Welcome to WWIII

I grew up in the shadow of the H-bomb. When I went to the movies, there was a cartoon, a trailer, and the news. The news was big, as big as the movie screen. In black and white there were images from Hiroshima, of atomic bomb testing, of mushroom clouds.
At times, I looked to the horizon watching for a mushroom cloud. I thought about shelter, about radiation, about contamination, about dying of radiation disease. WWII was still so much with me that at night if I heard an airplane and woke up, I still went to the window to see if German paratroopers were descending from the sky. I knew about paratroopers because of the newsreels but also because there was an airbase close to town and once a year they held an air force day.  We watched men parachuting out of a plane and floating to earth.
That’s how I knew what a machine gun sounded like. How the brass casings flew away from the machine, blinking and shining in the sunlight, and how the slugs made the sand spray up at the end of the shooting range.
Those were the sounds of war. In many places today, especially in Africa and the Middle East, they are still the sounds of war. But these are just sideshows, tribal conflicts over local privilege and territory. Even the long running conflict between Israel and the Iranians is a family feud.
The real war, WWIII is already well underway. Germany made two attempts at conquering Europe, of increasing its living space by invading its border states and Russia. Both attempts failed. Trench warfare failed, shock and awe Blitzkrieg failed.
The latest assault on Europe is succeeding or has been succeeding until lately. England, once again, is the isolated island nation, refusing to fall under the domination of Germany. Ireland has fallen, Spain, Portugal, a hodge podge of others, have fallen under the Euro assault. The way to dominate is no longer with guns and H-bombs, for who wants a radioactive wasteland? Who wants the cost of having to rebuild?
Assassination by financial instruments is cleaner. Debt is the slave’s yoke that fools happily put around their neck only to discover it is not so easy to take off. In the days of yore, money lenders knew that they could control a king by lending him money for his extravagances and his ambitions.
In Europe, the myth of equal states in the European Union has been exposed as a lie. Everyone dances to Germany’s tune. The French, as always, believing themselves more sophisticated than the Germans, their French wine in crystal glasses superior to German beer hall mugs, having deluded themselves, once again, that they are equal, or even superior to the Germans, have found that Germany rules.
The Irish have succumbed without a whimper. The Spanish are confused and distraught. Only the Greeks are putting up a fight. Democracy no longer exists in Greece. The governing party is at eight percent in the polls. How can they claim legitimacy? The Germans, like the Romans during the days of the Roman Empire before them, decide who runs the Greek government.  The Greeks, in their despair and fury, having turned on themselves, throw petrol bombs at their own police and the police fire tear gas at their fellow citizens. They’re fighting with the wrong people.
There is supposed to be an election in Greece in February. It is unlikely that any election will be held because the outcome is obvious. The people will vote for a government that will leave the Euro and the European Union. Compliant bureaucrats from Brussels, unelected civil servants, have become the new proconsuls.
The only hope for the Greeks to return to democracy is to leave the Eurozone, to give up the Euro, to go back to the drachma. If the Icelanders had given in to the demands of the European banks, they would have committed their people to decades of servitude. The people have no obligation to pay for the follies of the bankers who created a system that would turn everyone into a slave subject to an economic theocracy. The people have no responsibility for banks that make bad loans.
Behind Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, are the financial institutions that have created a situation where everyone is in their debt. The safety net of individual currencies was destroyed by the Euro. When a country spent too much, the interest it had to pay for borrowed currency went up and made borrowing less feasible. The system had built in limits. With the creation of the euro zone, those limits disappeared.  If Ireland borrowed more than it could pay, it didn’t matter because someone else would pay. The EU became like a wealthy family with some thrifty and some spend thrifts, some good managers, some not good managers, but all being able to borrow as much as they wanted because someone else in the family would cover the bill. Except, except, except, there’s much more to it than that.
Don’t blame the German people. They work hard. They save their money. They’re smart, industrious. They took on the burden of East Germany after it was ruined by the Russians. They don’t want the rest of Europe. They didn’t create economic warfare.
Lend enough money to the bankers of Iceland without caring whether it can be paid back or not because when the bankers have stolen as much as they can and fled, the people can be made to take on the burden of those debts. Or so it was thought. Debts that would have turned every man, woman and child in Iceland into an indentured servant. Iceland could have been conquered without a shot fired. Except the government said no.
Greece, save your people. Recognize that what you are suffering is because the world has plunged into economic warfare, with the same intent as any war, to conquer, to subjugate, to enslave. Find your freedom in the drachma. You do not even have the choice of being a well fed servant or being a poor free man. You will be a destitute servant. Your unemployment for young people is already over 40%. Your economy that could have been revived by the fall of the drachma, cannot be revived.
Outside of the euro, the drachma, like the Icelandic kronur would have fallen, Greece would have become a cheap holiday destination, Greek goods would have been exported as fast as they could be produced. Employment would have been next to zero.
The banks don’t care who suffers, just so long as it’s not them. They fear default swaps, swaps they never should have made. They loaned money they never should have loaned. They embarked on a plan to monetize everything and everyone, including generations not yet born. They made bad loans. Let it be their problem.
As for Merkel, let her intimidate someone else, the Portugese or the Spanish, or the Irish, but maybe when they see that Iceland has said no and avoided  becoming an indentured country and Greece does the same, maybe they’ll make the same decision. Will there be ruins? Yes, but they will be financial ruins, not the ruins of atomic weapons. Will there be suffering? Yes, but it cannot be avoided. Will the rules need to be changed so both politicians and financiers may not threaten democracy? Yes. Drastically.
WWIII. Will Merkel, Brussels and the bankers win it? Or will the people rise up and demand their freedom?

You’ve been ripped off

Do you read the news about the money problems in Europe any more? Do you bother to listen to the commentaries on TV about Greece and Spain and Portugal? Do you know what is happening in Ireland? Do you bother to watch the rioting and demonstrations in Greece? It’s all old news. News is defined as three days. More than three days requires constant new slants so the public doesn’t yawn and say “I heard that before.” Flick.
I mean, for most people, it’s probably “Flick.” on day one.
When I was an undergraduate at college, I got hooked on economics. I took theory of business, money and banking, labour relations, etc. I loved charts and diagrams. I liked the logic of supply and demand. That gives me an edge when it comes to reading stuff about the economy. By an edge, I mean that I actually understand some of it. A lot of it, though, doesn’t make any sense so how do most people who have no background in economics figure out what’s being talked about?
Most of the time, though, when I do watch TV, if stuff comes on about the economy, it’s “Flick.” Old movies are more fun.
I still haven’t got the Euro Zone and the EU and the EUC and who is in and who is out and where England is in all of this sorted out. Personally, until recently, I never cared. Except, of course, for what happened to Iceland. When the English declared the Icelanders terrorists, I lost it.
Awhile back, the Americans talked to decision makers around the world and convinced them that free trade was the way to go. A world economy was the goal. Go to where there is the cheapest production costs—little kids working under appalling conditions, no safety, hardly any wages—and sell the products in the countries where people had the most to spend. Great plan If you were a company with a lot of money. No business plan can beat it. Rip of the producers and the consumers.
The grease was cheap money. That’s your savings and my savings. The money we’d saved to live on when we retired. The money we’d expected to get five or six percent but the big companies wanted money at half a percent. What a break. What a business plan. Rip of the producers, consumers and the involuntary investors. Yah. The days of the Barbary Pirates was at hand again.
The problem, of course, was that cheap money is tempting. I mean, if someone says, you can borrow money at  two percent or three percent or four percent why wouldn’t you borrow it and buy lots? Why wouldn’t you buy big screen TVs, cars, houses? They were giving money away and since everybody was borrowing cheap money of course everthing was  going up in price. Why wouldn’t it. Those big screen TVs just flew off the shelf and those 60k SUVs roared out of the dealer’s lot. When you are using cheap money, price is no object.
The problem is that when you move all your jobs to places where there are no safety rules (they cost money), where you can pay people a dollar a day or so, where there are no pension plans, no medical plans, and those good, unionized jobs disappear and aren’t replaced, you replace producers with consumers and you take away their good incomes so they’re not good consumers anymore.
That’s when you get 40% of young Greeks unemployed. Four out of ten young people without a job. 43.1% of 15-24 years unemployed in Greece. Over all ages, 16 out of every hundred. In the United Kingdom 17.7% of 18-24 year olds unemployed. In Spain 21%. It makes the USA look good with 8.6%. Canada looks even better with an unemployment rate of 7.4%. But if you think it is going to stay there, you’ve got another think coming.
How many unemployed young people does it take to create a revolution?
In Ireland, the newest industry is bankruptcy tourism. Leave southern Ireland. Go to Northern Ireland to declare bankruptcy. The penalties are lot less severe. Who woulda thought it when we were being told about the Irish economic miracle. Amazing the mindless bullshit journalism presents as fact. 
In the UK unemployment is at a 17 year high. There are a million, count them, 1,000,000 young people unemployed.
The bright lights in Brussels and the IMF want to solve the problem by raising taxes and cutting government  jobs. Not their jobs, of course. Of course not. If the young people who are being told they have no future—no you cannot become a doctor, lawyer, teacher, university graduate, have a good job—use flash mobs to create a revolution and decide that what needs to be done is cutting off heads, the first likely to go are Brussels bureaucrats’ heads.
Of course, those young people without a future might question the trickle down theory. You know the theory. The rules were changed so a few people could make not millions but billions, and the theory was that some of it would trickle down when the billionaires buy expensive houses, cars, jewelry. Young people might point out that a pension of 400,000,000 dollars which some of the trickle down proponents have got would provide 8,000 people with a 50,000 dollar job for a year and that 8,000 people earning 50,000 a year might not just send a trickle down but a tsunami because they’d spend most of it on things like mortgages, food, clothes, education, their childrens’ teeth.  Eight thousand people will always have a greater multiplier effect than say one person (or even two) with the same amount of money.
I hate to say it but you’ve got to listen to the economic news. It’s only boring because you don’t know that they’re talking about how you’ve been and are being ripped off. I dunno. If someone was reading a report about how a burglar broke into my house, stole my furniture, trashed the house, totaled my car, I’d want to hear it. I’d want to know how he did it so I could set things up so he couldn’t do it again. I’d also like to see him in the slammer.
And if I was listening to how that thief wrecked my kids’ futures, I’d want to listen even more carefully and I’d keep in mind that old business maxim: Don’t get mad. Get even.
Flash mobs, the Occupy Movement are a start. The technology exists to marshal the victims. There are a lot more victims than perps. But that’s just the start. The real work is changing the rules. I was annoyed this summer when someone vandalized my car. I’m really mad about people who have vandalized my present and my kids’ and grandkids’ futures.

The one percent

Near the end of Independent People, Olafur of Yztadale says, “I’ve come to the conclusion that a fellow has no more chance of becoming an independent man these days than he had in the old days, if he goes and builds  himself a house. Never in the whole history of the country…has an ordinary working man managed to build himself a  house worthy of the name.” 
The main character, Bjartur, encouraged by the money to be made selling wool and mutton to Europe during WWI has made good money, builds a house, the market falls with the end of WWI and Bjartur and many others  lose everything for which they’ve spent a lifetime working.
The one percent are fine. They’ve used their connections and their capital to make large profits, to insure themselves against any downturn, even to profit from it. The person who holds the mortgage on Bjartur’s land takes it back for what is owed.
Bjartur and his family end up being dispossessed. Sound familiar? Just like today, just like the ordinary people who thought they would be able to own a house in Florida or Ariizona, or in any of the other states. The people who are now dispossessed, living in tent cities or, if they’re lucky, in a trailer of one sort or other, on a parking lot.
No one came and said, we’ll help you pay your mortgage. However, the government did come and help the banks. It’s good to have friends in important places.
There’s an old saying about borrowing money. If you borrow a little and can’t pay it, it’s your problem. If you borrow a lot and you can’t pay it, it’s the bank’s problem. The 99%, that’s us, aren’t in a position to borrow lots so when we can’t pay our mortgage, it’s our problem.
Of course, if you are Lee Raymond, Exxon chairman, and are given a retirement package that is nearly $400,000,000 (yes, that’s the right number of zeros), you don’t have to worry about having your mortgage foreclosed.  He’s part of the 1%.
Then there’s Edward Whitacre, AT&T CEO. He got 158.5 million.
Jack Welch seems like a shrinking violet. He was at General Electric. He only took a retirement package of 9 million. It turned out, he was taking 9 million a year.
None of these people are going to end up living in their car, or in a trailer on a Walmart parking lot, or in a tent somewhere while they search for a job. They’re not going to line up for food at a food bank or at a soup kitchen.
Judith Lavoie, in today’s Times Colonist, said “Seniors, children and the working poor are turning up in increasing numbers at Greater Victoria food banks.”
Food Banks Canada says that 700,000 Canadians, that’s two percent of the population, depend on food banks.
Seniors are on a fixed income but there is nothing fixed about the price of groceries. I went to the grocery store the other day and one bag of groceries came to $52.00. When I go shopping, I see people standing in front of the meat section, picking up a package of meat, looking closely at the price, then putting down the package. The government figures on inflation are an outright lie. It doesn’t matter what televisions cost, or cars, or the many things that the government uses to determine the rate of inflation. What matters are food, shelter, clothes and medications. The price of meat, the cost of rent, or clothes or medications won’t matter to Robert Nardelli. When he retired from Home Depot, he took $210 million in cash and stocks.
One of the social disgraces of Canada is that we have a whole class of people called “the working poor”. They work full time, they maybe have to hold two part time jobs to do it, but there isn’t a lazy bone in their body.  They work full time but the job doesn’t pay enough to cover their living expenses. They aren’t going to have any savings and there won’t be any pension except OAS and CPP.  Their lives are going to get worse. 
CIBC reveals that jobs being lost are being replaced by lower paying ones. How about losing a good job, the kind of job that will let you feed your family, pay the motgage, pay for the things that kids need as they’re growing up, save some money for rainy day and replacing it with working at a gasoline station, the front desk at a hotel, or as a cleaner at a hospital?
Where did those jobs go? Well, if you’ve got the price of a ticket, take a trip to China and check out the factories.  Or, if you can’t afford an airline ticket, go to IKEA  or just about any other major store in Canada. Check the lables. They probably say “Made in China.”  Have you bought one of those products lately?
China’s trade surplus in June was $26.9 billion dollars. That’s twice as much as it was last year. That’s because you and I and a lot of other people bought goods made in China. They were cheaper, after all.
The Chinese have so much of our money , and Europe’s money, and the USA’s money, that Europe is going cap in hand to beg the Chinese government to buy European bonds.
It’s all very strange isn’t it? There was a time when the USA and its allies went to war in Korea and Vietnam to keep China from expanding. Now, China owns more American bonds than any country in the world. China could drive the USA (and us) into a major economic depression bigger than the Great Depression simply by no longer buying American government bonds. China has so much money that the EU is prepared to grovel to get whatever the Chinese will give them.
Some fool of an economist thought you could give away good jobs for poor ones, could maximize profits for the one percent,  could beggar the working class and then the middle class, the ninety-nine percent, and still have a functioning society.  You can’t.  You get that outcome that terrifies the one percent. Social unrest. You get the Occupy Movement. You get riots in Greece. There’ll be more occupations. There’ll be more riots. There will be social revolution.
Do your part. Look for products that say “Made in Canada or made in the USA.” If enough of us do that, it’ll create a job. If more of us do it, it’ll create more jobs. We might have to pay a bit more for the product but if you’ve got a good job, it doesn’t hurt to pay a bit more. Having no job means not being able to pay anything.
If Laxness were still alive, he’d say, I told you so. You just had to read and understand my novels. Why didn’t you listen? It’s all there.