With impeccable timing, it seeped out that a group of experts at the German Finance Ministry is studying ways to deal with a Greek exit from the Eurozone. A spokesperson clarified helpfully on Friday, rather than denying it, that the group has been in existence for over a year. Impeccable timing because it happened as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was arriving in Berlin for his begging expedition. German Chancellor Angela Merkel must have smiled. The heat was on.
Central banks are designed to be “independent,” and they shroud themselves in secrecy. But they have formidable and, when it comes to money, “unlimited” powers that they harness for the benefit of their clientele, banks. And hiding behind their veil of secrecy are shenanigans that rarely seep to the surface, but when they do, they just get worse and worse. The latest is a sordid bribery and kickback scandal at the Reserve Bank of Australia that appeared to be neatly contained to two subsidiaries, until now.
It must have been a nightmare for Neil Barofsky, former Inspector General overseeing TARP during the financial crisis. He was on CNBC this morning to hawk his new book, when all heck broke loose. An argument about TARP, the most despised law in the US … how it prevented the collapse of Wall Street or something. But they failed to mention that by the time TARP was handing out money, it had already become irrelevant. A much greater power had taken control.
Euro optimism is once again gushing through the system on the hope that the debt crisis could be wished away with a nod by German Chancellor Angela Merkel or with a wink by the Bundesbank at the European Central Bank, which is dying to print unlimited amounts of moolah to buy sovereign bonds—and old bicycles, if it has to—in order to force yields down for debt-sinner countries like the US Spain and Italy. But in Greece there has been an incident.
Natural gas may be the most mispriced commodity these days. Its price has been below the cost of production for so long that the industry is suffering serious consequences with billions in losses—dollied up as “non-cash accounting charges.” Leveraged players are trying to keep their chin above water by selling assets. And drilling activity is collapsing. But demand for natural gas by power producers has been booming—and it’s killing coal one powerplant at a time.
Here are some easy tricks that I found to be very helpful in maintaining at least some sort of privacy and security for life on the internet (Note: This is in addition to keeping Windows, anti-virus software, Java, Flashplayer, etc. updated). Smartphones: If you use a smartphone (and a lot of apps) for everything…
The Eurozone wasn’t supposed to be a house of cards. And as long as there was “confidence” that it would work, it worked: the financial markets offered cheap no-questions-asked loans to the most profligate governments that sucked up phenomenal amounts of money. But all that remains from this drunken frenzy are mountains of decomposing debt. Now taboos are violated, sacred cows are slaughtered, and the euro has been tossed on the chopping block.
“That amount of radium found to date cannot be explained by gauges, deck markers, and decontamination activities,” wrote Stephen Woods, an environmental cleanup manager at the California Department of Public Health, about Treasure Island, the rectilinear speck of land in the San Francisco Bay two-and-a-half miles of white caps from our kitchen window. It summed up decades of US Government efforts to bury nuclear sins under layers of ignorance.
“Default is not necessarily destructive,” said Panayiotis Lafazanis, a Greek politician. “It is a weapon of the weak when they reach the point of not being able to pay their debts.” Closer to the truth than anything else emanating from Greek politics. “Not necessarily destructive” for the Greeks, but highly destructive for the European Central Bank that ended up with the Greek bonds; and for banks with derivative exposure to them. Hence the bailouts. To keep the bondholders afloat, not the Greeks—no one wants to recapitalize the ECB.
It’s been tough for natural gas drillers. Prices crashed. Drilling activity collapsed. Producers are writing down their natural gas assets by the billions. And the bloodletting continues. On the other side, power generators have switched from coal to natural gas, pushing their consumption of it to new highs. A trend started two decades ago with a new technology and the usual suspect, Congress. A toxic brew for coal.