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Off the Keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 27-28, 2015

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RE Note: Slogger JW has been especially prolific of late with quite a bit of good stuff, so I am compiling a few at a time now instead of posting them individually.

GREECE LATEST: HUGE GREEK BANK OUTFLOWS, EURO FALLING AGAINST THE £, BUNDESTAG BACKS GREECE MEMORANDUM

ChambptIf the Varoufakis memorandum ‘deal’ is so respectable, why do none of the players, or their Party bigwigs, or the markets, like it?

There’s a piece in the online magazine Counterpunch at the moment purporting to show how Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has ‘kept Greece in the euro by its fingernails’. Without going over the same tedious ground yet again, nobody can do that, because Greece doesn’t need to cling onto anything: once you’re in the euro, there’s no way out.
The piece continues as follows:‘So, those who think that Varoufakis should have given the Eurogroup an ultimatum (“Reduce our debts or we’ll leave.”) simply don’t understand the nature of the negotiations.  Varoufakis was forced to operate  within very strict parameters. Given those limitations, he nabbed a very respectable deal.’
If I had a Pound for every expert who responded to an injection of reality with “no no, you don’t understand” I’d be a very rich man indeed. QE, derivatives, the gold price, the euro’s value, UK ‘growth’, fractional reserve banking, the Manchester United owning Glazer brothers, ludicrously over-priced bourses, the EC’s finances, and BoJ asset purchases have all been ‘sold’ to me over the years are the best way forward…when they are obvious disaster areas waiting to happen.
In this case, it’s the idea that what Varoufakis signed last week was a ‘very respectable deal’. I’d like to put one simple question to the Game Players: if the deal is so good, why does no side – there are more than two – want it?
The Greek KKE doesn’t want it, 8 senior Syriza MPs don’t want it, and yesterday afternoon Merkel was given a seriously rough ride by her own CDU Upper Circle. I’ve yet to meet a single anti-federalist who likes it…but I’ve been told a dozen times that Varoufakis has “bought time”. He has: but is it peace in our time, or time for things to get worse for the Greeks?
Even the fairly large print of the Memorandum makes YV’s job impossible, and it isn’t helped by the obviously manipulated departure of bank deposits. Four months from now they will be back around the same table, and there is just one thing alone that might make Yanis’s hand stronger: Italy turning to sh*t – which it could do….and ought to do.
But if your main adversary is an Italian crook heading up the ECB, I wouldn’t hold your breath on it. In that four months, there’ll be 24/7 smearing and trolls, manufactured bank panics, and pretty much anything they can think of to take Syriza’s eye off the ball. Last month, a record €12.2 billion left Greek banks: that is more  than any outflows experienced during any of the previous Greek crises and bailouts. Zero Hedge is now confirming the Slogpost of last week when it says ‘the Troika did everything in its power to accelerate the bank run in order to crush any negotiating leverage Varoufakis may have had’.
As for Tsipras himself, his hardest task will be to keep the Coalition together…plus social protests and unrest coming from the KKE and Golden Dawn…both of whom are virulently anti-euro.

I wrote earlier this week that Varoufakis missed his chance to exploit the enormous Bundesbank v ECB v France rift – the thing that will do for the entire EU in time regardless of anything else that might happen. But he failed to call the bluff. That’s all Draghi had: bluff.

Today, with this marvellous deal nobody likes, the euro has fallen further, and now stands at 1.38 to Sterling. If he had walked last Friday, Troika2 would’ve been in l’ordure profonde. There is an old adage that says, “When you borrow £10,000 from a bank, it’s your problem. When you borrow $280billion and can’t pay it back, it’s the bank’s problem”. So far, EU citizens haven’t paid a red cent of any of the funny-money involved in bailing out Greece. Now they will have to…and it could tip at least two of them – Spain and Italy – over the edge. This is the size of the opportunity Varoufakis missed.

On verra. But I remain at a loss to see what Greece has gained here…except the bewildered disrespect of a lot of the neutrals.

At the End of the Day

We’ve just had a sunset here that can’t measure up to West Indian or Greek ends-of-day for awesome brilliance followed by soft red, but will always beat them hands-down for the range of colours involved.

In this sort of late-winter Aquitainian sunset, there are light greys, charcoals, limes, four shades of blue, infinite yellows – and spectacular solid rays that reach up to the heavens. Religiously influenced 19th century paintings of the English sunset made great play with the rays thing, but they all look insipid alongside what I just saw here.

The thing that’s particularly enthralling about the skies in the Lot is that they’re never boring. This enhances the sense, at sunset, of the illusion of Time being played out second by second: it’s a bit like watching a Turner painting observed through the Polaroids of David Hockney. You can’t take your eye off it for even a second, because all is change. As the Buddhist mantra has it, all things are in transition.

*********************************

If only the same could be said for Wolfgang Schäuble. You always know where you are with Wolfie: the bloke comes with a cast-iron guarantee that he will always support his inflexible approach with an insane argument. He was on top form in the Bundestag today, asserting to his CDU naysayers that “This is not about lending more money to Greece, it is about continuing with the programme”.

Just to insert the odd undisputed fact here, since 2010 his geliebte programme imposed upon Greece has produced the greatest depression of any Western economy in recorded history. Yet Dr Strangelove insists that Greek recovery will without question emerge from Aphrodite by the waterhole standing firmly at the side of Phoenix among the ashes – neither of whom have any money to consume the goods that the Greek economy cannot produce, because it has no finance.

You really do have to be profoundly mad to stick to that kind of programme.

But in Germany, political rebellion takes place in a way no other country can reproduce. In Germany, the leading CDU rednecks give Merkel a hard time for being a liberal pinko, and then traipse into the Bundestag to vote overwhelmingly for the extension of the Programme. In a German revolution, everyone forms an orderly queue to express dissatisfaction at the soft treatment being meted out to the Üntermenschen who do not grasp their Weltanschauung. Then they obey whatever bonkers bollocks Mutti Merkel comes out with.

It is all terrifyingly similar to Goebbels yelling that “All Jews are Communists, and all Communists are Jews”.

*********************************

Now that South Korea’s Constitutional Court has decriminalized adultery, Bloomberg reports that the country’s leading condom manufacturer Unidus shares rose by 11.75% today.

If you’re in any doubt about the importance of this ruling, I should point out that in 2008, actress Ok So Ri acknowledged publicly she had an affair with a singer. So her compassionate actor husband called for the maximum penalty of two years in prison. She got a suspended eight-month term. I’m not the world’s most right-on person, but the idea of this kind of chastity-belt claptrap still existing in the 21st century is not good news. Take a look at Indonesia’s laws against women: they beggar belief.

I do believe in long-term relationship sexual loyalty, but manufacturing crime out of human passion is about as bad as it gets.

That said, I have problems with the share price rise…as I so often do with f**kwitted stock market logic. If you’re marrried and you have an affair involving unprotected sex, presumably your husband knows you’re unprotected. So why would condoms be necessary – especially in the passion of the moment?

I do dislike reducing love to the mechanics of it all. But the problem with bourses the world over is that they’re dominated by daft testerone-fuelled blokes whose left brains are atrophied as a result of none-use.

And on that happy note, I bid you all bon weekend.

Our politicians make a hash of it because they’re bought, not because they’re braindead

mcteeth From Athens to Washington via Berlin, Paris and London, we are getting the wrong policies for us, because they’re not designed to be for us in the first place

Herewith a very small proportion of some major political cockups of recent vintage:

The EU ‘annexed’ former Soviet satellites in central and eastern Europe without giving a thought to what the effect might be in terms of cheaper goods and lower-cost workers.

The EU and US conspired to meddle in Ukrainian politics, and as a result were given a bloody nose by Putin.

The EU created one currency across 18 cultural divides without giving any exit door, and as a result the Greek population is paying for the crimes of the pro-EU oligarchy.

The EU is imposing a mad scorched earth policy on the Greeks in the bizarre hope that the grass will regrow two minutes after the fire goes out.

The EU trampled all over Cyprus, and as a result Putin has completed a bailout deal with them….in return for naval bases there.

The EU created a government structure in which unelected functionaries have all the ‘ideas’ – and the elected MEPs get to rubber stamp them – and hoped that democracy would flourish.

The US blundered into Iraq twice, supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, bombed Iraq for a third time, supported the rebels in Syria, and then changed its mind to support Bashar Assad and bomb the rebels…all in pursuit of energy control, without ever trying with any consistency to develop beyond fossil fuels.

The UK Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in Ankara heaping praise upon closet Islamist Recep Erdogan and referring to Gaza as “a concentration camp”….while Erdogan was busy supplying the unfortunates living in the small State with arms.

Cameron hired Andy Coulson despite being warned by a dozen well-placed people that he’d committed myriad crimes while at Newscorp.

The UK supported Bush in the Gulf War without any thought for the jihadist consequences…leading directly to 55 deaths in London and a wholesale radicalisation of British Islamics.

Successive UK governments allowed immigrants to pour into Britain over a 40 year period, dismissing all naysayers as racists – but without a thought for where they were all going to live….and now dismisses all opponents of their radical house-building policy as tree-huggers.

The UK government supports fracking – despite the calamitous fall in the oil price and the obvious threat to Britain’s already compromised water supply…and thus also increased lack of land on which to build homes to house the migrants they thoughtlessly let in after 1970.

…………………………..

I could go on like this all day. For a week even – and never stop, except for comfort breaks and sleep. Whichever way you cut it, these politician chaps are not very good, are they? Also, they’re incorrigibly corrupt…as the latest revelations in the UK showed only too well this week. And not very bright. Unpleasant when you meet them. Unresponsive. In fact, incapable of seeing the consequences of anything they do. So we need another bonfire –  after the ones for civil servants, lawyers and accountants die down – on which to chuck the politicians.

The current crop of politicians in the West are indeed pretty dire, and woefully lacking in leadership skills or the ability to unite rather than divide. But they’re the product of a culture – nothing more, nothing less.

The one thing all these idiot policies have in common is self-serving lobbyists.

In consecutive order, the lobbying that dictated the disasters listed above came from the US State Department, multinational business, the CIA alongside Silicone Valley, multinational banking, the German Interior Ministry, Wall Street, the European Central Bank, the US oil industry, NATO, Newscorp, the race relations industry, neoliberal employer organisations, and the construction industry.

Now you could argue that a lot of those lobbies are merely part of the political process, but they are not. Only two sets of people should set political policy: elected legislators, and the electorate. The rest – especially Whitehall – are supposed to shut up and pay attention, but they don’t. The same applies to central bankers, bourse districts, and business generally. The policies currently driven by lobbyists fail over and over again because they are about ego and bottom lines, not the needs or Will of the People.

When Jean Blondel wrote Voters, Parties and Leaders in the late 1950s, he described what he called ‘pressure groups’. Their job was to bring to the government’s attention plights and opportunities, not to bribe them: such a thing was thought completely improper then. Today, US, UK, and EU civil servants openly take up positions in banks, multinationals, and energy companies after leaving the bureaucracy. This is a twofold phenomenon: the reward for past favours done, and the ability to show the poachers how to avoid the gamekeepers.

You may choose to believe, for instance, that John McCain is mad. But he is far from that: he is almost exclusively bankrolled by the oil and munitions industries – especially the US areospace business. So instead of ‘mad’, think Middle East, ISIS oilfield attacks, arming the Ukraine, and bombing jihadists. All the wrong policies, and all for the same reason: more munneee for Mr McCain, more contracts for the arms business, and security of supply for the oilcos.

If you take a degraded culture – some would even say a depraved culture – and allow it to produce the politicians…who then get offered free wonga by obsessive multinationals, this is the entirely predictable result. The final result might, one day, be final in the most terrifying sense of the word: greedy little men like McCain starting World War III as a result of selling jets to Iran, or 2D undetectable weaponry to the Israelis, or covert nuclear delivery to the Germans, tactical nukes to African mercenaries, or anybody else – never mind who, business is business kid – that has the munnneeeee.

I’ve been giving Syriza something of a bashing this week (which I think they richly deserve) but the great thing in their favour is the desire to make Greece a more open, honest and accountable culture. It is the ultimate c-word, and the only way real radicals can effect change now. We need a different way of rolling back greed through education and example: what we don’t need is the old Big State Left and Neolib Right ideologies replayed yet again: they don’t bear any relevance to social anthropology, and so I switch off once the empty historical syntax gets trotted out.

Syriza’s form of localism appeals to me because its communal and bottom-up. Sadly, I now fear that the situation will go tits-up before they get the chance to put it into practice. One thing people who don’t ‘get’ Greece can’t grasp is that Syriza’s ‘natural’ franchise of voters is probably under 6%, if not less. It is a loose collaboration of convenience designed to stand up to Brussels and get rid of the Greek oligarchy. Once people think its leaders are just as boneless as their predecessors, Greek politics could easily descend into chaos…perhaps even civil war.

But Tsipras and co still have a chance – albeit a slim one – to tell the EU where to get off, and then watch as the opposing edifice collapses in acrimony. If they do, then four things have to go in Greece: neoliberal drivel, privately funded political Parties, dishonest officials, and lobbying. If they can start to make a go of that alongside communal support and better education, they might just achieve something truly worthwhile for citizens everywhere around the World.

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