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Cities Scale: Boston Living with Water

by gmoke Tue Feb 24th, 2015 at 11:06:30 PM EST

Cities scale is where real climate change adaptation is taking place, now, whether or not we have national or international agreements on greenhouse gases.  Cities and regions have to deal with weather emergencies and, it turns out, preparing for weather emergencies and other natural disasters is very much like adapting to climate change.  The best of it can be climate mitigation, too.

One way cities are climbing the learning curve is by holding design competitions.  In Boston, the city, the Harbor Association, the Redevelopment Authority, and the Society of Architects are hosting Boston Living with Water, an international call for design solutions that create a "more resilient, more sustainable, and more beautiful Boston adapted for end-of-the-century climate conditions and rising sea levels."  They will be announcing the finalist on Thursday, February 26 but you can vote on which of the 49 different plans you like until 12 pm (EST) on Wednesday, February 25 at http://www.bostonlivingwithwater.org/submission-gallery

The contest is based upon the recent reports by the Harbor Association on sea level rise and the Building Resilience in Boston study by the Green Ribbon Commission. Supporting documentation also includes "Designing with Water: Creative Solutions from Around the Globe" which presents twelve case studies from around the world [pdf alert]:
http://www.bostonlivingwithwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Designing-with-Water-Creative-Soluti ons-from-Around-the-Globe-Aug-2014.pdf

World-wide networks and best practices case studies can be very helpful.

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The new Greek government program

by talos Mon Feb 23rd, 2015 at 07:27:12 PM EST




The gvt of Greece had, according to the February 20 deal in the Eurogroup, until today to send a list of "reforms" to its creditors, which would form the basis of a revised program. This has been agreed to be postponed until tomorrow morning [Tuesday 22]. According to a SYRIZA non-paper, translated by Damian Mac Con Uladh here is a general description of what the Greek government will be sending to the Eurogroup FinMins Tuesday:

front-paged by afew

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Two-thirds gone

by DoDo Sun Feb 22nd, 2015 at 04:20:54 PM EST

Here is a short update on politics in Hungary: the right-populist government of Viktor Orbán lost its two-thirds qualified majority in parliament.

Orbán's Fidesz won its first two-thirds majority in 2010 with 52.3% of the vote (thanks to its non-proportionality), then, although its share of the vote dropped to 44.9% in 2014, it retained its power to change any law and the Constitution at will (thanks to changes to the election system making it even less proportional). However, the second two-thirds was secured just barely, and when Orbán's up to then faithful foot-soldier Tibor Navracsics was made European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, his seat was up for grabs.

The by-election was held today, and an independent candidate (who left Fidesz a decade ago) supported by the centre-left and centre-right opposition parties (who got 42.7%) easily defeated the Fidesz candidate (33.6%, against the 47.2% Navracsics carried last year). This is only the second defeat of significance for the Fidesz government, after Orbán was forced to withdraw an internet tax last autumn.

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Did Schäuble win?

by Migeru Sat Feb 21st, 2015 at 04:38:34 AM EST

While the Greek finance ministry is busy preparing their reform program to be presented to 'The Institutions' by close of business on Monday, the press is busy adjudicating victory in the deathmatchnegotiations between Schäuble and Varoufakis.

This is the Varoufakis view:

And this is the Schäuble view.Now, my own opinion is that Varoufakis got what he wanted. On Sunday night he had a draft proposed by Moscovici which he was ready to sign and to which he "added come conditionalities of their own" as a show of good will and to sweeten the deal for the other side. To this the Eurogroup reacted with a different, "unacceptable" draft. And so on Thursday Varoufakis presented a blend of the Moscovici and Dijsselbloem drafts, together with his own conditionalities. This was rejected out of hand by the German finance ministry.

The fact that the agreed draft is fairly close to Varoufakis' letter on Thursday is a German climbdown from that flat out rejection. But judge for yourselves: the two texts are side by side below the fold.

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LQD - On Monetary Structure

by ATinNM Fri Feb 20th, 2015 at 12:06:02 PM EST

Paper:  Is Our Monetary Structure a Systemic Cause for Financial Instability? Evidence and Remedies from Nature

(Directly linking is beyond my power, have to Google it.)

Read more... (14 comments, 221 words in story)

Varoufakis and the memorandum

by Migeru Fri Feb 13th, 2015 at 04:32:14 AM EST

Cross-posted from The Court Astrologer

Now that the Greek cliffhanger has moved on to whether Tsipras will give in to Merkel or not, let me go back to the debate over the past two weeks on Yanis Varoufakis' position on the Troika. The favourite claims of the Very Serious People were that the Greek government was making different statements abroad from what it said in Greece, that it was flip-flopping on their acceptance of the "program", or that Varoufakis in particular was one day saying he rejected the memorandum in toto and the next that it accepted 70% of the reforms, as if that were a contradiction.

In fact, to understand the Greek position one need only pay attention to what Varoufakis (mostly) has been saying, as opposed to what the press said he has been saying, and not assume that just because Syriza are radical leftists they must be talking nonsense. With this in mind, let's take a look at Varoufakis' second address to the Greek Parliament on February 10, during the debates preceding the new government's confidence vote. It is not hard to see that Varoufakis' position can be summarised as follows:

  • The "memorandum" is a "pyramid scheme" whereby an insolvent Greece is made to indebt itself further in order to pay its creditors on condition that it shrink its income.
  • The "program" is a "fig leaf" intended to cover up the fraudulent logic of the "pyramid scheme" "memorandum".
  • The "troika" are bureaucrats sent to Greece to implement "austerity" and with no authority to discuss the "reforms" they are charged with overseeing.
  • Some of the "reforms" happen to be positive, some negative, but this is all incidental as they are part of the "fig leaf".
  • The SYRIZA government agrees with 70% of the "reforms" and considers the rest "toxic".
  • Because the "troika" bureaucrats do not have the authority to discuss the "toxic" reforms, the SYRIZA government does not recognise them as interlocutors. It does recognise the "institutions" and "partners" with an authority to discuss the "reforms".
  • The SYRIZA government is willing to negotiate a new "program" with the legitimate "institutions" and "partners", but not to extend the existing "fig leaf".
  • The SYRIZA government "accepts 0%" of the "memorandum" and its "austerity" "pyramidal logic".
As this was already clear at least since the press conference with Schäuble 5 days earlier, serious people who make snide remarks about 70% not being the same as 0% are being intellectually lazy.

To illustrate the depths of misrepresentation, be it due to laziness or dishonesty, in the serious people's commentary, let's look at Varoufakis' "cunning plan" for negotiating with the Eurogroup:

Our only tactic, ladies and gentlemen of the Opposition, would be to come up with reasonable, sensible proposals. I will not go with any available tacticism. Although I have spent many years of my life with game theory, I assure you that it will not apply it. Game theory is for gaming. Not playing with the future of Greece. Not playing with the future of Europe. Without bluffs, without twists and turns, this is our "cunning" tactic.
Now look at the reporting:To substantiate my above interpretation of Varoufakis' position, here is an excerpt from the Greek Parliament's official journal for February 10 [.doc file], google-garbled. To find the speech in the very long file, just perform a textual search for 'ΒΑΡΟΥΦΑΚΗΣ' (all caps) which indicates he's the one speaking, whereas lower case returns dozens of hits of references to him by other speakers.
The Memorandum for us very simply defined. Was that the combination of new debt accumulated over already unsustainable loans and private debt, provided the shrinking incomes, from which have to be repaid the old and new loans. That was the understanding.

...

This is the memorandum which was born in 2010 and which remains philosophical, macroeconomic, morally toxic and the skeleton, the basis of the program, which "run" and "running" up to our election. Is pyramidal austerity imposed and guarded with periodic visits the troika of envoys technocrats three important institutions to whom we belong and will belong and in which we are working, but not on the basis of stewardship and enforcement by a group of technocrats who send in the country us, with colonial features, this pyramid austerity.

Question: What percentage of the Memorandum accept? Just 0%! We will not accept nor a condition that enhances the vortex of the crisis, which magnifies the rate of debt, further wage reductions, new taxes on those who have already exhausted from taxation. We will not tolerate even a line, not a word, not one of the "red" lines that Mr. Venizelos, which reinforce the denial of reality and sacrifice Greeks of the most powerless without cause. We will not succumb to the deceitful error that deregulation of the labor market is reformed.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Memorandum, the pyramidal austerity loans the fed condition growing decline of our society, this story ended. This does not mean that ended the loan agreement with our partners. To stop, however, this Loan Agreement to be toxic require a new agreement, a new contract between us and our partners. Elected to negotiate. What to negotiate? A new agreement.

...

For example, why reject the commitment to reform the tax code -We have no reason to do it, just because it is part of the list of the MoU; - or the commitment of the redefinition of the concept of tax evasion? We want to do that. 70% of this "fig leaf" of the paper, the list, which came mnimoniaki logic pyramidal austerity is either irrelevant or independent of the mnimoniaki logic.

I repeat: What percentage of the Memorandum accept? We accept 0%, ladies and gentlemen.

...

Konstantinos SKREKAS: The "fig leaf" we want to hear.

...

GIANIS VAROUFAKIS (Minister of Finance): The "red" lines are yours and ours. And we have more. But overall, if the yield line to line and quantitatively, around 30% is toxic, mnimoniako piece which will reject.

And just so that it cannot be said that I take things out of context, I reproduce the entire speech below the fold. Enjoy.

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After EU

by DoDo 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.

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Greece's Plan B?

by Migeru 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

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Deflationary QE

by afew 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.

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Another modest proposal. LQD.

by melo Fri Jan 23rd, 2015 at 09:14:23 PM EST

What holes are there in this argument, oh mighty Eurotrib mages?

Beppe Grillo's Blog

"The fears relating to Quantitative Easing (QE) have turned out to be unfounded. Before Mario Draghi spoke, there were two thorny issues worrying the M5S.

THE CONSTRAINTS ON THE REAL ECONOMY
We are talking about a measure involving more than 1000 billion euro to be used for buying bonds to finance the public debt of European States. The problem is that, given that the ECB's mandate prevents it from directly financing states, all this new wave of liquidity will once more go to the banks, that are already stuffed full of State bonds. The hope is that they will reuse the money to loan more to families and to companies, in such a way that there'll be an increase in the level of inflation (- that has collapsed to a record low - far lower than the ECB's aim of of 2%), that will in turn stimulate consumption and investment.

(More below...)

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On the RhB 2: along the Inn river

by DoDo 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

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Time for the ECB Board to be sacked

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jan 16th, 2015 at 07:26:47 AM EST

With the Syriza movement led by Alexis Tsipras likely to win next weeks elections in Greece, the possibility of Greece being expelled from the Eurozone, at German insistence, raises its head. We must be clear that Greece does not stand alone in this conflict, and that the German dominated ECB also has some culpability in the continuing crisis. Unfortunately Ireland's national leaders have shown no interest in supporting Greece or any other Eurozone state in this crisis - preferring to gloat in Ireland's own relative success in exiting the bail-out and fearful of rocking the boat at the ECB.  

This cozy "national" consensus needs to be challenged. I have sent the following letter to the editors of Irish national newspapers:

Unlike the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank has one, and only one self imposed target by which it's performance can be judged: to keep inflation at or just below 2%.  It has failed miserably to achieve that target, with the result that those people and nations with large debts have seen their real debt burden increase.  

This suits net creditor nations like Germany, but is a disaster for almost everyone else, with deflation likely to lead to increased real indebtedness, recession and perhaps even depression in the rest of the Eurozone.

Lest anyone think this is an accident of history, it is an outcome advocated by some German economists and by many of the German dominated staff in the Frankfurt based ECB itself.  Essentially it is a case of the Eurozone being run by Germans in Germany's interest.

And yet no one calls for the resignation of the ECB Board for failing to achieve its one self-declared target, never mind achieving a broader set of economic targets including employment levels like the US Fed.  Our leaders seem to be afraid to criticize the ECB in case it might once again threaten to pull the plug on our banking system.

The ECB is the most undemocratic institution in the EU, with Ireland never even having sought representation at Executive Board level.  It is time that must change, and it is time our political leaders had the courage to hold our banking masters to account.  

The Eurozone must be run in the interests of all Eurozone members, and failing that we must consider acting in our own national interest and leave the Eurozone in concert with other Eurozone members whose economic needs are being ignored.

In further news, the ECB has refused to cooperate with the Irish Parliamentary inquiry into the Irish Banking Bail-out Fiasco which looks like costing Irish taxpayers something north of €40 Billion even if the Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank end up refunding the taxpayer in full - claiming it is accountable only to the European Parliament. When was the last time the European Parliament ever exercised effective supervision over the ECB? Perhaps it is time for all of us to start lobbying our European Parliamentarians...

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Intertribal Problems Stuck on Stupid

by gmoke Thu Jan 15th, 2015 at 11:17:47 PM EST

We are going into our fifth month of demonstrations and actions all over the USA about police violence and sanctioned summary judgment. Hearing, reading, seeing the news, it seems as if brutality, terror, and torture are breaking out worldwide, with beheadings and mass killings happening at, perhaps, a quickening rate. Violence meeting violence to make more violence, intertribal problems stuck on stupid, here and abroad.

Recently, I saw a DVD of "The Interrupters," (http://interrupters.kartemquin.com) on an open cart in the library and I took it home. It's a documentary about a group called Ceasefire which "interrupts" street violence between gangs and violent individuals in Chicago. CeaseFire's founder, Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who believes that violence spreads like an infectious disease and uses a "medical" treatment: "go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source," to stop it. One part of that treatment is the "Violence Interrupters" program, created by Tio Hardiman, a group of street-credible, mostly former offenders who defuse conflict before it becomes violence. They can speak from experience about consequences and how "no matter what the additional violence is not going to be helpful."

About the same time, a friend wrote me about a radio interview (http://www.ttbook.org/book/reforming-lapd) with Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney and cousin to the former Secretary of State, who has trained 50 LA police officers over the last five years in "public trust policing" at Nickerson Gardens, an LA public housing project.

I picked up "The Interrupters" because I was wondering why we didn't hear about this group in relation to what has been happening with the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamar Rice and others. I listened to the interview with Constance Rice for the same reason. Why haven't I seen Ms Rice, Gary Slutkin, or Tio Hardiman on my TV screen and all over "social media"? They are doing some things which have proven to work in their own communities. How much of what they've done in Chicago and LA can apply to NYC and Boston and other places all around the world? Can they teach us all how to interrupt our own violence and to build a system of public trust policing? As Tio Hardiman says in the DVD: "We've been taught violence. Violence is learned behavior." Can these people and the others like them teach us how to unlearn our violent behavior?

We'll never know unless their voices are part of the conversation.

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Piketty: Amnesia, Selfishness

by afew 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.

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Reality According to the OBR

by rifek Mon Jan 5th, 2015 at 04:13:22 AM EST

I have finally gotten around to reading the Autumn Statement from the UK's Office of Budget Responsibility.  You can download the whole smash here, but for brevity's sake, I'll stick to the Overview and Executive Summary.  I'll say up front that the Statement is a tour de force of alternately covering and kissing butt, but I believe the real importance of the Statement is the insight it provides to the "reality" the OBR is expected to manufacture to support the Coalition Government's policies.

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On the Rhaetian Railway 1: along the Anterior Rhine

by DoDo 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

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Oil Market: A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

by ChrisCook Thu Jan 1st, 2015 at 07:56:52 PM EST

I recently posted the second of two stories in 'Tehran Times' on the subject of the recent collapse in oil market prices, which I have been publicly forecasting consistently for over three years, initially at a major conference in Tehran in late 2011, and most recently on November 2nd when the oil price was still over $80/barrel.

Since it seems to have disappeared, I thought I might republish it at European Tribune.

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Exit strategies

by melo Wed Dec 31st, 2014 at 08:04:33 AM EST

There is some technical stuff here beyond my parsing ability, so I offer this LQD as food for discussion.

Happy New Economic Year to everyone, maybe this coming year we can get the Euro to play nice in the face of so many voters who have lost faith in the whole European Project because of continuing bad faith exhibited by the Austerity-merchants of Death aka the ECB and the Banksters.

Beppe Grillo's Blog



After a third failed attempt to elect a new State President, Greece is now required to hold a general election on 25 January. The Greek share market responded by dropping 20% of its value in the past two weeks and the yield of their ten-year public bonds shot up to 10%, the highest level seen in the past two years.

Media terrorism
What better occasion for our regime media to serve up some terrorism "a la matriciana" against Italy's exit from the Euro. After all, we too have to elect a new State President under conditions that are anything but simple.

More below...

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So economics teaching isn't the problem?

by Metatone 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:

Beginning:

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

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LQD: New election in Greece

by rz Mon Dec 29th, 2014 at 06:15:18 AM EST

I have not much to say here. But just now the election of the new president of Greece in the Greek parliament failed for the third time. This means there will be a snap election.

From Reuters

Greek lawmakers failed to elect a new president in a final round of voting on Monday, leaving the country facing an early election that could derail the international bailout program it needs to keep paying its bills.

Can Syzra win? Should it win?

I do not want to bore people again with stuff about the ECB, but I found this quite weird (from an article in the Telegraph from shortly before the vote in the parliament)

Gikas Hardouvelis, the Greek finance minister, warned on Sunday that the election of an anti-austerity party could lead to punitive European Central Bank economic sanctions against Greece.

"The ECB holds the key," he told Greece's To Vima newspaper. "This key can easily and abruptly turn off bank funding and strangle the Greek economy in a split second."

Has it come to this? It is basically matter of fact that the ECB can impose its political will?

Comments >> (56 comments)
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News and Views

 4-5 June 2015

by DoDo - Jul 4, 35 comments

Your take on today's news media

 3 July 2015

by In Wales - Jul 2, 45 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 29 June-5 July

by afew - Jun 29, 29 comments

What's in a week?

 Open Thread 22-28 June

by afew - Jun 22, 55 comments

This week

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