Belmont Club

Greece is the Word

News that Greece has closed its banks for an indefinite period has fueled anxiety among pundits that things are not going as well as expected.  Mohamed El-Erian, chairman of Barack Obama’s global development council, writes in the Guardian that “from the Greek crisis to Russia’s incursion in Ukraine, leaders must act fast to ensure that they can dissipate each crisis before it merges with the others.”  There’s a storm coming, he says, and Someone’s got to stop it.

Dark clouds are lowering over Europe’s economic future, as three distinct tempests gather: the Greek crisis, Russia’s incursion in Ukraine, and the rise of populist political parties. Though each poses a considerable threat, Europe, aided by the recent cyclical pickup, is in a position to address them individually, without risking more than a temporary set of disruptions. Should they converge into a kind of “perfect storm”, however, a return to sunny days will become extremely difficult to foresee any time soon. …

Already, Greek voters handed the far-left anti-austerity Syriza party a sweeping victory in January. France’s far-right National Front is currently second in opinions polls. The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party finished second in the country’s just-concluded general election, with 22% of the vote. And, in Spain, the leftist anti-austerity Podemos commands double-digit support.

There is an ironic sense of foreboding at the end of what Politico called a  “momentous week” when Obama’s presidency was reborn.  Bari Weiss was a witness to history.

On Friday my phone was blowing up with messages, asking if I’d seen the news. Some expressed disbelief at the headlines. Many said they were crying.

None of them were talking about the dozens of people gunned down in Sousse, Tunisia, by a man who, dressed as a tourist, had hidden his Kalashnikov inside a beach umbrella. Not one was crying over the beheading in a terrorist attack at a chemical factory near Lyon, France. The victim’s head was found on a pike near the factory, his body covered with Arabic inscriptions. And no Facebook friends mentioned the first suicide bombing in Kuwait in more than two decades, in which 27 people were murdered in one of the oldest Shiite mosques in the country.

They were talking about the only news that mattered: gay marriage.

By some cruel coincidence, while everyone was celebrating victories on really important issues like transfats, transgender and alternative marriage the world has suddenly had a conniption.  Aside from the perils the Guardian cited, there is ISIS, China’s economic troubles and the growing tension in the South China Sea. While awaiting Someone to fix things or bail them out, the Greeks are reduced to wondering what comes next. The BBC has a one-word German term for the Greek financial system. Kaput.

It was more or less impossible for Greek banks to open tomorrow, once the European Central Bank announced it was turning off emergency lending to them.

Because in the absence of any increase in this so called Emergency Liquidity Assistance, the banks had no way to supply cash to Greek depositors who have been anxiously withdrawing their savings.

And, to state the obvious, banks that run out of cash are kaput.

Maybe they should go to the grocery store and wait.  Someone will figure out what to do. Almost to cap off a hexed week  a 3rd resupply mission to the International Space Station blew up shortly after launch. If this week wasn’t so momentous  it would be calamitous. The “triumphs” of the last two weeks have been largely symbolic and artificial. But the offsetting setbacks have disturbingly been altogether too spontaneous and worse, inevitable. The former have been achievements of campaigning. The latter have been failures in governance.

Most catastrophes are rooted in a contempt for the facts. The current Greek crisis was arithmetically inevitable but politically unthinkable.  Politicians like to pretend the Narrative can solve everything, but in actuality arithmetic always wins.  It’s not even close.

Recently, an event in Taiwan went horribly wrong when a red powder dusted on to the crowd to liven up proceedings flashed and burned more than 500 people, many very seriously.   What the event organizers had unintentionally done is create a fuel air bomb.  Like a grain silo explosion a normally inert material had been dispersed in a cloud of air and set off by a spark.  One moment it was momentous, the next disastrous.  They meant well, but that did not matter.

A series of atomized events, each seemingly harmless by itself can suddenly be fused by a spark into something wholly unexpected.  Don’t trust the narrative. Trust the physics.  Those who put their faith in campaigning instead of competence should remember Stein’s law “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop” and Murphy’s Law: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Those two edicts will overrule any law that human beings care to enact.

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When at last it dawns on people the can can’t get kicked any further down the road, they’ll look for Somebody to blame.  Other people’s guilt is the dual of other people’s money. Mike Bird of the Business Insider went to Athens to find out who’ll be fingered for collapse of the dream. “I landed in Greece late yesterday evening and went out immediately to try and talk to the people queueing to get their money out of banks.”

The one man that approached me said that the situation was the result of “Zionists.” My phone was out of battery by the time I got to the ATM, so I wasn’t able to record the conversation (though I’m not sure he would have liked that much anyway).

He blamed “Rothschilds” for the crisis, adding “we Greeks are Hellenic, the people of light. Now we only have a little light, not like in ancient times. They are trying to put us out.”

“It’s not the fault of German people, it’s not the fault of European people. You have to get to the source… they want to crush Greece.”

In the hour of reckoning, it probably won’t be Obama, nor Cameron, nor Merkel,  not the KKE (the Greek Communists) nor even the EU that will be blamed for dousing the light of Hope. But it will be Someone, in case you didn’t know.


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