FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
Golden State
July 16, 2014
iStock

California authorities approved drastic new water conservation measures on Tuesday to help the state handle historically low levels of rainfall this year. The new rules include fines of up to $500 per day under some circumstances for watering a garden, washing a car, or rinsing a sidewalk. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had already declared a drought emergency. "People don't understand the gravity of the drought," State Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said. Read more at The New York Times. Harold Maass

Attack of the economist
10:35 a.m. ET
Fred Dufour/Getty Images

Thomas Piketty evidently never heard the classic Fawlty Towers line, "Don't mention the war." 

After Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected a bailout deal in a referendum on Sunday, a testy June interview between economist Thomas Piketty and German newspaper Die Zeit began making the rounds. Famous for his inequality treatise Capital in the 21st Century — an unexpected bestseller in 2014 — the Frenchman pulled no punches with Germany and its hardline position towards Greece's debt. And yes, he wasn't afraid to mention "the war."

Here are his six most brutal takedowns:

1. "I am much more afraid that the conservatives, especially in Germany, are about to destroy Europe and the European idea, all because of their shocking ignorance of history."

2. "What struck me while I was writing is that Germany is really the single best example of a country that, throughout its history, has never repaid its external debt. Neither after the First nor the Second World War. However, it has frequently made other nations pay up, such as after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when it demanded massive reparations from France and indeed received them."

3. "When I hear the Germans say that they maintain a very moral stance about debt and strongly believe that debts must be repaid, then I think: What a huge joke! Germany is the country that has never repaid its debts. It has no standing to lecture other nations."

4. "After the war ended in 1945, Germany’s debt amounted to over 200 percent of its GDP. Ten years later, little of that remained: public debt was less than 20 percent of GDP. Around the same time, France managed a similarly artful turnaround. We never would have managed this unbelievably fast reduction in debt through the fiscal discipline that we today recommend to Greece."

5. "If we had told you Germans in the 1950s that you have not properly recognized your failures, you would still be repaying your debts. Luckily, we were more intelligent than that."

6. "Those who want to chase Greece out of the eurozone today will end up on the trash heap of history."

You can read a full translation of Piketty's interview here. Nico Lauricella

Greek crisis
10:35 a.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

With Greek voters declaring "enough" to the harsh austerity measures that have kept their country in a deep recession for years, the possibility of Greece's exit from the eurozone is more likely than ever — an outcome that would shake the great European project of integration that has dominated the post-communist era. In a long article that is, all things considered, very sympathetic to the German position, Der Spiegel shows how Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful official in Europe, allowed the crisis to metastasize into a debacle for the continent.

The main criticism is that Merkel allowed the situation to drift, failing to take a strong stance that would either allow Greece to leave the euro or soften the so-called troika's terms to keep Greece in the currency union:

Merkel saw what was happening, but she didn't have the courage to face the consequences. And there were alternatives. She could have offered Greece a safe and supported path out of the eurozone. That is the course of action that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has supported internally for years. She could also have offered Greece a debt haircut. Had she done so at the right moment, she could at least have prevented the radicalization of Greek politics.

None of these options would have been free of risk. They would have required courage and money, and they would have opened up Merkel to attack. And that is something she didn't want.

So she hid behind the troika, behind the hated technocrats, thereby accelerating the rise of Syriza. Indeed, Tsipras is, to a certain extent, a product of Merkel's vacillating leadership style. In the Chancellery, people are expressing relief that Tsipras was unable to drive Europe apart and that nobody is blaming Germany for the current impasse. That may be true, but it is also a rather simplistic view. Success for Merkel is when nobody is pointing their finger at her. [Der Spiegel]

Read the whole article at Der Spiegel. Ryu Spaeth

Grexit
10:24 a.m. ET

Though the possibility of a Grexit is now dangerously close to becoming a reality, there have been plenty of indicators throughout the years that the country has been inching toward economic peril. That is to say, the Greek economy has been in the tank for awhile although, admittedly, it's never been quite this bad before.

After Greece notably missed its Tuesday deadline to make a $1.8 billion loan payment to the IMF, nearly 60 percent of Greeks voted "no" on a eurozone bailout referendum Sunday. The results of that vote could lead to the nation being forced out of the eurozone and into a future of prolonged economic uncertainty that could have global repercussions.

To put the prospect of a Grexit in perspective, here are four charts that illustrate just how terrible, horrible, no good, and rotten the Greek economy really is. A helpful guide to reading the graphs: It's really, really not supposed to look like this. Jeva Lange

The cumulative change in the Greek GDP has decreased 25 percent consistently over the past two years.

After over a decade of growth, Greece's GDP has almost begun to decrease between five and ten percent per quarter.

In 2014, Greece's public debt burden reached almost 180 percent of its GDP.

Greek unemployment rates remains above 25 percent — far above the rest of the eurozone. Jeva Lange

one state, two state, red state, blue state
10:01 a.m. ET

A new YouGov poll asked Americans to rate their feelings — positive or negative — toward each state, and then correlated those results with participants' party affiliations. Not surprisingly, Republicans tended to prefer red states, while Democrats generally favored blue states.

There were, however, some interesting anomalies. For instance, several reliably Democratic states in the Midwest and New England received fairly high ratings from both parties, coloring them purple.


(YouGov)

And then there were the states no one likes: a handful which couldn't net much approval from Republicans or Democrats. New Jersey led this pack as the least popular state in the union, apparently fulfilling its reputation as the "armpit of America." Bonnie Kristian

Bernmentum
10:00 a.m. ET
Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe today, largely, it seems, to deal with the fallout of some truly cringe-worthy images of Team Clinton literally corralling the press in New Hampshire over the weekend. But perhaps more interesting was what Palmieri had to say about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is drawing huge crowds and polling impressively well in New Hampshire.

"We're worried about him, sure," Palmieri said. "He's a force. He'll be a serious force for the campaign... I don't think that will diminish."

She continued:

Of course we're worried about him. This is an election. And he is doing well. She'll have to make her case. But we knew this was going to happen... It's gonna be a slog, but I feel like she will win. [Palmieri]

Watch the video here. Ben Frumin

cybersecurity
9:46 a.m. ET
Yana Paskova/Getty Images

At a holiday weekend event in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton warned that the U.S. must be "fully vigilant," since China is "trying to hack into everything that doesn't move in America." On Monday, China caught wind of Clinton's accusation and simply shrugged it off. The country apparently wasn't too concerned that the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination was spreading the rumor that it was "stealing commercial secrets, blueprints from defense contractors, stealing huge amounts of government information — all looking for an advantage."

Beijing's seemingly blasé response to the accusations was a departure from reactions past. Previously, China has been outraged at U.S. claims that it supports information hacks. This time, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying simply said, "China and the U.S. have taken a constructive spirit and approach to strengthening dialog and cooperation to jointly face various challenges in line with the interests of both sides in a way that is conducive to peace and prosperity in the region and the world."

Clinton's remarks come just three months after the U.S. government discovered a federal database breach that is believed to have disclosed 18 million Social Security numbers. The U.S. government suspects that China is responsible for the attack. Becca Stanek

For those who have everything
9:40 a.m. ET
Courtesy photo

This is perhaps "the most important bikini ever," said Meredith Lepore at Food and Wine. Each suit ($167) in the debut swimwear line from Spinali Design of France features a removable sensor to help sunbathers avoid overexposure to UV rays. The waterproof sensor monitors temperature and sun conditions, adjusts its calculations to the wearer's skin tone, then sends an alert to her smartphone whenever it's time to apply more sunscreen. The customer can also choose a "valentine" alert, encouraging her partner to rub on more lotion. The Week Staff

See More Speed Reads