Showing posts with label Das Europäische Politik. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Das Europäische Politik. Show all posts

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday The Thirteenth Random Barking: Up On The Roof

Don't Want To Look Over The Edge

What is the cost of lies? It's not that we'll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left, but to abandon even the hope of truth, and content ourselves instead with stories?
  --  Gregori Legazov (Jared Harris), Chernobyl (Episode 1) 
An aspect of quantum theory has it that reality may be created, moment to moment, in determining one set of conditions of the great cosmic Waveform -- all possible variations in the state of all matter. The world exists in all its multitudinous forms simultaneously: snow falls (hopefully) in the Himalayas, at the same instant billions and billions of other things are happening.

This is where all of us, and novels, live (and the debate whether Flaubert, or Hemingway, or Gaddis, Tartt or Sebald, or Attwood, or Chelsea Handler, described Reality more closely in their works to how it's actually experienced). Terrible, beautiful; it's all going down -- whether you see it, acknowledge it, or not.

I get up this morning, having watched the first episode of HBO's Chernobyl last night. I kept recalling the scene where a Soviet engineer at the nuclear plant is intimidated, by two Soviet party Administrators, into going up on the Vent Block roof of Reactor Building Four to look down over the edge, directly into the maw of a ruptured reactor core in fission burn.

That was an actual event. A couple of actual, gutless, bullying Soviet party toadies -- Viktor Bryukhanov and Nikolai Fomin -- refused to believe the reactor had exploded. They forced another actual person, Deputy Chief Engineer Anatoly Sitnikov, to go up on a roof overlooking the blown core and look down into the monster. They sent an armed soldier with him to make sure he did.

Sitnikov received a fatal dose of radiation within seconds. Even after returning and reporting what he had seen, the two suck-ass motherfuckers (products of their system, yes; but motherfuckers all the same) still said Sitnikov was mistaken, and accused him of lying.

Bryukhanov and Fomin did next to nothing. They did not alert anyone about the true state of the emergency. All they were really concerned about was being blamed for something bad, and what effect that would have on their careers as Soviet technical bureaucrats. They only thought about how best to spin things, to protect themselves.

I also got up this morning to a continuation of news already broadcast the night before -- that Britain has gotten its Little Trump. Stevie Bannon must be so very proud of one of his clients. Our American Pestident, another Bannon customer, has warmly congratulated Boris -- who has only begun to strut and preen and crow.

I don't know enough about the minutiae of British politics to fully appreciate the magnitude of the Tory win -- and the loss by Labor and the Liberals. I fully expect Britain will crash out of the EU -- Boris has said he won't, but he lies (not as much as his friend Donny, but he does), and in the process of Crashing, a lot of Boris' pals will become quite wealth-ier.

What will happen to workers, families, the sick and the elderly?  Once you strip away their lies and gaslighting, the Tory answer is "who cares?" Britain will become a more nationalist, right-wing populist, privatized 'Little England' state: an English version of Trump country.

One of the greatest problems in modern politics, for many democratic states, is that conservatives believe they're voting for the Tory, or Republican, party that's always been.  They're not. The 'new Right' is bereft of values, focused on subduing populations and subverting democracy in order to wield power in a coalition with the Rich and corporations.

In that, they don't differ much from the Democratic party in America,  except that they are more obvious in their purpose, and they put it in a big wrapping of Jesus. Our Democratic party leadership puts things in a neoliberal wrapper, the fig leaf of 'progress': A Great Big Beautiful Diverse Tomorrow. The same wealthy and corporate interests benefit, either way.

But no matter what ideological or theological crap they spew, they're all in it for the Money, a dream of bloodlines, family names, and dynasties. It's what short-sighted humans -- facing the potential end of our species -- can least afford in terms of behavior, but they're doing it.

But to realize that dream, they have to create as much chaos in the public and political sphere as possible  -- their Left opponents, meanwhile, are outmaneuvered by the sheer audacity of the New Right's play for power. That's what we're about to see in Britain, now. It's what we have been seeing in n America. It's not new, but it is Steve Bannon's playbook for a New Fascism.

I expect anti-immigrant sentiment will be emboldened, "Paki-bashing" will increase (some Twitter messages I've seen from among immigrant / persons of color communities in Britain show people are frightened and fear exactly that in the wake of a Tory landslide), and future immigration policies may begin to look like they were crafted by Steven Miller in Washington.

The Unmade Bed Of A Man, And His Captive, Go To The Polls

And the figurehead for it all will be this "colorful" Prime Minister -- a grifter, a liar, a ponce. He will create the chaotic legislative environment, the cover, for other grifters to thrive.  Boris is all about Boris, and fuck the People. And the greatest example of this "who cares" New Britain will be the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

Scotland will very probably force a new referendum on independence -- and I suspect they will vote to remain in the EU and go their own way. Of course, none of that matters to business and corporate elite -- they're only interested in how much profit they can make in a Scottish Republic, and don't give two hoots about its sovereignty or anything else.

For all his wanting to be the second Winston Churchill (who would have fought tooth and nail to keep Scotland 'in the Empire'), Boris doesn't care much about whether Scotland stays or goes. What does it matter? It doesn't pertain to Boris... so, who cares?

The argument about impeachment is this: The President is a dictator who can do almost anything he / she wants, without oversight or accountability to the Constitution, where the only role for Congress is to rubber-stamp whatever the President desires -- or, he / she is head of the Executive branch of a government with boundaries on her / his behavior set by the Constitution and functional precedents of the office of President.

Trump is a criminal President. His offenses were so egregious that -- no matter the partisan politics involved -- Democratic members of the House had no choice. It isn't hyperbole to say that history required them to act. And Trump is the most recent stop on the long, slow trajectory of the Republican party from conservative to fascist.

The Democrats gave more than lip-service to their oath of office to defend the Constitution against foreign or domestic enemies. If they didn't act, America, as defined by the Constitution, wouldn't exist. It would be another failed state, run by Oligarchs -- and, yeah; I understand there's already enough evidence to use that description, even without letting Trump get away with the abuses of his office.

Articles of Impeachment will be voted on by the full House next week. So far, the process has been high political drama -- primarily due to the frat-boy bullying, little-dick antics of almost every single Republican member of the U.S. Congress. But the Senate is a theater controlled by Trump and his toadies, and it will end with him not being found Guilty. He will remain in office.

Meanwhile, William Barr is pushing the conspiracy theory that the FBI investigation of Russian - Trump campaign connections was politically motivated, that Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election, and not Russia. But it's not only a discredited theory -- it's a criminal investigation. Barr will submit indictments and conduct show trials to provide distraction from Trump's crimes ahead of the election. People will go to jail to satisfy Trump's desire for revenge and theater -- except this is the political use of the Justice Department to attack persons Trump perceives as his enemies with fabricated evidence and made-up crimes.

Then, we come to 2020. The Left chooses a candidate who matters, or doesn't. Trump loses, or wins. Even if he loses, he may refuse to leave office, the White House surrounded with Militia (all declared 'Federal Marshals' by The Leader) to "protect the president". Some form of civil war could easily, inevitably, follow.

If certain powerful persons on the right feel Trump is in jeopardy, enough to threaten the power and grift they've been able to to amass,they may decide on some form of coup -- and we may have an actual Republic of Gilead.

(Note: And where would our military stand in all this? The traditional Army-Navy football game was held on December 14; Trump attended, wearing a red MAGA cap. At halftime, West Point Army Plebes and Annapolis Midshipmen sat behind a television reporter, making the twisted 'okay' hand sign, recognized as a white power symbol, for the camera -- and behind the back of a black West Point Cadet sitting in the front row. You tell me where, in case of a civil war, the Armed Services will stand.)

The political Right keeps raising the stakes of polarization in America, attempting to keep the GOP Base (Trump's, really) at a fever pitch -- but that can't be maintained without the promise of an end state, a victory.

For the Right, it's no longer a "fight the good fight, if we don't win there's always next season" attitude. For 35 years, rightist media has carefully nurtured the Rage of White Joe SixPack, so that "owning the libtards", completely crushing, dominating their opponents, is the only acceptable outcome.

The Left -- meaning, Leftists, immigrants, persons of color, feminists; LGBTQ persons; Muslims; it's a long list -- must somehow be taken care of, once and for all. Dominated, and crushed.

No one knows what will happen. No one wants to go up on the Vent Block roof and lean over. And, from the relative safety of Moscow, or Italy, Vlad Putin and Stevie Bannon are laughing, fit to bust.

Actor Danny Aiello passed away, age 86.  He appeared in a number of films, including one on my top ten list:  Jacob's Ladder (1990).

Set in 1975 New York, Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), divorced Vietnam vet with a PhD in Philosophy, is working in the Postal Service, and may (or may not) be slipping in and out of a series of flashbacks connected to Vietnam in 1971, and the accidental death of one of his three children (Macaulay Culkin, in one of his first film roles). He also begins seeing inexplicable things (demons, things out of a Lovecraft novel) in broad daylight. Reality appears to be shifting and he's frightened.

Singer has lower back issues, and sees a Chiropractor, Louis Denardo, played by Aiello ("You look like an angel, Louie," Singer tells him, "Like a big cherub. Anyone ever tell you that?"  "Yeah," says Louis. "You; every time you come in here").

At one point in the story, Singer is struck by a car on a New York street. His lower back seizes up, his wallet is stolen by a vagrant Exmass Santa; he's brought to a hospital that becomes progressively more nightmarish, a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Louis shows up at the hospital ("What is this, the Middle Ages?" he yells at a nurse when he sees how Singer is being treated) and forcibly takes him out, back to his chiropractic office. He puts Jacob on his adjustment table and begins working on his back.

Singer tells Louis about what he's been seeing, that the hospital was a vision of hell. "Ever read any Meister Eckhard?" Louis asks; Jacob says he hasn't, and Louis is surprised. "Huh. Don't know how you got a PhD in Philosophy without reading that guy.

"Eckhard saw hell, too," Louis continues. "Know what he said? He said the only part of you that burns in hell is the part that won't let go of your life. Your memories; your attachments; they burn them all away -- but they're not punishing you, he said; they're freeing your soul.

"So, the way he sees it -- if you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on -- you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace -- then the devils are really angels, freeing you, from the earth. It's just a matter of how you look at it. So, don't worry about it. Okay?"

Now he knows what we do not. It's a decent film. Aiello is good in it. Give it a whirl.

 And to come full circle, I'm reminded of a poem that someone told me long ago, which I've never been able to find -- about a circus, where the crowd was intent upon watching a clown, in the center ring, lighting matches with his toes; they were so fascinated that they didn't realize the roof of the tent had blown away, and the world had come to an end.

Larger questions of existence have little to do with the clowns in the ring.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Smash The Past With Savage Blows


Britain's Prime Minister; The New Model Of Leadership:  'Mercurial'  'Individual'  =  Wanker

At the end of Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981), a boy has escaped through time in the company of some mutinous employees of the Supreme Being, ultimately defeating The Evil One by carbonizing him, then blowing him into a bunch of carbonized chunks.

The boy wakes up, at home in bed (all a dream?) to find his parents' house on fire. The Fire Brigade brings out a toaster-oven, advising it was the cause. The parents open it -- and inside is what the boy recognizes as a chunk of The Evil One.  "Mum! Dad!" the boy shouts. "It's evil! Don't touch it!!"

The parents look dumbly at their son (I'm not gettin' ya, boy) -- then, look at the Chunk in the toaster-oven; at each other -- and then both of them reach into the oven and touch it. There is a fiery explosion, whereupon Mum and Dad 'splode into Chunks themselves.

Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the rest of the Wankers are pushing a No-Deal Brexit -- not because there is no other alternative. But Boris and his Brexiteers appear to be using the threat of a no-deal as a gigantic game of Chicken with the EU. But, Oops -- the Union called their bluff.

Since Boris buffaloed his way into Number 10, girlfriend in tow, enough evidence has surfaced that he and Nigel and the Wankers intend to crash out of the EU -- because they have no other plan. There isn't one. And when October 31st arrives, and a Crash-out occurs, the government's own report predicts a Britain headed for disaster: chaos at ports of entry, shortages of critical goods, medicines, petrol; businesses closing; layoffs; even riots.

Britain's cross-governmental civil preparedness plan for a no-deal Brexit even has a code name: Operation Yellowhammer.

A common economic framework has been the chief reason for the EU's existence in the first place. Crashing out of the Union with no 'deal' means (among other things) no trade and employment agreement between Britain and the EU. Highly-paid employees from across the EU, living and working in England, will become 'foreigners' on November 1st. So will British citizens working abroad, and British retirees in Portugal, Spain, Italy or southern France.

Advantages British businesses have had within the EU will disappear, kicking them smartly in the balls just at the point when a delicately interconnected global economy is slowing. And a Brexit crash-out may be the thing which adds to collective financial pressures and turns a global slowdown into something deeper and more serious.

It's less clear whether Yellowhammer and Nigel's demolition derby will mean the end of the United Kingdom, or not. A majority in Scotland (62%) and Northern Ireland (56%) voted to remain in the EU (Wales voted to leave, 53% - 47%). There are clear economic benefits for them to do so -- and there's enough regionalist sentiment, in Scotland at least, to use a crash-out as an opportunity to push for independence. Boris Johnson doesn't remember Culloden and doesn't care; Nicola Sturgeon certainly does.

After the 2016 Brexit referendum, some pundits were quick to note that 'Leave' won because its supporters were the English equivalent of Trumper populists -- nationalist, nativist, anti-immigrant conservatives, the National Front's "Britain For the British!" types seen in the late 1970's.

Others saw in the vote a rejection of the policies of neoliberalism and the forced austerity created by organizations like the IMF, ECB and WTO, which the EU voted to uphold and Britain agreed to. Those 'Leave' voters were more concerned about economics which benefited a wealthy elite, than nationalist or anti-immigrant sentiments.

But for Boris, Nigel and the Brexiteers, leaving the EU has never been about immigration, or any one issue. Brexit was only a lever through which they could take control of Britain's Conservative party, in the same way Trump now controls the Republican party in the United States.

They cultivated a right-wing populism, all about kicking a liberal Britain to the curb -- a nationalistic, anti-immigrant, privatized nation, full of proud 'Little Englanders' who saw each other through their traditional pecking order of wealth and class. An authoritarian model, where it's organizers -- like Trump and friends in the U.S. -- will benefit greatly.

Trump's Secretary of the Treasury and Spouse Enjoy Their Lifestyle
(Time Magazine Online)

In America, Trump cloaks his greed and racism (with the help of the Murdochs) in a manufactured popularity and traditional American imagery. He lies about himself constantly, shamelessly. Being President is just another way to siphon money out of a world of Worker-Bee Losers, and he's filled his cabinet with people who believe exactly the same -- for these people, "public service" means the public serving them. Trump has bought their loyalty with access to streams of cash, and their snouts are buried in the feeding trough.

Boris, Nigel and the Wankers want the same: a Trump-like political agenda that gives them power to line their pockets and distribute largess to other rightist Wankers. They've dressed up their swinish greed with more sonorous and adult-sounding phrases (typical with a people who use language like poetry, even when it's for a utilitarian purpose) -- but it's a power grab for personal gain, pure and simple.

So, if everyone understands that crashing out of the EU is like touching the piece of pure evil in the convection oven, and you will explode and die... why? Why do it?

My perception is that Boris, and Nigel, and opportunistic British Conservatives want a Britain disrupted and disorganized. It's easier to loot when it's prostrate. It's like corporate raiders, leverage-buying a behemoth company fallen on hard times, then butchering it and selling it off piecemeal for their own enrichment and that of their friends.

They're not using a new model for seizing power -- but it's being pursued around the world, at the same time, by too many people to appear completely coincidental:  Bolsonaro in Brazil, Salvini in Italy, Orban in Hungary, Duarte in the Philippines, The Great Leader in the U.S. -- and now Boris, Nigel and the Wankers.  It's Steve Bannon's populismcreate the chaos; repeatedly blame liberals and the central government as the cause; then take advantage of it. Control the conservative party by forcing it into more radical positions. Once in power, do whatever the hell you want.

What's being torn apart isn't a corporate entity, it's a national government -- and the political and personal benefits at that scale are enormous. This kind of takeover isn't democracy; it isn't about creating a government to best to serve its citizens. It's about power  -- rewarding one's friends; punishing one's enemies; and holding on to power for as long as possible, usually measured in election cycles. Then, having drained everything out of the country you can, walk away. Who the fuck cares what happens to the Little People? You got yours, Jacky Boy: #Winning!

The potential chaos created by a no-deal Brexit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- for Boris, Nigel and the Wankers, for Stevie -- but the tricky bit is, they will have to try and put this massive economic and social disruption over on the British people. The only way they can do this is to lie and obfuscate, say that they're "doing everything they can" to go out with a deal. But, lying is something easy for Boris, he's already done it to become Prime Minister.

After the no-deal Brexit on October 31st, Boris will blame the misery he and the Wankers have created on the EU, or immigrants, or liberals. He'll have the Murdoch press to help him sell whatever lies they want to push. There could even be a war with Iran by then, which might distract people, for a while.

And then, there's Trump, riding to the rescue of Britain's economy. Boris seems to agree with making America Britain's principal trading partner to make shore up its economy in a post-Brexit world, replacing a portion of the economic framework Britain currently has with the EU. Trump, of course, mentions it as if it were a done deal.

It might provide a temporary lift to the markets, even a talking point in Trump's reelection -- the right-wing echo chamber would claim it as a victory for Free Trade under the wise stewardship of  The Leader. But ultimately it's just smoke and mirrors -- any rewards of such an agreement are highly speculative, and years in the future. It's not clear the U.S. Congress would allow or ratify such a treaty, and business with America can't replace, for England, the income they currently receive from all EU nations they trade with.

And The Great Leader isn't a dependable business partner. Boris may learn the hard way that with Trump, there is no more 'Special Relationship' -- and Boris and the Wankers need The Leader more than he needs Boris.

One of the great, momentous political questions of the 21st century is how do we minimize the effects of climate, and realize an equitable future for all, without creating a corporatized world where people become 'aphids milked by ants', through the Facebooks and Googles and Cambridge Analyticas?  Put another way -- how do you oppose neoliberalism without replacing it with nationalism or fascism? I believe the answer is clear.

However, as with our own Congress, the British Parliament is paralyzed. Leadership on all sides seems compromised. Liberals and Labor are divided; Conservatives are divided; every party in Britain seems disorganized, overwhelmed with backbiting and infighting. It's how Yellowhammer was able to bully his way to leadership of the Conservatives, and into Number 10, in the first place.

At the moment, it looks like things are disorganized enough in Britain that a no-deal Brexit, and everything to follow it, is the likely outcome; a victory of the Buffoons. Still. I like to think there's some fight in Labor yet, beset as that party seems to be with its own internal issues.

It's not that I'm kneejerk-sympathetic to Labor as the primary Left party in England; they are, however, the only one preserving some third way between the Raving Monster Looney Party of Boris and Nigel the Brexiteers, and the Neoliberal New World Order.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Random Barking Friday: Euro-Girls

Eee-Urrp u. Deutschland

All kinds of stuff is happening with Euro-Girls. This just another way of saying that it's year-end, and things at the Place O' Witless Labor are heating up so budget dollars can be spent. The Ghost Of Exmass Past has arrived, and that Guy With The Salmon Mousse is just outside. And the time and energy for Das Blog is slim.

So we offer The New and Improved Theresa May, struggling for relevance in a World That Doesn't Care.

But, let's skip To Hell With the politiki.  Woof ! Muss Sein. Es ist so:  Enjoy.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Differen

A Prime        r Wit     sing  ow ls

Slogan Behind Prime Minister Theresa May Sheds Letters 
As She Delivers Keynote Speech; October 4, 2017

It was touted as among the most consequential speeches delivered by a sitting British Prime Minister: Theresa May, PM and head of the UK's Conservative (i.e., Tory) party, giving the keynote address yesterday in the industrial Midlands city of Manchester at that party's annual conference. It was intended to reestablish May in the public's mind as an effective, strong leader, and the Conservatives as the rational leaders of a nation facing a serious fiscal and political crisis.

May's speech had been hyped by the party's media arm as A Very Important Address (she is the Prime Minister, after all). Photos released to the media showed May at her desk at 10 Downing Street, hard at work, writing The Speech out in longhand.

More accurately, the speech was a make-it-or-not affair for May, whose stiff, scripted responses to questions have had the British tabloid press dub her 'The Maybot', and whose political career is in serious doubt.

The June, 2016 Brexit vote forced the previous Conservative PM, David Cameron, to resign -- he had bet his political career on the Brexit vote failing, and lost.  Theresa May was elected Conservative party leader and (as they still held a majority in Parliament) replaced Cameron. She would have to begin the process of separating the UK from the European Union.

The Brexit vote had showed a slim majority (but still a significant percentage) of British voters were fed up with involvement in the EU. Plus, it raised the ghost of dissolution: Scottish voters supported remaining in the EU. Having barely voted to remain in the UK a few years ago; would the Brexit vote eventually cause Scotland to separate from Great Britain?

Conservatives had been champions of Austerity for All (except, of course, the Rich), cutting social programs, which -- surprise! -- had done nothing but harm people and were very unpopular. The Conservatives supported remaining in the EU -- losing the Brexit vote made them suddenly, publicly, vulnerable.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party saw their advantage, and stated that the Brexit vote proved the Conservatives, heirs of Maggie Thatcher and champions of Austerity, had lost the confidence of The People. Labour could make a working coalition in Parliament; Theresa May should step down for the good of the country, and Corbyn should be asked by the Queen to form a government.

To scrape a coalition together and survive, May held her nose and made an alliance with Northern Ireland's ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party (who believe, among other things, that abortion and homosexuality should be re-criminalized in Britain). It gave her the slim majority in the Commons she needed, but was a desperation play and looked it.

After the 2016 vote, reports on the impact of leaving the EU were a daily feature in the UK press. Business leaders were reported preparing to move their companies elsewhere, and experts estimated that thousands of jobs would be lost. A number of Conservative leaders believed the Fear Factor had caused enough voters to change their minds about Brexit, and cause a political shift in their favor.

Obligatory Photo Of Small Animal Changing Their Mind About Brexit

Theresa May made a decision, calling for a snap general election almost a year after the Brexit vote, on June, 8, 2017.  May believed it would be a landslide victory, reestablishing her party's political dominance. And, it would help fend off internal challenges to her leadership.

Wrong. The Conservatives lost twelve seats in Parliament (ominously, the DUP gained ten more). The Labour party made even more impressive gains. It was a humiliating defeat that left May and her Conservatives even more vulnerable than before, and making it an even more obvious question whether she could remain as head of her own party, and PM -- or, if her own people might chuck her out.

On June 14, the Grenfell Tower fire occurred in London; Jeremy Corbyn appeared at the site and spent time talking with survivors and neighborhood residents. May appeared the next day, surrounded by fire and police officials; she did not meet with survivors or relatives of those who had died. As she left the area in her official car, there were shouts from a nearby public crowd for the government to resign; May was criticized for not meeting with residents, and for showing a "lack of humanity".

The current Foreign Secretary in her own cabinet, Boris Johnson, has been open about wanting May's job. Other insiders favor replacing her with Doug and Dinsdale, the Piranha Brothers.

I make that Monty Python reference for a reason: Yesterday afternoon, May walked up to the podium, standing before a royal blue curtain with an image of a slogan, spelled out in white letters: BUILDING A COUNTRY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE.

She began speaking -- and almost immediately suffered a series of coughing spasms. She stopped, and was given water; the Chancellor of the Exchequer handed her a cough drop (she's going to suck on that during her speech? Really?). In a show of party solidarity, many of May's pauses were filled by applause from the rank-and-file in the conference hall until she had gotten her bearings.

Starting again, her voice began failing. More delay; more water was produced, more applause provided, but things were becoming a little strained -- this wasn't normal. It almost seemed fated.

Finally, May was back on track. As reported in the New York Times, she "promised that more affordable homes would be built to address the country’s housing crisis". She promised to cap energy prices, and to create a "British version of the American dream". She also apologized to members of her party for having led the June general election campaign in “too scripted, too presidential” a manner.  She made a brief reference to Brexit, but otherwise stayed away from the topic.

Suddenly, May was interrupted by a man, sitting directly in front of the podium, who handed her a printed form with the label 'P45' in an upper corner, easily seen by cameras (apparently, a P45 is the official form any employer in Britain is required to submit when an employee is fired; they receive a copy as part of the termination process), saying, "Boris [Johnson] asked me to give you this".

P45: Terribly Sorry, But You're 'Leaving Work'

(The man was a comedian, Simon Brodkin, and no stranger to pranks -- he once attended a news conference for FIFA soccer league president, Sepp Blatter [at the time being disgraced by a corruption scandal], and threw paper money at him. According to the Times, he was accredited to attend May's speech, and after handing her the form spent a long minute crouched down, talking with press photographers and [or so it seemed] Boris Johnson, who had been sitting behind him. A number of people shouted to have Brodkin removed, and he was escorted from the hall.)

May took the form Brodkin was holding up and tucked it out of sight, carrying on, as those who sleep in Winnie's old room must do. As she spoke, letters in the slogan attached to the blue curtain behind her began dropping off. By the time she was finished, to applause (it is Britain, after all), the slogan finally read  BUI DING A C NTRY THA ORKS OR RYON.

Predictably, the British media fell over itself in the rush to go to press. Reactions ran the gamut, but seemed weighted towards a decision of Golden Duck / Diamond Duck; not a good thing in Cricket, or politics. May, beyond her speech, had no comment.

If you were to make stuff like this up and put it in a novel, some readers would say Hold on a minute -- this could never happen in real life. It's enough to make you a believer in the law of averages; or, if there is in fact a Prime Mover in the Universe, it's nice to know they have a sense of humor.  Tha  orks  or me.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Brisk And Bracing Quatloos Trade

Unintended Consequences Of Interdependent Systems

Creating "Exotic" financial instruments, such as derivatives, in The Great Casino was one reason The Crash was more than just a garden-variety Recession. They amplified its effects. Lest we forget:
In derivatives trading, the counterparties know each other, the contracts are one-off between the parties directly, and the only guarantee that either party will get paid is trust … or the naked belief that they just can’t lose on this one.

AIG wrote billions of dollars of CDS “insurance” against the mortgage market without having even a fraction of what it would take to pay off claims … in the naked belief that they could collect fees forever and never have to pay out once. When the whole thing collapsed, they were wiped out. And because their “insurance” was part of the balance sheet of AIG’s many counterparties (Goldman Sachs and everyone like them), Goldman Sachs would have been wiped out too by AIG’s ... lies and deception.

That’s why the government bailed out AIG — and insisted on giving them 100 cents on the dollar — so that they could pay off Goldman, et al. AIG was bailed out to bail out all their counterparties.
Per Reuters, in its biannual update on U.S. stability, the government Office of Financial Research reported that overall risks to the U.S. economy "remain in the medium range" -- where they have been for a reported 18 months -- "but have been pushed higher by the United Kingdom vote to exit the European Union.

Richard Bermer, Director of OFR, said at a press conference on Monday that the Brexit vote's effects could take some time to develop in the United States, since the decoupling between UK and EU will is expected to take several years.

"Because the U.K. economy, and especially the U.K. financial system, are highly connected with the rest of Europe and United States," Bermer said, "severe adverse outcomes in the U.K. and spillovers to Europe could pose a risk to U.S. financial stability."

Buried a bit further on in the article was this paragraph:
The office found financial claims from U.S. banks, insurance companies, asset managers, hedge funds and others on U.K. entities total $2.1 trillion, or 11.3 percent of the U.S. economy. Claims on European Union entities, minus the United Kingdom, total $2.9 trillion, or 15.9 percent of U.S. GDP. Those numbers do not include derivatives or guarantees.(Emphasis added)
What this tells us, class, is the U.S. economy has a $6.0 Trillion Dollar exposure in both the UK and the EU -- or, over one quarter (27.2%) of our GDP.  That doesn't mean we could lose all $6T, but some portion of it is "at risk".

It also tells us that this does not include derivatives, guarantees, or other "exotic" forms of options on the Market (essentially, betting your entire paycheck on "Destroyer Of Worlds" to Win at 23:1 in the third Greyhound race at Pampano Park. You saw the video).

And what's the estimated total of the worldwide derivatives market? $1.2 Quadrillion Dollars US. That, boys and girls, is roughly ten times the GDP of all nations on Planet Earth. One hell of a lot of Quatloos.

MEHR, MIT RANDOM BARKING:  Hey; you know, I wonder when we'll see our first Trillionaire?  I can't wait; can you?  So exciting.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016



Cousin Ignatz, Asleep At Princip's Post: Sarajevo, 2014 (Matthew Fisher / Postmedia News)

Roughly twelve hours and 102 years ago, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Grand Duchess Sophie, were shot by Gavrillo Princip, a member of an assassination team sent to the Bosnian city by the government of Serbia.

Collectively, the team was the gang which couldn't shoot straight: armed with crude grenades, a few pistols, and carrying some form of suicide pill, they waited along the route Franz Joseph's car would take as it drove beside the Miljacka river, which cuts through Sarajevo (local Austro-Hungarian authorities had helpfully published the Archduke's route beforehand).

Most of the team either was poorly positioned, or chickened out at the last moment.  One conspirator did throw a bomb at the Archduke's car, which bounced off its folded-back fabric top and exploded near a second car traveling just behind. Several people in the car had minor injuries and it continued on to a local hospital.

The Archduke's driver continued to Sarajevo city hall. When Franz Ferdinand arrived, he effectively unloaded on the hapless city administration about the state of their local security. Meanwhile, back at the river, the would-be bomber had jumped into the Miljacka and swallowed his suicide pill -- then, promptly threw up. The police arrested him, barely managing to keep him from a mob of pro- Austro-Hungarian citizens and save him for later trial and execution.

At approximately 12:30 PM, having finally accepted the thanks of the Sarajevo city fathers, Franz Ferdinand and his wife got back into their car, planning to go to the local hospital to see those wounded in the attack that morning. They used the same route, in reverse, that they had taken into the city, driving along the river, but their driver was confused.  He came to an intersection -- to the left, a street; to the right, a bridge over the Miljacka.

 The Royal Couple (Seated, At Rear) Leaving City Hall: Fifteen Minutes Left

Their driver turned left into the street, immediately realized he'd made a wrong turn, and stepped on the brakes. The car came to a stop a few yards up the street and the driver put it in reverse gear.

 The Intersection, 2014: The Archduke's Car Turned Left, Into This Street;
The Restaurant Where Princip Had Lunch Now A Museum (Photo: CNN)

At that same intersection, Gavrillo Princip, the last member of the Serbian assassination team, walked out of a small restaurant where he had gone for a sandwich, angry and dejected, after the team's failure that morning. As he stood on the sidewalk outside the cafe, the Archduke's car stopped directly in front of him; the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife were less than ten feet away. If you were writing a novel or screenplay, something that coincidental would be considered impossible.

Princip pulled out a pistol and stepped forward, firing several shots, managing to mortally wound both the Archduke and his wife. Their driver rushed them to the local military governor's residence, where a doctor could be called quickly, but Sophie died on the way; Ferdinand died a short time after they arrived.

Just over a month later, Europe was at war. Over the next four-plus years, the entire social fabric of the continent and much of the world changed irrevocably. Monarchies ended; millions died; the map of the world changed as the victors annexed territory from Germany and Austria Hungary, and new countries were created. New technology was developed -- and, in the Versailles Treaty, the groundwork was laid for a second, even more horrible war to begin by 1939.

(And, in 1918-19, the Spanish Influenza infected 500 million people and killed 40 million, worldwide; it was the largest number of deaths due to pandemic disease since the 'Black Death' Bubonic Plague outbreak in the 14th century [~200 million].  In the U.S., millions were made sick, and 675,000 died [0.6-plus per cent of America's population at the time, 103 million]. It's often referred to as the "forgotten epidemic" -- just one more terrible event in an ocean of violence and atrocity.)

 Cousin Ignatz, Worn Out By All The History

Why the history lesson? It's been a week of history. While the Brexit is not a shot heard 'round the world, and no one suggests that apocalyptic events will spring from it -- is it (A) the continuation of the slow unraveling of the alliances created after that Great War and WWII, which shaped the world we live in, or is it (B) the latest vote against the globalization of that world?

Hope you're not looking for an answer. I am, after all, only a Dog, and no one listens to me.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Random Barking: Stuff Out There

PUNKED-OUT SPIKY MOHAWK BOY:  Whata'ya cryin' for? Since when do we give a toss about this sorta bullshit???
GOTH GIRL:  Come on, Dysentery; where's your sense of national flippin' pride?

-- King Ralph (1991) 


The UK vote is a class vote. Those who have lost 10% of their wages since 2008 struck a heavy blow at prime minister David Cameron and the bosses, unanimous in their support for the EU. There is evidence that this vote is partly motivated by racist sentiments and that the far Right dominated the Leave camp. But the incapacity to articulate a Left Leave — beyond small formations like the Socialist Workers Party and a few union bodies — is a failure of the whole British Left. 

In particular it is a missed opportunity for the new Labour leader — and historic Eurosceptic — Jeremy Corbyn, who made his own small contribution to delivering the popular classes into the arms of his enemies.

This fresh electoral insurrection expresses the large-scale political recomposition now underway in the West: almost everywhere the extreme centre — centre Right and centre Left alike — is being put in difficulty by forces and figures as politically opposed as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos, and Marine Le Pen. The EU is the archetypical incarnation of the extreme centre project. In the 1970s continental integration was almost at a standstill, progressing only through the slow sedimentation of European Court of Justice decisions. Its resumed takeoff in the 1980s, which led to the realisation of the single market and then economic and currency union, coincided with the affirmation of neoliberal ideology and financial hegemony.

The product of this short historical sequence, the EU’s institutions definitively bear its stigmata. As the almost perfect institutional incarnation of the Zeitgeist of the neoliberal era, the EU does not have the historic depth that would allow it to address the great turbulence unleashed by the 2008 crisis and rearm itself for the new period. Lacking in any democratic roots, nor does it have the legitimising procedures that would allow it to reinvent itself. A space of compromise among "responsible"  governmental partners, the EU is the terrain of a permanent grand coalition excluding any popular involvement.
          -- Cédric Durand / Contretemps, June 25, 2016, via Soul Of America

MEHR, MIT POSTEN:  Let we only think of the Brexit vote as populist Xenophobes and 'Little Englanders' versus The Left and those Brainwashed By Globalism, these Twittered comments to the Financial Times online made by various British citizens give a flavor of the Brexit issues and emotions:
“So let me get this straight: as a young person, we bailed out the city and the over inflated pensions and savings that were gambled away by governments we didn’t elect (Thatcher, New Labour), and we will have to bail all of these people out while millennials see a decline in earnings and an ageing population (rising pensions, healthcare costs, etc). What do we get in return? We lose the right of freedom to move, study, work, live and be treated as equals in any European country, we face rising debt levels and now even lower incomes as we punch our own economy in the face for some poxy nationalist cause and fake democracy. What about proportional representation? What about the House of Lords? Where were the Brexiters then? As soon as I’ve finished my studies, I’m out of this country.” (By "g7")

"I think you are missing the bigger point: for those of us living in London and working in the financial sector the benefits of a remain are obvious, but the fact is that we have reaped the biggest gains from Globalization and these gains have not be shared by other parts of the country…All of the time that this inequality has been building, that London has getting richer, enjoying double digit house price inflation and incomes at multiples of the rest of the country, an outcome like this (a vote against the establishment) was getting more likely. The condescending idea that this is due to ignorant voters (over half of the population) is way off."  (By "Hugh Firmin")

“I’m not sad. I’m actually oddly satisfied. The UK has reminded the EU a simple rule: you cannot govern without popular support. Since 2005 and the failed referenda on an EU constitution, the EU has lost all of its popular support. It has offered the same solution (more Europe) to people’s problems for almost 30 years without being effective. That is not the way a democracy works. Even now, the only thing EU officials are talking about is “avoiding contagion”. No one has ever tried to understand why a contagion would happen and why citizens would want to leave the EU. That is arrogance. Arrogance is met with disdain, and anger. Rightly so. You reap what you sow. You cannot expect to earn what you do not deserve."  (By "Kotaro123")

“In Switzerland we know this feeling well: a no of the populace. Lessons for the UK? Leave is not a doomsday and remain has not lost in full. A great democratic nation has decided, so everybody in Europe [can] get its act together and reshuffle.”  (By "Eur-View")

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Meanwhile, In Downtown Europe, Part VI

Britons Never Never Never Shall Be [ Insert ]
An Item Which Did Not Appear In Today's New York Times Online (Photo: AP)
A man who resembles the Pillsbury Dough-Boy stood in front of Winnie Churchill's old house yesterday, wearing a somber yet funereal tie, and made his famous Stan Laurel Face for fifteen minutes before blubbering like a little girl and begging the population of the British Isles not to make him look like a thorough, complete and manifest Stupid-Head.

"Look, it was just a little misdirection, is what it was," the Prime Rib told a small crowd (well, it was mostly his security detail, but the Superintelligent Parakeet was in attendance). "Back in the day, I was in a bit of a jam wit' me political Mates, ya know -- so I said, 'Fook it! We'll be havin' this vote to get outta the EU, then!'  I was tryin' to save me job! But I'm tellin' ya -- I never thought I'd got to go through wit' it!"

Cameron stressed for the sixtieth bazillion time that Great Britain's exit from the European Union "is just bad. Fookin' bad. An' stupid. Like drinkin' drain cleaner, is what it is."

"I get a call from Her Majesty jus' about every other day," Cameron added. " 'Davy!" She says -- 'Wot the bloody hell you think you're playin' at! I got a Tenner put on down the pub that says the UK is gonna stay -- and that's me Friday-night money! So you talk sense to the people!' "

Cameron appeared visibly moved by the image of a 90-year-old woman losing her beer money in a misplaced bet. "I know we got to stay in bed wit' a buncha Frogs and Krauts and Eye-ties, and now we got the bloody Turks, too. But to give in and take the easy road would be, you know -- like givin' in and takin' the easy road. Britons don't quit; we just hands in our notice. But not this time!"

And the feeling here in America? Let me to repeat myself: So long as the greater mass of my country-men and -women can make their house and monster truck payments, run up a few credit cards, have access to 400-channels of Big Digital teevee, and drink to excess occasionally, no one seems to care overly much what people over in that Eurp do.  USA !  USA !  Hillary The Inevitable ! Yay !

MEHR, MIT SEHR INTERESSANT:  Over the past few years, the online betting and bookmaking parlor odds of an event occurring have been seen as more accurate indicators of how a Yes/No change may go down than standard polling.

Over the past week, articles have begun to appear in the British press which show the odds of a Brexit becoming narrower -- so, the media reports that 'Britons now favor remaining in the EU!' As Bloomberg reports, "Investors are piling money into bets on a victory for the 'Remain' campaign, led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The pound has surged to a five-month high and European stocks just posted their biggest three-day gain in almost a year, with the U.K.’s benchmark index erasing its monthly decline. Bookmakers have shortened their odds on a vote to stay."

However, it was noted by Matthew Shaddick, the head of the political betting department of Ladbroke's, the online professional betting operation, that
the key catalyst that moved bookie odds on Monday morning, the first day after the suspended campaign in the aftermath of Jo Cox murder was resumed, "we took a £25,000 bet on Remain this morning which helped move the odds in their direction." This in turn unleashed a global asset surge, as markets rebounded on expectations the Leave campaign was losing momentum, even as actual polls - still neck and neck - did not validate such an observation.
So, is someone making serious bets (or getting their friends in the Trade to do so as a political favor) to influence the reported bookmaking odds, and give the appearance that the "Remainders" would carry the day, come the voting?  Oh, and provide a little 'bump' to the equities markets as well...

That would be the smart bet, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Apex Of Civilization

"I Feel I Have Died And Gone To Heaven"

(Discourtesy courtesy of the rootin' tootin' Financial Times)

England is flirting with giving The Proles a taste of money. As the Earl of Grantham reminds Robert Crawley in the first season of Downton Abbey, "We all have parts to play." Ours, presumably, is to touch our caps as a sign of deference and gratitude as the Guvnor's Bentley, with its smoked windows, glides past. High and Low their estates He hath ordered them.
“I feel as though I have died and gone to heaven,” said Britain’s skills minister in a recent speech, as he prepares to preside over the fastest rise in the minimum wage in the country’s history.

The new policy, which starts on Friday, will see the wages for low-paid workers rise four times faster than average earnings this year.

The world will be watching. Governments in many developed countries are turning to minimum wage policies as they try to deal with inequality and anaemic wage growth.

The stagnation in wages in recent years has been blamed on the rise of global competition, the decline in collective bargaining, a slowdown in productivity growth and the way in which technology has “hollowed out” some middle-skilled jobs.
The majority of income and wealth continues flowing to the upper 0.01%. Businesses have effectively frozen wages for 'individual contributors' while increasing managerial and (in particular) "executive" salaries and bonuses. The wages of hourly workers have likewise been kept low, to increase profits and (one would assume) those nice salary and bonus packages for the predators competitors in corporate life. 

Globalization curtailed the power of unions or nearly destroyed them in places (like 'Murrika) where the manufacturing base was gutted. Hourly wage workers lost effective representation. Prices for goods and services continue to rise (my experience tells me, much more than the "less than two per cent inflation" claimed by the Federal Reserve), and not only for costs of living -- but of social mobility: the cost of a college education. The ability to afford a home. The ability to afford technology our culture requires -- not only to navigate within it, but to compete in it.

Middle Class families have some disposable income (and more goods and services, and social mobility for their offspring), but it continues to shrink. Meanwhile, those working for hourly wages are effectively being locked into a cycle of poverty and revolving-credit debt. 

Someone determined that hourly employees should receive a higher minimum wage ... so they can afford to pay more to the businesses selling them goods and services.  So, governments present Minimum Wage "experiments", or increases in Minimum Wages they already allow -- but these increases are only Cost Of Living Adjustments. They don't allow more leisure time, saving for college, or any real changes in the basic standard of living.  Meanwhile, The Rich Get Rich / And The Poor Get Children...

Per the Financial Times' graphic, it would appear that New Zealand (member of the Commonwealth, mind) is the Bestest Place On Earth For The Peasantry™ , as it takes a workingman only eighteen minutes to 'earn' his reward. My god, man -- at that rate, he (or she; let us be fair) may receive -- rounding up -- 27 Big Macs per day if they wish!

While in the failing empire of 'Murrika, a working person may receive, by comparison, only 12 of these precious treats each day. Well, better luck in the next go; what?

And is there any more fair measure of the Good which wage-earning chaps might aspire to than the "Big Mac"? Only in a Golden-Age, From-The-Manor-House view would the merits of modern civilization be measured in the number of minutes one must labor in order to "earn" a mass-produced sandwich with questionable nutritional value.  You Proles live well, we are told, because you may feast upon theseAnd taste the irony, one would assume.

And people wonder why there is an excess of Bad Bad Crazy in the world.  Yes they do.

MEHR, MIT LINK:  In the same vein, this should have it's own post -- but if you've ever wanted to take a short peek behind the curtain and see the machinery back there, read this carefully.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Judgement At Nürburgring

Give Up Your Arbeitsbruden

The New York Times reports that, in an attempt to be seen to "get to the bottom of its emissions-cheating scandal", The Volkwagen Group has "pressured [Volkswagen division] employees to tell what they know" and announced an amnesty program for any informants who would come forward.
In a letter to employees ... Herbert Diess, chief executive of the division that produces Volkswagen brand cars, said people who provided information would not be fired or face damage claims. Mr. Diess cautioned, though, that the company could not shield employees from criminal charges.
The offer applies only to union employees, covered by collective bargaining agreements, and is not available to managers or executives, or persons chosen at random on the street. The offer expires at the end of November.

The interviews with potential snitches informants persons who had knowledge of 'past practices' are held in an abandoned aircraft hangar at an undisclosed location in the Ruhr.

INNOCENT ARBEITER No. 1: "I only followed orders. Workers on the assembly line were told to install emissions sensors which were nothing but blank tabs of plastic. No sensors were put in at all... What? No, I never did these things myself, you understand. I only saw them being done by others. Will you give me this Amnesty in writing, please?"

INNOCENT ARBEITER No. 2: "... the emissions filters were just cloth bags, filled with CheeseWhiz. They forced me to do this. It was the only way I could get a promotion. Do I receive a reward for my confessions?"

INNOCENT ARBEITER No. 3: "I changed the code in the software package which operated the emissions detectors. Each time the car was mounted on a test machine, the software sensed this -- and the auto sound system would come on, playing Heino, singing 'Liebe Mütter' at 320 Decibels. This upset the emissions technicians so much that they would do anything to get the car out of their shop.

"I don't know why anyone should be surprised by this -- 'It's a massive conspiracy; a wholesale defrauding of governments and consumers; harm to the environment', blah blah blah. Doesn't anyone get it? Corporations do not care about anything other than profit. They will do whatever they want in order to get it. Period.

"You going to put that in your report? Nein? Imagine my astonishment."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Take This Austerity And Shove It

Greece Says No
I Just Really Like This Graphic.
61% of the Greeks who voted on their referendum to accept or reject terms of the EU Troika's latest offer of financial support said No, Thank You to further austerity.

The past several weeks have been an exercise in Brinksmanship between Alex Tsipras (and the Syriza party which controls the Greek government), and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany (and the entire EU-IMF-ECB Troika structure).  It's been a contest between the Troika's demands -- that further economic assistance from the EU will only come with additional Austerity measures -- and the Tsipras government's rejection of those terms as a continuation of Greece's untenable economic condition that began after the Crash of 2008.

You remember the Go-Go, "Lil' Boots" Bush years -- an expansion if the "finance sector", with aggressive lending, leveraging to the max, and no real government oversight. In America, that ended in a financial crisis at least as great as the Wall Street Crash of 1929.  But it also ended with our government bailing out the Banksters.  And that is exactly what happened in other European economies -- and most obviously in Greece.

To say it again, what's at issue is 267 Billion Euros in bailout loans, made by the EU to Greece after the 2008 crash forced their economy to implode. Most of those loans came through German banks.  The Greeks can't meet further payments on the loans -- and the Syriza party's election victory was a bellwether of how ordinary Greeks felt about the austerity terms that came with those loans. 

Yanis Varoufakis -- until yesterday, Greece's finance minister -- said today in a blog post (as noted by Barry Ritholtz in his Bloomberg News column) that " 'the Greek "bailouts" [after 2008] were exercises whose purpose was intentionally to transfer private losses onto the shoulders of the weakest Greeks, before being transferred to other European taxpayers.' "

(It's worth repeating that one of the most serious charges made against the Bush-era TARP program, and the Relief Act under then first-year President Obama, was that it turned private business losses -- the results of stupid, greedy decisions by a handful of men -- into public debt, to be borne by all Americans.

(And that was done in order to ensure that the Casino stayed open, that our Masters Of The Universe could remain BSD's, and be honored, and have Treats. Any number of Loyalists have said Hey, if the government didn't do that, the whole banking system would have collapsed! Everywhere! Game Over!! Others have said America's Investment Houses/Banks should have paid the price for their own greed and been allowed to fail, like any other business.)

Note: Ritholtz also mentions, "This astute (albeit little known) insight has been echoed by a small number of insightful analysts... [such as] Steve Randy Waldman. His take on the Greek bailouts includes an in-depth discussion of the [EU's financial assistance to Greece] as 'largely a bailout of European banks, initiated to prevent a wider banking crisis.' ".

House O' Cards: Primary Exposure To Greek Debt Rests With Five EU Core Economies
A number of payments are due to the IMF/ECB in the month of July -- primarily interest payments on the bailouts, and on maturing Greek bonds.  Tsipras was clear that it wasn't his government's intent to pull a "Grexit" -- Greece would remain a member of the EU and participate in the single-currency Euro; they just wanted to renegotiate and restructure the debt, curbing the austerity measures.

Through at least four rounds of negotiations in June, Merkel and the Troika said no. Greece had to accept its terms without reservation: More funding for your economy? You take more Austerity. If Greece refused, there would be no funding -- and that meant Greece would be forced to leave the EU, abandon the Euro, destabilize the European Union itself and potentially bring down the world economy.

Paul Krugman noted
[The Austerian's] story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.

But the campaign of bullying — the attempt to terrify Greeks by cutting off bank financing and threatening general chaos, all with the almost open goal of pushing the current leftist government out of office — was a shameful moment in a Europe that claims to believe in democratic principles. It would have set a terrible precedent if that campaign had succeeded, even if the creditors were making sense. 
Last Tuesday, Greece defaulted on a $1.7 B interest payment on the original bailout loans to the Troika -- which responded by refusing to extend funding to Greek banks.  The Tsipras government had no choice but to close the banks and impose capital controls: No more money could be transferred out of the country (some 2 Billion Euros had been moved out of Greece in the previous week); cash withdrawals at bank ATMs were limited to 60 Euros per account per day.

This was a high-stakes gamble on the part of the EU's financial leadership, and Merkel -- and seemed an act of arrogance, even cruelty. They were willing to make life even harder for ordinary Greeks if it forced the Lefties to accept their demands, or leave office -- no doubt to be replaced by another Center-Right coalition that would humbly accept the Troika's terms.

Modern European politics are rarely played so openly at that level, and it backfired: Tsipras countered by calling for a referendum on the Troika's financing offer = Austerity Yes, or Austerity No.  High Noon on the Acropolis. 

That, too, was a high-stakes' gamble (Tsipras had said if the country voted to accept the Troika's terms, he would resign as Prime Minister and call for new elections). I think Merkel and company were surprised, but expected the Greek population would not only reject Tsipras' position but the Syriza party's coalition government as well.

That didn't happen.  What will happen next?  Well, we'll all get to see, won't we?

Und Mehr, bei Herr Krugman:
A “yes” vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven’t worked and in fact, given the arithmetic, can’t work: austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so that all the suffering serves no purpose. The landslide victory of the “no” side offers at least a chance for an escape from this trap.

But how can such an escape be managed? Is there any way for Greece to remain in the euro? And is this desirable in any case?

The most immediate question involves Greek banks. In advance of the referendum, the European Central Bank cut off their access to additional funds, helping to precipitate panic and force the government to impose a bank holiday and capital controls. The [European] central bank now faces an awkward choice: if it resumes normal financing it will as much as admit that the previous freeze was political, but if it doesn’t it will effectively force Greece into introducing a new currency.

Specifically, if the money doesn’t start flowing from Frankfurt (the headquarters of the central bank), Greece will have no choice but to start paying wages and pensions with i.o.u.s, which will de facto be a parallel currency — and which might soon turn into the new drachma.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the central bank does resume normal lending, and the banking crisis eases. That still leaves the question of how to restore economic growth.

In the failed negotiations that led up to Sunday’s referendum, the central sticking point was Greece’s demand for permanent debt relief, to remove the cloud hanging over its economy. The troika — the institutions representing creditor interests — refused, even though we now know that one member of the troika, the International Monetary Fund, had concluded independently that Greece’s debt cannot be paid. But will they reconsider now that the attempt to drive the governing leftist coalition from office has failed?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where Der Elites Meet

More Kulturschande

(Original photo: 2015 Reuters / Michael Kappeler / Pool Photographer)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Never On Sunday

Greek Odyssey
Εμείς δεν χαμήλωσε το βλέμμα, αλλά έδωσαν τη ζωή μας για να σώσει την Ελλάδα, όταν η μοίρα της κρεμαστεί σε κόψη του ξυραφιού.

We did not flinch but gave our lives to save Greece when her fate hung on a razor's edge.  
--  Cenotaph at the Isthmos

The current Odyssey of the Greek economy and its citizens can be summed up thus: The world's economy was given a 9.0-Richter Scale shock in 2007 - 2008, courtesy of the Bankster class. In the fall of 2009, Greece revealed that it had been understating its annual budget deficit figures for years -- meaning it's National Debt was also large -- then, approximately 175% of its Gross Domestic Product.

Greece was then shut out from borrowing in the financial markets -- and by the spring of 2010, the country looked as if it might have to declare bankruptcy. That could destabilize other EU countries whose internal finances were also shaky -- Portugal, Italy, Spain;  France wasn't far behind. Iceland's economy had already imploded, and Ireland's was preparing to.

The European Union was created as a cooperative structure based on trade, a single currency, and a European Parliament to speak with one voice to the rest of the world. It was the only way Europe could maintain political and economic sovereignty as a whole, against economic juggernauts like the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union (i.e., "Putinlandia").  The Bankster-created financial crisis threatened, by destabilizing the economies of weak members like Greece, to blow the EU apart, and its political leaders (Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel most prominently) were determined not to allow that to happen.

Per the New York Times, "To avert calamity, the so-called [T]roika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission — issued the first of two international bailouts for Greece, which would eventually total more than ... $264 billion." There was other money at stake, too -- loans to Greek businesses and institutions, principally from German, and French, banks.

But taking the Troika's bailout money meant Greece had to accept austerity measures -- deep cuts in government spending (reductions in government pensions, government workers), and steep tax increases. Greece would also have to restructure its economy by reducing the size of its government, curbing tax evasion, and "making Greece an easier place to do business".

This last included such things as maintaining a high VAT rate on business being done in the offshore Greek islands, and selling ownership in the country's electric utility, and its principal port of Piraeus, to Oligarch vultures "investors". The Greeks weren't wild about any of it, needless to say.

Austerity was insisted on by EU leaders like Die Eisen Kanzellerin Angela -- because the "PIGS" (and that's the term which the press in more economically sound, core EU countries referred to them) -- EU members Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain -- had been "profligate" and irresponsible spenders during the Go-Go, "Lil' Boots" Bush years of shadow banking and Derivatives fun.  

(Even during this current crisis, it's interesting to note how the English-language media of core EU nations [BBC, Deutsche Welle; Financial Times; France24], portray the Greeks as being the architects of their own misfortune, 'coming back to the ECB with an outstretched hand' for more money, unreasonable in negotiations, with broad hints that they should just take their Austerity medicine and stop whining because it's all their fault.)

And because they had been imprudent and foolish, Austerity was what they would have to accept before their stern, Northern European uncles would give them a loan. Accepting harsh measures would mean a financially stronger EU in future, its proponents said. The problem, of course, is that austerity utterly and completely fails to do what it claims to do -- stimulate private economic growth and lead to a slow return to higher standards of living.

Greek national unemployment rose to 25% (fifty per cent, for people under 25) and stayed there. Pensioners were forced to live with less. Businesses failed. After 2010, there were five separate "crises" when the Greek government might default on payments to the $264 Billion they had been loaned. Each time, the Troika restructured the terms of those repayments -- and each time, demanded further austerity controls be instituted. 

I've barked about this current situation before. Ultimately, the Greek polis revolted, and replaced a succession of Center-Right governments (which had supported Austerity) by electing a majority of Leftist Syriza party representatives to the Greek parliament. Alex Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, and his finance minister, Vanis Varoufakis, have attempted to restructure their $264 B debt with the Troika -- they want to reduce or eliminate the austerity controls; the Troika has said no.

There will be a default on loan payments owed to the ECB today (not so big a deal, but a symbolic, Rubicon-style line crossing). This coming Sunday the Greeks will vote to accept the EU/Troika's terms to restructure their $264 B debt and its austerity controls (a "Yes" vote), or to vote "No", which will most probably lead to the fabled "Grexit". We'll see.

This isn't the harbinger of doom that some believe it to be (I could be wrong; Dogs can be); this isn't Ragnarok or even October of 2008. There will be a sell-off in equities (which I'm sure hedge fund managers are positioning themselves to take advantage of), but people are still partying like it's 1979.

 As default looms, Merkel rules out more negotiations with Greece

(Reuters)  German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out new negotiations with Greece until after it votes on a proposal from creditors, leaving virtually no hope left to avert a midnight default despite a plea from Athens for a last-minute bailout extension... euro zone finance ministers called a conference call (1:00 a.m. EDT) to discuss the Greek request.

Merkel said there could be no new negotiations until after a July 5 referendum that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called on an offer made last week by creditors, which Tsipras has told Greek voters to reject. Tsipras, who says the creditors' proposals ... would ruin Greece, responded with a counter-proposal requesting a two-year deal covering funding support and debt restructuring, an issue the lenders have so far been reluctant to tackle.

[Note: The Greek government has requested an emergency disbursement from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), set up after Greece had received the $264 B in bailout loans from the European Central Bank and which, technically, should be available to the country. It's more complicated than that, and would drag all negotiations between the Greeks and the Troika back to square one, but they did ask and now have been told No.]

... one well placed Eurozone official [said] there was "no way" euro zone finance ministers would release funds in time for the IMF payment [today, June 30th]. Merkel, whose country is Greece's biggest creditor, made clear she believed time had run out. "This evening at exactly midnight Central European Time the program expires. And I am not aware of any real indications of anything else," she told a news conference. She later said Athens would be to blame for allowing the bailout program to expire.


(Note: Man, this is like Liveblogging.)

(Reuters) A defiant Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged Greeks on Wednesday to reject an international bailout deal, wrecking any prospect of repairing broken relations with EU partners before a referendum on Sunday that may decide Greece's future in Europe.

Less than 24 hours after he wrote a conciliatory letter to creditors asking for a new bailout that would accept many of their terms, Tsipras abruptly switched back into combative mode in a television address.

Greece was being "blackmailed" ... "A 'No' vote is a decisive step toward a better agreement that we aim to sign right after Sunday's result," he said, rejecting repeated warnings from European partners that the referendum would effectively be a vote on whether Greece stays in the euro or returns to the drachma.

... The head of the currency zone ministers' Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said he saw "little chance" of progress after Tsipras's latest comments ... However even if negotiations do restart after the referendum, Germany and others made clear that any talks on a new program would have to start from scratch with different conditions.

... "[The current Greek] government has done nothing since it came into office," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a speech in the [Landstag] in which he accused Athens of repeatedly reneging on its commitments.

... [In Greece] Of those polled before the announcement of the bank closures, 57 percent said they would vote "No" against 30 percent who would vote "Yes". However among those polled after, the "No" camp fell to 46 percent against 37 percent for "Yes".