I’m in the process of preparing to move house and it looks like I might be moving more than that. As many of you may or may not of heard, it looks like blog.co.uk is closing down. As of Dec 15th this site may not exist any more 88|. I’m planning to migrate content over to my energy blog or set up a new one. Still deciding :??:.
Certainly, its not a huge surprise. Blog.co.uk has been trying to create something that seems to be half way between facebook and blogger. While this has been popular with some, obviously not with enough people. In essence, they fell between two stools.
Also, there’s been the issue of spam. Go to the homepage and you’ll see its a major problem on this site. So the plan seems to be to nuke the site to take out the spammers. That said, other blogs I’ve used have had issues with spam. My other blogs will often get a hundred spam messages a day. The difference is many of the others are a little better at filtering that spam out. Also the adberts on blog.co.uk can be a little intrusive and annoying and I know that’s caused some to move. So essence both management and the spammers seem to have succeeded in killing the golden goose.
Last week a terrified Greek PM, staring into the abyss of Grexit lost his bottle and agreed to another bailout. However my concern is that this is yet more kicking the can down the road. Many have criticise this, notably as it flies in the face of the bailout referendum a few weeks ago. The former finance minster of Greece, the Fonz ;D, has suggested that it will almost certainly fail. And after blowing another 86 billion euro’s Greece will be right back to where we are now.
Firstly, I think its worth mentioning the positives. The latest deal does seem to involve the Troika, in particular the Germans, accepting that some sort of restructuring or debt relief is essential. The trouble is that this restructuring is being deferred and in all probability will result in another fudging of the issue. On the other hand the Greek government seems to accepting that they can’t simply expect to renege on their debts and then go on a spending spree. However it is extremely unlikely that any of the measures voted through by the Greek parliament last week will have the effect anticipated by the deal, given the fragile state of the Greek economy.
As I see it there are two options. Firstly, a managed Greek default. The Greeks stay in the euro but cease to service their debts. Most of this is owed to other governments, the IMF or the ECB, so by negotiation they could accept a debt holiday for sometime. At a future date when Greece is out of depression, the issue of repayment can be investigated.
Ideally, with a recovered Greek economy in say five years time, a payment plan could be worked out and gradually over several decades they’ll pay off the debt. But more likely the debt will be cut down to a level which the Greeks can actually afford to pay. But we’ll have a better idea then what they can afford to repay.
Private creditors, who may not be willing to go along with this, will be given the option to essentially sell their debts to the IMF and ECB. However, as the Troika will be taking a certain level of risk with this, they won’t pay top dollar. So say they buy Greek debt at a rate of sixty cent to the euro. I suspect that while the banks will inevitably grumble and complain, most will take the money they can get and run. After all 60 cents is better that the alternative….100 Drachma’s!
Keep in mind that if this sounds like letting the Greek’s off easy, that isn’t so. Have effectively defaulted they will find it impossible to borrow, meaning the Greek government will have to live within its means. And this may prove tricky, without some economic reform in the longer term.
Also in order to finally pay off the debt some privatisation or sale of state assets might be needed. However crucially this plan defers all of that till a point where the Greek economy has recovered. After all, who in their right mind would buy state assets off Greece now, with the country in depression? The only people who will do that are the same corporate sharks who got us into this mess in the first place. And I seem to remember that they tried this before and it didn’t work out so well. And such a fire sale of state assets in Russia is what led to Oligarchs and ultimately Putin.
Option two is a managed Grexit. Greece leaves the euro and transfers its debts into Drachmas. Again, this will not be a cheap or easy option, either for Greece but especially not for Germany who might well be crying after its over harder than a migrant who met Merkel.
Greece will take a substantial economic hit in the short term. However in theory, with some assistance from the Troika, it should eventually recover. The key goal of such assistance will be to prevent hyper inflation, which would hamper any recovery as well as rendering any debts held by Greece effectively worthless (in effect a default by the back door). However, once Greece is over the transition period with its debts now more easily managed they can start to service them and pay off its creditors. Although inevitably, as the Drachma will loose some value v’s the euro, creditors won’t get all their money back, but they will get something back.
While neither of these options sound terribly palatable, they are really the only way Greece and the eurozone is going to get out of this mess.
Iranian nuclear deal
Another deal struck over the last week was between Iran and the West over its nuclear weapons programme. This is a major diplomatic victory for all, particularly Obama. It could well be a key legacy for him to patch up relations with Iran and help stabilise the region.
Of course, the Israeli’s and the Republicans were fuming. They tried to raise the spectre of an Iranian nuclear strike against the US, promoting all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories, even running a slot on US TV depicting an Iranian strike against the US using a nuke in the back of a truck. This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly it would be stupid for Iran, if they could somehow secretly build a bomb of course, to use a nuclear weapon in this way. The US would eventually find out and turn the country to glass as a result. If Iran wanted to attack the US, far easier to steal one off the Russians (despite Putin’s rhetoric, Russia is getting $60 million in aid from the West to help guard their nuclear arsenal), or buy one of the North Koreans. That would give them plausible deniability. Iran wanting a nuclear bomb was always borne out of fear of the Israeli nuclear bomb, as well as the WMD’s held by its bitter rival, Saudi Arabia. Indeed the Wiki-leak cables revealed, how the Saudi’s had been urging the Bush Adm. into bombing the Iranians.
The reality is that Israel and its supporters don’t want this deal because it means that there is now only one nuclear armed state in the middle east. This of course raises awkward questions, if Iran has gone the extra mile and disarmed, why exactly aren’t the Israeli’s? And if sanctions forced Iran to the negotiating table, much as they forced the South Africans to give up their bomb (and apartheid), surely this is the way to force Israel to giving up the West bank settlements and its nuclear arsenal? So its classic bait and switch.
Go set a racists
Much has been made about Harper Lee new novel, in which Atticus Finch has turned into a ragging segregationist dittohead in his old age. This has led to many asking the question as to whether people do become more racist as they grow older. I’m wondering if this works in reverse also. Will Nick Griffin have become a anti-racist firebrand when he’s eighty? :))
I do wonder however, if the timing of this new book has something to do with the upsurge in racism in the US. This is largely thanks to fringe groups within the Tea party which has seen, amongst other things a rise in membership for the Klan, various racist incidents involving police and of course the recent Charleston shootings and the controversy over the confederate flag that followed. Inevitably, this has provoked an anti-racists backlash and I’m wondering if this novel was something that was being sat on for sometime.
Either way, I would argue that the reason why some people are racist is that it affords an easy way out of things, while avoiding certain uncomfortable truths. For example, there’s been a programme on TV recently, called how to get a council house. One of the many myths you’ll hear is that the council are swamped by migrants and will give them a council house, with none left for British people. However, the councils point out that 95% of their stock goes to rehousing British citizens, not migrants, so this simply isn’t true.
The reality is that the UK’s stock of council houses was decimated by the Thatcher government’s right to buy. Something that many who got a council house on the cheap are perhaps reluctant to admit they were active participants in. Since then successive governments, including the Blair/Brown labour governments (or as a old Tory once put it too me the best Tory government ever :no:) failed to invest the money to rebuild the country’s stock of council houses, or maintain the stock they have got.
Add into this the fact that Thatcher’s policies decimated heavy industry. This has had a knock on effect of greatly increasing demand for council houses in certain parts of the country. Either because the people in former mining and manufacturing towns are stuck in a poverty trap. Or because they’ve attempted to move to where there are jobs, leading to a massive crush of people moving to cities such as London.
There are of course solutions to this, building more council houses, as well as reversing past policies being a start. Far from extending the right to buy, I’d start trying to buy back any flat in a council block once it goes up for sale (at the same discount rate it was sold!). And bringing in measures to curb property speculation, particularly by private landlords, would also help. Of course none of this would be popular with the nouveau riche who have done quite well out of rises in property prices over the last few decades. So its all too easy to play the race card (or the class card) and blame a convenient scapegoat instead.
As I discuss on my energy blog, many on the right (libertarians in particular) deny climate change because they have too. The minute you accept that climate change is a real international threat, you also have to accept that we need some sort international agreement to deal with the issue. Which is a bit of a problem if you’re political philosophy is to get rid of government altogether. So instead, its all to easy to concoct various lunatic conspiracy theories and believe some half-baked quackery dressed up as science, ignore the problem and generally hope it just goes away.
Similarly racism allows many to blame some minority for all of live’s ills and ignore certain uncomfortable truths. Not least of which is that there are few easy solutions (but plenty of difficult and expensive ones!) to many of the major problems society faces.
MI5, not quite nine to five….more ten to half four
One story that got buried this week was that of a former MI5 agent. He made some embarrassing claims about the agency. Claiming for example that they had so few Asian or Middle Eastern agents they seriously considering blacking up. On another occasion they were asked to investigate a politician on suspicions of paedophilia, something that he challenged as it was clearly outside the agency’s remit (which is supposed to be non political). And this was not a one off incident, several times they were asked to perform investigations into police matters because the police were considered to corrupt to handle the matter.
Then to add insult to injury he claimed that after he began suffering panic attacks the agency got rid of him. So much for never leaving any men behind.