Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Open Thread...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weekly Open Thread...


Today the Economic Edge is shifting into low gear by eliminating daily posts and transitioning to weekly open threads coupled to just occasional reports. This is a stasis condition, a partial shutdown. I encourage people to continue to post and update one another on the weekly open threads, and to check by on occasion as you never know when inspiration and time will meet to produce an article or two.

My time has simply become too limited to continue contributing on a daily basis or to even monitor the blog threads properly. Thus I have decided to act now as I don’t want to see people carry away a negative impression. I recommend that you stay informed by reading the sites on my blog list, including Fred’s new blog, “Catharsis Ours.”

It’s a mixed blessing for me personally as I enjoy spreading what I consider to be the truth – there are not enough people doing so, but trust me, I am still grounded in reality and see the game for what it is. The good news is that Gateway Yachts is growing and picking up customers and investors, and thus it is now time for me to focus on developing the very best operation I can.

All my Best,


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Morning Thought - The Trouble with Politicians .....

Good Morning everyone ! After reading a great comment in a greek newspaper this morning , the parallels between Greece , the US , Uk and much of the West rally came home to me. One question , simply framed indeed  . Where are the Leaders ? In the US , one might wonder , who might be the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt ? In the UK , one might ask - who might arise from the muck as the next Churchill ? Can Hollande in France remove the stain of Sarkozy's reign and rise to greatness  - or will he prove just another small town Mayor in well over his head ? Greek newspaer Kathimerini ( in a piece written by Alexis Papachelas ) wonders " where is the next Eleftherios Venizelos or Constatine Karmanis ? Papachelas next queries " Do any of  Greece's politicians have the courage to tell people the truth about the situation and then move on to do what what needs to be done ? Can any of them look our foreign partners in the eye and negotiate ? We know the answer - and the problem isn't just in Greece . It's the sam issue here in the US regarding the quality of leadership. It's the same problem in formerly prosperous Ireland ( consider what happened when Ireland dumped the failed leadership of Taoiseach Brian Cowen of Fianna Fail - the Fine Gael Party , led by Enda Kenny has continued to same failed appeasement of the Troika and failed policy of appeasing the banksters that caused Ireland's problems in the first place).

     We don't need to devote a lot of space to the US - simply ask yourself , what has been the essential difference ( when you drill down to foreign and domestic policies )  between George W Bush and Barack Obama , then ask what is the essential difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney ? When you get the fact that there is no essential difference , you then ponder the amateur clown show elections have become - a crass reality show ( any wonder why Trump plays the role he does ) where the pols pose as learned fools , believing they can fool the rest of us ! The embarrassment that was Herman Cain as come and gone - but why was the guy even in the race ? would you trust him handling the countries money or making critical  decisions concerning foreign policy ? But do we feel any better concerning the apparent choices we will have this fall - at best , it's a choice between worse and worst ? Where are the leaders here in the US - is this truly the best we can do ?

     As we consider the fate of Greece - a fate to be decide by others , consider the following thoughts . this applies to all nations , not just Greece or the Us or Ireland . Who do you want to lead your country ? Do you trust your leader or future leader to guide your country through tough times with perhaps generational consequences at stake ? Will  you buy the tough sounding sound bites from the stump - only to face the reality and buyers regret  later that it was all stage craft ? Are the politicians doing all they can to sabotage the political system , the financial systems and the Constitution - and are you okay with that ? Will you demand leaders that speak the truth , rather than what they think you want to hear today ? do you have the courage to demand politicians treat you as adults and not children , that meek and mild imbeciles ? Or will we collectively prove the clownsters correct in their assessment of us ? Good morning and God bless !

They all fall down

By Nick Malkoutzis
Collapsing buildings seem to be a good metaphor for Greece during these dark days. A number of edifices in Athens are likely to be demolished after being gutted by fire during rioting on Sunday night. The vandalism and violence destroyed what was a large and peaceful demonstration against the austerity measures in Greece’s latest loan agreement with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The deal was approved by MPs but the turmoil this process caused within Greece’s parties emphasized that the country’s political structure is also crumbling.
While the expulsion of 43 MPs from PASOK and New Democracy for not approving the bailout was the most visible sign of a political system that is reaching the end of its days, the last week laid bare much greater inadequacies. No matter how many lawmakers are jettisoned from this hot air balloon, it won’t get off the ground again.
PASOK, which began its time in power just over two years ago with high hopes and a leader in George Papandreou who promised a new way of doing things, lies battered and beaten. It’s shedding MPs at an alarming rate and its poll ratings are about to drop through the floor. Papandreou, meanwhile, appears a little boy lost as the political rubble falls around him. More importantly, though, PASOK is absolutely devoid of ideas. It does not stand for anything after spending the last couple of years accepting the troika’s instructions with no input of its own.
New Democracy and its leader Antonis Samaras have been backed into a corner. A staunch opponent of the austerity-led philosophy of the first EU-IMF loan agreement, Samaras has been forced to argue that this time things are different. He has clung to his red line on pension cuts, hoping it will prove he is committed to the idea of not fueling the recession. But holding back the marauding troika with one hand while waving them on with the other, as was the case with a savage reduction to the minimum wage, means that Samaras is more traffic cop than five-star general in most people’s view.
The most spectacular implosion of all, however, was that of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and its leader Giorgos Karatzaferis. From his quotes by poet Constantine Cavafy and the Beatles to his claims about the German jackboot, Karatzaferis revealed himself to be nothing more than a very poor master of ceremonies in the three-ring circus of Greek politics. For all his posturing during this crisis, for all the witticisms and know-it-all comments, when the decisive moment came, Karatzaferis ran for cover. His decision to abstain from the vote will make it very difficult for him to visit village squares and claim to be the defender of the national interest. Nobody defended anything by hiding in Parliament’s corridors.
In contrast to PASOK, New Democracy and LAOS, the three parties of the left -- Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the Communist Party (KKE) and Democratic Left -- have seen their support in the opinion polls increase. This reflects the collapse of PASOK and the rising anger with austerity measures. Yet, for those who feel the troika is dragging Greece toward a dead end, the three leftist parties have struggled to come up with credible alternatives.
KKE says Greece should stop paying its creditors but has little idea how the country, which is still running a primary budget deficit, could go on paying its own citizens. SYRIZA has suggested the threat of a disorderly default by Greece should be used as a leverage tool in negotiations, ignoring the fact that Germany and the other eurozone countries have -- with the help of the European Central Bank -- spent the last few months shoring up their defenses against such an eventuality.
Democratic Left is a little more creative in its approach. Its leader, the mild-mannered Fotis Kouvelis, suggests that some of Greece’s debt should be transferred to the ECB and that the country should issue investment bonds, as well as making more use of funds from the European Investment Bank. They are fine suggestions and show the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that was missing at the beginning of this crisis. Unfortunately, there is no longer the kind of good will for Greece within the eurozone that would make these options even remotely plausible.
In the swirl caused by the crisis, the parties have lost their relevance. Faced with the most complicated and destructive of problems, they are devoid of ideas. They offer Greeks no inspiration or shelter for voters. Some will suffer at the general elections, scheduled for April. It seems certain -- given opinion poll ratings over the last few months -- that the next government will be a coalition. These disheveled and disparate political elements will have to find a way to work together. It’s probably the greatest punishment their voters could inflict on them.
One of the reasons a coalition will be necessary is that there’s a lack of new blood in Greek politics. Those who might be tempted to hear the call are standing back. They can see the political structure ready to collapse and don’t want to be tainted with the asbestos of defunct partisanship, so they won’t enter until the whole thing has come down and the dust has settled.
As long as this persists, Greece will go through a strange transition phase where the discredited will continue to hold power. The next government will likely have to be based on cooperation between PASOK and New Democracy. But they might not be able to form a government on their own. Given that all the other parties -- bar the tiny Democratic Alliance -- oppose the EU-IMF loan agreement, what basis will there be for a coalition?
This is where we get into really dangerous territory because the eurozone and the IMF are only agreeing to provide loans to Greece on the basis that its government is fully committed to the terms of the agreement. A coalition that would include Democratic Left, for instance, might not be in a position to offer this commitment.
This means that within the next couple of months, the wishes of Greece’s lenders could come into direct conflict with the will of the Greek people. The eurozone has essentially already set out what kind of government it wants after the snap election. Greek voters won’t necessarily want to comply with these wishes. The respect for democratic principles that the European Union was meant to uphold could face its most severe test yet. Another edifice -- the biggest and grandest of them all -- could also come tumbling down.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Morning Thought - The Battles Between Greece And The Troikans Are just Warming Up !

     Good morning ! Hope everyone had a great weekend , hope it was productive , restful and that we're already to spring into the new week. As the embers from the Grecian fires cool this today - with at least forty building destroyed during the carnage of protests / rioting brought about by the debate and passage of the so called Greek Rescue Bill in Parliament , let's consider where things stand after the vote ? Has Greece been pulled back from the brink by the latest heroic vote ( they are going to run out of heros shortly , like the police ran out of tear gas yesterday. )

     Actually , there still remains a considerable amount of conditionality in place to stymie any quick action to release the needed funds to Greece ( or though Greece to the banksters ) . Let's walk through the conditions one by one . First of all , joker number one :

1)  The EuroGroup of finance Ministers , which meets Wednesday , must agree that Greece has now met the terms of the package
      An interesting place to start - as the Memorandum of Understand had a blank space for the amount of the bailout ( as I recall ) , so what exactly are the terms of the Agreement when something as notable of the sum involved is not set forth  ? As you may recall , one issue last week and a reason for the withdrawal of Laos was the complaint by their party chief that pages were missing from the documents provided to him to approve. And what about the additional 43o million of additional cuts Greece still must find by Wednesday ? And since it's monday , what new demands have the Troikans cooked up over the weekend ? I guess we'll see how this plays out over the next day or so , but the bottom line is the nature and details of the M.O.U appear to be opaque.

2)  The leaders of the Greek Political parties must pledge in writing that it will implement the complete rescue plan and that no attempts to renegotiate  or otherwise repudiate said rescue package will be made.

      There are two parties in the Coaltion after the resignation Laos - Pasok and New Democracy. Regarding Pasok , it has a nominal head ( G-Pap ) of the party , the power behind the throne and Troika tool in FM Venizelos and they are steeped in disarray having expelled twenty + members yesterday who revolted against voting yes for the bailout deal - their polling numbers are about 8 percent . New Democracy faces similar disarray ( they also expelled twenty plus members yesterday ) , poll better than Pasok and currently are expected to win elections in April or perhaps sooner than that. the problem is New Democracy chief Samaras has repeated expressed his goal of renegotiating the Rescue deal for Greece - which cuts against the idea of binding guarantees / pledges / promises / sweet lies. Absent surrender by Pasok and New Democracy to the total satisfaction of the Troika and Germany led AAA Eurozone club , Greece doesn't get a euro.

3) The German Bundestage must vote to approve the package , probably on Febuary 27th.

      Germany Finance Minister Schauble and their Economic Minister Rosler have already thrown some doubt as to what Germany will do - saying in essence , the Greek vote was nice , now prove to us that you actually will take concrete steps to actually implement the deal ( rather blow smoke  as past practice has shown th Greks to do. ) Apart from Greece " proving " it will actually implement all terms of the deal , the German approval is conditional upon a Troikan report blessing the deal - who knows what the Troikans plan to say in that report ? In light of worsening economic condition in Greece ( un- employment almost 21 percent , Revenues including VAT falling off a cliff , industrial and manufacturing capacity falling off a cliff ) , how can we see a sunny report from the Troikans ? And besides , aren't the Troikans really trying to make a point to the rest of the PIIGS with how they're treating Greece - as in Portugal , Ireland , Spain and Italy shouldn't try to go Greek or face the fire and wrath Greece has suffered ? Isn't that what German FM Schauble alluded to in his discussions with Portugal's FM Gaspar ?

4) The PSI Deal must be concluded

     Today is Febuary 13th and no final offer has been presented to the so called private investors. Either the 13th or 15th represent the latest so called deadlines for the final offer - but missing a deadline , what else is new ? the real deadline for conclusion is March 20th when the 14.5 billion euro bond payment comes due. So , there remains about 5 weeks to conclude the PSI - barely time to run through all of the hoops to determine what the private investors might do , barely time to take all of the steps necessary to put the PSI debt swap in motion - and that assumes a deal was in place today. As 100 percent acceptance  is necessary and that looks unlikely , do we see the Greek Parliament pas a Collective Action Law to force recalcitrant private investors to take the deal ? Who presently hold the english law bonds of Greece which won't be as  easily crammed down investor throats ( when compared to greek law bonds ) ? What is the  real timeline and associated deadlines for  presentation of the final offer to private investors , their acceptance or rejection of the private investors , the passage of a C.A.C law and the March 20th payment which is the ultimate deadline for Greece ? If Greece can't make the payment on time , will the Troikans present Greece with bridge loan financing or roll the March 20th bond payment into either the second bailout deal or the PSI deal ? the answers are - no one knows.

    Looking quickly at everything, expect the morning relief rally to process to evening indigestion......

The Real Games In Greece and with the Troikans have begun !

7.50am: The scenes of mayhem on the streets of Athens last night, and in other parts of Greece, show the depth of public anger against the package. As we reported last night:
More than 40 buildings were set ablaze in an orgy of looting that left scores injured as protesters vented their anger at the caretaker government and parliament's ordering of a further €3.3bn of savings by slashing wages and pensions and laying off public sector workers.
Protesters run away from teargas during clashes near the Greek parliament on February 12, 2012.
Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
This picture from last night shows protesters running away from teargas during clashes between protesters and riot police near the Greek parliament.
Prime minister Lucas Papademos warned that banks would collapse and schools and hospitals would be left without funds unless the bill passed. But 43 MPs failed to back the bill, with some arguing that Greece would be better off refusing to implement the measures and defaulting its debts. All those MPs have now been expelled from the coalition government.
7.57am: Germany's economy minister has warned that last night's vote will not be enough to guarantee that Greece receives its €130bn bailout.
Speaking earlier this morning, Phillip Rösler said the vote was merely a "necessary condition" on the path to Greece's second rescue package, as Athens must also prove that the measures will be implemented.
Rösler added that the German parliament must receive a report on Greece from the Troika [the IMF, the EU and the ECB] before deciding whether to give its approval for the bailout fund.
That vote is expected to take place in the Bundestag on 27 February.
8.22am: Greece must still clear four hurdles before it receives its €130bn bailout package.
1) The eurogroup of finance ministers, which meets on Wednesday night, must agree that it has now met the terms of the package
2) The leaders of its political parties must pledge in writing that they will implement it.
3) The German Bundestag must vote to approve the package, probably on February 27th.
4) The long-running negotiations with its creditors over debt restructuring (the Private Sector Involvement) must be concluded.

Gilles Moer of Deutche Bank told Bloomberg TV this morning that it is essential for Greece to maintain its credibility with its international partners. He said that the demand for Greece's leaders to make a commitment in writing "shows the pressure that the Troika is still prepared to put on Greece".
8.30am: City analysts are speculating that the situation in Greece could be thrown into confusion in a couple of months if Antonis Samaras, head of the New Democracy party, becomes Greece's next prime minister.
Samaras, the current front-runner to replace Lucas Papademos, told parliament last night: "I ask you to vote in favour of the new loan agreement today and to have the ability to negotiate and change the current policy which has been forced on us".
That would rather thwart the Troika's demands that Greece's leaders all pledge to implement the current plan, as Megan Greene of Roubini Economics pointed out on Twitter:
Samaras also said his party will "demand the dissolution of parliament and immediate elections" once the second rescue deal is ageed.
Elisabeth Afseth, analyst at Investec, also warned this morning that "the next Greek crisis is then likely to come with the approaching election". New Democracy wants that vote to be held in April......

9.16am: In Greece, Athenians are facing the aftermath of last night's savage street fighting, which lasted for around 10 hours.
A firefighter extinguishes a smouldering building in central Athens on Monday February 13, 2012.A firefighter extinguishes a smouldering building in central Athens today. Photograph: Dimitri Messinis/AP
Helena Smith, our correspondent in Athens, says that parts of Athens' historic centre now lies in tatters. There are burned out shells of buildings, including some of the capital's fabulous 19th century edifices. Shops have been looted and smashed, and cafes are still smouldering this morning.
Helena reports:
Unsurprisingly, the vandalism made for as much coverage in the press this morning as the austerity measures Greeks will have to endure for the best part of the next decade to make their nation's debt mountain even begin to look sustainable.
"Yes through fire and tears," Ta Nea, the mass-selling daily, proclaimed from its front page in reference to the vote's passage.

But it should be pointed out, as this appears to have been lost in coverage, that it was unidentifiable hooded youths hijacking an otherwise peaceful anti-austerity demonstration who were behind the violence, not hard-working Greeks badly hit by tax hikes and repeated wage and pension cuts who took to the streets not because they wanted a fight but to vent their spleen.
They are as shell-shocked as the shop-owners who turned up to work this morning to find their properties in tatters.
12.01pm: Just in – a Greek government spokesman has said that general elections will be held in Greece in April.
Spokesman Pantelis Kapsis told reporters in Athens:
The bond swap will be concluded in March.....Elections will be held in April.
(That's via Reuters)
Ths news will please New Democracy, the centre-right party that has been demanding an early ballot. It will not delight Pasok, the socialist party whose popularity has plunged since the crisis escalated.
11.56am: The body that represents Greece's retail industry has warned today that last night's vote will not spare the country from bankruptcy.
Vassilis Korkidis, the head of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, said in a statement that:
Yesterday's vote in the parliament may have saved the country temporarily from default, but the Greek economy is going bankrupt and the country's political system is failing.

Stay tuned !  Makes one wonder whether there are the Ides of Febuary ?