, implement them, and then maybe recover by the time of the next election in six years.

Second, the Germans had a state election, where the standing CDU party (the conservatives) had a slightly higher percentage on the win.....but the next three parties have a majority if they combine.....so in essence they won.  They've already started the paperwork to themselves as combined government.  I know.....it only makes sense in Germany to have a race where the winner isn't the winner.  But there was another unusual piece to the German state election....those Pirate Party guys actually pulled eight percent in local voting.  It's a fair indicator that the young party might be able to take national numbers in the ten-percent range when the big election occurs.

Third, the Greeks turned around and dumped on all of the big-name parties.  Almost everyone in Greece has a complaint about the economy.....so electing the same old folks just didn't make any sense.  The winners in the Greek election?  Mostly on the radical end of the stick.  The Golden Dawn Party hasn't been seen in the Greek state-house in forty years....mostly because they were disliked because of their Nazi tendencies.  But the Golden Dawn Party was liked by a number of Greeks.....so they are making a comeback.

The other Greek winner? Mostly far-right wing parties with varying agenda.

What should an American take from all of this?  It's probably not good for US trade.  The Euro is bound to slide a bit over the next month.  That means if Europeans were going to buy US goods....they'd have to pay more.....and Americans would pay less for European goods (in return).  One can assume that France is likely to fall a bit over the next twelve months as they attempt stimulus recover.  And it's never a good thing to have some Nazi party getting votes in an election.