Trojan Hearse: Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony

 

By Greg Palast for το χωνί (Greece)
[updated January 26, 2015]

Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that the new party of the Left, Syriza, won Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Greece.

Syriza won on the promise that it will cure Greece of leprosy.

Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony.  That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.

The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness.  The underlying disease is the euro itself.

For the last five years, Greeks have been told that, if you cure your disease—that is, if you dump the euro—the sky will fall.  I guess Greeks haven’t noticed, the sky has fallen already.  With unemployment at 25%, with doctors and teachers eating out of garbage cans, there is no further to fall.

In 2010, when unemployment was a terrible 10%, a year into the crisis, the Troika(the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) told the Greeks that brutal austerity measures would restore their economy by 2012.

Ask yourself, Was the Troika right?

There is a saying in America:  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Can Greece survive without the euro?  Greece is already dead, but the Germans won’t even bother to bury the corpse.  Greeks are told that if they leave the euro and renounce its debts, the nation will not be able to access world capital markets.  The reality is, Greece can’t access world markets now:  no one lends to a corpse.

There’s a way back across the River Styx.  But it’s not by paddling on a euro.

There’s Life after Euro

Many nations do quite well without the euro.  Sweden, Denmark and India do just fine without the euro—and so does Turkey, which had the luck to be excluded from the euro-zone.  As long as Turks stick to the lira, even Turkey’s brain-damaged Islamo-fascist President Tayyip Erdoğan cannot destroy their economy.

Can Greece just dump the euro?  They have happy precedents to follow.  Argentina was once pegged to the US dollar much as Greece is tied to the euro today.  In 2000, Argentines, hungry and angry, revolted.  Argentina ultimately overthrew the dollar dictatorship, the IMF diktats and the threats of creditors, and defaulted on its dollar bonds.  Free at last!  In the decade since, the Argentine economy soared.  Yes, today, Argentina is under attack by financial vultures, but that is only because the nation became so temptingly wealthy.

I was in Brazil when its President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the IMF to go to hell—and rejected privatization of the state banks and the state oil company, rejected cutting pensions and thumbed his nose at the rest of the austerity nonsense. Instead, Lula created the bolsa familia, a massive pay-out to the nation’s poor.  The result: Brazil not only survived but thrived during the 2008-10  world financial crisis.  Despite pressure, Brazil never ceded control of its currency. (It is a sad irony that Brazil is only now faltering.  That’s the fault entirely of Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff,  who is beginning to dance the austerity samba.)

Austerity:  Religion, Not Economics

The euro is simply the deutschmark with little stars on it.  Greece cannot adopt Germany’s currency without adopting Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, as its own.

And Schäuble has determined that Greece must be punished.  As my homey Paul Krugman points out, there is no credible economic theory that says that austerity—that is, cutting government spending, cutting wages, cutting consumer demand—can in any way help a nation in recession, in deflation.  That’s why, in 2009, Obama ordered up stimulus, not a sleeping pill.

But austerity has nothing to do with economics.  It is religion:  the belief by the stern Lutheran Germans that Greeks have had too much fun, spent too much money, and spent too much lazy time in the sun—and now Greeks must pay a price for their sins.

Oddly, I hear this self-flagellating nonsense from Greeks themselves:  we are lazy.  We deserve our punishment.  Nonsense.  The average Greek works more hours in a year than any other worker in the 34 nations of the OECD; Germans the least.

The Euro’s Father Describes his Little Bastard

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, would like to pretend that austerity and the euro are two different things, that you can marry the pretty girl but not invite her ugly sister to the wedding. Apparently, the Syriza chief is blissfully ignorant of the history of the euro.  The horror of austerity is not the consequence of Greek profligacy:  it was designed into the euro’s plan from the beginning.

This was explained to me by the father of the euro himself, economist Robert Mundell of Columbia University.  (I studied economics with Mundell’s buddy, Milton Friedman.)  Mundell not only invented the euro, he also fathered the misery-making policies of Thatcher and Reagan, known as “supply-side economics” – or, as George Bush Sr. called it, “voodoo economics.”  Supply-side voodoo is the long-discredited belief that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, eliminates government regulation and public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.

The euro is simply the other side of the supply-side coin.  As Mundell explained it, the euro is the way in which congresses and parliaments can be stripped of all power over monetary and fiscal policy.  Bothersome democracy is removed from the economic system.  “Without fiscal policy,” Mundell told me, “the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”

Greece, to survive in a euro economy, can only revive employment by reducing wages.  Indeed, the recent tiny reduction in unemployment is the sign that Greeks are slowly accepting a permanent future of low wages serving piña coladas to Germans on holiday cruises.

It is argued that Greece owes Germany, the IMF and the European Central Bank for bail-out-billions.  Nonsense.  None of the billions in bail-out funds went into Greek pockets.  It all went to bail out Deutsche Bank and other foreign creditors.  The EU treasuries swallowed 90% of its private bankers’ bonds.  Germany bailed out Germany, not Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece must pay Germany back, Mr. Tsipras, if you want to continue to use Germany’s currency, that is.

Greece:  Goldman Sacked

Greece’s ruin began with secret, fraudulent currency swaps, designed a decade ago by Goldman Sachs, to conceal Greek deficits that exceeded the euro zone’s 3%-of-GDP limit.  In 2009, when the truth came out, Greek debt holders realized they had been cheated.  These debt buyers then demanded usurious levels of interest (or, if you prefer, a high “spread”) to insure themselves against future fraud.  The compounding of this interest premium brought the Greek nation to its knees.  In other words, the crimes committed to join and stay in the euro, not Greek profligacy, caused the crisis.

The USA, Brazil and China escaped from depression by increasing their money supply and government spending and taking control of currency exchange rates—crucial tools Greece gave up in return for the euro.

Worse, once the Trojan hearse of the euro entered Athens, tourism, Greece’s main industry, drained to Turkey where hotels and souvenirs are priced in cheap lira.  This allowed Dr. Mundell’s remorseless wage-lowering machine, the euro, to do its work, to force Greece to strip all its workers of pensions and power.

Greece fell to its knees, with no choice but to beg Germany for mercy.

But there is no mercy.  As Germany’s Schäuble insists, democracy, this week’s vote, means nothing.  “New elections change nothing in the accords struck with the Greek government,” he says.  “[Greeks] have no alternative.”

Ah, but they do, Mr. Schäuble.  They can tell you to take your euro and shove it up your Merkel.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast’s book, Vultures’ Picnic, with the no-BS inside story of the financial collapse, will soon be released in a Greek edition by Livanis.

Support the Palast Investigative fund with a tax-deductible donation and get a signed copy Vultures’ Picnic or or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!

Greg Palast is also the author of several New York Times bestsellers includingThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

Palast is a Puffin Foundation Fellow for Investigative Reporting.

 

‘Bankrupt but free’: Greeks stage nationwide anti-austerity rallies

Thousands of Greeks take part in a pro-government demonstration in front of the parliament in Athens February 11, 2015. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis)

Published time: February 11, 2015 21:54
Edited time: February 13, 2015 11:22

RT NEWS

 

 

 

As EU politicians failed to reach a Greek debt deal in Brussels, thousands of people poured onto the streets of Athens and other large cities to protest austerity and voice support for the recently elected Syriza party.

Eurozone finance ministers have made progress in discussions with Greece following hours of talks on Wednesday. The talks on whether to extend an international bailout to Athens will continue during the next scheduled meeting on Monday, as the sides could not agree on another meeting before then.

“We explored a number of issues, one of which was the current program,” Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said. “We discussed the possibility of an extension. For some that is clear that is preferred option but we haven’t come to that conclusion as yet.”

Greece: Athenians rally against the Troika, debt and NATO

 

 

Greece has confirmed there was no agreement, adding that “negotiations will continue with the goal of a mutually beneficial agreement.”

“An extension of the memorandum cannot be accepted,” a statement from Athens reads. Greece’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, is negotiating to adjust conditions of the $284 billion bailout memorandum, agreed by a previous government in 2012.

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Kathimerini English @ekathimerini
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Hundreds defy cold to support gov’t at #Eurogroup, with Athens rally #Greece (Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)
11:58 AM – 11 Feb 2015

According to his recent statements, Varoufakis is looking to scrap about 30 percent of the conditions, which came attached with the previous loans. He is also seeking to secure an extension for further talks, funded by a loan that will allow the government to fulfill its obligations.

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José Miguel Sardo @jmsardo
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#Greece: FinMin @yanisvaroufakis says #eurogroup talks were “constructive” and “see you monday”. Photo via @Suanzes
6:23 PM – 11 Feb 2015

After seven hours of talks, Varoufakis said it was a “good discussion” that will continue on Monday, adding he believes a “healing deal” on Greece’s finances could be reached next week.

‘Bankrupt but Free’

Standing in front of the parliament building in central Athens – the traditional place for public demonstrations – a peaceful crowd held placards with the slogans “Bankrupt but Free” and “Stop Austerity, Support Greece, Change Europe.”

“In the cities of Greece and Europe the people are fighting the negotiation battle, They are our strength,” leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tweeted along with a picture of the rally in Athens, which attracted at least 15,000.

Other large rallies took place in Kalamata, Thessaloniki, and Crete, with smaller solidarity demonstrations occurring in major European capitals.

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#RuptlyLive – Greek protesters denounce ‘European blackmail‘ in #Athens rally FOLLOW LIVE: http://ow.ly/ITrDh
1:16 PM – 11 Feb 2015

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Banner in Athens #mazi rally RT @2Dorotea: “Not one step back” #athens now
1:18 PM – 11 Feb 2015

A recent poll said that 75 percent of all Greeks support the actions of Syriza since it assumed power as the dominant part of the coalition, following early elections on January 25.

Most EU officials were skeptical about agreeing to any deal on Wednesday, with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble saying the talks would give a chance to demarcate “red lines.”

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Anti-austerity parties rising: from Athens to Dublin! @conormurphymp speaks at rally in London in support of #Syriza
2:51 PM – 11 Feb 2015

 

Breaking News: Tense stand-off between Million Mask March protesters and police in London

RT UK – November 05, 2014

Reuters / Bobby Yip

Reuters / Bobby Yip

Barricades have been erected in London’s Parliament Square and hundreds of police officers are on standby after protesters announced intentions to “blockade” the center of the capital.

In anticipation of the Million Mask March on November 5, officers from the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and the City of London Police Force will be on duty, with many others on standby.

In their invitation to the Million Mask March, Anonymous activists announced they intend to to cause traffic chaos in the capital:

“What I’d like to see is a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City,” the demo’s website said. “Complete physical GRIDLOCK. Only thing that gets through are Fire & Rescue and ambulances. NOTHING ELSE MOVES.”

LIVE – Million Mask March floods London streets

 

The demonstration has been called by the hacktivist group Anonymous, whose manifesto states they protest against austerity, mass surveillance and human rights abuses.

The London march is part of a day of global demonstrations, which include rallies across Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Barricades have been erected in London’s Parliament Square and hundreds of police officers are on standby after protesters announced intentions to “blockade” the center of the capital.

In anticipation of the Million Mask March on November 5, officers from the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and the City of London Police Force will be on duty, with many others on standby.

In their invitation to the Million Mask March, Anonymous activists announced they intend to to cause traffic chaos in the capital:

“What I’d like to see is a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City,” the demo’s website said. “Complete physical GRIDLOCK. Only thing that gets through are Fire & Rescue and ambulances. NOTHING ELSE MOVES.”

 The demonstration has been called by the hacktivist group Anonymous, whose manifesto states they protest against austerity, mass surveillance and human rights abuses.

The London march is part of a day of global demonstrations, which include rallies across Europe, the Americas and Asia.

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Last year’s London march saw more than 2,500 protesters take to the streets, in a rally which saw fireworks thrown at Buckingham Palace and a total of 15 arrests.

The heightened security measures come as the Metropolitan Police attempted to contact Anonymous, but no one came forward with any details.

“We are keen to talk with them to ensure they are able to protest; it is important that they talk to us so that we can work together to achieve a safe and successful event,” said Chief Superintendent Pippa Mills.

Rather than communicate directly with local authorities, Anonymous sent a message to the government, and to global world leaders: “To oppressive governments, we say this: we do not expect our campaign to be completed in a short time frame. However, you will not prevail against the angry masses of the body politic.”

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The group further addresses the British government, saying they have “made an enemy of Anonymous,” and that they have “angered them considerably.”

Speaking to RT, one source from the Anonymous movement said, “It’s a night of grievance on a night that’s historically about parliament and how it’s not always working in the people’s interests.”

“We burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a fire each year as a warning against standing against parliament so we just felt it would be symbolic,” the source said.

The Million Mask March was due to begin at 1800 GMT from Trafalgar Square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-NATO protesters begin 192-mile march on summit

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British Foreign Secretary of State for Foreign an Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague (L) and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen unveils the logo of the NATO Wales’ summit before a family picture as part of a Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting in Brussels on June 25, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Peace activists have set out on a three-week ‘Long March on Newport’ to protest against September’s NATO Summit. Police say they have drafted in 9,000 officers to face the protesters in one of the UK’s biggest ever police operations.

More than 20,000 activists from around the world are expected to take part in demonstrations during the summit, where a week-long peace camp and a counter summit are among some of the events planned in what has been billed as Wales’ largest protest in a generation.

Sixty world leaders from the 28-nation military bloc will meet at the Celtic Manor in Newport for the NATO summit on September 4 and 5. Previous NATO summits in Chicago and Strasbourg saw thousands protest war, austerity and global inequality.

In one of the UK’s largest-ever policing deployments, 20km of security fencing is being erected around the venues.

“This is a UK-wide policing effort and I am confident that we will be able to deliver a safe summit, for delegates and the public,” said Assistant Chief Constable Chris Armitt, who is leading the policing and security operation for the summit.

 

 

 

No NATO Newport is taking a 19-day route from the National Eisteddfod in Llanelli on Friday, arriving in Newport on August 29. The protest is inspired by the Newport Chartist Rising, a 19th century suffrage march where scores were killed while demanding the release of Chartists imprisoned in the town.

“Many of us are increasingly worried by the threat that NATO poses to world stability and peaceful relations,” said the organizers.

“Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has reinvented itself supposedly as a tool of the ‘international community’ to safeguard ‘freedom and security’.

“In reality it is a vehicle for US-led use of force in the interests of the rich and powerful, accelerating militarization, bypassing the United Nations and the system of international law, and escalating spending on arms,” they added.

Activists argue that the money spent on arms could be better spent on hospitals, schools and services.

The protesters want to collect messages on postcards from members of the public along the way with the aim of delivering them on the first day of the summit during planned demonstrations outside the venue.

The No to NATO Newport umbrella group draws on the support of anti-war and anti-cuts activists working with the Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Green Party.

 

Alan Smith 02.09.2014 11:57

Part of a letter sent from a Dutch Professor to Vladmir Putin

We are powerless onlookers, as we witness how the Western Nations, led by the United States, accuse Russia of crimes they commit themselves more than anybody else. We reject the double standards that are used for Russia and the West. In our societies, sufficient evidence is required for a conviction. The way you and your Nation are convicted for ‘crimes’ without evidence, is ruthless and despicable.