Thu Feb 12th, 2015 at 05:14:04 AM EST
Inspired by the discussion of a Europe after the EU, the war in the Ukraine, and Michel Houellebecq's deplorable new book Soumission, I put myself into alt.history.what-if mode.
Let's start the annals two years from now:
22 May 2017. On the day after the second round of the French presidential election, the winner, Marine Le Pen of the Front National, announced France's exit from the EU.
1 July 2017. After the exit of all Southern European countries from the EU, Great Britain, the BeNeLux countries, Germany, Austria, the Visegrád countries, the Baltic states and the Scandinavian countries agree on re-launching the EU as a free-trade zone. Bulgaria and Romania protest at their exclusion.
Mon Feb 9th, 2015 at 01:55:30 AM EST
I'm lifting a comment from talos to introduce a new Greece thread:
Tsipras today (8 February) presenting the programmatic statements of the new government, pretty much retreated on - not very much. He's not asking for a headline hair-cut, but that's old news, he's willing to slowly implement some of the measures. But it seems that the sum total of the Thessaloniki program is on the table. And aggressively so.
Tsipras favours Greek jobless over creditors in defiant policy speech:
"...Declaring his administration "a government of national salvation", Tsipras said he would also pursue claims to win back from Germany wartime loans that Greece had been forced to make to Nazi occupiers. "I can't overlook what is an ethical duty, a duty to history ... to lay claim to the wartime debt."
Tsipras did signal a new round of belt-tightening - but on the part of ministers and MPs. He promised to sell half of all government limousines and a government jet in a money-raising exercise, as well as trimming back on security. Tsipras said Greece's new class of politician would set the example of frugal living. "We do not need three government aircraft. Politicians can do away with the privilege of having a car," he said...
...The first priority of this government ... is tackling the big wounds of the bailout, tackling the humanitarian crisis, just as we promised to do before the elections," he said. "The bailout failed. The new government is not justified in asking for an extension ... an extension would be a mistake and a catastrophe. We want a new deal, a bridge programme that would give us the fiscal space that a sincere negotiation requires," he said.
Syriza's pledges to the electorate include a freeze on pension cuts, a property tax overhaul, free electricity to those who have been cut off, reinstating jobs and raising the minimum wage. But it remains to be seen how quickly the measures are introduced - a phased approach could save the broke government money, officials have indicated.
Tue Feb 3rd, 2015 at 02:14:48 AM EST
In an ideal world, Greece's new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis would succeed in negotiating with the Eurogroup on the basis of his own Modest Proposal. However, we live in this universe and the immediate question arises of how Greece is going to fund its foreign commitments, in particular the redemption of 7bn's worth of bonds held by the ECB and maturing in 6 months. According to the Wall Street Journal,
The next hurdle will be 7 billion in bonds held by the ECB that mature in July and August. Greece doesn't have the cash to repay them, and failure to do so could ultimately lead to Greece's exit from the eurozone.
Syriza Win in Greek Election Sets Up New Europe Clash (January 26, 2015)
Here I outline a plausible (based on the published opinion of Greek government ministers and their associates) plan for Greek economic recovery, consisting of:
- a universal job guarantee program at the new minimum wage
- the introduction of a parallel currency in the form of transferable tax credits
- capital controls
Cross-posted on The Court Astrologer
front-paged by afew
Fri Jan 30th, 2015 at 02:37:40 PM EST
Keep Talking Greece: Dijsselbloem: “You just killed Troika” – Varoufakis “WOW!” (video, pics) (30 January 2015)
The whole afternoon, Greek and international media were trying to find out “What the hell did they two men said to each other!?”
Private Mega TV reported a couple of minutes ago that
Eurogroup chief whispred to Greek FinMin’s ear “You just killed the Troika” and that Varoufakis replied with a simple “WOW!”
Who would have thought all you needed to do to defeat a nightmare was to stop believing in it.
Use this as a Greece open thread.
Thu Jan 29th, 2015 at 12:32:28 PM EST
Well, in response to the recent attack in France by French citizens living in France, the EU Interior ministers have decided that Schengen needs changing:
- We consider that beyond the current efforts to make full use of existing Schengen framework, a targeted proposal to amend the Schengen Borders Code is a necessary step to reinforce external borders by making it possible to proceed to systematic checks on individuals enjoying the right of free movement against databases relevant to the fight against terrorism based on the common risk indicators.
And more surveillance, of course. Despite the French police having access to all the surveillance they could have wanted to in the Paris case, as far as I know.
Never waste a good crisis, eh?
Wed Jan 28th, 2015 at 02:02:50 AM EST
Along with Time for the ECB Board to be sacked and Another modest proposal, here's another take on what the European Central Bank is about to do.
In an article on Pieria, Frances Coppola looks at the reasons why the Swiss National Bank abandoned its euro floor, a knock-on effect of the ECB's QE announcement. She goes on to imagine that the SNB's floor was still in place, alongside the euro pegs of a number of other European countries outside the Eurozone. The ECB is about to create more than a trillion euros. What happens?
Lets All Play QE
It would create a flow system. I've talked before about leveraging flow systems in relation to bank lending and financial crises. But this is different. It's a deflationary flow system. This is how it works.
In the centre, the ECB pumps out Euros. Some of those Euros may stay in the Eurozone (we hope), increasing economic activity there. But as the Eurozone already has a trade surplus, so is a capital exporter, most will flow out to the Eurozone's trading partners, putting upwards pressure on their currencies. Those partners that have pegs to the Euro will quickly be forced to respond with monetary easing of their own in order to hold their pegs. So as the ECB pumps out Euros, ERM II central banks (and others) mop them up. The ECB exports deflation to its currency partners: those partners export it back to the Eurozone. The only inflation to be seen anywhere will be in central bank balance sheets. This is what the Swiss, who have one of the very few privately-owned central banks, fear.
Sun Jan 25th, 2015 at 01:00:47 PM EST
Several exit polls suggest that Syriza has won a clear victory - possibly with more than 40% of the vote - and could well have a majority, with up to 155 seats. [UPDATE 26/01/2015 7:49] With more than three-quarters of the vote counted, Syriza is projected at 149 seats (out of 300).
Hope has won
Tue Jan 20th, 2015 at 03:20:45 AM EST
In this second instalment of my series on the state railway of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, the metre-gauge Rhaetian Railway (RhB), I introduce the Engadin Line, which runs along the upper valley of the Inn river (in the local Romansh language: En). Although less well-known to foreign tourists than the rest of the RhB, it runs in scenic landscape with castles, and experienced a traffic surge in recent years thanks to a tunnel that was a mega-project by narrow-gauge standards. The vegetation is rather different from the upper Rhine valley: the dominant tree is the European Larch, so I scheduled my visit there for the Golden Autumn in October. I had no luck with the Sun, though.
Receding up-valley, RhB Ge 4/4 II No. 632 "Zizers" is about to pass station Cinuos-chel-Breil with a south-bound limited-stop RegionalExpress (RE) push-pull train
Mon Jan 12th, 2015 at 12:51:23 PM EST
This from Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times: Eurozone must act before deflation grips (January 11, 2015)
A slightly more realistic possibility would be a combination of QE, an external stimulus from oil and a fiscal boost. The eurozone’s fiscal rules leave little room for an increase in ordinary spending, or a reduction in taxes. But the fiscal rules are sufficiently flexible to allow countries to deal with emergencies. After last week’s terror attacks in Paris, it would be both feasible and appropriate for President François Hollande of France and other European leaders to invoke exceptional circumstances for a fiscal boost related to spending on internal security — without offsetting savings or tax increases. If terrorism does not qualify, what else?
And thus the tragedy of the 1930s repeats itself as a farce.
Sun Jan 11th, 2015 at 04:34:04 AM EST
Among the seventeen victims of the three jihadists who staged kalashnikov attacks in Paris this week were a French Arab Muslim cop, killed because he was in police uniform in the street, four customers in a kosher supermarket, killed because they were Jews, a young West Indian woman who'd left Martinique for a municipal police internship, killed because she was in uniform dealing with a street accident, and a considerable number of journalists and cartoonists, killed for insisting on their right to satirise and criticise.
Public gatherings and marches have been held all over France, and a major march will take place today in Paris in the company of a large selection of heads of state and the world's high and mighty.
I don't have any commentary to offer right now. On this blog, we hugely debated many issues surrounding the publication of the caricatures of Mahomet, back in 2006. We went at it hammer and tongs, and succeeded only in ending up angry and in disagreement. Those who wish to, might like to try to establish a list of points on which we agree. Since the aim of targeted terror is to introduce a front of conflict within Western™ societies, perhaps the best we can do right now is consolidate the essentials on which we are united.
Use as a Charlie open thread.
Wed Jan 7th, 2015 at 08:07:17 AM EST
Two or perhaps three attackers armed with Kalashnikovs entered the Paris premises of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo this morning during the weekly conference, when all the cartoonists and writers were present. At the moment twelve people are known to have died, ten from Charlie Hebdo and two police officers.
Live blog in English at The Guardian.
Live blog in French at Libé
Use this as an open thread.
Update [2015-1-8 7:30:7 by afew][Further update 9/1/2015 7:44]: beneath the fold
Mon Jan 5th, 2015 at 08:42:46 AM EST
Thomas Piketty is in the news for having refused the French decoration of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. Or, in other news, for a conversation with Bill Gates.
He's also a columnist at Libération. His latest offering starts by taking a swing at Juncker for his hypocrisy on the Luxleaks scandal, and goes on:
2015 : quels chocs pour faire bouger l'Europe ? - Libération
il est temps de reconnaître que ce sont les institutions européennes elles-mêmes qui sont en cause, et que seule une refondation démocratique de l'Europe permettrait de mener des politiques de progrès social.
it's time to recognize that the European institutions themselves are the problem, and that only a democratic refoundation of Europe would enable policies of social progress.
What gets in the way? Piketty singles out Germany and France.
Fri Jan 2nd, 2015 at 05:25:39 AM EST
Even among the many magnificent metre-gauge mountain railways of Switzerland, the Rhaetian Railway (Rhätische Bahn, RhB) is a special spectacle: a network spanning the upper valleys of three major rivers, climbing passes with innumerable bridges, tunnels, spiral and horseshoe curves, instead of rack sections. No wonder that riding the RhB is the one trip everyone with access to railway employee free tickets is advised to do. I had an inkling that I might soon lose that privilege in yet another company restructuring (though I didn't think I might lose my job along with it), so I "did the RhB" this year.
In one one-week holiday each in July and October, I travelled pretty much the entire network. Now that I had time to go through my photos (a bit over 1,850 of them), I start a mini-series portraying the RhB lines, roughly in the order of increasing spectacularity. In this first part, I show the line following the Anterior Rhine.
RhB Ge 4/4 II No. 613 "Domat/Ems" with an eastbound Glacier Express is about to reach Versam-Safien station in the Rhine Canyon
Wed Dec 31st, 2014 at 07:23:09 AM EST
There's yet another "status quo in economic education is basically fine" piece penned by a fairly eminent educator:
In the interests of brevity (it's a long piece), I'll only quote the beginning and the end:
Thoughts on "Teaching Economics After the Crash" -- Medium
This is a long post on the state of economics and how it is taught to undergraduates. The world is not crying out for another such discussion, so blame Tony Yates, via whom I ended up listening to Aditya Chakrabortty's documentary "Teaching Economics After the Crash" for BBC Radio 4.
Like Tony, I viewed the programme as a hopelessly one-sided critique of the economics profession. Still, it was useful in the sense that it packed all the regular criticisms about economics into one short piece. I agree with most of what Tony wrote but I want to take a different approach because I think it's worth engaging a bit more positively with the criticisms raised.
front-paged by afew
by A swedish kind of death
Sat Dec 27th, 2014 at 01:08:57 PM EST
The new elections in Sweden which were planned for March have been cancelled. So says the radio and all the papers.
Promoted by DoDo
by das monde
Sat Dec 27th, 2014 at 02:42:14 AM EST
As we got a little interested in the age distribution of readers of this blog, I follow the Swedish royal suggestion to bring up a poll. Please contribute in making this survey representative.
And let's discuss, whether we should take on a mission to attract a batch of younger readers, or expand all age groups.
Let's have more respondents - afew
Sun Dec 21st, 2014 at 11:00:51 AM EST
In this first train blog in a long time, I bring two disparate stories only connected by the theme of renewal and their closeness to me.
First, after more than two decades, there is a change at the helm of international trains between Prague and Budapest. Both the old and the new loco type was noteworthy for matching or exceeding the performance of contemporary Western products.
Czech Railways (ČD) 380 020 with an EC train to Budapest runs along the Danube on its last kilometres in Slovakia
Mon Dec 15th, 2014 at 01:51:18 AM EST
Will the Oil Collapse Kill Energy Junk Bonds? (Yves Smith on Illari's post from Automatic Earth)
(The PBS News Hour Friday, December 12, noted that US oil prices dropped below $60/bbl Friday, causing the lagest drop in US stock markets in three years.)
Some context, (via Ed Harrison):
front-paged by afew
Sun Nov 30th, 2014 at 03:50:15 PM EST
I wrote a quite long comment in Migerus Diary and I thought I should extend it even more and make a diary out of it.
In the comment section melo started a discussion about the Euro, in this case Germany leaving the Euro.
I posed the question to all participation in this thread
Would you recommend leaving the Euro? And: Would you vote for a party which recommends leaving the Euro?
The answers to this question I got could be divided into two groups:
Answer a) Cyrille, Migeru, afew, (maybe melo):
We need a credible threat to leave the Euro, to change the European institutional setup. The exact nature of the changes has not been spelled out, but from our discussion on this blog it is quite clear that what would be needed is, i) changes to the 'Stability and Growth Pact', ii) The possibility for the ECB to directly finance gouvernments. iii) maybe a higher inflation target.
Migeru later specified:
Unless and until Article 123 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 104 of Maastricht Treaty) is repealed, all the rest is cosmetic.
Which is basically my point ii). I completely agree that this is the most crucial point.
front-paged by afew
Sat Nov 29th, 2014 at 12:16:24 PM EST
Earlier today in the European Parliament, Jean Claude-Juncker introduced his much-touted 300bn investment plan with these words:
I often hear that we need 'fresh' money. What I believe we really need is a fresh start and fresh investment. Others say we need more debt. We do not. National budgets are already stretched. The EU operates on balanced budgets and the abundant liquidity can allow Europe to grow without creating new debt. We will not betray our children and grandchildren and write more checks that they will ultimately have to pay off. We will not betray the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact that we have agreed jointly - this is a matter of credibility.
cross-posted on The Court Astrologer