GREEK HOPE Yanis Varoufakis Named Greece Finance Minister

BAM! Yanis Varoufakis was just confirmed as Greece’s new finance minister. I’ve been writing about Varoufakis since 2012. You can see all the posts I’ve written about him here.

First off, no he is not a libertarian. BUT he is genuine, he is not a politician (yet), and he’s got fire in his soul. That much I can tell. I’ve been fascinated with him for years because he has been the lone (and loan) voice of sense in the entire Greek mess. While he is not a libertarian and believes in government regulation, he does know and understand that the state is the entrepreneur’s biggest enemy. This much he said in a recent interview.

He’s articulate, speaks like a human being instead of in moronic soundbites and brainfarts that make you want to vomit, and his English is impeccable. And he doesn’t fake his conviction say, like Elizabeth Warren.

Oh, and he isn’t a fat disgusting lizard-looking slob of an embarrassment like his predecessor Evangelos Venizelos. (I only insult politicians for being physically repulsive.)

I mean really, which guy would you want to be a Finance Minister? This guy:

Evangelos Venizelos, Fat Lizard Man
Evangelos Venizelos, Fat Lizard Man

Or this guy:

Yanis Varoufakis
Yanis Varoufakis

No contest. He also understands how the current bailout setup is only bleeding private Greek citizens to the last drop.

What happens is this. A government spends too much money loaned to them by fractional reserve banks that are inherently unstable. The government then scares everyone into believing that if it defaults, the planet will explode. Therefore, private taxpayers are scared into giving up a bunch of money so the government can keep paying the banks their interest, which if they don’t get, could start a chain reaction of bankruptcies due to the inherent instability of fractional reserve banking. Meanwhile the private economy has no capital left to grow the economy because it’s all going to the government that keeps paying off the banks.

In the case of the Greek bailout, it is all of Europe’s taxpayers that has to finance the Greek government, so it’s much worse.

Varoufakis’s solution you can listen to here, which I wrote about almost 3 years ago. It’s a little nutty at the end where he wants to Europeanize the entire banking system which will have the effect of spreading out Greece’s government’s losses over the entire Eurozone. This will dilute the effect, but won’t solve the problem. It’ll just put it off for another decade or so until the entire continent’s governments collectively run up their debts even higher.

But in any case, it doesn’t matter. Varoufakis won’t get that far. He’ll insist on defaulting, which really is the only honest thing to do. Better say you can’t pay and go home than rob taxpayers even more just so you can keep paying interest payments a little longer while your debt keeps going up anyway. Am I sure it’s going up? Yes.

greece-government-debt-to-gdp

I’ll keep saying it, but once Greece defaults, there will be a crazy bond run on Italy. Italy will fall, and then the Eurozone will either split or collapse entirely.

But if anyone has the guts to push the default button and see what the hell happens, it’s Yanis. I’m totally psyched.

GO PUTIN Russia Freezing Spending In Response to S&P Cut

Putin’s getting smart. It’s nice to see a head of State do something that makes sense economically. All signs point to the fact that whoever is running Russia’s economy – and it probably is not Putin – really knows what he, or should I say she, is doing. I believe it is Elvira Nabiullina who’s really running the show, and so far, she’s awesome.

First of all, despite a gigantic Ruble collapse to 78 Rubles to the dollar from 33 earlier in 2014 (we are now at 67), Russia has added to its gold supply. When your currency is in free fall, you don’t generally buy gold. You sell it in order to prop up the value of your currency. But Russia did not do that. Instead, it ate through some of its paper forex, which is to be expected. Nabiullina is intent on keeping Russia’s gold. That is huge, and very good for the Ruble long term.

Second, in response to the S&P (those geniuses who can’t predict a single economic crisis and gave Lehman a AAA rating just before it collapsed) cutting Russia’s bond rating to junk status, Putin (with Nabiullina’s advice I assume) announced a total government spending freeze.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced Tuesday that the government has adopted an anti-crisis plan that will freeze the level of spending. The plan also sees the budget returning to a surplus as soon as in 2017 and the government preparing structural reforms “so that we do not burn recklessly through Russia’s sovereign reserves.”

Wow – a State actually freezing spending in response to an economic crisis instead of printing and bailing out. This is somethin’ else. I love it.

Russia may go through some turmoil until oil prices rise again, and they will, but Nabiullina, or whoever is really running the show, is setting Russia up to devour the West when its their currencies’ turn to collapse. With the ECB printing €50B a month and the US M2 money supply growing at close to 7% annually, oil will eventually turn back up.

When it does, the Russian bear will roar.  Right now its hibernating. But not for long.

For those interested in placing bets on Russia, the relevant ETF is RSX.

Greek Domino Effect – Does Italy Guarantee Greece Bonds?

There’s a Mises.org article circulating now about how the recent Greek elections could end up shattering the Eurozone. This really is uncharted territory because nothing like the Eurozone has existed before, with separate sovereign states sharing a fiat currency controlled by a central bank.

The article is titled “How Greek Default May Still Unravel the EU“. Despite a few strange contradictions between the beginning and the end of the article, what I found most interesting was this part:

Greece currently owes a little over 300 billion euros to various creditors. About 200 billion is owed to the Eurozone institutions, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), that raised funds based on Eurozone guarantees…Spain, Italy, and France have guaranteed about 50 percent of this debt. A default would mean an important increase in the debt load of each of these countries. This would likely be the tipping point for Italy which has a current debt to GDP level of over 130 percent and several decades of essentially no growth. Italy is too big to bail out.

I did some cursory Googling of anything about Italy guaranteeing any portion of Greek debt. I couldn’t find anything, but I didn’t really put much effort into the research. There are no footnotes to the article, so I see no source for this, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Let’s assume it is though. Tsipras and Varoufakis together are a pretty formidable force for getting out of the current debt stranglehold. Varoufakis wants to default and hates politicians. Tsipras wants to maintain his fiery appeal and may just be crazy enough (in a good way) to listen to Varoufakis, who is probably the only honorable person in the entire Hellenic Parliament to have any grasp of economics at all.

If Tsipras can’t get a good deal enough to appease his voters – and nothing will appease them because their expectations are ridiculous – then Varoufakis will egg him on to default within the Euro. Now, whether this actually increases Italy’s debt burden due to guarantees through the ESM and EFSF seems rather unimportant, because if Greece defaults, I’m willing to bet that Italian bonds are going to plummet the next day with Italian interest rates skyrocketing. That will be enough to push Italy overboard.

If Greece defaults at 175% debt to GDP with bond investors losing everything, Italy is not far behind at 133%. Nobody is going to want Italian bonds in the event of a bona fide Greek default. If Italy goes down, then so do the rest of the PIIGS – leaving Portugal, Ireland, and Spain. What happens then is really up in the air. Nobody knows.

But yes, a Greek default will fundamentally alter the Eurozone if not destroy it.

Agreeing with Norman Finkelstein on Charlie Hebdo/Der Sturmer

Norman Finkelstein used to disgust me back when I was an AIPAC Neocon groupie. As I turned more and more away from that crowd and indeed grew to turn my disgust on AIPAC itself instead, Finkelstein became irrelevant. Unlike some libertarian converts I never ended up loving the people I once branded as self hating Jews or otherwise anti Semites. I am still aware of the fact that something is seriously wrong with them. I just wasn’t bothered by them anymore.

So no, I don’t love Norman Finkelstein. But one thing he said a few days ago was actually pretty insightful. Or inciteful, depending on which side of the divide you fall on.

Remember Der Sturmer? That 1930’s anti Semitic magazine in Germany? In case you don’t:

Der Sturmer

Now, what if, some time before Krystalnacht in the 1930’s, 2 pissed off Jews armed with rifles stormed the offices of Der Sturmer and just shot and killed the whole staff?

Personally, had I lived in the 1930’s, I would have been happy. And admit it, you would, too. I don’t know if I would have celebrated, but I would be at least relieved. I would be horrified at “freedom of speech” rallies in support of the surviving Der Sturmer staff, and I would be really freaked out at millions of copies of Der Sturmer being sold in the aftermath on a 1930’s Ebay. I would certainly not wear an “I am Der Sturmer” button on my shirt.

Many will say that the Der Sturmer/Charlie Hebdo analogy doesn’t hold. I say it does, and perfectly so.

Mohamed

I am not Charlie. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Europe has its own anti Muslim Krystalnacht fairly soon.

And once again, no, they should not have been killed, and the murderers should be punished. But I’m not one to mourn the murder of Julius Streicher.

Politicians Playing Gay Ping Pong

By gay ping pong I don’t mean some lewd game at a gay bar. I mean Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid standing on two sides of a ping pong table and batting around the gay political ping pong ball. I’m trying to imagine if I would be offended assuming I were gay and have the same principles I have now. As it is now, I’m annoyed.

Bayit Yehudi is running some inane ad about how all their members did this and that to help prevent gay marriage and how important that is because if homosexuals were allowed to “marry”, then the whole world will erupt in an orgy of homosexuality by sheer compulsion.

I hear from a Bayit Yehudi party member that the guy in the 16th seat on the list, Ronen Shoval I think, actually said that if gay marriage were legalized, by which I mean gay couples got the privilege of being more heavily taxed like straight couples (thank God for taxes) then “more people would want it”.

I looked at the guy (a male) who told me this, and said to him, “I’m sorry, but regardless of whether gays can marry, I still wouldn’t find you in the least bit sexy.”

To the meat of it: I like Youtube cooking channels. So I’m watching a recipe, and I usually skip the ad. But this time it’s a big hairy guy, a massive hulking gorilla-looking man, dressed like a woman with a wig and makeup. I’m suspended in morbid fascination so I don’t press the skip button. S/He’s saying something about how s/he decided to become a woman because this is how s/he feels on the inside.

I’m fine with that, I really don’t care how people want to dress themselves or why. All the power to ya, whoever you are, really, do what you gotta do. But for some reason I’m supposed to vote for Pretty Boy Lapid because of this gorilla transvestite girl unfortunate enough to be born into a decisively manly testosterone-infested body?

So we have Bayit Yehudi telling me how great it is that all their guys are totally against gay people doing whatever it is they do, and then I have Pretty Boy Lapid telling me how great it is that he’s so totally supportive of hulkingly masculine cross-dressers.

Really, this is what politics is. These are the people that have the ability to start nuclear wars in my name. The ones bitching to each other about how much or little they support the right of transvestites to cross dress or marry other genderly confused people. They’re playing a game of gay ping pong and I don’t want to be in the stands.

OK, I’ll admit one thing though. As stupid as the transvestite clip was (I really have no idea why I’m supposed to vote Yesh Lapid because of a transvestite) this ad was better.

Basically, two women who decide to get married and have a baby by artificial insemination have to go through a parenting class before the baby that just came out of one of the women’s bodies is legally considered the baby’s mother. She has the baby, then must take a government class before being considered the legal guardian, even though she just gave birth to it. Now that is certainly messed up and should be changed.

However, something tells me that Pretty Boy Lapid won’t be changing squat about anything. He’s just playing a game of gay ping pong, and it’s his volley.

Why Feiglin Left the Likud Davka Now

I’m going to try to make this short and still pack a punch. Really, this is something that you either get, or you don’t. Hopefully my words will help you “get” it, but I’m not sure they will. I will attach what Moshe himself put on his Facebook page. I’m not in a mood to translate this right now, so if you need to, fling it through Google Translate and you’ll get a basic if mangled idea of the point. Moshe did not write this post, but shared someone else’s, meaning he agrees with it.

The very short version is that for years, Moshe never left the Likud despite being pushed out numerous times, because those times were before he ever held any significant position, i.e., made it into the Knesset. The logic being that before anyone sees him in action, they fear him and therefore push him out because they think he’s “extremist”, but when he makes it in, they will stop fighting him because they will see that he stands for something real and holistic, and he can climb up from there.

The fact that virtually every single Knesset member, even and especially the ones we supported in the past and were considered in “our camp”, turned on us, worked together with Bibi to keep Moshe out, simply means they will never, ever accept him, so there’s really nothing left to be done there. Even if he stayed, it would serve no purpose but to waste precious time. I will add, the purpose of the Likud was to get the nation to know who Moshe is and understand him as a potential leader. That purpose has been served. The people, the average Israeli, understands he’s something else. Not another Ben Ari, not another National Union, not another right wing angry at Arabs guy. Now it’s time to see if the nation will follow on its own, without the Likud brand name. That really is the only choice from here.

The next move is to present ourselves to the people directly. And we will. And God willing, we will win.

On a purely political level, Likud is going down. They won’t get 20 seats. The party is over, literally and figuratively, there’s nothing interesting left in it, and nothing that can raise it up again. The next government will barely rise if at all, and the 20th Knesset will be the most fractured ever. The government will not last a year. When it falls, we will be there with an alternative. And maybe, even I will run on the list. Maybe.

הנה פוסט שכתב אמיר מכלוף מקרית גת, שמסכם את התנהלותנו “הפזיזה” בליכוד:

“למי שלא מבין את התנהגותו של משה (הגם שיש מעטים כאלה. למי שמכיר את משה כבר שנים, ומאמין בו לא מעט זמן – הדבר מובן והגיוני), להלן ההסבר, כפי שאני רואה אותו:

יש מהמגיבים כאן, שם, ובכל מיני מאמרים המדברים על עזיבתו של משה, הטוענים כי הוא “פתאום הפסיד” – אז פרש. כלומר – לא מקבל את ההפסד בכבוד. אם כך היה הדבר – ניתן היה להתדיין על המהלך והאם הוא ראוי. אלא שהעובדות, אפעס, הן קצת שונות:

פייגלין הפסיד בשנת 2003 – נבחר למקום ריאלי דאז, 39 (הליכוד היה 40 בסקרים. בסוף קיבל 38). דאגו לפסול אותו. הפסיד – אך לא עזב(!).

הלאה: התמודד ב-2005 על הראשות. הפסיד – לא עזב(!).

נמשיך: התמודד ב-2007 על הראשות. הפסיד – לא עזב(!).

עוקבים עדיין? מגיעים לשנת 2008: משה מגיע סוף כל סוף למקום ריאלי ברור – מקום 20 (הסקרים אז בין 32-35). ביבי עושה לו תרגיל, שולח את אקוניס, משנה את הכללים אחרי הבחירות – פייגלין נופל למקום 36. גבול הריאלי. הליכוד מאבד גובה, הרבה בגלל המעשה הנאלח הנ”ל, ומסיים עם 27 מנדטים. לא נכנס. הפסיד – לא עזב(!).

2012: מול ביבי על הראשות, זוכה ל-25% מהקולות (באופן רשמי). מה קורה בפועל? בדיוק מה שקורה היום – המוני קלפיות מספקות נתונים מזעזעים – בבית שמש קיבל ביבי קרוב ל-1000 קולות בעוד רק 630 מצביעים רשומים. אף אחד לא מקים רעש תקשורתי כמו בבחירות הנוכחיות, כי אז דובר רק על פייגלין – לא כמו היום, כשכל הח”כים כמעט מעורבים איכשהו בדבר, והזיופים משפיעים על כלל הרשימה. פייגלין שותק. מפסיד – לא עוזב(!).

2013: זוכה במקום ה-15 בפריימריז. הפעם אי אפשר לעשות שטיקים – יש איחוד עם “ישראל ביתנו”. מגיע למקום ה-23. נכנס. נהיה חבר כנסת. אחרי 13 שנה. ארוך, אבל הצליח.

פריימריז 2014: כולנו נדהמים מההתקדמות ההדרגתית של פייגלין מבחירות לבחירות. יש פה מגמה לינארית חיובית ברורה – עלייה, עלייה, עלייה, ושוב פעם עלייה. למה שמישהו יחשוב שדווקא עכשיו, כשהוא מתמודד לראשונה כחבר כנסת מכהן – הוא יפול? להיפך! מכוונים על העשירייה הראשונה! “ידיעות אחרונות” מגדיר אותו כמי שמתמודד על מקומות 5-7. מתחילים לדבר על תפקיד שר. למה לא האמת? כל טירון שנבחר לפתע במקום גבוה דורש להיות שר, אז אדם שהתקדם באופן הדרגתי, תוך צבירת כוח ובסיס נאמנים כל כך גדול – לא יחשוב כך?

ממשיכים הלאה, פוקדים אנשים, מסבירים על העמדות, מחדדים מסרים. פתאום – מכה בפריימריז: בליכוד הבינו שהאיש רק צומח. שהמשנה שלו מנצחת. המספרים לא משקרים. כל בחירות – עלייה במספרים. “אם לא נבלום אותו עכשיו” הם חושבים, “נקבל אותו בעמדת זינוק לתפקיד היו”ר ואז, כשייבחר, לא נהיה יותר רלוונטיים” (כל אחד שם רואה את עצמו כראש ממשלה בפוטנציה).

מה עושים? מחסלים אותו ברשימות. למה? הנימוקים להלן: “שכרון כוח”, “למה שהוא יקבע תמיד את הרשימות”, “הוא נטע זר” (כאילו שלפני זה לא חשבתם כך ודווקא כן סימנתם אותו כשרציתם), ועוד כהנה וכהנה נימוקים כל כך לא רלוונטיים, כה לא ענייניים. שום מילה על דרך וחזון (הרי הוא היחיד בליכוד עם דרך, ובטח שעם חזון).

פייגלין לא נכנס. למה דווקא הפעם הוא עוזב? נראה לי שהתשובה בגוף התגובה שלי:

הוא תמיד הפסיד והמשיך בליכוד, כי ידע שכל מה שמנסים למנוע ממנו כרגע הוא רק כניסה לכנסת. הוא חשב שברגע שייכנס – נגמרו המשחקים הללו, כי אז יבינו מה הוא שווה וכמה קהלים הוא יביא למפלגה, וכל אילו שהורגלו לשמוע כמה הוא “קיצוני”, יבינו באמת כמה נכס הוא לליכוד, ברגע שיראו את פעילותו בכנסת, ללא מחיצות, וללא העסקנים מטעם שמנסים להכתיב להם בכוח עמדות מוטעות לגבי פייגלין.

וזה מה שאכן קרה: הוא הביא קולות! הוא מהח”כים הבולטים בכנסת! ביבי בעצמו אומר שהוא מביא קהלים חדשים! אנשים מתלהבים ממנו! הוא אומר לשמאל (שיודע להעריך אותו) “בפנים” את מה שהוא חושב! עונה לחברי הכנסת הערבים באוטו המטבע! הח”כ המצטיין בנוכחות במליאה ובוועדות הכנסת מצד חברי הליכוד! לכאורה – הכי ליכודי שאפשר להיות.

אלא שבליכוד הבינו שכוונותיו אמיתיות: הבנאדם מכוון גבוה, וכנראה שהוא גם בדרך לכך. כמו שאמרתי – המספרים לא משקרים. לכן גודעים באיבו את החלום של פייגלין, מתוך הכנסת. פייגלין הבין את זה. הוא הבין שאם אחרי שהוא נכנס לכנסת, ואחרי כל פועלו לטובת הליכוד, דווקא עכשיו פוגעים בו – כנראה שתמיד יפגעו בו וכנראה שלעולם לא יהיה לו סיכוי שם. כשהוא הופך להיות “מספר” חזק – הוא גורם לכולם להתאחד נגדו. אלו כבר לא הימים שנלחמו שלא יכנס לכנסת במקום ריאלי. זה הרבה יותר מזה – פה הם מבינים שלא רק שהוא נכנס כבר למשכן הכנסת, הוא גם מאיים על כולם מתוך המפלגה בכנסת. לכן זה משחק מכור מליכתחילה.

ברגעי האמת, בעיתות לחץ, החברים האחרים בליכוד מבינים שצריך לעשות משהו: אם עד אז הוא היה הצרה של ביבי, שנלחם בו כדי שלא “יצבע” את רשימתו בצבעים “קיצוניים” (מילה עלובה ותזה שלא הוכיחה את עצמה כנכונה – בידקו אותי, פריימריז 2008 אחרי הדחת פייגלין), הרי שעכשיו הוא הפך להיות הצרה של כולם. הוא מאיים על כולם – מכאן שכולם צריכים להילחם בו!

כשהיה עוד מועמד אלמוני שלא היה מעולם ח”כ – מנעו ממנו רק להיכנס לרשימה. כשהוא רץ לפריימריז כח”כ – צריכים למנוע ממנו הרבה יותר דברים: מיקום גבוה יותר (עניין של כבוד ולמי יש יותר נאמנים), תפקיד שר על חשבון ח”כים אחרים, ועמדת זינוק טובה יותר לתפקיד היו”ר העתידי. לח”כים האחרים יש הרבה יותר מה להפסיד הפעם, והם אכן ידעו והפנימו זאת. הם הבינו שכל אחד מהם עתיד להיפגע מכך (לא הליכוד מעניין אותם, אלא עצמם. אם כן – היו דואגים שהטוב ביותר ייבחר, לא מי שעשה פחות “דילים”) – לכן דאגו לרמוס אותו. הקדימו תרופה ל”מכה” (מבחינתם).

לטעמי, פייגלין היה צריך להיכנס פעם אחת לכנסת כדי לראות איך יתייחסו אליו במתכונת החדשה, כשהוא לא מגיע מעמדת מועמד בלבד, אלא מעמדת ח”כ, והנה – הוא קיבל את התשובה: תמיד כשינסה להרים את הראש – ידאגו למעוך אותו, לפני שיקבל תנופה, כפי שקרה הפעם.

לכן לעולם לא יקבל הזדמנות אמיתית לחבוק את תפקיד היו”ר. פלא שעזב?

זה ההבדל בין הפעם הזאת בה הוא הפסיד, לבין כל אותן 5 פעמים שהוא הפסיד.

הבדל תהומי, קריטי וסמלי.

The Best Lines from Dave Barry’s 2014 Thunderous Bidet Year in Review

Just reading this now. Dave Barry is my mentor in writing. He doesn’t know that, but I’ve always looked up to him. Before I got all libertarianish and serious and fiery I was primarily a humor writer. You can see my old college stuff here.

Dave Barry, I am convinced, is a libertarian at heart. For the whole review, click here. Here’s my favorite part (so far, I haven’t finished reading yet):

In Washington scandal news, the Internal Revenue Service, responding to a subpoena, tells congressional investigators that it cannot produce 28 months of Lois Lerner’s emails because the hard drive they were stored on failed, and the hard drive was thrown away, and the backup tapes were erased, and no printed copies were saved — contrary to the IRS’s own record-keeping policy, which was eaten by the IRS’s dog. “It was just one crazy thing after another,” states the IRS, “and it got us to thinking: All these years we’ve been subjecting taxpayers to everything short of rectal probes if they can’t produce EVERY SINGLE DOCUMENT WE WANT, and here we lose YEARS worth of official records! So from now on, if taxpayers tell us they lost something, or just plain forgot to make a tax payment, we’ll be like, ‘Hey, whatever! Stuff happens!’ Because who are we to judge?”

…President Obama announces that the U.S. military, which finally, with much fanfare, managed to get out of Iraq after a long string of operations including Operation Desert Fox, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, is commencing an operation in … Iraq. This new operation — against a group called “ISIL,” an acronym that stands for “ISIS” — is hampered when a technical glitch causes the Pentagon’s Operation Name Generator to spew out a string of unacceptable candidates, including Operation Staunch Bedspread, Operation Iron Tapeworm and Operation Thunderous Bidet. While technicians work to solve the problem, the military is forced to refer to the new operation as “Bob.”

In military news, the Pentagon announces that it has finally come up with a name for the current U.S. actions in Iraq and Syria: “Operation Inherent Resolve.” Seriously, that is the actual name. They should have gone with Thunderous Bidet.

In sports, the top college football teams play in the traditional year-end bowl games, including the TaxSlayer Bowl, the Bitcoin Bowl, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, the Duck Commander Bowl and the Thunderous Bidet Bowl. All but one of these are actual bowl games.