07/03/2015 archive

Vote No!

As Greece Heads for Default, Voters Prepare to Vote in Pivotal Referendum on More Austerity

Only Thing Now Certain in Greece: Austerity’s Failure, Debt’s Destruction

by Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

In a blog post listing six short arguments, Varoufakis explained why Syriza is urging the Greek people to vote ‘No’ against the bailout deal:

  1. Negotiations have stalled because Greece’s creditors (a) refused to reduce our un-payable public debt and (b) insisted that it should be repaid ‘parametrically’ by the weakest members of our society, their children and their grandchildren
  2. The IMF, the United States’ government, many other governments around the globe, and most independent economists believe – along with us – that the debt must be restructured.
  3. The Eurogroup had previously (November 2012) conceded that the debt ought to be restructured but is refusing to commit to a debt restructure
  4. Since the announcement of the referendum, official Europe has sent signals that they are ready to discuss debt restructuring. These signals show that official Europe too would vote NO on its own ‘final’ offer.
  5. Greece will stay in the euro.  Deposits in Greece’s banks are safe.  Creditors have chosen the strategy of blackmail based on bank closures. The current impasse is due to this choice by the creditors and not by the Greek government discontinuing the negotiations or any Greek thoughts of Grexit and devaluation. Greece’s place in the Eurozone and in the European Union is non-negotiable.
  6. The future demands a proud Greece within the Eurozone and at the heart of Europe. This future demands that Greeks say a big NO on Sunday, that we stay in the Euro Area, and that, with the power vested upon us by that NO, we renegotiate Greece’s public debt as well as the distribution of burdens between the haves and the have nots.

For Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic & Policy Research, what is most striking about the behavior of the Troika is how blatantly they are using their financial authority to exert political pressure within Greece. By backing an argument also put forth by Nobel-winning economist and columnist Paul Krugman earlier this week, Weisbrot suggests that elite forces in Europe are now using the financial crisis to force the current government from power.

Weisbrot says that from perspective of the Troika, “regime change” in Greece remains the only logical strategy to make sure that those who have stood in opposition to their policies are jettisoned and that submission to foreign authority, no matter the internal damage, returns to the impoverished nation. What’s worse, he writes, is that what Tsipras and his government are willing to accept-and what the nation, in fact, needs to enjoy a return to economic balance and prosperity-is not radical at all.

What Weisbrot concludes is what Krugman and other high-profile economists like Joseph Stiglitz also now believe: Greek voters should say “No” this weekend to further austerity, buck the bullying of the Troika, and take their economic future into their own hands.

But as Stiglitz, along with his Columbia University colleague Martin Guzman, explained in an article written late Tuesday, there remains a better path for Greece than the one put before it by  foreign creditors. Citing the case of Argentina, which more than a decade ago defaulted on its IMF obligations in order to wipe out what it said was an unjust and unsustainable debt burden, Stiglitz and Gusman argue that decision carries important lessons for present-day Greece.

“When debt is unsustainable, there needs to be a fresh start,” they write. “This is a basic, well-recognized principle. So far, the Troika is depriving Greece from this possibility. And there can’t be a fresh start with austerity.”

They conclude, “This Sunday, Greek citizens will debate two alternatives: austerity and depression without end, or the possibility of deciding their own destiny in a context of huge uncertainty. None of the options are nice. Both could lead to even worse social disruptions. But while with one of them there is some hope, with the other there is not.”

Take Down That Flag

It took the deaths of nine people in a church by a white supremacist to wake people, organizations, businesses, state and local governments that the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of treason and racism. In South Carolina, where the shooting occurred, the state legislature is slow to move on taking the flag down from the state capital grounds where it flies padlocked to the top of the pole. They are debating to debate. One person decided that not to wait for the defenders of treason and hate. So with a little help from her friends, Bree Newsome, a 30 year old black film maker song writer, did what no one else had the courage, or decency, to do, she climbed the pole and took the flag down.

Ms. Newsome and her friend, James Tyson, was arrested and released on bail. They could face up to three yers in jail and a $5000 fine, She and Mr, Tyson, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about the reasons they took this action.

Their action came 10 days after Dylann Roof, who embraced the Confederate flag, allegedly massacred nine African-American churchgoers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

From atop the flagpole, Bree Newsome said, “You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!” Newsome explained her choice of words. “In one of those nights where I was pondering, ‘Have I completely lost my mind in doing this?’ I read the story of David and Goliath, and David says to Goliath, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, and I come against you in the name of the Lord,’ and that, for me as a black woman in America, that’s what that moment felt like, because I come from a historically completely disempowered place,” Newsome said. “And so I think that’s why it was so powerful to a lot of people, especially to black women, to see me up there holding that flag in that way.”

Transcript can be read here

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: Medicare and Medicaid at 50

Medicare and Medicaid, the two mainstays of government health insurance, turn 50 this month, having made it possible for most Americans in poverty and old age to get medical care. While the Affordable Care Act fills the gap for people who don’t qualify for help from those two programs, there are important improvements still needed in both Medicare and Medicaid. [..]

Despite the perennial fear that the costs of these two programs will grow uncontrolled, spending in both has been growing at a relatively modest rate in recent years. Medicare and Medicaid have changed and grown over the decades, through Republican and Democratic administrations, to meet new challenges. Their performance and popular support has allowed them to withstand ideologically-driven attacks on their continuance as government entitlements. These programs succeed, in fact, because they entitle all eligible Americans to receive the health care they need.

Paul Krugman: Europe’s Many Economic Disasters

It’s depressing thinking about Greece these days, so let’s talk about something else, O.K.? Let’s talk, for starters, about Finland, which couldn’t be more different from that corrupt, irresponsible country to the south. Finland is a model European citizen; it has honest government, sound finances and a solid credit rating, which lets it borrow money at incredibly low interest rates.

It’s also in the eighth year of a slump that has cut real gross domestic product per capita by 10 percent and shows no sign of ending. In fact, if it weren’t for the nightmare in southern Europe, the troubles facing the Finnish economy might well be seen as an epic disaster.

And Finland isn’t alone. It’s part of an arc of economic decline that extends across northern Europe through Denmark – which isn’t on the euro, but is managing its money as if it were – to the Netherlands. All of these countries are, by the way, doing much worse than France, whose economy gets terrible press from journalists who hate its strong social safety net, but it has actually held up better than almost every other European nation except Germany.

: Rep. Raúl M Grijalva: America’s no ‘land of the free’ if we send kids fleeing violence to for-profit prisons

On a desolate dirt road about an hour south of San Antonio, some 2,500 women and children will experience the Fourth of July in America for the first time this weekend. For them, there will be no celebration: no barbecue in the backyard or fireworks in the night sky. We proclaim to the world that those facing credible harm in their homelands can find refuge in America, and they followed our promise of sanctuary for hundreds of miles to reach our southern border. They risked life and limb to escape poverty, violence and sexual predators in their native lands to find safety in America.

And then we threw them in jail.

The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas – known simply as Dilley – is one of two detention facilities outside of San Antonio that I toured on a Congressional delegation last week. I went to see for myself the conditions that the women and children incarcerated there face firsthand – and what I saw was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Jostein Solheim: I scream, you scream, we all scream – for higher fuel emission standards

We all know how good a cold ice cream tastes on a hot day, and climate scientists are telling us to expect more hot days – and extended heat waves – in the years ahead. As the planet gets warmer, we at Ben & Jerry’s want to be sure that our ice cream is produced with as few greenhouse gas emissions as possible, to keep our fans supplied with Cherry Garcia without making climate change even worse.

We’ve done our homework and know that 17% of our carbon footprint comes from transportation, from shipping our ice cream from the factory to our distribution centers. That’s a big bite out of our carbon budget, and we’re not alone. [..]

To tackle this carbon pollution and costs, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed federal regulations for the fuel economy of freight trucks. These proposed regulations are a step in the right direction, but they don’t lower emissions far enough or fast enough.

Seumas Milne: Syriza can’t just cave in. Europe’s elites want regime change in Greece

It’s now clear that Germany and Europe’s powers that be don’t just want the Greek government to bend the knee. They want regime change. Not by military force, of course – this operation is being directed from Berlin and Brussels, rather than Washington.

But that the German chancellor Angela Merkel and the troika of Greece’s European and International Monetary Fund creditors are out to remove the elected government in Athens now seems beyond serious doubt. Everything they have done in recent weeks in relation to the leftist Syriza administraton, elected to turn the tide of austerity, appears designed to divide or discredit Alexis Tsipras’s government. [..]

The real risk across Europe is that if Syriza caves in or collapses, that failure will be used to turn back the rising tide of support for anti-austerity movements such as Podemos in Spain, or Sinn Féin in Ireland, leaving the field to populists of the right.

Either way, any Greek euro deal that fails to write off unrepayable debt or end the austerity squeeze will only postpone the crisis. If the Syriza government survives, it will have to change direction. Its fate, and its chaotic confrontation with the eurozone’s overlords, is going to shape all of Europe’s future.

Barbara Kingsolver: A view from the south: let the Confederate flag go

My little town is proud to have reared citizens like Carolee, an honour student and star athlete who offers a helping hand to anyone she meets. She wears her blonde hair in a ponytail and a delicate tattoo on her wrist. It’s the Confederate battle flag.

That flag has come crashing into the global conversation after an avowed white supremacist massacred nine parishioners in an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina. He tore up hearts and families, left a state without its senator and a nation bereft. A crime so senseless leaves us grappling for something we can blame, or fix. We’re sickened by Dylann Roof’s self-portrait with a semi-automatic pistol and Confederate flag. In the wider world where it’s seldom seen, people must wonder how that emblem waved by a racist vigilante could ever have held appeal for local historians or thoughtful honour students. [..]

My southern home is not that nation. This month the Confederate flag finally came down from several southern state houses, and my neighbour’s barn. Our governor banned it from licence plates. The stock car drivers of Nascar, that bastion of good-ol-boys, expelled it from the racetracks. We’re honouring heritage by tapping our well of kindness, knowing that for too many people those colours evoke terror and despair. No more. Now is the moment in history when we send that flag to the graveyard.

The Breakfast Club (Notes)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Union forces win the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War; George Washington takes charge of the Continental Army; Algeria gains independence; Actor Tom Cruise born; Singer Jim Morrison dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.

Jon Stewart

On This Day In History July 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 3 is the 184th day of the year (185th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 181 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1863, Battle of Gettysburg ends

On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.

Third day of battle

General Lee wished to renew the attack on Friday, July 3, using the same basic plan as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal left, while Ewell attacked Culp’s Hill. However, before Longstreet was ready, Union XII Corps troops started a dawn artillery bombardment against the Confederates on Culp’s Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their lost works. The Confederates attacked, and the second fight for Culp’s Hill ended around 11 a.m., after some seven hours of bitter combat.

Lee was forced to change his plans. Longstreet would command Pickett’s Virginia division of his own First Corps, plus six brigades from Hill’s Corps, in an attack on the Federal II Corps position at the right center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the attack, all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear on the Federal positions would bombard and weaken the enemy’s line.

Around 1 p.m., from 150 to 170 Confederate guns began an artillery bombardment that was probably the largest of the war. In order to save valuable ammunition for the infantry attack that they knew would follow, the Army of the Potomac’s artillery, under the command of Brig. Gen. Henry Jackson Hunt, at first did not return the enemy’s fire. After waiting about 15 minutes, about 80 Federal cannons added to the din. The Army of Northern Virginia was critically low on artillery ammunition, and the cannonade did not significantly affect the Union position. Around 3 p.m., the cannon fire subsided, and 12,500 Southern soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced the three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) to Cemetery Ridge in what is known to history as “Pickett’s Charge”. As the Confederates approached, there was fierce flanking artillery fire from Union positions on Cemetery Hill and north of Little Round Top, and musket and canister fire from Hancock’s II Corps. In the Union center, the commander of artillery had held fire during the Confederate bombardment, leading Southern commanders to believe the Northern cannon batteries had been knocked out. However, they opened fire on the Confederate infantry during their approach with devastating results. Nearly one half of the attackers did not return to their own lines. Although the Federal line wavered and broke temporarily at a jog called the “Angle” in a low stone fence, just north of a patch of vegetation called the Copse of Trees, reinforcements rushed into the breach, and the Confederate attack was repulsed. The farthest advance of Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead’s brigade of Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division at the Angle is referred to as the “High-water mark of the Confederacy”, arguably representing the closest the South ever came to its goal of achieving independence from the Union via military victory.

There were two significant cavalry engagements on July 3. Stuart was sent to guard the Confederate left flank and was to be prepared to exploit any success the infantry might achieve on Cemetery Hill by flanking the Federal right and hitting their trains and lines of communications. Three miles (5 km) east of Gettysburg, in what is now called “East Cavalry Field” (not shown on the accompanying map, but between the York and Hanover Roads), Stuart’s forces collided with Federal cavalry: Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg’s division and Brig. Gen. Custer’s brigade. A lengthy mounted battle, including hand-to-hand sabre combat, ensued. Custer’s charge, leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry, blunted the attack by Wade Hampton’s brigade, blocking Stuart from achieving his objectives in the Federal rear. Meanwhile, after hearing news of the day’s victory, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick launched a cavalry attack against the infantry positions of Longstreet’s Corps southwest of Big Round Top. Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth protested against the futility of such a move but obeyed orders. Farnsworth was killed in the attack, and his brigade suffered significant losses.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Tearful Retrospective)

Soul Daddy

Tonightly, Bree Newsome, remover of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia from the South Carolina Confederacy display.  Should be fun.  The panel will be Holly Walker, Rory Albanese, Mike Yard, and Ricky Valez.


17, 18, …

Next week repeats.  Week after that pre-empted.  Regular shows resume July 20th which leaves scant time before Jon’s departure.

Not quite sure what I’m going to do, maybe I’ll follow Shark Week (just kidding).

Sarah Vowell is actually the Senior Historical Context Correspondent for The Daily Show, so she’s no doubt on to announce she’s starting a new project and won’t be appearing anymore followed by a tearful retrospective as we wonder just exactly what Trevor Noah will have left to work with when he takes over.

On the other hand she may just want to talk about reprising her role as Violet in Incredibles 2 (in production for 2016 release).

In other news Amy Schumer confirms she had serious discussions with Jon about hosting, but decided that the workload was too onerous and the role not well suited for the direction she wants to take her art.


Kirsten Gillibrand’s 2 part web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.