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Wot's It All About, Juncker?

by afew Tue Sep 30th, 2014 at 04:15:33 PM EST

A number of Jean-Claude Juncker's proposals for the new European Commission are causing quite a stir as the designated commissioners come up for review before the European Parliament.

Schulz flashes red light for Juncker: Put in sustainability | EurActiv

EXCLUSIVE:  European Parliament President Martin Schulz has sent a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, urging the European Commission President-elect to include sustainable development in the portfolio of Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.

Schulz has taken on the request introduced by the Parliament’s chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Giovanni La Via, and by the coordinators of the five main political groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE, GUE/NGL and Greens/EFA).

Lawmakers are flagging a clear risk that environmental, climate and fisheries policies are demoted in the Juncker Commission, as the President-elect seems to put more emphasis on economic growth than protecting the environment.

The feeling that the environment in general is more than low priority for Juncker is underlined by his intention to bring together the Energy and Climate Change portfolios into one, and to hand it to Miguel Arias Canete. Canete will be up before Parliament tomorrow. More below the fold about why he should be rejected and what you can do to help bring that about.

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Vampire Squid and the Fed

by Crazy Horse Mon Sep 29th, 2014 at 02:13:21 PM EST

I haven't read through (or listened to) a story Michael Lewis is pushing regarding the  NY Fed's "Regulation" of Big Banks ; with a transaction between Goldman and Santander as a highlight.

I don't know if this story appears elsewhere on ET in the past days, but immediately felt I should post it here.

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The economics of saving the world

by Cyrille Wed Sep 24th, 2014 at 02:11:24 AM EST

In his New York Times column, Paul Krugman reports on two new studies, both of which indicate that limiting carbon emissions would be much cheaper than initially thought, and may actually increase economic growth. This would be in part because fossil fuels have negative side effects over and above global warming, in particular health effects that "drive up medical costs and reduce productivity".

Further in his column, he takes a swipe at those on the left who claim that "saving the planet requires an end to growth" (a position he calls "climate despair", such as groups like the degrowth movement and the Post-Carbon Institute. This, he reckons, is in large part due to a misunderstanding of what growth is, where those making such claims probably see it as a "crude, physical thing, a matter simply of producing more stuff, [not taking] into account the many choices -- about what to consume, about which technologies to use -- that go into producing a dollar's worth of G.D.P."

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Catalan scenarios

by Migeru Sun Sep 21st, 2014 at 03:47:43 AM EST

Now that Scotland voted 'no' in its independence referendum, the focus should shift to Catalonia and its campaign to hold an independence referendum on November 9. The referendum is opposed by the Spanish government. The Catalan regional parliament petitioned the Spanish parliament for the right to hold an independence referendum but was rejected. The Catalan parliament has just passed a "consultation law" intended to legalize the vote, which will be challenged shortly by the Spanish government in the Constitutional Court, which is expected to strike it down, at which point all bets are off.

It is my opinion that Catalan Premier Artus Mas of CiU jumped on the independence bandwagon two years ago only because his government was on the verge of collapse from the independentist challenge from the street and the looming insolvency of his government brougth about by the crisis and his own austerity policies. The Spanish government took the chance to bail out the Catalan government with austerian strings attached.

Below the fold, an enumeration of possible scenarios for the coming autumn of discontent.

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Scottish Referendum Open Thread

by afew Thu Sep 18th, 2014 at 02:46:24 AM EST

Today's the day. Use this as an open thread on Scotland and all things Scottish. But, please, no photos of Braveheart.

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My Call is Scotland to Vote Yes By A Good Margin

by ChrisCook Sun Sep 14th, 2014 at 01:41:41 AM EST

Here from my Eagle's Nest in Linlithgow, in Scotland's Central Belt, I thought it would be rude not to chip in my thoughts as to next Thursday's referendum vote.

My first data points are historic election turnout figures in Scotland covering both UK & Scottish Parliament Elections.

Election Turnouts 1997 to 2011

Then there's the 2011 Scottish Parliament Election outright win for the SNP which the voting system had pretty much been gerrymandered to prevent. I assume that very few of those voting SNP in 2011 will either abstain or vote No.

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Why Scotland may now vote YES to independence

by Frank Schnittger Thu Sep 11th, 2014 at 04:18:10 AM EST

Luis de Sousa's excellent diary has provoked a long comment by me saying a lot of things I've been meaning to say for some time, but which are not all a direct response to his thoughts.  So I think a separate diary is merited analyzing what has changed in the Scottish Independence debate.

What I think has shifted the debate in Scotland is the realization that institutions and assets which they had always been told were British, were in fact English.

Thus the Pound Sterling belongs to England (the central bank name: Bank of England should have been a giveaway).  The military bases and manufacturing facilities in Scotland will be moved south - proving that the Army and associated industries belong to England not all of Britain.  And the general sense that the Scots will have to develop all institutions and skills of Governance from scratch - as if Scots have had no hand act or part of the Departments of State in Whitehall.

In other words the implied blackmail of taking all these things away has only confirmed that Scotland was being ruled not just from, but by, England in the first place.  Parties to a divorce normally split their joint assets and one party cannot claim virtually all the house and contents as their own: and yet this is partly what the No campaign have been claiming.

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Scotland independence: the case for Yes

by Luis de Sousa Tue Sep 9th, 2014 at 04:28:55 AM EST

Thursday the 18th Scotland is going to vote what may well be the most important political decision in several centuries for itself and the UK. The reasons that prompted this process are many: the perception of a slow derision of Scottish identity and culture, the crystallisation of the UK's democracy (where non elected individuals still retain important powers), natural resources, budget sharing, NATO, just to name a few.  

I am not Scottish, nor do I live in Scotland, thus I can not possibly fathom everything driving the vote. But one exercise I can make: assess the economic risks associated with the decision. And by doing so the complexity of this question becomes apparent, as so how uncertain is the outcome.

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LQD: BP, Corexit and Coverup

by Crazy Horse Sat Sep 6th, 2014 at 08:23:01 AM EST

A US judge has ruled that BP is guilty of gross negligence in the Deepwater oil catastrophe. If upheld (of course BP will appeal) it will increase the fine from $1100/barrel to $4300/barrel, totaling an estimated $18 Billion.

BP had already plead guilty to 14 felonies, with a fine of $4.5B in a plea bargain with the US Gov! (Yes, felonies.)

So how does one count the number of barrels already spilled, especially when BP publicly stated it was leaking 5000 barrels/day, while internal reports stated the leak could be between 62,000 and 146,000 barrels per day?

A colleague of mine has now reported for the first time the effects of using as "dispersant" Corexit, both on the health of some 47,000 cleanup workers, and how the amount of oil spilled was camouflaged.

Read on to discover why I continue to use the word poison in describing fossil fuels.

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The bottom falls out

by Migeru Thu Sep 4th, 2014 at 08:46:17 AM EST

If you thought the ECB setting its deposit rate at negative 0.10% was the end of the road for interest-rate policy, you got another think coming:

4 September 2014 - Monetary policy decisions

At today's meeting the Governing Council of the ECB took the following monetary policy decisions:

  1. The interest rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem will be decreased by 10 basis points to 0.05%, starting from the operation to be settled on 10 September 2014.
  2. The interest rate on the marginal lending facility will be decreased by 10 basis points to 0.30%, with effect from 10 September 2014.
  3. The interest rate on the deposit facility will be decreased by 10 basis points to -0.20%, with effect from 10 September 2014.
The President of the ECB will comment on the considerations underlying these decisions at a press conference starting at 2.30 p.m. CET today.
How deep does the rabbit hole go?

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EU To-Do List

by afew Wed Sep 3rd, 2014 at 04:21:58 AM EST

Hoisted from the Newsroom, this New Europe leader:

Europe Expects | neurope.eu

The Ukraine crisis is a real challenge. The situation in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq is a serious problem. The refugees arriving at Europe's borders if they escape drowning in the Mediterranean is a serious problem. The Eurozone's real economy refusing to be convinced by ideological platitudes is a serious problem.  Germany's deeply rooted bipolar insecurities shaping core European policies is a serious problem, so is France's debility and UK's tangential blundering. The divide between the European North and South but also East and West is a serious problem. The resulting estrangement of European societies is a serious problem.

What, if anything, would you add to this list, what would you take away? How correct do the assessments seem? What outcomes should Europe be aiming at on these points?

Europe Expects | neurope.eu

All these combine to create Europe's most important existential challenge, a challenge that needs to be faced during the next five years, the life-span of the new Parliament and the new Commission.

The new Parliament that contains, in its strong far-right contingent, a reminder of what awaits us all if real problems are not faced. And a new Commission that must not repeat the behind-doors genuflections to powerful interests that have been typical of the flabby Barroso Commission. Any hope?

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Ultra-liquidity…

by Metatone Sat Aug 30th, 2014 at 04:09:42 AM EST

Ultra-liquidity

Ultra-liquidity
Posted by Frances Coppola on Aug 27th 2014, 2 Comments

This is the first of several posts covering topics discussed at the recent Lindau Meeting for Economic Sciences.

Several economists at the Lindau meeting were severely critical of central banks' conduct of monetary policy in the light of continuing depression in the US, Japan and much of Europe, and called for greater use of fiscal policy to bring about recovery. Among the most critical was Christopher Sims, who gave a trenchant presentation on "Inflation, Fear of Inflation and Public Debt".

He started by announcing the death of the quantity theory of money, MV=PY. Due to interest on reserves and near-zero interest rates, "money" can no longer be clearly distinguished from other financial assets. This is a fundamental point which requires some explanation.

These days, nearly all forms of money bear interest, which makes them indistinguishable from interest-bearing assets. For Sims, the paying of interest on bank reserves, coupled with the decline of physical currency, all but eliminates the distinction between interest-bearing safe assets such as Treasury bills and what we traditionally call "money". All assets can be regarded as "money" to a greater or lesser extent: the extent to which assets have "moneyness" is really a matter of liquidity.

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Montebourg Bails Out

by afew Mon Aug 25th, 2014 at 05:15:19 AM EST

French Minister for the Economy (for fake, the real powers being elsewhere) Arnaud Montebourg came out over the weekend with clear criticism of Hollande's leadership. Hollande's 2012 promise to get the economy and employment on the move again had clearly failed, he said; supply side policies could not work without demand-side stimulus, and he solemnly called on Hollande to change course. And he broke the big taboo:

A la Fête de la rose, Montebourg et Hamon mettent la pression sur Hollande

La France est un pays libre qui n'a pas vocation à s'aligner sur les obsessions de la droite allemande

(France is a free country that is not meant to align itself on the obsessions of the German right)

Ooh, he said Germany and obsessions! "France is Germany's friend", that is the only kind of phrase in which a French government official (under Hollande or Sarkozy) is supposed to mention that country.

Manuel Valls (according to Le Parisien) told Hollande "It's him or it's me". This morning he tendered the resignation of his government and was immediately reconducted as PM by Hollande. The new government will be named tomorrow, and, apart from Montebourg, probably other heads (Benoît Hamon, perhaps others) will roll.

Hollande and Valls confirm their centre-right alignment on austerity. Whether they will now avoid a split in the Socialist Party, and how significant the split might be, are other questions.

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Buying time [Part 2] : Marktvolk vs. Staatsvolk

by eurogreen Thu Aug 21st, 2014 at 09:52:49 AM EST

Continuing my review of Wolfgang Streeck's Buying Time : The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism. (The first installment is here)

I want to strongly recommend reading the book.  Streeck is a philosopher and sociologist, and his take on economics is a refreshing re-injection of the social element that orthodox economics so rigorously excludes and ignores. My feeling is that, in the fightback against neoliberalism, "Buying Time" is as important as, and convergent with, Thomas Piketty's "Capital".

Chapter 2 : Neoliberal reform : from tax state to debt state

Streeck documents the progressive disenfranchising of actual electors, as each nation's creditors gain the whip hand after the transformation of our "tax states" into "debt states", and aggressively counters the neo-liberal meme that the slide into debt has been the product of demagogic profligacy.

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Meddlesome Commissioner?

by afew Tue Aug 19th, 2014 at 08:04:19 AM EST

European Commissioner for Employment Laszlo Andor gave an interview to German conservative newspaper Die Welt (behind subs wall, and not much available in Eng-lang media as of posting):

Luxemburger Wort - Brussels pleads with Germany to let wages rise

AFP) Germany must increase workers' salaries to help its neighbours out of the economic slump, the European Union's employment commissioner Laszlo Andor said Saturday.

The Hungarian said Berlin's big foreign trade surplus was hurting its European partners, and urged it to stimulate domestic demand by increasing wages and public expenditure.

"The rise in salaries has fallen behind the rise in productivity in Germany" for more than a decade, Andor told the German conservative daily Die Welt, in an interview due to be published on Sunday.

Brussels was now urging Germany, the EU's economic powerhouse, to relax its iron grip on wages, which he said was "indispensible" for the recovery of the rest of the region.

"It would be better if salaries rise in parallel with productivity," Andor added.

His comments come amid signs of stalling growth in the 18-member eurozone, particularly its largest economies Germany and France, as the bloc struggles to recover from years of financial crisis.

Brussels now appears to be taking a view long championed by France that a rise in German salaries would give the struggling eurozone a much-needed stimulus.

France's President Francois Hollande this month called on Berlin to boost spending as "the best favour Germany could do for France and for Europe" to help growth.

"It's very important that Germany increases public spending, stimulates demand and reduces its excessive trade surplus, which is hurting its European neighbours," Andor said.

(emphasis mine).

Hollande (as reported) made feeble noises in this sense at the beginning of the month. Official communications in France, echoed by the MSM, say that Hollande's policy is to bring together European social democrats to militate for a change of direction on austerity. But Andor is particularly clear... and a Commissioner.

The ball is in Angie's court. Will she smash it? Ignore it? Send back a spin shot? Place your bets.

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Buying time : Where now for capitalism and democracy? [Part 1]

by eurogreen Fri Aug 15th, 2014 at 12:53:53 PM EST

Wolfgang Streeck, leading figure of the Frankfurt school of philosophy, has published an incisive and compelling analysis of the interplay between capitalism and democracy in the developed world over the past forty years or so : Buying Time : The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism.

Eurotrib having been offered a copy, I have undertaken to review it. I feel suited to the task because I have nothing but an autodidact's random smattering of economics, sociology and philosophy, and will mostly restrict myself to a naïve synthesis of Streeck's theses, leaving my far more erudite and insightful readers to do the serious work. I will resist quoting directly from the text because I wouldn't know where to stop; everything is eminently quotable, written with admirable clarity and humour, nicely translated, a constant pleasure to read.

The book, based on the 2012 Adorno lectures, was published last year in Germany, and the English translation (by Patrick Camiller) has just been published by Verso, an imprint of New Left Books. It can be ordered in physical form from the publisher, or electronically from Amazon, iTunes, or Nook. (Yes, it's buying "Buying time" time).

The three chapters correspond to the three lectures on which they are based. Despite the book's relative brevity (less than 200 pages, excluding the extensive bibliography and index) I propose to do a diary on each chapter; each one is of sufficient density to merit discussion.

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Merkel, Putin & Obama: The changing balance of power

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 6th, 2014 at 04:11:13 AM EST

The USA has been the undisputed Global superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union; dominating the world militarily, politically, economically and culturally. In recent times China has begun to make some inroads into that economic dominance, Russia has begun to become more assertive again, and Merkel has consolidated her position as undisputed leader of the Eurozone. But the most significant changes have possibly been within the USA itself.

First came 9/11 which punctured the sense of American invincibility: that the US could do what it liked abroad without it having much in the way of repercussions at home. In military terms the event wasn't all that significant: 3,000 deaths is all in a weeks work in some of the bloodier conflicts around the world.  But what was significant was the reaction: America went collectively mad.

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Time for Europe to get real

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jul 26th, 2014 at 03:04:09 AM EST

298 mostly European civilians lost their lives when a civilian airliner was apparently shot down by a sophisticated homing missile available only to the most advanced armies in the world and fired from an area controlled by Ukrainian insurgents. Such weapons had allegedly been previously used to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft. Whether it was operated by Ukrainian insurgents, Russian "advisers", or regular Russian troops, is almost immaterial: Putin and the Russian federation are almost certainly ultimately responsible. And yet European leaders do little but wring their hands and complain about the chaotic crash scene investigation and the recovery of bodies and personal effects.

No one expects European leaders to go to war with a nuclear power like Russia over such a provocation - but the repeated mincing of words by Obama and his Nato allies is nothing short of embarrassing. Well might Putin et al obfuscate until the outcry dies down.  But isn't it about time that the EU took some concerted action?  How about a strategic EU energy policy and plan to reduce all dependence on Russian gas within 10 years to zero by building a European supergrid powered from largely sustainable sources?

The problem with most forms of sustainable energy is that they require very large amounts of capital upfront, reasonable interest rates, and guaranteed feed in tariffs to be economically viable.  This is problematic at a time when many EU states - particularly those at the periphery are over-borrowed and under huge pressure to reduce Sovereign and private indebtedness. But how about making such capital available through the European Investment Bank for EU Commission approved projects?  

Irish and Scottish wind, wave and tidal turbines allied to eastern European and Mediterranean solar farms could make up a huge amount of the energy deficit created by a progressive reduction in Russian energy imports, whilst at the same time providing a much needed boost to investment and employment starved peripheral EU economies.  Would it be too much to ask the EU to be proactive and actually take the lead in such a continent wide project?  Would it be too much to ask for the EU to actually have a continent wide energy policy?

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Do we want free movement of capital in Europe?

by Migeru Thu Jul 24th, 2014 at 01:52:29 AM EST

In the discussion of Britain's EU exit initiated by Frank, Cyrille challenges me repeatedly on free movement of capital:

I think the "four freedoms" should apply as widely as possible so, on that basis, it would be a bad thing if the UK were to leave the EU.
That is a consistent view, ...

[b]ut I had been under the impression that you were no fan of the free movement of capital -certainly an unrestricted one.

Well, touche
Unfettered cross-border capital flows are a bad idea. Just look at the financial crises of the last 30 years, worldwide.
So, do we want free movement of capital? More below the fold.

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Far Away, So Far Away

by afew Mon Jul 21st, 2014 at 02:58:26 AM EST

Over the weekend, two pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France (banned because of previous attacks on synagogues, official reason) began peacefully and ended in violent street fighting.

French president François Hollande alluded to the situation yesterday, when decorating documentalists of WWII deportation and murder of Jews in France Beate and Serge Klarsfeld with the Légion d'Honneur. Here is what he had to say about the current situation in France (emphasis mine):

Hollande refuse tout acte «qui puisse faire ressurgir l'antisémitisme» - Libération

«La République, c'est la capacité de vivre ensemble, de regarder son histoire et en même temps d'être toujours prêts à défendre les valeurs démocratiques, de ne pas se laisser entraîner par des querelles qui sont trop loin d'ici pour être importées, de ne pas se laisser emporter par les déflagrations du monde», a-t-il dit. Il faut, a-t-il ajouté, «faire en sorte que ne soit toléré aucun acte, aucune parole qui puisse faire ressurgir l'antisémitisme et le racisme».

The Republic means being able to live together, to be aware of its history and be always ready at the same time to defend democratic values, not to let ourselves be caught up in quarrels that are too far away from here to be imported, to not get carried away by the explosions of the world ... act so that no deed, no word be tolerated that might bring back antisemitism and racism.

François Hollande does not know that Palestine is not far away, that what is happening there is in every French living-room. He does not know that Israel's war crimes against the people of Gaza are right there on France's doorstep. He does not know that the country he presides is a Mediterranean country. He is ignorant of the ethnic and cultural origins of a large proportion of unemployed young people in France, of their historical and family links to other Mediterranean countries, of the fact that the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment among them is fuelled, precisely, by Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. He does not know that the death of boys playing on the beach at one end of Mare Nostrum washes up on the beaches of Marseille. He therefore fails to "be aware of (the French Republic's) history", and he wishfully believes that incantatory nonsense will suffice to lay the ghosts of the past while he turns his head away from the monsters of the present. By this appalling little speech he has gained his place among the pusillanimous European leaders who averted their eyes from Nazism until it was too late, and thus played a large part in permitting the genocide that followed - and which was exactly the subjacent theme of the ceremony at which he pronounced these words.

If you hear the echo of Neville Chamberlain on Czechoslovakia:

Neville Chamberlain - Wikiquote

a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing
 

you have finer-tuned hearing than François Hollande, though you win no prizes, it really isn't hard.

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