Evening Blues Preview 7-24-15
This evening's music features Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters.
Here are some stories from tonight's posting:
A major component of Obama's "Let No Wealthy Or Powerful Person Face Consequences For Their Criminality" program is revealed:
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog said Thursday that his independence has been undermined by the department’s refusal to let him see information derived from wiretaps or national security letters without special permission.
The department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a 68-page opinion Thursday saying that Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s office should not be granted access to several different kinds of typically confidential material unless there is a clear law-enforcement or counterintelligence purpose — and that the department’s lawyers, not the inspector general’s, would make that determination.
That would appear to rule out many of the typical goals of oversight, such as rooting out fraud, incompetence, rule-breaking and cover-ups.
As far as my own code of values is concerned, the presence of the Left in the government is not in order to seek high office. It is the stronghold of the interests of our people! A stronghold for the protection of those who have been wronged! A stronghold for the large class fights against vested interests within the country!
As far as I am concerned, I have no intention of abandoning this stronghold. We will not become cowards, nor will we ignore our responsibilities, nor will we become apologists for lost fights. Because the only lost fights are those which never took place!
The fights lying ahead will be given with the same fighting spirit, the same faith in our strength, the same dignity and they will be fights which will be won.”
This conflict has nothing to do with Greek debt or finances. Syriza’s strategy was based upon the rational assumption that the nation’s debt and recovery are being stifled by austerity. As we know from most any respected economist, Greece’s debt can never and will never be repaid. On the continent that prides itself as the cradle of the enlightenment, there should have been an amicable, lasting solution to Greece’s untenable financial situation. Greece has had to learn the hard way, that the EU is no longer a European project for peace, democracy and prosperity, but a German tool for hegemony.
This has been a conflict between a small European nation, led by a leftist government, attempting to reassert its autonomy under crushing German predominance. That may sound simplistic, but there is not much more to it. ...
The humanitarian disaster had reached dimensions that defy any definition of a “United Europe”. With the media’s obsession with the pseudo negotiations the fact that this was an existential decision for millions of Greeks was forgotten, many of whom stood at the edge of an abyss. This became clear as affected Greeks were asking how they were to pay for their insulin and if it would soon become unavailable due to the financial embargo that was being created. This was the terrorism that Yanis Varoufakis denounced. ...
Under German hegemony we are seeing heads of state removed by financial pressure (Italy and Greece), nations forced to take over debts from reckless private banks (Ireland and Spain) and Greece being pounded into submission and having its autonomy reduced to passing legislation dictated by Berlin. The Germany of today has little to do with Western European democracy, resembling more traditional German anti-democratic authoritarianism.
Lastly, no one seems to have really thought through what the “reforms” forced upon Greece will mean in practice. Up to now Greeks apparently were reluctant to pay taxes because hardly any one, especially the oligarchs, did so. To alter a nation’s attitude to taxation is a herculean task for a government at the best of times, a process that Yanis Varoufakis interestingly had initiated very early on. The imposition of a ridiculously high value added tax increase by Germany is nothing more than taxation without representation. Not paying ones taxes in Greece will become a patriotic act of resistance against the Germans and the troika. There can be no crdible political discourse from a politically disgraced Syriza, leaving coercion as the only alternative (Varoufakis knew why he resigned as finance minister and has voted against the German dictate). The Greek people clearly rejected the dictate that has been foisted upon them. They will not be supporting the so called “reforms”, especially as they simply cannot afford to do so.
The crisis in Greece and in Europe is not over, it is only just beginning.
As fact and metaphor the ongoing crisis in Greece is the vanguard of broad social disintegration across the capitalist West. IMF Director Christine Lagarde is being put forward as the voice of reason calling for writing down Greece’s debt to manageable levels. But her actual public statements have paid deference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s suggestion, a slight variation on Barack Obama’s mortgage ‘rescue’ packages, that maturities be extended but that people be left with debts far greater than they can reasonably pay. As attractive as permanent debt servitude might appear to those demanding it, it is a form of economic extraction, a transfer of economic production from nominal borrowers to banks and bankers. ...
The European ‘choice’ was of a monetary union with full understanding, brought into particular relief in hindsight, that it wasn’t a formal political or fiscal union. While there may have been, and most likely were, broader hopes for it, the monetary union created a specific set of economic relationships that are now in play. A monetary union grants political power to a central bank, in this case to the ECB. As with the Federal Reserve in the U.S., the ECB represents bankers’ interests as being in the broad public interest when they decidedly aren’t— they serve the powers-that-be in Europe’s particular configuration of finance capitalism. Until the European periphery comes to terms with what the monetary union really is there is little hope of economic resolution. And the grip that the union has on the periphery is being made binary, either total submission to the whims of the Troika or near-term economic ruin are the choices given. ...
Much as U.S. based industrial companies have long used the threat of mass firings to cow labor and reduce pressures for civic accountability, the threat of withdrawing from engineered dependencies— by metaphor, leaving displaced peasants to quickly recover an indigenous economy after property relations have been reconfigured to preclude the possibility, is the economic assertion of political power. The fact of social dependencies is contorted through capitalist competition into a relation of domination and repression— people can choose any form of government they wish as long as they show up to work on time, dress accordingly, limit conversations to approved topics and passively accept the dictates of their imperial masters. ...
Near-term technological considerations aside, the question that the Greeks and other peoples of the West may wish to ask is why banks and bankers whose livelihoods derive from the public grant to create and allocate money should be allowed to use it to rule the world? The quote from economist Joan Robinson that ‘The only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by capitalism’ refers to precisely this type of engineered dependency, not to a natural state of the world. Was the intent of the European Union a partnership of equals then Syriza would have been granted a distinctive voice. With its mandate to remain within the union it is but another set of bodies warming the chairs at ‘negotiation’ tables listening to the dictates of the Troika.
For the last six months, tensions between Madrid and Barcelona seemed to have subsided, as most of the attention of Spanish government, the media, and the public was diverted by the seemingly unstoppable rise of Pablo Iglesias’ anti-austerity party Podemos — a rise that has suddenly stopped.
Now it seems that what first appeared as reduced tensions between Madrid and Spain’s north-eastern province was merely the calm before the mother of all storms.
Last Friday the coalition of pro-independence parties in Catalonia announced a single list of candidates for regional elections scheduled for Sept. 27. They include the two main parties’ leaders, Artur Mas (Catalonia’s current premier) and Oriol Junqueras, as well as the leaders of the two grassroots movements Ómnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly. Also included on the list as a symbolic candidate is Pep Guardiola, the popular former coach of Barcelona Football Club and fervent Catalan separatist.
If the pro-independence coalition wins a majority of seats in September’s elections, it has pledged that it will unilaterally declare national independence within six months. Adding fuel to the fire is a new report just out from the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies that concludes that not only would the Catalan economy benefit from untethering itself from Spain, but the region would make a perfectly viable nation state – at least at an economic level.
At the political and social level, the obstacles are much greater – some might say insurmountable. If solutions aren’t found to these problems soon, Madrid’s spat with Catalonia could soon have ugly repercussions both within and far beyond Spanish borders. Some are even predicting that it could result in Catalonia’s expulsion or exit – AKA Catexit (no, seriously) — from the EU.
The U.S. deal with Iran – based on assumptions about an Iranian nuclear weapons program that American intelligence agencies have twice concluded does not exist – allows the U.S. to concentrate on provoking Russia and China while continuing to threaten Iran with destruction. Global peace is no closer than before, since “America’s insistence on imperialism and control of other countries is the cause of every catastrophe.” ...
The deal was ultimately done because times change and Barack Obama had to choose who to fight and who to make up with. The need to counter Russia and China made continued enmity with Iran foolish. So did the desire to replace Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas with energy from Iran. Ever the imperialist, Obama realized that a deal was in America’s interests. ...
In making the case for his deal president Obama relies on repeating American lies that Iran is a state sponsor of terror and threatens other nations in the region but is now pacified. Of course the United States inflicts most of the terror in the Middle East, having destroyed Iraq and Libya and given strength to jihadists it claims to dislike. Syria hangs on after four years of devastation wrought by the United States and their gulf monarch allies, but Obama’s rationale for a deal with Iran always includes condemnations useful for internal propaganda purposes. ...
The corporate media and some easily fooled “liberals” hail the agreement as ending a threat of war when in fact any threat existed only because of America and Israel. ... Now Americans must watch as cynical and stupid presidential candidates out-do one another bragging about how quickly they would attack Iran. The agreement is significant in some ways, but changes nothing in others.
More than four decades after the Chilean military tortured and killed beloved folk singer, playwright, and social activist Victor Jara during the coup of General Augusto Pinochet, former officers allegedly involved in the murder are finally facing charges.
Judge Miguel Vázquez Plaza on Wednesday announced homicide and kidnapping charges against 10 former military officers, including former lieutenant Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, a resident of Florida who is seeking to avoid extradition to Chile. Four of the people indicted have already turned themselves in, and arrests are expected to follow. ...
Jara's widow, Joan Turner Jara, told reporters that the development offers a "message of hope," but she went further, saying "we’re pushing forward in demanding justice for Victor with the hope that justice will follow for everyone."
[Unfortunately, Henry Kissinger will is not among those being sought for extradition. - js]
When 200 New York restaurant workers walked out in the nation’s first-ever fast-food strike in late 2012, they were widely mocked for demanding minimum pay of $15 an hour, with some critics saying their demand was absurdly out of reach, akin to visiting Mars.
But this week a New York state panel appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo recommended establishing a $15 minimum wage for the state’s 180,000 fast-food workers. It was a landmark win for an unorthodox movement – the Fight for 15 – that is just two and a half years old.
“It’s huge,” said Kendall Fells, the Fight for 15’s chief organizer. “It’s hard to believe, going back to that first one-day strike, with people saying, ‘They’re crazy. This is stupid.’ And now you have Governor Cuomo stepping up to help raise wages for 180,000, people.”
Fells said the movement was intent on charging ahead and would continue to press McDonald’s, and other fast-food companies to adopt a $15 minimum, which suddenly appears more realistic now that a New York state board has recommended $15, to be phased in over three years in New York City and six years in the rest of the state. Moreover, it might grow harder for McDonald’s to resist such demands if New York’s move – which awaits formal approval by the state labor commissioner – demonstrates that fast-food restaurants can survive and perhaps even thrive paying more than twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. ...
“This is a trend that cannot be stopped,” said Gary Chaison, a usually subdued professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “I think within five or 10 years almost every state in the country – maybe not Mississippi or Alabama – will have a $15 minimum wage.”
NetRoots bills itself as “the largest gathering of the progressive movement” in this country. Unless you think the Democratic party IS the progressive movement, or that all “progressives” are Democrats, this is nonsense. ...
What it actually is, is the largest gathering of paid and wannabe paid Democratic party activists, Democratic candidates and Democratic campaign managers, of consultants and vendors to Democratic campaigns, and folks of all kinds who are part of the far-flung partisan and ostensibly “non-partisan” machinery that gears up every even numbered year to elect Democrats to local, state and national office. Some of them want to change the Democratic party from within, some of them want to take it as it is, but they're all committed to staying inside the Democratic tent, and to keeping you there as well. ...
High ranking Democrats who hand out money, whether through partisan campaigns or to ostensibly nonpartisan and/or nonprofit organizations are always on the lookout for new activist blood with catchy new hooks, for activists who'll say the things they will not say in the effort to turn out the black masses for that Big Black Vote. So if you're a black activist at NetRoots you really NEED to stand out, to get noticed by the people who can give you fellowships, grants, jobs, funding of all kinds, and a career.
Since Hillary is the all but inevitable Democratic nominee, confronting two minor white male candidates, demanding they “say her name” and come up with solutions that address white supremacy, structural racism and the runaway police state is pretty much a foolproof strategy to get noticed, and as Hillary did not attend NetRoots, they got to do it without antagonizing the Clinton camp. ...
It was about flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag to jockey for positions inside the machinery that is the Democratic party and its affiliates.
Also of interest: