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Card - VISA

Greece and Those Wild & Crazy Guys at the ECB

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European Central Bank
I have been following the European sovereign debt crisis since it first developed more than two years ago. It was evident from the beginning that the conditions on the debtor nations being demanded by the "troika" of the European Central Bank, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund were both onerous and counterproductive.

This view has been confirmed by the fact that the debtor countries have missed target after target and that growth has consistently come in far below projections. (Actually, the crises countries have been contracting for much of the last two years.) This could leave analysts guessing as to what economic reasoning lies behind the troika's conditions.

Last week I got the answer when I had occasion to meet with a high-level EU official. There is no economic reasoning behind the troika's positions. For practical purposes, Greece and the other debt-burdened countries are dealing with crazy people. The pain being imposed is not a route to economic health; rather it is a gruesome bleeding process that will only leave the patient worse off. The economic doctors at the troika are clueless when it comes to understanding a modern economy.

Top Secret

What Really Happened in the "Yom Kippur" War?

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Moscow - Here in Moscow I recently received a dark-blue folder dated 1975. It contains one of the most well-buried secrets of Middle Eastern and of US diplomacy. The secret file, written by the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo, Vladimir M. Vinogradov, apparently a draft for a memorandum addressed to the Soviet politbureau, describes the 1973 October War as a collusive enterprise between US, Egyptian and Israeli leaders, orchestrated by Henry Kissinger. If you are an Egyptian reader this revelation is likely to upset you. I, an Israeli who fought the Egyptians in the 1973 war, was equally upset and distressed, - yet still excited by the discovery. For an American it is likely to come as a shock.

According to the Vinogradov memo (to be published by us in full in the Russian weekly Expert next Monday), Anwar al-Sadat, holder of the titles of President, Prime Minister, ASU Chairman, Chief Commander, Supreme Military Ruler, entered into conspiracy with the Israelis, betrayed his ally Syria, condemned the Syrian army to destruction and Damascus to bombardment, allowed General Sharon's tanks to cross without hindrance to the western bank of the Suez Canal, and actually planned a defeat of the Egyptian troops in the October War. Egyptian soldiers and officers bravely and successfully fought the Israeli enemy - too successfully for Sadat's liking as he began the war in order to allow for the US comeback to the Middle East.

He was not the only conspirator: according to Vinogradov, the grandmotherly Golda Meir knowingly sacrificed two thousand of Israel's best fighters - she possibly thought fewer would be killed - in order to give Sadat his moment of glory and to let the US secure its positions in the Middle East. The memo allows for a completely new interpretation of the Camp David Treaty, as one achieved by deceit and treachery.

Better Earth

David Seaton: The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn

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Between the civil war in Syria, for that is what it is, and the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran, which would set the region -- at the very least -- ablaze, and probably start off a chain of events that could tip the whole world into full-scale depression, we have plenty to worry about... things that could pull our attention decisively away from the saga of Jeremy Lin.

At the bottom of what most of us worriers worry about is the economic crisis. In a nutshell we are looking at the result of an increasingly "friction-less" world market.

Perhaps the core problem is that we are a consumer economy and our consumption, from designer tee-shirts to the iPad and the iPhone, depends almost entirely on the slave wages and slave working conditions of millions upon millions of Chinese workers, who without old age pensions and healthcare, save all their money and so do not consume what we produce. Our money goes there and it doesn't come back and our own workers are impoverished by this phenomenon and thus also consume less and less.

And if we managed to solve this problem and the Chinese workers earned enough to consume like we do, we the "breathing class" would suffocate in the ensuing pollution and if the enriched Chinese chose to eat cereal-fed, animal protein on the scale we do, mass starvation in the third (or not so third) world would result... without entering into the feedlot methane gas and water pollution issues that enough steers, swine and chickens to supply a billion Chinese with a diet like ours would produce.

Che Guevara

US troops have already voted, and they want Ron Paul

Ron Paul's consistently strong anti-war message is one that resonates with many U.S. troops today. Hundreds of active duty troops, veterans, and Paul supporters marched from the Washington Monument to the White House this afternoon. Sick of fighting seemingly never-ending wars overseas, troops that took part in the march say they are ready for radical change. Liz Wahl spoke to veterans that say their only hope for that is getting Paul into the White House.


Comment: The tempo is building in the US ahead of elections later this year. Ron Paul's campaign team say they had nothing to do with organizing the protest.




Shoe

Best of the Web: C-SPAN Callers School Terror War Profiteers Cheerleader On Underwear Bomber Fairy Tale

A sliver of hope, perhaps? On a rare occasion when US media permits public feedback, callers take government spokesman Homeland Security 'correspondent' Mickey McCarter to task over his ignorance of the facts exposing the phony war on of terror.


Comment: The Underwear Bomber - Crushing Freedom With Phony Arab Terrorism

Underwear Bomber Redux - Was Mutallab An Israeli "Secret Weapon"?


Megaphone

France to European Union: Stop Monsanto's Corn

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© SIPA/Durand Florence
France has asked the European regulators to suspend the authorization to plant Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) MON810 corn. France's ecology minister says the decision is based on studies showing GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment."

Agence France-Presse reports:
The request is "based on the latest scientific studies" which show that the use of the GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry pointed to a recent study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that raised concerns with another form of GM crop, BT11, that it said could also be applied to MON 810.

"If the European Union does not act, we can invoke the safeguard clause" which allows EU nations to independently restrict or prohibit the sales of products, it said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy in November pledged to seek new legal measures after the European Court of Justice and France's top administrative court overturned a French ban on GM crops from US agriculture giant Monsanto.

Eye 2

The "Global Crises of Capitalism" - Whose Crises, Who Profits?

From the Financial Times to the far left, tons of ink has been spilt writing about some variant of the "Crises of Global Capitalism". While writers differ in the causes, consequences and cures, according to their ideological lights, there is a common agreement that "the crises" threatens to end the capitalist system as we know it.

capitalism
There is no doubt that, between 2008-2009, the capitalist system in Europe and the United States suffered a severe shock that shook the foundations of its financial system and threatened to bankrupt its 'leading sectors'.

However, I will argue the 'crises of capitalism' was turned into a 'crises of labor'. Finance capital, the principle detonator of the crash and crises, recovered, the capitalist class as a whole was strengthened, and most important of all, it utilized the political, social, ideological conditions created as a result of "the crises" to further consolidate their dominance and exploitation over the rest of society.

In other words, the 'crises of capital' has been converted into a strategic advantage for furthering the most fundamental interests of capital: the enlargement of profits, the consolidation of capitalist rule, the greater concentration of ownership, the deepening of inequalities between capital and labor and the creation of huge reserves of labor to further augment their profits.

Comment: As we've said time and again, as long as individuals without conscience are in positions of power, whether hiding their true agenda for personal power and control behind the capitalistic or socialist or any other ideology, the problems of the common people will not go away. Only knowledge about the truth of the matter will ever get us out of this mess, because it is this knowledge that will open our eyes and give us the power and incentive necessary to get off our collective butts and act towards creating a world by the people and for the people.


Dollar

Some Greeks Might Have to Pay for Their Jobs

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© Reuters
It's being called the "negative salary": Due to austerity measures in Greece, it's being reported that up to 64,000 Greeks will go without pay this month, and some will have to pay for having a job. Numbers in austerity reports have usually reflected figures in the millions, since they reflect industry-wide cuts (i.e. a 537-million euro cut to health and pension funds). And plans of cutting minimum wage by up to 32% is all but a given in the country. Today's "negative salary" deal - which could have government employees returning funds - reveals the real human impact of the austerity measures.

As Zero Hedge and the Press Project report:
Salary cutbacks (called "unified payroll") for contract workers at the public sector set to be finalized today. Cuts to be valid retroactively since november 2011. Expected result: Up to 64.000 people will work without salary this month, or even be asked to return money. Amongst them 21,000 teachers, 13,000 municipal employees and 30,000 civil servants.

Light Sabers

French socialists' Latin revolt against Germany

The half-century habits of Franco-German condominium die hard. It is a painful process for French elites to admit that monetary union is asphyxiating their economy and must inevitably trap France in mercantilist subordination to Germany.

Sarkozy and Merkel
Nicolas Sarkozy has clung to the fig leaf of Franco-German parity, staking all on ties to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Carolingian union is all that anybody in French public life can really remember. It worked marvellously for two generations, levering French power on the global stage, and the euro was of course their own creation, intended to tie down a reunited Germany with "silken cords". How can they now face the awful truth that this elegant strategy has blown up in their faces, enthroning Germany as undisputed hegemon?

Yet they can hardly ignore the evidence. While German unemployment has fallen to a post-Reunification low of 5.5pc, France's jobless rate has crept up to a post-EMU high of 9.9pc and is certain to rise further as recession bites again.

While both countries had the same sorts of export surplus in the early 1990s, they have diverged massively since the D-Mark and franc were fixed in perpetuity. Germany has a current account surplus of 5pc of GDP: France has a deficit of 2.7pc, anathema for Colbertistes.

Comment: Whereas a return to the national currencies might help some EU-controlled countries reclaim their sovereignty, the power struggles between the French and German governments are just that: who's going to have political and economic control over all else. It is not about the welfare of the citizens, and never has been.


Cut

Greece and the Rape by the Rentiers

Sabine Women
The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.
Here's the draft of the supposed agreement to "sort out" the Greek debt problem once and for all. According to Bloomberg, here are the essentials:
  • Greece's 2012 GDP will shrink by as much as 5%.
  • Greece is expected to return to growth in 2013.
  • Greece will cut 15,000 state jobs in 2012.
  • Minimum wage will be cut by 20 percent.
  • There will be no increase to sales tax.
  • The government will cut medicine spending from 1.9% to 1.5% and merge all auxiliary pension funds.
  • It will also sell stakes in six companies - in particular, energy companies and refineries.
Of course, the current thrust of fiscal policy will almost certainly guarantee that there still will be a default, involuntary or otherwise, in spite of this agreement. If you don't have a mechanism to allow growth, then how can the Greeks service their debt, even with the reduced debt burden?