who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. We Are All Greeks Now
debt crisis: Tsipras resists key bailout measures
after 15 hours of talks
3. The Guardian view on the Greek
negotiations: out in the
cold or in chains
Global Anger Erupts Over Germany's
Harsh Austerity Demands
5. Killing the European
6. China's stock market
turbulence is over?
Don't count on it
is a Nederlog of Monday July 13, 2015.
This is a
crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links. Most are about
and all reviews were written by me on Monday morning:
Item 1 is about an article by Chris
Greece (I partially agree, partially disagree); item 2 is
about an article on The Guardian that was written before there
agreement (that I also heard
first on 10.00 o'clock this morning); item 3 is a
review of The Guardian's view on the Greek negotiations (again from
before the agreement); item 4 is about the
"global anger" that expressed itself in tweets (which I am sorry but I
can't take serious); item 5 is about Krugman's
point of view; and item 6 is the only item not
about Greece but about China, that seems to have weathered a
considerable crisis in share prices that wasn't paid much attention to,
given the Greek events.
As I've indicated: This Nederlog was written in the morning of July 13,
in the course of which I received the news that there is an
agreement between the EU ans Greece (which still has to be accepted
by the Greek parliament). I can't change anything about that, except
promise you that there will be another Nederlog tomorrow.
Are All Greeks Now
The first article today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
First about the title: Like We
All Were Charlies when people got murdered in France, and We All were
LGBT-people out of feelings of solidarity, and We All were blacks while
we are whites because We Want To, and We All are anything we
are not, simply because a prominent journalist intones "We Are
All SoAndSos" and We-All agree because we lack the abilities to
think rationally and be ourselves, but can fondly and proudly
pretend that we are what we are not?!
But no, Chris Hedges doesn't say that "We Are All Greeks" in the
article, and I don't know he wrote the title - but yes, I strongly
dislike all this posturing with identities that we know (or should
know) we have not.
What Chris Hedges does say starts as follows:
The poor and the
working class in the United States know what it is to be Greek. They
know underemployment and unemployment. They know life without a
pension. They know existence on a few dollars a day. They know gas and
electricity being turned off because of unpaid bills. They know the
crippling weight of debt. They know being sick and unable to afford
medical care. They know the state seizing their meager assets, a
process known in the United States as “civil asset forfeiture,” which
has permitted American police agencies to confiscate more than $3
billion in cash and property. They know the profound despair and
abandonment that come when schools, libraries, neighborhood health
clinics, day care services, roads, bridges, public buildings and
assistance programs are neglected or closed. They know the financial
elites’ hijacking of democratic institutions to impose widespread
misery in the name of austerity. They, like the Greeks, know what it is
to be abandoned.
I agree, though - being
very learned in logic - I'd like to point out all this would also
be true if the Greeks did not exist. The explanation is this (in one
paragraph - and there are many longer ones):
The Greeks and the
U.S. working poor endure the same deprivations because they are being
assaulted by the same system—corporate capitalism. There are no
internal constraints on corporate capitalism. And the few external
constraints that existed have been removed. Corporate capitalism,
manipulating the world’s most powerful financial institutions,
including the Eurogroup,
the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal
Reserve, does what it is designed to do: It turns everything, including
human beings and the natural world, into commodities to be exploited
until exhaustion or collapse. In the extraction process, labor unions
are broken, regulatory agencies are gutted, laws are written by
corporate lobbyists to legalize fraud and empower global monopolies,
and public utilities are privatized. Secret trade agreements—which even
elected officials who view the documents are not
allowed to speak about—empower corporate oligarchs to amass even
greater power and accrue even greater profits at the expense of
workers. To swell its profits, corporate capitalism plunders, represses
and drives into bankruptcy individuals, cities, states and governments.
Well...yes and no. Yes,
corporate capitalism (which seems a polite way of talking about
fascism, with which it shares the definition )
works like that. But no, there are at least two things Chris Hedges
does not mention:
First, there also is an alternative form of capitalism, that
may be called regulated capitalism, that - more or less - did
work from 1950-1980, and was abandoned for ideological
reasons by Clinton and Blair (both of whom got to be millionaires, and
both of whom still are widely listened to), and second, in spite of all
the sufferings the Americans poor are exposed to, it seems that the
majority of Americans that doesn't have to work for a minimum (i) doesn't
care much for the sufferings of those poorer than themselves (on average: there are exceptions), and (ii) anyway doesn't know much
and economics (on average: there are, again, exceptions), and
(iii) still in large majority follow and believe the main media
(which are not informing but propagandizing them). [1a]
And while I am rather sure that Chris Hedges also knows these things,
he doesn't mention them, I suppose mostly because this would dampen his
I agree it would, but then I think myself it is better to be
guided by (probable) facts  than by rhetoric
(and you may disagree).
Also, while I could have commented a lot on my realistic corrections, I
will only make a theoretical case for regulated capitalism, simply
because I think that is important. Basically, there are two points:
And while I am not
saying this is a strong defense, and indeed do not much
like capitalism [1a], the facts that (i) it did
work in practice, also while preserving personal liberties, and (ii) it
did increase the incomes of large parts of the
populations which lived under it, are quite important,
especially since "The Really Existing Socialism" of the Soviet Union
and Communist China did not work in practice, and did not
preserve personal liberties, and also did not increase the
incomes of large parts of their populations other than in small amounts.
capitalism, that is, a capitalism that was national rather than
multi-national, and that was constrained by laws and regulations, has
worked and has brought welfare to broad sections of the
American and Westeuropean populations, certainly between 1965 and 1980.
(And I was there.)
- It has been
abandoned by greedy multi-nationalists, but unlike Soviet and Chinese
socialism, that were both political totalitarian dictatorships much
rather than socialistic economies, it did work rather well and
Besides, another part of this theoretical defense of regulated
capitalism is that humanity has really tried but three
political and economic models the last 200 years, on any large scale: Regulated
capitalism (roughly: from 1946-1980), unregulated capitalism
(before 1930 and after 1980), and totalitarian socialism (where
the economy was basically owned by the leaders of the communist party).
And my points are not that I (and others) cannot think of systems that
are better: my points are that alternatives have not been tried
on any large scale, and that trying to do so is both quite difficult
and quite risky.
Back to Chris Hedges. I selected four smaller bits (from three pages).
First, there is this:
The system of
unfettered capitalism is designed to callously extract money from the
most vulnerable and funnel it upward to the elites.
Yes, although I would
have preferred "unregulated" for
"unfettered", indeed because it suggests that regulated capitalism was
better (or at least: less bad
and less unfair).
Next, there is this:
dismantling of civil society is nearly complete in Greece. It is far
advanced in the United States. We, like the Greeks, are undergoing a
political war waged by the world’s oligarchs. No one elected them. They
ignore public opinion. And, as in Greece, if a government defies the
international banking community it is targeted for execution. The banks
do not play by the rules of democracy.
Yes, but it is not just
the banks: It is also the leading politicians,
quite a few of which were elected. And this makes it more
problematic, also because few who still have properties they
may loose will go for "mass protests".
I am willing to agree with Chris Hedges that is a sad fact, but it is a fact.
debt crisis: Tsipras resists key bailout measures after 15 hours of
The next article today is by Ian Traynor and Jennifer Rankin on The
This starts as follows:
A marathon overnight
negotiation between Greece and its creditors remained unresolved
on Monday morning after European leaders confronted Alexis Tsipras, the
Greek prime minister, with a package of austerity measures which
entailed a surrender of fiscal sovereignty.
A weekend of high tension that threatened to break Europe
in two climaxed on Sunday at a summit of eurozone leaders in Brussels
where the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president,
François Hollande, presented Tsipras with an ultimatum.
The ultimatum – debated
over more than 15 hours – entailed a series of draconian measures as
the price of avoiding financial collapse and being ejected from the
single currency bloc.
Tsipras acquiesced in
most of the fiscal rigour demanded of him in four pages of summary
instructions drafted by eurozone finance ministers.
But as I said in my
introduction: Meanwhile, there seems to be an
agreement (which still has to be passed by the Greek parliament,
but these will probably pass it).
I don't think the agreement is fair or honest, and indeed there is this:
There is more below, in item 4.
Social media sites
throbbed with outrage. The hashtag #ThisIsACoup soared to the most trending in Europe, in
Greece but also in Germany where Der Spiegel described Berlin’s demands
of Athens as a “catalogue of horrors”, and to the second-highest
In what a senior EU official
described as an “exercise in extensive mental waterboarding” to secure
Greek acquiescence to talks on a third bailout in five years worth up
to €86bn (£62bn), Merkel and Hollande had pressed for absolute
certainty from Tsipras that he would honour what was on offer.
3. The Guardian view on the Greek negotiations:
out in the cold or in chains
The next article
by Editorial on The Guardian:
starts as follows:
The Greek crisis
began like the proverbial cloud that was no bigger than a man’s hand
and has grown into a perfect storm which has shaken Europe to its
foundations. Regardless of the final outcome of the negotiations, what unfortunately can
be said with certainty is that the union’s fault lines have all but
burst under the pressure.
is considerably more in the article, that was written before the news
of this morning that there is an
Between France and
Germany, between north and south and east and west in the union, and
even within nations, there are now profound differences, only potential
before, which it will take a long time to resolve. The past few days
have seen Paris commit itself to keeping Greece in the euro and the
union in a way which puts President François Hollande on a collision
course with hawks in the German government, headed by the finance
minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. France’s mentoring of Greece as that country made its own final
proposals did not seek an easy or soft arrangement, but nor did it
envisage Greece’s reduction to the status of a debt colony, not too
different from the conditions once imposed on Egypt and China in the
imperial era, with foreigners in controlling positions in its economy.
4. #ThisIsACoup: Global Anger Erupts Over
Germany's Harsh Austerity Demands
The next article
today is by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Well... there is a
little more on Krugman in item 5, but there seems
to be an
agreement (on Monday
morning, when I write this), and - I must say - I really dislike Tweets
and Twitter, though I accept it is the ideal medium for people who only
seem to be able to grasp slogans of maximally 140 characters.
A list of draconian new
austerity demands handed to the Greek government in Brussels Sunday
ignited a global backlash against Germany, German Prime Minister Angela
Merkel and finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.
#ThisIsACoup became the
top trending hashtag on Twitter worldwide - and is #1 in Germany and
The tag was attached to
tens of thousands of angry comments denouncing Germany's aggressive
demands that the Greek parliament pass new severe austerity laws within
days to raise taxes, privatize public assets and cut back on pensions.
Paul Krugman, the Nobel
laureate economist, helped promote the hashtag it on the New York Times
"This Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending
hashtag #ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure
vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no
hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t
accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the
European project was supposed to stand for. "
In case you are interested, there are a number of Tweets in the
5. Killing the European Project
The next article
today is by Paul Krugman on The New York Times:
This starts as follows:
I say. It may be that
this is the end of the European Union, although I think that is
unlikely, but I must say Paul Krugman (and many of the non-Greek
twitter enthousiasts) writes as if they never faced bailiffs
who evicted them from their houses while they were poor and ill.
Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent
twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose,
even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks
out of the euro.
Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup
list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup
is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness,
complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It
is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so,
it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was
supposed to stand for.
Can anything pull Europe back from the brink?
Who will ever trust Germany’s good intentions after this?
Indeed, I find it very hard to believe Krugman and most others did
have that experience, but I did (in 1985). It taught me a lot,
and one of the things it did teach me is that when you are poor and ill
and are faced with the bailiffs of creditors, you are delivered into
the hands of eager sadists who will enjoy to destroy
your life and your property as much as they can.
This indeed happened to Greece, but unlike most who have not
been evicted from their houses, I was, and so I am not very
amazed to see leading European politicians behave as if they are
professional sadistic bailiffs.
China's stock market turbulence is over? Don't count on it
The last item of
today is by Larry Elliott on The
This starts as follows:
The numbers are
mind-boggling. Ten days of falls on the Shanghai stock exchange
resulted in losses that exceeded the GDP of Mexico. And 12 million
Chinese citizens who opened share-trading accounts in May were nursing
potentially ruinous losses. Margin trading – speculating on the stock
exchange with borrowed money – increased five-fold in a year to 2.3tn
I say. There is considerably
more in the article. It is listed here mostly because China has become
very important in the world economy. And it may collapse economically,
though probably not now.
While Europe’s focus has
been the crisis in Greece, the Chinese stock market has
been gripped by panic. The value of shares went up
by 150% in little more than a year, then fell by 50% in just a few
Fearful that China in 2015 could find itself in the history
books along with Dutch tulips, the South Sea Bubble and the Wall Street
Crash, the government in Beijing stepped in to halt the rout. It cut
interest rates. It banned large shareholders from selling stock. It
used public money to buy equities. It allowed trading in more than half
the quoted companies to be halted.
And, in the short term at
least, it seems to have done the trick. Share prices
rose at their fastest pace in more than seven years in the
final two days of last week.
Jul 14, 2015: I corrected a few small typing mistakes.
According to the American
"A system of government that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of
state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Perhaps this doesn't quite
describe the present American system (for there still are some rights
and some freedoms, and maybe Obama is not of the extreme right) but it does
come closer and closer (what with "the merging of
state and business leadership"
and a "belligerent
[1a] In fact, I come from a - sincere and intelligent
- communist family, and I never much liked or much admired
capitalism, because it seemed and seems to be based on intrinsic
unfairness. Also, I insist there are much better systems - but the
problems are (i) to convince others and (ii) to introduce them without
much and extensive suffering.
Indeed, to judge my radicalism: I think a considerably better
system would be achieved if there were - merely (!) - an absolute
cap on earning that is 15 times the amount minimums (like
myself) receive - but who (amongst the very many greedy people who
appear to surround me) wants to loose His Chance on becoming A
Millionaire (or earning more than 15 times the minimal income)?! Only a
small minority, I fear, even though at the very best an even much
smaller minority will ever earn more than 15 times than what I
As to "(probable) facts": This expression is motivated by two
assumptions of mine: 1. there are facts, regardless of
all different opinions
about them, and 2. we often do not really know what are the
facts, and need to rely on judgements of probability.
This is what Tweets are, by one of the founders (Jack Dorsey), quoted
...we came across
the word 'twitter', and it was just perfect. The definition was 'a
short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds'.
And that's exactly what the product was.
I quite agree, and I am not
interested in receiving or sending "short bursts of inconsequential information".