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Journal Archives

The New York Times Urges the Troika to “Make an Example of Greece”

By William K. Black
Quito: July 7, 2015

It is often the moral and economic blindness of New York Times articles about the EU crisis that is most striking. The newest entry in this field is entitled “Now Europe Must Decide Whether to Make an Example of Greece.” That is a chilling phrase most associated in our popular culture with a Consigliere and his Don deciding whether to order a mob “hit.” It is, therefore, fitting (albeit over the top) as a criticism of the troika’s economic, political, and propaganda war against the Greek people. Except that the article is actually another salvo in that war.

Let’s start with the obvious – except to the NYT. “Europe” isn’t “decid[ing]” anything. The troika is making the decisions. More precisely, it is the CEOs of the elite German corporations and banks that direct the troika’s policies that are making the decisions. The troika simply implements those decisions. The troika consists of the ECB, the IMF, and the European Commission. None of these three entities represents “Europe.” None of them will hold a democratic referendum of the peoples of “Europe” to determine policies. Indeed, they are apoplectic that the Greek government dared to ask the people of Greece through a democratic process whether to give in to the troika’s latest efforts to extort the Greek government to inflict ever more destructive and economically illiterate malpractice on the Greek people.

Second, the troika has been “mak[ing] an example of Greece” for at least five years. It extorted Greece to inflict the economic malpractice of austerity in response to a Great Recession. The result was just what economists warned – Greece was forced, gratuitously, into worse-than-Great Depression levels of unemployment that persist today seven years after Lehman’s collapse. In this process, the troika blocked a prior referendum proposed by Greece’s Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou in late 2011 and forced him to resign for daring to propose democratic decision-making. Read the Guardian’s risible account of the 2010 coup that the troika engineered in Greece for an unintended insight as to how the UK’s “New Labour” Party has become an anti-labor party of austerity and “aspirational” hostility to efforts to contain the City of London’s criminal culture.

Third, the troika and a host of heads of state that have caused grave harm to workers in their nations responded immediately to the election of the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece in January 2015 by shouting their increased eagerness to “make an example of Greece” for daring to elect Syriza. The government of Spain, for example, is desperate for the troika to double-down and “make an example of Greece” by crushing its economy in order to stave off the newly created and surging Podemos anti-austerity party that won key municipal elections in Spain. Prominent German elected officials have made explicit their desire to force Syriza (and Greece) to fail because they oppose its politics.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/07/the-new-york-times-urges-the-troika-to-make-an-example-of-greece.html

UN report is a reminder: Over 1.5 million people live in the Gaza Strip. It is not a battlefield

June 29, 2015

Brief humanitarian ceasefire in Beit Hanoun, 26 July 2014. Photo: Muhamad Sabah, B'Tselem.

Last summer’s Gaza conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge, began on 8 July 2014 and ended about fifty days later, on 26 August 2014. The devastation it would leave in its wake was known even when the fighting was still underway. The massive scale of it became clear once it was over. According to UN figures, more than 2,200 people were killed in Gaza, nearly 70% of them civilians who did not take part in the hostilities, including hundreds of women and children. Thousands of houses were destroyed and tens of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. According to B’Tselem figures, six civilians – including a young boy – were killed in Israel and 66 members of the Israeli security forces were killed in the fighting. There are no figures to convey the terror and fear experienced by millions of people during and after the war.

Even during the fighting, Israeli officials, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu down to the officers serving in the Gaza Strip, all claimed that the military was doing everything in its power to avoid harm to civilians, above and beyond its legal obligations, and far more than any other army does. They claimed that any harm caused to civilians during the fighting in Gaza was Hamas’ fault, as Hamas had carried out its activities from within the civilian population, using it as a human shield, and made the conscious choice to place this population and its property in harm’s way.

This was the official position adopted by the Israeli government. Statements to this effect were also made in response to the report published on 22 June 2015 by the commission of inquiry (COI) appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. The report examined the lawfulness of the conduct by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups during the fighting in Gaza.

In its report, the COI rejects Israel’s position, holding that Israel is responsible for the massive harm it inflicted on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip over the summer. The COI goes on to find that the Israeli military did not do enough to prevent harm to civilians and that in some cases, persisted in a policy that had already been proven to cause massive harm to civilians. These findings do not address any specific action taken by the military during the fighting. Rather, the COI rejects the prevailing view among Israeli government and military officials regarding what is permitted and what is not during fighting in a densely populated area such as the Gaza Strip. According to the COI’s report, the massive harm to the civilian population during the fighting cannot be justified in any way, and international humanitarian law (IHL) cannot be interpreted in such a way that would make this harm lawful.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20150630_un_report_on_gaza

BBC Propaganda War v. Greece Reaches New Low After “No” Vote

By William K. Black
Quito: July 6, 2015

If you want to know why economic policy has gone insane in the UK you simply have to read the work of the BBC’s “Economics editor,” Robert Peston. I showed one example of his failed effort to terrify the Greeks into voting “Yes” in favor of continuing the self-destructive policies that have forced Greece into worse-than-Great Depression levels of unemployment in my most recent column. Peston argued that the Greeks had to submit to the troika’s demands that it make these policies even more economically illiterate and self-destructive because the troika would otherwise ensure that Greece’s economy was “utterly crippled.” As you know, the EU stands for “ever closer union.”

But Peston has been moved to new depths of propaganda and rage by the Greek “No” vote. In his July 6, 2015 column entitled “Huge costs of Greece staying in or quitting the euro” he lies by commission and omission. I’ll begin with his deceptive description of the ECB, which provides a “target rich environment.”

As for the ECB, it does not wish to be seen as Greece’s Judge Dredd. It will take its lead from any statement by eurozone government heads on whether there is a realistic chance of a new deal to rescue the finances of the ailing Greek state.

This would be an excellent opportunity for the “Economics editor” of one of the world’s top publications to bring economic facts to bear. The ECB is the EU’s central bank. A key role of a central bank is to provide liquidity to its banks – which include the Greek banks. The ECB, in response to the Greeks daring to vote democratically on whether to succumb to the ECB’s blackmail, pulled the provision of liquidity to Greek banks. So, the principal starting point of any analysis of the ECB’s role is to know that they deliberately refused to meet their responsibility to provide liquidity to the banks in order to extort the Greeks to exacerbate policies that ensure that the troika will increase the harm to the Greek people and economy rather than “rescue the finances of the ailing Greek state.”

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/07/bbc-propaganda-war-v-greece-reaches-new-low-after-no-vote.html

The Untold History of Independence Day


Peter Linebaugh is an American Marxist historian who specializes in British history, Irish history, labor history, and the history of the colonial Atlantic. He recently retired after fifty years as a professor of history. Peter is the author of many books, including The London Hanged: Crime And Civil Society In The Eighteenth Century, The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, and most recently, Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance.

The Untold History of Independence DayJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

July 4 is celebrated here in the U.S. as Independence Day to mark the adoption of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

Now joining us to discuss the radical, little-known history of Independence Day is Peter Linebaugh. Peter is a historian and author. He just retired from the University of Toledo, where he taught for 20 years. He's the author of many books, including The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. He's also the author of the The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All, as well as, most recently, Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance.

Thank you so much for joining us, Peter.


LINEBAUGH: So, Peter, you know, in popular memory, this day, Independence Day, we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it was a long process that got the colonists to that point. Talk a little bit about the different political forces, social forces that helped get the US--and this was just within the first year or two of the Revolutionary War, but it had been a decade or longer that this conflict had been ongoing between the colonies and Great Britain. Talk about how we got to this point.

LINEBAUGH: Okay, Jaisal, I will talk about that, but it's hard. And even your question, you referred to how the U.S. got to this point, but, of course, it wasn't the U.S. at the time. The United States of America is an expression that Tom Payne invented and used to apply to what had been 13 colonies in revolt against Great Britain. So we're talking about an era before the U.S. has been formed. We're talking about a period of historical creation.

And it's complex. There are several sides to it. One side, it's the struggle of freedom against monarchy, a struggle of the notion of a republic against monarchy. And that is probably the principal theme of the Declaration of Independence.

I would suggest, you know, that people reread the Declaration of Independence, because they'll find 28 reasons for declaring independence from Great Britain. And these reasons reflect "a long train of abuses and usurpations" (or takeovers), to use Thomas Jefferson's language in the Declaration of Independence.

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12076

SCOTUS Case Could Bring "Right to Work" to All 50 States

Labor Notes' Samantha Winslow explains how the Supreme Court could weaken public sector worker unions

- July 1, 2015


Samantha Winslow joined Labor Notes as a Staff Writer in November 2012. She was an organizer for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West in California and later for the breakaway National Union of Healthcare Workers. She covers teachers, public sector workers, and USW.


SCOTUS Case Could Bring JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

The Supreme Court has decided to take up a case that could have major repercussions for public sector unions. In the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association the plaintiffs are arguing for the overturning of a current law that requires workers to pay fees for union representation even if they are not members. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the public sector jobs sector nationwide could become, quote-unquote, a right to work.

Now joining us to discuss all of this is Samantha Winslow. Samantha is joining us from New York. She is a staff writer for Labor Notes. And before that she was an organizer for SEIU United Healthcare Workers, west in California.

Thank you for joining us, Samantha.


DESVARIEUX: So we should note that the court will begin hearing the case in its next session, so that's not until the fall. But this is a very important case because the court has even decided to take it on. Supporters of right to work legislation say that public sector workers should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights to not pay if they don't want to be in a union.

So for you, Samantha, considering that argument, shouldn't we sort of take a listen to what they have to say? That if in order for them, that they shouldn't be paying these union dues if they're not a part of the union.

WINSLOW: Well, they have the right to not be in a union right now. And so what the compromise is is that they have to pay a fair share of the dues that full members pay. And the thinking behind that is that they enjoy the benefits of the union contract. They enjoy the wage increases that the union negotiates, and they enjoy the job security. And they can even be represented if they face discipline or some kind of attack from their employer.

So that was what the Supreme Court decided three years ago to compromise, to say that yes, you have the right to be a member or not be a member. But you do have to pay a fair share of dues to cover the representation that is required by law.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. And current labor law also says that these dues and fees used for union representation cannot be used for political or ideological activities other than representation in bargaining and administering contracts. But isn't the union activity like bargaining inherently political in some ways?

WINSLOW: Well, it is political in that members are engaging in an activity with their employer, but the specific money that goes to politics would be that extra chunk of the dues that the fair share members don't have to pay.

So what it really is is a contract between the employees, the workplace and the employer. And just like any other contract where the agreement is that everybody covered has to pay dues. And just to clarify, the case is actually going to decide whether public sector unions can negotiate a closed shop or not. So it's up to their employer, whether it's county or state or an agency to decide whether it's an open or closed shop.

DESVARIEUX: What does that mean, exactly?

WINSLOW: What it means is that there are some open shops where membership is voluntary. Even in the public sector there was, San Diego County for example, public employees were in an open shop up until recently.

So all this, all the Supreme Court ruling in '77 said was that you, once you negotiate that closed shop, you're required to pay that fair share. So it's giving unions the right to make these contracts with employers in the public sector.

DESVARIEUX Okay. Let's sort of play hypotheticals here. Let's say the Supreme Court rules in favor of overturning the law and then workers voluntarily decide not to pay for representation. Wouldn't this be more of a reflection of how public workers feel unions and the current labor movement is really addressing their concerns. So it's not necessarily the Supreme Court, but these labor unions haven't been doing their best job at being a adequate representation for these laborers.

WINSLOW: Well, I think that that's a fair question, and I would start by saying that the right to work movement and the business end conservative interests that are going after dues, they're not really interested in what's best for workers. They're not thinking about what's the best way to improve standards for workers. They're--on the contrary, they're thinking of undermining it. But this absolutely poses a challenge for unions, where they now have to think about how to remain relevant to all their members, that they can't just take for granted that the ten percent or 20 percent or 30 percent who don't want to be members are going to be paying that fair share fee that they've been counting on all these years.

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=14140

The BBC’s Inept but Revealing Attempt at a Game Theoretic View of Greek Crisis

Posted on June 26, 2015 by William Black

The BBC came up with a good “hook” for a story on the troika’s assault on the Greek economy and people. “Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, spent his academic career … studying game theory.” Professor Marcus Miller, a UK economist (U. Warwick) wrote an article for the BBC premised on how Varoufakis would apply game theory to Greece’s negotiations with the troika (the IMF, ECB, and the European Commission). Miller is a colleague of the great Robert Skidelsky and has co-authored with him an article explaining the economic illiteracy and self-destructive nature of the troika’s (and UK’s) infliction of austerity in response to the Great Recession.

The BBC, however, is such a great fan of austerity that one rarely reads why the vast majority of economists think that using austerity to respond to a Great Recession is akin to the quackery of bleeding a patient to make him healthier. Miller’s article in the BBC about game theory has the wrong title (recall that the author often does not get to choose the title), the wrong game, the wrong concept, and the wrong payoffs. The title of the article is: “Can game theory explain the Greek debt crisis?” The article does address that issue. It is limited to the issue of the new Greek government’s negotiations with the troika concerning a crisis that they inherited.

The game that Miller uses is the “prisoner’s dilemma.” That is the wrong concept and the wrong game and should actually be called the “prisoners’ dilemma” because it requires at least two prisoners. The “prisoners’ dilemma” game is used to explain (1) why cooperative behavior – by criminals – would be their optimal strategy, (2) why prosecutors and the police should prevent that cooperation, and (3) how prosecutors and the police can shape the prisoners’ incentives to encourage them to confess. As conventionally pictured, and Miller falls into this trap, the game does a poor job of explaining the third point. Real life prosecutors, police, and criminologists in the U.S. do a far better job of optimizing the incentives than do economists – and did so long before game theory was developed.

Here is Miller’s explanation.

The most famous game of all is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Imagine two prisoners have to choose between confessing and staying silent. If they both stay silent, they both go to jail for one year. If one confesses and the other stays silent, the first goes free and the second gets 20 years. If both confess, they both get five years.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/06/the-bbcs-inept-but-revealing-attempt-at-a-game-theoretic-view-of-greek-crisis.html#more-9555

Presumed Guilty: Remand in Custody by Military Courts in the West Bank

To all intents and purposes, the Israeli military court appears to be a court like any other. There are prosecutors and defense attorneys. There are rules of procedure, laws and regulations. There are judges who hand down rulings and verdicts couched in reasoned legal language. Nonetheless, this facade of propriety masks one of the most injurious apparatuses of the occupation.

Every year, thousands of Palestinians are brought before military courts on various charges, including entering Israel without a permit, stone-throwing, membership in an “illegal association”, violence, firearms-related offenses and traffic violations. The military court has jurisdiction over residents of the entire West Bank, including areas over which partial control was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, and even if the offense was committed outside the West Bank. In theory, these courts have the authority to try settlers. In practice, settlers are tried only in civilian courts inside Israel.

Watch the movie on the website of "The Law in These Parts – Beyond the film, an interactive journey" (Hebrew website, English subtitles).This segment and the two below are excerpts from interviews conducted for the production of the film The Law in These Parts. The speakers, military judges and legal advisers, describe and explain the legal proceedings in the military court.

Remand proceedings expose the injustice that takes place in Israeli military courts. In this context, remand is the detention for the duration of all legal proceedings in the case of a person whose questioning and investigation has been completed and who has been formally charged. Individuals on remand are not serving a prison sentence. They have not been sentenced, not been found guilty. They are being held in custody when they should be presumed innocent.

The Military Courts Unit does not publish figures on the number of motions for remand put forward by the prosecution nor the number of motions approved by the courts, claiming that this information is not available electronically. However, partial figures provided to B’Tselem indicate that, with the exception of individuals accused of traffic violations, remand is the rule rather than the exception. The military prosecution routinely asks for remand in custody and the courts approve the vast majority of the motions.


Court Reinstates Case Against Former Attorney General, FBI Director and INS Commissioner

Michael Ratner says after 13 years this is a big victory, The Centre for Constitutional Rights will be able to proceed with the case against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller and former INS commissioner James Ziglar, for policies they issued that resulted in the abuse of immigration detainees post 9-11

- June 21, 2015

snip*MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Sharmini, thank you for having me on The Real News.

PERIES: So Michael, tell us more about the case. Why was it reinstated?

RATNER: Sharmini, it's unusual that I'm on the show with you or Real News, and we actually have really good news to announce. This is one of those occasions. It's a big victory. It's a Center for Constitutional Rights case called Turkmen v. Ashcroft. Ashcroft was of course the attorney general during the initial period of 9/11. The litigation concerned abuse of immigration detainees post-9/11. And what we have won is an interim victory. It's been a 13-year struggle to get it there. This case was filed in April 2002. You have to have a long life and a long litigation life to win these cases, but we're on our way.

When I say an interim victory, what it means is that the case will now be remanded to the district court for trial, or the Justice Department could appeal to the Supreme Court and try to overturn it. We don't yet know which one.

But here's what it said. The appeals court in the second circuit, which is the court right underneath the Supreme Court, said that high-level Bush officials, including Ashcroft who was attorney general, Mueller who was head of the FBI, and Ziglar who was the commissioner of immigration, could be sued for post-9/11 abuse of immigration detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. The abuse, and what we alleged at the Center was from the policy decisions to target and punitively detain Arab, South-Asian men, and Muslim men post-9/11, despite the fact they were innocent of any claims of terrorism. As the court said, there was no reason except race and religion to consider them dangerous. That's what we alleged, and of course that has to be found as true at this point. They were detained from three to eight months. So not only were those three high-level policy officials subject to suit, but the court also said the people, the warden at the prison and others who actually did the abuse to these prisoners could be subject to suit as well.

Let me just give you an example of the type of conduct--and I'll talk a bit more about it. But the eight plaintiffs in this case and many others, when they walked into, they were arrested and taken into the prison, they had their faces smashed into a wall where guards had pinned a t-shirt with a picture of an American flag and the words "these colors don't run". The men were slammed against the t-shirt on their entrance to the prison, and told, welcome to America. The t-shirt was smeared with blood, yet it stayed up on the walls of the prison for months.

It's important to understand the context of this case. Until now there's been little, really no accountability, for what happened post-9/11. This may be the first victory on accountability if we can hold it. And just recall, we've had torture, indefinite detention at Guantanamo, abuses, arrest without probable cause, and yet no accountability.

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=14069

Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA ( Re-post from 2013 )

*Over turn CU and fight for public funded elections

How the Gun-Rights Lobby Won After Newtown

December 10, 2013, 4:15 pm ET by Sarah Childress

snip* A New Gun-Rights Power

In January, President Obama announced 23 executive actions intended to strengthen the enforcement of existing gun laws. Last month, he touted some progress, including improving the national background-check database and appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a post that’s been vacant for seven years.

But the administration’s major effort to pass what would have been the most sweeping reform in nearly two decades — new legislation that would have expanded background checks to include gun shows and online sales — failed within months in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The legislation was staunchly opposed by gun-rights groups, including a powerful newcomer in the federal arena.

The National Association for Gun Rights, or NAGR, which considers itself to the right of the powerful NRA, spent nearly $6 million in lobbying this year through September 2013 — more than double what the NRA paid out and far more than any other group on either side of the debate.

The NAGR was founded in 2001, but until this year it focused mainly on advocacy, keeping local groups apprised of gun legislation in their states. The source of its funding isn’t clear because as a 501(c)4, the NAGR isn’t required to disclose its backers.

The group’s leadership has ties to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The group’s executive vice president, Dudley Brown, declined to talk to FRONTLINE for this story. But earlier this year, Brown told the Center for Responsive Politics that the Sandy Hook shooting prompted the group to get involved on the federal level.

remainder in full: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/newtown-divided/how-the-gun-rights-lobby-won-after-newtown/

The Myths and Realities About Juneteenth

Preeminent historians Mr. Hari Jones and Dr. Gerald Horne discuss the many misunderstandings related to myths of Black freedom and notions of progress associated with Juneteenth celebrations. - June 19, 2015

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