Category Archives: Elders

Greece surrenders to the troika, more austerity


As thousands of Greeks demonstrated in Syntagma Square outside the national legislature, the national parliament drank the Kool-Aid and passed the austerity measures demanded by the Troika of international lenders, a move that may foreshadow the end of the Syriza Party’s term at the helm of the national government.

Alexis Tsirpras and his party emerged as the victors last year on a promise to overwthrow the yoke of imposed austerity.

Instead, they have embraced it.

From eKathimerini:

Greek MPs approved on Sunday night a multi-bill containing a range of measures, including another 1.8 billion euros in tax hikes and the framework for a vast new privatization fund, paving the way for the Eurogroup to release more loans to Athens.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saw 152 of his 153 MPs back the controversial package of legislation, meaning the government’s slim parliamentary majority was not put at risk.

Vassiliki Katrivanou voted for the legislation “in principle” but against the articles regarding the privatization fund and an automatic mechanism applying fiscal cuts if the primary surplus target is not met.

Eurozone finance ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to decide whether Greece has done enough to complete the first review of its latest bailout program. If the green light is given, Athens is set to receive a minimum of 5.7 billion euros in fresh funding. However, there are still questions regarding whether the eurozone creditors and the International Monetary Fund will agree on how to reduce Greece’s debt or whether this will prove an obstacle to the next disbursement.

Some of the reaction to the vote and more on the measures embraced from the Guardian:

“They are with the exception of the Acropolis selling everything under the sun,” said Anna Asimakopoulou, the shadow minister for development and competitiveness. “We are giving up everything.”

The multi-bill, which also foresees VAT being raised from 23% to 24%, is part of a package of increases in tax and excise duties expected to yield an extra €1.8bn in revenue. Earlier this month, Tsipras’s leftist-led coalition endorsed pension cuts that were similarly part of an array reforms amounting to €5.4 bn, or 3% of GDP.

At the behest of the EU and International Monetary Fund, the government has agreed to adopt tighter austerity in the form of an automatic fiscal brake – referred to as “the cutter” in the Greek media – if fiscal targets are missed.

Despite official claims that goals will be achieved, there is a high degree of scepticism as to whether this is feasible. The Greek economy has seen a depression-era contraction of more than 25% since the outbreak of the debt crisis in late 2009, and with high taxes likely to repulse investment, economic fundamentals are also unlikely to improve.

The Associated Press examines the causes and more of the effects:

Greece now hopes the creditors will complete the first assessment of its third bailout program, freeing loan disbursements that will allow Greece to meet its obligations and avoid default.

>snip<

[I]t will have to navigate differences between the International Monetary Fund, which call for a generous debt cut albeit with more austerity measures, and the Europeans, chief among them German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who want no such cuts.

At the end of an acrimonious four-day debate, including in committee, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras blasted the main conservative opposition and other centrist parties for having supported last August’s third bailout deal, but not the laws that have been voted on as prerequisites for concluding the assessment.

Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis countered that the bailout terms never included the superfund, which will expire in 2115. He said the precise terms were the results of Tsipras’ failure to negotiate reforms he and his leftist party have never believed in. He said he would prefer spending cuts to higher taxes and would negotiate with the creditors for lower annual levels of budget surpluses (2 percent of GDP instead of 3.5 percent) from 2018 onward.

The government majority was momentarily shaken Saturday when the junior partner, right-wing Independent Greeks, objected to freezes in pay hikes for so-called “special categories” of civil servants, including military, police, diplomats, judges, public health service doctors and university professors.

The pay cuts, which would have saved about 120 million euros ($135 million), were shelved and will be partly replaced by bringing forward taxes on Internet users and beer.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Voter generational shifts


From the Pew Research Center, Boomers have met their match, but will Millennials vote to the same degree?:

BLOG Voters

Quote of the day: World’s greatest sportscaster


Vin Scully is finally calling it quits after 67 years as the announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Literate, witty, and blessed with a tone that never condescends to his listeners, Scully is always a pleasure to hear.

When he drops the mic at the end of this year’s season, both the Dodgers and baseball will the poor for it.

From a valedictory retrospective Sports Illustrated profile of Scully by  baseball writer Tom Verducci:

At age 88, in preparing for his 67th home opener, Scully notices a player on the opposing Diamondbacks’ roster with the name Socrates Brito. The minute he sees the name, Scully thinks, Oh, I can’t let that go! Socrates Brito! Inspired in the way of a rookie broadcaster, Scully dives into his research. So when Brito comes to the plate, Scully tells the story of the imprisonment and death by hemlock of Socrates, the Greek philosopher. Good stuff, but eloquentia perfecta asks more:

“But what in the heck is hemlock?” Scully tells his listeners. “For those of you that care at all, it’s of the parsley family, and the juice from that little flower, that poisonous plant, that’s what took Socrates away.”

It’s a perfect example of a device Scully uses to inform without being pedantic. He engages listeners personally and politely with conditionals such as For those of you that care … and In case you were wondering…. Immediately you do care and you do wonder.

Scully isn’t done with Socrates. In the ninth inning, Brito drives in a run with a triple to put Arizona ahead 3–1.

“Socrates Brito feeds the Dodgers the hemlock.”

Map of the day II: The world is going gray


From the U.S. Census Bureau [PDF]:

Chart of the day: Ethnic generational divides


From a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Ethnoages

Chart of the day: Class and mortality in the U.S.


From the New York Times:

BLOG Mortality

Days of Revolt: America’s brutalizing ways of war


The latest edition of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English, features a joint interview of two American combat veterans who have seen first hand the brutalization and depersonalization integral to Uncle Sam’s imperial adventures’

Featured are Michael Hanes, a ten-year veteran of the US Marines Corps who served in Iraq as a member of the elite 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, the top echolon the the service’s special forces detachment, and Rory Fanning who served in Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion, that service’s original special warriors.

Both men have become peace activists and work on behalf of military veterans, and both see the brutality of America’s military engagements as the most essential recruiting tool for groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Why the Brutalized Become Brutal

From the transcript:

FANNING: Right, right. So we’d land in there. We’d put a bag over every military aged person?s head, whether they were a member of the Taliban or not, give the person who identified that person money, and then that person would also get that neighbor?s property.

So in a country with as much desperation and poverty as Afghanistan at the time, you’d do anything to put money or food on your family’s table and essentially that?s what we were doing. But we were also bringing people who had absolutely no stake in the fight into the war. And, so we were creating enemies, you know? I signed up after 9/11 to prevent another 9/11 from happening, but soon after arriving in Afghanistan I realized I was only creating the conditions for more terrorist attacks and it was a hard pill to swallow. I mean, we were essentially a bully, you know?

HEDGES: I mean worse than a bully, I mean, you know, we murder.

FANNING: Well we’d have a rocket land in our camp and we wouldn?t necessarily know where it came from. It came from that general direction over there. We’d call in a five-hundred pound bomb and it would land on a village. I mean, we know [because of] the International Physicians Against the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, that a million people have been killed around the world since 9/11. You know, we know, conservatively, that at least 80 percent of those people have been innocent civilians. So, I think to understand Brussels you have to get to the root of some of this stuff.

HEDGES: Yeah, and maybe Michael you can talk a little about some of your experience in Iraq.

HANES: Yes, well I mean, you know, the same thing with me, really. I was in the Iraq invasion and we pushed up into Baghdad and things [became], really, very real for me when we began to kick in doors, place charges in doors and rush into these homes and terrorize these people.

You know, I would say probably about 50 percent or more of the intel that we got was just dead wrong. Busting in these doors you come into a family?s house and there’s elderly women, young little girls, three, four years old, just screaming and horrific, just terrified to where they literally soil themselves. They pee their pants. And then, you know, you’re taking grandma and throwing her up against the wall and interrogating her. And that, you know, hits you right here. It hits you really hard.

And that’s when I began to ask myself, what the hell am I doing? You know? And then if you happen to be a young man in there, in your early twenties or anywhere in that range where you can carry a weapon, then just by mere association of being a young male, a possible insurgent, Saddam Fedayeen loyalist, whatever the case may be, you were taken out of the home and taken somewhere to be interrogated.