Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Slavoj Žižek on the protests in Turkey and Greece
In his early writings, Marx described the German situation as one in which the only answer to particular problems was the universal solution: global revolution. This is a succinct expression of the difference between a reformist and a revolutionary period: in a reformist period, global revolution remains a dream which, if it does anything, merely lends weight to attempts to change things locally; in a revolutionary period, it becomes clear that nothing will improve without radical global change. In this purely formal sense, 1990 was a revolutionary year: it was plain that partial reforms of the Communist states would not do the job and that a total break was needed to resolve even such everyday problems as making sure there was enough for people to eat.
Where do we stand today with respect to this difference? Are the problems and protests of the last few years signs of an approaching global crisis, or are they just minor obstacles that can be dealt with by means of local interventions? The most remarkable thing about the eruptions is that they are taking place not only, or even primarily, at the weak points in the system, but in places which were until now perceived as success stories. We know why people are protesting in Greece or Spain; but why is there trouble in such prosperous or fast-developing countries as Turkey, Sweden or Brazil? With hindsight, we might see the Khomeini revolution of 1979 as the original ‘trouble in paradise’, given that it happened in a country that was on the fast-track of pro-Western modernisation, and the West’s staunchest ally in the region. Maybe there is something wrong with our notion of paradise.
Before the current wave of protests, Turkey was hot: the very model of a state able to combine a thriving liberal economy with moderate Islamism, fit for Europe, a welcome contrast to the more ‘European’ Greece, caught in an ideological quagmire and bent on economic self-destruction. True, there were ominous signs here and there (Turkey’s denial of the Armenian holocaust; the arrests of journalists; the unresolved status of the Kurds; calls for a greater Turkey which would resuscitate the tradition of the Ottoman Empire; the occasional imposition of religious laws), but these were dismissed as small stains that should not be allowed to taint the overall picture.
Then the Taksim Square protests exploded. Everyone knows that the planned transformation of a park that borders on Taksim Square in central Istanbul into a shopping centre was not what the protests were ‘really about’, and that a much deeper unease was gaining strength. The same was true of the protests in Brazil in mid-June: what triggered those was a small rise in the cost of public transport, but they went on even after the measure was revoked. Here too the protests had exploded in a country which – according to the media, at least – was enjoying an economic boom and had every reason to feel confident about the future. In this case the protests were apparently supported by the president, Dilma Rousseff, who declared herself delighted by them. […]
* GREEK BAIL-OUT: 77% WENT INTO THE FINANCIAL SECTOR\
Source: Justice for Greece
Since March 2010, the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have applied 23 tranches comprising €206,9 billion to the so-called “Greek bail-out”. They have however provided hardly any documentation on the exact usage of those huge amounts of public funds. ATTAC Austria has therefore put up an investigation on the issue: At least 77% of the bail-out money can directly or indirectly be attributed to the financial sector.
The results in detail:
- €58,2 billion (28,13%) were used to recapitalise Greek banks – instead of restructuring the too big and moribund sector in a sustainable way and letting the banks’ owners pay for their losses.
- €101,331 billion (48,98%) went to creditors of the Greek state. €55,44 billion of these were used to repay maturing government bonds – instead of letting the creditors bear the risk for which they had received interest payments before. Another €34,6 billion served as incentive to make creditors agree to the so-called “haircut” in March 2012. €11,3 billion were used in a debt buyback in December 2012, when the Greek state bought back almost worthless bonds from its creditors.
- €43,7 billion (22,46%) went into the national budget or couldn’t be definitively attributed.
- €0,9 billion (0,43%) were used as Greek contribution to the new bail-out fund ESM.
“The goal of the political elites is not the rescue of the Greek population but the rescue of the financial sector”, Lisa Mittendrein of ATTAC concludes. “They used hundreds of billions of public money to save banks and other financial players – and especially their owners – from the financial crisis they caused.” […]
* CAN SOUTHERN EUROPE KEEP THE SHOW ON THE ROAD?
By Tyler Durden, zerohedge
Three of the most important crisis hit countries in Southern Europe – Italy, Greece and Portugal – have been seeking to make progress under coalition Governments, representing a delicate balance of domestic political forces. In some ways they have been surprisingly successful; the pressure to avoid a more generalised crisis of confidence has pushed traditional opponents to cooperate in the interests of self-preservation. Recent events, as JPMorgan notes, have highlighted some of the existing fragilities however, and serve as a useful reminder that stability is far from guaranteed. In addition, the wounds inflicted by recent political battles may have a cumulative impact, weakening the commitment to cooperation in Government over the medium-term. This invites two questions; can they keep the show on the road, and for how long? The wear and tear of governing has created a series of cumulative pressures, which look a lot like the proverbial straws on the camels back. As JPMorgan concludes, at some point one of them is likely to cause a break (our instinct tells us risks are probably highest in Italy).
Via JPMorgan’s Alex White,
- Political developments in the South are making life more difficult for the region’s Governments
- In Greece, the new Government has a slim majority, and little margin for error
- In Italy, ongoing legal pressure on Berlusconi is making cooperation in Government more difficult
- The cumulative impact of coalition tensions could be unmanageable in the long-term
- Near-term however, we are unlikely to see enough pressure to trigger a Government failure
Greece: A difficult new world
Developments in Greece over the past ten days have disappointed. Prime Minister Samaras chose to take a significant political gamble this month in closing ERT, the state broadcaster. This was an opportunity to push symbolic change and could have led to more political space for reform (see our note of June 14th). The gamble didn’t pay off, Samaras has been forced to row back on most of his original policy, in addition to losing one of his coalition partners – the small left-wing party, DIMAR. The Prime Minister has just unveiled a new Cabinet comprising ND and PASOK Ministers, which will hold a slim majority (153 seats in the 300 seat parliament). In effect, this will become Greece’s fourth Government in less than 2 years.
There have been several negatives consequences to the ERT affair, as well as one significant positive. Firstly, and most obviously, the Government now has a much slimmer majority, and can potentially be held hostage by the interests of individual MPs (although it will still be able to count on DIMAR support in some cases). Secondly, the momentum for reform that could have been triggered by a more successful resolution of ERT is likely to be lost; the Government can evidently be forced into concessions on public sector payrolls if resisted robustly enough.
There are significant positives as well. It has become obvious that the main parties will take almost any step to avoid an election, particularly PASOK. The new coalition arrangement effectively makes the two governing parties deeply co-dependent. ND dominates Government but couldn’t win a new election outright, while PASOK needs the oxygen of power to survive as a political force; creating an embrace that looks hard to break. There is a chance that DIMAR’s departure will concentrate minds, and a more coherent programme could potentially result (in effect the spell has been broken, and the two parties can no longer avoid the reality that they will live or fall together). The new Government will find life hard however; Greece is now led by a simple coalition of the two main parties who have governed since 1974, lending credence to opposition critiques of the way the country is managed.
Italy: Path ahead doesn’t look any easier
An Italian court has found against Silvio Berlusconi for the third time this year, ruling that he be disbarred from public office for life as a consequence of the ‘Ruby’ affair. In effect the ruling is even less likely to be implemented than the ones which preceded it, since it has yet to be put to appeal. However, it makes life incrementally more difficult for both sides of Italy’s fissiparous coalition, by reinforcing the polarising effects of Berlusconi’s role in public life. It will provide further support to those within PD (the centre-left) who argue that coalition with Berlusconi is unacceptable. It will also increase discontent within PdL, who see these developments as a politically motivated judicial ‘campaign’ to discredit their leader. In an environment where PdL has not got much of what it wants on major policy issues, this is likely to increase the perception that it is losing ground – which will create problems for the coalition.
These events come against the backdrop of increasing concern about a Government that has yet to deliver any substantive change. The ongoing increase in political distrust makes deadlock over the IMU property tax and other issues incrementally more difficult to overcome. Berlusconi’s problems are unlikely to trigger a new election in the near-term (there would be significant risks for all sides, including PdL). However, both main parties – and individual factions within them – are continuing to weigh up the balance of threats and opportunities inherent in a new campaign (particularly in the context of the recent fade in support for Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement).
Portugal: Positioning ahead of September elections
The Government continues to feel the impact of the political crisis of the last few months; which was triggered by the need to fill the fiscal hole created by the Constitutional Court’s ruling against aspects of the 2013 Budget. Pension measures remain particularly contentious, with the junior coalition party CDS-PP continuing to raise objections about aspects of the Government’s programme. Additional stresses are likely to emerge as the parties position for local elections in September, which will be particularly important for CDS-PP (the party will want to position itself as the restraining force within Government, and is likely to make life increasingly difficult for the Prime Minister). As with PASOK in Greece however, senior figures within the smaller party look to have made a strategic decision that their future lies in claiming credit for the success of the Government, while blocking what they can. The danger lies in the way that this particular balance continues to be delivered over the coming months.
More straws on the camel’s back
We expect all three Governments to survive the rest of the year, with the burden of responsibility for taking any decision that leads towards a broader crisis deterring individual parties from exiting. However, the wear and tear of governing has created a series of cumulative pressures, which look a lot like the proverbial straws on the camels back. At some point one of them is likely to cause a break (our instinct tells us risks are probably highest in Italy).
* THE GEZI DIARIES: CAN WE STILL CALL TURKEY CIVILIZED?
By Claire Berlinski, TheTower
Some see it as a modern democracy with an Islamic tint, an improving, reforming country. But if you were in Istanbul during the last month and a half, you’d have seen something completely different: a violent, authoritarian, increasingly suppressive and brutal regime. Tales from the Dark Side, Turkish style.
I’ve always been a critic of armchair reporting. But when your armchair is four blocks away from Taksim Square, it has one of the best views of the uproar in Istanbul any diligent reporter could ask for. I’m now able to calculate with great precision the time between the beginning of the screaming, the sound of the shot, and the entry of the gas through my window. It’s two and twelve seconds respectively.
In the past month, Americans have seen violent images from Turkey on their television screens: massive clouds of tear gas, the sound of screams and sirens, lots of Turks looking mad as hell.
What’s it about? Another outburst of Muslim rage? Something about kids camping in a park? Isn’t Turkey supposed to be the model moderate Muslim miracle?
But understanding the explosion of violence pitting demonstrators against Turkey’s authoritarian and increasingly heavy-handed state—and why it surprised so many who should have known better—requires some work. Start by forgetting most of what you’ve been hearing for the past ten years about Turkey. Don’t try to compare it to any other country: not America, not Afghanistan, not Egypt, not Syria, not Iran, not Russia, and certainly not France in 1968—not that the latter would occur to you, but the French press seems crazy for the idea.
Here’s what you need to know, bare-bones: The supposedly secular Turkish Republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk almost a century ago was an authoritarian state, although not a totalitarian one. And yes, Jeanne Kirkpatrick was right, there is a difference. I went behind the Iron Curtain when the Wall was still standing. The USSR was indeed—immediately, visibly, on first sight—an evil empire. The Turkish Republic wasn’t remotely like that; there has never been all-encompassing government enslavement of the citizenry here, nor is there now, and I pray there never will be. But since its emergence after World War I, Turkey has always had weak institutions—and a state that’s strong as an ox. […]
* SUPREME COURT BOMBSHELL: NO RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
By Joe Wolverton, ll, J.D., NewAmerican
The Supreme Court handed down a decision on June 17 that has been ignored by most media outlets, despite its devastating effect on one of the most fundamental rights protected by the Constitution.
In a 5-4 ruling, the justices ruled that a person no longer has the right to remain silent as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. In relevant part, the Fifth Amendment mandates that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas v. Texas, that part of the Bill of Rights has been excised — and has joined the list of so many other fundamental liberties that now lie on the scrap heap of history.
Here’s a little background of the circumstances of the Salinas case, as told by Slate:
Two brothers were shot at home in Houston. There were no witnesses — only shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Genovevo Salinas had been at a party at that house the night before the shooting, and police invited him down to the station, where they talked for an hour. They did not arrest him or read him his Miranda warnings. Salinas agreed to give the police his shotgun for testing. Then the cops asked whether the gun would match the shells from the scene of the murder. According to the police, Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet, bit his lip, and started to tighten up.
At trial, Salinas did not testify, but prosecutors described his reportedly uncomfortable reaction to the question about his shotgun. Salinas argued this violated his Fifth Amendment rights: He had remained silent, and the Supreme Court had previously made clear that prosecutors can’t bring up a defendant’s refusal to answer the state’s questions. This time around, however, Justice Samuel Alito blithely responded that Salinas was “free to leave” and did not assert his right to remain silent. He was silent. But somehow, without a lawyer, and without being told his rights, he should have affirmatively “invoked” his right to not answer questions. Two other justices signed on to Alito’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the judgment, but for a different reason; they think Salinas had no rights at all to invoke before his arrest (they also object to Miranda itself). The upshot is another terrible Roberts Court ruling on confessions. In 2010 the court held that a suspect did not sufficiently invoke the right to remain silent when he stubbornly refused to talk, after receiving his Miranda warnings, during two hours of questioning.
Consider the ripple effect of the Salinas decision. Specifically, imagine how this ruling will alter the entire landscape of rights — including Miranda — and how they are applied (or not applied) to those accused of serious crimes. Here’s one potential application singled out by the Atlantic:
You know what’s a much more recent wrinkle to the potential precedent effect of today’s ruling? A case like that of the younger Boston Marathon suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who reportedly sat through 16 hours of questioning before he was read his Miranda rights. Had Tsarnaev, who was recovering from serious injuries at the time, remained silent during questioning without explicitly invoking his Fifth Amendment, prosecutors could, under the Salinas ruling, now use that silence to their advantage.
Guilty or not, suspects in the United States no longer have the right to remain silent. If they remain silent, moreover, that silence will now be interpreted as guilt and will indeed — despite what you see on television court and cop dramas — be used against that person in a court of law. Even, in fact, the highest court in the land.
Another terrifying twist to the Salinas decision is that it imposes on a suspect the necessity of invoking specific language before law enforcement will honor the basic civil liberties of a person who is (or historically, was) innocent until proven guilty.
Justice Breyer recognized how this novel necessity places a nearly insuperable barrier to invoking one’s right to remain silent. Writing for the dissent, Justice Breyer asked, “How can an individual who is not a lawyer know that these particular words [“I expressly invoke the privilege against self incrimination”] are legally magic?” […]