Tag: Europe

Beware Greeks Breaking Bonds

Just recently, I read Michael Lewis’s Boomerang, which includes a long essay on the economic problems of Greece. It’s difficult to describe Greece’s economy without the words “holy fucking shit, dude, are you serious?” but I’ll try.

For years, the Greek budgets were a fraud. The EU rules required them to keep their deficits below 3% of GDP. But massive amounts of the Greek economy are underground. Their system encourage abuse and fraud so that very few people pay taxes and no one thinks they should pay taxes. Government spending figures were made up so that they could comply with EU budget requirements. Their government is large and pays salaries much higher than any other country. And they can retire at age 50 and draw huge pensions. They also have a fertility rate of 1.3, so it’s not like a baby boom is going to sustain this massive wave of retirees.

When you know the details, you realize just how necessary the recent austerity was. Greece was in so much debt and their budget was so out of control, they had to make drastic changes. This wasn’t some evil imposition by imperialistic Germans; this was math.

Well, the Greeks voted today for an anti-austerity party:

Exit polls suggest a historic victory for the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece’s general election.

The polls indicate that Syriza took between 36% and 38% of the total vote, with the ruling New Democracy party a distant second with 26%-28%.

It is unclear whether Syriza has enough votes to govern the country alone.

Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras has pledged to renegotiate Greece’s debt arrangement with international creditors.

He has also vowed to reverse many of the austerity measures adopted by Greece since a series of bailouts began in 2010.

The result is being closely watched outside Greece, where it is believed a Syriza victory could encourage radical leftist parties across Europe.

The exit polls suggested Syriza had won between 148 and 154 parliamentary seats. They need 151 seats for an outright majority.

(Aside: there are a lot of liberals who think we should have a parliamentary system in this country, mainly because they don’t like Obama being opposed on legislation. This election is a good demonstration of why I don’t like parliamentary systems. Syriza is going to take over Greece based on a third of the vote. The parliamentary system encourages radical minorities to take the wheel of government and spin it madly. I’ll take our gridlock, thank you.)

Fuck Greece. They’ve gotten tens of billions of dollars in help and their response is to whine and cry because they can no longer live high on the hog on a fraudulent system paid for by other countries. Don’t let them leave the Euro; kick them the hell out. Let inflation and default ruin their economy. Maybe then they’ll figure out that you can’t run a country on bullshit.

Maybe other people will too.

Frack the Russians

It is well known that, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union quietly funneled money to Western peace movements. It funded people who opposed nuclear weapons and wanted unilateral disarmament of the West. It funded people who opposed strategic nuclear weapons in central Europe. It funded parts of the anti-war movement.

To be clear, most of the people involved in these movements had no affiliation with the Soviet Union or knew of Soviet involvement. They were “useful idiots”. But many in the leadership knew. And, to be clear, Soviet funding did not make these movements illegitimate, per se. You could oppose Vietnam and nuclear weapons and not be a Communist stooge. But the Soviet Union had and pursued an interest in certain factions within Western politics that overlapped with their own interests.

Nothing changes, does it?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently announced that the Russian intelligence service was covertly funding European environmental NGOs to support their campaign against fracking. The former Danish Prime Minister stated that he had “met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

The accusations do not seem too far-fetched. Russia is very keen on dissuading Europe from exploiting its shale reserves. Disregardful of their own massive fracking projects in Siberia, Vladimir Putin uses environmental arguments to push an EU-wide fracking ban. In a similar fashion, he tries to discourage the US from exporting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe. This is an option some European politicians such as Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested as a way to reduce European energy dependency from Russia. It is currently on the table in the negotiations on the trade agreement between the European Union and the United States (TTIP).

Right now, much of Europe is dependent on Putin’s oiligarchy for their energy. Fracking is not only a threat to that but a threat to all of Putin’s imperial ambitions. Wide-scale fracking would deliver a huge blow to the Russian economy. So naturally he opposes it. Naturally, as former KGB, he’s willing to fund anti-fracking groups. And I suspect that, like the Peace movement, some within the anti-fracking leadership are aware of this and more than willing to take his money.

Fracking opponents will, of course, claim that Putin’s money doesn’t matter; fracking is so awful that they have to oppose it. They will, of course, claim that what they want is a world that runs on renewables, with neither fracking nor Putin having a role. But that’s living in fantasy world. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, Europe will not be able to provide more than a fraction of their power through renewables within the next few decades. And with nuclear now on the wane, that means they will need tons and tons of fossil fuels.

So it really is a matter of picking the lesser of two evils. In fracking, you have some legitimate environmental concerns (most of which have been addressed or are being addressed). But you have a less carbon-intensive source of energy and companies that are accountable to Western nations. Russian oil not only props up a bloodthirsty tyrant, it supports one of the dirtiest polluters on the planet. As bad as fracking may or may not be, Russian oil is far worse for the planet, for Eastern Europe and for global security.

Fracking opponents will tell you that fracking is being pushed by “dirty money” from natural gas interests. But, good Lord, is there any money dirtier than Vladimir Putin’s?

Getting Real in the Ukraine

So the Ukraine’s murderous Russophile prime minster was driven out of Kyiv last week. Earlier today, the Ukraine parliament elected the opposition leader as PM. Everyone has been wondering what Russia is going to do now that they don’t have to pretend to be (sorta) nice for the Olympics.

I think we’re finding out:

Dozens of armed men seized the regional government administration building and parliament in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region Thursday and raised the Russian flag in a challenge to the Eastern European country’s new leaders.

Crimea, with its ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership in Kiev after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster Saturday.

The incident, coming a day after Russia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep, has raised fears about the push and pull of opposing allegiances in a country sandwiched between Russia and the European Union.

Ed Morrisey has more, including a now clear alliance between Ukraine’s ousted PM and Putin.

I don’t think Putin is going to do a full-on invasion of the Ukraine. A nation of 44 million people is a lot to handle, even for him. But I do think we’re going to get something like the 2008 South Ossetia War, with Russian military forces “assisting” the ethnically Russian Crimea to “independence” from the rest of the Ukraine, following by an ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians. The end result will be to give Russia effective control of the Black Sea but with the Ukraine less divided and firmly in the European sphere of influence.

There’s not a lot we can do about that, short of a massive and extremely dangerous war. I suspect we’ll protest and maybe send a carrier out there. But any real pushback would have to come from Europe and … that ain’t happening.

Interesting twist to the “other people’s money” solution

That’s what Sweden just did:

Under a scheme organised by the local authorities in the town of Soderhamn and by Sweden’s national employment office, anyone aged between 18 and 28 can volunteer to take a “Job Journey” to Oslo and attempt track down gainful employment.

Those who sign up get a ticket to the Norwegian capital and are put up in an Oslo youth hostel for a month, with Soderhamn council picking up the £20 a night bill. The package also includes on-the-spot guidance on how to get a job in Sweden’s northern neighbour.

“We had an unemployment rate of over 25 per cent, so we had to find solutions,” Magus Nilsen, the man in charge of the project at Soderhamn council, told the Daily Telegraph. “Going to Norway to find work has always been quite popular with young people, but sometimes they want to go but don’t know how to find a job or accommodation so we thought we’d give them a bit of help with both.”

What a scam….

Maybe the Greeks can do some of this too to fix their “running out of other people’s money” problem too…

The Month of Ouch

Looks like we’re in for another Recovery Summer:

The latest jobs report is a total disaster. We got 69,000 new jobs in May which is well below already tepid expectations and is below the labor force trend growth rate. Terrible.

But it gets worse!

“The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for March was revised from +154,000 to +143,000, and the change for April was revised from +115,000 to +77,000.” In other words, we gained 69,000 new jobs in May (estimated) but lost 49,000 in revisions. That leaves us with a net increase in employment of just 20,000. Disaster disaster disaster.

Yglesias is overstating the case, I think. What we were going through three years ago, when we hemorrhaging jobs by the millions, was a disaster. This is just bad.

To be honest, I’m kind of surprised it isn’t worse, given what the economy is enduring right now:

  • Europe.
  • Slowdowns in the boom economics of South America, India and China.
  • Europe.
  • The debt standoff and subsequent downgrade of US debt.
  • Europe.
  • I’m sure the Left will start jumping up and down that we need more stimulus (since this has worked so well so far) and the Right will start jumping up and down that we need more tax cuts (ditto). Rumor has it that Paul Krugman had to be hauled away in a strait jacket this morning. But even if these were wise policies — and I don’t think they are — we simply can’t afford them right now. The only possible thing we could afford is more quantitative easement (i.e, inflation) from the Fed. But they’re already taking fire for following the economic ideas of Milton Friedman. Streamlining regulation, overhauling the tax system and suspending the more onerous bits of Dodd-Franks/SOX would also help, but I don’t see the will in Washington.

    Five years ago, I said this was going to be a long haul. We were in debt up to our eyeballs, leveraged in the wrong way and turned around. Five years later, I still think the same thing. We’re slightly better off — consumer and personal debt is way down; unemployment is at 8.2% and the economy isn’t falling like a brick. But real recovery is still some distance in the future, closer but not here yet.

    The interesting thing is to see what will happen as unemployment benefits run out. This is going to test yet another economic theory: that unemployment benefits create more unemployment. If the job numbers start to come up, there may be something to this. But I’m not optimistic. Work just doesn’t appear because you want it to.

    Update: I want to quote Yglesias again, because this is important:

    A lot of this is already getting fed through an election-year-politics lens, but it’s important to remember that this is first and foremost a human tragedy for unemployed and underemployed people, and for employed workers who’ve been stripped of bargaining power due to persistent labor market weakness. If growth stays dismal and Barack Obama loses the election, he and Michelle and Jack Lew and Tim Geithner and all the rest will go on to have happy, healthy, prosperous lives. Other people’s careers are much more in the balance.

    I don’t care who the hell is in office if the economy improves. If we got a huge surge in jobs and that pushed Obama to re-election, I would not shed a tear. Frankly, I think we are best off with a divided Washington. For all the problems the ridiculous showdowns have produced and their inability to come to a budget agreement, we have seen a modicum of spending and regulatory restraint over the last two years — far better than we ever got when Republicans controlled both the Capitol and the White House. The GOP is half-crazy but, on the budget, they have held Obama’s feet … well, not to the fire, exactly, but at least in the general vicinity of it. At least they’ve admitted that there is a fire … somewhere.

    In the end, this is about people who have been out of work for, in some cases, Five. Fucking. Years. There are solutions both sides can agree on — see Tom Coburn’s recent interview with Ezra Klein. But they won’t do them because it a fucking election year.

    Screw that. Stick ‘em all in Washington and don’t let them out until they’ve done something that does not involve exploding the debt even more. Either that, or we can create 460 brand spanking new jobs this fall.

    Unemployment, Obamanomics, and the young.

    While this news comes as no surprise to me, I wonder how many are actually getting it. Especially with the LSM constantly lying about recovery being right around the bend or happening. But the indisputable fact is that some of the people that where the most smitten with the collectivist community organizer and his message of “Hope & Change” now are the ones suffering the most from the politics that flow from those beliefs and policies.

    Economy: President Obama surfed into office on a wave of support from the nation’s youth. And what did those young voters get in return? Sky-high unemployment, lower wages, fewer prospects and a student debt crisis.

    It’s fair to say that just about everyone has suffered the ill effects of Obamanomics, which has produced growth rates during the 31-month “recovery” that are far below any in modern times.

    But a new report out of the Pew Research Center shows that when it comes to economic pain, young workers trying to get a start in life have suffered the most. Among the grim statistics:

    The unemployment rate among 18-to-24 year olds was 16.3% at the end of last year, compared with 8.8% for the rest of the working-age population. That gap in unemployment rates, the Pew study notes, is “the widest in recorded history.”

    Meanwhile, the share of this population that’s managed to find work has fallen to 54.3% — the lowest level since 1948, the first year the government started collecting such data.

    Young workers are also doing far worse than everyone else when it comes to income. Between 2007 and 2011, their real median weekly earnings fell 6%. By comparison, those between the ages of 35 and 64 saw earnings climb 1%, while everyone else saw earnings dip slightly by 0.1%.

    I guess I could take consolation that there is justice in the universe and stupid people get punished for doing stupid things, but that is unfortunately not enough, since we all are paying for their stupidity. I told many people when Obama was elected, that I expected 4 years of Obama to teach most of his voters, but especially the young that broke in great numbers for him based on his thin resume and teleprompter skills, the same things 4 years of Carter did. I firmly believe that Obama is making many of us that experienced both time periods think Carter was not that bad.

    The thing is that anyone that wanted to know the young where going to get hammered only needed to look at Europe, where they do things in a way Obama wants to reform America to be like, for proof. It is well documented that unemployment in Europe, even during boom times, is very high, and amongst the young in Europe is always sky-high. And there is no disputing that is a direct consequence of liberal policies and economics. Well, OK, liberals will dispute it: they always do. But the fact remains that government meddling to control wages, dictate benefits, and to control which businesses win and which lose, always results in an employment environment where employers have massive overhead and are forced to cut their losses, and the young suffer the worst. We have the same problem now here in America after 3+ years of European style Obamanomics.

    And I don’t foresee things getting better for a long time, if they do, for most of us, but especially for the young. This will likely be the first generation of Americans to be worse off than their parents. The left would like you to believe that’s because they have not done more of that nonsense that has caused the problems in the first place, as the CNN article pointing out young people make less I link, does. And many amongst the young are buying into the anti-capitalist drivel by the “social engineering” class warrior, credentialed academic class that pretends people, by the virtue of being born, are entitled to anything and everything, at other people’s expense.

    Here is some advice for the young joining the workforce: ditch the collectivist nonsense schools have been shoveling into your brains, and do that quickly quickly. It’s cool when you are young to actually let your emotions rule, and naïveté drive, your beliefs and actions. However, in the grown up world, believing in and acting out on this crap, only leads to failure followed by suffering, misery, jealousy, and greed. Unlike what the left’s bullshit has caused so many young people to believe, you are not entitled to a trophy just for showing, let alone being. Yes, the game is rigged against you. But you are a bigger fool if you believe the people that rigged it that way in the first place, when they use that class warfare nonsense to get you to believe they have the answer and want to help you. Fool me once: shame on me. Fool me twice… Well, you get the message. I sure hope you do, because if you don’t, the wounds are going to continue to be self inflicted.

    Spoiled brats want parents to be hit by bus and die…

    For those that wonder where that came from: it was an Eddie Murphy skit. Basically he is talking about how when he was a kid he got in big trouble – totally his fault – and then wished his mother would get hit by a bus and die. Something like that seems to be playing out in Europe, where the Germans, in the role of the parent, are imposing austerity measures of the Greeks that have been living well beyond their means and as spoiled brats, and coming the Greeks don’t like it and are reacting childishly:

    (Reuters) – The dark shadow of German-driven austerity measures squeezing Greece has revived historical enmities and evoked comparisons to the massive destruction of the Mediterranean country at the hands of Nazi Germany over 65 years ago.

    Cartoons have sprung up depicting the European Union’s “troika” as ferocious soldiers in World War Two German uniforms, and some Greeks are beginning to resent the German tourists flocking their ancient sites.

    The staff cartoonist for the liberal daily Eleftherotypia has drawn dozens of such cartoons in recent months, often showing Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos giving the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil” (Hail Victory) to a soldier.

    “I used the German uniforms symbolically,” cartoonist Stathis Stavropoulos told Reuters through an interpreter.

    Yeah, the Germans are the bad guys here for sure. How dare they tell collectivist shitheads that believe German tax payers should just shut up, and pay up too, so their lazy ass, big government loving, do nothing selves can keep doing more of the same. And the sad thing is that the Germans will pay for all of it now and again later, because these Greeks do not plan to change anything. The Germans might be catching on. But if they stop paying the EU is toast. Score another one for the collectivists and their running out of other people’s money!

    Get ready for a stock market hammering today..

    And it’s this time mostly courtesy of our Western European socialist economies that have wasted 2 years trying to pretend they can keep the EU together AND keep their craddle-to-grave socialist nanny states. But alas, the end is near:

    For two years now, Eurozone leaders have tried to deny reality, concocting one temporary bailout scheme after another in an effort to sweep Europe’s budget problems under the rug. But this game is nearing its end, says Rupal Ruparel of London-based think-tank OpenEurope.

    A crisis that began in countries like Greece that seemed too small to worry about has now spread to countries like Spain and Italy that are big enough to take the whole Eurozone down. The only way to actually solve the problems, says Ruparel, is to acknowledge the facts: “Austerity” programs won’t help countries pay back their debts. Either the whole Eurozone has to combine its fiscal spending–a solution in which German taxpayers would pay for Greece’s deficits–or the debts have to be restructured.

    Ruparel believes the “fiscal unity” solution is politically untenable. So that leaves restructuring. A planned restructuring will be painful, Ruparel says, but it will be a lot less painful than a market-forced one. And the sooner Europe’s leaders acknowledge this and get cracking, the better.

    We are running out of other people’s money. In Europe they already have massive systems of wealth transfers that would make US demcorats swoon, and yet, they still have not been able to make their nanny states fiscally solvent. Even the Germans are coming to grips with the reality that while on their own they might have lasted a few more decades, the rest of the Eurozone will drag them down in a matter of years if not months.

    Get ready for a bumpy ride as the world’s sock markets react to this reality and stocks likely plunge again today. of course, this is all “bad luck” to the collectivists, not the fact that the nonsense they believe in can’t work.

    UPDATE: And if the European concerns aren’t enough to make the stock market take a tumble, we get some more ”bad luck”, from team Obama, where the community organizer is now not only trying to blame Wall Street, and not Washington D.C. and himself, for the economic morass we are in, but suggesting we should spend a lot more yet again!. Isn’t the definition of insanity that you are trying to do the exact same stupid shit over and over again, and expecting this time to produce different results?

    Islam & Multiculturalism are like oil and water: they don’t mix..

    We recently had some discussion on one of our other posts that veered into the topic of Islamic radicalization and the belief that it is all but a given that they will eventually takeover European natures, by democratic elections of all things, as they grow into the bigger population. Some of our resident Europeans assured us that this was all nonsense and blown out of proportion, something that made me wonder how much denial a person could live with considering I saw proof this problem first hand myself while visiting not one, but 6 different European countries. So when I was tipped off about this story, I figured it would be a nice introduction to the reality of the situation. Have a look:

    Islamic extremists have launched a poster campaign across the UK proclaiming areas where Sharia law enforcement zones have been set up. Communities have been bombarded with the posters, which read: ‘You are entering a Sharia-controlled zone – Islamic rules enforced.’ The bright yellow messages daubed on bus stops and street lamps have already been seen across certain boroughs in London and order that in the ‘zone’ there should be ‘no gambling’, ‘no music or concerts’, ‘no porn or prostitution’, ‘no drugs or smoking’ and ‘no alcohol’.

    Having experienced a similar attitude in Barcelona, Milan, Brussels, Paris, & London, where they have entire neighborhoods which the non-Islamic natives avoid out of real fear for their safety, if not lives, as well as seeing it directed in Rotterdam where I personally witnessed several of the followers of the Koran tell locals/natives outright that they where going to cut off their infidel heads, enslave their weak ass children, and use their women as chattel, sooner than later, I am absolutely not surprised by news like this. And this tense situation which existed both before 9-11, was far more pronounced during my recent visits, I add.

    Of course, the Euro politicians and their cheerleaders will tell you this is not the case: there is no friction between the Islamic immigrants – brought there to do the work the Europeans didn’t want to do and then not really integrated and absorbed into the local society, thus resulting in radicalized and disenfranchised youths whom turn to Jihad as a means to extract revenge against the perceived injustice done to them – and the natives. It’s all bullshit. That story is repeated everywhere across Europe.

    It is not a coincidence that we see a trend in elections in European country after European country, where what they consider to be more right wing parties – like that of Geert Wilders – see massive gains, while the socialist parties that pretend this is not going on, lose seats. The people that bear the brunt of the problem are reacting. Of course, most of the elite political class simply blames it on Islamophobia and the fact that those those experience the problem first hand and want it addressed, just are not inclusive enough. The victim is blamed basically. The sad part is then how those that point out the problem are of course labeled and attacked, because admitting there is a problem means admitting that multiculturalism sucks ass and is a failure, especially when it comes to Islamic immigrants and their disenfranchised and radicalized offspring, and that goes against over 5 decades of ingrained collectivist ideology about the greatness of multiculturalism.

    But the truth is that multiculturalism has failed – the radicalized youth of Islamic immigrants don’t believe in it at all – and some of the biggest believers in and pushers of multiculturalism and the multicultural experiment are finally acknowledging it is not working well for them. Hopefully the change that the Dutch are making is real and not just paper to appease the public.

    America too, albeit to a much lesser degree, will have to deal with this multiculturalism issue, the failures it has caused, sooner than later. The percentage of our population that worships Allah isn’t anywhere near that in Europe, many are converted natives, and most are far better integrated, but the fact remains that there are always those that feel like they are outsiders, precisely because they where told there was no need to change their identify to adopt any of the host country’s beliefs, and then isolated start holding a grudge. At least we don’t have neighborhoods that are as bad as what we hear or see is going on in Europe. Then again, I have not been to Detroit in 2 decades, and I hear that’s not that much fun anymore either, not just because the democrats that have owned have run it into the ground, but because some of the same problems with the worshippers of Allah seen in European cities are popping up.

    Europe’s most liberal nation kills multiculturalism?

    Well, that’s almost what it looks like that a new citizen integration bill (cover letter and pdf accompanying bill) presented to the Dutch parliament on June 16 by Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner seems to say. Here are some excerpts:

    The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society.”

    “A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore in the Netherlands. The integration will not be tailored to different groups.”

    The new integration policy will place more demands on immigrants. For example, immigrants will be required to learn the Dutch language, and the government will take a tougher approach to immigrants to ignore Dutch values or disobey Dutch law.

    Bold was done by me to stress the obvious first part. The second part was supposedly already Dutch law, it was just not enforced. Does this mean that the elites running the Netherlands finally have picked up the discontent with the immigrants that refuse to not only integrate, but actually flaunt that lack of integration and actively denigrate Dutch society, that permeates their populous, and are acting upon it? We’ll see.

    It’s going to be interesting, because the discontent and failure is primarily targeted at guess who?

    The government will also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because, according to Donner, “it is not the government’s job to integrate immigrants.” The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress. More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.

    It looks like the Dutch have had enough of the problems with this group which not only refuses integration but which openly professes hostility towards their host country. And I think I should mention that this proposal was submitted on the day before the acquittal of Geert Wilders, whom had been dragged into court for pointing out that Dutch liberalism and Islam where simply incompatible. This is a serious turnabout in Europe. One we should follow and pay close attention to. It’s no surprise to me that the LSM has not covered either story much here in the US.