Monday, June 29, 2015

Daily Briefing for Monday, June 29, 2015

Greece and Puerto Rico

So here were some of the headlines from Drudge this afternoon:

Referendum looms; Many in country hoard groceries, gas... SHOCK... Fear of social unrest... PM Asks For Patience, Composure... World 'defenseless' against next financial crisis...

Hoarding of groceries and gas.  Runs on ATMs.  Fears of social unrest.  Mega-investor Wilbur Ross weighing in on CNBC this morning: "Once there's social unrest, which there will be before too long if this thing continues, no tourist is going to want to go to [Greece]," Ross told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. "If the Greek people understand how limited those concessions that are requested are, and contemplate going into the abyss on other side, they're never going to pick the abyss."

Would you visit Greece right now?  I have friends leaving for there tomorrow.  And yes, I am envious that they will get to see it in person.

"Can't happen here, Paul!"  "This is America, Paul!  We're NOT in the Eurozone, dude!"  Quit telling us about Greece.

You're right.  We're not in the Eurozone.  Unlike Greece, we can print our own currency, grow our own food, defend our nation and dozens others simultaneously, and are fast becoming a net exporter of energy.  Technically, we cannot go bankrupt.

Yes we're seeing some cracks in the seams.  Today, the governor of Puerto Rico - a U.S. territory - announced that the "government's finances were 'in a death spiral' and that 'the debt is not payable.'"  Sounds a lot like Greece to me.

The problems of Greece and Puerto Rico, in a vacuum, are not concerning to the global economy in and of themselves.  Yet today the Dow is down dramatically (on light volume, a positive note in an otherwise sour song) and Eurobankers are working furiously to encourage Greece to vote "yes" on the referendum on July 5 which would allow Greece to receive more loans in exchange for more austerity cuts.  Tsipras and his party are telling the locals to vote "no" on the deal, which would no doubt lead to a Greek exit from the Euro.

I'm not a global finance expert.  But it seems many who are believe this isn't your typical sovereign debt crisis.  There are larger implications here beyond the borders of Greece.  It behooves us to pay attention to financial news.  And to pray for the people who will no doubt be enduring hardship in the days to come.

So If You WERE Going to Greece, What Might You Do Differently?

First thing I would do would be to read the notice issued by our embassy in Athens, which came out yesterday.  This article has a lot of good info.

Next, I would enroll in the State Department’s “Smart Traveler Program” referenced in the article linked above.  We did that when we went to Italy a few years ago.  It’s free.

I would take with me the contact info for the embassy: 
the one in Athens and the one in ThessalonikiI would make my usual “launch code cards” – little laminated cards the size of a credit card, with all sorts of contact info (embassy address and contact info, cruise line info, phone numbers back home that I don’t have memorized, etc).  One card for each person in my group, with the info on the cards emailed to your close friends and family members.  If something goes bad, you want the people at home to be looking at the same info that you’re looking at on the ground in Athens.

When out and about in Greece, I would come up with a plan in case we get caught up in a local riot.  Standard protocol here is a lot like dealing with rip currents at the beach – follow the herd, then find a way to peel off in a perpendicular direction when it is safe to do so.  Look like a protester – act like you’re chanting whatever it is they are chanting.  They never attack their own. 

I'd have a plan for where we will meet up in case we get separated and things get bad.  I would contact my cell phone company to let them know I’ll be traveling abroad to see if they can put you on a special package for international minutes.  I did this when traveling to Italy a few years ago.

What I would take with me (beyond my usual list of cruise ship stuff)

  • Plenty of $USD.  I'd monitor the exchange rate several times a day.  It will likely fluctuate a lot in a crisis.
  • A small backpack for each person in the crew, like a day pack.  Keep water, handkerchiefs (to cover your mouth and nose in case you get caught up in tear gas), a first aid kit, snacks, etc while you are out and about.  Always take sunglasses wherever you go, even at night, for eye protection.
  • Traveler’s wallet and throw down wallet.  Put a few bucks in the throw down wallet that you can “throw down” away from you if you get jacked.  Traveler’s wallet holds your cash and passports.
  • A map of the cities where we are traveling.  A paper map for each person.  Paper maps never fail to boot up.  Plus you can write on it.  Take some ink pens for that purpose.  Mark the rendezvous points in case we get separated.
  • Small compass.  If you’re needing that map, you will need to know which way is north.
  • Our smartphones to take pics of important land marks to help you identify the route as we are backtracking to the hotel or cruise ship. 

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