* THE GLOBALIZATION OF HOLLOW POLITICS
By Chris Hedges, OpEdNews
[…] The extremists, of course, are already in power. They have been in power for several years. They write our legislation. They pick the candidates and fund their campaigns. They dominate the courts. They effectively gut regulations and environmental controls. They suck down billions in government subsidies. They pay no taxes. They determine our energy policy. They loot the U.S. treasury. They rigidly control public debate and information. They wage useless and costly imperial wars for profit. They are behind the stripping away of our most cherished civil liberties. They are implementing government programs to gouge out any money left in the carcass of America. And they know that Romney or Barack Obama, along with the Democratic and the Republican parties, will not stop them.
The abrasive Nicolas Sarkozy is France’s oilier version of Bush. Sarkozy, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has done the dirty work for bankers. He and Merkel have shoved draconian austerity measures down the throats of Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy. The governments of all these countries, not surprisingly, have been deposed by an enraged electorate. And if the new governments in these distressed European states continue to be ineffectual — which is inevitable given the sacrifices demanded by the banks — the instability will get worse.
Politicians such as Obama — and, I fear, Holland — who carry out corporate agendas while speaking in the language of populism become enemies of liberal democracies. Labor unions, environmentalists, anti-war activists and civil libertarians, blinded by the images and lies disseminated by public relations offices, stop watching what these politicians do. They mute their criticism to give these politicians, whose rhetoric is rarely matched by reality, a chance. The result accelerates our disempowerment. It is also, more ominously, a discrediting of traditional liberal democratic values. The longer the liberal class does not vigorously denounce expanded oil drilling, our corporate health insurance bill and the National Defense Authorization Act, simply because these initiatives have been pushed through by the Democrats, the more marginal the left becomes. If Bush had carried these policies, “liberal” pundits would have thundered with feigned outrage. The hypocrisy of the American left is too blatant to ignore. And it has effectively left us disempowered as a political force. […]
* 500 TROOPERS MAY HELP HANDLE NATO PROTESTERS
By Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times
As many as 500 troopers from the Illinois State Police will assist the Chicago Police Department in handling thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago during the May 20-21 NATO summit, City Hall sources said Friday.
The 500-trooper contingent would represent nearly 40 percent of the statewide total, raising questions about how the State Police would be able to juggle their other responsibilities to patrol state expressways and tollways and perform other emergency functions. […]
* SPVM SHOOTS DEMONSTRATOR POINT BLANK
SPVM Shoots demonstrator point blank with CS canister gun at the montreal congress center.
* MONTREAL STUDENT PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT
Source: Canadian Press
Unusually violent clashes with police, projectiles thrown at highway vehicles, an apparently hacked government website, and a joke by Premier Jean Charest about it all that some thought in bad taste.
At a moment when Quebecers thought the mood couldn’t be more venomous between student protesters and the government, events degenerated once again Friday.
Protesters, primarily those raging over planned hikes to college and university tuition, showed up at Montreal’s convention centre, where hundreds of business people were gathered to hear Charest vaunt his “North Plan,” a major mining and natural resource development strategy in the province’s north.
They pounded on the centre’s multicoloured windows and picketed the entrances. Then about 150 found their way inside and Charest’s speech was delayed.
Shortly after noon, police declared the demonstration illegal and moved to disperse those inside and outside the centre. […]
* IT TOOK THE BANK OF GREECE ONLY THREE WEEKS TO REVISE ITS 2012 GDP FORECAST EVEN LOWER
By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge
If there is anyone shocked by today’s announcement by the Bank of Greece that the country is once again slashing its full year economic forecast by 10%, aside from the IMF of course, please raise your hand. As a reminder, the IMF, whose projections were the basis for the recently released second bailout, and which assume a flat GDP in 2013, somehow has visibility through 2020. Which is more than can be said for the Bank of Greece: its latest forecast of 4.5% GDP decline was made three weeks ago. THREE WEEKS. And it already is being revised. In other news, we look forward to updating the deposit flight out of Greek banks when the most recent monthly update is released shortly, confirming that the local economy continues to be, simply said, dead. A few more such comparable downward revisions, and the Third Greek bailout (Of European Banks), which is due any second now, may be jeopardized (as it will be more difficult to sell to Germans why they are once again bailing out French banks). […]
[…] And some more bad news: more wage cuts are coming. Yes, soon our Onionesque forecast of negative wages will come true…
Apart from reiterating its call for further layoffs in the public sector, the Bank of Greece also said that wages should be cut further in order to boost competitiveness. It added that Greece is still missing structural reforms that could boost productivity, services and the business environment generally. […]
* GREEK TOWN DEVELOPS BARTERING SYSTEM
Greek town develops bartering system without euro. As Greece wonders whether its debt crisis will eventually spell its exit from the euro, one town in the centre of the country, Volos, has formed an alternative local currency. It works through a bartering system or exchange of goods.
* GREEKS TO PAY 25% INCREASE IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT, ELECTRICITY AND WATER
That’s the country of economic miracles full of paradoxes. While the incomes decrease and wages undergo more and more cuts of 20-30%, prices keep going higher and higher. As if the 40% hikes in heating oil were not enough, prices for public transport and utilities are expected to rise at 25%. Greek media report that public transport tickets will be up, the same will happen with electricity and water consumption.
Tickets for one public transport mean (bus, trolley and tram) will increase from €1.20 to €1.50, while tickets for the metro and combined for all transport means will reach €1.75 -from €1.40 today. Increases of 25% will also affect the fares for trains and Proastiakos.
Electricity bills for households and small enterprises are expected to rise with the arrival of 2013, while water bills will see hikes within 2012.
According to the Greek media, the administrations of the state-run enterprises are on ‘reorganization tour’ as dictated in the second loan agreement between Greece and its lenders: The plans include these 25% hikes, further decreases in wages and operating costs. And getting ready for privatizations. […]
* QATAR ‘ROYAL’ BUYS GREEK ISLAND
By Claire Valdini
A member of Qatar’s royal family has purchased a Greek island for €5m, according to a local report.
The 1,236-acre island, named Oxia, was initially advertised by owners the Greek-Australian Stamoulis family for €6.9m ($9.1m), Greek daily Ekathimerini reported, citing unnamed sources.
The island’s new owners are expected to develop part of the island, it added.
The island is located in the Ionian Sea, near Ithaca, and is protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network, the newspaper said.
Greece’s government has been under pressure to privatise the country’s islands in the wake of its sovereign debt crisis.
The sale follows a week after Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund announced it had signed an agreement to acquire Smeralda Holding, owner of luxury hotel resorts on Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. […]
* WORLD BANK OVERSEEING GLOBAL LAND GRAB
By Carey L. Biron, IPS
[…] According to activists and farmers speaking ahead of the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty here in Washington, part of the blame also needs to be placed on the Bank’s own technical assistance, past and present. The issue formed a core message during more than 250 protests worldwide on Apr. 17, marked as the International Day of Peasant Struggle.
‘Decades of World Bank policies have created the basis for what is happening today,’ Giulia Franchi, a campaigner with the Italian Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, said on Monday.
Franchi and others express particular frustration with a Bank-led initiative known as the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources (commonly referred to as RAI), which came into existence in January 2010.
The RAI, Franchi says, constitutes ‘an attempt to support transnational corporations to acquire land worldwide. While it looks like it’s standing with local communities, there is no way that the expropriation of people’s lands can be considered responsible.’ […]
* CZECH REPUBLIC: UNION DEMO IN PRAGUE
By Django, Libcom.org
[…] The official demands of the protest were an end to the austerity measures (at least in their current form, the dissolution of the government and new elections. Recent corruption scandals have also led to demands to “clean up” politics. The demand for elections may materialise, as the coalition teeters on the brink of collapse following the disintegration of the Public Affairs party. The Social Democrats would stand to benefit, followed by the Communist Party who currently are standing second in opinion polls.
However, the composition of attendees, and the numbers (double what was expected by the organisers) show a current of anger over an erosion of day-to-day living standards. AFP quoted a pensioner, Jana Sizlingova on her reasons for attending: “I’m upset with corruption, non-transparent procurement, the health system, the social system — simply, there’s nothing good about this government,”
The protest numbers among the largest since those which brought down the Stalinist government in conjunction with a general strike in 1989. Until a similar protest last year, large-scale demonstrations of this kind have been rare in the Czech Republic.
Below are photos I took on the demonstration today, which began in the historically working class district of Žižkov and culminated in a rally in the packed out Wenceslas square (so packed, in fact, that I was caught in a nasty crush on one side of the square). Police presence was low (perhaps because they’d underestimated numbers in the same way as the organisers), and the demonstration was incredibly noisy but not especially boisterous. […]
READ and PHOTOS @ http://libcom.org/blog/stop-vládě-union-demo-prague-21042012
* DUTCH GOVERNMENT COLLAPSES IN RE-EMERGENCE OF EUROPE’S FAR RIGHT
The Dutch government has collapsed as the Prime Minister handed in his resignation following this weekends news of the rejection of austerity measures needed to save the Euro.
By Alexander Higgens
As I reported on Saturday, the Dutch government was facing collapse after politicians rejected EU mandated austerity measures needed to secure an EU bailout to keep the Euro alive and fight of the contagion that has now officially led to a depression in Greece and has Spain teetering on the brink of collapse.
Making the bloodbath worse are news headlines that the Chinese manufacturing has contracted for 6th straight month in a row.
Combine that with news coming out of France that has the Global banking cartel shaking in fear – The candidate who won the first round of the French elections and is expected to win by a landslide in the upcoming run-off against Sarkozy plans on rejecting EU austerity measures while promising to “rip up France’s agreement to the European fiscal pact.”
That is truly disturbing news since the entire Eurozone is being kept afloat on the backs of German and French taxpayers. […]
* FORMER ICELANDIC PM CONVICTED FOR NEGLIGENCE OVER FINANCIAL COLLAPSE
By Joshua Keating, Foreign Policy
In 2009, Iceland’s Geir Haarde became the first European leader to lose power as a result of the financial crisis. (Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte seems to be the latest.) He is now also the first country leader in the world convicted of negligence because of the crash, though he was cleared of three other charges and will face no jail time. Haarde’s prosecution has unsurprisingly been controversial:
Mr Haarde pleaded not guilty and called the accusations “political vendetta” that would set a “terrible precedent”. “Nobody predicted that there would be a financial collapse in Iceland” in 2008, he said.
Criticism of the trial has been widespread throughout Iceland. Many questioned why the centre-left controlled parliament chose to put only Mr Haarde on trial while rejecting charges against Social Democratic ministers who were serving in government at the same time.
Others have criticised that fact that the trial was not televised and complained that much of the political elite of Iceland chose to support Mr Haarde with their testimony.
* HOW AMERICA WENT ROGUE: WHAT WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OUR GOVERNMENT’S SHADOW WARS
By Juan Cole, AlterNet
[…] Although the Iraqis managed to compel the withdrawal of US troops by the end of last year, Washington is nevertheless seeking to remain influential through shadow power. The US embassy in Baghdad has 16,000 employees, most of them civilian contractors. They include 2,000 diplomats and several hundred intelligence operatives. By contrast, the entire US Foreign Service corps comprises fewer than 14,000. The Obama administration has decided to slash the number of contractors, planning for an embassy force of “only” 8,000. This monument to shadow power clearly is not intended merely to represent US interests in Iraq but rather to shape that country and to serve as a command center for the eastern reaches of the greater Middle East. The US shadow warriors will, for instance, attempt to block “the influence of Iran,” according to the Washington Post. Since Iraq’s Shiite political parties, which dominate Parliament and the cabinet, are often close to Iran, that charge would inescapably involve meddling in internal Iraqi politics.
Nor can we be sure that the CIA will engage only in espionage or influence-peddling in Iraq. The American shadow government routinely kidnaps people it considers dangerous and has sent them to black sites for torture, often by third-party governments to keep American hands clean. As usual with the shadow government, private corporations have been enlisted to help in these “rendition” programs, which are pursued outside the framework of national and international law and in defiance of the sensibilities of our allies. How the United States might behave in Iraq can be extrapolated from its recent behavior in other allied countries. In November 2009 an Italian court convicted in absentia twenty-three people, most of them CIA field officers who had kidnapped an alleged Al Qaeda recruiter, Abu Omar, on a Milan street in the middle of the day and sent him to Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt for “interrogation.” Obama has explicitly continued this practice as a “counterterrorism tool,” though he says torture has been halted. Iraq is likely to continue to be an arena of such veiled struggles. […]
* SUGAR DADDIES
The old, white, rich men who are buying this election
By Frank Rich, NYTimes
If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead. A representative example is Harold Simmons, an 80-year-old Texan who dumped some $15 million into the campaign before primary season had ended. Reminiscing about 2008, when he bankrolled an ad blitz to tar the Democrats with the former radical Bill Ayers, Simmons told The Wall Street Journal, “If we had run more ads, we could have killed Obama.” It is not a mistake he intends to make a second time. The $15 million Simmons had spent by late February dwarfs the $2.8 million he allotted to the Ayers takedown and the $3 million he contributed to the Swift Boat Veterans demolition of John Kerry four years before that. Imagine the cash that will flow now that the GOP sideshows are over and the president is firmly in Simmons’s crosshairs.
His use of the verb killed was meant in jest, of course, much as Foster Friess ($1.8 million in known contributions, and counting) was joking when he suggested that “gals” could practice birth control by putting Bayer aspirin between their knees. America’s billionaires are such cards! And we had better get used to their foibles and funny bones. Whatever else happens in 2012, it will go down as the Year of the Sugar Daddy. Inflamed by Obama-hatred, awash in self-pity, and empowered by myriad indulgent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, an outsize posse of superrich white men will spend whatever it takes to have its way with the body politic and, if victorious, with the country itself. Given the advanced age of most of this cohort, 2012 may be seen as the election in which the geezer empire struck back.
This isn’t quite what was supposed to happen. When the Supreme Court handed down its five-to-four Citizens United decision in 2010, pre-vetting Mitt Romney’s credo that “corporations are people,” apocalyptic Democrats, including Obama, predicted that the election would become a wholly owned subsidiary of the likes of Chevron and General Electric. But publicly traded, risk-averse corporations still care more about profits than partisanship. They tend to cover their bets by giving to both parties. And they are fearful of alienating customers and investors. Witness, most recently, the advertisers who fled Rush Limbaugh, or the far bigger brands (McDonald’s and Wendy’s, Coke and Pepsi) that severed ties with the conservative lobbying mill responsible for pushing state “stand your ground” laws like the one used to justify the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. While corporations and unions remain serious players in the campaign of 2012, their dollars don’t match those of the sugar daddies, who can and do give as much as they want to the newfangled super-PACs. […]