Sunday, July 5, 2015

Grisis 7/5

The Troika lost the referendum. If the Troika hadn't overplayed their hand by forcing a Greek bank shutdown, they might have won: two weeks ago polling showed the Greeks were evenly split on the Troika's position.

The Greeks are dancing in the streets. I am left feeling, though, that little has been won. It is hard for me to see the Germans backing down. It is just possible the Troika will split internally; the leaked (unofficially released?) IMF report indicates that the IMF staff, at least, wants debt reduction for Greece. But for the Greeks, more hard times. And there are terrible risks. The Greek fascist Golden Dawn party also sees this as a victory, and if conditions do not improve in Greece quickly, they will have a chance at power. It is hard for me to imagine any EU nation going to war to collect their Greek debt, but tensions could increase.

Still, at least austerity has taken a hit in the eyes of the world. I think other European counties whose hard times have been made harder by poor decisions of the European Central Bank will fight harder, even if the Troika ultimately prevails in Greece.

Yemen: and now for something completely different

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) writes:
Since the violence in Yemen escalated in March over 3,083 people have been killed and 14,324 have been injured, while over one million people have had to flee their homes. Three months into the conflict escalation, more than 21.1 million people – 4 in 5 Yemenis – now need some form of humanitarian assistance.—OCHA Press Release, 1 July 2015 
 OCHA overview

F—, F—, F'ity F—.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Grisis 7/3: but there is commentary

And it's totally appropriate for Independence Day in the USA, so here's a few links:
  1. Enough about Greece, let's talk about Finland: "Finland is a model European citizen; it has honest government, sound finances and a solid credit rating, which lets it borrow money at incredibly low interest rates. It’s also in the eighth year of a slump that has cut real gross domestic product per capita by 10 percent and shows no sign of ending."—Paul Krugman, Europe’s Many Economic Disasters, "What all of these economies have in common, however, is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket."
  2.  Jamie Galbraith, advisor to Syriza. Greece: Only the 'No' Can Save the Euro and 9 myths about the Greek crisis.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Grisis 7/2

And now:
According to the IMF, Greece should have a 20-year grace period before making any debt repayments and that final payments should not take place until 2055.—Guardian link
So now, the IMF admits Greece's debt is unsustainable, after putting the Greeks through five years of misery.

I'm going to put this series of posts on hold, pending the referendum. The various parties have staked out their positions and it does not seem like much will change until it is held.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Something Completely Different: Tar Sands

(This is something a friend asked me to boost the signal on. It's not my usual ambit, but it is important, so I'm doing something on it, rather late.)

The climate activist group 350.org is leading various protests against the development of tar sands oil. My friend, who lives in BC, tipped me to the opposition of Prof. Lynne Quarmby, department head of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry department of Simon Fraser University. Prof Quarmby went to jail in opposition to pipeline construction in BC. She was later released. But that is only the Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion. Efforts are being made to ship oil tar sands from the tar sands fields of Alberta and Saskatchewan to, literally, all four points of the compass. So there is the Energy East project, leading east to New Brunswick, the Keystone XL Pipeline, running south through the USA to Houston, the Trans-Mountain Pipeline running west to Vancouver, and even a proposal for an Arctic Gateway Pipeline (PDF), that would take advantage of the warming climate the ship oil through Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea, and thence through the newly opened Northwest Passage through the Arctic Sea.

I wrote about this two years ago, quoting James Hansen, but here's his remarks on the tar sands oil again:
The truth is that the tar sands gook contains more than twice the carbon from all the oil burned in human history. If infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, is built to transport tar sands gook, ways will be developed to extract more and more. When full accounting is done of emissions from tar sands oil, its use is equivalent to burning coal to power your automobile. This is on top of the grotesque regional tar sands destruction.—Hansen: Norway, Canada, the United States, and the Tar Sands (PDF)
We badly need to leave this in the ground, and we badly need to start relying on other sorts of energy.

Grisis 7/1

German political leaders saying inexcusable things about Greece, Guardian link.

Merkel: "'The door to talks with the Greek government has always been, and remains, open,' she said, but added that talks could not take place before Sunday’s poll."

Translation: "You're not getting any supper. Go to your room and think about it."

Schäuble: "Greece is in a difficult situation, but purely because of the behaviour of the Greek government…It’s all very sad."

Translation: "It makes me really sad that I have to hit you."

The Greeks are not children to disciplined, and no-one is to be abused at whim. Adult Greeks are in the streets, starving and dying.

There is huge condemnation of the Greeks for profligacy—why is there no condemnation of the Germans for miserliness?

BTW, Guardian editors, Syriza is not radical left. KKE, the Greek Communist Party, is radical left. Know the difference.

Postscript: Jared Bernstein offers a measured overview of the problems of Greece and the risks of financial contagion, MSNBC link."[The Greeks] have long suffered … far more from their treatment by others [than from their own mistakes.] If they decide to put a stop to that, we should not blame them." (Dr. Bernstein, I love your posts, but I wish you'd kill the weasel words. It's hard to pull short quotes when half the words are equivocal.)

Update: The Guardian, as the lede of an sympathetic article generally sympathetic to Germany and the Eurocrats, writes: "Berlin has delivered a blistering attack on Greece’s beleaguered radical prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, accusing him of lying to his own people and seeking scapegoats for the country’s misery everywhere but in his own ranks." Translation, I think: "You made me hit you. Don't make me hit you again."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grisis 6/30

Anil KashyapGreece has not paid its IMF loans, which (the reporting says) is technically being in arrears, not in default. Reuters link.

Reading the mainstream reporting, I am struck by the total focus on finance and overwhelming sympathy to the interests of the Greece's creditors, to the exclusion of the suffering of the Greek people. It's very odd when one considers how widely-hated the banksters are in the West. I had to go to the Trotskyist World Socialist web site to find any recent coverage of that, and that doesn't even show up in Google News. WSWS link. I tried looking on the far right, but the Greek fascist Golden Dawn web site (find 'em yourself) has nothing—I suppose the fascist superman is strong and silent in the face of adversity. Likewise Stormfront (neo-Nazi) and Free Republic (fascist.) The Free Republic more-or-less supports the ECB position of further Greek austerity, not that they'll ever admit it.

Tsirpas and Syriza are between a rock and a hard place. So far as the reporting I've seen shows, the Greek public both wants Greece to stay in the Euro and wants an end to austerity, and that isn't a deal that the masters of the Euro are willing to make. Tsirpas and Syriza have failed in persuading a majority of the Greek public that Greece can have one or the other, but not both. As in the USA, the connection between policy and personal lives is hard to communicate. So the vote is (reportedly) balanced on a knife edge.

Postscript: "A Primer on the Greek Crisis: the things you need to know from the start until now." (PDF) A historical analysis of the Greek financial problems from Anil Kashyap of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.

Postscript 2: "The Greek Crisis: Grandparents on the Table?" Laura Shannon. Coverage of the human cost. I believe some of the policy specifics are wrong.