The whirlwind continues.

We begin with a German attack on banks, then move on to a europol’s prediction of growing social disruption across the continent, and a eorbanksters soothing austerian noises.

Moving on to Greece, we learn of an IMF threat to cut off off the nation, yet another German austerian admonition, a petty cash allotment to Greek business, Bill Clinton’s plea for a little less Greek pain along with yet more German umbrage, A Syriza Grexit prediction and a Democratic Left lite version of the same message, a New Dawn verbal assault on a popular mayor, and favored treatment for certain civil servants.

Then on to Spain, and strange media underestimation of protest crows [with illustrative videos] and another region on the verge of bankruptcy.

Then its own to Britain, and Tony Blair plea for the banks, the growing number of young people unable to pay for heat and light, and a vow to make the Olympics safe from competition for corporate sponsors by barring visitors from wearing T-shirts and such bearing the logos of rival brands.

German Social Democrats declare war on banks

Just how serious their campaign really is remains to be seen. Social democrats have often made noses about banking power, but rarely taken effective action in reining in the beast.

If nothing else, they’ve hit on a vote-getting strategy.

From Deutsche Welle:

With Germany’s next federal election more than a year off, the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) has announced plans to make the reining in of banks a major part of his campaign.

“The 2013 federal election must become a decision to tame the banking and financial sector,” Sigmar Gabriel writes in a thesis paper, excerpts of which were published in the Saturday edition of the mass-circulation daily Bild.

In the paper, Gabriel accuses the banks of a number of grave offenses, including holding national governments to ransom. European governments in particular have been forced to bail out shaky banks due to fears about what their insolvency could inflict on entire economies, he argues.

“Even today they engage in risky dealings, as if the financial crisis of 2008 had never occurred,” he writes. “And when things go sour they ‘order’ bailouts from the politicians.”

Read the rest.

Spain reveals a Europe on a tectonic brink

One of the leading europols is warning of the dangers of a “social explosion” if the economic crisis isn’t quickly resolved.

From Agence France-Presse:

European Parliament president Martin Schulz warned Saturday that Spain’s economic crisis could spark a “social explosion” across the continent.

“The demonstrations in Spain show that a social explosion is looming because of the high unemployment rate among young people in Europe,” Schulz told the wide-circulation German daily Bild in an interview published Saturday.

He called for the rapid implementation of “new European programmes to finally create more jobs for this generation.”

The Social Democrat said however that Spain was better placed than Greece to weather the crisis, since it “has a solid industrial base and a well-organised public administration.”

Read the rest.

“Social explosions” aren’t revolutions, absent a clearly articulated agenda with specific goals, and they’re much easier to control.

As long as “rage against” isn’t transformed into “action for,” then, in the words of the Bard, it’s all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

It’s all cool, says the eurobankster

Yep, if crisis is opportunity, then the eurocrisis is just the opportunity to bring it all home, says the common currency zone’s central banker.

And by bringing it home, we mean to Brussels and Frankfurt [the ECB’s home turf].

From Reuters:

The euro zone is not in danger of breaking up despite some analysts’ worse case scenarios, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said, judging that the bloc was inevitably marching towards closer union among its members.

Asked in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde if the euro were in danger, Draghi said: “No, absolutely not. We see analysts imagining the scenario of a euro zone blow-up.”

“They don’t recognize the political capital that our leaders have invested in this union and Europeans’ support. The euro is irreversible,” he added.

In the long term, the euro would need to rest on a foundation of greater integration among euro zone countries, Draghi said.

“All movement towards financial, budgetary and political union is for me inevitable and will lead to the creation of new supranational bodies,” he said.

Read the rest.

And on to Greece. . .

From the IMF, warnings of Greek default

Here’s another of those “sounding board” stories, the ones leaked by high official to send a message, then judge the reaction.

In this case, the message is clear, and stark. The cost of “saving” Greece is too high, and maybe it’s time to let it go.

From Deutsche Welle:

A report by a German news magazine on Sunday sparked fresh concerns about the possibility of Greece being forced into insolvency.

In an article published on its website, Spiegel cites unnamed senior European Union sources in Brussels who told the news magazine that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had signaled it would not contribute to any further aid for Greece.

According to the report, this makes the possibility of Greece going bankrupt more likely, and it could do just that as soon as September.

The  report comes ahead of a planned visit to Athens by a team of auditors from the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF. They are to conduct another inspection of the new government’s economic program to determine whether Greece is doing enough to comply with the terms of its second international bailout to merit receiving the next tranche of funds.

Read the rest.

More from Ekathemeri:

Greece could default as soon as September, according to the same report, which claims that patience of officials at the Washington-based organization with Greece is wearing thin.

“High ranking officials at the Fund have informed the European Union that the IMF is no longer willing to provide Greece with more aid,” according to a translated version of the report.

The IMF has maintained that Greece must reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio to 120 percent by 2020 if its debt is to become

sustainable in the medium term, but its officials are very pessimistic about the country’s ability to do so, according to the report.

“Giving the country more time to meet its targets would, according to troika estimates, mean an extra 10 to 50 billion euros in relief aid,” the report said. But many eurozone governments are unwilling to give Greece more leeway, it said.

Read the rest.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur adds one qualification:

[O]ne unnamed EU diplomat rejected the Spiegel report, saying that as part of the troika, the IMF would not want to preempt its conclusions.

“That can‘t be true because the IMF is also awaiting the troika report before making a decision. So at the moment there is still a lot of ‘if‘ and ‘but‘ involved, so pure speculation.”

Read the rest.

Another German message to Greece

And it’s not anonymous. Coming in conjunction with the IMF leak, it’s more clear signaling that Greece is being set up for the chop.

From Agence France-Presse:

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle ruled out any renegotation of Greece’s budget austerity programme in an interview published on Saturday.

“I see desires emerging in Greece to renegotiate and substantially question the country’s obligations to carry out reforms. I have to say simply, that will not do. It is a Rubicon that we are not going to cross,” Westerwelle told the daily Bild.

He called on Athens to clearly demonstrate that it wanted to remain in the eurozone. “Greece must not just say that it wants to stay in the eurozone, but must also implement a clear policy of reforms and keep its commitments,” he added.

Read the rest.

Toe the line or you’re out, says Westerwelle, repeating a line he’s uttered at least half a dozen times before.

But talking points are there to be repeated, are they not?

But money keeps coming

This time from another fund, and for smaller Greek businesses.

From Reuters:

The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide 1.44 billion euros in loans to struggling Greek firms, providing a stimulus to the country’s ailing economy, the finance ministry said on Saturday.

With banks dependent on ECB cash to survive and reluctant to finance any but the biggest companies, Greece and the European Union have been pushing the EIB, the EU’s long-term investment arm, to step into the breach.

But the EIB hesitated for months, worried about getting too exposed to Greece, which has not yet escaped the risk of a chaotic default that might force it to abandon the euro. EIB financing for Greek projects had dried up to a mere 10 million euros this year, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters after meeting EIB chief Werner Hoyer.

“The EIB will re-activate its engagement in Greece as soon as possible,” Stournaras said. “It seems there can also be good news in this country,” said Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis who also took part in the meeting.

The EIB will disburse the loans over the next three years to small and medium-sized enterprises, using Greek banks as intermediaries. The EIB will also help the country push ahead with road construction, foreign investment and privatization projects, Hatzidakis said without giving details.

Read the rest.

Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis puts this latest “good news” in perspective:

When all is said and done, the picture that emerges is one of a Europe with an arm that is meekly trying to fix things while the other arm is violently destroying whatever the benign limb is putting together. The EIB announces a 600 million euros of SME funding from 1st September (tiny compared to Greece’s unspent structural funds) at the same time that the ECB (a) pulls the remaining piece of the rug from under the Greek banks and (b) demands of the Greek state that it borrows from the EFSF 900 millions so as to hand them over to it on 20th August as a pure profit payment. Does this sound like sensible policies of a currency union in trouble? Or does it look like the last stages of a currency union that has lost the will to live?

Read the rest.

Bubba says too much austerity’s bad

Bill Clinton, always good at saying soothing things, presenting the kinder, gentler face of neoliberalism.

Now the same guy who did so much to create the crisis by deregulating Wall Street is saying that austerity goes down best with a spoonful of sugar.

From Greek Reporter’s Andy Dabilis:

Meeting with visiting former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who game to Greece with a group of influential Greek-American leaders to discuss programs to help Greek charities and spur the country’s economy, new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told him that the country, reeling in a five-year-long depression, is really in a “Great Depression,” similar to the dustbowl years of the 1930’s in the United States. Clinton told him that austerity measures demanded by the country’s international lenders were failing.

Samaras’ comments came just two days before inspectors from international lenders were due to meet with him to discuss delays in imposing more austerity measures and another $15 billion in cuts to keep rescue fund lifelines open.


Clinton criticized Greece’s lenders for focusing excessively on austerity, saying Athens will be more likely to repay its debt if its manages economic recovery first. “(It) is self-defeating… if every day people are saying this may or may not work to give us back a 100 cents on the dollar, so give us more austerity today,” he told Samaras. “People need something to look forward to when they get up in the morning — young Greeks need something to believe in so they can stake their future out here,” Clinton said.

Read the rest.

But a German says stick to that austerity

The finance minister deploys his usual semantic cudgel.

From Ekathemerini:

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble branded the task of new Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras “Herculean” and said it is up to the government to explain to its people what the country needs.

In an interview to French newspaper Le Figaro, Schaeuble was asked whether he was confident Samaras would do what is necessary to prevent Greece from provoking any new turbulence in September.

Schaeuble responded: “Samaras’s task is Herculean. The financial problems of Greece stretch back several decades. The people are now confronted with a serious crisis that needs adjustment, but there is not one road to concentrate all efforts.

“We are ready to assist Greece, but it should not go back on its structural reforms. There is no easy solution, if Greece wants to regain access to the financial markets.

“For internal political reasons, the application of the bailout program has been delayed. Now the troika will have to examine the situation with the new Greek government, and then it will have to say what will be the consequences. Yet it is up to the Greek government to explain to the people what is necessary for the country,” Schaeuble concluded.

Read the rest.

Ah, the semantics of austerity, adorned with such illuminating words as “no easy solutions” and “consequences.”

Tsipras predicts the Grexit

The leader of Syriza, the number two party in parliament and non-participant in the coalition government, says the Grexit is coming, packaged in some glittery wrappings.

From AMNA news agency:

The leader of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) party, Alexis Tsipras, was quoted as predicting the country’s default, while also forecasting that the government will “soon present” a return to a national currency (drachma) as a national success.

In an interview published with Real News newspaper on Saturday, Tsipras said any re-negotiation of a memorandum signed by Greece with its EC-ECB-IMF creditors ended on the night of the June 17 election, while charging that any payment extension is “essentially a longer rope with which to hang ourselves.”

He also criticised the government for abandoning, as he said, any discussion over restoring cuts made to pensioners receiving low pensions, re-instituting collective bargaining talks and increasing the tax-free ceiling for individual taxpayers.

Read the rest.

He’s certainly positioning his party well should his prediction prove out. And judging by the rhetoric coming the north these days, his prognositcati ve powers may prove spot on.

Same message, the lite version

The source: Greece’s moderate Left party, the one that enabled New Democracy to cobble together a “save the euro” government.

From Ekathemerini:

Greece has not fully escaped the danger of leaving the euro area, the Democratic Left leader said in an interview on Sunday, while urging faster reforms to remedy the debt-wracked nation’s structural deficits.

In comments made to Skai television channel on Sunday, Fotis Kouvelis, the boss of the third biggest party in Greece’s power-sharing coalition, warned against any more horizontal cuts in the recession-hit country, while criticizing austerity measures passed by the previous administrations as “uneven, unfair, unbearable and counter-productive.”

The moderate leftist leader instead called for policies aimed at boosting growth and curbing unemployment. He also urged measures to crack down on tax dodging, corruption and the black market.

Read the rest.

Gee, sounds a lot like Bill Clinton.

When all else fails, try ad hominem attacks

Golden Dawn, the Greek Neo-Nazis who hate immigrants and give each other the Hitler salute, have reverted to a classic strategem in their attcks on a political foe: The ad hominem attack — when the facts get in away, sling mud .

Their latest victim, the mayor of one of the country’s largest cities.

From Athens News:

Golden Dawn have seemingly found a new political”enemy”, in highly outspoken and controversial Thessaloniki mayor Yannis Boutaris, whom they have advised to calm down, unless he wants to end up in the Dafni mental hospital.

Boutaris had on Friday said, during a television interview, that at least half of Golden Dawn’s party members should be behind bars, a stated position that was bound to bring a reaction from the neo-nazi party who surprised many in Greece and abroad with the electional performances in Greece’s most recent ballot clashes.

In a statement released on their website, Golden Dawn accuse the Thessaloniki mayor and known wine producer, of being drunk while making his statement about the party of Nikos Mihaloliakos.

“According to what we heard”, the statement reads, “his statement was made under the influence of a very well known product that he produces in abundance, but we have received no confirmation of this. It would however be a good idea to to make him take a breathalyzer test before he is allowed to enter a television studio from now on”.

Read the rest.

Austerity for thee but not for we

Seems that the austerity memorandum is being enforced only selectively, with the greatest share of the burdens being borne by private sector workers.

From Keep Talking Greece:

The managements of Greek state-run enterprises seem to be very forgetful. So forgetful, that they “forgot” to implement government decisions concerning wages cuts for thousands of employees at state-run enterprises (DEKO) and other state bodies and organizations. Even worst: the government forgot to control if laws and decisions are been implemented.

Apparently the Bailout Agreement is implemented only to certain parts of the Greek society: mostly private sector employees and self-employed. The rest of the society experiences a …preferential treatment. They are exempted from the wages cuts. Who are these people? The army of party voters that redeemed votes against a work place at the state-run enterprises, mostly utilities companies but also TRAINOSE, Public transport etc.

Thus reminding us that in this debt-ridden state, the gap of the two-classes employees is getting bigger .And that the Memorandum of Understanding is not for all.

Sunday newspaper Real News revealed that according to Greek Finance Ministry, 60 percent of the utilities companies and of subsidized state agencies and organisations not only they did not implement the relevant decisions, they also did implement any wages cuts at all!

Read the rest.

And now, to Spain. . .

Media downgrade size of protests in Spain

What is it with the news media these days?

There was another round of massive demonstrations in Spain yesterday, yet two major news sources, euronews and the Associated Press, both reported that “hundreds” of protesters turned out.

Here’s the euronews report:

Hundreds of unemployed Spaniards have been demonstrating in Madrid over the government’s handling of the economic crisis.

Many of those taking part in the latest action had made long journeys on foot, to highlight the plight of the jobless in recesssion-hit Spain.

“Unemployment is not going down, it’s going up,” said one woman.

Another demonstrator added: “I want everything that has been negotiated in Europe to be negotiated here, in the regions, with all the politicians, so that we take decisions and then we go to Europe to say what the Spaniards really want.”

Demonstrations have swollen in Spain since the government announced 65 billion euros worth of new spending cuts, which include a reduction in unemployment benefits.

Read the rest.

Now take a look at this Associated Press video of yesterday’s demonstration in Madrid:

Now we’ve covered scores of protests during our years in journalism, and we’d estimate the crowd in the multiples of thousands.

But how does the AP describe the turnout?

Hundreds of demonstrators from around Spain marched to Madrid to protest the country’s near 25 percent unemployment rate and the government’s tough austerity measures.

What the hell is going on? Now we’ll acknowledge that thousands are composed of hundreds, but really. . .

Here’s another Madrid video from vlogger 9361980:

As Valencia goes, so goes Murcia

Murcia’s one of Spain’s smallest regions both physically and geographically, and unlike most of the others, it includes only one province, and both bear the name of the region’s largest city.

Created as a separate region in 1982, it boasts a population under 1.5 million, a third of it living in the eponymous city.

It shares two things with the region of Valencia, just to the north: A common border and a bankrupt treasury

From Reuters:

Tiny Murcia was on course on Sunday to be the second Spanish region to request help from the central government to keep it afloat, as media reported half a dozen local authorities were ready to follow in the footsteps of Valencia.

How Spain’s 17 indebted autonomous regions, locked out of international debt markets, refinance €36bn in debt this year has been a major source of concern for investors ever since they missed deficit targets last year.

Spain’s central government set up an €18bn fund earlier this month to ease their funding pain.

Asked in a Q&A newspaper interview whether Murcia planned to tap the fund created, the head of the local government, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, answered “of course”, and added that he hoped it would be available for September.

“Nobody should think this money is a gift, the conditions are going to be very tough,” he was quoted as telling the paper. “To give you an idea, between €200m to €300m would be asked for. But I don’t know yet.”

Read the rest.

From Spain, on to Britain. . .

Tony takes a hit for the team

Britain’s own Bubba, a neoliberal with a populist fig leaf, is confessing that his government helped precipitate the global financial crisis by failing to fully grasp the implications of a globalized economy.

But he claims that one of the solutions proposed by those who rose to follow him in the Labour Party after he left the prime ministerial post five years ago is the wrong thing at the right time.

And guess what he’s criticizing?

From the London Telegraph’s Tim Ross:

Mr Blair, who left office in 2007, warned that a “vibrant” financial sector was essential for the future economic health of the UK.

The remark was being seen as a coded criticism of Ed Miliband, the current Labour leader, who has called for the big high street banks to be broken up and tougher regulation of finacial services.


Questioned on his own responsibility for Britain’s current economic problems, he said: “Of course, everybody who was in power in the period bears a certain responsibility.

“On the other hand… this global financial crisis was the product of a whole new way that the financial and banking sector has been working in this past 20 or 30 years.

“You have got this deep integration of the global economy and you have a lot of financial instruments that were created whose impact people didn’t properly understand.”

Asked if that meant Labour did not fully understand it while he was in power, he replied: “No, we didn’t.”

Read the rest.

Yeah, by all means don’t break up the banks or burden them with more regulations.  After all, they have our best interests at heart, right?



Young join the elderly in the ranks of fuel-deprived

While it’s retirees who usually come to mind when we read stories about people suffering from harsh weather because they can’t heat or cool their dwellings, a growing number of young Britons, especially students, are facing the same quandary: The choice between power and food.

From The Ecologist:

The new report, entitled ‘Significant invisibles: Energy vulnerability among young urban adults’ is authored by Birmingham University research scientist, Dr Saska Petrova, who is based at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences where her special interest is in community transitions as they relate to natural resource management, energy consumption, social justice and governance.

The UK Fuel Poverty Strategy 2001 defines fuel poverty as where households have to spend more than 10 per cent of their income before housing costs on heating their homes to an acceptable level – defined, in turn, by the World Health Organisation, (WHO), as 18-21 degrees Celcius which it states is the range needed to create a healthy indoor temperature.


Dr Petrova’s report – based on a study of young people living in the Birmingham district of Bournbrook and presented to the Royal Geographical Society earlier this month – found a large proportion of flat-sharers, particularly students, living in fuel poverty in poor quality and inefficient housing.

“This group represents a part of society that is invisible to fuel poverty assistance,” she reported. “Many of them do not even realise they are experiencing fuel poverty even when they are suffering from inadequate warmth.”

Dr Petrova added that the situation is exacerbated by the widespread cultural expectation that it is acceptable for younger people to live in poorly-heated and low quality housing and said both landlords and universities need to take a more active role in helping to eliminate fuel poverty for students.

Read the rest.

Making the Olympics safe for corpocracy

Lord Coe, the former Olympian and stuffed shirt in charge in charge of putting together the London Olympics, has set off a tempest in a teapot by telling the BBC the games’ brand police will evict folks wearing gear advertising brands that compete with Olympics sponsors.

Formally known as Baron Coe of Ranmore since his elevation to the peerage 12 years ago, he numbers among his gongs the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, technically making him the overlord of the surviving Beatles, who were only named Members of the Order.

From The Guardian’s Shiv Malik:

He said spectators would not be able to gain entry wearing a Pepsi T-shirt but that they would “probably” get in wearing Nike trainers. Commercial rivals Adidas and Coca-Cola are the official London 2012 Olympic sponsors in their industries. The rules are in place to prevent so-called “ambush marketing” by rival brands, but a spokesperson for Locog said people wearing clothing with other brands would not be prevented from entering venues.

Speaking this morning, Coe said: “We had to raise through the organising committee a mountainous amount of money from the private sector.

“The organising committee pretty much raises all of its money through that area and we do it thorough sponsorship and we do it through broadcasting rights. And when you have big British businesses that are prepared to really invest in the Games, you have the responsibility to protect them.

“We have to protect the rights of the sponsor because in large part they pay for the Games.”

“You probably wouldn’t be able to [walk in] with a Pepsi T-shirt because Coca-Cola are our sponsors and they’ve put millions of pounds into this project but also millions of pounds into grassroots sport. It is important to protect those sponsors.”

Asked if people could enter venues wearing Nike trainers, Coe replied: “I think you probably could … You probably would be able to walk through with Nike trainers.”

Read the rest.

As The Guardian notes, his remarks are in dispute. But, heck, you’ve got to give those brand police something to do, right?

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