Saturday, July 11, 2015

Friends, Europeans, and Countrymen, Who Really Did Win Last Sunday's Greek Referendum?

I feel as if I’m standing at the bedside of my critically ill best friend near the moment of truth.  Wondering, as I pray, if tomorrow will yield regained health or bitter mourning.

Very late Thursday night, with the help of the French, Greece put forth a new proposal showing serious movement on its part toward meeting the demands of its creditors for a third bailout, this one seeking $60 billion.  Today (Saturday) nineteen EU Finance Ministers (the Eurogroup) will assess that proposal in advance of Sunday’s meeting by the heads of all EU member nations on the fate of Greece in the euro.  

Greece's New Finance Minister

Despite the extraordinary movement shown by Greece’s proposal—so much so that it has many wondering whether NAI, not OXI, supporters won last Sunday’s Referendum—there is still a rocky road to salvation.  Many simply do not trust Greece to implement its proposals, and there are yet individual EU member nations’ parliaments left to agree to a third bailout.

As reported by Reuters early Friday, a positive Eurozone summit on Sunday could initiate negotiations with Athens on a new three-year bailout program and bring about the release of urgently needed bridging funds once Greece enacts key immediate reforms.

To me the alternative to working all this out is too horrid to contemplate…though some journalists have tried.

So, to express my feelings on the situation, I’ve taken the liberty of composing a little ditty that some of you might see as faintly resembling words once spoken by Mark Anthony—no, not the singer, the one made famous by the Bard in Julius Caesar:

Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony

Friends, Europeans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to unbury Hellas, not to praise it.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Hellas. The noble Critic
Hath told you Hellas was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Hellas answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Critic and the rest–
For Critic is an honourable soul;
So are they all, all honourable souls–
Come I to speak at Hellas’s near funeral.
Hellas was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Critic says Hellas was ambitious;
And Critic is an honourable soul.
Hellas hath brought much greatness to Europe
Whose presence did the general well-being fill:
Did this in Hellas seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Hellas hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Critic says Hellas was ambitious;
And Critic is an honourable soul.
You all did see that in Parliament
Was thrice presented Hellas a bailout crown,
Which Hellas did not once refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Critic says Hellas was ambitious;
And, sure, Critic is an honourable soul.
I speak not to disprove what Critic spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Hellas once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for Hellas?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Hellas,
And I must pause till it come back to me,
Beside Hellas bright and alive once more.

Pray harder, folks, Sunday is almost upon us.



  1. Bravo, Jeff! I've been keeping up with the news about Greece and wondering if anybody can actually work out what on earth is going on. Certainly not me!

    1. Or the Greeks, or the ruling party, or the party leader! In other words, you're not alone!

  2. The rich win. The smug get smugger. The poor get punished. The children suffer. Mercy dies!

    1. Are you talking about New York City?

    2. You are being snide, Bro, but I forgive you. One of your loved ones is at death's door.

      What I said applies to the whole world, I guess, but I was talking about Greece and Europe. My take on what happened is this. Greece was the target of terrorists in the form of predatory bankers in collusion with powerful, corrupt traitors to the country. Predatory bankers love sovereign debt because it never goes away. They roll it over and roll it over at unconscionable interest rates. Until the hole is so deep, there is no real hope of collecting. Then they call for their principle. When the corrupt powerful men and the bankers have gone away with their pockets FULL, the government is stuck with paying the loan. What's different in Greece's case is that the"government" is the EU and its central bank.

      So the terrorist attack is over, only shambles and ruined lives are left behind, the damage is blamed on the innocent, often injured bystanders, who are punished and vilified.

    3. In all of that, is there any blame to be attributed to those who actually benefitted from the borrowed money but never paid any of it back?

      Hugs and kisses,
      S. Whiplash.

    4. Those slime balls are the powerful, corrupt traitors I referred to above. They signed the paperwork the bankers prepared. F*{k, for all I know, they are probably members of the Board of Directors of the some of those banks now.

    5. What I know for sure is that austerity in Greece is not hurting the bankers or the slime ball traitors ONE BIT!

  3. This exchange, Sis, gives just a slight taste of what is now tearing at the very fabric of Greek life. That referendum so badly polarized the people that some no longer speak to or patronize old friends that voted differently. You have no idea--make that no one has any idea--of just how far reaching those effects will be on the country.

  4. And all of this makes me wonder when a U.S. politician is going to stand up say, "Enough!" to our country's endless borrowing and overspending. It's always "the other party" that's spending on the wrong things. When will the U.S. voters DEMAND politicians who will pledge to end the growth of the national debt, before we become GrUSA?

    1. EvKa, here's one guy who thinks he has the answer...though he's missed the boat on what's really happened in Greece...

    2. Thanks, Jeff, I hadn't yet seen Krugman's column. Cutting spending (except perhaps on the endless wars...) is not in my mind. Raising taxes on the wealthier to help balance the budget is more what I had in mind. I'm not an economist (Hallelujah! One of only 3 classes in college that I got a D in, INCREDIBLY boring stuff, IMHO), but regardless of what games you play with money, sooner or later an ever-increasing national debt WILL come home to roost, and it's been increasing for what now seems a majority of my life. I don't give a GGD what the GOP says, cutting taxes on the wealthy does NOT create jobs. Putting money in the hands of the majority, so that SPENDING is increased, spurs the economy and creates jobs. So increase taxes a few percentage points on the extremely wealthy, and raise the minimum wage to a livable range (I'm thinking $20/hour, although $15 would be a good start), and more people will be paying more taxes, well... 'nuff said. Political arguments are like opinions, and you know what opinions are like... :-)

    3. EvKa, I've always thought "trickle down economics" to be a misnomer. "Tinkle down" is more accurate as reflecting what that policy actually ends up doing to those downstream.

      I agree with Pope Francis on the threat presented to our civilized way of life by the gross income disparity across much of our world. That said, swinging the pendulum too far in the other way (not a threat of happening in this political climate I admit) is not an effective remedy. And one need look no further than Greece to see an example of why. The taxation related policies instituted in Greece in the early 80s (just to open another can of comments) led to the flight of job generating businesses from Greece, and a refocusing of Greek entrepreneurial interest on how best to tap into the "free" money coming from the EU. The roots of today's crisis lay in those times (here come even more comments).

      As in all things, my friend, life requires balance ... though it's hard to imagine how you and I would be received should we ever find that state. :).

  5. I'm about to say something heretical. Why not bill the top one percent rather than the weaker of the population. And God Help us Trump is leading in the polls. I need to read books that carry me away. Is there such a safe place anymore?

    1. Of course, that is the answer, Lil, but somehow the power brokers and decision makers find "good" reasons to side with the rich against the poor. "...A loose affiliation of millionaires
      And billionaires and baby...don't cry, don't cry." --Paul Simon

    2. I'm actually rooting for Trump, Lil, since virtually ANYONE could beat him in the general election, and virtually anyone would be better than what the GOP has to offer these days...

    3. I am sorry to say, EvKa, that at this point in 1979, both George H.W. Bush and I thought the same thing about Ronald Reagan. The guy who ruled for 8 years and gave birth to the 1%.

    4. In Greece, Lil, the ship owners are protected from taxation by the Constitution and the scion of the nation's wealthiest and most philanthropic family advocates changing that dramatically. So there are some rich folks sympathetic to that.

      On the subject of Trump, I really haven't followed the polls, but it doesn't surprise me in the least that he's in the lead for a simple reason:

      There are so many candidates in the Republican race that the vote is broadly split...except in one category--the flat out insane. And that group is firmly in Trump's camp so he'll doubtlessly poll high until the candidate crowd thins out.

  6. I agree with Annamaria on Greece. Five years of austerity has brought 25% unemployment, 50% youth unemployment, higher impoverishment, homelessness, lack of health care for many, hunger, elderly people looking through garbage cans and committing suicide.

    And who has benefitted? 61% voted NO in that referendum, so then Tsipris, probably feeling Greece was held hostage by the Troika (EC, IMF, ECB), submitted a proposal that looks like what the majority rejected. How do those voters feel now? Probably betrayed, confused, wondering what to do.

    But still Tsipras offering to raise taxes, cut pensions more (!) when some have had 1/3 cut from their pensions or more, and create more suffering for the people -0 and still the Europeans bankers weren't satisfied. Do they want to take everything and force all Greeks into starvation?

    And let's not forget who's at the head of the banking bloodsuckers? Wolfgang Schaubel, finance minister of Germany! Germany, which began two world wars and is responsible for the death of millions of people. Sure, they want to fleece Greece and other poorer European countries for their benefit -- and they're using bigotry against the Greek people, too, in the German press.

    Remember Germany got debts reduced and longer credit in 1953 from many countries, even Greece, after destroying countries and populations.

    And I agree about taxing the rich here and raising the minimum wage. I'd like to see everyone have health care, including people in the 21 states which refuse to expand Medicaid under the ACA, and jobs.

    The top 1% is just sitting on their capital. Warren Buffet even complains that his secretary pays a higher rate of taxes than he does! At least he donates to charities. Many of his ilk do not.

    1. It's not hard for me to agree with Annamaria, or you, Kathy, as to where your hearts are. Mine is there too. Our difference lies in style. Stereotyping a people or profession as an explanation for or against a principle is something I do NOT agree with. I share a history as touched by German atrocities in WWII as any American not actually in Europe at the time. I was raised among those who did suffer, I heard of the horrors, had family wiped out, saw the serial numbers on the arms, and the missing arms. I also understand how some will never be able to forgive Germany. And Germany knows that too.

      But to fall back on stereotypes is to perpetuate the very virus that that brought on what we cannot--and should never--forget....such as the Nazi connotation for buzzwords like "banking bloodsuckers."

      I'm not sure if you're aware that the Greek Referendum only reached the stage of being voted upon by the Greek people (just a little more than 40% actually participated) because far left SYRIZA and its far right coalition partner were able to muster the unanimous support of Golden Dawn--Europe's most violent neo-Nazi party with 18 members in Greece's parliament. Would you take that choice of political bedfellows by Tsipras as evidence of the Greek people being bigoted? I'd hope not.

      I'd also hope the German people won't take the rhetoric of the past few months coming out of Athens as evidence of how "the Greek people" regard them. Though in today's highly charged environment, I'd hate to think of the fate of Greece if left to referendum votes in EU member states.

      This should not about dueling stereotypes, but economic policies. Hmm, I sound a bit like a Miss World candidate saying all she wants is World Peace.

      Next week I promise a blog on a far less controversial subject... ISIS ,,, through the eyes of a guest blogger who's a friend and world class expert on terrorism.

    2. Hang on a sec, Bro. While the Greeks are being called dirty names in boardrooms and palaces in the colder climes of Europe, you are taking sides against Kathy and me because we are "stereotyping" bankers? I admit I used the words slime balls, but I was referring to corrupt Greeks at the time. I am calling for a plan that will result in economic growth for Greece and mercy toward the suffering innocents of the poor and lower middle class, the children and the starving elderly. And so is Kathy. And you are shooing us away by saying we are using stereotypes in our comments? Take breath, Jeff. Your brain needs oxygen.

    3. Who, pray tell, isn't for that? I'm here in the midst of the reality. Trust me, this is a crisis of trust and recrimination (internally and externally), brought on by a lot of missteps, and the rhetoric is getting frighteningly doctrinaire--with no tolerance shown toward those expressing deviating opinions even though there is more than enough blame to go around to all political persuasions.

      Tensions are high among a frightened people. I'm just hoping enough realize it's better to build with stones rather than throw them.

      And if you live in Athens in the summer, you learn to live without oxygen. :)

    4. I can believe that people are frightened and polarized. But if your are telling the truth and everybody is for the things I am for, why do they speak nothing but recrimination. If they really want what I want, where are they stating those goals. AND where is the council of the best minds available, people of good will, putting together a plan for economic stimulus for Greece, writing and enforcing new laws to break the back of the endemic corruption, the blueprint for how providing basic food, healthcare, and education for the suffering in the interim. Yes, that would be costly, but this debacle is costing and will cost the world much more than solving the problem. If we could kick bigotry and smug superiority and the male ego out of the room, we might have a snowman's chance in Athens in summer of making an omelet out all these broken eggs and some lemonade out the lemons.

    5. Sis, when I get back I'll explain to you what is going on. As for the element of male ego, you obviously don't know that the MOST polarizing egotist in the Greek government today is the Speaker of the Greek Parliament and HER name is Zoe, which is about the only good thing I can say about her.

  7. I criticize the bankers in the ECB, not just Germany, but Germany has been the strongest force against any compromises with Greece, debt reworking, lengthening the time for repayments. This is said constantly that Merkel and Schauble are the toughest and least compromising. Every day the press says this.
    I do not sweep all Germans in a broad brush at all. I just ate dinner with some folks from Berlin. Some friends just visited Berlin and Hamburg and met great people as they found plaques and stones in front of houses of WWII resisters.
    I'm not saying that at all. Germany is like any other country, made up of all sorts of people. But I do remember Germany started two world wars and what else the country did and its in a good economic position and is bullying other countries. This is not in the "German character, as some say. i would not.
    But as who the toughest hardliners are Germany is up there. That is reality. And I'm saying that the Greek people, given what happened during WWII and afterwards when Germany was allowed to restructure their own debt and some was cancelled, Greece was one of the countries that agreed to it. So why won't the German government give Greece some slack and care about the Greek people. And I'm not saying that German bankers are crueler than others. I am saying that bankers want debts and interest paid -- the heck with people's lives, impoverishment, lack of health care, homes, food, etc.
    Also, it is true that German media and others are stereotypically criticizing the Greek people with vitriol.
    And the Greeks feel squeezed; they are the ones suffering the most here. And they have a right to be angry about it.
    I criticize bankers here who don't care about human lives, and the quality of them -- and those in Congress who want to cut health care, women's rights, environmental protections, deny equality, promote the Confederate flag, etc.

    1. As I said, Kathy, next week on to ISIS. :)

  8. I won't discuss ISIS.

    However, look at this morning's Guardian for a rundown of various EU governments' views towards Greece. Wolfgang Schaubel leads the hardliners and his positions and demands are cruel and impossible; Merkel agrees with him. Some other governments are following their lead.

    I hope that the EU financial ministers ease up and stop punishing Greece and further gouging its people.

  9. Nor will I comment on the Iran-nuclear negotiations.

    However, no promises on the U.S. presidential election campaigns. With a cast of thousands aiming for the GOP nominations, the blogosphere and comedians will have material for years to come.

  10. I like kittens.

    Which seems to be a relatively safe comment--perhaps the only safe comment--that can be made here. :)

  11. I don't know. Long hair? Short hair? Breeders" Rescue sanctuaries? Outdoor? Indoor? Breeds? Tabbies?
    Lots to discuss with kittens, adorable as they are.
    I'll advocate for rescues; shelters are full of kittens and cats these summer months.

  12. Guardian now says that Germany (Merkel) says Greece must surrender fiscal sovereignty over bailout, in measures meant to punish Greek people for the NO referendum vote.
    An EU official describes what Germany and its allies are doing as "extensive mental waterboarding."

  13. I usually do nt engage inn political controversy, but here goes. I am the proud mother of four working children and seven working grandchildren (including spouses). They are well-educated, hard working, morally upright, and care about others. Are they perfect;; of course not, but they form a group that makes for good citizens. They know what enforced austerity is; but for them it is called taxes. And every paycheck is a reminder. They see themselves caught between the very wealthy and a growing group of people entrenched in entitlement. They are the middle class and they are increasingly bitter. They don't see that taxing the rich will benefit them or their children. They just think that those who cry gimme will get even more. Somehow the poor have become by definition noble. I am a specialist in 19th century British lit. and it is during that time that the middle class started to be scorned. Matthew Arnold's distinction between Hellenism and Hebraism (no this was not anti-semuitic and would be picked up by those like Tawney and Weber(, Actually Arnold's contempt for the bourgeois is more applicable today than ever, when class seems to be determined by how much money one can spend. I recently saw an ad for sunglasses for $10,000. My point is that there is a long history of contempt for the middle class and it has worked its way into the polarization of the very rich and those who claim entitlement paid for not by the rich but the despised and beleaguered middle class/

    1. The middle class is by far the most important class to a society, it is the buffer between extremes and lends hope. You're right, Barbara, the concentration of wealth in a few is a huge threat to the world.

  14. Suggest folks read Paul Krugman's comments on the Eurozone and Greece.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. A bit strident and advocating Krugman's piece wouldn't you say? I really like his writing and respect his opinions, but for some reason I don't understand he just doesn't get it about Greece. He also seems to be a bit behind the curve on discerning between demands and negotiating tactics. In the deal (hopefully) reached between Europe and Greece Tsipras has backed down from virtually every promise he'd made to the Greek people in blaming the prior government for its lack of success against the same intransigent Europe. Yet, now it's somehow the European's fault for not allowing his demands to prevail. Krugman also argues the Greeks played no part in the (now seemingly wrongly predicted) "fatal blow" to the European project. Has he been in a coma for the past five months as Greece's government practiced an insane (if not duplicitous) form of negotiations?