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mother earth

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Member since: Wed Nov 10, 2004, 05:08 PM
Number of posts: 6,002

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Warren Support Shifting to Bernie Sanders, Sanders Not Just About Influencing Issues


Though we wish it could be so, Elizabeth Warren is not running for president. The dominant narrative has already become: Warren’s supporters will now have to settle for trying to exert influence on Hillary Clinton. Not so fast, narrative!

Elizabeth Warren Is Right About Everything

This afternoon, Massachusetts Senator and presidential non-candidate Elizabeth Warren spoke to a…(Read more: http://gawker.com/elizabeth-warren-is-right-about-everything-1696835237)

If you are a person who cares about economic inequality, and the inordinate influence of money on our democracy, and Wall Street’s unaccountability and plunder of public resources—a well-informed person, in other words—you were probably disappointed to learn that Elizabeth Warren would not be running for president, because she is the strongest mainstream political voice in America who speaks out intelligently in favor of addressing those very issues. Some would have you believe that Warren’s decision not to enter the race means that those of you who believe in the causes that she champions should not slide over into the camp of The Inevitable Nominee Hillary Clinton, who will reward you with, perhaps, a gentle leftward nod and wink during the course of her staunchly centrist campaign.

“There are frequent references to a Warren wing of the Democratic party and to the need to appeal to it,” Bloomberg writes. “Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is openly courting her.” In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza says that “Clinton has taken notice” of Warren, already making overt efforts to enfold her in the comforting embrace of Planet Hillary.

I say to everyone who supports Elizabeth Warren’s eminently reasonable positions on issues of basic fairness: hope is not lost. You do not have to throw up your hands in despair and slide your support over to Hillary Clinton. The inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s triumph is a facade, manufactured by a team of political consultants for the purpose of making her victory easier by encouraging any and all opponents to give up and fade away. There is absolutely no reason that progressives should lay down and surrender to Hillary Clinton—who is a calculating and talented politician who is better than a Republican, but who cannot be called a progressive if that term is to mean anything. Even as Hillary Clinton mouths platitudes about fighting inequality, her own legion of Wall Street backers does not take any of it seriously. “She’s not saying that a hedge fund manager shouldn’t be making what they’re making,” one financier shrugged to Politico. “Just that someone in another job shouldn’t be making 300 times less.”

In fact, a hedge fund manager shouldn’t be making what they’re making. If you have enough of a sense of justice to understand that, there is no reason for you to feel that your vote is already a foregone conclusion, a year and a half before the actual election. Even without Elizabeth Warren, there is a candidate in the race who represents true progressive ideals. That candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders favors strong progressive taxation to fight the ongoing trend of massive accumulations of wealth among a tiny elite.

Bernie Sanders favors an expanded social safety net to protect the poor.

Bernie Sanders favors a single-payer public health care system for all.

Bernie Sanders favors breaking up the “Too Big to Fail” Wall Street banks that pulled the world into a global recession in 2008.

Bernie Sanders favors a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Bernie Sanders favors stronger support for organized labor.

Bernie Sanders also favors legalizing marijuana, by the way.

Compare the positions of Bernie Sanders with those of Elizabeth Warren. Anyone who feels strongly about the economic and social causes championed by Warren will have little choice but to recognize that Bernie Sanders fully embraces most of the same causes, and the same policy solutions. There is no need to make some emotional, over-the-top, campaign ad-style plea here. Look at what the candidates believe. Vote for the candidate who represents what you believe.

Three and a half decades of rising inequality must stop, or else. Bernie Sanders should have the support of everyone in this country smart enough to understand that. Everyone including Elizabeth Warren.

Once you realize how very much support was evident for a Warren run, it is no longer a case of Bernie Sanders swaying the inevitable nominee during the campaign season, hell no...it is far more...all of that Warren love is now Bernie Sanders love...and it is just in the beginning stages. To know Bernie Sanders and what a fighter he is, is to love him, and those of us who already do know his stances on the issue couldn't be happier. I'm thinking Elizabeth Warren agrees wholeheartedly.

How did we get the 99% vs. the l%? Why Monetary Reform Must Become Your No. l Issue

Published on Sep 29, 2013

Joe Bongiovanni discusses our monetary system and why fixing it is the single most important issue facing people and the planet. Joe explains how money is created as debt by private banks and how that system heavily favors principles and values that are in direct opposition to those who seek a more just and sustainable world. We are all playing by monetary rules that were written by our opponents. It's a game we are bound to lose unless we change the rules.

For more information on HR 2990 visit: http://www.monetary.org

Joe Bongiovanni will be speaking about The NEED Act and Radical Monetary Reform at the New School in New York City on October 30th 2015. Join us in person or on livestream.
Posted by mother earth | Sun May 3, 2015, 11:37 AM (1 replies)

How Things Could Develop (if they stay in Euro with a default)

While the risk of Greece missing a debt payment in coming weeks is rising in the absence of an agreement with creditors, this may not necessarily lead to default, or euro exit, at least not immediately, analysts say.
•Some officials already alluded to this possibility, with ECB’s Constancio telling European lawmakers a default doesn’t automatically mean Greece must give up its euro membership, and economic affairs commissioner Moscovici ruling out preparing plan B in case of Greek failure.
•Greece can continue on without a deal until possibly late July when ECB loan repayments come due, analysts from HSBC to BofAML say; capital controls and a parallel currency may allow the country to carry on for a few months before reality sinks in.
•Here is a potential sequence of events:



The other thing that no one seems to mention, while everyone waits on more news, is the fact that it isn't only Greece that has unsustainable debt, as the year progresses and as this story progresses, we all know other EU nations are taking note for good reason.
It seems that the EU is in survival mode, time for the powers that be to realize it is time for they, themselves to reform, not Greece alone, the EU together, a unified Europe, with shared prosperity that honors humanity, nothing else is sustainable. All the things they laugh at Syriza for, are the very things that hold promise.
Posted by mother earth | Sat May 2, 2015, 08:38 PM (0 replies)

The only thing I've learned is, it isn't a deal, until it is a deal. There's too many differing

opinions and articles and none of them seem to be reporting objectively. If one, however, follows and takes Varoufakis at his word, reform will come, and it will be humane reform, which is why he is greatly admired. He is a man of vision. Greece is in incredible hands, whether it realizes it or not. I am completely envious & see it as hopeful for the rest of the world.

Listen to Varoufakis from 15/05/2013, 18h, cinema Europa, Hall Müller, Zagreb, Croatia .

My answer will come in three points [correction] in three parts.

Firstly forget Greece for just one second. If the Eurozone collapses, we are all going to be embroiled in the post modern 1930’s. If the Eurozone crashes and burns, I mean, I personally campaign against the Euro in the 1990’s. But we created it. So there are irreversibilites. If we give up the Euro, we are not going to go back to where we would have been if we didn’t have it. So it is one thing to say ‘we shouldn’t have it’ it’s quite another to ‘say we should get out of it’. Right?

And if the Euro, the way it was constructed, and the way that financialization proceeded during the golden age in those eight years, pretty good years of the Euro, and then ‘crush and burn’ and all that after that – with that history behind us, if now the Euro goes, we are going to have an massive depression in Germany, and stagnation in the rest of Europe. The global economy will not be able to take that shock, China is going to go into reverse, Brazil is going to see all the improvements in poverty rates and so on, go to smithereens, and therefore the global economy is going to be detrimentally effected if the Eurozone goes and that’s from the international perspective.

Now, let me speak from a Greek perspective. What we have done, as a ….what the Greek state has done, what the successive three different governments have done, since the debt crises, the debt exploded in early 2010, was a crime against humanity. So, I don’t defend the fact that we stayed in the Euro, following the prescriptions that were coming to us from Brussels and Frankfurt and so on, my proposal was, that Greece should simply announce that it is defaulting, just like Argentina did, within the Euro, in January 2010, and stick the finger to Germany and say “Well, you can now solve this problem by yourself”. Right?

Why am I not – why was I not supporting the idea, that we make an announcement that we are returning to the drachma.

In other words, why am I buying half of the Argentinean strategy, but not the other half?

Yes to the default, no to creating our own currency.

Well Argentina because had the peso Argentina – it had the currency that it could devalue.

It had a peg 1 to 1 between the peso and the U.S. dollar but it had the peso, Argentinians had the peso in their pockets. They had – the banks were stuffed with pesos — the ATMs would give you pesos.

And it was simply a matter of saying ‘well from now on we will devalue it’, but when you don’t have a currency, you can’t devalue it, all you can do is you can announce that you know in 8 months, we are going to have a currency, which by the way we’re going to devalue.

Now this, can you imagine —- a preemptive announcement of a devaluation 8 months before it happens, this is a recipe, is a recipe for having all wealth liquidated and leave the country unless then of course we have armed guards at the borders to stop people from bringing – taking their money out, but did would mean did we would have to get out of the European union.

And don’t forget that Greece doesn’t have something else that Argentina had. Argentina at the moment when it was defaulting and sticking the finger to the IMF, which I really applaud them for and I love them for it, okay?

Ah…they had large tracts of land capable of producing millions of tons of soya beans that China wanted to buy at that moment did; Greece does not have anything of this sort.

So if we given that we didn’t have a readymade export market, and we didn’t have a currency to devalue, it would be suicidal to get out of the drachma, in to the – what we should do, we should create circumstance of plan B, we should start the process of thinking of creating a currency in case we needed because – for —- not just because we may choose to leave the euro but because the euro may not exist after a while, if Germany leaves, I think because that is more likely for me as far as I’m concerned that Germany would depart from the euro, okay.

Now, just to finish off, I don’t have a dogmatic position on whether one should leave the euro or not. For me the question of costs and benefits of human suffering it is very simple.

Cyprus, this is what I’m going to go next week to Nicosia to argue should get out of the euro today; because they’re already out of the euro, they’ve already suffered the cost effects, they have capital controls, they have a destroyed banking system, why have the Troika visits on top of that, but Greece has not had that, yet.

So I think that from an internationalist and a Greek perspective and the European perspective, the most effective radical policy would be for a Greek government just rise up or a Greek Prime Minister or Minister of Finance to rise up in a coffin in the euro group — whatever and say folks we are defaulting, we shall not be repaying next May the 6 billion that supposedly owe – we owe the European Central Bank, my god, you’re not have a destroyed economy, which is borrowing from the European Stability Mechanist to pay it to the European Central back is not just idiotic, but its the epitome of misanthropy. Say no to that, but why you step out, put them in front of their contradictions, make them face the contradictions of the euro zone themselves because the moment the Greek Prime Minister declares default within the eurozone all hell will break loose and either they will have to introduce these shock absorbers, or the euro will die anyway, and then we can go to the drachma.


He is a man born for this time in history. Shock doctrine (Naomi Klein) has been playing out globally, it is time to see what the solution will be and what reform, if any, will follow.
Posted by mother earth | Sat May 2, 2015, 07:56 PM (0 replies)

The Same Poison, The Solution is a Social Movement [Rise of the New Black Radicals, Chris Hedges]

Published on Monday, April 27, 2015 by Truthdig

Rise of the New Black Radicals by Chris Hedges


The almost daily murders of young black men and women by police in the United States—a crisis undiminished by the protests of groups such as Black Lives Matter and by the empty rhetoric of black political elites—have given birth to a new young black militant.

This militant, rising off the bloody streets of cities such as Ferguson, Mo., understands that the beast is not simply white supremacy, chronic poverty and the many faces of racism but the destructive energy of corporate capitalism. This militant has given up on electoral politics, the courts and legislative reform, loathes the corporate press and rejects established black leaders such as Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson. This militant believes it is only in the streets and in acts of civil disobedience that change is possible. And given the refusal of the corporate state to address the mounting suffering of the poor and working poor, draconian state repression and indiscriminate use of lethal state violence against unarmed people of color, I think the new black radical is right. It will be a long, hot and violent summer.

The world’s hundreds of millions of disenfranchised youths—in America this group is dominated by the black and brown underclass—come out of the surplus labor created by our system of corporate neofeudalism. These young men and women have been discarded as human refuse and are preyed upon by a legal system that criminalizes poverty. In the United States they constitute the bulk of the 2.3 million human beings locked in jails and prisons. The discontent in Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Madrid and Ayotzinapa is one discontent. And the emerging revolt, although it comes in many colors, speaks many languages and has many belief systems, is united around a common enemy. Bonds of solidarity and consciousness are swiftly uniting the wretched of the earth against our corporate masters.

Corporate power, which knows what is coming, has put in place sophisticated systems of control that include militarized police, elaborate propaganda campaigns that seek to make us fearful and therefore passive, wholesale surveillance of every citizen and a court system that has stripped legal protection from the poor and any who dissent. The masses are to be kept in bondage. But the masses, especially the young, understand the game. There is a word for what is bubbling up from below—revolution. It can’t begin soon enough.

Just envision a debtor’s prison being run by a collusion between city officials, police and court judges, who treated our community like an ATM machine,” Tyler said. “Because that’s all they did. Ferguson is in St. Louis County. It’s 21,000 people living in 8,100 households. So it’s a small town. Sixty-seven percent of the residents are African-American. Twenty-two percent live below poverty level. A total of $2.6 million [were paid in fines to city officials, the courts and the police] in 2013. The Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases. That’s about three warrants per household. One and a half cases for each household. You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and three warrants per household from an average crime rate. You get numbers like this from racist bullshit, arrests from jaywalking, and constant low-level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

“For an example,” she went on, “I got pulled over. I turned a left [illegally] and my car was searched. I was met with three different officers, two detectives. I got a traffic ticket. I had a ticket because I didn’t have my license on me. So I had a ticket for not having my license, and then I got a ticket from turning the wrong way. I did not go to court because I was out of town. However, I called them and told them I will not appear to court and my lawyer would handle it from there. I got a letter in the mail that said failure to appear to court, and they have a warrant out for my arrest. They’re threatening to take my license and suspend it because I didn’t appear to court. So these are just the things that had happened in St. Louis right now. You can get a ticket from walking across the street, or a ticket from not cutting your grass, and then you’re stuck in this system that they put us in, that is oppressed, and keeps us oppressed.”

“I was arrested when I was pregnant, I was 37 weeks and I was arrested in St. Charles County by four white officers,” she said. “They took me into custody when I had this big-ass stomach. And I’m like, I’m pregnant. I had a traffic ticket for parking in the wrong meter. And they wrote me a ticket and I never paid it, so they took me. I had a warrant out for my arrest. I sat in jail, pregnant, had my baby a week early because I was stressed out and crying my eyes out in jail.”

“No person should have to go through this,” T-Dubb-O said, “whether it’s in America, Palestine, Mexico, Brazil, Canada. Nobody should have to go through this. You look at a bunch of young people [in Ferguson], their age ranges anywhere from 12 to 28 or 29, that went against the most powerful military force in this world. That’s pretty much what happened. … That’s not what’s explained, but that’s what it was. It was tanks on every corner, our phones tapped, they follow us. Every day we was out there we thought we were gonna die. At one point in time they said they were gonna kill us. ‘We’re not shooting rubber bullets tonight, we’re shooting live ammunition.’ And these are the things that you don’t see on the news. It was just because we was tired of being treated as less than people. Just for opportunity to be able to walk the streets and live and breath and do what everybody else does. And that’s pretty much what we was fighting for. I mean, the level of oppression, it’s kind of hard to fathom, and believe that it’s actually true in America, especially the middle of America. But it’s real, where you have people that are judged off the neighborhoods they come from and the color of their skin and they’re denied certain opportunities.”

“I don’t see them pulling back,” he said of the state and its security forces. “They have no problem killing people. They have no problem shooting gas at babies, pregnant people, old people. They don’t have an issue with it. And our politicians are just standing around with their arms folded.”

“As long as the powers that be are in control, the oppression isn’t going to go anywhere,” he said. “It’s really going to take people to unite worldwide, not just in America, not just in St. Louis, not just in one particular city or state. It’s gonna have to be people identifying their struggles with each other worldwide, internationally, and say enough is enough. That’s the only way oppression will ever leave.”

Full Text:

The Real Entitlements, and the Numbers...Welfare Entitlement of the Rich

Monday, April 27, 2015, Common Dreams

Entitlements are Bankrupting America. But the Rich Keep Taking Them.
, Paul Buchheit

Because of irresponsible reporting by conservative sources, many Americans have been led to believe that social programs are bankrupting our nation. The mainstream media fawningly concurs, with statements like this from USA Today: "The massive deficits...[and] chronic underfunding...are largely the result of Washington's habit of committing too much money to benefit programs." States are now beginning to attack imagined safety net abuses, such as the use of food stamp funds to pay for fortune tellers and pleasure cruises.

But hungry people rarely waste their modest benefits, and most are eager to work to support their households. Almost three-quarters of those enrolled in food stamps and other social programs are members of working families. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 1 cent of every SNAP dollar is used fraudulently.

The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. As they get richer, they're gradually bankrupting the greater part of America, the middle and lower classes. The following annual numbers may help to put our country's expenses and benefits in perspective.

The Safety Net: $370 Billion

The 2014 safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing. These few programs, collectively termed "welfare" by those fortunate enough to survive without them, amount to a lot less than the $1 trillion per year publicized by the conservative press.

Social Security: $863 Billion

The threat of "entitlement," in the case of Social Security, is more properly defined as an "earned benefit." Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly, who have paid for it. As of 2010, according to the Urban Institute, the average two-earner couple making average wages throughout their lifetimes receive less in Social Security benefits than they paid in.

Tax Avoidance: $2,200 Billion

That's $2.2 trillion in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment. It is estimated that two-thirds of tax breaks accrue to the top quintile of taxpayers.

Investment Gains: $5,000 Billion

That's $5 trillion dollars a year, the annual amount gained in U.S. wealth from the end of 2008 to the middle of 2014. In the six years since the recession, for every $1 of safety net costs, $10 in new wealth went to the richest 10%.

Investment income welfare for the well-to-do appears in the form of capital gains tax breaks, which mean zero taxes on deferred investment gains, and zero taxes for most of the investment gains passed along to descendants.

Most Extreme: 14 Billionaires vs. 46 Million Hungry Americans

America's 14 richest individuals made more from their investments last year than the $80 billion provided for people in need of food.

Clearly, conservative sources don't tell us the full story. They dwell on the cost of the safety net, emphasizing its accumulating total over several years, while stubbornly ignoring the real problem.

The super-rich feel they deserve all the tax breaks and the accumulation of wealth from our nation's many years of productivity.

That's the true threat of entitlement.


We will never hear our candidates speak about the real cost of our politicians serving up America's worth to their campaign donors, every tax break, every deregulation, every revolving door, a gift to the elite, and the media....well...they aren't going to report on stories that don't serve the corporate interests...the status quo is enabled, and poverty and inequality grow.

A gem of an article re: Greece & its Predicament from Greg Palast

This is just the ending, if you can find the time, please do read the article in its entirety. I wish there were more Greg Palasts in the world, alas, just like Yanis Varoufakis, there is but one.


Trojan Hearse: Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony (1-20-15)

There’s Life after Euro

Many nations do quite well without the euro. Sweden, Denmark and India do just fine without the euro—and so does Turkey, which had the luck to be excluded from the euro-zone. As long as Turks stick to the lira, even Turkey’s brain-damaged Islamo-fascist President Tayyip Erdoğan cannot destroy their economy.

Can Greece just dump the euro? They have happy precedents to follow. Argentina was once pegged to the US dollar much as Greece is tied to the euro today. In 2000, Argentines, hungry and angry, revolted. Argentina ultimately overthrew the dollar dictatorship, the IMF diktats and the threats of creditors, and defaulted on its dollar bonds. Free at last! In the decade since, the Argentine economy soared. Yes, today, Argentina is under attack by financial vultures, but that is only because the nation became so temptingly wealthy.

I was in Brazil when its President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the IMF to go to hell—and rejected privatization of the state banks and the state oil company, rejected cutting pensions and thumbed his nose at the rest of the austerity nonsense. Instead, Lula created the bolsa familia, a massive pay-out to the nation’s poor. The result: Brazil not only survived but thrived during the 2008-10 world financial crisis. Despite pressure, Brazil never ceded control of its currency. (It is a sad irony that Brazil is only now faltering. That’s the fault entirely of Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff, who is beginning to dance the austerity samba.)

Austerity: Religion, Not Economics

The euro is simply the deutschmark with little stars on it. Greece cannot adopt Germany’s currency without adopting Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, as its own.

And Schäuble has determined that Greece must be punished. As my homey Paul Krugman points out, there is no credible economic theory that says that austerity—that is, cutting government spending, cutting wages, cutting consumer demand—can in any way help a nation in recession, in deflation. That’s why, in 2009, Obama ordered up stimulus, not a sleeping pill.

But austerity has nothing to do with economics. It is religion: the belief by the stern Lutheran Germans that Greeks have had too much fun, spent too much money, and spent too much lazy time in the sun—and now Greeks must pay a price for their sins.

Oddly, I hear this self-flagellating nonsense from Greeks themselves: we are lazy. We deserve our punishment. Nonsense. The average Greek works more hours in a year than any other worker in the 34 nations of the OECD; Germans the least.

The Euro’s Father Describes his Little Bastard

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, would like to pretend that austerity and the euro are two different things, that you can marry the pretty girl but not invite her ugly sister to the wedding. Apparently, the Syriza chief is blissfully ignorant of the history of the euro. The horror of austerity is not the consequence of Greek profligacy: it was designed into the euro’s plan from the beginning.

This was explained to me by the father of the euro himself, economist Robert Mundell of Columbia University. (I studied economics with Mundell’s buddy, Milton Friedman.) Mundell not only invented the euro, he also fathered the misery-making policies of Thatcher and Reagan, known as “supply-side economics” – or, as George Bush Sr. called it, “voodoo economics.” Supply-side voodoo is the long-discredited belief that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, eliminates government regulation and public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.

The euro is simply the other side of the supply-side coin. As Mundell explained it, the euro is the way in which congresses and parliaments can be stripped of all power over monetary and fiscal policy. Bothersome democracy is removed from the economic system. “Without fiscal policy,” Mundell told me, “the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”

Greece, to survive in a euro economy, can only revive employment by reducing wages. Indeed, the recent tiny reduction in unemployment is the sign that Greeks are slowly accepting a permanent future of low wages serving piña coladas to Germans on holiday cruises.

It is argued that Greece owes Germany, the IMF and the European Central Bank for bail-out-billions. Nonsense. None of the billions in bail-out funds went into Greek pockets. It all went to bail out Deutsche Bank and other foreign creditors. The EU treasuries swallowed 90% of its private bankers’ bonds. Germany bailed out Germany, not Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece must pay Germany back, Mr. Tsipras, if you want to continue to use Germany’s currency, that is.

Greece: Goldman Sacked

Greece’s ruin began with secret, fraudulent currency swaps, designed a decade ago by Goldman Sachs, to conceal Greek deficits that exceeded the euro zone’s 3%-of-GDP limit. In 2009, when the truth came out, Greek debt holders realized they had been cheated. These debt buyers then demanded usurious levels of interest (or, if you prefer, a high “spread”) to insure themselves against future fraud. The compounding of this interest premium brought the Greek nation to its knees. In other words, the crimes committed to join and stay in the euro, not Greek profligacy, caused the crisis.

The USA, Brazil and China escaped from depression by increasing their money supply and government spending and taking control of currency exchange rates—crucial tools Greece gave up in return for the euro.

Worse, once the Trojan hearse of the euro entered Athens, tourism, Greece’s main industry, drained to Turkey where hotels and souvenirs are priced in cheap lira. This allowed Dr. Mundell’s remorseless wage-lowering machine, the euro, to do its work, to force Greece to strip all its workers of pensions and power.

Greece fell to its knees, with no choice but to beg Germany for mercy.

But there is no mercy. As Germany’s Schäuble insists, democracy, this week’s vote, means nothing. "New elections change nothing in the accords struck with the Greek government,” he says. “[Greeks] have no alternative.”

Ah, but they do, Mr. Schäuble. They can tell you to take your euro and shove it up your Merkel.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic, Ellen Brown, Common Dreams

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." —Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. . . .”

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

In an article posted by Yves Smith, Joe Firestone poses some interesting hypotheticals:

Under the TPP, could the US government be sued and be held liable if it decided to stop issuing Treasury debt and financed deficit spending in some other way (perhaps by quantitative easing or by issuing trillion dollar coins)? Why not, since some private companies would lose profits as a result?

Under the TPP or the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership under negotiation with the European Union), would the Federal Reserve be sued if it failed to bail out banks that were too big to fail?

Firestone notes that under the Netherlands-Czech trade agreement, the Czech Republic was sued in an investor-state dispute for failing to bail out an insolvent bank in which the complainant had an interest. The investor company was awarded $236 million in the dispute settlement. What might the damages be, asks Firestone, if the Fed decided to let the Bank of America fail, and a Saudi-based investment company decided to sue?


On Friday EU FMs Decide Whether to Release Emer Funds to Greece, or Risk Greece Default/WD from EU

Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

by Democracy Now!

Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis: The Medicine of Austerity Is Not Working, We Need a New Treatment
'It’s a question of establishing what needs to be done in order to return Greece to a sustainable path'

With the debt clock ticking, Greece is fast running out of money. The country has ordered all state bodies to place their cash reserves in the nation’s central bank, the Bank of Greece, as it struggles to stay afloat. Greece is supposed to receive the last installment of its bailout funds from European creditors, but the country’s new leftist, anti-austerity Syriza party has expressed concerns about its terms. The creditors are reportedly pressuring the country to restructure its labor market and curtail its pension system; Syriza has instead done the opposite by increasing pension payments to lower-wage workers. On Friday, eurozone finance ministers will decide whether to release emergency funds to Greece. Without the funds, Greece may default on its debt payments in coming weeks and put its membership in the eurozone at risk. We go to Athens to speak with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.

The official version, until we got elected, was that Greece was on the mend, that austerity was working. Our proposition to the Greek people—on which basis we were elected, were given a mandate—was the opposite, that the medicine wasn’t working. It wasn’t just that it was bitter and we didn’t want to take it; it was that it was toxic and it was making a bad thing worse. It was worse than the disease. So, this is what’s at stake here. You asked me, "How high are the stakes?" It’s a question of establishing what needs to be done in order to return Greece to a sustainable path. — Yanis Varoufakis

Why Greece May Be The New Lehman (Politico, 4-22-15)


Remember when in 2008 Hank Paulson’s U.S. Treasury Department decided to let Lehman Brothers go down, pour encourager les autres, and then found that it brought les autres crashing down too? Well, Germany and the other euro-zone members are now trying to repeat that brilliant trick with Greece. If you were looking for where the next big financial meltdown might begin, you need look no further. Chances are, it is about to happen in Europe.

If it does, the political consequences could be even worse than last time. Strangely enough, the political risks are easier to evaluate than the economic ones. The risk of a Greek default or exit from the euro begin in Greece: If the left-wing party that runs the new government, Syriza, is discredited, following the discrediting of the old establishment parties, this risks strengthening the fascist alternative, Golden Dawn.

Then, the political risk moves rapidly to France, which is the scariest country in Europe right now. Already, the 25 percent share of the opinion polls held by the anti-immigrant, anti-EU Front National party of Marine le Pen is scary. But imagine what a new political and economic crisis in Europe might do for Ms. le Pen: her chances of becoming France’s president in 2017 would jump from remote to conceivable.

Another risk is that Europe’s banking system remains fragile, not cleaned up and reinforced in the way America’s banking system has been since 2008. As long as the European Central Bank stands ready and able to print money in order to provide the banking system with liquidity this should remain true. But what if that were to be blocked? Which it might be, if German politics react badly and severely to a Greek default.

Then, we could be in a repeat of 1931, when the collapse of a European bank, CreditAnstalt of Vienna, brought about a sudden worsening of the depression that was taking hold in America and Europe. We are all connected now.

This isn’t the way things looked, quite recently. Back in January, when Greek voters elected Syriza on a mandate to get a better deal from its euro-zone partners and the International Monetary Fund over its vast public debts, the favored metaphor of most commentators was the game of chicken.

Greece’s photogenic prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and especially its economics professor-turned-sex-symbol finance minister Yanis Varoufakis talked tough, and their German counterparts Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaueble talked tough in return. But everyone assumed that in the end there would be a compromise and not a car crash.

The euro would survive. Greece would not default, would pretend to continue to repay its public debts (now 170 percent of GDP, a colossal level), and would be stealthily given some economic life support. This would buy time for the Greek economy to start growing more rapidly, convincing the Greek public to accept reforms such as privatization.

That acceleration in growth would convince the German public that a country they previously saw as lazy good-for-nothings was willing to play by the rules. A little money would be provided to ease Greece’s transition from slothful parasite to competitive modern nation. Everyone would live happily ever after.

It was a comforting fiction. But now, three months later, reality is about to reassert itself. The car crash is looking the much likelier outcome. And the scary thing is that both sets of drivers appear as if they might even want it.

Which means that they are both assuming that the political and economic consequences of Greece either defaulting on its sovereign debts, or leaving the euro, or both, would be bearable and even worth bearing.

It would be nice if this pessimistic analysis were to be proved wrong, and that a compromise were about to be unveiled. The reason why that at present looks unlikely is not just that there is no sign of it happening: such is always the nature of bargaining, at any level. No, the reason for pessimism about a compromise is that as time has gone on, the two sides appear to have found themselves with less room for manoeuver, not more. They both look trapped.

Greece, after all, has undergone an extraordinary economic and political shock since the global financial crisis struck in 2008. Its clientelistic, extravagant political culture, which had been no secret, hit a wall: it ran out of money. The result was a slump in GDP of more than a quarter, a jump in unemployment to nearly 30 percent of the workforce (roughly, U.S. Great Depression levels), and a huge budgetary contraction. The question for the new Syriza government has been: what more could we do?
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