May 312016

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart


Greece’s supposedly “leftist” government of so-called “hope” and “change” did it again! It saved Greece once more! Greece can continue living the European nightmare…excuse me, dream, can remain part of the vaunted “European family” and the Eurozone, and the government once again successfully completed “tough” negotiations with its so-called European “Partners,” with a capital P, as Greece’s deferential journalistic class tends to refer to them.

Let’s take a look at this new “success story” of Greece’s government of “hope” and “change.” It is a success story so big that Greece’s already insane value-added tax of 23% will be bumped up to 24% on June 1st. It is a success story so great that the unified property tax which SYRIZA, at one time, called unconstitutional and illegal and which at one time was said to be “temporary,” will now be raised and made permanent. It is a success story so tremendous that Greece’s already paltry pension and social security payments will be slashed further, despite government lies and propaganda to the contrary. Home foreclosures and auctions will resume, without anything but the flimsiest of temporary protections for the poorest homeowners. These foreclosures and auctions will take place electronically instead of in a courthouse, under cover of darkness and without warning. In the meantime, new privatizations are coming, alongside the development of a new super-fund of sorts which will manage essentially all of Greece’s publicly-owned assets and prepare them to be sold off, at bargain basement prices. And unlike most of the people of Greece, the foreign investors who will be snatching up these assets know very well how valuable a land Greece is.

Of course, all of these privatizations, foreclosures, auctions, as well as the bundling and selling of both prime and subprime loans—where have we heard that before?–will be permitted without any transfer tax or any other taxes being levied. Because when we talk about tax evasion, we are supposed to only talk about the “bad,” “lazy,” “spendthrift” Greeks, but never the “good,” “civilized” foreign saviors in suits. And of course, this was agreed to following those aforementioned “tough” negotiations between the Greek government of “hope” and “change” and the lenders. This result had also been predicted, months in advance, by economist, analyst, and member of Greece’s United Popular Front Dimitris Karousos, but was of course ignored by the international media and of course by the trashy, biased English-language editions of Greece’s media outlets.

So what if people’s homes are foreclosed and thousands of households are thrown out onto the streets? So what if heating oil and gas, already insanely taxed, are taxed some more, along with basic goods and staples through direct and indirect taxation? Who cares if the self-employed and small- and mid-sized businesses will be absolutely slaughtered as a result of these new measures that were voted into law and the avalanche of taxes that they will face? Who cares if there is now zero chance of the minimum wage to be restored to the still-low pre-crisis levels, which at one time the SYRIZA government of supposed “hope” and “change” had promised? And of course, all of this does not even take into account the automatic cuts that will be implemented if Greece does not meet the strict fiscal targets imposed by its so-called saviors. Who cares about all of this? We are talking about a success story here! Of course, though, it’s a success story for the lenders—but not for Greece or for the Greek people. But, the European dream is what everyone wanted, right? So here it is, enjoy it!

And since we are talking about what is surely such a huge, unprecedented success, that must explain why the otherwise “revolutionary” and “radical” and “non gullible” and oh so clever Greek people did not take to the streets. After all, Greece remained in Europe, remained in the Euro, people still have cheese from Holland for their sandwiches (if they can afford the 24% tax, that is), so everything is A-OK, right? That must explain why Greece’s notaries called off their strike protesting the new insurance and pension bill, as soon as that very bill was passed, allowing home foreclosures and auctions to resume. That must also explain why Greece’s lawyers, with their own protracted strike, have inconvenienced ordinary Greek people whose cases have, in some cases, been postponed for years—instead of using their legal knowledge to mobilize the population and protest austerity both old and new.

Ah, but I forgot. We had the usual round of stale, old 3 and 4 and 24 hour so-called “work stoppages,” which of course left enough time for Greece’s “labor leaders”–quotations absolutely necessary—to hit up their favorite tavernas to wine and dine. Work stoppages which have been going on for decades and decades and which not once have made the slightest bit of impact other than inconveniencing people’s lives, which might very well be their real objective, instead of any actual change. For instance, we had the workers on the Athens Metro declare a work stoppage beginning at 9 pm on the night the new measures were to be voted into law. This was enough to discourage many people from coming out to protest, not knowing if they’d have a way to return home. With a low turnout of protesters assured, the work stoppage was then lifted at the last minute, just in time for the usual mass exodus from Syntagma Square once the usual dog-and-pony show between the paid agent provocateurs and the riot police which SYRIZA was at one time going to abolish, was underway.

We of course also had the journalists’ strike as well, which of course just coincidentally happened to fall in the days of final debate before the new measures were to be voted upon by Parliament. Of course, the truth here is that even if there was no strike, there would still have been no actual journalism taking place from these so-called journalists and the media outlets they work for. But just try explaining that to grandma and grandpa in the village and to Greece’s suburban neoliberal class, who still actually think they are being informed by the newscasts that they watch.

All of this is okay though, because there is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! We have the “savior” Yanis Varoufakis with his stylish pink t-shirts and his so-called “guerilla interviews,” that is, when he isn’t making “spontaneous” (quotations again necessary) appearances at the protests taking place in France or signing autographs in Spain. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who said that the Greek debt would be repaid in perpetuity, who pillaged the Greek public sector’s cash reserves to pay that debt to the IMF, who imposed capital controls, and who agreed to more austerity and who voted for Greece’s corrupt pro-austerity president Prokopis Pavlopoulos. This same “heroic” Varoufakis is now touting the catastrophic idea of a parallel or dual currency system for Greece as a “solution” while millions of minions lap up his every word. He is joined by the “heroic” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who also knew how to vote “yes to everything” when she was part of the SYRIZA government last year and who continued publicly supporting the government even after it sold out the referendum result of July 5th. She, too, is touting the catastrophic parallel or dual currency solution for Greece, as are fascists such as the far-right Giorgos Karatzaferis and “Sir” (quotations necessary once more) Basil Markezinis, son of a junta prime minister, both of whom have been resurrected from the political graveyard recently.

So since Greece has been saved, has remained in Europe and the vaunted Eurozone, and since there are even more “saviors” in the pipeline who will continue to save Greece well into the future, why bother protesting? The couch is nice and comfortable, is it not? And it’s easier to let the television do the thinking for you, lest you hurt your head. The same television which includes public broadcaster ERT, which is now paying private, oligarch-owned network provider DIGEA to transmit its signal digitally. A company owned by the same oligarchs that the oh so leftist SYRIZA government claims it is going to take down. The same government which will supposedly take down these oligarchs by auctioning off a limited number of television licenses to the highest bidder and the deepest pockets, while Greece’s smaller, independent local television stations are dying off, unable to afford to pay DIGEA exorbitant amounts to carry their signal. This is the same government which, unconstitutionally and in violation of European law, has shut down Greece’s National Radio-Television Committee, leaving the broadcasting landscape entirely unregulated. This is the government which claims it is restoring order to the airwaves, and there are still people who slurp up this propaganda.

Of course, television in Greece knows all about telling people horror stories from countries like Venezuela while telling people that the so-called “leftist” Alexis Tsipras wants to turn Greece just like Venezuela. What they won’t say, of course, is that Venezuela is the victim of both international economic warfare through the sharp decline in oil prices, as well as a victim of its own domestic oligarchs and cartels, who are hoarding goods to create severe market shortages in order to undermine the country’s government. What the media in Greece are also not saying is that many of these horror stories also exist in Greece today as well, in a country that is supposedly being “bailed out” and “saved” day after day by its so-called European friends and partners. What these media outlets in Greece know how to say is that Portugal, Ireland, and Cyprus are supposed “success stories” for concluding their own memorandum agreements. What is not said is that the end of the memorandum agreements has not meant the end of harsh austerity, the end of record numbers of home foreclosures and evictions, or the end of mass migration out of these countries.

And while all of this is happening, I hear many in Greece moaning and groaning about why we can’t be more like the French, who we are told are out on the streets in massive numbers to protest their own anti-labor bills. However, few people, if any, think to ask…how were these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations actually organized, with blogs and websites and hashtags and public assemblies? We saw the savior of not just Greece but apparently the whole world Yanis Varoufakis speak to the protesters in France. Who invited him? Who assured his security? Who paid for his travel and lodging? How did this speech get organized in the first place, logistically and otherwise? And how did these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations spontaneously, as we are supposed to believe, spread to 55 cities in Greece and dozens more in Europe, all on the same day and at the same time? Are we supposed to believe that after such a long period of inactivity and hibernation that everyone suddenly decided that they had enough? And in the meantime, what people in Greece are blissfully unaware of is that while they are whining about their own inactivity, the rest of the world mistakenly believes that it the Greeks who are the ones fighting back, while they are the ones staying inactive! Doesn’t anybody have even the slightest curiosity as to how these perceptions are developed and maintained, and by who?

The answer is that no, most people do not question such things. Instead, in Greece, they run off to again vote for criminals and professional liars like those in SYRIZA, while others, through their abstention from the polls, essentially legitimize the victors in this electoral process instead of giving their votes to the dozens of smaller parties and movements which are struggling to exist. Those same people might participate in yet another lame 3 or 4 hour work stoppage, or by maybe taking a walk down to the center of Athens to “protest” by standing around and drinking beer, before running home to catch Greece’s talking heads on TV again. That’s Greece and that’s the majority of the Greek populace today.

Mar 302016

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart


Dear listeners and friends,

UnknownThis week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an interview with Despina Kreatsoulas of the Politismos Museum, an online museum of Greek history and culture. Kreatsoulas will speak to us about the idea behind creating an online museum, about the museum’s features and exhibits, and the future plans of the museum. 

Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, discussing issues pertaining to freedom and independence.

All this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio! For more details, the full Dialogos Radio broadcast schedule, our podcast, our on-demand archives, our articles and written work, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit

Dialogos Radio & Media
Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε συνέντευξη με τον Θάνο Χίνη, από το διαδικτυακό μουσείο «Πολιτισμός». Θα μας μιλήσει για το μουσείο και για την ιδέα ίδρυσης ενός μουσείου στο διαδίκτυο, για τα εκθέματα που παρουσιάζονται και που ενδέχεται να παρουσιαστούν, και για τα μελλοντικά σχέδια του μουσείου. 
Επίσης θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για θέματα που αφορούν την ελευθερία, την ανεξαρτησία, και την εθνική κυριαρχία.
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες σχετικά με την μετάδοση, το πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων, το podcast μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Mar 172016

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Dear listeners and friends, 

antti1-1-300x170This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a highly interesting and exclusive interview with Antti Pesonen of the Independence Party of Finland. The Independence Party advocates the departure of Finland from the Eurozone and from the European Union and is against Finland joining NATO, and in this week’s interview, Pesonen will discuss the party, its history and its platform, the dire impacts of Eurozone and European Union membership for Finland, the economic crisis that is now impacting the country, the network of European political parties and movements which are against the European Union and the euro, and about other current issues facing Greece and Europe.
Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, where we will discuss Zoe Konstantopoulou and her forthcoming political movement. All this, plus some great Greek music, this week only on Dialogos Radio!
For more information, our full broadcast schedule, plus our podcasts, archives, articles and written work, Dialogos Radio 24/7 and more, visit
Dialogos Radio & Media
Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε μια εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα και αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον Άντι Πεσονέν, πρώην επικεφαλής του Φινλανδικού Κόμματος της Ανεξαρτησίας. Το Κόμμα της Ανεξαρτησίας υποστηρίζει την έξοδο της Φινλανδίας από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και την Ευρωζώνη και είναι αντίθετο στην ένταξη της χώρας στο ΝΑΤΟ, και στην συνέντευξη που θα παρουσιάσουμε, ο κ. Πεσονέν θα μας μιλήσει για το κόμμα, για το πως ιδρύθηκε και για τις θέσεις του, για τις δυσμενείς επιπτώσεις από την συμμετοχή της Φινλανδίας στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και στην Ευρωζώνη, για την οικονομική κρίση που πλήττει πλέον την χώρα, για το δίκτυο Ευρωπαϊκών κινημάτων που είναι εναντίων του ευρώ και της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, και για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη.
Επίσης αυτή την εβδομάδα θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για την Ζωή Κωνσταντοπούλου και το επερχόμενο πολιτικό σχήμα της. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος»!
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, το πλήρες πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Nov 202015

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Dear listeners and friends of Dialogos Radio,

mosler1-300x169This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive and highly enlightening interview with well-known economist Warren Mosler. Mosler is a leading figure in the field of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and was also the co-founder of the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 
In our interview this week, Mosler will speak to us about the economic crisis in Greece and why it is, in reality, much different than often described, while also discussing the role of European Union policies in perpetuating the crisis. He will share with us his proposed solutions for combating the crisis, while also explaining to us exactly what seemingly straightforward terms such as “money” and “debt” actually mean.
Tune in for this excellent interview, plus our commentary of the week segment and some great Greek music, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio!
For our full broadcast schedule, plus further details, our podcasts, archived programs, online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, and much more, visit
Recent Dialogos Radio Interviews Published in and!
Check out our recent interviews, which have been published on 99getsmart.comand on
Our interview with Greek-American aviation expert Bill Kalivas, on his online campaign for additional nonstop flights to be added from the United States to Greece, has recently been featured on, while our interview with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of Greece’s “No Middlemen Movement” has been featured in!
Dialogos Radio & Media
Αγαπητοί φίλοι και ακροατές,
Ενημερώνουμε τους ακροατές μας πως αυτή την εβδομάδα θα ετοιμάσουμε μόνοΑγγλόφωνη μετάδοση της εκπομπής μας. Η Ελληνόφωνη μετάδοση μας και η πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη μας με τον οικονομολόγο Warren Mosler θα ακολουθήσει σε μία εβδομάδα. Μείνετε συντονισμένοι.
Διάλογος Radio & Media
May 122013

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Video: Alberto Reveron & Amira Bochenska. Thank you for all people that participates, special thanks for music – HK & les Saltimbanks (

Links to follow:

Take The Square
Marcha Bruselas…
Global Change…
Asamblea Virtual
Spanish Revolution…


May 032013

By Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart

Jerome Cahuzac, May 2012. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure

Jerome Cahuzac, May 2012. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure

“What bothers me is that I still have an account open with UBS… The only way to close it is to go there? With an account open there I’m fucked, since UBS is not necessarily the most hidden of banks. It stinks. Is any sort of proxy possible?…Above all, so that the holdings somehow stay at UBS and can be managed from here. It’s a word game pure and simple.”

Jerome Cahuzac was, until March 19, Budget Minister in François Hollande’s socialist government, in charge of the enforcement of tax laws during a time of fiscal crisis and high unemployment.

Regarded as one of the more effective ministers in the new government, Cahuzac lost little time before lowering the boom. He grilled members of the new administration about their finances, pointedly asking Marylise Lebranchu if there wasn’t a zero missing from her husband’s tax declaration, and in September 2012, announced a 19.6% levy on plastic surgery, an industry with powerful clients which may have felt untouchable, not least because Cahuzac is a plastic surgeon.

On December 5, 2012, the Mediapart website published the recording transcribed above, claiming it was Cahuzac’s voice speaking to a third party about a secret Swiss bank account.1

Despite his ardent denials over the next three months – first that the voice was not his, and later that the account had been closed in 2010 – Cahuzac’s position became untenable. He resigned his post and made a public apology.

Such are the twists and turns of fate that, in November, 2012, Cahuzac announced a crackdown on tax fraud and on April 2 of this year appeared before anti-corruption judges Renaud Van Ruymbeke and Roger Le Loire to face charges of concealing his UBS account (« blanchiment de fraude fiscale »).

Undeclared income transferred to a second country – in this case, Switzerland – in order to avoid taxes in the person’s home country – in this case, France – was and is a crime. As such, the actions Cahuzac confessed to on the phone tape are but a miniscule yet revealing part of the worldwide tax avoidance game which was detailed in the Invisible Money series on this site. The scandal in France is still in its initial stages. Deniability has now been exhausted. More bankers will come under pressure from prosecutors and more information about other tax evaders will leak out.

Cahuzac was able to hold on for more than three months because of support from within the Hollande regime. Pierre Moscovici, Minister of the Economy, cleared Cahuzac of wrong doing on February 5 and publicly embraced him in the Assembly, while Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated he had “total confidence” in his Budget Secretary. The position taken by the Socialist government raises many questions about both the veracity of their public statements as well as their competence. People in France, from different parts of the political spectrum, find the assertion that they didn’t know about Cahuzac’s hidden holdings after early December to be stretching credulity past the breaking point.

Part of President François Hollande’s response was the swift passage of the bill requiring his ministers to register their holdings in the public record. They are now available on-line; the entire country can see how much each minister is worth. While not exactly a millionaire’s club, it comes close. Hollande has spent a good deal of his time since Cahuzac’s resignation on trade trips, to Morocco and last week, China.

On April 2, Cahuzac made a public statement to the effect that he had been “trapped in a spiral of lies and went astray,” and that his UBS account, some 600,000 Euros, had not been added to in a dozen years, was closed in 2010 and the monies would be returned to France. With his rugged good looks and forthright manner it was a splendid “modified, limited hang-out,” to steal a phrase from Richard Nixon.

Reality has continued to spiral out of control since then, with more information becoming public. There remain many problems with Cahuzac’s account.

This article, although it breaks no new ground, attempts to review important aspects of the story for English-speaking readers. L’Affaire Cahuzac is much more than the story of a fallen minister: it’s an x-ray of the French class system in which one can observe how one gets ahead these days. Cahuzac’s contacts and alliances among politicians and Important People are legion as are his friendships with those behind the scene.

Tax evasion has become a way of life for those in the upper strata of society, in France as in other countries. People do what they think they can get away with, and Cahuzac’s case provides but one example of how it’s done. French newspapers speak of the “scandals doubtless to come.”

“Shit, Jerome, you’ve got a few contradictions!”

Jerome Cahuzac, 60 years old, has used the rural department of Lot et Garonne as his political base for years. Until March of this year he represented it in the National Assembly. (French law allows politicians to hold multiple positions at the same time; for a few days after he resigned his ministry he publicly toyed with the idea of keeping his elected post.)

Trained as a surgeon, he began his medical career as a cardiologist before changing, in the early ’90s, to the lucrative profession of plastic surgery, where he specialized in hair transplants.

From 1988 to 1991, he worked for the government under Minister of Social Affairs Claude Evin, on policy relating to cigarettes and alcohol as well as pharmacology and medicines. In 1993, while maintaining his plastic surgery practice, he set up Conseil Cahuzac, where he acted as a “purely technical advisor” to the pharmaceutical laboratories. At the Conseil, he worked closely with Daniel Vial, the lobbyist’s lobbyist, the man who knows everyone in the “Paris that counts.”

A member of the Socialist Party since 1977, he first ran for the National Assembly in the Lot et Garonne in 1997, picking up other offices such as regional Counsellor General and Mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Lot along the way. A rebarbative critic of the Sarkozy government’s handling of finances and debt, he was also known as the “hairsplitter” in his position as the president of the Assembly’s Commission of Finances. (In short, make a lot of noise but do little, as Edouard Perrin learned when he tried to interest the Assembly in his findings on tax evasion.) He has, at various times, either worked for or taken Michel Rocard, Lionel Jospin, Dominique Strauss Kahn and François Hollande as his mentors.

He is known to frequent the Cercle de l’Union interalliée, and is a member of the Grand Orient de France, whose ruling counsel has now asked for his suspension.

In 2000, he made the now-fatal phone recording. In June of 2008, Remy Garnier, a pol from the Lot et Garonne, tried to interest Eric Woerth of the UMP (Sarkozy’s party) in allegations that Cahuzac had a Swiss bank account. No takers. Likewise, the far-right National Front has been suspiciously quiet throughout a debacle that should play to their benefit, saying only that they believe in the presumption of innocence. In 2007, Cahuzac was found guilty of paying a Filipina maid 250 Euros a month for 40 hours work off the books. He paid a fine and later helped the woman become legal in France.

So much for the Official Story, which raises a few questions of its own.2 Let’s look at a little more closely at Jerome Cahuzac’s other life.

Although he joined the Socialist Party in 1977, he has maintained long-standing connections to the right and far right through personal relationships. Jean-Pierre Emié is a close friend of thirty four years. Emié has ties to GUD, a far-right student union and was, until 2004, counsellor to the National Front for Paris and its suburbs. It was Emié who introduced Cahuzac to Philippe Peninque, the lawyer who opened Cahuzac’s UBS account. (Peninque and Emié share an office on Rue Marbeuf.) Peninque, a militant ideologue in GUD during his student days, is one of Marine le Pen’s “shadow advisors.”

Gilles August, Cahuzac’s lawyer until earlier this month (April, 2013), is a former member of UNI, a conservative student union. Manuel Valls, Minister of Security in the Hollande government, celebrated his 50th birthday at August’s house last summer, in company with Cahuzac and numerous stars from the firmament: singers Patrick Bruel and Nolwenn Leroy, the Marseille real estate mogul Marc Pietri, TV producer Michel Drucker… Cahuzac is a militant sportif, and one of his bike partners is (or was) Patrick Sayer of Eurazeo Investment Bank, a member of the CAC40, the upper crust of the French Bourse.

Among the many clients at Cahuzac’s plastic surgery practice were former GUD militants, Philippe Peninque, Stephane Fouks of Havas Worldwide Marketing, Socialist Party leader François Patriat, as well as, by Cahuzac’s admission, one Hervé Dreyfus.

Jerome Cahuzac’s younger brother, Antoine, worked at CCF (Crédit Commercial de France) from 1985 to 1988, and again from 1994 to 2000 in a variety of different capacities before taking a senior position at HSBC Bank France.

None of this is grist for the conspiracy mill but it does establish just how deep and wide ranging Cahuzac’s contacts are within French society. When Jean-Pierre Emié complained to Cahuzac that, “Shit, Jerome, you’ve got a lot of contradictions, you’ve got robbery and delinquence in Villeneuve and you support Socialist immigration and security policy!” Cahuzac did not seize on the particulars but replied, like the song says, on a whole other level: “Who doesn’t have contradictions? You, Jean-Pierre, you don’t have any contradictions?” Cahuzac once characterised himself as a “maquisard,” a resistance fighter; a man capable of many disguises and identities. In his case, the war being fought is entirely on behalf of the career of one Jerome Cahuzac.

Reyl & Co.

If Jerome Cahuzac is the fuse that lit the scandal, the dynamite – at least the first stick of dynamite to explode – is definitely the private investment bank Reyl & Co. Or as one of Mediapart’s sources put it, “If there’s one den of thieves that has as its clients French show biz personalities, captains of industry and politicians, it’s Reyl.” 3

The history of Reyl closely parallels what we might call The Golden Age of Tax Evasion, with an explosive growth of revenue in the first decade of this century when cheating on taxes reached the level of a national sport.

Reyl & Co. was founded by Dominique Reyl in 1978 as a private management company in Geneva. For twenty years or so it was indistinguishable from dozens of other financial “boutiques.” With increased pressure from the European Union on big banks like UBS, the unregulated, extremely discreet Reyl & Co. came into its own, converting into a full-fledged bank in 2010. Its modus operandi is to advise clients how they might conceal their money behind unnamed accounts or fictive organizations, giving them the ability to disavow holdings at one of the large banks.

A massive sum of money left Switzerland in 2010, the year Jerome Cahuzac “closed” his account. New regulations had come into effect: the Swiss had agreed to furnish information about certain kinds of accounts to the EU. His money did not come back to France; it moved to Singapore, where along with Hong Kong, Reyl had established subsidiaries. From Singapore it moved “off-shore,” to fiscal paradises with names like Wind Charm Corporation, Fame Eagle Corporation, Oceania City International Inc., Sunny Ridge Group Limited, Jade Green Investments Limited, Moonlite Overseas LTD. in the Seychelles – all Reyl subsidiaries. To add yet another layer of secrecy, these transaction are carried out by middlemen like Swiss-Asia Holding Ltd., so that nothing can be traced back to Reyl or its clients.4

Further questions regarding Cahuzac’s accounts are raised by my sources in the banking industry. In his confession the ex-Budget Minister employed the figure of 600,000 Euros to describe his holdings in Switzerland. This is obviously a very strict definition. 600,000 – barely enough, as one joker commented, to buy a modest apartment in Paris – is the kind of figure held in a individual’s name, while a significantly larger amount is hidden behind the bank’s firewall. Is Jerome Cahuzac the beneficiary, either directly or indirectly, of other non-declared accounts in Switzerland? Did he only confess to the one account that could be traced back to him?

Second, Singapore law makes it impossible for non-residents to transfer money into their banks in amounts less than 1,000,000 Euros. If Cahuzac’s Swiss account was closed in 2010, and the money transferred to Singapore, as he has confessed, exactly how much was transferred? This second line of inquiry obviously casts doubt on the veracity of Cahuzac’s “confession” as to just how much money he had in Switzerland in the first place.

Who is the man on the other end of the phone line in that call from 2000? Who was Cahuzac speaking to? Obviously an intimate, at least financially. We may never know for certain but one thing we do know: undeclared money traveling from France to Switzerland does not travel by check or wire or any other traceable route. It crosses the border by suitcase or van. And for that the services of a porter are required. A discreet porter who knows how to keep quiet.

Enter Hervé Dreyfus, according to Le Temps Dominque Reyl’s half-brother, a man who is a senior partner at both Reyl & Co. and Raymond James Asset Management International (“managers for private clientele”) in Paris – an off-shore specialist. A man with a myriad of contacts, who knows how to lay low: there are few photos of him in circulation. A man Jerome Cahuzac claims he met only once – in his office, for a “transplant consultation.” They must have had a lot to talk about: Dreyfus is, or was, as bald as an egg.

If what Cahuzac says is true, Dreyfus, who has advised Nicholas Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cecilia among many others, is one of the few important people in France he doesn’t know.

Dreyfus and Cahuzac’s younger brother Antoine both worked at Credit Commercial de France in the 1990s, where Dreyfus was responsible for “portfolio management for non-resident private citizens” (according to his biography on the Raymond James site) and both men worked in European markets. It’s hard to imagine the two men not knowing each other.

Mediapart and Antoine Peillon, author of The 600 Billion Missing in France, have named Dreyfus as Reyl’s “delivery man for French affairs.” Mediapart went further: on December 10, 2012 the site flatly stated that Dreyfus is Cahuzac’s money manager. Neither Dreyfus nor the younger Cahuzac have spoken publicly since the scandal broke.

This is just the beginning. More names with secret accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere are sure to follow. The French are incensed: Gerard Depardieu at least had the grace to leave the country rather than pay. The other rich stay home, complain endlessly about taxes and hide the loot elsewhere. Cahuzac’s slow motion striptease, a little bit of truth at a time, gave them three extra months to move the money around. It will be interesting to see who flees across the border or to the prosecutor first, Jerome Cahuzac or Hervé Dreyfus. Or, to use a homely metaphor, who serves whom on a platter.

Iddhis Bing


April 30, 2013


1 The phone conversation was inadvertantly recorded in 2000 by Michel Gonelle, Cahuzac’s rival in the 2001 municipal elections in Villeneuve-sur-Lot (Lot-et-Garonne), on his phone machine. Cahuzac, having spoken to Gonelle, believed he had terminated the call when he began a second conversation about his private finances. Gonelle, for whom the tape was a “heavy weight” he carried for 12 years, furnished the recording to Mediapart in 2012.

2 Questions are now being asked about his privileged relationship with the pharmaceutical companies and whether it affected his work for the government in 1988-1991 and, given his access to health officials, afterward; what exactly was the nature of the “purely technical advice” he gave to Big Pharma at his consulting agency – did it amount to government access?; whether it’s true that many of his hair transplants were done off the books. Finally, what is the real extent of his wealth, and how was it acquired?

3 « S’il y a bien une officine qui avait comme clients français des personnalités du show-biz, des grands capitaines d’industrie, et des hommes politiques, c’est Reyl. » Unnamed sources can say whatever they like. Unlike the average rumor mongers, Mediapart’s sources in L’Affaire Cahuzac have been proven right. Believe what you like.

4 Swiss-Asia is a “booking platform” operating between banks and financial management companies in different countries. Its on-line prospectus says, “Swiss-Asia Holding Pte. Ltd. operates from the core of its investment universe, where proximity and access to investment opportunities make it possible to produce superior returns with a pro-active and efficient risk monitoring. While Swiss-Asia’s mission is to build a sustainable “East meets West” style of Asset Management out of Singapore and Hong Kong, its dedicated team strives itself to provide High Net Worth Individuals, Financial Institutions and Corporate clients with the best-in-class asset-management, advisory and execution services.” Which reads like it was written on Ecstasy on the sundeck of a yacht passing through the Straits of Malacca.

Plenty more Bing here: 


Dec 032012


Iddhis Bing

This is NOT a political piece like many of the worthy and informative articles on 99 GetSmart. Every once in a while the present writer gets out and into trouble of a different kind. 

It could be nothing more than a freak of geography, wherein God’s Creatures are tossed around the globe like so many storm-tossed mariners but even taking that into account, the sheer strangeness of the occasion is worth musing on for a minute or two: a small circle of Americans, none of them church-going, most of them strangers to one another, sitting around a cocktail table in the night club of a corporate hotel, where water was unthinkable and a glass of wine 29 Euros; the platonic, pre-fabricated cocktail table itself, the same in every dive the world over: there might be one factory on the whole planet, in Chicago, Cuzco or Mandalay that makes every single one of them; three quarters of us strangers to each other, black and white, who would never so much as look in the hotel door or even go down that block in our day to day, our knees knocking against the lip of the table (which may be the reason for the explosion later on), sitting in an environment faux to the max, everything “pre-designed” and meant to signify a certain easy complacency with the ways of the world; all of us there for one purpose beyond the unspoken one of sitting in a small circle with unknown others who may or may not have shared our reasons for exile, or even our taste – because we were all Americans in Europe, and however often that sort of gathering ends up a real disaster, we were willing to chance it. That purpose being to hear a small group of gospel singers, who were willing to sing for us sinners in an environment that shouted hoshannas to easy money from every corner.  We were grouped around the table for the simple reason that we came from the same wilderness, the forest of America, a country now so far away we might not even be able to find it on a map.

We came to hear the Baptist-Methodist delivery of Sweet Jesus, who no matter how endlessly he procrastinates over his return – and where actually would he go to be received hospitably? A certain irreducible number of Americans are sure it must be the U.S.A. but, by God, we’d have that socialist hanging from a tree before the sun went down – delivers musically.

The waiter was, like the song says, very kind. No matter how many times we said “pas encore” when he came for our order, he smiled and deferred. A Kabuki drama, full of deference and hidden motives. We were playing a role, that of indigent Americans on foreign soil, no less than he, who isn’t a waiter when he’s at home. We had snuck in the side door, so to speak: one of our party was related to the oldest and most venerable of the singers, Elsa Harris, who has joined the Victory Singers for a brief tour of the Continent. And there we were, not buying drinks, getting to know each other, and listening. I don’t know how often black and white sit down together in the States these days, but it isn’t often; and less so here. What did I have to do with the religious message of Jesus this and Jesus that? Absolutely nothing. But tonight at least, Jesus wasn’t going to be denied, here on the home ground of the cults that made his name. (To compress two thousand years of history into a single sentence, if Paul hadn’t ventured to Greece and Peter to Rome, no would even know who the troublemaker from Galilee is.)

So there we sat, thirsty in a temple of Mammon, listening not to some dumb hotel jazz but voices: heavenly, ardent, righteous. We watched in a kind of open-eyed stupor.

Someone someday should do a full-length study about the way the Godless French flock to gospel performances, the price of the ticket, the way they sit there agog as if they were, finally, after a weary week of the worst despotism imaginable – the ordinary – at an authentic happening, and how, within twenty minutes or less, they are smiling, clapping and flapping their arms like the rawest yokels at the county fair. Well, the French are notoriously ever in search of a new exotic flavor – but surely they do not believe. So they are once again playing a role. And yet… What sounds to me like the worst pandering to Jesus, emblematic of just how primitive religion is in my country, they applaud more fervently than they ever did the Belgian priest LeMaitre’s announcement that the universe is expanding infinitely in all directions. When we come over, the Euros like to see us primitive, in bear skins if possible, chanting a noisome litany of pseudo-sacred truths. It reassures them.

It is for that reason among many others that I cannot completely convince myself that Europe is so very done with God just yet. He is, I suspect, waiting in the wings somewhere, fidgeting, eager to try on a new outfit of shiny, theatrical garb. Where and when are the questions. Make of that what you will.

The Victory Singers are a small group, five ladies and two men, one piano, and not one of those enormous choirs decked out in flowing robes whose posters adorn public walls in city after city here on the Continent, leading one to the suspicion that there are many wise black folk who have decided that singing for their supper in Europe is a far better deal than heading home to be an unemployment statistic and member of a race that some 47.3% of my countrymen will never truly accept as Americans at all. (“So happy to be here among the real people,” the pols whistle when they land in rural Kansas or South Carolina.)

(I know: Obama won reëlection resoundingly despite the fact that he is a savage, tom-tom beating African bent on hauling America against its will to a socialist paradise. It must have happened because… because an influential and odious character named Withers, who happens to be a cartoon, came out for Romney, and that gave America pause to think. Stranger things have happened. In any case, America is not to be understood – it kills those who try; it can only be accepted as is, contradictions intact.

What was it like for a white Christian in the South to go into the voting booth and, against pressure from his preacher and his boss, vote for a man they are taught to despise? That interests me. Of course they routinely vote for men who cannot be trusted with either their dollars or their daughter…)

And so there they were on stage in jeans, eloquent testimony to the Poor Church which, no matter the indignities of the week, gets up early Sunday to testify that God is with them each step of the way, a claim I find absurd but not laughable, utterly unproven but worthy, for a host of reasons, of respect.

And what did they sing? Our Homeric Hymns, the originals lost, replaced by a multitude of versions derived from the first template, variants comingling in the spirit, each telling a different story depending on who steps up to sing it. No one should be shocked to hear lines in Tell ’em I’m a Child of God appear to very different ends in Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Alright. Or perhaps the singer in the Detroit church where Child of God was recorded listened to Dylan… – nothing out of the ordinary there. But if you trace the song back, you will end up not with a modern day believer singing for Jesus but a fugitive, an escaped slave, rain-soaked and shivering, who had no name to give him or herself and nothing more than A Child of God as a password and a desperate hope of shelter. An exile, in short, in his or her own country. That may or may not fit your definition of political but it is the human context in which many gospel songs were born.

I don’t know if I have conveyed the full strangeness of the evening, which seems to me now to have taken place in a hall of mirrors that would beggar Versailles. What were the Victory Singers doing at Le Méridien Etoile, an American chain of businessman’s hotels near Porte Maillot? There they were, five robust ladies testifying to the power of the name Jesus on the small stage of the imaginatively named Jazz Club (no Sluggos or Five Spot for the corporate set) and there we were in the front row, stranded until one of our party gave in and confessed, “Ah, hell, my husband died. I ain’t poor these days. I’ll go a round.”  (How often do Methodists or Baptists or Seventh Day Adventists play for the cocktail crowd?) And there they were, the French making up the majority of the audience, there because they were staying in the hotel and it beat a Friday night watching television, or because even with the lowest rate of church attendance in Europe, their magnificent cathedrals empty of believers, they wanted to hear evidence of those who do believe. Vicarious thrills. And like I say, they put on, in their awkward way, just like mountain folk who come down from the hills to see some two-headed miracle.

Fiery condemnation will get you nowhere except a pulpit and, in any case, the occasion was too strange and sublimely discordant for such judgments. The only thing that could have topped the proceedings was if they announced that a production of Leroi Jones’s Dutchman would follow the second set. I wonder if the small crowd would have gone for that.

As it was, we had to content ourselves with the lady a few feet away who got a little too into it, kneeing the cocktail table and sending her tall, 50 Euro phizz flying into the air. It promptly landed and gave her a nice bath in Coco-Schnapps or whatever she was drinking. Uproar. Catastrophe. Something for the waiters to do – at last. They leapt into action with napkins and condolences. The singers kept belting it out the whole time.

The Victory ladies were a bit agog themselves. They had been to the Eiffel Tour earlier in the day for the first time in their lives. The piano player sighed wearily, “I stayed in bed. I’ve already done it three times,” (you can interpret that any way you like) but the ladies were beaming. Not a cathedral – the Eiffel Tower, which no Parisian goes near.                                    Iddhis Bing December 3, 2012

Feb 172012



Source: Take The Square

I’m going to make a report, explaining my personal view of some of the last protests in Spain, wich I think could be really interesting in many other places.

This is the situation:

In Spain, public transport is being affected by the austerity and the companies decided to lower the salaries, fire the employees and increase the price of the service. There was no needing of anything of this, they’re just taking profit.

Also, the public transport increases every year the price, it’s normal because salaries also increase.
This year the salaries are freezed because of the crisis (only some governors increased theirs…), so the price of the transport shouldn’t increase.

Well, they did it, 12% of increasing. So fucking nice, privatization of healthcare, families on the streets, closing of public schools… Everybody is having fun.

This is the reaction:

Most of people does nothing, you know.

Well, public transport it’s not a basic need, so it’s nothing to care so much, there are worse things out there. But the ideas on how to solve it are really interesting: an increase of price has become an opportunity to use the services for free!

Based on the greek movement, we are starting one with the same name: “I don’t pay”, in spanish: “Yo no pago”. Of course Occupy/15m gives support and the movement medias are being used to collaborate.

This movement started with a massive jumping inside the metro (underground,subway I never know how to call it in english), it was a success and yesterday the did it again.

Yesterday in Madrid the metro station was sorrounded by a lot of police and 5 persons were arrested, the protesters made also an improvised demonstration.

In Barcelona was so nice, nobody did nothing to stop it, the doors were open and blocked for hours and workers or police didn’t care. Everybody could enter for free and some random people also joined the demonstration inside the midtown big station.

You’ll find photos and videos here:!/search/yonopago

These ones are great:

And today I was surprised when reading about a new parallel movement: “Yo no paro”, in english: “I don’t stop”, literal translation makes it not understandable, I would call it “I won’t stop them”. This is a calling made by the public transport workers from Madrid, they said that they’re not going to ask the people for the tickets nor stop them when jumping the doors in solidarity with the “yo no pago”.





Source: When the Crisis hit the Fan

Alter TV's offices (Photo: Kostas Kallergis)

[…] This is the story of Alter TV, one of the 6 private free-to-air channels in Greece.

The station is in a state that we call is “epischesi ergasias” (επίσχεση εργασίας), a phenomenon of the Greek job market I presume. So what is it? It’s something like a strike. When an employee owes several salaries to his employees, they have the right to proceed to an “epischesi ergasias”, which means that they still go to work, but are refusing to work because of the employer’s arrears. The difference with the strike is that they are not losing their wages while practicing it. They go to thei posts to show their readiness to work (though refusing to produce) and, in some cases, to protect the company’s personal (movable) property in case of bankruptcy. But let’s take the story from the beginning.

According to its employees, Alter TV got into financial trouble last year but managed to re-emerge as the second (and at times first) most popular news channel (based on the main news bulletins’ ratings). The channel is mainly owned by three men, the father and son Kouris and Kostas Giannikos who was also responsible for the day-to-day running of the place (the Kouris family had 51% of the shares, Giannikos had 25% and the rest was free floating on the market). In the past years he went on a borrowing spree, getting loans in the name of the Alter TV and then using them to create a network of sister companies which were totally depended  on Alter. A music company, Legend, which produced music CDs that were advertised solely on Alter. Modern Times was a publishing house whose books were also heavily advertised by Alter. At a time when publishing houses could not afford to advertise books on TV, Modern Times could advertise any piece of junk they wanted on prime time and see them easily in the Top-10 list. The employees of the channel were employed not only to produce the channel’s programs but a series of tv ad clips which were done for the sister companies at a dirt cheap cost. The station also sold great parts of its advertising time slots in advance without securing a constant cash flow. As a result, when the Greek financial crisis became a fact in this country the station went into trouble. The employers started owing a month’s salary at the beginning and were paying their employees at an increasingly unpredicted way. A salary after 1,5 month, another one after 2 and so on.

Right now the owners owe between 8 and 12 salaries to their employees who have been in a state of “epischesi ergasias” for more than 2 months. Kostas Giannikos left the company and focused on his other companies which also ran into financial troubles. The employees at his financial newspaper “Investor’s World” are also in a state of “epischesi ergasias” now. Alter TV’s new Board of Directors has told the employees that there is a possible investor who is willing to take over the channel but they can’t mention his name. According to their plan, out of 650 employees about one third (286 employees) will have to be laid off. They’ll get 70% of what is owed to them and will receive their compensations after 12-24 months. The ones who’ll stay will get 60% of what is owed to them, they’ll have to work for free for the coming months until the company officially enters the protection of Article 99 (Bankruptcy Law which protects about-to-bankrupt companies from creditors). Oh yes, there will also be a renegotiation (sic) of their salaries with 10%-30% cut according to their previous salaries.

The employees did not accept this proposal and are waiting for another solution. In the meantime they have been using the station’s frequency to broadcast messages against the owners, the Kouris family.

As they told us, it was their reply to a cheap and dirty propaganda war launched by the Kouris family against its own employees. This can best be depicted by a front page of Avriani newspaper (owned by the Kouris family) which, at an attempt to blame and shame the employees, gathered all salary expenses in the past two years, including the salaries of celebrity tv presenters, changed the amount to drachmas and published this: […]




By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism

There is definitely something odd happening in Europe. I can’t quite put my finger on it, so I thought I would list out my musings on the topic and see what I can come up with.

Firstly, overnight there was talk that the ECB appears to have entered into a bond swap deal with Greece:

The national central banks in the euro zone are set to exchange their holdings of Greek bonds into new bonds in the run up to a private sector debt deal to avoid taking any forced losses, euro zone sources said on Thursday.

The euro zone is putting the finishing touches to a second bailout deal for Greece for finance ministers’ approval on Monday, paving the way for a debt swap with its private creditors needed to avoid a ruinous default in March.

The deal, which aims to halve in nominal terms what Greece owes to investors, slashing its debts by 100 billion euros, is set to include a legal requirement for bondholders to accept losses. This would have put the ECB in a tricky position, leaving it open to claims it was financing governments. […]




By Stephen Lendman

[…] Attorney Dimitri Lascaris has family in Greece. His sister’s letter explained harm times there, saying:

In fall 2009, their family income declined. Their carpentry business only works sporadically. Customers with outstanding balances can’t pay. They prioritize other obligations like food, rent, mortgages, water, electricity and health insurance, etc.

“Slowly, cash has become more and more scarce for our customers, and therefore for us.”

In 2012, empty stores with rent signs are everywhere. Businesses still operating feature sales with 50 – 70% discounts. Once crowded markets became “deserted urban centers.”

“Suicides, drug abuse, prostitution, and crime have infiltrated village life….Other friends of ours have died of heart attacks, stressed to the limit by debt, or worse, the loss of their cars, homes,” and livelihoods.

Businesses have to beg customers to pay something, anything “because food or heat in the dead of winter has become an issue for us….We are all now at the mercy of anyone with money at hand to help our family survive, let alone aspire to a better life.”

The same scenario threatens Europe, especially in troubled Eurozone countries and Latvia where wages were slashed 30% and people haven’t enough to live on.

The more pounds of flesh extracted, the less able economies can grow. Greeks must either leave or rebel. The alternative’s letting politicians and bankers bleed them dry. There’s no in between, and what’s happening there’s heading for Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and eventually all Europe, Britain, and America. […]




By Common Dreams Staff

As Greek officials continue negotiations with their creditors over further austerity measures demanded to receive a bailout package, years of harsh cuts have been steadily unraveling Greek society with soaring unemployment, increasing homelessness and financial insecurity.

France 24 reports that the middle class is disappearing with people living “on the brink”:

Jobless rates in Greece are soaring, with nearly 21 percent of the total active population, and roughly 50 percent of those under 25 years-old, unemployed. Maria (not her real name), in her thirties, has a good job in the Greek labour ministry. She thinks the real unemployment figures are considerably higher than the official numbers cited by authorities. “Many people are not registered as job seekers,” she said. “Often they’re hopeless; they think that declaring themselves as unemployed won’t help them get anywhere.” […]

‘People living on the brink’

“With my situation here five years ago, I would have considered buying an apartment,” Maria explained. “Today, it’s impossible. We don’t even plan on having children now, because it would be too hard to raise them in proper conditions.” In less than a year, her salary was cut by more than 18 percent. “And I was hired after the biggest salary cuts for civil servants [imposed after the first austerity plan in May 2010].” […]

The lowering of the minimum monthly salary for those under 25 years of age from 586 to 360 euros has certainly not helped young Greeks trying to make ends meet. “On 586 euros a month, you may be able to live with a roommate and have enough to eat every day in Athens,” Maria said. “But you can’t pay for transportation, telephone or internet bills. Everyone seems to think it’s only about numbers and figures, but 11 million Greeks are affected. The middle class is disappearing; there is no working class, only people living on the brink.” […]




By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge

Plunging deeper into the farce-hole, the FT reports tonight that Obama’s foreclosure settlement with the banks over their improper seizure of tax-paying US citizens’ homes will in fact be subsidized by those very same US taxpayers. It is a hidden clause (that has not been made public yet) that allows the banks to count future loan modifications under the $30bn (taxpayer funded) HAMP initiative towards their $35bn agreement to restructure obligations under the new settlement. As the FT goes on to note, BofA will be able to use future mods made under HAMP towards the $7.6bn in borrower assistance it is committed to provide – which means, in a (as TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky describes) ‘scandalous’ turn of events the bank will receive payments for averting a borrower default and be reimbursed by the taxpayer for the principal write-down. We have much stronger words for how we are feeling about this but Barofsky sums it up calmly “It turns the notion that this is about justice and accountability on its head”. Are the Big Five banks truly beyond the law?

FT: US Taxpayers to subsidize $40bn housing settlement

>US taxpayers are expected to subsidize the $40bn settlement owed by five leading banks over allegations that they systematically abused borrowers in pursuit of improper home seizures, the Financial Times has learnt.


As if the banks have not been spoon-fed enough over the past three years? We look forward to the mutually assured destruction spin (what would happen if they had to ‘spend’ that money themselves?) that will be propagandized should this be questioned openly and perhaps a glance at the level of bank reserves sitting on the Fed balance sheet might bring the citizenry off the couch, away from American Idol, and at minimum write a sternly worded text message to their closest BFF on Facebook.

Just to be clear: the guilty party in a fraud against taxpayers has their ‘punishment’ paid for by the innocent taxpayer who had the crime committed against them? ok, thank you.




By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism

I’m pretty gobsmacked by the link (hat tip reader Scott S) to a webpage at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which says it is written by Richard Cordray: “We want to make it easier for you to submit comments on streamlining regulations.”

There is more than a little bit of NewSpeak in this idea. “Streamlining regulations” is generally right wing code for “eliminating/relaxing regulations.” Admittedly, Elizabeth Warren during her brief time as de facto head of the nascent CFPB, proposed and launched a project to simplify mortgage disclosure forms to combine two required forms into one and make them easier to understand. Banks, needless to say, opposed the idea.

Warren has long believed that improved disclosure for retail products was a win-win for consumers and financial services firms. I saw her speak in March 2010 and she mentioned how a standard credit card agreement in 1980 fit on one piece of paper. Today, with all the various riders, they come in at 30 pages. While greater clarity is obviously beneficial to the borrower, it also saves the banks’ costs. […]




The EPA plans to cut $10 million in grants it gives annually. Water quality advocates worry that swimmers and surfers will be at even greater risk of illness.

By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

Health testing at beaches in California and across the nation is at risk of being cut under a plan to eliminate federal funds for monitoring whether the water is too contaminated to swim in.

Citing the “difficult financial climate,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in its budget request this week that it would do away with $10 million in grants it gives each year to state and local agencies in coastal and Great Lakes states to test for tainted water.

“While beach monitoring continues to be important to protect human health and especially sensitive individuals,” the EPA said in an emailed statement, “states and local governments now have the technical expertise and procedures to continue beach monitoring without federal support.”

But state and local officials have struggled to pay for health testing along California’s busy coastline in recent years, and water quality advocates worry that swimmers and surfers will be at even greater risk of getting sick if the federal funds evaporate.

The proposed cuts come as the agency is drafting new nationwide beach water quality standards, which have been panned by environmental groups as being even weaker than the 1986 rules they replace. […]

READ @,0,7019192.story



By Yana Kunichoff, Truthout

[…] As part of the expanded powers given to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the May summits, the city has authority to accept contracts for goods or services without approval of the City Council or the expected competitive bidding process. The face shields and aerial surveillance technology are the first use of this allowance.

Chicago police officers, and any law enforcement the city chooses to deputize under the measures put in place for NATO/G8, will be equipped with 3,000 new face shields that “will fit easily over gas masks,” according to The Chicago Sun-Times.


Chicagoist also reported that Chicago will get the latest in aerial surveillance equipment, according to the press release from a company called Vislink:

The airborne units will transmit to four strategically located ground-based receiver sites providing city-wide coverage and the ability to simultaneously receive real-time images from two aircraft for viewing at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) operations center. An additional three receive systems will be installed in the city’s mobile command vehicles to facilitate field operations. […]




Empathy has crashed. No more cruel to be kind. We must simply be cruel.

By Suzanne Moore, Guardian UK

She is there whenever I go the shops. Every time I think she can’t get any more skeletal, she manages it. Wild eyes staring in different directions, she must have been pretty once. I try not to look, for she is often aggressive. Sometimes, though, she is in my face and asking me to go into the shop, from which she has been banned, to buy her something. A scratchcard. She feels lucky. “Maybe some food?” I suggest pointlessly, but food is not what she craves. Food is not crack. Or luck. She has already lost every lottery going.

An addict is the author of their own misfortune. Her poverty is self-inflicted. All these hopeless people: where do they all come from? It is, of course, possible never to really see them, as their distress is so distressing. Who needs it? Poverty, we are often told, is not “actual”, because people have TVs. This gradual erosion of empathy is the triumph of an economic climate in which everyone, addicted or not, is personally responsible for their own lack of achievement. Poor people are not simply people like us, but with less money: they are an entirely different species. Their poverty is a personal failing. They have let themselves go. This now applies not just to individuals but to entire countries. Look at the Greeks! What were they thinking with their pensions and minimum wage? That they were like us? Out of the flames, they are now told to rise, phoenix–like, by a rich political elite. Perhaps they can grow money on trees?

Meanwhile, in the US, as this week’s shocking Panorama showed, people are living in tents or underground in drains. These ugly people, with ulcers, hernias and bad teeth, are the flipside of the American dream. Trees twist through abandoned civic buildings and factories, while the Republican candidates, an ID parade of Grecian 2000 suspects, bang on about tax cuts for the 1% who own a fifth of America’s wealth. To see the Grapes of Wrath recast among post-apocalyptic cityscapes is scary. Huge cognitive dissonance is required to cheerlead for the rich while 47 million citizens live in conditions close to those in the developing world. […]


AUDIO: America’s Poor @



By Derek Thonpson and Max Fisher, The Atlantic

In 2001, Jim O’Neill, the chairman of Goldman Sachs asset management, famously predicted the four fastest-growing emerging markets for the decade. We know that foursome by the acronym BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. That the economic world remembers his prediction owes as much to the handiness of the acronym as it does to the accuracy of his forecast. China, India, and Brazil are among the most dynamic and exciting emerging powers in the world. Indeed, to call them “emerging” feels like a slight. India is the world’s largest county, China the world’s largest manufacturer, and Brazil the Western Hemisphere’s most vibrant expanding consumer economy. (Russia, the runt of the group, is beset by awful demographics and a weak private sector outside of its natural resources.)

As investors and economic analysts cast about for the next batch of high-growth markets, let’s pause to recall the lessons from the BRICs: (1) Work on the middle-income transition plan; (2) Trade, trade, trade; (3) state capitalism can work; (4) corruption kills; (5) strong civil society matters. […]


Feb 132012



Greek MPs have approved a controversial package of austerity measures, demanded by the eurozone and IMF in return for a 130bn euro ($170bn; £110bn) bailout.

Source: BBC

The vote was carried by 199 in favour to 74 against.

Coalition parties expelled more than 40 deputies for failing to back the bill.

Tens of thousands protested in Athens, where there were widespread clashes and buildings were set on fire. Violent protests were reported in cities across the country.

Protesters outside parliament threw stones and petrol bombs, and police responded with tear gas. Scores of police and protesters were injured.


The austerity measures include:

  • 15,000 public-sector job cuts
  • liberalisation of labour laws
  • lowering the minimum wage by 20% from 751 euros a month to 600 euros […]





Source: Delusional Economics

As you have probably heard, the Greek parliament, if you can still call it that, has passed the austerity bill. Overnight Athens has erupted in protest with a reported 80,000 people on the streets and up to 30 buildings on fire.

All of KKE, Syriza and Democratic Left members voted no, as well as 21 New Democracy members and 13 Pasok members. Laos members also voted No with their leader absent. All but one Democratic Alliance members voted Yes.

The political fallout is in full swing as I type, with Antonis Samaras expelling 21 members from his party and George Papandreou doing the same. 43 members in total have been removed.

What a complete mess.

What makes the situation completely surreal are the numbers. Greek debt in 2008 was approximately 260bn Euro. The first bailout was 110bn, the current one, that appears to be tearing the country apart, is 130bn. Add in the PSI+ haircut of approximately 100bn ( after sweetener deduction ) and you realized that Europe could have simply paid the entire bill in 2008 and saved itself 80bn Euro. Ok, that is an oversimplification of the problem but you can see my point. […]




By Zeus Yiamouyiannis,

[…] The central question, obscured by all the hand wringing and crocodile tears is simply this: Why should public citizens who have no stake in private enterprises, who received no profits or dividends, who had nothing to do with creating losses, be forced to pay for private losses? The only legitimate answer is, “They shouldn’t.” Period. Anything that does not acknowledge this tenet is not functioning capitalism, and if it is functioning capitalism it cannot violate this tenet.

Yet we witness apologist expert after expert excusing this fatal breach in capital practice as “regrettable but necessary to save the system.” They seem not to have noticed that the system has already killed itself by violating its own foundational laws and principles. If anything, current conventional practice might be accurately described as an all-out anti-capitalist assault on democratic free enterprise.

So now the follow-up question is easy to answer: “Why are we paying for something we did not buy and had no hand in creating?” The answer: We no longer have functioning capitalism. Call it what you want— corporate socialism, crony capitalism, cancer capitalism, plutocracy, kleptocracy, oligarchy, neofeudalism— the system we have now is the equivalent of an individual going up to a complete stranger on the street and shaking that stranger down for “protection money” to pay for the individual’s underwater house mortgage. […]




The inside story of how the Republicans abandoned the poor and the middle class to pursue their relentless agenda of tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent

By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone

The nation is still recovering from a crushing recession that sent unemployment hovering above nine percent for two straight years. The president, mindful of soaring deficits, is pushing bold action to shore up the nation’s balance sheet. Cloaking himself in the language of class warfare, he calls on a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, “sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that’s crazy.”

Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. “Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver,” he demands, “or less?”

The crowd, sounding every bit like the protesters from Occupy Wall Street, roars back: “MORE!”

The year was 1985. The president was Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Today’s Republican Party may revere Reagan as the patron saint of low taxation. But the party of Reagan – which understood that higher taxes on the rich are sometimes required to cure ruinous deficits – is dead and gone. Instead, the modern GOP has undergone a radical transformation, reorganizing itself around a grotesque proposition: that the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.

Modern-day Republicans have become, quite simply, the Party of the One Percent – the Party of the Rich.

“The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility,” says David Stockman, who served as budget director under Reagan. “They’re on an anti-tax jihad – one that benefits the prosperous classes.”

The staggering economic inequality that has led Americans across the country to take to the streets in protest is no accident. It has been fueled to a large extent by the GOP’s all-out war on behalf of the rich. Since Republicans rededicated themselves to slashing taxes for the wealthy in 1997, the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million – while their share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent. Today, a billionaire in the top 400 pays less than 17 percent of his income in taxes – five percentage points less than a bus driver earning $26,000 a year. “Most Americans got none of the growth of the preceding dozen years,” says Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “All the gains went to the top percentage points.”[…]




By Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers talks with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote “the bible” for the Reagan Revolution, worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he’s a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star.  Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies — pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists — are destroying the country’s economic foundation.




By Thomas Heffner, Economy In Crisis

Americans have become so oblivious or apathetic to our country’s peril, that they are unaware of how far gone the U.S. already is.

The United States must stop fooling itself. We are riding on the wealthy coattails of the elite who came before us, squandering away their wealth and faking the good life.

We no longer have the industrial productive capacity to sustain ourselves. In September alone industrial production plummeted to astounding lows that haven’t been witnessed in almost 34 years, according to Bloomberg.

In America, imported products dominate the purchases of U.S. households and businesses. Over 92 percent of the money Americans spend on footwear goes overseas. Americans purchase 90 percent of their audio and video equipment from foreign produced entities and 90 percent of the money Americans spend on leather travels back overseas. […]




By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

A Kalashnikov in Iraq, until recently, sold for US$100. Now it’s at least $1,000, and most probably $1,500 (those were the days when Sunnis joining the resistance in 2003 could buy a fake Kalashnikov made in Romenia for $20).

Destination of choice of the $1,500 Kalashnikov in 2012: Syria. Network: al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, also known as AQI. Recipients: infiltrated jihadis operating side-by-side with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Also shuttling between Syria and Iraq is car bombing and suicide bombing, as in two recent bombings in the suburbs of Damascus and the suicide bombing last Friday in Aleppo.

Who would have thought that what the House of Saud wants in Syria – an Islamist regime – is exactly what al-Qaeda wants in Syria? […]



Feb 122012



By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet

[…] Here’s a look at five of the governors taking money away from their states’ kids, and a look at some of the things they are still funding.

1. Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Corbett set off a wave of anger this week when his new budget hit—and slashed a full $1.2 billion from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. According to the Education Law Center, that’s taking a full 15 percent out of the budgets of the state’s already-struggling schools. […]

2. Ohio

According to Policy Matters Ohio, the state’s budget (signed this summer) takes $1.8 billion in funding away from Ohio’s elementary and secondary schools over the next two school years. The new report noted that 65 percent of respondents to its survey of Ohio school districts say they are facing budget shortfalls as a result of state budget cuts—that means pay freezes, pay cuts, not replacing teachers who retire; 45 percent report “reductions in force”–layoffs. […]

3. South Carolina

Kasich’s elimination of the estate tax is certainly one example of policies that favor the 1 percent and leave students out in the cold, but South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has gone Kasich one better and proposes to entirely eliminate the corporate income tax in her state. That would cost nearly $140 million in the first year alone—so Haley’s taking a chunk of that cash out of public schools. […]

4. Alabama

In no state is it so abundantly clear that the governor is prioritizing other spending over education than in Alabama, where Governor Robert Bentley has proposed taking $230 million from the Education Trust Fund and putting it into the General Fund, which pays for prisons, courts and other parts of the state government. […]

5. Kentucky

Just to note that it’s not just Republicans who cut education dollars and spend on ridiculous things instead—Kentucky governor Steve Beshear is a Democrat, albeit one who brags on his official Web site about “trimming the state workforce” and “reforming” child welfare. Yet his budget offered up a 6.4 percent cut to higher ed and a decrease in funds to K-12 students as well.

But that’s not the best part. Travis Waldron at ThinkProgress explained that the governor did preserve a $43 million tax break for a “Bible-themed amusement park — which will include a 500-foot by 75-foot reproduction of Noah’s Ark,” as well as $11 million in spending on the highway interchange that will be near the park. […]




By Josh Harkinson, MotherJones

In another sign that Democrats have embraced income inequality as a cause célèbre, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the subject today. The committee’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, managed to look concerned during two hours of testimony about the kneecapping of the Middle Class—not that it should have been all that difficult. Here are some of the hearing’s most striking charts: […]




By Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress

[…] But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with the accommodation and hope to use their false claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits, next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer an amendment that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it:


“(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —

“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or

“(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage. […]




By Peter Hart, FAIR

[…] What is this amazing juggernaut of technological and political progress? The Americans Elect plan consists of two parallel efforts. The first is a Web-based political dialogue that empowers citizen “delegates” to identify key issues and then nominate centrist presidential candidates. The second is a more traditional state-by-state petition drive to get the group and its eventual candidate a ballot line.

The Internet delegates will narrow down the pool of acceptably moderate candidates, who then must pledge to nominate a running mate from another political party. An online convention selects the Americans Elect nominee (or possibly not—see sidebar), and a public apparently hungry to move beyond the stale two-party duopoly sends a bona fide centrist to the White House. […]




Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair

[…] If we expect to maintain any semblance of “normality,” we must fix the financial system. As noted, the implosion of the financial sector may not have been the underlying cause of our current crisis—but it has made it worse, and it’s an obstacle to long-term recovery. Small and medium-size companies, especially new ones, are disproportionately the source of job creation in any economy, and they have been especially hard-hit. What’s needed is to get banks out of the dangerous business of speculating and back into the boring business of lending. But we have not fixed the financial system. Rather, we have poured money into the banks, without restrictions, without conditions, and without a vision of the kind of banking system we want and need. We have, in a phrase, confused ends with means. A banking system is supposed to serve society, not the other way around. […]




By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

[…] As attorneymag-glass_10x10.gif Max Gardner said via e-mail (boldface ours):

I would never tell a client that I had settled a case or claim against a creditor until the ink was on the final written settlement agreement. I would of course advise the client of the verbal offer and secure the client’s acceptance but would always say something like “don’t spend any of the money because as Yogi might say it ain’t over until we have the signed agreement and their check has cleared my trust account.” An attorney would be guilty of serious ethical violations if he or she told a client we have a settlement with BoA and it is final before the deal was closed out by written agreement and in my bankruptcy practice the agreement was approved by the court. The AGs have said this agreement must be approved by a Federal District Court Judge so really why would you make such public announcements before at the least a written agreement signed and inked by ALL of the parties. […]




Source: Countdown w/ Sam Seder




By Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said Thursday it has “extensive contingency plans” that would allow its employees to “work from home” or from an “off-site location” in the event that demonstrations turn ugly during the NATO and G-8 summits

The bank is located at 230 S. LaSalle in the heart of Chicago’s financial district. It is the first major business to raise the possibility of relocating its employees during the May 19-21 summit expected to draw President Barack Obama and other world leaders to McCormick Place

The Federal Reserve’s carefully-worded statement talked about the “threat of possible disruptions” without mentioning the tens of thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago. […]




Hundreds of Belgian firefighters hose down the prime minister’s office as part of a protest against retirement plans

By Guardian UK

Several hundred Belgian firefighters have broken through police lines in Brussels and hosed down the prime minister’s office in protest at the government’s tougher retirement plans.

The firefighters want to keep their early retirement age at 58, arguing their arduous job does not allow them to work into their 60s. […]




By Andrei Khalip, Rueters

Demonstrators arrive at Terrero do Paco square during a protest in Lisbon February 11, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Rafael Marchante

More than 100,000 people packed Lisbon’s vast Palace Square on Saturday in the largest rally against austerity and economic hardships since the country resorted to an EU/IMF bailout last May, and organizers vowed to step up protests and labor action.

The mass rally occurred just four days before Portugal’s international lenders were due to start the quarterly evaluation of the bailout implementation on Wednesday in the finance ministry building which overlooks the square by the river Tagus. They come amid concerns Portugal may need more bailout funds, if not a debt restructuring like Greece.

“We take this opportunity here to make our own evaluation on behalf of those who suffer daily,” Armenio Carlos, head of the country’s largest union, CGTP, told supporters as the crowd chanted: “IMF doesn’t call the shots here!”

“We have to step up the struggle,” he said. Carlos promised the next wave of rallies across Portugal as soon as on February 29.

“The country needs to remove the rope from around its neck,” he said, saying that Portugal should try to renegotiate its debt rather than impose more austerity, an argument he has made consistently. […]




By Amal Hanano, Jadaliyya

It is nighttime here, and I am about to go to bed. Before I disconnect from Syria, I notice Omar is on Skype. I send him a message telling him that his video on Anderson Cooper tonight was impressive. I tell him that he makes me proud to be Syrian. I tell him that I wished I was with them in Homs. A few seconds later, he sends me a link. I open it. Suddenly I am in Homs, at daybreak.  He messages me: This is my livestream from Baba Amr. I plug in my laptop charger. It is going to be another long night.

It is six in the morning (6:00am on the dot) in Syria. I watch the static frame filled with a gray sky and rooftops of buildings. Three large satellite dishes in the foreground and a minaret in the distance. It’s completely silent. Then a rooster begins to crow, over and over, in precise intervals. Birds chirp. It was bliss to watch the stillness, for once nothing was happening. I feel pleasure at knowing these familiar sounds, knowing the exact scent of the winter air, knowing the peacefulness of an early morning in Syria. Omar was with me in the room that I couldn’t see, but his view was my view, his window was my window.

Then, the quiet is punctured with long, thunderous rumbles of rockets, quick shots of bullet fire, panicked voices of a few women, and once, a girl’s chilling scream. The familiar vanishes. I message him: I cannot believe this is my country.

He sends me the following statement from earlier in the day:

“The humanitarian situation on the ground in Baba Amr until this moment is still a mix of rocket launchers, tanks, mortar launchers hitting the area from all sides. More than 500 shells have come down on us since the morning, targeting homes, protest places and mosques. Al-Anwar Mosque was shelled with more than ten shells which led to the destruction of a large part of it; surrounding homes were also destroyed. The humanitarian condition is difficult at the moment, there is no bread, no medication and no nutritional supplies and as we mentioned in our last report, a field hospital was targeted and we lost a number of our medical crew. There is no form of communication inside the area and any moving thing is targeted by snipers surrounding the area.

 Life is at a complete stand still. There is no escape or safe passage from the area and there is no safe shelter inside the area from the rockets and shells. The number of martyrs has reached sixty from the last statistic we received from Doctor Mohammad Almohammad (the head of the field hospital). […]





By Matt Duss, Salon

In February 2003, less than a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Gen. Eric Shinseki told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would be required to occupy Iraq in order to stabilize it in the wake of an invasion.

What quickly followed is well known. Several days later, in what journalist James Fallows called “probably the most direct public dressing-down of a military officer, a four-star general, by a civilian superior since Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur, 50 years ago,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki’s estimate “wildly off the mark,” and said that “it’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself.”

The cavalier dismissal by civilian officials and conservative pundits of military analysts’ predictions of the likely consequences of the Iraq war was symbolic of the entire hubristic enterprise. Over $800 billion and tens of thousands of civilian casualties later, the idea that America can deal with its problems and create specific outcomes simply through the application of its considerable military might is rightly understood as a mirage. […]




By Finian Cunningham, Global Research

It’s an intrigue befitting the machinations of classical colonialism in past centuries, such as the Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Middle Eastern Levant territories, or the betrayal of the Arabs after World War I, or the theft of Mesopotamia’s oil by British capitalists.

Only this time, it is Arabs who are helping the neocolonial powers to deceive and subjugate other Arabs. Enter the Arab League.

Over the past year, the 22-member organization has emerged as a useful deceptive cover for Western powers as they seek to redraw the political contours of the Arab World, and beyond, for their own strategic interests.

The momentous popular upheavals that began in early 2011 across the Arab World have in many ways been co-opted or manipulated by Western imperialist powers to minimize democratic gains and to refashion the political map to their continuing advantage. A feat of achievement considering that these same powers have for decades supported the repressive regimes that have inflicted so much misery and suffering.

The leitmotif for Western intervention is “responsibility to protect” (R2P) – the notion that these powers are motivated by concern for human rights and the protection of civilian lives. But given that the United States, Britain, France and other NATO states have been conducting criminal wars of aggression over the past decade in mainly Muslim lands, with a death toll exceeding one million and casualties amounting to many more millions, these powers found themselves with a huge credibility problem when it came to contriving a pretext to intervene in the Arab upheavals.


The arrangement works like this: foment violence and instability within the country of choice, arm dissident groups, and direct these same groups with covert special forces; when government forces move to quell the insurrection, then accuse them of violating human rights. The Arab League then suspends the country, marking it out for international pariah status, which in turn provides a pretext for Western powers to mount military strikes, committing atrocities in the name of “responsibility to protect”, and engineering regime change in the interests of the Western powers. It’s neocolonialism in Arab lands – with the help of other Arab states.

Libya can be seen as a dress rehearsal for this routine, which is now being played out feverishly with Syria. Recall that it was the spurning of Libya in March by other League members that immediately presaged the seven-month NATO aerial bombardment of that country, resulting in possibly thousands of civilian deaths, a crime that is not yet fully realized because of a corporate-controlled media blackout, but a despicable crime nevertheless with bloodied Arab hands involved.

It appears that the Arab League is now taking on an even more pronounced role as the routine finesses. Clearly in Syria what is happening is an insurrection that is being fomented and armed by foreign governments, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking a lead role in arming the so-called Free Syrian Army against the state forces of President Bashar Al Assad.

And it was the Arab League that brought the motion last week at the UN Security Council aimed at shackling the Assad government and setting it up for Libya-style NATO military intervention. The veto by Russia and China has for the moment derailed that plan. No doubt, Russia and China have learnt the lesson of Libya where a similar Security Council sanction was used by Western powers to launch a blitzkrieg on that country – in the name of the specious R2P.

The insidious role of the Arab League as the West’s hound-dog can be gleaned from the comment by British Foreign Secretary William Hague following the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN.

Hague said: “Russia and China faced a simple choice today: would they support the people of Syria and the Arab League, or not? They decided not to, and instead sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their national interests.”

This is British spin on facts and truth at its best. Firstly, Russia and China decided to side with the “Syrian regime” because – despite biased Western media coverage – the government of Assad appears to retain the support of the Syrian people, and therefore it retains sovereign legitimacy. And the “brutal repression” that the solemn Hague speaks of relates to violence that Western and foreign Arab states have assiduously fomented in Syria, as they did in Libya. […]




By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

One of the most under-reported political stories of the last year is the devoted advocacy of numerous prominent American political figures on behalf of an Iranian group long formally designated as a Terrorist organization under U.S. law. A large bipartisan cast has received substantial fees from that group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), and has then become their passionate defenders. The group of MEK shills includes former top Bush officials and other Republicans (Michael Mukasey, Fran Townsend, Andy Card, Tom Ridge, Rudy Giuliani) as well as prominent Democrats (Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark). As The Christian Science Monitor reported last August, those individuals “have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.” No matter what one thinks of this group – here is a summary of its activities – it is formally designated as a Terrorist group and it is thus a felony under U.S. law to provide it with any “material support.”


According to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a NATO airstrike yesterday in Afghanistan killed 8 children. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar yesterday patiently explained that drone strikes — which Americans widely support, including American liberals — are “completely illegal and unlawful” and “counterproductive” because they “fuel terrorism,” since people tend to become quite angry at the foreign power which slaughters their children, their spouses, their parents, their neighbors, etc., i.e., for every Terrorist the U.S. allegedly kills, it creates five more people wanting to attack the U.S. (see her answers to the two questions beginning at 4:30):




By Jim White,

[…] Earlier this week, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis published a short report in the Armed Forces Journal and coupled that with discussions with the New York Times’ Scott Shane for an article hitting on the same subject area. In those reports, we learned that Davis had prepared much longer reports, both a classified one which he shared with several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a non-classified one which he intended to publish. In the Armed Forces Journal piece, Davis noted that he intended to publish the longer report at his website, and in an editor’s note, it was pointed out that “At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.” In a very interesting twist, Davis’ long report now has been published, but not at his website. Instead, Michael Hastings, whose The Runaway General article at Rolling Stone eventually resulted in the firing of Stanley McChrystal, has posted Davis’ report (pdf) at the Rolling Stone website, along with a brief introduction from Hastings. There will be a post soon from bmaz addressing Davis’ approach to whistle-blowing and his treatment of classified information.


Davis’ thesis in the longer report remains unchanged from the original. He maintains that despite persistent claims by top military brass that progress is being made in Afghanistan, there is in fact no progress. Violence continues on a steady increase and Afghan forces are nowhere near a point where they can maintain security in the absence of ISAF forces. On the final page, he has this to say about his “final take-away” from the report. He prepared a graphic based on the one reproduced above:

If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer.




By Dustin M. Slaughter,

“Between the public sector and the private sector, we have wreaked untold havoc on the media environment.”

These aren’t the words of a progressive media advocate such as University of Illinois professor Robert McChesney or The Nation’s John Nichols, but of ex-FCC commissioner Michael Copps in January. In an interview on Democracy Now!, Copps attributes his claim to “the abdication of public interest responsibility by the FCC” over the last 30 years and their failure to enforce public interest guidelines and a stronger focus on news.

Here’s another example of how the FCC has failed in their responsibility to the public good: In 1995, the FCC forbade companies ownership of more than 40 stations. Clear Channel Communications now owns over 1,500. This rate of consolidation clearly shows no sign of slowing.

The closing of news rooms and the number of reporters on the street instead of the beat goes on as the corporate state continues its relentless and undemocratic consolidation of America’s media landscape. Layoffs continue despite a number of companies like McClatchy posting a 21% profit margin, according to the book The Death and Life of American Journalism. McClatchy fired a third of their newsroom staff in 2008.

“25 or 30 years ago, only 50 companies controlled more than half of what we see and hear every single day. Now, that 50 – which was alarming enough – has shrunk to six or even five,” says Johnathan Lawson, the co-founder of Reclaim the Media. Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp owns the top newspaper on three continents: The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, and The Australian. According to a 2008 GAO report, the company was operating over 150 subsidiaries in off-shore tax havens. How much of those subsidiary holdings could have gone to funding NPR, or towards community initiatives to help expand minority media in communities?

The assault on our airwaves first began in earnest in 1980, when “the FCC did away with public interest guidelines for broadcast television licenses, and the renewal period went from three to eight years,” according to Copps. Now all a broadcaster has to do is “mail in a postcard” and their license is renewed, because the FCC – against the very reason it was created – has watered down attempts to ensure that the public’s airwaves are by-and-large for the public good. […]