Tag: Greece


I can’t resist this essay from George Monbiot.

As regular followers of Learning from Dogs will know, I frequently republish essays written by George Monbiot. I do so because there is only so much one can write about dogs, Mr. Monbiot is a great writer, and the gentleman has generously given me blanket permission to republish his essays! ūüėČ

Plus, while many of my posts are directly about dogs, the underlying theme of this blog is to use the qualities of dogs as emblems, or metaphors, for how mankind has to behave if we are to have any chance of survival into the longterm. Or in the words of my essay on Dogs and integrity:

Because of this closeness between dogs and man, we (as in man!) have the ability to observe the way they live.¬† Now I’m sure that scientists would cringe with the idea that the way that a dog lives his life sets an example for us humans, well cringe in the scientific sense.¬† But man seems to be at one of those defining stages in mankind’s evolution where the forces bearing down on the species homo sapiens have the potential to cause very great harm.¬† If the example of dogs can provide a beacon of hope, an incentive to change at a deep cultural level, then the quicker we ‘get the message’, the better it will be.

All of which is my way of introducing Mr. Monbiot’s latest essay on the recent shenanigans involving Greece, in particular, and the EU, in general.


Breaking Faith

13th July 2015

The European Union is becoming ever harder for progressives to love. Is it time to get out?

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 10th July 2015

Had I been asked a couple of years ago how I would vote in the referendum on whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union, my answer would have been unequivocal.

The EU seemed to me to be a civilising force, restraining the cruel and destructive tendencies of certain member governments (including our own), setting standards that prevented them from destroying the natural world or trashing workers rights, creating a buffer between them and the corporate lobby groups that present an urgent threat to democracy.

Now I’m not so sure. Everything good about the European Union is in retreat; everything bad is on the rampage.

I accept the principle of sharing sovereignty over issues of common concern. I do not accept the idea of the rich nations combining to crush the democratic will of the poorer nations, as they are seeking to do to Greece.

I accept the principle that the European Union should represent our joint interests in creating treaties for the betterment of humankind. I do not accept that it has a right to go behind our backs and quietly negotiate a treaty with the United States ‚Äď the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) ‚Äď that transfers power from parliaments to corporations.

I accept the principle that the EU could distribute money to the poor and marginalised. I do not accept that, as essential public services are cut, ‚ā¨57bn a year should be sloshed into the pockets of farmers, with the biggest, richest landowners receiving the largest payments. The EU‚Äôs utter failure to stop this scandal should be a source of disillusionment even to its most enthusiastic supporters.

While these injustices, highly damaging to the reputation of the European Union among people who might otherwise be inclined to defend it, are taking place, at the same time the EU’s restraints on unaccountable power are in danger of being ripped away.

The slippage began with the disastrous abandonment last year of the Soil Framework Directive, at the behest of agricultural lobbyists and the British government. It’s the first time a directive has been derailed.

The directive would have obliged the member states¬†to minimise soil erosion and compaction, maintain the organic matter contained in the soil, prevent landslides and prevent soil from being contaminated with toxic substances. Could any sentient person object to these aims? And can anyone who has studied the complete failure of current soil protection measures in countries like the United Kingdom, where even Farmer‚Äôs Weekly admits that ‚ÄúBritish soils are reaching crisis point‚ÄĚ fail to see that further measures are required?

The National Farmers Union, who appear to regard it as their mission to vandalise the fabric of the nation, took credit for the decision.

Now the same industries are trying to sink the directives protecting the natural world. In some European countries, the nature directives are just about all that prevent the eradication of the wildlife that belongs to everyone and no one. Thanks to the capture and cowardice of the European Commission, there is now a real danger that the industrial lobbyists who want to destroy our common heritage will get their way.

The European Union‚Äôs two nature directives ‚Äď the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive ‚Äď are often all that stand between our wildlife and the industries that would destroy them.

Look, for example, at what’s happening to our harbour porpoises. These beautiful creatures, that enhance the lives of everyone who has seen them leaping and playing the sea, are being caught and killed in fishing nets, starved to death by overfishing, mashed up by propellers and driven out of their feeding grounds by a cacophony of underwater noise from boats.

The only way in which they can be protected is through creating areas in which these activities are restricted, particularly in places such as the Hebrides, the outer Moray Firth and in parts of Cardigan Bay. But the only site the government has proposed is a tiny speck of sea off the coast of Northern Ireland.

The one defence this species has against the mailed fist of the fishing industry, which appears to be locked around the sensitive parts of the UK’s environment department, is an appeal under the Habitats Directive, of which this country is blatantly in breach.

Or look at the continued massacre of birds of prey by grouse shooting estates, which operate as black holes in which hen harriers, peregrines, eagles and other species disappear without trace: shot, trapped or poisoned by an industry that exists to serve the ultra-elite, while damaging the common heritage of humankind. There’s no point in asking nicely: representing the interests of the ultra-elite while damaging the common interests of humankind appears to be the government’s mission. So the only possible restraint is an appeal under the Birds Directive, which the UK government signed and still claims to uphold.

Badly and erratically as we protect our precious species and the places in which they live, they would be in a much worse state were it not for the restraining influence of European law.

I happen to think that there is quite a lot wrong with the Habitats Directive. Some of the places it protects, at the behest of national governments, are highly degraded ecosystems, and it locks them into their depleted state, ensuring that they can recover neither the wealth of species that might live there, nor much of the dynamism and ecological function that could otherwise have been restored.

The irrational way in which upland heather moors are protected is one example. Like the strikingly similar landscapes of low wiry vegetation that you can now see in some former rainforest areas in the tropics, these habitats have been created through repeated cycles of cutting and burning. This destruction is necessary to keep these wastelands in their current state, by preventing trees from returning.

While we decry these processes when we see them take place abroad, here we treat them as if they were essential conservation tools. It’s a form of madness which afflicts everyone from grouse moor owners to conservationist groups, and it reflects an astonishing loss of perspective on the part of those who should be protecting the natural world. The Habitats Directive is one of the legal instruments that has turned this continued destruction into a legal requirement.

But the European Commission‚Äôs proposals to ‚Äúreform‚ÄĚ the directives, are likely to make them worse, not better. The danger is that it will leave their irrational aspects intact, while stripping away the essential protections they offer to our wildlife.

No one is in any doubt that the ‚Äúreform‚ÄĚ being proposed is the kind that is usually enacted with a can of petrol and a box of matches. In November last year, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, instructed the Environment Commissioner to ‚Äúoverhaul‚ÄĚ the directives and to examine the possibility of merging them. A reliable if sometimes eccentric set of protections is now at mortal risk.

A public consultation on these proposals is taking place at the moment, and it closes on July 24. I’ll repeat that because the only hope these directives possess is a huge public response calling for their defence. The consultation closes on July 24. Please send in your views. Already, 270,000 people have done so, prompted by campaigning organisations such as the RSPB. Let’s turn this into half a million.

The ostensible purpose of this proposed vandalism is to reduce the costs to business. But when the Conservative former president of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, was asked by the European Commission to conduct a review of all European legislation, with a view to deregulating it, he discovered that the combined impact of all seven of the EU’s environmental directives (of which birds and habitats are just two) is less than 1% of the total cost to business caused by European law. In other words it is utterly insignificant.

In fact, changing these directives could be costly for businesses, as they have already adapted their practices to meet them, and they would have to start all over again if the laws are changed.

The threat to the directives arises not from a demand by business as a whole, but from pressure by two of the most destructive industries in the European Union, Big Farmer and the construction lobby. That the European Commission should have chosen to listen to them while ignoring the views of everyone else cuts to the heart of what is going wrong there.

So when the referendum comes, I will find myself in a struggle I never anticipated. I am an internationalist. I think it’s essential that issues which transcend national borders are tackled together, rather than apart. I recognise the hideous history of conflict in Europe, and the extraordinary achievement of peace that the European Union represents. I feel nothing in common with the Eurosceptics of the right, who appear to see the EU as interfering with their god-given right to exploit other people and destroy their surroundings.

My feelings towards the EU are now similar to my feelings towards the BBC: a sense that I ought to join the defence of this institution against reactionary forces, but that it has succumbed so catastrophically to those forces that there is little left to defend. If the nature directives go down, while TTIP and the fiscal waterboarding of countries like Greece proceed, it will not be obvious what continued membership has to offer us.



 Difficult to add anything of value to these powerful words from GM other than to remind everyone, both in the EU and outside (for the survey accepts non-EU resident contributions), to complete the survey highlighted by George Monbiot. The link is here.

Mid-week break.

Just ran out of time yesterday, so enjoy the following:

(Sent to me by Dan Gomez.)


The beautiful strange-eyed kitten, taken in  Lovech, Bulgaria in the summer of 2009 by Bobby Pfeiffer.


Zakynthos Island in Greece. The water is so clear, it looks like the boat is floating in the air.

This is what ocean sand looks like when it’s magnified 250 times.

California Red-Sided Garter Snake.


Zanjeer, The Golden Labrador Who Saved Thousands Of Lives.

In March 1993, a series of 12 bombs went off across Mumbai, India. The serial blasts left 257 dead and 713 injured. But in the aftermath, an unlikely hero emerged. According to Reuters, a golden labrador named Zanjeer worked with the bomb squad and saved thousands of lives by detecting “more than 3,329 kgs of the explosive RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades and 6,406 rounds of live ammunition.” He helped avert three more bombs in the days following the blasts.

The dog died of bone cancer in 2000. He was eight years old.

In the photo, a senior police officer lays a wreath of flowers on Zanjeer as he was buried with full police honors at a widely-attended ceremony.


The love of a woman for her horse!

The incredible story of one woman’s loyalty to her horse – she spent three hours holding its head above the tide after it got stuck in the mud on a beach in Australia.¬† His owner, Nicole Graham, who was enjoying an afternoon ride, stayed with him as rescuers struggled for three hours to pull him out. With moments to spare, the 500kg horse, named Astro, was freed with the help of a tractor and harness at Avalon Beach in Geelong, Victoria, Australia .


Hearing clearly?

Perhaps intuition is all we have to hear clearly.

John O’Donohue, in yesterday’s post, touched on the essence of today’s theme, “The greatest philosophers admit that to a large degree all knowledge comes through the senses. The senses are our bridge to the world.

Dogs, of course, demonstrate powerfully how their senses provide a ‘bridge to the world’.

This odd collection of writings (ramblings?) ¬†that comprise Learning from Dogs is based around the ‘i’ word – Integrity. ¬†The banner on the home page proclaims¬†Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them. Ergo, dogs offer a powerful metaphor for the pressing need for integrity among those that ‘manage’ our societies.

Thus my senses are more tuned, than otherwise, to the conversations in the world out there that support the premise that unless we, as in modern man, radically amend our attitudes and behaviours, then the species homo sapiens is going to hell in a hand-basket!

End of preamble!

Professor Bill Mitchell is one person who recently touched my senses.  As his Blog outlines he is an interesting fellow,

(Photo taken in August 2011 in Melbourne, Australia)

Bill Mitchell is the Research Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia.

He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band ‚ÄstPressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

He also plays with a Newcastle swing blues band ‚ÄstThe Blues Box.¬†You can find music and other things on his¬†Home Page.

Professor Mitchell’s Blog is not for the faint-hearted, it can be pretty technical at times. ¬†Nevertheless, I have been a daily subscriber for a couple of months now.

On the 24th, Prof. Bill wrote a long article under the heading of ‘What if economists were personally liable for their advice‘. ¬†I want to quote a little from that article. ¬†Starting with,

Economists have a strange way of writing up briefing documents. There is an advanced capacity to dehumanise economic advice and ignore the most important economic and social problems (unemployment and poverty) in favour of promoting non-issues (like public debt ratios). It reminds me sometimes of how the Nazis who were brutal in the extreme in the execution of their ideology sat around getting portraits of themselves taken with their loving families etc. The training of economists creates an advanced state of separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.

In a sense, we all understand this, this use of language to separate us from our collective humanity.  A random Google search came up with this.  A statement by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to Parliament on the 24th regarding Europe, as in,

Mr Speaker, let me turn to yesterday’s European Council.

This European Council was about three things.

Sorting out the problems of the Eurozone.

Promoting growth in the EU.

And ensuring that as the Eurozone develops new arrangements for governance, the interests of those outside the Eurozone are protected.

This latter point touches directly on the debate in this House later today, and I will say a word on this later in my statement.

Resolving the problems in the Eurozone is the urgent and over-riding priority facing not only the Eurozone members, but the EU as a whole ‚Äď and indeed the rest of the world economy.

Britain is playing a positive role proposing the three vital steps needed to deal with this crisis ‚Äď the establishment of a financial firewall big enough to contain any contagion; the credible recapitalisation of European banks; and a decisive solution to the problems in Greece.

Read the last paragraph. ¬†Wonderful words that seem to make sense to the casual listener but picking up on Prof. Bill, an utter ‘separation from human issues and an absence of empathy‘. ¬†There is no humanity in those words from the British Prime Minister. ¬†We all know there are hundreds of other examples from mouthpieces all across our global society. ¬†Back to Bill Mitchell’s article,

Linkiesta say:

Greece has failed. To say this is not another report of investment banks or research centers, but directly Troika officials who have just completed their review on Hellenic public finance. Linkiesta is in possession of the entire report of the troika, composed of officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission.

I have a rule of thumb that I use when considering documents such as these. The rule is to assess how strong the concern for unemployment is. How often is unemployment mentioned? The answer is zero. The document never mentions the word or concept.

So obsessed are the Troika and their bean counters about public debt stabilisation that they have completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter ‚Äď the failure to generate work for all.

Read those last words again, “completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter ‚Äď the failure to generate work for all“. ¬†One last extract from the article,

There is absolutely no historical evidence which shows that when all nations are contracting or stagnant and private spending is flat (or contracting) that cutting public spending will create growth.

So why did these economists think that a nation would grow when all components of spending were strongly indicated to fall or were being actually cut? The answer lies in acknowledging that they operate in an ideologically blinkered world and are never taken to account for their policy mistakes. They are unaccountable and do not suffer income losses when the nations they dispense advice to and impose policies on behave contrary to the ‚Äúexpectation‚ÄĚ which results in millions being unemployed.

In my view, my profession should be liable for the advice it gives and economists should be held personally liable for damages if their advice causes harm to other individuals. If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be ‚Äúplaying‚ÄĚ with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.

Very powerful words that strike at the heart of the matter, that of integrity. (If you want to read it in full, then the article is here.)

Let me move on a little. ¬†The 24th also saw a powerful essay on Yves Smith’s Blog Naked Capitalism, from¬†Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland. ¬†Here’s a taste of what Mr. Pilkington wrote.

Every now and then a terrible thought enters my mind. It runs like this: what if the theatre of the Eurocrisis is really and truly a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns?

Yes, of course, we can engage in polemic and say that such is the case. But in doing so we are trying to stoke emotion and generally allowing our rhetorical flourish to carry the argument. At least, that is what I thought. I had heard this rhetoric; I had engaged in it to some extent myself; but I had never really believed it. Only once or twice, in my nightmares, I had thought that, maybe, just maybe, it might have some truth.

Can you see the parallels between Prof. Mitchell and Philip Pilkington? ¬†The latter wrote, “a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns“, the former wrote, “If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be ‚Äúplaying‚ÄĚ with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.”

It’s clearly obvious to all those that have commented to both the Bill Mitchell and Philip Pilkington items. ¬†That is, in my words, a complete lack of integrity, truth and a commitment to serve the people, from so many in places of influence and power.

We all sense this, hear it so clearly, a separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.

We have so much to learn, so much sense to learn, from dogs!


Footnote. ¬†Had just completed the above when I came across a piece by Patrick Cockburn in last Sunday’s Independent newspaper, that starts thus,

World View: A sense of injustice is growing. Elite politicians and notorious wrongdoers appear immune as ordinary Greeks reel from wage and job cuts

Up close, the most striking feature of the reforms being forced on Greece by its international creditors is their destructiveness and futility. The pay cuts, tax rises, cuts and job losses agreed to by parliament in Athens last week will serve only to send the economy into a steeper tailspin, even if it extracted a much-needed ‚ā¨8bn in bailout money from the EU leaders. “Nothing but a lost war could be worse than this situation,” one left-wing ex-minister tells me. “What is worse, no party or political group¬†in¬†Greece¬†is offering real solutions to our crisis.

Say no more!

Greece, or grease?

The agony of watching a country (and a planet) slip.

Readers will be aware that I very rarely stroll through the tangled pastures of international politics and finance. ¬†The only reason that I do so today is on the back of a very impressive letter published in the German newspaper¬†¬†Handelsblatt. ¬†That was brought to my attention by my subscription to Mike Shedlock’s (Mish) Blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis. ¬†You will see that I muse at two levels about where we are today.

Earlier, I had read in last Saturday’s, The Economist a leader on Greece’s debt crisis, entitled Trichet the¬†intransigent. ¬† That started thus,

The European Central Bank’s refusal to consider a restructuring of Greek debt could wreck the euro zone
May 12th 2011 | from the print edition

IF THE stakes were not so high, Europeans’ incompetence in the euro-zone debt crisis would be comic.

and concluded thus,

It is time for the Germans and the IMF to call the ECB’s bluff. Together they should demand, and instigate, a restructuring of Greek debt. Germany should push other European governments to cough up money to support Greek banks and, if necessary, to make whole the ECB. The fund, which knows how to restructure debt, must ensure the process is run in a competent manner. The ECB will then be faced with a choice: go along with an orderly restructuring, or trigger a much greater mess by in effect forcing Greece out of the euro zone. Surely Mr Trichet does not want that to be his legacy.

So with that as background, the letter to Georgios Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece written by Gabor Steingart is powerful and hard hitting.  Here it is in full.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Dear Mr. Papandreou,

With the greatest respect, the Western world is monitoring your efforts to master your country’s debt crisis. No other democratic country has ever managed anything like that in peacetime. You are shrinking the state apparatus; you are fighting corruption; you are teaching your fellow countrymen how to become honest tax-payers.

You are a modern hero. You are attempting the impossible. As the son of a persecuted and ostracized politician who was chased by the military junta you grew up close to danger. When the officers were looking for your father who was hiding in the attic, they threatened you by putting an unlocked pistol to your forehead and challenged you to betray your father. You denied your father’s presence until he, worried about his son’s life, left his hiding place.Later you fled with him to America where you spent your adolescence. You are alarger-than-life-character.

Preceding governments almost ruined your¬†country.¬†Debts amounting to 340 billion Euros are burdening the Greek¬†state,equaling¬†155¬†times the profit¬†of the 60 largest companies of¬†your country¬†and 1.5¬†times the amount of debts the Maastricht Treaty allows.¬†A year ago, this newspaper, Germany’s biggest Business Daily,¬†appealed¬†to¬†the public to buy Greek government bonds in order to give to the country what Greece needs¬†just as¬†urgently¬†as¬†money: confidence.¬†We¬†also¬†wanted¬†to assist in breaking through the negative spiral of growing doubt and increasing interest¬†rates.¬†Everyone who granted you guarantees and loans wanted it, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the heads of state and government.

But since then, the spiral has picked up in speed instead of slowing down. In May 2010 the interest rate at which your country was given money on a ten year basis was at eight per cent. Today, it is at 16 per cent. And in all probability, it will be going up further. The bitter truth to which you and all parties who wanted to help Greece have to admit is that the help doesn’t help. Your country is getting deeper and deeper into the mess. Debts are growing, the gross national product will decrease by at least three per cent in 2011. But it would have to grow by three per cent instead if you were to lower your debt to the allowedlimit until 2040. This is becoming more and more unrealistic. You can’t starve and build up your muscles at the same time.

The truth that Greece has to cut back and save has turned into an untruth. The right thing has turned into the wrong thing. You already cut pensions, lowered the salaries of civil servants by 30 per cent and raised the prices of gas by almost 50 per cent. You can’t restore the health of your country by saving. And the European Union can’t restore your country’s health by again and again injecting new loans.

Soon, the day will come when the tortured body will surrender.¬†The Greek construction industry already shrank by 70 per cent. Sales of car dealers sank by half. A daily export¬†volume of 50 million Euros Greece is¬†achieving¬†¬†far too little. ¬†Soon the day will come which¬†investors fear in their nightmares.¬†Then¬†the word ‚Äúinsolvency‚ÄĚ will be on everyone‚Äôs lips.

But it is also the day when a new truth will be born: Don‚Äôt save but invest,¬†they will tell you¬†‚Äď so that the Greek economy will grow again. Do not service debt with debt, you then will be recommended,¬†but spread out the debt service, cut it¬†and¬†maybe even completely¬†suspend it¬†for a while.¬†It will be a day of impositions, especially for those who¬†lendmoney to you and your¬†people. Financial markets will grind to a halt in horror ‚Äď and then they will turn to embrace the future.¬†Because¬†Argentina in 2001,¬†Mexico at the beginning of¬†the eighties and Germany after World War II taught us that there is¬†a¬†life after death – at least, in the case of highly indebted states.

Mr.¬†Papandreou,¬†so far, you attempted the impossible. Now you should¬†do¬†the possible.¬†Just¬†as¬†you deceived the officers¬†as a boy and denied to know where your father was hiding you now must¬†repudiate¬†the pride¬†of the Greeks –¬†in order to save your country. Come to meet the new uncomfortable truth before it knocks¬†at¬†your door. It‚Äôs already on its way.

Respectfully yours,

Gabor Steingart

The author is¬†an award winning Journalist, the former White House Correspondent of “Der Spiegel” and now¬†Handelsblatt‚Äôs¬†¬†Editor-in-Chief.¬†¬†His book “The war for wealth. The true story of globalization or while the flat world is broken” was ¬†published in the US, GB, China and several other countries by McGraw Hill, New York, in 2008.

You may contact him at


Powerful, as I said.

In a sense, in a very real sense, this illustration of the end game of our love affair with debt is symptomatic of the end game in terms of mankind’s love affair with, well with mankind. ¬†The following was written by an inmate of Oklahoma Prison in 1998.

At the root of my humanity lies a potentially insatiable self-centredness.  Given its way, it can become unquenchable. Nothing, not even the richest of imagination, will put out its fire.

This ‘what’s in it for me’ mindset is at the root of all my problems and is where my fears live. ¬†From those fears come anger, greed, intolerance, and a host of other shortcomings.

It is no accident that all religions point to the forgetting of self, because all religions know salvation lies in self-forgetting.

As we head relentlessly towards a level of 400 parts per million (PPM) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 50 PPM above the highest safe limit determined by climate scientists, the time for mankind to move on from the debt-laden, over-leveraged, disconnected life from Planet Earth, is now.

That’s now!

A questionnaire on the European Union

A guest post from Chris Snuggs, a long-term supporter and author on Learning from Dogs.

Chris Snuggs

EU QUESTIONNAIRE¬†¬†¬† –¬†¬†¬† C Snuggs, 26 November, 2010

This questionnaire is designed to test your knowledge and opinions of the EU. Your answers will be collated and go towards the production of a report to present to your MEP (Member of the European Parliament)‚Äď if you can find him or her. Please give your opinion by ticking either T (true) or F (false) for each proposition.

1¬†¬†¬† Greece falsified its statistics in order to ‚Äúqualify‚ÄĚ for entry to the euro.
2    EU leaders KNEW this (like almost everyone else), but ignored it.
3    The EU’s OWN economists had told them that Greece and others could not live in the Eurozone alongside Germany.
4    Ergo, the EU elite connived in a LIE about the finances of Greece and the future of the euro..
5    Once Greece was in the Eurozone it spent money wildly and wastefully with many people retiring at 50, a bloated and overpaid civil service, civil servants who often didn’t bother to turn up, pensions bequeathed to relatives and so on.
6    The EU elite knew all this but DID NOTHING EFFECTIVE about it.
7    Now European taxpayers are having to pay BILLIONS to bail out feckless countries that vastly overspent.
8    The EU elite that lied and ignored these deep problems have been utterly incompetent guardians’ of EU taxpayers’ money. More than incompetent, they have been party to DEFRAUDING many millions of taxpayers for their own ambitions and political ends.
9    The VAST payouts of taxpayers’ money to bail out Greece, Ireland and soon Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Italy DO NOTHING TO FIX THE UNDERLYING PROBLEMS as highlighted in 3 above. This policy therefore represents an appalling further waste of money and merely postpones difficult decisions that EU leaders must make, and should in fact have made YEARS ago.
10¬†¬†¬† According to the EU‚Äôs OWN RULES it is ILLEGAL to ‚Äúbail out‚ÄĚ a bankrupt country. Despite this, the EU countries have bailed out Greece and now Ireland. Mr Van Rompuy was charged with finding a way that this could be done legally. Frau Merkel has suggested that the Lisbon Treaty be amended to allow bailouts to be done legally. How she proposes to amend this Treaty without the consent of member countries is a mystery.
11    The EU elite, knowingly having illegally bailed out Greece and now Ireland should be arrested en masse for illegal use of public money. The EU is very strong on law, except apparently for itself when it suits it.

12    The EU has failed to get its accounts signed off for the nth year in succession; NO PRIVATE CONCERN COULD GET AWAY WITH THIS.
13¬†¬†¬† At this time of economic crisis the EU wants to spend SIX BILLION EUROS on a new diplomatic service, including the placing of FORTY-SIX ‚Äúdiplomats‚ÄĚ on Barbados and over FIFTY on Madagascar.
14    The number of EU citizens demanding this vast expenditure must be microscopic; though nobody knows for sure since the EU would never dream of asking its paymasters their opinion.
15    Europe is going through the worst period of financial chaos since WWII. Jobs are being lost almost everywhere; many EU countries are technically bankrupt; people’s living standards and public services are being drastically cut, except it seems in the EU in Brussels.
16    The EU has just won a court case against the people that finance it, the national governments. As a consequence, EU workers will receive a payrise backdated to last year with interest of 3.7% at a time of desperate economic hardship for many millions of EU citizens.
17¬†¬†¬† The head of the vast new ‚Äúdiplomatic‚ÄĚ organisation is a Brit who has NEVER BEEN ELECTED to any post of significance and earns more than TWICE as much as ANY European leader, plus very considerable expenses. She is far from unique in the EU circle of the elite.
18    EU workers receive extraordinary perks (benefits) and also pay around 8% income tax. Very few of their electors (who pay their wages) benefit from anything like this sort of remuneration.
19    Peter Mandelson RESIGNED from his post as Commissioner to become an English Lord. Since his ludicrous remuneration for this was LOWER than his EU income the EU is paying him around £62,000 of taxpayers’ money for FOUR years to make up the difference, EVEN THOUGH HE RESIGNED.
20    The above-mentioned practice amounts to institutionalised THEFT of taxpayers’ money.
21    The EU has just created an English-language website to inform us of how wonderful they are. In other words, WE are paying to have EU PROPAGANDA shoved down our throats.
22¬†¬†¬† The EU paying some 300,000‚ā¨ for a dogs‚Äô home in Poland at a time when millions of people in Europe are suffering real economic hardship is just one example of frivelous use of taxpayers‚Äô money.

23¬†¬†¬† Mr van Rompuy, unelected ‚ÄúPresident‚ÄĚ from a failing and disintegrating state (is this the reason for his obsession?), has said that¬†‚ÄúThe nation states are dead.‚ÄĚ He and the EU elite seek the creation of a European ‚Äúsuperstate‚ÄĚ controlled from Brussels.
24¬†¬†¬† Mr Van Rompuy has presumably informed President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel and other EU leaders personally that their states ‚Äúare dead‚ÄĚ. Their reactions have not been published so far.
25    This agenda was denied by the EU elite for many decades, which of course represents yet another LIE.
26¬†¬†¬† This unelected ‚ÄúPresident‚ÄĚ earns more than any national leader in the EU. This is to give the impression that he is more important, since clearly the more money you are paid the more important you must be.

27    MEPs have just demanded a near 6% increase in the EU budget.
28    In this they are certainly not reflecting the wishes of the majority of their electors.
29    Many turn up in Brussels, sign on to qualify for their attendance allowance and then go away.
30    I do not know of any other profession where you get paid a vast salary and expenses and then EXTRA MONEY just for attending a meeting.
31¬†¬†¬† Most people haven‚Äôt got the foggiest idea who is supposed to be ‚Äúrepresenting‚ÄĚ them in Brussels.
32¬†¬†¬† The EU as it stands is a top-down decision-making organisation whose leaders have a degree of self-righteousness (‚ÄúOnly we know what is good for you.‚ÄĚ) that has to be suffered to be believed.
33    MEPs do not take their electors wishes into account.
34    The EU hates referendums since they give an opportunity to the people to express their opinion and actually make a decision. Naturally they can’t be trusted with decisions.
35¬†¬†¬† When a referendum goes against the EU the usual reaction is to oblige the country involved to do it again and again till the ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ answer is produced. In this the EU is a laughing stock, but the elite do not care as long as they get their way
36    MEPs periodically flog up and down from Brussels to Strasbourg. Sitting in Strasbourg is supposed to be some sort of symbol, but I don’t know of any voters who were asked if they wanted to pay through the nose for a symbol at vast expense, not least in carbon emissions.

37    The modern world is characterized by greed, arrogance and incompetence. These are qualities that the EU elite has demonstrated in abundance.
38    The EU elite has totally and utterly FAILED the people of Europe and is not fit for purpose.
39    Most people believe in cooperation within Europe, but not in a European superstate ruled from Brussels, a country both disintegrating and vastly endebted.
40¬†¬†¬† The EU elite has completely destroyed the faith that many ordinary people had in the EU as primarily a ‚Äúcommon market‚ÄĚ.

My overall reaction to the EU elite and its management of the EU is as follows. (Please tick ONE box.)
A) In general I am very pleased with the EU leadership.
B) I am quite pleased, even if some things could be improved.
C) I don’t care much either way. They can get on with it as far as I’m concerned.
D) I am not very pleased with the way the EU is run.
E) I am very dissatisfied indeed about the way that my money is being spent.
F) It is such a corrupt, wasteful and undemocratic shambles that we have to abolish it up and start again. My country is certainly better off outside the EU AS IT IS CURRENTLY RUN. I am profoundly disappointed.
F) I am disgusted at the EU elite’s arrogance, incompetence, dishonesty and venality.

[NB.  If after reading the above, you really would like to submit your answers to the above questions to your local MP or MEP, then Chris has a form you may use that may be downloaded from here. Ed]

By Chris Snuggs


Greece and America — Similar crises?

Fiddling with gravity!

Financial crises can be very difficult events to understand.  Even for those who have spent a great deal of time studying such areas as finance and economics, comprehension of these disasters can be elusive.  However, analyzing shared elements in the recent American and Greek financial crises can help give even the economic layman insight into their common causes.

One word can be used to sum up the basic concept behind both of these crises ‚Äď overextension.¬† Both the American and Greek governments attempted to take on a much heavier economic load than either could handle.¬† While, in both cases, this has been painted by some as a noble, humanitarian effort to help those in need, methods such as inflationary monetary policy tantamount to theft and the disguising of massive budgetary deficits (in both cases with the help of Goldman Sachs) would not justify the means employed even had these efforts been successful, and certainly should be taken to task considering the disastrous ramifications of these actions.

In both cases, many are citing unrestrained spending as the source of the problem.¬† For example, CNN wrote of the Greek crisis that ‚Äúyears of unrestrained spending, cheap lending and failure to implement financial reforms‚Ķwhisked away a curtain of partly fiddled statistics to reveal debt levels and deficits that exceeded limits set by the Eurozone.‚ÄĚ

Without suggesting that CNN was attempting to be deceptive in this explanation, as the points made certainly are important, it must be noted that things like unrestrained spending, cheap lending, and fiddled statistics are merely symptoms of the deeper disease.¬† Instead of asking the government to spend less, tighten lending laws, and implement financial reform, one should instead ask the deeper question ‚Äď how does the government even have the power to cause such problems in the first place, and why are the results of such government power so often much more hurtful than helpful?

This deeper problem, whose symptoms we are now dealing with, is central banking.¬† The Federal Reserve System and its Greek counterpart, the Bank of Greece, each had a heavy hand in their respective nations‚Äô financial collapses.¬† This is due to these banks‚Äô attempts at economic manipulation ‚Äď the Federal Reserve directly sets interest rates, while the Greek system uses more indirect methods to do nearly the same thing.¬†¬† Note that it is due to their attempts at economic manipulation, as attempting to set economic law is about as useful as attempting to set gravity.

Consider this metaphor of setting gravity.  A man claims to be able to set the force of gravity on the earth.  He tells a stunt biker that he can set gravity to be half as much as normal.  So, the biker attempts to jump a distance that is much longer than he normally would attempt.  Upon jumping, the biker finds that, obviously, the first man never was able to set the nature of gravity at all, and he falls to the ground long before reaching his destination.

This is exactly what happened due to the actions of central banks in the cases of both the United States and Greece.¬† Interest rates and other natural economic restrictions were said to be more flexible than they truly were. Thus, individuals who based their actions on this information ended up engaging in activities that were far more risky than usual.¬† However, once they had ‚Äújumped,‚ÄĚ so to speak, they found that, in fact, economic law was as strict as ever, and they ‚Äúfell.‚ÄĚ

However, if the answer is so obvious, why are we not hearing more about it?  Each of these financial crises is extremely complicated, and the above described scene is, it must be admitted, an oversimplification.  This is not to say that it is not accurate, but rather that this nature of the crises’ root cause is not immediately apparent to all upon examining the situation.

For example, a person who has been educated their entire life in an economic school that praises central banking, deficit spending, and government action in general would certainly seek to find another cause for the crisis, perhaps by blaming business owners for making risky investments or stating that government controls were not strict enough.  However, a person who has studied and understands the damage done by central banking and government economic controls will be quick to realize what has occurred.

People with such knowledge are becoming more and more common in both the United States and around the world.¬† ‚ÄúEven today, with an economic crisis raging, the response by our government and the Federal Reserve has been characteristic,‚ÄĚ Ron Paul writes in his recent book, End the Fed.¬† ‚ÄúInterest rates are driven to zero and trillions of dollars are pushed into the economy with no evidence that any problems will be solved.¬† The authorities remain oblivious to the fact that they are only making our problems worse in the long run.‚ÄĚ

While he may be one of the most popular adversaries of central banking, it is not just Ron Paul, or even Austrian economists, who are calling out government for its role in these financial crises.¬† In an e-mail to supporters, Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich cited ‚Äúthe 1913 Federal Reserve Act, the banks‚Äô fractional reserve system and our debt-based economic system‚ÄĚ as major factors in the American crisis.

Such complex and important issues as economic crises need all the attention we can give them, and it is impossible here to provide the in-depth analysis that these situations merit.¬† It also must be noted that while both the United States and Greece have to an extent both engaged in central banking to their detriments, each country does have a different system.¬† Still, the general principles hold, always returning us to that first word ‚Äď overextension.¬† As long as nations attempt to manipulate the laws of economics to engage in far grander pursuits than they can sustain, we can expect to see such economic crises as have been seen in the United States and Greece in the future.

By Elliot Engstrom

Merkel Suffers Greek Bailout Backlash

I told you so!

From the BBC…

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and its coalition allies have been defeated in regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia.

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

German Chancellor Merkel appears to have lost the state vote in NRW and may see her control of parliament reduced or eliminated. It’s her own fault.

Germany and in particular NRW (the industrial powerhouse of Germany) are in a serious economic situation with enforced cuts left, right and centre and yet she has loaned (aka given) billions to feckless, idle, corrupt and shambolic Greece.

The Germans have had to tighten their belts and are still paying vast sums to bring East Germany up to speed, yet Merkel feels she can fritter away her people’s money to “save the euro“. It won’t save Greece or the euro.

The Greeks fully deserve to go bankrupt and are incapable of complying with the degree of “cuts” the Germans are demanding. Other European countries will lose money if Greece defaults. Tough.

Better to suffer a one-off loss than an endless shelling-out into a black hole. No bailout of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland or Britain. Did the PEOPLE of ANY of the rest of EU countries have ANY say in this at all?

It seems the French pushed hard for a bailout. What a coincidence that some of their insurance companies have invested heavily in Greece. TOO BAD. Greece’s problems have been well-known for years; which moron poured billions into their black-hole, retire-at-53, inherit-your-sister’s-pension, go-to-work-if-you-feel-like-it economy?

And the Greeks? They seem to feel it is the fault of the REST of us that they have to make cuts. Was a reality check ever more fully needed? Sadly, but inevitably, there will be social breakdown in Greece from which something new will emerge. What that is, one cannot say, but I do not believe it can include membership of the Euro.

The Brussels Overlords think differently. Their little Euro brainchild must be saved at all costs. But they are all personally very well off and have no problems with money, unlike the majority of their constituents thanks to the despicable fraud perpetrated on them by the banks under the appallingly-negligent supervision of a multitude of governments.

I have written about Greece several times in recent weeks since to me it is a symbol of the combination of arrogance and utter folly of many of Europe’s governments – and in particular Brussels – who have overspent wildly, who have allowed their banks to make fraudulent loans and have imposed an ever-increasing burden of bureaucracy, Human rights, paperwork and regulations on the peoples of Europe.

How we are supposed to compete effectively when we A) price ourselves out of the market and B) wildly overspend is a mystery.

Has Europe now to prepare itself for a long period of decline and retrenchment in living standards as Asia maintains its inexorable growth and raw materials rocket in price? I fear so, but it’ll be the ordinary people bearing the brunt of all this, not the increasingly-remote politicians in national governments and Brussels.

Greece is a warning for the rest of us. There is no law that says we cannot go the same way. The UK and France in particular have bloated, feather-bedded public sectors. The chickens always come home to roost, and they are now flocking rapidly towards the hen-house.

By Chris Snuggs

“Wild” Swing in the Dow Jones?

Market Swings are Normal…nay…Desirable!

Roller coaster?

Just to try to help put stock market swings into perspective, consider this:

  • the 347.8 point fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average last week, from 10868.12 at the start of the trading day on Thursday, May 6, 2010 to 10520.32 at the close of trading, can be COMPLETELY explained by an increase in the perceived cost of capital from 12% to 12.23%.
  • do the math. ¬†Using the constant dividend growth model, a very simplified model of the market value of equity, or Market Value = Current Dividend/(cost of equity capital – dividend growth rate), and assuming a long-term average cost of U.S. equity capital of 12% and average growth rate of 5%, we find that the opening level of 10868.12 = 760.77/(.12 -.05), and the closing level of 10520.32=¬†760.77/(.1223 -.05).
  • I think it is entirely possible that the chaos in Greece and surrounding nations, and the interconnections between worldwide supplies of liquidity and financial capital, that an increase in the perceived risk and uncertainty of the returns to equity from 12% per year to 12.23% per year makes perfect sense.
  • The market’s are working. ¬†Market participants, from the individual investor using on-line trading at 2:00 in the morning from their living room to the most sophisticated computerized large-scale institutional trader, understands that a borrower’s ability to pay back its investors depends on the real productivity and growth of private industry, whether the borrower is a company or a country.

by Sherry Jarrell