Evening Blues Preview 7-15-15

This evening's music features one of the most influential blues harp players of all time, the original Sonny Boy Williamson, usually referred to as Sonny Boy Williamson I.

Here are some stories from tonight's posting:

Greece: Sound and Fury Signifying Much

All of Europe, and insouciant Americans and Canadians as well, are put on notice by Syriza’s surrender to the agents of the One Percent. The message from the collapse of Syriza is that the social welfare system throughout the West will be dismantled.

The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has agreed to the One Percent’s looting of the Greek people of the advances in social welfare that the Greeks achieved in the post-World War II 20th century. Pensions and health care for the elderly are on the way out. The One Percent needs the money. ...

Greek democracy has proven itself to be impotent. The looting is going forward despite the vote one week ago by the Greek people rejecting it. So what we observe in Alexis Tsipras is an elected prime minister representing not the Greek people but the One Percent.

The One Percent’s sigh of relief has been heard around the world. The last European leftist party, or what passes as leftist, has been brought to heel, just like Britain’s Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, and all the rest.

Without an ideology to sustain it, the European left is dead, just as is the Democratic Party in the US. With the death of these political parties, the people no longer have any voice. A government in which the people have no voice is not a democracy. We can see this clearly in Greece. One week after the Greek people express themselves decisively in a referendum, their government ignores them and accommodates the One Percent.

The American Democratic Party died with jobs offshoring, which destroyed the party’s financial base in the manufacturing unions. ... Today with the Western peoples facing re-enserfment and with the world facing nuclear war as a result of the American neoconservatives’ claim to be History’s chosen people entitled to world hegemony, the American left is busy hating the Confederate battle flag.

Make-or-break moment as Greek MPs prepare to vote on austerity proposals

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, is preparing for a make-or-break parliamentary vote over the austerity measures Athens must take in exchange for a fresh bailout from its eurozone partners.

The deal – which includes austerity measures tougher than those overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek public in a referendum this month – has come under fresh fire after the International Monetary Fund published a highly critical paper calling for large-scale debt relief for the stricken country.

The IMF’s “debt sustainability analysis”, which was published by the Washington-based lender after parts of it were leaked to the media, suggested Greece may need a 30-year moratorium on repayments; or a substantial “haircut” – a partial write-off of its debts.

Michel Sapin, France’s finance minister, supported the analysis, saying: “The IMF is saying the same thing as we are.” But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has made clear that a debt haircut is unacceptable.

Eurozone ministers received the paper before the 17-hour summit last weekend; but the deal that emerged contained no upfront pledge of debt relief – only a promise to discuss it.

IMF threat to pull out of Greek bailout challenges Germany

The International Monetary Fund's threat to pull out of bailouts for Greece unless European partners grant Athens massive debt relief poses a stark challenge to Germany, the biggest creditor, which insists on IMF involvement in any future rescue. ...

Its latest intervention, saying in essence that Greece will never be able to repay its debt mountain, is bound to sharpen debate when the German parliament meets on Friday to decide whether to authorize negotiations on a third bailout for Greece since 2010 that could cost an extra 85 billion euros.

It sharpens an unadmitted rift between Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wants to hold the euro zone together, and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who thinks Greece needs to leave the currency area, at least temporarily. ...

But the IMF's debt sustainability analysis may force her within months to choose between two far more unpalatable options: grant massive debt relief or see the IMF walk away.

The report's conclusion that Greece needs debt relief "on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date" makes it harder for her to argue that Germany will ever get much of its 57 billion euro exposure back.

Three senior officials lose their jobs at APA after US torture scandal

The torture scandal consuming the US’s premiere professional association of psychologists has cost three senior officials their jobs, part of a reckoning that reformers hope will lead to criminal prosecutions.

As the American Psychological Association copes with the damage reaped by an independent investigation that found it complicit in US torture, the group announced on Tuesday that its chief executive officer, its deputy CEO and its communications chief are no longer with the APA.

All three were implicated in the 542-page report issued this month by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, who concluded that APA leaders “colluded” with the US department of defense and aided the CIA in loosening professional ethics and other guidelines to permit psychologist participation in torture. ...

“This is a major step toward reforming the APA and the profession,” said Stephen Soldz, a longtime APA critic on torture affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights. ...

Soldz is part of a group pushing for the APA to refer the Hoffman report to the FBI and justice department for potential criminal inquiries. Thus far, the APA has committed to providing the report to the Senate committees overseeing the military and CIA, and a call to end all psychologist participation in US interrogation and detention operations is slated for APA consideration at a major conference next month.

Thus far, there is no indication from the justice department that it intends to revisit the politically fraught question of legal accountability for torture, which ended in 2012 without prosecutions. The defense department, which still assigns psychologists to Guantanamo Bay, has yet to comment; and the White House has stayed out of the fray.

Pentagon #2: ISIS No Threat to US Homeland

Testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee today, incoming Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva raised some eyebrows by openly declaring that ISIS poses no threat to the US homeland, insisting they are simply something to be dealt with abroad.

Selva appeared eager to echo comments from the nominee for chairman, Gen. Joe Dunford, in his own testimony, declaring Russia an “existential threat to the United States” and laying out a list of threats, in order, topped by Russia.

Secretary of Defense: US Prepared to Attack Iran for Israel

Fresh off the announcement of the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter issued a statement declaring the US to be “prepared and postured” to attack Iran on Israel’s behalf whenever it decides to do so. ...

Carter is planning to visit Israel next week, something the White House is touting as proof of US military cooperation with Israel. With Israel railing against the nuclear pact, the idle talk of a US attack was seen as an effort to placate Israeli leadership that the deal doesn’t necessarily foil their efforts to spark a war with Iran.

This is an interesting article worth reading in full:

Iranians’ View of the Nuclear Deal: Optimistic, With Significant Caveats

U.S. media coverage of the Iran deal is, as usual, overwhelmingly focused on American and Israeli voices, with the hard-liner fanatics in each country issuing apocalyptic decrees, insisting that the deal is far too lenient on Iran and provides it with far too many benefits. Though largely excluded from U.S. media discussions, there is also substantial debate among Iranians about the virtues of the deal, with most viewing it positively due to the economic benefits it is expected to provide, but with many holding the view that it unfairly impinges on Iranian sovereignty in exchange for very few legitimate concessions. ...

Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University (who was one of the individuals targeted for NSA spying), has devoted most of his career to advocating for a normalization of U.S./Iran relations and the lifting of the sanctions regime. To the extent this deal accomplishes that, he said today in an interview with The Intercept, he supports it, though if it ends up confined only to nuclear issues, “then it will be very bad for both countries.” Amirahmadi added that the mood in Tehran is, in general, “very happy.” Ordinary Iranians, he said, “obviously like what has happened” primarily because “they expect money to arrive, which will help the economy and create jobs.”

But he noted several critical caveats. To begin with, expectations among ordinary Iranians are very high: they expect substantial economic improvement, and if that fails to materialize, Amirahmadi sees a likelihood of serious political instability, which “could go in a terrible direction for Iran.” He pointed out that for many years, the Iranian government has, with some good reason, blamed the U.S., Europe and their sanctions regime for the economic suffering of Iranians. “They no longer have that pretext, which means they have to deliver,” he said. He argued that the 1979 revolution was driven primarily by the Shah’s devotion to distributing wealth to a tiny elite at the expense of most Iranians, and that any repeat of that with this new flow of money would exacerbate wealth inequality even further and risk serious domestic unrest.

Heh, looks like Poroshenko's erstwhile partners, the Nazis from Right Sektor aren't taking well to being disarmed and muscled aside. What's a Chocolatier-in-Chief to do?

Tensions rising in Ukraine as far-right militia’s boobytraps injure two police

Double bombing follows weekend shootout between Right Sector fighters and police as president attempts to crack down on armed nationalists

Booby-trap explosions have injured two police officers in western Ukraine, further raising tensions in the region after a shootout with nationalists at the weekend left two men dead.

The continued violence in the area, which borders the European Union and is rife with smuggling, highlights Kiev’s struggles with both endemic corruption and armed nationalist groups who have helped it fight pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. On Monday Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, ordered the security services and police to disarm “illegal groups” and root out corruption and smuggling.

Two police officers in Lviv were taken to hospital on Tuesday after mysterious bombings that the interior ministry said were connected with “events in the Zakarpattia region”, referring to the shootout in the city of Mukacheve on Saturday that killed two men.

The gunfight began after police responded to the arrival of heavily armed Right Sector members at a sports complex controlled by an MP, Mikhail Lano, who openly opposes the group. Right Sector said its men had been trying to stop a smuggling operation, but others called it a fight over contraband.

Video footage showed Right Sector men shooting at a police car with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a heavy machine gun mounted on a pickup truck. The interior ministry said the far-right group had shot first.

Hat tip Azazello. Neoliberal darling "Yats" of the Kaganate of Nulands begs the west to strip his country's assets. Ukrainians are too corrupt to own them, you see. Pffffttt!!!

Ukraine PM calls on Canadian investors to help displace oligarchs

Ukraine’s Prime Minister is calling on Canadian investors to take part in a massive privatization of state assets organized by Kiev as a way of weakening the power of wealthy oligarchs blamed for spreading corruption in his country.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk cited, for instance, Ukrainian businessmen who have been “sitting like vampires” on the country’s publicly owned energy sector.

Mr. Yatsenyuk spoke to The Globe and Mail Tuesday after he joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Chelsea, Que., to announce that Ukraine and Canada had struck a free-trade deal.

Ukraine is preparing to spin off billions of dollars of government enterprises – including power generation and distribution assets and chemical plants – and the government wants Western investors to bring more orderly business methods to the Eastern European country.

“I don’t want Ukrainian tycoons to buy these state-owned enterprises,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said. “We would be happy to see Canadian folks buying Ukrainian assets and bringing into Ukraine good corporate governance, new investment and new jobs. ...

Mr. Yatsenyuk said Ukraine’s leadership feels privatization and deregulation are the answers to the corruption that has plagued the country for decades.

“Big government always leads to big bribes and big corruption, so the less regulations you have the less authority the government has and the less chances to take bribes,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said.

Also of interest:

2 courts have overturned his conviction. So why is this Guantanamo prisoner in solitary?

Terrorism, Ukraine and the American threat: the view from Russia

Grexit or Jubilee? How Greek Debt Can Be Annulled

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Big Al's picture

democracy that. "Democracy died in Greece", etc.
Hell, voting for these #uckers has never been democracy. They voted for Hitler, that wasn't democracy.
Voting for "representatives" to make all the decisions for us isn't democracy, never has been. At best
we're selecting the wrong fucking people, at worst, it's all a farce.
Even third parties like we're seeing in Greece and Spain become so coopted by money that they become
what they pretend to oppose.
Backing Sanders for President is a complete waste of time. What the people should be doing is organizing
a real GLOBAL people's revolution to overturn the entire system. Somehow we have to wrestle control
of this planet from the very rich.

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joe shikspack's picture

though the situation is far from resolved, there. among the chief lessons that strikes me right now is that winning control of a government is not enough. the new leadership, it seems to me, did a very poor job of communicating with, educating and cultivating the people of greece towards a goal of liberation. they spent all of their efforts in fruitless negotiations with an immovable force and trying to create the impression of progress. it seems reasonable to wonder if tsipras ever really intended to challenge the powers-that-be.

the other question to be answered is whether the situation in greece demonstrates that change from within the system without a parallel mobilized mass movement raising hell is possible. i would suggest not.

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Big Al's picture

the bottom up as opposed to from the middle to upper middle class like in Greece and Spain, then there's no chance.
There has to be people who will not compromise, who have nothing left to lose. People who know what's it's like to be on
the bottom, who've experienced it and lived it.

From what I've read regarding Syriza, it was coopted by the well off and the grass roots were shoved aside. That's the big
danger, how to start and continue a movement without it becoming coopted and compromised. The powers that be are expert
at doing just that and have all the resources to do it. The same thing happens in this country with third parties and actions
like the Occupy movement.

I can't imagine a scenario in this country where working within the system, i.e., trying to elect the "right" representatives, is
going to change anything. It's an illusion of hope that will never happen.
It's time we faced the facts about this fabled democracy of ours. In fact, it's time the entire planet faced the facts about
representative government.

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mimi's picture

and to believe that the very bottom, the poor, the ones Al describes in his comment as those "who will not compromise, who have nothing left to lose. People who know what's it's like to be on the bottom, who've experienced it and lived it, have nothing to lose" are not that often the people who start a revolution or rebellion. That is seldom the case in reality. They still have something to lose, they want to continue to eat and be left alone and not be killed in wars and not become refugees.

As Chris Hedges describes in his book and this interview - “We are in a revolutionary moment”: Chris Hedges explains why an uprising is coming — and soon" the people who might trigger a revolution or rebellion are ...

Q.: What kind of person engages in revolutionary activity? Is there a specific type?
A.: There are different types, but they have certain characteristics in common. That’s why I quote theologian Reinhold Niebuhr when he talks about “sublime madness.”
I think that sublime madness — James Baldwin writes: It's not so much that [revolutionaries] have a vision, it’s that they are possessed by it. I think that’s right. They are often difficult, eccentric personalities by nature, because they are stepping out front to confront a system of power [in a way that is] almost a kind of a form of suicide. But in moments of extremity, these rebels are absolutely key; and that you can’t pull off seismic change without them.

Sublime madness ... normally that's not a characteristic of the very poor. It's more the mind of an intellectual who can't stop thinking and has understood that rebellion is a moral imperative. So, yes, obsession is part of it.

This part of the interview is also worth considering:

You’ve said that we don’t know where the change will come from, and that it could just as easily take a right-wing, reactionary form as a leftist one. Is there anything lefties can do to influence the outcome? Or is it out of anyone’s control?

There’s so many events as societies disintegrate that you can’t predict. They play such a large part in shaping how a society goes that there is a lot of it that is not in your control.

For example, if you compare the breakdown of Yugoslavia with the breakdown of Czechoslovakia — and I covered both of those stories — Yugoslavia was actually the Eastern European country best-equipped to integrate itself into Europe. But Yugoslavia went bad. When the economy broke down and Yugoslavia was hit with horrific hyperinflation, it vomited up these terrifying figures in the same way that Weimar vomited up the Nazi party. Yugoslavia tore itself to pieces.

If things unravel [in the U.S.], our backlash may very well be a rightwing backlash — a very frightening rightwing backlash. We who care about populist movements [on the left] are very weak, because in the name of anti-communism these movements have been destroyed; we are almost trying to rebuild them from scratch. We don’t even have the language to describe the class warfare that is being unleashed upon us by this tiny, rapacious, oligarchic elite. But we on the left are very disorganized, unfocused, and without resources.

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"heh, as they say, if you don't dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul" - JS


Testifying to the Senate Armsd Services Committee today, incoming Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva raised some eyebrows by openly declaring that ISIS poses no threat to the US homeland, insisting they are simply something to be dealt with abroad.
But while Dunford’s list last week was Russia, China, North Korea, then ISIS, Selva’s version was Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and al-Qaeda, in that order. Selva then insisted neither ISIS nor “lone wolf” terrorists inspired by ISIS were a real threat.
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