Eurozone

Welcome to ‘Walking Dead Europe’

Migrantsgc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Migrants

Migrants wait to board buses to take them onwards to the train station, from the border crossing in Nickelsdorf, Austria.

© Srdjan Zivulovic / Reuters

Originally published in RT on April12, 2016

 


Citizens of the EU – as in vibrant civil society manifesting in an array of nations – are increasingly keen on ditching the political EU, whose only functioning trait remains its status as a giant market.

The rest is chaos: The euro is now synonymous with massive unemployment; Europeans aged 18-34 qualifying themselves as a “lost” or at least “sacrificed” generation; European “values” diluted by the rise of the populist extreme-right; “pacifism” transmuted into hot and cold war – from Syria to Russia; and European cities, from Paris to Brussels, under Salafi-jihadi assault.

Call it Walking Dead Europe

Walking Dead Europe manifests itself in myriad ways – from a “No” to a referendum in the Netherlands to the creeping possibility of Brexit. Now add to this the ultimate insult a stark fact: What could the EU possibly offer to the world as a vision when it subcontracts the security gates of Fortress Europe to the wily, carpet-dealing antics of Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan?

Even avowed Europeanists such as Le Monde – a former great newspaper turned Empire of Chaos-cheerleading rag – are now distilling long essays about the malaise.

As much as the fascination with declining empires may still hold sway (it’s so chic to digress about it, Death in Venice-style, sipping Cristal and eating Iranian caviar), seasoned veterans at the European Commission (EU) in Brussels cannot but avow their perplexity when confronted to the EU machine’s death wish.

It’s always easy to forget that the EU project was born in May 1950 as a common market; common coal and steel rendering impossible a new war between France and Germany, everything guaranteed by the American protector. This de facto American security protectorate implied NATO, from the start, was the real deal – much more than the budding mini-EU expanding under the aegis of Pax Americana and the largely manufactured fear implicit in the Cold War.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the EU incrementally opened its doors to virtually every European newcomer. The official spin was the dissemination of “peace” and those Enlightenment “values”. In practice, it meant NATO expansion coupled with zillions of euros to “rebuild” and “modernize” mostly Eastern Europe.

The expansion dementia even reached Turkey and Ukraine – everything micromanaged under NATO’s Mob-style protection racket, of course, which now imposes the official Brussels narrative that the New Cold War was launched by“Russian aggression”.

And what about those “values”? Germany has just demonstrated, instructively, how they now lie in a funeral pyre – as Chancellor Merkel first opened the doors to the refugee flood unleashed by Ankara just to abruptly close it by de facto killing the right of political asylum.

Cynics are right to argue whether this is in any way any different from Donald Trump and his Wall of Mexico.

Hop on the Thalys to doom

The enlightened debate – say, in Brussels, Berlin and Paris – is whether the Brussels supranational institutions have been rendered terminally inefficient by unruly nation-states. Yet the next minute blame is apportioned en masse to the Eastern Europeans – especially Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – and their practice of “illiberal democracy”. Wealthy liberal Western Europe is of course spared.

A practical consequence of this logic, sooner rather than later, would be Berlin deciding to curb aid to Eastern Europe; 15 billion euros a year for Poland alone.

What Eastern Europeans know for sure is that they’d rather go down, but the last thing they want is to leave the EU. In the Polish case, for instance, it would be unrivaled masochism to want to be immolated in a rack controlled, on each side, by historical enemies Germany and Russia.

So the dream of a federal Europe may be dead; what is the EU good for, apart from allowing a proliferation of EasyJets to Club Med destinations? It’s true that the system of production in Europe is now too integrated; unraveling it would be immensely costly. Every morning the Thalys trains from Paris continue to be crammed with players who come to do business with the EC. Yet even if the EU survives – two-speed, even three-speed – the euro is a different proposition. If the euro collapses the common market would be destroyed.

According to the Maastricht Treaty, every member-nation pledged to police its own finances. It’s not exactly what happened. Now the EU is trying Maastricht upside down – from a creaky banking union to the European Central Bank (ECB) addicted to “massive interventions”.

Sharp minds in Brussels admit the euro is on a Catch 22. Without a federal budget, and without “massive aid” from more flush members, austerity – not diamonds – is forever; and the victims will always be the poorest members. So even as Europe cannot get rid of the euro – European banks would be incapable of setting up a rational dissolution – the only way out, that is, further integration, is paralyzed.

Sleepwalking to mediocrity

The tragic Greek financial crisis demonstrated that the troika could impose what amounted to welfare and education“reforms” with absolute impunity over a sovereign state. That represented, in practice, some form of “integration” – but always under the aegis of the troika’s “enlightened” despotism. In consequence, Brussels could not but lose even more of its political legitimacy.

Sharp minds at the EC, off the record, admit that the battle over Europe will be, in fact, juridical. The EC is now immersed in a Dadaist make-believe exercise of convincing everyone the Schengen rules still apply. Even if they don't. Even if there’s no free circulation inside Schengen anymore. Even if Hungary and Slovakia, for instance, directly contested the decision by the Council of Europe dividing migrants among member states.

And further trouble looms ahead if Germany decides against further eurozone integration in case the German taxpayer must carry an“out of proportion” burden.

Former European commissioner Pascal Lamy is among those deeply vexed by the EU’s loss of influence, the erosion of those prized“values”, the loss of identity face to face with Americans, Russians and Chinese.

Well, for the War Party in the Beltway, Europe is irrelevant anyway; a sweet and pliable Venus unable to influence Mars. As for the Russians and Chinese – now embarked in a strategic partnership – what matters is to do plenty of good business with Europe, assuming Europeans still know how to identify a win-win. Usually they can’t because of many reasons, including ideological myopia, mediocrity and/or plain stupidity displayed by the EU’s political leadership.

What lies ahead is not pretty. There is an element of The Sleepwalkers – Christopher Clark’s masterful account of how Europe marched to war in 1914. But mostly, a low-budget American show gave away the game. This is Walking Dead Europe.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Trump Hits a Bump

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation July 20, 2015
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Was it Donald Trump or the wolverine that lives on top of his head who made the dumb crack over the weekend about Senator John McCain not being a war hero? After all, that ambiguous patch of ginger-colored fur has taken on a life of its own. If I were Trump, I’d simply disown the remark and say that the hair-thing blurted it out, ventriloquist-style, because he (Donald) forgot to feed it that morning.

I just want to go on record to say that if John McCain is not a war hero — what with getting shot down in the Vietnam jungle and spending 5.5 years being thrashed daily by his captors — than Donald Trump is not an asshole, or a pendejo, as the landscaping crew might put it (perhaps even amaricón).

One thing the Trump campaign is proving — to the flustered consternation of the moiling herd of other candidates — is what intellectual chickenshits all mainstream American politicians are. I know it is hard to see through the prevailing rainbow fog of diversity propaganda, but the USA really does have an immigration problem. My peeps in the old Democrat fold are the worst, of course, because they are not even capable of stating the plain truth that an illegal immigrant is something more than just “undocumented,” as if some bureaucratic error were made in God’s intake stack. And the issue of legal immigration policy is simply unmentionable, of course, because being “a nation of immigrants” means never having to say enough is enough.

It’s obvious that much of the developed world is now sore beset by past immigration policy choices and by the current inrush of desperate souls fleeing the evermore general breakdown of societies across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). European pols are at least willing to have the debate, unappetizing as it might be. This dreaded political dance is now occurring against the background of a probable financial breakdown across Europe. When the utopian project of the European Union fails, as seems likely now due to the sovereign debt fiasco, I suspect that we will see a renewed effort to defend national cultures — French, German, and all the rest — in a manner that has a great potential for turning ugly. Financial failure means the death of the current banking system and the disappearance of massive notional wealth, and if that isn’t a recipe for extreme nationalism (plus xenophobia) than we are truly blind to the lessons of history.

And then, of course, there is the problem of Jihad. It’s for real, and it’s on the move all over MENA, and quite a few of its faithful agents are in place across Europe to make a whole heap of trouble in the event that the Euroland project falls on its face. This is perhaps beyond the question of merely preserving national identities. I think we will live to see an era of mass expulsions, fair or not.

It is not so easy to explain why America has its head so far up its ass on the issues of immigration, but maybe it is enough to say that sixty-plus years of TV advertising have set us up to be suckers for every sort of paid shill selling a sentimental sob story for one interest or another. This seems to be true most particularly of the educated class that labors in the trenches of advertising and public relations (i.e. propaganda). They have come go believe their own bullshit absolutely. Apparently, these true-blue believers are more hostage to the narratives they are paid to spin than the ragtag followers of Trump. (We’re a nation of immigrants….)

Were I a pol, I would propose a “time-out” from immigration of all kinds. The USA did it before, in the 1920s, after a half-century of prodigious immigration when new states needed to be settled, and new industries needed to be manned, and new cities needed to be built. We are not in the same circumstances anymore. The empty places have been filled (and then some). The factories were banished to China and elsewhere. Some of America’s farming regions aren’t working out so well a hundred years later — Nebraska has been depopulating and God knows what the fate will be of California’s Central Valley as the epochal drought creeps forward. The Chinese may be building super-duper mega-cities, but every fact of coming resource scarcity suggests to me that they are making the wrong bet on that disposition of things. It ain’ happening here, anyway. Our cities (with a few exceptions) face contraction.

Unfortunately, Trump’s antics will make it only more difficult to hold a sane debate about taking that time-out from immigration. So, one alternative is an insane debate about it, one based on sheer grievance and gall rather than the responsibilities of governance. I’ve proposed for many years that we are all set up to welcome a red-white-and-blue, corn-pone Nazi political savior type. I don’t think Donald Trump is it. But he will be a stalking horse for a far more skillful demagogue when the time comes. There’s a fair chance that the wheels will come off the banking and monetary system well before the 2016 election. Who knows who or what will come out of the woodwork before then.

Meanwhile, notice today’s headline from the fabled “newspaper of record” (The New York Times):

Women Who Dye Their (Armpit) Hair

Yes, these are the mighty issues that concern us most.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Greek Pudding

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation July 13, 2015
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The proof of the pudding is in the eating, the old saw goes. This one, alas, is a mélange of several old shit sandwiches bound in a liaison of subterfuge and seasoned with political absurdities. Having been fooled in this bistro before, citizen-patrons leave the table resigned to yet another bout of food poisoning as the music of universal upchuck rings across the European Union from Helsinki to Lisbon

What is on display more brightly and clearly than ever, though, is the utter fakery of international banking. The players have lost faith in their own shenanigans. They simply go through the motions now awaiting the political fallout, which is to say the revolt of the people who can still do arithmetic. So, now Greece can supposedly expect another $90Billion-equivalent in new loans on top of the $350Billion-equivalent already racked up. That’s rich. The loan repayment schedule must look like a map of Middle Earth.

Most perplexing — especially for those on summer hiatus in which time seems to be suspended — is the fact that the rescue package will take weeks, perhaps months, to gin up while Greece is right now so utterly paralyzed in bankruptcy that no goods can move, no bills can be paid, and the economy cannot deliver the necessities of daily life. The old refrain, “your check is in the mail” may not be so reassuring to folks who haven’t eaten for three days. Personally, I would expect the gasoline bombs to be flying around Syntagma Square before the middle of the week.

Has anyone noticed the eerie paucity of news emanating from the other hard-luck nations of the EU, namely Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland? The money hole that these deadbeats are in makes Greece look like a dimple in the sand. What, I wonder, is the message to them from the Greek negotiation melodrama? (Lend more money to real estate developers to build more houses and condos that will never be sold? That’ll work!) No, the entire EU debt fiasco harks back to the original meaning of “ring around the rosie” — a theme song of the Black Death. The eventual implosion of the European Union, and the banking system hugging its face vampire squid style, will be the financial equivalent of the Black Death. Kingdoms will fall and social systems will be turned upside down.

The agonizing wait for that outcome is obviously fraying the nerves of all concerned to the degree that all their exertions seem like little more than tragic and pointless exercises in futility — for instance, the terms arrived at in last weekend’s negotiations. Nobody has a shred of faith that they can or will be carried out. In effect, what they’ve done is put together a Potemkin framework allowing them to go just give up for a month or so and go on vacation.

That would, of course, set things up for a mighty financial convulsion in the autumn — history’s favorite season for ruin — when all the ministers and their factotums venture back to the dismal realities they left fermenting at the office. Of all the many things apt to happen, we can count at least on the current Greek government falling and a failure of Greece to make any gesture of repayment in their just-negotiated loan schedule. That would leave the “Troika” (the EU, the ECB, and the IMF) with zero credibility and initiate the epochal widespread repudiation of the entire EU loan structure — in short, the collapse of Europe.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, but it would be the end of nearly seventy-year period of peace, prosperity, and stability. The sorting-out would be epic. The standard of living across Europe would sink to the level of the 1830s. The fundamentals of banking and currency would have to be rebuilt from ashes. More nations will break up into smaller units. Western intellectual life would suffer immense shock as all the certainties of the Enlightenment project seemed to go up in a vapor of insolvency and political upheaval. You have to even wonder whether Europe could defend itself against an onrushing Jihad.

But these are admittedly gloomy thoughts for a morning so early in summer. Myself, I’m going to shop for an outfit to wear to Diddy’s annual party in the Hamptons. Coonskin caps may be oddly coming back in style as people all over America try to emulate Donald Trump and the furry creature that lives on the top of his head. Something tells me that the ladies will not be buying many Hillary-style pantsuits. Wouldn’t it be cunning if Diddy’s caterer came up with something like miniature Greek Pudding bites? That would bring a real frisson to the doings, something to chat about besides the marketing genius of Kim Kardashian.

 

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Greece…One Way…or the OTHER!

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on July 9, 2015

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European Leaders Promise The Greek Debt Crisis Will Be Resolved One Way Or Another On Sunday

The wait will soon be over.  Greece submitted a final compromise plan to its eurozone creditors on Thursday, European finance ministers will meet on Saturday to discuss the proposal, and an emergency summit of all 28 EU nations on Sunday will make a final decision on what to do.  The summit on Sunday is being billed as a “final deadline” and a “last chance” by EU officials.  In essence, Greece is being given one more opportunity to embrace the austerity measures that are being demanded of them by their creditors.  So has Greece gone far enough with this new proposal?  We shall find out on Sunday.

For months, the entire planet has been following this seemingly endless Greek debt saga.  Global financial markets have gyrated with every twist and turn of this ongoing drama, and many people have wondered if it would ever come to an end.  But now European leaders are promising us that the uncertainty is finally going to be over this weekend

This time, the leaders’ summit called for Sunday is being billed by all concerned as the definitive moment that will determine Greece’s future in the euro. It’s “really and truly the final wake-up call for Greece, but also for us — our last chance,” EU President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday, the day after the most recent emergency session.

So what is the general mood of European leaders as they head into this summit?

Overall, it does not appear to be overly optimistic.

For example, just consider what the head of the Bundesbank is saying

Bundesbank Chief Jens Weidmann, meanwhile, said that central banks have no mandate to safeguard the solvency of banks or governments, and stressed that emergency liquidity to Greece should not be increased.

And even normally upbeat leaders such as ECB President Mario Draghi are sounding quite sullen

Just how uncertain the coming days are was highlighted when ECB President Mario Draghi voiced highly unusual doubts about the chances of rescuing Greece.

Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore quoted the ECB chief, under growing fire in Germany for keeping Greek banks afloat, as saying he was not sure a solution would be found for Greece and he did not believe Russia would come to Athens’ rescue.

Asked if a deal to save Greece could be wrapped up, Draghi said: “I don’t know, this time it’s really difficult.

That certainly does not sound promising.

It isn’t as if the Greeks are not trying to find a compromise.  Their latest offer reportedly contains some very painful austerity measures

Greece is seeking another bailout totaling at least 50 billion euros ($55 billion) from its European creditors and offering to make painful spending cuts and tax increases as it races to avert a financial meltdown, according to government sources.

Under a 10-page blueprint completed late Thursday, the country said it would undertake austerity measures worth between 12 billion and 13 billion euros ($13 billion to $14 billion), including raising taxes on cafes, bars and restaurants.

But once again, it appears that pensions may be a major sticking point.  The following comes from a Zero Hedge report about the latest Greek proposal…

The biggest surprise is once again in the biggest hurdle: pensions. Recall that as we accurately predicted two weeks ago, it was the government’s unwillingness to directly cut pensions that led to the IMF refusing to even negotiate the Greek proposal.

As a further reminder, this is what IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard said almost a month ago on the topic:

Why insist on pensions? Pensions and wages account for about 75% of primary spending; the other 25% have already been cut to the bone.  Pension expenditures account for over 16% of GDP, and transfers from the budget to the pension system are close to 10% of GDP.  We believe a reduction of pension expenditures of 1% of GDP (out of 16%) is needed, and that it can be done while protecting the poorest pensioners

Fast forward to today when MNI reports that “there are no pension cuts in the draft of the proposal.”

And if recent experience is indicative, this likely means that the Troika will once again refuse to move on with the draft.

We shall see what happens on Sunday.

I have a feeling that it is all going to come down to what Germany wants to do.  At this point, the Greeks owe the Germans approximately 86.7 billion euros.  The German people are overwhelmingly against pouring more money down a financial black hole, and German leaders have taken a very hard line with Greece in recent days.

If Germany does not like this new Greek proposal, it will almost certainly fail.  And if there is no deal, Greek government finances will totally freeze up, the Greek banking system will utterly collapse, and the Greeks will probably be forced to switch back to the drachma.

Speaking of the drachma, check out what Bloomberg is reporting

Between June 28 and July 4 at a Hilton hotel in Athens, transactions on a Bloomberg reporter’s Visa credit card issued by Citigroup Inc. were posted as being carried out in “Drachma EQ.”

The inexplicable notation — bear in mind, the euro remains Greece’s official currency — flummoxed two very polite customer service representatives and spokesmen for the companies involved. It depicts a currency changeover that the Greek government and European officials have been working for over six months to avoid.

Banks around the world are bracing for the increasingly real possibility that Greece may be forced to abandon the euro, a currency it shares with 18 other European countries.

Could plans to roll out the drachma already be in motion behind the scenes?

The next few days promise to be extremely interesting.

Meanwhile, there are all sorts of other indications that big economic trouble is ahead for the entire planet.  For instance, global commodity prices have been plunging big time

While market commentators worry whether an economic collapse in Greece could trigger turmoil in financial markets, a slump in commodity markets may be signaling the world is already in a deep recession.

The slump in the Chinese stock market and concern over the Greek debt crisis sent commodities towards multiyear lows. The S&P GSCI—an index which represents a diversified basket of commodities—has been down nearly 40% over the past year and had slumped by more than six percent as of Wednesday, July 8th.

We witnessed a similar pattern just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.

And in addition to the problems that have erupted in China, Greece and Puerto RicoCNN is reporting that every major economy in Latin America “is slowing down or shrinking”…

Every major Latin American economy is slowing down or shrinking. The World Bank predicts this will be Latin America’s worst year of growth since the financial crisis. As if that’s not dire enough, the world’s two worst performing stock markets are in the region as well.

Very few people are talking about Latin America right now, but the truth is that the region is in the midst of a slow-motion economic implosion.  Here is more from CNN

Venezuela is arguably the world’s worst economy with sky-high inflation. Next door, Colombia has the world’s worst stock market this year. Its index is down 13% so far this year. The second worst is Peru, down 12.5%.

Right now, trouble signs are emerging all over the planet.  That is why we shouldn’t just focus on Greece.  Yes, if Greece is kicked out of the euro that is going to greatly accelerate things.  But no matter what happens with Greece, the truth is that we are steamrolling toward another major worldwide financial crisis.  Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I purposely did not use the word “Greece” once in my recent article entitled “The Economic Collapse Blog Has Issued A RED ALERT For The Last Six Months Of 2015“.

Yes, I am taking what is happening over in Europe very seriously.  I believe that we are about to see some things happen over there that we have never seen before.

But the Greek crisis is only part of the picture.  Everywhere on the globe that you look, red flags are going up.

Sadly, just like in 2008, most people have chosen to be willingly blind to what is happening right in front of their eyes.

Welcome to Blackswansville

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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avalanche
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation July 6, 2015
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While the folks clogging the US tattoo parlors may not have noticed, things are beginning to look a little World War one-ish out there. Except the current blossoming world conflict is being fought not with massed troops and tanks but with interest rates and repayment schedules. Germany now dawdles in reply to the gauntlet slammed down Sunday in the Greek referendum (hell) “no” vote. Germany’s immediate strategy, it appears, is to apply some good old fashioned Teutonic todesfurcht — let the Greeks simmer in their own juices for a few days while depositors suck the dwindling cash reserves from the banks and the grocery store shelves empty out. Then what?

Nobody knows. And anything can happen.

One thing we ought to know: both sides in the current skirmish are fighting reality. The Germans foolishly insist that the Greek’s meet their debt obligations. The German’s are just pissing into the wind on that one, a hazardous business for a nation of beer drinkers. The Greeks insist on living the 20th century deluxe industrial age lifestyle, complete with 24/7 electricity, cheap groceries, cushy office jobs, early retirement, and plenty of walking-around money. They’ll be lucky if they land back in the 1800s, comfort-wise.

The Greeks may not recognize this, but they are in the vanguard of a movement that is wrenching the techno-industrial nations back to much older, more local, and simpler living arrangements. The Euro, by contrast, represents the trend that is over: centralization and bigness. The big questions are whether the latter still has enough mojo left to drag out the transition process, and for how long, and how painfully.

World affairs suffer from the disease of terminal excessive complexity. To make matters worse, much of the late-phase complexity operates in the service of accounting fraud of one kind or another. The world’s banking system is mired in the unreality of so many unmeetable obligations, cooked books, three-card-monte swap gimmicks, interest rate euchres, secret arbitrages, market manipulation monkeyshines, and countless other cons, swindles, and hornswoggles that all the auditors ever born could not produce a coherent record of what has been wreaked in the life of this universe (or several parallel universes). Remember Long Term Capital Management? That’s what the world has become.

What happens in the case of untenable complexity is that it tends to unravel fast and furiously. That’s exactly why avalanches and earthquakes happen all at once, not stretched out over a six week period. The global financial scene not so different. It’s just another matrix of linked mutually-supporting relationships that can implode if a few members weaken.

One question worth reflecting on is whether the implosion is actually well underway on-the-ground in real economies, with just the scrim of illusion to make the surface appear intact. That surely seems to be the case in the USA, where the so-called economy has already avalanched into a rubble heap of part-time scut jobs, defaulted college loans, underwater mortgages, and groaning pension funds — with an overlay of pointless and endless motoring.

Over in Euroland, the Greek “no” also implies that every other sovereign nation wallowing in deep financial shit will demand a haircut (and a disinfectant shower). Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and even France cannot possibly meet their debt obligations. Their citizens are being taunted with currency controls, too, and they have every bit as much potential to go ape-y as the Greeks. Notice you haven’t heard much from their leaders and financial ministers in recent weeks. They are all standing on the sidelines watching the Greeks go through the wringer — but you can be sure they are all making plans of their own.

The failure of the European experiment will be extremely demoralizing to the hopeful citizens of that continent, who emerged from the bloodbath of the early 20th century to become the world’s premier peaceful tourist theme park. I don’t know that they necessarily have to go back to fighting each other on battlefields with things that blow up and destroy human flesh, but they surely have to decentralize and re-fashion some kind of simpler, local way-of-life if they expect to remain civilized.

It’ll happen everywhere. The Japanese are next, of course, and they may be the most fortunate, since they retain more than a few shreds of memory for exactly that mode of life: the Tokugawa shogunate (the Edo period, 1600 – 1853), a manner of high pre-industrial economy and culture that might have persisted indefinitely had not Commodore Perry come knocking on their door, so to speak, in his “black ships.”

Ukraine is about halfway back to being medieval with excellent potential to overshoot even that. The Euroland PIIG(F) nations don’t have the energy resources to extend Modernity, even if the banking system wasn’t terminally ill, and then on top of that they have the ethno-demographic quandary of creeping Muslimization — plus the additional flotillas of desperate boat people arriving daily.

America, count your blessings. Tattoos, obesity, drug use, and shiftlessness are all basically behavioral choices. You don’t need a finance minister or a central banker to overcome those problems.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Yanis Varoufakis Intervention

Off the keyboard of Yanis Varoufakis

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Published on Yanis Varoufakis Blog on June 28, 2015

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As it happened – Yanis Varoufakis’ intervention during the 27th June 2015 Eurogroup Meeting

The Eurogroup Meeting of 27th June 2015 will not go down as a proud moment in Europe’s history. Ministers turned down the Greek government’s request that the Greek people should be granted a single week during which to deliver a Yes or No answer to the institutions’ proposals – proposals crucial for Greece’s future in the Eurozone. The very idea that a government would consult its people on a problematic proposal put to it by the institutions was treated with incomprehension and often with disdain bordering on contempt. I was even asked: “How do you expect common people to understand such complex issues?”. Indeed, democracy did not have a good day in yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting! But nor did European institutions. After our request was rejected, the Eurogroup President broke with the convention of unanimity (issuing a statement without my consent) and even took the dubious decision to convene a follow up meeting without the Greek minister, ostensibly to discuss the “next steps”. 

Can democracy and a monetary union coexist? Or must one give way? This is the pivotal question that the Eurogroup has decided to answer by placing democracy in the too-hard basket. So far, one hopes.

 

Intervention by Yanis Varoufakis, 27th June 2015 Eurogroup Meeting

Colleagues,

In our last meeting (25th June) the institutions tabled their final offer to the Greek authorities, in response to our proposal for a Staff Level Agreement (SLA) as tabled on 22nd June (and signed by Prime Minister Tsipras). After long, careful examination, our government decided that, unfortunately, the institutions’ proposal could not be accepted. In view of how close we have come to the 30th June deadline, the date when the current loan agreement expires, this impasse of grave concern to us all and its causes must be thoroughly examined.

We rejected the institutions’ 25th June proposals because of a variety of powerful reasons. The first reason is the combination of austerity and social injustice they would impose upon a population devastated already by… austerity and social injustice. Even our own SLA proposal (22nd June) is austerian, in a bid to placate the institutions and thus come closer to an agreement. Only our SLA attempted to shift the burden of this renewed austerian onslaught to those more able to afford it – e.g. by concentrating on increasing employer contributions to pension funds rather than on reducing the lowest of pensions. Nonetheless, even our SLA contains many parts that Greek society rejects.

So, having pushed us hard to accept substantial new austerity, in the form of absurdly large primary surpluses (3.5% of GDP over the medium term, albeit somewhat lower than the unfathomable number agreed to by previous Greek governments – i.e. 4.5%), we ended up having to make recessionary trade-offs between, on the one hand, higher taxes/charges in an economy where those who pay their dues pay through the nose and, on the other, reductions in pensions/benefits in a society already devastated by massive cuts in basic income support for the multiplying needy.

Let me say colleagues what we had already conveyed to the institutions on 22nd June, as we were tabling our own proposals: Even this SLA, the one we were proposing, would be extremely onerous to pass through Parliament, given the level of recessionary measures and austerity it entailed. Unfortunately, the institutions’ response was to insist on even more recessionary (aka parametric) measures (e.g. increasing VAT on hotels from 6% to 23%!) and, worse still, on shifting the burden massively from business to the weakest members of society (e.g. to reduce the lowest of pensions, to remove support for farmers, to postpone ad infinitum legislation that offers some protection to badly exploited workers).

The institutions new proposals, as expressed in their 25th June SLA/Prior Actions document, would make a politically problematic package – from the perspective of our Parliament – into a package that would extremely difficult to push through our Parliamentary caucus. But this is not all. It gets worse much worse than that once we take a look at the proposed financing package.

What makes it impossible to pass the institutions’ proposal through Parliament is the lack of an answer to the question: Will these painful measures at least give us a period of tranquillity during which to carry out the agreed reforms and measures? Will a shock of optimism counter the recessionary effect of the extra fiscal consolidation that is being imposed on a country that has been in recession for 21 consecutive quarters? The answer is clear: No, the institutions’ proposal is offering no such prospect.

This is why: The proposed funding for the next 5 months (see below for a breakdown) is problematic in a variety of ways:

First, it makes no provision for the state’s arrears, caused by five months of making payments without disbursements and of falling tax revenues as a result of the constant threat of Grexit that has been wafting in the air, so to speak.

Secondly, the idea of cannibalising the HFSF in order to repay the ECB’s SMP-era bonds constitutes a clear and present danger: These monies were earmarked, correctly, for strengthening Greece’s fragile banks, possibly through an operation that deals with their mountainous NPLs that eat into their capitalisation. The answer I have been given by senior ECB officials, whose name will remain unsaid, is that, if need be, the HFSF will be replenished to cope with the banks’ capitalisation needs. And who will do the replenishing? The ESM, is the answer I was given. But, and this is a gigantic but, this is not part of the proposed deal and, moreover, it could not be part of the deal as the institutions have no mandate to commit the ESM in this manner – as I am sure Wolfgang will remind us all. And, moreover, if such a new arrangement could be made, why then is our sensible, moderate, proposal of a new ESM facility for Greece that helps shift SMP liability from the ECB to the ESM not discussed? The answer “we will not discuss it because we will not discuss it” will be very hard for me to convey to my Parliament, together with another package of austerity.

Thirdly, the proposed disbursements’ schedule is a minefield of reviews – one per month – that will ensure two things. First, that the Greek government will be immersed every day, every week in the review process for five long months. And well before these five months expire, we shall enter into another tedious negotiation over the next program – since there is nothing in the institutions’ proposal capable of inspiring even the faintest of hopes that at the end of this new extension Greece can stand on its own two feet.

Fourthly, given that it is abundantly clear that our debt will remain unsustainable by the end of the year, and that market access will remain as distant then as it is now, the IMF cannot be counted upon to disburse its share, the 3.5 billion that the institutions are counting as part of the funding package on the table.

These are solid reasons why our government does not consider it has a mandate to accept the institutions’ proposal or to use its majority in Parliament in order to push it through and onto the statutes.

At the same time, we do not have a mandate to turn down the institutions’ proposals either, cognizant of the critical moment in history we find ourselves in. Our party received 36% of the vote and the government as a whole commanded a little more than 40%. Fully aware of how weighty our decision is, we feel obliged to put the institutions’ proposal to the people of Greece. We shall endeavour to spell out to them fully what a Yes to the Institutions’ Proposal means, to do the same regarding a No vote, and then let them decide. For our part we shall accept the people’s verdict and will do whatever it takes to implement it – one way or another.

Some worry that a Yes vote would be a vote of no confidence in our government (as we shall be recommending a No vote), in which case we cannot promise to the Eurogroup that we shall be in a position to sign and implement the agreement with the institutions. This is not so. We are committed democrats. If the people gives us a clear instruction to sign up on the institutions’ proposals, we shall do whatever it takes to do so – even if it means a reconfigured government.

Colleagues, the referendum solution is optimal for all, given the constraints we face.

  • If our government were to accept the institutions’ offer today, promising to push it through Parliament tomorrow, we would be defeated in Parliament with the result of a new election being called within a very long month – then, the delay, the uncertainty and the prospects of a successful resolution would be much, much diminished
  • But even if we managed to pass the institutions’ proposal through Parliament, we would be facing a major problem of ownership and implementation. Put simply, just as in the past the governments that pushed through policies dictated by the institutions could not carry the people with them, we too would fail to do so.

On the question that will be put to the Greek people, much has been said about what it should be. Many of you tell us, advise us, instruct us even, that we should make it a Yes or No question on the euro. Let me be clear on this. First, the question was formulated by the Cabinet and has just been passed through Parliament – and it is “Do you accept the institutions’ proposal as it was presented to us on 25th June in the Eurogroup?” This is the only pertinent question. If we had accepted that proposal two days ago, we would have had a deal. The Greek government is now asking the electorate to answer the question you put it to me Jeroen – especially when you said, and I quote, “you can consider this, if you wish, a take or leave it proposal”. Well, this is how we took it and we are now honouring the institutions and the Greek people by asking the latter to deliver a clear answer on the institutions’ proposal.

To those who say that, effectively, this is a referendum on the euro, my answer is: You may very well say this but I shall not comment. This is your judgement, your opinion, your interpretation. Not ours! There is a logic to your view but only if there is an implicit threat that a No from the Greek people to the institutions’ proposal will be followed up by moves to eject Greece, illegally, out of the euro. Such a threat would not be consistent with basic principles of European democratic governance and European Law.

To those who instruct us to phrase the referendum question as a euro-drachma dilemma, my answer is crystal clear: European Treaties make provisions for an exit from the EU. They do not make any provisions for an exit from the Eurozone. With good reason, of course, as the indivisibility of our Monetary Union is part of its raison d’ etre. To ask us to phrase the referendum question as a choice involving exit from the Eurozone is to ask us to violate EU Treaties and EU Law. I suggest to anyone who wants us, or anyone else, to hold a referendum on EMU membership to recommend a change in the Treaties.

Colleagues,

It is time to take stock. The reason we find ourselves in the present conundrum is one: Our government’s primary proposal to you and the institutions, which I articulated here in the Eurogroup in my first ever intervention, was never taken seriously. It was the suggestion that common ground be created between the prevailing MoU and our new government’s program. For a fleeting moment, the 20th February Eurogroup statement raised the prospect of such common ground – as it made no reference to the MoU and concentrated on a new reform list by our government that would be put to the institutions.

Regrettably, immediately after the 20th of February the institutions, and most of colleagues in this room, sought to bring the MoU back to the centre, and to reduce our role in marginal changes within the MoU. It is as if we were told, to paraphrase Henry Ford, that we could have any reform list, any agreement, as long as it was the MoU. Common ground was thus sacrificed in favour of imposing upon our government a humiliating retreat. This is my view. But it is not important now. Now it is up to the Greek people to decide.

Our task, in today’s Eurogroup, ought to be to pave the ground for a smooth passage to the referendum of 5th July. This means one thing: that our loan agreement be extended by a few weeks so that the referendum takes place in conditions of tranquillity. Immediately after 5th July, if the people have voted Yes, the institutions’ proposal will be signed. Until then, during the next week, as the referendum approaches, any deviation from normality, especially in the banking sector, will be invariably interpreted as an attempt to coerce Greek voters. Greek society has paid a hefty price, through huge fiscal contraction, in order to be part of our monetary union. But a democratic monetary union that threatens a people about to deliver their verdict with capital controls and bank closures is a contradiction in terms. I would like to think that the Eurogroup will respect this principle. As for the ECB, the custodian on our monetary stability and of the Union itself, I have no doubt that, if the Eurogroup takes a responsible decision today to accept the request for an extension of our loan agreement that I am now tabling, it will do what it takes to give the Greek people a few more days to express their opinion.

Colleagues, these are critical moments and the decisions we make are momentous. In years to come we may well be asked “Where were you on the 27th of June? And what did you do to avert what happened? At the very least we should be able to say that: We gave the people who live under the worst depression a chance to consider their options. We tried democracy as a means of breaking a deadlock. And we did what it took to give them a few days to do so.

POSTSCRIPT – The day the Eurogroup President broke with the tradition of unanimity and excluded Greece from a Eurogroup gathering at will

Following my intervention (see above) the Eurogroup President rejected our request for an extension, with the support of the rest of the members, and announced that the Eurogroup would be issuing a statement placing the burden of this impasse on Greece and suggesting that the 18 ministers (that is the 19 Eurozone finance ministers except the Greek minister) reconvene later to discuss ways and means of protecting themselves from the fallout.

At that point I asked for legal advice, from the secretariat, on whether a Eurogroup statement can be issued without the conventional unanimity and whether the President of the Eurogroup can convene a meeting without inviting the finance minister of a Eurozone member-state. I received the following extraordinary answer: “The Eurogroup is an informal group. Thus it is not bound by Treaties or written regulations. While unanimity is conventionally adhered to, the Eurogroup President is not bound to explicit rules.” I let the reader comment on this remarkable statement.

For my part, I concluded as follows:

Colleagues, refusing to extend the loan agreement for a few weeks, and for the purpose of giving the Greek people an opportunity to deliberate in peace and quiet on the institutions’ proposal, especially given the high probability that they will accept these proposals (contrary to our government’s advice), will damage permanently the credibility of the Eurogroup as a democratic decision making body comprising partner states sharing not only a common currency but also common values.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE PRESENTATION IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE 27th JUNE 2015 EUROGROUP MEETING

Misrule Britannia

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Pubished on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on June 1, 2015

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When I moved back to the UK two years ago after living abroad for a while, nobody could accuse me of not knowing what I was getting into. For quite some time pundits in the collapsosphere have been calling out the UK as one of the riskiest countries in which to live, right up there with Japan. Not only do we have a nation that is heavily over-populated with respect to its resource base, but one which hosts one of the world's major world financial viper pits. It's a nation where Arab playboys drive gold-plated Ferraris around the gentrified streets of London while snot-nosed urchins everywhere else go to school without eating breakfast. It's a nation where an unelected old lady in a £300 million hat recently sat on a throne and managed to keep a straight face while announcing her government's plans to slash money for the poor. Basically it's a nation engaged in a war of attrition between those with wealth and those without.
 
 
 
But something in the air has changed since the recent election in which David Cameron's Tories won a majority in the House of Commons. Within days – unshackled for their former collation with the moderating hand of the Liberal Democrats –  there were announcements of plans to walk away from human rights treaties, to impose a 'snoopers charter' of surveillance, to further slash welfare spending, push through the TTIP 'trade' agreement, ramp up fracking, bring back fox hunting with hounds. The Left have been howling in pain ever since.
 
Although all this was to be expected of the 'nasty party' the one thing that nobody seems to be talking about is how the nation itself will manage to survive as a modern state given the, ahem, challenges it faces. The three main immediate challenges, as I see it, come from the realms of finance, energy and politics. Failings in each one of them alone could prove disastrous, but it seems as if we will get to witness all three calamities occur simultaneously. 
 
Let's take finance first. 
 
I've been trying to get to the bottom of what the UK's debt/deficit position is. Mention 'the deficit' and most people emit a strangled howl of indignation. "Don't you know the deficit is a tissue of lies fabricated by the right wing who want to impose Dickensian conditions on the poor?" they ask. Granted, it doesn't seem fair to cut the benefits of society's most needy while simultaneously heaping more money up at the other end of the spectrum, but that wasn't the question. That's simply what failing states do – the more powerful grab what they can at the expense of the less powerful. It's all there in the history books. The next act usually involves pitchforks. 
 
But this time is different, they argue. Money can now be created by magic, and all we need to do is do whatever it is that those clever folks at the Bank of England (or Bitcoin) do to create more of it using their computers. And, bingo, then we can simply spend it on 'making things great again'. The country can continue to produce 'services' again, everybody will have a decent standard of living once more and we will be back on track to that future of driverless cars, space missions and living to 150.
 
 
 
 
Money might not seem important if you think it isn't important, but that doesn't alter the fact that throughout modern history there has not been a time when money is not considered important. Especially to creditors, of which the UK has a lot. So, in a kind of back of the envelope way, I decided to try and get a grip on how much debt the government owes. It seems that the total debt is about £1.5 trillion, and the annual deficit is running at about £107 billion – or over £2 billion a week. At that rate the proposed 'austerity' of £12 billion will thus be used up in six weeks. This doesn't matter, according to the economists in the mainstream media, because Britain's economy is doing so well that the annual deficit will be wiped out by rising tax receipts in a couple of years. 
Yet tax receipts from oil and gas have fallen by about 75% since 2008, and will probably drop to zero when North Sea oil and gas stops flowing completely in a couple of years' time (still no mention of this in the media…). And tax receipts are falling as a) more people are in lower-paid jobs and/or falsely counted as employed because they have been forced to declare themselves self-employed b) the larger companies have had their corporation taxes cut and can avoid paying tax entirely if they have savvy accountants.
 
 
 
VAT receipts are flat as most consumers have maxed out their credit cards and run out of spending power. The only way they can rise is if people take on EVEN MORE personal debt – which a lot have actually been doing (currently average personal debt is running at an all-time record of 172% of income, according to a PwC report). But personal debt needs to be repaid one day, and with falling real incomes and plenty of hidden stealth inflation (e.g. food items getting smaller, durable goods getting shoddier, hidden charges becoming more unavoidable etc.) that will become more difficult.
 
Moneyweek's take on the debt situation
 
Future projections of the debt/deficit all presuppose a 'healthy' and growing economy. This seems very unlikely IMO given that a financial 'accident' is likely to happen at any moment. And all the while the structural deficit grows larger as the population ages, annuities reach maturity and the bill for the NHS soars. In this context GDP figures don't really mean anything useful: the economy might be improving but it's not the economy that most people ordinarily live in. Plus, any downgrade of the economy by ratings agencies caused by – say – a fracture of the UK, or a severe credit event, will have a knock-on effect on the government's ability to borrow cheaply  and we will simply end up paying the interest on the national credit card, while the capital debts piles up. The interest on this debt alone already costs us £55 billion a year and that's with interest rates at near zero.
 
All in all, it's difficult not to conclude that the UK is insolvent. But, in any case, perhaps that doesn't matter because this brings me onto the political aspect of the crisis: perhaps there soon won't even be a UK (after all, what do you call a bunch of small countries that are not united?). Since Scotland got royally shafted in their Independence referendum they replied by booting out practically every MP from a Westminster party and instead elected Scottish National Party members to speak up for them. The upshot of this is that David Cameron wants to press ahead with swingeing austerity measures (which, looking at the dire financial figures will actually have to be FAR worse than most people imagine) – but the Scots say they won't accept it north of the border. It's difficult to imagine all of us in England and Wales living in Third World conditions while the Scots keep handing out brown envelopes of cash to their citizens, and people accepting that as fair.
 
 
 
So, sooner or later, Scotland may well get independence, which means that others might want to follow suit. All of a sudden everyone seems to be talking about breaking up. UKIP and most Tories want us to break away from the EU, Scotland, as previously mentioned, will probably go for a messy divorce (and take a large chunk of GDP with them as they leave), London may want to declare itself a 'city state', northern England might want to join Scotland in getting away from the southerners – even Cornwall is starting to get a bit itchy. 
 
Given that the UK's finances are one big Ponzi scheme (what does the country actually produce these days that has a physical presence?) any political rupture could bring down the house of cards. Parliament, in any case, is almost paralysed as the Tories actually only won by a slim majority and will have trouble passing any contentious legislation. Who knows, perhaps even faraway Greece could provide enough turmoil to shatter the status quo should its amputation from the EU cause death judders. There's a simmering tension and people are already angry enough … what happens when they get even angrier?
 
 
 
Finally, we have the energy conundrum. I've been saying now for at least two years that my guess is that we will see some kind of restriction on the sale of oil and/or petrol in the UK in 2016. I still have 18 months left to see if my prediction will come true, but at the rate things are going it seems like it has a good chance of doing so. As previously noted, North Sea oil is facing a precipitous decline. That decline is accelerating in step with the lower oil price, as new projects are not begun and old ones are mothballed due to high costs. Hundreds of oil workers have been laid off in Aberdeen (and the Scots think they can avoid austerity by using their oil money …).
 
Not to worry, old chap, says the media. Don't you know that we'll be getting LNG from America soon, and fracked gas from beneath our very own land?
 
That's the standard response, whenever energy shortages are mentioned, which is rarely. Of course, it's quite ludicrous that either of these schemes will ever happen in the real world. To unlock the British shale gas they would need to turn huge areas of the country into industrial wastelands – huge areas that currently have millions of people (many of them wealthy) living on them. This, in a country where planning and conservation laws are so tight it's a major achievement just to put up a sign lest it spoil the character of the area. And let's not forget that millions of people are implacably opposed to fracking – to the point where they would be willing to lay down their lives to halt the drillers. Heck, this must be the only country in the world to employ magical defence against frackers (it's working, so far). 
 
Let's add ISIS into the mix. At the rate things are going in the Middle East, if things carry on as they are in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, there could be a major conflagration. It's not hard to imagine oil installations set on fire and the price of crude heading up to $200. This, ironically, is one way the fracking industry and the North Sea could avoid immediate bankruptcy. Not that anyone would be able to afford to fill up their cars any more …
 
So where, exactly, will the UK get its energy from in the future? There are a lot of cars and trucks here. There are millions of shops and offices and ports and sports grounds and malls that all need lavish amounts of energy to keep functioning. It gets cold here in winter and old people are already dying from exposure inside their own homes – what will happen to them all as the inevitable energy crisis begins to bite?
 
 
 
So, as nice as it would be to get a bag of popcorn and watch this spectacle unfold from afar, I find myself up there on the stage. Still, not to worry, as we say …
 

HEADING FOR DISASTER

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on May 18, 2015

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HEADING FOR DISASTER: A FAILING BRITISH ECONOMY, AN UNREPAYABLE DEBT, & AN UNREPENTANT POLITICAL CLASS

GEORGE, THERE ARE GOING TO BE TEARS WELL BEFORE BEDTIME

oscuntPrecisely as the right-wing Institute for Fiscal studies predicted before the Election, George Osborne is now under pressure (from the Institute of Directors) to “slash spending”. The IoD has gone one on from “cut”: perhaps next time the verb will be “decimate”. And then “obliterate”.

Note that few if any of the IoD’s members will suffer a jot from the cuts. Also note that the IoD is specifically ruling out tax rises….which would, of course, hit most of their members very hard indeed.

The Chancellor has promised yet another budget in the summer (we might just as well make them quarterly and have done with it) and has said it will be “a budget for working people”. This is another little weasel phrase invented by the Aussie spin doctor Lynton Crosby; what it means is “people in a full-time contractual private sector job”. As only 22% of us are these days, it isn’t going to be terribly good news for the unemployed, the State retired, or indeed the NHS: get out of that, Jeremy Hunt.

I think a few more people need to take time out here and study what exactly is going on rather more fully. In a nutshell, it is this: because the ConDem coalition spectacularly failed over the last five years to (a) wipe out the UK deficit (b) diversify the UK economy out of financial services and (c) gain new export contracts beyond the EU, those people out of jobs as a result of that failure, or on benefits, or ill will be asked to cough up. The business organisation members who aided in this abject failure, however, won’t be asked to cough up. They’ll just see their salaries and bonuses continuing to go up.

So, Government screws up and business acts as its accomplice; labour force, the ill and the poor foot the bill.

Sorry to repeat the question for the 50th time, but you see so far I haven’t had an answer. As a neoliberal economy is based on eternal consumption and a ready supply of credit, how are lower incomes and dried-up banks going to produce more consumption?

They can’t, period. But still the financial press calls the UK’s Q1 slowdown ‘disappointing’ (to whom – idiots?) and still the talk of China being ‘back on course’ gets blown off course every time data emerges from Beijing….a deceleration rate of 5.2% YOY being the latest one last Friday.

Look around at the overall situation and think: until very recently we had a situation where people were paying governments to borrow money off them. Banks are still offering ‘savers’ virtually no interest on their savings. There isn’t a Western economy booming anywhere: not one. But not a single Western bourse is reflecting that fact: not one. Every week another lunatic (usually German) insists that the eurozone is turning the corner. No it isn’t: it’s in the ER room with severe brain damage being kept alive by experimental drugs.

A 2% rise in interest rates – just 2% people – would move US debt management expenditure from 2 in 5 of all tax dollars to $2.50. In 1976, the UK’s deficit to gdp ratio was 6%…but we had to call in the IMF to avoid insolvency – because interest rates were a staggering 14.25% average during the year.

The latest UK projected deficit in 2015 is 4.8%. BUT that’s with near-zero interest rates. Just a rise of 1.5% would would take our deficit higher than it was when we nearly went bust under Labour. An even remotely normal level at 4% would double it. At that point, bond yields would go into orbit around Saturn.

When the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the national debt was £900bn. It’s closer to £1.6trillion today…80% higher in five years.

No matter what any politician tries to tell you, our current woefully negative trading account means that the UK National Debt is as unrepayable as that of Greece. The big difference being that we have far, far more to lose than they do.

There is no way further spending cuts can have any effect on that, because the welfare and health bills for government aren’t the real problem. The real problem is an unreformed economy ludicrously overdependent on financial services, and a Conservative administration with almost no commercial experience in its ranks to switch to high-margin manufacturing and retraining of the workforce to make stuff.

The money saved by Osborne was a minute part of even the deficit reduction. In relation to the debt, the best analogy I can offer you is that more expenditure cuts now would be like putting one pipette into the Pacific in an effort to stem rising sea levels. The idea that austerity on the one hand is part of the cure for long-term British commercial and business failure is obscenely infantile.

The Conservatives know this, but don’t know what to do except take away our right to resist. The Labour Party doesn’t even understand it in the first place. Nigel Farage probably gave up on this piece after paragraph six. And Nicola Sturgeon cares not for any of it just so long as she gets independence for the Scots.

That is the depth of our political crisis in 2015. Only a drastic change in socio-economic culture, education and our Constitutional processes can even begin to change it.

Exposing the Euro Clowns

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on April 10, 2015

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EXPOSED: The reason why none of us can be sure what’s going on in the EU v Greece yawn

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When there is only cacophony, nobody can follow the tune

I’ve posted many times before about why a neolib minority constantly dissembles to confuse: there is so little ‘truth’ behind their ridiculous socio-economic and fiscal theories, they have no choice but to do what they do.

The same thing applies to the European Union, the ideas behind which – non-sovereign federalisation and yet a single currency ambition – make no anthropological, banking, libertarian or Bond market sense at all.

But there is another reason why second-guessing what comes next in the EU has been an impossible task in recent years: the people allegedly running it (another Slog hobby-horse this) are split along several crucial dimensions. So apart from the banking lies and the let’s-rewrite-history school of mogul-lapdog tabloid journalism, we have this factor added to the witch’s brew: if they don’t know what’s going to happen next, how the hell are we supposed to speculate with any accuracy?

We are now, little by little, beginning to see the odd glimpse of holey stocking beneath the holy, long skirts of sanctimony pumped out by the various power points in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris and Brussels. Even better, we can catch these glimpses…..and view them alongside what the BSDs – preparing for what they think is to come – put out their agenda in the media they own and/or influence.

This morning offers a classic example of this. The Americo-Austropathicus threat Rupert Murdoch puts out this version of the immediate future in his Times newspaper this morning:

‘….Eurozone countries are secretly drawing up plans to expel Greece from the European Union’s single currency as they prepare for the country to be declared bankrupt next month.

A memo drawn up by the finance ministry in Finland, which is closely allied to Germany, has revealed preparations for a Greek exit from the euro.

The document warns of “very difficult political decisions” this spring amid predictions that Greece will be bankrupt next month unless the eurozone agrees the next tranche of aid for it within the next three weeks.

Greece has been given until next Friday to come up with…..’

Here the message ends, the rest of it hidden behind Roop’s paywall – which continues not to get many people paying to climb over the wall. This is slightly different to the Telegraph, where the Barclay Twins peddle their corporate bias completely free, but both readers and journos are climbing a Berlin Wall in a desperate bid to get out.

But the tone is clear: Greece is a disaster area, they’re all scrounging mongrels, so like dogs they shall be kicked out of the house. Except of course this can’t happen legally without treaty change….so here we see more Turdcock readying the ground for something illegal that will be accepted by the Sleeple because they, er, read it in a quality newspaper recently or something and what should we download from Netflix tonight?

Here, Murdoch is doing the will of ECB boss Mario Draghi….because he agrees with what Mario and the Goldin Sacks lads see as the future.

But this is just one power centre. Wolf Street pointed out yesterday in another smart piece that the Jean-Claude Drunker view of the world is quite different, because he leads the EC – an unelected bedlam of corruption which is seeing its power rapidly eroded by the ECB and Berlin, plus the odd Weidbombe thrown in by Frankfurt.

This time, the road being followed conjures up an entirely different future…one in which the FuhrerJuncker’s Luxembourg will be left alone to pull every tax-evading bank stunt in the book, but those in the commercial sector will be asked to return to some vague version of recognised value.

We’ve been here before, but the subhead is ‘Clubmed banks no longer able to disguise loan made in 2002 to Tartan Paint Co Venezuela sa as an asset’. This is going to cause all kinds of mayhem in Greece, Italy, Portugal and especially Spain – where the practice has been used to suggest the banks are still solvent, when of course we all know they’re broke.

More importantly, although the ECB pays lip-service to reforming ezone banking accountancy, the EC policy will put it on a collision course with Mario Draghi.

But we don’t want to leave it like that, good God no – get a grip dear reader: this is the EU, where disaster must be meticulously planned to ensure that it moves from probable outcome to racing certainty.

And so we move on to Wolfgang Schauble the Secret Wheelchair Weapon…and Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank’s Big Banana. While they share the ECB-Eurogroupe-Troika’s general approach – “Let’s blame Greece and show the markets we’re safe” – the Dutch Donkey Dijessilbloem is hated by the ECB because he’s a threat to their power….and despised by Weidmann as a fiscal lightweight. Dieselboom also has a tendency to blab, a trait which doesn’t endear him to Wolfie.

Where the two Germans chiefly differ from the rest of the pack is that they believe in fiscal and currency discipline – and of course, the ulltimate right of Berlin to run the Fiskalunion. Also their heads are stuck in 1923.

Two days ago, Weidmann went public again to say he did not think Greece should issue any more Treasury Bills – to help stave off the bankruptcy forced upon Greece by a Berlin-exaggerated problem and a Wall Street/Troika inspired infinite slavery repayment ‘programme’ – and he did not think QE was necessary. In short, real monetarism rules, OK.

I’m sorry to labour this point, but these are thus the three ‘strategies’ being proposed by ‘A United Europe’:

1. Greece should be kicked out (ECB)

2. Banks should be telling the truth about their balance sheet fraud (EC)

3. We should stop QE now and get Greece back in the programme at all costs (Germany)

Now, what we are not going to get is a debate followed by a decision, because this is The Fourth Reich, and we don’t do discussion…we do divide and rule. Also we have a crypto-Queen in Berlin who never makes any decisions until one eventuality or another is crystal clear. (The real sign to watch for is Frau Doktor Merkel moving her Chancellery fridge down into the bunker. Or Moscow. Or Frankfurt. Or Washington. Those wanting to have it all must “get on their bikes”).

What we will get is all three being followed at the same time. And this must involve a continuing QE blast alongside Greek forced exit from the eurozone (breaking the Lisbon Treaty on at least five counts) but still in the EU plus a contagion outwards towards Italy and Spain accelerated by the EC’s search for Beyond Basel III to come into force plus the German financial and fiscal power centres trying to effect the exact opposite on all fronts.

There are thus in turn three potential (ie, realistic) outcomes:

1. Chaos

2. Draghi & the Eurogroup cut off the EC’s balls, leaving Juncker as a very loose but fully-loaded cannon, and with a very high voice.

3. Merkel sides with the 1923 Tendency, and leaves the eurozone.

Many other related events will of course follow – and the above trio of troubles aren’t mutually exclusive. But my view remains the same as it was by the end of 2010: the euro is dead, and the EU is eating itself. Only Mario Draghi launching a putsch to get himself declared Supreme Emperor of Europe could stop the process.

That isn’t going to happen. Draghi’s view of chaos is “bring it on”….because down that road lies US domination of all european transactions. For in this, the epoch of Western decline, that is what the Looney Tunes on Wall Street, inside the State Department/CIA axis and in Texas want.

The bottom line: anything could happen, and nothing will change on the road to global corporatocracy.

Yet.

But eventually, top-down will collapse…as all flawed administrative processes do. And after the chaos, things will very slowly get better.

I end where I started. With too many factions wanting different things from the Greece deadlock – external and internal – the reason no clear interpretation of outcome is possible swings on the surreal 3D hinge of there being no united Sovereign, and little or no commonality of aims between the factions.

How Goes the War?

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 16, 2015

Oh, you didn’t notice that World War Three is underway, actually has been for more than year? Well, that’s because most of it has been taking place in the banking sector, which for most people is just an alternative universe of math. The catch, which many people either miss or don’t care about, is that the math doesn’t add up.

For instance, the runaway choo-choo train of linked European sovereign bond obligations with its overloaded caboose of interest rate swaps and other janky derivatives of mass destruction. That train left the station in Athens a few weeks ago bound for Frankfurt. Ever since, the German government and its cohorts in the EU, the ECB, and the IMF have been issuing reassurances that the choo choo train will not blow up when it reaches its destination.

Few people grok that Greece is an entity with an economy not much bigger than North Carolina’s, yet it is burdened with roughly $350 billion of old debt that will never be paid back. The only thing at issue is how it will not be paid back, that is, what mode of pretense will be employed to disguise the inability to pay back this debt. The mode du jour has been the crude one of lending Greece more money to pay back the interest on the old debt. A seven-year-old ought to be able to understand where that leads.

It’s kind of up to the Greeks this week to possibly opt out of that farcical deal. They have at least two other present options: return to being a sunwashed semi-medieval backwater of olive farmers, shepherds, and inn-keepers, or perhaps lease out some cozy corner of their vast Mediterranean coastline to the Russian navy for enough annual walking-around money to keep the lights on for the aforementioned farmers, shepherds, and inn-keepers. Of course, that would drive the US and its NATO quislings batshit crazy.

We’ve already got our knickers in a twist over Ukraine, a so-called nation whose highest and best purpose over the millennia has been as a sort of lethal doormat in front of Russia, leaving adventurers like Napoleon and Hitler bleeding in the snow as they crawled back to their nations of origin. In short, Ukraine has worked so well for Russia that we must be insane to imagine that it would give up that traditional relationship. Yet the US and NATO persist in their foolishness and attempt to back up their Kievan intrigues with financial “sanctions” against Russia.

Russia is doing what it has always done in the face of adversity, which is to suck it up. And, anyway, these western financial monkeyshines don’t hold a candle to ordeals like the siege of Stalingrad. What’s more, the Russians, despite their peculiar alphabet and thuggish demeanor, are at least as clever with computers as our code jockeys. We (in the USA) think just because we’ve made it possible for everyman to drool over Kim Kardashian’s booty on an iPhone screen that we have some kind of immunity against cyber counter-attack from way out east.

It seems to me that Russia (with China and others) is very busy constructing an alternate financial network that will allow for international money transfers and other necessities for conducting normal trade operations, outside of systems like the SWIFT code, which the US has been using as a knout against our imagined enemies. The upshot will leave America high and dry in a lot of what remains of international trade, especially in oil.

Meanwhile we continue to tell ourselves the false and idiotic story of “energy independence,” based on the shale oil Ponzi scheme that blew up last fall — the consequences of which won’t really be felt for about another eight months, when all those wells drilled and fracked in 2013-14, start to fall off their production cliff, and the replacement wells will not have been drilled. We’re still importing almost 8 million barrels of oil a day, contrary to all the fairy tales we tell ourselves. What happens when the sellers decide they won’t take US dollars for it? Hmmmm….

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Troika Trojan horse: Will Syriza capitulate in Greece?

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Greek-Debt-Mess

Originally published in Russia Today on February 6, 2015

The 2015 Greek tragedy is a sorry (financial) remix of the Trojan War. But now the troika (ECB, EC, IMF) has replaced Greece, and Greece is the new Troy.

It is now crystal clear the ECB will pull no punches to turn Greece into a European failed state. The rationale: others – from Spain to even, in the near future, France – must not entertain funny ideas. Toe the austerity line, or we’ll get medieval on you.

It was so predictable that the destiny of Athens – and in fact the euro – would ultimately rest in the hands of ECB Governor Mario ‘Master of the Universe’ Draghi, purveyor of the latest QE which in thesis will grant an austerity-ravaged Europe a little extra time to pursue ‘reforms’.

Some background is essential. The troika sold Greece an economic racket, but it’s the Greek people that are paying the price. Essentially, Greece’s public debt went from private to public hands when the ECB and the IMF ‘rescued’ private (German, French, Spanish) banks. The debt, of course, ballooned. The troika intervened, not to save Greece, but to save private banking.

The ECB bought public debt from private banks for a fortune, because the ECB could not buy public debt directly from the Greek state. The icing on this layer cake is that private banks had found the cash to buy Greece’s public debt exactly from…the ECB, profiting from ultra-friendly interest rates. This is outright theft. And it’s the thieves that have been setting the rules of the game all along.

Where’s our money?

The result is that Athens is now broke. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis at least embarked on his European tour with a sound proposal; the ECB could move €1.9 billion of profit on the back of Greek bonds; and then release other €10 billion in short-term state obligations, as well as open an emergency line to banks. From the beginning, the key point for Varoufakis was to open the way to renegotiate the €240 billion of the troika ‘rescue’ plan.

ECB hawks – as in Errki Liikanen from Finland – barred these options from the outset, insisting that without a comprehensive agreement, as in total Greek surrender, not a single euro will go to Athens.

What a drag for Prime Minister Tsipras and for Varoufakis – to embark on an European tour as supplicant beggars facing a sterling collection of silky mobsters, including EC president Jean-Claude Juncker and president of the European Council, warmonger Donald Tusk.

Next week there may be an extraordinary meeting of the Eurogroup, ahead of a sparks-will-fly European summit in Brussels on February 12.

The bottom line: it does not look good.

Varoufakis tried to put a brave face, continuing to rule out a Grexit as “hugely detrimental to Greece.”More detrimental would be in fact the Syriza party totally capitulating to the neoliberal Masters of the Universe. This will ensure Greek depression will go on forever. And yes, eventually, the fascist Golden Dawn may accede to power.

Varoufakis, in his press conference with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble in Berlin, even as he agreed with 67 percent of the current ‘plan’, stressed – soundly – it does not tackle the excesses of corruption and rent-seeking in Greece; and everything is all about debt repayments, not putting the Greek economy back into shape.

For his part, Schauble, predictably, issued a thinly veiled threat of an “uncertain future” without a bailout program. Schauble’s now famous “we agree to disagree” was in fact hardball enveloped in velvet.

There is no evidence as it stands that a complex negotiation of at least a few months will ensue, as Athens tries to restructure how to deal with the troika. The ECB is now tacitly playing the game that Greece is essentially doomed. Ergo, the ECB is voting down Syriza, and actually supporting fascist Golden Dawn. That’s central bank ‘democracy’ for you.

Bomb Frankfurt, anyone?

So in the end it breaks down to this; without ECB cash – at least some cash by the end of the month – Greece risks going back to the drachma without even firing a shot. And yet that’s exactly what legions across Europe are absolutely rooting for. In parallel, no wonder – from Lisbon to Rome – rumblings multiply that if the ECB would have done that to a relatively well weaponized nation, the tanks would be out in the streets (but to do what? Bomb Frankfurt?)

Varoufakis insists, “One thing we will not do is capitulate.” That would translate, essentially, into a Greek default. We’re not there – yet. In the very short term, Draghi also knows that were Athens to get some of the cash it needs short term, there would be war against the Bundesbank. It won’t happen; the ECB and the Bundesbank are partners in crime.

Once again; both the ECB and the Bundesbank came to the conclusion there is no risk of contagion even with a Grexit. So the ‘strategy’ won’t wobble; crush Greece and all’s well that ends well – as in the troika’s terminator economics trampling whole countries underfoot.

Beware of Masters of the Universe dispensing smiles. Draghi and the Zegna-clad ECB goons may dispense all the smiles in the world, but what they are graphically demonstrating once again is how toxic central banking is now enshrined as a mortal enemy of democracy.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

CRASH2: the roadsigns become so frequent, people can’t see them for looking

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on August 29, 2014

wileycoyote1

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

  THIS WAY TO THE CRASH

https://hat4uk.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/crash.pngDespite a consensus expecting US disposable income to grow by 0.2% in July, it fell by 0.1% – for the first time in six months. Having endured the jobless recovery, it looks like Americans might now be in for the cashless recovery.

In Russia, the economy is rapidly weakening: inflation is high, the ruble is weak, interest rates are climbing, and disposable incomes have dropped.

Eurozone inflation fell to its lowest level since November 2009 this August, as analysts warned that price growth in the currency bloc is “worryingly low”. “This is yet another bad indicator of the health of the eurozone economy”, said Luke Bartholomew, of Aberdeen Asset Management. Give that man a kupee doll.

Meanwhile, Italy – the country long targeted by The Slog as the real European basket case – saw its consumer prices drop by the most since records began. It’s the eurozone’s third-largest economy…and so firmly entrenched in recession, prices fell at twice the expected rate.

In the UK, retail behemoth Tesco has issued another profit warning, and its intention to slash the dividend by 75%. That’s a very big number indeed, and the company’s bland statement blaming “challenging” trading conditions cannot hide the reality: Tesco is losing out bigtime to the bottom-rung discounters, particularly Lidl. Every Lidl helps, as they say….but this sort of share loss and growth doesn’t happen during an economic recovery.

Neither does a stalled housing market. It is quickly becoming clear that, despite British Chancellor George Osborne’s Help to Buy scam, UK house prices have stagnated: more than normal numbers of sales are falling through due to nervous buyers in the residential property market. UK values edged up by just 0.1% from July to August for the second month in a row. Vendors in England and Wales got around 96% of their asking price in August – a third fall: if that level drops to 94%, sector analysts say price drops will accelerate.

Global manufacturing output continues to engage reverse gear, as a result of which mining giants are staring at a $US30bn slump in revenue during the next 12 months. The price of iron ore has collapsed some 36% during 2014.

Even those famous O’Neill Brics are somewhat out of true. The Brazilian economy was this afternoon declared officially to be in recession – something of a bummer for Dilma Rousseff’s re-election bid.

Before these latest developments, dear Reader, you heard that German gdp shrank by 0.2%, the French economy flatlined for the second quarter running, in China an spectrum of indicators suggested faltering growth, and falling energy demand was beginning to make the Russian economy look not so much sick as poorly.

And how, pray, have the markets, bourses and other misleading outcomes reacted?

The Dow Jones was flat. The FTSE was up 0.2%. The French CAC 40 edged 0.34% higher. The Australian S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.08% to 5,629. The European Euro Stoxx 50 added 0.42%. The German DAX rose 0.22%

They’re coming to take us away haha/ They’re coming to take us away/To the funny farm/Where life is beautiful all the time

Great stuff, Ward: 6.30 pm BST on a Friday is the perfect aperture for this kind of bad news. Ed

Earlier at The Slog: All aboard for the Trojan Horse to BUPA

Gold, Greed & Global Collapse

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on April 13, 2013

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

GOLD, GREED & GLOBAL COLLAPSE: who benefitted most from yesterday’s spectacular fall

goldfall13413

What you see above isn’t just the tale of a horrendous day for gold – it fell $88, or just over 4%, in a day – it is the record of a fall that steepened the minute New York opened, twice tried (and failed) to rally, and yet managed to do all this on a day when the vast majority of fundamentals should’ve been pushing the price up, not down.

The one exception to this was the Troika demand on Thursday that Cyprus sell its gold to help pay off debt. I have two observations to make about that: one, why do that to Cyprus now and not to anyone else before? And two, on paper it didn’t look like the sort of volume to start a gold freefall.

This is a murky business, so we need to consider it from all sensible angles.

The fundamentals

The US is degrading and diluting its currency, the UK’s austerity strategy is falling apart, the EU economy is flatlining, and Russia is massively overdependent on energy sales in a world where the outlook for energy consumption is awful: indeed, only the coldest european Spring for decades has enabled it to maintain any kind of momentum.

China’s slowdown now looks inevitable given the atrocious consumption outlook outside its borders, and US economic nerves tightened yesterday when the IMF cut its growth forecast for the year from 2% to 1.7%, alongside official figures confirming a 0.4% slump in retail sales in March – the biggest fall since last July. Factory output in the EU declined, and the north-south imbalance worsened as Slovenia edged towards the centre of the debt radar. Italy’s output fell by a disastrous 8%, and Portugal’s constitutional Court has rejected the Troika’s bailout plan. 41% of Germans no longer believe their banked money is safe.

The myth of Obama’s ‘recovery’ long ridiculed here is now clearly seen for the lie it was. The Cyprus ‘bailin’ has caused massive leakage of capital from the eurozone. The Troika’s Athens talks are acrimonious and stalled.

Every last indicator last week suggested a turning tide for gold as a hedge against currency devaluation, and as an asset which – even if it fell in value medium term – would be better than worthless paper. But that wasn’t the market mood, and it wasn’t what happened. To call that strange is like referring to the Krakatoa eruption as a small bang: worldwide gold demand in 2012 was another record high of $236.4 billion in the World Gold Council’s latest report. This was up 6% in value terms in the fourth quarter to $66.2 billion – the highest fourth quarter ever and real volume demand in the fourth quarter of 2012 was up 4% to 1,195.9 tonnes.

So who were the suspects behind what, I’m fairly sure this morning, was a massive fix?

The manipulation clues

The central banks bought gold at a rate ahead of market growth last year – which means their share of it grew.

Central bank buying for 2012 rose by 17% over 2011 to some 534.6 tonnes – the highest level since 1964. Central bank purchases stood at 145 tonnes in the fourth quarter – up 9% from the comparable period in 2011. Central banks have now been net purchasers of gold for eight consecutive quarters. This despite the non-stop stream of CB spin about there being no money-printing or inflation to get concerned about. Fancy that.

Did anything else make sense of this strategic decision by the Draghulas? Spookily enough it did. Last year, Basel III moved the goalposts on gold’s risk score, moving gold from tier 3 to quasi tier 1 status. Gold thus became “zero percent risk-weighted” in terms of credit risk – a whopping upgrade for the shiny metal. But to buy lots of it (and thus reduce risk-panic among investors) one needs the price to go down.

And guess what? Despite that massive Central Bank buying splurge since late 2010, gold has hovered and wobbled, been weak in its challenging of top prices – and persistent in challenging lows. Or put another way, the exact opposite of what the first rule of Supply and Demand dictates. My oh my.

The Guardian this morning ran a truly daft piece saying that ‘gold fell to its lowest level in more than 18 months on Friday night amid fears that sales of the precious metal forced on Cyprus by its desperate financial plight would lead to wholesale dumping by hard-pressed countries in the coming months’. Pardon me Gruauniad, but “Bollocks”. The sum total of Cypriot selling required is €400m tops. That is a flea-bite on the ankle of the gold sector.

More pertinent, perhaps, is that the Cyprus sale (1) enabled the CBs to buy still more of it, and (2) provides an excuse for the price fall that naifs might accept at face value.

Other potential culprits are also implicated. During January 2013, the COMEX gold futures platform pushed expectations for the price up by 8.3%. One wonders who pushed it in that direction, and why. What’s more, over the last 90 days without any announcement, stocks of gold held at Comex warehouses plunged by the largest figure ever on record. JP Morgan Chase’s reported gold stockpile dropped by over 1.2 million ouncesa staggering $1.8 billion dollars worth of physical gold in just 120 days. The owners involved took their metal offsite, and it’s no longer stored in Comex warehouses…did they do so from a lack of trust? Or did they know something we didn’t?

Then there’s the chance that the Fed itself was trying to reduce its cost of returning gold:  Germany’s Bundesbank recently announced it would be moving a major portion of its reserves from the US and all of its reserves from France back to Frankfurt. Nearly half of Germany’s gold reserves are held in a vault at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Nice way to reduce loss of face on safe assets if you work for Washington.

Is there a bottom line here?

There is, but I don’t think one can see the exact nature of it just yet. What seems to me clear, however, is that this was a fix….and Cyprus was a cover story for it, not the reason why.

On balance, it feels to me like some leaking, some massaging, and some reduction in the cost of global looting. But whatever: next week is indeed going to be interesting.

 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The monthly averaged data time series of temperatures and rainfall without interruption of Conakry A [...]

The Himalayas are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, as it consequently increases [...]

Spatial hydroclimatic variability of Eastern North America’s Allegheny Mountain System (AMS) i [...]

Climate change mitigation targets have put pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of cultural herit [...]