The Madness of Anders Aslund; Economic Advice for Ideologues With Too Much Money

Uncle Volodya says, "To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Uncle Volodya says, “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Unwrap yourself for a starving man
Come drown your thoughts if they bite you
Turn off the world if it makes you hurt
I’m just a clown but I like you…

Max Webster, from “Let Go the Line”

What follows is an object lesson in how a bitter hatred of a country or an institution, nurtured over a lifetime, can make an educated man forswear everything he ever learned in an effort to make the desired end-state a reality, against every single glimmer of common sense. In this, you can no longer tell hatred and besotted love apart, because both can cause the afflicted to make a fool of himself and not care, having lost sight of everything else but his objective.

I have speculated here in the past, several times, on the question whether Anders Aslund is (a) a victim of a progressive and creeping malady which is causing him to lose his mind, (b) a natural-born idiot who tricked the world into believing he is an economist, or (c)  a madman who should be locked up. I am afraid I am no closer to an answer, although we can rule out (d), he is right and his advice is sensible. But perhaps if we break the situation down to two stark truths, you can help me reach a decision.

Truth one: Anders Aslund despises Russia, loses no opportunity to disparage it, and especially loathes its president, Vladimir Putin. Truth two, Anders Aslund continues to offer irrational advice on putting money into Ukraine, although it has been identified by even its most fervent cheerleaders as the most corrupt nation in Europe, staying in some sort of twilit half-life only through IMF handouts whose future is uncertain. In fact, Anders Aslund continues to beat the drum for investors to put their money into Ukraine although returns on existing invstments have been terrible, and investor sharpies who bet big on snapping up Ukrainian debt took a bath, as the expected IMF transfer of money from taxpayers to wealthy investors did not materialize.

Although that’s a pretty slender dataset on which to base a conclusion, I nevertheless conclude that Anders Aslund is so dizzy with hatred for ‘Putin’s Russia’ that he is offering economic advice which runs completely counter to common sense, in the desperate hope that a flow of new money will keep Ukraine alive long enough that it can serve its purpose and destroy its neighbour.

Aslund proposes that there has been a number of positive changes in Ukraine since the revolution, and proceeds to enumerate them.

  1. Ukraine now has the DCFTA with Europe, which means that Ukraine has improved access to the vast markets of Europe. Is that so? Not according to any evidence I’ve seen. Poroshenko signed the DCFTA with Europe in June 2014. In the first half of 2015, Ukraine’s exports to Europe declined by 35% year on year. Exports to Russia declined by more than 60%; but that wasn’t important, according to Aslund, because the European market is so huge compared to Russia. So I guess a 35% decline in exports to a huge market is actually a gain, or something. There is, however, no escaping the fact that a collapse of Russian trade was expected, because an embargo was placed on Ukrainian imports to the Russian Federation. What is more, the trade with Russia that did occur in 2015 was mostly due to pre-existing contract sales, which would run out in 2015.  The figures for this year are likely to be significantly worse.
  2. Ukraine has committed to adopting hundreds of good laws. Did I mention that its president committed to selling his business interests two years ago, but hasn’t gotten around to doing it yet? Or that during the peak of the hot civil war against the east – the disastrous battle of Ilovaisk – he was busy setting up a new offshore company with the now-notorious Mossack Fonseca of Panama, in which he was the sole shareholder? As of two days ago the monkey-house show known as the Rada refused to investigate the president, while Politico released this embarrassing, blubbering account of how President Poroshenko must be the most innocent man to ever get caught up in such a remorseless dragnet, they should be ashamed. I couldn’t read it all, because I started to laugh really hard at first but then I started to scream and I frightened myself. Read it at your peril. The authors are both from the Atlantic Council, so I guess I should not have been surprised. Suffice it to say that the poor sod – I forget his name – who leaked the early warning via Twitter that the Panama Papers were coming out, because he worked on it and he was so excited that it was going to be terrible news for Russia that they would stay up all night doing damage control, could never have imagined the report would be such a disaster for the west that it would speculate that Russia actually leaked them. Committing to ‘good laws’ is not adopting them, and adopting them is not enforcing them. You would think an economist would be a little less a believer in  smoke and mirrors.
  3. In 2015, Ukraine managed to stabilize its financial system, and inflation fell to 9.8% in April 2016. The inflation rate is actually true, at least so far as the reporting source says, which is the state statistics service. The one caution I would provide there is that rapid deflation is no cause for celebration for governments carrying a high debt load, as Ukraine is. Outside that, lower inflation is better overall so long as it remains relatively stable. In the year it allegedly stabilized its economy, it fell 31 places on a leading index of economic stability, to 107th of 130 and the most unstable country in Europe. Russia was at 68, even though it is the target of western sanctions intended to topple its economy and the fall in oil prices “[dealt] a far more grievous blow to Russia’s commodity-dependent economy than any Western sanction.” If Ukraine’s economy is stabilized, Russia’s must be utopian. Just before we leave that subject, the biggest foreign investor, by a wide margin, in Ukraine over 2015 was the Russian Federation. Only 3 European countries were in the top 5, and Russia’s total was more than double all but Latvia, $122 million to $69 million.
  4. Ukrainian workers are educated and will work for peanuts. I honestly couldn’t believe Aslund was presenting this as a positive change, but then I realized this is how you pitch to investors, and they don’t necessarily care what happens to the country so long as there is the opportunity for profit. He says that hopefully this will not persist for long; but if it doesn’t, given the overall economic instability, where would be the incentive to invest?
  5. Thanks to the new tax laws, the payroll tax has been halved, to 22%. When Yanukovych’s government proposed amending the tax code in 2010, the reaction of the business community was hostile to say the very least; the proposed tax plan was “draconian and needs major revisions”, said they. The business community did not like that the new laws would give too much power to tax inspectors; why, they would be able to levy and collect fines for violations! And if you were the target of such a fine, you couldn’t get your money back until the matter went to court! The cheek; can you imagine? Tax officials might have access to confidential banking information, and be able to see a company’s whole financial history! This is the nation that expects one day to join Europe. I suppose its attitude is no more childish than that of the United States, which threatened to tax European companies in the USA double if the EU did not drop a tax-evasion investigation against American companies; perhaps that’s why America voices such staunch support for Ukraine, they’re a lot alike in their understanding of finance and the value of bullying. When the Yanukovych government was in power, the Ukrainian tax base was larger by about 5 million people than it is now. The confidence that a new tax code imposed by the Poroshenko government would empower honest and forthright tax officials while such restructuring under Yanukovych would have empowered thieves and extortionists seems to me mostly wishful thinking seasoned with wilful ignorance and a dash of selective perception.
  6. Ukraine has adopted a floating exchange rate, and no longer has a cumbersome current account deficit. I would suggest just about any country could achieve this positive miracle provided it received massive international assistance through cash infusions, while I see no assurance thus far that Ukraine will not collapse like Gumby without his wires as soon as the sugar tit of international financial assistance is withdrawn. The current account deficit in the first quarter of 2016 was $942 million USD. Ukraine’s current account balance has been relentlessly negative for the past 5 years except for two quarters in 2015, and has since headed negative again. But I suppose a miracle could happen, and a country with a civil war it cannot resolve to its advantage but won’t make peace, headed by a corrupt president it will not hold to account for his unethical practices, which has lost its biggest trading partner in favour of new markets which are buying less and in which the tax base has shrunk by about five million over the past three years, could balance its books and provide a good standard of living for its citizens. Put that way, it doesn’t sound very likely. But you never know.
  7. Ukraine has introduced a public procurement system which will allow all sorts of enterprises to participate in public procurement. How this contributes to a healthy investment climate, he doesn’t say, but it seems to me the more variables you introduce, the fewer opportunities for profit because of the increased likelihood that someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing drops the ball. But if we review what the project is all about, it looks more like system intended to render government spending more transparent. It was created by Maidan volunteers, and I have yet to see anything created by Maidan volunteers work, but we mustn’t be too judgy. However, the premise was that lots of people can participate in government procurement, while all you can really do is watch it happen. You don’t get to spend any government money yourself, which is overall a good thing as it would be a recipe for disaster. How this is a boon to an economy in which entrepreneurs cannot float $200.00 for local advertising is a mystery to me, but I’m not an economist. If you read the section entitled “About the reform“, it informs you this is a system which monitors public procurement and state spending with the aim of eliminating systemic corruption. But when confronted with a graphic example of the country’s president starting up a new company in a discredited offshore tax haven, the legislative body declined to even investigate, never mind prosecute. Can you see those parallel lines of reality ever coming together in the end of systemic corruption? More people can watch what the state does, but how many will realize if you hide “funds to build me a new dacha” inside “state highway reconstruction”? It honestly seems like a good idea. I’m just not sure how effective it will be in wiping out corruption in a country that will not enforce the law with an even hand. Prozorro was introduced in February 2015, and over 2015 Ukraine fell 31 places on a major index of economic stability. Some references suggest the government prepared for the introduction of this ‘transparency’ by changing the law so that the range of procurements excluded from the public tender process was expanded: “On April 20, 2014, the Ukrainian parliament introduced a number of controversial provisions to the 2010 procurement law, reducing transparency in government procurement and expanding the range of government procurements that can be excluded from public tender requirements. The amendments limited the requirement to use open tender procedures and publish information on procurement by state-owned companies only to procurement using state budgetary funds; however, there is no mechanism to allocate state funds to specific procurements within such companies, making the open tender requirement meaningless with respect to these entities.”
  8. Foreign investors who export from Ukraine don’t like the mechanism for recovering VAT. Since VAT is a hidden tax which is implicit in the cost of the item, it has to be charged. But goods for export are zero-rated, which means the exporter recovers the VAT in a rebate. The introduction of automatic rebates has alleviated the problem somewhat. But the law is vague on what can be recovered during the first year of VAT registration. All that aside, why should investors bitch about having to pay taxes? It’s going to nurture the country they supposedly want to help. This complaint just totally makes it sound as if investors are only concerned with making the maximum profit possible, or something.
  9. Substantial deregulation has occurred. Again, that’s supposed to be a plus for investors, to know that there are fewer regulations and inspection agencies. And it might be, in a country which is not acknowledged to be the most corrupt in Europe. Deregulation in the United States appeared to have mostly benefited the banks. Ummm…who owns the banks in Ukraine? Towering over all other Ukrainian banks, with half again the assets of its closest competitor, is Privat Bank – owned outright by Ihor Kolomoisky, naughty oligarch and onetime governor of Dnepropetrovsk. Here’s what a presentation called the “EasyBusiness Annual Report for 2015 – Ukraine” had to say on the subject; see if you feel reassured. “Given the size of the debt and the negative dynamics of macroeconomic indicators, Ukraine faces hardly positive prospects as the country is actually unable to repay its debts itself. Currently, Ukraine can only reduce its debts by using the IMF loans, which are the only source of financial aid received by Ukraine. The above problems resulted in the abatement of the performance indicators in the major spheres of both the Ukrainian real economy (such as agriculture, heavy industries etc.) and domestic production sectors (such as trade, construction operations etc.). Besides, these problems are making an increasing number of plants shut down, as they cannot stand against the regulatory impact and are unable to operate under such conditions. Reforming the regulatory system is the only way of solving these problems. It will not only help create a favorable business environment, but will also have a positive impact on the general economic situation. Besides, deregulation is a fast, efficient and also no cost method to combat bureaucracy and excessive regulation, which a struck root in the Ukrainian system. The introduction of this reform will not only facilitate doing business in Ukraine, but will also produce a positive effect on the economic growth, reduction of state expenditures and eradication of corruption,which, as a consequence, will improve the social environment and diminish the shadow economy of the country.” Uh huh. so plants are having to shut down because of the regulatory environment, but deregulation which imposes no costs on the system magically lets them operate again. Huzza! Business cuts another notch on the bedpost. Somehow, at the same time, deregulation will squeeze out the shadow economy in a tremendously corrupt country. If you mean it will reduce the number of agencies which need to be bribed, there might  be some truth to that. If you are going to introduce a more transparent and honest regulation system in its place, even better. But you’re not. You’re just going to shut down half the regulatory agencies, because you said it will be no-cost. So there are that many less regulatory agencies to inspect outgoing exports to see if something is being sold that is not allowed to be sold, does not actually belong to the vendor, and so forth. Here’s how the former Finance Minister of Poland, Leszek Balcerowicz, describes it: “The principal objective of deregulation is the
    elimination of excessive regulation of relations between the state and businesses and the elimination of excessive control over entrepreneurship.” I hope I am not being pedantic by once again emphasizing while slapping my palm with the back of my hand – this is deliberately removing state regulation on a business community (‘entrepreneurship’, ha, ha) which is more than 70% controlled by an oligarchy. That’s a fancy way of saying, shake your head. If it falls off, kick it.
  10. Winding it up with perhaps the most hilarious statement yet, No country is at the same time as corrupt and as open as Ukraine. Presumably this will help the nation to control corruption ever more. Umm…how? A country which is unmatched for simultaneous openness and corruption is a country which is unashamed of being corrupt. And when was the last time you heard an economist use the word, ‘presumably’?

It seems to have eluded a majority of western analysts that the current oligarch-heavy Ukrainian government which consistently fails to achieve any significant advances against corruption is in power because that’s the way Washington wanted it; it frequently likes to work through the wealthy because they do as they’re told so long as there is money in it for them. Ukraine’s president is an oligarch who continues to own a network of companies and businesses in the country which continue to fatten his bottom line despite an election-campaign pledge to sell them if elected and work 100% for Ukraine. Any public prosecutor who gets too nosy is promptly fired for corruption, and his demise chalked up to progressive reforms. Repeated condemnations of the country as corrupt fall on deaf ears, and the western democracies pay only lip service to reform – reform’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, you might say – because a truly independent Ukraine is not in their interests.  The interest was only ever in changing Ukraine’s allegiance, not in bolstering its independence. Ukraine is the lever Washington hopes to use to loosen Russia and rip it up by the roots.

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1,887 Responses to The Madness of Anders Aslund; Economic Advice for Ideologues With Too Much Money

  1. Jen says:

    I guess at this point in time it’s still not appropriate to speak ill of the dead but I just thought you stooges might be interested to know that Brendan Cox, the widowed husband of yet to be beatified Saint Jo, has a few skeletons in a closet that he’d probably rather people didn’t know.

    For instance, he was a senior exec at Save The Children until September last year when he suddenly resigned after several female staff threatened to go public about his behaviour towards them.

    He was also once Executive Director at Crisis Action which may suggest that the choice to encourage well-wishers to donate money to the Syrian White Helmets in memory of Jo Cox was really his and his alone, and might have had little or nothing to do with what Jo may have wished.

    Also a couple of days before she died, Jo and Brendan and their two children were part of an idiotic stunt led by Bob Geldof in a boat going down the Thames to confront a flotilla of unemployed fishermen supporting the Leave campaign. Geldof’s abusive behaviour towards the fishermen embarrassed even those people who’d gone along with him on the boat.

    In the photo below, apparently taken a day before his wife died, Cox appears to be with another woman (?) riding in a dinghy with his two small children.

    • colliemum says:

      Thanks, Jen – some of us have spoken about this, but in the general hysteria about the new ‘saint’ (she was an MP only since the 2015 GE), that was of course deemed to be exceedingly cruel and unworthy …
      That woman with Mr Cox and his small children in the dinghy isn’t the murdered MP, btw. Apparently, she was in the HoC at that time, for PMQ.

      • marknesop says:

        Interesting. In most countries their investigative services would consider him a suspect based on his behavior.

        • colliemum says:

          Well, she was murdered in a street, with police coming quickly arresting the man, there was CCTV and witnesses.
          Of course, for some that criminal -history of mental illness- could’ve been turned and handled by some spooks …
          By now it’s all over, no more public grieving, no candles and teddybears, end of shroud-waving by the remainiacs – it didn’t work.
          The best is that her region, with her constituency, voted for Leave …

          • marknesop says:

            Oh, I’m completely sure he did not do it himself. But there are many, many ways in which a man with a roving eye can get rid of the little woman without doing it himself, especially if he’s got money. In fact, a man involved in it would want to be as far removed from the actual murder as possible.

            I’m not trying to generate a conspiracy theory, I’m just saying a man who does not wish to be suspected of his wife’s murder (although of course only those who set something like that up ever expect it to happen) would be a little more circumspect and not always fannying about with other women as if what he was getting just wasn’t capable of keeping up with his sex drive.

            • colliemum says:

              Yep. And he was with another woman on his dinghy harassing the fishermen on the Thames. Aaaand – he set up a ‘Memorial fund’ for his dead wife, which reached 600,000 quid by the end of last week – supporting the ‘white Helmets’ in Syria, and supporting the lefty scum group called ‘HopeNotHate’.
              Nice man.

              • Jen says:

                I had seen somewhere on a website (but can’t remember which one) that the Coxes’ relationship was or had been “estranged” in the immediate past. And it is very odd that the Memorial fund on the GoFundMe website sprang up very quickly after Jo Cox’s death – almost as if it had been planned in advance.

                Brendan Cox is most definitely not a nice man and I too think he should be considered a suspect in Jo Cox’s murder. The fact that the murder was recorded on CCTV and he being nowhere in the film is irrelevant. We’ve all heard of cases of murder where people hire others to do the dirty deed by phoning them and telling them where the victim is likely to be and at what time; often the only way such cases reach police is through the killer or would-be killer taping the conversations and surrendering the tapes to the police.

                • marknesop says:

                  In this instance the killer appears to have been mentally unbalanced, but that does not preclude his being used, perhaps even by a middleman.

                • colliemum says:

                  There are a lot of things which were, let’s say, a bit odd. For example, I’ve read in readers’ comments (can’t remember which blog) that the pensioner who was wounded, allegedly, trying to help Jo Cox, had the name of someone who’d died some time ago. Then there’s the ‘witness’ who allegedly heard Thomas Mair shout ‘Britain first’ – a shout which was tweeted by another Labour MP (she removed that tweet afterwards) before the crime was even on the TV news, from which she said she’d got that.
                  The ‘witness’ who allegedly heard it told on TV cameras that he didn’t hear a thing, and even had to put a notice in his shop window that he didn’t hear a thing and didn’t ‘tackle’ the murderer.
                  One point though: Mr Mair has now been arraigned, and it is now illegal to report on this crime until after his conviction, certainly in British news outlets.
                  All very suitable, innit …

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Dignity, self-respect and clear conscience, principles and ideals… Nah, never heard of them!”

      • marknesop says:

        Maudlin. A pretty cheap attempt to capitalize on her death for the government’s benefit. You can only imagine the disgust of western leaders if Putin did it.

    • Fern says:

      Brendan Cox has also appeared in a post by Craig Murray called ‘Save the Fat Cats’ (I’m having problems linking the article but go to the site and put ‘Brendan Cox’ into the search box and it’s the first post that appears). Mr Cox’s salary at Save the Children was, according to Mr Murray, around £106,000. Jo Cox, before she became an MP, was Head of Policy at Oxfam which would also have come with a good salary. An MP is paid around £74,000. The average salary in the UK is, according to Murray’s article, £26,500. This highlights one of the many problems with our political establishment – not confined to the UK of course – we are ‘represented’ by people whose incomes are so hugely different from their constituents – you know, really, whose interests are being represented?

      Add to the mix that both Mr and Mrs Cox come from the NGO world where they purport to speak on behalf of those who’ve never voted for them, can’t get rid of them and to whom they have no accountability whatsoever and you have the ideal personification of western liberal democracy.

      • et Al says:

        Balkan Insight: Slain UK MP Took Close Interest in Bosnia

        …Cox, who lived on a houseboat moored in the River Thames in London, took a passionate interest in the Balkans, Sudan and Syria, visiting Srebrenica and running a camp for orphans from the eastern Bosnian town, where Bosnian Serbs massacred about 8,000 Bosniak Muslims in 1995.

        As well as giving her first-born child a Bosniak name, Lejla, she referred regularly to past tragic events in Bosnia – and Kosovo – in parliamentary speeches urging Britain’s Conservative government to intervene more forcefully in the Syrian civil war.

        Unlike the new far-left leadership of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, which opposes Western intervention as colonialistic, Cox remained committed to the idea that powerful Western nations have a duty to take military action in order to prevent atrocities and break sieges….

        Cox countered: “I don’t think we as a party should let China and Russia stop international action to save lives in Syria … Three times they have vetoed action in Syria, and each time the crisis has escalated and escalated.

        “I always back UN action where we can find it, but I do not think it should be a limit to our help. There have been multiple UN resolutions that say [to] Assad: stop killing indiscriminately your own citizens.”…

        …Speaking on BBC Daily Politics show on Monday, Cox said: “On the military side, we need to get two things right if we only talk about limited air strikes against Isil [Isis] – and I back international action against Isil – it will be counterproductive. We have to look at the conflict dynamic in Syria, and that is 75% of civilian deaths and causalities are caused by the Assad regime due to his aerial bombardment of civilians.”

        She said solely attacking Islamic State would not help the refugees, or stop the extremism. “This is not about escalating a conflict directly to take on Russia,” she said. “This is about a deterrence effect to stop the Syrian regime targeting their own civilians. I think it would be enforceable from the Mediterranean using US French and UK military capability already out there. It would mean the aerial bombardment of Syrian civilians would stop, and it would create space for peace talks.”.

        A fine interventionalist warrior indeed. The truth is that whether you agree with their views or not, they are usefully co-opted by the government for its ‘humanitarian interventions’ that also just happens to segue with government foreign policy… If not, they are ignored and get the minimal airplay by the Pork Pie News Networks.

      • colliemum says:

        Add to this that they were very well connected inside the Labour ‘elite’, with Neil Pinnock crying that she was ‘like a niece’ for his family – and you have the generation of ‘red princes and princesses’ who get safe Labour seats because of who they are, but never on merit.

  2. Oddlots says:

    “You had me at…”

    White Helmets

    White Helmets: proof that you can AstroTurf the desert.

    Their founder’s ex UK military, from what I’ve read there’s not a single Syrian on their board and then there’s those staged videos AND the non-staged ones where they’re basically Isis’s in house trash removal service. (Hard to judge which is worst, at least by effect.)

    Glad you mentioned it.

    Funny how the atheist left loves itself some some saintly saints.

  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    Ayiiiiii! Administrative resource! Pressure on voters! Corruption! Un-democratic procedure!

    Oh, wait… That’s not barbarious Russia – that’s civilized Western country we are talking about here! Move along, nothing to see here…

    • colliemum says:

      That wonderful waste of public money (9 million quid!) led to the first of the public outcries. Many people simply sent the thing back, to either 10 Downing Street or Conservative Party Headquarters. No postage paid on the return, natch!
      And then we had numerous articles shredding the ‘facts’ in that government leaflet. We did have fun with that!

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        AFAIK, there were NO Russian observers during the referendum. In fact – I don’t think there were any foreign observers. At all. But it was reported by ordinary people. And what they have to say just shows the depths of double standards. Another example:

        ^ And these are, ahem, “polling stations”? Like, for real?!

        So, the official observers can’t make photos or film at the polling station.


        Now imagine the world-wrecking screech should something like that happen in “authoritarian” Russia.

        • colliemum says:

          Thanks to Tony Blair, postal voting was allowed for all who wanted it, no restrictions. After the shenanigans of postal vote ballot boxes ‘found’ after six hours, or postal ballots sent out to a house which was in the process of being demolished and other such things, we ordinary people have become very clued up.
          In the first place, anybody can apply to the Electoral commission to become an official Observer. The bureaucratic hurdles are high, though.
          But much better, anybody can apply to become a vote count observer – now called ‘count agent’, ffs!. At GEs and local elections, one has to ask one of the candidates to put one forward to the local Recording officer, at the referendum, it had to be one of the officially designated campaigns.
          So many of us did that (yes, me included) and one can then walk around all night and watch the ballots being counted.
          No smartphones allowed. Political party candidates always think that rule doesn’t apply to them, but we lowly count agents can point this out to the council recording officers who then must take action.
          With so many of us now scrutinising the counts, and no longer shy of speaking out, everything went about in a very orderly fashion, as far as I can see. Mind – people are only now coming back to life, after yesterday, so we’ll see.
          Meanwhile, the losers, the lovely lefty youth, are creating mayhem in London because accepting democratic majority verdicts is not what they do …

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “Meanwhile, the losers, the lovely lefty youth, are creating mayhem in London because accepting democratic majority verdicts is not what they do …”

            Is it time for Polite Men in Green ™ to intervene? 😉

        • yalensis says:

          Is it actually legal to serve alcoholic beverages at a polling station?

          • Jen says:

            List of things that can or can’t be done in a polling station:

            1/ Can you take a picture?
            Legally yes, but the Electoral Commission strongly discourages it. You can’t reveal the details of anyone else’s vote, you can’t reveal the unique ballot number on your vote. It is illegal to reveal any information “obtained in a polling station”. Some polling stations may have no photography signs. If you reveal how someone else has voted from information inside a polling station, you can be fined £5,000 or face six months in prison.
            2/ Can you tweet how you voted?
            Yes, but you are advised to do it after you leave the polling station. You cannot reveal how someone else has voted.
            3/ Are pets allowed in the polling station?
            So long as they are well behaved.
            4/ Can you wear political clothing?
            Voters dressed in clothes which clearly support one political party (such as a T-shirt with a slogan) can be turned away. Only candidates are allowed to wear rosettes.
            5/ Can you vote if your face is covered?
            Yes, but you may be asked for more identification.
            6/ Can you vote drunk?
            7/ Can you discuss the candidates inside the polling station?
            8/ Can you use you own pen?
            9/ Can you use a symbol other than a cross?
            As long as your voting intention is clear.
            10/ Can you try to vote again if you make a mistake?
            Yes, so long as your ballot hasn’t gone into the box. Tell the staff, they will destroy your paper and issue a new one.
            11/ Can a friend help?
            You can take people to the polling station, but you must vote alone in the polling booth.
            12/ Can you bring children?
            Yes, although a large group may be asked to wait outside.
            13/ Can a child mark the X?
            14/ Can you write on the ballot paper?
            Yes, but it may mean your vote isn’t counted. If you reveal your identity your vote won’t count.
            15/ Can you vote topless?
            Men can, women can’t – anything which causes a distraction is banned in a polling station.

            No 6 partly answers your question: you can be doped up to the eyeballs on whatever intoxicant you prefer and be allowed to vote.

            • Lyttenburgh says:

              6/ Can you vote drunk?


              9/ Can you use a symbol other than a cross?
              As long as your voting intention is clear.

              Because cross is haram?

              13/ Can a child mark the X?

              Hey! Discrimination! I was allowed to do that when I was a kid.

              • yalensis says:

                If they are illiterate non-Christians, then, in the interest of multiculturalism they should be allowed to mark a different symbol on the ballot. Like, a Muslim could put a crescent.moon And a Satanist could put a pentagram. It’s only fair.

        • marknesop says:

          The man with the Kalashnikov is probably hidden behind the bar.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        In totalitarian Mordor of Putin’s Russia you can’t vote by proxy or via mail, because this gives an opportunity for a vote fraud. But, what do we know about the democracy?

        ‘Day of silence’? What a silly concept!” And the leaflets they ar distributing to the people? Why, it’s Labour agitation!

    • marknesop says:

      They would say that it’s not pressure at all; that in fact it is simply providing appropriate information so that the voter can make an informed choice rather than being swayed by cheap propaganda and alarmist narratives.

      But if the Russian government did it, the scream of liberal rage would be deafening. It seems never to occur to them that the Russian government thinks exactly as governments everywhere think – if we don’t make our own case, Paddy, we’re sunk. The liberal western view toward the Russian government in elections is that it is already in power – consequently, at election time, it should be not seen and not heard, instead letting its record speak for it and allowing others to campaign uninterrupted. But no western government would behave like that.

  4. Drutten says:

    Emboldened by “Brexit”, Slovakia and Hungary are moving slowly but surely toward referendums of their own. Haha, by the time Ukraine becomes part of the EU, there’s only gonna be Poland and Romania left of it bordering it. Neither are particularly fond of Ukraine, and with all their migrant workers having returned there’s not gonna be much to reap there regardless.

  5. Cortes says:

    New EU anthem revealed:

  6. kirill says:

    A contextless comment about western perceptions of Russia’s weakness. I often see many NATzO based posters invoke that Russia is not even a 1st world economy or that it is really still a 3rd world economy and then conclude that it poses not military challenge to NATzO. This is a retarded inference. Russia does not need to manufacture trillions of dollars worth of consumer junk to have power. It needs the R&D and ***military*** manufacturing capacity. To anyone with a clue instead of just a stiff chauvinist dick, it is clear that Russia has reams of these two elements. Russia ain’t no Ukraine, its military is not decaying to zero, it is growing faster than the rest of the economy in quantity and quality. Even during the 1990s Russian missile technology was progressing and is now second to none, including the USA. (Try to find any dick stroking NATzO MSM coverage of how vastly superior is the US missile capability compared to that of Russia from cruise missiles to ICBMs to SAMs to AAMs). The T-14 Armata has left NATzO scrambling with some pathetic squeaking about “lack of Russian originality”. The T-14 has the most powerful cannon on any tank. It can accept much longer shells and does not need to compromise performance with a bore evacuator. The T-14 can also mount a 152 mm cannon. It can move as fast forward as in reverse and has a speed over 90 km/hr. But Russia doesn’t make rice cookers, so it isn’t a contender.

    The problem with the west is that it is afflicted with hubris, narcissism and chauvinism. The leaders of the western countries that make up NATzO cannot think straight about “them” and pathologically underestimate their “enemy” in the case of Russia. The pattern never changes and the same idiocy that has been going on for the last 1000 years is in play once again. NATzO and its warmongering against Russia is motivated by ludicrous delusions of supremacy and self-righteousness. NATzO leaders need to realize that the USSR was much weaker militarily in 1939 than Russia is today vis a vis its opponent. There is not going to be any repeat of the Nazi successes in the first months of the war on the eastern front. This leaves a first nuclear strike and the hope that the ABM shield saves its ass as the only real option for NATzO. But here NATzO is not facing some mud hut villagers and Russian ICBMs and the MARVed warheads are enough to frustrate NATzO ambitions. What is more Russia is not sitting still and is systematically pushing the development of warheads into the fully maneuverable hypersonic glider format and at the same time developing its own ABM capacity via the A-235 upgrade from the A-135 and the S-500 mobile anti-ICBM warhead system.

    The window for NATzO to attack Russia is basically closed. It missed its chance over the last 25 years. But the retarded NATzO leaders are only now waking up and think that they will succeed. Better push that button now since every day leaves you farther and farther behind and less able to “win”.

    • Oddlots says:

      Michael l Hudson nails it:

      • kirill says:

        I really hope that his interpretation is valid. That people in the EU will see the utter insanity of US neocon war hysteria. Le Pen is right, it is time for EU members to leave NATzO. Let Uncle Scam do the dirty work all by himself instead of having convenient cannon fodder in the EU.

    • Patient Observer says:

      The T-14 is a technology breakthrough – radar systems to detect air and surface threats, a fuel efficient diesel engine, an independent armored crew capsule, an array of displays and touch screens (we talked about how this may be a step too far) and an ability to operate unmanned in some future version as well as active and passive defenses again anti-tank missiles. The West has nothing even close.

      Also, the T-14 is just one incarnation of the universal combat system. I was particularly intrigued by the troop carrier that can transport troops with the same level of protection as the T-15. Bring foot soldiers along with tanks would be a big advantage from what I have read. The self-propelled artillery version has an incredible rate of fire (10 rounds/minute) using an automatic loader, can fire rocket-assisted rounds, and more….

  7. et Al says:

    Popular Mechanics via RUI: Russia Actually Lights Rockets With an Oversized Wooden Match

    T​he totally 1950s design that ignites the Soyuz.​

    “Really!? Russians light up their rockets with a giant match?”

    This was a question from one of my Twitter followers who’d seen a photo of a culprit in the aborted launch attempt of a Russian Soyuz rocket Saturday, when mission control called the abort just moments before takeoff because of an ignition system problem. Indeed, even some seasoned space geeks were surprised to learn that contraptions fashioned out of birch trees into the shape of a broomstick are placed into the combustion chambers of every Soyuz rocket—including those carrying cosmonauts and astronauts.

    In the West, Russian engineers’ talent for finding simple solutions to complex problems is often exaggerated. You may have heard the myth about replacing a million-dollar NASA space pen with… a pencil. Yet the Soyuz really does use something resembling an overgrown match to make sure its engines ignite properly….

    Much more at the link!

    Why goldplate like the US? Because they can and for the profit.

    • Oddlots says:

      Always loved the Russian approach to FOD on the runway: assume it’s going to be there and design with that in mind. The “Anglo” approach: assume perfect maintenance. One of those is plain dumb.

      • Drutten says:

        Most, if not all Soviet jetliners (many of which were world firsts in terms of size, speed, range and passenger capacity) could operate from gravel or grass strips if need be.

        Soviet and Russian military jets tend to have very substantial FOD protection and landing gear that can take a real beating, but that’s been abandoned on the latest designs barring the Yak-130 which still has clever mechanisms allowing it to successfully operate from anybody’s junk-ridden backyard if necessary.

        Of course, even the later MiG-29/35 and Su-27/30/35 versions have FOD meshes against light debris as far as I know, but they removed the proper shields and upper auxiliary intakes seen on for example legacy MiG-29s.

  8. shargash says:

    Helmer’s latest — He claims there are secret negotiations between Germany and Russia, and that Merkel has been told by her own party to butt out. Interesting if true.

    • shargash says:

      Oops sorry — that is just a link to his home page. Here is the specific link:

      • Oddlots says:

        Wow. That is the most positive thing I’ve read in a long while.

      • marknesop says:

        Can that be real? If it is, the Italians are apparently involved as well. I expected some dramatic changes to evolve out of Brexit, but never so soon or so momentous. But this may be nothing more than an accord for the states involved to resume business ties as before, in defiance of sanctions and in fact, ignoring them utterly. Even that, though, would be a left hook under the eye to Victoria Nuland and her neocon crowd, as well as to the big-talking exceptionalist oaf Obama. If they lose control of Germany, they’ve lost control of Europe, and France will follow. That would be almost a miracle, considering Russia’s efforts have been almost entirely pacific.

        Whichever way this turns out, one cannot but remark, how are the mighty fallen. Can it have been only last year that Time crowned Merkel “Chancellor of the Free World, the de facto Leader of a Continent”.

        Merkel was broken on the wheel of immigration; that was the last straw. But other astonishing paradoxes remain.

        “Fear has never been a good adviser, neither in our personal lives nor in our society,” Merkel told a middle-aged woman who rose from an audience on Sept. 3 to ask what the Chancellor intended to do to prevent “Islamization,” with so many Muslims entering the country. “Cultures and societies that are shaped by fear,” Merkel said, “will without doubt not get a grip on the future.”

        Yet Merkel went along, apparently willingly, with the non-stop demonization of Russia and its leader – the article even contains the mandatory reference to how Putin say back, sneering, as he frightened her with his big dog during a visit by Merkel to Moscow – which had but one purpose; to inspire fear throughout Europe and especially in the Baltics, already hysterical drama queens.

        • Patient Observer says:

          The sources claim the plan of negotiations commenced after the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble (lead picture, 2nd from left), and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (centre), agreed that Merkel’s hatred of President Vladimir Putin had become an unprecedented political liabilitity for Gerrmany and themselves.

          The article was hopeful and seemed congruent with what we know but could the above quote actually be the driving force (with the US egging her on) of German hostility toward Russia? Merkel certainly seems to be the most visible member to the Atlanticists but she must be the tip of the iceberg in that regard and her personal feels toward Putin having little relevance. The Continentalists (is that a new term?) representing German business (not necessarily financial) interests could be staging a de facto coup out of pragmatism, national self-preservation and business opportunity.

          If the Russian-German relationship takes the turn suggested by the article, it would be a good thing but Russia had better keep it at arms length economically, politically and militarily. Russia’s strategic alliance with China should not be diminished by a turn toward the West.

          • Special_sauce says:

            “Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
            Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;”

            – Some old brit on strategic alliances

          • marknesop says:

            I absolutely agree that Russia must view any such rapprochement cautiously – if for no other reason, because a German business community which would be behind such an overture would expect to make money by any union which evolved out of it, and would quickly become disaffected if that did not happen. Western moneymaking cannot come at the expense of Russian citizens, or the whole thing was for nothing, and the trend toward Russian economic independence or reduced dependence must continue. But an opportunity to break the Washington hold on Europe can likewise not be ignored.

      • yalensis says:

        It was interesting that Merkel was handed a sheet of paper torn out of the Bible, with a big black spot inked right in the middle.
        This is pirates code for “You’re a dead man.”
        (or woman, in this case)

        • marknesop says:

          I doubt she would know what it meant, unless the pertinent passage was contained in the bible verses on the reverse, because Robert Louis Stevenson made up The Black Spot; it never existed as a pirate device, and in his version it was meant to have a message printed on the other side, while the spot itself was meant to represent judgment. In “Treasure Island” – where the Black Spot first appeared – Blind Pew serves Billy Bones with the Black Spot, whereupon he reads the card in his palm and exclaims, “Ten o’clock! Six hours! We’ll do them yet!!”.

          So it would have been helpful if we had been told what page of the bible she was given, if this actually happened. I would doubt it without Renzi’s reference to “Rapallo”.

          • Jen says:

            It was probably the page in the Book of Kings where Queen Jezebel was defenestrated and then trampled over by horses and chariots …

            … just in case Merkel had never read “Treasure Island”.

            • yalensis says:

              I wouldn’t compare Merkel with Jezebel, because in my reading of the Bible, I came to the conclusion that Jezebel was one of the “good guys”. I don’t believe the slander that she had that guy killed just for his orchard. That was just Israelite propaganda, IMHO.

              Namely, Jezebel was a cosmopolitan type (Phoenician/Philistine) and also part of the more religiously tolerant Northern Kingdom, who worshipped Ba’al. Ba’al was a sensible and cosmopolitan god. Jezebel was said to be the ancestor of Queen Dido of Carthage. I also personally see the Carthaginians as the good guys, as opposed to the Romans. I also see King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom as one of the good guys. His policies were wise and tolerant, and led to economic development of the North. His opponents were the crazy fundamentalist prophets who tramped around barefoot with long greasy hair and went on to write the Hebrew Bible.
              They were like the spiritual ancestors of the Taliban.

              But that’s just me. I tend to flip the Old Testament around: Whoever they say are the good guys, I say are the bad guys. And vice versa!

              • Lyttenburgh says:

                Okay. Okay. I will answer for what I’ve wrote previously, no attempt to dodge the issue here. Besides, that’s my native Kater we are talking about.

                ” I also personally see the Carthaginians as the good guys, as opposed to the Romans.”

                Sorry, yalensis. There were no good guys in during their wars. Personally, I dislike Carthaginians the most, because they hade one of the most despicable AND ineffective governmental systems of all time – the merchant “republic” oligarchy turned up to 11 due to the fact that it was also a slave-holding time.

                No sane person can read about the First Punic war and don’t take long, very long breaks due to facepalming. Constantly. There were lots of reasons for that from both the Roman and Carthaginian sides, but the puns are winners here hands down. They couldn’t really allow to have a meaningful standing national army in fear of having a “Napoleon-like” figure with troops-citizens loyal to him and proving his mettle in the battle kicking the whole torrent oligarchy edifice and installing himself as the king. Their solution? Hire mercs – at bulk! And make the citizenry (or tributary tribes) pay for it. Taxes are too high and citizens/subjects are revolting? Why, just send mercs to suppress them – and collect even more money to pay for the expense. What, you can’t get enough money? Well, in that case you will have a merc revolt on you hands!

                Not even hiring SPARTANS (which nearly bankrupted them) helped the puns in the end – Carthage lost the 1st war. Romans simply proved themselves unbelievably single-minded and perfected the preferred tactic of captain Kubrik Chenkov of Valhallan Ice Warriors aka “We Have the Reserves – Send the Second Wave!”. So, Hamilkar Barka tried to reform the process of army muster (the process of army supply, logistic and cadre composition are the favorite themes for me). Instead of hiring already established warbands of mercs the Carthaginians now will hire only rank’n’file from their tributary tribes (Numidian light cavalry, Lybia and Iberian infantry, Balearic slingers) while having ethnic Carthaginians as their officers and commanders. Also, citizens of Carthage (nobles/patrician equivalent) would form the inner council and the Guard of the commanding general. As a shock troops used to overwhelm the enemy with their sheer number would be used Gauls and subjugated by Roma Italics.

                And this stuff worked! Iberia was conquered by Hamilcar and his son-in-law, and then Hannibal invaded Italy. After Cannes nearly all non-citizen Italics were ready to revolt against Rome, Macedon was sending ambassadors to Hannibal with offers of potential alliance. And what have the Council did back in his home city? They had no need for a potential “Napoleon” – so they decided to sabotage him and his mercenary army by withholding the payment and delaying reinforcements. After all – they were already winning, right?

                The war ended with Carthage’s mainland invaded and loss not only of Iberia, but also of the right to conduct independent foreign policy. There was now only one master of the Western Med – Rome. And even this shame and defeat didn’t save Carthage in the end.

                Its history and how it waged all Punic wars is an object lesson for things to come. And you surely will see eerily similar parallels with the merchant republics in the future – be they in Italy, Germany or Novgorod.

                P.S. Not a fan of fire’n’brimstone parts of the Old Testament – especially the Two Kingdoms Period. As to Whom the Palestine really belongs given the history – I recommend this clip:

                • yalensis says:

                  Your native “Kater” — what’s that, Lyttenburgh?

                  Okay, okay, so you’re the historian not me, and maybe the Carthaginians were not so white and fluffy.either, you convinced me they were bad dudes. Although I still think Queen Jezebel was a hottie!

                  So, in Bible studies, I just usually mechanically take the pro-Philistine point of view.
                  That’s because I myself am a Philistine by nature.
                  Oh, and a Ba’al worshipper too. Here is our theme song, it’s called “Le veau d’or” (“The Golden Calf”) ! Here as sung by Russian baritone Ildar Abdrazakov:

        • Oddlots says:

          I know! It brought a wave nostalgia. We had a record of the Disney version of Treasure Island that we wore the grooves off of.

    • et Al says:

      Or a very good psyop. Sometimes you need to introduce the rumor to get things going. Stirring the pot if you will.

      I assume that the basic calculation behind all of this is how much more pain can the EU economy €€€ take from continuing to bash Russia on the USA’s behalf. I highlighted a bit in a post a day or so ago that the European Commission has said precisely nothing about how much economic damage the anti-Russia sanctions have caused. They don’t want the unwashed voting masses in Europe to know. Or anyone else.

      They certainly do know, as does the rest of the EU at the very top level, so the calculation would reasonably be is how long can they keep the sanctions going to satisfy the US but call it off when they can credibly claim that they have done enough. In short, face saving for a failed policy. That’s why there is the six month sanctions roll over is a sigh of weakness, the “but” in the “Sanctions will not be lifted until Russia complies with all our demands.” If Russia was going to fold, then that moment would have already occurred.

      Remember Merkel was supposed to quit her job a couple of years after her re-re-election as Chancellor? Well, she didn’t, and it looks like she’s long outstayed her welcome (like Mrs. T.). He strategy of stay in the middle and don’t rock the boat worked for a bit, but events have far outpaced it. Taking a stand on refugees was bold as no one else would, but out of character. She’s now left standing naked and exposed, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. All the rest is down to temptation, will and who ultimately will wield the assasin’s dagger.

      Well, what a funky and extraordinary six months of 2016 is has been. There’s plenty more to come.

  9. Northern Star says:

    If you have any time..Listen to the near round the clock whining about the Brexit result on BBC.!
    As I understand it the gravamen of the Remain complain in the aftermath of the vote is:

    1) The Leave people were by and large too stupid (ignorant) or senile -or both- to properly grasp the issue at hand (stake).

    2) Now that they got their wish..they are too stupid and incompetent to figure out how to exactly engineer the departure.

    3) Many of them voted Leave only because they thought Leave would lose!!!!!! Put another way ,had they imagined that Leave would win..they would not have voted as they did. .Hence their vote(s) should be changed or declared invalid Hmmmm..
    Let’s think this through…
    (Most of the Remain people I heard on the BBC this morning seemed to have difficulty with both facts and logic)
    “I voted Brexit because my heart was with Brexit rhetoric..BUT I knew deep down that Brexit was wrong for the UK-but I was confident Brexit would lose so I could safely cast my rhetorical vote…But NOW I want an ex post facto opportunity to cast the ‘right'(Remain) vote”
    However that door-in terms of logic- swings both ways…
    “I voted Remain because my heart was with Remain rhetoric…BUT I knew deep down that Remain
    is ultimately not for the UK..but I was confident that Remain would lose so I could safely cast my
    rhetorical vote….But NOW I want an ex post facto opportunity to cast the ‘right’ (Leave) vote”

    4) 52/48 isn’t really a win for Brexit……Ummm… isn’t a “win” in the traditional sense of a genuine election victory…and a turnout of 72% is waaaaaaaaaay to small to qualify as sufficient
    for actual should be taken as merely a warm up for real referendum.

    5) We have an online petition of millions of signatories calling for a new Brexit referendum.
    We’ll get around to verifying exactly who the fuck these people actually are…later…much later

    Truly hilarious

  10. Northern Star says:

    Also ..As I opined on this blog a while back…..A Brexit vote would be a fateful knock on the door
    of the NATO bunker!!!!!!!
    Wanna drive the Brussels warmongers nuts?? Just play this round the clock:

    • yalensis says:

      Ha ha!
      Well, the currently EU anthem is Beethoven’s 9th.
      So maybe replace it with the 5th.
      Instead of “Ode to Joy” it is “Ode to Reality”

      • colliemum says:

        Aww, poor Beethoven really doesn’t deserve to be dragged into the EU mess!
        Here’s something which would suitably address the EU mad people from this green and pleasant land:

        You know it makes sense …

        • yalensis says:

          How about this one: “All we like sheep have gone astray.”
          First time I heard ever heard this bit, I thought they were singing, “Oh, we like sheep!”

          • colliemum says:

            Yes, I also heard them sing that they liked sheep at first …

            However … we Brexiteers have not gone astray like sheep, we’ve been steadfast in our rejection of propaganda and hollow phrases.
            So, with all due respect, we’re going to do the shaking up of the EU. And our political system. As of now, eight Labour Shadow cabinet members are gone: one sacked, seven resigned … that’s the ‘loyal opposition’, hoping to win the next GE …
            (No giggling on the back benches – it’s a sad day for Labour, teeheehee!)

            • yalensis says:

              “Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” — teeeheeee!
              (see, Brexit was predicted in the Bible!)

              • Oddlots says:

                I always found this verse in the bible funny in a kind of bathetic way:

                “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?”

                Yeah. Exactly. Where are the god-damned handles!

  11. Northern Star says:
    Perhaps America should airlift over a supply of milk and Nuland cookies for them…poor dears!!!

    • marknesop says:

      As always, I am struck by what a physically ugly man Greenspan is. His face is so grey and purple that he looks like he died about 2 years ago. I know that shouldn’t matter and I guess it doesn’t, but it is unusual for someone to be so ugly that each time you see him you must reappraise your previous impression of how ugly he was.

      Greenspan either is deliberately dissembling or has forgotten everything he ever knew about economics, because he must have been instrumental in setting up the Euro in the currency union. Consequently he must be well aware that few ever expected the Euro to last, and only meant it to do so until a stronger political union had been cemented which would be much harder to back away from. Similarly, the European Central Bank was always more fantasy construct than financial institution, with no power of its own to raise funds and merely doling out Euros vested in it by its members, whose contributions were determined years in advance – it would be hard to imagine an institution less capable of reacting to a crisis. We had a nice discussion of this somewhat dreamy concept back in 2011, courtesy of our friend Alexander Mercouris;

      “When Mervyn King (the Governor of the Bank of England) and Ben Bernanke (the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board) bought British and US government bonds by printing money (“quantitative easing”) they did so in the knowledge that behind them stood the Treasuries of Britain and the US. This meant that if there were any danger of things going wrong and of quantitative easing undermining the stability of sterling or the dollar the British and US Treasuries would be in a position to step in and bail them out by raising the necessary money through higher taxes.

      The European Central Bank is not in that position. No European Treasury stands behind it. There is no unified European tax system that could raise money if things go wrong. The EU has no independent tax raising powers. It relies entirely on contributions to its budget from member states who negotiate the size of their contributions years in advance. What would have to happen if the European Central Bank were to print euros in order to engage in a bond buying programme and things were to go wrong is that it would have to turn to European governments for help, which in practice as everyone knows would mean the German government. Given the scale of the European sovereign debt crisis Germany could then find itself facing demands for money running into trillions of euros. With a GDP of just $3 trillion Germany could find it impossible to raise such funds in which case there would be a default.”

      Everyone seems to forget the predictions that if Brexit were successful, it would inspire an immediate reexamination of membership in the EU by a host of its component states. At least, everyone affects to be surprised that it is happening.

      • Oddlots says:

        A couple of quibbles and something in the “things I really want to know category.”

        I think you are making a mistake in the above analysis. In the last instance what really stands behind a central bank’s power is not the strength of its treasury but it’s ability to “print” money at will. After all, if credit pollution – think sub-prime for instance, turbo-charged by instruments of mass destruction like CDO’s squared and then cubed – gets beyond a certain point NO treasury could possibly backstop it. And yet it did. What does that tell you?

        This is a point that Bernanke has made in testimony to congress and it’s hilarious to watch because, despite the utter simplicity of what he’s saying, no-one can quite “take it in.” When asked where he got the money for TARP etc. to buy the shitty assets he says roughly simply “we used a computer keyboard to credit accounts.”

        I think part of the impediment to understanding this stems from the simple fact that, as currency “users” (as opposed to issuers) we as individuals never experience money in this way. As households we are “revenue constrained”. Crucially the government is not so constrained and – to my mind – this is proof of god’s grace really as the ONLY way out of a depression is deficit spending, thank the lord.

        I think this is crucial in more than a few ways.

        First it illuminates what the real game being played by Wall Street and the financial sector generally. One of the most trenchant comments on the 2008 bank crisis was made by an ex VP of RBC. When asked why the banks failed he simply responded: because they paid out too much in bonuses. This if I recall struck the interviewer as ridiculously simplistic but is actually incredibly astute (but again, like the Bernanke quote, I don’t think it even really sunk in.)

        I think this is important because it gets at how finance is able to undermine completely the claimed logic of rewards in a capitalist system. In other words, there’s a step change in the ability to exploit people implicit in finance that old-school industrialists could only dream of (and yet the factory owner is still very much our mental image of the “evil” capitalist. It’s as if in our heads we’re still riding around on mental Penny Farthings.)

        What he was getting at is this: if the banks pay out huge bonuses based on the inflated value of assets in a bubble that the banks themselves fuelled they become “bankrupt” simply because of this fact. In other words, you don’t really need an explanation any more complicated than the folk parable of “Stone Soup.” And of course not only have said bankers looted the banks that employed them in this way and, as managers, completely betrayed the shareholders whose interests, in the logic of markets, they are supposed to have acted for BUT they have also, thereby, looted the public purse because, as banks, they have a systemic importance. If they are allowed to fail and there is a break in the chain of payments it will ripple through the economy of the real-world transactions that are crucial to keeping people fed, housed, and employed constructively. Of course this cannot be allowed politically so the institutions that have just been looted equally must be made largely whole.

        The implications of this are kind of startling. To the extent that any given member of the finance community’s activities are accurately described above, to that same extent can one literally describe their property – the Maserati, the House in the Hamtons etc. – as being “loot.” In other words, stolen property.

        But more important in the present context: if you don’t understand that fiat currency at the level of the issuer is entirely limitless you will be blind to the way this con works. The bankers understand this. They understand how the money / payment system works. So they are ideally placed to turn up with stones and propose a potluck.

        Another way to think about it is this: why do Ponzi schemes fail? Because they, typically, don’t have a central bank. If they do, no problem. No problem at all. BUT in such a case it’s not that this is a bug, it’s a feature. I don’t mean for the bankers I mean for the citizen (if only they could see it.)

        The key to dethroning the bankers or, rather, putting them in their proper, boring role of facilitators is to recognize that money is a simple, public monopoly that we create with an arm of the government. As such the government is a score-keeper for the economy. Asking where the money “comes from” or “goes to” or whether there’s “enough of it” is ultimately as ridiculous as say, having the umpire in a baseball game declare suddenly he has no more “points.”

        ALL THAT SAID … Anyone left out there? LOL

        … I’m frankly kind of disturbed by Mercouris’ analysis here. I find him to be incredibly intelligent, mature – meaning not hot-headed – and well informed. He always impresses me.

        What he’s saying above though makes no sense to me for the above reasons and the “what I really want to know” question is why? What is it that I’m not capturing in my model that Mercouris is responding to? Is it the context of a world of multiple “sovereigns” – issuers of currency – that makes the difference? Because the difference is significant.

        Basically Mercouris (and by extension Mark) is speaking as if sovereigns are revenue constrained. I think that’s nonsense.

        The only possible way of unifying these two views is if, at the level of international reserve accounts there’s another “phase change” that negates much of my musings about money above. Does anyone have the economic chops to explain what I’m not getting?

        • marknesop says:

          Well, you’re right – I’m not getting it. The part that made sense to me was that money has to be backed by something. And the Euro is essentially backed by nothing except the Bank of Germany. The central government of Brussels rules over an entity that is subordinate to it only for so long as it consents to be ruled. If it were so simple as drawing a symbol on a piece of paper, making endless photocopies and saying, “There; that’s money”, everyone would do it.

          • Oddlots says:

            Last point first: it is actually that simple. What’s the difference between a piece of litter and currency? Someone with a gun – the state – is only accepting one as payment for your liberty.

            It’s not called tax for nothing.

            If you doubt this it’s worth noting that this is EXACTLY how currency was introduced in Europe’s colonies. First you pay the natives with worthless scrip. Then you give that scrip value by saying that anyone wothout enough of it will be jailed. Literally. There’s gotta be some great street-slang for that con.

            As Mosler puts it: the purpose of currency is to create unemployment. After all, before the prison ships arrived in Botany Bay or wherever what were people doing? Were they employed? Unemployed? Something else? We barely have a language to describe it. Nor did they have one to describe “us.”

            Don’t misunderstand me: my point here is not to make an anti-colonial argument as such, much less some kind of anti-statist position regarding personal liberty and the oppression of tax. In fact I would ascribe this move a certain genius, good or bad, as it has undoubtedly changed the world utterly and is the dominant feature bar none of our world and certainly a common feature of the Russian world as much as ours.

            My point is I really want to understand the monetary system as it exists. What do you call the anthropology of white people. I believe: sociology. What perplexes me is that we, ourselves don’t seem to understand it on even our own terms. “Munny” is our holiest of holies.

            Hopefully getting to the point: ultimately the only thing that can backstop everything, so to speak, is a myth. How could it be any other way?

            • Oddlots says:

              Another way to put it: it’s only ever the “stuff” that matters and I would define that as all the things that actually matter to us as humans:

              – shelter
              – security
              – sustenance
              – useful activity (as defined by our peers; we’re in trouble already)
              – validation (worse yet)…

              Anyway if I were to try and define the con in quasi-syllogistic terms it would go something like this…

              – hey you there fine Pacific Islander can you help me anchor my boat?
              – no of course I can’t be in your debt; here take this piece of litter that I’ve just – by your acceptance of it – blessed

              Six months hence:

              – hey islander remember that piece of paper I gave you a while back?
              – well now, by our custom you are now obligated to give me 1/7 of it back after 1 year
              – what’s that? You [quite sensibly] used it to wipe your bum?
              – well too bad for you. You see this gun right? Unless you can muster enough of your extended family, tribe etc to repay this thing we call your “debt” to me by working for my benefit as opposed to yours, I’m going to use it
              – no not to kill you dummy: to force you into prison (you think your corpse is worth something to me? What are you, new?)

              Summary: it’s all about hostages, this civilization racket

              The point is: money always has to originate and then terminate in the creation / consumption of things. Between those two points the monetary system as set up, myths and all, apparently provide des an enormous opportunity to entirely hijack this virtuous flow at will.

              • marknesop says:

                But there has to be a common acceptance of it as something of worth. You can’t just hand somebody an orange and when it’s in their hand,say, “We’re using those for money now – you took it, so you recognize its worth”; they’d throw it back at you. Money used to have a symbol of its actual value, like the silver strip in the pound sterling, although I’m sure whatever the base value of the sterling it was never worth the heights to which the pound soared. Paper money was light and easy to carry, and worth was priced in to different denominations to make sure you didn’t have to carry a telephone book’s worth of it with you to buy routine goods. Nowadays most of us seldom even see real money – it’s all just invisible credits on your plastic card. But there’s still a number, a finite value in your head that tells you how much you can spend, else we’d all be buying a new car as soon as the one we were driving needed a wash. And just increasing the amount of credits in circulation of course devalues them; nobody knows if Washington actually physically prints more money or just says, “Now we have more”, and ups the random number of dollars in circulation. But it can’t work as long as they continue ‘printing’ more money to count against their teetering debt load, because eventually the money they owe to other entities becomes so great that they know you can’t possibly be worth that much.

                • Oddlots says:

                  “But there has to be a common acceptance of it as something of worth.”

                  But that’s the point exactly. How is that common acceptance arrived at? Because only government money is an accepted means of paying taxes.

                  “You can’t just hand somebody an orange and when it’s in their hand,say, “We’re using those for money now – you took it, so you recognize its worth”; they’d throw it back at you.”

                  Depends on who you is. If you is “you or me” obviously not. But if “you” is a state that has a more or less accepted monopoly on the use of violence they – “you” – absolutely can. I kid you not: this is exactly how money was introduced into European colonies.

                  “Money used to have a symbol of its actual value, like the silver strip in the pound sterling, although I’m sure whatever the base value of the sterling it was never worth the heights to which the pound soared. Paper money was light and easy to carry, and worth was priced in to different denominations to make sure you didn’t have to carry a telephone book’s worth of it with you to buy routine goods. Nowadays most of us seldom even see real money – it’s all just invisible credits on your plastic card.”

                  As you say it has to accepted. This is equally true of commodity money as it is for fiat. You can say that “gold is the currency of Kings” or whatever you want but unless there’s enough people out there who believe it, it’s just the mutterings of a mad-man.

                  My point is not to bash gold – I actually like it, but for unrelated reasons. (I think it’s an ironic asset: it’s not that gold is so great but that the alternatives are so shit at a time where assets with a yield are undermined by system-wide credit pollution.) My point is that the ability to “print” money per se is not a problem. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

                  Think about this. When the Great Depression hit the world’s major industrial powers one-by-one abandoned the gold standard. France was the last and its people suffered mightily for it’s government’s hard headed-ness. Why? Because the only way that one can exit a private-sector induced depression – which is ALWAYS a result of excessive private sector credit expansion – is through public sector spending. My point: there’s nothing even to argue about here… It’s an accounting identity. It literally doesn’t matter what your politics are. Arbitrarily tieing your currency to something like gold makes it impossible to deficit spend, to act counter-cyclically which is the only way to escape a fiscal death spiral.

                  Why am I making such a big deal about this? (Ouch: stop throwing things at me and let me finish…)

                  The illusion that I’m trying to break is the one you exhibit here:

                  “But there’s still a number, a finite value in your head that tells you how much you can spend, else we’d all be buying a new car as soon as the one we were driving needed a wash. And just increasing the amount of credits in circulation of course devalues them; nobody knows if Washington actually physically prints more money or just says, “Now we have more”, and ups the random number of dollars in circulation. But it can’t work as long as they continue ‘printing’ more money to count against their teetering debt load, because eventually the money they owe to other entities becomes so great that they know you can’t possibly be worth that much.”

                  In the first sentence you are obviously right. But that’s only because you are confining yourself to the micro level and assuming it’s the only level that exists. My point is that you have thereby blinded yourself to the reality of the macro level where, for the issuer of the currency, there are no such constraints. And thank god for that as if this weren’t so we would never have recovered from the first recession much less the last.

                  It matters because this ideology of constraints, this reification of the household model is what blinds us to a solution that is staring us in the face. There is no reason we have to accept 50 % youth unemployment in Southern Europe (which amounts to the binning of an entire generation as if it were some natural calamity like an earthquake and, as such, is evidence of a deeply immoral philosophy. No wonder political parties are disintegrating.) Let me state it again: those young people are being sacrificed for no purpose whatsoever. It’s not economically “responsible” at all; it’s economic malpractice of the most shocking kind. And it persists in large part because someone wants you to believe that money works in the way that you’ve described. It doesn’t.

                  Of course I’m not getting at you as if you’re guilty of something. No-one except a handful of heterodox economists, the entire staff of the fed and anyone who actually trades the markets. Sorry, last point is a vast exaggeration. There’s lots of “false consciousness” among traders but anyone successful, anyone who is paid to be right understands this. When a government raises taxes and cuts spending these people revise their growth forecasts down. They get it.

                  Here’s a funny aside. You know the Gordon Gecko character from Wall Street. Well he was based on Asher Adelman.

                  You know who he supports in the next US election? Bernie Sanders. Not kidding. Why? Because he understands how the money system functions.

                • marknesop says:

                  How, then, is it possible for a country to be indebted to another? Why do countries borrow from one another, if the value and supply of currency is mostly imaginary? How could a country be so foolish as to incur debt when it might simply have said, “My GDP is 12 Trillion now”?

                • Jen says:

                  Countries can incur debt in lots of ways: by issuing Treasury bonds and securities on the sharemarket which can be bought by individuals, corporations, institutions and other countries, by borrowing from the IMF and by encouraging people to save. Governments issue this debt in their own currencies.

                  The thing to remember though which Oddlots has spent a lot of time on, is that public or government debt isn’t the same as private debt: it works in reverse. For money to become available to ordinary citizens and businesses, governments have to spend it into existence: government spending or “debt” occurs first, and then it is repaid by us through our taxes and the money we “lend” to governments by buying Treasury bonds etc. So in a sense governments don’t really “incur debt”. (Unless they’re small Mediterranean members of the EU browbeaten by France and Germany to buy those countries’ useless military junk as insurance because Turkey keeps violating their airspace.)

                  Check out this Quora link and read the answers to the question: If all the countries are in debt, then who did they borrow the money from?

                  Japan has an astronomical debt of about US$10 trillion but as it is denominated in yen and most of it has been bought by its own citizens in the form of pension funds and savings accounts, this debt is not exposed to foreign currency fluctuations or speculation. The main problem for Japan’s debt is demographic: there aren’t enough young people which means the future workforce will shrink and therefore there won’t be enough people opening savings accounts or investing in pension funds to feed money back to the government.

                • Oddlots says:

                  “How, then, is it possible for a country to be indebted to another? Why do countries borrow from one another, if the value and supply of currency is mostly imaginary?”

                  On the last point, to say what I’m saying is not to say that public debt is imaginary anymore than I am saying sport scores are imaginary. In fact it’s all accounted for down to the penny. Regardless it is “notional” I’ll give you that.

                  Jen’s analogy below to ticket sales is apt. The central bank or treasury is analogous to a stadium. First it has to print tickets and get them into circulation before it collects them. At the Fed the principle is expressed like this: you can’t do a reserve drain without first doing a reserve add.

                  You might ask: well ok, let’s say that describes the situation now in media res, but how did it start. Something must have backed that central bank or the king’s treasury or whatever. That might be true. But I think the liberating thing about the way of looking at money that I’m suggesting is even there, if the king borrowed money from private sources to say make war the actual fact is, he didn’t have to. The example of the original Greenback is illustrative here. If I recall correctly Lincoln went to the New York bankers to fund it and they quoted him a rate of ~ 12 %. Lincoln quite rightly declined and instead simply spent the “Greenbacks” into the economy. That is the emitted new bills that were un-redeemable in silver or whatever and used them to procure what it needed from the private sector for the war. In other words, Lincoln threw oranges at the public and called it cash and the public accepted this.

                  They weren’t backed by any “thing” except – I suppose – their value as a way of extinguishing private debt to the government: that is tax debt. This suggests that there is no need for a government to go to private sources to raise funds. It can and it might be wise to do so in certain circumstances. Government bonds, for instance, have the advantage of paying private citizens interest on savings that is entirely safe. In fact these investments are “money good” as they say, another clue that something weird is going on that contradicts the common understanding of what money is. The government may want this as a way to encourage people to save for retirement in an entirely safe way rather than say investing in private ventures with their attendant risks. Or might be a way of say, mopping up demand during wartime so the private sector’s spending does not compete with the government’s procurement needs and so cause inflation. Now you can say that those bond purchases are “funding” the war effort but that’s not really true. The government simply doesn’t need your money. A good clue is once it’s returned to the government it gets shredded.

                  It’s a good deal more complicated than this in the mechanics from what I’ve read and I wish I had the accounting chops to explain it say, by showing you how the Fed’s balance sheet works. And I entirely sympathize with your incomprehension of what I’m trying to say. It is indeed quite screwy at first. As J K Galbraith said: “The process by which money is created is so simple that the mind is repelled.”

                  But I persist. Why, for god’s sake why? Because I think a lot of evil shit is perpetrated on us by using this false “household” analogy to suggest we can’t “afford” something like education, healthcare, infrastructure investment. Social Security is unsustainable. The country’s going bankrupt etc. etc. complete bullshit.* Did anyone say we couldn’t “afford” to bail out the banks in the west to the tune of trillions? No. Funny that.

                  Now we might NOT to be able to afford those things – though, to tip my hat to your POV – I actually don’t understand anymore on what basis such a decision would be made. But I do know one thing: it’s NOT for the reasons we’re given which are based on a complete and I’d say tragic misunderstanding of our money system.

                • marknesop says:

                  It’s still Greek to me, I’m afraid. But I can stipulate to the truth that old money is taken out of circulation and shredded. I had an uncle once who was, far before his time, a recycling zealot, and he just could not understand why perfectly good money should be wasted in that manner. So he put it in his car instead (he worked for the bank), and took off. For Mexico, no less – just like in the movies. It wasn’t even a lot of money, although it was considerably more by the standards of the day; $26,000.00, if I remember correctly. Eventually he came back and turned himself in, did a little time and straightened his act out. I don’t know what ever happened to him, he was my stepfather’s younger brother, and we lost touch with that side of the family when he died.

            • Oddlots says:

              That story is toooooo great.

              I don’t believe it.

              But I have bad news: your extra-ordinary talents with language, with how specific the world can be and thus how pungent comes at a price: the abstract is not available.

              Ok: maybe you’re taking the piss.

              Your story reminds me of this. A friend of mine’s brother-in-law was for a time an RCMP officer in Northern Ontario. Much of their winter activities amounted to chasing down thieves who were emptying the well-appointed cottages of Toronto’s finest. He related a story where he and his partner ran down in their squad car two locals making off with high-end gym equipment. Think barbells and such.

              As he was driving them to be booked he heard one say to the other in the back seat: “We would have gotten away if they weren’t so heavy.”

              Ha. Haha. Hahahahaha.

              When it comes to money the shredder is a gateway. A portal to another world. Which doesn’t exist. (Why it’s called a shredder.)

              • marknesop says:

                That really happened, or so the story goes in the family. And banks in Canada – and elsewhere – regularly destroy old banknotes. I should not have said the money was to be shredded; in fact it was to be burned, and was already handily in burn bags for that purpose, which he put in his car rather than in the vehicle which was to transport the money for destruction.

                “Central banks routinely collect and destroy worn-out coins and banknotes in exchange for new ones. This does not affect the money supply, and is done to maintain a healthy population of usable currency. The practice raises an interesting possibility. If an individual can steal the money before it is incinerated, the effect is the opposite of burning money; the thief is enriched at the expense of the rest of society.”

                I can’t find anything on it – unsurprisingly – but the robbery took place in New Brunswick and would have been in the early 1970’s.

                • Oddlots says:

                  Ok, the best part of that story is the conceit that your uncle “didn’t see the harm in it.”

                  One of my favourite stories:

                  – an acquaintance of mine’s parents was big on corporal punishment
                  – when he was “bad” his father would hit him on the ass with a yardstick
                  – they kept this yardstick on the landing up to the second floor, where his bedroom was
                  – whenever he was in trouble he would be sent to his second-floor room and he would be forced to walk by the instrument
                  – as Dave told it, whenever he did he would kick it and say: STUPID YARDSTICK!

                  My take: this is called mistaking the map for the terrain.

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, I’m sure he saw the harm in it – he worked for the bank. And he certainly knew it was illegal, although it must be a dreadful temptation to throw a burn bag of perfectly legal tender on the fire and burn it up; the only thing that stands between you and a perfectly good bag of cash (although once exchanged for goods one more time, it would likely be collected again as these notes were all judged to be worn out) is somebody ticking off a box on a form that says it was destroyed. If he didn’t see the harm in it, he would not have done a runner.

                • Oddlots says:

                  Sorry, not clear.

                  My point is that your uncle mistook the instrument for the “thing-itself”, the authority that makes it real, gives it power.

          • colliemum says:

            Ahem – not the Bank of Germany, but the German taxpayers, who are in hock for billions thanks to a secretive ‘stability’ fund, called ESM –
            Meanwhile, Draghi’s Bank is printing money … but when the whole thing comes crashing down, it’ll be the fault of Brexit, even though Britain never was in the Euro-zone …

            • Oddlots says:

              I certainly take your point about who will be blamed but, again, I’m kind of dismayed by this belief that “money printing” is somehow something distasteful and suspect in itself rather than just a description of how fiat currencies work. In short (cough) to my mind the problem is not Draghi’s money printing at all but the half-assed, hesitant manner in which it’s done in the Eurozone. Governments that issue their own sovereign currencies are not households. As such they can no more go “bankrupt” than Parker Brothers can in the realm of board game currency. Another way to think about it: if government specie were really debt then you’d be able to pay it off. As it is you can’t. If you did there’d be no currency left.

              There’s clearly something else going on here than what you are supposing. Whether I’ve described it accurately is another question of course.

              • colliemum says:

                Draghi is printing money – illegal according to EU/ECB laws.
                Draghi is buying State and Government ‘failing’ loans – the jury is out on that, but it’s not in the spirit of the ECB. He uses his newly printed money for that ..
                Draghi is now buying also stock and shares of ‘failing’ industries – definitely illegal, but it’s the EU, so who cares.
                All the accumulating debts are ‘safeguarded’ by that secretive entity called ESM (look it up) – the money for that comes from taxpayers, mostly Germans.
                That’s the albatross round the neck of the EU, about which nobody speaks. They warble about peace and solidarity and being nice to everybody (except Brits) and want a EU Army to go with the flag and the hymn.
                Sovereignty is something they actually, scarily, simply do not understand. That the fabled EU Parliament is not based on the principle one man -one vote simply is irrelevant for them …
                Never mind, since Madame Merkel has the power to break EU Law as she wants, without anyone doing anything about it, the future does not look blue with golden stars …

                • Jen says:

                  What Draghi is doing is similar to what US banks were doing with subprime mortgage loans before 2008 and what they are still doing with college student loans. You bundle a stack of dodgy mortgages together and sell them to pension funds: because mortgages are assumed to eventually be paid off in full, and in any bundle some mortgages will be paid off sooner than their 25-year loan period (because some mortgagers will be extra-keen to pay off their mortgages quickly), the investors are persuaded that they are a sound investment. The interest that mortgagers pay becomes the reward for buying the mortgages. The money invested is used by banks to flog even more subprime mortgage loans to even more people who cannot pay them back. Eventually when you run out of poor people to exploit … well I guess that’s when you need immigrants and refugees.

                  Likewise Draghi is buying up shares of “failing” industries and hoping to flog them off in bundles to banks to flog off in turn as investments.

                  Sovereignty to the EU elites is a concept associated with dreaded nationalism and the popular concept of fascism (when really fascism as Benito Mussolini defined it is a merger of corporations and state power).

                • colliemum says:

                  Too right – and the truly worrying thing is that the cosseted youth, after decades of “education” has now been reduced in most parts to brainwashed idiots who are incapable of using their own minds but regurgitate what they’ve been told.
                  It struck me especially when the (old, white) BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman had a look at the EU before the Referendum. He asked some Brussels-dwelling, non-British young people about our demand to get back our sovereignty. They answered, with straight faces, the sovereignty was now shared across the EU, and that this was a very good thing because it made everybody stronger!
                  But there’s worse.
                  He asked some British students at a Spanish University, studying there thanks to the EU’s “Erasmus” exchange programme. when asked the same question, they couldn’t even understand, and one came up with the shattering answer that it wasn’t a problem because now, in the EU he had “personal sovereignty” …
                  And that’s the generation who cannot even get off their arses to vote but wails when the result is not to their liking!

        • Jen says:

          Oddlots, much of what you say is correct but part of your argument might be proceeding on the assumption that central banks are owned by governments or are at some level answerable to them. That is certainly not the case for the US Federal Reserve or for the European Central Bank. Even if the shareholders in the ECB are central banks of EU member states, not all of them may necessarily be owned by or answerable to governments. In fact, there may be good arguments for central banks to have some independence from governments whose politicians might be tempted to use them as private giant piggy banks (as the case may be in Ukraine).

          Also central banks shouldn’t be confused with large investment banks. Central banks are supposed to be “lenders of last resort” to investment banks – that’s the theory anyway. They are supposed to be regulatory and advisory institutions concerned with carrying out macroeconomic policy in the financial industry. (They may not even be in charge of issuing money, as in the US where the Treasury Department has that responsibility.) The reality in the US though is that the US Federal Reserve is owned and controlled by a mix of large private banks, regional Federal Reserve Banks and a Board of Governors appointed by the President. This mix may have some impact on the “lender of last resort” principle to the effect that if the private banks dominate the management of the US Federal Reserve, then it may end being a lender of first resort and nothing more than a giant piggy bank.

          The other thing too is that Ponzi schemes such as the repackaging of sub-prime mortgages may arise as a way of circumventing regulations (such as central banks’ requirements that banks may not lend more than a certain multiple of what they hold in assets with central banks) and exploiting loopholes in laws governing financial conduct or getting rid of certain or all financial regulations altogether. For many of the Ponzi schemes that led to the GFC in 2008 to have been possible, the financial industry in the US had to have been deregulated over time, in the manner of a slow death caused by millions of tiny cuts made by successive Presidents. One significant cut was the repeal of parts of the 1932 Glass Steagall Act which separate commercial banking operations from investment banking operations in 1999, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Similar Ponzi schemes in the UK would have occurred after the Big Bang (the sudden deregulation of the financial industry in that country) in 1986. It may very well be that a deregulated financial industry is the context in which financial bubbles and Ponzi schemes thrive in. In the mid to late 1970s, Chile under General Pinochet deregulated its financial industry; in 1982 the country suffered a financial crash.

          A fourth thing to know is that a lot of the money fuelling the various Ponzi schemes is foreign money, Chinese and Japanese money in the main (I think) but also Saudi oil money. Saudi Arabia has had an arrangement with the US since the 1940s to invest the bulk of its oil profits in US securities, which partly explains why for all the kingdom’s supposed wealth, it hasn’t trickled down to ordinary Saudi citizens.

          • Oddlots says:

            I hit the jackpot:

          • Oddlots says:

            God I love this joint. And Jen.

          • Oddlots says:

            First part: I hear this a lot and I wonder whether it’s as important as suggested. Far as I know the ECB is entirely a public entity but it t can be so and also be entirely “in the tank” for private interests. Likewise, the Fed can be owned by the private banks that hold its shares but act in the public interest, albeit only after the stables been emptied so to speak. So I don’t think ownership is the slam dunk issue that it’s often made out to be.

            The more crucial difference I think is whether the central bank is pursuing a soft or a hard money philosophy.

            There are some further ironies here. The thing that strikes me as funny – in a dark way -about the Euro crisis is that the ECB seems to think that its credibility is at stake in such a way that it has to or should ration it’s firepower. It’s as if a commander of a castle under siege said: “Here men, we can only afford to give you five bullets each. And whatever you do don’t let the enemy know we’ve got that massive howitzer.”

            FFS. What’s the point of having the howitzer if no one knows about it?

            I know it is constrained by treaties from backstopping member banks but if anything that only makes it worse. It’s like saying: not only have we thought through our entirely idiotic plan of defense but we’ve also codified it so, even in the heat of battle, we can’t deviate from it (the idiotic plan.) Now tie me to that mast over there!

            The real joke is that just across the Atlantic this commander has the perfect proof that the constraints he is imposing on himself are, well, entirely self imposed. The fed and treasury create massive amounts of munny by “entering digits on a keyboard” and suffer no ill results. In fact they recover faster. But the Europeans just can’t seem to see it.

            But back to your points. Regarding the lender of first or last resort, that is a good point but also just highlights the importance of the philosophy of central banking over institutional structure.

            The way I look at it is this. I think you can have private banking without any problem SO LONG AS they are understood to be managing credit risk in a system that is inherently a public monopoly. In other words, the government can successfully outsource the provision and management of credit to the private sector as much as it likes but ONLY if these actors recognize the ultimate authority of the central bank to police them and the system as a whole. You can only have private sector banking by virtue, not in spite of, regulation.

            I think this is roughly the system we have in Canada – private sector banks but only with tight regulation – and it works very well to my mind. And again, it’s really about what these people – the central bankers – understand themselves to be doing rather than some institutional set up or rule book or ownership per se.

            So, in light of this your points about de-regulation…

            To my eyes de-regulation may or may not be a plus at times in the non-financial sector BUT in finance it is and is always a doomsday device. This is because private sector finance can only be coherent within a regulated system. Take the regulation away and it’s just a matter of time before the private sector gorges itself on the fruits of the real economy to such an extent that credit pollution risks destroying the whole system.

            • Oddlots says:

              Your points about dollar recycling – e.g. the Saudi-US relationship – suggest the limit to my “soft money philosophy.” To put it in terms that Mark used… If you can make any piece of trash currency why aren’t we already living on The Big Rock Candy Mountain? If there’s no effective link between tax revenues and government spending – which there isn’t in my telling – why don’t we just “let ‘er rip” and quit stalling. Nirvana.

              There’s obviously something missing in the picture I’ve painted and I think it’s the relationship of fiat currencies to each other.

              Undoubtedly the Fed’s ability to print is a function of the demand for dollar assets. Without that demand the Fed’s options would be far more constrained.

              Looking at Russia in this context is revealing. I think one way of looking at the sanctions threat is this. The Americans are basically saying: we are going to constrain your ability to use the power inherent in the possession of a sovereign currency by depressing or eliminating demand for Rubles. Likewise when Russia negotiates swap deals etc. with China it is likewise saying: we are going to defend our sovereign ability to deficit spend on let’s say… the military by ensuring that there is enough base demand for the currency that our deficit spending won’t be undermined by inflation. (That is a complete guess. If you can’t tell I’m just making this up.)

              Put another way, if my “soft money” philosophy is so compelling why is it that Russia and other countries who, to my mind, are fighting the good fight for independence from “the Borg” and for self-determination and multi-polarity, pursuing “hard money” policies and, like Mercouris and the Russian government itself, are thus fiscally conservative?

              Maybe my soft-money view is just an artifact of the dollar system? In other words, one can only have this lax money policy if one’s currency is essentially a derivative of the mighty dollar. If I lived in a country that was not America’s sidekick it would be painfully obvious that the power for the government to spend is far more constrained.

        • Cortes says:

          Elegantly stated.

          Thank you.

      • Oddlots says:

        Also, on the non-important but fun topic of weird physical traits of the great and good… Have you noticed how Mark Carney has an absolutely magnificently over-sized melon? It’s amazing. He’s like a walking, breathing Bobble Head. I once met someone who had worked with him and I couldn’t contain myself and had to ask. He confirmed that it is indeed stupendously mis-matched with his body as if he were a product of that kid’s game where one person draws a head, folds the paper over and the next draws a torso…

  12. Oddlots says:

    This is awesome commentary:

    C/o Naked Capitalism

    • Cortes says:


      Thank you!

    • et Al says:

      Nice point about giving up Osbourne for Schauble, but Scots aren’t Greeks by a loooong margin. The power and the money in Greece is concentrated in the hands of twelve families and Greece has been kept destabilized by the west since the start of the Cold War. Yes, is partly a bed of their own making, but when the rules are loaded against you from the get go, it certainly doesn’t help. As I told a whinging Greek friend of mine, “You had a choice to make, democracy (GREXIT) or keeping the euro. You chose both. You loose.”

      For the Scots, the circle they have got to square is making an independent Scotland pay for itself which means a jump in to the future and not relying on historical benefits like North Sea oil and redistributed profits from that back from London. If anyone can make it work, the Scots can. There are quite a few other small countries that perform exceedingly well and the Scots are giant engineers and fearless creators.

      What is certain is that the old European model is not fit for the future, neither the EU in its current form, nor locking the EU in to a death embrace with the United States with the T-TIP.

      I’ve always wondered How bad does it have to get before anyone faces up to reality? and the only answer I have so far is, very bad. I fear we are still not there. BREXIT is just one stage that we can clearly identify but it looks like it is still early on, five stages of grief and all that (again).

      What really p’s me off is that absolutely no-one is being held responsible for this crisis. It’s the system man! A system manipulated and perverted by whom? Quite a lot of people who have names.

      They’re all untouchable in a supposedly democratic system, and we have the temerity to go around bombing other countries to “bring democracy” when we can’t even follow the basic principles at home any more. It’s just a veneer.

      I’m looking forward to the UK Labor party punch up. FM Benn has been fired for preparing to lead a coup against Corbyn, but almost all those who will be resigning from the shadow cabinet are hardcore Blairites who voted for the UK to bomb Syria (i.e. Assad) last October. They’re trying to pull a leadership coup just before the Chilcott report on I-raq is about to come out and eviscerate they great spiritual Dear Leader T. Blair and other war criminals like Jack Straw who all paved the way for the disaster that has only benefited islamic terrorism and brought it to Europe.

      Maybe this is the beginning of a great re-alignment of Britain and Europe. Maybe not. As long as all the old shit gets thrown out it’ll be a start.

      • Fern says:

        Al, totally agree with your point on accountability. What’s now crystal clear – as if any proof was needed – is the sheer criminal irresponsibility of Cameron and his circle. He held this referendum without ANY Plan B – no thought whatsoever given to what happens if ‘Leave’ should win. It just shows how these guys have never had proper jobs where they’re responsible for doing stuff and being held to account if stuff doesn’t get done.

        There should have been a plan ready to swing into action on Friday – what we have instead is an implosion at Westminster with both the Tories and Labour busy cannibalising themselves. It pains me to say it but the only folk showing any actual leadership are Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

        • colliemum says:

          That Sturgeon woman isn’t showing leadership, she’s having a tantrum.

          In the first place, having a second ‘in-a-lifetime referendum is a matter for the UK Parliament, not for Scotland, to decide.
          In the second place, she – that is, Scotland – does not have the competence to enter into talks with a foreign power, that’s also Brussels. That’s the competence of the FO, and it has not been transferred to Holyrood.

          And finally, as some EU officials have made clear to her, Scotland, as part of the UK, is now out – and if Scotland leaves the UK, it must make a new application for membership, as new state, to Brussels. They’ll check if Scotland fulfils their criteria, which will be a bit, ahem, difficult, because Scotland is on the drip of English tax money. Oil price is low, as we know – much lower than in 2014, and Scotland would of course lose her fishing grounds – just won back by leaving the EU, when they join.

          Too much late-night watching of Braveheart, methinks, and not enough cold analysis.

          • et Al says:

            Or just plain old shit stirring!

            • colliemum says:

              That as well.
              The Germans online, above and below the fold, are salivating at the prospect of an independent Scotland and never mind the facts.
              For them – ‘We want our country back” = eeeevil nationalism; Sturgeon’s ‘Independence from England = wonderful and praiseworthy.
              I blame ‘Braveheart’ …

          • marknesop says:

            All good points. You want to watch out, or you’ll be the next courted for foreign adviser to Poroshenko – God knows he doesn’t have anyone in his clutch of advisers who knows squat about analysis. While I speak of him, you would think all of this would be obvious to Scotland, as we only just went through all the shrieking that Crimea had no right to leave and had to ask Kiev for permission. If Scotland can demonstrate it is an autonomous entity with a distinct population and its own infrastructure, they could try a unilateral declaration of independence! See how eager the west is to support that.

            • colliemum says:

              Fat chance!
              He’ll soon be able to take his pick from the sad British EU civil servants who have to go home, or even better: some MPs might want a second job – or even much better: from October, Cameron really needs some extra income, like Tony Blair …

              • marknesop says:

                Yeah, but if they could do analysis, Britain probably would not have left the EU.

                • colliemum says:

                  Sorry, but no.
                  The MSM in the UK and EU, and the politicians, especially the Remain campaigners, have reduced the question of IN and OUT to the economic level. It was about much more, which the oh-so-stupid electorate which voted OUT have understood far better than the “Elites”.
                  I’m quoting from a letter which the Labour MP Tony Benn wrote a bit over forty years ago, on the occasion of the first referendum held in remain or leave here in the UK. Ten the majority voted remain …
                  Here it is:

                  “In short, the power of the electors of Britain, through their direct representatives in Parliament to make laws, levy taxes, change laws which the courts must uphold, and control the conduct of public affairs has• been substantially ceded to the European Community whose Council of Ministers and Commission are neither collectively elected, nor collectively dismissed by the British people nor even by the peoples a all the Community countries put together.”

                  The full text, especially his explanation of our parliamentary democracy, is well worth reading:

                  That was what we talked about, that’s what the people understood, and that’s why we won.
                  If you like, I can give some excellent links about the imposition by brussels of the Code Napoleon derived “Corpus Juris”, which we’d have been forced to accept, and which does away with our Anglo-Saxon judicial system, from Habeas Corpus and Trial by Jury to the infamous ‘European Arrest Warrant’.

                  It wasn’t about money and the economy … the British experts in Brussels haven’t understood, nor Cameron and most of the MPs, nor the MSM.

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s very interesting, quite eloquent on Benn’s part, and yes, I’d be further interested in those links. Just by the bye, it’s great to hear you sounding so feisty again. You must take care of yourself, but you sound fighting fit.

                • yalensis says:

                  But if the majority of the English people realized that the EU was trying to turn them into a legal colony — then do they also understand that the USA has turned them into a political colony with no foreign policy of its own?

                • Oddlots says:

                  What? Say it ain’t so!

                  I thought you were a racist xenophobic like the rest of us!

                • Jen says:

                  @ Yalensis: Paul Craig Roberts says on his blog that 90% of all the people in a British Army unit voted for Leave. If they’re typical of military service personnel in the UK, that must mean the British armed forces understand what their value to Washington is.

                • colliemum says:

                  May I respectfully suggest that the British Armed Forces actually understood that the EU is indeed building an EU Army, and that they, who now were the only professional Armed Forces in the EU, would be Brussel’s mercenaries, and in the firing line every time someone like Juncker or Mogherini wanted to play war.
                  After all – they had to undertake exercises with some EU contingents a few weeks ago, on Salisbury Plains, with the EU emblem on our vehicles, and must have realised from that what the outcome would be if they were forced, for example, to ‘help’ the beleaguered ChocoPoro against you-know-whom.
                  They’re not stupid, they recall what happened to them in Iraq and Afghanistan.

              • Jen says:

                Yes I can see George Osborne fitting quite comfortably in Poroshenko’s special advisory council because as Chancellor of the United Kingdom, having never studied economics at Oxford (not even that PPE course it runs) and his CV demonstrating the Conservative Party as his main employer before he entered politics, he knows squat about analysis.

        • marknesop says:

          That’s absolutely correct – Cameron trusted completely in the ‘flinch factor’ touted by the bookies, which was built into their projections; that Britons would talk a good fight, but when it was just he or she in the polling booth and no one the wiser, would mark “Remain”, out of fear that all they know would change. The British government made no preparations for “Leave”, because it was never entertained as a serious choice. It’s amazing how set in ones ways one can become in only 43 years, which is how long Britain has been part of the EU.

      • yalensis says:

        Al, that was such an excellent comment, you are crystal-right about everything.
        The lack of accountability, and the vicious war crimes committed by Dear Leader Tony Blair and his spiritual descendants. The people who brought Wahhabi terrorism to the streets of European cities. You are right about all of that.

        These people got very bent and went very wrong. Not everything can be blamed on Uncle Sam. Sure Tío Sam is evil, but he wouldn’t be nearly as omnipotent if he didn’t have willing minions across the pond.

      • Oddlots says:

        Ha! Beautiful:

        “As I told a whinging Greek friend of mine, “You had a choice to make, democracy (GREXIT) or keeping the euro. You chose both. You lose.”

      • Oddlots says:

        Let me try and make that beautifully pointed object you just placed their a little more so… (Apologies in advance if I fail.)

        The thing that really drives me crazy is how inverted these people’s world view is and how blissfully unaware they (and the majority of “us”) are of this fact. Everything they say is not just wrong but a complete inversion of the truth.

        Putin is Hitler. Meanwhile we have actually just brought real flesh-and-blood fascists into government power in Kiev and are helping them target ethnic-Russians just for being such in this multi-ethnic state.

        The Leave camp are a bunch of xenophobic racists. Meanwhile in Syria we are using the most horrifyingly vicious sectarian crazies to depose a non-sectarian government that is the only actor capable of protecting religious minorities. And we’re patting ourselves on the back for this humanitarian intervention! But raise the question: errrr… Can’t we look at dealing with the refugee crisis by stopping the war? and all you’re likely to hear in response is: “Racist!”

        It’s so bat-shit crazy I’m not surprised western political parties are imploding the world over. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time I turned on a television they were reporting that politicians heads were spontaneously exploding as soon as they open their mouths to say something.

        (And just in case this image seems disturbing I’m suggesting no help would be needed. Their heads would explode from within.)

  13. yalensis says:

    In other news :
    Anton Herashchenko has accused Nadezhda Savchenko of being a Russian agent.
    He says his “Mirotvorec” (“Peacekeeper”) volunteers, those intrepid sleuths, have uncovered the evidence against Nadia. Apparently, when she was in Russian prison, she conducted some correspondence with people living in DPR/LPR. In particular, the “Mirotvorec” snitches found a letter between Savchenko and a Russian “terrorist” named Maria Kolyada.
    Herashchenko is highly suspicious of Savchenko. Recently she has been making “strange” pronouncements about seeking peace in Donbass. Herashchenko believes that Nadia was “turned” by Putin’s agents, while in captivity.
    By the way, the letter they show from Kolyada is extremely interesting.
    I might do a blogpost on this, but probably not for a few days, right now I am kind of preoccupied with the Nikita Belykh story. Embarras de richesses right now, with so much stuff going on.

    • marknesop says:

      I would be highly suspicious of Geraschenko, because he is exactly the kind of fat twisted fuck who needs a bully-boy government in power so he can spread terror and nobody dares to challenge him because of the trouble he can unleash. If anyone thought for a moment that it was just Geraschenko with nobody behind him, somebody’s brother would beat him senseless and leave him in a dumpster. If we cannot even believe a photograph any more because of PhotoShop, I’d imagine a letter is considerably easier to fake, and I would not at face value believe anything introduced by Kiev.

      I likewise doubt Savchenko was ‘turned by Putin’; she hates Russia and Russians. However, she is crazy, so it is possible she was somehow tricked. She seems to take higher political office seriously and to want it regardless her pretended humility. Nobody can trust Kiev because everything inside city limits is wall-to-wall intrigue, and the present government wants very much to remain in power even though it is totally unfit to govern and sucks at it.

  14. marknesop says:

    The KSA allegedly cops to having provided 20% of the total funding to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. The site was quickly taken down and branded ‘a hack’, but a version in Arabic appears to confirm the information.

    Seriously – what is it going to take to stop that woman from becoming president?

  15. colliemum says:

    I thought this little report might be of interest to the stooges:

    It’s been reported in other British papers as well.

    So one assumes there won’t be any polite little green men landing here any time soon …

    • et Al says:

      Al Beeb s’Allah GONAD (God’s Own News Agency Direct): EU referendum: What does Russia gain from Brexit?

      By Steve Rosenberg

      It always surprises me that the BBC continues to mistake Rosenberg’s reports as journalism, and pays him for it. The Beeb could get this all of one of the multitude of russophobic blogs out there for free!

      • colliemum says:

        Heh – it doesn’t surprise us here in Blighty one bit! AlJaBeeba, as some have now taken to calling it, is a prime example for group think, and the preferred ideology is the same you can find in the Guardian, with which they have an incestuous relationship. Most of us simply don’t watch it any longer.

      • marknesop says:

        “Of all EU states, Britain has been the most aggressive towards Russia,” writes political analyst Alexei Mukhin in the tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets. “It has always criticised us and tried to harm us economically, financially and politically. Brexit will make the European Union more friendly towards Russia.”

        Wishful thinking, perhaps. The UK has not been the only EU state taking a hard line with Russia. Poland, Sweden and the Baltic states have been too.”

        Ahhhh ha ha ha ha!!! Rule One: think of it in your head through the filter, “Is this going to sound stupid coming out of my mouth?” before you say it. Yes, thank God for the combined European power of Poland, Sweden and the Baltic States!! The entire commentary is too absurdly stupid for words, starting off with that “Russia is secretly backing Brexit”. What fucking use is that, ‘secretly’ backing something which is an opinion referendum?? Is that like ‘secretly’ painting your house a different colour? The foolishness which is allowed in print these days should make Britons ashamed, it really should, and it is clear the country is going out with a bang in terms of Russophobia. Roll on that lot getting kicked to the curb – maybe there are a few real journalists left who can just report what they see and hear instead of ‘my thoughts’. It’s already pretty well forecast what ‘your thoughts’ will be, Steve-O.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m glad he didn’t make fun of Britain for how ramshackle and casual the referendum was considering its massive implicit import. I doubt Cameron would need much encouragement to say “You know, you’re right: that was never done properly. Let’s have a real one, with lots of government monitoring and international observers, to ensure there’s no fiddling”.

      • colliemum says:

        Well …
        The odd thing is that there was no fiddling, simply because there were no posts and money to be given out afterwards, such as in’s you give me your vote, I’ll promise you that your uncle will get his cab license ..”
        The Referendum text and procedure was set out by the Electoral Commission, with much input from politicians across the country, and from interested citizens – right down to the question to be asked.
        That was then presented in Parliament, to be voted on by the elected MPs.
        Even the time when the official campaign was allowed to start (April) had been determined, as well as the rule of purdah which had to be observed (no government minister can use information from his ministry as campaign material) – broken straightaway by Cameron’s infamous ‘government advice booklet’ – 9 million £ of taxpayers’ money.
        The sum the designated campaigns for in and out were allowed to spend was also determined. Political parties were also allowed a sum, depending on the votes they’d had at the last GE.
        So it was all done and dusted well before the campaign kicked off, everybody knew, and we’ve had no reports of fiddling from the usual places – London excepted. These places are generally Labour constituencies, but lo and behold, especially in the North – they went and voted for Brexit, in staggering majorities.
        The funny thing is that especially that lot in the EU have not thought it important to inform themselves of the facts before Brexit.
        And to top it all – it’s now come out that the youth, who are howling that Granny and Granddad ruined their future simply didn’t manage to go to the polling stations, never mind using postal ballots! Only 36% of the age group 18-25 bothered to vote … and we can be quite certain that not all of them voted Remain.
        Ah well, generation Snowflake must be pacified … so fake a petition for another referendum, why not …

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, I personally have no doubt that it was all legal and aboveboard – I’m just mocking the use of buses and pubs as polling stations, as well as some other little odd spots which looked like the entrance to the WC. And that only because England went out of its way to take the Mickey of every Russian election and laugh heartily at the monkeys aping democracy.

          • colliemum says:

            Got it!
            Personally, I like the eccentricity of such polling stations, it’s very British.
            One thing we should import from Russia though are transparent ballot boxes. They have them in France as well, IIRC.

            • marknesop says:

              I agree. Now if only we could get the EU to refer to such measures as ‘eccentric’ when they see them in Russia, instead of ‘democracy-hijacking’.

              • colliemum says:

                Get the EU to agree to that?
                Yer ‘aving a larf!
                The EU will never ever climb down from it’s high perch, they are the prophets of what is just and right and ideal, they are the high priests of “European Values”, and that is unchangeable. Once someone or a country is on the naughty step, only humble begging will maybe, perhaps, after ten years, bring a tiny change in the EU.

  16. et Al says:

    Neuters: EU names Belgian to coordinate Brexit negotiations

    …Didier Seeuws was chief-of-staff to Herman Van Rompuy, Tusk’s Belgian predecessor as chairman of EU summits, until 2014. He was a spokesman for Guy Verhofstadt when the liberal leader in the European Parliament, a strong advocate of deeper EU integration, was Belgian prime minister in 1999-2008…

    The rich irony of having a Belgian mandarin in charge of negotiations when Belgium itself is still divided and not so long ago approached break up. I suspect that this is yet another ‘compromise’ appointment as nominating Frenchman (woman) or German (woman) would be politically unacceptable.

  17. Jen says:

    Well, well, look who’s going to Harvard Business School to do a 2-year business course there!

  18. Lyttenburgh says:

    Over 10,000 Sign Petition to Hold Brexit-Style Referendum in Finland

    YIS! #FinnishFinish

    And I’m pretty sure that one of singatures belongs to the fiery anti-globalist, anti-American patriot and pro-Russian comment karl! Our comrade karl! Without doubt.

    Si vis Pace para Perklele,

  19. Fern says:

    Another uh-uh moment. John Kerry is flying to Brussels for ‘urgent talks’ with EU and British leaders. Love to be a fly-on-the-wall during the inevitable ‘Dave, how did it come to this?’ conversation.

    • marknesop says:

      I’d like to have his frequent-flyer miles. I imagine his mission will be twofold – to negotiate a new security partnership with Britain in which it will no longer be able to poison the entire EU with American ideals, and to reassure the remainder of the wall-eyed stable beasts in the EU leadership. The very last thing Washington wants is any sort of normalization of relations between the remainder of the EU and Moscow. Kerry will be there to consolidate the American position to best advantage in both cases, but there is no getting away from the fact that it is significantly weaker than it was just days ago.

      Gosh; Ukraine is getting expensive.

  20. Cortes says:

    Utterly unforeseeable letter in The Telegraph:

    SIR – One clear beneficiary from the Brexit vote is Russia.

    A diminished and weakened EU, uncertainty about Nato, the looming prospect of the UK breaking up, the possibly of the rest of the EU falling apart as other nations call for referendums – these things have strengthened Vladimir Putin’s hand.

    Indeed, Russia may have been relatively quiescent lately because it was hoping for this result. The future may now be far less pleasant than the rejoicing Leavers suppose.

    Dr Marek Laskiewicz
    London W6

      • Oddlots says:

        I think we have a match.

        It takes a certain kind of genius to right about the prediction and wrong about every single premise that led him there.

        Naseem Taleb has a phrase that might be useful here: IYI (Intellectuals Yet Idiots.)

        To be fair I think Taleb had in mind the consensus view and those who heroically go out on a limb to promote it rather than the loon described above.

      • marknesop says:

        Certainly sounds like it. What a crackpot. It takes all kinds, what? ‘Self-accredited’, eh? There could be a great future in that if it ever gets off the ground.

    • colliemum says:

      Ah – but Cameron and the Remainians have told us that Putin would rejoice if we voted OUT, so now there it is, and surely everybody must now be on the look-out for the little green men! After all, didn’t he try to land some troops already, when he tried to have one of his U-Boats creep through the Channel a few weeks ago? Not that it would be difficult, the “refugees” seem to find it quite easy, using rubber dinghies to land on our protected coast …

      Gawd – I’m going o say something heretical now, for which MI5 might get me: I do wish we had someone in government like Putin, with balls and backbone to take on the EU, breaking their balls, and saying the modern equivalent of ‘publish and be damned’ to the MSM and social meejah!

  21. yalensis says:

    Hm….. This piece is extremely intresting. It should be a rebuttal to those who still regard Strelkov as an unblemished hero.

    The gist of the piece is:
    (1) Today is Zakharchenko’s 40’th birthday.
    (2) Zakharchenko is well liked in Russia and received jublee congratulations from Vladislav Surkov, who speaks for Putin. (supposedly)
    (3) An Ossetian volunteer, Alan Mamiev, who was fighting for the Donbass side, recalls that horrible day on 5 July 2014, when Strelkov gave the order to abandon Slavyansk.
    (4) Three field commanders met in emergency session: Zakharchenko, Khodakovsky, and Dikiy. They were in shock: They could not believe that a Russian officer had given the command to abandon Slavyansk (and all of the surrounding territory) and retreat to Donetsk. They wondered if the order had come from the Kremlin, which would signify that the Kremlin was throwing Donbass under the bus.
    (5) Sergei Kurginian was present at the meeting and assured the field commanders, that no such order had been given by the Kremlin. It was all just Strelkov. Strelkov had ordered his men to retreat from Slavyansk to Donetsk, to turn Donetsk into a wall of fire and then retreat and all the way back to Russia.
    (6) Zakharchenko refused to obey this order. The Donbass is his native land. He will not leave it, nor his family behind.
    (7) Zakharchenko later revealed in an interview to the journalist (Alexander Chalenko) that at the time, he (Zakharchenko) looked Strelkov straight in the eye, and called him a traitor. Right to his face.
    (8) Even though the Seps lost much territory (including Slavyansk) due to Girkin’s poor decision, nonetheless, they were at least able to keep hold of Donetsk itself, and save many people from the yellow-blue fascist tyranny. They were also able to save the city from Girkin, who would attempted to turn this living city, filled with living Russian people, into an ashy husk, like Stalingrad.
    (9) In conclusion, it was the local man, Zakharchenko, who proved to the world that a local leader must lead the local people. Not some mercenary adventurer like Girkin.
    (10) The piece goes on to conclude that Zakharchenko has earned his right to be the leader of Novorossiya, and to predict that possibly also (in the future) he will become the leader of all of the Ukraine.


  22. kirill says:

    What’s the deal with the “Scottish veto” of the referendum. How in hell does a referendum get vetoed? Why not just have the House of Lords veto it then? Do I get to veto the elected government if I don’t like the result of the popular vote? Is that my “right”?

    • colliemum says:

      It is your “right” if you either are
      * a EU Commissioner;
      * a juvenile of 16 – 21 years (‘Generation Snowflake’).
      Obviously, some adults, especially those calling themselves ‘leader’, have not outgrown that juvenile stage no matter their actual age …

  23. astabada says:

    Look at this piece of local news! Apparently Putin is to blame for the price of milk in Australia.

    I cannot make up my mind whether the author was pushed by conformism, or there is an agenda even for such small newspapers as the Canberra Times.

    • marknesop says:

      I see; I think I get it. By shooting down MH17, Putin made countries other than the USA overcome their reluctance to impose sanctions against Russia. He then compounded his perfidy by imposing counter-sanctions against them, instead of just meekly accepting the punishment he deserved. As if he had not already wreaked enough havoc, be then placed a hex on major dairy producers which caused them to forecast an unsustainable high price, which resulted in overproduction.

      He’s a worthy heir to Super-Gran, of whom her arch-rival “The Scunner” Campbell used to inquire rhetorically, “Is there nothin’ she cannae do?”

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