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How did a left-wing government end up signing the worst austerity program in history?

It took SYRIZA two months to understand that creditors are not in the mood to listen to economic theories and revolutionary manifestos…they simply want their money back. In the end Greece agreed to give up its entire country to appease the creditors.

Alex Christoforou

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Original post entitled, “My Big Fat Greek Funeral: SYRIZA, 3. bailout and capital controls” appeared on Keep Talking Greece.

I am speechless. Not since yesterday or last week. I have been speechless since July 13th when the Greek left-wing coalition government agreed to burden the country and the people with a new loan, the third bailout for Greece since 2010 together with the strictest austerity program ever. I have been speechless ever since and for  more than a week I thought I cannot blog anymore. I took me time to swallow and absorb the shock. And still. I am unable to deal with it.

I am unable to comprehend how a left-wing government ended up signing the worst austerity program ever. For the simple reason that if a left-wing government signs such an agreement, what should I expect from a right-wing or a neo-liberal government to do? Raid my apartment, steal my kitchen pans, my pottery cats collection and my underwear? When the left-wing government signs such an agreement, we can say that the political system in Greece is over. And there is no alternative.

First, we blamed the creditors for wanting to crack down SYRIZA in order to avoid creating other examples of the same kind within the eurozone. Then we blamed again the creditors and specifically German finance minister Schaeuble and his Grexit plan: 5 years bailouts, 5 years temporary Grexit, before Greece could return to the markets. That was original tone by Schaeuble in 2011. Then we blamed the disagreement between the IMF and Germany in terms of “Greek debt relief”.  And finally we blamed the ‘dilettantism of the Greek government” that sent to Eurogroup its economic team to explain to Greece’s creditors, how the Eurozone should be changed. It took Varoufakis & Co two months to understand that creditors are not in the mood to listen to some economic theories and revolutionary manifestos but that they simply wanted their money back.  All our blames were right and wrong at the same time because the game was f;ixed’ form the very beginning.

When the Greek team started to work on its proposals, it was too late. Schaeuble was determined to kick Greece out of the euro and furthermore to ‘help it’ bridge the Grexit time with a loan of some 50 billion euros. Either way, with or without euro, with or without drachma, with or without Schaeuble or SYRIZA, the result is the same: a third bailout of 50-84 billion euro and another bailout program. There is no hope for this country, for the people – at least, for some of them.

I really don’t care, if Varoufakis wears tasteless shirts and why he wanted to ‘hack’ taxpayers’ numbers while sitting with his team of skilled hackers and childhood friends. Varoufakis is not my cup of tea. He never was. But while our Greek life is falling apart day by day, I have to read Varoufakis’ interview Nr 2034 explaining his game theory and his academic hypothesis, hi smother’s story and his cousins pain. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dam. Frankly, my dear, I’m fed up.

I am also fed up to listen to opposition lawmakers complaining about the Parliament Speaker and claiming “Zoi Konstantopoulou is torturing MPs with her pedantism.” I honestly don’t give a dam. Frankly, my dear, I’m fed up to see ‘tortured’ MPs earning €5,000+ per month and enjoy tax-free, while the rest of us is literally bleeding: financially, psychologically, physically and morally.

Neither do I care whether SYRIZA is falling apart, whether the Prime Minister wants early elections in September in order to secure a clear majority in Parliament so that he can pass the austerity bills that lead to nowhere.

I am deaf to government ministers and party officials and opposition lawmakers debating on whether Varoufakis should be indict for high or for low treason.

I just don’t care. It doesn’t affect my life, not even a tiny little bit. I give neither a a whole dam nor half of it for this so-called Greek political agenda after July 13th.

What do I care about is to watch my country and the people falling into pieces. I see our Greek lives suffering another ‘internal devaluation’ minute by minute, day by day, week by week. When the 3. bailout deal will be sealed by 15 or 20 August I will be also able to say “I see our Greek lives suffering another ‘internal devaluation’ minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.”

The 40% internal devaluation settled in Greece since 2010, experiences a new peak even though the 3. bailout has not been signed yet. The Capital Controls imposed on June 29th in order to save the banks from draining, have ruined the lives of many Greeks. Friends of mine who have been working for more than two decades in private companies, were “sent to enforced holiday” together with the banks: their full time job turned into 1 or maximum 2 days work per week. That is 4 or 8 work days per month. In relation, their also salary plunged by end of July.  Many employees in the private sector saw their working hours and already low salaries been reduced. How can these people get along without income? Nobody cares and nobody talks about. Neither national nor international media talk about it. We whisper these hazardous circumstances  among ourselves. In quiet. Because we are ashamed. And we wonder endlessly.

Others, plagued by long term unemployment and no perspective to get a job or even a pension, felt obliged to sell their home. That’s not possible under capital controls. The selling amount will remain in the bank and it may even fall victim to “deposits haircut” by the end of the year. Another friend who needs to sell her second flat  – an inheritance – so that she has money to live, cannot sell it either. Ten years ago, the flat was worth 130,000 euro. Now, if she finds a buyer she will have to sell it for 45,000-50,000 euro. She is trying to sell it for the last 1.5 year. Not a single buyer came around the corner.

With the new Value Added Tax hikes, the amount we need to spend for our weekly basic groceries now extra 15-20 euro. “Just 15 euro?” one may ask. Yes. That’s a huge amount, if you don’t have it and you have kids to feed and bills to pay. The 50-euro banknote that will go for groceries will be missed at the end of the month. Bills will remain unpaid, the extra for a health emergency, for example, will simply be not there. It’s either eat or die.

In hospitals and public health care the situation is getting from worse to worst. Shortage of doctors, of nurses, of administration personnel, of material. You need a portion of fluid iron? Average waiting time is 3 days. The same for special creams, for this and that. You need some cotton? “Oh, not so much, please, a tiny piece,” the nurse tells you politely. Sometimes, the drugs or creams never come, you get the prescription upon exiting the hospital.

In the night shift a nurse is in charge for 40-50 patients, even in the public hospital they proudly call “the biggest in Greece, in the whole Balkans, indeed.”  Neither this nor the previous governments managed to raise the working hours of civil servants.

Patients that need night care need to hire a private nurse. They charge €8.5        per hour,  €55 for six and a half hours, and one nice green 100-euro banknote on Saturdays. Union rights as before the crisis. Is this the competitiveness the Troika has been talking about? They work at fixed shifts and by the clock: 11:00 pm to 5:40 am, for example. A 24-hours care will cost you more than 200 euro, the overtime they charge is without receipt. One day, the doctor sends you home, half fixed, half broken and totally broke. Then you will need to consult another doctor and get skilled caretakers at home, all paid by your own pocket. Or lay down and die.

A pair of low-pensioners next door with a bed-ridden and dementia-sick wife  have been going in and out the hospitals for the last 5 months. The woman needs 24/7 care but they cannot afford neither a caretaker or even better a care home for the elderly. Their last savings were spent on private nurses when the woman was hospitalized. The man was in shock and awe when he heard that they both will have 20-euro less because of the rises in health care contributions. The man was in such a shock that he forgot to go pick their pensions on Friday. And on Monday.

And then I read about the Financial Crimes Units (SDOE) that have caught in flagranti tourism businesses with fake cash registers in Mykonos and Santorini. Cash registers that have not been registered to the tax office. The customer gets his receipt, but the businessman pockets the money without giving the state the V.A.T. or taxes. The Finance Ministry got alarmed from this new phenomenon of tax evasion by the evergreen smart “Greeks”.  But “personnel shortage” hinders a raid to all fake cash registers… One of the fake cash registers was located in Mykonos, two in Santorini, two of the richest islands of Greece. In fact: in the richest regions of the debt-ridden country with impoverished families and ruined economy.

And then, I get this damned feeling that I live in another planet in a far away universe. And I want to stay there forever. In a bubble. Away from this Greece, where half of its population starves and is in dire need and the other half, the ‘clever Greeks’ keep cheating and evading taxes and enjoy a real life of fake registration and exorbitant per hour charge, away from austerity agreements, Troika’s demands and the hateful “Mnimonia” (memoranda) as they take advantage of the shortages of the public system.

*** The title is a proposal by Thomais Papaioannou, Correspondent of ERT & RIK in Paris. I had run out of ideas when I finished this post…

References:

http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2015/08/03/my-big-fat-greek-funeral-syriza-3-bailout-and-capital-controls/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+KeepTalkingGreece+%28Keep+Talking+Greece%29

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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