The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Killing the Messenger in Greece | Maria Margaronis

“We’re on air, the last little bit of air that’s left for us to breathe. We’re staying here all night, and beyond that, as long as it takes…”

I’m watching an overloaded Internet feed from ERT, the Greek state broadcaster, which has been shut down by the Greek government Tuesday night, laying off all its 2,700 workers, on six hours’ notice, with no discussion and no vote in parliament. One by one, the transmitters around the country are being turned off. Journalists and production staff are occupying the broadcaster’s Athens headquarters; the network’s musicians are playing protest songs in the courtyard. Many thousands of protesters are gathering outside; so are busloads of riot police. @amaenad tweets, “Everyone in #Greece has been watching #Occupygezi. And PM Samaras just gave them a spark. He was always as stupid as he was arrogant. #ERT”

A couple of hours ago I spoke to Marilena Katsimi, an ERT journalist inside the Athens building. She said that when the rumours of ERT’s impending closure first surfaced two weeks ago, nobody took them seriously: “We just couldn’t believe they would do it.” But all day today the director was shut up in his office, not speaking to anyone. At six o’clock, New Democracy minister Simos Kedikoglou announced that ERT was being shut down because of “a scandalous lack of transparency,” waste and abuses by its bloated workforce. Katsimi found his statement deeply offensive: “He actually said ‘the party’s over,’ when it was their party. Since this government came to power they’ve been buying in expensive programs, bringing in their own people, hiring thirty or forty consultants at 4,000 euros a month when our salaries have been cut by some 40 percent and we’re making 1,000. How dare he tell us we’ve been having a party here?” Last year Katsimi was suspended from presenting a morning TV news show because she referred, somewhat sarcastically, to a threat by the public order minister to sue The Guardian for reporting allegations that the Greek police had tortured antifascist protesters.

Of course, sucessive governments, both PASOK and New Democracy, have long given jobs at ERT (and elsewhere in the public sector) as prizes to loyal supporters. Everyone has heard stories of “journalists” drawing fat salaries and never showing up in the office. But as the blog Crisis Republic points out, the new, streamlined state broadcaster promised by Kedikoglou (at some vague point in the future) will look much like the old one—except it will be staffed entirely by this government’s supporters, at a cost in compensation and new salaries of several million euros.

So, in the name of transparency and cutting costs, the government has closed, by fiat and at great expense, the country’s only public broadcaster—the only broadcaster (for all its flaws) that isn’t pushing the agendas of the oligarchs. It has laid off some 2,700 people in one fell swoop—exceeding the Troika’s demand for 2,000 more public-sector job cuts. And it has opened the way for the distribution of lucrative franchises—for sports broadcasts, for instance—to the private TV channels which feed the Greek people the relentless diet of pap, hysteria, conspiracy theories and xenophobic propaganda that has helped sink the country into its current mess. Last week, Turkish TV notoriously showed movies about penguins instead of the police repression in Taksim Square. Greek TV has been poisoning people’s minds for decades; penguins would be an improvement.

The closure of ERT is the most dramatic in a series of attacks on free speech and public space by the Greek government. It comes as the official story of the austerity program’s success has been undermined by the IMF’s admission that serious mistakes were made, and by the Russian giant Gazprom’s failure to bid for the state-owned energy company. Greek friends are asking each other, Is this the beginning of the end? I couldn’t say; but in tragedies, killing the messenger is usually a sign that things aren’t going well.

IMF admits: we failed to realise the damage austerity would do to Greece | The Guardian

The International Monetary Fund admitted it had failed to realise the damage austerity would do to Greece as the Washington-based organisation catalogued mistakes made during the bailout of the stricken eurozone country.

In an assessment of the rescue conducted jointly with the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European commission, the IMF said it had been forced to override its normal rules for providing financial assistance in order to put money into Greece.

Fund officials had severe doubts about whether Greece’s debt would be sustainable even after the first bailout was provided in May 2010 and only agreed to the plan because of fears of contagion.

While it succeeded in keeping Greece in the eurozone, the report admitted the bailout included notable failures.

“Market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30% of its deposits and the economy encountered a much deeper than expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment.”

In Athens, officials reacted with barely disguised glee to the report, saying it confirmed that the price exacted for the €110bn (£93bn) emergency package was too high for a country beset by massive debts, tax evasion and a large black economy.”

Under the weight of such measures – applied across the board and hitting the poorest hardest – the economy, they said, was always bound to dive into an economic death spiral.

Lest We Forget – The Neglected Roots of Europe’s Slide to Authoritarianism | Yanis Varoufakis

Europe is being torn apart by a titanic clash between (a) the unstoppable popular rage against misanthropic austerity policies and (b) our elites’ immovable commitment to more austerity. Precisely how this clash will play out no one knows, except of course that the odds do not seem to be on the side of the good. While at the mercies of this crushing uncertainty, it is perhaps useful to take a…short quiz. So, dear reader, will you please read the following ten quotations and, while so doing, try to imagine who uttered or wrote these words? [take the quiz]

Writing the Unwritten Handbook: Antifascism and Neighborhood Resistance in Athens | Joshua Stephens

Last spring, I was invited to give a handful of talks in Athens and Thessaloniki on the Occupy movement. Not long after I returned to New York City, it was revealed that the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn - now the country’s third-largest, with the electoral backing of half the country’s police force - had established something of a diplomatic mission, setting up offices in Montreal, Sydney and smack in my backyard in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria. A swift organizing effort kicked off in response, and Golden Dawn backers were promptly stripped of their office space in a local Greek community center, but not before they managed to solicit donations of money and clothing from local businesses “for struggling Greek families.” So I returned to Athens to check in with anti-fascist organizers about the work happening in Astoria, and to get feedback about how to better synchronize our efforts.

Even more cartoonish than Golden Dawn’s well-publicized, thuggish petulance (both in and outside of parliament) are its attempts to position itself as a salve to Greece’s austerity woes at the grassroots level. Free food distribution has been set up in parks à la Food Not Bombs, with the caveat of being “for Greeks only.” Despite little evidence of support or participation from medical practitioners (indeed, doctors have collectively refused to withhold treatment from immigrants), the party recently announced its own health project: the laughably titled Doctors With Borders. However little substance there may be to these projects, and however cynical, the public relations effect is real. Golden Dawn markets the notion that its opposition to austerity extends beyond merely scapegoating immigrants, homosexuals and others; the party presents itself as a tangible antidote to the country’s suffering and the government’s seeming determination to worsen it at the behest of international lenders.

Students of post-WWI Germany likely see little new in Golden Dawn’s strategy. Fascism has historically emerged from the splintered beams of economic wreckage and failed states, mobilizing widespread anxieties, circulating a currency of idealized national identity as a buffer against shame and defeat. What’s less well-understood in Greece’s case is that Golden Dawn has set about this process, in part, by aping efforts on the other end of the political spectrum, dating back to the winter of 2008, when the police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos sparked riots across the country.

“On the first day of the uprising, we smashed the police stations,” an anarchist in Thessaloniki told me last spring. “On the second, we smashed the banks. On the third, there was nothing left to smash, and we were suddenly faced with the fact that we didn’t really know what to do.” It seems to have been a widespread frustration. The occupations of academic and political institutions that occurred amidst the uprising gave way to what are called Popular Assemblies in some 70 neighborhoods across Athens. About half of these are still operating, composed of an often unlikely spectrum of participants. Anarchists, local workers, even municipal employees and officeholders all collaborate off the political grid in democratically administering needs, redistributing available resources and bolstering existing struggles - against both austerity and the steady creep of fascism. [continue]

The Greek Economy is Kaput | Mike Whitney

After 5 years of negative growth, record-high unemployment and savage cuts to essential safety-net programs, Greek society is beginning to buckle. Diabetics cannot afford their insulin, suicides and anti-depressant usage is off-the-chart, tuberculosis and HIV rates are soaring, and desperate pensioners in Athens have been reduced to dumpster diving outside grocery stores for a few scraps of food to feed themselves and their families. The shocking devolution of a modern nation into a failed state did not happen overnight or without the help of EU bureaucrats and financial potentates who dictate economic policy from Brussels, Frankfort and Berlin. These so-called “managers” have steered the 17-member eurozone into the biggest slump since the Great Depression, imposing belt tightening measures that have choked off growth, sent unemployment skyrocketing, and incited protest and street violence across the continent. Greece has been particularly hard hit. Poverty and destitution are now widespread. The country is a basketcase. [continue]

When we heard that the Nobel Prize for peace will be given to the European Union, we first thought it was a joke, especially because this comes in days when mainly the peoples of South Europe are living with the results of a financial war, and their countries are turning to colonies of debt with deprived citizens and looted national wealth. For example, in my country, the [recession] of the last three years will be over 30 percent in 2013. The unemployment rate is now 26 percent, reaching 58 percent for the youth. One-third of the society in Greece is below or at the edge of poverty. Is it ever possible that the initiators of this situation are given awards? Mrs. Merkel is going to receive the prize. Instead of peace prize, she should be awarded the prize of neoliberal fundamentalism. Mr. Samaras, the prime minister of Greece, should take the prize of the best student of Mrs. Merkel. And in reality, if a prize should be given to someone, these are the struggling peoples in South Europe, in North Africa and in the Middle East, who are fighting for peace, dignity, justice, democracy and independence.

Dimitris Kodelas of the Greek Syriza Party

Does the EU Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? Critics Condemn Role in Brutal Greek Austerity

thepeoplesrecord:

Italy to join Greece, Portugal and Spain in European mega strike
November 8, 2012
Italy will join Greece, Spain and Portugal in holding strikes against austerity on November 14 in an unprecedented show of co-ordinated action on the continent.
The decision to take a four hour strike was announced Monday night by Italy’s largest trade union confederation, CGIL, which stated:

‘For many years, the European trade union movement deplores austerity measures…They are dragging Europe down into economic stagnation and recession. This results in stunted growth and unemployment that continues to increase.’
‘Cuts in wages and social protection are attacks on the European social model and exacerbate inequality and social injustice.
‘The ‘errors of judgment’ of the International Monetary Fund have had an incalculable impact on the daily lives of workers and citizens. The whole basis of the policies of austerity has to be revisited. The IMF must apologize. And the Troika must revise its demands.”
‘Twenty five million Europeans are out of work. In some countries the youth unemployment rate exceeds 50%.
‘The sense of injustice is widespread and social discontent is growing.”
‘We need to change direction towards a European social pact. The European trade unions are calling for a change of course.”

The European Trade Union Confederation, which has called a day of action on November 14, has been campaigning for economic policies that stimulates quality employment, ‘solidarity’ between countries and social justice.
‘It is time to end tax evasion, tax havens and tax competition between countries. A financial transaction tax should help repair the damage of unregulated capitalism,’ the CGIL added.
The CGIL’s strike was also called in opposition to a fresh set if austerity measures and neo-liberal reforms recently unveiled by the government of unelected prime minister and former Goldman Sachs advisor Mario Monti.
Spain and Portugal are planning on holding a second wave of general strikes on November 14 while Greece, Malta and Cyprus are also planning strike action on the day.
Source

thepeoplesrecord:

Italy to join Greece, Portugal and Spain in European mega strike

November 8, 2012

Italy will join Greece, Spain and Portugal in holding strikes against austerity on November 14 in an unprecedented show of co-ordinated action on the continent.

The decision to take a four hour strike was announced Monday night by Italy’s largest trade union confederation, CGIL, which stated:

‘For many years, the European trade union movement deplores austerity measures…They are dragging Europe down into economic stagnation and recession. This results in stunted growth and unemployment that continues to increase.’

‘Cuts in wages and social protection are attacks on the European social model and exacerbate inequality and social injustice.

‘The ‘errors of judgment’ of the International Monetary Fund have had an incalculable impact on the daily lives of workers and citizens. The whole basis of the policies of austerity has to be revisited. The IMF must apologize. And the Troika must revise its demands.”

‘Twenty five million Europeans are out of work. In some countries the youth unemployment rate exceeds 50%.

‘The sense of injustice is widespread and social discontent is growing.”

‘We need to change direction towards a European social pact. The European trade unions are calling for a change of course.”

The European Trade Union Confederation, which has called a day of action on November 14, has been campaigning for economic policies that stimulates quality employment, ‘solidarity’ between countries and social justice.

‘It is time to end tax evasion, tax havens and tax competition between countries. A financial transaction tax should help repair the damage of unregulated capitalism,’ the CGIL added.

The CGIL’s strike was also called in opposition to a fresh set if austerity measures and neo-liberal reforms recently unveiled by the government of unelected prime minister and former Goldman Sachs advisor Mario Monti.

Spain and Portugal are planning on holding a second wave of general strikes on November 14 while Greece, Malta and Cyprus are also planning strike action on the day.

Source

(via anarcho-queer)

Greek unions start 3 days of anti-austerity action | The Guardian

After nearly three years of repeated income cuts and tax hikes, Greeks have little stomach for more. On Monday, doctors launched a three-day strike that will leave state hospitals functioning on emergency staff, while taxi-drivers started rolling 24-hour strikes. There were no news broadcasts and newspapers will not be published Tuesday due to a journalists’ strike, while Athens urban rail and tram drivers walked off the job.

During the general strike Tuesday and Wednesday, schools, tax offices and public administration will shut down, while there will be no train or ferry services across the country. Flights will be disrupted for three hours Tuesday.

FYI: The rest of the article is scare-mongering nonsense.

Golden Dawn and the Deafening Silence of Europe | Jérôme E. Roos

“For Peace, Freedom and Democracy. Never Again Fascism. Millions of Dead Remind Us”. Those are the words carved into a memorial stone underneath the Austrian house where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889. “Never Again”. Thus was the uniform slogan resounding across Europe after the full scale of Nazi horror became known in the wake of WWII. The cosmopolitan project of European integration was founded upon this promise. Never again would fascists and warmongers be allowed to tear the Old Continent and its people apart.

One day it may therefore be considered one of history’s greatest ironies that, as EU leaders were busy deciding who would collect its Nobel Prize for “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights,” those same leaders remained woefully silent when a recent survey indicated that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party now polls third in Greece, at 14 percent — a showing comparable to that of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1930, three years before rising to power and setting the world on course for WWII.

For clarity’s sake: the comparison made between National Socialism and Golden Dawn is by no means an exaggeration. We are talking about an extreme-right organization whose emblem deliberately resembles a swastika; whose leader publicly gave the Nazi salute upon his election to Parliament; whose magazine regularly features articles and pictures of the Führer himself; whose spokesman recently assaulted two female rivals on a live TV show; whose manifesto pledges to raid all immigrants out of hospitals and all non-Greek children out of kindergartens; and whose MPs actively participate in racist pogroms against Greece’s immigrant population. (Oh, and by the way, Golden Dawn’s favourite band is called Pogrom, known for such hits as “Auschwitz” and “Speak Greek Or Die”. Incidentally, its former bassist is now one of Golden Dawn’s 18 MPs.)

No surprise, then, that even the mild-mannered BBC is now making eerie comparisons with the early days of the austerity-stricken Weimar Republic. It is happening again. Fascism is once again on the rise in Europe. And what do EU leaders have to say about this? Nothing, it seems. As neo-Nazi militia run amok in the streets of Athens, Brussels and Berlin remain forever shrouded in a deafening silence. The only thing European leaders seem to care about is that Greece repays its debts. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law have all been relegated to secondary concerns — to serve financial interests, even a strong flavor of fascism now appears to be tolerable. [continue]

Tonight is the opening of the Golden Dawn office in Megara, a once prosperous farming town between Athens and Corinth. The Greek national socialist party polled more than 15% here – double the national average – in the June election, when it won 18 seats in parliament. (One was taken up by the former bassist with Pogrom, whose hits include Auschwitz and Speak Greek Or Die.) Legitimised by democracy and by the media, Golden Dawn is opening branches in towns all over Greece and regularly coming third in national opinion polls. Its black-shirted vigilantes have been beating up immigrants for more than three years, unmolested by the police; lately they’ve taken to attacking Greeks they suspect of being gay or on the left. MPs participate proudly in the violence. In September, three of them led gangs of black-shirted heavies through street fairs in the towns of Rafina and Messolonghi, smashing up immigrant traders’ stalls with Greek flags on thick poles. Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right

Greek anti-fascist protesters 'tortured by police' after Golden Dawn clash

sinspookycosas:

Fifteen anti-fascist protesters arrested in Athens during a clash with supporters of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn have said they were tortured in the Attica General Police Directorate (GADA) – the Athens equivalent of Scotland Yard – and subjected to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humiliation.

Members of a second group of 25 who were arrested after demonstrating in support of their fellow anti-fascists the next day said they were beaten and made to strip naked and bend over in front of officers and other protesters inside the same police station.

Several of the protesters arrested after the first demonstration on Sunday 30 September told the Guardian they were slapped and hit by a police officer while five or six others watched, were spat on and “used as ashtrays” because they “stank”, and were kept awake all night with torches and lasers being shone in their eyes.

Some said they were burned on the arms with a cigarette lighter, and they said police officers videoed them on their mobile phones and threatened to post the pictures on the internet and give their home addresses to Golden Dawn, which has a track record of political violence.

(Source: sinidentidades, via questionall)