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Tag: Athens

How Cyprus was robbed

Tuesday, 26 March, 2013 0 Comments

Reuters: “As new President Nicos Anastasiades hesitated over an EU bailout that has wrecked Cyprus’s offshore financial haven status, money was oozing out of his country’s closed banks.”

All those TV and newspaper images of Cypriots standing in line to get their daily €100 from the ATM show the real victims of the bailout/bailin. The reality is that the big money has left the island and the Brussels PR campaign that the real pain would be felt by the “rich” is exposed as just another Big Lie. Check this out:

“The two banks at the centre of the crisis — Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki, and Bank of Cyprus — have units in London which remained open throughout the week and placed no limits on withdrawals. Bank of Cyprus also owns 80 percent of Russia’s Uniastrum Bank, which put no restrictions on withdrawals in Russia. Russians were among Cypriot banks’ largest depositors.”

And who’s left holding the can? We’ll see real suffering at the end of this week when Cypriot firms are scheduled to pay their workers.

When the euro was launched, its most ardent defenders used to argue that monetary union would eventually require political union. Their moment came, they thought, with the Greek nightmare. However, instead of being the expected catalyst, it turned out that the “cure” of forcing bitter economic medicine down reluctant throats in Athens generated hatred, not gratitude. The Cyprus crisis has exacerbated the situation and the thing that was meant to unite is now becoming the great divider. What we’re left with is an increasingly unhappy marriage of totally incompatible partners.


The European NIGHTVISION of Luke Shepard

Tuesday, 22 January, 2013 0 Comments

Click on the arrow or thumbnail of the NIGHTVISION navigation to experience some memorable photos of Europe’s cities. It’s all the work of Luke Shepard, a student at the American University of Paris. His after-dark video exploration of Paris, Le Flâneur, was so well received two years ago that he decided to crowd-source funds on Kickstarter to bring the NIGHTVISION concept to to Valencia, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels. The modest estimate for the job was $17,000, and the project closed at the end of September last year with a total of $19,446 pledged.

[iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/17894033″ width=”100%” height=”480″]

To make Le Flâneur, Luke Shepard used a Nikon SLR D90 camera and a tripod. Unlike typical time-lapse video, however, he shot 2,000 images a short distance apart and put them together using Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.


e-book review: The Making of the Greek Crisis by James Pettifer

Friday, 25 May, 2012

It is possible that James Pettifer was overcome by philhellene emotion when writing The Making of the Greek Crisis. Or he might have been the victim of over-hasty editing, or the short e-book format chosen by Penguin for this topic is unsuited to the complexity of the matter. In any event, the reader is often more perplexed than enlightened when swiping through the text.

Peffifier: Greek Crisis “The European Union and International Monetary Fund negotiators who sit in authority in Athens in 2012 have many antecedents,” begins Pettifer. It’s an unconvincing start as Athens in 2012, so far, has produced more chaos than authority and those responsible for this are primarily Greek politicians. Pettifer continues: “Men and women completely ignorant of the Greek language have played their parts in the making of modern Greece, with varying degrees of success.” To suggest that the EU/IMF negotiators, whatever their nationalities and native languages, do not have access to Greek-speaking support staff is incredible.

Pettifer can be sharp. He notes: “The Euro currency ‘project’ did not originate in Greece. As Victor Hugo observed in 1855, the notion of a single European currency, like all bad ideas, has been around for a very long time.” And he crafts some colourful images: “Yes this crisis did not drop from the sky as an eagle in Epirus might drop a sick lamb.” But he cancels this out with truly baffling sentences like this: “The wish to reject the American Exceptionalism of the Bush period has meant an often uncritical adherence to frequently superficially understood multilateralist ideas in international relations and abandonment of some aspects of US legitimate claims to world leadership.”

He correctly identifies the decision by Greece to host the 2004 Olympic Games as pivotal in the country’s loss of fiscal reason, but he undermines the argument with ideological point scoring such as, “…it appealed to the American corporations whose major players connected with big sport, like Nike and Coca Cola, had become sponsors and advertisers with all recent stagings of the Olympic Games. The Olympics embodied the culture of health, anti-smoking campaigning, intense and unbridled Darwinian competition and many other neo-conservative social objectives.”

While politics are personal, facts are not and more careful editing would have prevented 17 becoming 27 here: “The euro project was doomed because it was impossible to chain together twenty-seven different economies into one currency and one central financial institution without any tax revenue raising capacity.” One wonders, too, where the editor was when this drifted by:

“When I first went to little hilltop Exohorio in about 1983, very old ladies sung songs and wove on looms in their houses that had changed little since Homeric times. Now on nearby beaches you are as likely to hear the programmed chit-chat of Whitehall civil servants from London or Zehlendorf doctors from Berlin, and where the loom once stood is an ugly chrome exercise bike in a second home. Few of these north Europeans bother to learn any Greek at all, and some like the parsimonious Dutch are notorious locally for bringing their own food from the Netherlands in their neat motor caravans.”

If only the Greeks had been as parsimonious as the Dutch, James Pettifer would not be writing about the tragic crisis that has engulfed the land he so clearly loves. But Athens is not Amsterdam, and neither is it Berlin or London or Washington, as he points out repeatedly.

The Making of the Greek Crisis is short, but it would have benefitted from cutting in places. Experienced editors of e-books are scarce and the knack of fitting chapters, paragraphs and sentences to tablet and smartphone screens is being learned on the job, so James Pettifer might have profited from a kind of guidance that’s not widely available yet. Still, he has made an entertaining contribution to a debate that continues to dominate the headlines.