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Whatever the outcome of the Greek referendum, we are seeing the death of the EU dream

It’s almost like the 1980s in reverse, but this time it is the West that’s suffering from a soft power deficit and self-confidence crisis. Should the European Dream perish, will the Eurasian Dream take its place?

Alex Christoforou

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Post appeared on Fort Russ, entitled “Requiem for the European Dream,” by Crimson Alter. Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

As European businessmen like to say, “if you think the situation can’t be made more absurd, EU bureaucrats will easily prove you wrong.” Greece is in default, but one still wants to cool the optimists’ ardor. EU will most likely survive this blow, though the cracks in the “common European home’s” facade will become visible to everyone.

The political context is the most important aspect of the situation in Greece. To put it bluntly, Greece is the epicenter of EU’s structural political crisis, and its being the temporary epicenter of an economic crisis is secondary in importance. As far as direct economic damage is concerned, Greece can inflict a serious blow against European supranational institutions (ECB, EFSF, Target2), but, overall, the EU banking system is more or less protected against Greek toxic assets due to their transfer into the accounts of state organizations (in other words, European taxpayers).

If the referendum results show the creditors the middle finger in response to their ultimatum, Greece has the potential to become an open wound and a headache for European bureaucrats. If the Greeks don’t decide to leave the Eurozone on their own, they can’t be forced to leave–there is no legal process for that. Any effort by Brussels bureaucrats to establish such a process would be:
a) complicated
b) prolonged
c) terrifying–because the threat to use the mechanism will be used as blackmail by other Eurozone politicians. There is a rule in politics: any structure which contains a legal procedure for self-liquidation will soon be liquidated. Therefore Greece will be able to blackmail the EU for some time in order to obtain concessions simply by poisoning the eurozone with their presence. We can imagine a very disagreeable divorce, complete with breaking of porcelain and black eyes.

The so-called Tsipras Letter in which EU and Russian media unexpectedly saw a ray of hope for resolving the crisis, and the Wall Street Journal even found a hint at cancelling the referendum, is best described as “proper form, but still a mockery.” Yes, the Greek government agreed to most of the creditors’ demands, except for a “few details”, but those are the details which make an agreement extremely unlikely. Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble instantly declared that “there is no basis for negotiations” (http://www.news.com.au/world/breaking-news/greeces-bailout-expires-country-defaults/story-e6frfkui-1227423032206), thus burying the hope that an escalation can be postponed. Tsipras’ subsequent TV appearance in which he announced that “after the referendum the government of Greece will return behind the negotiating table with a stronger position” only strengthens the impression that the “terrible end” scenario is being replaced with the “endless terror” one.

In that context Francois Hollande who is still trying to convince IMF, Berlin, and Athens to agree on something while the possibility still exists before the referendum ( http://www.ft.com/intl/fastft/353621) looks very lonely and unwanted. The French leader is behaving for wholly prosaic reasons–he knows that Greece’s present might be France’s future.

It’s easy to see that the main blow against the EU is in the ideological realm, and it’s a very telling blow: we are seeing the death of the myth of the ECB and European Commission omnipotence, and it is dying together with the myth that the EU is an invulnerable and eternal structure. It’s enough to reflect on Financial Times headlines: “The European dream is dying in Greece,” and “The failed common currency will define Angela Merkel’s legacy”!

When the crisis hits Spain and France (which are already discussed as the next stage), then it will be pain for real because after its failure in Greece (3% of EU’s GDP) nobody in their right mind will believe in the ECB’s and European Commission’s ability to save France’s or Spain’s economy. In a Goldman Sachs research report I cited earlier, Spain is listed as the next landmine whose explosion will be too big to be addressed by printing more euros:

“The medium-term consensus is that the Eurozone may become more cohesive without Greece. That logic assumes that Greece is a special case which of course does not correspond to reality. For example, Spain’s unemployment level is not that different from Greece’s, the the populist political pressure is increasing.” http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-

What makes the situation even more absurd is that the ECB director, Mario Draghi, is a former Goldman Sachs associate. Who knows, maybe he is at ECB on a “temporary assignment.”

The ECB has one option in the medium term–launch quantitative easing (officially or unofficially) and buy Eurozone government bonds from the secondary (and maybe even primary) market. This time it might work, but it would be the last time. Structural problems such as Spain’s cannot be addressed by issuing more money.

There is another aspect to the problem. Wikileaks got busy and sent European media the NSA intercepts of discussions between top Frency politicians (minister of finance and a senator) who in 2012 discussed how France’s economy is in a much worse shape than everyoen thinks, and that it will need radical changes in the next two years.
https://www.scribd.com/doc/270032184/NSA-France-Leak

Two years have passed and no radical reforms…It will be interesting to see how it will all end, but I doubt the leak was accidental. One cannot rule out the possibility that the Europeans are being gradually conditioned to think that, to cite a Financial Times columnist, “the European dream is dead.”

J.Hawk’s Comment: Since both nature and geopolitics abhor a vacuum, the vacuum of power left behind by the EU’s if not disappearance then certainly diminution (and to think that even 10 years ago it was believed it might become the world’s next hegemonic power, eclipsing the United States in that role) will have to be filled with someone. The article doesn’t even mention the basket cases closer to home, such as the Baltic States and the rest of Eastern/Southern Europe which are already suffering. It’s almost like the 1980s in reverse, but this time it is the West that’s suffering from a soft power deficit and self-confidence crisis. Should the European Dream perish, will the Eurasian Dream take its place?

References:

http://politrussia.com/world/rekviem-po-evropeyskoy-439/

http://fortruss.blogspot.ca/2015/07/requiem-for-european-dream.html

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Bercow blocks Brexit vote, May turns to EU for lifeline (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s latest Brexit dilemma, as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, shocked the world by citing a 1604 precedent that now effectively blocks May’s third go around at trying to pass her treacherous Brexit deal through the parliament.

All power now rests with the Brussels, as to how, if and when the UK will be allowed to leave the European Union.

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Via Bloomberg


Theresa May claims Brexit is about taking back control. Ten days before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, it looks like anything but.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s intervention, citing precedent dating back to 1604, to rule out a repeat vote on May’s already defeated departure deal leaves the prime minister exposed ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Bercow, whose cries of “Orrdurrr! Orrdurrr!’’ to calm rowdy lawmakers have gained him a devoted international following, is now the pivotal figure in the Brexit battle. May’s team privately accuse him of trying to frustrate the U.K.’s exit from the EU, while the speaker’s admirers say he’s standing up for the rights of parliament against the executive.

If just one of the 27 other states declines May’s summit appeal to extend the divorce timetable, then the no-deal cliff edge looms for Britain’s departure on March 29. If they consent, it’s unclear how May can meet Bercow’s test that only a substantially different Brexit agreement merits another vote in parliament, since the EU insists it won’t reopen negotiations.

Caught between Bercow and Brussels, May’s room for maneuver is shrinking. Amid rumblings that their patience with the U.K. is near exhaustion, EU leaders are girding for the worst.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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ABC’s Ted Koppel admits mainstream media bias against Trump [Video]

The mainstream news media has traded informing the public for indoctrinating them, but the change got called out by an “old-school” journo.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported on March 19th that one of America’s most well-known TV news anchors, Ted Koppel, noted that the once-great media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have indeed traded journalistic excellence for hit pieces for political purposes. While political opinions in the mainstream press are certainly within the purview of any publication, this sort of writing can hardly be classified as “news” but as “Opinion” or more widely known, “Op-Ed.”

We have two videos on this. The first is the original clip showing the full statement that Mr. Koppel gave. It is illuminating, to say the least:

Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume, a former colleague of Mr. Koppel, added their comments on this admission in this second short video piece, shown here.

There are probably a number of people who have watched this two-year onslaught of slander and wondered why there cannot be a law preventing this sort of misleading reporting. Well, Russia passed a law to stop it, hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook. It is a smart law because it does not advocate imprisonment for bad actors in the media, but it does fine them.

Going to prison for reporting “the truth” looks very noble. Having to pay out of pocket for it is not so exciting.

Newsmax and Louder with Crowder both reported on this as well.

This situation of dishonest media has led to an astonishing 77% distrust rating among Americans of their news media, this statistic being reported by Politico in 2018. This represents a nearly diametric reversal in trust from the 72% trust rating the country’s news viewers gave their news outlets in 1972. These statistics come from Gallup polls taken through the years.

 

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