Statesmanship is back! China and Saudi Arabia

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José d’Acosta, a Jesuit, was a missionary in Peru and Mexico in the second half of the 16th century. His contact with the Aztec culture was the cause of his profound disarray. “What is the meaning of the abominable cruelty taking place every day in front of me?”, he wondered. One day, his enlightenment took place:”God, he said to himself, staged such a theater so that we could imagine what a world without him would be”.

Similarly, Mr. Donald Trump was given to us to prove the horror of a nation leader lacking all statesmanship. On the contrary, China for the past five years, and Saudi Arabia for a few hours now, show us the return of statesmanship at the head of the nation. Corruption causes a disruption to the functioning of human institutions and it is good practice to start their recovery by eradicating it.

Someone in the shade whispers to us:”These are but autocrats strengthening their power. Let’s give them a hard time! »

What’s the answer? José d’Acosta knew it no doubt:”Vade retro Satanas! »

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The Best Laid Schemes (Part 2), by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

As may be readily gathered from the cartoon on the front page of today’s issue of The New European, which is what Brexiteers refer to as a Remoaning rag, the notion of halting the Brexit process appears to be gaining traction, at least among the chattering classes. How realistic might this prospect be, particularly in view of the fact that the talk in Blighty is actually overwhelmingly of softening Brexit rather than abandoning it?

Continue reading The Best Laid Schemes (Part 2), by Duncan Sutherland

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The Best Laid Schemes (Part 1), by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Improbable though it may now seem, the supreme leader of the British was only recently reckoned by many of her (mostly southern) subjects to be a political magician who might well contrive to deliver what was conceived of in the heart of darkest England as a successful hard Brexit and thereby miraculously bring about the dawning of a new age of wondrous economic opportunity in a fondly imagined land of broad sunlit uplands, from the majestic summits of which the British would contemplate the impending ruin of the European empire from the oppressive bonds of which they had sagely managed to escape.

Continue reading The Best Laid Schemes (Part 1), by Duncan Sutherland

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Where There’s a Will (Part 2), by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already declared that she is determined that there will be a further Scottish independence referendum and at a time chosen by the Scottish Parliament. Continue reading Where There’s a Will (Part 2), by Duncan Sutherland

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Where There’s a Will (Part 1), by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Improbable though it may seem, it happens that Guy Verhofstadt, who is lead Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, envisaged immediately after the UK EU referendum result that Scotland would be able to hold an independence referendum before Brexit took effect (such as the Scottish First Minister is proposing) so that that country might apply to remain within the EU if that was what its population wanted. Continue reading Where There’s a Will (Part 1), by Duncan Sutherland

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Back to the Drawing Board, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

On Sunday evening, when it had been fairly confidently expected that UK Prime Minister Theresa May would be invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon on Tuesday, thus initiating negotiations for the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union yesterday, news suddenly began to trickle in to the effect that there was to be a press conference at the official residence of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday, when an important announcement would be made.

Continue reading Back to the Drawing Board, by Duncan Sutherland

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Honest Abe foresaw dishonest Donald! by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post. Abraham Lincoln warned us : the day will come when Trump arises. Let’s be ready to denounce him.

Dear Paul,

It is noteworthy that the Trump executive order signed on January 27th, apparently discriminating against foreign nationals on religious grounds, seems to violate the US constitution (and thus undermine the rule of law)!

Continue reading Honest Abe foresaw dishonest Donald! by Duncan Sutherland

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Chilcot Report – Rats in a sack, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Dear Paul,

On the subject of the video of Robin Cook’s resignation speech in 2003 which you show beside your regular Friday video, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated seeing that again. A model resignation speech, listened to intently by Jeremy Corbyn, as the video shows. At the time when the speech was delivered Mr Corbyn was, as is well known, one of those back-benchers who were very much involved in opposing the proposed invasion of Iraq.

Continue reading Chilcot Report – Rats in a sack, by Duncan Sutherland

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Another Blot on the Escutcheon, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Dear Paul,

I thought you might find it interesting to take a look at Nicola Sturgeon’s Twitter page following the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war, “the UK’s most shameful foreign-policy action in years”, as the leader of the Scottish National Party’s group of MPs, Angus Robertson, has just said in the House of Commons.

Continue reading Another Blot on the Escutcheon, by Duncan Sutherland

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How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

In the weeks and days leading up to the referendum on UK membership of the European Union a message was being transmitted loudly and clearly from Germany and indeed elsewhere: if the UK decides to leave the EU, it will be shooting itself in the foot. This was not some modern-day equivalent of a broadcast by Lord Haw Haw, peddling some big lie. It was informed opinion. Very few people in England seem to have been listening, however. What they were hearing instead was the Leave campaign wittering on about “independence day”, which would be June 23rd if a majority of the UK voting public expressed support then for withdrawal from the EU.

Continue reading How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot, by Duncan Sutherland

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“Confusion Now Hath Made His Masterpiece”, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Dear Paul,

I’m rather fond of Shakespeare myself, not least Macbeth. With reference to your post on Boris Johnson and the tragi-comic events which are unfolding in England on a daily basis, I think it is as well to bear in mind that intense existential national debates are now under way on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border. Continue reading “Confusion Now Hath Made His Masterpiece”, by Duncan Sutherland

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Ah, the endless complexities of English identity!, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post. As a comment upon Le temps qu’il fait le 30 juin 2016.

Ah, the endless complexities of English identity as defined by place and social rank but especially social rank in its relationship to forms of language, which function not only as communication, of course, but as mechanisms for defining and identifying who belongs to which class and merits the privileges thereof and who does not.

Continue reading Ah, the endless complexities of English identity!, by Duncan Sutherland

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Scotland – “A Terrible Beauty Is Born”, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Since Sunday morning, when the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, answered a question on a BBC Scotland television programme known as Politics Scotland concerning a House of Lords advice note which had been circulated on the subject of legislative consent in relation to legislation giving effect to Brexit which would have to be submitted to the Scottish Parliament, her answer has been picked up and spread around Europe by distinguished media organizations from ARD in Germany to La Stampa in Italy (not forgetting VilaWeb in Catalonia).

Continue reading Scotland – “A Terrible Beauty Is Born”, by Duncan Sutherland

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Scotland and Brexit, by Duncan Sutherland

Guest post.

Dear Mr. Jorion,

Having read what has appeared in your blog so far about the complexities of the decision taken by the people of England on Thursday (but not by the people of Scotland), I wonder if you are yet aware of a complexity which has just been raised in Scotland today.

Continue reading Scotland and Brexit, by Duncan Sutherland

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The Troika: Why not take its destiny in our own hands?

This is an English translation of my column Troïka : Il va peut-être falloir s’en occuper nous-mêmes ! of February 27 2015. Thanks to Ioana-Noemy Toma for her kind help !

Jean-Daniel Magnin sends me a newspaper clipping that tells about the actress Emma Thompson stating she will not pay income tax – which she’s in the habit of doing, so long as all those who don’t pay it – and are in the habit of not doing so, remain out of jail. This is civil disobedience for you: a way of taking matters into your own hands, should the government or governments fail to do so. Food for thought here!

Zebu wrote something on the Arte documentary about the Troika and a very good thing he did. Right now I’m watching that same film, and believe me there is a lot of stuff in there. Many things which, if true, should send many of these Troika people (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) straight away into jail.

Instead of for instance pestering Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as French justice has recently been doing, about peccadilloes, it might be a very good thing to hear what he may have to say about a statement made there by one of the talking heads (Philippe Legrain, a former adviser of Manuel Barroso at the European Commission) that he deliberately pushed the head of the Greek people under water in order to release 20 billion euros for the French banks, to make this the dowry of the French presidency’s prospective candidate that he was at the time.

Is this true or untrue? God knows it might not even be true! How would you know? Well, actually, as a matter of fact we would precisely like to know what Mr. Strauss-Kahn thinks of the assertions of an insider such as M. Legrain. This is why the idea of a public opinion tribunal to judge the heads of the Troika may not be a bad idea after all – you know, just as the Russell-Sartre Tribunal on war crimes in Vietnam.

Mind you, the corpses are much less conspicuous with the Troika; but with millions, as in Greece, having lost access to health insurance, people are likely to croak out of sight.

Just as Emma Thompson is saying: let’s have the scoundrels indicted! That they are our leaders is a lame excuse for not doing so.

What’s your feeling, you people here, the readers of PJ’s Blog, about such an idea as a “Russell tribunal” for dragging to the court of public opinion the Troika crowd, those I affectionately call “priests of a ferocious creed”?

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On Europe, an answer to Mr François Hollande, president of the French Republic, by Pierre-Yves Dambrine

An English translation of Sur l’Europe, en réponse à Monsieur François Hollande, président de la République, par Pierre-Yves Dambrine by Johan Leestemaker

Invited commentary, in response of a tribune de François Hollande published today May 8 in the daily newspaper Le Monde, Paris, France.

Mr. President,

I have carefully read your speech on Europe, published today in the newspaper Le Monde, in the perspective of the very near European elections. I hold no doubt that you are a European by conviction. As many of us still are, because, as you remind us, the Union was a great and beautiful idea, and remains so. Undeniably she has been a factor of peace and has contributed to the economic rise that followed upon the Second World War. However you forget that for a great deal this peace has been also the result of the balance of terror, as Europe owes a part of its security to the American nuclear shield. Certainly, the peace could be maintained based on specific positive grounds, but also somehow by imperfection.

Continue reading On Europe, an answer to Mr François Hollande, president of the French Republic, by Pierre-Yves Dambrine

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THE LOBBYISTS AND US

Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell.

In the Wall Street Journal today:

A new American law requires US-listed companies to mention on products containing certain minerals that their extraction fuels conflict in Central Africa.

Too expensive for businesses, said the lobbyists! Get rid of it!

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the financial regulator in the US, has developed a host of measures designed to prevent a repetition of the collapse in short-term money markets, which cost American taxpayers more than six hundred billion dollars, plus a few hundred billion Euros for European taxpayers.

 Too expensive for the banks, said the lobbyists! Get rid of it!

 

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ON THE EVE OF THE GREEK ELECTIONS, by Panagiotis Grigoriou

Guest post. Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell

On Thursday 14th June a woman from Crete, aged 32 years old, stole three packs of milk and an ice-cream from a supermarket in Héraklion, causing a loss to the shop of 20.77 Euros. For several days, her four children had been given nothing but plain pasta to eat. Caught in the act, the young unemployed woman was immediately remanded into custody. She has just been released (Friday the 15th June) and the charges have finally been withdrawn, thanks to the mobilization of the town’s workers’ trade union group and also, thanks to the media exposure of this local news which became decidedly…national.

On Thursday evening, a man aged 55, in long term unemployment, committed suicide in his garden in Agrinio, in the heart of the country, with his hunting rifle. “It was a blood bath”, declared the neighbours, shocked, according to the news report. In this way, political realities under the ‘Troïkans’ are rendered through the symbolism and practice of spilling blood. It’s already an established fact in the mentalities and the collective logic that the death instinct has been reawakened, thanatos is on the verge of becoming a political contract. There is no longer any point in feeling sorry about this, it has to be dealt with, but how?

Continue reading ON THE EVE OF THE GREEK ELECTIONS, by Panagiotis Grigoriou

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APPEAL TO ALL THE PARLIAMENTARIANS WHO ENVISAGE VOTING THE “BALANCED BUDGET RULE”

Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell.

The inept formulation of the financial stability pact, as well as the “balanced budget rule” which is derived from it, require (as I recalled in a recent column for Le Monde-Économie) a nation’s growth rate to be equal or superior to the level of the “average” coupon demanded by capital markets for its debts. Obviously, the lower the growth, the more a nation’s economy will be in danger, and the more an economy seems to be at risk, the more the capital markets will demand a higher “risk premium” component in the rate of this nation if it seeks to borrow. With the Balanced Budget Rule implying that a nation’s growth must be equal or superior to the average “coupon”, the famous scissors effect comes into play: “if one doesn’t want sovereign debt to increase when the growth rate drops, then this growth rate must increase rapidly so as to exceed the “average” rate of the debt – which is itself increasing due to the risk created by the fall in growth.”

Dear Parliamentarians, if you think that this is the most stupid thing you have ever heard in your whole life, then reconsider your vote, because there is nothing else at stake: it is really for this that you are about to vote!

Of course, it is perfectly possible to emerge from this self-inflicted nightmare by focusing on the comparison of expenses, which can lead to an annual deficit and the fuelling of a nation’s accumulated debt, with revenues instead. But to talk of revenues means talking of “taxes” and talking of “taxes” inevitably reminds us that in general the ruling classes of our nations are always tempted by the possibility of avoiding paying them either entirely or in part, which is why they prefer to talk in terms of “growth”, regardless of the liberties which thereby need to be taken with logic, mathematics and common sense in general.

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MR. STIGLITZ HASN’T BEEN TIPPED OFF

An English translation by Bernard Bouvet of my post: M. Stiglitz n’est pas au courant.

What caused it? Is it the one year 7% decline in Greece’s GDP in 2011, 16% altogether since the crisis began in 2007? Or perhaps the defections among members of the Greek parliament during Sunday’s vote, followed by exclusions from their respective parties, and to top it all, opinion polls in favour of the Left and the Radical Left? The Greek government giving thus the impression that it doesn’t represent the will of its citizens “anymore”, and so, rendering Sunday’s vote on austerity plan meaningless?

In any case, eurozone leaders are now hesitant. The postponement of the Eurogroup meeting scheduled for today (Wednesday Feb 15) – replaced instead by a conference call – is an indication that those at the top are all of a sudden starting to feel weak at the knees: yesterday morning’s triumphant mood faded into a flimsy excuses session by evening.

Earlier on Monday, I was musing how long that formidable immunity to facts would last, as shown by the troika now governing Greece for the last several months and poised to follow suit in the rest of Europe. Just to be clear, I mean the ultra-liberal, closed club involving the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Last evening reactions seem to suggest that the vaccine may be wearing off after all.

In a recent interview, Mr. Stiglitz, whose analyses are usually excellent, is raising the question of what is behind this immunity to facts. He wonders if banks in the eurozone failed to cover themselves against an eventual default of Greece? Or whether anyone has the capacity to assess the ensuing losses? Perhaps the reason, Mr. Stiglitz reflects, is the basic inability of the CDS issuing financial institutions to cover the claims in the event of a default?

It certainly is a combination of all of the above, in particular the fact that by and large, CDS have probably been issued by some of the least solid German banks and even Greek banks themselves. (Human stupidity knows no bounds! Seriously, who could have ever thought-out (dreamed?) that a bank in a given country constitutes an insurer of choice against a default payment of that very country?) The real culprit is not at all a true mystery, there it is: private retirement savings accounts, the ultra-liberalism’s last bastion.

Private retirement savings accounts were meant to save the world. Once and for all, private retirement savings accounts were supposed to triumph over several grotesque values we had inherited from the 18th century, such as – ew! yuck! – solidarity. Private retirement savings accounts would rid this world of the shame of unfunded pension plan (pay-as-you-go, PAYGO) which turns parents into “ogres devouring their own children and grandchildren” (dixit). Most of all, private retirement savings accounts would bring retirement plans into the glorious and sacred realm of profit. But to fulfil this destiny, the portfolios of insurers required constant and ineluctable growth. The stock market had to rise steadily forever. At one time, the thinking was, some still do, that high-frequency trading could give a helping hand – invisibly! – without having to prosecute and/or convict too many whistle-blowing programmers. And above all, government bonds, and sovereign debts, could never ever depreciate.

Now with Greece defaulting, or rather with the fact that it is finally recognized that Greece is defaulting, the house of cards is collapsing. The demise of private retirement savings accounts puts an end to the myth – guarantor of social peace – that “We are all shareholders and investors”. It puts an end to the myth “that everyone can get rich, it’s just a matter of effort!”. That myth, also, has been contradicted by facts, for at least the past twenty years in Western countries.

No, Mr Stiglitz there never was anything mysterious about why the troika is immune to facts!

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