Saturday, February 21, 2015

What Does Latest Eurozone/Syriza Deal Mean?

Greece Eurozone Deal a Setback or Tactical Win for Syriza?


As we record this, talks between Greece and the Eurozone officials appear to be reaching some kind of agreement. There'll be some kind sort of extension on Greeks' death and the bailout agreement. Now joining us to talk about this is Heiner Flassbeck, who joins us from Geneva.

Heiner Flassbeck says Germany is asserting a destructive agenda proven to be driving Europe into recession.

Dr. Heiner Flassbeck Graduated in April 1976 in economics from Saarland University, Germany, concentrating on money and credit, business cycle theory and general philosophy of science; obtained a Ph.D. in Economics from the Free University, Berlin, Germany in July 1987. 2005 he was appointed honorary professor at the University of Hamburg. Employment started at the German Council of Economic Experts, Wiesbaden between 1976 and 1980, followed by the Federal Ministry of Economics, Bonn until January 1986; chief macroeconomist in the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin between 1988 and 1998, and State Secretary (Vice Minister) from October 1998 to April 1999 at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Bonn, responsible for international affairs, the EU and IMF. Worked at UNCTAD since 2000; from 2003 to December 2012 he was Director of the Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies. He was the principal author of the team preparing UNCTAD's Trade and Development Report, with specialization in macroeconomics, exchange rate policies, and international finance. Since January 2013 he is Director of Flassbeck-Economics, a consultancy for global macroeconomic questions ( ). Co-authored ACT NOW! The Global Manifesto for Economic Policy published 2013 in Germany.

Treachery: Has Syriza Sold Greece Out?

Syriza capitulates to the EU

By Robert Stevens - WSWS

21 February 2015 

The Greek government has repudiated its election pledges, agreeing Friday to a four-month extension of the existing loans and austerity programme dictated by “troika” of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

After nearly a month of negotiations with the political representatives of the European banks, Syriza has accepted the conditions demanded by the troika.

"Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis signalling
Syriza ready to accept virtually anything."

The Eurogroup statement noted the agreement remained conditional on Greece presenting, on Monday, a “first list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement.”

Syriza’s proposals must be approved the following day by the Eurogroup and the troika, who will “provide a first view whether this is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review.”

April was set as a deadline for Greece to complete a final list of austerity measures, which will be “further specified and then agreed” by the troika.

The statement asserts the “Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions.”

Without Greek compliance with these orders it will not receive billions of euros in further loans it requires in order to avoid defaulting on its debt of €320 billion.

Opening the press conference following five hours of talks, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Greece had given “their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations” to creditors. He stressed, “Economic recovery cannot be put in danger, fiscal stability cannot be put in danger, financial sector stability cannot be put in danger.”

Before the Eurogroup meeting began, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a press conference with French President François Hollande. She insisted that the Greek government had still not moved far enough in accepting the brutal cuts agreed to by the previous New Democracy-led government.

Merkel warned, “There is a need for significant improvements in the substance of what is being discussed so that we can vote on it in the German Bundestag, for example next week.”

As negotiations were taking place, at least a billion euros were withdrawn from Greece’s banks due to fear that no agreement would be reached. A reporter from Greece’s SKAI TV commented, “They came here determined to have a political solution, otherwise on Tuesday it would have been necessary to enforce capital controls [on Greek banks].”

Syriza’s agreement to continue enforcing austerity measures under the dictate of the European banks is the inevitable outcome of its class position and social interests.

Commenting on the political and social backlash Syriza will face, Pavlos Tzimas, a Greek political commentator, said,

“Very heavy concessions have been made, politically poisonous concessions for the government. It’s going to be a crash test on the domestic front for the government.”

Immediately following the press conference German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble spoke in similar terms:

“The Greeks certainly will have a difficult time to explain the deal to their voters. As long as the programme isn’t successfully completed, there will be no payout.”

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis earlier signalled that Syriza was ready to accept virtually anything. Athens had “gone not an extra mile [but] an extra 10 miles” in its proposal for the extension, he said. Other euro zone nations would have to meet Greece “not half way, but one-fifth of the way” in order to reach agreement.

The announcement on Friday followed by only one day the German government’s emphatic rejection Thursday of a proposal by the Greek government for an extension of its previous credit agreement with the EU.

In that proposal, presented by Varoufakis, Greece insisted that the “new government is committed to a broader and deeper reform process aimed at durably improving growth and employment prospects, achieving debt sustainability and financial stability.” In the vaguest terms, it called for “enhancing social fairness and mitigating the significant social cost of the ongoing crisis.”

As soon as the text of the proposal from Varoufakis was made public, the German Finance Ministry rejected it. Financial Times writer Peter Spiegel pointed out that Germany took particular exception to language that “seems to leave main points open to negotiation” by stating that the “purpose of the requested six-month extension of the Agreement’s duration” is “to agree the mutually acceptable financial and administrative terms…”

For Europe’s ruling elite, there are no “mutually acceptable financial and administrative terms,” only an unconditional surrender.

Reuters published a document it said “describes Germany’s position” in response to Varoufakis’s letter. It states that Greece’s request “opens immense room for interpretation” and includes “no clear commitment to successfully conclude the current programme, and it falls short of a clear freeze of Greek measures.”

The document spelled out the precise wording that would be acceptable. It stated,

“We need a clear and convincing commitment by Greece, which may just contain three short and well understandable sentences: ‘We apply for the extension of the current programme, making use of built-in flexibility. We will agree with the institutions any changes in measures from the existing MoU. And we aim at successfully concluding the programme’.”

In the end, this is what Syriza agreed to. It balked only at returning with an agreement that explicitly called on it to impose the hated “Memorandum of Understanding”—the list of austerity measures originally agreed to as part of the loan agreement. Syriza was allowed to have the “troika” renamed as the “institutions” and the “Memorandum of Understanding – MoU” recast as the “Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement” (MFAFA).

However, the MFAFA, the official name of the loan agreement, includes language requiring that Greece “comply with the measures set out in the MoU,” that is, with the austerity measures dictated by the European banks.

The abject capitulation of the Syriza government exposes the utter political bankruptcy of the myriad petty-bourgeois pseudo-left organizations throughout the world that just a few weeks ago hailed the electoral victory of Tsipras as an earth-shaking event. Far from denouncing Syriza’s betrayal, these groups will work overtime conjuring up excuses and justifications. But broad sections of the Greek working class will see the agreement for what it is: a cynical and cowardly act of political treachery.

The Unfunny Comedy News

Not Very Funny

by David Swanson - War is a Crime

Remarks prepared for event with comedian Lee Camp, Charlottesville, Va., February 21, 2015, event postponed by snow storm. When it's rescheduled I'll say something completely unrelated.

This is the serious part of tonight's event, except that Lee often deals with very serious topics. So what I mean is: this is the unfunny part of tonight's event, except that I'm going to talk about the United States government. One of my favorite things that Mark Twain didn't really say but definitely should have said was "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." He left out the possibility of imbeciles who are putting us on.

On Thursday Comcast internet was not working at my house, just as Comcast's hired Congress members were introducing a bill to create a closed internet with fast lanes for the corporate crap we didn't need the internet for. And a good internet media outlet called wanted to do a video interview with me, which I didn't want to do in Java Java because I try not to be quite that rude. So I sat out on the Downtown Mall and did the interview. It was about 12 degrees out, and I think you can see me shaking. And what did they want to talk about? War? Peace? The climate?

They wanted to talk about Jeb Bush. Clearly he is an imbecile who is putting us on. He'd been talking on foreign policy, and of course he agreed with Obama on most everything but claimed not to. On NSA spying, for example, he disagreed basically with the fact that there has been public criticism of Obama's abuses. How he would eliminate criticism he didn't say. He didn't bring up Ukraine or Afghanistan or drone wars, because what would he disagree with? He did bring up the Korean War in order to claim it was a success and not the stupid pointless draw that everyone called it for decades, but of course the innovator in popularizing that ridiculous claim was ... President Obama.

Mostly Jeb focused on Iran, pushing the false claim that Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map and is threatening nuclear attack. Obama pushes all the same lines but then nonsensically and uniquely in this case arrives at the antiwar view that diplomacy is preferable to bombing. Jeb approves of Netanyahu stepping in on March 3rd to give Congress its war orders on the one war Obama doesn't want. I recommend going to and urging Congress Members to skip it, as many have committed to doing -- even with Sheldon Adelson promising to pay for the unelection of each of them.

More broadly, Jeb pushed the idea that the Middle East is a disaster because it hasn't been bombed enough, and that the U.S. is disliked because it hasn't attacked enough countries. There are two problems with this. One, it's a disgusting and ridiculous lie that has been getting people killed for many years. A Gallup poll early last year of 65 countries found the U.S. to be considered far and away the biggest threat to peace in the world. The nations in the worst shape are the ones the U.S. has bombed. U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers has actually argued that we should stop paying attention to what bombing Libya did to Libya in order to be sufficiently willing to bomb Iraq and Syria. ISIS actually produced a 60-minute movie begging the United States to go to war against it because recruitment would soar. The U.S. obliged. Recruitment soared. This is how disliked the United States has made itself: organizations are willing to be bombed if it will show them to be the leading opponents of the United States -- a country that, by the way, puts over a trillion dollars a year into war when tens of billions could address world hunger, clean water, and other basic needs. For a fraction of war spending, the U.S. could address climate chaos, agriculture, education, etc., and become the most loved government on earth. But would that feel as good as screaming threats at ISIS?

ISIS, after all, kills people, cuts their throats like Saudi Arabia but on a smaller scale so it's more evil, and burns people to death, like U.S. drone strikes, but on a smaller scale so it must be stopped by using the larger scale killing to stop it.

It's amazing how Americans manage to think about violence. Why, we ask ourselves, don't cops need guns in London? Well, because the criminals don't have guns, but over here they do. So we have to fight guns with guns, and just to be safe spread some more guns around. But why, we ask ourselves, is the Middle East so violent? Well, that's easy: it's the result of millennia-old ethnic and religious hatreds that lie dormant for millennia and then burst into the open when we mistakenly provide freedom they're not ready for in the form of incendiary bombs and depleted uranium. And of course they have guns over there, it's part of their religion. Really? Because the U.S. State Department says that 79% of the weapons shipped to the Middle East are from the United States. That doesn't count the U.S. weapons, the weapons the CIA gives the moderate neck slitters, or the weapons the Iraqi Army abandons. In other words, the same geniuses who are selling drones to the world now have long been arming the global hotspots where they periodically seek to create peace by escalating war. I have a new theory: they are imbeciles who are putting themselves on.

The second problem with Jeb's prescription of more militarism is that President Obama has just proposed the biggest military budget ever and asked Congress for a free pass to launch new wars -- as he's doing anyway and says he'll do regardless -- and the American people are convinced that it's their duty to form opinions about Jeb and his brother and his father and Hillary Clinton and various other imbeciles or putter-oners or both. We're supposed to think that caring about such jack asses makes us good citizens. This is a disastrous distraction. It is actually our duty to engage in policy-driven activism, including activism aimed at fixing a broken election system, and to stop imagining that we're going to vote our way out of apocalypse by cheerleading the candidate for militarized corporate capitalism over the other candidate for militarized corporate capitalism.

Oh, but it's so much more fun to mock Jeb, isn't it? If we criticize Obama we have something in common with icky racists. Seriously? Which is more childish, the racism or the moronic notion that one must obey authority without question or become a racist? You don't have to "Approve" or "Disapprove" of Obama in some simplistic overall sense. There is no requirement in life or politics to be as stupid as a pollster's questions. You can encourage Obama's diplomacy on Iran and resist his warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promote the good, resist the bad. And avoid the desire to make it personal.

Jeb did try to find one other place to disagree with Obama, namely Cuba. As it happens, I just got back from Cuba last week and have a different perspective. The Republican line parroted by Jeb is that Obama did something for Cuba with nothing in return. Well, Obama is considering taking Cuba off the absurd terrorist list, since Cuba doesn't fund terrorism. But Cuba hasn't put the United States on a terrorist list to take it off of. There has been talk of ending the economic blockade, but Cuba has no blockade against the U.S. to lift. What is it Jeb wants of Cuba? Well, he wants it to stop supporting the popularly elected government of Venezuela and allow its overthrow. See, to get to Obama's right you have to go to overthrowing governments -- and then you'll discover that Obama pretty much agrees with you.

The U.S. is actually proposing to allow importing from Cuba limited items produced by private enterprise. This is an effort to privatize Cuba, to radically change or overthrow its government. By "opening" to Cuba, Obama has given himself new tools. The mission is unchanged. A few of us met with the staff of the soon-to-be U.S. embassy down there, and asked about the $20 million the U.S. spends propagandizing Cubans each year. I asked how they'd feel if Cuba funded activists in the United States. One of them told me there was no need, because the United States has freedom of speech and Cuba doesn't. OK, I said, but the United States has troops in 175 countries and more wars than it can keep track of, and Cuba doesn't. What if Cuba funded a movement against militarism in the United States? The U.S. diplomats said they'd have no problem with that at all. But of course the U.S. government would -- in fact working with Cuba on anything would constitute aiding "terrorists."

I suppose it's not very funny but it should be that if Cuba ever actually attacked the United States we would hear about it 24/7, but the United States and its terrorists living openly in Florida have for over 50 years blown up buildings and planes in Cuba, murdered in Cuba, and introduced human and animal diseases to Cuba, and the Cubans have museums full of the gear they've seized from the hapless CIA, but the Cuban people are delighted to meet Americans and don't blame us one bit for our government just as they'd no doubt like not to be blamed for their own.

Their government and many observers have a theory about why the U.S. government hates Cuba so much: it doesn't want us to see that even a poor country can provide universal healthcare, education, and a guaranteed income.

I'm thrilled with the victory of Jeff Fogel and others in the ruling this week that found a ban on panhandling unconstitutional here. But what if a nation with the resources of the U.S. were to start dreaming bigger? What if we were to do away with the need for panhandling? What if everyone had a full stomach, a good education, no debt, and some free time to pay attention to things?

I sat in a trial a few weeks ago in Alexandria of Jeffrey Sterling who had gone to Congress with the news that the CIA was giving plans for a nuclear bomb to Iran -- plans in which they'd introduced some obvious mistakes on the theory that the dumb Iranians would never notice and build their bomb wrong. Their Russian operative who took the plans to the Iranians was also not supposed to notice the flaws, but he did, immediately. The display of recklessness, stupidity, and imbecility putting itself on in this courtroom was beyond belief, and nobody was there, and the young all white jury found Sterling guilty.

One of the pieces of evidence in the trial discussed the next country the CIA was, in 2000, working on giving flawed nuclear bomb plans to after Iran. They blanked out the name of the country but showed how many letters had been blanked out. They also left it clear that the country's name began with a vowel. Only Iraq fit. These clowns were planning to give nuclear bomb plans to Iraq just before publicly making the case for invading Iraq before it nuked us.

But what else were they supposed to do? You can't do nothing, right? We must either love ISIS and do nothing or drop more bombs and create even more enemies. It's a tough counterproductive path to Armageddon but somebody's got to follow it. And somebody else has got to invent a bunch of lies to make it more palatable. When General Sherman raged through the South burning stuff he told himself that from here on out the South would know war so well that it would never want another one. And 150 years later, I dare you to just hint at taking down the statues of Southern war losers in Charlottesville. The South is the leading supporter of U.S. wars. Without the politics of the South, the U.S. might find its way clear all the way to respecting the rights of some other country. During World War II, the main newspaper in Atlanta, where Sherman had begun his march, editorialized in favor of burning every house in Japan. So, when Jeb-Obama-Hillary-McCain tell you that bombing Iraq will turn Iraqis against war, you can believe them or your own lying eyes. Have the past decades made Iraq more peaceful? Might ending slavery the way most nations did -- that is to say, without a war -- have produced something less than 150 years of resentment and displaced blowback?

If you'd like to get involved in advancing alternatives to war, please check out

And please join in the planning for a bigger, better peace movement with the series of events planned for Washington, D.C., on March 18-21. See

Debaltsevo Spells Reversal of Western Plans in Ukraine

The “Exceptional” U.S. Suffers Crushing Defeat in Debaltsevo

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

“There’s no city left. It’s destroyed.” — Anonymous Ukrainian soldier following the battle of Debaltsevo

In less than a year, the United States has toppled the democratically-elected government of Ukraine, installed a Washington-backed stooge in Kiev, launched a bloody and costly war of annihilation on Russian-speaking people in the East, thrust the economy into a downward death spiral, and reduced the nation to an anarchic, failed state destined to endure a vicious fratricidal civil war for as far as the eye can see.

Last week, Washington suffered its greatest military defeat in more than a decade when Ukraine’s US-backed army was soundly routed in the major railway hub of Debaltsevo. Roughly, 8,000 Ukrainian regulars along with untold numbers of tanks and armored units were surrounded in what-came-to-be-known-as “the cauldron.”

The army of the Donetsk Peoples Republic led by DPR commander Alexander Zakharchenko, encircled the invading army and gradually tightened the cordon, eventually killing or capturing most of the troops within the pocket. The Ukrainian Armed Forces suffered major casualties ranging between 3,000 to 3,500 while a vast amount of lethal military hardware was left behind.

According to Zakharchenko, “The amount of equipment Ukrainian units have lost here is beyond description.”

Additionally, the US-backed proxy-army saw many of its crack troops and top-notch units destroyed in the fighting leaving Kiev unable to continue the war without assistance from allies in the US or Europe. The full impact of the defeat will not be known until angry troops returning from the front amass on the streets of the Capital and demand Petro Poroshenko’s resignation.

The Ukrainian President is responsible for the massacre at Debaltsevo. He was fully aware that his army faced encirclement but ordered them to remain in order to satisfy powerful right-wing elements in his government. The disaster is even more terrible due to the fact that it was entirely avoidable and achieved no strategic purpose at all. Extreme hubris frequently impacts outcomes on the battlefield. This was the case at Debaltsevo.

The debacle ensures that the bumbling president’s days are numbered. It’s nearly certain that he will either be replaced or hanged sometime in weeks ahead. He has already flown his family to safety out of the country, and there’s growing speculation that both Washington and the far-right nationalists who occupy the Security Services will insist on his removal. That paves the way for a second Ukrainian coup in less than a year, a grim reminder of the tragic failings of US policy in Ukraine.

Check out this blurb from a post at the Vineyard of the Saker:

“Looks like the Nazi death squads are on the march again, this time they are looking at Kiev. Thirteen death-squad (aka “volunteer battalion”) leaders have now declared that they are forming their own military command under the command of the notorious Semen Semenchenko. Officially, they are not in any way opposed to the current regime, so said Semenchenko, but in reality their rank and file members are pretty clear about what they want to do: organize a third Maidan and toss out Poroshenko.

What makes these 21st century version of the SA so dangerous for Poroshenko is that he, unlike Hitler, does not have a 21st century version of the SS to eliminate them all overnight. In fact, according to many reports the entire southern part of the rump-Ukraine is now “Kolomoiski-land” fully under the control of the oligarch who finances these death-squads. Add to this the fact that most of the Rada is composed of the very same battalion commanders and assorted Nazi freaks, and you will why Poroshenko is now very much in danger……

The sad reality is that there is simply nobody in the Ukraine capable of disarming these so-called “volunteer battalions”. There are now thousands of uniformed Nazi freaks roaming around with guns who can now impose their law of the jungle on everybody. It sure looks like the future of Banderastan will be something like a mix of Somalia and Mad Max – a failed state, a comprehensively destroyed economy, a collapsed social order and the law of armed gangs of thugs.”
(The Vineyard of the Saker)

If Poroshenko is doomed to be the scapegoat in the Debaltsevo cock-up, it’s only because he followed the foolhardy advice of his Washington paymasters. Had he listened to his military advisors instead, he probably would have withdrawn his troops earlier and spared himself a Gadhafi-like demise. Now, that’s probably no longer possible.

Poroshenko’s desperation has led to an appeal to western allies and the United Nations for the deployment of a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. The request is an admission of defeat and has no chance of being implemented, mainly because it violates the terms of the recent peace agreement (Minsk 2.0), but, also, because voting members on the Security Council (Russia and China) are certain to veto the idea.

Clearly, Poroshenko, who is increasingly embattled and reviled, is grasping at straws hoping to avoid the same violent end he ruthlessly inflicted on so many of his countrymen. Here is a brief summary of recent events from the World Socialist Web Site:

“The debacle suffered by the Kiev regime exposes the utterly reckless and frankly stupid character of the policy pursued by Washington and its EU allies in Ukraine….

The initial attempts of the Kiev regime and its CIA backers to subjugate east Ukraine by sheer military terror, relying on fascist militias and select units of the Ukraine army that it considered to be reliable, have failed….

Nevertheless, Washington is pressing Kiev to prepare for a renewed offensive and is still discussing directly arming the Ukrainian army against Russia with US weapons….

In west Ukraine, the population is evading or resisting draft orders to obtain more cannon fodder for the east Ukraine war. At the same time, Ukraine’s economy, cut off from its main industrial base in east Ukraine and its export markets in Russia, is collapsing.

“The country is at war that they cannot afford to fight. There is no economy any longer….Gerald Celente of Trends Journal told Russia Today. “That $160 billion loss of trade with Russia has destroyed the economy, when it was already in a severe recession. It went from very bad to worse than depression levels.”  -
(“US-backed Kiev regime faces military debacle in east Ukraine war“, Alex Lantier, World Socialist Web Site

Washington has largely won the information war, having persuaded Congress and the American people that US policy in Ukraine is “just”, but on the ground, where it counts, Washington has encountered one catastrophic failure after another. This process will undoubtedly persist until the costs are too exorbitant to bear.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Where Does the RCMP Get Its "Intelligence"? (Spoiler: Toronto Sun Op-Ed Page)

9 weirdest things about this RCMP intelligence report on the "anti-petroleum movement"

by PressProgress


The Mounties always get their man.

But a newly disclosed intelligence assessment from the RCMP looking at the "anti-Canada petroleum movement" suggests the same might not always be true about their facts.

First reported in La Presse, and again Monday in the Globe and Mail, the RCMP report dated January 2014 warns of "a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society's reliance on fossil fuels."

Famed "RCMP" Crime Buster, D. Do-Right

The report surfaces amidst fresh debate in Parliament over the Tories new anti-terror legislation and its potential use against groups involved in peaceful protest and legitimate dissent. The Harper government already has a proven track record for gathering intelligence on opponents of the oil sands.

While an RCMP spokesman assured the Globe that "there is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada's critical infrastructure," the report states that "within the anti-petroleum environmental movement, the law enforcement and security intelligence communities have detected a small, but violent-prone faction" who are capable of engaging "in criminal activitiy to attempt to shut down the Canadian petroleum industry."

But a closer look at the intelligence assessment reveals much of the report relies on information patched together from sources like oil industry lobbyists and media outlets sympathetic to the oil industry -- in some cases leading to bizarre conclusions.

1. The RCMP labels environmentalism as the "anti-petroleum movement"

A little inflammatory? Even the Globe and Mail found this "highly charged language."

An RCMP spokesman "would not comment on the tone" of the assessment, which the Globe adds "suggests opposition to resource develpment runs counter to Canada's national interest" and links well-known enviromental NGOs "to growing militancy in the 'anti-petroleum movement'."

2. They lead off their "background" section by quoting oil lobbyists

The world needs oil? Really?

Has the Harper government's cuts left the RCMP so hard up for cash that they've turned their intelligence reports into advertorials?

3. They cite a poll conducted by a think tank headed by oilmen and connected to the birth of the Reform Party

The assessment goes on to cite a 2013 poll conducted by the Canada West Foundation, a right-leaning think tank founded by individuals linked to the oil industry and connected to the Reform Party in the 1980s.

"The message is clear," the pollster says, "Canadians overwhelmingly support continued oil sands development."

Not included in the RCMP's backgrounder is their finding that "barely one-third agree that the oil and gas industry does a good job of respecting the views of local communities affected by resource development."

4. Greenhouse gas emissions are "reportedly" linked to fossil fuels

The assessment also assumes a tone of skepticism towards environmental science that is clearly absent in the RCMP's glowing review of the virtues of the oil indistury.

Qualifying the positions of environmentalists with tentative words like "claim" and "reportedly," the RCMP assessment goes so far as to suggest representatives of the "anti-Canadian petroleum movement" say greenhouse gas emissions are "reportedly" linked to fossil fuels.

Does anyone on either side of the debate actually dispute that burning fossil fuels produces, say, carbon dioxide? Environment Canada sure doesn't. This is basic science.

5. Quote attributed to scientist re: Social Media is used completely out-of-context

Looking at "the increasing impact of social media," the RCMP assessment claims the "anti-Canadian petroleum movement" is using social media to "mobilize young people," a point backed up by Oxford University professor Dr. Alan McHughen -- who expresses concern that "impressionable students" who wish to "save the planet" are being targeted.

Except this is completely wrong: McHughen wasn't talking about the 'anti-petroleum' movement, he was talking about genetically modified food in a National Post article titled "Who's afraid of GMOs?"

6. Social media is being used to "exaggerate" claims

The assessment adds that social media is being used to "exaggerate" environmental damage and "challenge" the integrity of the oil industry:

The footnote leads to an unsourced list of 'claims' and 'facts' that claims the oil sands account for less than five per cent of Canada's emissions and less than 0.1% the the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. Not even Natural Resources Canada's own numbers make such glowing claims:

7. Cites blog of grad student who also wrote about privacy concerns re: being labelled as an extremist and monitored by the federal government

Likewise, to elaborate on how the internet is being used to challenge the oil industry, the assessment cites the findings found on a Dalhousie University grad student's blog:

Interestingly, a cursory review of this source shows the same student's MA thesis discusses how some internet users are concerned about "being labelled as an extremist by the Canadian federal government" based on online activity relating to the oil industry:

"...some participants expressed concern about publicly tweeting opposition to the oil sands and pipeline. Specifically, they indicated that they were concerned about being labelled as an extremist by the Canadian federal government based on what they were tweeting on the oil sands and the pipeline and their use of the hashtag #tarsands. In fact, two interview participants suspected that their online activity, including their tweets on the oil sands and pipeline, were being monitored by the federal government."

8. Financial data on environmental groups entirely from the Financial Post

The assessment's data on the funding sources of environmental groups also relies entirely on one article by Vivian Krause, a critic of the environmental movement whom has been described as "one of the most controversial figures in the rather incredible battle shaping up over the Northern Gateway pipeline" by the Vancouver Sun's Peter O'Neil.

Might not want to rely too heavily on the Financial Post, though.

9. The RCMP is actually relying on Toronto Sun opinion columnists for intel?

Are Toronto Sun columnist's opinions on the "real agenda" of environmentalists really useful intelligence?

Used Under Creative Commons Licenses 

Murder in Democracy's Cradle: The Assassination of Greece

The Assassination of Greece

by James Petras 


The Greek government is currently locked in a life and death struggle with the elite which dominate the banks and political decision-making centers of the European Union. What are at stake are the livelihoods of 11 million Greek workers, employees and small business people and the viability of the European Union. If the ruling Syriza government capitulates to the demands of the EU bankers and agrees to continue the austerity programs, Greece will be condemned to decades of regression, destitution and colonial rule. If Greece decides to resist, and is forced to exit the EU, it will need to repudiate its 270 billion Euro foreign debts, sending the international financial markets crashing and causing the EU to collapse.

The leadership of the EU is counting on Syriza leaders abandoning their commitments to the Greek electorate, which as of early February 2015, is overwhelmingly (over 70%) in favor of ending austerity and debt payments and moving forward toward state investment in national economic and social development [1]. The choices are stark; the consequences have world-historical significance. The issues go far beyond local or even regional, time-bound, impacts. The entire global financial system will be affected [2].

The default will ripple to all creditors and debtors, far beyond Europe; investor confidence in the entire western financial empire will be shaken. First and foremost all western banks have direct and indirect ties to the Greek banks [3]. When the latter collapse, they will be profoundly affected beyond what their governments can sustain. Massive state intervention will be the order of the day. The Greek government will have no choice but to take over the entire financial system . . . the domino effect will first and foremost effect Southern Europe and spread to the ‘dominant regions’ in the North and then across to England and North America [4].

To understand the origins of this crises and alternatives facing Greece and the EU, it is necessary to briefly survey the political and economic developments of the past three decades. We will proceed by examining Greek and EU relations between 1980 – 2000 and then proceed to the current collapse and EU intervention in the Greek economy. In the final section we will discuss the rise and election of Syriza, and its growing submissiveness in the context of EU dominance, and intransigence, highlighting the need for a radical break with the past relationship of ‘lord and vassal’.

Ancient History: The Making of the European Empire

In 1980 Greece was admitted to the European Economic Council as a vassal state of the emerging Franco-German Empire. With the election of Andreas Papandreou, leader of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party, with an absolute majority in Parliament, hope arose that radical changes in domestic and foreign policy would ensue. [5] In particular, during the election campaign, Papandreou promised a break with NATO and the EEC, the revoking of the US military base agreement and an economy based on ‘social ownership’ of the means of production.

After being elected, Papandreou immediately assured the EEC and Washington that his regime would remain within the EEC and NATO, and renewed the US military base agreement. Studies in the early 1980’s commissioned by the government which documented the medium and long-term adverse results of Greece remaining in the EEU, especially the loss of control of trade, budgets and markets, were ignored by Papandreou who chose to sacrifice political independence and economic autonomy in favor of large scale transfers of funds, loans and credit from the EEC. Papandreou spoke from the balcony to the masses of independence and social justice while retaining ties to the European bankers and Greek shipping and banking oligarchs. The European elite in Brussels and Greek oligarchs in Athens retained a stranglehold on the commanding heights of the Greek political and economic system.

Papandreou retained the clientelistic political practices put in place by the previous right-wing regimes – only replacing the rightist functionaries with PASOK party loyalists.

The EEC brushed off Papandreou’ phony radical rhetoric and focused on the the fact they were buying control and subservience of the Greek state by financing a corrupt, clientelistic regime which was deflecting funds for development projects to upgrade Greek economic competitiveness into building a patronage machine based on increased consumption.

The EEC elite ultimately knew that its financial stranglehold over the economy would enable it to dictate Greek policy and keep it within the boundaries of the emerging European empire.

Papandreou’s demagogic “third world” rhetoric notwithstanding, Greece was deeply ensconced in the EU and NATO. Between 1981-85, Papandreou discarded his socialist rhetoric in favor of increased social spending for welfare reforms, raising wages, pensions and health coverage, while refinancing bankrupt economic firms run into the ground by kleptocratic capitalists. As a result while living standards rose, Greece’s economic structure still resembled a vassal state heavily dependent on EEC finance, European tourists and a rentier economy based on real estate, finance and tourism.

Papandreou solidified Greece’s role as a vassal outpost of NATO; a military platform for US military intervention in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean; and market for German and northern European manufactured goods.

From October 1981 to July 1989 Greek consumption rose while productivity stagnated; Papandreou won elections in 1985 using EEC funds. Meanwhile Greek debt to Europe took off … EEC leaders chastised the misallocation of funds by Papandreou’s vast army of kleptocrats but not too loudly. Brussels recognized that Papandreou and PASOK were the most effective forces in muzzling the radical Greek electorate and keeping Greece under EEC tutelage and as a loyal vassal of NATO.

Lessons for Syriza: PASOK’s Short-term Reforms and Strategic Vassalage

Whether in government or out, PASOK followed in the footsteps of its rightwing adversary (New Democracy) by embracing the NATO-EEC strait-jacket. Greece continued to maintain the highest per capita military expenditure of any European NATO member. As a result, it received loans and credits to finance short-term social reforms and large scale, long-term corruption, while enlarging the party-state political apparatus.

With the ascent of the openly neoliberal Prime Minister Costas Simitis in 2002, the PASOK regime “cooked the books”, fabricated government data on its budget deficit, with the aid of Wall Street investment banks, and became a member of the European Monetary Union. By adopting the euro, Simitis furthered deepened Greece’s financial subordination to the non-elected European officials in Brussels, dominated by the German finance ministry and banks.

The oligarchs in Greece made room at the top for a new breed of PASOK kleptocratic elite, which skimmed millions of military purchases, committed bank frauds and engaged in massive tax evasion.

The Brussels elite allowed the Greek middle class to live their illusions of being ‘prosperous Europeans’ because they retained decisive leverage through loans and accumulating debts.

Large scale bank fraud involving three hundred million euros even reached ex-Prime Minister Papandreou’s office.

The clientele relations within Greece were matched by the clientele relations between Brussels and Athens.

Even prior to the crash of 2008 the EU creditors, private bankers and official lenders, set the parameters of Greek politics. The global crash revealed the fragile foundations of the Greek state – and led directly to the crude, direct interventions of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission – the infamous “Troika”. The latter dictated the ‘austerity’ policies as a condition for the “bail-out” which devastated the economy, provoking a major depression; impoverishing over forty percent of the population, reducing incomes by 25% and resulting in 28% unemployment.

Greece: Captivity by Invitation

Greece as a political and economic captive of the EU had no political party response. Apart from the trade unions which launched thirty general strikes between 2009 – 2014, the two major parties, PASOK and New Democracy, invited the EU takeover. The degeneration of PASOK into an appendage of oligarchs and vassal collaborator of the EU emptied the ‘socialist’ rhetoric of any meaning. The right wing New Democracy Party reinforced and deepened the stranglehold of the EU over the Greek economy. The troika lent the Greek vassal state funds(“bail-out”) which was used to pay back German, French and English financial oligarchs and to buttress private Greek banks. The Greek population was ‘starved’ by ‘austerity’ policies to keep the debt payments flowing-outward and upward.

Europe: Union or Empire?

The European economic crash of 2008/09 resounded worst on its weakest links – Southern Europe and Ireland. The true nature of the European Union as a hierarchical empire, in which the powerful states – Germany and France – could openly and directly control investment, trade, monetary and financial policy was revealed. The much vaunted EU “bailout” of Greece was in fact the pretext for the imposition of deep structural changes. These included the denationalization and privatization of all strategic economic sectors; perpetual debt payments; foreign dictates of incomes and investment policy. Greece ceased to be an independent state: it was totally and absolutely colonized.

Greece’s Perpetual Crises: The End of the “European Illusion”

The Greek elite and, for at least 5 years, most of the electorate, believed that the regressive (“austerity”) measures adopted – the firings, the budget cuts, the privatizations etc. were short-term harsh medicine, that would soon lead to debt reduction, balanced budgets, new investments, growth and recovery. At least that is what they were told by the economic experts and leaders in Brussels.

In fact the debt increased, the downward economic spiral continued, unemployment multiplied, the depression deepened. ‘Austerity’ was a class based policy designed by Brussels to enrich overseas bankers and to plunder the Greek public sector.

The key to EU pillage and plunder was the loss of Greek sovereignty. The two major parties ,New Democracy and PASOK, were willing accomplices. Despite a 55% youth (16 – 30 years old) unemployment rate, the cut-off of electricity to 300,000 households and large scale out-migration (over 175,000), the EU (as was to be expected) refused to concede that the ‘austerity’ formula was a failure in recovering the Greek economy. The reason the EU dogmatically stuck to a ‘failed policy’ was because the EU benefited from the power, privilege and profits of pillage and imperial primacy.

Moreover, for the Brussels elite to acknowledge failure in Greece would likely result in the demand to recognize failure in the rest of Southern Europe and beyond, including in France Italy and other key members of the EU [6]. The ruling financial and business elites in Europe and the US prospered through the crises and depression, by imposing cuts in social budgets and wages and salaries. To concede failure in Greece, would reverberate throughout North America and Europe, calling into question their economic policies, ideology and the legitimacy of the ruling powers. The reason that all the EU regimes back the EU insistence that Greece must continue to abide by an obviously perverse and regressive ‘austerity’ policy and impose reactionary “structural reforms” is because these very same rulers have sacrificed the living standards of their own labor force during the economic crises [7].

The economic crises spanning 2008/9 to the present (2015), still requires harsh sacrifices to perpetuate ruling class profits and to finance state subsidies to the private banks. Every major financial institution – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF – toes the line: no dissent or deviation is allowed. Greece must accept EU dictates or face major financial reprisals. “Economic strangulation or perpetual debt peonage” is the lesson which Brussels tends to all member states of the EU. While ostensibly speaking to Greece – it is a message directed to all states, opposition movements and trade unions who call into question the dictates of the Brussels oligarchy and its Berlin overlords.

All the major media and leading economic pundits have served as megaphones for the Brussel oligarchs. The message, which is repeated countless times, by liberals, conservatives and social democrats to the victimized nations and downwardly mobile wage and salaried workers, and small businesspeople, is that they have no choice but to accept regressive measure, slashing living conditions (“reforms”) if they hope for ‘economic recovery’ – which, of course, has not happened after five years!

Greece has become the central target of the economic elites in Europe because, the Greek people have gone from inconsequential protests to political powers. The election of Syriza on a platform of recovering sovereignty, discarding austerity and redefining its relations with creditors to favor national development has set the stage for a possible continent-wide confrontation.

The Rise of Syriza: Dubious Legacies, Mass Struggles and Radical (Broken) Promises

The growth of Syriza from an alliance of small Marxist sects into a mass electoral party is largely because of the incorporation of millions of lower middle class public employees, pensioners and small businesspeople. Many previously supported PASOK. They voted Syriza in order to recover the living conditions and job security of the earlier period of “prosperity” (2000-2007) which they achieved within the EU. Their radical rejection of PASOK and New Democracy came after 5 years of acute suffering which might have provoked a revolution in some other country. Their radicalism began with protests, marches and strikes were attempts to pressure the rightwing regimes to alter the EU’s course, to end the austerity while retaining membership in the EU.

This sector of SYRIZA is ‘radical’ in what it opposes today and conformist with its nostalgia for the past. —the time of euro funded vacation trips to London and Paris, easy credit to purchase imported cars and foodstuffs, to ‘feel modern’ and ‘European’ and speak English!

The politics of Syriza reflects, in part, this ambiguous sector of its electorate. In contrast Syriza also secured the vote of the radical unemployed youth and workers who never were part of the consumer society and didn’t identify with “Europe”. Syriza has emerged as a mass electoral party in the course of less than five years and its supporters and leadership reflects a high degree of heterogeneity.

The most radical sector, ideologically, is drawn mostly from the Marxist groups which originally came together to form the party. The unemployed youth sector joined, following the anti-police riots, which resulted from the police assassination of a young activist during the early years of the crisis. The third wave is largely made up of thousands of public workers, who were fired, and retired employees who suffered big cuts in their pensions by order of the troika in 2012. The fourth wave is ex PASOK members who fled the sinking ship of a bankrupt party.

The Syriza Left is concentrated at the mass base and among local and middle level leaders of local movements. The top leaders of Syriza in power positions are academics, some from overseas. Many are recent members or are not even party members. Few have been involved in the mass struggles – and many have few ties with the rank and file militants. They are most eager to sign a “deal” selling out the impoverished Greeks

As Syriza moved toward electoral victory in 2015, it began to shed its original program of radical structural changes (socialism) and adopt measures aimed at accommodating Greek business interests. Tsipras talked about “negotiating an agreement” within the framework of the German dominated European Union. Tsipras and his Finance Minister proposed to re-negotiate the debt, the obligation to pay and 70% of the “reforms”! When an agreement was signed they totally capitulated!

For a brief time Syriza maintained a dual position of ‘opposing’ austerity and coming to agreement with its creditors. It’s “realist” policies reflected the positions of the new academic ministers, former PASOK members and downwardly mobile middle class. Syriza’s radical gestures and rhetoric reflected the pressure of the unemployed, the youth and the mass poor who stood to lose, if a deal to pay the creditors was negotiated.

EU – SYRIZA: Concessions before Struggle Led to Surrender and Defeat

The “Greek debt” is really not a debt of the Greek people. The institutional creditors and the Euro-banks knowingly lent money to high risk kleptocrats, oligarchs and bankers who siphoned most of the euros into overseas Swiss accounts, high end real estate in London and Paris, activity devoid of any capacity to generate income to pay back the debt. In other words, the debt, in large part, is illegitimate and was falsely foisted on the Greek people.

Syriza, from the beginning of ‘negotiations’, did not call into question the legitimacy of the debt nor identified the particular classes and enterprise who should pay it.

Secondly, while Syriza challenged “austerity” policies it did not question the Euro organizations and EU institutions who impose it.

From its beginning Syriza has accepted membership in the EU. In the name of “realism” the Syriza government accepted to pay the debt or a portion of it, as the basis of negotiation.

Structurally, Syriza has developed a highly centralized leadership in which all major decisions are taken by Alexis Tsipras. His personalistic leadership limits the influence of the radicalized rank and file. It facilitated “compromises” with the Brussels oligarchy which go contrary to the campaign promises and may lead to the perpetual dependence of Greece on EU centered policymakers and creditors.

Moreover, Tsipras has tightened party discipline in the aftermath of his election, ensuring that any dubious compromises will not lead to any public debate or extra-parliamentary revolt.

The Empire against Greece’s Democratic Outcome

The EU elite have, from the moment in which Syriza received a democratic mandate, followed the typical authoritarian course of all imperial rulers. It has demanded from Syriza
 (1) unconditional surrender
 (2) the continuation of the structures, policies and practices of the previous vassal coalition party-regimes (PASOK-New Democracy)
 (3) that Syriza shelve all social reforms, (raising the minimum wage, increasing pension, health, education and unemployment spending
 (4) that SYRIZA follow the strict economic directives and oversight formulated by the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund)
 (5) that SYRIZA retain the current primary budget surplus target of 4.5 percent of economic output in 2015-2017.

To enforce its strategy of strangulating the new government, Brussels threatened to abruptly cut off all present and future credit facilities, call in all debt payments, end access to emergency funds and refuse to back Greek bank bonds – that provide financial loans to local businesses.

Brussels presents Syriza with the fateful “choice”, of committing political suicide by accepting its dictates and alienating its electoral supporters. By betraying its mandate, Syriza will confront angry mass demonstrations. Rejecting Brussels’ dictates and proceeding to mobilize its mass base, Syriza could seek new sources of financing, imposing capital controls and moving toward a radical “emergency economy”.

Brussel has “stone-walled” and turned a deaf ear to the early concessions which Syriza offered. Instead Brussels sees concessions as ‘steps’ toward complete capitulation, instead of as efforts to reach a “compromise”.

Syriza has already dropped calls for large scale debt write-offs, in favor of extending the time frame for paying the debt. Syriza has agreed to continue debt payments, provided they are linked to the rate of economic growth. Syriza accepts European oversight, provided it is not conducted by the hated “troika”, which has poisonous connotations for most Greeks. However, semantic changes do not change the substance of “limited sovereignty”.

Syriza has already agreed to long and middle term structural dependency in order to secure time and leeway in financing its short-term popular impact programs. All that Syriza asks is minimum fiscal flexibility under supervision of the German finance minister-some “radicals”!

Syriza has temporarily suspended on-going privatization of key infrastructure (sea- ports and airport facilities) energy and telecommunication sectors. But is has not terminated them, nor revised the past privatization. But for Brussels “sell-off” of Greek lucrative strategic sectors is an essential part of its “structural reform” agenda.

Syriza’s moderate proposals and its effort to operate within the EU framework established by the previous vassal regimes was rebuffed by Germany and its 27 stooges in the EU.

The EU’s dogmatic affirmation of extremist, ultra neo-liberal policies, including the practice of dismantling Greece’s national economy and transferring the most lucrative sectors into the hands of imperial investors, is echoed in the pages of all the major print media. The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Le Monde are propaganda arms of EU extremism. Faced with Brussel’s intransigence and confronting the ‘historic choice’ of capitulation or radicalization, Syriza tried persuasion of key regimes. Syriza held numerous meetings with EU ministers. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yánis Varoufákis traveled to Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and Rome seeking a “compromise” agreement. This was to no avail. The Brussels elite repeatedly insisted:

  • Debts would have to be paid in full and on time.

  • Greece should restrict spending to accumulate a 4.5% surplus that would ensure payments to creditors, investors, speculators and kleptocrats.

The EU’s lack of any economic flexibility or willingness to accept even a minimum compromise is a political decision: to humble and destroy the credibility of SYRIZA as an anti-austerity government in the eyes of its domestic supporters and potential overseas imitators in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland [8].

The strangulation of Syriza is part and parcel of the decade long process of the EU’s assassination of Greece. A savage response to a heroic attempt by an entire people, hurled into destitution, condemned to be ruled by kleptocratic conservatives and social democrats.

Empires do not surrender their colonies through reasonable arguments or by the bankruptcy of their regressive “reforms”.

Brussel’s attitude toward Greece is guided by the policy of “rule or ruin”. “Bail out” is a euphemism for recycling financing through Greece back to Euro-controlled banks, while Greek workers and employees are saddled with greater debt and continued dominance. Brussel’s “bail out” is an instrument for control by imperial institutions, whether they are called “troika” or something else.

Brussels and Germany do not want dissenting members; they may offer to make some minor concessions so that Finance Minister Vardoulakis may claim a ‘partial victory’ – a sham and hollow euphemism for a belly crawl

The “bail out” agreement will be described by Tsipras-Vardoulakis as ‘new’ and “different’ from the past or as a ‘temporary’ retreat. The Germans may ‘allow’ Greece to lower its primary budget surplus from 4.5 to 3.5 percent ‘next year’ – but it will still reduce the funds for economic stimulus and “postpone” raises in pensions, minimum wages etc.

Privatization and other regressive reforms will not be terminated, they will be “renegotiated”. The state will retain a minority “share”.

Plutocrats will be asked to pay some added taxes but not the billions of taxes evaded over the past decades.

Nor will the PASOK – New Democracy kleptocratic operatives be prosecuted for pillage and theft.

Syriza’s compromises demonstrate that the looney right’s (The Economist, Financial Times, NY Times, etc.) characterization of Syriza as the “hard left” or the ultra-left have no basis in reality. For the Greek electorate’s “hope for the future” could turn to anger in the present. Only mass pressure from below can reverse Syriza’s capitulation and Finance Minister Vardoulakis unsavory compromises. Since he lacks any mass base in the party, Tsipras can easily dismiss him, for signing off on “compromise” which sacrifices the basic interests of the people.

However, if in fact, EU dogmatism and intransigence forecloses even the most favorable deals, Tsipras and Syriza, (against their desires) may be forced to exit the Euro Empire and face the challenge of carving out a new truly radical policy and economy as a free and independent country.

A successful Greek exit from the German – Brussels empire would likely lead to the break-up of the EU, as other vassal states rebel and follow the Greek example. They may renounce not only austerity but their foreign debts and eternal interest payments. The entire financial empire – the so-called global financial system could be shaken . . . Greece could once again become the ‘cradle of democracy’.

[1] The account of the Andreas Papandreou regime draws on personal experience, interviews and observations and from my co-authored article “Greek Socialism: The Patrimonial State Revisited” in James Kurth and James Petras, Mediterranean Paradoxes: the Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe (Oxford: Berg Press 1993/ pp. 160 -224)

James Petras was Director of the Center for Mediterranean Studies in Athens (1981-1984) and adviser to Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou (1981-84). He resigned in protest over the PM expulsion of leading trade unionists from PASOK for organizing a general strike against his ‘stabilization program’.
Petras is co-author of Mediterranean Paradoxes: The Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe. His latest books include Extractive Imperialism in the Americas (with Henry Veltmeyer); and The Politics of Empire: the US, Israel and the Middle East.

Friday, February 20, 2015

UN Sends B Team on Palestine Peace Mission

UN Peace Coordinator Unwelcome by Palestinians

by Nicola Nasser - Dissident Voice

February 20th, 2015

The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) did not object to the appointment of new UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, although he was described by Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, as “persona non grata” — not trusted by the Palestinians and nor qualified for the job.

The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously voted to appoint Bulgarian Mladenov, 42, to succeed Holland’s Robert Serry. He would also be the representative of the UN secretary general to the International Quartet (the UN, US, EU and Russia), and personal representative of the UN chief to the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Although protocol allows the PLO the right to reject diplomatic representatives to the organisation, observers cannot understand why it accepted Mladenov. There is no convincing answer except a futile desire by the PLO to appease the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, at a time when PLO diplomatic efforts are focused on the UN and its agencies.

Mladenov not only failed in a similar mission as UN envoy to Iraq and resigned, he is someone who describes himself — and is described by the leaders of the Israeli occupation — as “a good friend of Israel”. As Bulgarian foreign minister, Mladenov suggested a “military alliance” between Bulgaria and Israel. He has often spoken about his bias towards “Israel’s right to exist” and its right “to defend itself” against Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation. He even admitted to being a Free Mason, served Jewish billionaire George Soros, and publicly advocated the US’s “constructive chaos” policies in the Arab world. In fact, his Jewish origins may be the least controversial aspect of him.

Meanwhile, the occupation state does not hesitate in ignoring the UN, its resolutions and representatives, disregarding and even assassinating them when necessary. Most recently, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to “expel” Mladenov’s predecessor Serry as “persona non grata”. Shortly before that, William Schabas, the head of the UN commission investigating the occupation’s recent war on the Gaza Strip, resigned after Israel refused to cooperate with him or allow him to enter the country.

After the UN tolerated the assassination of its first envoy to Palestine, Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948, at the hands of the Zionist Stern Gang led by Yitzhak Shamir (who later became prime minister of the occupation state), Israel was emboldened to adopt a permanent policy of disregarding the UN without deterrence so far.

In fact, over the past two years the occupation state has carried out a proxy war against the UN. It has facilitated logistics, intelligence, firepower and medical assistance to allow the domination of militias fighting the Syrian regime on its side of the disengagement zone between the liberated and occupied Arab Syrian Golan. This compelled the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) to withdraw after its positions were attacked, dozens of its troops kidnapped and their weapons and equipment seized. Until today, the UN has not dared to rectify the situation, which resulted in the collapse of the UN-sponsored ceasefire and rules of engagement between Syria and Israel.

The Middle East is teeming with international peace envoys. The UN has one, so does the US, the EU, Russia, China and the Quartet. Their names change without anything on the ground in occupied Palestine changing. Except for expanding the occupation through settlements under the “peace” umbrella these envoys provide, without any hope that the international community they represent will be able to effect any real tangible change for the present and future of the Palestinian people on the ground.

So what can Mladenov do that his predecessors, the UN, the Quartet, the Arab League and others, couldn’t?

Khaled believes the real test, to remove Palestinian doubts about Mladenov’s role and mission, will be his position on the siege on Gaza and reconstruction there. However, Mladenov’s track record does not indicate there is cause for optimism. Nor does the track record of “UN special coordinators” since the creation of the position in 1994 and the subsequent expansion of its role, as well as the extensive history of choosing UN and US envoys of Jewish origins or related in the first degree to Jews, such as Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Quartet representative Tony Blair.

On 6 February, the secretaries general of the UN and Arab League issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” about conditions in Gaza. They urged Arab and international donors to honour their financial pledges made at the Cairo Conference last October “as soon as possible”, in order to rebuild the Gaza Strip and end the siege there. A few days ago, James Rowley, UN coordinator for humanitarian affairs in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, sent out an “urgent call” for these commitments to be fulfilled and an “immediate” lift of the siege on Gaza, because he is “very concerned another conflict will break out” if not.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the statement by the Quartet on 8 February after it met in Munich, Germany, as “short of expectations” because it ignored “all the old-new and evolving truths” of the occupation state.

The Quartet also said it is “deeply concerned” about the “difficult conditions in Gaza where reconstruction needs to be quicker” and urged donors to “pay their financial pledges as soon as possible”. However, it linked this to encouraging both sides to “restart negotiations as soon as possible”.

Restarting talks “as soon as possible”, nonetheless, must await the outcome of general elections in Israel and the US. This means the Palestinian people must wait for another two years in the vain hope of reconstructing Gaza. It is obvious the occupation state is enjoying the luxury of time, making easy the occupation without resistance, as well as building settlements without deterrence.

Before handing over the reins to Mladenov, Serry described the failure of donors to pay their dues as “scandalous” and warned “if there is no progress in the coming months” — not two years — towards a two-state solution, “the reality will be a one state [solution]”: the single state of Israel. Former UN coordinator Terry Rod Larsen said in 2002, “the Palestinian patient is dying in the interim.”

Last December, Serry warned in his report to the Security Council that a war in Gaza “could re-ignite if conditions on the ground do not change” in the besieged Gaza Strip. It is clear that what Serry described as a “deadly diplomatic vacuum” coupled with the ongoing siege on rebuilding Gaza, are an explosive recipe in the besieged Gaza Strip, the outcome and ramifications of which are unpredictable.

The “scandal” of donors not paying their dues to rebuild Gaza, as Serry described it, under the pretext that the PLO government does not control the Gaza Strip, is a green light given by the international community to the occupation state to carry out another military assault on national resistance forces in Gaza.

The scandal of Arabs not paying their pledges at Arab summits to provide the PA with a financial “safety net” amounts to flagrant Arab pressure on the PLO to accept the Quartet’s proposal to restart talks with the occupation state “as soon as possible”.

This is Mladenov’s dual mission as the new UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. PLO negotiators continue to wait for a breakthrough by “peace” envoys that are imposed on them and appointed by the US and the UN, although they represent the occupation state. Mladenov is the most recent. He will not change anything on the ground.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Nicola.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I #RejectFear: Saying "No!" to a Canadian Secret Police State

Who will watch the spies? #RejectFear


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The Man Wagging the Tail Wagging the Eurozone

Ironman Varoufakis’s Revolutionary Plan for Europe

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

“The ongoing dispute between the German and Greek governments is nothing less than a democratic revolution against German hegemony and the attempt of the Germans and their paladins in the EU to dictate Greek domestic policy.”  – Mathew D. Rose, It’s a revolution, Stupid! Naked Capitalism

“Germany is eating itself over Greece. It is eroding its moral authority, and seems prepared to destroy the eurozone’s integrity just to make a point.”  – Paul Mason, Germany v Greece is a fight to the death, a cultural and economic clash of wills, Guardian

If you haven’t been following developments in the Greek-EU standoff, you’re really missing out. This might be the best story of the year. And what makes it so riveting, is that no one thought that little Greece could face off with the powerful leaders of the EU and make them blink.

But that’s exactly what’s happened. On Monday, members of the Eurogroup met with Greece’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, to decide whether they would accept Greece’s terms for an extension of the current loan agreement. There were no real changes to the agreement.

The only difference was semantics, that is, the loan would not be seen as a bailout but as “a transitional stage to a new contract for growth for Greece”. In other words, a bridge to a different program altogether.

In retrospect, Varoufakis’s strategy was pure genius, mainly because it knocked the EU finance ministers off balance and threw the process into turmoil. After all, how could they vote “thumbs down” on loan package that they had previously approved just because the language was slightly different? But if they voted “thumbs up”, then what?

Well, then they would be acknowledging (and, tacitly, approving) Greece’s determination to make the program less punitive in the future. That means they’d be paving the way for an end to austerity and a rethink on loan repayment. They’d also be conceding that Greece’s democratically-elected government had the right to alter the policies of the Eurogroup. How could they let that happen?

But, then again, how could they vote it down, after all, it was basically the same deal. As Varoufakis pointed out in a press conference on Monday:

“We agree to the terms of our loan agreements to all our creditors”. And we have “agreed to do nothing to derail the existing budget framework during the interim period.”

See? It’s the same deal.

This is the conundrum the Eurogroup faced on Monday, but instead of dealing with it head-on, as you would expect any mature person to do, they punted. They put off the loan extension decision for another day and called it quits. Now maybe that was the smart thing to do, but the optics sure looked terrible. It looked like Varoufakis stared them down and sent them fleeing like scared schoolchildren.

Now, remember, Monday was the absolute, drop-dead deadline for deciding whether the Eurogroup would approve or reject the new terms for Greece’s loan extension. That means the Eurogroup’s task could not have been more straightforward. All they had to do was vote yes or no. That’s it.

Instead, they called ‘Time Out’ and kicked the can a little further down the road. It was not a particularly proud moment for the European Union. But what’s even worse, is the subterfuge that preceded the meetings; that’s what cast doubt on the character of the people running EU negotiations. Here’s the scoop: About 15 minutes before the confab began, Varoufakis was given a draft communique outlining the provisions of the proposed loan extension. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the document met all his requirements and, so, he was prepared to sign it. Unfortunately, the document was switched shortly before the negotiations began with one that backtracked on all the crucial points.

I’m not making this up. The freaking Eurogroup tried to pull the old switcheroo on Varoufakis to get him to sign something that was different than the original. Can you believe it? And it’s only because Varoufakis studiously combed through the new memo that he was able to notice the discrepancy and jam on the brakes. As it happens, the final copy was just a rehash of the same agreement that Varoufakis has rejected from the onset. The only difference was the underhanded way the Eurogroup tried to slip it by him.

Now you tell me: Would you consider people who do something like that “trustworthy”?

Of course not. This is how people behave when they don’t care about integrity or credibility, when all that matters is winning. If the Eurogroup can trick the Greeks into signing something that’s different than what they think they’re signing; then tough luck for the Greeks. “Caveat emptor”. Buyer beware. The Eurogroup has no problem with that kind of shabby double-dealing. That’s just how they play the game.

But their trickery and bullying hasn’t worked, mainly because Varoufakis is too smart for them. And he’s too charismatic and talented too, which is a problem for the EU bigwigs who resent the fact that this upstart Marxist academic has captured the imaginations of people around the world upsetting their little plan to perpetuate Greece’s 6-year long Depression. They never anticipated that public opinion would shift so dramatically against them, nor had they imagined that all of Europe would be focused laserlike on the shady and autocratic workings of the feckless Eurogroup. That’s not what they wanted. What they wanted was carte blanche to impose their medieval policies on the profligate Greeks, just like the good old days after Lehman Brothers tanked. After all, that’s how a “anti-democratic imperialist project” like the EU is supposed to work, right?

Right, except now Varoufakis and his Marxist troopers have thrown a wrench in the Eurogroup’s plans and put the future in doubt. The tide has turned sharply towards reason, solidarity and compassion instead of repression, exploitation and cruelty. In just a few weeks, the entire playing field has changed, and Greece appears to be getting the upper hand. Who would have known?

If you look at the way that Varoufakis has handled the Eurogroup, you have to admire the subtlety, but effectiveness of his strategy. In any battle, one must draw attention to the righteousness of their cause while exposing the flaws in the character of their adversary. The incident on Monday certainly achieved both. While David never really slayed Goliath, Goliath is certainly in retreat. And that’s alot better than anyone expected.

As for the “cause”, well, that speaks for itself. The Greek bailout was never reasonable because the plan wasn’t designed to create a path for Greece to grow its way out of debt and deflation. No. It was basically a public relations smokescreen used to conceal what was really going on behind the scenes, which was a massive giveaway to the banks and bondholders. Everyone knows this. Check this out from Naked Capitalism:

“According to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, 92% of €240 billion Greece has received since the May 2010 bailout went to Greek and European financial institutions.” (Naked Capitalism)

Yep, it was all just one big welfare payment to the moocher class. Meanwhile, the Greeks got zilch. And, yet, the Eurogroup wants them to continue with this same program?

No thanks.

As far as Greece’s finances are concerned, they’ve gotten progressively worse every year the bailout has dragged on. For example, Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio has gone from 115 percent in 2010 more than 170 percent today. The country is headed in the wrong direction, which is what makes Varoufakis’s remedies so compelling. It’s because everyone knows that ‘if you are already in a hole, stop digging’. That’s the logic behind Varoufakis’s position; he simply wants to “stop digging.” But that can’t be done by borrowing more money to repay debts that only get bigger with each new bailout. And it can’t be done by implementing excruciating belt-tightening measures that increase unemployment and shrink the economy. It can only be done by reducing one’s debts and initiating programs that help to grow the economy back to health. This isn’t rocket science, but it is anathema to the retrograde ideology of the European Union which is one part bonehead economics and one part German sanctimony. Put the two together and you come up with a pre-Keynesian dystopia where one of the wealthiest regions in the world inches ever-closer to anarchy and ruin for the sole purpose of proving that contractionary expansion actually works. Well, guess what? It doesn’t, and we now have six years of evidence to prove it.

It’s worth noting that the Eurogroup hasn’t budged one inch from its original position. In other words, there really haven’t been any negotiations, not in any meaningful sense of the word. What there has been is one group of pompous blowhards reiterating the same discredited mantra over and over again, even though austerity has been thoroughly denounced by every reputable economist on the planet. Of course that doesn’t matter to the ex-Goldman swindlers at the ECB or their hairshirt counterparts in Berlin. What they want is to extract every last drop of blood from their Greek victims. That’s their game. And, of course, ultimately what they want to do is annihilate the entire EU welfare state; crush the unions, eviscerate pensions, wages and health care, and privatize everything they can get their greasy hands on. That’s the real objective. Greece’s exorbitant debts are just a means to an end, just a way to decimate the middle class in one fell swoop.

Keep in mind, the EU just narrowly avoided a triple-dip recession in the third quarter, which would have been their third slump in less than six years. How do you like that track record? It just illustrates the stunning mismanagement of the Union’s economic affairs and the incompetence of the bureaucrats making the decisions. Even so, these same leaders have no qualms about telling Greece to step in line and follow their diktats to the letter.

Can you believe the arrogance?

Fortunately, Greece has broken from the herd and set out on a new course. They’ve disposed of the mealy-mouth, sellout politicians who used to run the country and put the A-Team in their place. And, boy, are they happy with the results. Syriza’s public approval ratings are through the roof while Varoufakis has become the most admired man in Europe. The question is whether this new troupe of committed leftists can deliver the goods or not. So far, there’s reason for hope, that is, if we can agree about what Varoufakis’s strategy really is.

In earlier writings, Varoufakis said that he wants a New Deal for Greece. He said:

“Unless we have a new deal for Europe, Greece is not going to get a chance….It’s a necessary condition that the eurozone finds a rational plan for itself…. until and unless the eurozone finds a rational plan for stopping this train wreck throughout the European Union, throughout the eurozone, Greece has no chance at all.” Naked Capitalism)

Okay, so Varoufakis wants to stay in the EU, but he wants a change in policy. (Reducing the debts, ending austerity, and boosting fiscal stimulus.) But he also has more ambitious plans of which no one in Brussels, Frankfurt or Berlin seems to be aware. He wants to change the prevailing culture of the Eurozone; gradually, incrementally, but persistently. He wants a Europe that is more democratic and more responsive to the needs of the member states, but he also wants a Europe that is more united via institutions and programs that will strengthen the union. He believes that success will only be achieved if concrete steps are taken “to unify the banking system”, mutualize debt (“the Federal Government having its own debt over and above states.”) …”And thirdly we need an investment policy which runs throughout the Eurozone… a recycling mechanism for the whole thing. Unless we have these things,… I’m afraid there is absolutely nothing to avert the continuation of this slow motion derailment.” (Naked Capitalism)

So, there you have it. Nationalize the banking system, create a Euro-wide bond market, and establish mechanisms for fiscal transfers to the weaker states like we do in the US via welfare, food stamps, gov contracts, subsidies etc. to create some balance between the very rich and productive states like California and New York and the poorer states like South Dakota and Oklahoma. That’s what it’s going to take to create a viable United States of Europe and escape these frustratingly recurrent crises. Varoufakis knows this, but of course he’s not pushing for this. Not yet at least.

Instead, he’s decided to take it slowly, one step at a time. Incremental change, that’s the ticket. Just keep plugging away and building support until the edifice cracks and democracy appears.

That’s Varoufakis’s plan in a nutshell: Revolution from within. Just don’t tell anyone in Berlin.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Dissent Within the Obama Ranks on Syria Policy

Deadly "Dissent": Hidden Hell Lurks in New Critique of Syria Policy

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

Robert Ford, once one of the most vociferous champions of an aggressive American policy toward Syria has now changed his mind, McClatchy reports. Ford, who famously resigned from his diplomatic post last year in protest at the Obama Administration's "weak" support of Syrian rebels, now says the United States should not give any weapons to the rebels at all; they are too "disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists."

Ford, at one time Obama's ambassador to Syria, had long insisted that "moderate rebels" in Syria could turn the tide in their war with both the Syrian government and the jihadi groups that have poured into the war zone.

As McClatchy notes, just six months ago he was trumpeting the moderates in the Establishment journal Foreign Policy, saying they had broken with al Qaeda's Nusra Front -- one of the most powerful rebel groups -- and just needed more American weapons to take charge of the war and drive the Assad regime from power at last.

But now he says the scales have fallen from his eyes: the moderate rebels are barely clinging on, they're weak and disjointed, and they continue to collaborate with the Nusra Front. He said that giving the moderates more weapons is tantamount to handing the deadly goods to al Qaeda -- which has already happened time and again during the American-backed, Saudi-fuelled civil war. (Whether this pass-through of weaponry to violent extremists is a bug or a feature of American policy in Syria -- and elsewhere -- is another matter, but too large to be dealt with here.)

The new Obama initiative -- to essentially replace the fractured moderates now losing out to jihadis Syria by arming and training a new "moderate" army from scratch -- is, Ford rightly says, doomed from the start:

Syrian rebels are more concerned with bringing down Assad than with fighting extremists for the West, and there are far too few fighters to take the project seriously. “The size of the assistance is still too small,” he said.

“What are they going to do with 5,000 guys? Or even 10,000 in a year? What’s that going to do?”

Ford's road to Damascus conversion from militant interventionist to skeptical opponent of American policy in Syria seems at first like a positive development; it's always good to have another voice raised against America's knee-jerk militarism -- and it's even better PR for anti-war forces if that voice comes from the center of the Establishment itself, right? So Ford's new stance is getting some play and praise among the dwindling circles of "progressives" who oppose the Peace Prize Prez's policies of permanent war.

But a closer look at Ford's position reveals that his "opposition" to the new Obama approach is based on the same argument as his earlier criticism of the president's policy: that it isn't bloodthirsty enough.

Ford may now concede that the "moderate" rebels are not up to the job of overthrowing Assad and defeating the jihadis in order to clear (or raze) the ground for a properly pro-US regime. But he still believes that this violent razing and regime implantation should be America's goal in Syria. What he calls for now is not the amateur hour of the cobbled-together moderates, but a "professional ground force" to come in and do the necessary bloodwork of empire.

Of course, Ford is a savvy realist. (He wouldn't be writing for FP if he weren't!) He recognizes the political difficulties of such a course, as McClatchy reports:

Ford said the time had come for U.S. officials and their allies to have a serious talk about “boots on the ground,” though he was quick to add that the fighters didn’t need to be American. He said a professional ground force was the only way to wrest Syria from the jihadists.

Two things to note here. First, see how the original, ostensible purpose of American involvement in Syria -- to help democratic forces liberate themselves from an authoritarian regime -- has now morphed into a campaign to "wrest Syria from the jihadists." Of course, it was the involvement of "U.S. officials and their allies" that led to the presence of the jihadi armies in Syria in the first place. The covert and overt intervention of Washington and the, er, authoritarian regimes it supports, such as Saudi Arabia, has created and maintained the conditions for an all-out civil war, spreading the chaos and hatred that is the sine qua non for jihadi movements to thrive. Now we're told we must put "boots on the ground" to fight the forces we ourselves have spawned.

Every intervention in the region has produced a catastrophic result, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, displacing millions more, destroying whole societies and fomenting ever-more violent and virulent extremism, not just in the region but around the world. Every single application of the policy Ford now espouses has led to this result. There can be no doubt whatsoever that "seriously" putting "boots on the ground" in the Syrian civil war will have the same consequences: more war, more chaos, more death, more extremism.

Second, Ford is "quick" to assure people that these "boots" don't necessarily have to be American. He doesn't offer any other specific alternatives. It is not likely that the military forces of America's allies in the region -- devoted as they are almost solely to oppressing their own people and pocketing baksheesh from America's war profiteers -- could "wrest Syria from the jihadists" or do anything else except shoot unarmed protesters conveniently grouped in a city square. Of course, Iran's "professional ground forces" would probably make short work of the jihadis in Syria; but no savvy, FP-published Establishment professional is going to suggest bringing the Iranians into Syria.

So who does that leave? Either the Americans, or the Israelis, or perhaps some kind of vast army of mercenaries -- a counter-jihad, where soldiers of fortune, professional killers, psychopaths and profiteers gather from around the world to wage merciless war. Ford's savvy realism doesn't extend to explaining who would actually be doing the killing for Ford's dream of a new, purged and purified Syria. But in any case, the ultimate goal remains: Assad must go, the jihadis must go, and this must be accomplished by the use of a massive "professional" force from outside -- accompanied, to be sure, by a strongly "centralized" group of local rebels, gathered and controlled under a single guiding hand. (Whose hand would that be, one wonders?)

Ford shows another flash of "savvy" insidery in his conclusion, which veritably reeks of Washingtonia in its implicit message: "It's my way or the highway." Ford says that his solution to the Syria crisis -- his new solution, that is, not the one he was peddling six months ago -- is the only solution. If his sage advice for a full-blown "professional," "boots on the ground" invasion of Syria by outside forces is not followed, "then we have to just walk away and say there's nothing we can do about Syria."

Diplomatic solutions? All-party talks? Ceasefires and demilitarization? UN mediation? Racheting down the terror-producing War on Terror? Nope, none of that, and nothing else that human creativity -- and a genuine will for achieving genuine peace and stability in the region -- could possibly devise. It's either war -- or just let the Syrian people stew and die in the bloodbath we have drawn for them.

That's what passes for "opposition" to America's berserk militarism these days: even more militarism. No doubt Ford is angling for a choice position on Hillary Clinton's national security team -- or Jeb Bush's, for that matter; there won't be a dime's worth of difference between them. But there is no dazzling, life-changing light on his road to Damascus -- only more death, only more darkness.