Evening Blues Preview 7-14-15
This evening's music features blues harmonica player William Clarke.
Here are some stories from tonight's posting:
After more than a decade of wrangling and 18 days of intense negotiations, Iran and six world powers reached a historic nuclear deal on Tuesday — an agreement that could transform the Middle East and herald a new era in the relationship between Tehran and the west.
Iran will curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions, in a deal described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "a bad mistake of historic proportions."
Diplomats said Iran agreed to the continuation of a United Nations arms embargo on the country for up to five more years, though it could end earlier if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) definitively clears Iran of any current work on nuclear weapons. It's understood similar restrictions on ballistic missile technology will last another eight years.
Washington had sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons, due to concerns that an Islamic Republic flush with cash from the nuclear deal would expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other forces opposing America's Mideast allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Iranian leaders insisted the embargo had to end as their forces combat regional scourges such as the Islamic State. And they got some support from China and particularly Russia, which wants to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran, including the long-delayed transfer of S-300 advanced air defense systems — a move long opposed by the United States.
Among the conditions of the agreement are:
- Iran will reduce its enrichment capacity by two-thirds. It will stop using its underground facility at Fordow for enriching uranium.
- Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium will be reduced to 300kg, a 96% reduction. It will achieve this reduction either by diluting it or shipping it out of the country.
- The core of the heavy water reactor in Arak will be removed, and it will be redesigned in such a way that it will not produce significant amounts of plutonium.
- Iran will allow UN inspectors to enter sites, including military sites, when the inspectors have grounds to believe undeclared nuclear activity is being carried out there. It can object but a multinational commission can override any objections by majority vote. After that Iran will have three days to comply. Inspectors will only come from countries with diplomatic relations with Iran, so no Americans.
- Once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has taken steps to shrink its programme, UN, US and EU sanctions will be lifted.
- Restrictions on trade in conventional weapons will last another five years, and eight years in the case of ballistic missile technology.
- If there are allegations that Iran has not met its obligations, a joint commission will seek to resolve the dispute for 30 days. If that effort fails it would be referred to the UN security council, which would have to vote to continue sanctions relief. A veto by a permanent member would mean that sanctions are reimposed. The whole process would take 65 days.
The former finance minister told the ABC the bailout agreement is a ‘new form of postmodern occupation’ and predicts Greece will fall into the grip of the far right
Austerity measures demanded of Greece by its European creditors will strengthen the far right, the country’s former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has said.
Varoufakis also dubbed the bailout agreement reached in Brussels this week as a new Treaty of Versailles, and a coup d’état which used banks instead of tanks. ...
The outspoken former minister, who resigned from his role after the national referendum, despite it returning the result he was calling for, told the ABC the far-right Golden Dawn party could “inherit the mantle of the anti-austerity drive, tragically”.
“If our party Syriza, that has cultivated so much hope in Greece – to the extent that we managed to score 61.5% in the recent referendum – if we betray this hope and if we bow our heads to this new form of postmodern occupation, then I cannot see any other possible outcome than the further strengthening of Golden Dawn,” Varoufakis said.
Greek prime minister in talks with own MPs amid speculation he could be forced to form a national unity government and sideline leftwing Syriza faction
A beleaguered Alexis Tsipras was locked in talks on Tuesday with his own MPs amid speculation that the Greek prime minister could be forced to form a national unity government to push through the draconian bailout deal imposed by Brussels on debt-stricken Greece.
Facing a rebellion over the terms of a fresh €86bn (£61bn) rescue package, Tsipras has considered sidelining the increasingly belligerent leftwing faction in Syriza in favour of a broader coalition to push through spending cuts and painful reforms. ...
In Athens, one of the scenarios being considered is the formation of a cross-party government to not only push reforms through parliament but also play a role implementing them against what is likely to be stiff opposition.
The radical-left party is increasingly fighting a battle for survival in government with cadres saying Syriza’s overall aim is not to go down as a “left parenthesis” in power.
The flag of Europe still has twelve stars on it, and organizations with names like Eurogroup and European Commission and European Council still persist. But despite the unfortunate historical overtones, in order to be accurate we need to call the governing body in Europe the German Empire, after the events of this weekend. And the thing about empires is that they end sooner or later, because human beings don’t much like to be controlled by an overlord they never elected or endorsed.
The end of the German Empire will not take place today. Greece folded, giving up their sovereignty and agreeing to all the creditors’ demands, even to sell off national assets, without achieving anything more than a vague promise of debt relief in return. They decided to accept the devil they knew – crushing austerity, a worse package than what was on the table just weeks ago – rather than the devil they didn’t – the Grexit. ...
As Wolfgang Munchau writes, expulsion from the German empire, with the explicit promise of economic immiseration down that road, is now squarely on the table in any future talks with Greece, or any other country that manages to get itself into trouble. And other countries will; at least, they will occasionally seek fiscal or monetary policy interventions at odds with the emperor’s wishes. There is no democratic political union anymore, it’s just a shotgun marriage run on threats.
Once you eliminate that democratic possibility of a Europe based on shared interests, once you affirm that only the interests of one ruling nation matters, there’s no real advantage to everyone sticking together other than fear. And fear doesn’t last forever, particularly when those supposed to be afraid of the unknown are stripped of everything they’ve got in the process. Does this mean that Britain will now leave the European Union, the subject of a coming vote? Does it mean that the next left-wing anti-austerity or right-wing Euroskeptic party that comes into power will not suffer the same fate as Syriza? It’s hard to predict when the German Empire will fall, just that it will.
— Fabian Keiser (@FabianKeiser) July 14, 2015
Oh my, not a hint of self-dealing here:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble proposed on Saturday that 50 billion euros of Greek public assets be transferred to an external fund and privatized over time. The fund he used as a suggestion, the Institution for Growth in Greece, is owned by the German bank KfW, whose current Chairman of the Board of Supervisory Directors is Schaeuble himself.
KfW is a German government-owned promotional bank. German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Supervisory Directors.
Just in case anyone was in any doubt about the extent of Greece's capitulation, Merkel was explicit at a press conference yesterday that eurozone leaders "made clear that a nominal haircut is ruled out". It was not enough that she won; she wanted to rub her victory in his face. Her performance was reminiscent of a boxer knocking out an opponent - then dousing him with water to wake him up so she can hit him again. Over and over.
It's an odd sort of victory. The debt that everyone - from the IMF to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble - has expressly admitted is unsustainable will remain at the same unsustainable level with eurozone leaders piling even more debt on top. The announcement is less an economic plan and more a sociological experiment - precisely how much austerity does it take to kill a country? With Greece's GDP already down 25pc, a precipitous decline usually only observed in post-war countries, we may not have to wait long to find out. ...
Syriza did its best, but it underestimated the eurozone's ideological obsession with austerity. For zealots like Schauble, austerity is a god - there is no evidence it works but he has unshakeable faith anyway. The IMF, Nobel Prize-winning economists and pretty much every other economist all agree that more austerity for Greece will be a disaster. But the Troika will inflict it anyway, throwing good money after bad and ensuring the Greeks never repay anything. ...
Meanwhile, even if a Grexit has been averted for now, the cost could be a Brexit, as the vindictive treatment of Greece has alienated the Left whose support David Cameron will rely on to win his forthcoming referendum.
Merkel is right when she says the most important currency in the eurozone is trust, but she has failed to recognise that there is a crisis of trust all over Europe - a crisis that will be much more damaging in the long-term than anything happening in Greece.
— YvonneSugrue (@YvonneNiShiocru) July 14, 2015
What’s the difference between the Mafia and the current European leadership? The Mafia makes you an offer you can’t refuse. The leaders of the European Union offer you a deal you can neither refuse nor accept without destroying yourself. ...
By closing the Greek banks, threatening Greek voters and countering the Greek government’s surrender with terms designed to be utterly humiliating, the EU and euro zone leadership finished off the notion of consent. All the waffle about solidarity and respect has been exploded and we are left with an EU based on six little letters: or else.
A new idea has been shoved into the foundations of the EU – the idea that a member state can and will be brought to heel. And brought to heel, not quietly or subtly, but openly and ritually in a Theatre of Cruelty designed for that sole purpose.
The whole idea of making flagrantly provocative demands – the initial insistence that €50 billion of Greek public assets be placed in a fund in Luxembourg being the most spectacular – was to demonstrate, not just to Greece but to all member states, that the EU is now a coercive institution.
Hungary is doing everything it can to keep out unwanted migrants, in spite of strong opposition from other European countries and human rights groups.
On Monday, the Hungarian Defense Force started building a temporary wall along the Serbian border to curb what government agencies describe as an unprecedented flow of undocumented people coming into the country.
"A daily average of 1,000 illegal border crossers are arriving in Hungary, so illegal immigration has become a severe problem and its control a prominent task," said a joint statement from Hungary's interior and defense ministries.
An estimated 80,000 refugees and migrants have reached Hungary this year — up from 43,000 in 2014. The vast majority of whom are arriving via Serbia from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many will request asylum in Hungary then move onto other European Union countries such as Sweden and Germany.
The wall, which is planned to be four meters high and 110 miles long and cost around $35 million, was announced by the far-right Hungarian government in June to swift criticism from Serbia and beyond.
“The Turks have passed by here; all is in ruins and mourning. “
So wrote France’s great writer, Victor Hugo, of the horrors he had witnessed during the Balkan liberation wars of the 1880’s. If Hugo were alive today, he might well have used the same haunting lines to describe the smoking wreckage of the Mideast. Except this time it was the United States, France and Britain who wrought havoc in the Arab world, assisted by modern Turkey.
The UN’s refugee czar, Antonio Guterres, just asserted that there are now 4,013,000 Syrian refugees outside their homeland, and another 7.6 million as internal refugees from the war raging there since 2011.
That total’s some 11.6 million refugees- a staggering 50% of Syria’s population. Over a quarter million are refugees in Europe; the rest spread across the Mideast with the largest numbers in Lebanon and Jordan. ...
Before the 2011 war, Syria used to be a vibrant, growing nation with beautiful old cities and a rich, ancient culture going back over 2,500 years. Damascus is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. ...
The massacres and butchery in Syria is unprecedented in the Mideast. The carnage even exceeds the many horrors of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Street fighting is destroying many of Syria’s villages, towns and cities. Beautiful Aleppo, a world heritage site, is being blown apart.
Syria’s anti-regime groups could not continue fighting without arms, munitions, medical supplies, radios and cash from the western powers. Washington’s fatuous claims it is deploying “moderate” jihads is a sour joke. The US is fully backing the region’s extremists against one of its oldest secular regimes. Who will finally win this multi-faceted civil war remains unclear.
But it is clear that Syria has been largely destroyed. It joins Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia in ruins and mourning – all examples of states that defied the American Raj. The plight of some 11 million Syrian refugees huddled in tents, drowning in the Mediterranean, or fleeing for their lives must be laid directly on Washington’s doorstep.
The nation of the Statue of Liberty is supposed to welcome and shelter huddled masses fleeing hunger and danger, not cause millions of refugees because of its ruinous Mideast policies.
The latest call for a youth uprising against global capitalism came not from grassroots groups, but from the leader of the Catholic Church, who on Sunday gave a rousing speech during which he told a crowd of young people in Paraguay that it is their time to "make a mess."
The address marked the end of Pope Francis' week-long pilgrimage to Latin America, during which he also assailed the prevailing economic system as the "dung of the devil," saying that the systemic "greed for money" is a "subtle dictatorship" that "condemns and enslaves men and women." ...
"They wrote a speech for me to give you. But speeches are boring," Pope Francis said. "Make a mess, but then also help to tidy it up. A mess which gives us a free heart, a mess which gives us solidarity, a mess which gives us hope."
He also encouraged those present to look at their less fortunate peers, some of whom he met earlier in the day during a visit to the Banado Norte shantytown, and spoke of the connection between authentic liberty and responsibility and the necessity of fighting for the right to lead a dignified life.