The great euro Putsch rolls on as two democracies fall

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

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Crowds gathered outside the Italian presidential palace after Silvio Berlusconi resigned on Saturday.
Photo: GETTY

Europe’s scorched-earth policies have begun in earnest. The inherent flaws of monetary union have created a crisis of such gravity that EU leaders now feel authorized to topple two elected governments.

As I long feared, the flood of cheap credit into Southern Europe and the slow death of Club Med industry by currency asphyxiation have together created such a dangerous situation for world finance that informed opinion is willing to turn a blind eye to EU sovereign trespass. Some even applaud.

The Greeks were ordered to drop their referendum on measures that reduce their country to a sort of Manchukuo, with EU commissars “on the ground”, installed in each ministry, drawing up lists of state assets to be liquidated to pay foreign creditors.

Europe had the monetary and fiscal means to contain the EMU debt crisis long enough for Greeks to give or withhold their crucial assent to this ultimatum in December.

It chose – under German-Dutch pressure – not deploy those means. Instead it forced Greece to capitulate by cutting off an agreed loan payment.

In Italy, the European Central Bank has engineered the downfall of Silvio Berlusconi by playing the bond markets, switching purchases on and off to enforce compliance with its written dictates (“La Lettera”), and ultimately allowing 10-year yields to spike to 7.45pc to drive him out.

Europe’s president Herman Van Rompuy swooped in to Rome to clinch the Putsch. “Italy needs reforms not elections,” he said.

We are not that far from use of EU judicial coercion, and then EU police power, and ultimately EU “border troops” – for those old enough to remember Soviet methods of fraternal assistance.

Chancellor Angela Merkel tells us that peace in Europe can no longer be taken for granted, and she is right. Her own Gothic actions and her inflexible imposition of 1930s Gold Standard contraction and debt-deflation on Southern Europe is itself preparing the ground for Europe’s civil war (hopefully pacific), a rebellion by the South against the North.

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How Goldman Sacked Greece

by Greg Palast for In These Times

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Here’s what we’re told:

Greece’s economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day’s work, retire while they’re still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for a pasha; and they’ve gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.

I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because of the document in my hand marked, “RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION.”

I’ll cut to the indictment: Greece is a crime scene. The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam. And––cover the children’s ears when I say this––a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding the smoking gun.

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This is an adaptation of an excerpt from Vultures’ Picnic, Greg Palast’s new book, out next week, an investigator’s pursuit of petroleum pigs, power pirates and high-finance fraudsters. Read the first chapter or just get the book here.

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In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up €2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.

Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.

Is Goldman that stupid?

Goldman is stupid—like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction. Why?

Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then. Their game: to conceal a massive budget deficit. Goldman’s fake loss was the Greek government’s fake gain.

Goldman would get repayment of its “loss” from the government at loan-shark rates.

The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece’s right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.

Cool. Fraudulent but cool.

But flim-flam isn’t cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.

When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman’s bats flew out. Investors’ went berserk, demanding monster interest rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.

Greece’s panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt. The price of the bond-bust insurance, called a credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through the roof. Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance? Goldman.

And those rotting bags of CDS’s sold by Goldman and others? Didn’t they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?

That’s Goldman’s specialty. In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS’s and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a “net short” position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial “products” would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked up another half a billion dollars on their “net short” scam.

But, instead of cuffing Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed. Blamed and soaked for the cost of it. The “spread” on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece’s corrupted debt) has now risen to — get ready for this––$14,000 per family per year.

Euro-nation, the secret Geithner memo, and the Ecuador connection

Why did the Greek government throw its nation’s fate into Goldman’s greasy hands? What the heck was in the “RESTRICTED” document? And why did I have to take it to Geneva, to throw it down in front of the Director-General of the WTO for authentication, a creepy French banker I otherwise wouldn’t bother to spit on, and then tear off to Quito to share it with the grateful President of Ecuador?

To give you all the answers would require me to write a book. I have: Vultures’ Picnic––in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters.

It’s really quite important to me that you read it, that you get it now. That’s a funny statement, I suppose, from an author. But if you’ve been reading my stories in The Guardian or watching my reports on BBC Newsnight, you’ve gotten the facts; but I really want to let you inside the investigations, to cross the continents with me and follow down the leads so that you can get a full picture of The Beasts. The Beasts and their trophy wives, intelligence agency go-fers, political concubines and bone-breakers. And besides, it’s enormous fun when it’s not scary as sh*t.

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Here’s a taste of Chapter 12 – The Generalissimo of Globalization – from the film-enhanced eBook edition. [And more on the 1% Greece-ing us, check out the upcoming issue of In These Times.]


EUSSR Threatens Greece With Bankruptcy

By Robert Winnett, and Bruno Waterfield

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Merkozy prepare for Press conference, Cannes, France, November 2011

Greece will be cut adrift if bail-out is refused, says EU

Greece last night faced the threat of bankruptcy within weeks after the EU said it would not provide any more funding to the beleaguered country unless it agreed to support the euro bail-out.

The Greek government is expected to be unable to pay wages for state workers and pensions next month without a planned injection of £8billion of EU cash.

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, met his French and German counterparts ahead of today’s G20 summit of world leaders.

Mr Papandreou has called a referendum on whether the Greek public supports the bail–out. The decision has plunged the rescue into turmoil.

After more than two hours of tense talks in Cannes, Mr Papandreou announced that the referendum would probably be held on Dec 4. He said: “This is a question of whether we want to remain in the eurozone; that’s very clear.”

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