Politics

Are European authorities trying to force regime change in Greece? – MARK WEISBROT

July 1, 2015

It’s ironic but not surprising that the European Central Bank decided Sunday to limit its credit to Greece by enough to force the Greek banking system to close. This has pushed Greece closer to a more serious financial crisis than the country has had in the past five years of austerity-induced depression. Why did the ECB decide to take this harsh, unnecessary and dangerous measure now? It seems clear that the move is in response to the Greek government’s decision to hold a referendum on whether to accept the last offer from the European authorities outlining conditions for continuing official lending to Greece. The financial problems and inconveniences of this week, caused by the bank holiday, are the European authorities’ way of saying, “Vote as we’ll tell you to, or we can make your lives even more miserable than we have been making them.” This offer included further cuts to Greek pensions, as well as regressive tax increases. As economist Paul Krugman has noted, these are conditions that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can’t accept. “The purpose must therefore be to drive him from office,” Mr. Krugman concluded. There is considerable evidence that this has been the European authorities’ strategy since the anti-austerity Syriza

Puerto Rico governor declares debts “not payable” By David Brown

July 1, 2015

On Sunday evening the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party, announced that the US commonwealth would need to restructure its $72 billion in debt. The island of 3.5 million people has been in a deep economic crisis since 2006, experiencing high unemployment, large-scale emigration and severe austerity measures. Between 2004 and 2014 Puerto Rico had an average revenue shortfall of $1.5 billion a year, pushing its overall debt to 100 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP). Debt service took up $4.5 billion, or 16 percent of the government’s 2014-2015 budget. After adjusting for inflation, Puerto Rico’s real GNP is only 87 percent of what it was a decade ago. The housing market has been particularly hard hit, with prices falling 27 percent in real terms since 2007. The island also has widespread unemployment with a labor participation rate of just over 40 percent as compared to the US average of 63 percent. The official jobless rate is just under 12 percent. The government of Puerto Rico has tried to balance its budget through austerity measures implemented by both the Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party, the local affiliates of the Democrats

McKibben to Clinton: 5 Reasons environmentalists distrust you; and what you can do about it by VL Baker

July 1, 2015

FIVE REASONS ENVIRONMENTALISTS DISTRUST YOU1)Climate change has not been your issue. 2)You were terrible on Keystone .Even before the State Department began its review of the project, you said you were “inclined” to approve it. That’s been your last public word on the project, but your team performed an intellectually corrupt review of the plans, your campaign bundlers landed rich lobbying contracts, and your former advisers took jobs with Transcanada. 3)You took the Obama administration’s affection for fracking and ran with it.Working with a deep team of oil company advisers, you set up a whole office at the State Department whose job it was to push fracking all over the world (Cambodia, China, New Guinea); you gave speech after speech in country after country. This was bad policy in the extreme 4)As the world’s top diplomat, you presided over the monumental failure that was the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. Six crucial years were lost as a result. Enough said. 5) All that endless money. The right-wing attacks on the endless speaking fees and foundation gifts aren’t actually just a concern to the right wing. my bold It’s no longer enough for a politician to state that climate change is real.

Russia vs. China By Michael T. Klare

June 30, 2015

America’s grand strategy, its long-term blueprint for advancing national interests and countering major adversaries, is in total disarray. Top officials lurch from crisis to crisis, improvising strategies as they go, but rarely pursuing a consistent set of policies. Some blame this indecisiveness on a lack of resolve at the White House, but the real reason lies deeper. It lurks in a disagreement among foreign policy elites over whether Russia or China constitutes America’s principal great-power adversary. Knowing one’s enemy is usually considered the essence of strategic planning. During the Cold War, enemy number one was, of course, unquestioned: it was the Soviet Union, and everything Washington did was aimed at diminishing Moscow’s reach and power. When the USSR imploded and disappeared, all that was left to challenge U.S. dominance were a few “rogue states.” In the wake of 9/11, however, President Bushdeclared a “global war on terror,” envisioning a decades-long campaign against Islamic extremists and their allies everywhere on the planet. From then on, with every country said to be either with us or against us, the chaos set in. Invasions, occupations, raids, drone wars ensued — all of it, in the end, disastrous — while China used its economic clout to gain new influence

The Lonely American By Chris Hedges

June 30, 2015

Michael P. Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, one of the country’s largest racetracks, stood with a group of about a dozen race fans at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Next to him were boxes of free doughnuts and coffee. A line of men with towels, who had spent the night in nearby RV campers, pop-up campers and tents, stood patiently outside the door to a shower room. A light drizzle, one that would turn into a torrential downpour and lead to the races being canceled in the afternoon, coated the group, all middle-aged or older white men. They were discussing, amid the high-pitched whine of cars practicing on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn circuit racetrack, the aging demographic of race fans and the inability to lure a new generation to the sport. “Maybe if you installed chargers for phones around the track they would come,” suggested one gray-haired man. But it is not just sporting events. Public lectures, church services, labor unions, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, Masonic halls, Rotary clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Grange Hall meetings, the League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, town halls, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, movie theater attendance

The Rise and Fall of the Human Terrain System by ROBERTO J. GONZÁLEZ

June 30, 2015

Pentagon distributed much of the funding to two large defense firms that became the HTS’s principal contractors: BAE Systems and CGI Federal. HTS supporters frequently claimed that the program would increase cultural understanding between US forces and Iraqis and Afghans–and therefore reduce American and civilian casualties. The program’s leaders insisted that embedded social scientists were delivering sociocultural knowledge to commanders, but the reality was more complex. HTS personnel conducted a range of activities including data collection, intelligence gathering, and psychological operations. In at least one case, an HTS employee supported interrogations in Afghanistan (Weinberger 2011). The program also served a more insidious function: It became a propaganda tool for convincing the American public–especially those with liberal tendencies–that the US-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were benevolent missions in which smart, fresh-faced young college graduates were playing a role. It appeared to demonstrate how US forces were engaged in a kinder, gentler form of occupation. Department of Defense photos portrayed HTS personnel sitting on rugs while drinking tea with Afghan elders, or distributing sweets to euphoric Iraqi children. Here was a war that Americans could feel good about fighting. When HTS was first announced in late 2006, I followed its development

The Deep Racism of Western Imperial Intervention By Prof. Tim Anderson

June 30, 2015

Racism in western societies is often spoken of as something involving simple discrimination or prejudice. Yet the most profound racism has always been generated and sustained by imperialism, including colonial rule and, in the post-colonial era, imperial intervention. Denying the very existence and integrity of other peoples requires ideologies of systematic exclusion and dehumanisation. That denial is implicit in every coup, proxy war or invasion, under whatever pretext, carried out either for ‘regime change’ or to divide and weaken those peoples not well embedded in the imperial orbit. The new pretexts often have to do with the ‘protector’ role of the empire, including protection against great crimes and genocide. Yet history tells us that it is almost always imperial interventions that generate those same great crimes. Rafael-Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who invented the term ‘genocide’ spoke of it as a ‘recurring pattern of history’ by which empires displaced and wiped out entire peoples. The deep racism of imperial intervention and war renders as illegitimate, non-existent and worthless entire peoples and their cultures, values and social organisation, including nation-states and alliances. The aim is to create a cultural void into which the imperial powers can step as protectors and saviours, hiding

High Court’s Ruling, Say Critics, Endorses ‘Torturing People to Death’ – Sarah Lazare

June 30, 2015

In the most closely-watched death penalty case in years, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled 5-4(pdf) that Oklahoma can use the controversial and experimental execution drug midazolam that was behind the last year’s horrific killing of 38-year-old man Clayton Lockett—who writhed and groaned for 43 minutes before ultimately succumbing to a heart attack. The decision not only gives the approval for states to use a killing method that many regard as torture, but it also amounts to an ideological defense of the death penalty itself—however cruel. Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito stated: Our decisions in this area have been animated in part by the recognition that because it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional, “[i]t necessarily follows that there must be a [constitutional] means of carrying it out.” And because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether. The ruling

So-called ‘free trade’ agreements should be strongly opposed – Bill Mitchell

June 30, 2015

My header this week is in solidarity for the Greek people. I hope they vote no and then realise that leaving the dysfunctional Eurozone will promise them growth and a return to some prosperity. They can become the banner nation for other crippled Eurozone nations – a guiding light out of the madness that the neo-liberal elites have created. While Greece battens down against the most incredible attack on European democracy since who knows when – perhaps since the Anschluss that led finally to war breaking out a year later in Europe, one wonders how low the Brussels elite will go to preserve control of the agenda. They clearly lost control on Friday when the Greek leadership decided to go back to the people to determine whether they wanted more poverty-inducing austerity. In response, the Brussels gang along with their Washington mates at the IMF have come out with personal attacks, lies, threats and ridiculous dissembling. But that is what happens when bullies can’t bully. But while these events are rather extraordinary in historical terms, other insidious attacks on democratic rights and choice are on-going. One of the more startling attempts to undermine the capacity of elected states to deliver on their

America’s war on drugs is empowering Mexico’s drug cartels By Don Winslow

June 30, 2015

I’ve been writing about the war on drugs for 15 years. That’s a sad statement, if you think about it. Particularly given that 15 years is less than half the life of this particular war, which, at 44, has gone on longer than the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam and Afghanistan combined. The war has multiple fronts, but my particular beat is the Mexican border, across which the vast majority of illegal drugs now come into the United States. I’ve gone out with the Border Patrol, walked the line, sat in cars observing the crossing under the hostile gaze of cartel gunmen on the other side. I’ve talked with DEA agents, cops, drugs users, and yes, drug traffickers. Fifteen years on the border observing the war on drugs. Cocaine, heroin and meth pour across — mostly carried in trucks, but also hidden in cars, lugged on foot by human “mules,” walked across taped to people’s bodies, hidden inside corpses, packed across on actual mules or horses (two of which, abandoned in the desert, lived out their lives on our place), run through tunnels, launched by catapults — any method that human ingenuity can devise. You know what drug isn’t coming across
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