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The Prague moment of the European Left

by Migeru Fri Jul 17th, 2015 at 08:31:59 AM EST

Cross-posted on The Court Astrologer.

Prominent heterodox economist James Galbraith, who enjoyed an inside view of the last five months of Greek negotiations as an advisor to Yanis Varoufakis, writes the following for a mainstream American audience: Greece, Europe, and the United States (Harper's, July 16, 2015)

What will become of Europe? Clearly the hopes of the pro-European, reformist left are now over. That will leave the future in the hands of the anti-European parties, including UKIP, the National Front in France, and Golden Dawn in Greece. These are ugly, racist, xenophobic groups; Golden Dawn has proposed concentration camps for immigrants in its platform. The only counter, now, is for progressive and democratic forces to regroup behind the banner of national democratic restoration. Which means that the left in Europe will also now swing against the euro.
The parallel between the Greek crisis and the Prague Spring, with a ruthless mainstream left crushing the hopes of an idealist left in defence of a system, is illustrated with poetic irony by the following tweet by a Social-Democrat finance minister from the former Czechoslovakia:Meanwhile, in an interview with Jacobin Magazine which we have already been discussing in previous threads on this blog, Left Platform Syriza MP Stathis Kouvelakis says the following about the ideology of "left-Europeanism": Greece: The Struggle Continues (Jacobin, July 14, 2015)
I think that in this case we can clearly see what the ideology at work here is. Although you don’t positively sign up to the project and you have serious doubts about the neoliberal orientation and top-down structure of European institutions, nevertheless you move within its coordinates and can’t imagine anything better outside of its framework.
I imagine that you could have written the same of Communist parties in the 1960s and their support for the Soviet Union. Out of the disappointment of the Prague Spring (on top of the invasion of Hungary a decade earlier) was born the Eurocommunist strand of the 1970s.

Read more... (79 comments, 918 words in story)

I'm done with the EU

by tyronen Mon Jul 13th, 2015 at 05:58:47 PM EST

I've changed my mind. I will be voting for the UK to leave the EU.

Whatever deal the UK Conservatives negotiate will only make matters worse.

I think leftists across Europe worthy of the name should transform themselves into Eurosceptic parties. The euro is an abomination. It must be abolished and national currencies restored. The Maastricht Treaty should be repealed.

These policies are nothing more than attempts to force ordoliberal policies across the continent. The EU is a thuggish, vicious oligarchy and I want no part of it anymore.

Further analysis and good discussions in the comment section - Bjinse

Comments >> (228 comments)

There's a (awful) deal open thread.

by Colman Mon Jul 13th, 2015 at 03:58:46 AM EST

Your regularly scheduled mourning open thread on the Greek clusterfuck.

Apparently there's a deal.

Read more... (235 comments, 150 words in story)

National unity splits the party

by Migeru Sat Jul 11th, 2015 at 05:41:22 AM EST

Use this as an open thread.
In this series:

Read more... (232 comments, 466 words in story)

Would you capitulate already?

by Colman Tue Jul 7th, 2015 at 03:19:20 AM EST

In a coordinated press statement, the leaders of France and Germany called on Greece to come up with “serious and credible proposals” at Tuesday’s summit consistent with its wish to stay in the eurozone. (Guardian)

"Serious and credible", in this context, means "do as we tell you, implement our insane austerity programme."

Read more... (206 comments, 192 words in story)

Greek referendum aftermath open thread

by Migeru Mon Jul 6th, 2015 at 05:05:17 AM EST

Yanis Varoufakis: Minister No More! (July 6, 2015)

Like all struggles for democratic rights, so too this historic rejection of the Eurogroup’s 25th June ultimatum comes with a large price tag attached. It is, therefore, essential that the great capital bestowed upon our government by the splendid NO vote be invested immediately into a YES to a proper resolution – to an agreement that involves debt restructuring, less austerity, redistribution in favour of the needy, and real reforms.

...

I consider it my duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum.

...

We of the Left know how to act collectively with no care for the privileges of office. I shall support fully Prime Minister Tsipras, the new Minister of Finance, and our government.

In this series:

Read more... (67 comments, 358 words in story)

Greek referendum day open thread

by Migeru Sun Jul 5th, 2015 at 01:59:42 AM EST

Politico EU: Tusk: ‘Nobody here is an angel’ (3/7/15)

No matter how Greeks vote Sunday, the EU is looking for ways “to keep them inside” the single currency, though that may require “a completely new” approach to allow the eurozone to coexist with a bankrupt country, Donald Tusk told POLITICO.

Striking a notably conciliatory tone, the European Council president called on Athens and its creditors to stop the mutual “blame game,” work to “rebuild trust” and promptly resume negotiations after the July 5 referendum in Greece.

“The main aim for us is to keep the eurozone united,” he said.

Read more... (115 comments, 236 words in story)

Media Onslaught? Open Thread

by afew Wed Jul 1st, 2015 at 12:21:20 AM EST

Greece Misses $1.7 Billion IMF Payment, Joining Zimbabwe's Ranks - Bloomberg Business

Greece became the first advanced economy to miss a payment on IMF debt, joining the historical ranks of delinquents from Cuba to Zimbabwe after the Mediterranean nation’s bailout talks with creditors collapsed.

The International Monetary Fund’s board has been informed that Greece is now in arrears, spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement, after a 6 p.m. Washington deadline Tuesday for Greece’s $1.7 billion payment, coinciding with the expiration of the nation’s European bailout. Greece’s request for an extension will go to the fund’s board “in due course,” Rice said.

The European Central Bank must now consider the effect of any missed payment on the solvency of Greek banks when they discuss emergency assistance on Wednesday. The outcome may affect Greece’s euro membership. Klaus Regling, the head of the main euro-area bailout fund, has said it has the option of demanding accelerated debt payments from Greece if it doesn’t pay the IMF.

Read more... (212 comments, 301 words in story)

Greek capital controls open thread

by Migeru Sun Jun 28th, 2015 at 03:55:35 PM EST

Proto Thema (English): Breaking: Capital Controls taken – Banks closed for one week! (June 28 2015)

... The government said the decision came after a request by the Bank of Greece.

According to reports, the bank holiday will last throughout the week, with the maximum daily withdrawal reportedly set at a … princely 60 euros.

Another unconfirmed report deal with whether ATMs will function on Monday at all, given that technical modifications are necessary to cap withdrawals.

...

Capital controls will reportedly also affect credit cards issued by Greek banks, regardless if they are part of an international credit corporation, like Mastercard or Visa. If this measure goes into effect, cards will be useless both in Greece and … abroad. So much for Greek travelers without a lot of cash on hand.

Conversely, credit cards issued by foreign banks will not be affected, welcome news amid the ongoing “readjustment period” for tourists in the country.

Read more... (53 comments, 327 words in story)

Greek referendum open thread

by Migeru Sat Jun 27th, 2015 at 11:59:46 AM EST

Prime Minister of Greece: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ address concerning the referendum to be held on the 5th of July (June 27, 2015)

Council of the European Union: Eurogroup Statement on Greece (with a footnote)
[1] Supported by all members of the Eurogroup except the Greek member.

Read more... (210 comments, 269 words in story)

What we've learned from the Greek process to date

by Colman Thu Jun 25th, 2015 at 06:32:43 AM EST

Even with a seat at the table, control of an EU member state government and the support, more-or-less, of some of the most prestigious economists in the world it is impossible to break through the EU leadership's cargo-cult obsession with austerity and tax cuts.

Read more... (117 comments, 179 words in story)

End game for Greece?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 20th, 2015 at 07:28:18 AM EST

Yanis Varoufakis has an article in today's Irish Times in which he laments the failure of the Eurogroup to listen to his proposals even whilst they themselves have been kept in the dark about what "the Institutions" are proposing. Apparently no substantive discussions took place on what either "the Institutions" or Greece were suggesting as the way forward. A majority of the Eurogroup Ministers appear to have decided, in advance, that Varoufakis is not someone they can "do business with."

But perhaps the finance Ministers couldn't address, never mind resolve, the Greek crisis because at root it isn't a financial crisis, it is a political crisis which effects the whole European project. If this all goes horribly wrong, we will have Greece spinning, out of control, into the Russian orbit run by a military Junta and with politicians such as Varoufakis in exile, jail, or worse.  

The EU, meanwhile, will start to fall apart with nationalists governments, led by the UK, doing their best to break it apart. We may not have a major European war any time soon, but the slippery slope will have begun.  Meanwhile we will have people starving in the streets and dying en masse for lack of proper medical care.

Read more... (356 comments, 677 words in story)

Ireland votes for marriage equality

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 23rd, 2015 at 07:12:21 AM EST

It looks like Ireland has voted to include a specific provision to legalize same sex marriage in its constitution in the first vote of its kind in the world. Early tallies indicate that the YES side is likely to win in what appears to have been with a very high turn-out election.

The referendum was part of a sequence of referendums on social and moral issues over the past few decades in Ireland's own version of the culture wars which have been fought in many parts of the world. The amendment to the constitution was opposed by the usual suspects in the Catholic Church and assorted right wing pressure groups who sought to turn the vote into a vote on surrogacy and children's rights which were in no way effected by the Amendment itself.

The YES side had feared that a low turnout might enable the NO campaign to win the vote because of the greater propensity of older and more traditional people to vote.  However, in what appears to have been an unprecedented mobilization of younger, more secular, and more liberal voters a high turnout now looks the likely outcome. Thousands, including members of my own family, flew home from abroad so that they could vote. (Irish Embassies do not make provision for Irish voters to vote when abroad).

The outcome, if confirmed, could result in a seismic change in Irish politics.  Some NO campaigners made no secret of their opposition to the measure because they feared that it might lead to an overturn of the 1983 Referendum which outlawed abortion in Ireland.

I will update this story as more vote counts came in.  In the meantime, please feel free to use the comments to discuss the issue. For a list of Referendums to change the Irish Constitution, see here.

[Update] Final Result:
YES: 1,201,647 (62.1%)
No: 734,300 (37.9%)
Margin 24.2%
Turnout 60.5%

This is the highest turnout in a Referendum since the 1996 Referendum which removed the constitutional ban on Divorce from the Constitution by a margin of less than 0.6%. Only one of Ireland's 43 constituencies (Roscommon-South Leitrim) voted no by a margin of 49 to 51%.

Comments >> (34 comments)

On SYRIZA, negotiations and compromise

by talos Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 09:22:49 AM EST

There is a coordinated PR attack against the Greek government, unfortunately also deceiving people from the left, regarding the Greek government's intentions and actions so far. It is far from certain what the results of the negotiations will be, but preemptively announcing SYRIZA's retreat seems to me to be a performative assessment, meant to both flatter the prejudices on which most of the austerian EU governments have built their TINA alternative, and to dissipate international support away from a government that has up to now, in a small but significant way, made the first steps against the dominant narrative, anywhere in the West, over the past 20 years.

So let me put to rest some of the more obnoxious misinformation that is being peddled by "EU / ECB circles" and international media, subservient to the cause of pressuring the new Greek government to submission, by pointing out a few facts...

promoted by afew

Read more... (49 comments, 1716 words in story)

Operation underpants

by Migeru Wed Apr 22nd, 2015 at 04:30:35 AM EST

The recent incidents involving over a thousand dead migrants in Italy and Greece has led to a new European Union strategy on immigration. Behold:

  1. Bomb the smugglers' underpants
  2. ???
  3. Profit!
see the "now, seriously" version below the fold.

Read more... (36 comments, 257 words in story)

A Tale Of Two OCAs?

by afew Mon Apr 20th, 2015 at 02:20:13 AM EST

Frances Coppola reposts these charts in an article on Pieria:

It was tweeted by RBS, who captioned it: One of these is an Optimum Currency Area. And the other isn't.

Not so simple, says Coppola.

Optimising the Eurozone

Robert Mundell, the inventor of the Optimum Currency Area (OCA) concept, defined the essential requirement for an OCA as free factor mobility. Since his rather vague definition, though, the concept has been developed further. Economists now generally agree that four criteria must be met for a group of regions or countries to qualify as an OCA:

  • regions/countries should be exposed to similar sources of economic disturbance (common shocks); 
  • the relative importance of these shocks across regions/countries should be similar (symmetric shocks); 
  • regions/countries should have similar responses to common shocks (common responses)
  • if regions/countries are subject to local economic disturbances (idiosyncratic shocks), they must be able to adjust to them quickly.

In practice, this means that regions/countries need a high degree of economic, political and cultural similarity to qualify as an OCA. 

It is now generally understood that the Eurozone does not qualify as an OCA.

But what about the USA?

Read more... (56 comments, 732 words in story)

On the RhB 3: the Davos Line

by DoDo Sat Apr 11th, 2015 at 08:05:52 AM EST

In this third instalment of my series on the state railway of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, the metre-gauge Rhaetian Railway (RhB), I follow the line to winter sports centre Davos. This is both the oldest part of the network at 125 years and one of the most heavily modernised (due to rising traffic in recent years). It is also the first in my series to leave the valleys and climb up into the mountains.

ABe 8/12 No. 3507 "Benedetg Fontana", a powerful steep-mountain version of Stadler's "Allegra" electric multiple unit family, just left the Cavadürli horseshoe tunnel on its way to Klosters Platz, high above the valley of the Landquart river
You can actually see three levels of the line: I stood on the highest, which threw the shadows at bottom left, and the lowest runs next to the road visible deep below in the valley

Read more... (4 comments, 1115 words in story)

Sisyphean syphilis

by marco Thu Mar 26th, 2015 at 07:50:39 AM EST

If economic crisis were a venereal disease, would we continue to engage in risky economic behavior?

Does short-term gratification always trump long-term health?

Are we just children in the marshmallow experiment?

Are our economic systems doomed by the insufficiently stoic character of the majority of human beings?

Eight years and eighteen days ago, das monde wrote a diary titled Is Civilisation A Pyramid Scheme? in which he remarked:

As I write, financial markets are having a bad day across the world, after a rocky week. Can we make more sense of this than a combination of factors?

The hypothesis is that the modern economy is dominated by ever increasing and ever expanding speculation in stock and real estate markets. These markets will grow just as long as the volume increases. The markets are vastly overvalued due to a pyramid-style growth of the number of players. The markets will fail when there won't be any bottom to add to participants' pyramid.

promoted by afew

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Did the hawks blink first?

by DoDo Fri Mar 20th, 2015 at 05:08:30 PM EST

Over the past week, the conflict between Greece and the creditors escalated again. On one side, the ECB and the IMF exposed Greece to a liquidity crunch, further boosted by the inflammatory statements and Grexit speculation of German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and the capital controls speculation of Eurogroup president and Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijjselbloem; all the while lower-ranked representatives of the Troika openly expressed their hope of forcing the Syriza government to fall in line. On the other side, the Greek government set on a collision course by putting Troika technocrats in their place and pushing through its first poverty-alleviating measures in open defiance of calls for prior consultation and approval by the institutions, seemingly excluding any possibility of getting ECB funds released.

Now, after the mini-summit-within-the-Council-summit on the night from Thursday to Friday, the sides mended fences (somewhat). What were the results? I claim that, in spite of no immediate alleviation of the credit crunch and the continued rhetoric from the creditors, all the significant changes are wins for Greece:

  • Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared that there is a humanitarian crisis in Greece, a recognition earlier refused by the Eurogroup. This is also an effective after-the-fact approval of the 'unilateral' anti-poverty package.
  • Greece got explicit approval for not going through with reforms agreed by the previous government (drawing up its own instead), breaking with pacta sunt servanda.
  • Reportedly, Tsipras wanted his colleagues to talk down the chances of Grexit rather than talk it up like Schäuble and Dijsselbloem. In subsequent press conferences the participants seemed to heed that call.

What happened? To me it seems like the Greek government played hardball because they expected the hawks to blink first. This is supported by a week-old Spiegel article, which, in spite of lots of anti-Syriza rhetoric, claims that neither Mario Draghi of the ECB nor Juncker of the Commission wanted to threat the Greek government with Grexit, and Juncker in particular continued his subversive war for influence against German chancellor and European Council alpha dog Angela Merkel.

Comments >> (49 comments)

No students for politics and no jobs for commies

by DoDo Thu Mar 19th, 2015 at 02:31:59 AM EST

On the national holiday today [15 March], it was another day of grim protests in Budapest. For the first time in five years, hecklers attended the speech of right-populist prime minister Viktor Orbán, and there were some fights between pro- and anti-Orbán protesters. However, what I want to tell more about is a new low in authoritarian behaviour preceding the protests, and the fate of an acquaintance I ran into at the main opposition protest.

Read more... (19 comments, 587 words in story)
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News and Views

 1 - 5 August 2015

by In Wales - Aug 1, 89 comments

Your take on today's news media

 28-31 July 2015

by In Wales - Jul 28, 44 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 3 - 9 August

by Bjinse - Aug 2, 6 comments

Fresh thread

 Open Thread 27 July - 2 August

by Bjinse - Jul 27, 36 comments

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