Showing posts sorted by relevance for query iceland. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query iceland. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wall Street on the Tundra

Vanity Fair | Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy—its currency (the krona) is kaput, its debt is 850 percent of G.D.P., its people are hoarding food and cash and blowing up their new Range Rovers for the insurance—resulted from a stunning collective madness. What led a tiny fishing nation, population 300,000, to decide, around 2003, to re-invent itself as a global financial power? In Reykjavík, where men are men, and the women seem to have completely given up on them, the author follows the peculiarly Icelandic logic behind the meltdown.

Just after October 6, 2008, when Iceland effectively went bust, I spoke to a man at the International Monetary Fund who had been flown in to Reykjavík to determine if money might responsibly be lent to such a spectacularly bankrupt nation. He’d never been to Iceland, knew nothing about the place, and said he needed a map to find it. He has spent his life dealing with famously distressed countries, usually in Africa, perpetually in one kind of financial trouble or another. Iceland was entirely new to his experience: a nation of extremely well-to-do (No. 1 in the United Nations’ 2008 Human Development Index), well-educated, historically rational human beings who had organized themselves to commit one of the single greatest acts of madness in financial history. “You have to understand,” he told me, “Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund.”

How did the economy get into this mess? Visit our archive “Charting the Road to Ruin.” Plus: A Q&A with Michael Lewis. Illustration by Brad Holland.

An entire nation without immediate experience or even distant memory of high finance had gazed upon the example of Wall Street and said, “We can do that.” For a brief moment it appeared that they could. In 2003, Iceland’s three biggest banks had assets of only a few billion dollars, about 100 percent of its gross domestic product. Over the next three and a half years they grew to over $140 billion and were so much greater than Iceland’s G.D.P. that it made no sense to calculate the percentage of it they accounted for. It was, as one economist put it to me, “the most rapid expansion of a banking system in the history of mankind.”

At the same time, in part because the banks were also lending Icelanders money to buy stocks and real estate, the value of Icelandic stocks and real estate went through the roof. From 2003 to 2007, while the U.S. stock market was doubling, the Icelandic stock market multiplied by nine times. Reykjavík real-estate prices tripled. By 2006 the average Icelandic family was three times as wealthy as it had been in 2003, and virtually all of this new wealth was one way or another tied to the new investment-banking industry. “Everyone was learning Black-Scholes” (the option-pricing model), says Ragnar Arnason, a professor of fishing economics at the University of Iceland, who watched students flee the economics of fishing for the economics of money. “The schools of engineering and math were offering courses on financial engineering. We had hundreds and hundreds of people studying finance.” This in a country the size of Kentucky, but with fewer citizens than greater Peoria, Illinois. Peoria, Illinois, doesn’t have global financial institutions, or a university devoting itself to training many hundreds of financiers, or its own currency. And yet the world was taking Iceland seriously. (March 2006 Bloomberg News headline: iceland’s billionaire tycoon “thor” braves u.s. with hedge fund.)

Global financial ambition turned out to have a downside. When their three brand-new global-size banks collapsed, last October, Iceland’s 300,000 citizens found that they bore some kind of responsibility for $100 billion of banking losses—which works out to roughly $330,000 for every Icelandic man, woman, and child. On top of that they had tens of billions of dollars in personal losses from their own bizarre private foreign-currency speculations, and even more from the 85 percent collapse in the Icelandic stock market. The exact dollar amount of Iceland’s financial hole was essentially unknowable, as it depended on the value of the generally stable Icelandic krona, which had also crashed and was removed from the market by the Icelandic government. But it was a lot.

Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, “Well, at least we didn’t do that.” In the end, Icelanders amassed debts amounting to 850 percent of their G.D.P. (The debt-drowned United States has reached just 350 percent.) As absurdly big and important as Wall Street became in the U.S. economy, it never grew so large that the rest of the population could not, in a pinch, bail it out. Any one of the three Icelandic banks suffered losses too large for the nation to bear; taken together they were so ridiculously out of proportion that, within weeks of the collapse, a third of the population told pollsters that they were considering emigration.

In just three or four years an entirely new way of economic life had been grafted onto the side of this stable, collectivist society, and the graft had overwhelmed the host. “It was just a group of young kids,” said the man from the I.M.F. “In this egalitarian society, they came in, dressed in black, and started doing business.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

cuba of the north

Video - Gil Scott Heron explains "the revolution will not be televised"

DailyKos | An Italian radio program's story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here's why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors. But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution. But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures. The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros. This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country. As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF. The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North. But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)

Sunday, December 08, 2013

why is violent crime so rare in Iceland? Evangelii Gaudium may have an answer

uscatholic | Earlier this week I read at the BBC about an incident in Iceland and mentally filed it in the category “Stories you’ll never see in the United States.”  From the report: "Icelandic police have shot dead a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment in the early hours of Monday. It is the first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation in Iceland, officials say."

I had to stop and read it again. The first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation…ever? That couldn’t be right. The article does go on to say that indeed, the incident is “without precedent” in Iceland.

Intrigued, I clicked on a related link that sought to explain “Why violent crime is so rare in Iceland.” I had no idea just how rare. A 2009 United Nations report on homicides lists the following numbers of homicides per country: Brazil - 43,909; United States - 15,24; Iceland – 1. One homicide in an entire year!

Certainly, there are many differences between the United States and Iceland. But as the report pointed out, the reason for the lack of violent crime is not due to a lack of guns--there are actually an estimated 90,000 guns in a country of 300,000 people. The biggest contributing factor? “There is virtually no difference among upper, middle, and lower classes in Iceland," explains the article. "And with that, tension between economic classes is non-existent, a rare occurrence for any country….A study…found only 1.1% of participants identified themselves as upper class, while 1.5% saw themselves as lower class.”

The situation in Iceland came to my mind as I’ve been reading more of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium. One of the quotes from the recent exhortation says: "When a society--whether local, national, or global--is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility" (59). The pontiff clarifies: It’s not because people who are excluded from systems are provoked to violence; the main issue here is that the system itself is unjust.

It certainly seems that in Iceland, where there are fewer people on the fringes, there seems to be a great deal more tranquility than in the United States, with our huge divide between the wealthiest the poorest, and increasing economic segregation. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Pope Francis asks. Will we ever see a day when the system shifts? It’s hard to tell, but if it does, it could help pave the way toward a more peaceful tomorrow.

the playbook we should all be focused on....,

guardianlv | As the saying goes, “there are two sides to every story,” but a more accurate articulation of this phrase would be “in any story, there are multiple sides, viewpoints, opinions and perspectives.” The story in Iceland is no exception. Socialist and Marxist blogs here in the U.S. say that there’s been a massive U.S. news conspiracy and cover up about the revolution in Iceland because the U.S. media is controlled by corporations, including banks, and the “powers that be” don’t want U.S. citizens getting any ideas to stage a revolution of their own. Some conservative Icelandic bloggers claim that while there was, indeed, a revolution, it did not lead to a successful or widely accepted new constitution. 

They say the situation in Iceland is worse than ever, and that international news reports of an effective democratic uprising leading to a better government are simply myths. Social media commenters are scratching their heads over why they were robbed of the story of Iceland’s pots and pans revolution.

As with most narratives, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle of all of these varying perspectives. One thing is clear, though: it’s nearly impossible to find one mainstream U.S. news report of the pots and pans revolution in Iceland, the resignation of Iceland’s entire government, and the jailing of the bankers responsible for the economic collapse there. Whether or not the revolution led to a more fair government or a workable and effective constitution is irrelevant to the fact that the U.S. media has essentially skipped over this story for the past five years.

Is it possible that mainstream media sources purposely covered up the Iceland story to appease their corporate sponsors? It doesn’t seem likely, and yet, what explanation could be given as to why this news never made it to the front pages of our most trusted media organizations here in the U.S.?
As Iceland struggles to regain its footing with a new government, U.S. citizens may or may not be able to look to Iceland as an example of perfect democracy in action. The real question, though, is why weren’t U.S. citizens given the information about the ousting of the Icelandic government and the jailing of the unscrupulous bankers? Are journalists in control of the mainstream media or is there some truth to accusations that big business may, in fact, be strong-arming reporters to keep quiet about world events that could inspire similar actions here in the U.S.?

Monday, August 27, 2012

people before parasites: iceland was right, the imf was wrong...,

thestreet | For approximately three years, our governments, the banking cabal, and the Corporate Media have assured us that they knew the appropriate approach for fixing the economies that they had previously crippled with their own mismanagement. We were told that the key was to stomp on the Little People with "austerity" in order to continue making full interest payments to the Bond Parasites -- at any/all costs.

Following three years of this continuous, uninterrupted failure, Greece has already defaulted on 75% of its debts, and its economy is totally destroyed. The UK, Spain and Italy are all plummeting downward in suicide-spirals, where the more austerity these sadistic governments inflict upon their own people the worse their debt/deficit problems get. Ireland and Portugal are nearly in the same position.

Now in what may be the greatest economic "mea culpa" in history, we have the media admitting that this government/banking/propaganda-machine troika has been wrong all along. They have been forced to acknowledge that Iceland's approach to economic triage was the correct approach right from the beginning.

What was Iceland's approach? To do the exact opposite of everything the bankers running our own economies told us to do. The bankers (naturally) told us that we needed to bail out the criminal Big Banks, at taxpayer expense (they were Too Big To Fail). Iceland gave the banksters nothing.

The bankers told us that no amount of suffering (for the Little People) was too great in order to make sure that the Bond Parasites got paid at 100 cents on the dollar. Iceland told the Bond Parasites they would get what was left over, after the people had been taken care of (by their own government).

The bankers told us that our governments could no longer afford the same education, health care and pension systems which our parents had taken for granted. Iceland told the bankers that what the country could no longer afford was to continue to be blood-sucked by the worst financial criminals in the history of our species. Now, after three-plus years of this absolute dichotomy in economic policymaking, a clear picture has emerged (despite the best efforts of the propaganda machine to hide the truth).

In typical fashion, the moment that the Corporate Media is forced to admit that it has been serially misinforming us for the past several years; the Revisionists are immediately deployed to rewrite history, as shown in this Bloomberg Businessweek excerpt:

...the island's approach to its rescue led to a "surprisingly" strong recovery, the International Monetary Fund's mission chief to the country said.

In fact, from the moment the Crash of '08 was orchestrated and our morally bankrupt governments began executing the plans of the bankers, I have written that the only rational strategy was to put People before Parasites. While I wouldn't expect national policymakers to take their cues from my writing, when I wrote out my economic prescriptions for our economies I didn't base my views on compassion, or simply "doing the right thing."

Rather, I have consistently argued that it was a matter of simple arithmetic and the most-elementary principles of economics that "the Iceland approach" was the only strategy which could possibly succeed. When Plutarch wrote 2,000 years ago "an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all Republics," he was not parroting socialist dogma (1,500 years before the birth of Socialism).

Plutarch was simply expressing the First Principle of economics; something on which all of the modern capitalist economists who followed in his footsteps have based their own theories. When modern economists produce their own jargon, such as the Marginal Propensity to Consume; it is squarely based on the wisdom of Plutarch: that an economy will always be healthier with its wealth in the hands of the poor and the Middle Class instead of being hoarded by rich misers (and gamblers).

So when the Bloomberg Revisionists attempt to convince us that Iceland's strong (and real) economic recovery was a "surprise"; this could only be true if none of our governments, none of the bankers and none of the media's precious "experts" understood the most-elementary principles of arithmetic and economics. Is this the message the media wants to convey?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

consent needed for debt repayments

Video - Michael Hudson: Peoples of countries indebted without their consent should refuse to repay odious debts

MichaelHudson | PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. In Europe, people in many countries are saying no to paying for the crisis and bailing out banks. And to a large extent leading the way have been people in Iceland, who have said no at the ballot box and on the streets. Now joining us to talk about that is Michael Hudson. He teaches economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Thanks for joining us again, Michael.


JAY: So you have colleagues you’re in touch with in Iceland a lot. What’s going on there now?

HUDSON: Well, as many people know, there was a bank failure, and Iceland’s currency plunged and then sort of fell off the pages in the paper. What people don’t realize is that what happened in Iceland has been used as a test case for what’s happening in Greece and what’s happening in Europe, and maybe what happens in the United States. When the three big crooked banks failed, they were sold out to vulture banks, basically, at $0.10 on the dollar. The vulture banks came in and are moving to begin evicting huge amounts of Icelanders from their homes. Ninety percent have their own homes. Three hundred thousand Icelanders have moved to Norway to get work. The country’s been plunged into a depression. Earlier this week, the Social Democratic prime minister gave a speech saying, essentially, we want to give away the country and the banks. They’re backing me. I’ve given the country away to the banks. Now, what do the population do [incompr.] the public opinion polls show that the fascist party there–they call themselves Social Democrats, but they call them fascists–have a 10 percent approval rating. That means a 90 percent disapproval. What they did was get together outside of Parliament with about 20 huge oil drums, and at the point where the prime minister began to speak in Parliament, they all begin banging the huge oil drums and any other noise makers they had in order to make it impossible to hear even the speech, so that any recording of the speech would have this huge din of noise going on. And they did that for the same reason that the people in Occupy Wall Street are gathering. They’re there to say, look, whatever deal this right-wing reactionary prime minister lady makes with Europe, we’re not going to obey it. As soon as we can throw these thieves out of power, we’re going to come in and we’re going to have another government, and we’re not going to pay, because if a government gives away to–the country to foreign bankers and foreign creditors and we don’t have a say in it, that’s not democracy. That’s [crosstalk]

JAY: Right. So they had a referendum about whether or not to do this, you know, use public money to pay off and bail out the banks. They voted no. Then what happened? I mean, it sounds like a lot of this is happening anyway.

HUDSON: The referendum was not whether to pay off the banks. The prime minister, again, had wanted to pay off Gordon Brown in England and the Dutch government–nothing to do with banks at all–for Icesave debt that the governments had to pay and did pay to bail out their own banks. The prime minister, Sigurdardottir, wanted to pay the money to finance England and Netherlands, essentially doing their own bank bailout, for which Iceland didn’t owe a penny. And the president, who normally is like a notary public and has to sign off, says, wait a minute, if we’re going to agree to pay debts that are going to plunge the economy into a decade of depression and force most Icelanders to leave the country to find work, they at least get to vote on it. That’s international law. So they voted no. And then the government said, oh, let’s have another vote, and finally a year later put the referendum again. The people voted no again. That referendum was against bailing out Gordon Brown and the British Labour Party and the Dutch government. It had nothing to do with the banks. This is yet another bank giveaway. The Social Democratic Party, not only in Iceland but throughout Europe, is basically the party of the bank lobbyists. And the other people are saying, wait a minute, we want an election to throw these guys out. They’ve been bought out. They’re crooks. And the government says, we’re not going to let you vote. Whatever we say, we’re going to do. There is no democracy here. And that’s why–.

JAY: And is there a party in Iceland that reflects this that isn’t going to be a right-wing alternative that does the same thing, or another form of right-wing alternative, if you want?

HUDSON: In the past, the only alternative to the Social Democrats were the neoliberal party that gave away the store to the banks to begin with. So they’re in the process of founding a new party. But without letting people vote, when you stop, when you just suspend voting and you won’t let people have any voice in government, no party can function, because there’s no vote, no chance to have a ballot. So the government is–essentially, the Social Democrats have imposed the dictatorship in Iceland that they’re trying to impose in Greece under the socialist government there and in other social democratic governments throughout Europe.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Michael.

HUDSON: Thanks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

why iceland voted NO!!!

Video - the people of Iceland voted in a referendum to not pay back the UK and Netherlands the money they lost in the Icelandic bank collapse.

NEP | The relevant EU directive states “that the cost of financing such schemes must be borne, in principle, by credit institutions themselves.” As priority claimants Britain and the Netherlands will indeed get the lion’s share of what is left from the Landsbanki corpse. That was not the issue before Iceland’s voters. They simply aimed at saving Iceland from an open-ended obligation to take the bank’s losses onto the public balance sheet without a clear plan of just how Iceland is to get the money to pay.

Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir warns that the vote may trigger “political and economic chaos.” But trying to pay also threatens this. The past year has seen the disastrous experience of Greece, Ireland and now Portugal in taking reckless private sector bank debts onto the public balance sheet. It is hard to expect any sovereign nation to impose a decade or more of deep depression on its economy inasmuch as international law permits every nation to act in its own vital interests.

Attempts by creditors to persuade nations to bail out their banks at public expense thus is ultimately an exercise in public relations. Icelanders have seen how successful Argentina has been since it imposed a crew haircut on its creditors. They also have seen the economic and political disruption in Ireland and Greece resulting from trying to pay beyond their means.

Creditors did not give accurate advice when they told Ireland that it could pay for its bank failures without plunging the economy into depression. Ireland’s experience stands as a warning to other countries about trusting overly optimistic forecasts by central bankers. In Iceland’s case, in November 2008 the IMF staff projected yearend-2009 gross external public and private debt at 160% of GDP – but observed that an exchange rate depreciation of 30% would push the ratio to 240% of GDP, which would be “clearly unsustainable.” But the most recent IMF staff report (January 14, 2011) shows end-2009 gross external debt at 308% of GDP, and estimates end-2010 gross external debt at 333% – even before taking the Icesave and other debts into account!

The main problem with Iceland’s obligation to Britain and the Netherlands is that foreign debt is not paid out of GDP. Apart from what is recovered from Landsbanki (now with the help of Britain’s Serious Fraud Office), the money must be paid in exports. But there has been no negotiation with Britain and Holland over just what Icelandic goods and services these countries would be willing to take in payment. Already in the 1920s, John Maynard Keynes pointed out that the Allied creditor nation had to take some responsibility just how Germany could pay its reparations, if not by exporting more to these countries. In practice, German cities borrowed in New York, turned the dollars over to the Reichsbank, which paid Britain and France, which paid the money back to the U.S. Government for their Inter-Ally Arms debts. In other words, Germany tried to “borrow its way out of debt.” It never works over time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

icelandic legislator: I'm ready to help NSA whistle-blower eric snowden seek asylum

Forbes | When WikiLeaks burst onto the international stage in 2010, the small Nordic nation of Iceland offered it a safe haven. Now American whistleblower Edward Snowden may be seeking that country’s protection, and at least one member of its parliament says she’s ready to help.

On Sunday evening Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, issued a statement of support for Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton staffer who identified himself to the Guardian newspaper as the source of a series of top secret documents outlining the NSA’s massive surveillance of foreigners and Americans.

 “Whereas IMMI is based in Iceland, and has worked on protections of privacy, furtherance of government transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers, we feel it is our duty to offer to assist and advise Mr. Snowden to the greatest of our ability,” their statement reads. “We are already working on detailing the legal protocols required to apply for asylum, and will over the course of the week be seeking a meeting with the newly appointed interior minister of Iceland, Mrs. Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to discuss whether an asylum request can be processed in a swift manner, should such an application be made.”

It’s not yet clear whether Snowden has officially applied for asylum in Iceland. A press contact for the Icelandic Ministry of Interior, which handles asylum requests, said that he hadn’t yet seen an application from Snowden and that the ministry couldn’t comment until one was received.

Snowden, who left his home in Hawaii in May and is taking refuge in a Hong Kong hotel, noted his interest in seeking asylum in Iceland in the Guardian’s interview, telling the newspaper that his ”predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values, The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland,” he said. “They stood up for people over internet freedom.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

should the irish do what the icelanders did?

Video - Pat Kenny interviewed Philippe Legrain, author of "Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy After the Crisis"

NEPKC | Voters in Iceland have rejected their government’s attempt to foist on them the costs of bailing out foreign creditors. Iceland’s oversized big banks had made bad loans throughout Euroland and when they failed uninsured depositors were on the hook. Governments in countries like the UK and the Netherlands bailed out their depositors and demand that Iceland reimburse them. However, Icelandic voters have now rejected that proposition twice. They feel they have suffered enough already from a financial crisis created by largely unregulated financial institutions that lent indiscriminately in foreign currency. Iceland does not use the euro and its tiny economy cannot be expected to cover all the euro-denominated debt run-up by private financial institutions. Those foolish foreigners who took risks by holding uninsured euro-denominated deposits in Icelandic banks with no access to a government back-stop in euros should take the loss. In my view, the voters have responded in a rational and responsible manner. After all, that is what market discipline and sovereignty are all about. If a saver does not like risks, she should hold only safe assets guaranteed by a sovereign power.

What about Ireland—which is now facing a similar situation—should its voters reject a taxpayer bailout of foreign creditors? Like Iceland, it faces a crushing debt because its government took on the liabilities of its oversized banks who also had lent indiscriminately throughout Euroland. However, unlike Iceland, Irish bank liabilities are denominated in the currency used in Ireland, the euro.

Ireland abandoned its sovereign currency when it joined the Euro. Effectively, it became like a US state—think Louisiana—within the EMU. This means it has little domestic policy space to use monetary or fiscal policy to deal with crisis. If we go back to 2005, Ireland’s government had the second lowest ratio of debt to GDP (national output or income) in the EU-15, with only Luxemberg having a lower debt ratio. The government paid an interest rate similar to that paid by the French and German governments; it had a strong AAA rating on its debt. In fact, it was running a huge government surplus of 2.5% of GDP (similar to that run by the Clinton administration in the late 1990s in the US).

Fast forward to this spring. The government deficit ratio was about 12.5% of GDP and credit default spreads on the government’s debt (equivalent to betting on default) reached almost 43 basis points over those of Germany, and it paid 6 percentage points higher to borrow than Germany did (on March 22 the spread on two year bonds hit a record 835 basis points—8.35 percentage points—over the rate on equivalent German debt).

Here’s the problem. There is a fundamental relation between economic growth and ability to pay interest to service debt. To be safe, a non-sovereign government should not pay an interest rate that significantly exceeds its growth rate. (A country that pegs its currency, operates a currency board, adopts a dollar standard, or adopts a foreign currency is by my definition “non-sovereign”.) If we compare Ireland today to the situation of Germany, because the Irish government pays 6 percentage points more, it needs to grow 6 percentage points faster than Germany does. To be sure this is a rough rule of thumb and there is some leeway. But the prospects for Ireland to grow that much faster than Germany—say 8 percent growth rate for Ireland versus 2 percent for Germany—approach a zero probability.

Indeed, the conventional way to generate government revenues needed to service debt is to cut government spending and raise taxes—which will only hurt Irish growth. Further, what Ireland needs is to increase the flow of euros in its favour through its foreign balance, i.e. by reducing imports and increasing exports to the EMU. The conventional prescription is slow domestic growth to reduce imports and enhance international competitiveness. This, too, further reduces domestic growth even further below the interest rate paid on government debt.

And that is precisely the plan adopted by Europe’s policy elite: the “Review of Labour Cost Competitiveness” released by Forfas on 29 October 2010 makes wage reduction its primary goal, while a report, “Ireland-Stability Programme Update”, was presented to the European Commission last month with a plan to “restore order to the public finances” through “an ambitious programme of structural reform” by increasing “competitiveness”. It is clear that the plan is to crush the economy to reduce living standards sufficiently to make Ireland a low-cost producer relative to the rest of Europe.

However, with the exception of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) recent economic data across the globe have not been good. That makes it harder for Ireland to export its way out of debt—which is the least painful path. I do not see alternatives means of earning the needed euros that are without substantial suffering. Yet, many other EU nations are in a similar situation (even if some are less dire)—and will be competing with Ireland’s rush to the bottom. This is not a battle Ireland is likely to win.

Unfortunately, slow growth of the economy usually means slow growth of tax revenue. It is fairly easy to imagine a scenario in which domestic austerity actually makes the budget deficit worse, which raises interest rates on government debt. A vicious cycle can be created, with debt service blowing up as growth continues to slow and interest rates rise with credit ratings agencies downgrading government debt.

What I am going to say next will sound quite controversial. Ireland transitioned from a government budget surplus of 2.5% of GDP to a deficit of 12.5% of GDP, which I am arguing is a disaster. The US government has had a nearly identical transformation (from 2.5% surplus in the late 1990s to a deficit near 12.5% of GDP today) but it faces no insolvency constraint and no default risk. The reason this is controversial is because we do face deficit hysteria in the US and a threat by credit ratings agencies to downgrade US government debt. Congress nearly refused to extend the self-imposed debt limit on the federal government—and it is still possible that the government might get shut down if Congress refuses to raise the limit in the future. So it might look like the US and Ireland are in a similar pickle.

But they are not. All problems in the US are self-imposed. Irish problems are largely imposed by “markets”—by market assessment that there is a very real chance of involuntary default. That is why Irish borrowing rates are rising, while US government interest rates actually fell (!) after the threatened downgrade. The only path to US default is political—failure of Congress to raise debt limits. The path to Irish default is “economic”—spiralling interest rates with low growth rates.

If Ireland had its own sovereign currency, the size of the government deficit or debt ratio would not be relevant to ability to pay. I will return to that below. But since Ireland gave up its currency in favour of the euro, it is not in the position of a USA or a Japan or a Turkey. It has far less domestic policy space—to run up budget deficits to boost growth, and to set low domestic interest rates. Nor can Ireland devalue the currency—the value of its euro is set at equal to the euro used throughout the EMU. As we have seen, crises in various EMU nations (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland) do not cause the euro to depreciate. That might sound counterintuitive but what matters is that there are relatively safe havens for those who want to buy euro-denominated debt, such as Germany. The “periphery” nations have to pay big premiums over the interest rates paid by Germany—and the euro remains (too) strong.

But let us look at how Ireland got into this mess. As I mentioned earlier, Ireland was the “paragon of virtue” just 6 years ago—its total outstanding government debt was just 8 months of tax revenue (publicly held debt was only 21% of GDP) and it was actually running budget surpluses. Then the financial crisis hit. That would have worsened the budget balance significantly—and probably would have generated a budget deficit. However, the government chose to guarantee its banks—which were vastly oversized relative to the size of the economy. That “busted the budget” and generated the current problems. In important respects, Ireland reproduced the Icelandic problem, with similar results. As we know, the people of Iceland have recently voted to undo the bank bail-out.

The question is how Ireland might respond to the will of its voters. Any rational response should try to undo the mess created by guaranteeing bank debt.

A recent report by Finnish bank expert Peter Nyberg avoids naming names (by contrast, the US official report on the crisis—the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report does so) but says that guaranteeing the banks was based on “insufficient information”. Well, that information is now sufficient to conclude that the bail-out was a mistake. It needs to be unwound. The documents must be made public. The guilty need to be prosecuted. Funds need to be recovered. Guarantees of crooks need to be withdrawn.

The case for Ireland to withdraw guarantees of bank liabilities is even stronger than the case for Iceland. Iceland wanted to guarantee only the deposits of its domestic residents, while allowing banks to default on those held by foreigners. In the case of Ireland, foreign creditors held large sums of subordinated debt and uninsured deposits. For years they had received higher returns on those inherently risky claims; but when the chickens came home to roost, foreign governments like the UK and the Netherlands chose to bail-out these holders (in many cases, their banks were the holders). That is bad policy, but it was their choice. Obviously, it rewards excessive risk taking, that presumably was already once rewarded by high returns. But now those governments want the Irish government to reimburse them for their foolish policy.

I do not (yet) want to recommend outright default on government debt. Public hearings on the bail-outs need to be undertaken immediately to determine what role fraud played in creating the government debt crisis. I’m not a lawyer, but government actions based not just on “insufficient information” but rather on “fraudulently constructed information” need to be undone. Exactly how that will play out through the courts I cannot forecast. As for the foreign government claims, Ireland ought to welcome them to pursue their case in court. Their claims appear to me to be without merit—but one never knows how courts will rule. At the very least, Ireland could buy a lot of time by going to court.

Meanwhile, Ireland needs jobs. A universal job guarantee is the best approach. The jobs would pay basic wages and benefits with a goal to provide a living wage. It would take all comers—anyone ready and willing to work, regardless of education, training, or experience. Adapt the jobs to the workers—as the late Hyman Minsky said, “take the workers as they are” and work them up to their ability, and then enhance their ability through on the job training.

The program needs to be funded by the central government. Wages would be paid directly to the bank accounts of participants for working in the program. Some national government funding of non-wage costs could be provided. I would decentralize the program, to allow local governments and not-for-profit service organizations to organize projects.

Now here is the problem. A sovereign government with its own currency can always financially afford such a program. Ireland could fund such a program with its own sovereign currency. In current circumstances this is problematic because Ireland abandoned its currency in favour of a foreign currency, the euro.

The big advantage of a sovereign currency is that government can “afford” anything for sale in its own currency. To keep our analysis simple, government then spends through “keystrokes”, crediting bank accounts.

Before all the Zombie Zimbabwean hyperinflation warriors attack, let me say that too much government spending can be inflationary and can create pressures on the currency. But by design a job guarantee program only hires people who want to work because they cannot find higher paying jobs elsewhere. It sets a wage floor but does not drive wages up. As such, it can never cause hyperinflation—it hires “off the bottom” at the program fixed wage, only up to the point of full employment. It never drives the economy beyond full employment.

What is the best way to guarantee long-term stability for the Irish economy? Full employment with reasonable price stability—something a universal job guarantee program can deliver.

For a sovereign currency nation the interest rate is a policy variable and has no impact on solvency. Government can keep rates low (it sets the overnight rate directly, and can if it desires issue only short maturity bonds near to that rate) and pays interest through “keystrokes” by crediting bank accounts with interest. It can never run out of keystrokes so will never fail to make interest payments unless it chooses to do so for noneconomic reasons.

For Ireland, this is a very serious problem. It does not have a sovereign currency. It cannot control its borrowing rates, which are set in markets. Nominal interest rates should not exceed nominal GDP growth rates. But as we know, markets have pushed rates to 10%. For Ireland to service debt at 10% interest rates, it will need Chinese growth rates. That seems unlikely.

So how should the government deal with loan repayments to the EU? As I discussed, I would encourage the government to unwind its guarantees of bank debt. If this cannot be done, then Ireland must have a bail out and debt relief provided by the ECB or the EMU through some other entity. That is actually in the interest of the EMU since much of the bank debt guaranteed by Ireland’s government is held externally by EU banks. The last resort alternative is default on debt and possible expulsion from the EMU. That will be painful. There isn’t anything Ireland can be expected to do without support from the EU—except for default.

So Ireland can learn from the Icelandic example. Both are heavily indebted because their banks were far too large and made too many foreign loans. A difference is that Iceland still has its own currency; however its banks made loans in foreign currencies. But in important respects, so did Irish banks since the euro is a foreign currency from the perspective of Ireland. Iceland’s citizens are pressuring its government to undo the bail outs. Ireland’s population can learn by example.

The Irish voters should demand accountability of government, including investigation of the bail out of banks. Government should pursue debt relief on all fronts. Voters should resist austerity programs. If all else fails, they should demand either default or withdrawal from the EMU (in practice these probably amount to the same thing).

And they demand jobs at decent pay. A Universal Job Guarantee program either funded by a newly sovereign Irish government, or funded by the ECB or other EMU institution is necessary to help revive the economy and to relieve suffering caused by high unemployment.

Monday, May 07, 2012

icelandic anger brings debt forgiveness

bloomberg | Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.

“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” said Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates. It costs about the same to insure against an Icelandic default as it does to guard against a credit event in Belgium. Most polls now show Icelanders don’t want to join the European Union, where the debt crisis is in its third year.

The island’s households were helped by an agreement between the government and the banks, which are still partly controlled by the state, to forgive debt exceeding 110 percent of home values. On top of that, a Supreme Court ruling in June 2010 found loans indexed to foreign currencies were illegal, meaning households no longer need to cover krona losses.

Crisis Lessons

“The lesson to be learned from Iceland’s crisis is that if other countries think it’s necessary to write down debts, they should look at how successful the 110 percent agreement was here,” said Thorolfur Matthiasson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, in an interview. “It’s the broadest agreement that’s been undertaken.”

Without the relief, homeowners would have buckled under the weight of their loans after the ratio of debt to incomes surged to 240 percent in 2008, Matthiasson said. Fist tap Dale.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

little iceland panics big banks

The Daily Bell | For those of us who believe that the world and especially the West is headed in the wrong direction with its endless emphasis on centralization and consolidation leading inevitably to a "one-world order," the saga of little Iceland versus the big banks is actually an inspiring tale. This little nation of 300,000 has twice now voted against accepting a nearly US$7 billion national debt – accrued by several reckless Icelandic financial institutions – that would make every citizen responsible for their banks' actions and the equally rash actions of the Dutch and British governments.

The problem is aptly summed up by a splendid little article in the Wall Street Journal (excerpted above) by Hannes H. Gissurarson out of Reykjavik, Iceland. He explains the evolution of the contretemps as follows:

How Icelandic taxpayers got stuck with this bailout bill is a strange saga. When the international financial crisis hit bottom in the fall of 2008, it became clear that the Icelandic Insurance Fund for Depositors could not cover all the liabilities of the foreign branches of the private Icelandic bank Landsbanki. In order to avoid a general run on their own banks, the British and the Dutch governments decided to reimburse depositors, for not only the principal, but also the interest due, in Landsbanki branches in their countries, up to a certain level.

These two governments then presented the bill to the Icelandic government: £3.5 billion. For the tiny Nordic nation of 320,000, this was an enormous sum, amounting to half of its annual GDP. It would be equivalent to a £700 billion claim on the British government. The Icelandic government protested that it was not responsible for deposits in private banks. It had fully complied with European law in setting up the Icelandic Insurance Fund for Depositors, financed by a levy on the banks.

If the fund could not meet its obligations, it was a problem for those who, at their own risk and for a quick profit, had entrusted their money to Landsbanki. But under threats from the British and the Dutch governments, supported by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, at the end of 2009 Iceland reluctantly signed a treaty according to which it had to pay the total sum, with stiff interest rates, to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The import of the above unfairness is powerful for those who believe (as we do) that the 21st century is marked by a clash between the truth-telling of the Internet and the dominant social themes – the fear-based promotions – of the Anglo-American elite that seeks a One-World Order. The power elite, which has been attempting to create global government for nearly a century now, or perhaps longer, needs to project a certain inevitability. Iceland's two rejections of attempts to force its citizens to pay for the financial mistakes of others must be causing nausea in the City of London and upending the sense of inevitability that is so important to the wretched bullying that has become the trademark signature of the European Union.

Monday, May 23, 2011

the althing

Wikipedia | The Alþingi, Anglicised variously as Althing or Althingi, is the national parliament—literally, "(the) all-thing" (= general assembly)—of Iceland. The Althingi is the oldest parliamentary institution in the world still extant.[1] It was founded in 930 at Þingvellir, (the "assembly fields" or "Parliament Plains"), situated approximately 45 km east of what would later become the country's capital, Reykjavík, and this event marked the beginning of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Even after Iceland's union with Norway, the Althing still held its sessions at Þingvellir until 1799, when it was discontinued for 45 years. It was restored in 1844 and moved to Reykjavík, where it has resided ever since. The present parliament building, the Alþingishús, was built in 1881, of hewn Icelandic stone.

The constitution of Iceland provides for six electoral constituencies with the possibility of an increase to seven. The constituency boundaries are fixed by legislation. Each constituency elects nine members. In addition, each party is allocated seats based on its proportion of the overall national vote in order that the number of members in parliament for each political party should be more or less proportional to its overall electoral support. A party must have won at least five percent of the national vote in order to be eligible for these proportionally distributed seats. Political participation in Iceland is very high: usually over 85 per cent of the electorate casts a ballot (87.7% in 2003). The current president of the Althing is Ásta Ragnheiður Jóhannesdóttir.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

european leaders fear civil unrest

Ottowa Citizen | The latest spate of grim economic news here Thursday included a plunge in consumer spending in France, tumbling factory orders in the United Kingdom, predictions of an even deeper recession this year in Germany, and continued concern about the impact of billion-dollar bailouts of the continent's troubled banking system.

Politicians are warily eyeing the public mood that led earlier this week to riot police being forced to rescue Iceland Prime Minister Geir Haarde, whose limousine was pelted by eggs and drink cans hurled by protesters.

Iceland's government will almost certainly fall in coming days, London School of Economics professor Robert Wade told Canwest News Service Thursday.

"The situation is very tense and very unstable," said Wade, who has just returned from a visit to Iceland where he spoke to about 1,000 people about the crisis.

Thousands of protesters have participated in sometimes-violent street demonstrations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Greece in recent weeks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that Europe could face the kind of demonstrations that paralyzed several capitals in the spring of 1968.

But one analyst said Thursday that the comparison could be an understatement.

"I think fears have moved beyond chic academic protests a la May 1968 in Paris," said Fredrik Erixon of the Brussels-based European Centre for International Political Economy.

A more apt comparison for Iceland and some of the Baltic countries could be the French Revolution of 1789, he warned.

fist tap to RC

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gears Just Grinding.....,

In this 28th edition of the GEAB, LEAP/E2020 has decided to launch a new global systemic crisis alert. Indeed our researchers anticipate that, before next summer 2009, the US government will default and be prevented to pay back its creditors (holders of US Treasury Bonds, of Fanny May and Freddy Mac shares, etc.). Of course such a bankruptcy will provoke some very negative outcome for all USD-denominated asset holders. According to our team, the period that will then begin should be conducive to the setting up of a « new Dollar » to remedy the problem of default and of induced massive capital drain from the US. The process will result from the following five factors studied in detail further in this GEAB:

• The recent upward trend of the US Dollar is a direct and temporary consequence of the collapse of stock markets

• Thanks to its recent « political baptism », the Euro becomes a credible « safe haven » value and therefore provides a « crisis » alternative to the US dollar

• The US public debt is now swelling uncontrollably

• The ongoing collapse of US real economy prevents from finding an alternative solution to the country's defaulting

Strong inflation or hyper-inflation in the US in 2009?, that is the only question.

Studying the case of Iceland can give an idea of the upcoming stages of the crisis. That is what our team has been doing ever since the beginning of 2006. This country indeed provides a good illustration of what the US and the UK should be expecting. It can be considered – and that is what most Icelandic people do today – that the collapse of Iceland's financial system came from the fact that it was disproportionate to the size of the country's economy.

Financially speaking, Iceland thought of itself as UK, in the same way as, financially speaking, UK thought of itself as the US and the US thought of themselves as the entire world. It is therefore quite useful to study the case of Iceland in order to understand the course of events that London and Washington will follow in the next 12 months.

Monday, May 23, 2011

spain's icelandic revolt

Presseurop | One morning in October 2008, Torfason Hördur turned up at what Icelanders call the “Althing”, the Icelandic parliament in the capital city, Reykjavik. By then, the country's biggest bank, the Kaupthing, had already gone into receivership and the Icelandic financial system itself was in danger of going under. Torfason, with his guitar, grabbed a microphone and invited people to talk about their dissatisfaction with the freefall of their country and to speak their minds.

The following Saturday Torfason’s initiative brought dozens of people back to the same spot. Those Saturdays in the autumn of 2008, rallying to the People's Voices movement, led to the proclamation to dissolve Parliament on January 23, 2009, and to hold elections. Now the murmur of the Icelanders has reached the throats of the thousands of demonstrators that gathered in several cities around Spain on 15 May: “Spain arise, another Iceland", "Our model – Iceland" were some of the yells from the crowds.

The Icelanders didn’t leave it at this. They shook the foundations of the government, went after the bankers who led them into bankruptcy and said ‘No' in a referendum on repaying debts of some four billion euros to the UK and the Netherlands. Better still: they formed an assembly of 25 citizens elected to carry out constitutional reform. It was an entirely silent revolution that, while the media was focused overwhelmingly on the Arab uprisings, was rescued from oblivion by a web of social networks beyond the control of a state.

A movement spawned by the internet
But those voices calling for real democracy are not just being raised in Iceland, a country of about 320,000 inhabitants. Here in Spain, the umbrella organisation for various Spanish movements – Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now) – already lists among its proposals some 40 points ranging from controlling parliamentary absenteeism to reducing military spending through to abolishing the so-called Sinde law (a law restricting on-line infringements of copyright).

To this federation some 500 organisations from all sectors have rallied. But not one single political party. Not one union, either. The demonstrations have broadened spontaneously, as was the case for those who rallied under the umbrellas of the "alternative globalisation" movements, and have evolved, one decade after the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on a more modest stage than the one demonstrators faced in the past at the World Economic Forum of the global elite in Davos, Switzerland.

All this is happening at astonishing speed via the Internet, which has amplified the echo of discontent and opened the lanes of cyberactivism to groups such as Anonymous, notable for intervening against companies like PayPal and Visa during the advocacy campaign for Wikileaks chief Julian Assange. Yet it was also there at the beginning of the revolts in the Arab world, to help people get round the censorship of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships.
When we grow up, we want to be Icelanders

Revolts that have grown and matured while French, Italian, English and Greek youth have been surging into the streets to oppose plans for the social welfare cuts that have been Europe’s response to the sharp economic downturn. Spain was waiting for its moment.

Monday, February 25, 2013

former federal reserve governor and columbia economist lying for $$$?

zerohedge | Some time ago we penned a post, titled"Mishkin On Iceland: "Nothing Is F*#&ed Here Dude" which discussed the former Fed director's March 2006 analysis "Financial (IN)Stability In Iceland." Those interested in our original observations of Mishkin's horrendous analysis (of what proved to be the first bankrupt European country of the new century, but certainly not last) can find them at the original link. Yet continuing with the Duderino references, today, new shit has come to light, which once again confirms that not only is the Fed populated by the most intellectually incapable and corrupt people, but that anything coming out of Columbia University (and the Ivy League in general) is not worth the paper it is printed on. Watch the attached clip to see a former Fed director go from comfortable, to fidgety, to stuttering, to thoroughly discredited, to in dire need of diaper change, in under 2 minutes. Last but not least, here is the soundbite of the year: "You have faith in the central bank." No further comment necessary. Fist tap Big Don.

Monday, October 29, 2012

monetary fascism - the rise of the financial industrial congressional complex

counterpunch | Challenging Monetary Fascism is much more dangerous for political leaders representing countries outside the G-20.  Populist leaders who put forward Nationalist policies are automatically in violation of one or more international ‘free trade’ agreements.  Non-conformity with these agreements ultimately results in trade sanctions, IMF or World Bank imposed austerity, or worse…

Friedman’s ideology is global and his rules of ‘free trade’ are deeply integrated into the laws of international trade.  All of our Nation’s international treaties on trade and banking are a series of interlocking agreements that force all nations to subvert their sovereignty and conform to Monetary Fascism.  It is a global pandemic built on a world-wide transmission system with universal powers of enforcement.  Sovereign Nations comply or they lose their credit rating.  Considering the world wide mass escalation of debt to GDP for most western nations, a small increase in the cost of borrowing would easily result in default and bankruptcy.
Today, Nation States face nothing less than financial Armageddon – the Sampson Option, if they do not comply with the demands of the global banking industry.  And it is with this weapon that the Financial Class has come to dominate the State.

Forget Al Qaeda, the only legitimate threat to U.S. and international security is the financial class.  They have created Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction (Financial WMDs) and they stand ready to take down the world economy.  They are more dangerous than any ‘terrorist group’, or even all of the ‘terrorist groups combined.

Exaggeration – consider what Friedman’s ‘free market’ banking system has done to Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Estonia, etc.  How many western nations has Islam overthrown?  Not one, and by comparison that should scare you.

Money has become the state and the traditional state is forced to serve money’s interests.  Everywhere the Financial Class is openly lording over sovereign nations.  Ireland, Greece and Spain are subject to ultimatums and remember Hank Paulson’s $700 billion extortion from the U.S. Congress.  The $700 billion was just the wedge.  Thanks to unlimited access to the Discount Window, Quantitative Easing and other taxpayer funded debt-swap bailouts the total transfers to the financial industry exceeded $16 trillion as of July 2010 according to a Federal Reserve Audit.  All of this was dumped on the taxpayer and it is still growing.

Why must the people of Ireland or Iceland accept the losses of the private banking sector as a public obligation?  Why must Greece accept austerity because its politician’s entered into a series of deals structured by Goldman Sachs specifically designed to deceive its EU partners?  If Goldman Sachs authored documents with the intent of fraud then Goldman Sachs is required to bear the losses and prosecution.  The taxpayer had no hand in this.

It is breathtaking.  Within the last 40 years ‘money’ has gained total control of each and every one of us.  Generations to come will enter this world burdened with the debts of their fathers.  It is inescapable and ubiquitous.  More than just a spider’s web, or a money-sucking vampire squid, it is a global pandemic that infects our very DNA.  It is the Original Sin of money – subject to compound interest, converted into a derivative, hypothecated and rolled into a CMO and then leveraged through CDSs.

The uber-wealthy will continue to aggregate wealth.  The banking system will continue to make ‘risk free bets,’ booking gains and shifting the losses to the public.  As these losses accumulate on the public balance sheet the state will be forced to seek austerity measures from the public. As austerity and debt levels increase the global economy will continue ‘circling of the bowl’ with increasing speed until we suddenly plunge into the vortex.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

european politicos protest doj wikileaks-twitter probe

CNET | On Friday, Twitter notified a handful of its subscribers with ties to Wikileaks that the U.S. Justice Department had obtained a court order for their "subscriber account information." The order covers accounts linked to Wikileaks including those of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of leaking classified documents; Seattle-based Wikileaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum; Dutch hacker and XS4ALL Internet provider co-founder Rop Gonggrijp; and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe hosted Assange and Jónsdóttir at an event in July 2010 devoted to protecting free speech. (Iceland enjoys close economic ties with the EU and has applied for full membership.)

We defend "the right to offend which is an essential part of freedom of expression, and we will stand with those who come under pressure to freely express their views," Alexander Lambsdorff, a member of the European Parliament from Germany, said at the event.

Around the same time, the U.S. government began a criminal investigation of Wikileaks and Assange after the Web site began releasing what would become a deluge of confidential military and State Department files. In November, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the probe is "ongoing," and a few weeks later an attorney for Assange said he had been told that a grand jury had been empaneled in Alexandria, Va.

The court order to Twitter (PDF), signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan in Alexandria, Va., is the first public evidence of this investigation. The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, CNET previously reported, will represent Jónsdóttir (but not the other account holders) and oppose the court order sought by prosecutors.

"It sort of feels to me as if they've become quite desperate," Jónsdóttir said at an conference in Canada today, referring to the Justice Department. She said prosecutors shouldn't expect to obtain much from accounts used by such a security-conscious, encryption-savvy cadre of activists: "None of us would ever use Twitter messaging to say anything sensitive."

Prosecutors send subpoenas to and serve other legal process on Web sites and Internet service providers every day. But because Jónsdóttir is one of 63 members of Iceland's national parliament who serves on the foreign affairs committee, the order appears to have caused an international diplomatic incident outside of Europe as well: last weekend, the Icelandic government summoned U.S. ambassador Luis Arreaga to a meeting.

Earlier today, P.J. Crowley, the U.S. State Department's spokesman, gave a speech in Washington, D.C. that defended the Obama administration's legal pursuit of Wikileaks:
WikiLeaks is about the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. It is not an exercise in Internet freedom. It is about the legitimate investigation of a crime. It is about the need to continue to protect sensitive information while enabling the free flow of public information...

We remain arguably the most transparent society in the world. The American people, through innovations including C-SPAN, are a well-informed citizenry, which is crucial to a functioning democracy. We can have a discussion about how well our democracy is functioning, and whether political figures are spending more time pandering or posturing on television than actually governing.

We are a nation of laws, and the laws of our country have been violated. Since we function under the rule of law, it is appropriate and necessary that we investigate and prosecute those who have violated U.S law. Some have suggested that the ongoing investigation marks a retreat from our commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and Internet freedom. Nonsense. These are universal principles and our commitment is unwavering.
A preliminary legal brief (PDF) that Assange's lawyers filed with the London court today takes issue with that characterization of the U.S. legal system, arguing: "If Mr. Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well-known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr. Assange should be executed."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

either The Discipline - or - the State will always win

Video - Don't let yourself get attached to anything you're not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

NYTimes | “I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed a 1,000-page secret study of the Vietnam War in 1971 that became known as the Pentagon Papers.

Mr. Ellsberg said he saw kindred spirits in Mr. Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old former Army intelligence operative under detention in Quantico, Va., suspected of leaking the Iraq and Afghan documents.

“They were willing to go to prison for life, or be executed, to put out this information,” Mr. Ellsberg said.

Underlying Mr. Assange’s anxieties is deep uncertainty about what the United States and its allies may do next. Pentagon and Justice department officials have said they are weighing his actions under the 1917 Espionage Act. They have demanded that Mr. Assange “return” all government documents in his possession, undertake not to publish any new ones and not “solicit” further American materials.

Mr. Assange has responded by going on the run, but has found no refuge. Amid the Afghan documents controversy, he flew to Sweden, seeking a residence permit and protection under that country’s broad press freedoms. His initial welcome was euphoric.

“They called me the James Bond of journalism,” he recalled wryly. “It got me a lot of fans, and some of them ended up causing me a bit of trouble.”

In late September, he left Stockholm for Berlin. A bag he checked on the almost empty flight disappeared, with three encrypted laptops. It has not resurfaced; Mr. Assange suspects it was intercepted. From Germany, he traveled to London, wary at being detained on arrival. Iceland, a country with generous press freedoms, has also lost its appeal, with Mr. Assange concluding that its government is too easily influenced by Washington.

He faces attack from within, too.

After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.

Friday, December 18, 2009

we are not iceland, we are not dubai!!!

NYTimes | Greece struggles to stay afloat as debts pile on. Ever since Greece’s credit rating was downgraded last week, its new Socialist government has fought back, saying it has the mettle to tackle the soaring deficit and structural woes that have earned the country a reputation as the weak link in the euro zone.

“We will reduce the deficit, we will control the debt and there will be no need for a bailout,” the Greek finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, said in an interview in his office here this week. “We are not Iceland; we are not Dubai.”

But Mr. Papaconstantinou may have good reason for the traditional Greek metal worry beads he fingered during the interview. Outside his office, garbage was piled high in Syntagma Square, a result of a two-week strike by trash collectors that ended Friday.

A student demonstration was advancing on the square a day after pensioners had taken to the streets. This week, protests for the first anniversary of the death of an Athenian teenager shot by the police turned violent, but did not cause as much damage as disturbances last year.

Common in Greece even during better times, such protests are expected to increase drastically once the government introduces austerity measures in its 2010 budget, including wage freezes and measures to scale back public sector hiring, steps it says are needed to bring Greece’s finances under control.