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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne

In this grave crisis, the world’s leaders are terrifyingly out of their depth

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by Peter Oborne
Posted August 6th, 2011

Ineffectual: an emergency telephone conference among the G7 finance ministers feels as relevant as a Bourbon family get-together in the summer of 1789

CERTAIN YEARS HAVE GONE DOWN IN HISTORY AS GREAT GLOBAL TURNING POINTS, after which nothing was remotely the same: 1914, 1929, 1939, 1989. Now it looks horribly plausible that 2011 will join their number. The very grave financial crisis that has hung over Europe ever since the banking collapse of three years ago has taken a sinister turn, with the most dreadful and sobering consequences for those of us who live in European democracies.

The events of the past few days have been momentous: the eurozone sovereign debt crisis has escaped from the peripheries and spread to Italy and Spain; parts of the European banking system have frozen up; US Treasuries have been stripped of their AAA rating, which may be the beginning of a process that leads to the loss of the dollar’s vital status as the world’s reserve currency.

There have been warnings that we may be in for a repeat of the calamitous events of 2008. The truth, however, is that the situation is potentially much bleaker even than in those desperate days after the closure of Lehman Brothers. Back then, policy-makers had at their disposal a whole range of powerful tools to remedy the situation which are simply not available today.

First of all, the 2008 crisis struck at the ideal stage of an economic cycle. Interest rates were comparatively high, both in Europe and the United States. This meant that central banks were in a position to avert disaster by slashing the cost of borrowing. Today, rates are still at rock bottom, so that option is no longer available.

Second, the global situation was far more advantageous three years ago. One key reason why Western economies appeared to recover so fast was that China responded with a substantial economic boost. Today, China, plagued by high inflation as a result of this timely intervention, is in no position to stretch out a helping hand.

But it is the final difference that is the most alarming. Back in 2008, national balance sheets were in reasonable shape. In Britain, for example, state debt (according to the official figures, which were, admittedly, highly suspect) stood at around 40 per cent of GDP. This meant that we had the balance sheet strength to step into the markets and bail out failed banks. Partly as a result, national debt has now surged past the 60 per cent mark, meaning that it is impossible for the British government to perform the same rescue operation without risking bankruptcy. Many other Western democracies face the same problem.

The consequence is terrifying. Policy-makers find themselves in the position of a driver heading down the outside lane of a motorway who suddenly finds that none of his controls are working: no accelerator, no brakes and a faulty steering wheel. Experience, skill and a prodigious amount of luck are required if a grave accident is to be averted. Unfortunately, it is painfully apparent that none of these qualities are available: Western leaders are out of their depth.

Barack Obama feels more and more like a president from the Jimmy Carter tradition: well meaning but ineffectual. And contemplate the sheer fatuity of the statement issued by Angela Merkel’s office on Friday night: “Markets caused the drama. Now they have to make sure to get things straight again.” This remark reveals in the German Chancellor a basic inability even to grasp the nature, let alone understand the scale, of the disaster facing Europe this weekend. Such a failure of comprehension is entirely typical of a certain type of leader throughout history, at times of grave international urgency.

An emergency telephone conference among the finance ministers of the G7 (membership: United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada) has been convened. There was a time when this organisation – with its sublime pretence that financial powerhouses such as India, China and Brazil do not exist – counted for a great deal. This latest discussion feels as relevant as a Bourbon family get-together in the summer of 1789.

Another symptom of the frivolity of the European political class is that the European Central Bank is being urged to intervene in the Italian bond market to restore stability. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s do not produce ratings for the ECB, but if they did, it would be given junk bond status, or worse. The ECB is bankrupt, and this would be evident for all to see but for the fact that it has grossly overvalued the practically worthless Greek, Irish and Portuguese bonds in its portfolio. At some point, eurozone states will be asked to fill the massive holes in the ECB’s balance sheet, and matters will then get messy. Some may plead poverty; others will point out that the constitution of the ECB specifically prevents it from purchasing national bonds, and that its market operations must have been ultra vires.

Furthermore, it is unclear to whom the ECB – whose dodgy accounting, reckless investments and contemptuous disregard of banking standards make even the most irresponsible Mayfair hedge fund look like a model of propriety – is ultimately accountable. The idea that it can step effectively into the Italian bond market, whose total value of around 1.8 trillion euros makes it larger by far than Greece, Portugal and Ireland combined, is a joke.

Wake up: the eurozone is very close to collapse. It will come as no surprise if some Italian and Spanish banks are forced to close their doors in the course of the next few weeks. Indeed, British holidaymakers on the Continent should be advised to take care: hold only the minimum of the local currency, and treat with especial suspicion euro notes coded Y, S and M (signifying they were printed in Greece, Italy and Portugal respectively). Take plenty of dollars with you, which shopkeepers will certainly accept if there is a run on the banks, or if euros suddenly cease to be legal currency. The precautions may not prove necessary, but there is no point in taking risks.

Where does this leave Britain? First of all, there is no point intruding on private grief. Nothing we can do or say will solve the problems of the eurozone. George Osborne does, however, face one overriding imperative: he must maintain the British national credit. Fortunately, the Chancellor grasps this essential point very clearly. After last year’s general election, he took exactly the right steps to cut the deficit. He must not be driven off course, or the markets will refuse credit to Britain as well (a point that Ed Balls, Labour’s economic spokesman, appears not to understand). An economic firestorm is heading our way, and Britain will be doing very well just to survive.

Was Dominique Strauss-Kahn trying to torpedo the Dollar?

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by Mike Whitney
Posted May 23, 2011

IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT. THE MEDIA IS TRYING TO DIG UP as much dirt as they can on Dominique Strauss-Kahn (left, with wife, Anne Sinclair) so they can hang the man before he ever sees the inside of a courthouse. It reminds me of the Terry Schiavo case, where devoted-husband Michael was pegged as an insensitive slimeball for carrying out the explicit wishes of his brain-dead wife.

Do you remember how the media conducted their disgraceful 24 hour-a-day Blitzkrieg with the endless coverage of weepy Christian fanatics on the front lawn of the hospital while Hannity, Limbaugh and O’ Reilly fired away with their sanctimonious claptrap? And now you’re telling me that that same media is just “doing their job?” Give me a break.

Whoever wants to nail IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has really pulled out all the stops. Their agents have been rummaging through diaries, hotel registries, phone records, yearbooks, yada, yada, yada. The UK Telegraph even paid a visit to a high-priced DC knocking shop to get a little dirt from Madame Botox; whatever it takes to make a randy banker look like the South Hill rapist. And they’re doing a pretty good job, too. The cops have made sure that the “Great Seducer” always appears handcuffed and dressed in a “pervie” raincoat with 3-days stubble before they parade him in front of the media. On Wednesday – more grist for the mill – they released his mug-shot, an unflattering, deadpan photo that makes him look like Jack-the-Ripper. Was that the intention?

And, that’s not the half of it. The Big Money is exhuming every woman he’s ever had contact with for the last 30 years hoping they can glean some damning tidbit of information that will convince the doubters that beneath that sophisticated manner and $25,000 suit lurks a closet Bluebeard ready to snap up your daughters and defile your wives. Next thing you know, they’ll be trotting out Paula Jones and Tanya Harding claiming they spent a torrid night with the Marquis de Kahn in a trailerpark outside Winamucca.

Aren’t you at all curious about who’s behind this “lynching by media” scam? This is an all-out, no-holds-barred, steel-cage, take-down. The big boys save that kind of action for the worst offenders, that is, for the insiders who have broken “Omerta” or wandered off the reservation. I mean, they locked him up on Riker’s Island without bail, for Chrissake. What does that tell you? Even Bernie Madoff was allowed to stay in his $7 million Park Avenue penthouse while he waited for trial, but not Strauss-Kahn. Oh, no. He gets the royal treatment, even though he has no criminal record and nothing but the sketchy accusations of a chambermaid against him, he’s carted off to the state slammer where he can mingle with hardened criminals while dining on corn flakes and Wonder Bread. Where does it stop? Or does it stop? Are we in for another year-long Clinton-Lewinski feeding frenzy where everyday we hear more lurid details about the sexploits of people who don’t really interest us at all?

You call that justice?

He suggested adding emerging market countries’ currencies, such as the yuan, to a basket of currencies that the IMF administers could add stability to the global system….Strauss-Kahn saw a greater role for the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights, (SDRs) which is currently composed of the dollar, sterling, euro and yen, over time but said it will take a great deal of international cooperation to make that work.” (“International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn calls for new world currency”, UK Telegraph.)Can I tell you what this is all about? It’s about the dollar. That’s right. Strauss-Kahn was mounting an attack against the dollar and now the wrath of the Empire has descended on him like ton-of-bricks. Here’s the scoop from the UK Telegraph:

“Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has called for a new world currency that would challenge the dominance of the dollar and protect against future financial instability…..

So, Strauss-Kahn finds himself in the same crowd as Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, right? You may recall that Saddam switched from dollars to euros about a year before the war. 12 months later Iraq was invaded, Saddam was hanged, and the dollar was restored to power. Gaddafi made a similar mistake when “he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar.” (“Libya: All About Oil, or All About Central Banking?” Ellen Brown, Op-Ed News) Libya has since come under attack by US and NATO forces which have armed a motley group of dissidents, malcontents and terrorists to depose Gaddafi and reimpose dollar hegemony.

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