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As goes Greece, So goes ………

8:48 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Athens Greece - Brooklyn Musium / flickr creative commons

Ives Smith reminds us in her current critique of Martin Wolf that the situation is deteriorating still in Greece and even the IMF says that austerity is the worst measure they could take now.

Wolf then proceeds to tell us that the Eurozone continues to be a resolute practitioner of austerity policies. Readers may recall that there was a huge kerfluffle in the economics-related media when the IMF admitted it was all wrong, that the fiscal multipliers in the Eurozone had turned out to be larger than one. In econ-speak that means you can’t starve your way back to health. Cutting fiscal deficits results in an even greater economic contraction, resulting in even worse debt to GDP ratios. But the rest of the European officialdom seems to be in shoot-the-messenger mode.

So bad that people are now metal scavenging industrial sites and even the infrastructure

The thieves are accused of stealing industrial cable, power-line transformers and other metal objects – triggering blackouts and massive train delays. The profile of the metal thief is also changing, authorities say, from gypsies and immigrants living on the margins of society to mainstream Greeks who have fallen on hard times. A group of men were caught trying to take apart an entire bridge and droves of immigrants can be seen pushing shopping carts around Greek neighborhoods looking in recycling bins.


Athens’ nine-year-old light rail system has been a prime magnet for metal robbers, with at least five major disruptions reported in the past six months due to cable theft that forced passengers to hop on and off trains as diesel replacements were needed. The trend has had lethal consequences: In early January, the body of a 35-year-old man was found near Athens beside the tracks of a suburban rail system that services the capital΄s airport. He had been electrocuted while cutting live cables, police said.

Barter has become typical and medicine scare and hospitals reusing old sheets etc. As anyone who recalls their history knows, it was this kind economic situation that enabled Hitler to come to power. And now it has been helping Greece’s Golden Dawn Nazi party to rise in popularity as well.

But Golden Dawn is not just a gang of radical right-wing thugs. It is now the fourth-largest party in Greek politics. In elections this year, it won 18 of 300 seats in parliament on an explicitly anti-immigrant platform. Its growing constituency includes many ordinary Greeks who fear that waves of impoverished foreigners are draining the state’s dwindling resources and taking their jobs in a country where nearly a quarter of the population is unemployed. And as the country’s economy continues to collapse, Golden Dawn is becoming increasingly entrenched in the mainstream of Greek political life.

It is not inconceivable for them to win the next election or at least become a very important player. And why is this so ? Well can’t you guess ?

So why are the periphery countries suffering this level of unproductive pain? Because the countries aren’t making the decisions. It’s powerful local politicians who are selling out their countries, working in cahoots with Eurozone technocrats. And I can assure you none of them are sharing in the suffering of periphery country workers.

It’s strangely ironic that the one country pushing the hardest for austerity of the Eurozone countries is the one country that should be painfully aware of the consequences of this.



Eurozone and Greek Elections Updates….

7:12 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Greek Statue - Flickr Creative Commons

Though flying under the radar here, there are some important developments in the Greek Elections that could change the economic situation in Europe and here as well. The Guardian has a live blog going on the situation here.

And Athens News has one here. This in my estimation is more important that the French election results, but maybe only just.

Here is the latest break down from the Guardian.

2.35pm: Shares on the Athens stock markets are being routed, after Alexis Tsipras (who holds the mandate to form the next Greek government) insisted that Greece should not abide by the terms of its bailout (see 1.27pm onwards).

The main stock index in Athens has fallen by 5%, with the banking index down by over 10%.

Analysts at IHS Global Insight warned this afternoon that the prospects of a strong, stable Greek government look “more and more distant”, adding:

Without political and social support for austerity and reforms, the already challenging adjustment programme agreed with the “troika” looks destined for failure.

Although several polls show that a majority of Greeks wish to stay in the Eurozone, the surge in votes for parties decidedly against the reform programme suggests that a sizeable portion of the Greek electorate is not prepared to do what needs to be done in order to remain in the common currency area.

But can you blame them, in the face of a five-year recession, unemployment rising, and an ongoing slump in its manufacturing and industrial sectors?

2.30pm: Here’s a breakdown of Alexis Tsipras’s conditions for forming a new government with either of the two ‘mainstream’ Greek parties (via Ekathimerini

1) The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that will impoverish Greeks further, such as cuts to pensions and salaries.

2) The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that undermine fundamental workers’ rights, such as the abolition of collective labor agreements.

3) The immediate abolition of a law granting MPs immunity from prosecution, reform of the electoral law and a general overhaul of the political system. According to Keep Talking Greece, that would include abolishing the 50-seat bonus for the party which wins the most seats.

4) An investigation into Greek banks, and the immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking sector by BlackRock.

5) The setting up of an international auditing committee to investigate the causes of Greece’s public deficit, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the findings of the audit are published.

That adds up to a resounding rejection of Greece’s current financial programme.

And here from Athens News.

4.55pm A lot has been said today about the statements made by Syriza member Dimitris Stratoulis, concerning the Greek banks and possible state control, in an interview given to Vima FM radio station.  The highlights are as follows:
- Technically and financially, if you’re saying we are leaving the memorandum, how will you handle the banking issue? If we leave the memorandum, they’ll just be empty tresure chests.
- They won’t be empty treasure chests. Greek banks already have 165 billion euros worth of deposits by the Greek people.
- That’s our money, not bank money though.
- We shall put in motion an immediate public audit of the banks, guarantee citizen deposits and then use that money for growth and a productive re-structuring of our country.
- Does that mean deposits will be freezed?
- We said we will provide guarantees, no deposits will be frozen.
- And how will that money be used for growth, when it belongs to Greek citizens?
- How would you want it used? Up until now, it has been used, to fund the profits of bank shareholders and bankers. Should it not be used to support market liquidity, to offer loans to small and medium sized business ventures, to offer loans to the public for houses, to offer consumer loans? It is all a matter of political direction.
Part of his positions were echoed by Alexis Tsipras, when he spoke from Parliament earlier, although neither he nor Stratoulis have made the details of their banking plan completely clear.
Pictured here during his earlier meeting with the Syriza chief, Democratic Left party leader Fotis Kouvelis has pledged his support to Alexis Tsipras, in his quest to form a coalition government. ”I told him that if he wants he can go ahead with a government of leftist parties, with the support of the Democratic Left,” he said.
4.15pm At a press conference in parliament, Alexis Tsipras has said that the country’s commitment to an EU/IMF rescue deal has become null after voters rejected pro-bailout parties in Sunday’s election. “The popular verdict clearly renders the bailout deal null.”
He said said that Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos must take back their written support for the memorandum – by writing a letter to Brussels informing them of this. He presented his policy platform which he said was based on 5 pillars:
1. Immediate begation of the memorandum
2. Negation of all coming measures that will affect all aspects of employment law
3. Immediate changes to election legislation and negation of the ministerial culpability law
4. State control of banks
5. The creation of an international auditing body, with the purpose of finding a serious and logical solution to Greece’s debt repayment.
He once again extended his hand to all powers of the left, praising KKE’s position on protecting the unemployed and said that he still aimed at forming a government with all parties supporting leftist and eco-friendly ideology.
He noted that the formation of a coalition government with New Democracy and Pasok, was not possible for they were not looking at saving the nation, but saving the memorandum.
Basically giving Merkel and Germany the bums rush on Austerity. If he succeeds in forming a government and pushing these reforms through – which is problematical at this point – it would signal an end to German economic hegemony and Spain and Ireland and possible Italy may follow.
Keeps your eyes pealed.

Rejecting the snake oil of the 1% or toward a more austere lifestyle.

10:49 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Small House

France – Flicker Creative Commons

CraneStation’s latest diary got me thinking.  We here so much about the excesses of the elite and the wealth distribution in this country but how many of us have taken a really good look at our own life styles.  Seems to me that as one commenter said quite some time ago on a BBC news article, “The best way to get back a rich folks is not to play their game.”

This may piss more and a few people off but really how man of us actually envy their life style ? Their excesses and ability to gorge themselves when ever they want.

I know this is trite and cliche’ but we really do consume much more that is necessary. Not just food – though that is a big part of it – but houses and cars and entertainment and toys and on and on.

Has anyone actually though that the reason CraneStaion and Masoninblue and exist on dumptster diving is because of the wasteful life styles the rest of us indulge in ?

Here are a few things to consider.

The French stay thin and live an average of 3 years longer than we do.

Eating is a leisurely experience. In the United States, we often wolf down meals in record time or eat while driving or sitting at our desks. But the French appear to have all the time in the world to sit around and dine.

“We sit down and eat for pleasure, using all of our senses,” Mireille Guiliano, author of the best-selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat, has said.

In America, low-carb diets have many of us saying no to white foods like bread and pasta, but in France, everyone seems to be toting a fresh baguette to bring home.

“You need to eat a large volume of bread or pasta for the calories to add up, and most of the time, French meals are quite light and portions are small,” says Benchetrit.

They consume a hell of a lot less than we do and take time to do it. Not only that but meals are a special occasion. You will rarely see Frenchman eating alone.

Is it our culture, our heritage, our gastronomy, our climate…? It is a combination of all these things. The famous “A table !”, which means that everyone should come, sit and eat together represents all those things in one : social habits, values, education and of course delicious food.

The also bike and walk a lot.  The streets are narrow and not conducive to cars. They use public transportation a lot as well. This is not only true for France but most of Europe. And I do not want to leave the Asian community out here, but look at the diets and life styles of Japan and even Korea.

And the “stuff” that we own and replace even when it’s still perfectly functioning simply to get the latest and greatest. Do we really need these big TVs and room size entertainment centers ? I won’t even go into the the automobile area here as we all know how outrageous that has become.

And gardening. Europe loves gardens. Even roof top gardens. Vegetable gardens, flower gardens and quite often both.

The French are pastmasters at getting the most out of their potagers. Virtually every yard has a spotless vegetable garden. Often, it occupies most of a small yard. And it is planted so tightly you can hardly imagine how the gardener manages to walk between those closely packed rows. What’s more, there never seems to be a trace of a footstep between those immaculate lines of vegetables, which always appear freshly cultivated. It’s as if the gardener hovers in the air to do his or her work!

And entertainment.   We here are most likely to squat in front of our video screens and let out minds be awash with whatever drivel it offers. But Paris and Berlin and Amsterdam offer streets lined with small clubs and cafe’s with local groups and acts and socializing galore.  It’s where groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones got their start. As wells as singers and comedians etc.

These being examples of how one can have a different approach to life. To do ones living differently. To simplify, simplify, simplify.

I am not suggesting at all that anyone just drop what they are doing and live like this or some other way. Far from it. Change takes time and work. Little by little.  Take what works and discard the rest.

But it’s not enough to just go through the motions. To take some superficial approach. Like all those articles I have read or programs I have seen of people “giving up the urban/suburban” life to move to the country and then bring their attitudes and desires and behaviors with them. Trading their fancy lifes in the cities for a fancy life in the country. Like episodes of This Old House and Hometime and others.

It takes an attitude change. A deep rejection of the seductiveness of the elite. Like the charlatan you turn your back on and walk away from but without a self righteous attitude about it.  Embracing a different life style with out feeling superior to others in the process. And this is the difficult part since it is a letting go of ego. And this is where I have had a difficult time with those who have attempted this and the the movement  of the past.  Far to many have tried to appear to have change but retained the better than though attitudes they had in the first place.

These people will ultimately fail.

But to succeed would be a cultural revolution.