Arthur Rothstein Going to church to pray for rain, Grassy Butte, North Dakota Jul 1936
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras yesterday laid out Syriza’s stance, and from what I saw he didn’t pull even one punch. Despite all the suggestions from the financial press throughout the past week that Tsipras and Varoufakis reneged on campaign promises to seek debt write-downs, they didn’t, and never have – other than perhaps in semantics.
Which I don’t find the slightest bit surprising. I would have been very surprised if they had. The misinterpretation, and the faulty expectations, are easily explained through the fact that – most of – these guys are not politicians, which they very deliberately expressed in the way they dressed for their meetings with ‘Europe’s finest’.
They don’t see the ‘space’ career politicians see to negotiate away the mandate their voters have given them. For them it’s simple: we were elected on our program – which in this case happens to be to end the misery forced upon Greece by the European and Troika schemes -, and we’re not going to move away from that just because ‘the other side’ starts threatening us, or (a crucial difference in politics) because our voters may not vote for us again in a next election.
In their view, trying to scare Greece into even more submission, which is the overlying message emanating from Brussels and beyond, is entirely null and void because Greece can’t – and shouldn’t – sink any lower than it has. Very and refreshingly simple. No surprise there, but, at least on my part, just support and admiration. Syriza is fighting the fight many others don’t have the intellect, the chutzpah and/or the courage for.
The first thing they did, apart from hiring back the government offices’ cleaning ladies the Troika got fired, was to say they wanted nothing to do with that same Troika. That to me is the most important statement so far by Yanis Varoufakis and his crew. Because that goes to the heart of why Greece is where it is, and why the entire world is.
I saw a headline last night that said something like ‘Greece doesn’t want to talk to the EU’. But that’s not true. Syriza merely wants the IMF out of the picture. And then it would prefer to talk to separate EU nations and offices, rather than top down Brussels bureaucrats. Not just because of the Colonel Blotto game theory I talked about before, but because they recognize how insidious and ruthless the IMF is. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
The most remarkable ‘news item’ for me yesterday came not from Tsipras (or Greenspan), but from former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who did something he would never have when he was in office. Sarkozy went against the grain of the official western narrative vis à vis Ukraine and Russia. He said what no acting French president could possibly say (including himself), because as president he would have been beholden to the US and NATO dictated doctrine, that Putin is evil, and Ukraine should be ‘liberated’.
Crimea cannot be blamed for seceding from Ukraine – a country in turmoil – and choosing to join Russia, said former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. He also added that Ukraine “is not destined to join the EU.” “We are part of a common civilization with Russia,” said Sarkozy [..]. “The interests of the Americans with the Russians are not the interests of Europe and Russia,” he said adding that “we do not want the revival of a Cold War between Europe and Russia.”
Regarding Crimea’s choice to secede from Ukraine when the country was in the midst of political turmoil, Sarkozy noted that the residents of the peninsula cannot be accused of doing so. “Crimea has chosen Russia, and we cannot blame it [for doing so],” he said pointing out that “we must find the means to create a peacekeeping force to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.” In March 2014 over 96% of Crimea’s residents – the majority of whom are ethnic Russians – voted to secede from Ukraine to reunify with Russia.
That is pretty close to 180º different from what the official western position is. Putin has taken note. Because it destroys everything the West, as represented by Germany’s Merkel and France’s Hollande, brought to the talks in Moscow this weekend (and Minsk today). More importantly, it throws out what NATO wants and prepares for. In the exact same way that Greece seeks to throw out the IMF.
And that is no coincidence. Sarkozy reveals his dismay at being told what to do, when he was in office, by the supranational NATO. Tsipras and Varoufakis refuse being told what to do by the supranational IMF. Same difference. Well, to an extent: Sarkozy did the NATO and IMF’s bidding when he was in office, Syriza never has.
Merkel, meanwhile, ceased resisting Mario Draghi’s mad €1 trillion+ QE program recently, and along that same vein she may today, as she’s talking to Obama in Washington, give up her resistance to the west arming Kiev. Which would be equal to a declaration of war against Russia. The pressure on her is obviously huge and increasing, but Angela should be smart enough to know that it’s impossible for Russia to stop looking out for the Donbass.
Because just about every Russian citizen has family connections in the region, who’ve been shelled by their own government for close to a year now. And if Russia were to retreat, chances are these people will be obliterated in very ugly ways. What Merkel should be demanding at the ‘peace’ talks is for not-so-very-democratically-elected PM Yatsenyuk and his shady government to step down, and nationwide fair elections to be held that include the Donbass. But she won’t.
And then Greenspan came, in what will probably be noted as one of his final lucid moments. The man who did so much damage seeks to atone for that while he still can. And do note that the Oracle was in charge of the Fed during the entire set-up and launch of the euro (yeah, yeah, he was a long term ‘critic’ – but not while it made his Wall Street banks a lot of dough off the project, just remember Goldman in Athens).
The former head of the US central bank, Alan Greenspan, has predicted that Greece will have to leave the eurozone. He told the BBC he could not see who would be willing to put up more loans to bolster Greece’s struggling economy. Greece wants to re-negotiate its bailout, but Mr Greenspan said “I don’t think it will be resolved without Greece leaving the eurozone”. Mr Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, said: “I believe [Greece] will eventually leave. I don’t think it helps them or the rest of the eurozone – it is just a matter of time before everyone recognises that parting is the best strategy.
Alan Greenspan has long been a critic of the European single currency. Now, the 88-year-old former chairman of the US Fed has repeated a claim that nothing short of full political union – a United States of Europe – can save the euro from extinction. Given that few (if any) of the current 19 sovereign governments which make up the eurozone would choose to create such an entity at this time, that means – for Greenspan at least – the euro is doomed. Before all that, though, he foresees Greece quitting the single currency, but the euro surviving intact.
Greenspan turns against what the Troika – IMF – wants the same way Sarkozy turns against NATO. Once you get them out of their official roles, turns out they’re not as stupid as they pretend to be when they were ‘in function’. That says something about the capture the ‘leaders’ are in, and also about the extent to which they actually represent their voters. Which is not a lot. And that’s the core of the issue.
The entire system has been pre-empted by, first, the wrong kind of organizations, second, the wrong kind of people, and third, the wrong kind of multinational corporations. As in, Wall Street banks, Big Oil, Big Ag -including Monsanto and Sygenta – and a few handfuls of the likes of GE, Boeing, a bunch of carmakers, plus Halliburton etc. They control the planet, they send us to war, they decide what does and does not go. And we’re not going to get rid of them until and unless we realize, loudly and screamingly, that they must go or else.
To illustrate this, please allow me to quote myself a few times from last year:
Oct 7 2014
Nobody in Europe has anything to lose from the demise of the eurozone, at least nothing that they wouldn’t lose anyway, but every single European save for a cabal of power brokers and narcissists has a ton and a half of happiness and self-fulfillment and independence to lose from the continuation of the failed project. [..] What’s wrong with the EU is the same as what’s wrong with NATO, the IMF, the World Bank.
They are institutions that start with noble ideals, but soon start to gobble up ever more power, and with no-one to hold them to account. That kind of structure in turn attracts a certain kind of people, the ones who don’t like to be held to account. And though I’m a little hesitant to include the US in all this, since its so much older, I certainly wouldn’t discard Washington offhand as a place where the wrong kind of people have gathered far too much power.
Oct 18 2014
.. the IMF, the World Bank, UN, NATO and the EU absolutely all fit the picture of organizations that have – happily – grown beyond our range of view, and that exhibit the exact same inverted pyramid characteristics we see on wealth inequality, only for these organizations it’s not wealth that floats and concentrates increasingly from the bottom to the top, it’s power. Wealth comes after that. And one shouldn’t confuse that order. Because power buys wealth infinitely faster than wealth buys power.
..but then we forgot, ignored, to check on them, and they accumulated ever more power when we weren’t watching.. And what we see now is that any effort, any at all, to break up the IMF, World Bank, UN, NATO and EU would be met with the same derision that an effort to break up the USA would be met with. We have built, in true sorcerer’s apprentice or Frankenstein fashion, entities that we cannot control. And they have taken over our lives. They serve the interests of elites, not of the people. So why do we let them continue to exist?.
Nov 8 2014
I stumbled upon these few words in an Ambrose Evans Pritchard article the other day, and they hit me almost like some sort of epiphany, which in turn made me feel a little stupid, because it’s all so obvious. What Ambrose wrote (and this time I’m not making fun of him), was about the eurozone (EMU), of which he said:
The North is competitive. The South is 20% overvalued.
And I realized that’s all you need to know about the eurozone, and about why it will fail. Or has already failed, to put it more accurately. [..] Northern Europeans see their lifestyles being cramped from many sides in the ongoing crisis, and they would not accept more being taken from them to be handed to Greece. Even if 50%+ of young Greeks have no jobs, and over 40% of Greek children grow up in poverty. That’s not how the union was explained to them. And they would not have agreed if it had been.
The fact that Brussels has attracted a highly dubious breed of politician and bureaucrat certainly hasn’t helped, and still doesn’t. But it’s not the core problem. The core problem is that there never was a mechanism to reconcile the 20% differences, which means we’re fast on our way to 30% and more. Nothing anybody can do about that other than to leave the union.
Nov 10 2014
Leaders of entities like the US, the EU or China have little in common with the people they supposedly represent, and they don’t have to, nobody expects them to. The US midterms were mostly a a battle of the bulge, as in candidates’ bulging wallets. And on top large scale national politics we have created yet another, even more anonymous layer of power. UN, World Bank, IMF, NATO, there’s an ever growing collection of supra-national organizations that keep on guzzling up more power and more money every single day.
Like ‘smaller’ entities such as the US and EU, only more, the supra-nationals attract a certain kind of people, those that like to assert power without being held directly accountable. In structures that far exceed the human scale, they are like fish in water. And that’s why we should never accept having them in those positions. IMF and World Bank have a history of at best disputable and at worst very bloody interventions in nations across the globe.
We should have today celebrated the end of NATO along with that of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. But it’s still there, and playing an active role in the flaring up of the Ukraine civil war. As for the UN, there should be a place for an organization like it, but not with the money gobbling corporate structure, serving shady interests, that it has today.
Our political systems don’t work. Our economic systems don’t work. We live on a steady – but hardly nutritious – diet of debt and propaganda. Our societies are no longer productive enough to allow for the numbers of intermediaries they have given birth to. But it’s the intermediaries who have more often than not taken up the most powerful positions in our societies. So they will fight, and initially often successfully, to keep their positions, at the cost of the more productive segments. It’s a mechanism that’s much easier to understand than it is to fight.
We, as in mankind, the human species, didn’t develop to have just a few of us take decisions for hundreds of millions of us. It is simply too much for our brains to comprehend, and that is true for both the brains of the rulers and of the ruled. For some of us, though, the brains developed in such a way that they are geared towards seeking maximum power over others. Those people are called sociopaths or psychopaths, depending on the case.
We’re not going to solve this the way we are. We need a much deeper and more comprehensive change to how we’ve organized our societies. Syriza understand this, and they’re acting on it, but they can’t do it alone, and besides their priority must be the Greek population, not the systems that are strangling the world, because that’s what they were voted into office for. We need to support them much more than we have so far, or both their fight and ours will end in defeat.
Supranational organizations will all tend towards developing dictatorial traits, both because of their very structures, and because of the type of people they attract to rise in their ranks.
I’m by no means the only one to say that NATO should be disbanded, Ron Paul made a passionate speech about it in 2008. The problem is that if NATO is not disbanded, it will run amok (it already has). NATO’s purpose was to defend Europe from the Soviet Union’s communist threat. When Russia was no longer a threat, some 25 years ago, the whole apparatus was still left intact, albeit with a few budget cuts, and so NATO went looking for a purpose. I give you: Ukraine.
Whether it’s NATO, or the IMF, or the EU, they’re all part of the same problem. A problem that won’t be solved as long as these institutions are in place. That is not possible. They are organizations that find their purpose in NOT solving problems, because once they’re solves, they no longer have a reason to exist. And they’re not going to volunteer to become obsolete. They’re going to find a reason to find relevance, even if that hurts whoever it is they’re supposed to represent.
We’re never ever going to find a solution to problems like Ukraine or the Eurozone, because we’ve – all over the world – allowed an alphabet soup of institutions to build up that we have no control over, and that we claim can and will solve the issues for us.
We have put the sociopaths in charge, in an international and largely anonymous dictatorship. Who really pulls the levers in the IMF, or NATO etc? We have no way of knowing. And that’s the problem. And that is what Syriza, and precious few besides them, are set to fight. And why they deserve – and need – our support. Because if they don’t win, we don’t.