Feb 142017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

The Global South is growing unintelligible from the European South amid harsh austerity measures and other maneuverings that suit the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and working class.

Maria de Jesus Oliveira da Costa, known as “Tia Zelia,” takes down an autographed photo given to her by Brazil’s impeached President Dilma Rousseff, to show it to journalists at her restaurant in Brasilia, Brazil, where photos of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also hang. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Maria de Jesus Oliveira da Costa, known as “Tia Zelia,” takes down an autographed photo given to her by Brazil’s impeached President Dilma Rousseff, to show it to journalists at her restaurant in Brasilia, Brazil, where photos of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also hang. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

BRASILIA, Brazil — Harsh austerity. A 20-year public spending freeze. A non-elected government. A coup backed by the United States and corporate world.

This is the new reality that Brazil has faced following the impeachment and ouster of the democratically-elected Dilma Rousseff in August of 2016 on charges of corruption and her replacement by vice-president Michel Temer, a favorite of Washington.

This is also a new reality that has been met by widespread disapproval, occasional large-scale protests, and a new economic uncertainty for a country which, just a few years ago, was seen as an up-and-coming economic powerhouse, along with the rest of the BRICS, the bloc composed of emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This optimism has been quickly supplanted by an increasingly volatile social situation in Brazil and great pessimism for the future.

Much has been made in the media about the progressive credentials of the Rousseff government and that of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both of whom represented the Workers’ Party (PT) of Brazil. Much has also been made of the mass protests which led to Rousseff’s outster, which bore similarities to protests seen in countries such as Venezuela against the Maduro regime, and the relative lack of protest that the Temer government has faced since ascending to power.

What is actually happening, though? As is often the case in such situations, reality is far more multifaceted and complex than frequently presented, while parallels can be drawn with other austerity-ravaged countries such as Greece.

A radical break or austerity lite?: The Rousseff and da Silva governments

A man pulls a cart with an electoral poster of Workers Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, right, at Manguinhos slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP/Felipe Dana)

A man pulls a cart with an electoral poster of Workers Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, right, at Manguinhos slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP/Felipe Dana)

The governments of da Silva and Rousseff were often compared to those of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, in representing a break with the doctrines of neoliberalism, economic austerity, and privatization that much of Latin America experienced during the 1980s and 1990s.

This claim is borne out by some policies and certain economic indicators. In a 2014 article, well-known commentator Pepe Escobar, who frequently focuses on the BRICS nations in his writing, pointed out the tripling of the minimum wage between 2002 and 2014, a decline in unemployment, increased GDP per capita, the repayment of Brazil’s debts to the International Monetary Fund, higher purchasing power, plus social programs which benefited almost 50 million Brazilians.

Similarly, in a 2014 interview with me for Dialogos Radio, investigative journalist Greg Palast cited da Silva’s refusal to privatize state banks and the national oil company, while creating the “Bolsa Familia,” or a minimum income offered to many Brazilians, in an effort to lift them out of poverty. According to Palast, these policies — the opposite of the privatizations and austerity dictated by the International Monetary Fund — fueled Brazil’s phenomenal growth during this time, reaching 7 to 9 percent annually at its peak.

But did da Silva and Rousseff go far enough? Numerous commentators have expressed doubts.

For instance, the Rousseff government appointed Joaquim Levy, known as a pro-austerity “fiscal hawk,” as finance minister (this, it should be noted, was when Temer was Rousseff’s vice president). Scholar and author James Petras, an expert on Latin America, pointed out in November that da Silva implemented IMF-mandated austerity programs soon after being elected, and he appointed neoliberal economists to his cabinet whilst supporting the interests of agribusiness and major oil and mining concerns — all while overseeing policies which left numerous peasant families landless.

The Brazilian “economic miracle,” according to Petras, was a mirage fueled by high export commodity prices which the Brazilian economy temporarily benefited from, enabling programs such as the “Bolsa Familia.”

This was echoed by Palast, who in a 2016 follow-up interview with Dialogos Radio cited the sharp decline of oil prices and collapse of its commodities trade with China, as factors in the Brazilian economic slowdown — and increased unrest in the country prior to Rousseff’s ouster. In turn, Escobar also cited Rousseff’s concessions to big banking and agribusiness interests and a swing to the center as mistakes which also led to the emerging middle class increasingly flirting with the right once economic difficulties began.

In an interview with MintPress, Kat Moreno, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and visiting scholar for Global Workers’ Rights at the Penn State University, argued that the Rousseff government was quite austere, and that despite a militant, leftist background, the material conditions she faced pressured her to enact austerity policies during her reign.

A recent analysis published by TeleSUR further argues that austerity measures were implemented by the Rousseff government as a defense mechanism of sorts, in an effort to fend off Rousseff’s impeachment by appeasing the right.

In his 2014 interview, Palast cited Rousseff’s return to IMF-sponsored austerity policies and the reduction of pensions as factors which were disastrous for the Brazilian economy, calling the IMF “a society of poisoners,” while in his 2016 interview, he cited Rousseff’s political inexperience and her inability to effectively communicate with the public as factors which made her impeachment possible.

An uprising from below or from above?

Soldiers stand guard outside Planalto presidential palace where protesters have projected the word “Impeachment” on the building, as they call for the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 21, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Soldiers stand guard outside Planalto presidential palace where protesters have projected the word “Impeachment” on the building, as they call for the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 21, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

2013 could be seen as a hallmark year for Brazil, one in which the tide began to turn against the ruling PT. The “Brazilian Spring” — following in the footsteps of the protests seen in Turkey that year, the Arab Spring, protests of the “indignants” in Spain and Greece, and the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 — emerged out of protests against public transportation fare increases and perceived government corruption. These protests could be seen as having served as a “dress rehearsal” of sorts for those which followed in 2015 and 2016, when fed-up Brazilians took to the streets en masse, including an estimated 7 million citizens during a March 2016 protest, to rally against worsening economic conditions and continued government corruption.

Or did they?

It has been pointed out that the protests of 2015-2016, leading up to the impeachment of Rousseff were not led by the impoverished or the working class, but by such groups as the Free Brazil Movement (MBL) and Students of Liberty (EPL).

Who are these groups?

In this March 18, 2015 photo, anti-government protest leader Kim Kataguiri poses for a picture in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP/Andre Penner)

In this March 18, 2015 photo, anti-government protest leader Kim Kataguiri poses for a picture in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP/Andre Penner)

Largely consisting of well-to-do, white academic circles, it has been revealed that they were financed by the decidedly right-wing Atlas Economic Research Foundation, itself funded by the notorious Koch brothers.Pepe Escobar has described the events of 2015-2016 as a “white coup,” fueled by the country’s major media outlets, who were “salivating” for regime change.

This scenario closely mirrors the protests seen recently in Venezuela against the increasingly embattled Maduro regime. Venezuela, like Brazil, has been battered by falling commodities prices — especially the sharp decline in the price of oil. This has brought to the forefront protests, led by right-wing elements seeking regime change and sensing an opportunity to make it happen.

Such protests are also not confined to Latin America. Greece, itself embattled by years of economic depression and austerity, has begun to see occasional (but, for the time being, relatively small-scale) protests led by supporters of the center-right parties such as New Democracy.

Prior to the country’s July 2015 referendum on approving or rejecting an austerity package demanded by Greece’s European “partners,” these elements organized fairly large protests in favor of “yes” (accepting austerity in order to “remain in the European Union”). In turn, smaller protests in 2016, organized with such social media hashtags as ftanei pia (“enough already”) ironically protested the austerity measures imposed by the purportedly left-wing Syriza-led government whilst supporting closer EU ties and the New Democracy party.

Similar to Brazil, Greece’s major media groups — all owned by oligarchic interests with a huge stake in the country’s major economic sectors — have vehemently supported austerity and supported the “yes” vote in the 2015 referendum.

Speaking to MintPress, Guilherme Giuliano, at Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of São Paulo and member of the “Catso” social workers’ autonomous collective, described the 2016 protests as not having been solely against Rousseff or her government. Nevertheless, the protests were co-opted by certain parties and movements and used as a catalyst for the coup against Rousseff.

Kat Moreno described the MBL as one of the movements which freely took to the streets, while other protest movements not organized by formal actors and representing poorer strata of society were met with police repression.

Petras classifies the capitulation and eventual fall of the PT governments, led by da Silva and Rousseff, as another in a long string of failures of the left. These “failures” have also been evident in countries such as Greece, where Syriza was, in January 2015, elected on promises to “tear up” Greece’s memorandum agreements with its lenders and to put an end to austerity but has instead faithfully continued enforcing such policies and signed further austerity agreements with the country’s lenders, implementing further cuts and reneging on all of its pre-election pledges.

The ‘shock doctrine’ returns to Latin America

A police officer pepper sprays demonstrators as a scuffle breaks out during a protest against the money spent on Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics on the route of the Olympic torch, in Niteroi, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.

A police officer pepper sprays demonstrators as a scuffle breaks out during a protest against the money spent on Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics on the route of the Olympic torch, in Niteroi, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.

In her 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine,” Naomi Klein highlights how the global capitalist class uses crises and disaster situations — both real and invented — as an opportunity to pounce upon suffering countries when they are at their weakest, imposing harsh austerity christened as “free market” policies and imposed, when necessary, by force, including police violence and brutality.

This has been characteristic of Brazil following Rousseff’s impeachment and Temer’s takeover.

It has also been characteristic of the crisis-hit countries of the European South, where protesters in Greece have been dispersed and stunned into submission by tear gas and police violence which invariably goes unpunished, while riot police enforcing home foreclosures is a common sight in Spain.

Klein traces the origins of the “shock doctrine” to the neoliberal doctrine first espoused by economists such as Milton Friedman, the father of the “Chicago School” of economics, which Latin American countries such as Chile became intimately familiar with under autocratic regimes such as that of Augusto Pinochet.

It is ironic, therefore, that Klein openly and vocally supported the Syriza government prior to the January 2015 elections in Greece which first brought it to power. But she has remained conspicuously silent since then, while Syriza has continued the policies of its predecessors. Nevertheless, the “shock doctrine” serves as a useful guide to explain what is happening in such countries today, including Brazil.

In another one of his analyses on the Brazil situation, Escobar classified Brazil as a victim of a “hybrid war” launched by the world’s neoliberal elite one which is also targeting other BRICS nations such as Russia.

How has the “shock doctrine” unfolded in Brazil?

With a lot of shock, and a lot of awe, to say the least.

From left: Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff , Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma sit during a signing ceremony at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AP)

From left: Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff , Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma sit during a signing ceremony at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AP)

A 20-year federal freeze on public spending was almost immediately imposed by the Temer regime, placing caps on spending for health care, education, and social expenditures and shrinking a welfare state which, according to Moreno, was already much more limited than its European counterparts. This was followed up by the announcement of job cuts in the public sector (despite rising unemployment which has more than doubled since the country’s recent economic peak), and a special “Christmas gift” for Brazilian workers: the expansion of the workday from 8 to 12 hours, complete with a reduction in the lunch hour.

This closely resembles the sharp reduction in pay, dismantling of collective bargaining rights, and massive layoffs which have been seen in countries like Greece. (There, pensioners were treated to a “Christmas gift” of their own by the Syriza-led government: a paltry “Christmas bonus” used by the government as a ludicrous PR stunt after it had already slashed most pensions by approximately 50 percent in 2016 and announced further tax increases for 2017.) In Brazil, environmental regulations have also been scrapped or relaxed, posing a particular threat to the country’s indigenous peoples.

In a rare moment of frankness, Temer told an audience of business and foreign policy elite assembled in New York in September that Rousseff — who was no radical while in office — did not go “far enough” in implementing the harsh economic reforms demanded by Temer’s party.

The new Temer government does not feel itself constrained in any way in terms of going “far enough.” Corruption charges are now being faced by da Silva, who currently leads overwhelmingly in opinion polls for Brazil’s next presidential elections, and members of his family.

Not even bothering to keep up appearances, Temer’s appointed cabinet consists exclusively of wealthy white men, while his government attempted to legislate self-amnesty for itself in September — a privilege already enjoyed by members of the Greek parliament and Greek government ministers, who are immune from prosecution for any crimes committed while in office and who regularly “write off” internal parliamentary investigations into previous governments’ wrongdoings.

This comes as the Temer government, which led the ouster of Rousseff on corruption charges, is itself facing corruption scandals.

In such a climate, it is inevitable that corruption will “trickle down” to other sectors of society. Brazil is currently said to be experiencing a far-right resurgence, shattering the common image of the country as one of racial inclusiveness and harmony.

Tourists to Brazil now have the unique opportunity to visit a real-life plantation and be served by black “slaves.” Police violence, already a major problem under the Rousseff administration, continued to grow in 2016 and 2017. There’s also the increasing prison riot crisis, which has been encouraged by elements within Temer’s government who view it as an effective means of culling the population in the country’s overcrowded prisons.

How have Brazilians responded?

Demonstrators march with a sign that says in Portuguese “Get out Temer” and a drawing of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro, as they demand the impeachment of Brazil’s President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators march with a sign that says in Portuguese “Get out Temer” and a drawing of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro, as they demand the impeachment of Brazil’s President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP/Andre Penner)

The spotlight of the international media was thrust upon Brazil in 2013 and again prior to Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016, when protests sprung up in the streets—which may have been fueled, at least in part, by Koch-funded and wealthy elements in Brazilian society.

With a regime in place which may not be supported by the majority of Brazil’s population but is very much supported by the global banking and business elite and by Washington, protests against Temer’s government have not been afforded the same level of coverage, perhaps giving the impression that the Brazilian populace has resigned itself to a tacit acceptance of the new regime. Reality, however, seems to be a bit more nuanced.

There have been both strikes and protests on a fairly wide scale in Brazil since Temer’s takeover, including protests which erupted following the enactment of the 20-year public spending freeze, further significant protests against the Temer government on Brazil’s Independence Day, and a strike of workers at oil refineries all across the country at the end of the year.

These movements are accompanied by abysmal approval ratings for the new government in multiple public opinion surveys, even if approval ratings and poll numbers are often meaningless or inaccurate. Just look at the low approval ratings and exceptionally high re-election ratings for members of the U.S. Congress, for instance, or the multiple polls which all but assured a Hillary Clinton victory in the U.S. presidential elections, or the public opinion polls in Greece which have repeatedly been not just grossly inaccurate but always in a pro-austerity direction. For instance, Greek polling firms predicted a neck-and-neck referendum result in July 2015, when in fact, the “no” vote rejecting the European Union’s proposed austerity package received an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote.

Demonstrators protest Brazil’s President Michel Temer after a military Independence Day parade in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Demonstrators protest Brazil’s President Michel Temer after a military Independence Day parade in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Despite the protests that have taken place ever since Temer took over in Brazil, Kat Moreno points out the factors that have prevented them from being more widespread or long-lived.

According to Moreno, some strata of society do not feel safe in taking to the streets, and Moreno cites fear as a “strong variable” to consider when examining responses to the political situation in the country, as a result of the high degree of police repression and brutality, which has been especially evident during protests of left-wing groups and protesters who are not affiliated with any major organization or party.

Such a situation could also be said to foster “protest fatigue,” which is often seen as a factor in the lack of wide-scale protest in Greece and other crisis-stricken countries of the European South in recent years. Following large-scale protests seen in the 2010-2012 period, which peaked with the movement of the “Indignants” in Spain and Greece in the spring and summer of 2011 and which were eventually met by a violent and heavy-handed police response, protests have largely disappeared or been confined to ephemeral and single-issue efforts without longevity.

In Greece, a common response to questions as to why Greeks no longer take to the streets is that protesters will simply get tear gassed again and sent back home. The “shock doctrine” described by Naomi Klein may also serve as another psychological factor: When protests turn out to be fruitless and unpopular policies are rammed through despite opposition, feelings of discouragement and despair become more prevalent and serve as obstacles to further action.

To some extent, Brazilian society may be experiencing some of these symptoms.

Familiar Tactics

Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer arrives to speak, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer arrives to speak, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Escobar refers to the “toolbox” of tactics employed in Brazil leading up to Rousseff’s ouster. This set of strategies included the creation of manufactured consent amongst the populace, for the impeachment and the new regime.

This bears a great similarity to the cases of countries such as Greece, where public opinion polls conducted by polling firms which are not independent of the state and which are commissioned by pro-austerity media outlets have repeatedly shown vast majorities purportedly in favor of EU and eurozone membership at all costs, while the very few independent surveys conducted in Greece, such as those by Gallup International, have actually found such majorities to be slim or nonexistent.

Manufactured consent is used to legitimize the austerity policies which then follow, and to characterize any dissent as belonging to a small, marginal minority.

Indeed, similarities between the case of Brazil and the case of countries of the European South such as Greece abound. Just as the Temer government has not been elected and overthrew a government which apparently did not go “far enough” in its austerity regime, the EU imposed a non-elected technocrat prime minister, Lucas Papademos, a former banker, on Greece in late 2011 to ensure that a new package of austerity measures and “reforms” would be railroaded through parliament.

At around the same time, a non-elected prime minister, Mario Monti, was also installed in Italy, with the blessings of the EU — technocrats from which described this unelected government as “the best thing that ever happened to Italy” during a visit of mine to the EU in 2013 as part of a week-long academic program. Italy is now being governed by no less than its third consecutive non-elected prime minister.

The Greek referendum overwhelmingly rejecting EU-proposed austerity was shot down in short order, replaced by an austerity package even harsher than that which had originally been proposed, and even more onerous than the two prior memorandum agreements signed by Syriza’s predecessors, the New Democracy and PASOK (“socialist”) political parties.

The manufactured consent and “shock doctrine” which imposed the “bitter medicine” of austerity on Greece could be viewed as a pre-emptive strike against any thoughts of “Grexit,” a Greek exodus from the Eurozone or even the EU, much like the “hybrid war” against countries like Brazil and Russia described earlier by Escobar.

A man holds a sign that reads in Portuguese “Respect, I’m a teacher, the vandal is the state” at a burning barricade set up by protesters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

A man holds a sign that reads in Portuguese “Respect, I’m a teacher, the vandal is the state” at a burning barricade set up by protesters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

Kat Moreno identifies certain parallels between the Global South, of which Brazil is part, and the European South, which has in recent years experienced much of the same IMF-supported austerity which Latin America is all too familiar with. She highlights the “clear relationship” between being a part of the Global South and being dependent on and the hostage of the international financial system.

And in looking to the future, it is difficult to say who can lead these countries, whether it is Brazil or Greece or Spain or Italy, out of their current death spiral unscathed. Guilherme Giuliano points out that what has been happening in Brazil, as in Greece, Argentina (where the Kirchner government was replaced by one much friendlier to Washington and to global capital), or even the United States, are symptoms of a global crisis — a crisis which, according to Giuliano, “nobody has a progressive way out.”

Indeed, many progressives and much of the global left seem to be focused more strongly on identity politics and a notion of a world without nations or states. In doing so, they have supported such undemocratic, austerity-driven institutions as the EU, while demonizing phenomena such as the “Brexit” as the exclusive realm of racists and xenophobes, widening their chasm with vast sections of the poor and working classes in the process.

Meanwhile, a blind eye has been turned to the actions of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in conjunction with Wall Street, supported right-wing coups and electoral takeovers all across Latin America, from Brazil to Venezuela to the Honduras. In this vein, James Petras chastises “left politicians who speak to the workers and work for the bankers.”

As for Brazil, Moreno describes the country as finding itself at a crossroads.

“People are seeking autonomy over their destinies, but where it is going we are not sure,” she said. “It can lead to neo-fascism, or it could go towards leftist  positions.”

 

Feb 092016
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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A version of this commentary originally aired on Dialogos Radio, during the week of February 4-10, 2016.

Once again, Greece is experiencing a time of political and social uncertainty, a time where yet again many citizens have begun to search for a new political savior, one that will pull Greece out of its current economic abyss and provide the promise of “hope” and “change”, putting an end to the crisis and placing Greece back on a path towards growth and better days.

This is highly similar to what was taking place in Greece just over a year ago, when millions of people within and outside of Greece believed that SYRIZA could comprise this sort of political force. And they believed this purely on the basis of rhetoric and promises. The big promises made by Alexis Tsipras and the rest of SYRIZA regarding the abolition of the austerity measures with one law and one article, the supposedly anti-austerity Thessaloniki policy platform, the tearing apart of the memorandum agreements, promises, promises and yet more promises from SYRIZA, including promises that all of these wonderful things could take place firmly within the confines of the European Union and the Eurozone, and that SYRIZA, when in power, would indeed manage to change Europe!

No one, however, seemed to notice how SYRIZA’s pre-election rhetoric was already being significantly watered down compared to their earlier promises. No one noticed that whereas Tsipras had once said that remaining in the Eurozone is not a fetish, SYRIZA was now not even contemplating an exit from the euro, not even as a Plan B. No one noticed that SYRIZA abandoned its platform to nationalize the banking system. Formerly radical economist Costas Lapavitsas, whom we have unfortunately interviewed in the past on our program, had once been proposing a so-called “radical economic platform” including a euro exit. In January 2015 however, just prior to the elections, he appeared on the BBC to defend SYRIZA’s economic platform as a form of “mild Keynesianism.” Dozens of candidates on SYRIZA’s ballot were former members of the corrupt PASOK party which ruled Greece for most of the 40 years following the fall of the military dictatorship, and many of them were elected and attained cabinet posts in the new government of supposed hope and change.

However, perhaps the biggest sign of the flip-flop and broken promises that were to follow was the inclusion of the false prophet Yanis Varoufakis on the SYRIZA ballot and his selection as Greece’s minister of finance after the elections. Varoufakis, a former adviser to PASOK’s George Papandreou, who brought austerity and the IMF to Greece, had carefully developed a reputation as a supposedly “radical” anti-austerity economist who was not afraid to clash with the system and who would demand the end of austerity and the memorandum agreements. Yet this same Varoufakis was telling us, long before the elections, that it was impossible for a country to leave the Eurozone, while rejecting the actions of countries such as Argentina and Iceland, stating that he instead sought a so-called “European solution” for the Greek crisis. Nobody seemed to notice this, and instead, Varoufakis earned the most votes of any individual candidate in the January 2015 elections.

Now, one year later, we are once again seeing the same theater of the absurd take place before our eyes, and this time Varoufakis, the son of a wealthy industrialist who is married to the daughter of another wealthy industrialist, is being presented as the best and only hope for change and for the elimination of austerity, not just in Greece but for all of Europe. On February 9th, he will announce the launch of his new pan-European political movement with a presentation in, where else, Berlin, a movement that is already promising to “restore democracy” to Europe and to “save” Europe from itself. And everyone who last year was ridiculing and insulting anyone who dared to suggest that SYRIZA was not what it presented itself as being and that it would break is promises, has now forgotten what they were saying a year ago and is doing the same exact thing to anyone who dares to question Varoufakis, his record, or his sincerity.

Let’s take this opportunity, therefore, to remind everyone about the major “achievements” of Varoufakis, before, during, and after his term as Greece’s finance minister.

Varoufakis is the man who, as Greece’s finance minister in the first days of the new SYRIZA government last year, had gone to the initial negotiations at the Eurogroup summit proposing the continuation of 70% of the previously existing austerity measures and memorandums, for another six months, as he said. He refused to even raise the specter of a Eurozone exit for Greece, not even as a negotiation tactic or as a Plan B. In fact, Varoufakis, while he was supposedly negotiating hard with the troika, publicly stated that Greece has no Plan B! It should therefore come as no surprise that the 70% proposed by Varoufakis became 100%, meaning continuation of 100% of the previous austerity measures and memorandums, for the next four months. Varoufakis agreed to this and had the audacity to return to Greece claiming that the agreement was an example of “creative ambiguity” and that the troika would now be known as the kinder, gentler “institutions.”

At the same time, Varoufakis, in countless appearances and interviews in the media, kept parroting the same stale myths about Greece and the people of Greece, such as the myth, which was proven to be a lie, that Greece had the highest rate of Porsche Cayenne ownership in the world. Varoufakis lectured us about the, quote, “hard working German taxpayers,” who were, quote, “bailing out Greece,” and who, quote, “wanted a return on their investment,” neglecting to say, however, that Germany and the troika have profited quite handsomely just off of the interest that Greece is paying on its forced loans, without even getting into the lucrative assets which Greece was forced to privatize and which they bought up. Instead, Varoufakis was telling us about the need to lead a so-called “austere existence,” all the while he and his wife were photographed for a French magazine’s photo shoot, in front of a table full of lobster and champagne at their home with a full view of the Acropolis.

This was nothing, however, compared with what was to follow. Varoufakis, along with the other saviors within SYRIZA, nominated and elected the corrupt, conservative, pro-austerity former New Democracy minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos as president of the republic. Once again, the SYRIZA and Varoufakis apologists told us to give them more time. Varoufakis repeatedly stated that Greece’s debt would be repaid, quote, “in perpetuity” and that it is legal, at the same time that the Greek government had put on a big show of creating a parliamentary committee to investigate the legality of this very same debt. In an interview with the Associated Press, Varoufakis flatly stated that he will “squeeze blood from a stone” in order for the IMF to be repaid, while in another interview, Varoufakis stated that he sought to develop good relations with Christine Lagarde and the IMF, which held views that he, quote, personally agreed with.

Varoufakis repeatedly stated that his homeland is Europe and not Greece and that he would like to see the development of a so-called United States of Europe. He stated that the Eurozone is like the “Hotel California,” where you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. Such was the nature of Varoufakis’ supposedly fierce negotiation, just as when he told ABC Television in Australia that even if Greece wanted to it was unable to mint its own currency, because Greece’s mint was destroyed when Greece joined the Eurozone. It seems he was unaware of the fact that Greece’s mint is still alive and well and is where the 20 euro notes are still printed today.

Moving forward, the “heroic” Yanis Varoufakis stated that the previous privatizations would not be rescinded and that he agreed with the privatization of public assets such as airports and harbors under certain supposed conditions. Indeed, he spoke out in favor of further so-called “investments” by China’s Cosco in Greece, including the privatization of the port of Piraeus, saying that this would be a positive development for the country.

Forging ahead, Varoufakis selected Elena Panaritis as Greece’s representative to the International Monetary Fund. The same Panaritis who was a former World Bank official and who had designed the destructive Fujishock policies which had been implemented in Peru and which drove millions of people into poverty, which led to price increases on basic goods of up to 8000%, where hundreds of public assets were privatized, and all of this done under the rule of an autocratic government whose ruler, Alberto Fujimori, is now serving a 25 year sentence for murder and other serious charges. The same Elena Panaritis who, as a member of parliament with PASOK, voted in favor of austerity and the memorandums. This was the selection of the supposedly “heroic” Yanis Varoufakis, who however never raised the issue of German war reparations to Greece and never investigated the actions of Yannis Stournaras and other former finance ministers for their role in bringing the austerity agreements to Greece.

Continuing on, Varoufakis, in the spring of 2015 when he was still finance minister, oversaw the issuance of a governmental decree, a practice which SYRIZA had promised it would not follow when in government, which confiscated the cash reserves of the entire Greek public sector. This decree was then ratified by the Greek parliament, including with the vote of Varoufakis, and the cash reserves of the Greek public sector were confiscated and used to make the May IMF loan repayment. After this, Varoufakis and the SYRIZA government, as part of their supposedly hard negotiations with the European so-called partners, presented a 47 page proposal which foresaw 8 billion euros of new austerity measures, including a perpetually increasing primary budget surplus—meaning more austerity—further tax increases, elimination of early pension benefits, which do in fact exist in countries like the US and elsewhere, and the privatization of public assets such as major airports and harbors. Everything that the current SYRIZA government is doing and that Varoufakis apologists claim to be against. At around the same time, Varoufakis presented a proposal for the introduction of a parallel currency following the model of the IOUs issued by the state of California, while he publicly admitted that capital controls would be introduced in Greece.

After this followed the big, “heroic” example of democracy in action, the referendum on whether to approve or reject the austerity measures proposed by the European so-called partners of Greece. Varoufakis, who was still finance minister, did not present any proposal to the Greek people, however, of what the governments plans would be if the “no” vote prevailed. And indeed, when the “no” vote did in fact prevail, not only was there no plan, but Varoufakis coincidentally was absent from the parliamentary vote which gave authorization to Alexis Tsipras to reach a deal with the lenders. Varoufakis did state publicly, however, that if he had voted, he would have voted yes to give Tsipras this authorization, authorization which resulted, of course, in the third and harshest, thus far, memorandum agreement for Greece.

This is the charlatan whose record as Greece’s finance minister is one of nothing but austerity, and who yet is now being touted as the savior not just for Greece but for all of Europe, the man who will end austerity and, quote, save Europe and save capitalism from itself. Varoufakis is the man who has praised the, quote, “radical” and “dynamic” individualism of Thatcherism, in other words, of neoliberalism, and the man who publicly eulogized Thatcher on his blog after her death in 2013. He is the man whose new book was presented in the Athens Music Hall in January 2015, just prior to the elections which brought SYRIZA to power, by far-right Greek television talking head Mbambis Papadimitriou, who once expressed his support for a so-called “serious Golden Dawn.” Varoufakis is the man who has repeatedly heaped public praise on German chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis, the same Merkel and the same Germany which has contributed militarily to the carnage in the Middle East, the same Germany where there have been dozens of arson attacks of refugee housing facilities, the same Germany which has housed some refugees in former concentration camps, the same Germany which has confiscated valuables from refugees entering the country, the same Germany which is accused of paying off African governments to take back asylum seekers and to prevent them from coming to Germany again. And we are supposed to believe the words of this man, Varoufakis, when he says that he can somehow change Europe and the EU for the better, but that the euro cannot be changed and that a country could never leave it.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the bold, brilliant, anti-austerity savior Yanis Varoufakis. And the unfortunate reality is that even when faced with the facts, Varoufakis’ many fans and apologists will dismiss all of the above, even doubting the facts of Varoufakis’ actions during his tenure as Greece’s finance minister. A selective amnesia which begs the question, when will we stop believing in the “hope and change” that the system itself presents to us?

Mar 082014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

Source: CADTM Europe

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The CADTM affirms its full and complete solidarity with the people of Cyprus and their organisations struggling against privatizations in the energy, telecoms, and shipping sectors – privatizations required by the Memorandum imposed by the Troika in March 2013. Cyprus is the fourth country to be placed under the budgetary supervision of the European Union, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

In the face of the demonstrations of 27 February (a 3-day renewable strike by Electricity Authority of Cyprus workers and a strike by longshoremen at the ports of Limassol and Larnaca), the Parliament was unable to reach a majority to adopt the initial bill (25 votes for, 25 against, 5 abstentions; a majority of 29 is required for adoption). The following day the government handed in its resignation. The media, in total complicity with the Troika, have observed total silence over this situation – an extraordinary one, to say the least.

Despite the refusal expressed by the population in the streets, the Cypriot legislators have just adopted (4 March), by a vote of 30 to 26, a bill that is only a slightly modified version of the one they had themselves rejected the preceding week and which would result in the privatisation of the major public services: EAC (electricity), CYTA (telecoms), and CPA (the port authority). This new version of the law claims to guarantee the jobs of the employees of these companies, but no one actually believes that.

Adoption of the law was a condition for the granting of a new 236-million € tranche of the 10-Bn € loan granted by the Troika in March 2013.

The causes of the crisis in Cyprus have been clearly identified: 

1) A hypertrophied banking system
 that was completely out of control. The banks, who have considerable liquid assets provided by the “financial markets,” have recklessly made risky investments.

In 2012, Cyprus’s banks speculated on the restructuring of the Greek debt – 40% of their external commitments, which cost them 4.5 Bn €, or the equivalent of a quarter of Cyprus’s GDP, and brought on the collapse of this overinflated sector (whose assets represent seven times the country’s GDP).

These private losses were then promptly transformed into public debt. These debts are totally illegitimate and must be abolished, along with those stemming from the assistance plan!

graph-3-ca531

In 2009 and 2010, Cyprus’s public debt was only 52.4% and 60.8% of GDP, whereas in the Euro zone as a whole it was 80% of GDP in 2010.

In Germany, the percentage was 74.5% in 2009 and 82.5% in 2010.

2) A tax situation that is highly advantageous for companies: Corporate tax, which until the Memorandum was at an official rate of 10%, has only been raised to 12.5% (not enough to resolve the budget deficit).

To obtain the 10-Bn € assistance plan from the Troika (9 Bn € from the ECB and 1 Bn € from the IMF), Cyprus’s government also agreed to the restructuring of its banking system, a 10% reduction in public expenditures, and the privatization of the island’s main public sectors.

The IMF, represented in Cyprus by a former executive of Lehman Brothers, itself recognizes the economic ineffectualness of such measures. The IMF’s goal is not to provide support for the population of Cyprus, but to protect and guarantee the interests of the creditors! That is why the agents of the IMF must be run out of Cyprus, along with the representatives of the European Commission and the ECB!

Aside from the obvious risk of growth in unemployment (forecast to reach 19.4% in 2014), Cypriots fear skyrocketing prices, with wages and pensions already reduced by 20% in one year. The people’s mobilisation, practically uninterrupted for months, goes well beyond the industry sectors that are directly concerned.

Rubbish bins brought by the population are piled up in front of bank branches. There are regular interruptions of electrical power and the people are besieging the Parliament and official buildings. All sectors, both private and public, are present around the Parliament, demonstrating their opposition to the Troika’s structural adjustment plan.

The CADTM considers:

  • that the entire debt of Cyprus to the Troika is illegitimate and odious, and must be abolished in its entirety;
  • that the austerity plan imposed by the Troika must be revoked.

The population does not want to pay for the speculators and the wealthiest 1%. International solidarity must organise as soon as possible in support of this exemplary struggle. The CADTM will do all it can.

Translation by Snake Arbusto

Photo : CC – Eu Council Eurozone
Discussion before the meeting begins : Christine LAGARDE, IMF ; Thomas WIESER, President of the EFC (Economic and Financial Committee) and Michael SARRIS, Finances Minister of Cyprus (on the right).

Nov 142013
 

By J. Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart

Greeks protest austerity cuts in Syntagma Square, Athens. Photography by Elias Theodoropoulos

Greeks protest austerity cuts in Syntagma Square, Athens. Photography by Elias Theodoropoulos

It’s hard work getting the news from the news these days, especially if you want to know about a country like Greece. Far-away birthplace of democracy, a bit exotic, Mediterranean lifestyle, Zorba, rumored to be different. What does any of that mean? Strange things are happening there but what is going on precisely? The Greeks ran up quite a tab at the bar, or so the financial dailies tell us on a regular basis.

Almost everything we read is filtered through the point of view of the Troika – the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission – or the Greek government. We know that representatives of the Troika – established during the first stage of Greece’s “rescue” in May 2010 – have been in Greece since Tuesday of last week, meeting with the Greek government about the latest round of potential bailouts for that country. Beyond the leaks from either side, the rest, for us at any rate, is guesswork.

As of Tuesday evening, November 12, no decision had been announced. The Troika is typically very business-like with its clients, out with the whip, sign here, see you later – and then the next round of what the press like to call “belt-tightening” begins. The coalition government survived a no-confidence vote on Monday the 11th but that hardly quelled the sense that they are a very fragile edifice indeed. The people are out in the streets on a constant basis. They’re an after-thought, at least as far as the world’s media is concerned.

We do know a few things: that the Troika is a quasi-legal junta, created during the first stage of Greece’s trauma. The IMF was invited to the party at the insistence of Angela Merkel. Readers with long memories may remember that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was on his way to meet Merkel to present his plan to “save Greece,” when he was abruptly detained in New York.

The Troika’s mission is to enforce an austerity program that includes the selling-off of government assets and the decimation of public services, and that even within the IMF, there is dissension over the absurd goal of turning Greece into a productive satellite of Germany. We also know or suspect that any “bailout” of Greece will only impoverish the country yet further. That’s the public record regarding employment, savings, pensions, access to housing and food. You can read it here on Ground Report and find it many other places as well.

Language, meanwhile, gets so knocked around by the pros it throws its hands up in despair. Defeat comes at the price of rational thought: being rescued by the Troika means becoming a pauper in your own country, means your pension has vanished, you are a month or so away from losing the roof over your head and your hand is in the garbage looking for food.

None of the rescues perpetrated by the Troika have successfully rescued their target countries but instead have pitched them ever further into chaos. Bailouts are not a transfusion of money but a way of channeling money from one country (Germany, in this case) to another country (Greece) where the money is then re-routed to banks in, among other places, Germany and France in the form of debt payments.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, along with his coalition partner, Socialist Evangelos Venizelos, is said to be desperate not to tamper with what they consider Greece’s “success story,” one which includes massive unemployment and at least 20 percent of the population dependent on soup kitchens for the next meal. His figure is 700 million Euros to meet the debt payment schedule. The Troika is said to be looking for 2.9 billion Euros in savings from the current budget.

That explains the lack of an agreement since last Tuesday at least in part. The Troika is being held hostage. Round One to Greece.

Spectacularly, no one in the government mentions the list of 2,062 Greeks who are holding at least $1.95 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts. A list the government has had in its possession for at least three years without a single prosecution. (Interested readers can learn more here.) Articles in the local press do muse a bit about “tax collection” being a bit in arrears but without much enthusiasm.

Rumblings, such as they are, continue to be at such a low volume they can be hard to hear. Internal documents leaked from the IMF last week reveal that as early as May 2010, more than 40 IMF member states, all outside Europe, were opposed to the aid plan drawn up for Athens. (This in a report from last week’s Wall Street Journal.) The Troika itself is said to be headed for divorce. “The ECB must refrain from intervening in highly political decisions with its advice on taxes or cuts in spending. And yet that is just what it has been doing inside the troika. It must get out of it as soon as possible,” says Paul De Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics. In June of this year, a high official at the IMF publicly disagreed with the Troika’s agenda in Greece.

Even the pro-government publication Ekathimerini paints a decidedly gloomy picture: “Unfortunately, what this means in practical terms is that the current political system is not in a position to lead the country any further in terms of reforms. It doesn’t truly believe in these reforms and it does not have the stamina to clash with its traditional clientele,” writes Alexis Papachelas on November 10. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a pro-government journo.

In other words: it isn’t working, it isn’t working at all, and yet our bedazzled technocrats continue to insist that it does, even if they don’t particularly believe it either. It’s the way the world does its “business.” Consider this: the Financial Times reported last weekend that Stephen King, chief economist at HSBC, “discovered” that nearly all of his bank’s country forecasts stated that the country-in-question planned to export its way to growth. (Ah, growth, endless growth. The Holy Grail, the never-ending rainbow at the end of the road. Line it up next to the other sacred cows, bailouts and rescues, and fire away.) Where they will all export to is the question, with every other country on earth frantically exporting its way to prosperity. Mars and Venus are at the head of the list, and why not? (William Pfaff has more on this.)

Greece lost some 35,000 jobs in October. So much for that success story. My sense is that the Troika’s technocrats simply live too high up in the stratosphere – somewhere near their very own cloud 9 – to be concerned with anything so gritty as jobs or hunger or survival. For them “the people” are an abstraction on the order of heroic rescues and bailouts.

The Washington Consensus is dead. Long Live the Consensus! The world, meanwhile, hangs by a thread. No one believes, fewer and fewer people vote and countries like Greece twist in the wind. Who reaps the advantage? The far right, the angry ones, the xenophobes who see us lined against each other in a global race to the End of the Line. One wonders exactly when Angela Merkel and that ardent enemy of finance François Hollande will get the message. (Before or after the rainbow? Place your bets here.)

The Troika, intent on getting in and out of Greece quickly with as few questions asked as possible, seem to have gotten stuck in transit. On Tuesday night, they were so afraid of angry cleaning ladies demonstrating in front of the Finance Ministry that they crawled on hands and knees out the building’s fire-escape to an underground garage en route to their own private cloud. That might not be, to employ yet another word that’s taken a few body blows, progress, but if a modern-day Aristophanes was anywhere nearby, he can make use of it.

As of Wednesday morning, November 13, no agreement between Greece and the IMF was in sight.When there is one, we’ll take a close look at it to see if there are any changes to the formula that has had such devastating consequences for Greece.

Sep 242013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* THE FASCISTISATION OF THE GREEK STATE

By Nicholas Vrousalis, NewLeftProject

fascism in greece

The recent murder of the Greek anti-fascist Pavlos Fyssas by neo-nazis exposes an insidious transformation undergone by the Greek state in the epoch of austerity. Imagine a class where a ten-year-old racially abuses a fellow student. If the teacher takes no steps to stop the abuse, but allows the first student to continue unhindered – perhaps he’s too bored to interfere, or half-agrees with the abuse – then he is a fascist by omission. Suppose that the first student persists in his racist tirades, and initiates a set of intimidation tactics against the other student. The teacher’s inaction gets worse, to the point of beginning to look like positive fascist agency. At this stage a third student intervenes and attempts to curb the racist attacks of the first student. Now the teacher punishes the third student and threatens him with expulsion from school. The teacher is no longer a fascist by omission. He’s a fascist period.

Over the past few months the Greek state has engaged in behaviour far more troubling than that of the teacher. The first stage began to unravel from mid-2012, when Greek society first confronted the ascending party apparatus of Golden Dawn – Europe’s most successful neo-nazi organisation. Although Golden Dawn unambiguously qualifies as a gang by the lights of the Greek criminal code, its institutional manifestations and its leading members have never been legally challenged by state prosecutors. One striking upshot of this systemic omission by the Greek justice system received broad coverage in October 2012, when the police failed to protect the play Corpus Christi from a mob of fascists and fundamentalist Christians preventing its performance. The second stage of fascism by omission took hold with the rejection by the Greek government of a proposed anti-racist bill in June 2013, in part due to the flirtation of leading members of cabinet with voters of Golden Dawn. The next stage, that of fascism period, is now with us through the concerted efforts of Greek justice officials to criminalise anti-fascist activism. These efforts have been consecrated in recent state prosecutions against writer Savvas Michael for ‘incitement to violence’ and ‘breach of the peace’, and against hospital workers in the island of Samos, allegedly for preventing a ‘Greeks-only’ blood donation organised by Golden Dawn in hospital premises. In both cases the teacher clearly penalises the good student, and encourages the fascist. This makes the teacher a fascist. Indeed, the second prosecution is in a way more reprehensible, for it literally legitimises the use of public property for racist purposes. […]

READ @ http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_fascistisation_of_the_greek_state

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* THE PROBLEM IS THE GREEK GOVERNMENT, NOT ONLY GOLDEN DAWN

By Augustine Zenakos, BorderlineReports

Greece Elections

A torrent of world-wide publicity has followed the murder of leftist musician Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn supporter Giorgos Roupakias, two nights ago. In Greece, understandably, the discussion is even more tense. But what is missing in this discussion -partly obscured by the horrific, if murderously delayed, realization that this gang of thugs is out of control, and partly purposefully concealed by the mainstream media- is that there is a very profound sense in which Golden Dawn is not “the problem”; the problem is rather this perverse coalition of “socialist modernizers” and far-right nationalists, who are governing Greece ostensibly to safeguard its “European perspective”. Next to the thugs themselves, it is the Greek government who must bear the full responsibility not only for Golden Dawn and its crimes, but also for the fact that a brutal, racist, totalitarian agenda now forms a significant part of the Greek state’s attitude towards democracy and its institutions.

It is not Golden Dawn who created concentration camps for immigrants. Centre-left and centre-right politicians did that. Concentration camps for immigrants, drug users and homeless people were first talked about in pre-Olympic Greece, in 2004, with the purpose of “improving” the image of the streets of Athens. The Olympics were planned by the centre-left government of Kostas Simitis and took place during the centre-right government of Kostas Karamanlis. The first concentration camp was to be constructed in the old NATO army base, in Aspropyrgos. The plan never materialized due to the reaction by NGOs and left-wing parties. It was discussed again when Christos Markogiannakis took over the Ministry of Public Order, in 2009, but again was not put into practice. The one who finally gave life to the idea that a modern democracy should imprison immigrants without due process or trial in containers fenced off with barbed wire was Minister of Public Order Michalis Chrysochoidis, a “socialist” with centre-left PASOK, currently Minister of Transport in our coalition government. The creation of concentration camps was hailed as a major breakthrough by Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Public Health at the time, another “socialist”. And the practice came into full bloom under the direction of current Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias, an MP for New Democracy, a self-described “liberal”. […]

READ @ http://borderlinereports.net/2013/09/19/the-problem-is-the-greek-government-not-golden-dawn/

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* PUSSY RIOT’S NADEZHDA TOLOKONNIKOVA: WHY I HAVE GONE ON A HUNGER STRIKE

In an open letter, the imprisoned Pussy Riot member explains why the brutal conditions at Penal Colony No 14 have led her to undertake a hunger strike in protest

By Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Guardian

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

Beginning Monday, 23 September, I am going on hunger strike. This is an extreme method, but I am convinced that it is my only way out of my current situation.

The penal colony administration refuses to hear me. But I, in turn, refuse to back down from my demands. I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions. I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves.

It has been a year since I arrived at Penal Colony No 14 in the Mordovian village of Parts. As the prisoner saying goes: “Those who never did time in Mordovia never did time at all.” I started hearing about Mordovian prison colonies while I was still being held at Pre-Trial Detention Centre No 6 in Moscow. They have the highest levels of security, the longest workdays, and the most flagrant rights violation. When they send you off to Mordovia, it is as though you’re headed to the scaffold. Until the very last moment, they keep hoping: “Perhaps they won’t send you to Mordovia after all? Maybe it will blow over?” Nothing blew over, and in the autumn of 2012, I arrived at the camp on the banks of the Partsa River.

Mordovia greeted me with the words of the deputy chief of the penal colony, Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov, who is the de facto head administrator of our colony. “You should know that when it comes to politics, I am a Stalinist.” Colonel Kulagin, the other head administrator — the colony is run in tandem — called me in for a conversation on my first day here with the objective to force me to confess my guilt. “A misfortune has befallen you. Isn’t that so? You’ve been sentenced to two years in the colony. People usually change their minds when bad things happen to them. If you want to be paroled as soon as possible, you have to confess your guilt. If you don’t, you won’t get parole.” I told him right away that I would only work the 8 hours a day required by the labour code. “The code is one thing — what really matters is fulfilling your quota. If you don’t, you work overtime. You should know that we have broken stronger wills than yours!” was Kulagin’s response.

My brigade in the sewing shop works 16 to 17 hours a day. From 7.30am to 12.30am. At best, we get four hours of sleep a night. We have a day off once every month and a half. We work almost every Sunday. Prisoners submit petitions to work on weekends “out of [their] own desire”. In actuality, there is, of course, no desire to speak of. These petitions are written on the orders of the administration and under pressure from the prisoners that help enforce it. […]

READ @ http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/sep/23/pussy-riot-hunger-strike-nadezhda-tolokonnikova

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* WOMAN PROTESTERS IN TURKEY BRAVE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

By Pinar Tremblay, Al-Monitor

article-2335924-1A24BA58000005DC-71_964x720

On Sept. 11, a story broke about a female student taken into custody at one of the most prestigious universities of Turkey, Middle East Technical University (METU). Ezgi Ozen and her friends were protesting a government road project that may destroy 3,000 trees on the METU campus and nearby neighborhoods. Another protester was able to shoot a video of Ozen being handcuffed and escorted to police vehicles. The video shows an officer yelling, “If she resists, her arm will be broken.” Unarmed and relatively small, could Ozen really have “resisted” the police?

After she was released, Ozen announced that 200 police officers verbally and sexually harassed her while in custody. She said, “They all took turns touching me.” During the Gezi protests, we read several stories of sexual, physical and verbal harassment of women, so much so that the women of Gezi had to organize under the banner “No to Sexual Harassment in Custody” (“Direniste Polis Tacizine Hayir“). Given that Turkish culture shuns the victim of sexual harassment, and the lack of hope among Turks for any kind of compensation from the police for abuses, it is safe to assume the number of incidents are higher than reported.

As other Al-Monitor contributors have explained, Turkey is witnessing a second wave of Gezi protests. METU is one of those sore spots. Students there failed to greet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an affectionate manner during his last visit in December 2012. Indeed, METU hosted one of the first rather unpleasant anti-Erdogan protests. Currently, 45 students are under investigation, with prosecutors asking for up to six years of imprisonment. In addition, nine students are facing charges for possible terror-group membership. Several mainstream media outlets refer to METU as a “hotbed of left-wing organizations,” and this is no compliment in Turkey. […]

READ @ http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/09/turkish-women-protest-despite-harassment.html

Aug 132013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* THE NSA IS TURNING THE INTERNET INTO A TOTAL SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM

By Alexander Abdo and Patrick Toomey, The Guardian

The NSA collects "nearly everything a user does on the internet"

The NSA collects “nearly everything a user does on the internet”

Another burst of sunlight permeated the National Security Agency’s black box of domestic surveillance last week.

According to the New York Times, the NSA is searching the content of virtually every email that comes into or goes out of the United States without a warrant. To accomplish this astonishing invasion of Americans’ privacy, the NSA reportedly is making a copy of nearly every international email. It then searches that cloned data, keeping all of the emails containing certain keywords and deleting the rest – all in a matter of seconds.

If you emailed a friend, family member or colleague overseas today (or if, from abroad, you emailed someone in the US), chances are that the NSA made a copy of that email and searched it for suspicious information. […]

READ @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/11/nsa-internet-surveillance-email

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* DEBT, AUSTERITY, DEVASTATION: IT’S EUROPE’S TURN

By Susan George, CADTM

austerity-george-osborne-desktop

As the creditors get fatter, the innocent are punished. Susan George laments a leadership subservient to big business.

Like plague in the 14th century, the scourge of debt has gradually migrated from South to North. Our 21st-century Yersinia pestis isn’t spread by flea-infested rats but by deadly, ideology-infested neoliberal fundamentalists. Once they had names like Thatcher or Reagan; now they sound more like Merkel or Barroso; but the message, the mentality and the medicine are basically the same. The devastation caused by the two plagues is also similar – no doubt fewer debt-related deaths in Europe today than in Africa three decades ago, but probably more permanent harm done to once-thriving European economies.

Faithful – and older – New Internationalist readers will recall the dread phrase ‘structural adjustment’. ‘Adjustment’ was the innocent-sounding term for the package of economic nostrums imposed by wealthy Northern creditor countries on the less-developed ones in what we then called the ‘Third World’. A great many of these countries had borrowed too much for too many unproductive purposes. Sometimes the leadership simply placed the loans in their private accounts (think Mobutu or Marcos) and put their countries in hock. Paying back in pesos, reals, cedis or other funny money was unacceptable: the creditors wanted dollars, pounds, deutschmarks…

Furthermore, the Southerners had contracted their loans at variable interest rates, initially low but astronomical from 1981 when the Federal Reserve declared an end to the era of cheap money. When countries such as Mexico threatened default, panicked creditor-country treasury ministers, top bankers and international bureaucrats spent some sleepless weekends eating take-out and cobbling together emergency plans. […]

READ @ http://cadtm.org/Debt-austerity-devastation-it-s

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* YOU’RE MORTGAGE DOCUMENTS ARE FAKE!

By David Dayen, Salon

Lynn Szymoniak (Credit: CBS News/60 MInutes)
                            Lynn Szymoniak (Credit: CBS News/60 MInutes)

Prepare to be outraged. Newly obtained filings from this Florida woman’s lawsuit uncover a horrifying scheme

If you know about foreclosure fraud, the mass fabrication of mortgage documents in state courts by banks attempting to foreclose on homeowners, you may have one nagging question: Why did banks have to resort to this illegal scheme? Was it just cheaper to mock up the documents than to provide the real ones? Did banks figure they simply had enough power over regulators, politicians and the courts to get away with it? (They were probably right about that one.)

A newly unsealed lawsuit, which banks settled in 2012 for $1 billion, actually offers a different reason, providing a key answer to one of the persistent riddles of the financial crisis and its aftermath. The lawsuit states that banks resorted to fake documents because they could not legally establish true ownership of the loans when trying to foreclose.

This reality, which banks did not contest but instead settled out of court, means that tens of millions of mortgages in America still lack a legitimate chain of ownership, with implications far into the future. And if Congress, supported by the Obama Administration, goes back to the same housing finance system, with the same corrupt private entities who broke the nation’s private property system back in business packaging mortgages, then shame on all of us. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2013/08/12/your_mortgage_documents_are_fake/

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* ABBY MARTIN BLAST RACHEL MADDOW FOR 9/11 COMMENTS

Source: RT

Abby Martin calls out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for promoting the notion that violence is rooted in conspiracy theories, while disregarding the importance of questioning official government narratives.

VIDEO @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qUkjIpgthWs#at=63

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* FINALLY A BILLBOARD THAT CREATES DRINKABLE WATER OUT OF THIN AIR

No really, it’s a billboard that can generate up to 26 gallons of water a day from nothing but air.

By Matt Peckham, Techland

I’ve never cared much for billboards. Not in the city, not out of the city — not anywhere, really. It’s like the saying in that old Five Man Electrical Band song. So when the creative director of an ad agency in Peru sent me a picture of what he claimed was the first billboard that produces potable water from air, my initial reaction was: gotta be a hoax, or at best, a gimmick.

Except it’s neither: The billboard pictured here is real, it’s located in Lima, Peru, and it produces around 100 liters of water a day (about 26 gallons) from nothing more than humidity, a basic filtration system and a little gravitational ingenuity.

Let’s talk about Lima for a moment, the largest city in Peru and the fifth largest in all of the Americas, with some 7.6 million people (closer to 9 million when you factor in the surrounding metro area). Because it sits along the southern Pacific Ocean, the humidity in the city averages 83% (it’s actually closer to 100% in the mornings). But Lima is also part of what’s called a coastal desert: It lies at the northern edge of the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, meaning the city sees perhaps half an inch of precipitation annually (Lima is the second largest desert city in the world after Cairo). Lima thus depends on drainage from the Andes as well as runoff from glacier melt — both sources on the decline because of climate change. […]

VIDEO @ http://techland.time.com/2013/03/05/finally-a-billboard-that-creates-drinkable-water-out-of-thin-air/#ixzz2bqVAhEwK

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* 15 OUTRAGEOUS FACTS ABOUT THE BOTTLE WATER INDUSTRY

By Eric Goldschein, Business Insider

4527436_orig

Water used to be free.

In fact, it still is — at least in nations blessed with plentiful clean tap water like the U.S. — but that doesn’t stop the world from spending over $100 billion on bottled water a year.

This strange industry is exploding overseas as well.

Who got the idea to sell us something we can get for free? And how did it get so popular that now more than half of Americans drink it?

READ / PHOTOS @ http://www.businessinsider.com/facts-bottled-water-industry-2011-10?op=1#ixzz2bqWwyrNE

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* THE MORAL IMPERATIVE OF ACTIVISM

By Ray McGovern, ConsortiumNews

St. Thomas Aquinas, a theologian of the Thirteenth Century.

St. Thomas Aquinas, a theologian of the Thirteenth Century.

That America is in deep moral and legal trouble was pretty much obvious to everyone before Edward Snowden released official documents showing the extent to which the U.S. government has been playing fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Snowden’s revelations – as explosive as they are – were, in one sense, merely the latest challenge to those of us who took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That has been a commitment tested repeatedly in recent years, especially since the 9/11 attacks.

After all the many troubling disclosures — from torture to ”extraordinary renditions” to aggressive war under false pretenses to warrantless wiretaps to lethal drone strikes to whistleblowers prosecutions to the expanded “surveillance state” – it might be time to take a moment for what the Germans call “eine Denkpause,” a “thinking break.” And it is high time to heed and honor the Noah Principle: “No more awards for predicting rain; awards only for building arks.”

This is our summer of discontent. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether that discontent will move us to action. Never in my lifetime have there been such serious challenges to whether the Republic established by the Founders will survive. Immediately after the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin told a questioner that the new structure created “a Republic, if you can keep it.” He was right, of course; it is up to us. […]

READ @ http://consortiumnews.com/2013/08/12/the-moral-imperative-of-activism-2/

Jun 232013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

From StopCartel Newsdesk:

It is the first time the two major factions of the new regime are trying to live together in the most shameless manner, openly before the eyes of the People. Democracy and PASOK, have for the first time, shown their true face and the political essence of the so-called “post-dictatorship”

The faces of Greek traitors: Venizelos and Samaras

Venizelos and Samaras

The tragicomic political developments in the government camp , which sparked the case of ERT , continues unabated after the formal, but not substantial withdrawal of Tourism Services .

The New Democracy and PASOK , seeking now not only a new framework for cooperation , but also a reshuffle of the government scheme that will enable them to impart an artificial fake note “progressivism” and “renewal” in the hope that such things will extend even and for a few months , they remain in power .

It is therefore expected,  the two “mnimoniakes” factions that first time in the years of the new regime will live together without another government partner , engage in an ‘orgy’ contacts, fermentation and classification , in an attempt to appease as soon as possible , concerns of lenders and the European Union on political developments .

Amidst such, bleak landscape , the tripartite government turns into bipartisan , even pretending he is determined to exhaust the four years . A contingency in which one no longer believes , as the country has entered irreversibly on track elections .Elections, which will require a great social majority in order to put an end to austerity and the destruction of the place for aprogressive way out of the current crisis with socialist horizon.

The revision of the terms of the loan agreement that enhance the recession appears to be the main objective of the program agreement SW-PASOK, which process the partisan staffs.

In fact it is the first time that the two major factions of the new regime are trying to live together without other partners.

The new programming agreement have undertaken to formulate the Chrisanthos Lazaridis from ND and Paris Koukoulopoulos by PASOK.

The text will refer and institutional issues to be resolved, such as corruption, the fight against political money, the “breaking” of large regions, but the “hard” issues of anti-racism law and the immigration issue.

The pursuit of partisan staffs is later than T riti have completed their discussions and the final version is to the offices of Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos.

SYRIZA: Scaling of extreme austerity mnimoniakis 

“The New Democracy and PASOK looking for a new framework agreement and a new government scheme that will escalate toextreme mnimoniaki policy of austerity and authoritarianism , “said SYRIZA.

“With increasing their social isolation and their political obsolescence , as they become more plainly the impasses mnimoniakis policy, both seem more determined to dismantle every social right and every public good ‘, highlighted the announcement of Koumoundouros.

Moreover, the position that “the current government is much weaker” expressed MP SYRIZA Dimitris Stratoulis , speaking to T / T Mega.

Still appreciate that the new government scheme ‘ will apply the same mnimoniaki policy and applies it worse “and that” in September will be forced de facto to discuss new measures and new memorandum. ”

At the same time, Mr. Stratoulis not exclude the possibility to file SYRIZA censure.

As he said, “we will see in the coming days is a weapon we have in mind. When used should be effective. ”

KKE: signaled an escalation of aggression against the people

“Changes in the government scheme and the new programming agreement SW – PASOK, with the connivance of Tourism Services , mark the escalation of aggression against the people and workers, through the new unpopular measures in the offing, “observes the KKE .

In a statement stating that ” the people have a wealth of experience to find that it can not be pinned their hopes on the control of his own harsh reality, in various disguises government or any other government that bows to capitalistic “one-way” and the EU. ”

a3

StopCartel TV broadcasts LIVE from Athens @ http://www.livestream.com/stopcarteltvgr

StopCartel blog in Greek and English @ http://stopcartelnews.blogspot.gr

Mar 212013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* BAILOUT, AUSTERITY, CONFISCATION: CYPRUS REVEALS THE 3rd PHASE OF THE GREAT BANK ROBBERY

By Scriptonite Daily

We’ve hit crisis and it is the public programmes who are taking the blame and the hit rather than the flagrant corruption, the waste of tax payer money, the tax evasion and the bailouts which got us here in the first place.

This is a stick-up

Yesterday, the people of Cyprus awoke to the news that up to 10% of the cash in their bank accounts was to be confiscated on Tuesday 19th March, as part of an EU deal to bailout banks.  This decision, signals the insidious next step of the Great Bank Robbery underway since the Financial Crisis of 2007/8. First Bailout, then Austerity and now direct Confiscation of wealth from the 99% to the 1%.

The Three Steps of the Great Bank Robbery

There have been three distinct phases to the great bank robbery of the banking and corporate class on the 99%.

The Bailout

In the bailout of 2009, the UK government had to guarantee funding to the banking sector, of 101% of GDP.  That is, the UK diverted over £2trn of tax payer money (101% of GDP), equivalent to almost 3 times its entire annual budget, to prop up its failed banks.  This is twenty years of NHS spending (£106.7bn a year), forty years of education spending (£48.2bn), or five hundred years of job seekers allowance (£4.9bn a year).  All that money is going to prop up a derivates market which serves zero social purpose. It doesn’t build things, it doesn’t create things, it doesn’t do anything except repackage debts for fees and notional profits.

The US spent or guaranteed $12.8trn in its bailout package, which is equivalent to almost its entire annual GDP.

This rescue package for Banks, is absolutely unprecedented.  If you take just the UK and US figures, ignoring everyone else, you’re at $15trn. How does this compare to other large scale expenditures? […]

READ @ http://scriptonitedaily.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/bailout-austerity-confiscation-cyprus-reveals-the-3rd-phase-of-the-great-bank-robbery/

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* ECB GIVES CYPRUS MARCH 25 LIQUIDITY ULTIMATUM

By Tyler Durden, zerohedge

8115916.bin

As reported yesterday, Cyprus banks are now expected to reopen next Tuesday. We would boldly go ahead and take the under following overnight news that the ECB has once more escalated its political interventions (remember the lies about “apolitical, independent” Central Banks – good times…), and following a Reuters report yesterday that the ECB is prepared to let Cyprus go, the FT now has doubled down on the propaganda, reporting (in an article with no less than five authors) that the ECB has issued an ultimatum to Cyprus to agree to a bailout by Monday (which is a holiday), or the free liquidity ends.

The European Central Bank raised the stakes in the Cyprus crisis on Thursday, telling Nicosia it had until Monday to agree a bailout with the EU and International Monetary Fund or it would cut off emergency liquidity provision to the country’s banks. The hardline stance from the ECB sets a clear deadline for Cyprus to agree to a plan after its parliament rejected a bailout negotiated at the weekend that would have taxed the deposits of account holders in the country’s banks.” Which means yet another weekend of ad hoc choices and spontaneous decisions awaits, only this time with a key non-Euro actor involved in the face of Russia, whose interest just in case there is any confusion, is to see Cyprus crushed, so it can swoop in later and “acquire” the assets on the cheap, or preferably free, while the local population welcome the second coming of the glorious Red Army with open arms, delighted to be free of European slavery. Well played Putin.

From the FT:

The ultimatum came as EU leaders maintained pressure on Nicosia to come up with a new plan on its own and Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev told a visiting European Commission delegation that a solution had to include Russian participation.

“It is now up to the Cypriot authorities to come up with proposals,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chair of the committee of 17 eurozone finance ministers who negotiated the bailout, told the European Parliament on Thursday morning.

In a short statement the ECB said its 23-person governing council had agreed to maintain emergency liquidity provision to Cyprus’s banks until Monday. “Thereafter, Emergency Liquidity Assistance could only be considered if an EU-IMF programme is in place that would ensure the solvency of the concerned banks,” it said.

The country’s two biggest banks, Bank of Cyprus and Laiki, are believed to be reliant on Emergency Liquidity Assistance provided by the Central Bank of Cyprus. The ECB’s governing council can terminate ELA if it believes the banks receiving it are no longer solvent.

The move, however, raises the prospect of the ECB having to make good on its ultimatum on Monday, which could leave the banks unable to honour their obligations. Some analysts have speculated that the collapse of the banks could trigger a series of events that lead to Cyprus leaving the euro, with unpredictable consequences for the rest of the eurozone. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-03-21/ecb-gives-cyprus-march-25-liquidity-ultimatum

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* PRIVATIZING EUROPE: USING THE CRISIS TO ENTRENCH NEOLIBERALISM

Source: roarmag

Rather than solving Europe’s crisis, EU institutions are allowing corporate elites to further enrich themselves through a fire sale of state assets.

Rather than solving Europe’s crisis, EU institutions are allowing corporate elites to further enrich themselves through a fire sale of state assets.

The text and infographics below are excerpted from a new working paper, Privatising Europe: Using the Crisis to Entrench Neoliberalism, which was just released by the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam:

The European Union is currently undergoing the biggest economic crisis since its foundation 20 years ago. Economic growth is collapsing: the eurozone economy contracted by 0.6% in the fourth quarter last year and this slump is set to continue. The euro crisis was incorrectly blamed on government spending, and the subsequent imposition of cuts and increased borrowing has resulted in growing national debts and rising unemployment. Government debts in crisis countries have predictably soared: the highest ratios of debt to GDP in the third quarter of 2012 were recorded in Greece (153%), Italy (127%), Portugal (120%) and Ireland (117%).

Europe’s member states have responded by implementing severe austerity programmes, making harsh cuts to crucial public services and welfare benefits. The measures mirror the controversial structural adjustment policies forced onto developing countries during the 1980s and 1990s, which discredited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The results, like their antecedents in the South, have punished the poorest the hardest, while the richest Europeans – including the banking elite that caused the financial crisis – have emerged unscathed or even richer than before.

Behind the immoral and adverse effects of unnecessary cuts though lies a much more systematic attempt by the European Commission and Central Bank (backed by the IMF) to deepen deregulation of Europe’s economy and privatise public assets. The dark irony is that an economic crisis that many proclaimed as the ‘death of neoliberalism’ has instead been used to entrench neoliberalism. This has been particularly evident in the EU’s crisis countries such as Greece and Portugal, but is true of all EU countries and is even embedded in the latest measures adopted by the European Commission and European Central Bank. […]

READ / CHARTS @ http://roarmag.org/2013/03/tni-infographics-european-fire-sale/

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* CONGRESS NEVER FIXED THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM … AND IS ABOUT TO MAKE IT EVEN WORSE

Source: Washington’s Blog

Empty chairs for empty suits

Empty chairs for empty suits

Out-of-control derivatives were largely responsible for the 2008 financial crisis … and still pose a massive threat to the economy.

Unchecked derivatives are so harmful to the economy that:

  • Warren Buffet called them “weapons of mass destruction”
  • A Nobel prize winning economist who helped develop derivatives pricing said some of them were so dangerous that they should be “blown up or burned”
  • Newsweek called them “The Monster that Ate Wall Street” after the financial crash

This is especially true since the big banks are manipulating the hundred trillion dollar derivatives market.

No, the big “financial reform” bill passed in the wake of the financial crisis didn’t fix anything.  We noted last year:

No, there have not been any reforms or attempts to rein in derivatives, and the Dodd-Frank financial legislation was really just a p.r. stunt which didn’t really change anything. 

Indeed, the derivatives “reform” legislation previously passed has probably actually weakened existing regulations, and the legislation was “probably written by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs“.

In fact:

Harold Bradley – who oversees almost $2 billion in assets as chief investment officer at the Kauffman Foundation – told the Reuters Global Exchanges and Trading Summit in New York that a cabal is preventing swap derivatives from being forced onto clearing exchanges:

There is no incentive from the moneyed interests in either Washington or New York to change it…I believe we are in a cabal. There are five or six players only who are engaged and dominant in this marketplace and apparently they own the regulatory apparatus. Everybody is afraid to regulate them.

*** Moreover, the big banks are still dumping huge amounts of their toxic derivatives on the taxpayer. And see this.

Indeed, the U.S. has agreed to backstop potential trillions in derivatives in the U.S. … and abroad.

If the big banks are manipulating the derivatives market, they could manipulate every other market on the planet.   Given that the size of the derivatives market dwarfs the entire global economy, and given that derivatives are – by definition – not real assets, but paper abstractions loosely based upon real assets, manipulation of derivatives can drive asset prices up or down at whim. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/congress-never-fixed-the-financial-system-and-is-about-to-make-it-even-worse.html

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* WHAT IN THE WORLD IS A BITCOIN?

By Simon Black, Sovereign Man blog

bitcoin-capital-controls

[…] In most countries, a small tiny banking elite exercises total control over that nation’s money supply. And we’re just supposed to trust them to be good guys.

Yet central bankers around the world have conjured trillions of dollars out of thin air, debasing the money’s value. It’s a concept any six-year old can understand. If money grew on trees, it wouldn’t be worth very much.

This is one of the key reasons why people buy gold. You can’t just conjure gold out of thin air. It takes years of exploration and investment to pull it out of the ground.

In the information age, though, we have an alternative.

Bitcoin is digital currency. It doesn’t actually exist in our physical world… only in computers.

If this sounds esoteric and far-fetched, it’s not. The vast majority of our monetary system today is already digital. […]

READ @ http://www.sovereignman.com/finance/what-in-the-world-is-a-bitcoin-11234/

If you want to find out more about Bitcoin, this website provides a lot of great introductory information

Feb 272013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* TROIKA DIRECTIONS

Source: youtube

… featuring the showroom dummies of the Troika, that are implementing the “Program” in countries like Greece, Ireland or Portugal : Poul Thomsen (IMF), Matthias Mors (EU) and Klaus Masuch (ECB).

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0OXDTnwWo8

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* GREECE: BLACKWATER MERCENARIES GUARDING GOVERNMENT AND OVERSEEING POLICE; COUP FEARED

Source: Salem-News

wpid-c595e8435d0d13170f45ded4d101cc9a1

Blackwater mercenaries are currently overseeing the police in Greece as rumours of a coup abound. We understand the situation is extremely tense and that the mercenaries are there mainly to protect the Government and parliament should trouble break out either in the form of a revolution or counter-revolution. Already, a destabilisation plot involving the far-right and police has been uncovered. 

Over the last 12 months or more Greece has seen wave after wave of mass demonstrations, riots, battles between police and protesters, armed attacks on Government premises, attacks by fascists (i.e. Golden Dawn ) on migrants, as well as, of course, the complete collapse of the economy. The Government has been beset by scandals (e.g. secret bank accounts in Switzerland) and journalists have been arrested. Most people now exist day by day via co-operatives ; workers are taking over the factories .

As we have said, there is a revolution taking place – a messy revolution . And it’s going to get messier, for the situation in Greece has now entered a critical phase – here is a summary (with further details below):

* Strategy of tension has already commenced
* Government is under siege and is protected by mercenaries
* Military coup is now talked of openly
* Insider warns that revolution (or counter-revolution) is imminent […]

READ @ http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february252013/greece-coup.php

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* GREEK GOVERNMENT MAKES EXTRAORDINARY AND UNDEMOCRATIC ATTACKS ON FREE SPEECH

By Yiannis Baboulias, NewStatesman

Greek pensioners demonstrate outside the Labour Ministry in Athens against pension cuts and the downgrading of the social health services. Photograph: Getty Images

Greek pensioners demonstrate outside the Labour Ministry in Athens against pension cuts and the downgrading of the social health services. Photograph: Getty Images

There’s no element of surprise in the fact that things move faster when going downhill. In the wake of revelations such as the alleged torture of detained anarchists and the crackdown against activists in Skouries (Northern Greece), the Greek government and especially New Democracy has decided to use the “rule of law” in order to tighten its grip of the Greek media while at the same time winning back some of the voters they lost to the Golden Dawn.

Following PM Antonis Samaras’ own anti-immigrant rhetoric, 85 New Democracy MPs proposed a bill which would see only citizens of “Greek race” hired in police and military. The Golden Dawn was of course quick support it and to claim the proposed bill as “a major victory” for them. “The honourable uniform of the Greek armed officer will not be handed to the Albanians, the Asians and the Africans and the country’s armed forces will not come under the control of foreign spies,” the statement released by the party on Tuesday continued.

This follows weeks of extreme anti-immigrant and anti-leftist messages released by minor members of ND in social networks and interviews, their futile attempts to out-flank the far-right only strengthening the neo-nazi party’s current, that now sees six year-old kids brought in to it’s HQ’s for classes on “patriotic awareness”.

But this is only one side of the PR machine the coalition’s ruling party has set in motion: we’ve also had major moves against journalists and newspapers that speak out against their plans. Most striking example is the case of UNFOLLOW magazine, an independent left-wing publication, who saw its writers receive life threats after publishing an investigation on oil smuggling that appears to implicate Aegean oil and its owner Dimitris Melissanidis. A man who identified himself as Melissanidis threatened to “blow up” the reporter behind the article. The magazine went ahead and sued the oil magnate whose business ventures include contracts with the US Navy. But what is interesting here, is that after the magazine published the incident, Melissanidis requested the retraction of the article through his lawyer who none other than Failos Kranidiotis, personal friend and advisor to PM Antonis Samaras.[…]

READ @ http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/02/greek-government-makes-extraordinary-and-undemocratic-attacks-free-speech

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* NEOLIBERALISM AND HIGHER EDUCATION IN GREECE

Source: leftunity

 Panagiotis Sotiris, Vice-president of the University of the Aegean Teachers’ Union, explores the problems of Higher Education in Greece

Students at the gates of the Athens Polytechnic in 1973

Students at the gates of the Athens Polytechnic in 1973

First of all, I would like to express my deepest feelings of solidarity to Egitim Sen regarding the recent wave of arrests. Governments all over the world want to get rid of trade union resistances and attempt to criminalize trade union action. Solidarity and struggle are our weapons! Secondly, I would like to thank the organizers of this conference for this opportunity to share with you some thoughts and experiences regarding the neoliberal attack on Higher Education in Greece and the struggles against this attack, in a particular conjuncture marked by economic crisis, austerity and the imposition of draconian cuts as part of the loan agreements with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.[1]

Higher education in Greece has always been a highly politicized terrain. Until recently the sole responsibility of the State because of an explicit constitutional ban on private Higher Education, it has been considered one of the main forms of upwards social mobility and this can account for the social pressure to broaden access to Higher Education. Currently there are more than 75,000 posts to Universities and Technological Educational Institutes offered ever year. For the average Greek family entrance to a University Department, traditionally associated with obtaining better employment prospects, has always been a major goal. This can also explain the importance, in the public sphere, of events such as the university entrance exams or the high cost of extra tutorial courses a family is ready to bear in order to achieve entrance to a good University Department (Medical Schools, Law Schools, and Engineering Schools).

Struggle and protest has been an integral part of Greek Higher Education. The history of Greek Universities has been marked by the intervention, since the 1960s, of a highly politicized student movement,[2] which was highly esteemed because of its role in the struggle against the 1967-1974 military dictatorship (epitomized in the 1973 Occupation of the National Polytechnic School which was brutally suppressed by the military dictatorship). After the fall of the dictatorship, the student movement was a crucial aspect of a process of radicalization of Greek society, producing not only victorious movements (such as the 1979 movement of occupations that forced the government to repeal the law 815/78 – one of the few cases in the past 40 years that a law that had been passed was subsequently repealed because of protests) but also important elements of the general social and political culture. Most aspects of Greek post-1974 left-wing radicalism emerged from Universities. In the early 1980s a wave of extensive reforms – and especially the 1268 frame law introduced in 1982 – combined a modernizing, technocratic aspect with the introduction of a democratic system of extensive faculty and student participation in the administration of University students, which included high representation in University Senates and Department Assemblies and a particular weight of student vote in the election of Rectors, Deans and Department Heads. […]

READ @ http://leftunity.org/neoliberalism-and-higher-education-in-greece/

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* LITTLE CLARITY IN ITALIAN VOTE, ASIDE FROM ANGER

By Rachel Donaldio, NYTimes

Voting officials count the ballots at a polling station in Rome on Monday at the end of the second day of Italy’s national elections.

Voting officials count the ballots at a polling station in Rome on Monday at the end of the second day of Italy’s national elections.

ROME — Italian voters delivered a rousing anti-austerity message and a strong rebuke to the existing political order in national elections on Monday, plunging the country into political paralysis after results failed to produce a clear winner.

Analysts said that the best-case scenario would be a shaky coalition government, which would once again expose Italy and the euro zone to turmoil if markets question its commitment to measures that have kept the budget deficit within a tolerable 3 percent of gross domestic product. News of the stalemate sent tremors through the financial world, sending the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 200 points.

Although analysts blamed the large protest vote on Italy’s political morass and troubled electoral system, the results were also seen as a rejection of the rapid deficit-reduction strategy set by the European Commission and European Central Bank — from a country too big to fail and too big to bail out. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/world/europe/Italy-elections.html?_r=2&nl=afternoonupdate&adxnnl=1&emc=edit_au_20130225&adxnnlx=1361828247-EdcqEfkHx2W16mJS7ubjTQ&&pagewanted=all

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* AUSTERITY, ITALIAN STYLE

By Paul Krugman, NYTimes

Italy-election-11

Two months ago, when Mario Monti stepped down as Italy’s prime minister, The Economist opined that “The coming election campaign will be, above all, a test of the maturity and realism of Italian voters.” The mature, realistic action, presumably, would have been to return Mr. Monti — who was essentially imposed on Italy by its creditors — to office, this time with an actual democratic mandate.

Well, it’s not looking good. Mr. Monti’s party appears likely to come in fourth; not only is he running well behind the essentially comical Silvio Berlusconi, he’s running behind an actual comedian, Beppe Grillo, whose lack of a coherent platform hasn’t stopped him from becoming a powerful political force.

It’s an extraordinary prospect, and one that has sparked much commentary about Italian political culture. But without trying to defend the politics of bunga bunga, let me ask the obvious question: What good, exactly, has what currently passes for mature realism done in Italy or for that matter Europe as a whole? […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/25/opinion/krugman-austerity-italian-style.html?hp&_r=0

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* GREECE AND SPAIN HELPED POSTWAR GERMANY RECOVER. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE.

By Nick Dearden, Guardian

People exchanging food for tickets in 1923 Germany. 'Many, including Keynes, argued that [reparations imposed on Germany following the Versailles treaty] led to the rise of the Nazis and the second world war.' Photograph: Keystone/Corbis

People exchanging food for tickets in 1923 Germany. ‘Many, including Keynes, argued that [reparations imposed on Germany following the Versailles treaty] led to the rise of the Nazis and the second world war.’ Photograph: Keystone/Corbis

Sixty years ago today, an agreement was reached in London to cancel half of postwar Germany’s debt. That cancellation, and the way it was done, was vital to the reconstruction of Europe from war. It stands in marked contrast to the suffering being inflicted on European people today in the name of debt.

Germany emerged from the second world war still owing debt that originated with the first world war: the reparations imposed on the country following the Versailles peace conference in 1919. Many, including John Maynard Keynes, argued that these unpayable debts and the economic policies they entailed led to the rise of the Nazis and the second world war.

By 1953, Germany also had debts based on reconstruction loans made immediately after the end of the second world war. Germany’s creditors included Greece and Spain, Pakistan and Egypt, as well as the US, UK and France. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/27/greece-spain-helped-germany-recover