Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: RINO Hour of Power — Rick Moran @ 4:47 pm


The RINO Hour of Power is back on the air — with a vengance. One of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio is ready to put the pedal to the metal and give you one hour of high octane conversation and scintillating repartee from those rough and ready RINO’s Jazz Shaw and Rick Moran.

This week, we welcome our friend Jeff Kropf, host of the morning Jeff Kropf show on KUIK in Portland, Oregon. Jeff is a leader of the Tea Party and a former state senator. We’ll talk some presidential politics and take a look at what some are saying is the end of the old Democratic New Deal coalition and what might be replacing it.

We stream live from 8:00 - 9:00 pm eastern time. You can access the live stream here, or click the icon below. A podcast will be available shortly after the end of the show.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio



Filed under: Politics, RINO Hour of Power — Rick Moran @ 4:47 pm


The RINO Hour of Power is back on the air — with a vengance. One of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio is ready to put the pedal to the metal and give you one hour of high octane conversation and scintillating repartee from those rough and ready RINO’s Jazz Shaw and Rick Moran.

Tonight’s guest is Andrew Malcolm of Investors Business Daily. The guys will discuss Newt Gingrich’s immigration position as well as other hot topics making news.

We stream live from 8:00 - 9:00 pm eastern time. You can access the live stream here, or click the icon below. A podcast will be available shortly after the end of the show.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio



Filed under: FrontPage.Com, Middle East, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:04 am

It is not looking good for peace in Syria at the moment. Not only is Assad ignoring the Arab League’s overtures for peace, but a sectarian war has broken out in Homs between the Alawites and Sunnis. And the military defectors based in Turkey - the “Free Syrian Army” is beginning to flex its muscles with an attack on Baath party headquarters in Damascus on Saturday.

My FPM article from this morning:

This has been the nightmare of the secularists in the opposition since the uprising began; that the boiling kettle of differing sects and religions in Syria might overflow and turn into a conflict - not to get rid of Assad, but to kill their religious enemies. This is evident in the city of Homs where the small Alawite community has been carrying out tit-for-tat murders of Sunnis who have been returning the favor.

The violence is close to being out of control as many residents of both Islamic sects fear for their lives if they venture outdoors. One resident told the New York Times that “There are shabeeha on both sides now” - referring to the black clad militia that is the spearhead of Assad’s crackdown on civilians. The Times describes a harrowing situation, with “beheadings, rival gangs carrying out tit-for-tat kidnappings, minorities fleeing for their native villages, and taxi drivers too fearful of drive-by shootings to ply the streets.” Both sides blame the government for encouraging the sectarian violence, but the bitter rivals hardly need a push from anyone to kill each other.

This is what a real civil war in Syria could look like: minorities like the Christians, the Druze, the Shias, and the small but dominant Alawite sect, fearing a Sunni takeover (Sunnis make up 75% of the population), would largely look to Assad’s regime to protect them, while some of those minorities and the Sunnis would seek to overthrow the regime. The conflict would quickly degenerate into a bloodbath similar to what was witnessed in Iraq during the violence after Saddam’s overthrow.

This scenario is becoming more likely because of the inability of the Syrian National Council to agree on an agenda that would lead to Assad’s departure. The more the opposition dithers and is unable to unite the various factions, including the groups of young people who have been on the front lines of the revolt, the less likely it is that sectarian tensions can be kept under wraps.

There is also the question of maintaining a peaceful character to the revolution. Most of the younger activists don’t want anything to do with the Free Syrian Army while the SNC wants to maintain an arms length relationship with the defectors. The SNC argues that embracing the FSA will make it harder for other soldiers to defect. “[T]he others [soldiers] in the army are our sons too,” said one SNC member.

The Arab League, the international community, and Syria’s neighbors are scrambling to come up with a formula that will force Bashar Assad from office and avoid an even larger bloodbath than the carnage being visited upon the Syrian people by the military forces of the Syrian president. With tens of thousands of prisoners being held without charge, and at least 3,500 dead, time appears to be running out for a happy ending to the human rights tragedy currently unfolding in Syria.



Filed under: RINO Hour of Power — Rick Moran @ 5:10 pm


The RINO Hour of Power is back on the air — with a vengance. One of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio is ready to put the pedal to the metal and give you one hour of high octane conversation and scintillating repartee from those rough and ready RINO’s Jazz Shaw and Rick Moran.

Tonight’s guest is GOP presidential candidate, former House member and former governor of Louisiana Buddy Roemer. Expect lots of insights into the race as well as a good discussion of the issues.

We stream live from 8:00 - 9:00 pm eastern time. You can access the live stream here, or click the icon below. A podcast will be available shortly after the end of the show.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio



Filed under: Decision '08, Ethics, Politics — Rick Moran @ 2:42 pm

This post originally appeared in March of 2007 when Gingrich was contemplating getting into the 2008 race. I thought it would be a good idea, given Newt’s recent surge upwards in the polls, to remind us all why Gingrich would be slaughtered in any one on one presidential contest and why if he did happened to get elected, why his presidency would be a disaster.

* * * * * * * * * *

I must confess to having a great admiration for the oratorical and intellectual gifts of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. No doubt about it, Newt is an “idea man” - suffused with a passion and curiosity about government, about the world around him to the point that ideas pour forth from his supple and inquisitive mind in a rapid fire fashion reminiscent of the staccato bursts from a machine gun.

Let me make clear that Newt doesn’t do nuance. The dirty details of how to put his ideas into actionable form he leaves to others while he moves on to the next challenge. A former staff member explains:

A former aide, Ladonna Lee, said “He would always get people started on a project or a vision, and we’re all slugging up the mountain to accomplish it. Newt’s nowhere to be found…He’s gone on to the next mountaintop.”

Former Congressman and personal friend Vin Weber said pretty much the same thing:

“I never saw a lot of crackpot ideas. I saw a lot of good ideas. But there was difficulty in assessing a cost-benefit ratio. Even if every idea is good, resources are limited. With Newt, it didn’t matter if we were overreaching, we had to do everything.”

This is basically why nearly two years ago I wrote a piece entitled “Please Don’t Run, Newt.” Gingrich is a man whose calling is probably in the classroom or perhaps as a back bench legislator. Because what becomes clear after listening to one of his jaw-dropping presentations where ideas flow like the riffs created by a good blues guitarist, seamlessly moving from topic to topic with a breathtaking rhetorical ease, is that Newt is not executive material. In fact, he would be a disaster - a coherent Carter where his Administration would start down one road only to be sidetracked as President Gingrich discovered some other shiny intellectual bauble that would distract him from his course and doom his initiative.

And then, there’s his personal baggage.

Like many of the great conceptualizers, Gingrich sees his own personal morality as a fluidic creation. He is able to rationalize many of his foibles as sacrifices to the cause. That’s right; Gingrich, as many before him, see straying from the straight and narrow as just one of the burdens he must bear in order for him to give the world the benefit of his ideas and intellect.

No where is that more clear than in this interview he did with the TV evangelist James Dobson where the former Speaker and Clinton nemesis reveals that he had an extra-marital affair at the time he was pursuing the impeachment of the President:

“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. “I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept … perjury in your highest officials.”

Suffering for the greater good of impeaching Clinton while enjoying the ill gotten fruits of a relationship outside of his marriage? I don’t know any other way to read that except that Gingirch feels himself a victim of his own moral failings. Drawing a line in one’s mind between public and private morality is not new in politics. But to basically be accusing someone of doing so and then enjoying the advantages yourself of such moral schizophrenia is almost beyond belief.

Michelle Malkin:

We are all, as I said earlier today, fallible people. And conservatives are willing to forgive. Whether they’ll buy into Gingrich as the best standard-bearer for the party and most deserving candidate for commander-in-chief–as opposed to anything more than the quick-thinking debater, cable TV guest, and lecturer that he now is–is another matter.

Indeed, as Malkin shows, Gingrich has negative vs. positive ratings that make Hillary look positively unbeatable:
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Part of that is almost certainly the fact that people remember Gingrich as one of the most polarizing political figures in recent memory. And it also could be due to a list of ethical lapses that call into question his fitness for any office, high or otherwise:

1. Bouncing 22 checks in the House Banking scandal.

2. A 1984 book deal backed by campaign contributors and put together in his district office using taxpayer money.

3. Financial irregularities with Gingrich’s personal Political Action Committee GOPAC.

4. Use of tax exempt groups (the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation for one) to fund a TV program on grassroots political activism.

5. A multi-million dollar advance for a book deal with Rupert Murdoch that gave rise to charges of hypocrisy on Gingrich’s part because it was the same thing he accused ousted Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright of doing.

And the story of his divorce from his first wife - where the Congressman filed for the split while his wife was lying in a hospital bed battling cancer:

After the separation in 1980, she had to be operated on again, to remove another tumor While she was still in the hospital, according to [Lee] Howell (former press secretary), “Newt came up there with his yellow legal pad, and he had a list of things on how the divorce was going to be handled. He wanted her to sign it. She was still recovering from surgery, still sort of out of it, and he comes in with a yellow sheet of paper, handwritten, and wants her to sign it.

No. I can forgive many peccadilloes in a man both personal and political. But that doesn’t mean I think he would make a good president. And in Newt’s case, his curious sense of personal morality along with his inability to stay focused on one goal at a time would doom his candidacy in the general election and doom his presidency even if he were to be elected.

I think this latest revelation means that he has resigned himself to not running for president in 2008. Only overarching hubris would allow him to think that he could not only win the nomination but get himself elected. And I think all Republicans should breathe a sigh of relief if this is so.


Ed Morrissey has it about right:

Gingrich didn’t commit perjury. However, Gingrich had the affair with his staffer at the same time he pursued Clinton’s impeachment for perjuring himself about sex with an intern. Given that Republicans made a great deal of noise about Clinton’s sexual escapades with an employee/volunteer in the Oval Office itself, that comparison is not completely apples to oranges.

Especially when the left will ignore - as they always have - the perjury of Clinton and concentrate on the sexcapades. It was one of the more successful PR operations in the last decade to formulate The Narrative that demonized Starr, accused Republicans of hypocrisy for their failings in staying true to their wives, while completely obfuscating the base charges against Clinton.

Brilliant work.


Filed under: FrontPage.Com, Middle East, Politics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:51 am

As far as international, multi-lateral organizations go, the Arab League has always been something of a joke — and that’s saying a lot considering their competition.

But give the clowns their due; they finally bestirred themselves after 8 months of slaughter in Syria and suspended the Assad regime and recalled their ambassadors. For the past several months, they have done their best to avoid addressing the violence in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain while making pious pronouncements about “democracy” and pluralism.

Considering no Arab League states come close to practicing those beliefs in reality, their calls to end the violence were more hollow and ridiculous than usual. But little Qatar and the Saudis see the prospect of regional instability if Syria were to descend into civil war — a likely prospect now that there are thousands of armed army deserters who are taking sides against the regime — and they prodded the League to vote Syria’s suspension.

My FPM article today addresses the Syrian response to the League’s actions:

“You Arab leaders are the tails of Obama,” read a banner unfurled during the Damascus protest. Indeed, that has been the government line since the suspension was announced late last week. The Al-Thawra (revolution) newspaper was quoted as saying that the suspension and withdrawal of ambassadors was “almost identical to and a copy of U.S. instructions.” Al-Watan referred to the Arab League as the “Hebrew League” while the official news agency SANA quoted a prominent politician who said the suspension was tantamount to “declaring war” against Syria.

It is widely believed that Assad has called for the emergency Arab summit to stall for time - a luxury he no longer has. The only three member states to vote against Syria’s suspension were Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, all for varying reasons. Iraq fears a Sunni enemy on its borders if Assad is overthrown or otherwise departs. Yemen, suffering through its own version of the “Arab Spring,” fears similar action by the Arab League against President Saleh who, despite promising four times to leave office, hangs on to power while his country falls into civil war. And Lebanon has become a puppet of Syria since Hezbollah took over the government last spring.

But what must worry Assad the most is the loss of his good friend and ally, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey. Turkey has been slow off the mark in punishing Assad for the brutal crackdown but Erdogan has finally come to the conclusion that Assad has to go. Erdogan had promised sanctions last month but events intervened to prevent their announcement - including an attack on Kurdish terrorists in Iraq and a devastating earthquake that demanded his attention.

But the Wall Street Journal reports that even though Erdogan has been cautious in moving toward full opposition to the Assad regime, Turkey now sees Assad as an impediment to its hegemonistic designs in the Middle East. The newspaper quotes Ilter Turan, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, who said, “As long as Assad is there, the road for Iran to extend its influence through the Middle East and the Mediterranean is open.” With both nations vying for power and influence in the region, knocking his former friend off his throne would mean that any new regime in Syria would almost certainly be less friendly to Tehran.

Three quarters of the Syrian population is Sunni Muslim and it is thought that even a pluralistic, secular government as a successor to Assad would pull back from aligning itself too closely with Shia Iran. The chances of that kind of government emerging from post-Assad Syria are exceedingly slim, however. Nowhere else in the Arab world has the “Arab Spring” led to any government except an Islamist one. And just recently, the Syrian opposition hosted Muslim Brotherhood cleric Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi in Qatar. Allowing the resurrection of the Muslim Brotherhood - nearly destroyed by Assad’s father Hafez in a series of brutal massacres during the 1980s - is a dangerous sign for the mostly idealistic secularists on the Syrian National Council.



Filed under: FrontPage.Com, Iran, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 2:28 pm

Short answer: nothing. No sanctions, no bombing, no conceivable action that can stop the Iranians if they choose — and the report clearly shows that they have - to construct the ultimate guarantee against mocking the prophet.

My FPM article examines the question:

The major difference between reports generated under ElBaradei and today is the tough, no nonsense Japanese diplomat who now heads the IAEA. Yukiya Amano has tried — within the limited sphere of his authority — to hold Iran accountable for its secrecy and refusal to answer questions about the extent of its nuclear research and development programs. Far more than ElBaradei, who at times seemed to be Iran’s primary nuclear enabler, Amano has fought his own board to toughen reports on the Iranian program, resisting efforts to soften language and obfuscate conclusions.

In this case, it may not be a slam dunk — there is no “smoking gun” that reveals Iranian intentions with any certainty — but, as Amano notes, there is “a thousand pages of documents” that showed “research, development and testing activities” that strongly suggest a military aspect to the Iranian’s proclaimed “peaceful” nuclear program.

Why release such a strongly worded and detailed report now? Amano, suggested one diplomat, may have reached the limit of his patience with Iranian evasions and might be trying to use the IAEA as a spur to get Iran back to the negotiating table. “Amano thinks that the best role the IAEA can play is as a technical agency that is forthcoming about the information that it has,” the diplomat said. Contrary to belief in some quarters in the West, the sanctions against Tehran have hurt far more than the regime has let on. While they haven’t materially affected the Iranian nuclear program, shortages of basics, inflation, and a lack of spare parts have deeply impacted ordinary people and caused much anger at the government. Another round of sanctions targeting the Iranian petrol industry would bite even harder, although both Russia and China oppose any more sanctions at all at this time. Amano realizes this and believes if the choice is between tougher sanctions or a military strike, Moscow and Beijing may reluctantly come on board for another round of Security Council actions against Tehran. It’s an admitted long shot, but looking at the alternative, it’s a diplomat’s hope to resolve the crisis peacefully.

In fact, the IAEA report has now brought the Iranian problem to a crisis level. CNN quotes one expert, Geneive Abdo, Iran analyst with The Century Foundation, who believes that a “dangerous turning point” has been reached:

“I think the only move is to have some sort of dialogue with Iran. Whether over Afghanistan or over its nuclear program, the parties have to come back to the negotiating table,” she said. “Because the silence is very dangerous. Also, the Iranians, I believe, really believe that there could be an attack now, and they feel completely under siege.”

“Historically, the way Iran reacts to pressure is more aggression,” and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made clear he reacts that way as well, Abdo said.

The US would lead the effort for an additional round of sanctions at the UN, but most diplomats hold out little hope that they would alter Iran’s path. Instead, the Obama administration may go it alone or engage its friends and allies in imposing their own, tougher sanctions on Iran. But the same problems present themselves in such a multi-lateral effort; Russia and China would ignore the restrictions and continue to trade with Tehran. One possible target might be the Iranian central bank that deals with other international banks around the world. Restricting Iran’s access to foreign capital would cause the regime some difficulty in the import-export sector.

Despite clear evidence that sanctions won’t stop Tehran from developing a weapon, they will be tried because the alternative — military action — would only delay Iran’s drive for a bomb for three years at most. That’s been a consistent assessment from the Pentagon and CIA for three years now. And an invasion coupled with regime change would have very little support in the US, as well as giving no guarantee that the next Iranian regime wouldn’t pursue nuclear weapons as well. Also, the sites that would be targeted are spread out all over the country and many are underground and hidden.

The Israeli air force would have a difficult mission if it were tasked with bombing Iranian nuclear sites. Difficult – but not impossible. The flights would necessarily be long, with some of the flight path over the territory of states not likely to grant overflight permission. Would the US assist the Israelis by taking out Iranian air defenses, or perhaps even join in a strike on the nuclear sites? If the Israelis is going to go ahead and bomb Iran, there are some who believe we may as well assist them because Iran is going to blame us anyway. More likely, any US administration will do all in its power to dissuade the Israelis from striking. The consequences from skyrocketing oil prices, to probable proxy attacks on our troops and bases in the region would not be worth the small gain in time — if any time is to be gained at this point — in delaying the Iranian quest for a bomb.

The options are all unacceptable — but so is Iran getting the bomb.

I half jokingly suggested to Jazz Shaw on The RINO Hour of Power show that we give the Saudis and any other Gulf nation who wants one, a couple of nukes to establish a balance of power. It’s an option that The Kingdom appears to be seriously contemplating, but even with western help they are a decade away.

No one knows just how genuinely crazy and fanatical the Iranian mullahs truly are. I’m inclined to think they are more unbalanced than is desired for the world to be safe from their using nukes in war, but not likely to fire a missile at Israel on a whim. Nor do I think it likely that they would spend all that money, time and effort only to hand a nuke to Hezballah or some other terrorist outfit. In 5 years, they will have a missile with a long enough range to hit most US cities so it would seem improbable that they would allow another government or terrorist group to decide when to use a nuke against us.

The world is about to enter a most unsettling and dangerous period.



Filed under: Decision '08, Election '06, Ethics, Politics — Rick Moran @ 12:26 pm


It pains me to say it - well, not really because I actually enjoy writing about the idiocy of the right - but conservatism is fast approaching double face palm territory. Have you ever seen such a collection of losers, dunces, moral cretins, and blissfully unaware candidates for high office as showed up for last night’s CNBC debate?

You have a certified imbecile (Perry). A serial sexual harasser (Cain). A chronic flip flopper (Romney). A man who can’t keep his pants zipped (Gingrich). A lunatic (yes Paulbots - advocating a return to the gold standard is bat guano crazy). A religious zealot (Santorum). A Simon Legree clone (Michele “If anyone will not work, neither should he eat” Bachmann). And a candidate who can’t decide whose side he’s on (Huntsman).

It is to weep. At exactly the moment in American history when a rational, logical, coherent conservatism is desperately needed to counter the left’s drive to take us over a fiscal and cultural cliff, we not only get candidates who fall short in almost every substantive yardstick one might desire to measure the worthiness of a nominee, we also have conservatives en mass who cheer for ignorance, applaud mediocrity, roar for moral turpitude, and display an appalling lack of respect for basic conservative principles.

The Herman Cain fiasco is a case in point. One or two women coming forward might be cause for questioning the veracity of the accusers, or blaming the mess on the press. But 5 women coming forward with more rumored to be in the wings? This is not the liberal media going after a conservative candidate, or a case of Democratic women making false accusations. This is a clear pattern of behavior that is totally unacceptable to most rational people, and certainly to most of the electorate.

And yet, Politico reports Cain’s response to a question about hiring a CEO accused of harassment:

The embattled Republican candidate brushed aside the premise of the question and – as he did at an Arizona press conference Tuesday – described reports of alleged sexual harassment as a smear campaign.

“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations,” Cain said. “This country’s looking for leadership and this is why a lot of people, despite what has happened over the last nine days, are still very enthusiastically behind my candidacy.”

The audience was on his side: They booed the initial question and cheered his response.

Cain changed his original answer to the allegations at least three times, which brings up the question of whether he’s a serial liar as well. The press didn’t make him alter his narrative - he did that all on his own, with no help from the “liberal media.”

Don’t tell that to his supporters who appear to be blaming the media for their candidate’s transgressions and his inability to keep his story straight. It is ironic that after spending 8 years chastising Bill Clinton for his harassment of women, that so many conservatives would abandon reason and spin their hero’s behavior as an invention of the press. The only difference is that Hillary blamed the “vast right wing conspiracy” for her husband’s compulsive gropes while conservatives are desperately flailing about, blaming the press, David Axelrod, even the victims themselves for their candidate’s lack of couth and inability to control his manly urges.

Cheering Cain’s dismissive response to substantive allegations that 30 years ago would have doomed a candidate’s chances - as it did Gary Hart - was the low point of the campaign for me so far. “What are they cheering,” I asked myself? What could possibly be so praiseworthy in Cain’s response that would cause so many to ignore the facts and abandon themselves to mindless approbation?

The answer is a special kind of ignorance that ignores objective reality in favor of a ideological worldview that apes the worst of liberalism’s identity politics while selectively, and very carefully choosing fact flakes that buttress the underpinnings of a separate materiality that is unconnected to logic, rationality, and reason. They cheer Cain because not to do so would shatter the fantasy they have created about the media, their opponents, and the world as seen through the prism of rabid partisanship and excessive ideology.

Lumping all media together as “liberals” is idiocy. This is not to say that much of the media is without bias,or isn’t in the tank for Obama and the Democrats. But what ever happened to taking individuals one at a time and not judging them according to some ideological bias based on what they do? It is decidedly unconservative to play identity politics in this way, aping the worst of liberal ideology. Dismissing the Cain harassment story as the product of liberal attack politics doesn’t hold up to reasonable analysis - not when 5 different women have stepped forward to make accusations against the candidate. Blaming the messenger only reveals the right to be blissfully unaware of their own predicament

And yet, all of this is meaningless in the face of the epistemic closure found on the right as it relates to attitudes toward the media, objective reality, and a curious detachment on the part of many conservatives who ignore the painfully obvious shortcomings of their candidates for president — shortcomings that would disqualify them if the right was thinking rationally. Michele Bachmann’s statement on the poor being forced to work before they would be allowed to eat is real 19th century, social Darwinism stuff. Herman Cain’s ignorance of foreign policy is appalling. Rick Perry’s stuttering incoherence, ditto. How did these people get to be taken seriously as candidates by the right while a reasonably intelligent Mitt Romney - a man conservative enough for 80% of the country - is so reviled that many conservatives would rather see Obama president than the GOP candidate if the former Massachusetts governor makes it that far?

Excuse me while I bemoan the state of conservatism by giving myself a double face palm.



Filed under: RINO Hour of Power — Rick Moran @ 5:49 pm

The RINO Hour of Power is back for another thrilling episode as our heroes - Rick Moran and Jazz Shaw — do battle against the forces of darkness on both the right and left while fighting for Truth, Justice…and all that other stuff.

This week, the guys will be joined by Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey for a free wheeling discussion of all the hot topics making news today.

We stream live from 8:00 - 9:00 pm eastern time. You can catch the show live here, or download the podcast shortly after the end of the broadcast.  Don’t miss it!

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio


New Greek Government, Same Greek Woes

Filed under: Financial Crisis, FrontPage.Com, Politics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 12:05 pm

They’re calling it a “government of national salvation” and we can only hope so. Late word has it that world renowned economist Lucas Papademos will take the reins of government from outgoing prime minister George Papandreou. A technocrat, not a party man, Papdemos will have his hands full trying to implement the draconian austerity measures demanded by the EU in exchange for a $178 billion bailout.

I wrote about the changeover for FPM:

Papandreou almost blew the entire deal last Monday when, unexpectedly, he called for a nationwide referendum on the budget package. It proved to be a gigantic miscalculation and his eventual undoing. Not only was the plan for a vote on the austerity measures met with almost universal scorn in Greece and panic on European stock exchanges, it enraged German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had labored long and hard to seal the bailout deal with all parties involved. A “no” vote on the referendum would have led to Greece being denied the bailout funds, which would have resulted in an uncontrolled default and Greece leaving the euro for the drachma. Many analysts believe that a Greek default would start the dominoes falling of other nations experiencing debt crisis, including Portugal and Ireland. And it would threaten Italy, whose costs to borrow money has skyrocketed this past week with the political crisis in Greece.

By Thursday, with Papandreou facing a revolt of his own socialist deputies over the plan for a referendum, the prime minister withdrew it. After surviving the confidence vote on Friday and calls for his resignation coming from all quarters, Papandreou determined it was time to go. However, his ploy achieved something he may not have intended. In the end, it forced the opposition - including the New Democracy party - to also take responsibility for the austerity measures and see them through.

Now that Mr. Samaras’s party has bought in, the political pain will be shared across the board. Where before the previous bailout package and accompanying austerity measures became easy targets for the opposition to criticize Papandreou and PASOK, now his political opponents will actually be charged with helping to run the government, and will be forced to act more responsibly.

Samaras acknowledged as much, saying, “I can sense the agony of the Greek people,” adding, “Everybody has to act responsibly now and send a message of stability abroad to the people of Europe and the people of our country too.”

To describe the set of austerity measures that Greece is to implement as “draconian” is not an exaggeration. A few examples:

  • Monthly pensions above 1,000 euros to be cut by 20 percent; monthly pensions at the same level for existing retirees under 55 to be cut by 40 percent.
  • Health spending to be cut by 310 million euros ($432.2 million Cdn) in 2011 and a further 1.8 billion euros between 2012 and 2015.
  • Education spending to be trimmed through merging or closing of 1,976 schools.
  • The tax-free income threshold to be lowered from 12,000 to 5,000 euros.
  • In an effort to raise money for the growing number of unemployed, the country is to introduce a “solidarity levy” of between one and five percent per household, which will be raised twice in 2012.
  • Taxes on gas, cigarettes and alcohol to increase by one third; luxury taxes to be levied on items like pools and yachts.

Also, the government is to sell off and privatize several state concerns including telecommunications giant Hellenic Telecom and sell stakes in various banks, utilities, ports, airports and land holdings in 2011/2012.

One prominent European think tank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says the bailout and austerity measures will work as long as they are fully implemented. But initially, there is little doubt that there will be real pain and more contraction in the Greek economy, which has shrunk by an astonishing 15% since 2008. The budget cuts and layoffs will only lead to a more severe recession in the short run, which will add to Greece’s budget deficit. The question facing European leaders is: will the bailout be enough to cauterize the wounded euro and get Greece back on its feet before the money runs out?

Good question, but I tend to think not. What the Greek government is trying to do is have a bloodless revolution, totally overturning not just the economy but Greek society and many cherished values and beliefs held by its citizens. This is not a recipe for success. It is a near guarantee of disaster.

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