Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas wishes

What is Christmas?
It is tenderness for the past,
Courage for the present,
Hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup
May overflow with blessings rich and eternal,
And that every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

Athens upheavel - part 2

This morning we heard that people are taking pot-shots at the police. Why is this happening, well the second part of the Why all this is happening lies with the government.

Many on the left disagree with the violence and have come out strongly against it. However many have also created a theory that the government is allowing this violence to occur, to let things get out of hand so that when they do call in the police, or even the army, they can start cracking heads and the people will cheer them on. Yes many people are saying what we need is another dictatorship, and the left is saying this is exactly what the government wants people to think.

However, the simplest reason is the best. And that reason is incompetence. We now know that when the violence started, the Minister of the Interior was at the Bouzoukia, throwing rose petals at the singers. Day Two when Athens was going to hell in a handbasket, he went to see a soccer match. Meanwhile the police where left rudderless and without instruction, except do nothing. Inaction is not an action.

We witnessed exactly the same happen when half of Greece was burning down with the fires. Action only happened when the Minister of Public Works stepped in and started giving orders to the firefighters, police and army. Despite what many think, these services need coordination and the authority to do things, the army cant just decide to come in and bring order, be it riots or fires, orders need to be given.

Just remember, the first act of this Prime Minister in 2004, was to sleep in and miss the Davos Conference. He just forgot to go. While many Greeks make fun of the fact that George Bush managed a failed baseball team etc, Kostas Karamanlis our PM has never worked a day in his life. His first job was being Prime Minister. (oh during his military service his role was to light a candle every day to protect the navy). Other countries usually train their politicians, they get junior ministerial roles, then slowly get more responsibility, a small ministery, then something bigger and then - depending on how good they are a big Ministery, Health, Treasury, Defense, Foreign Affairs, before being chosen for the top job.

Karamanlis went through nothing of the sort. He was chosen because of his name, did nothing to educate himself and then parachuted to the top job. His knowledge of governance and management is zero. And much the same can be said for most of his cabinet, with the exception of Souflias (minister of Public Works and environment - a man who does not want to protect the environment, yet the only one who showed leadership during the fires) Dora Bakoyianni, daughter of Mitsotakis and a couple of others.

Dont get me wrong, No prior experience is not a bad thing in and of itself. What is bad is that Karamanlis has shown no drive to better himself and is more concerned of keeping his work schedule from 10:00-16:00. So the reason why the government acted the way it did, pure and simple - because of incompetence.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Athens upheavel continues

So the civil unrest continues across Greece. Yesterday soccer hooligans attacked the police at the stadium, protesters in my suburb who gathered to show their support to other protesters chased off police and the situation doesnt give any indication that it will end before christmas.
People are just waiting for the holidays which will mean that all protests stop.

And of course your all asking WHY is this all happening. The answer can be summed up by a group of 11 year olds who set fire to their school bus while it was taking them to school.

Why not?

For all you ideologues out their who are trying to pin point a reason, a justification, its easy to attribute what we want to these riots. Since their is no standard bearer behind the riots, this is all the more easier. Sure manifestos were sent out, but in Greece, every high school student has written a manifesto. This is Greece, its part of the norm - 15 years olds talk about the injustices done to them during WW2 and the Dicatorship. They just repeat and speak in the same tones of their elders. And yes, we all want things to have meaning, some deep meaning, we all want to fight injustice and a little bit of us always cheers when we see the little guy fight back and win. But according to the principle of Ockhams Razor, the simplest solution is often the best.

This was brought home to me in a number of ways, one was the burning of the school bus, i mean, everyone else had gotten away with burning things down, why not burn the school bus. (PS. School bus also implies private school so these are not the underprivileged)
Walking past the broken bank stores, i did think, Yeah, serves the bastards right. After all they used to charge me 2 euros for every transaction i did be it depositing money or paying of a credit card, and they continued even after the High Court ruled it illegal. Did i get my money back.. NO!
But as i continued past the looted electronic shops, Why did they target them? Well, the revolution needs laptops to blog the revolution. Ok
The looted Mobile phone shops, well they need to spread the word about the revolution, and the I Phone is cool.
The looted optomitrists, well every revolution needs vision...
The looted 24 hour internet shop, which they came in - kicked out everyone and stole the pc's, they did that because...
The g-store gadget shop next door which sells gadgets, well obviously the rioters were geeks,
How about the newspaper shops which were burnt to the ground? Why were they targetted?
Why were sports stores across Athens looted? They were inspired the Nike logo perhaps?

You see its easy to focus on the fact that banks were smashed 'indicating a dissatisfaction / dissiliusionment with the capitalist system' but a whole lot more were smashed and looted. We saw old grannies picking through stores looking for things to take, youth walking with modded up pc cases underneath their arms, and of course the christmas tree burnt down etc etc etc.

And the easiest and most logical answer as to why this happened is simply, because they could.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Athens riots - A country in fear

As all of Greece is once again in flames and upheaval. It has become quite apparent that this is a a country living in fear. Not fear of the violence, of which that does exist, but that the violence is a result of the fear that exists in Greece.

In many ways, Greece is like a patient suffering from cancer, it knows it has to undergo chemotherapy to survive, but the date for chemotherapy keeps getting postponed. It knows that in the run up it has to avoid certain foods, but they are too good to miss out on, and besides the chemo keeps getting postponed, so one more meal wont hurt. And on and on it goes, and now things are building up to a huge climax.

Case in point, the students who are out on the streets with the support of their teachers are protesting against recognising degrees from other EU countries - something which it has to do, and against allowing foreign universities to come in and review Greece's curriculum and standards of teaching. (This is why you don't see a Greek University in the top 100 Universities to study at). The education system here is a joke, and relies in a large part on party membership to school unions, and not on merit. This is why we have Professors of Theology in University teaching Graphic Design. And because students find themselves being taught inadequate skills, they have to turn to the party system to ensure their future survival. Too much has been invested by so many for them to turn their backs on it.

So yes they do hate the situation, but so many have been abandoned by the education system and so many have found ways to overcome this situation - through corruption - that they cannot afford to leave it.
And so the riots continue, and so the government appeases them and the schizophrenia continues. This is why the Greek government is continuing to hire more people to work at Olympic airlines while simultaneously arranging for its sell-off and ultimate closure before its rebirth. Its stuck in this futile and vicious circle, and the riots allow them to vent off steam.
In the end what will change, have any demands been made? Have any discussions been had?

No, and this is what allows me, you and everyone else to attribute our own beliefs as to the 'why' this is all happening. And in the end, we can all say we were right and move on, i got an illegal house to build now.

Waiting for the Barbarians

Constantine P. Cavafy (1904)

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn't anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city's main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don't our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people's faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Constantine Petrou Cavafy
was born in Alexandria on 29 April 1863.

Why this poem, because i believe that there are few things new under the sun and i think this poem really sums up the current goings on here in Greece. But I will allow other more literate than me give their view on the underlying theme of the poem.

"In this cunning, amusing poem, with its punch line that never wears out, the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy penetrates deep into the nature of political life. The atmosphere of civic pride and civic hypocrisy, the mingled air of awe and contempt toward governmental institutions, rings not the bell of cliché but many eerie tintinnabulations: the gongs and chimes of public life, the distinct sounds of what we say, what we know we mean and what we don't know we mean."

--Robert Pinsky

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Christmas tree - Singed not burnt

Ok, apparently they did try to set fire to the Christmas tree once again. But it was put out before the whole thing burnt down.

Clearly this has now become a game lets see who can burn the tree.
What does burning it down serve? Can anyone please explain?

Athens protests - schools out

Yup, week two and the student unions have agreed to continue their strike and not go to school for the second week in a row. This absence from education will continue until the holidays. After which who knows. The only people getting an education are those enrolled in private schools, of course these include the children of politicians. Most famous case was the daughter of the head of the Communist party of Greece who went to American schools for her education.

At the end of which, exams will be changed to reflect the fact that they did not learn all they had to. And look at what they did learn. The protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails like girls. Actually that's a bit sexist, i know quite a few girls who can throw a whole lot better than those protesters on the streets. But seriously what do they learn in physical education, they couldnt throw a rock further than ten meters, and some of them threw their projectiles sideways!!! That's worse than atrocious, worse than a girly throw. Sorry, being sexist again.

The education system here isn't the best, and yes they are protesting against the condition, they trash the schools on a regular basis, steal the school pc's, burn tables and there is hardly a public school without graffiti. The teachers dont care, they dont teach, they prefer to clean potatos in class so that they can teach the same children in private tutorials after class. Thats where the money is.

Unfortunately while they both want something to change, they dont want it to change. Becuase as it stands, stupid kids can graduate without having to go to school and follow lessons, and teachers can get a safe wage and good pension for doing nothing free of stress.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Government blood money again the solution

There is much talk about the government pushing ahead with reforms etc. Proof of this lie is the governments response to businesses. Being a so-called 'conservative' party one would assume that their base is the small and medium business owner. But their response in light of the financial crisis and riots puts paid the lie that they support these businesses.

They are throwing money at businesses that have suffered damage from the rioters and are paying unemployment benefits to those left unemployed till February. This is what they did after the fires, which directly lead to the death of many people.
The structural problems however still remain. People are not going to the centre to shop, they are still too afraid. Experts say that consumption in the centre of Athens is down 60%. So now we have the case of those businesses that escaped the rioters are suffering.

And the 'conservative' government is also still holding tightly onto the reins of the market economy.
In the USA, shops have already started sales of up to 70% so that they can increase their cash flow and help them survive this current period where cash flow is restricted. Here in Greece small business owners wanted to do something similar and asked the government to allow them to start sales early. In Greece shops can only have Christmas sales when the government decrees they can, which is scheduled for late January.
The minister for development firmly stated that sales will not be brought forward. Now if i were prone to hyperbole, I would say "what sort of communist state are we living in, is Karamanlis emulating Stalin? But i wont say that. but I will ask "Since when do businesses have to ask the government when they can have sales?"
If my business is going to go bankrupt and i need cash now, why should some government employee, who gets paid through my taxes tell me when i can have a sale. It's my business, heck, it's my livelihood at stake. If I don't get the cash when I need it to pay, oooh lets say government utility bills, no one is going to feel sorry for me, nor will the bank when they come in to sell my business because I can't pay back the loan.

So why does the Economist and the Socialist worker both believe that this is a 'conservative' government that is pushing forward economic reforms?
I don't know. What i do know is that many small and medium businesses will be suffering this Christmas, and as a result, the rest of the Greek economy. But what do the Elites care? They are well insulated in their government jobs, won through party favouritism and affiliation and not on merit. Its easy to strike as a government employee, when the government will guarantee your wages for the duration of the strike. The problem is, as always, that the little guy suffers and structural problems persist.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Athens riots - Foreign Minister insults Police

I happened to be reading the on-line version of Spiegel and i came across an interview with the Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis. Her husband was killed by the terrorist group 17 November, her brother is currently a member of parliament and facing questions regarding the SIEMENS scandal and her father is Kostas Mitsotakis, former prime minister of Greece, and nephew of Eleutherios Venizelos, another Prime Minister of Greece and a prime example of the Elites i keep ranting about. Her father also gets three seperate pensions from the state, so much for 'conservative' ideals of the right - they love state hand-outs as much as the next guy.

Anyway Spiegel asked her why the police acted passively and her response is "The police have not reacted passively, rather they have sought to de-escalate the situation. The government decided that it would rather accept material damage than new casualties and victims."

Ok, now i find that answer hugely insulting to the Greek police force. She is implying that the only way the police know how to respond is by killing and beating up more people? huh?
Come on! No! I refuse to believe that. Yes i know the police are under-trained and under-paid, but i do know that they do get some training, i saw the riot police march on the protesters banging their shields with their clubs and yelling 'move move move'. Now here in Greece not everyone speaks english. Their actions were exactly similar to those of the English police when they move on soccer hooligans, suggesting that they had some external training. Speaking to people within the police force i KNOW that they have had some training, and they do come back hugely dissillusioned, because they realise that there is a whole lot more they can learn and that they have been doing things on their own for so long.

I also know that there were police in the force who did have a plan how to react to the violence.
It has also been reported that the previous chief of police was sacked and replaced with a policeman who voted 'correctly and appropriately'.

But i absolutely refuse to believe Bakoyanni and condemn her for insulting to the whole police force. Just because the government was paralysed and could not make a decision as to how to act, do not blame your governments incompetence on the police force.

And then the biggest lie of all, 'the government is going ahead with its economic reforms'.
WHAT REFORMS! the government came in lowered the tax rate to lawyers and doctors and are now raising it to where it was before. They also increased the tax on the middle class - the only people who pay tax. Corruption has increased, they have loaded more of 'their people' in the public service, and have sat by and watched as the black economy grows, and they even tried to include the black economy in its GDP figures. These are not reforms!!!

But many people only read labels, they see the label Unions and Anarchists and believe that they are connected with the unions of South America which fight for minimum wage and a toilet break, and its leaders frequently 'dissapear' and turn up dead four months later. Or they see 'Conservative' party and believe that they are connected with Neo-liberals, or the Tory party of England or the Republicans of the USA.

No, this is Greece. our conservative party actually has a larger say in the unions than the Communist party. In fact getting into a union as an average worker with no political affiliation is harder to get into than Greece's golf club.
This is our reality. Its our own schizophrenic world where public servants are the Elite and union dockworkers are on a six figure salary in a country where most are on a four figure salary.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Athens riots - I dont agree but...

Commentators all over the news (some call them news anchors or journalists - but they are neither, since instead of reporting facts they just opine) are talking about the riots (not reporting) saying "This is outrageous, but the students have are right when they...".

I am all for understanding the other point of view, through understanding we can stop these events from re-occurring and treat the root cause. But by idolising the vandals and demonising all police do nothing but incite further anger and violence. Worst offender of all was comedian Lazopoulos who hosts a comedy/satire show (in which he portrays a gypsy - so much for his socialist feelings of equality) who, on day 4 urged all students 'Protest - stand against the facsist, stand up for your rights, continue the struggle'.
In Australia he would find himself sanctioned and off the airwaves for inciting violence. I am sure there is law against it, but a law that never applies to the elite. So when my walk through the smashed shops in Kolonaki took me by Jackons Hall, a nightclub/bar owned by Lazopoulos that remained untouched, i had mixed feelings, where is the Karma when you most need it. As i continued on, i passed by another nightclub/bar named after a fruit which was the only bar to be burnt down, according to many, it was also relatively new and had not arranged for 'protection' yet. Small things like this, along with many others reveal the myth behind the protesters and the ensuing violence.

Did you know that Ghandi organised a boycott of English goods so that India could gain independence? Of course he realised that many innocent people would be hurt so he arranged a fund that would help subsidise business that lost income as a result of the boycott. He did this because he did not want innocents to starve to death or be punished as a result of the boycott.

All these instigators of violence, with their high and mighty ideals, with their teenage angst, with all their pent up frustration, all these politicians that jumped on the bandwagon to justify the violence, all these members of the Elite - did they give a thought to all the innocent people that now suffer?
Yes a boy was shot, yes Greece is corrupt, BUT, does that justify kicking people out of their homes because they cant pay the rent? Because that is the reality in which we live. People that are now out of work because their place of employment got burnt down, because their customers wont visit, all these people that now face a future which is unsure, why should they suffer? And don't tell me that the girl who delivers morning coffee to these shops, and is now out of work is part of the elite. And don't try to fool me and tell me that they kicked her out on the street, now jobless, so as to protect her or to 'wake her up' to the capitalist system.

Considering that many students only got into university through corruption i also find it quite hypocritical. But that's the elite in Greece for you.

Athens Riots - Day 10

Day 10 and Athens and the rest of Greece is still a state of flux. While it started in Athens, the rest of Greece is also rioting and shops have been broken and destroyed in Thessaloniki, Patra, Volos and on and on and on.

Walking the main shopping street Ermou on Saturday was a surreal experience. Kudos to the Mayor of Athens, who despite his general incompetence came out on day 4 or 5 and walked the streets of Athens and encouraged citizens to come to the centre. Some did and found themselves trapped in Syntagma Metro station in between Riot police and Rock throwing protesters. So i wasnt too suprised by the fact that there was only a handful of people on the streets shopping. Of course those buildings that had been gutted by fire were not open, but i was suprised by how many other shops were open. The theatre on Alexandras is also open. Bravo i thought to the shop keepers.

Then i passed the traffic lights, but in actual fact its just a pole, lights smashed, colours missing, hanging down useless connected by a wire. Police zooming by on bikes every 5 minutes. Later on i passed by Exarhia, the suburb at the centre of the violence. Its still a no go area. The burning smell of tear gas still hangs in the air, the blockade of rubbish bins on its main streets are still in place, and glass shards still crunch underfoot. About a block away tired firemen take a break at an empty bus station, the trolleys have stopped running through the centre. They make their final stop behind Zappeion park. And the police are on edge, eyeing everybody that goes passed.
Its not healthy, they dont like the impossible position that they have been thrust into. Officially sanctioned to maintain law and order, but ordered to sit by and watch as firemen get beat up as they go to put out fires.

Also missing on the streets are the Council police. On the council payroll these officers are hired to.... er ... write a parking ticket every now and again (but if you know someone, dont worry, they can write it off) and... basically keep unemployement down. Another example of the corruption that is in every pore of this countries government.

Gone is the christmas cheer - the rioters burned the christmas tree on day two of the riots. And now it turns out that at the same time as the the riots were flaring up, the Minister of the Interior and the Education Minister were out at the Bouzoukia and could not respond to the riots. I am not going to make an analogy to Nero, because he didnt play the pipe while Rome burnt, he actually helped and made sure the people were looked after both during and after the fire. All this shows is that, as will all "revolutions" (as many commentators want to call the rioters) its aways the little guy who foots the bill and suffers.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Transparency International HELLAS blames corruption as cause of riots

Transparency International Hellas has laid the blame for the riots at the feet of the level of corruption that exist in Greece. When it comes to corruption, Greece comes in at the Top 5 in Europe. (not on the good end). In 2008 Greece ranked 57, worse of than South Africa (54) or Botswana (36). I mention these two countries because many in Greece constantly put down African countries.

In its press release Transparency International claims that the youth especially have a belief that laws are not being enforced, that no one takes any responsibility, that the education system is sick. It also states that not only is corruption instilled as an everyday fact of life but that it has also become part of the tradition of life.

I am not trying to justify the rioters, but Governments and those with power have to take responsibility for their actions.
When the lawyer of the policeman who fired the shot, comes out before the coroners inquest and declares that the death was a result of a ricochet,
When the lawyer continues and says that in time we will see if the youth should or should not have been shot,
When the policeman were not placed in immediate custody,
When the lawyer for the policeman says that he had to take on the case pro-bono because the previous lawyer asked for a certain 'sum' to be placed in her bank account to get a favourable hearing,

Well you can see why the family of the deceased youth hired their own doctor to witness the autopsy,
You can also understand why people think that corruption is so widespread, and these inflamatory remarks came out recently, after the bulk of the rioting had been done.

Corruption has become so commonplace that no one is ashamed of asking for a bribe, doctors ask it outright, people ask each other, how much did you pay for your degree. And of course this state of affairs would eventually spill out one way or another.

But of course its the little guy who gets hurt, the villas and the shops of the elite are still fine, the poor shop owners took the brunt, the police took a beating as they were ordered by the government to stand by and watch. And in the end, me and a few other guys in greece - the only taxpayers are left to foot the bill for all this.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Athens Burns - In pictures

Here are a few pictures doing the rounds
View of Athens from a balcony

Streets in Exarhia
Firefighters trying to put out the flames

Alexandras in flames as protesters march to Police Station

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Athens cancels Christmas

By now the pictures of the street riots and lootings have gone around the world, back to Greece where journalists are focussing on 'What the rest of the world is saying of us'....
Blame is being thrown around and looting children are being turned into revolutionary heroes.

But would you believe me if i said that this was inevitable? In history class we are taught that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand started WW1. Not that people were distraught and started killing each other because they liked the guy, but that things had been building up to war and all that was needed was a starters pistol to let everyone know that the war had begun.

In Athens the shot fired by the policeman that took the life of the 15 year old was that starters pistol. The government continued its policy of 'wait and see', and 'do nothing unless we have to'. We saw this policy in effect during the fires that burnt half of Greece, during the corruption scandals that continue rock the government and during the current financial crisis. So as the concrete in Athens burnt, the government continued to do nothing. Ordering its police to 'Do nothing, Do not make matters worse, DO NOT arrest anyone and retreat when threatened'.

Meanwhile the Elite in the Teachers Union, went on Strike monday to make their demands against the changes needed to modernise the education system, and threatened their lazy lifestyle. They had won before so they used to death as an excuse to go on strike. Seeing tensions rise, The government gave students till thursday a pass not to go to school, at the same time ordering the police to do nothing but run and let small businesses burn.

Students, children, who have been brought up, looking at their elders and seeing-
A corrupt government system (By that i mean not just one political party that is in power, but including ALL - yes thats right, ALL political parties who have representatives in parliament).
Seeing University Students Stike at the drop of a hat and even medical students who went on strike (and won) to be allowed to pass their first term (because they had missed all of first term because they were on strike.)
Seeing Elite public servants go on strike for better work conditions and winning (work conditions that those in the private sector on dream about.)
Seeing Doctors, Lawyers claim poverty and being taxed as if they only earn 800 euros a month.
Seeing Taxi-drivers and Petrol station owners striking and winning for the right NOT to give reciepts. (they also claim poverty).

Seeing all this, why not do as everyone else? When police are ordered by the Government NOT TO RESTORE ORDER and to IGNORE calls to protect citizens and private property and retreat from the mob. Why should they stop? Why shouldnt they continue?

Meanwhile the government is following a tried and true method, Let the fires burn as they did with the forest fires and evenutally they will burn themselves out, untill then, lets get a good nights sleep.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Black economy saves Greece in short term

Economic Crisis? What economic crisis?
Seriously, i dont see it. This weekend i was busy getting trampled on by thousands of shoppers in the Mall, and the week before that, trampled on at IKEA. Meanwhile the TV, especially CNN is forecasting doom and gloom as Europe enters recession and pundits predict a drastic downturn in consumer spending. So as i was being whacked by other peoples shopping bags, all i could think of was, 'Hey, where's the recession everyone is talking about?'

Then i remembered that i was in Greece, and everything i learnt in economics doesnt hold.

Greece's huge black economy, estimated at 40% of the total economy, means that for the time being, people are sheltered from the big hit being felt in other European countries. While this is good news for the consumer, it is bad news for the long term and the Government.
Since coming to power the government has made it easier for traditional tax-dodgers to evade tax, while passing on the burden to the one-fifth of the work force that is stuck with the bill. This has left the government weak and unable to respond to this crisis. Sure they have promised to support banks, but with an empty piggy bank, analysts really dont see how the government can fulfill this promise if they are forced to bail out the banks like other European countries have.

Enter saving grace number two. A majority of Greek banks are stone age compared to their European counterparts. It may take you two months to open up a bank account in Ethniki bank. Paper is king and computers, ahh that new age fangled thing with the high-tech Green monitor, well they do exists but not completely harnessed by a work force which sees it more as a threat than a tool. That means that these banks have insulated themselves to a large extent to overlending and trading in these safe (but high risk loans) being shopped around by american banks. This means that hopefully the government will not be called in to uphold its promise to save the banks.

And lastly, saving grace number three. Greece's red tape and aversion to encouraging businesses in Greece, especially encouraging foreign companies into the country. This has meant that Greece did not have much foreign investment in the first place. So when the crisis hit, there were not many companies to withdraw their investments from Greece. Something that we saw hit Hungary and other emerging markets.

So three cheers for backwardness and economic stagnancy!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thoughts on corruption

Greece is - once again in the midst of corruption scandals that are rocking both major parties, and so far the positions of both parties is - We know nothing - lets all keep quiet until more come to light, oh and lets not ask too many questions.

The trouble with corruption in Greece that it is sooooo prevalent that people here don't really care that it happens...

The following is an interesting quote on corruption... from Thomas Bata, a Czechoslovakian entrepreneur of the 1920's

"Let's bear in mind that the chances to multiply wealth are unlimited. All people can become rich. There is an error in our understandings - that all people cannot become equally rich. Wealth can not exist where the people are busy with mutual cheating, have no time for creating values and wealth. It is remarkable that we can find the greatest number of wealthy tradesmen and a population on a high standard of living in countries with a high level of business morality. On the other hand, we can find poor tradesmen and entrepreneurs and an impoverished population in countries with a low standard of business morality. This is natural because these people concentrate on cheating one another instead of trying to create value.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lesbians VS Lesbians!!!

Do you want to see two Lesbian factions fight it out on a Greek Island this summer? Thats right, this summer two groups of Lesbians will engage in a fight to find out who is the TRUE Lesbian. Interested? Then stay tuned and keep your eye on Greece!

Its not what you think by the way....

Residents from the island of Lesbos (otherwise known as Myteline) are taking to court (If what i heard is correct) the Gay and Lesbian Association of Greece, for misappropriate use of the word Lesbian. Thats right, Lesbians (people from Lesbos) are suing Lesbians (women who are romantically attracted to women) for mis-using the name of Lesbos.

Its true, there are many grandmothers out there who will never see a grandchild named after them. It is very common in Greece for people to be named after places, and to name kids after grandparents. So it is very common to see on the island of Lesbos 50-60 year old women called Lesbia, but no grandkids named after them. Oh the trauma those kids would face in school! I got teased being called Vassili, i can only imagine what it would be liked to be called Lesbia! It is also quite uncommon to find a kid called Sappho.

Oh the shame to be called a Lesbian! Actually it is a shame that people feel as though they have to be ashamed, (for islanders or for sexual orientation). Despite Greece being well known for places such as Mykonos or Lesbos (which holds an annual festival to Sappho and promotes same-sex couples to visit). Homo-sexuality still has a social stigma attached to it here. Everyone knows that many famous TV personalities and Politicians were and are homo-sexual, but everyone pretends that they are not just so we can keep up pretenses. Until recently the famous comment was that there is only one homo-sexual in Greece, the President of the Gay and Lesbian Association.

I am not sure what the islanders hope to achieve with this action, but something tells me that Tourism might be on the increase to a certain island...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gone wondering

Sorry to all of you out in netville, i know its been a while since my last post, but certain events did not allow me to post and now they are demanding i post. I started this blog to vent, and thats what i am going to do.

Recently, a very close friend of mine suffered from a condition that affected her health (i dont want to go into details). Calls to the emergency SOS doctors were answered with the response - 'this is too serious for us to deal with, get her to a hospital quick!'. So the ambulance was called and their response - 'It doesn't sound important enough, and besides we cant come now'.

I realise that the emergency services around the world are sometimes over - used. People call them when their is no need. The problem is just recently in Thessaloniki Greece, a report was released revealing that the Emergency Ambulances were corrupt, only responding to calls from relatives and friends and other 'special' people. Knowing this - knowing the amount of corruption that exists here - i am left wondering. What exactly happened that night...


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Strike Season

With reforms desperately needed to Greece's pension system, the government is enacting stop-gap measures at a glacial pace to bandage the system while keeping the elite civil servants happy.

But of course their arrogance knows no bounds and for this reason All of Greece is suffering Strikes.
The result is:
Athens looks like one of its many illegal open air rubbish tips as a result of Sanitation workers strike.
Power outages across all of Greece as electrical workers go on strike leaving areas without power for up to 6 hours. (At the same time Greece gets fined for not opening up its electricity market to competition - Greece also has failed to meet its renewable electricity target of a measly 6% - and no new plants have been built meaning that electricity demands have outstripped supply, increasing reliance on burning oil for energy)
One Illegal Stockmarket strike damaging Greece's nascent business market and reputation
Bank strikes which may mean a shortage of cash from ATMs as cash reserves in banks fall dangerously low. (If we still had the Drachma inflation fears would be rampant!)

All in all the government is doing what it does best - Management by incompetence
And is in no danger of collapsing because no one else wants the job.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

International Singles Awareness Day

You may not know it, but millions around the world suffer from 'Singles' ailment, many of whom suffer in abject silence, afraid of the social stigma which is attached to it. Professionals around the world invest millions into finding a cure and their findings are presented in prestigious journals such as Cosmopolitan and Esquire. Sufferers pore over these pages relentlessly looking for some spark or sign which will signify an end to their suffering. Many have been cured of this ailment, yet despite this, many more are diagnosed and fill the ranks.
Some cures unfortunately are short term or fail to cure the problem and only treat the symptoms, many also suffer a relapse and need to yet again undergo intensive treatment. For this reason February 14 is International Singles Awareness day - It hopes to raise the profile of the plight these suffers.
If you know someone who suffers, show them you care today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is change in the air

Well Bravo to the new archbishop, as many of you know - I frequently refer to the Archbishop of Athens as just that, and never call him 'Pasis Ellados' (and all of Greece) - because he isn't.
In his first speech the archbishop himself followed Church law and protocol and referred to himself as 'just another Bishop, whose jurisdiction ends at the border of Athens and who chairs meetings.
This shows how Humble the person is - how unlike his predecessor who was a power hungry man intent on more money and power.

Also on the weekend the socialist party SYRIZA (an amalgam of left leaning parties) voted on a new president, the young Alexis Tsipra. Now he may not be the best person in politics - but who is? And therein lies the rub. Politics here is dominated by all these stagnant politicians. Whenever a question is asked they respond "Well when i was a minister under (insert politician and year) blah blah blah" Now i have nothing wrong with elderly people being in parliament, they obviously have a lot to offer. But this lot that we currently have in parliament have offered NOTHING. And with scandal after scandal being uncovered from the 1980's through to 2008, all they have proved is how CORRUPT they are or how tolerant they are of corruption.
This Tsipras guy on the other hand - is fresh. He hasnt had time to be corrupt - sure he has had a part in the youth wing of the party which many view as reactionary or at best just a bunch of kids being stupid and making stupid demands on the education system (such as the right to truancy). Hopefully as an adult he has left behind these childish notions.

And his election has everyone frightened - every single party criticised his election. The reason being is that everyone here is SOOOO fed up with the corruption that as they turn away from every party in DISGUST they will turn to this new kid on the block. Again i am not holding up too many hopes, but anything is better than the entrenched corrupt political elite who now hold the reins of power.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Archbishop of Athens - Geronimos

Well by all accounts it appears as if the Church has done an about turn, and instead of electing an Archbishop who was in it for themselves, power and money, have, for a change, elected someone who has done things for the poor and indigent. Some would say he does the 'christian' thing (not that they have a monopoly) ... how old fashioned of him!

Apparently this guy is very active in doing things for the community (a strange and unique thing for the Greek Orthodox Church). He has established orphanages, shelter for the aged, education centres for children with special needs, Kitchens for those in need, Giving out supplies to those in need and especially migrants and a drug abuse prevention center for the youth. He has also started a centre of Archaeological research in his region of Boetiea.

I have always complained that the Greek Orthodox Church was never like the churches i saw growing up. The Catholics and Anglicans for example would do these things - lending out a helping hand to those in need, and all the time i just saw the Orthodox just putting on fancy jewelry, getting fat and rich.
If this guy is as good as what i hear, then BRAVO, a little less meddling in politics and a bit more looking after 'thy fellow man' (in the non gendered pejorative sense of the word).

And the new Archbishop is...

It looks like they have decided who the next Archbishop of Athens is... Geronimo of Thebes.
And there was i hoping for some hardcore politico... oh well lets wait and see...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Heads up - Taxi strike tommorrow

Just letting you guys out there know that there is a taxi strike tommorrow. So a perfect day to take your car - without all the taxis about it should be a smooth ride.
The reason for the strike - they are demanding a 10% pay rise.
Wish i would get half as much, and i would be half as rude!

Super Holy Tuesday

While America is in the midst of its primary run off, the Greek Orthodox church here in Greece is electing a new Archbishop. And just like other political campaigns, allegations of scandal and impropriety abound. The bishop of Messinia is claiming that he is being blackmailed to vote in favour of the Bishop of Sparta - and unlike others - has gone to the police to make a signed declaration. Apparently he was photographed walking on the beach with a women!!! And to top it off, he wasn't wearing his cassock!!!! (a serious NO-NO in the eastern orthodox religion). The bishop of Sparta is also a member of the same religious sect the former Archbishop Hristodoulos was - Hrisi Pigi - Golden Spring. Not much is known about that sect except they indulge in politics and own a lot of land. Ask me its a bit fishy having an all male club with the word golden in it...

Meanwhile the front runner is the bishop of Thessaloniki Anthimos. Since the Archbishops illness he has been trying to grab headlines whenever he can. He has been excellent in creating fear against FYROM - which is recognised almost everywhere now as Macedonia (like it or not), and causing a furore against an up-dated primary school text book which was a major leap forward for Greek education. Most recently he used the funeral ceremony as his political election platform. He first mentioned the President of Greece and then the former King - completely disregarding protocol (after all why didnt he mention me or the famous basket baller Gallis if he was going to name random people) He mentioned the former King to show the priests where he stood on this issue - a return to the Monarchy.

Protocol exists so that mistakes are not made and no intentions are mis-understood. Thats why you follow it. And up until now priests have got it good. They get front row seats, they get invited to all the good gigs. Anthimos is no child - he knew exactly what he was doing and was completely re-affirming the close ties that religion has with the state. (this is actually a common phenomena in all eastern christian religions - but now is not the time for a religious history lesson). And that is why i hope he DOES become the next Archbishop. Thats exactly what the church needs - an unrepentant politician priest who will constantly fight the state for control - drive Greek education back into the stone age - elect politicians it approves.
Hopefully the people will get so sick of them that the Church will clean up its act and DO something humanitarian for a change, you know like clothing the poor instead of trying to rip them off.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Riots in Athens

"No mother, i'm fine"
"but things look really bad - the police are letting the fascists run around and they are beating up people, are you sure you are ok?" said my mother on the other end of the line.
It was last Saturday afternoon and my mother had rung me from Australia on my mobile to check on me and to see if i was ok. She had seen the Athens demonstration on tv and she was worried with what she saw. The sight of the ultra-right wing group - Golden Dawn (Hrisi Avgi) attacking the anarchists and the anarchists fighting them and the police using tear gas on the anarchists had her worried about my safety.
"Yes mother i am fine, i am in a safe place, dont worry about anything" I told her as i looked around Notos Galleries store for something to buy a friend.
"Vassili" This was my dad now "Be careful"
"Yes i am perfectly fine, don't worry ok, i am nowhere near the riot"
"Vassili" my dad again "You dont understand, this is exactly what happened in the 1960's, the police would encourage the fascists to fight, would never arrest anyone. The government would encourage this lawless behaviour to keep the people down and make things appear chaotic"
"ok dad i understand" I had just spotted something i wanted to buy and was eager to end the conversation "I'll be careful, i will stay away and lock the doors when i get home"
"ahhh I understand - you dont want to talk to your dad, you think i am crazy and your making fun of me. But this is how these right wing governments work, akou me pou se leo, they encourage these disturbances, if they wanted to they would arrest everyone and put them in gaol and then we would see if it would happen again, but they are their friends and no one will go to gaol."
"ok ok ok" i added hurriedly - someone else was trying to move in on that item i had seen, if i didnt hang up soon it would be gone. "Ok dad, tha ta poume later ok, bye"

This conversation was no different from a million other ones i had had with my parents. They are constantly trying to explain to me whats going on, but their frame of reference is always the years up to their departure from Greece. So they are telling me about the events leading up to the dictatorship, the anti-communist sentiment, the random arrests and beatings of people on the streets. And i am always trying to tell them, that its not like that, its Greece in 2008, we just had the Olympics, everyone is dressed up to the nines and there is so much wealth everywhere - not just poverty which they remember.

Later on that night, I saw the footage of the Golden Dawn activists running in between the police lines to attack the anarchists - and then run back through the police to seek shelter behind them. I heard that following a judges decision - decreeing the original protest march by Golden Dawn was illegal, they just said ok, picked up their things and left. The police continued to press the anarchists who retreated to Exarhia. Later on 100 people were arrested, but no charges were lain and they were all free to go in the morning.

Its so confusing my head hurts, perhaps my parents were right, time and wealth have no bearing on the matter. This is Greece - anything can happen and things won't change for a long time to come.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Greek Archbishop burial ceremony

Well the soap opera is drawing to teary end. Priests are crying in public, people are chanting "Zeis zeis, esu mas odygeis" (You live, You live, You show us the path to take) and news reporters speaking in halting tearful tones - Oh the HUMANITY - When will this cease. soon hopefully.

On another note, the Greek Orthodox Relief Charity is under investigation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are seeking he return of over 7 million Euros. This PUBLIC money was given to the Charity by the government to help them do 'good deeds'. Deeds which involves the sending of sexy underwear (thongs etc) and fur coats as part of the relief sent in the aftermath of the Tsunami which hit South East Asia. Or the overbilling which occured when the charity blew the budget when they purchased rotten chickens to send to a disaster hit region.

Of course this time is providing a welcome relief to the Government as they try to divert attention from the Corruption scandal which is threatening to blow up over Zahopoulos and the forthcoming Seimens scandal which has been brewing for over a year now...

The only good thing that has come out of the Burial is the day off which public servants are taking, and since i was not due to have life saving surgery - coming to work today was great. With the public servants staying home the roads were almost empty - I zoomed up Mesogeion this morning. Since public servants dont do any work, the only thing they are good for is causing Traffic Jams!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No Holiday for YOU!

So as i mentioned yesterday, the country is having 3 days mourning for the passing of the Archbishop of Athens. People are visiting his dead corpse and wailing and gnashing their teeth. Tomorrow, public services will be closed in his honour. What this means for you and tourists is that ALL Archaeological sites will be closed. Thats right - You just flew in from Canada to see the Temple of Athena - STUFF YOU! It will be closed because a Greek Orthodox priest died.
That has got to be the Ultimate pay-back. I mean Christianity has won and is the dominate religion here in Greece, yet all these ancient temples will be closed to honour the passing of this divisive priest.

Perhaps the best thing i have heard yet is that Many Public hospitals have canceled scheduled surgeries and are taking the day off. Yes, that is the best way to remember the passing of Hristodoulos. A man who flew to Miami at Taxpayers expense to undergo a surgery which doctors KNEW he could not undergo, who stayed at this exclusive Miami hospital at TAXPAYERS expense till he could gather his strength to fly back - We remember him and his fight against cancer by reminding everyone else that he was better than us in every way and enjoyed rights and privileges we would never dream of abusing - By telling others who are fighting cancer - STUFF YOU - its a holiday, get back in line and wait.
Yes, memorable times....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Death of a man

So yesterday morning, the Archbishop of Greece passed away in his sleep. After something like 8 months of fighting liver and stomach cancer, his immune system collapsing and despite the loan of the Prime Ministers lucky charm, the Archbishop died.

And so the country mourns, civil servants - as a result of a decision from the Holy Synod will get one day of this week to mourn and visit his corpse. Those of us working in the private sector, tough luck - NO HOLIDAY for YOU! Everyone is coming out and crying, oh the poor archbishop has died. Two Comments - 1 He was never poor but instead was a power hungry capitalist, looking back over his years in power one can see that it was a constant battle for land with churches he had no jurisdiction and secondly he was down in the mud fighting dirty politics for the right wing of politics which he has always espoused.

He will be buried with full honours of state. Another waste of money. He is not Greece's head of state, nor was he ever the head of Greek Orthodoxy as many in media and politics claim.
Theologically he was just the Archbishop of Athens and had no control over other bishoprics. This aint Catholicism, the Greek Orthodox Church is ruled by a synod and does not include Crete, many islands nor certain regions in the north. This power hungry man did his utmost to usurp power from the Patriarch of Constantinople in order to obtain title deeds to land not in his jurisdiction.

But everyone in the media is busy hagio-phying this man. Ooooh lets not talk ill of the dead, but as was pointed out to me, if George Bush died, would people do the same for him? Would they say of Bush -He was a kind man, he was a good man. Or would the communists and all the lefties (and righties) go out in the street partying? I think more the later. As such i refuse to engage in the hypocrisy i see now going on around me. The man did his most to divide Greece and dirty his religion by politicising it.

Winter Hibernation


Good Morning one and all! Awww wow, its been a long time.
Thanks Hans for waking me up... Its a bit hard to get back on the bike after such a long slumber.
And boy has a lot happened here. Just give me some time to gather my thoughts and i can get to talking about SEX and Corruption!

Life in Athens is getting interesting again, i wonder if Grisham could write a novel about whats going on here!