greydog

Linda Ross aka greydog is a native Chicagoan who lives and works in Prague. greydog is the founder and editor of 99GetSmart.

Jan 102018
 

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PRINTS!!

Happy New Year! After  5+ years of painting portrait commissions, I am very excited to announce that I am launching a new series of limited edition prints from my archive of  Dog Portraits. I will release one new dog a month for the year of 2018.  Now there is an affordable way to fill your world with Robert Lucy Portraits!
The first, Mr. January is QUESO, the Labradoodle with the great polar bear smile. The signed giclee prints will all be a generous 16″x16″ in editions of 150 each, and printed on 100% cotton rag paper.
The prints are unframed and are available for $100 each.
To purchase a print, go here.
*shipping not included
Here’s a pic from Christmas morning here in The Byrdcliffe Artists Colony in Woodstock, NY, where Chris and I live. Hope that you are warm and cozy wherever you are!
Robert Lucy Editions, 36 East 29th Street, Apt 1, New York, NY 10016
Jan 062018
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

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Happy New Year

2018 is going to be a fun fun year. And to better prepare yourself for all the merrymaking here is a calendar of some of the more delightful things to look forward to.

February 16: The United States bans entry to the country of all people except white Christian and Jewish citizens of Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel.

February 18: Congress passes a law that requires all new citizens to submit an essay – in excellent English – about how brilliant Donald J. Trump is, how devoted they are to him, what a huge success he’s been, how he’s going to make America great again, and how modest a man he is.

March 1: The Mueller Investigation announces the discovery of a citizen of Vladivostok, Russia who on July 16, 2016 wrote an email to his cousin in Baltimore expressing his dismay at all the violence that had been unleashed in the Middle East following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, which, he wrote, was instigated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Such interference in an American election will not be tolerated”, declared Mueller’s office.

March 6: The government of El Salvador is overthrown in a coup. The United States blames Russia.

March 15: Members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi parties, which hold several high positions in the US-supported government, goose-step through the center of Kiev in full German Storm Trooper uniforms, carrying giant swastika flags, shouting “Heil Hitler”, and singing the Horst Wessel song. When left-wingers attempt to block them police intervene to arrest the left-wingers. Not a word of this appears in any American mainstream media. President Trump tweets “there are lots of bad people on both sides”.

March 26: The government of Paraguay is overthrown in a coup. The United States blames Russia.

April 1: Trump declares that the United States has never invaded another country nor has ever overthrown a foreign government. He adds that this is not an April Fools Day joke.

April 15: The government of Egypt is overthrown in a coup. The United States blames Russia.

April 28: A new Harvard study concludes that .00001 percent of the American population now possesses 99.999 percent of all financial assets.

May 10: Texas executes a 16-year-old girl for having an abortion.

May 12: The Republican Party calls for giving fetuses the vote.

June 3: US demands that Iran destroy all planes and bombs in their country, all pistols and rifles, all knives over 2 inches, and all baseball bats.

July 1: Vice President Pence is accused by nine women of having sexually abused them. A week-long nationwide protest demands that he resign. He finally does. President Trump appoints Harvey Weinstein to replace him.

July 14: Saudi Arabia executes for blasphemy 105 men by firing squad, and 42 by beheading, and subjects 60 others to 100 lashes each. The next day Trump angrily denounces “the communist government of Venezuela” for arresting six protesters.

August 15: Chelsea Manning is assassinated by a man named Oswald Harvey.

August 18: Oswald Harvey, while in solitary confinement and guarded round the clock by 200 policemen, is killed by a man named Ruby Jackson.

August 26: Ruby Jackson suddenly dies of a rare Asian disease heretofore unknown in the Western Hemisphere.

September 3: The Labor Department announces that Labor Day will become a celebration of America’s gratitude to its corporations, a day dedicated to the memory of J.P. Morgan and Pinkerton strike breakers killed in the line of duty.

September 6: Congress passes a law requiring that all persons arrested in anti-war demonstrations must be sterilized. President Trump says it is “a huge law”. Congressional Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi votes for the law but declares that she has misgivings because there’s no provision for a right of appeal.

September 8: Military junta overthrows President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Washington decries the loss of democracy.

September 10: US recognizes the new Venezuelan military junta, offers it 50 jet fighters and 100 tanks.

September 12: Revolution breaks out in Venezuela endangering the military junta; 40,000 American marines land in Caracas to quell the uprising.

September 20: The Supreme Court rules that police may search anyone if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person has pockets.

September 21: Two subway trains collide in Manhattan. The United States demands that Moscow explain why there was a Russian citizen in each of the trains.

October 1: The Democratic Party changes its name to the Republican Lite Party, and announces the opening of a joint bank account with the Republican Party so that corporate lobbyists need to make out only one check.

October 11: The Justice Department announces that six people have been arrested in New York in connection with a plan to bomb the United Nations, the Empire State Building, the Times Square subway station, Madison Square Garden, and Lincoln Center.

October 12: Charges are dropped against four of “The New York Six” when it is determined that they are FBI agents.

October 19: Cops the world over form a new association, Policemen’s International Governing Society. PIGS announces that its first goal will be to mount a campaign against the notion that a person is innocent until proven guilty, in those countries where the quaint notion still dwells.

October 22: The draft is reinstated for males and females, ages 16 to 45. Those who are missing a limb or are blind can apply for non-combat roles.

November 6: The turnout for the US presidential election is 9.6%. The voting ballots are all imprinted: “From one person, one vote, to one dollar, one vote.” The winner is “None of the above”.

November 10: ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, General Electric, General Motors, AT&T, Ford, and IBM merge to form “Free Enterprise, Inc.”

November 16: Free Enterprise, Inc. seeks to purchase Guatemala and Haiti. Citigroup refuses to sell.

November 18: Free Enterprise, Inc. purchases Citigroup.

November 25: The air in Los Angeles reaches so bad a pollution level that the rich begin to hire undocumented workers to breathe for them.

December 7: Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump engage in a debate at the United Nations on which of the two is more popular and beloved at home and around the world, whether American Exceptionalism beats North Korean Exceptionalism, and who has the bigger penis.

December 10: Trump fires his entire cabinet, the heads of all government agencies, and his wife. “I gave them all millions of dollars,” he declares, “but none of them gave me respect or loyalty. What a bunch of losers! Sad!”

December 14: Dick Cheney announces from his hospital bed that the United States has finally discovered caches of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – “So all those doubters can now just go ‘F’ themselves.” The former vice-president, however, refuses to provide any details of the find because, he says, to do so might reveal intelligence sources or methods.

So … best wishes for the new year to all my dear readers in the United States and around the world.

And may your name never appear on a Homeland Security “No-fly list”.

May your labor movement not be supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, nor your country’s elections.

May your country never experience a NATO or US humanitarian intervention, liberation, or involuntary suicide.

May the depleted uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and napalm which fall upon your land be as harmless or non-existent as the Pentagon says they are.

May you not fall sick while in the United States without health insurance.

May you not desire to go to an American university while being less than rich.

May you re-discover what the poor in 18th century France discovered, that rich people’s heads can be mechanically separated from their shoulders if they don’t listen to reason.

Jan 032018
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook wants to get more of the world's more than 7 billion people online through a partnership with some of the world’s largest mobile technology companies. Facebook Inc. announced a partnership called Internet.org on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook wants to get more of the world’s more than 7 billion people online through a partnership with some of the world’s largest mobile technology companies. Facebook Inc. announced a partnership called Internet.org on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Internet content is neither “open” nor “equal” when Facebook, Twitter, and Google themselves are guilty of censoring or throttling information and material on their platforms, at will and with zero accountability to users.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY, NEW YORK (Analysis) – In a conversation I overheard recently, one of many such discussions that are being waged nowadays, the topic was professional basketball player Enes Kanter, a member of the NBA’s New York Knicks and a native of Turkey. Kanter, an outspoken critic of the increasingly autocratic Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan through such mediums as Twitter, is facing a four-year prison sentence in absentia in Turkey, a sentence sought after by prosecutors for “insulting the president.”

In the discussion I was party to, a group of liberal New Yorkers blamed Kanter’s predicament on none other than … Donald Trump. We were told Trump is a “good friend” of the “Turkish dictator” and “envious of his dictatorial ways,” which he “wants to bring to America.” Turkey’s worsening relationship with the United States was ignored, as well as the friendship between Erdoğan and former president Barack Obama, which has been confirmed by Obama himself.

What does this have to do with net neutrality? Nothing and everything. This mentality is increasingly prevalent in public discourse today, where Trump is often cited as the sole and only source of anything that is rotten in our society, while the actions of his predecessors are conveniently ignored or overlooked. This is not a defense or an attack of Trump, simply an observation regarding the level of present-day political discourse.

It also brings us to the issue of net neutrality.

Earlier this month, the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) five commissioners, in a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, voted to repeal Title II net neutrality regulations that classified broadband service as a public utility, just like traditional copper-wire landline telephone service. Title II rules provided the FCC with broad regulatory authority, which Republicans, including FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, cited as the main reason for their opposition, regardless of what their true motivations may have been.

Of course, blame towards Pai quickly turned into blame against Trump and his administration, as Trump designated Pai as FCC chairman earlier this year. But it bears pointing out that Pai was originally appointed to the commission by Obama, an appointment that was unanimously approved by the Senate in May 2012. Pai won a second five-year term, retroactive to July 1, 2016, in a Senate vote in October that included “yea” votes from four Democrats, who cited Pai’s efforts to boost rural broadband availability. In other words, both major parties had a hand in the chain of events that led to the repeal.

It is frequently said that we now live in a “post-truth” world. But often it is those tending to favor this term who themselves are guilty of “post-truth,” ascribing blame to one party when there’s plenty of responsibility to be shared across the political spectrum. It would seem that the favored usage of this term, at least from academics and media pundits, masks an underlying defense of neoliberal values and attacks on anyone perceived as threatening them. This leads to political attacks that obscure the big picture on a number of important issues, with net neutrality being no exception.

What the current debate and controversy over the repeal of Title II net neutrality rules ignores is the inconvenient truth that, in reality, net neutrality never existed. Truly equal access to information and resources did not exist, even under the net neutrality regime. Indeed, the digital divide — also known as “digital inequality” — is just as real today as it was before the net neutrality regulations went into effect. Above all, the hypocrisy of the supposed leading champions of an “open internet” — companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft — is strikingly evident.

 

Life in the slow lane

A woman uses her smartphone in central London, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. UK Lawyers say the mounting tally of those arrested and convicted of making offensive comments through social media, shows the problems of a legal system trying to regulate 21st-century communications with 20th century laws. Civil libertarians say it is a threat to free speech in an age when the internet gives everyone the power to be heard around the world. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

(AP Photo/Sang Tan)

When I am in the United States, I reside in a rural community in upstate New York, not far from the state capital. And it is here in this region, populated largely by farmers, that the only “broadband” access available is via the “4G” mobile networks of two providers. The quotation marks are necessary because such “4G” access is not unlimited. Instead, it is data-capped. Once the monthly “high-speed” quota is surpassed, access is dropped to 2G speeds — at best. Download speeds on one such throttled connection were recently measured at 0.25 Mbps, only about four times faster than an old-style dial-up connection and well short of the minimum level to be considered “broadband” (as of 2015, the FCC set 25 Mbps as the minimum download speed for a connection to be considered “broadband,” up from 4 Mbps previously). There is no cable or fiber optic infrastructure in the immediate area.

An even more significant point is that mobile broadband was never truly covered under net neutrality — up until 2010 in a regulatory sense, and since then through the exploitation of a loophole in the regulations that did not explicitly prohibit a practice known as “zero rating,” in which mobile providers could exclude certain traffic and data from customers’ data caps, thereby affording preferential treatment to content of the provider’s choosing.

In other words, “net neutrality” in its true sense did not apply to mobile broadband usage anywhere in the country — not in urban areas and not in rural communities such as my own, where it is essentially the only locally-available broadband option. Yes, satellite internet is available, but it too is data-capped and prone to slow upload speeds.

The cost of this mobile broadband option is also extravagant, much higher than the cost of wired broadband access in areas where it is available. And, based on my own personal usage experience, it is very likely that mobile providers were also surreptitiously throttling specific websites even further once the 4G data cap was exceeded. While certain websites, even relatively graphics-intensive ones, might still load reasonably quickly, other websites, such as the browser version of the file-sharing app Dropbox, are essentially impossible to use.

 

Never was a “neutral” or “equal” internet

The removals began days after Google, which owns YouTube, trumpeted the arrival of an artificial intelligence program that it said could spot and flag "extremist" videos without human involvement.

The removals began days after Google, which owns YouTube, trumpeted the arrival of an artificial intelligence program that it said could spot and flag “extremist” videos without human involvement.

Millions of Americans have been experiencing online life in the slow lane even during the years that “net neutrality” regulation was in effect. The digital divide, or “digital inequality,” manifests itself in a number of different ways. According to data from the United States Census Bureau, a wide swath of states in the central and southern U.S. have broadband penetration rates of between 61 and 71 percent of the population, while it is predominantly the states of the northeast and the west coast that boast penetration rates exceeding 80 percent.

Furthermore, according to a 2016 FCC report, when net neutrality was still very much in effect, 10 percent of all Americans lack access to broadband service, including 39 percent of rural Americans and 41 percent of Americans living on Tribal lands. And 2015 data from Pew Research demonstrates clear digital inequalities across income, educational, racial, and generational lines, not to mention a clear divide between urban and suburban areas as compared to rural areas.

What this all boils down to is the reality that internet access is not distributed equally, and this also includes internet infrastructure and broadband speeds. Large swaths of the United States, and tens of millions of Americans, remain without access to broadband internet access, or have very limited options — and those on paper only, as is the case in my own community.

Even for households with access to wired broadband services, the “net neutrality” era did not, in reality, result in a free and open internet. Major internet service providers such as Comcast, owners of NBC, began imposing data caps on home subscribers, offering “unlimited” access at a hefty additional cost. “Net neutrality” regulations did nothing to stymie this practice, which can be said to violate one of the core principles of net neutrality, that being the equal treatment of all traffic. When throttling takes place, via either a wired or a mobile connection, by definition it means that certain traffic is being prioritized over other traffic. For instance, if you are a content creator and are facing data capping and throttling, your content is at a disadvantage compared to someone whose connection is not capped or throttled.

Similarly, when internet access is made available in tiers, whether those tiers have to do with the amount of data transferred and consumed per month or the speed of the broadband connection itself, by definition, traffic (and users) are not operating on an equal playing field. Those who are able and willing to pay more will get more. This may not be a concept new to telecommunications — think back to the days of expensive long-distance phone calls, or even to cable or mobile bundles today — but it is a practice that perpetuates “digital inequality” and goes against the spirit of net neutrality.

Using a “smart TV” or a Roku or Amazon Fire stick? Access to content is controlled! And while “smart TV” platforms often do have a built-in browser allowing users to access content other than what’s pre-installed or available via an “app store,” Roku or Amazon Fire sticks and other such technologies are pretty much closed systems, providing users with content that is either pre-installed or installable via a catalog of available applications. This is not an “open” usage of the World Wide Web.

And even during the “utopian” years of net neutrality, companies with deep enough pockets were able to purchase faster lanes for themselves. Netflix as well as Google, for instance, set up agreements known as “peering arrangements” with ISPs, allowing their data direct access to the backbones of these ISPs — and quicker access to consumers.

There was a time when snapping up a monopolistic position in the marketplace and ensuring that your product enjoyed favorable placement — as was the case in the late 1990s with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser — resulted in antitrust litigation. Nowadays, such practices are par for the course.

 

Champions of the “open internet”: Do as we say, not as we do

Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi standing up to Israeli soldiers after Israel occupying her land. Her Twitter account was mysteriously removed after she was arrested and tried in an Israeli court for slapping an Israeli soldier who entered her home.

As the threat to Title II net neutrality regulation became greater, and especially after its repeal, certain major technological forces came out and stated their support for an “open internet.” These companies include Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft, all of which have publicly championed net neutrality and the need for the web to remain “open.

These public proclamations may make for great PR — but they also expose the stunning hypocrisy of these companies, who say one thing but practice another on their own platforms. Internet content is neither “open” nor “equal” when Facebook, Twitter, and Google themselves are guilty of censoring or throttling information and material on their platforms, at will and with zero accountability to users

The examples are many. For instance, there’s Facebook’s ongoing war against so-called “fake news,” with Facebook and its own hand-picked “experts” as sole arbiters of what constitutes “fake” and what does not. Google, in turn, recently altered its search and news-gathering algorithms, and “de-ranked” the Russian news services RT and Sputnik, in its own crusade against “fake news.”

Taking things one step further, YouTube is busy assembling its very own 1984-style Thought Police, via the hiring of 10,000 new staffers who will be tasked with weeding out content deemed to be “extremist” — even though YouTube ultimately plans to turn this important internet-saving task over to automated algorithms in the future. How the determination will be made as to what constitutes “extremist” content, either by human censors or by algorithms, remains unclear.

Not to be outdone in this Orwellian race to the bottom, Twitter has recently announced that it will judge verified users’off-site behavior in its determination as to whether or not to strip users of their verification badges. In other words, Twitter has taken on the role of judge, jury, and moral arbiter of users’ actions even beyond its own corner of the supposedly “open” internet. (Notably, I have attempted to obtain verification on both Facebook and Twitter for my journalistic endeavors and was declined without explanation.)

Going even further still, Twitter in recent days has forged ahead with a purge of numerous Twitter accounts, purportedly stemming mostly from far-right or neo-Nazi groups — an effort that even Rolling Stone called out for being inconsistent and with no discernible logic. This encompassed the removal of accounts that may be politically reprehensible to many but that, in the words of one such user who was targeted, never engaged in “trolling or suggesting violence.”

Nor are trolling and threats of violence the exclusive domain of the far-right or “alt-right,” seemingly the target of this latest purge. What’s more dangerous though is that the “extremist” label could be used to justify the stymieing of any politically inconvenient voice, regardless of ideology.

If this seems far-fetched, consider what the very first line of the Wikipedia entry titled “Censorship of Twitter” states: “Censorship of Twitter occurs in many countries and is approved of and supported by Twitter.” Then consider why a Wikipedia article titled “Censorship of Twitter” even exists in the first place.

Further illustrating the point, journalists and bloggers who have espoused politically sensitive positions — far removed from the globalist, neoliberal orthodoxy but also far removed from any semblance of an association with far-right groups or advocates of violence and other illegal activities — have increasingly become the target of such crackdowns by social media outlets or, at the very least, abuses of systems in place to flag and report postings.

Andrew Korybko — a geopolitical analyst with Sputnik News, Oriental Review, and other outlets — is one such example. A prolific writer on topics ranging from Russia’s strategic maneuverings in the Middle East and Eurasia, to China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative, to the Trump administration’s foreign policy, Korybko has been repeatedly barred from posting on Facebook, or posting to Facebook groups, in recent months. His most recent ban came after he posted a recent article of his, published by Oriental Review, challenging the mainstream and politically-correct narrative regarding the arrest of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi.

Ironically, Tamimi’s own Twitter account has vanished and is rumored to have been removed by Twitter itself. Similarly, Facebook, citing “hate speech,” recently removed a page titled “Crimes of Britain,” which provided details of crimes perpetrated by Great Britain during its colonial, imperialist past.

Meanwhile, obviously fake accounts on networks such as Facebook and Twitter that are used for trolling go unpunished and operate with impunity, even when reported by multiple users for what, in fact, are flagrant violations of each site’s terms of service. And even when espousing violent, hateful, or racist speech. Behind a purge of far-right accounts though, it does seem that speech that is frequently targeted for censorship more often than not coincidentally seems to align itself with voices of many different political stripes that have in common that they are opposed to globalism, neoliberalism, and imperialism.

Such arbitrary actions on the part of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have two consequences: they deprive those who are being banned or otherwise suppressed from freely engaging in speech and expressing their opinions and viewpoints; and they deprive the rest of that social network’s community of members from having access to such speech. Instead, the universe of Facebook users and the Twittersphere is expected to take comfort in the fact that it can freely access speech and opinions already deemed by those respective networks to be politically acceptable for the public.

Social networks such as Facebook also suppress speech through more innocuous-seeming methods. For instance, postings of Facebook pages — long a means for individuals and groups and organizations without deep pockets to freely deliver their message to a wide audience — have for a while now been significantly throttled by Facebook. The social network’s algorithms ensure that any posting made by a page appears on the news feed of only a small percentage of the page’s followers — individuals who have actively chosen to like that page, presumably for its content! How can a page administrator increase the audience for its postings? By paying Facebook to “boost” each individual posting.

In other words, page administrators have to pay for preferential treatment of their material. Exactly what we are told will be a consequence of the abolition of net neutrality. And while Facebook and Twitter and Google engage in such practices, each in its own way, they publicly cheerlead for an “open internet.” In turn, the crème de la crème of the neoliberal media world, outlets such as the Amazon-owned Washington Post, have absolutely no qualms about denouncing alternative websites (including MintPress News) as being purveyors of “fake news” while, in the same breath, proclaiming their unwavering support for an “open internet.” The hypocrisy is astounding!

But net neutrality has champions in Congress, elected representatives that stick up for the little guy, correct? The lip service in favor of an “open internet” may be there, but not the action. Case in point: Bernie Sanders, who is calling upon the public to petition the FCC to “protect the open internet.” Not included in the fine print, however, is that Sanders was the number two recipient of donations from Comcast — yes, the very same ISP that places data caps on household internet usage — amongst elected officials and candidates for public office in 2016. Hillary Clinton was far and away the top recipient of donations from Comcast, while Trump did not crack the top 35 (not entirely free of such dependencies, he was 36th) — which consists of a bipartisan Who’s Who, including Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Patrick Leahy, Kamala Harris, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It can be argued that it is the right of private companies, such as Google or Facebook or Twitter, to determine what speech is or is not allowed on their platform or to lobby for or against regulatory regimes such as net neutrality. Fair enough. However, if they choose to make that argument, then they cannot with a straight face argue in favor of an “open internet” as well. It’s either one or the other. Either they will tolerate free speech and the open exchange of ideas and only intervene for the most severe, egregious violations (such as truly credible threats of violence) without any political bias; or they will operate as they do now, and openly contradict the principles of the open internet that they claim to support.

Furthermore, if such companies truly believe in an open internet, then they should believe in the open internet’s ability to self-police and self-filter. A global community of internet users, weeding out what is truly fake from what is real. But is that not precisely what they are afraid of?

 

Is bridging the divide enough?

Top censored 2017

Proponents of net neutrality have recently pointed to the United Kingdom, where it was announced that by 2020 the ability to access high-speed internet will be a legal right for all households and businesses. This is indeed an excellent policy objective for any government. But, what internet will households and businesses have the ability to connect to? Only a few months ago, the very same government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, stated its intention to openly censor content on the internet — including what can be posted, published, and shared — purportedly in the name of combating terror.

In other words, universal access for all who want it — but access to a network where speech and content is tightly regulated and controlled by the government and subject to its whims.

What this all illustrates is that there are two issues at play that are of equal significance. The first is the right of individuals, households, and businesses to enjoy equal footing on the internet (commonly thought of as “net neutrality” — even if, in a regulatory sense, “net neutrality” as it has been implemented in the United States has primarily referred to the net’s classification as a utility). The second is the right of individuals, households, and businesses to have equal access to the network infrastructure itself. In other words, it is both a matter of free speech and a matter of technology. Both are equally needed for a truly open internet to exist. “Net neutrality,” at best, only provided one of the two — and that not fully or consistently across all providers and platforms.

The question that ultimately must be asked is this: What’s in it for Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and other major players who are so openly championing net neutrality and the “open” internet in words, even if not in deeds? Despite Google’s famous “don’t be evil” slogan, my best guess is that their lip service in favor of an “open” internet has nothing to do with altruism, and everything to do with the bottom line. The likes of Amazon, Google, and Facebook are responsible for large swaths of internet traffic. The elimination of Title II rules may be placing these companies at risk of having to pony up significant monetary sums to ISPs. This argument is most often heard in connection with Netflix, but it is entirely plausible that it is at the root of the support for an “open” internet by these other major players as well.

The future of the current brand of net neutrality may well be at risk, at least in the United States. Or it may very well be that consumers and end users do not notice any significant changes and ISPs instead decide to go after the major originators of most of the traffic on their networks, rather than (further) alienating consumers. It may also be the case that the FCC’s repeal of Title II net neutrality, said to be based on shaky legal footing, could be delayed or struck down in court. Time will tell, and the public has a responsibility to do its part. In order to claim, though, that we are losing an open and equal internet, we would have had to have one in the first place.

Jan 022018
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Trump-Netanyahu

Introduction

The Trump regime proclaimed that the vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations regarding the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a strategic US decision.

Both President Trump and his bombastic UN Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened that all decisions and agreements regarding alliances, loans, aid and diplomatic relations were at stake.

Moreover, the Trump regime clearly defined the style and substance of US imperial dictates: All UN member nations (large and small) must grovel in the most abject manner to his orders. Ambassador Haley demanded that each nation on earth accept Trump’s and the racist-Zionist Netanyahu’s declaration that the ancient city of Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided and ethnically managed capital of the Jews. Trump’s message was loud and clear – he was the great ‘decider’ and the UN votes would identify America’s true friends and enemies. “We are making a list … and there will be consequences …”

Clearly Trump’ boast of US power and Haley’s assumption that her terrifying threats would ensure that Washington had a majority vote on the ‘gifting’ of Jerusalem to Zio-fascism. They believed that US dominance and global hegemony was absolute and unassailable. The vote proved something else, something very new was happening.

The US suffered an overwhelming and humiliating defeat, one that kept Ambassador Haley dexterous fingers busy ‘taking notes’: 128 nations demanded that the Trump regime withdraw its declaration that Jerusalem was Israel’s undivided capital for Jews. Only 9 micro-nations (some mere postage stamps and a few death-squad banana-stans) voted with the Trump-Haley decision, 35 mendicant-states put their heads down and abstained while 21 timorous ambassadors chose to hide their shamelessness in the toilet stalls rather than show up for this important vote.

Political Context

First and foremost it is important to discuss the steps leading up to the US suffering such a crushing debacle. In other words, who was responsible for leading the Trump Administration by the nose down the blind alley of submission to the dictates of Zio-fascism.

The leader and driving force behind the UN disaster was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose quest to seize Jerusalem and convert it into the ‘eternal’ capital of the Jews was his top priority. For decades the entire world has rejected Israel’s seizure of Jerusalem and its conversion into an ethnically cleansed capital for the ‘Jewish’ state. The UN and international jurists denounced Israel’s colonial conquest and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Netanyahu took charge with the election of Donald Trump as President. Operation Jerusalem was his first order to Puppet Donald. A number of Israel-First multi-billionaires, who financed Trump’s electoral campaign, demanded an immediate pay-off from their puppet: The Administration’s unconditional support for Netanyahu’s agenda. Despite protests from the rest of the world, especially the US closest European allies, Trump plunged the nation right into the Zionist soup: a Jewish Jerusalem; the systematic eviction of all Arabs, Christian, Muslim and secular, and the eventual annexation of all of Palestine; as well as an increasing military confrontation with Iran.

Real estate speculator, Jared Kushner, Trump’s pampered son-in- law, and a complete Netanyahu flunky, became the senior advisor for the Middle East.  Kushner pressured Trump’s National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn to intervene with Russia on behalf of Israel’s take-over of Jerusalem. Flynn was subsequently prosecuted for discussing global US Russian relations and the ‘good soldier’ is falling on his sword on behalf of the Zionists. Not surprising, the Congressional Democrats, the FBI and the Special Prosecutor found it easier to prosecute Flynn for his discussion regarding de-escalating the tense US-Russian relations provoked by the Obama administration than his discussions with the Kremlin in support of Israel’s seizure of Jerusalem!

Netanyahu’s operational weapons in manipulating US policy involved Jared Kushner, the billionaire Israel-First donors, the AIPAC and UN Ambassador  Nikki Haley. Tel Aviv succeeded in securing Trump’s commitment to the Israeli agenda, despite opposition from the entire UN National Security Council and the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly. In the style of a typical authoritarian, US President Trump grovels at the feet of his ‘superior’, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while tearing at the throats of his ‘inferiors’, the 193 member nations of the UN General Assembly.

Netanyahu’s vitriolic bar room threats against the entire membership of the UN prior to the vote ensured the repudiation of all Security Council representatives with the exception of his South Carolina puppet, Ambassador Nikki Haley. Trump and Haley backed the blustering Netanyahu by issuing gangland threats to all UN representatives who dared to oppose Washington’s dictates.

In this way, Prime Minister Netanyahu secured the greatest diplomatic and political success of his career – the total submission of the US to his agenda, at the risk of a major humiliation in the UN. This, in effect, formalized Israeli hegemony over Washington, for the world to see.

In contrast to Netanyahu’s beaming success, the US suffered a historic diplomatic defeat: Fourteen times as many nations voted against the demands of the US President over – Netanyahu’s grab of Jerusalem.

What makes the defeat even more striking is the fact that all major allies and most of the biggest aid recipients openly defied the US threats. Eight of the ten biggest US aid recipients voted against Trump–Netanyahu–Haley. This bizarre troika is now left with an enemy list circling the entire globe, and a few timorous allies in the South Pacific and among the death squads of Guatemala.

Trump’s total and puerile embrace of the raving Netanyahu has exposed and widened fissures in US global hegemony.

Apart from ‘capturing’ Netanyahu’s vote, the other pro Trump nations included a handful of insignificant Pacific islands (Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia), Togo, a corrupt African mini-state and two banana-sized ‘death squad democracies’, Honduras and Guatemala. The latter two regimes hold power via stolen elections backed by narco-thugs in the pay (dubbed ‘foreign aid’) of the US.

All of the leading Asian and Western European countries voted against Trump. They openly rejected the crude blackmail of the US-Israel duet. Subservient regimes in Eastern Europe, corrupt regimes in Latin America and some horrifically impoverished nations in Africa and Asia chose to abstain or excuse themselves to the toilet stalls of Times Square. Narco-neo-liberal regimes in Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, Panama and the Dominican Republic abstained. Even rightwing Eastern European regimes, which usually give unquestioned support to all US demands, like Romania, Bosnia, Poland and Latvia defied Nikki Haley’s ‘name taking’ by abstaining. The ‘no-shows’ (hiding in the toilets) included US puppets like Georgia, Samoa, St Kitts and Tonga.

An openly humiliated UN Ambassador Haley was left with the task of thanking the abstainers and ‘no-shows’ for their courage and preparing a few bags of goodies (matzos, Mogan David wine and discounts to the brothels of Tel Aviv) for the torturers of Honduras and half-drowned ‘leaders’ of Palau in gratitude for such loyalty.

Conclusion

Clearly Trump’s championing of a racist, colonialist, ethnic cleansing state like Israel may come to be viewed as a strategic diplomatic disaster. The Manhattan egomaniac has tied the US fortunes to the whims of a pariah state led by a complete lunatic.

Trump’s decision to demonstrate total loyalty to his Zionist billionaire campaign ‘donor-owners’ and his Israel-First son-in-law in his first major foreign policy decision failed to impress any of the influential nations of the world – East or West. Indeed, it showed how fractured and dangerously dysfunctional the US Administration had become.

Most important, Trump’s proclamation of a unipolar world, based on his notion of the US’s economic power, has collapsed. Israel, despite Haley’s bluster and list-taking, has no legitimacy. The continued Mossad assassinations of leading Palestinians and others and the increasing IDF slaughter of the spontaneous Palestinian civilian resistance have failed to improve Israel’s international standing – except among Guatemalan torturers.

However, it is not clear that the US has lost its big power influence regarding other regional conflicts. The subsequent UN Security Council vote in favor of Washington’s demands for added sanctions against North Korea demonstrated Trump’s power to intimidate the oligarchs and leaders of China and Russia.

In other words, limits on US power still depend on the issues, the allies, the diplomatic appeals, the adversaries and the distribution of benefits and costs.

In the case of Jerusalem, Real Estate Mogul Trump’s bizarre decision to hand an entire city over to the Zionists alienated all Muslims and Christians the world over, as well as the secular Western liberal nations and emerging powers, like Russia and China. The US tied its prestige to the whims of a paranoid nation arrogantly flaunting its racist superiority complex, backed by groups of immensely wealthy overseas dual citizens.

Diplomatically, Israel’s vituperative response to any legitimate criticism from world bodies undermines its chances of coalition building.

Finally, Washington’s support for Israel’s perpetual and overt violation of international law and its bombing of humanitarian missions makes Israel a very costly ally.

Dec 302017
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews

Outgoing Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is surrounded by media as he tries to leave on his motorcycle, after his resignation in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece and its membership in Europe's joint currency faced an uncertain future Monday, with the country under pressure to reach a bailout deal with creditors as soon as possible after Greeks resoundingly rejected the notion of more austerity in exchange for aid. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Outgoing Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is surrounded by media as he tries to leave on his motorcycle, after his resignation in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece and its membership in Europe’s joint currency faced an uncertain future Monday, with the country under pressure to reach a bailout deal with creditors as soon as possible after Greeks resoundingly rejected the notion of more austerity in exchange for aid. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

SYRIZA gained popular support and came in with a program that was really radical. They said we will socialize or nationalize the Greek banks and put in practice a very radical fiscal policy and increase the taxes on the rich, the Orthodox Church, and the oligarchs. They wound up doing just the opposite.

ATHENS, GREECE – For years, throughout the severe economic crisis that has plagued Greece over much of the past decade, the international media and financial press have held Greece up as a striking example of financial folly and mismanagement. Greece’s debt, we have been told, is the product of fiscal irresponsibility, of “lazy” and “unproductive” Greeks living beyond their means and spending recklessly. Moreover, Greece has been chastised for not emerging out of its economic doldrums despite being the recipient of hundreds of billions of euros worth of “free bailout money.” In short, Greece has been presented as an example for other countries to avoid at all costs.

Éric Toussaint, the spokesman of the Brussels-based Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) and scientific director of the Greek Debt Truth Audit Commission, adopts a radically different view.

In an interview that initially aired on Dialogos Radio in December 2017, Toussaint describes the findings of the commission and describes the legal avenues available to Greece for the repudiation of a significant portion of its debt, which he describes as odious and illegitimate. He also criticizes claims made by economist and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in his recent book regarding the supposed lack of options available to Greece in its negotiations with its lenders in 2015.

Toussaint illustrates the capitulation of Varoufakis and current Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, resulting in further harsh austerity measures and no solution for the issue of the Greek public debt.

MPN: You recently wrote a three-part series of articles looking at the actions of, on the one hand, the SYRIZA-led government in Greece under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and, on the other hand, the actions of Yanis Varoufakis, the well-known economist and Greece’s finance minister under the SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Your critique comes following the publication of Varoufakis’ recent book, Adults In The Room, in which Varoufakis gives his account of the Greek crisis and his actions in supposedly standing up to the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund). We’ll use this as a starting off point for our discussion. What were your general impressions of the book?

Éric Toussaint: The book really should be read, because it’s a very useful testimony about what happened. I disagree with the orientation of Varoufakis, but it’s a unique presentation of what happened before the Greek parliamentary election of January 2015 and what happened in the first six months thereafter — leading to thecapitulation of the SYRIZA government in July 2015, following its overturning of the result of the July 5 referendum rejecting a new German-backed austerity plan.

MPN: In Adults In The Room, one of the claims apparently made by Varoufakis is that Greece was bankrupt in 2009 and that this set the stage for the so-called “bailouts” and austerity that followed. You dispute this claim, however. What do the facts show?

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis speaks during a parliamentary session in Athens, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP/Yannis Liakos)

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis speaks during a parliamentary session in Athens, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP/Yannis Liakos)

ET: In reality, the main problem was on the side of the private debt, the debt of the Greek banks, but also other businesses and households. There had been a process of huge growth of the private debt just after the integration of Greece into the Eurozone, because the big French, German, Dutch, and Belgian banks wanted to lend money to Greece, knowing that there was no risk of devaluation because of the monetary union.

They had a surplus of liquidity before the crisis of 2007 – 08, and after the crisis because, as you will remember, the Federal Reserve of the U.S. and the European Central Bank injected a huge amount of liquidity into the banks. These banks used that money to lend where they were having the better profits, and the countries of the “periphery” — like Greece but also Portugal, Ireland, and Spain — were more profitable than countries like Germany, France, Benelux, the U.K. or the U.S.

So the main issue was the problem of the bubble of private credit, but the main problem of the Greek government of George Papandreou in 2009, and the problem of the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy and the government of Angela Merkel in Germany, was that it was impossible to tell voters that we have to once more bail out the private banks. Therefore, it was necessary for them to build a fake narrative of what was happening in Greece, telling the public that the main problem was the huge level of public debt and the incapacity of the Greek government to keep on financing its public and external debt. In reality, they created this fake narrative to convince public opinion about the need to give money to the Greek government to “bail out” the Greek private banks and the French and German and Dutch and Belgian private sector, mainly the banks.

So, I disagree with the dominant narrative and I disagree with Varoufakis, who wrote in his book that the Greek government was bankrupt. I think the main problem was the banks, and the Greek government had the choice to either bail out the private sector or to “bail in” and socialize the banks (forcing the banks to take losses). It ultimately decided not to socialize or to expropriate the private banks. It was an error of the Greek government, and the other European governments were accomplices, along with big financial capital.

In summary, there is a difference between what Varoufakis is saying and what I am saying, and the conclusions are also different. I would say that what the Greek government should have done would have been to suspend the payment of the external debt, including the public debt. Varoufakis is saying the Greek state should have recognized itself that it was bankrupt and should have sold public assets to the foreign private sector, including selling to the other European countries and investors, and to the Greek banks. Do you see the difference?

MPN: Much has been said about Greece falsifying economic figures to enter the Eurozone, but you point out in your articles that Greece’s debt and deficit statistics were falsified by the Papandreou government in 2009 and 2010 and by IMF employee Andreas Georgiou, who was placed in charge of the Greek Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) by the Papandreou government. How were the Greek debt and deficit figures falsified, and is this something that Varoufakis addresses in his book?

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, right, arrives at the special Paris court, France. (AP/Thibault Camus)

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, right, arrives at the special Paris court, France. (AP/Thibault Camus)

ET: No, he says absolutely nothing about this falsification. But this falsification is evident. There is the case of Andreas Georgiou, the director of ELSTAT, who was sued, and at the beginning of August 2017 was found guilty of falsification by the Greek courts.

What happened? Papandreou met with the leaders of the European Central Bank — at that time it was Jean-Claude Trichet, very linked to the French banks — and the IMF, whose general director at that time, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was also very linked to the French banks. The Papandreou government asked the director of ELSTAT to add some debt to the official public debt. At the first step, Eurostat, the European organization of statistics, told ELSTAT that it was an error to add this debt, but Eurostat was afterward also convinced by Trichet and by José Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, to be part of the falsification of the Greek public debt.

I would estimate they increased the debt more or less 15 to 20 percent in relation to the Greek GDP, so that the official figure reached the huge ratio of 125 percent of GDP for the public debt, and the budgetary fiscal deficit reached something like 13 percent. So with these figures, the troika could say there is an emergency, we have to intervene to “help” the Greek government, with 110 billion euros of loans to Greece. So in this case, I would say that it was a conspiracy. I am not a conspiracist, but in this case we really now have the proof of a huge level of falsification and of the building of the fake narrative to misrepresent what was the real situation.

MPN: You point out that Yanis Varoufakis, despite his radical and leftist profile, maintained friendships and close contact with such figures as the head of the Greek conservative party, Antonis Samaras, who was prime minister of Greece between 2012 and 2014; Yannis Stournaras, who was the finance minister under the Samaras government during that period and who is the current governor of the Bank of Greece; and George Papandreou, who led Greece into the austerity and memorandum regime in 2009 and 2010. Describe the nature of Varoufakis’ relationships with these figures.

ET: You know, Varoufakis is very happy to share that he has developed and maintains many relations with the traditional political class in Greece. In some ways, when you read his book you see that he is trying to convince world leaders that what he was proposing was a better solution for everybody, including for the leaders of the world. And so he insisted on stating that [then-leader of the Greek opposition] Antonis Samaras called him one evening after [Varoufakis] publicly criticized what Papandreou was doing, with Samaras telling Varoufakis “I don’t know you but I like very much what you said on Greek television and to Greek public opinion.”

It shows that Varoufakis has a very complicated personality, because he says he wants to be at the side of the oppressed people, and he’s promised to his voters not to betray them, but at the same time he wanted to convince world leaders and to maintain very good relations with everybody — with Stournaras, with Samaras, with Papandreou, with Christine Lagarde, with [then-German finance minister Wolfgang] Schäuble, with [German Chancellor] Merkel. And in the U.S., if you read the book, he says he was very happy to maintain a very good relationship with Larry Summers and Jeffrey Sachs.

People in the U.S. should know who these guys are. Larry Summers was in charge of the U.S. Treasury in the Clinton administration at the end of the 1990s and he was responsible for the revocation of the Glass-Steagall Act [that had been a way of protecting the economy from unduly risky behavior by banks]. After that he was the president of Harvard University and was totally [chauvinistic] in his declaration of the difference between men and women. He can be fairly described as a right-wing Democrat. Sachs, who was also a friend of Varoufakis, was responsible for the first economic “shock therapy” [harsh and sudden economic austerity policies] imposed on Bolivia in 1995, and the “shock therapy” imposed on Russia and Poland in the early 1990s. So it’s really problematic to see this contradictory posture of Varoufakis.

MPN: In his book, Varoufakis goes on to say that he convinced SYRIZA to depart from its policy platform of 2012 and the Thessaloniki platform of 2014. Instead, Varoufakis convinced SYRIZA to adopt his own set of economic proposals. For instance, Varoufakis seems to have proposed advocating for a debt restructuring instead of a debt reduction. What was SYRIZA originally proposing; what were Varoufakis’ proposals which were ultimately adopted; and why were Varoufakis’ proposals, in your words, doomed to fail?

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 file photo, a man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras' decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

A man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras’ decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

ET: In the electoral campaign of 2012, SYRIZA succeeded in increasing its popular support. In the election of 2009 SYRIZA received 4 percent of the vote, and in June 2012 26.5 percent of the vote. So it was very clear with the election of June 2012 that sometime in the future SYRIZA would become the government of Greece. And they gained such popular support in 2012 with a program that was very radical.

They were saying that if you elect us as government, we will suspend the payment of the debt and we will audit the debt to identify the illegitimate part of the Greek debt. They also said we will socialize or nationalize the Greek banks. And they said that they would put in practice a very radical fiscal policy and increase the taxes on the rich, the Orthodox Church, and the oligarchs who are active in the shipping industry. So it was a radical program, and they also said that we will not make any more sacrifices for the euro.

Varoufakis was opposed to this orientation, and in his book he explains how he succeeded in convincing Alexis Tsipras and his inner circle to moderate, to soften the program and to say that it was not necessary to suspend the payment of the debt — that it was possible to convince the creditors to restructure the debt without reducing the debt and without a suspension of payments. Varoufakis also wrote that he convinced Tsipras that it was important not to increase the taxes paid by the private sector, the Greek corporations and financial industry, and foreign corporations based in Greece.

What I can say as a comment on Varoufakis’ book is that Tsipras, after the election of June 2012, was also looking for people like Varoufakis, who could help Tsipras to soften the program of SYRIZA while not openly confronting the rest of SYRIZA’s leadership. So I would say Tsipras and Varoufakis organized something like a shadow cabinet within SYRIZA to prepare another official platform. Varoufakis explains that actually they did this against the official line of SYRIZA. For me, at this level, Varoufakis has a huge responsibility for the capitulation that happened at the beginning of July 2015.

MPN: One of Varoufakis’ proposals to the leaders of SYRIZA was to accept a primary budget surplus of up to 1.5 percent of GDP. For those unfamiliar with economics, what is a primary budget surplus and why is it harmful for a country whose economy is in a depressed state, as is the case in Greece?

ET: To achieve a primary budget surplus, you need to cut expenses, and it is clear that the type of expenses to be cut are social expenses and infrastructure investment. A primary surplus is achieved prior to paying the debt. When you say that I will guarantee as a government a primary surplus, it is to use this surplus to pay the debt. You will not question the payment of the debt when you guarantee a primary surplus.

The alternative would have been to say, as a legitimate leftist government, we should have a fiscal deficit, because we should use the money of the government to stimulate the recovery of the economic activity and we should improve the quality of life of the population — and to accomplish this we need more money for health, for education, to create jobs. And so, the proposal of Varoufakis was at odds with a truly radical negotiating position on the part of the Greek government.

MPN: Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras have spoken, for instance, at the Brookings Institution, the well-known neoliberal Washington think tank. Can such actions, in your opinion, be reconciled with their supposedly leftist and radical image?

ET: I would say it is not really shocking. Personally I don’t like to do such things, but we can understand that certain people want to be in government and are therefore willing to give some speeches to different publics. But at the same time it is absolutely clear that Tsipras prioritized his being invited by institutional authorities who are neoliberal, and he did that and he has kept on doing that because he wants absolutely to be recognized as a political leader, one who is very responsible to the markets and to the stability of the financial system.

In the case of Varoufakis, he wanted to create, I would say, a more complex image — in some way provoking but in some way saying yes, we need to reach a compromise, an agreement. And he also gave an absolute priority to invitations from right-wing or systemic institutions. It’s very clear, for instance, that he liked very much the conservative leadership in the U.K. and accepted several invitations from them; and he also accepted, precisely at the beginning of his tenure as finance minister, an invitation to go to London to give a speech to foreign investors. It showed, in this way, that he and Tsipras were the main interlocutors with creditors and capitalists. In Varoufakis’ book, he also writes a lot about the good relations he tried to build with China and Chinese authorities investing in Greece.

MPN: You have been the scientific coordinator of the Greek Debt Truth Commission since it was established in 2015. Has the SYRIZA-led government shown any intention of adopting the findings of the commission, and was there any point during your participation on the commission when you realized that perhaps the SYRIZA government’s policies were going in a different direction from the work that you were doing?

Members of left wing parties shout slogans behind a burning European Union flag during an anti-EU protest in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki. (AP/Giannis Papanikos)

Members of left wing parties shout slogans behind a burning European Union flag during an anti-EU protest in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki. (AP/Giannis Papanikos)

ET: I would say that frankly, since the beginning, when I spoke with the then-president of the Hellenic Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou on February 16, 2015, I told her that I came to you, came to the parliament to make a proposal to you to launch an audit commission, and I can convince people from 10 different countries to work with no payment in favor of the Greek people and in favor of the truth about the debt. Telling that to Zoe [Konstantopoulou], I added that I was convinced that Alexis Tsipras would not be enthusiastic about that proposal. She told me, “No problem, I will do that, I will call Alexis and I will convince him.” She immediately issued a press release regarding our meeting on February 16, 2015. She also called Tsipras, and Tsipras officially told her “do it, it’s part of our program in 2012; do it and do it with Eric Toussaint.

We held the first meeting of the commission on April 4, 2015 in the Greek parliament. Alexis Tsipras came at the beginning of the inaugural session. The president of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, came also, and so officially they showed their support. Almost all the members of the government also attended, including Varoufakis. But it was clear to me that Varoufakis was not in favor of freely supporting the commission, and the same from Tsipras. Zoe Konstantopoulou was convinced, because she was a political friend and a friend of Tsipras, that he was sincere when he was telling her that he wanted to support our work.

Several weeks later, it was very clear that neither Tsipras or Varoufakis were open to publicly, in front of the media, mentioning the work of the commission. They never — you know, they traveled a lot to Brussels and Varoufakis traveled a lot to Washington to meet Christine Lagarde, the general director of the IMF — and they never questioned the legitimacy of the debt. So for me it was very clear that they were in some way forced by the president of the Greek parliament to express official support, but at the same time it was very clear that they didn’t want to radicalize their position.

I performed this work with the 13 members of the commission. The work done by the commission, I would say, consists of more than 1500 or 2000 hours of work performed over eight weeks among 13 persons. We worked day and night to produce a very efficient and rigorous report, and my expectation was that there was some possibility that several ministers of the SYRIZA-led government — ministers of the then-SYRIZA faction “Left Platform,” jointly with Zoe Konstantopoulou and the pressure from the streets and from the other radical-left groups and the trade-union left — could pressure the government to use our work. But I was not really very optimistic because I was very well informed about what Varoufakis was doing with his team of advisers. I was receiving clear information about the concessions that he was ready to give to the creditors.

But I don’t regret having done this work, and people who participated in the commission — people from France, Spain, Greece, Ecuador, Brazil, the U.K., Belgium — these people are very proud to have done this work. They are convinced that because we have done very serious work, it will be useful in the future — in Greece but also in other parts of the world, because in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Slovenia, in other countries, people are reading our report, are asking us a lot of questions, trying to implement the same methodology to the specific case in their own country. I’m sure it will be useful.

MPN: Describe the findings and conclusions that were published in your report, and also the recommendations made by the Debt Truth Audit Commission.

ET: In the first two chapters, we analyze the building of the Greek public and private debt before the crisis. We explain what happened in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century. We showed that the accumulation of debt was linked to huge amounts of military expenses encouraged by the U.S. government and the French and German governments, which are the main sellers of weapons to Greece. We showed also that interest rates paid by Greece at the end of the 20th century increased the debt, as also happened with the peripheral countries.

Additionally we showed the responsibility of the previous PASOK and New Democracy governments in giving tax gifts to the rich that reduced the government revenue and forced the government to finance its budget by debt. And we showed also that the debt increased after the addition of the Greece to the Eurozone, because a lot of money came from the German and French investors.

Following that, in chapters 3 and 4, we showed the transformation of the debt from the troika’s first memorandum, when the private lenders were replaced by public lenders — the troika, the European Commission, 14 different states of the Eurozone, the IMF and the European Central Bank. We showed that they did that to bail out the private banks — foreign and national — and not in the interest of the people. We demonstrated that the lenders added conditions to the new loans, conditions that violated international treaties on economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights.

In other words, we demonstrated that the debt to the troika was an odious debt, meaning a debt accumulated against the interests of the people, and that the creditors or lenders knew that they were giving loans against the interests of the people. And, in the case of the troika, this was absolutely evident, because the troika was dictating to the Greek government the terms of the loans — which laws to change, which new laws to adopt, what wage and pension reductions and privatizations to enact. The troika were not only accomplices but they were direct commanders — they were the initiators of these violations.

After that in the report we demonstrated the clear impact on the quality of life of the Greek population. In chapter 5, we named concrete international treaties and which article is being violated by the conditions imposed by the troika. And in the last two chapters we explained in legal terms why the Greek debt to the troika should be rejected as illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable.

Our conclusion was that the Greek government fully has the right to suspend the payment of the debt, to question the debt, and also to repudiate the part of the debt identified as odious. Notable lawyers helped us, as members of the commission, to write the conclusion based on international law and Greek domestic law. It is clear that should Varoufakis and Tsipras have used this report, they would have had very strong arguments against the creditors, instead of capitulating in front of them in July 2015.

MPN: Is the Greek Debt Truth Audit Commission still active today? And, by extension, how is the CADTM active today on the issue of the Greek debt?

A pedestrian passes anti-austerity graffiti in front of Athens Academy. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

A pedestrian passes anti-austerity graffiti in front of Athens Academy. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ET: The Debt Truth Commission was dissolved by the new president of the Greek parliament, Nikos Voutsis, in October 2015. We were opposed to its dissolution, and so we decided collectively to transform ourselves into an independent organization with the same name. We are active now as the Debt Truth Committee, recognized by Greek law, and we have met several times in the past two years.

We met once in the European Parliament, invited by several members of the European Parliament — French, Greek, German and Spanish European MPs who are supporting our work. We held several meetings in Greece, not in the parliament because we are no longer invited, but in the office of the Greek Association of Lawyers. There were many Greek citizens who attended the public part of our meetings.

Several of us have published different articles. I published a book in Greek last July with new material about the Greek debt. We also produced several videos and a documentary, “Audit,” a 26 minute film. It is very interesting, I recommend to you to view it. I have to check, but I think that very soon it will be available with English subtitles. So we are keeping on with our work. It is clear that we are not supported by the government. And the right-wing press maintains silence about our work — but we enjoy significant support in the Greek social movements and radical-left organizations.

MPN: In looking at Greece over the years of the economic crisis, we’ve often heard that Greece has been given all this money by the troika, insinuating that the money was simply given away to Greece. In reality though, where have most of the so-called “bailout” funds ended up?

ET: It’s absolutely clear that more than 90 percent of the loans given to Greece went back outside of Greece to pay back the private banks and public creditors, or to bail out the Greek banks. Less than 10 percent has been used by the regular government as an input to the budget, but they used even that to promote the neoliberal policies! So this money also was used against the interests of the Greek people, because it was used to finance privatizations, to finance the layoffs of thousands of public servants, et cetera.

MPN: What options does Greece have available to it under domestic law, European law, and international law today — with regards to the public debt, and also with regards to the potential abolition or overturning of the austerity measures and memorandum-related policies, such as privatizations, that have followed?

Riot police clashes with protesting farmers outside the greek Agriculture Ministry, in Athens, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Police fired tear gas to prevent farmers from forcing their way into the ministry building, while protesters responded by throwing stones. No injuries or arrests were reported. Protesters are angry at increases in their tax and social security contributions, part of the income and spending cuts Greece's left-led government has implemented to meet bailout creditor-demanded budget targets.(AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Riot police clashes with protesting farmers outside the greek Agriculture Ministry, in Athens, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Police fired tear gas to prevent farmers from forcing their way into the ministry building, while protesters responded by throwing stones. No injuries or arrests were reported. Protesters are angry at increases in their tax and social security contributions, part of the income and spending cuts Greece’s left-led government has implemented to meet bailout creditor-demanded budget targets.(AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ET: There is something very concrete that could be done with the Greek bonds owned by the European Central Bank. The ECB bought Greek bonds in 2010, 2011, and 2012 at a discount price, a discount of 30 percent. After that, after the “haircut” [downward revaluation of Greek bonds] of 2012, the ECB refused to be part of the “haircut.” Now the ECB is demanding that Greece repay the full amount of the Greek bonds the ECB bought at a discount price. It is demanding the full nominal value of the bonds — and with a very high interest rate, 6.5 percent — at the same time that the ECB is lending money to the private banks at zero interest.

What the Greek government could do is to change the legal status of the Greek bonds, because they are still covered under the legal jurisdiction of Greece. The Greek government could say we are enacting a haircut of 50 or 80 percent on these bonds, to reduce the payments, because we want to use the money in favor of the Greek people’s interests. It would be possible to do that. Tsipras can do that or a future Greek government can do that.

What should complement this, what a government that would like to really help the Greek people’s interests could do would be to, on the basis of our audit, enact another unilateral, sovereign action of repudiation of other parts of the debt. It is clear that this would provoke a huge verbal reaction. But for the past seven years, since the first memorandum of 2010, the creditors have criticized the Greek government and the Greek population, shown the Greek population as “lazy” and as “delinquent” at the level of tax payments. I think that they cannot, as creditors, inflict more pain on the Greek people than they already have.

A legitimate government can affirm the popular sovereignty in the interests of the Greek population, can resolve an issue in favor of the general interest of the population — and not only the Greek people’s interests, but humanity, I would say. We need justice, and if there is no justice for the Greek people, there will be no justice for all the people in Europe and the rest of the world. We have to launch and to expand the struggle to oppose illegitimate and odious debt all over the world.

MPN: Debt, as you say, is not just a Greek or European problem. Total world debt is said to surpass $230 trillion dollars. Is the current global economic model sustainable under such conditions, in your view?

ET: No, it’s not sustainable. As you certainly know, recently the IMF but also the Bank of International Settlements — it is a bank of the big central banks based in Basel, Switzerland — have been saying there are new financial bubbles. These bubbles have been provoked by an inflation of the price of assets, with a massive injection of liquidity decided by the big central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England.

In the next months or years this will provoke a new financial crisis. Exactly when it will happen we don’t know. It can happen in one week or in six months or in one year. Certainly it will happen with a stock exchange crash, and a crash on the market of obligations emitted by private corporations and also sovereign debt. Where it will explode — Wall Street, Paris, Frankfurt — we don’t know. Maybe Beijing. But it will explode in the near future.

This model of huge global debt, which is accumulated in favor of speculative activities and to enrich the richest, will end via a new general crisis. Not a terminal crisis of capitalism, because the structure of capitalism has survived such financial crises since the beginning of the 19th century.

But these types of crises generally deliver a huge amount of pain to the majority of the population, so we should be conscious of what capitalism is preparing for the population of the world. We have to combine a struggle against illegitimate debt with other demands about private banks, about taxes, against climate change, in favor of social justice. We need to chart a radical turn opposing the capitalist model.

Dec 232017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

congressional-sexual-harassment-slush-funds

In accordance with the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA) the Office of Compliance (OC) compiled and published shocking statistics listing (1) the number of settlements paid to its employees and interns after allegations of abuse by legislators; (2) the total amount of dollars paid by US Treasury to the victims of Congressional workplace abuse.

The US taxpayers were made to pay millions of dollars in financial settlements for hundreds of incidents of Congressperson abuse, including gross sexual harassment, against interns, staff and office employees, of both sexes. This ‘slush and shush’ fund was hidden from the American people. Many abused victims were paid-off and intimidated into silently watching the elected officials parade themselves as paragons of virtue and champions of their voters.

The data, published by Congressional Office of Compliance, covered a period starting in 1997 to November 2017. In that period, 264 victims of abuse, some by a number of Congresspersons, came forward with their complaints. The US Treasury secretly paid over $17 million dollars to the victims while the identities of the abusing Congresspersons are not identified and are protected under the 1995 statute.

In other words, the members of the US Congress, including serial sexual abusers and uncontrolled bullies, have shielded themselves from public exposure, so they could continue preying on their employees with impunity and without any personal material loss or humiliating exposure to their families. Thus protected, they could expect to be re-elected to abuse again and the taxpayers would pay their secret ‘pay-offs’!

Political Party Leadership in Congress and the Protected Abusers

An examination of the political party affiliation of the Congressional leaders and the Presidents during this 20-year period of abuse reveals that both parties were engaged in shielding offenders and perverts among their ranks.

During the first 10 years (1997-2007), Congress was controlled by the Republican Party. Under their leadership, the Treasury secretly paid over $11 million in compensation to the victims.

Democrats controlled the ‘House’ during the next three years (2008-2011) when the Treasury paid over $2.5 million dollars. As a result of this perverse form of ‘bipartisan cooperation’, abusive officials from both parties were free to abuse, humiliate and exploit their employees and young interns with impunity.

In the last five years (2012-2017), Republicans, once again, controlled the House and oversaw the secret payout of over $3.5 million for ‘bipartisan’ abuse.

Moving from monetary payment to the number of abused employees, we find 133 were subjected to abuse under the Republicans (1997-2007), 48 under the Democrats between (2008-2011) and another 73 victims under the latest period of Republican control (2012-2017). All victims, who came forward with their complaints, faced a gauntlet of procedural intimidation, ‘counseling’, ‘cooling off’ periods and legal restraint to remain silent.

If we examine Congressional abuse on a per capita basis, Republicans abused on an average, 13 victims a year while the Democrats harassed 12 victims a year. There is a comforting level of uniformity and continuity of abuse in the US political system under both Republican and Democratic control of Congress. This indicates a shared political culture and practice among America’s ‘Solons’. Whatever wild-eyed rhetorical ideological differences, both parties cooperate with great civility in the abuse of their employees.

Indeed, the sense of feudal privilege over employees, viewing workers and interns as peasants, invoking the once outlawed ‘droit de seigneur’, pervades the Halls of Congress. This culture of feudal abuse, so common in the private sector, in giant corporations, Hollywood and the media, has metastasized to the centers of US political power, leaving untold thousands of brutalized victims and their helpless loved ones to deal with the long-term effects of humiliation, bitterness and injustice. For every abused young employee, treated like a serf by an all powerful legislator, there are dozens of helpless family members, fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and spouses, who must deal with decades of silent resentment against these abusers.

None of this is surprising given how both parties have been financed and controlled by corporate leaders, Hollywood moguls and Wall Street speculators, who have exploited and abused their employees with impunity until the recent ‘Me-Too’ movement erupted spontaneously. Given the transformation of the workplace into a kind of neo-feudal estate, the ‘Me-Too’ movement may be seen as a latter-day ‘Peasant Revolt’ against the overlords.

Presidential Leadership and Abuse in the Workplace

Several Presidents have been accused of gross sexual abuse and humiliation of office staff and interns, most ignobly William Jefferson Clinton. However, the Congressional Office of Compliance, in accord with the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 does not collect statistics on presidential abuses and financial settlements. Nevertheless, we can examine the number of Congressional victims and payments during the tenures of the various Presidents during the past 20 years. This can tell us if the Presidents chose to issue any directives or exercise any leadership with regard to stopping the abuses occurring during their administrations.

Under Presidents William Clinton and Barack Obama we have data for 12 years 1997-2000, and 2009-2016. Under President George W Bush and Donald Trump we have data for 9 years 2001-2008 and 2017.

Under the two Democratic Presidents, 148 legislative employees were abused and the Treasury paid out approximately $5 million dollars and under the Republican Presidents, 116 were abused and Treasury and over $12 million dollars was paid out.

Under the Democratic Presidents, the average number of abuse victims was 12 per year; under the Republicans the average number was 13 per year. As in the case of Congressional leadership, US Presidents of both parties showed remarkable bipartisan consistency in tolerating Congressional abuse.

Congressional Abuse: The Larger Meaning

Workplace abuse by elected leaders in Washington is encouraged by Party cronyism, loyalties and shameless bootlicking. It is reinforced by the structure of power pervasive in the ruling class. Congress people exercise near total power over their employees because they are not accountable to their peers or their voters. They are protected by their financial donors, the special Congressional ‘judicial’ system and by the mass media with a complicity of silence.

The entire electoral system is based on a hierarchy of power, where those on the top can demand subordination and enforce their demands for sexual submission with threats of retaliation against the victim or the victim’s outraged family members. This mirrors a feudal plantation system.

However, like sporadic peasant uprisings in the Middle Ages, some employees rise up, resist and demand justice. It is common to see Congressional abusers turn to their office managers, often female, to act as ‘capos’ to first threaten and then buy off the accuser – using US taxpayer funds. This added abuse never touches the wallet of the abuser or the office enforcer. Compensation is paid by the US Treasury. The social and financial status of the abusers and the abusers’ families remain intact as they look forward to lucrative future employment as lobbyists.

This does not occur in isolation from the broader structure of class and power.

The sexual exploitation of workers in the Halls of the US Congress is part of the larger socio-economic system. Elected officials, who abuse their office employees and interns, share the same values with corporate and cultural bosses, who exploit their workers and subordinates. At an even larger level, they share the same values and culture with the Imperial State as it brutalizes and rapes independent nations and peoples.

The system of abuse and exploitation by the Congress and the corporate, cultural, academic, religious and political elite depends on complicit intermediaries who frequently come from upwardly mobile groups. The most abusive legislators will hire upwardly mobile women as public relations officers and office managers to recruit victims and, when necessary, arrange pay-offs. In the corporate sphere, CEOs frequently rely on former plant workers, trade union leaders, women and minorities to serve as ‘labor relations’ experts to provide a progressive façade in order to oust dissidents and enforce directives persecuting whistleblowers. On a global scale, the political warlords work hand in glove with the mass media and humanitarian interventionist NGO’s to demonize independent voices and to glorify the military as they slaughter resistance fighters, while claiming to champion gender and minority rights. Thus, the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was widely propagandized and celebrated as the ‘liberation of Afghan women’.

The Congressional perverts have their own private, secret mission: to abuse staff, to nurture the rich, enforce silence and approve legislation to make taxpayers pay the bill.

Let us hope that the current ‘Me Too!’ movement against workplace sexual abuse will grow to include a broader movement against the neo-feudalism within politics, business, and culture and lead to a political movement uniting workers in all fields.

Dec 212017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Latin-America

Introduction

Clearly the pendulum has swung to the right in the past few years. Numerous questions arise. What kind of right? How far right? How did they gain power? What is their appeal? How sustainable are the right wing regimes? Who are their international allies and adversaries? Having taken power, how have the rightist regimes performed and by what criteria is success or failure measured?

While the left has been in retreat, they still retain power in some states. Numerous questions arise. What is the nature of the left today? Why have some regimes continued while others have declined or been vanquished? Can the left recover its influence and under what conditions and with what programmatic appeal.

We will proceed by discussing the character and policies of the right and left and their direction. We will conclude by analyzing the dynamics of right and left policies, alignments and future perspectives.

Right-Radicalism: The Face of Power

The right wing regimes are driven by intent to implement structural changes: they look to reordering the nature of the state, economic and social relations and international political and economic alignments.

Radical right regimes rule in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras and Chile.

In several countries extreme right regimes have made abrupt changes, while in others they build on incremental changes constituted over time.

The changes in Argentina and Brazil represent examples of extreme regressive transformations directed at reversing income distribution, property relations, international alignments and military strategies. The goal is to redistribute income upwardly, to re-concentrate wealth, property-ownership upward and externally and to subscribe to imperial doctrine. These pluto-populist regimes are run by rulers, who openly speak to and for very powerful domestic and overseas investors and are generous in their distribution of subsidies and state resources – a kind of ‘populism for the plutocrats’.

The rise and consolidation of extremist right regimes in Argentina and Brazil are based on several decisive interventions, combining elections and violence, purges and co-optation, mass media propaganda and deep corruption.

Mauricio Macri was backed by the major media, led by the Clarin conglomerate, as well as by the international financial press (Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.). Wall Street speculators and Washington’s overseas political apparatus subsidized his electoral campaign.

Macri, his family, cronies and financial accomplices, transferred public resources to private accounts. Provincial political bosses and their patronage operations joined forces with the wealthy financial sectors of Buenos Aires to secure votes in the Capital.

Upon his election, the Mauricio Macri regime transferred five billion dollars to the notorious Wall Street speculator, Paul Singer, signed off on multi-billion dollar, high interest loans, increased utility fees six fold, privatized oil, gas and public lands and fired tens of thousands of public sector employees.

Macri organized a political purge and arrest of opposition political leaders, including former President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner. Several provincial activists were jailed or even assassinated.

Macri is a success story from the perspective of Wall Street, Washington and the Porteño business elite. Wages and salaries have declined for Argentine workers. Utility companies secured their highest profits ever. Bankers doubled interest rate returns. Importers became millionaires. Agro-business incomes skyrocketed as their taxes were reduced.

From the perspective of Argentina’s small and medium business enterprises President Macri’s regime has been a disaster: Many thousands have gone bankrupt because of high utility costs and harsh competition from cheap Chinese imports. In addition to the drop in wages and salaries, unemployment and under employment doubled and the rate of extreme poverty tripled

The economy, as a whole, floundered. Debt financing failed to promote growth, productivity, innovation and exports. Foreign investment experienced easy entry, big profits and fast departure. The promise of prosperity was narrowly based around a quarter of the population. To weaken the expected public discontent – the regime shut down independent media voices, unleashed thugs against critics and co-opted pliable gangster trade union bosses to break  strikes.

Public protests and strikes multiplied but were ignored and repressed. Popular leaders and activists are stigmatized by the Macri-financed media hacks.

Barring a major social upheaval or economic collapse, Macri will exploit the fragmentation of the opposition to secure re-election as a model gangster for Wall Street. Macri is prepared to sign off on US military bases, EU free trade agreements, and greater police liaison with Israel’s sinister secret police, Mossad.

Brazil has followed Macri’s far right policies.

Seizing power through a phony impeachment operation, the mega-swindler Michel Temer immediately proceeded to dismantle the entire public sector, freeze salaries for twenty years, and extend retirement age for pensioners by five to ten years. Temer led over a thousand bribe-taking elected officials in the multi-billion dollar pillage of the state oil company and every major public infrastructure project.

Coup, corruption and contempt were hidden by a system granting Congressional impunity until independent prosecutors investigated, charged and jailed several dozen politicians, but not Temer. Despite 95% public disapproval, President Temer remains in power with the total backing of Wall Street, the Pentagon and Sao Paolo bankers.

Mexico, the long-standing narco-assassin state, continues elect one thieving PRI-PAN political regime after another. Billions in illicit profits flows to the overseas tax havens of money laundering bankers, US and Canadian mine owners. Mexican and international manufacturers extracted double digit profits sent, to overseas accounts and tax havens. Mexico broke its own miserable record in elite tax avoidance, while extending low wage-tax ‘free trade zones’. Millions of Mexicans have fled across the border to escape predatory gangster capitalism. The flow of hundreds of millions of dollars of profits by US and Canadian multi-nationals were a result of the ‘unequal exchange’ between US capital and Mexican labor, held in place by Mexico’s fraudulent electoral system.

In at least two well-known presidential elections in 1988 and 2006, left of center candidates, Cuahtemoc Cardenas and Manuel Lopez Obrador, won with healthy margins of victory, only to have their victories stolen by fraudulent vote counts.

Peru’s rightist mining regimes, alternated between the overtly bloody Fujimori dictatorship and corrupt electoral regimes. What is consistent in Peruvian politics is the handover of mineral resources to foreign capital, pervasive corruption and the brutal exploitation of natural resources by US and Canadian mining and drilling corporations in regions inhabited by Indian communities.

The extreme right ousted elected left-of-center governments, including President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay (2008-2012) and Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2006-2009), with the active support and approval of the US State Department. Narco-presidents now wield power by means of repression, including violence against popular movements and the killing of scores of peasant and urban activists. This year, a grossly rigged election in Honduras ensured the continuity of narco-regimes and US military bases.

The spread of the extreme right from Central America and Mexico to the Southern Cone provides the groundwork for the re-assertion of US centered military alliances and regional trade pacts.

The rise of the extreme right ensures the most lucrative privatizations and the highest rates of return on overseas bank loans. The far right is quick to crack down on popular dissent and electoral challenges with violence. At most the far right allows a few rotating elites with nationalist pretensions to provide a façade of electoral democracy.

The Shift from the Center-Left to the Center-Right

The political swings to the far right have had profound ripple effects – as nominal center-left regimes have swung to the center-right.

Two regimes have moved decisively from the center-left to the center-right: Uruguay under Tabare Vazquez of the ‘Broad Front’ and Ecuador with the recent election of Lenin Moreno of PAIS Alliance. In both cases the groundwork was established via accommodations with oligarchs of the traditional right parties. The previous center-left regimes of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica succeeded in pushing for public investments and  social reforms. They combined their leftist rhetoric while capitalizing on the global high prices and high demand for agro-mineral exports to finance their reforms. With the decline in world prices and the public exposure of corruption, the newly elected center-left parties nominated and elected center-right candidates who turned anti-corruption campaigns into vehicles for embracing neoliberal economic policies. The center-right presidents rejected economic nationalism, encouraged large scale foreign investment and implemented fiscal austerity programs appealing to the upper middle class and ruling class.

The center-right regimes marginalized the leftist sectors of their parties. In the case of Ecuador, they split the party, with the newly elected president realigning international policies away from the left (Bolivia, Venezuela) and toward the US and the far right — while shedding the legacy of their predecessor in terms of popular social programs.

With the decline in export prices the center-right regimes offered generous subsidies to foreign investors in agriculture and forestry in Uruguay,  and mine owners and exporters in Ecuador.

The newly converted center-right regimes joined with their established counterparts in Chile and joined the Trans Pacific Partnership with Asian nations, the EU and the US.

The center-right sought to manipulate the social rhetoric of the previous center-left regimes in order to retain popular voters while securing  support from the business elite.

The Left Moves to the Center Left

Bolivia, under Evo Morales, has demonstrated an exceptional capacity for sustaining growth, securing re-election and neutralizing the opposition by combining a radical left foreign policy with a moderate, mixed public-private export economy. While Bolivia condemns US imperialism, major oil, gas, metals and lithium multi-nationals have invested heavily in Bolivia. Evo Morales has moderated his ideological posture shifting from revolutionary socialism to a local version of liberal democratic cultural politics.

Evo Morales’ embrace of a mixed economy has neutralized any overt hostility from the US and the new far-right regimes in the region

Though remaining politically independent, Bolivia has integrated its  exports with the far right neoliberal regimes in the region. President Evo Morales’s moderate economic policies, diversity of mineral exports, fiscal responsibility, incremental social reforms, and support from well-organized social movements has led to political stability and social continuity despite the volatility of commodity prices.

Venezuela’s left regimes under President Hugo Chavez and Maduro have followed a divergent course with harsh consequences. Totally dependent on extraordinary global oil prices, Venezuela proceeded to finance generous welfare programs at home and abroad. Under President Chavez leadership, Venezuela adopted a consequential anti-imperialist policy successfully opposing a US centered free trade agreement (LAFTA) and launching an anti-imperialist alternative, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

Advancing social welfare and financing overseas allies without diversifying the economy and markets and increasing production was predicated on continuous high returns on a single volatile export – oil.

Unlike Bolivia under President Evo Morales, who built his power with the support of an organized, class conscious and disciplined mass base, Venezuela counted on an amorphous electoral alliance, which included slum dwellers, defectors from the corrupt traditional parties (across the spectrum) and opportunists intent on grabbing office and perks. Political education was reduced to mouthing slogans, cheering the President and distributing consumer goods.

Venezuelan technocrats and political loyalists occupied highly lucrative positions, especially in the petroleum sector and were not held to account by workers’ councils or competent state auditors.  Corruption was rampant and billions of dollars of oil wealth was stolen. This pillage was tolerated because of the huge influx of petro-dollars due to historic high prices and high demand. This led to a bizarre situation where the regime spoke of socialism and funded massive social programs, while the major banks, food distributers, importers and transportation operators were controlled by hostile private oligarchs who pocketed enormous profits while manufacturing shortages and promoting inflation. Despite the problems, the Venezuelan voters gave the regime a series of electoral victories over the US proxies and oligarch politicians. This tended to create overconfidence in the regime that the Bolivarian socialist model was irrevocable.

The precipitous drop of oil prices, global demand, and export earnings led to the decline of imports and consumption. Unlike Bolivia, foreign reserves declined, the rampant theft of billions was belatedly uncovered and the US-backed rightwing opposition returned to violent ‘direct action’ and sabotage while hoarding essential food, consumer goods and medicine. Shortages led to widespread black marketeering. Public sector corruption and hostile opposition control of the private banking, retail and industrial sectors, backed by the US, paralyzed the economy. The economy has been in a free-fall and electoral support has eroded. Despite the regime’s severe problems, the majority of low income voters correctly understood that their chances of surviving under the US-backed oligarchic opposition would be worse and the embattled left continued to win gubernatorial and municipal elections up through 2017.

Venezuela’s economic vulnerability and negative growth rate led to increased indebtedness. The opposition of the extreme right regimes in Latin America and Washington’s economic sanctions has intensified food shortages and increased unemployment.

In contrast, Bolivia effectively defeated US-elite coup plots between 2008-10. The Santa Cruz-based oligarchs faced the clear choice of either sharing profits and social stability by signing off on social pacts (workers/peasants, capital and state) with the Morales government or facing an alliance of the government and the militant labor movement prepared to expropriate their holdings. The elites chose economic collaboration while pursuing low intensity electoral opposition.

Conclusion

Left opposition is in retreat from state power. Opposition to the extreme right is likely to grow, given the harsh, uncompromising assault on income, pensions, the rise in the cost of living, severe reductions in social programs and attacks on private and public sector employment. The extreme right has several options, none of which offer any concessions to the left. They have chosen to heighten police state measures (the Macri solution); they attempt  to fragment the opposition by negotiating with the opportunist trade union and political party bosses; and they reshuffle degraded rulers with new faces to continue policies (the Brazilian solution).

The formerly revolutionary left parties, movements and leaders have evolved toward electoral politics, protests and job action. So far they do not represent an effective political option at the national level

The center-left, especially in Brazil and Ecuador, is in a strong position with dynamic political leaders (Lula DaSilva and Correa) but face trumped up charges by right-wing prosecutors who intend to exclude them from running for office. Unless the center-left reformers engage in prolonged large-scale mass activity, the far right will effectively undermine their political recovery.

The US imperial state has temporarily regained proxy regimes, military allies and economic resources and markets. China and the European Union profit from optimal economic conditions offered by the far right regimes. The US military program has effectively neutralized the radical opposition in Colombia, and the Trump regime has intensified and imposed new sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba.

The Trump regimes ‘triumphalist’ celebration is premature – no decisive strategic victory has taken place, despite important short term advances in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. However large outflows of profits, major transfers of ownership to foreign investors, favorable tax rates, low tariff and trade policies have yet to generate new productive facilities, sustainable growth and to ensure economic fundamentals.  Maximizing profits and ignoring investments in productivity and innovation to promote domestic markets and demand has bankrupted tens of thousands of medium and small  local commercial and manufacturing firms. This has led to rising chronic unemployment and underemployment. Marginalization and social polarization without political leadership is growing. Such conditions led to ‘spontaneous’ uprisings in Argentina 2001, Ecuador 2000 and Bolivia 2005.

The far right in power may not evoke a rebellion of the far left but its policies can certainly undermine the stability and continuity of the current regimes. At a minimum, it can lead to some version of the center left and restoration of the welfare and employment regimes now in tatters.

In the meantime the far right will press ahead with their perverse agenda combining deep reversals of social welfare, the degradation of national sovereignty and economic stagnation with a formidable profit maximizing performance.

Dec 122017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

shutterstock_237229381-600x455

Introduction

The American welfare state was created in 1935 and continued to develop through 1973. Since then, over a prolonged period, the capitalist class has been steadily dismantling the entire welfare state.

Between the mid 1970’s to the present (2017) labor laws, welfare rights and benefits and the construction of and subsidies for affordable housing have been gutted. ‘Workfare’ (under President ‘Bill’ Clinton) ended welfare for the poor and displaced workers. Meanwhile the shift to regressive taxation and the steadily declining real wages have increased corporate profits to an astronomical degree.

What started as incremental reversals during the 1990’s under Clinton has snowballed over the last two decades decimating welfare legislation and institutions.

The earlier welfare ‘reforms’ and the current anti-welfare legislation and austerity practices have been accompanied by a series of endless imperial wars, especially in the Middle East.

In the 1940’s through the 1960’s, world and regional wars (Korea and Indo-China) were combined with significant welfare program – a form of ‘social imperialism’, which ‘buy off’ the working class while expanding the empire. However, recent decades are characterized by multiple regional wars and the reduction or elimination of welfare programs – and a massive growth in poverty, domestic insecurity and poor health.

New Deals and Big Wars

The 1930’s witnessed the advent of social legislation and action, which laid the foundations of what is called the ‘modern welfare state’.

Labor unions were organized as working class strikes and progressive legislation facilitated trade union organization, elections, collective bargaining rights and a steady increase in union membership. Improved work conditions, rising wages, pension plans and benefits, employer or union-provided health care and protective legislation improved the standard of living for the working class and provided for 2 generations of upward mobility.

Social Security legislation was approved along with workers’ compensation and the forty-hour workweek. Jobs were created through federal programs (WPA, CCC, etc.). Protectionist legislation facilitated the growth of domestic markets for US manufacturers. Workplace shop steward councils organized ‘on the spot’ job action to protect safe working conditions.

World War II led to full employment and increases in union membership, as well as legislation restricting workers’ collective bargaining rights and enforcing wage freezes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found jobs in the war economy but a huge number were also killed or wounded in the war.

The post-war period witnessed a contradictory process: wages and salaries increased while legislation curtailed union rights via the Taft Hartley Act and the McCarthyist purge of leftwing trade union activists. So-called ‘right to work’ laws effectively outlawed unionization mostly in southern states, which drove industries to relocate to the anti-union states.

Welfare reforms, in the form of the GI bill, provided educational opportunities for working class and rural veterans, while federal-subsidized low interest mortgages encourage home-ownership, especially for veterans.

The New Deal created concrete improvements but did not consolidate labor influence at any level. Capitalists and management still retained control over capital, the workplace and plant location of production.

Trade union officials signed pacts with capital: higher pay for the workers and greater control of the workplace for the bosses. Trade union officials joined management in repressing rank and file movements seeking to control technological changes by reducing hours (“thirty hours work for forty hours pay”). Dissident local unions were seized and gutted by the trade union bosses – sometimes through violence.

Trade union activists, community organizers for rent control and other grassroots movements lost both the capacity and the will to advance toward large-scale structural changes of US capitalism. Living standards improved for a few decades but the capitalist class consolidated strategic control over labor relations. While unionized workers’ incomes, increased, inequalities, especially in the non-union sectors began to grow. With the end of the GI bill, veterans’ access to high-quality subsidized education declined.

While a new wave of social welfare legislation and programs began in the 1960’s and early 1970’s it was no longer a result of a mass trade union or workers’ “class struggle”. Moreover, trade union collaboration with the capitalist regional war policies led to the killing and maiming of hundreds of thousands of workers in two wars – the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

Much of social legislation resulted from the civil and welfare rights movements. While specific programs were helpful, none of them addressed structural racism and poverty.

The Last Wave of Social Welfarism

The 1960’a witnessed the greatest racial war in modern US history: Mass movements in the South and North rocked state and federal governments, while advancing the cause of civil, social and political rights. Millions of black citizens, joined by white activists and, in many cases, led by African American Viet Nam War veterans, confronted the state. At the same time, millions of students and young workers, threatened by military conscription, challenged the military and social order.

Energized by mass movements, a new wave of social welfare legislation was launched by the federal government to pacify mass opposition among blacks, students, community organizers and middle class Americans. Despite this mass popular movement, the union bosses at the AFL-CIO openly supported the war, police repression and the military, or at best, were passive impotent spectators of the drama unfolding in the nation’s streets. Dissident union members and activists were the exception, as many had multiple identities to represent: African American, Hispanic, draft resisters, etc.

Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Medicare, Medicaid, OSHA, the EPA and multiple poverty programs were implemented. A national health program, expanding Medicare for all Americans, was introduced by President Nixon and sabotaged by the Kennedy Democrats and the AFL-CIO. Overall, social and economic inequalities diminished during this period.

The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the American militarist empire. This coincided with the beginning of the end of social welfare as we knew it – as the bill for militarism placed even greater demands on the public treasury.

With the election of President Carter, social welfare in the US began its long decline. The next series of regional wars were accompanied by even greater attacks on welfare via the “Volker Plan” – freezing workers’ wages as a means to combat inflation.

Guns without butter’ became the legislative policy of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. The welfare programs were based on politically fragile foundations.

The Debacle of Welfarism

Private sector trade union membership declined from a post-world war peak of 30% falling to 12% in the 1990’s. Today it has sunk to 7%. Capitalists embarked on a massive program of closing thousands of factories in the unionized North which were then relocated to the non-unionized low wage southern states and then overseas to Mexico and Asia. Millions of stable jobs disappeared.

Following the election of ‘Jimmy Carter’, neither Democratic nor Republican Presidents felt any need to support labor organizations. On the contrary, they facilitated contracts dictated by management, which reduced wages, job security, benefits and social welfare.

The anti-labor offensive from the ‘Oval Office’ intensified under President Reagan with his direct intervention firing tens of thousands of striking air controllers and arresting union leaders. Under Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Clinton cost of living adjustments failed to keep up with prices of vital goods and services. Health care inflation was astronomical. Financial deregulation led to the subordination of American industry to finance and the Wall Street banks. De-industrialization, capital flight and massive tax evasion reduced labor’s share of national income.

The capitalist class followed a trajectory of decline, recovery and ascendance. Moreover, during the earlier world depression, at the height of labor mobilization and organization, the capitalist class never faced any significant political threat over its control of the commanding heights of the economy.

The ‘New Deal’ was, at best, a de facto ‘historical compromise’ between the capitalist class and the labor unions, mediated by the Democratic Party elite. It was a temporary pact in which the unions secured legal recognition while the capitalists retained their executive prerogatives.

The Second World War secured the economic recovery for capital and subordinated labor through a federally mandated no strike production agreement. There were a few notable exceptions: The coal miners’ union organized strikes in strategic sectors and some leftist leaders and organizers encouraged slow-downs, work to rule and other in-plant actions when employers ran roughshod with special brutality over the workers. The recovery of capital was the prelude to a post-war offensive against independent labor-based political organizations. The quality of labor organization declined even as the quantity of trade union membership increased.

Labor union officials consolidated internal control in collaboration with the capitalist elite. Capitalist class-labor official collaboration was extended overseas with strategic consequences.

The post-war corporate alliance between the state and capital led to a global offensive – the replacement of European-Japanese colonial control and exploitation by US business and bankers. Imperialism was later ‘re-branded’ as ‘globalization’. It pried open markets, secured cheap docile labor and pillaged resources for US manufacturers and importers.

US labor unions played a major role by sabotaging militant unions abroad in cooperation with the US security apparatus: They worked to coopt and bribe nationalist and leftist labor leaders and supported police-state regime repression and assassination of recalcitrant militants.

Hand in bloody glove’ with the US Empire, the American trade unions planted the seeds of their own destruction at home. The local capitalists in newly emerging independent nations established industries and supply chains in cooperation with US manufacturers. Attracted to these sources of low-wage, violently repressed workers, US capitalists subsequently relocated their factories overseas and turned their backs on labor at home.

Labor union officials had laid the groundwork for the demise of stable jobs and social benefits for American workers. Their collaboration increased the rate of capitalist profit and overall power in the political system. Their complicity in the brutal purges of militants, activists and leftist union members and leaders at home and abroad put an end to labor’s capacity to sustain and expand the welfare state.

Trade unions in the US did not use their collaboration with empire in its bloody regional wars to win social benefits for the rank and file workers. The time of social-imperialism, where workers within the empire benefited from imperialism’s pillage, was over. Gains in social welfare henceforth could result only from mass struggles led by the urban poor, especially Afro-Americans, community-based working poor and militant youth organizers.

The last significant social welfare reforms were implemented in the early 1970’s – coinciding with the end of the Vietnam War (and victory for the Vietnamese people) and ended with the absorption of the urban and anti-war movements into the Democratic Party.

Henceforward the US corporate state advanced through the overseas expansion of the multi-national corporations and via large-scale, non-unionized production at home.

The technological changes of this period did not benefit labor. The belief, common in the 1950’s, that science and technology would increase leisure, decrease work and improve living standards for the working class, was shattered. Instead technological changes displaced well-paid industrial labor while increasing the number of mind-numbing, poorly paid, and politically impotent jobs in the so-called ‘service sector’ – a rapidly growing section of unorganized and vulnerable workers – especially including women and minorities.

Labor union membership declined precipitously. The demise of the USSR and China’s turn to capitalism had a dual effect: It eliminated collectivist (socialist) pressure for social welfare and opened their labor markets with cheap, disciplined workers for foreign manufacturers. Labor as a political force disappeared on every count. The US Federal Reserve and President ‘Bill’ Clinton deregulated financial capital leading to a frenzy of speculation. Congress wrote laws, which permitted overseas tax evasion – especially in Caribbean tax havens. Regional free-trade agreements, like NAFTA, spurred the relocation of jobs abroad. De-industrialization accompanied the decline of wages, living standards and social benefits for millions of American workers.

The New Abolitionists: Trillionaires

The New Deal, the Great Society, trade unions, and the anti-war and urban movements were in retreat and primed for abolition.

Wars without welfare (or guns without butter) replaced earlier ‘social imperialism’ with a huge growth of poverty and homelessness. Domestic labor was now exploited to finance overseas wars not vice versa. The fruits of imperial plunder were not shared.

As the working and middle classes drifted downward, they were used up, abandoned and deceived on all sides – especially by the Democratic Party. They elected militarists and demagogues as their new presidents.

President ‘Bill’ Clinton ravaged Russia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia and liberated Wall Street. His regime gave birth to the prototype billionaire swindlers: Michael Milken and Bernard ‘Bernie’ Madoff.

Clinton converted welfare into cheap labor ‘workfare’, exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable and condemning the next generations to grinding poverty. Under Clinton the prison population of mostly African Americans expanded and the breakup of families ravaged the urban communities.

Provoked by an act of terrorism (9/11) President G.W. Bush Jr. launched the ‘endless’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and deepened the police state (Patriot Act). Wages for American workers and profits for American capitalist moved in opposite directions.

The Great Financial Crash of 2008-2011 shook the paper economy to its roots and led to the greatest shakedown of any national treasury in history directed by the First Black American President. Trillions of public wealth were funneled into the criminal banks on Wall Street – which were ‘just too big to fail.’ Millions of American workers and homeowners, however, were ‘just too small to matter’.

The Age of Demagogues

President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street, and another trillion to the Pentagon to pursue the Democrats version of foreign policy: from Bush’s two overseas wars to Obama’s seven.

Obama’s electoral ‘donor-owners’ stashed away two trillion dollars in overseas tax havens and looked forward to global free trade pacts – pushed by the eloquent African American President.

Obama was elected to two terms. His liberal Democratic Party supporters swooned over his peace and justice rhetoric while swallowing his militarist escalation into seven overseas wars as well as the foreclosure of two million American householders. Obama completely failed to honor his campaign promise to reduce wage inequality between black and white wage earners while he continued to moralize to black families about ‘values’.

Obama’s war against Libya led to the killing and displacement of millions of black Libyans and workers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The smiling Nobel Peace Prize President created more desperate refugees than any previous US head of state – including millions of Africans flooding Europe.

Obamacare’, his imitation of an earlier Republican governor’s health plan, was formulated by the private corporate health industry (private insurance, Big Pharma and the for-profit hospitals), to mandate enrollment and ensure triple digit profits with double digit increases in premiums. By the 2016 Presidential elections, ‘Obama-care’ was opposed by a 45%-43% margin of the American people. Obama’s propagandists could not show any improvement of life expectancy or decrease in infant and maternal mortality as a result of his ‘health care reform’. Indeed the opposite occurred among the marginalized working class in the old ‘rust belt’ and in the rural areas. This failure to show any significant health improvement for the masses of Americans is in stark contrast to LBJ’s Medicare program of the 1960’s, which continues to receive massive popular support.

Forty-years of anti welfare legislation and pro-business regimes paved the golden road for the election of Donald Trump

Trump and the Republicans are focusing on the tattered remnants of the social welfare system: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. The remains of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society – are on the chopping block.

The moribund (but well-paid) labor leadership has been notable by its absence in the ensuing collapse of the social welfare state. The liberal left Democrats embraced the platitudinous Obama/Clinton team as the ‘Great Society’s’ gravediggers, while wailing at Trump’s allies for shoving the corpse of welfare state into its grave.

Conclusion

Over the past forty years the working class and the rump of what was once referred to as the ‘labor movement’ has contributed to the dismantling of the social welfare state, voting for ‘strike-breaker’ Reagan, ‘workfare’ Clinton, ‘Wall Street crash’ Bush, ‘Wall Street savior’ Obama and ‘Trickle-down’ Trump.

Gone are the days when social welfare and profitable wars raised US living standards and transformed American trade unions into an appendage of the Democratic Party and a handmaiden of Empire. The Democratic Party rescued capitalism from its collapse in the Great Depression, incorporated labor into the war economy and the post- colonial global empire, and resurrected Wall Street from the ‘Great Financial Meltdown’ of the 21st century.

The war economy no longer fuels social welfare. The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations. Profits rise while wages fall. Low paying compulsive labor (workfare) lopped off state transfers to the poor. Technology – IT, robotics, artificial intelligence and electronic gadgets – has created the most class polarized social system in history. The first trillionaire and multi-billionaire tax evaders rose on the backs of a miserable standing army of tens of millions of low-wage workers, stripped of rights and representation. State subsidies eliminate virtually all risk to capital. The end of social welfare coerced labor (including young mother with children) to seek insecure low-income employment while slashing education and health – cementing the feet of generations into poverty. Regional wars abroad have depleted the Treasury and robbed the country of productive investment. Economic imperialism exports profits, reversing the historic relation of the past.

Labor is left without compass or direction; it flails in all directions and falls deeper in the web of deception and demagogy. To escape from Reagan and the strike breakers, labor embraced the cheap-labor predator Clinton; black and white workers united to elect Obama who expelled millions of immigrant workers, pursued 7 wars, abandoned black workers and enriched the already filthy rich. Deception and demagogy of the labor-liberals bred the ugly and unlikely plutocrat-populist demagogue: labor voted for Trump.

The demise of welfare and the rise of the opioid epidemic killing close to one million (mostly working class) Americans occurred mostly under Democratic regimes. The collaboration of liberals and unions in promoting endless wars opened the door to Trump’s mirage of a stateless, tax-less, ruling class.

Who will the Democrats choose as their next demagogue champion to challenge the ‘Donald’ – one who will speak to the ‘deplorables’ and work for the trillionaires?

Dec 072017
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

Cold War Number One: 70 years of daily national stupidity

Cold War Number Two: Still in its youth, but just as stupid

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“He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.” – President Trump re Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Vietnam.

Putin later added that he knew “absolutely nothing” about Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials. “They can do what they want, looking for some sensation. But there are no sensations.” 1

Numerous US intelligence agencies have said otherwise. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, responded to Trump’s remarks by declaring: “The president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election.”

As we’ll see below, there isn’t too much of the “clear and indisputable” stuff. And this of course is the same James Clapper who made an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Lies don’t usually come in any size larger than that.

Virtually every member of Congress who has publicly stated a position on the issue has criticized Russia for interfering in the 2016 American presidential election. And it would be very difficult to find a member of the mainstream media which has questioned this thesis.

What is the poor consumer of news to make of these gross contradictions? Here are some things to keep in mind:

How do we know that the tweets and advertisements “sent by Russians” -– those presented as attempts to sway the vote -– were actually sent by Russians? The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), composed of National Security Agency and CIA veterans, recently declared that the CIA knows how to disguise the origin of emails and tweets. The Washington Post has as well reported that Twitter “makes it easy for users to hide their true identities.” 2 Even if these communications were actually sent from Russia, how do we know that they came from the Russian government, and not from any of the other 144.3 million residents of Russia?

Even if they were sent by the Russian government, we have to ask: Why would they do that? Do the Russians think the United States is a Third World, under-developed, backward Banana Republic easily influenced and moved by a bunch of simple condemnations of the plight of blacks in America and the Clinton “dynasty”? Or clichéd statements about other controversial issues, such as gun rights and immigration? If so, many Democratic and Republican officials would love to know the secret of the Russians’ method. Consider also that Facebook has stated that 90 percent of the alleged-Russian-bought content that ran on its network did not even mention Trump or Clinton. 3

On top of all this is the complete absence of even the charge, much less with any supporting evidence, of Russian interference in the actual voting or counting of votes.

After his remark suggesting he believed Putin’s assertion that there had been no Russian meddling in the election, Trump – of course, as usual – attempted to backtrack and distant himself from his words after drawing criticism at home; while James Clapper declared: “The fact the president of the United States would take Putin at his word over that of the intelligence community is quite simply unconscionable.” 4

Given Clapper’s large-size lie referred to above, can Trump be faulted for being skeptical of the intelligence community’s Holy Writ? Purposeful lies of the intelligence community during the first Cold War were legendary, many hailed as brilliant tactics when later revealed. The CIA, for example, had phoney articles and editorials planted in foreign newspapers (real Fake News), made sex films of target subjects caught in flagrante delicto who had been lured to Agency safe houses by female agents, had Communist embassy personnel expelled because of phoney CIA documents, and much more.

The Post recently published an article entitled “How did Russian trolls get into your Facebook feed? Silicon Valley made it easy.” In the midst of this “exposé,” The Post stated: “There’s no way to tell if you personally saw a Russian post or tweet.” 5 So … Do the Cold Warriors have a case to make or do they not? Or do they just want us to remember that the Russkis are bad? So it goes.

An organization in the Czech Republic with the self-appointed name of European Values has produced a lengthy report entitled “The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact”. It includes a long list of people who have appeared on the Russian-owned TV station RT (formerly Russia Today), which can be seen in the US, the UK and other countries. Those who’ve been guests on RT are the “idiots” useful to Moscow. (The list is not complete. I’ve been on RT about five times, but I’m not listed. Where is my Idiot Badge?)

RT’s YouTube channel has more than two million followers and claims to be the “most-watched news network” on the video site. Its Facebook page has more than 4 million likes and followers. Can this explain why the powers-that-be forget about a thing called freedom-of-speech and treat the station like an enemy? The US government recently forced RT America to register as a foreign agent and has cut off the station’s Congressional press credentials.

The Cold War strategist, George Kennan, wrote prophetically: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 6

Writer John Wight has described the new Cold War as being “in response to Russia’s recovery from the demise of the Soviet Union and the failed attempt to turn the country into a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington via the imposition of free market economic shock treatment thereafter.”

So let’s see what other brilliance the New Cold War brings us. … Ah yes, another headline in the Post (November 18, 2017): “British alarm rising over possible Russian meddling in Brexit”. Of course, why else would the British people have voted to leave the European Union? But wait a moment, again, one of the British researchers behind the report “said that the accounts they analyzed – which claimed Russian as their language when they were set up but tweeted in English – posted a mixture of pro-‘leave’ and pro-‘remain’ messages regarding Brexit. Commentators have said that the goal may simply have been to sow discord and division in society.”

Was there ever a time when the Post would have been embarrassed to be so openly, amateurishly biased about Russia? Perhaps during the few years between the two Cold Wars.

In case you don’t remember how stupid Cold War Number One was …

  • 1948: The Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses, and places of employment of about 1,000 citizens who had signed presidential-nominating petitions for former Vice President Henry Wallace, running under the Progressive Party. This, and a number of other lists of “communists”, published in the mainstream media, resulted in people losing their jobs, being expelled from unions, having their children abused, being denied state welfare benefits, and suffering various other punishments.
  • Around 1950: The House Committee on Un-American Activities published a pamphlet, “100 Things You Should Know About Communism in the U.S.A.” This included information about what a communist takeover of the United States would mean:

Q: What would happen to my insurance?

A: It would go to the Communists.

Q: Would communism give me something better than I have now?

A: Not unless you are in a penitentiary serving a life sentence at hard labor.

  • 1950s: Mrs. Ada White, member of the Indiana State Textbook Commission, believed that Robin Hood was a Communist and urged that books that told the Robin Hood story be banned from Indiana schools.
  • As evidence that anti-communist mania was not limited to the lunatic fringe or conservative newspaper publishers, here is Clark Kerr, president of the University of California at Berkeley in a 1959 speech: “Perhaps 2 or even 20 million people have been killed in China by the new [communist] regime.” One person wrote to Kerr: “I am wondering how you would judge a person who estimates the age of a passerby on the street as being ‘perhaps 2 or even 20 years old.’ Or what would you think of a physician who tells you to take ‘perhaps 2 or even twenty teaspoonsful of a remedy’?”
  • Throughout the cold war, traffic in phoney Lenin quotes was brisk, each one passed around from one publication or speaker to another for years. Here’s U.S. News and World Report in 1958 demonstrating communist duplicity by quoting Lenin: “Promises are like pie crusts, made to be broken.” Secretary of State John Foster Dulles used it in a speech shortly afterward, one of many to do so during the cold war. Lenin actually did use a very similar line, but he explicitly stated that he was quoting an English proverb (it comes from Jonathan Swift) and his purpose was to show the unreliability of the bourgeoisie, not of communists.
  • “First we will take Eastern Europe, then the masses of Asia, then we will encircle the United States, which will be the last bastion of capitalism. We will not have to attack. It will fall like an overripe fruit into our hands.” This Lenin “quotation” had the usual wide circulation, even winding up in the Congressional Record in 1962. This was not simply a careless attribution; this was an out-and-out fabrication; an extensive search, including by the Library of Congress and the United States Information Agency failed to find its origin.
  • A favorite theme of the anti-communists was that a principal force behind drug trafficking was a communist plot to demoralize the United States. Here’s a small sample:

Don Keller, District Attorney for San Diego County, California in 1953: “We know that more heroin is being produced south of the border than ever before and we are beginning to hear stories of financial backing by big shot Communists operating out of Mexico City.”

Henry Giordano, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1964, interviewed in the American Legion Magazine: Interviewer: “I’ve been told that the communists are trying to flood our country with narcotics to weaken our moral and physical stamina. Is that true?”

Giordano: “As far as the drugs are concerned, it’s true. There’s a terrific flow of drugs coming out of Yunnan Province of China. … There’s no question that in that particular area this is the aim of the Red Chinese. It should be apparent that if you could addict a population you would degrade a nation’s moral fiber.”

Fulton Lewis, Jr., prominent conservative radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist, 1965: “Narcotics of Cuban origin – marijuana, cocaine, opium, and heroin – are now peddled in big cities and tiny hamlets throughout this country. Several Cubans arrested by the Los Angeles police have boasted they are communists.”.

We were also told that along with drugs another tool of the commies to undermine America’s spirit was fluoridation of the water.

  • Mickey Spillane was one of the most successful writers of the 1950s, selling millions of his anti-communist thriller mysteries. Here is his hero, Mike Hammer, in “One Lonely Night”, boasting of his delight in the grisly murders he commits, all in the name of destroying a communist plot to steal atomic secrets. After a night of carnage, the triumphant Hammer gloats, “I shot them in cold blood and enjoyed every minute of it. I pumped slugs into the nastiest bunch of bastards you ever saw. … They were Commies. … Pretty soon what’s left of Russia and the slime that breeds there won’t be worth mentioning and I’m glad because I had a part in the killing. God, but it was fun!”
  • 1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism. Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States. A bill in the US Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.” There was also opposition to UNESCO’s association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.
  • 1955: A US Army 6-page pamphlet, “How to Spot a Communist”, informed us that a communist could be spotted by his predisposition to discuss civil rights, racial and religious discrimination, the immigration laws, anti-subversive legislation, curbs on unions, and peace. Good Americans were advised to keep their ears stretched for such give-away terms as “chauvinism”, “book-burning”, “colonialism”, “demagogy”, “witch hunt”, “reactionary”, “progressive”, and “exploitation”. Another “distinguishing mark” of “Communist language” was a “preference for long sentences.” After some ridicule, the Army rescinded the pamphlet.
  • 1958: The noted sportscaster Bill Stern (one of the heroes of my innocent youth) observed on the radio that the lack of interest in “big time” football at New York University, City College of New York, Chicago, and Harvard “is due to the widespread acceptance of Communism at the universities.”
  • 1960: US General Thomas Power speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the US: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The response from one of those present was: “Well, you’d better make sure that they’re a man and a woman.”
  • 1966: The Boys Club of America is of course wholesome and patriotic. Imagine their horror when they were confused with the Dubois Clubs. (W.E.B. Du Bois had been a very prominent civil rights activist.) When the Justice Department required the DuBois Clubs to register as a Communist front group, good loyal Americans knew what to do. They called up the Boys Club to announce that they would no longer contribute any money, or to threaten violence against them; and sure enough an explosion damaged the national headquarters of the youth group in San Francisco. Then former Vice President Richard Nixon, who was national board chairman of the Boys Club, declared: “This is an almost classic example of Communist deception and duplicity. The ‘DuBois Clubs’ are not unaware of the confusion they are causing among our supporters and among many other good citizens.”
  • 1966: “Rhythm, Riots and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music, The Communist Master Music Plan”, by David A. Noebel, published by Christian Crusade Publications, (expanded version of 1965 pamphlet: “Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles”). Some chapters: Communist Use of Mind Warfare … Nature of Red Record Companies … Destructive Nature of Beatle Music … Communist Subversion of Folk Music … Folk Music and the Negro Revolution … Folk Music and the College Revolution
  • 1968: William Calley, US Army Lieutenant, charged with overseeing the massacre of more than 100 Vietnamese civilians in My Lai in 1968, said some years later: “In all my years in the Army I was never taught that communists were human beings. We were there to kill ideology carried by – I don’t know – pawns, blobs, pieces of flesh. I was there to destroy communism. We never conceived of old people, men, women, children, babies.”
  • 1977: Scientists theorized that the earth’s protective ozone layer was being damaged by synthetic chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons. The manufacturers and users of CFCs were not happy. They made life difficult for the lead scientist. The president of one aerosol manufacturing firm suggested that criticism of CFCs was “orchestrated by the Ministry of Disinformation of the KGB.”
  • 1978: Life inside a California youth camp of the ultra anti-communist John Birch Society: Five hours each day of lectures on communism, Americanism and “The Conspiracy”; campers learned that the Soviet government had created a famine and spread a virus to kill a large number of citizens and make the rest of them more manageable; the famine led starving adults to eat their children; communist guerrillas in Southeast Asia jammed chopsticks into children’s ears, piercing their eardrums; American movies are all under the control of the Communists; the theme is always that capitalism is no better than communism; you can’t find a dictionary now that isn’t under communist influence; the communists are also taking over the Bibles.
  • The Reagan administration declared that the Russians were spraying toxic chemicals over Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan – the so-called “yellow rain” – and had caused more than ten thousand deaths by 1982 alone, (including, in Afghanistan, 3,042 deaths attributed to 47 separate incidents between the summer of 1979 and the summer of 1981, so precise was the information). Secretary of State Alexander Haig was a prime dispenser of such stories, and President Reagan himself denounced the Soviet Union thusly more than 15 times in documents and speeches. The “yellow rain”, it turned out, was pollen-laden feces dropped by huge swarms of honeybees flying far overhead.
  • 1982: In commenting about sexual harassment in the Army, General John Crosby stated that the Army doesn’t care about soldiers’ social lives – “The basic purpose of the United States Army is to kill Russians,” he said.
  • 1983: The US invasion of Grenada, the home of the Cuban ambassador is damaged and looted by American soldiers; on one wall is written “AA”, symbol of the 82nd Airborne Division; beside it the message: “Eat shit, commie faggot.” … “I want to fuck communism out of this little island,” says a marine, “and fuck it right back to Moscow.”
  • 1984: During a sound check just before his weekly broadcast, President Reagan spoke these words into the microphone: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia, forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” His words were picked up by at least two radio networks.
  • 1985: October 29 BBC interview with Ronald Reagan: asked about the differences he saw between the US and Russia, the president replied: “I’m no linguist, but I’ve been told that in the Russian language there isn’t even a word for freedom.” (The word is “svoboda”.)
  • 1986: Soviet artists and cultural officials criticized Rambo-like American films as an expression of “anti-Russian phobia even more pathological than in the days of McCarthyism”. Russian film-maker Stanislav Rostofsky claimed that on one visit to an American school “a young girl trembled with fury when she heard I was from the Soviet Union, and said she hated Russians.”
  • 1986: Roy Cohn, who achieved considerable fame and notoriety in the 1950s as an assistant to the communist-witch-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, died, reportedly of AIDS. Cohn, though homosexual, had denied that he was and had denounced such rumors as communist smears.
  • 1986: After American journalist Nicholas Daniloff was arrested in Moscow for “spying” and held in custody for two weeks, New York Mayor Edward Koch sent a group of 10 visiting Soviet students storming out of City Hall in fury. “The Soviet government is the pits,” said Koch, visibly shocking the students, ranging in age from 10 to 18 years. One 14-year-old student was so outraged he declared: “I don’t want to stay in this house. I want to go to the bus and go far away from this place. The mayor is very rude. We never had a worse welcome anywhere.” As matters turned out, it appeared that Daniloff had not been completely pure when it came to his news gathering.
  • 1989: After the infamous Chinese crackdown on dissenters in Tiananmen Square in June, the US news media was replete with reports that the governments of Nicaragua, Vietnam and Cuba had expressed their support of the Chinese leadership. Said the Wall Street Journal: “Nicaragua, with Cuba and Vietnam, constituted the only countries in the world to approve the Chinese Communists’ slaughter of the students in Tiananmen Square.” But it was all someone’s fabrication; no such support had been expressed by any of the three governments. At that time, as now, there were few, if any, organizations other than the CIA which could manipulate major Western media in such a manner. 7

NOTE: It should be remembered that the worst consequences of anti-communism were not those discussed above. The worst consequences, the ultra-criminal consequences, were the abominable death, destruction, and violation of human rights that we know under various names: Vietnam, Chile, Korea, Guatemala, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brazil, Greece, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and many others.

Al Franken

Poor Al, who made us laugh for years on Saturday Night Live, is now disgraced as a woman molester – not one of the worst of the current pathetic crop, but he still looks bad. However, everything is relative, and it must be pointed out that the Senator is guilty of a worse moral transgression.

The erstwhile comedian would like you to believe that he was against the war in Iraq since it began. But he went to that sad country at least four times to entertain American troops. Does that make sense? Why does the Defense Department bring entertainers to military bases? To lift the soldiers’ spirits of course. And why does the military want to lift the soldiers’ spirits? Because a happier soldier does his job better. And what is the soldier’s job? For example, all the charming war crimes and human-rights violations in Iraq that have been documented in great detail for many years. Didn’t Franken know what American soldiers do for a living?

Country singer Darryl Worley, who leans “a lot to the right,” as he puts it, said he was far from pleased that Franken was coming along on the tour to Iraq. “You know, I just don’t understand – why would somebody be on this tour if they’re not supportive of the war? If he decides to play politics, I’m not gonna put up with it.” 8

A year after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Franken criticized the Bush administration because they “failed to send enough troops to do the job right.” 9 What “job” did the man think the troops were sent to do that had not been performed to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation? The volunteer American troops in Iraq did not even have the defense of having been drafted against their wishes.

Franken has been lifting soldiers’ spirits for a long time. In 2009 he was honored by the United Service Organization (USO) for his ten years of entertaining troops abroad. That includes Kosovo in 1999, as imperialist an occupation as you’ll ever want to see. He called his USO experience “one of the best things I’ve ever done.” 10 Franken has also spoken at West Point (2005), encouraging the next generation of imperialist warriors. Is this a man to challenge the militarization of America at home and abroad?

Tom Hayden wrote this about Franken in 2005 when Franken had a regular program on the Air America radio network: “Is anyone else disappointed with Al Franken’s daily defense of the continued war in Iraq? Not Bush’s version of the war, because that would undermine Air America’s laudable purpose of rallying an anti-Bush audience. But, well, Kerry’s version of the war, one that can be better managed and won, somehow with better body armor and fewer torture cells.” 11

While in Iraq to entertain the troops, Franken declared that the Bush administration “blew the diplomacy so we didn’t have a real coalition,” then failed to send enough troops to do the job right. “Out of sheer hubris, they have put the lives of these guys in jeopardy.” 12

Franken was implying that if the United States had been more successful in bribing and threatening other countries to lend their name to the coalition fighting the war in Iraq the United States would have had a better chance of WINNING the war.

Is this the sentiment of someone opposed to the war? Or in support of it? It is actually the mind of an American liberal in all its depressing mushiness.

To be put on the tombstone of Western civilization

On November 15, 2017, at Christie’s auction house in New York City, a painting was sold for $450,312,500.

 

Notes

  1. Washington Post, November 12, 2017
  2. Washington Post, October 10, 2017
  3. Washington Post, November 15, 2017
  4. Reuters, November 12, 2017
  5. Washington Post, November 2, 2017
  6. Wikipedia entry for George Kennan
  7. Sources for almost all of this section can be found in William Blum, “Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire” (2005), chapter 12; or the author can be queried at bblum6@aol.com
  8. Washington Post, February 16, 2004
  9. Ibid.
  10. Star Tribune, Minneapolis, March 26, 2009
  11. Huffington Post, June 2005
  12. Washington Post, February 16, 2004
Dec 052017
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews

Andreas Georgiou...Greece's new statistics agency chief Andreas Georgiou, who took up his position on Thursday, July 22, 2010, talks outside the entrance of the Statictics agency,in Piraeus, near Athens. After years of false reporting by Greece, the countries new Greek statistic agency chief promised clean financial data.The agency now has been placed under parliamentary oversight and not under direct government control.Serious errors in Greek deficit data, revealed last year, helped trigger the European government debt crisis rattled world markets and confidence in the euro.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Andreas Georgiou…Greece’s new statistics agency chief Andreas Georgiou, who took up his position on Thursday, July 22, 2010, talks outside the entrance of the Statictics agency,in Piraeus, near Athens. After years of false reporting by Greece, the countries new Greek statistic agency chief promised clean financial data.The agency now has been placed under parliamentary oversight and not under direct government control.Serious errors in Greek deficit data, revealed last year, helped trigger the European government debt crisis rattled world markets and confidence in the euro.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

This furious effort of all Georgiou’s supporters to prevent his case from being brought to trial reveals their panic as well as their guilt, because they know that in the forthcoming court hearing all the evidence will be revealed proving their involvement in the great national betrayal of Greece.

ATHENS, GREECE — The mainstream narrative regarding the cause of the severe economic crisis Greece has experienced is that the Greek people and Greek state were irresponsible with their finances, lived “beyond their means” at the expense of EU taxpayers, and provided overly generous social benefits and pensions to an underproductive, uncompetitive, and lazy populace.

These characterizations have then been used to justify the successive memorandum agreements, or “bailouts,” and the austerity measures that have been imposed in Greece since 2010, as the country’s “just deserts” —  the “bitter medicine” that must be prescribed to correct Greece’s previous ills.

A different view exists, however — one that is based on allegations that Greece was driven into the memorandum and austerity regime not by economic incompetence and cultural deficiencies, but by a fraud that was perpetrated against the Greek people and the country of Greece.

In this interview, which aired in November on Dialogos Radio, Nicholas Logothetis, a former member of the board of the Greek Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), describes allegations that have been made against Andreas Georgiou, ELSTAT’s former president, and against EU statistical authority Eurostat, regarding how Greece’s deficit and debt figures were illegitimately inflated in 2010, providing the rationale to drag Greece under a regime of austerity and extreme economic oversight.

Logothetis details how debt swaps and other questionable financial dealings were added to Greece’s debt and deficit, as well as the consequences of these actions, the criminal and civil convictions against Georgiou, and the court cases that are still pending.

MPN: Let’s begin with a discussion about Andreas Georgiou, the embattled former president of ELSTAT, who oversaw the augmentation of the Greek deficit and debt. Describe for us Georgiou’s background prior to taking on the role of president of ELSTAT. Was Georgiou even a statistician?

NL: No, he wasn’t. The operation of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), as a continuation of the initial National Statistical Authority, as we called it, officially began in late June of 2010. This was the time that the members of ELSTAT’s management board were selected and approved by the conference of parliamentary presidents, with the required supermajority of four-fifths.

Georgiou has been working at the International Monetary Fund since the late 1980s. For a few years before he came to Greece, he was deputy head of a division of the IMF’s statistics department, the financial institutions division. However, the Greek Ministry of Finance announced the appointment of ELSTAT’s board of directors through a press release to all Greek newspapers. In that press release, it presented Georgiou as deputy head of the entire IMF statistics department, a very big department in the IMF and a very important one, hiding his actual organizational position in the IMF, a position of an economic nature rather than a statistical nature, in a subordinate division of the statistics department.

Obviously, the objective of the Greek Minister of Finance was to present Georgiou as an experienced statistician with a significant management position at the IMF, who supposedly left America and came here to “save” Greece by putting in order all of its statistics. In fact, this gentleman was not only unable to run an important institution such as ELSTAT, with over 1,000 employees, but he wasn’t even a statistician, with no academic publications and no knowledge of statistics.

Moreover, for at least six months after assuming the ELSTAT presidency, Georgiou still held his organizational position at the IMF, something that was explicitly forbidden by ELSTAT’s founding law.

MPN: What were the actions undertaken by Georgiou as president of ELSTAT? In other words, how were the Greek deficit and debt figures manipulated and in what other ways were Greece’s official economic figures altered?

NL: First of all, Georgiou’s first moves were to remove from the other members of the board any ability and initiative to propose discussion topics or to be involved in the calculation of the deficit or the debt. They were forbidden even to communicate with the remaining staff of ELSTAT! This behavior of Georgiou was not only due to his inability to act as a manager but also due to the fact that he understood from the very beginning, even from the second meeting of the board in September 2010, our refusal to adopt the deficit and debt calculation procedures he wanted to follow. He knew that eventually, the majority of the board members would not approve his deficit figures to be officially published before the end of October 2010.

Andreas Georgiou, stands outside the headquarters of the Statistics agency, in Athens, Greece. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Andreas Georgiou, stands outside the headquarters of the Statistics agency, in Athens, Greece. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Shortly after the last meeting of the board in early October 2010, the final silencing of the whole board followed and we were never convened again, thus leaving the way free for Georgiou, always under the auspices of senior Eurostat executives, on the one hand, to change the founding law—as he always wanted, to turn ELSTAT into one-person authority—and on the other hand, to inflate the 2009 figures. Exactly how he did this became clear later, but we had suspected soon enough what he was going to do.

My first disagreement with him was when I realized he would add to the deficit figures and to the national debt of Greece the Simitis swaps — that is, the swaps that former Greek prime minister Costas Simitis had made use of in 2001 in order for Greece to get accepted to the Eurozone. Allow me to briefly explain what these swaps are, as they indicate clearly an activity typical of the statistical mishandlings that had always been used and are still taking place in our country, every time the government’s leaders want to achieve something with communication or financial benefits for themselves or for third parties. Swaps are a type of a bond, a banking derivative or simply a stock exchange bet, a currency exchange bet. Many countries do it, even now they are doing it, converting their existing debt into currencies of other countries, say in Swiss francs or Japanese yen, betting that the value of that currency will rise and at the maturity of this debt, the owner will gain from the difference in the value of currencies.

In a way, what happened in 2001 is that much of Greece’s debt was converted into yen, but at the value that the yen had in 1995, which was higher than that of 2001! Remember, the swaps were made in 2001, but the price of the yen in 1995 was the one used for this swap. We can put a big question mark here because I don’t know how legitimate this was, to consider as valid the exchange value of the yen of six years ago. But anyway, this was what happened.

From this action, Greece was theoretically gaining an amount of 2.8 billion euros, which theoretically reduced our debt by this amount, and also reduced the annual deficit below 3 percent, thus meeting the requirement of the Maastricht Treaty for Greece’s entry into the Eurozone. But let us not forget, however, that this was a bet. It’s not unlike, say, a bond that matures and is redeemable after 30 years: at the time of the swap, there was no applicable European regulation allowing the “bond” to be cashed in prior to maturity, and therefore the swaps were of indeterminate value.

However, Walter Radermacher — at the time the general director of Eurostat, the EU’s statistical authority — decided only for Greece and only for that time and while the value of the yen had collapsed, that this swap value had to be included in our total debt, thus raising our national debt by 21 billion euros because of the losses of the yen. So we found ourselves with an additional fiscal debt of 21 billion euros.

Radermacher’s additional act was to instruct Georgiou to divide this amount by four and to include what came out of it in the deficits for the years 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006. So eventually, for 2009 and all the three previous years, we found ourselves with an additional deficit of about 5.5 billion euros. But I’m pointing out again that swaps should not be used in any way before their maturity, in order to manipulate negatively or positively the fiscal debt, let alone the yearly deficit.

Another illegal augmentation of our deficit made by Georgiou included the addition of 3.6 billion euros in hospital costs that were not even approved by the Court of Auditors. The Court of Auditors is one of the three institutions of Greek justice, along with the Supreme Court and the Council of State. With regards to this cost, as it turned out later, no one committed to it and no one was paying for it. And finally, the major swelling of the budget deficit was accomplished by the overnight inclusion of the deficits of 17 public utilities, violating many Eurostat criteria and rules. That alone added 18.2 billion euros, equivalent to 20 billion dollars, to the fiscal debt of Greece.

As a result of all the above, Greece ended up with a huge deficit for the year 2009 — 36 billion euros, or equivalently, 15.4 percent of gross domestic product. This legitimated the first memorandum, paved the way for the second and worst memorandum, and justified the imposition of these cumbersome austerity measures, such as the pension cuts, social insurance and healthcare, and the tax increases — huge tax increases — measures that we are still suffering today.

MPN: Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself, the former president of the International Monetary Fund, has gone on the record as saying that he met with George Papandreou to discuss an IMF “bailout” of Greece in April 2009. This was several months before Papandreou was elected as prime minister and at a time when Papandreou was saying, while campaigning, that plenty of money existed to fund the social programs he was promising to Greek voters. Do you believe that the economic “crisis” in Greece was pre-ordained or pre-planned?

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, right, shakes hand with the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, during a joint news conference in Athens, Dec. 7, 2010. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, right, shakes hand with the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, during a joint news conference in Athens, Dec. 7, 2010. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

NL: Yes, I do. In my opinion, joining these medieval memorandums, which have brought about this economic crisis that Greece is still experiencing, was beyond any doubt pre-planned and predetermined. This arises not only from Strauss-Kahn’s own admission that the IMF had been preparing every detail of this with Papandreou, it also arises for other reasons that subsequently became known — that Greece was chosen by the designers of the European Union to become the guinea pig for the implementation of harsh austerity and other forms of economic punishment, set up for all as an example to be avoided, in the context of a new EU economic policy for handling the member countries with fiscal problems.

Indeed, the policy of the memorandums gave the opportunity not only to the IMF to put a foot in Europe — until then its activities always were, with devastating consequences, limited to developing countries in Africa and Latin America — but also gave the opportunity to the French and German banks to get rid of their so-called toxic bonds, that were loaded onto the Greek people by turning a private debt into a state debt.

In order to achieve all of this, of course, they had to plant the appropriate person in ELSTAT at a time when certain statistical adjustments were required, in order to support their treacherous plan. Where did this lead eventually? To the bankruptcy of the Greek state.

MPN: Andreas Georgiou is no longer in Greece, despite the fact that various legal cases and judicial decisions are outstanding against him. Where does Georgiou find himself today and what is he presently involved with?

NL: He’s away, because he knows what he’s faced with, with trials and legal cases. Georgiou is currently in hiscomfortable villa in Maryland. He left Greece in the summer of 2015, one month before the end of his five-year term as ELSTAT chairman. Coincidentally, this was shortly after the call from the House of Parliament to testify before the examination committee that had been formed at that time to investigate the reasons for our accession to the first memorandum. He never came to the examination room, pretending to be in the hospital with “pneumonia.” Who on earth has ever heard of a pneumonia case in the middle of the Greek summer?

Anyway, immediately after his “discharge” from the hospital, he left for America. I repeat, one month before the end of his term and without requesting a renewal of the chairmanship position for another five years. He could have done that, but he didn’t, apparently having realized that he could not have avoided the imminent court hearing on the prosecutions for breach of duty and for the felony of inflating the deficit figures — which in the legal language is expressed as “felony of false certification at the expense of the state” together with the “aggravating order for public abusers,” a very impressive legal phrase. This is a legal category that leads to life imprisonment.

I presume that he’s engaged at this time in preparing his defense, through statements via his lawyers in Greece, while he remains absent, missing from every trial that has taken place regarding him.

MPN: A few months ago Georgiou was found guilty by the Greek justice system. What were the charges for which Georgiou was convicted and sentenced?

NL: There are two convictions Georgiou had this year. In March, in a criminal court, he was convicted for libel and for written defamation, and he was given one-year imprisonment with a three-year suspension. He appealed through his lawyers, but the Penal Court of Appeals condemned Georgiou again, giving him the same sentence.

Georgiou’s crime was that, in an official ELSTAT news release, he accused former ELSTAT board member Dr. Nicholas Stroblos of being a statistical swindler, obviously trying to divert guilt from himself for statistical fraud. I’m pointing out here that Dr. Stroblos is the former director of the national accounts department of ELSTAT, whom Georgiou illegally replaced with one of his now co-defendants. Consequently, Stroblos sued him in both criminal and civil courts and, apart from the one-year imprisonment imposed by the criminal court, the civil court fined Georgiou 10,000 euros for damages resulting from libel.

Georgiou’s most recent conviction is concerned with one of the three accusations included in the prosecution for breach of duty. The first accusation was related to the fact that he was in parallel for several months, from July to November 2010, as head of the statistical authority in Greece but also as an employee of the IMF, a duplication of employment explicitly prohibited by ELSTAT’s founding law 3832 of 2010. That law required him to work exclusively and with full employment in the ELSTAT board. Georgiou deluded the Greek parliament about his ongoing post with the IMF — and note that the IMF is one of the lenders of Greece — while at the same time he had accepted the post as president of ELSTAT’s board. He would not have been selected as ELSTAT president, not even as a simple member of the board, had the parliament known about his double post.

The second accusation concerned the fact that Georgiou did not convene the ELSTAT board for a whole year, violating the law that required meetings at least once a month.

The third accusation, and the most important of all three, concerned the fact that the decision to endorse the revised figures for 2009’s deficit was taken only by Georgiou, without the agreement of the other members of the board — which had been selected, I remind you, and approved exactly for this purpose by the conference of the parliamentary presidents with a majority of four-fifths. For this accusation, he was convicted in the context of breach of duty, and this had to do with the publication of deficit figures without our approval, as required by law. Georgiou appealed this conviction to the Supreme Court, and we are waiting to see what the Supreme Court will decide.

Georgiou was acquitted on the charge that he did not timely convene the ELSTAT board, although this is intimately interconnected with the non-convening of the board for the approval of the data, for which he was convicted. So we ended up with a paradoxical situation here. He was also acquitted of the charge that while he was a member of the IMF — that is to say, a servant of the lender — he was also chairman of ELSTAT — that is, a servant of the borrower — something that is inconceivable worldwide and yet happened in today’s occupied and economically enslaved Greece.

Naturally, the people who were present in the courtroom were annoyed and protested these acquittals, but when they heard the announcement of his conviction on the third charge they were relieved, of course, and for this charge he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with a three year suspension — without being granted, of course, any mitigation.

I, together with fellow whistleblower and former ELSTAT board member Zoe Georganta, filed an objection against the court judgment for the two accusations for which he was acquitted, and we expect a Supreme Court decision as to whether or not Georgiou will go to a new trial for these new accusations. At the moment, the two acquittals cannot be considered irrevocable. But it is true that the most important accusation, for which Georgiou desperately wanted to be acquitted, was the one for which he got convicted.

Indeed, the fact that Georgiou published the inflated elements of the deficit without approval by the ELSTAT board not only proves his guilt of the second accusation, of not convening the board as he should have, but it also implies a deception, because he knew that his swollen deficit figures would never be accepted by a majority of the board members. He further recognized that such a disagreement would sooner or later become public and reveal the irregularities he used with the help of Eurostat itself. Such a revelation would result in the failure of the plan to legitimize the first memorandum and thence to impose onerous austerity measures on Greece. That was not acceptable by the initiators of this plan, who I believe had to use Georgiou and instructed him to silence the rest of the ELSTAT board.

MPN: Following the guilty verdicts against Georgiou this past spring, a barrage of positive coverage and PR in favor of Georgiou appeared in the Greek and international media — including Bloomberg, the Washington Post and Politico. We also heard numerous statements of support from major political figures in Greece, the European Union, and elsewhere. These statements criticized the supposed lack of independence of the Greek justice system in the verdicts against Georgiou. How would you describe or characterize Georgiou’s network of support within and outside of Greece, and these arguments made in his favor?

NL: Yes, indeed, various statements have been heard and continue to be heard in support of Georgiou, trying to sanctify him, to elevate him as a serious personality and as an honest scientist. All this in order to justify everything he did illegally as ELSTAT president. All that has been said rests on myths that have been circulated by the domestic and foreign supporters of Georgiou, who are desperate that the case not be brought to the court of justice — the major case of the inflation of the deficit figures.

But this also proves their own guilt in the matter. If they really believe that Georgiou is innocent and that we are the slanderers and the liars, why don’t they let Greek justice do its job and prove his presumed innocence in a court hearing? I would even expect Georgiou himself to be the first to grab this opportunity to be redeemed. This furious effort of all his supporters to prevent the case from being brought to trial reveals their panic as well as their guilt, because they know very well that in the forthcoming court hearing all the evidence will be revealed proving that Greece has suffered the greatest national betrayal since the time of the Thermopylae treason, 2500 years ago, when Efialtes betrayed the Greek army which was fighting the Persian invasion.

The participation of all those major political figures in Greece and the European Union in the betrayal perpetrated by Georgiou will also be revealed. Indeed, the core of this support network includes first and foremost Eurostat, whose senior staff advised Georgiou on how to inflate the 2009 deficit and also how to change ELSTAT’s founding laws in order to neutralize the rest of the board.

Imagine therefore what impact Georgiou’s conviction would have on Eurostat’s image! Eurostat’s political chief is the European Commission, Brussels — that is, one-third of the troika — with all that implies, of course, for many high-ranking political figures in the European Union and beyond. So one can clearly understand why high-level managers from Eurostat and major political figures from the EU itself are continuing to build a wall of protection and support for Georgiou — in the hope that the government and the Supreme Court of Greece will believe all these myths they are promoting.

Greece's Statistics agency employees walk past the logo of the agency in Piraeus, near Athens. Serious errors in Greek deficit data, revealed last year, helped trigger the European government debt crisis rattled world markets and confidence in the euro. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Greece’s Statistics agency employees walk past the logo of the agency in Piraeus, near Athens. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

The first myth is that in recent years Georgiou was acquitted many times but the persecution against him continues. That’s what they say. The supporters of Georgiou claim again and again that Georgiou was acquitted, but it’s not true. The acquittal may occur only after the irrevocable final judgment in a court trial, or after an exonerating court order is accepted by the Supreme Court. As appeals against all rulings in Georgiou’s case have been filed with the Supreme Court, he has not been acquitted irrevocably for any charges brought against him.

On the contrary, he has had an irrevocable conviction for defamation, as I said before, and a conviction for one of the three accusations for breach of duty — regarding which the Supreme Court decision is awaited, whether or not it will become irrevocable. But the other two accusations for breach of duty for which he has been acquitted, as I have already said, for these we have filed a complaint and they cannot, therefore, be considered irrevocable or a final acquittal. So it’s in keeping with due process that the prosecutions against him still continue.

The second myth goes as follows: Georgiou took over the presidency of ELSTAT after the first memorandum. He cannot, therefore, be regarded responsible for the memorandum and the economic crisis that followed. Well indeed, when Georgiou took action in ELSTAT, we were already under the first memorandum. If you remember, our entry into the first memorandum was announced by George Papandreou in his speech made on the Greek island of Kasterllorizo in April 2010, and the reason for this was allegedly the high level of the 2009 deficit, which was put by Papandreou at 13.6 percent of GDP. That’s equivalent to about 30 billion euros.

However, it was not the actual deficit, but the prediction by Papandreou of what it would be after all relevant calculations took place. Papandreou did not have the right to take such an important decision, one that would affect Greek society so much, based only on a prediction that had not even been approved by the Court of Auditors. We would be the ones, as ELSTAT’s management board, to supervise the calculations of the actual deficit, to approve it and publish it in October 2010, six months later.

Actually, if we had been given the opportunity to do that and found these deficit figures to be less than 10 percent, we would have been able to denounce the first memorandum and cancel it! And of course, the rest of the memorandums that followed. But obviously, this would not be something that the designers of the first memorandum wished to happen, and so the appropriate person must be found who, with specific statistical adjustments, could make the deficit of 2009 “confirm” the “validity” of Papandreou’s deficit “forecast” in April 2010, and fully justify our entry into the first memorandum. This is what they wanted.

Furthermore, in order to avoid any controversies with the rest of the board that could endanger their plan, it was decided to neutralize not only the dissidents on the board but the whole of ELSTAT’s board. As a result of all these unlawful actions, the first memorandum was legitimized — and the door opened for the second and worst memorandum and obviously the rest of the memorandums that have followed, and for the austerity measures that have been imposed since then. Therefore, it’s perhaps wrong to say that the first memorandums was due to Georgiou. It’s more appropriate to say that all memorandums and their related medieval austerity measures that we still have on our backs are actually due to Georgiou!

The third myth: since Eurostat has approved Georgiou’s practices and figures, they must be right, they must be correct. But would it have been possible for Eurostat not to approve these statistics, provided by Georgiou, and the methods of administration that he was using? It was Eurostat’s director himself, Walter Radermacher, who gave orders to Georgiou as to what data to add to the deficit. Correspondence has been revealed, from Radermacher to Georgiou, that shows how to add this amount of debt that was incurred by the Simitis swaps, how to add it into four years’ deficits until 2009 — prior to the expiry date, as we previously explained, and although no European regulation existed at the time that would allow this.

Also, it was the permanent representative of Eurostat at ELSTAT, Hallgrimur Snorrason, who — with the assistance of Eurostat’s legal adviser, Per Samuelson — advised Georgiou on how to change ELSTAT’s founding law in order to transform ELSTAT into one-man authority. It’s hardly surprising therefore that Eurostat approved the practices and the deficit figures of Georgiou. Of course, that does not mean that they were correct.

The final myth that I want to mention is that his proponents are saying Georgiou applied all proper European regulations. On the contrary, most European regulations and Eurostat’s own criteria for the deficit and debt calculations were violated by Georgiou and his advisers from Eurostat, in order to justify the unjustifiable integration of deficits of many public utilities into the 2009 deficit — a decision that would require a thorough study of several months for each public utility. You can’t just decide to include the deficit of a utility in the public debt; you need a thorough study, for several months, six months. So what kind of European regulations did Georgiou actually apply, I wonder? No one knows.

MPN: What is plainly evident is that there is a very extensive and very powerful network of support for the likes of Andreas Georgiou, a network that includes powerful media voices, major politicians and political figures, major centers of power and influence and decision-making. How can such a powerful and seemingly unified network of political and media forces even be countered by the Greek people?

NL: Indeed, Georgiou’s support network, composed of high-ranking political figures — domestic and foreign — is powerful. But no matter how much influence this network can have on political affairs in Greece, I think that it is not in a position to influence the Greek justice system, which I consider impartial. The fact that the case has reached up to the level of the Supreme Court, which so far has justified many of our objections and appeals against Georgiou, gives us hope that ultimately the systemic power network that exists supporting Georgiou can be successfully dealt with.

At the end of the day, our justice system, perhaps the only irreproachable institution in our country, seems to have borne the burden of this matter. I believe that the truth will soon be revealed, no matter how many powerful political and media forces try to force an acquittal of Georgiou.

MPN: What are the judicial cases still outstanding regarding the ELSTAT case and Andreas Georgiou? What are the charges which Georgiou is still facing? And what is your expectation regarding the outcome of these cases?

NL: Most importantly, the cases of the false inflation of data and of the breach of duty by Georgiou, involve crimes of public document forgery and violation of ELSTAT’s founding law. As I have already said, Georgiou was convicted of one of the more important accusations related to the breach of duty — that of the publication of the 2009 deficit figures without the approval of the ELSTAT board. He has been acquitted on the other two charges — the duplication of his appointment in the IMF and ELSTAT and the non-convening of the board — but we have appealed these two verdicts, and we hope that the Supreme Court will decide to repeat the trial for these two related charges.

If this affair is remanded back to the trial courts, we certainly expect Georgiou to be convicted, because the evidence we have against him is rock solid and undeniable. This is what Georgiou’s supporters know. That’s why they push as hard as they can to prevent the case from reaching the high court of justice.

MPN: In what way do you believe the verdicts that will be reached by the Greek justice system concerning the ELSTAT and Georgiou cases impact the future of Greece, particularly with regard to the austerity policies and memorandums that are being imposed and the non-serviceable public debt of Greece?

NL: I agree with you that Greek debt is non-serviceable. Even if we get away from the memorandums, we don’t get away from the related loan agreements, and we will continue to be under supervision by the EU until we pay 75 percent of our debt, something impossible for the next 60 years!

If, however, as we hope, there is an irrevocable conviction of Georgiou for the act of inflating the deficit figures, this will prove that all these medieval memorandums were imposed on the basis of false figures — which gives Greece the right to claim compensation from the European Union for the damage we suffered in the last seven years of the financial crisis.

Article 340 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union gives us the right to claim this compensation, and we have even estimated the financial loss since Georgiou set foot in Greece, a cost that may well exceed 210 billion euros. A compensation of this magnitude would certainly overturn the disgraceful economic situation we are experiencing today. However, I emphasize again that a necessary condition is an irrevocable conviction of Georgiou regarding the felony of inflating the deficit figures.

And what about these instigators who used Georgiou to carry out their treacherous plans? Even Grigoris Peponis — the impeccable investigator who proposed the criminal prosecution of Georgiou in the first place — has suggested that the possible existence of certain instigators within the Greek and European political systems, who directed Georgiou on what to do, has to be taken into consideration. These are the ones who do not want the case to reach an open court hearing — the ones who are so desperate for the acquittal of Georgiou as early as possible, in order to cover their own involvement in the above crime, because they’re well aware that we have evidence of their unlawful intervention in inflating the deficit and also in transforming ELSTAT from an independent authority into one-man authority.

If the Supreme Court sends Georgiou to trial in the high court of justice, all his supporters know that this will mean a likely conviction for him. The support network will then collapse, and they will find themselves accused for their betrayal of their homeland and crimes against its citizens. Our country will then pass from an underprivileged position of a beggar, to the strong position of a challenger, on the basis of specific articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union itself.

Protesters hold a banner during a rally in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. A nationwide 24-hour general strike called by unions against austerity measures disrupted public services across Greece on, while thousands marched in protest in central Athens. (AP/Yorgos Karahalis)

Protesters hold a banner during a rally in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. A nationwide 24-hour general strike called by unions against austerity measures disrupted public services across Greece on, while thousands marched in protest in central Athens. (AP/Yorgos Karahalis)

As far as we are concerned, we do not really care about the strict or non-strict punishment of Georgiou, who is now a pensioner of the IMF. What interests us is to prove his guilt and thereby to remove the injustice that has been committed against Greece through the false inflation of the public debt and deficit of 2009, and also prove the criminal involvement of the European Commission and Eurostat. This will only be done when the case is referred to an open court hearing, in which Eurostat and Georgiou will have to be present, in order to testify under oath whether or not they have falsely inflated the statistical figures of Greece, and the reasons for doing so.

I do not know when and if this will happen, and how many battles we have to give from now on in order to achieve this. Some tell us that there’s no point in continuing to fight, as it seems that with such a front of support for Georgiou by strong decision-making centers, the battle has already been won against us. We reply by saying that if we stop fighting, there will simply be no other battle — something we don’t want, because let’s not forget what Bertolt Brecht said once: “He who fights, can lose. He who doesn’t fight, has already lost.”

MPN: Looking at the situation in Greece today and the economic claims that are being made by the Greek government — that the country has returned to economic growth, that Greece has turned a corner — do you believe that the Greek statistical figures today are credible, or are they perhaps still being manipulated?

NL: Unfortunately, the statistical figures have already been exploited by any government in power so far in Greece. We have seen this happen with the alchemies of swaps in order to get into the Eurozone. By the way, I wish that we had never gotten into the Eurozone in the first place! Our economy was not in a position to handle such a strong and competitive currency. We saw another exploitation of the statistical figures, of the deficit, this time. They became the reason for an economic crisis of the past seven years.

I cannot say what is happening these days with the statistical figures, as I am not in ELSTAT. But we will find out sooner or later what is happening. The truth always comes out for any case of mishandling of statistical figures. We’ve seen this happen. But unfortunately, as long as there is no reliable team to correctly manage the handling of the statistical data in the Greek Statistical Authority, I’m afraid we should again expect irregularities and alchemies of the data.