Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The dangers of reading the fake government org chart instead of the real government org chart

The problem with getting distracted and waiting several days to write about a story is that by the time you get around to it, the narrative you had in mind may have already been overtaken by events.

Athenios put me on to this story last week about how the conservative-led Greek government decided to abolish the national broadcaster. On fully four hours notice. Which is absolutely hilarious. Tired of a bunch of subsidised lefty whingers moaning about 'austerity'? Tired of paying money hand over fist for the privilege of such preening stupidity in the middle of the worst economic downturn your country has seen since the great depression? Think it's ludicrous to continue paying these nincompoops while pensions have been cut 40%?

Well, I would agree with you! Conservatives are often accused of having a ' go along to get along' tolerance of the ever expanding role of the state. When someone attempts a genuine rollback of some small part of the repulsive leviathan that is modern bureaucratic government, I cannot help but applaud. In addition, the move of shutting them down overnight, without any notice in advance, is surely a better plan than fighting for incremental cuts and waging month after month of the public relations equivalent of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Machiavelli told you long ago that if pain is needed, better to bring it all at once:
Hence we may learn the lesson that on seizing a state, the usurper should make haste to inflict what injuries he must, at a stroke, that he may not have to renew them daily, but be enabled by their discontinuance to reassure men’s minds, and afterwards win them over by benefits. Whosoever, either through timidity or from following bad counsels, adopts a contrary course, must keep the sword always drawn, and can put no trust in his subjects, who suffering from continued and constantly renewed severities, will never yield him their confidence. Injuries, therefore, should be inflicted all at once, that their ill savour being less lasting may the less offend; whereas, benefits should be conferred little by little, that so they may be more fully relished.
If you strike at a king, strike to kill. So far so good, as of last Wednesday.

Unfortunately, kings do not always die so easily. How do you think they became King in the first place? I'm guessing that you, like me, probably imagined that you just turn off the damn power at the TV station, and that's that. It turns out that taking a public broadcaster off the air is not as straightforward as you might imagine. The first thing that happened is that the public broadcasters of the other European nations decided to continue broadcasting the now illegal Greek public TV from their own satellites. And I don't mean that Fran├žois Hollande and Angela Merkel decided this. I mean that a bunch of EU public broadcasting bigwigs unilaterally decided to use taxpayer funded assets to intervene in the domestic disputes of a sovereign (ha!) nation. Strange, they don't talk about that kind of thing in civics class, do they?

Next, all the Greek journalists went on strike. As you do in Europe. Given they're not really inclined to work even at the best of times, it's not like they needed much encouragement. So now most Greeks aren't getting any perspective on the news except from ... you guessed it... Greek state TV, who continue to broadcast on the Internet, and now have dropped all pretense of neutrality and gone the full retard in terms of opposing the government. Where media leads, public opinion follows.

And in the most recent move, the courts come in to order the broadcaster be put back on the air. Thought you could shut down your own department eh? Wrong!

The net effect of this is that it's looking like this saga which started so quixotically may end up being the downfall of the conservative government. The main discussion now is about whether the government may be able to stave off the full scale collapse of their coalition if the prime minister resigns.

To begin with bluster and later take fright at the enemy's numbers, as the great Sun Tzu observed, shows a supreme lack of intelligence. The Government seemed to be of the naive opinion that the bureaucracy answers to the will of the elected representatives, and if their performance was sufficiently unsatisfactory, they could and should be fired, just like in any other company.

Joseph McCarthy thought the same thing. They were both wrong.

Postscript:

In a grimly hilarious sidenote, MSCI, the company who compile stockmarket indices for various countries, took the heretofore unprecedented step of downgrading the Greek market from 'developed' to 'emerging'. As MSCI noted:
Further,the MSCI Greece Index has not met the Developed Market criterion for size for the last two years. If it were not for an exception to the index maintenance methodology that requires the index to have at least two constituents, only one security would currently qualify for inclusion in the MSCI Greece Index.
Ooh, that's gotta burn.

The announcement is doubly comical for the absurd use of the euphemism 'emerging' in this context. As Athenios quipped, 'Emerging? More like submerging!'

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