Tag Archives: economy

Greece Now and Then, and the Euro Crisis

Another round up of posts, links and ledes on Greece – responses to the bank deaths, some history of Greek protests, and a few items on the crisis with the euro, which is being fueled by the situation in Greece…

Bruce Cockburn, “Call It Democracy” (lyrics)- from the album World of Wonders (1986) – a music attack on the IMF

Greece Now – with particular attention to the bank deaths

Who knew the European Union had so much power over its member states?: “For the time being, the markets have been pacified. For the moment, the riots in Athens have subsided. Only ‘hundreds’ of demonstrators came out over the weekend, fewer than the 50,000 who killed three people during a violent petrol-bomb attack on a bank last week. But this temporary truce in Greece has been bought at a high price—by which I don’t just mean that it was expensive….”

(via Slate Magazine.)

The welfare state’s death spiral: “Washington Post – By Robert J. Samuelson – May. 10 (Opinion) – What we’re seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn’t Greece’s problem alone, and that’s why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven’t fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies….”

(via NewsTrust.)

Austerity measures approved in Greece, protests continue: “The new measures have been voted in the Greek Parliament yesterday by a majority of 172 votes out of a total 300, these including the votes of the ruling Socialist Party (PASOK) and the extreme-right party of junta nostalgic creeps, LAOS.

The Conservative party, the Communist Party and the Radical Coalition of the Left voted against the measures. The procedure was not without surprises as 3 PASOK MPs cast a blank vote, leading to their expulsion from the Party. One of them a veteran Socialist politician and Olympic Games champion Mrs Sacorafa is refusing to hand over her seat in Parliament. At the same time the ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, daughter of the ex- PM Konstantinos Mitsotakis, and defeated candidate for the leadership of the Conservatives, Mrs Bakoyanni voted for the measures leading to her immediate expulsion from the Party – a move expected to lead the Conservatives to a major crisis. The demand of the Left for a 180 vote majority for the measures to be passed (a rule applied for constitutional reform) was not accepted by the government….

(via libcom.org.)

The Fair Uprising of 120,000 Demonstrators in Athens, Greece.
From Anarchist Coil.

THE FAIR UPRISING OF 120,000 DEMONSTRATORS, THE RAID AGAINST THE PARLIAMENT BY TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ENRAGED PEOPLE HAD NOTHING AND COULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PARA-STATE GANG WHO MURDERED THREE PEOPLE IN A BANK IN STADIOU STR. AND TRIED UNSUCCESSFULLY TO DO THE SAME AT THE BOOKSTORE IANOS

“Oh sky, your mirror image can be seen on the mud also”.

At first, we want to make it clear that our anger is indescribable, for the cowardly para-state gang who is responsible for murdering three people, two women, one pregnant on the fourth month, and a man who worked at Marfin bank at Stadiou Str., as well as for the gang of politicians and journalists who rushed to associate the fair uprising of hundreds of thousands of people in Athens and other cities with this atrocious murder.

But the truth cannot be erased. An angry river of protesters surrounded the Parliament and for hours and hours attempted to invade during a ferocious battle with the forces of repression….

(via Anarchist news dot org.)

In critical and suffocating times: “The Ta Paida Tis Galarias (The Children of The Gallery) group report on the recent demonstrations in Athens against austerity measures, including the events leading to the tragic deaths of three bank workers and its implications for the movement of opposition.

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Greece – More Ledes and Links

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

Another round up of recent headlines, ledes, blog posts and soundbites from around the internet on the situation in Greece…

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The Global Financial System Sucks

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Remember the “rogue trader” who wiped out Barings Bank, the oldest merchant bank in London – and hence one of the oldest banks in the world – when he lost well over $1 billion speculating on futures contracts? How about Jérôme Kerviel, who “lost” almost $7 billion playing with futures in 2008? What about the American S&L Crisis that began in the 1980s? That ended up producing losses of around $160 billion – most of which was paid for by a government bailout under President George H. W. Bush, directly contributing to the budget deficit blowout of the early 1990s.

Rogue traders, futures, options and derivatives, housing bubbles, Ponzi schemes, Bernie Madoff, Bear Stearns, AIG, Washington Mutual, Goldman Sachs, the list goes on and on. In the most recent outrage from the financial sector, it looked like some schmuck said “billion” instead of “million” and sent the stock market into one of its worst nosedives in history, though now it seems like out-of-control software may have been to blame. Either way – stupid and sucky.

Stock Selloff May Have Been Triggered by Trader Error: “CNBC.com – May. 06 () – In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points before paring those losses in what possibly could have been a trader error.”

(via NewsTrust.)

How many more examples of the greed, corruption and ineptitude of the global financial system and the people who run it – and on which so much now depends (know anyone who’s lost a job or a house recently?) – do we need before we decide that a root-and-branch overhaul is needed of the whole rotten setup?

And it is clear that Obama – our sexy black president – is not the man for the job. But are we surprised? He’s an American politician, a committed part of a system which is deeply enmeshed with the American and global financial system. And he is perhaps even more in thrall to Big Money than some other presidents. He’s so excited to be making the big bucks and playing with the big boys.

And now he has to worry about the mid-term elections, and after that his own re-election. He’ll be campaigning from now on, more or less continuously, and while bashing banks may have a certain populist appeal, it doesn’t seem to be doable in Congress – too many Congressmen get too much money from those guys, or are those guys or want to be those guys when they get kicked out of office – and failure of another major policy push would be very damaging.

He’ll do good things, no doubt – but to expect a real overhaul of this rotten system is unrealistic. Expect bandaid reform: something that can be sold to voters as reform, but that doesn’t really hit the megabanks and money houses where they live – in their pocketbooks, power and penis-substitutes – and does little to correct the systemic dysfunctionality.

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FaceBook and the McDonalds-izing of the Internet – plus Greece and Arizona

“Arizona is … a warning of what a state can look like when it’s run by talk-radio demagogues and their television cohorts.”
(Too bad they went with Rush Limbaugh and Chris Beck and not Jon Stewart.)

Here, for your horror and amusement, a roundup of some headlines and excerpts from the news of the last couple of days concerning FaceBook, Greece and Arizona – all in the one post as I am probably as sick of reading and writing about this stuff as you are of reading and thinking about it.

The truth is, I found the topics mostly either too aggravating (Arizona) or too complicated/outside my area of competence (Greece) to really have much worthwhile to offer beyond a handy crib sheet / set of links to what I found useful and interesting in my own reading.

I did feel that I might have something to offer on the matter of FaceBook. Most of the commentary I read focused on the threat to privacy angle or on FaceBook’s ambitious growth strategy – and covered these topics fairly well.

But I also thought these were not perhaps the most interesting or troubling aspect of FaceBook’s recent moves. The most interesting – and most negative – aspect was what I guess we could call the McDonalds-izing of the internet – which seems to be not just a scary scenario but actually the heart of their strategy:

McDonalds – it’s everywhere you go, from San Francisco to Shanghai to Skopje, from New York to New Delhi to Old Blighty, and everywhere pretty much the same. It’s unhealthy, bland, culturally and nutritionally denuded and pumped full of pretty packaging and preservatives, salt and sugar to make up for its lack of taste, appeal and interest. It’s very cheap, and not worth it – but nonetheless becomes a big part of the diet of people who are locked out, scared off or ignorant of better choices. McDonalds: bland, banal, unhealthy, homogenized, corporate, ubiquitous.

To the extent that FaceBook succeeds in its ambitions, the internet will become a blander, more homogenized, and more regimented and commodified experience.

The computer world has seen other monopolies and hegemonies come (and sometimes go): Windows is not quite the force it once was, though it’s still pretty powerful; likewise Microsoft Office. Google clearly has hegemonic aims and seems to be doing a good job of achieving them, but that battle is not yet over.

But somehow, the idea of a hegemonic FaceBook seems to me somewhat more serious. I suppose because it is a social network, and has to a large extent taken over from IMing and email as a central means of communication for many people. And also become a major force in organizing groups, inviting people to events, sharing photographs, indicating likes and dislikes in shopping and other forums, and so on.

These were all activities that used to be enacted through separate platforms, sites and applications. Smaller sites operating in more competitive arenas, and generally with more responsiveness to their users than FaceBook has shown. And in many cases, at least initially, much less commercial, much less “monetized” and surveilled.

FaceBook hopes to end all of that, bringing all of those activities into its grasp, and analyzing and monetizing our every activity, and targeting us with ads tailored to our precise demographics and desires.

“One Site to rule them all…”

FaceBook

Despite my personal apprehensions (which are, naturally, well-founded and not at all the paranoid fantasies of some left-wing conspiracy theorist), the rest of the blogosphere has quieted down a bit where FaceBook is concerned, after the first rush of responses – positive and negative – to announcements at FaceBook’s developers’ conference. The two main interests continue to be the privacy issue, on the one hand, and evaluations of the new developments from a technical and business perspective on the other; on both, we may have to wait a little while for more in-depth discussions.

In the meantime, here’s PC Magazine chiming it with its advice on securing some privacy in the wake of FaceBook’s changes:

Facebook Privacy: 8 Ways to Protect Yourself: pcmag.com — You want to use Facebook, but you also want to keep your private information from being spread all over the Internet. The key is to understand how Facebook works, where your information is going, and how to navigate the service’s labyrinth of privacy controls.

(via Digg.com.)

Early last month, before FaceBook’s developers’ conference, Bruce Schneier, one of the most respected commentators on computer security, wrote of the issue of privacy and control, specifically addressing FaceBook:

In January, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg declared the age of privacy to be over. A month earlier, Google Chief Eric Schmidt expressed a similar sentiment. Add Scott McNealy’s and Larry Ellison’s comments from a few years earlier, and you’ve got a whole lot of tech CEOs proclaiming the death of privacy — especially when it comes to young people.

It’s just not true. People, including the younger generation, still care about privacy.

Read the whole discussion of “Privacy and Control” in Schneier on Security.

An article in The New York Times on a new extreme sport fun run – “Tough Mudder” – parenthetically provided a concise picture of just how targeted FaceBook ads already were, how well they knew us, before this current round of changes:

The [Tough Mudder] Web site went online in early February, and $8,300 was spent on Facebook ads aimed at specific demographics — young professionals, runners and extreme athletes, police officers and firefighters, and those in the military who lived in the vicinity of Allentown and within 50 miles of New York and Philadelphia.

(via NYTimes.com.)

Imagine what they’ll be able to do once they know your every like, your every move.

Enough of that… Here’s what’s been happening in the less important realm of offline events. (For some reason, the mainstream news media has been paying a lot more attention to Greece and Arizona than FaceBook…)
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Ideas – Sensible to Sensational, Sociological to Technological

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.

Gertrude Stein said this in her Reflections on the Atom Bomb (1946) – imagine what she would have said about the interweb!

In what I expect will become a new regular feature, here’s a round-up of ideas culled from that mind-boggling expanse of information – ideas from a variety of recent articles, reports and blog posts – ranging from simple bits of social engineering to cutting edge electrical engineering…

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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

In this brilliant account of how the U.S. economy has been driven over the cliff, the author of the bestseller “Liar’s Poker” explains how the free fall of the American economy occurred and who, exactly, is to blame.
via The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis – on Powells.com.

I, for one, could do with a fun-to-read “global financial crisis for dummies” – and while this seems to have a narrow focus on the US crash, it sounds like it might be a good beginning.

In And Out Of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives

new book from PM Press
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Media Literacy: Chase’s Bad Karma

You’ve seen it if you watch primetime TV here in California: the ad for the bank Chase, to announce their “arrival” in the state via their takeover of WaMu, featuring a cover of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).” Continue reading

The Commanding Heights

PBS produced an interesting documentary on economics and globalization titled “The Commanding Heights” — based on the book of the same name — and the content of that documentary has been made available as an educational resource on the net that “includes a netcast of the complete television series integrated with a broad range of interactive information resources.” Continue reading

And yet, life goes on… Week 2

Some loose thoughts, tidbits and sound-bites

Let me be clear – there may be serious, even devastating repercussions from this crisis in the financial sector for average people. But I do not think it has been adequately explained what those repercussions might be, and whether they would be inevitable or a case of banks, corporations and financial institutions passing on costs and losses to shore up their profits. It also seems possible that those repercussions have been engineered or exacerbated precisely to make a bailout seem necessary. Continue reading

And yet, life goes on…

The US House of Representatives today voted down the White House-sponsored $700 billion rescue plan for the US financial industry.  The stock market responded with fear and panic and saw its biggest one day points drop ever, down 778 at the end of trading [more].

And yet, life goes on…. Continue reading