Archive | July 2015

The Real Reasons Behind the Crisis in Greece

Alexis Tsipras, head of Syriza Party and Prime Minister of Greece, who was elected for being opposed to austerity measures being dictated to the Greek people by the troika (European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) and who put the issue to a referendum, which people of Greece rejected by a big margin, capitulated to the demands of the troika on Monday and betrayed his people in complete disregard for their wishes and for any semblance of democracy and will of the majority.
Let’s get one thing straight about what’s taking place in Greece: what’s happening is not that the Greeks are lazy or don’t work hard or long enough or that they live too lavishly or that they don’t pay taxes. What’s happening in fact has nothing to do with the Greek people and everything to do with greedy European, especially German and French, banks. What’s happening is in fact no different from how imperialism operates through its neoliberal policies and facilitated and enforced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in other countries that are open to imperialist rule and influence. 

The creation of the Euro zone which was touted as having the noble goal of bringing the people of the Continent closer together is ironically creating a rift and hostility between the German and Greek peoples. Germans are being fed lies and utter nonsense about Greeks borrowing from Germans and not paying back, putting the blame for the crisis on the Greek people where it doesn’t belong by any measure, standard or logic. While Germany is being depicted by its bourgeoisie as the donor nation which keeps loaning to keep the Greek government afloat and the Greek people fed, the truth is just the opposite. The beneficiaries of the bailout programs offered by the troika is none other than private banks, especially of Germany, who profit and get richer from every deal. The victims, at every step of the way and first and foremost is the Greek working class and secondly German tax payers should Greece default on the loans. 

Let’s hear it from a mainstream Western publication. Mark Blyth writes on July 7, in Foreign Affairs, in an article titled: “Why Greece Isn’t to Blame for the Crisis”: 

“The troika program for Greece succeeded in stopping the bond market bank run—keeping the Greeks in [Eorozone] and the yields down—at the cost of making a quarter of Greeks unemployed and destroying nearly a third of the country’s GDP”. “…the bailouts weren’t for Greece at all. They were bailouts-on-the-quiet for Europe’s big banks, and taxpayers in core countries are now being stuck with the bill” if Greeks don’t pay. 

“… Greece was thus a mere conduit for a bailout. It was not a recipient in any significant way, despite what is constantly repeated in the media. Of the roughly 230 billion euro disbursed to Greece, it is estimated that only 27 billion went toward keeping the Greek state running. Indeed, by 2013 Greece was running a surplus and did not need such financing. Accordingly, 65 percent of the loans to Greece went straight through Greece to core banks for interest payments, maturing debt, and for domestic bank recapitalization demanded by the lenders. By another accounting, 90 percent of the ’loans to Greece’ bypassed Greece entirely”.

“…after Mario Draghi took over from Jean Claude Trichet at the ECB in late 2011, Draghi dumped around 1.2 trillion euro of public money into the European banking system to bring down yields in the Long Term Refinancing Operations (LTROs). Bond yields went down and bond prices soon went up. This delighted bondholders, who got to sell their now LTRO-boosted bonds back to the governments that had just bailed them out. In March 2012, the Greek government, under the auspices of the troika [meaning dictated by the troika], launched a buy-back scheme that bought out creditors…As former Bundesbank Chief Karl Otto Pöhl admitted, the whole shebang “was about protecting German banks, but especially the French banks, from debt write-offs.”

“Think about it this way. If 230 billion euro had been given to Greece, it would have amounted to just under 21,000 euros per person. Given such largess, it would have been impossible to generate a 25 percent unemployment rate among adults, over 50 percent unemployment among youth, a sharp increase in elderly poverty, and a near collapse of the banking system—even with the troika’s austerity package in place”.

“We’ve never understood Greece because we have refused to see the crisis for what it was—a continuation of a series of bailouts for the financial sector that started in 2008 and that rumbles on today. It’s so much easier to blame the Greeks and then be surprised when they refuse to play along with the script”.

Is it any surprise then that we read in the news that the Greek government has agreed to sell off 50 Billion Euro’s worth of “valuable Greek assets”? What assets you might ask? Not private assets, but public assets that belong to the Greek people, including possibly even historical and architectural sites and even islands to private investors! Under the terms of its first bailout in 2010, Greece agreed to privatize around 50 billion euros in property and infrastructure as a way of raising money for its creditors, meaning too-big-to-fail banks that engaged in risky practices and made bad loans and must now be compensated by the Greek working class. Greece will have to place its assets in a specially created fund for sale “under the supervision of the relevant European Institutions,” according to the text of the bailout agreement published on Monday. 
Time Magazine reported on Monday: “Greece May Have to Sell Islands and [historical] Ruins Under Its Bailout Deal”. “It’s an affront,” says Georgios Daremas, a strategist and adviser to the Greek Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity. “It’s basically saying sell the memory of your ancestors, sell your history just so we can get something commercial for it,” he told TIME Magazine on Monday. “Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors,” Josef Schlarmann, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, said at the time of the 2010 bailout program.
This isn’t the first time we’re seeing a debtor nation being offered a bailout program in return for an austerity regime that cuts social spending, fires workers and raises taxes for creditors. A prime example is Argentina where just as it has done in Greece, in 2001, “it turned a recession into depression, making the debt even more unsustainable”, as reported by Huffington Post, “In both cases, the policies were demanded as a condition for assistance. In both countries unemployment and poverty soared, and GDP plummeted as a result of the bailout program. Indeed, there is even a striking similarity in the magnitude of the fall in GDP and the increase in the unemployment rate.” 

One has to wonder: maybe the creation of the Euro zone was not for noble purposes after all. Capitalism is not capable of doing anything noble. Capitalists will commoditize, package and sell their mothers if they know there is a buyer. Could the purpose not have been to make the less developed nations more directly and seamlessly available for exploitation and dependent on giant international corporations of German, French and other developed nations, allowing them and especially multinational banks to get rich off the people of the less industrialized nations, locking them into borrowing and paying interests and allowing the foreign corporations to take over public assets like ports, shipyards, lands, buildings, as well as making them politically subservient and dependent? Isn’t that what US imperialism does when it dictates its “trade agreements” onto less developed nations, which lead to more impoverishment of the workers in those countries while pushing down the wages of their own workers?
The German and French working people, as well as workers everywhere must stand in solidarity with the people of Greece who are being economically blackmailed and forced to accept lower standard of living, more widespread poverty, more unemployment and lower wages with less social benefits for the benefit of greedy multinational banks. People of Europe must stand together in opposition to such draconian and predatory policies regardless of which nation’s working class is being targeted. Their strength is in their unity. 


Police Brutality in the U.S.: Why It Persists and How to Stop it

It’s common practice among the police in U.S. cities to brutalize people who exercise their rights and don’t submit to illegal searches or don’t answer questions that they don’t have to answer and then to arrest them for resisting arrest and interfering with police work or obstruction. Sometimes, after such victims of police brutality have been booked and kept in jail for a day or two, they are released and the charges are dropped. In other cases, especially in the case of African Americans and Latinos, the person remains in jail, usually due to poor representation and being able to afford the bail. 

What officers have learned through the years is that in any case, no one will hold them responsible for their assault and beating or for false arrest and filing a false report, or even for shooting and killing without a just cause, even in cases where there is a video of the incident clearly showing discrepancy between what happened and what the officer reported. You’d think just the filing of false report or false arrest would be sufficient reason to fire or at least to discipline the officer, let alone the assault and battery or killing of an innocent person. Even in cases where the city ends up paying millions of dollars of tax payers’ money in damages to the families of the victims who get shot and killed or beat to death, the officer responsible for the unjustified shooting continues to patrol the streets. When the city finds itself in need of revenue after such payouts, it increases its effort to catch more drivers with faulty tail lights or expired registration or driving without a seat belt, etc. to eliminate the deficit. 

Police officers thus learn that they can beat and brutalize anyone who talks back at them or doesn’t comply with their orders right away with total impunity and without any consequences. This culture of indiscriminate and gangster type violence with government backing and defense becomes a magnet for violent individuals who enjoy beating and killing people. They enjoy the feeling of power they have over ordinary people. Imagine, if you will, you walk down the street and someone bumps into you which annoys you. If you’re a violent person or if you’re angry about something else, you may feel like punching the man. Or imagine someone cuts you off in traffic or steals your parking spot and you get irritated and feel like beating him or her. Well, if you’re a police officer in the U.S., you can. All you have to do is approach the person and order him or her to show you his or her ID and answer questions like where they’re coming from or going to and order them to put their hands on your car so you can frisk them and make them sit on the curb with their hands tied behind their back. And, if at any time, they refuses to comply or are too slow to comply or talk back at you or challenge your authority, you can take out your baton or flashlight and beat them severely and arrest them for resisting arrest.

The unwillingness to change and reform things comes from the very top. The politicians of the two corporate parties, who really are one party with two faces and serve the billionaire class, feel threatened by those at the bottom strata. As was revealed after the killing of Michael Brown and the protests that ensued in Ferguson, Missouri, the police are taught to view people as “the enemy”, rather than citizens to “protect and serve”. As it applies to everything else in the society, serving and protecting is relative and not devoid of class content.

What this means is that politicians can be pressured to make the needed reforms, but won’t do it, without a movement of protests on the streets, which will threaten the safety and security of the system that the upper class enjoys. 

Israel Approves 800 New Settlement Units in Bethlehem

Keep this in mind when, using the pretext of negotiation, the U.S., under both Democratic and Republican presidents, keeps blocking UN resolutions that condemn the apartheid state or try to recognize Palestinian statehood, as Israel continues to build settlements on occupied and stolen land in defiance of more than two hundred UN resolutions and all international laws and norms. Not only does the U.S. keep silent about continued settlement building, it keeps defending the apartheid state and arming it to its teeth. This latest announcement that it will build an additional 800 settlements on occupied land comes right after Obama announced he will increase aid to Israel by $1.5 billion to $4.5 billion per year, which given the population of Israel, is an enormous amount of money.

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind anymore that the U.S. and its close allies are partners and participants to this ongoing genocide and crime? Is there any more doubt in anyone’s mind that they lie – all of them from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren to Bernie Sanders to Jeb Bush and all the representatives and senators in U.S. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, and their friends in Europe from Merkel to Hollande to Cameron – when they say they want a peaceful solution and the creation of a Palestinian state? The so-called negotiations are nothing but an excuse to buy time and let the Israeli war criminals finish the Palestinians off with the help of the U.S. They don’t want peace. They want the genocide to continue. They see what’s happening. They know what’s happening. They’re not blind or stupid. What they want is neither peace nor justice. If they really wanted peace and justice, all they’d have to do is tell them to stop. Israel can’t exist without the help of the U.S. and its allies. Israel wouldn’t be where it is and couldn’t have occupied those lands and committed all the massacres it’s committed without the U.S. All they have to do to stop the genocide is to cut the aid, not give us a one sentence disingenuous comment, such as “this is counterproductive” or “we expressed our concern to Israeli government” or “we don’t agree with this action and the President made that clear” and then continue to send aid and military equipment to them. That’s all hogwash. They take us for fools when they say such nonsense. 

If you haven’t done so yet, join the international movement of boycotting Israel. Learn about and join the BDS movement. We can and are making a difference. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t tell us to stop. 

#SayHerName: Sandra Bland – Another Innocent Life Lost to State Terror and Racism

It’s hard to watch the video showing Sandra Bland being stopped for failing to signal before a lane change and being pulled out of her car and arrested for simply talking back to the officer and insisting on her rights as a citizen and not be enraged. I get so enraged every time I see it that I have to turn around as if to protect my sanity. This is why they call it “maddening”. And I’m not even talking about her murder while in police custody. In fact, even if she hadn’t been murdered, her treatment by the officer alone is just as maddening and deserves as much if not more attention.
Not only was the officer’s sense of power and entitlement as a white male being challenged and questioned, it was being challenged by a black woman no less who, in his mind, should be the last creature on Earth to challenge or question his God and state given power. But, the abuse of power and oppression that took place against Sandra Bland was not just the coming together of both racism and male chauvinism at their worst. It was also a reflection and byproduct of an ongoing state terror and oppression that has never stopped against African Americans since the end of slavery. 
This is not to say that the police don’t get irritated and resort to violence when white men challenge their sense of power and authority. In fact, I believe their training encourages them to exert such power and authority to intimidate people of all colors, backgrounds and genders because the first step in challenging the power and privilege of the ruling class is the act of challenging the power and authority of their police, who are tasked with defending their power and privilege. Any challenge to the system will have to start and go through challenging their protectorate police, first. The officer, who pulled Sandra Bland out of her car and arrested and jailed her, which then resulted in her mysterious death, for no other reason than defending her rights and her dignity as a human being, has been trained to force that power and authority on behalf the state as a reminder to people not to question their authority which begins with the police as their first line of defense. And, as poverty, chronic unemployment and income and wealth gap increases, so does the fear of the bottom classes at the top. Naturally, those who have the least to lose and most to win, to paraphrase Karl Marx, are feared the most. The capitalist system thus finds a natural ally in institutional racism and encourages it. 
But, although it’s used, encouraged and made a part of the economic system of capitalism, institutional racism and racial injustice is obviously not the same as economic injustice and oppression. In fact, the claim that police encounters by and mass incarceration of blacks is due to economic neglect and high unemployment and poverty among them is itself borderline racism, which only white liberals like Bernie Sanders, who are oblivious towards racism and state terror as a pressing and urgent issue for the poor and especially blacks, can suggest it. That’s why Democrats like Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ reaction to #BlackLivesMatter is “All lives matter”, which is dismissive of the movement altogether. The merging of institutional racism and state terror thus makes repression against blacks qualitatively different from that against whites. 
What happened to Sandra Bland as an African American woman was nothing new or unusual. Historically, African American women have borne the brunt of white supremacy in its cruelest, combined with traditional male chauvinism and brutal state terror, all of which descended on Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was not only aware of her rights herself, she was an activist within the #BlackLivesMatter movement and was teaching and encouraging others in her community to stand up to the onslaught of repression, institutional racism, abuse and murder. Her murder in the hands of the state must therefore be viewed as the reaction of the state to the awakening of the black community who is starting to speak up and resist the onslaught and must therefore be viewed as a political assassination. Her abuse and psychological torture followed by her murder must therefore not go without a massive response by the people in the millions. Now, it’s our turn. Our response must be loud and clear and shake the foundations of this terrorist state.