They Might Not be Economists

But they sure can tell when something devalues what they’re in the process of getting and paying for.  Of students polled at Brown University, one of the most famously left-wing campuses in the country, 58% disapproved of the use of racial preferences in admissions, and only 34% approved.

You see, when you dole out a credential on any basis other than demonstrated ability to earn that credential, you cheapen it, not only for the people who got it on that discounted basis, but also for every other holder.  Dare we hope that these students have figured that out?  Unfortunately, as the article points out, we can’t assume that the students’ opinions reflects any lack of mandatory group-think: None was willing to go on record with a disapproving opinion.

The linked article is brief, so we can’t know whether the polling was done with any statistical degree of rigor, nor are we told anything about the sampling population.  It would be interesting to know.  This may be just some “man on the street” sort of interview.  But however it was done, having that percentage even admit in private to heterodox views on the subject has to be seen as some sort of encouraging.

A short screed here, on the word “merit.”  That word is way too value-laden for my liking.  I have absolutely no way of weighing any other human’s “merit,” either in the abstract or concretely.  I can pretty well tell when someone is unmeritorious, but beyond gross-scale differentiation (e.g., I’m reasonably sure that a senior Taliban official responsible for oppression of females in Afghanistan does not deserve to live, let alone to be enrolled at Yale University in preference to any single other of school’s thousands of applicants), but my ability runs out at that point.  All that I can adequately measure is demonstrated (i) ability, or (ii) achievement in some relevant related human activity.  To the extent that I claim I’m taking anything else into account I’m more or less making it up as I go along.  I mean, how do you make any sort of meaningful distinction between the applicant whose mother was an unmarried crack whore living in a beat-up single wide in, say, Harlan County, Kentucky on the one hand and on the other the Vietnamese boat person’s kid who arrived on these shores with a bundle that could be carried in one hand, not knowing the language, but with an intact family and a phenomenal work ethic?  You can’t; you just can’t.  To say that one is more “meritorious” than the other pretends to a degree of knowledge that humans have never possessed and never will.

Same Number; Two Takes

So according to the just-released report, U.S. GDP “surged” to 2.7% during the third quarter.  Tyler Durden, over at Zero Hedge, takes a hard look at it.  As it turns out, the devil is in the details, and in the case of this particular report the devil is extra special evil this time around.

Some 70% of the U.S. economy is driven by consumers’ personal consumption.  How did that do, in terms of annual growth?  Oh . . . ummmm . . . that grew by a whacking 1.4% quarter-on-quarter (it had been expected to come in 1.9%, so it was actually 26% lower than expected on a quarter-on-quarter basis), and 0.99% annual (it had been expected at 1.42%, over 30% lower than expected), thereby accounting for 36% of the gross “growth” number.  That’s reassuring.  It gets better of course; it always does.  Fully two-thirds of the annualized growth was accounted for by government spending (not omitting to recall that at the federal level we’re inventing $0.40 of every dollar we spend out of thin air, that “money” coming 91% from “loans” from the Ben Bernanke’s Fed to the Treasury).  Another 30% was accounted for by inventory growth.  Errrmmmm . . . I’m no finance wizard, but when your inventories are ballooning it tells me you’re not selling.  When you’re not selling you’re not making money; in fact, if you’re like most businesses I’ve been exposed to your inventories are financed, either from your seller or from a third party (or some combination of both).  So my question is what proportion of that growth in inventory is going to turn out to be deadweight?  And CapEx, fixed investments, a decent measure of how businesses are intending to behave?  How did that do?  It accounted for all of 0.1% of the “growth.”

Durden predicts, “‘A stunning success,’ the administration sycophants would say.”  I don’t think we need both checking in with the NYT, WaPo, and Dear Leader’s other campaign operatives.  But let’s see what my dear lads over at the FAZ have to allow.  “America’s Economy Doubles Its Growth Rate” is the headline.  They note the upward revision from the Q3 estimate of 2.0%.  The also note that fixed investment has fallen, for the first time since last year.  To what does the FAZ attribute the growth?  Is there a mention that 67% of it is accounted for by government spending?  Well . . . actually, no.  The growth is attributed to increase in exports and residential construction.  They say nothing about the numbers reported in this article from Reuters, by which new-home sales are softening, as resales continue to grow, somewhat.

The FAZ reports rosy forecasts of 2.0% annual growth in 2013 and 2.8% in 2014.  Tyler Durden is not so confident.  We’ll see who turns out to be right.

Freedom to Contract, or Not?

Recently we had occasion to advise a client with respect to some specific provisions of U.C.C. Revised Article 9, namely those relating to retaining collateral in full or partial satisfaction of an obligation.  Section 620 provides a set of conjunctive conditions which are the “only” circumstances under which a creditor may retain its collateral in whole or partial satisfaction of a secured obligation.  One of those conditions is that the debtor must consent to the proposed retention.  He must do so in a writing which is “authenticated” (Article 9-speak for what most folks would call “signed”) specifically after default.  In other words, a secured party cannot require a debtor, in connection with originating the obligation, to pre-consent to the collateral’s retention, upon any circumstances.

As most people of more than just limited understanding are able to comprehend, the world works best when competent adults interacting with each other at arm’s length and as level pegs are permitted to arrange their mutual affairs to their mutual satisfaction, in the absence of fraud, duress, or undue influence.  This is necessarily so because, as Hayek pointed out, the range of circumstances under which people interact with each other, and the range of matters as to which they interact, are so infinitely numerous as to be beyond the scope of any human knowledge.  All you can do is set up some very basic, easily understood ground rules and let people make the best of it.

Our state’s legislature seems to a degree to have missed that memorandum.  Section 9-602 sets forth a laundry list of provisions of that Article that may be neither waived nor even “varied.”  Among them are the provisions of Section 620.  So not only can you not waive the requirement that the debtor consent to the collateral’s retention, but you cannot even vary the requirement that his consent be obtained post-default, nor can you, for example, change his affirmative approval requirement into a time-limited veto right.

That makes sense for certain kinds of debts and debtors.  Consumers, for example, or obligations secured by household goods.  The bargaining disparity between, say, Chase and Joe Bloggs is just so enormous that you really can’t expect ol’ Joe to know much about what he’s agreeing to or to be able to tell Chase to go pound sand.  But commercial borrowers, borrowing for commercial purposes and putting up commercial collateral?  Pray tell me what extraordinary protections those folks need.  Either they’re big enough boys to look out for themselves, or they’re not.

So much for Article 9 of the U.C.C.  There is another statute out there, which was specifically drafted to apply to large commercial actors, dealing with each other at arm’s length and both over-represented by counsel &c. &c. &c.  It’s the Federal Arbitration Act, which is codified in Title 9 of the U.S. Code.  Its provisions are construed not just strictly in favor of compelling arbitration, but mercilessly.  An agreement under that statute is enforced against anyone, even some 18 year-old kid who goes down to borrow him some money to get a beat-up ol’ car.  Like as not the loan paperwork he signs will contain a provision in which he agrees to arbitrate any dispute arising out of his purchase or the purchase money note, in some city halfway across the country, under rules which he has no realistic access to or understanding of, and which 99% of the lawyers he’d be able to go see to ask about it wouldn’t have any experience of, either.  All that notwithstanding, his agreement will be enforced against him to the hilt.

And what has our hypothetical 18 year-old kid given up?  The right to have any rule of law at all applied to his case.  The right to present any equitable claim or defense.  The right to present evidence in his favor, or to challenge evidence against him, based on any known rules of evidence.  The right to have a jury of ordinary citizens determine his rights and responsibilities relative to Mega Car Loans, Inc.  The right even to have a judge at any level review the substance of the award made by the arbitrator, who is not bound to follow the law, any law (and who, by the way, draws a not insignificant portion of his income from arbitration referrals from Mega Car Loans, Inc. and its peer organizations . . . and zero at all from our 18 year-old buyer). 

In short, our 18 year-old kid is viewed as competent to understand what he’s doing while throwing away the rights for which literally thousands of people have given their lives over the centuries.  In contrast, the businessman borrowing $1.5 million and who wants to pledge a half-million shares of a publicly-traded corporation as collateral is not viewed as being sufficiently savvy that he can be permitted to consent, in advance, to the creditor retaining so much of his collateral, credited at its current fair market value as determined by its most recent trading price on the NYSE, as is necessary to pay some portion or all of his obligation.

Discrepancies such as these are why anyone who pretends that the Law makes sense; or that the legal system is a “justice system”; or that, in practice, the determining of the rules under which each of us must live as he climbs out of bed in the morning is anything other than a raw struggle for power, each over the other, with those not blessed with intelligence, opportunity, energy, foresight, or other advantage are and will always remain the prey of those who are so blessed, is a fool or a charlatan, or some combination of both.  A public official, say a judge for example, who makes those representations to you is to be treated with public contempt because he making misrepresentations which he must know to be false.  A lawyer who tells you any of those things should prompt you immediately to return hom to inventory the portable articles of value.  A politician — judge or otherwise — who makes those statements needs to be pelted with rotten fruit.

More Guns = Less Crime? That Can’t be True!!

Except it is.  You have to be a Deep Thinker to be amazed by that fact, though.  You see, Deep Thinkers don’t mix with the rest of us.  They’re so much better than we are, you see.  They live in the correct ZIP Codes, after all; they vote for the correct people, donate to the right causes, and all get their panties in a wad together over the obligatory things, like someone cutting down a tree halfway around the world.  We ignernt incestuous beetle-browed clingers?  They really don’t have any idea about us, except what they read in the NYT, the WaPo, the LAT, New Yorker, TNR, and see on MSNBC.  And don’t let’s forget how thoroughly those infotainment outlets try to understand anyone other than their readership.

So of course the Deep Thinkers know — they just know! — that if you let us have something that will push a .45 cal. bullet downrange at 1,000 f.p.s. or better, we’re all going to put on our face camouflage and go hunt us some Hispanics, or something like that.

Thus when, as the Associated Press reports, gun sales in Virginia increase by 73% and gun-related crime goes down by 24% during the same period, that only “seems to contradict the premise that more guns lead to more crime in Virginia,” according to the feller who did the study, a professor Baker of Virginia Commonwealth University, and they just get all plum comflusterated a-tryin’ to cipher it out.  Well, prof., it’s been 27 or so years since I took statistics for liberal arts folks (i.e. people who can’t do math), but I’ll share something with you: The existence of two measurable diametrically opposing trends, when one of the trends is three times the magnitude of the other, does not “seem to contradict” the proposition that the two variables are positively correlated.  It in fact falsifies that statement.  Had gun sales gone up by 22% and gun-related crime increased by 5%, you might say there was evidence that they are not or only weakly positively correlated.  You might be forgiven for saying further research was needed to see if, as a hireling of the anti-personal-liberty lobby d.b.a. the “Virginia Center for Public Safety” (I’ll remind the gentle reader that tyrants since the days of Robespierre have done business under the banner of “public safety”) allows, “But is the crime going down because more people are buying guns, or is the crime going down because the crime is going down?”  But you cannot intelligently make those statements when the numbers move opposite to each other and by those magnitudes.

[Yes, dear, there are in fact crimes other than gun-related crimes, but are we really interested in whether a three-quarters increase in gun purchases moves the needle on tax fraud, meth labs, or importing rosewood which you can’t prove was harvested in a “sustainable” manner?]

I’ll also observe that not only are the numbers moving opposite to each other, but they’re doing so precisely during a period, 2006-2011, when all the other factors which we rednecks are assured actually cause crime, such as poverty, economic dislocation, long-term unemployment, increasing political polarization, folks losing their homes, etc., have been going through the roof.  In short, everything, literally everything which according to their predictive models would produce measurable increase in gun-related crime has not only failed to produce any increase at all, but has failed to stop the decrease.  Thus, not only has a near-doubling of Input 1 not produced any increase at all in Outcome X but rather a 24% decrease in observable Outcome X, but the simultaneous near doubling of Inputs 2 (e.g., going from 5% unemployment to 8.2% unemployment is a 64% increase) through n have likewise failed to produce any increase. 

Mind you, for the past half-century or so we’ve had our pocketbooks repeatedly visited by those like the “public safety” feller, on the basis — among many others, admittedly — that certain things “cause crime,” and that we need to shell out billions upon billions of dollars to “fight” this, that, or the other self-destructive behavior because if we don’t, it will “cause crime to increase,” and so forth.  Now this “public safety” feller wants us to understand that crime just goes up and down because it . . . well, because it just goes up and down, magically on its own, and independently of any other varying, measurable behavior in society at large.  What he’s really telling me is some one or more of the following statements:  (i) I am an idiot; (ii) I have been lying to you all these years while I gulled you into forking out your money; (iii) I cannot understand basic notions of statistics; (iv) I have never heard the name Karl Popper; or, (v) I, too, am afraid of losing my job.

 Dan Mitchell over at International Liberty has the correct two-sentence summation of the Deep Thinkers’ outlook:  “Gee, there are more innocent people with guns and people are surprised that criminals are now more reluctant to commit crimes? I guess you have to be a reporter or an academic to be surprised by this common-sense observation.”


This is How Government Works if You Allow It

Last night the EU parliament approved a new series of regulation of the rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor, Fitch, and Moody’s.  They are now to be liable for, among other things, “grossly negligent” ratings.  Issuers who own 10% or more of one of the agencies are forbidden to use that agency to issue a rating on their securities; ownership of 5% of a rating agency must be publicly disclosed.  Every three years issuers of certain complex products must change at least one of the agencies rating their securities; the one they change out must then wait four years before being permitted to rate another security of that issuer.  The agencies are also to be required to issue a uniform, mathematically-expressed rating in addition to their alphabetical ratings.  By 2020 no investor is to be required automatically to regard an issued rating (presumably this is to insulate fiduciaries from being prohibited from making investments unless they have a particular rating).

Now, a good-faith argument can be made for all of the above measures.  The whole ratings game can, just as with any other repeat-player dynamic, easily mutate into a mutual accommodation society.  There seems to have been more than a tad of that going on in the run-up to the 2008 collapse.  Of course, the single biggest part of the bubble — the U.S. housing bubble — was not only being deliberately inflated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but its pet Congressmen were publicly and vehemently denying any problems at all with their donor’s portfolio or finances.  The statements of, e.g. Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, and Chris Dodd were far more egregious than anything put out by S&P or any of the others.  But we aren’t talking about that.

 The question that’s niggling away in the back of my mind on this particular set of regulations is:  Why only now?  All of the problems with rating agencies have been known for years; their role in the 2008 collapse has been known for years; the measures adopted by the EU are not terribly complicated measures.  Why has it taken just over four whole years to enact a fairly modest slate of reforms to the industry?

OK; I admit I wasn’t being entirely forthcoming in that preceding paragraph.  The Eurocrats tipped their hand.  Their sudden concern for all the poor downtrodden investors out there has got bugger all to do with what Moody’s has to say about issues of Ford Motor Corporation, and everything to do with what it has to say about whether it’s a good idea to keep buying European sovereign debt.  I deliberately didn’t mention above all of the new regulations.  F’rinstance, the agencies are now prohibited from issuing ratings with respect to EU-area sovereign debt except three times a year, and only when the European exchanges are closed.  The proposal was initially floated to forbid them outright from expressing an opinion at all about whether Greece, which within the past couple of days has just got another few dozen billion Euros, at zero percent interest, and obtained extensions on its existing debts, and is proposing write-downs of its fellow-states’ holdings, might not be the best place to park your money.

According to the linked article, those super-dooper diligent Eurocrats are have been just worrying themselves sick (cue Pete Puma:  “I’m the little feller’s mother and I’ve been so wooooorrrried about him!“) that the ratings agencies have been over-valuing private issues of securities.  Bullshit, as the same article makes clear:  They’re worried that by cluing in the pigeons investors in EU sovereign debt that buying paper from such paragons of financial probity as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and/or France is shooting one’s money up a wild hog’s ass, those worthies might have to pay market price for their promises to pay the money back, and that the market price for their worthless paper might actually fluctuate according to their own behavior. 

When you ponder those additional nuggets, the underlying purpose behind absolving investors from paying attention to whether S&P says a particular bond is junk or gilt becomes a bit clearer.  Who are the big purchasers of sovereign debt?  Pension funds and financial institutions.  They are, in other words, investors who are bound by fiduciary obligations, or whose own soundness is at issue on a daily basis.  If, for example, Dresdner Bank is required by German banking regulation not to hold more than X% of paper in its portfolio that is rated Aab or worse, then it cannot legally continue to purchase worthless Greek paper.  If the pension fund for, say, a bunch of Dutch shipyard workers is held to a fiduciary’s standard of prudence in investing its members’ retirement assets, then wouldn’t it be nice for the EU simply to declare that putting the whole wad in Portuguese sovereign debt is just hunky-dorey?

Just to make the actual agenda even more abundantly clear, even to someone as dense as a NYT pundit:  One of the German SPD members has demanded nothing less than — you really do have to admire the brass on this guy — a specifically EU-run ratings agency to express opinions as to the soundness of the EU’s and its member states’ obligations.  Really.  He really said that.

You know, if only the emperor in the story had thought to pass a decree declaring it illegal to express an opinion on another person’s clothing except on three stipulated occasions per year, he’d have done so much better.

Updated (28 Nov 12): To add link to relevant video of Pete Puma.

A Question of Philosophical Mathematics

Every chicken living to adulthood, or at least to an age sufficient to harvest, we must assume, is possessed of one (1) heart, and one (1) gizzard.  Neither more nor less.  There must therefore be one (1) of each in each chicken that is harvested.

So why, then, does, e.g. Perdue, put out packages of what they label “Chicken Gizzards and Hearts (mostly gizzards)”?  By the way, they’re being entirely truthful; those packages contain a dozen or more gizzards per heart.  This past Sunday I fried me us a mess of them — two whole packages, in fact — and in that two whole packages of chicken-gizzards-and-hearts-mostly-gizzards there were, count them: exactly zero hearts at all.  None.

I want to see some video of Perdue’s source farms.  I want to see what a whole shed of heartless chickens look likes.  Do they also come with no forearms on their wings?  I mean, when eating buffalo wings everyone wants the upper arm, because you can eat those with one hand (saving the other to grab your beer without smearing it up with buffalo wing sauce, naturally).  Seems if they can produce heartless chickens (although as a proposition of pure mathematics I must not exclude the hypothesis that each of their chickens in fact does have one (1) heart . . . but also has about thirteen (13) or so gizzards), they can work the upper arm gag as well.

I’m stumped.  Seems like the math would work differently.

Lucy. Charlie. Football.

When it happens in a cartoon, it’s funny, isn’t it?  Is it so amusing when 536 people (for those who dozed off during high skool civics, that’s 100 senators, 435 representatives, and one president) keep promising that if you’ll just let them a smidgen deeper into your pocket now, why, next year they’ll get squared away?  Really.  We promise.  And we are expected to believe them.

And we do.  Time, after time, after time.

Identity Politics and Me

Some years ago I decided why I don’t like identity politics.  It’s not because a group of my fellow citizens happens to agree on a particular range of issues and publicly identify themselves as so agreeing.  Hell’s bells; that’s why political parties form, among other reasons.  Why I don’t like identity politics is that by your choosing to draw a line in the sand, between you and me, in front of whatever “identity” you choose (let’s be clear here: the “identity” you choose as your political identity is entirely a volitional act), by the very act of defining me as not of that identity, you force me into an oppositional stance.  This in spite of any thought or feeling I might harbor for you — or others “like” you — otherwise.

If you define your political objectives as whatever is Good for Group X Over Not-Group X is what you support, and you’ve defined me out of Group X, then you force me to adopt as my political identity Not-Group X.  Well, perhaps not force, because I always have the option, I suppose, of just sitting back and taking whatever you choose to pour upon my head because I’m not part of Group X.  You’re going to have to excuse me if I decline to accept that as a legitimate “choice.” 

What if, however, I do not want to have my political “identity” chosen for me, least of all by you?  What if I’d like to have the freedom to support or oppose whatever measure is under consideration not based upon whether it’s Good For Group X, or Beneficial to Group Y, but whether it so improves Things Overall that I can afford to disregard whether it incidentally helps or harms, advances or leaves by the roadside, any subset (however defined) of citizens? 

It’s true, of course, that most measures, most of the time, will have an effect on groups, to the extent they can be said to have specific effects on identifiable groups at all, that defined themselves based on self-selected attributes.  For instance, the environmentalists.  One chooses to be an environmentalist or not.  One may join, leave, and re-join that group at will; one is not born to it.  So that everyone’s electricity rates going through the roof because the environmentalists want to feel good about themselves for shutting down coal-generated electricity is something I can engage on its merits, irrespective of whatever group identifier is chosen by its proponents.  But there are attributes which I cannot change; I was born a Caucasian male.  For all intents and purposes, I’m stuck where I live; I cannot just up and move a law practice to an entirely different part of the country.  So when you choose to back a particular proposal because it will advance Group X over whites, or males, or my part of the country, then I do not have the luxury of disregarding any of those attributes of mine in pondering my response to you.

I resent the hell out of that.  Who do you think you are, to put me in a box?

This Wall Street Journal article alludes to that dynamic.  When you divide the American electorate into all manner of “ethnic” groupings, each of which shares as its principal attribute “not-white,” then what you’ve done is to re-create the white identity politics of the pre-1970s.  You have, whether you admit it or not, re-issued Bull Connor (a member of the Democratic National Committee, don’t let’s forget) his invitation to the dance.  I’ll share a li’l nugget of history with you:  Bull Connor didn’t play well with others.

I wish you joy of him.

Why Was This Question Not Asked?

During the presidential campaign, by anyone:  “What good are gay rights if your country is falling apart?”

“Gay” “rights” and “reproductive freedom,” “climate change,” and all those other cheap, shiny bangles which appear, based on the election post-mortems, to have enticed enormous swathes of the American public to vote for an avowedly socialistic, race-baiting anti-American demagogue who rejoices when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over entire countries — and leaves American ambassadors to be murdered while watching the live video of the attack — despite the worst record of economic improvement of any president since World War II, are luxury issues to be indulged in by countries that are not broke and going more so.

Unsubsidized poverty is a very effective form of birth control.  No one cares who calls himself “married” when he’s living under a bridge.  Who’s paying for Her Pill won’t move a single piece of REO off the local bank’s books.  When the pay earned at 10:00 a.m. today will not buy half the loaf of bread it would have bought at 3:00 p.m. yesterday nobody really gives a damn whether you Ask or Tell.  When you can tell whether the Planet is Cooling from the soles of your feet on the pavement, felt directly through the gaping holes in your shoes, you begin to care measurably less whether the rosewood on some drug-addled musician’s guitar neck was harvested in a “sustainable” manner or not.

A humble prediction:  This is the last time a question like this will appear in the New York Times.

And Here I’d Thought “Chutzpah” was a Yiddish Word

Silly me.  It’s Greek, apparently.  At the same time that Greece wants existing creditors to take a haircut, they’re also wanting to keep borrowing money . . . from those same creditors.  They haven’t got the write-down, or not yet, but they also want, and are getting now, lower interest rates and extended maturities. 

The problem here is that one of the creditors, the IMF, is a preferred creditor, and the European Central Bank apparently is not permitted to forgive the debts, so any haircut will have to occur at the level of the different EU countries who have — cough! — invested their citizens’ wealth in Athens, and who cannot spread the misery outside their own borders, or at least not directly. 

It gets even better:  True to governmental traditions everywhere, the creditor nations are going to, in effect, hide their outright gifts to Greece by turning over any gains on transactions in Greek sovereign debt back to the Greeks.  The linked article makes no mention of Greece making good any losses in such transactions.  This is of course the classic dynamic of privatizing gains and socializing losses (think: Solyndra, GM, Chrysler), only the “public” and “private” in this scenario are supra-national organizations and sovereign countries.  It’s every bit as much a gift of the people’s money as if the tax man showed up at your door, stuck a gun in your face, and made you empty your pockets into a pre-addressed, stamped envelope to Athens.

The Germans, as one might imagine, have some issues with that.  For starts turning over the Bundesbank’s profits, for free, would require a legal adjustment to their applicable laws.  The government has announced that it will attend to that.  The German budgetary laws also do not permit the forgiveness of debt.  All of the parties have stated as much.  What will be done to change that, if anything, remains to be seen.  If they do vote to change the laws I’d suggest before they do so that they first remove all lamp posts within a day’s drive of Berlin.  I don’t claim any peculiarly keen insights into the German political character, but I have a hard time imagining the electorate — a nation of dedicated savers, if not outright pinch-pennies — endorsing just handing the stuff over to a country which would rather go on general strike rather than not retire with full benefits at age 55.

It’s sad, though, that it’s the Green Party, of all creatures, that on this one point at least is demanding that the truth be spoken:  Their parliamentary leader has demanded that Angela Merkel finally come out and say plainly that all this largesse for Greece is in fact going to cost the German taxpayer money out of pocket.  The Greens, for cryin’ out loud.  Of course, while acknowledging the truth it turns out they’re just happy with it.  They and the SPD have already announced that they’ll support the latest give-aways in the Bundestag.