Troika

My question to Christine Lagarde, Eurogroup 25th June 2015

Off the keyboard of Yanis Varoufakis

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Published on Yanis Varoufakis Blog on August 17, 2015

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Greece’s Third MoU (Memorandum of Understading) annotated by Yanis Varoufakis

The Third Greek MoU is now enshrined in Greek Law. Written in troika-speak it is almost impossible to decypher by those not speaking this unappetising language. Click here for the complete MoU text annotated liberally by yours truly – in pdf form. It is best read in conjunction with my annotated version of the EuroSummit Agreement of 12th July.

My question to Christine Lagarde, Eurogroup 25th June 2015 – as narrated by Landon Thomas in the NYT

yanis-varoufakisDuring the 25th June 2015 Eurogroup, the institutions presented me, in the form of an effective utlimatum, with a comprehensive staff level agreement and funding plan (which I considered financially non-viable). It was the deal that Prime Minister Tsipras decided, on the following day, to put to the Greek people in the form of the now infamous referendum. During that Eurogroup meeting, I posed a question to Christine Lagarde: “Is it the view of the IMF that Greece’s debt is sustainable under the proposed agreement?” Ms Lagarde, when her turn came to speak, tried to skrt the issue but, in the end, conceded that Greece’s public debt “had to be looked at again”. At that point, the Eurogroup President Dijsselbloem interrupted the proceedings and addressed me with the express threat that, if the Greek government insisted on discussing a debt restructure, there would be no deal. I shall have a lot more to say on this and related matters in due course. For now, here is how Landon Thomas Jr narrates this story in his recent NYT piece.

 

For Landon’s complete article click here. Relevant extracts are copied below

In January of this year, the anti-austerity party of Alexis Tspiras came to power. By April, negotiations over debt repayment had stalled, the government was hemorrhaging cash, and the economy was at a standstill.

On Easter Sunday, Yanis Varoufakis, who had become Greece’s finance minister, flew to Washington to meet with Mr. Thomsen and Christine Lagarde, who became the I.M.F.’s chief in late 2013, and threatened to stop payment on more than a billion dollars in loans that were soon coming due.

Relations between fund officials and the Greeks had reached their nadir. Mr. Tsipras said that the fund had “criminal responsibility” for the crisis, and Mr. Varoufakis was telling people that Mr. Thomsen’s work in Greece would go down in history as the I.M.F.’s greatest failure.

Yet having run the numbers, the fund now accepted the central argument being made by Mr. Varoufakis: Greece was bankrupt and needed debt relief from Europe to survive.

The fund was also feeling the pressure from the non-European members of its board who questioned the huge commitment to Greece (currently about $15 billion) relative to the small size of its economy.

Ms. Lagarde and David Lipton, her top deputy, became more insistent, pressing European nations that economic reforms alone were not enough and that a debt restructuring would be needed as well.

In late April, Mr. Thomsen took up the issue once more at a critical meeting of European finance ministers in Riga, Latvia.

Two months later, Ms. Lagarde found herself at the Brussels meeting of European finance ministers, with the country’s future in the eurozone hanging in the balance.

The Europeans were pressuring Mr. Varoufakis to agree to an austerity-loaded debt deal that he was resisting.

I have a question for Christine, he said. Can the I.M.F. formally state in this meeting that this proposal we are being asked to sign will make the Greek debt sustainable?

She could not. And when Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister and lead negotiator for Europe, cut off all discussion of debt relief, the die was cast.

Back at I.M.F. headquarters in Washington, the decision was unanimous: It would go public with its assessment that Greece’s debt situation was hopeless.

‘Old Wine in a New Bottle’

The 19 countries of the euro area make up the I.M.F.’s largest shareholder base, but as the world’s financial watchdog, the fund also represents 169 other nations.

If the I.M.F. wants to be seen as an international, as opposed to a European, monetary fund, it must prove that it can speak with an independent voice. And if that means arguing that Europe, its senior partner in these talks, needs to take a loss on its loans — well, so be it.

Many have commended the fund for going public with its views. But the release of its debt reports has not yet had any practical effect.

The latest bailout is heavy on austerity measures like privatization of power companies and seaports, reduced pensions and tax increases in shipping and tourism, and says nothing about debt relief.

“This is old wine in a new bottle,” said Meghan E. Greene, chief economist at Manulife in Boston. “I see very little chance that the bailout will succeed — it’s too much like the other ones.”

Would it have made a difference if the fund had officially broken with Europe in the spring, when it began to conclude that the Greek debt had become unmanageable?

Probably not, says Susan Schadler, a former I.M.F. economist and author of a widely read paper on the fund’s Greece saga.

But she argues that by not forcing creditors to take a loss back in 2010, the pain has been borne almost exclusively by the Greeks themselves, and not by bond investors.

“The fund should have pushed for a restructuring then,” she said. “That, after all, is its job — to assess the risks and say whether or not the debt is sustainable.”

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.

Slog Tri-fecta

Off the Keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 27-28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the End of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…………………………..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memo to Varoufakis

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 26, 2015

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Memo to Varoufakis: Game theory is fine, but this isn’t a game.

Yanis Varoufakis was caught in the headlights last Friday: he should stop denying it

https://hat4uk.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/varoufheadlinghts.pngThe anti-‘deal’ leaks from the ECB, Berlin, the IMF and Brussels have been in full flow since Tuesday evening. It’s all terribly predictable: a clever process of suggesting that – purely out the goodness of their hearts – Troika2 is going to cut Greece some slack….even though T2 has – to tot up the list to date – ‘grave doubts’, ‘major reservations’, ‘worries about the lack of detail’, and ‘concerns about achievability’. There is slack rope, and there is enough rope to hang oneself.

The stench of hypocrisy in all this is vomit-inducing: Greece is being set up to fail, and in the meantime the ECB will continue its covert policy of creating bank cash-flow problems…ensuring that Syriza comes across as a Skid Row lush dependent upon never-ending welfare.

From Yanis Varoufakis, the Master of Game Theory, there has been little since the sign-off beyond rationalisation. In an interview with the Irish Times’s Damian Mac Con Uladh today, Mr Varoufakis gives us:

“Good compromises don’t always satisfy everyone, and leave in a sense everyone somewhat dissatisfied. But the mandate from our party, our government and my prime minister was very straightforward. To get a deal done. So, compromise. The question is if we have compromised our basic principle. And the answer is a big, fat no….Our mandate was to struggle against this black and white, this either/or, and to create a third way….It’s a triumph for democracy and marks the end of automated austerity….Anything is better than confining us to an austerity hole where we shrink every day.”

Compare and contrast that entirely reasonable attitude with this BBC interview on February 3rd:

“”Europe in its infinite wisdom decided to deal with this bankruptcy by loading the largest loan in human history on the weakest of shoulders… What we’ve been having ever since is a kind of fiscal waterboarding that has turned this nation into a debt colony….[the Troika is] a committee built on rotten foundations…Greek democracy has chosen to stop going gently into the night. Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light….We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built for decade after decade a system, a network that viciously sucks the energy and the economic power from everybody else in society.”

I’m being ironic: I vastly prefer the second (earlier) Varoufakis to the new relaunch. Today’s Irish Times interview shows Damian Mac Con Uladh giving Yanis an unbelievable easy ride on the subject of a fat, hairy mammoth in the room: the now well-documented way in which the Greek Finance Minister was ambushed by the Euromafia at 4.30 pm last Friday.

I recognise perfectly well that I’m breaking from the optimist pack, but then I do understand the sociopathy of that Mafia better than most Greeks. To be blunt, I think Varoufakis underestimated it; and last Friday, the breathtaking, bullying illegality of their input caught him napping.

I do not believe Syriza has bought time, I think it has sold principles. I’m sure Yanis knows all the tricks of Game Theory, but this is not a game. He is dealing with (as are we all sooner or later) a nasty and yet hopelessly splintered EU oligarchy of far greater venom than any existing in Greece. The division on the opposing side is what he missed.

It’s easy to define, and even easier to evidence: the Germans are fed up of the French, and losing faith in the Americans. That’s a very serious split, because the man with the most unaccountable power in the eurozone is Mario Draghi….who works for Wall Street. The French, meanwhile, bitterly resent the idea that a nasty piece of work like Wolfgang Schäuble will be eyeballing them during March…and if and when FiskalUnion ever comes to pass, telling them what they can and can’t spend 24/7. The idea that Paris has the remotest desire to acquiesce in that arrangement is ridiculous. Apart from anything else, it would hand millions of votes to both Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage.

On top of that we have a general trend in Southern Europe towards euroscepticism: the continuing growth of Podemos in Spain, and europhobic Berlusconi attitudes in Italy. These can only be encouraged by a flat refusal by Greece to deal with the idiots who caused the problem in the first place.

This is the perspective from Syriza that I find flawed: the much bigger picture. Last week, Varoufakis focused on it, and then lost the plot on Friday. He was a refusenik, but now he’s a pragmatist.

The post I wrote earlier this week laying out the story behind this was taken down by the Blue Meanies. I am therefore eternally grateful to the half-dozen Sloggers who still had it open and used page capture to return the piece to its rightful owner. It is reproduced below for anyone who missed it first time around.

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GREECE CRISIS OPINION: TROIKA RISES FROM THE DEAD AS DRAGHI LEADS THE CHARGE, AND VAROUFAKIS EMPLOYS BRAVE FACE

Conflicting rumours surround the Syriza reform programme approval process tonight, but whatever emerges from this farcical trading of angels on a pinhead, I’m increasingly concerned as details of the humiliation process programme ‘deal’ accepted by Yanis Varoufakis last Friday come to light. I don’t actually think the five-point italic hand-tying target codicils matter a damn to be honest, because they’re all unachievable anyway.

Far more relevant is what EC behaviour has been found acceptable to the Greek Government.

Did you know, for instance, that both the Gang of Four revisions, the Friday ambush, and the ELA threats/leaks to Greek banks were driven by Draghi?

Did you know that – in a direct sideswipe at rehiring Ministerial cleaners – there is a blanket ban under the agreement on any more public sector hiring?

Did you know that, just to rub in really hard that how they think the Greeks shit on their shoes, eurogroup told Varoufakis Friday that they were “handing over the judgement process to the organisation formally known as the Troika” – Draghi’s exact words. This was a direct hit on Syriza’s refusal to deal with the Troika. “Eurogroup will leave the details to this institution, who will present their view to eurogroup” he added.

Varafoukakis told CNN this evening that it was eurogroup who wanted more time to think, not the Troika. That is very, very economical with the truth – and not how other Syriza officials see it. The Troika has made it clear to eurogroup there are things they don’t like. As Naked Capitalism reported yesterday, ‘The Greek government is required to submit a list of reforms to the Troika by the end of day Monday. If it is not approved, the Eurogroup will meet on Tuesday.’

Guess what? Earlier this evening, Greek Channel NERIT announced that the eurogroup has asked Greece to submit a revised reforms list for its meeting Tuesday morning. The Guardian carries the same story.

I’m sorry, but at the minute Yanis Varoufakis isn’t coming out of this very well. For now, I support him to the hilt: but he is either going to resist the EC/ECB/creditors Troika or he isn’t. I know perfectly well that there are many among Athenian opinion-leaders who disagree with me about this. So perhaps – to illustrate the point – I might be allowed to relate an infamous Churchillian anecdote.

In the mid 1920s, WSC found himself seated next to a lady of liberal leanings at supper. Glad to have this arch anti-Communist to herself, the socialite took him to task about strike breaking, dissembling newspaper articles about the working class, and several other genuinely unpleasant dimensions of Churchill’s curate’s egg of a personality.

As ever when in the presence of what he regarded as uppity suffragettes, Winston was cutting and dismissive, telling the woman she should stick to worrying about her children and suitable marriages for her daughters – while remaining grateful for the fact that Britain had unwisely given her the vote.

“Mr Churchill,” said the shocked supper companion, “If I were married to you, I would put poison in your wine”.

“Madam,” Churchill lisped, “if I were married to you, I would drink it”.

Think of this as the “Drop dead” period of Syriza/EU insult exchanging immediately following the election.

Back in 1927, this not entirely auspicious exchange rapidly deteriorated, such that by the time pudding arrived, the lady concerned had reached the end of whatever short tether she possessed.

“Mr Churchill,” she said loudly, “You are the last person in the world I would ever marry”.

“Madam,” WSC responded, “A small part of marriage involves procreation in the bedroom. In order to show you what my real intentions are, under what circumstance would you consent to sleep with me?” The mortified woman hesitated, and then replied.

“There is no amount of money on Earth that would so persuade me”.

“Not even,” asked Winston, “£10 million?”. She laughed out loud.

“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s more than the Poor Relief budget. No woman is worth that”.

“Very well then,” said the future war leader, “Shall we say £500?”

“That is an insult,” she responded, “what do you take me for – a common prostitute?”

“Madam,” said Winston Churchill, “We have already established your profession. At this stage, we are merely haggling about the price”.

Fast forward to 2015: that’s what has been going on since Friday afternoon between Syriza and the Troika.

I don’t buy the “lose the battle, win the war” argument. While the Troika, Wall Street, US economic colonisation, EU fascism and banking sociopathy are indeed the enemy, this is a peace time exchange, not all-out war – yet. A strategic retreat is one thing: preparedness to cling to the driftwood of credibility is merely appeasement.

I’m now informed – in the last twenty minutes by a well-placed Syriza source – that fully eight Greek Cabinet members are opposed to acceptance of the deal. For myself, I feel cheated and made to look stupid by the hidden facts and cynical spin that followed Friday’s little re-enactment of the 1938 Munich crisis. But my feelings don’t matter a jot: let  The Slog’s Saturday post stand as a testament to rushed judgement. More to the point is the reality that an opportunity to call the Troika bluff has been blown.

If Yanis Varoufakis wants to regain his dignity – and keep Syriza together – he needs to think very carefully about what Prime Minister Tsipras should be asked to accept tomorrow…and then sell to his Party. For what will it benefit a man if he buys time, yet sells his soul?

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Great Grexit Goon Game

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 22, 2015

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As of Friday, for all intents & purposes is seemed as though the new Syriza Goobermint of Greece Kapitulated to the the Krauts, continuing onward with the Bailout regime established by the Troika, although with a face saving caveat that they are supposedly going to renegotiate points over the next 4 months.

That isn’t a bad plan, they do need time to figure out exactly WTF they will do once completely cut off from the Western Baking system, all their local banks FAIL, and they have zero money worth anything to pay their goobermint workers with.

The problem of course here is that they went in with a very Hard line and a Mandate from the electorate NOT to continue onward with the bailout regime under any cirucmstances, and to throw off the Debt Slavery Choke hold held on them by the Krauts. When push came to shove, the Academic Marxists running the Syriza show just could not do that. Why NOT?

The issue here is, these folks want to remain a part of the Industrial Economy, and without credit issued by the Western Illuminati, that isn’t possible. They aren’t willing to sacrifice Modernity for their principles of Freedom. They KNOW that repudiating the debt and exiting the system will throw Greece into chaos and send it down the Failed State route, the first European Somalia essentially.

The people who elected them into office DO NOT grasp that exiting the system will even in the best scenario turn them into a dirt poor agrarian nation unable to afford electric lights, cars or Iphones. They still want to live like Krauts and Amerikans live, and figure they can do that if they just repudiate all the debt and go back to the Drachma.

Like all the previous Goobermints of Greece, the Syriza Goobermint is faced with a Morton’s Fork, where no alternative has a desirable outcome. Capitulating to the Krauts and remaining in Debt Peonage to them retains for a while access to modernity, but it does so at the expense of their freedom and the expense of their own credibility. Telling the Krauts to take a Flying Fuck at a Rolling Doughnut declares their FREEDOM, but it is just the freedom to descend into even more hopeless poverty and failed state status. The absolutely could not fulfill any promises of rehiring all their civil service workers and doubling pensions in any money that would work to buy anything imported from outside of Greece.

They are quite likely aware that Greece depends on copious imports of foreign goods, most particularly OIL and Natural Gas to keep functioning a while longer as an Industrial Economy. They are ideologically opposed to the type of finance system that gets them access to this, but they don’t want to give it up. Really, nobody does in any Industrial Economy, except for the few outlier Doomers who recognize the damage it is doing and who realize this type of economy is doomed no matter what is done on the financial level.

To get themselves elected, the Syriza Pols all had to make a lot of Promises that cannot be kept. The only leverage they ever held was that their Grexit would initiate a cascade failure which would take everyone else down with them, but if they are not willing and ready to be the first ones flushed down the toilet here, that threat is meaningless.

Che-RevolutionIf these folks are to retain credibility, they have to be up front and honest with the folks that elected them into office, and expalin to them that the minute they repudiate all the debt and re-issue Drachma is the minute the Greeks have to let go of all things Industrial, all things imported into Greece from other countries. They have to explain to the Greek population that the Debt issued by the Western Illuminati is what gives them access to the products and services of Industrialization. They need a PLAN to make such a transition off Industrialized products and services POSSIBLE, because without such a plan Greece becomes Somalia in short order.

The problem there is that Marxist Revolutionaries or not, most if not all of the folks running Syriza do not grasp that the entire Industrial Paradigm is collapsing, and they are just at the leading edge of this collapse, the Canaries in the Coal Mine. They want to cut a “New Deal” where the Rich folks in Germany will subsidize the Poor folks in Greece, except the rich folks in Krautland do not want to subsidize Greeks, because now that the economy is no longer really growing, any transfer of wealth to the poor means the rich will take a hit on their standard of living also.

New Deals are only possible when the size of the Pie is GROWING, not SHRINKING. The Great Society program of Lyndon Johnson bought off the underclass here in the FSoA back in the 60s, but only possible because dishing out some bennies to the underclass at that time did not stop the ruling class from scarfing up even greater amounts of wealth still present beneath the earth surface and in the populations of even more desperately poor people around the globe, at least when measured in material wealth.

The situation now is quite different than it was in the 1960s. Globally now, all the cheap energy increasing the standard of living and wealth of the general population has been used up, all that remains now is expensive and difficult to extract energy. All the impoverished populations of the world from Mexico to India to China have all been exploited to the max, and their living environments ecologically destroyed in the process. Now, for anyone to become richer, somebody else must become poorer. The rich do not willingly become poorer, so any and all of the bennies won in earlier times are being rescinded now, the welfare state in all countries that had one is being dismantled.

What the Greeks would like to see is a wealth transfer system to move the wealth stolen by the Krauts over the last 50 years through financial manipulation sent back in their direction, but that cannot occur without the Krauts becoming significantly poorer, which of course they are resisting. Besides this, the Krauts aren’t really wealthy, their wealth is the Greek Debt, which the Greeks can’t repay. The wealth has in fact been burned up here by everyone.

Back in Greece, the Blowback is already occurring, and various Syriza Mps are lambasting Tsipras and Souvlakis for Kapitulating. Souvlakis latest speech with the Newzspeak renaming of the Troika as “Institutions” and calling the Bailout an “Extension” isn’t fooling anybody.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3mEHv2LUGWA/ScK2RbecoxI/AAAAAAAABJA/nBrXAZBsU8w/s400/tarredandfeathered.pngSupposedly, on Monday the Greeks will submit a list of reforms which the Krauts have to sign off on, but the Krauts have already said that there is no way they can sign off on them before Feb 28th, with a review by the full Parliament. On the Greek side, it’s hard to imagine how the Syriza MPs will allow Tsipras to submit a list of reforms the Krauts cold find the least bit palatable.

So despite the apparent Kapitulation on Friday, a Grexit still seems quite possible for next week. They already have New Drachma ready to pitch out here, just in case. What they do not have is any credible plan to back that Drachma with anything. In the event they are forced to issue it, quite likely it sets the record for the fastest Hyperinflating currency of all time.

So, the Grexit Game is not quite over yet for the Game Theorists out there to play with. The New Plan the Greeks are supposed to submit on Monday and the Kraut reaction to it will tell the tale. Anything the Krauts can accept will get Tsipras and Souvlakis Tarred & Feathered in Syntagma Square and ridden out of town on a rail.

Stay Tuned to the Diner Channel for the latest in Updates.

RE

Eurosummit Breakdown

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 17, 2015

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Who did what and why?

As one Troika dies, another is born

Practically every Western press title and news bulletin this morning uses the word ‘defiant’ in relation to Greece’s rejection of the New Troika’s terms, and it isn’t a compliment.

The Greek contingent rejected the ‘deal’ because it wasn’t a deal, it was just the same old same old. But up until 90 minutes before closure, it had been something else. Allegedly drafted and then pushed hard by French finance minister Pierre Muscovici, the first draft (a copy of which Varoufakis still has) offered Greece more time, few targets, and then an attempt at economic growth.

It was taken off the table by yet another Troika – in most cases, remotely: Mariano Rajoy, Wolfgang Schäuble, and of course (no drum roll required) Mario Draghi. During the final day, Spanish PM Rajoy (for purely selfish political reasons, it would appear) scrambled around desperately trying to get the hawks to play more of a vulture role. His ginger-group plus the EC/ECB/Berlin/Frankfurt axis canned the original draft, and insisted on a return to all the original demands.

Then some of them briefed the press pack with pernicious spin about Greece messing them about, moving goalposts etc and being (this week’s insult of choice) “anti-European and irresponsible”. The truth is that, some time around 10.45 am CET, Varoufakis was lining himself up to sign the draft. Getting back to the realities:

– Greece cannot be allowed concessions, because Podemos would immediately demand the same (Rajoy)

– Greece’s load cannot be reduced, because then they might pay it back (Draghi)

– Greece’s flagrantly spendthrift behaviour must not be rewarded, and more austerity is the only answer (Schäuble).

So then – as many of us always suspected – the deal was scuppered by a hardline, corrupt, anti-libertarian Spaniard, a banker whose career is followed by clouds, and who retains his loyalty to Wall Street, and the residue of a tragically failed assassination attempt upon Germany’s top spook.

The only vaguely satisfying things to emerge from this charade are first, that once again the quintessence of controlling fascism that lies at the EU’s heart has been revealed; and second, the Western MSM really do not have a clue about how to handle the Greek attitude.

Four days ago, I wrote in reply to Merkel’s assertion that “Europe’s success is that it will always find a compromise”:

‘The small issue I have with this bollocks is that the movement by either side so far is tiny – in fact, barely above homoaeopathic…. In just 36 hours we have gone from “Drop Dead” to “Let’s compromise”. But where can it go from here? In my view, nowhere: the two sides are incompatible unless one or the other radically invents itself. Neither of them will do that.”

Sure enough, the Brussels Brigade reverted to type with black arts and making up new rules as they went along. And as they promised, Syriza refused to renege on its election commitments.

Watch those markets crash as the bond yields spike. The euro is dead, the EU dream has become a nightmare, and the fundamental attitude split between Berlin and Paris  is once again there for all to see.

Stay tuned.

Greek Souvlaki Kabuki Roller Coaster

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on February 11, 2015

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The Game Continues…

Snippet:

 

…Going into the weekend, the chairman of the Eurozone FinMins Jeroen DieselBOOM laid down the LAW with the Greeks, basically giving them about 10 days to either CAPITULATE or be thrown under the bus and pitched out of the Eurozone, though nobody is quite clear on how legal that is to do.

There was a decent amount of speculation in the aftermath of that that it would cause the Greeks to fold up their tent and come begging for more money, but the exact opposite occurred here, which is that by Sunday both Tspiras and Souvlakis were issuing out even MORE uncompromizing Tweets, basically threatening to bring down the entire Eurozone with them if they are flushed down the toilet.

The Clowns and Jokers in Brussel Sprouts have their Poker Face on, bluffing that the economic cascade from a Grexit can be “contained” and the rest of Europe will do just fine without Feta Cheese, so best of luck there fellas! LOL…

 

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

 

In case you missed it, here is the last installment of Greek Kabuki…

Pandora’s Box

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on January 28, 2015

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Snippet:

…Well, the Worst Nightmare for the Clowns & Jokers in Brussel Sprouts has come to pass, as Alex Tspiras and the Greek Syriza Party won a BLOWOUT victory in the latest round of Greek Elections. They are so far out in front of everyone else on the Popular Front over there that not even election rigging could fix that one.

Alex has promised to go to the WALL against the Troika Austerity that has been hammering down on Greece for the last 6 years, since the initial financial crash in 2008. Bascially Syriza has opened up the window and shouted to the world, “We’re Mad as HELL, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

This basically amounts to opening Pandora’s Box here, because the Brussel Sprouts are now between the Rock and Hard place. If they cut the Greeks loose, the Euro collapses even faster than it already is collapsing. If they capitulate and forgive Greek Debt, every other PIIGS Nation will pul the same stunt, beginning with the Spaniards, but quickly moving through the Portuguese, Italians and Frogs too. Soon as one of these major debtor nations has debt written down, they ALL will want their debt written down…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Syriza Hits the Ground Running

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on January 26, 2015

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GREECE ANALYSIS: SYRIZA HITS GROUND RUNNING AS TSIPRAS BROKERS ANEL COALITION DEAL TO SEAL MAJORITY RULE

 Prime Minister Tsipras faces a cold dawn of Monday reality

In a rapid (and smart) move that demonstrates both energy and planning, Alexis Tsipras is this morning 95% of the way into a Coalition with ANEL – better known in the West as the Independent Greeks. This is an anti-euro Party of right-wing Greek nationalists.

In going for this option, Tsipras shows that – unlike most on the Left – he can unite against a common enemy. I also suspect that his advisers see this as one dimension in an overall strategy designed to calm down bank depositors and bond markets. But shrewd or not, the new Prime Minister is going to face several waves of attack from those hostile to his election – both inside and outside Greece.

The first thing to set off screaming headlines will be the effect on the euro. Overnight, the single currency plunged down to 1.12 against the Dollar – before the weekend it was around 1.15. We should expect to see a further weakening during the day.

A second and highly likely immediate threat is a spike in Greek bond yields – pushing Greece’s borrowing costs through the roof. This will add urgency to the blatant destabilising strategy of the ECB’s Mario Draghi, who for spurious reasons announced last Thursday that Greece would be locked out of the QE programme.

A third issue is the bank withdrawals that preceded Syriza’s stunning victory yesterday. Here too, threats have been forthcoming from both Brussels and Frankfurt to cut off ELA (emergency liquidity assistance) to four big banks in Greece.

Last but not least is the worryingly high poll achieved by the Greek Nazi Party, Golden Dawn – which now becomes the third largest Party in the country with 17 seats. They will, I have no doubt, use that bloc to disrupt as much Parliamentary business as possible…and plot with the hard Right to take over should things look to be spiralling out of control.

A weak euro is technically good for Greek exports, but Syriza will of course be blamed for “beating the euro to death on its sickbed” and the pro-Euro professional classes will weigh in heavily on that angle. So then, apart from Europe-wide opprobrium, soaring borrowing costs, the chance of a Putsch and imminent bank collapses, there’s nothing at all for the new Prime Minister to worry about.

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But there is also another side to this. My own hunch is that the Greek voter really did three things in the election: first, vote for a radical change of strategy; two, kick Samaras out with the biggest boot available; and three, decide to give the new generation a chance. I looked up Tsipras’s date of birth last night, and he is of course the leader of that generation who never knew life under the Colonels’ Junta. He is also surrounded by people with zero respect for tradition: Varoufakis has already promised to “completely demolish the Greek oligarchy” as a matter of priority. Corruption in high places has been a Greek given forever; rooting it out would get approval from all but the fatties who support Samaras.

Secondly, the Greeks ignored all the EC/ECB/IMF/Juncker/Schäuble veiled threats and scaremongering. That bullying will now, without any doubt, be stepped up. I predict it will backfire, and further unite the country. Because in the light of the previous paragraph, it will play very badly against the prevailing atmosphere of ‘give them a chance’ and Troika-hatred.

I have made my view clear about Draghi: he has already decided for his own reasons to Grexit Athens from the equation: he’ll be delighted to get the euro down to Dollar parity, and supremely confident in his ability to mess up any plans Syriza have. I expressed the view strongly early last year that Tspiras should never have dropped his opposition to the euro, but it now looks to have been a wise idea: without doing that, he would never have been elected with such power – and with it he can (quite justifiably) evade blame for its collapse…he can play the Good European.

It’s too early to call this kind of stuff. But it’s good to know where the touchlines are. All we need to do now is find the ball.

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As for the poppycock streaming nonstop from Brussels-am-Berlin about the ‘zero effect’ Syriza’s success and Grexit is having or might have on the euro – indeed, the EU itself – it is beneath contempt. It will spike ALL Clubmed bond prices, keep liquidity away from Europe, confirm the europhobia in Italy, and encourage the growing Left support in Spain…where they have the added problem of Sovereign fragmentation.

In other areas too, the knock-on effect will have geopolitical consequences. Moscow will I’m sure see this development (and what must inevitably follow) as likely to move Greece more into its orbit: and you can be sure that Viktor Orban in Hungary (and Polish voters) will welcome further opposition to the juggernaut. Orban is one of the few, I think, who has not only grasped that the Brussels Bus is actually being driven by Washington, but is also prepared to talk about it openly.

In the UK, it can only spur on the UKip camp. But Nigel Farage blotted his copybook very badly last night by referring to the Syriza win as “a cry for help”. What a profoundly pompous and patronising twerp he is.

Barbarians at the Gate

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog beginning April 2013

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/AthensAcropolisDawnAdj06028.jpg/675px-AthensAcropolisDawnAdj06028.jpg

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Note from RE: The first 2 installments of this new Series by John in this article.  We’ll feature the rest in Chunks as John whacks them out off his Keyboard.

ATHENS: The elegant capital of a civilised culture, brought to its knees by barbarians

In the Red

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This picture was taken, unstaged, at 3.43 pm on Friday 19th April 2013 in Athens, a eurozone capital.

It shows a young Greek male, his arm outstretched to beg…but with a face hidden by the shame of being reduced to such a state. As I passed this hapless figure today – and I have encountered a great many similar sights since arriving here – what struck me was the tragic rigidity of rigor mortis in this quasi-crucifixion: a boy barely mature condemned to living like the Undead. He is a victim of eurocrat hubris and the selfish lies of feral neocon gargoyles – walking obscenities who recognise nothing beyond the business bottom line and the Sovereign banking balance sheet.

At one level, this is just a young kid who deserved better. At another, he represents both a horribly wasted resource for social capitalism….and more fuel for the furnace of extreme and destructive politics.

Throughout this weekend, The Slog will be entirely devoted to showing and explaining a side of Clubmed the Western European business and mainstream press titles seem largely unwilling to examine: the disgraceful tableau of business decimation and social destruction being wreaked by scorched-earth austerity.

CRISIS ATHENS begins tomorrow and will run through to Sunday evening

 

CRISIS ATHENS: How austerity is destroying those who would compete with multinational power

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These pictures are of a main Athenian thoroughfare, Stadiou. Think ‘Tottenham Court Road’, and then imagine every kiosk, stall, shop and indoor precinct closed down, every small shop empty and impossible to rent, and the once-bustling pavements half empty.

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The Greek media that care run endless stories about starving children, lack of medication, old people dying because they cannot afford heating, and huge cuts in welfare relief.

These are all worthy topics for anyone still unclear about the catastrophic social effects of repayment-focused austerity in ClubMed. But if nobody buys in shops, eats in restaurants, sits in cafes or furnishes homes, businesses die in very short order.

SAMSUNG

In three short years, the banks of the world, the bureaucrats of the EU, and the Central Bank of Mario Draghi have wiped out Stadiou. Like the American South after the Civil War, it is a culture gone with the wind. All that remain are kids shooting up in the darkness of formerly thriving alleyways, and bill posters advertising things nobody has the money to buy.

Behind much of Athens’ attraction as a tourist centre lies another layer of self-sustaining business: the wholesale trade. This above any other is small family business, where honesty, trust and quality are the basis of commerce. It too has been decimated, as both domestic and tourist consumption of goods plummeted after 2010.

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Everywhere are grills, graffiti, parked scooters, litter, and locks. Nowhere is any business being done. An entire sector of the City’s economy has been surgically removed. But nobody bothered to stitch up the open wound afterwards.

What you can see in Athens is the death of independent small business competition, the desecration of families that depended on it, and the reassuring certainty for the fat cats that in future, where once there was community liberty and self-reliance, there will before too long be imported global goods produced by multinational companies, cheap property ready to be torn down by developers, and the State enjoying control over a demoralised population totally dependent on it.

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Some of the commercially naive bureaucrats and anthropologically ignorant political  ‘leaders’ behind this policy represent yet more examples of what is wrong with European establishments throughout the continent. But for others – the Stateists, the neocon social engineers, the bourses, and the banks – all of this lost human energy is seen as the logical (and desirable) consequence of driving the Great Global God of Growth.

???????????????????In the vicious circle that is hard-sold debt >> government overspending and embezzlement >> high-tax austerity >> economic collapse >> social misery >> drastic political change, the Far Right is getting 1 vote in 8, and the Radical Left looks like having the largest number of Deputies after the next election. Both have reached these positions from having been tiny (<4%) Parties three years ago.

But now at last, the focus is beginning to move away from corrupt old Parties and polemic ideologues towards a sort of patriotic pragmatism that no longer wants the euro. I spoke to several business people during my stay in Athens; most of them were not politically radical, but they recognised the need for a radical change to the economic model.

“The austerity programme is counter-productive because it destroys economic consumption in order to pay off State debt,” said a middle manager in a larger foreign-owned Greek furniture business, “this is like asking Berlin to pay off French municipal debt. It is resented, but more importantly it is sacrificing recovery to the lenders’ needs. The lenders may get their pound of flesh, but afterwards the patient is paraplegic.”

“The euro is the problem, no doubt,” said the co-owner of a medium-sized hitech business, “but if Greece were to go it alone and quit the euro, our business would be destroyed by a loss of credit confidence internationally. People like us want the euro to fail completely, so everyone will have to start again”.

His partner agreed. “The biggest problem we have right now is liquidity with which to expand, and credit so we can close deals with customers. Every week we work more and more to make less and less”.

“These fantasies of the Troika,” one CEO of a rapidly-growing political lobbying consultancy began, “they are all bullsh*t. The New Democracy and Pasok go along with it because they are weak and corrupt. But now things are far too serious for this to continue. The threats to Greek business and national sovereignty will get worse as the lenders’ demands get more and more crazy. We have to elect commercial people now who will gain public respect, and say “No” to the EU.”

Resentment towards the State sector and powerful bureaucrats is every bit as visceral as the disdain felt about the Troika.

Said one small entrepreneur, “These Troika people, so well dressed, such nice attache cases. They stay in the Hilton at Greece’s expense. None of them has any idea about business – only debt and repayment schedules. Now they insist that 150,000 civil servants be fired. Hah! That’ll be the day. Now they try to retire them off with fat pensions, but still they demand that the empty desks are filled with young recruits. They will cling onto our skin until we are all dead.”

There is a lot for the body politic to change here. The attitude to the euro, the weak resistance of Troika demands, fear of the bureaucrats, and the development of under-appreciated export businesses such as olive oil and wine. Nobody I met thinks the current crop of MPs is ever going to be capable of it. But there are endless scenarios in play as to how drastic change might come.

Of which, more later today.

CRISIS ATHENS: So much for the visitor to enjoy, so little helped by pernicious Troika spin

Acropolis Now: Athens may be in slavery, but it is not in chaos

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One thing I just love about the Brussels-am-Berlin approach to repression is the way that, the instant an ice-pick has been thrust into the heart of a ClubMed economy, in bounds Olli Rehn to tell the cadaver how keen the EU is to help with the funeral expenses.

Pretty much since the start of the Greek debt crisis, the Troika’s agents of mass distraction have been putting out a commentary about Greece which runs as follows:

“The Greeks are dishonest donkeys who sit around in string vests drinking Ouzo all day and dreaming up new ways to cheat the taxman. Now that they have descended into self-inflicted debt, their social systems are chaotic, their false accusations against Germany are nothing more than self-pity, and the Greek economy is revealed to be dysfunctional.”

This approach has been honed over time, a truth clearly visible in the bullying EC’s approach to Cyprus. Allegedly, the Cypriot banking system was based on an unsustainable model of offering high interest-rates to Russian crooks, and thus had to be ‘rescued’ by Brussels.

The truthful alternative to that Spin From Berlin is, ‘Cyprus banks 0bserved EU rules at a far higher rate than Germany, and at a level of total gdp half that of Luxembourg. Far from being unsustainable, the model was going from strength to strength until the Eunatics begged Cyprus to back the Greek bailout. From that moment on, Cyprus was doomed. Not only has it not been rescued by B-am-B, Nicosia’s reward for backing the Troika over Greece has been to have its depositors and taxpayers forced to pay for their own bailout’.

But setting this aside, allow me to explain (with pictures too) that despite all this, Athens is not remotely chaotic…and its sights are more wonderful than ever.

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I call these next few pictures ‘Work in Progress’. if only because Athens sites don’t look after themselves…but while preservation and further archaeology continue, good local planning rules ensure that good sight of the tourist sights continues.

Hadrian’s Arch for instance (left) has a timeless sweep to dwarf the contemporary crane. But equally (below) the humble scaffold is vital for the restoration of noble arches. The ‘architectural’ paving and street lights that surround the overall structure, however, complement the original perfectly. 

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There truly is something of a grey/beige softness to the natural stone here that is quintessentially Greek. The classic postcard from Greece shows a stark white of a church dome, but the Acropolis in Athens has every couleur doux on offer, from sand to lime

There is virtually nowhere in Athens where you can’t see the Acropolis. Even from the far side of a three-lane highway (below) well to the north east, it still stands out as a monument to ancient Greek civilisation.

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The Olympic ideal was revived by the Greeks in 1898, after which the modern Olympiad began. The symmetry of the stadium built at that time is a joy to behold from every angle.

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The Temple of Olympian Zeus provides perhaps the best site from which to get a sense of Athens in its setting. There can be few cities on the planet with a more breathtaking location, taking in mountains and sea beneath: any shot taken on the open ground of this site gives away that location superbly.

 

But away from the monuments, Athens is a place of secret surprises wherever you wander. Parkland, forests, small oases of restoration

???????????????????in rundown districts, indoor markets, tiny traditional bars, and even old ladies selling fifty kinds of garlic are there if you look hard enough.

The smells, meanwhile, are dizzying at this time of year: the heady scent of orange blossom, and – in many of the coniferous woods – that flinty smell of pine-sap that makes you long for a glass of Retsina. (And the next morning, makes you wish you hadn’t)

That’s not to say Athens lacks its fair share of ghastly mistakes in sculpture and architecture. There is, for instance, the running green man sculptural monstrousity to commemorate the last Olympics on the Vassileos Konstantinou: it looks like a veg-humaan grafting failure from the botanical garden of Dr Moreau. And there is in turn a hotel where black-smoked windows must’ve seemed to someone like the perfect backdrop to five gigantic kitsch terra-cotta window-boxes. I didn’t photograph either eyesore, for fear of putting you off.

In truth, with the right – that is to say, fair – publicity, it would be hard to put anyone of discernment who likes cafe society, good food and warm people off Athens. But somehow, those beautiful people who brought you the euro, apple mountains, wine lakes, bailouts, bailins, Wolfgang Schäuble and the Troika seem dead set on doing so. All the more reason, then, to come here anyway.

 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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