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CASSANDRA?

Over twenty years ago Bernard Connelly wrote ‘The Rotten Heart of Europe’ when he was running the monetary affairs unit of the European Commission. For his pains he was summarily fired and even denied access to the EU buildings. His crime? Seeing, setting out and warning over the catastrophic construct of the single currency being designed for the EU. It is now common knowledge that he was perfectly right. As an Economist (and not as some latter day Nostradamus) he saw why and how this experiment was flawed and dangerous.

Like Cassandra he was totally ignored. And worse even. Perhaps the way he was treated for his analysis should have been a warning sign for us. Had it been a load of ridiculous waffle would the EU directorate have even bothered with him? Hardly.

The Eurozone ?crisis? is proof enough that he was perfectly right.

But despite the Greek plight and the Italian stand off, I am referring to this book today, because at some point he says, that the collapse of the European Union will begin from the pavements of Paris*

I very much fear he may well be vindicated yet again.

 

*Not a verbatim quote but the gist of what he wrote.

 

 

Centenary Celebrations

A hundred years since the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The end of the Great War as it was till it became the First World War since it had not really ended in 1918. So what were we celebrating in fact?

The imagery chosen itself, I feel, was very eloquent. The Chancellor of Germany and the President of the Republic of France walking to the famous or infamous or both railway carriage where the original Armistice had been signed, to sit beside each other for the photo and sign something again, symbolically. What exactly?

A glum faced Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the way out after having driven the EU to the brink of collapse even perhaps through her eternal procrastination and kicking that can down the bloody road interminably till it has now started to wobble dangerously on the edge of the cliff.

The President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron looking rather insipid beside her, having failed utterly to convince the lady beside him of his proposals for the EU which could save it, since they were met with her persistent and stubborn Niens all the time to everything and anything that could reform the hapless Union. Not to mention his failure to achieve anything at home apart from growing dissent and anger which may well translate into something very ugly in the coming Euro elections.

So these two figures were of necessity the ones symbolising the end of that terrible war. Or at least of the first part of it. Because as they walked away we were reminded by the BBC that this is the first time a German Chancellor has walked down this path since Adolf Hitler when the French signed their surrender to him in the second half of the horrendous European wars, in that very same carriage. Whoops. Hardly an auspicious association though perhaps a pertinent one.

The whole show was very depressing and perhaps this ominous little bit of it should have been avoided. It can?t help auguring ill.

 

 

Britain, Greece and the EU

I grew up in London. As a child I tended to be a bit confused. There was Britain and there was the Continent which was something else that Britain did not belong to. Summer holidays were spent in Greece, where there was Greece and Europe which was again the ?other? somewhere this time Greece did not belong to.

Now in Geography lessons we learnt that the continent of Europe did indeed include both the British Isles and of course Greece, and in history lessons that both of these were very important in the history of Europe, albeit in different times in and different ways.

When I was a little older, in the sixties when Britain still had not joined the then Common Market, swarms of day trippers from the ?Continent? would cross the Channel to do their shopping in Britain because prices were so much cheaper, thereby justifying the extra cost of travel.

All and any attempts by Britain to join the EEC or even just hints, were squarely vetoed by General de Gaulle who roundly declared that were Britain to be allowed into the Common Market she would destroy it. Hmmm.

Not taking the snub lightly, Britain finally managed to enter the Common Market in 1973 through Edward Heath?s persistent efforts, after de Gaulle?s demise that is. Greece entered the Common Market in 1981 after the fall of the Military Junta through the misguided belief that this membership would ensure democracy for the country,

The EEC had not been too keen on either membership. Britain owing to the fear of perfidious Albion and Greece because? well really this was a tinpot little country of no importance but whose historical legacy pushed it through.

And as things played out, perhaps it would have better, who knows? for both countries and the EU had neither of these two countries becomes members.

The following expansion of the EEC firstly to Spain and Portugal, then later to the ex Communist countries of Eastern Europe does not seem to have benefited the project for many and varied reasons.

And now Brexit is indeed threatening to tear down the whole edifice. Perhaps de Gaulle will be vindicated.

But then again perhaps the possible collapse of the EU, when and if it does happen (something that seems likelier by the day) for all the mismatches with Britain on the one hand and Greece on the other, blame should be attributed to where it is due: the Merkel-Schauble factor. The polices they imposed and the undemocratic way in which this was done led to resentment, pain, fear and even a resurgence in racism.

Let us not forget Schauble?s infamous doctrine: no matter what a country may vote for it makes no difference, economic policy cannot change. Implying it would always be decided by Germany and no one else was entitled to have a say.

However, it does seem that the people do matter after all.

 

 

 

Once More Unto the Breach

I have been absent for a long time. Owing to despair. Just what was the point of banging and banging one’s head against a padlocked door? The Elite KNOWS you (or anybody else) do not!

“We” thought the Soviet Economy was bad and unworkable because it was a command economy. “We” were right. Or were “we”? The European Union is a command economy. Directives for everything. In Greece, the great experiment in European Economic practice, collective bargaining has been banned and replaced by Government decision, for one. And just about everything is subject to the decisions of a totally illegitimate body, the Eurogroup, that decides in secret meetings and imposes whatever the German finance minister thinks, in his myopia, is best for Germany.

The whole of the EU is run by unaccountable, unelected nonenities (on the whole) who answer to no one.

Which may be why many a lapsus linguae has been heard referring to the “Soviet Union” instead of the “European Union”.

Cause enough for despair. Situation irreparable. No way a sober interesting or even useful thought can even be heard if it dissents to the received European wisdom which is law though imposed undemorcatically and totally arbitrarily.

And, it may be added, totally disastrously. And here, as paradoxically as it may seem, is where cause for some hope may be found.

The EU is floundering, globalism is being contested. Unfortunately revolt has found expression in the so called extreme right so far. The left is responsible for this. After the Greeks elected a left wing government, turning to it to change this catastrophic doom spiral, it flinched. It was not up to the task so decided instead to capitulate to the EU directorate and ended up imposing the worst EU measures devised to disastrous results for the Economy.

All the so called social democrat and left of center parties did the same in a variety of ways, from Tiny Blair’s New Labour to the German SPD joining in coalition governments and so on. So where else to turn? Rage and disgruntlement has turned sharp right.

It is time, therefore, to try and bring the debate to perhaps saner and more workable ideas. Especially now when we are on the brink of a disastrous collapse of the world order. One does not wish to reverse this collapse. It is a highly needed one. But we are at a dangerous crossroads.  We need to be aware and act, so: Once more unto the breach dear friends,

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge”
(From William Shakespeare’s Henry V)

 

Black Adder in Greece

Lots of great news for Greece! Consumer confidence, they tell us is up! But they also tell us (in a mumble) that consumption is down. We are exiting the MoU austerity imposing regime in August, they tell us! But have to accept, again in a mumble that, yes well, ah, of course austerity will continue and probably get worse with all the horrendous measures already proactively voted for the purpose.

If none of all this seems to make any sense, we must remember that all the brilliant people (mainly in the district of what is known as the EU and EZ) assure us that all is gong extremely well. Even if we cannot quite see it, it is they who really KNOW because… aha! They can read the runes which we mere mortals cannot.

And as if all this were not enough, the Guardian newspaper (that shall forever remain tainted by the shame) thought it would be a great idea to tout a 2,500 GBP guided tour of the misery in Greece. You will be taken to the immigrant centres to see how horrible conditions are, and to visit Greek families struck down by the horrific austerity regime, now living in destitution and penury!

Well now, if that isn’t straight out of Monty Python, or Black Adder,  I don’t know what is!

From his various witty quotes it appears that our current Fin Min Mr Euclid Tsakalotos is very fond of Black Adder and Monty Python since he loves using quotes as put downs, and no doubt thinks it’s all very funny.

And in a pitch black sort of way maybe it is. The trouble is,

No one is laughing.

 

 

Revolving Door and Gravy Train for ex Leaders & Politicos

Senior citizens wonder what went so wrong with the world while younger people wonder why the world is in such a shameful state. It is always easy to look back at the past and think that: Oh! things were so much better then! And this is indeed something that is assumed to have played a part in the vote for Brexit, for Trump and perhaps even the French elections.

And of course one always remembers the Good things and not the Bad. However, there is one thing that has become so much worse. Undeniably. The ethics of former political leaders, or rather lack thereof. There is of course nothing illegal in accepting six digit payments for giving a talk. Nor is it illegal for ex Goldman Sachs employees to go into government or ex politicians to go to highly paid jobs in say Goldman Sachs.

I refer to Goldman Sachs just because it is the most obvious, not because it is the only financial or other institution that has such influence. The governor of the Bank of England, the governor of the ECB to name but two of the most important currencies in the world are both ex Goldman Sachs men.

Manuel Baroso who was not at all a successful Prime Minister was given the job of President of the EU Commission (where his term was not a sparkling success since the debt crisis broke out and the way it was handled may well lead to the collapse of the EZ if not the EU) but never mind, he was duly rewarded for all his pains with a well paid job at … yes. You guessed it.

There is no end to such cases from around the world. That is the infamous revolving door. But another instance is the exorbitant fees these excellent people who run our lives (for better or for worse… usually the latter) are rewarded with. To take the most blatant examples. Bill Clinton has made millions (and makes no secret of it) from charging exorbitant sums for giving talks. Tony Blair went full throttle not only with overpaid talks, but various consultancies and such as well.

And now splashed across our screens (what used to be headlines in the papers) Barrack Obama to get $400,000 for one talk. Who? The great and wonderful Barrack Obama who could do no ill! And this is just the beginning for him.

To my mind this is obscene. All sense of any decency that ever was has disappeared. And yes, in times gone by this would have been considered a disgrace and not something to shout out about in triumph.

But as we wonder, why the hell is the world in such a state? maybe we should bare this in mind. Politicians of whatever colour or creed, do not give a damn about what their job is supposed to be. They are more interested in what they can get out of it. Not by graft or embezzlement or anything obviously illegal, but from the perks offered them.

And the question is, would Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and now the iconic Barrack Obama (to name but the most obvious though David Cameron has now also climbed on the band wagon) be offered such exorbitant sums for a simple talk, or offered such highly paid jobs where they are not expected to do much at all, if they had done their jobs properly?

That is if they had served their people, those who voted them into office and whose interests they were supposed to uphold and pursue, rather than curry favour and indeed serve the interests of Banks, financiers, and various businesses instead?

Hardly. Had the interests of people and society come first and foremost there would have been no remuneration of this kind for them at all.

It is obscene and it is disgraceful and shows how these people have no ethics, no ideals and one vision only. How to make millions for themselves. And this they can only do by screwing the people well and truly.

 

What’s the Matter with Obama?

In his last days in office President Obama appears to have plunged into a flurry of activity. Firstly his ire over Russian meddling in the American elections. I have no reason to doubt that the hacking occurred but that is not the point. When a President of the USA makes such a fuss over supposed (or otherwise) meddling in his elections, eyebrows tend to rise in disbelief. Oh really now? And since when has an American President been averse to meddling in other nations? elections? The history of the US in this respect is long and black and not confined to mere meddling in elections but to actually engineering coups whereby democracies were crushed while puppet stooge raw military dictatorships favourable to the US were imposed with dire consequences for these nations (Chile and Greece to name but two). So the fuss over Russian hacking can?t help sounding somewhat hollow and, unfortunately a bit like sour grapes for having lost the elections. Blame defeat on anyone and anything else other than perhaps the achievements or lack thereof of the previous eight years.

Then there is the question of the UN Resolution on Israeli settlements. Though finally refraining from an outright veto in Israel?s favour for the first time, definitely a step in the right direction for human rights, there is again a feeling of hollow emptiness about it. Just where has the Obama administration been on this over the past eight years? All of a sudden at the very tail end of his second term he takes a stand. A stand that feels sorely like far too little far too late.

Overall it is extremely disappointing that a President with so much promise in whom so much hope was placed should be ending his  term of office with what looks like petulant little displays of a sore loser.

THE OBAMA JINX?

Obama visited the UK in the run up to the Brexit referendum. He not only declared himself roundly on the side of Remain but threatened that should Brexit prevail the UK would be pushed to the end of the queue.

In the US Presidential campaign he pulled out all the stops to campaign in favour of Hillary Clinton with even Michelle Obama being rolled out to make impassioned speeches on her behalf.

Now quite regardless of the merits of Remain or Hillary Clinton as President, both these interventions were beyond normal practice. Firstly with regard to the UK referendum it constituted unprecedented meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and indeed staunch ally. In the case of the US election he was justifiably endorsing the candidate of his own party but he went to unprecedented lengths to do this going way beyond anything that has happened before in this respect.

In his farewell tour of Europe his first stop was Athens and second stop Berlin. In Athens he made beautiful speeches on Democracy and roundly declared that Greek debt should be reduced and that austerity cannot lead to growth. Both self evident statements. Nevertheless in Berlin he appears to have completely forgotten about them and made no mention of Greek debt or the dangers of austerity to The Frau.

He was so warm and cordial to Frau Merkel that it was said he was handing over the leadership of the Free World to her now that that ghastly white supremacist racist had been voted in as US President.

To be fair to the President he did not say so in so many words but nor did he say what is self evident in any words at all. That under the effective leadership of Europe Merkel has eroded the foundations of the EU, has undermined democracy in Europe and changed it into a German Europe ruled by fiat, has ruined the economies of EU members and has in fact brought the whole Union to the brink of fragmentation and perhaps even dissolution.

For all that, Obama warmly praised Frau Merkel and said that he would vote for her if he was German. (More uncalled for meddling in the internal affairs of other states).

Now, since his first two blatant and clumsy attempts to influence the outcome of a vote ended in failure, we should perhaps start worrying (or not) that he may well perfume a hat trick here too.

In any case, should Frau Merkel perchance lose the Chancellorship next year, she and we will know who to blame.

WHY HAS TRUMP PROVED SUCH A STRONG CANDIDATE?

 

Trump?s bid for the Republican nomination was seen as a joke. Here was another buffoon going for some publicity and making a fool of himself. Ultimately, against all initial odds, he trounced the Party mechanism and won the nomination.

As for the Presidential election, it was universally accepted that the election would be a walk in the park for Hillary. It has hardly proved to be that regardless of what the final outcome will be.

As the campaign draws to a close, we are witnessing what we saw before the Brexit vote. The full force of the establishment and? what used to be known as “polite society”… firmly backing Hillary Clinton and demonizing Trump with apocalyptic views of how the world will collapse should he become President. Nevertheless there is some nervousness still, despite the polls and despite the enormous efforts, not least, of the Obamas to support Hillary.

However there is a great big elephant in the room which, for all the demonization of an admittedly unsavoury character, the hysterical cries that the world economy (perhaps even the world itself) will collapse should Hillary fail to win, is being consistently and systematically ignored.

The elephant in the room is the vicious mess of the world neoliberalism and the Chicago school have made. After the fall of the USSR, the fear of our people going commie had disappeared and it was freedom to cut back on wages, welfare etc. which all led as we know to the 1% hoarding all the wealth while life for the 99% becomes worse and worse and.. yes! PRECARIOUS!

We saw something of this simmering anger expressing itself in the UK Brexit vote. When people on zero hour jobs, precarious employment, unable to even dream about buying a house (as opposed to their parents? generation) are told Oh! This will be terrible for the economy! Their response is, Up yours! Why should I care about an economy where inequality has flourished & my kids have no future?

So question now is why turn to Trump? Well the American electorate swarmed to Bernie Sanders for the same reason. However, the DNC was accused (and the chair had to resign over this) of sabotaging Sanders bid in favour of Hillary. So we get a typical establishment figure, also tainted by various malpractices & a suspect foundation etc. Precisely what the protest vote wants to get rid of.

For all the gloom and hysteria and cries of ?populism!? and absolute terror of markets collapsing in all this, I believe there is some hope. It is in a way an attempt to take back the demos. A reaction against this sick, unfair and ultimately disastrous system of everything for the 1% at the cost of everyone else. HOWEVER! The problem is that this reaction inevitably has xenophobic elements and swings to the right (as in Trump). But here the DNC should be held severely to account for strangling the clear surge to the left with Sanders roundly declaring he is socialist.

In Europe we have seen the reaction going left in the south and to the right in western & northern Europe, with France perhaps being the most ominous case.

The established system is creaking dangerously. The young are beginning to protest and demand something else, something better, something other than all that matters is (other people?s) profits. How this will turn out is for the future (not too distant) to tell. And the result of the American Elections will not resolve anything, whichever way they go.

 

 

The Banality of Evil in EU Imposed Austerity

I never could quite get round the idea of Hannah Arendt?s ?Banality of Evil?. What exactly was it? How did it ?work?? Living through the worst case of EU imposed austerity that is Greece, the meaning becomes quite clear.

In his book ?The Triumph of the Market? Edward S. Herman says: ?The concept of the banality of evil came into prominence following the publication of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.”

What has happened to the Greek economy and the Greek people throughout this so called ?bail out? process which is just an excuse to impose the harshest possible austerity has never before been achieved in peacetime nor under democratic order as the EU purports to be.

The pain, the misery, the pauperisation of a people is unprecedented in the history of democratic states during peacetime. Even the Great Depression of the 1930?s did not achieve as much. What kind of people have taken it upon themselves to cause such pain and yes, indeed, evil. Senseless evil.

We have people like say Poul Thomsen and Delia Velculescu of the IMF travelling first class to Athens staying at the Athens Hilton, taking a swim in the pool and enjoying the sun before ordaining that already below subsistence wages in Greece must be slashed further in order to meet the targets. Unemployment, poverty, destitution, over-taxation are unimportant since all that matters is meeting the targets. But even when the targets have been met as in reducing the deficit and reaching a primary surplus, it?s not enough since no slack must be given lest these wretches (a whole nation) lapse into complacency and fail to complete the so called reforms.

And there is the clue. The Targets. The Reforms. What are these and who decides on them? Why, the prevailing dogma that all these bureaucrats and apparatchiks serve. And, I would add, not only serve but get extremely well rewarded for serving.

They cannot see beyond their orders. As was Eichmann?s defense. I was just following orders. I did nothing on my own initiative. Should there ever be a Nuremburg for those who imposed such a lethal economic policy on most of the world but Europe in particular, the plea will be the same.

We had to achieve the targets. We were only acting in accordance with our brief. We were implementing the rules.

And it is true. Anyone who dared so much as question these rules was castigated, anathematized and subject to character assassination by these same bureaucrats who could not even countenance anything other than the sacred rules.

Though the evil perpetrated by all these bureaucrats does not reach the level of the gas chambers and extermination practiced by the German Reich, it is nonetheless evil and especially so in peacetime.

The sheer banality of evil has become clear for all to see in our generation as well. Ordinary, mediocre, obedient bureaucrats who just follow orders blindly and efficiently, totally oblivious of all the unnecessary pain, misery and anguish their actions are achieving*.

 

*I use the word ?achieving? purposely because that is how they perceive their evil work. As achievements.

 

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