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Category: Politics

What’s the Matter with Obama?

In his last days in office President Obama appears to have plunged into a flurry of activity. Firstly his ire over Russian meddling in the American elections. I have no reason to doubt that the hacking occurred but that is not the point. When a President of the USA makes such a fuss over supposed (or otherwise) meddling in his elections, eyebrows tend to rise in disbelief. Oh really now? And since when has an American President been averse to meddling in other nations? elections? The history of the US in this respect is long and black and not confined to mere meddling in elections but to actually engineering coups whereby democracies were crushed while puppet stooge raw military dictatorships favourable to the US were imposed with dire consequences for these nations (Chile and Greece to name but two). So the fuss over Russian hacking can?t help sounding somewhat hollow and, unfortunately a bit like sour grapes for having lost the elections. Blame defeat on anyone and anything else other than perhaps the achievements or lack thereof of the previous eight years.

Then there is the question of the UN Resolution on Israeli settlements. Though finally refraining from an outright veto in Israel?s favour for the first time, definitely a step in the right direction for human rights, there is again a feeling of hollow emptiness about it. Just where has the Obama administration been on this over the past eight years? All of a sudden at the very tail end of his second term he takes a stand. A stand that feels sorely like far too little far too late.

Overall it is extremely disappointing that a President with so much promise in whom so much hope was placed should be ending his  term of office with what looks like petulant little displays of a sore loser.

THE OBAMA JINX?

Obama visited the UK in the run up to the Brexit referendum. He not only declared himself roundly on the side of Remain but threatened that should Brexit prevail the UK would be pushed to the end of the queue.

In the US Presidential campaign he pulled out all the stops to campaign in favour of Hillary Clinton with even Michelle Obama being rolled out to make impassioned speeches on her behalf.

Now quite regardless of the merits of Remain or Hillary Clinton as President, both these interventions were beyond normal practice. Firstly with regard to the UK referendum it constituted unprecedented meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and indeed staunch ally. In the case of the US election he was justifiably endorsing the candidate of his own party but he went to unprecedented lengths to do this going way beyond anything that has happened before in this respect.

In his farewell tour of Europe his first stop was Athens and second stop Berlin. In Athens he made beautiful speeches on Democracy and roundly declared that Greek debt should be reduced and that austerity cannot lead to growth. Both self evident statements. Nevertheless in Berlin he appears to have completely forgotten about them and made no mention of Greek debt or the dangers of austerity to The Frau.

He was so warm and cordial to Frau Merkel that it was said he was handing over the leadership of the Free World to her now that that ghastly white supremacist racist had been voted in as US President.

To be fair to the President he did not say so in so many words but nor did he say what is self evident in any words at all. That under the effective leadership of Europe Merkel has eroded the foundations of the EU, has undermined democracy in Europe and changed it into a German Europe ruled by fiat, has ruined the economies of EU members and has in fact brought the whole Union to the brink of fragmentation and perhaps even dissolution.

For all that, Obama warmly praised Frau Merkel and said that he would vote for her if he was German. (More uncalled for meddling in the internal affairs of other states).

Now, since his first two blatant and clumsy attempts to influence the outcome of a vote ended in failure, we should perhaps start worrying (or not) that he may well perfume a hat trick here too.

In any case, should Frau Merkel perchance lose the Chancellorship next year, she and we will know who to blame.

WHY HAS TRUMP PROVED SUCH A STRONG CANDIDATE?

 

Trump?s bid for the Republican nomination was seen as a joke. Here was another buffoon going for some publicity and making a fool of himself. Ultimately, against all initial odds, he trounced the Party mechanism and won the nomination.

As for the Presidential election, it was universally accepted that the election would be a walk in the park for Hillary. It has hardly proved to be that regardless of what the final outcome will be.

As the campaign draws to a close, we are witnessing what we saw before the Brexit vote. The full force of the establishment and? what used to be known as “polite society”… firmly backing Hillary Clinton and demonizing Trump with apocalyptic views of how the world will collapse should he become President. Nevertheless there is some nervousness still, despite the polls and despite the enormous efforts, not least, of the Obamas to support Hillary.

However there is a great big elephant in the room which, for all the demonization of an admittedly unsavoury character, the hysterical cries that the world economy (perhaps even the world itself) will collapse should Hillary fail to win, is being consistently and systematically ignored.

The elephant in the room is the vicious mess of the world neoliberalism and the Chicago school have made. After the fall of the USSR, the fear of our people going commie had disappeared and it was freedom to cut back on wages, welfare etc. which all led as we know to the 1% hoarding all the wealth while life for the 99% becomes worse and worse and.. yes! PRECARIOUS!

We saw something of this simmering anger expressing itself in the UK Brexit vote. When people on zero hour jobs, precarious employment, unable to even dream about buying a house (as opposed to their parents? generation) are told Oh! This will be terrible for the economy! Their response is, Up yours! Why should I care about an economy where inequality has flourished & my kids have no future?

So question now is why turn to Trump? Well the American electorate swarmed to Bernie Sanders for the same reason. However, the DNC was accused (and the chair had to resign over this) of sabotaging Sanders bid in favour of Hillary. So we get a typical establishment figure, also tainted by various malpractices & a suspect foundation etc. Precisely what the protest vote wants to get rid of.

For all the gloom and hysteria and cries of ?populism!? and absolute terror of markets collapsing in all this, I believe there is some hope. It is in a way an attempt to take back the demos. A reaction against this sick, unfair and ultimately disastrous system of everything for the 1% at the cost of everyone else. HOWEVER! The problem is that this reaction inevitably has xenophobic elements and swings to the right (as in Trump). But here the DNC should be held severely to account for strangling the clear surge to the left with Sanders roundly declaring he is socialist.

In Europe we have seen the reaction going left in the south and to the right in western & northern Europe, with France perhaps being the most ominous case.

The established system is creaking dangerously. The young are beginning to protest and demand something else, something better, something other than all that matters is (other people?s) profits. How this will turn out is for the future (not too distant) to tell. And the result of the American Elections will not resolve anything, whichever way they go.

 

 

The Banality of Evil in EU Imposed Austerity

I never could quite get round the idea of Hannah Arendt?s ?Banality of Evil?. What exactly was it? How did it ?work?? Living through the worst case of EU imposed austerity that is Greece, the meaning becomes quite clear.

In his book ?The Triumph of the Market? Edward S. Herman says: ?The concept of the banality of evil came into prominence following the publication of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.”

What has happened to the Greek economy and the Greek people throughout this so called ?bail out? process which is just an excuse to impose the harshest possible austerity has never before been achieved in peacetime nor under democratic order as the EU purports to be.

The pain, the misery, the pauperisation of a people is unprecedented in the history of democratic states during peacetime. Even the Great Depression of the 1930?s did not achieve as much. What kind of people have taken it upon themselves to cause such pain and yes, indeed, evil. Senseless evil.

We have people like say Poul Thomsen and Delia Velculescu of the IMF travelling first class to Athens staying at the Athens Hilton, taking a swim in the pool and enjoying the sun before ordaining that already below subsistence wages in Greece must be slashed further in order to meet the targets. Unemployment, poverty, destitution, over-taxation are unimportant since all that matters is meeting the targets. But even when the targets have been met as in reducing the deficit and reaching a primary surplus, it?s not enough since no slack must be given lest these wretches (a whole nation) lapse into complacency and fail to complete the so called reforms.

And there is the clue. The Targets. The Reforms. What are these and who decides on them? Why, the prevailing dogma that all these bureaucrats and apparatchiks serve. And, I would add, not only serve but get extremely well rewarded for serving.

They cannot see beyond their orders. As was Eichmann?s defense. I was just following orders. I did nothing on my own initiative. Should there ever be a Nuremburg for those who imposed such a lethal economic policy on most of the world but Europe in particular, the plea will be the same.

We had to achieve the targets. We were only acting in accordance with our brief. We were implementing the rules.

And it is true. Anyone who dared so much as question these rules was castigated, anathematized and subject to character assassination by these same bureaucrats who could not even countenance anything other than the sacred rules.

Though the evil perpetrated by all these bureaucrats does not reach the level of the gas chambers and extermination practiced by the German Reich, it is nonetheless evil and especially so in peacetime.

The sheer banality of evil has become clear for all to see in our generation as well. Ordinary, mediocre, obedient bureaucrats who just follow orders blindly and efficiently, totally oblivious of all the unnecessary pain, misery and anguish their actions are achieving*.

 

*I use the word ?achieving? purposely because that is how they perceive their evil work. As achievements.

 

The Greek Elections

This is something like a bad joke. We had elections in January, a referendum in July and now fresh (or rather stale) elections again now in September.

The first thing we have to ask, is what are these elections in aid of? To from a new government? To broaden support for the bail out agreement, (as some Euromasters are hilariously claiming) or what?

There is absolutely no need for a general election in Greece today. Our gallant PM Alexis Tsipras has already signed away all Greek sovereignty. A primary term of this agreement is that NO decision, NO proposal for a law, NO action will be taken by the Greek government without prior permission from the Euromasters.

So in effect there is no point in having a Greek government at all let alone bothering to vote for one. Mr Tsipras would have been better advised to disband the Greek government entirely and hand over the keys to Ministries and everything else directly to the Euromasters who will be ruling their debt colony anyway.

This will achieve an important cutting down of public expenses, since now the Greek taxpayer must not only pay for his Ministers, staff etc, but also for the troika (tetratroika, pentatrokia or whatever) ones too. In this way it will save on the expense of paying for the Greek government, staff, officials etc, which are very costly, with their perks and utterly superfluous.

And while we are on cost cutting why not just abolish Parliament as well. Again it is of no use and costs too much, since all decision will be taken by said troika and Parliament is just there to rubber stamp everything without even knowing what it is approving. So again why pay so much for something as useless as that?

And finally the wretched Greek electorate has gone blue in the face voting against all this nonsense, not least in the referendum, only to be utterly ignored. And to add insult to injury the Euromasters are now arrogantly crowing that the Greek elections are not part of the crisis but part of the solution because support for the Bail Out will broaden.

Now, I fail to comprehend how a population which voted by a resounding 61% against austerity will suddenly become enamoured of the very thing that has ruined it and that it detests. Oh well, Euro illogic here again too.

Having said that I believe the Schauble Plan for Greece is working perfectly. Objective 1, Get rid of the Radical Left wing government, Objective 2, failing that then humiliate them and split them and get them to grovel and accept terrible terms as an example to any other upstarts in the realm. Objective 2 has been achieved with flying colours. Tsipras has just gone and proved to all whom it may concern that There Is No Alternative. So don’t you dare cross the Master!

Object 3 is of course Grexit. Which Tsipras had also just signed, whether knowingly or not. Schauble’s “line by line” scrutiny, his magnanimity in giving Greece “a chance” now that Tsipras has seen sense even though “it is uncertain whether the bail out will succeed” shows beyond any doubt that the whole thing has been designed to fail and that this failure will of course lead to a Grexit for which the Puppet Greek government (whoever it may be) will be blamed.

Which is why none of the Euromasters led by Germany are not at all worried about the result of elections in Greece.

Summer Sunday Thoughts

I have been reading a very interesting book, Max Hastings’ “All Hell Let Loose” The World at War 1939-1945, as seen and lived by people rather than strategists and generals. A fascinating read and an eye opener.

However, what really struck me was this quote: page 102 from the William Collins paper back edition, towards the end of the Chapter “Britain Alone”: “Lancashire housewife Nella Last groped movingly towards an expression of her compatriots’ hopes when she wrote that summer of 1940 : ‘Sometimes I get caught up in a kind of puzzled wonder at things and think of all the work and effort and all the unlimited money that is used today to “destroy” and not so long ago there was no money or work and it seems so wrong somehow….[that] money and effort could always be found to pull down and destroy rather than build up.”

Exactly seventy five years later, this sentiment rings eerily relevant yet again. Nella Last had the Great Depression in mind when she referred to “Not so long ago”. For us this is Now. No money can be found and we have to cut down on welfare, reduce jobs and all that is included under the TINA doctrine of destructive, debilitating austerity.

Of course mind boggling billions upon billions can be and are found for propping up banks which of course must NOT be nationalised, (even though the taxpayer is funding these billions) so that financiers and banksters can keep playing and winning on the roulette wheel of our destitution.

As Varoufakis has put it aptly, today it is banks that wreak destruction instead of tanks.

 

Whatever Happened to the Idea of Democracy?

From 2010 Greece has been subjected to a harsh, unrealistic, cruel and often vindictive regime, supposedly to ?bail her out? since the country had effectively become bankrupt. By now everybody knows this was nothing but a ploy by the Euro Directorate to save primarily German and French Banks. But be that as it may, there was nothing to prevent the Euro Directorate to ease the pressure on Greece once this had been achieved. However, the opposite occurred.

Since the regime was not designed to help Greece?s economy but to save the bankers, the results achieved were an abject failure. Again, no need to go into the horrendous statistics. However, despite the great failure of the plan, the Euro Directorate with the IMF in tow, insisted on more of the same despite the disaster to the Greek economy and the humanitarian crisis. Poverty has soared, homelessness, suicides, unemployment and so on.

Now, in the face of policies obviously hostile to the population bringing pain, destitution, a massive brain drain, immense social disruption, what is a civilized European country supposed to do? Employ democratic means to voice its dissent and reverse the process. Not by rebellion not by insurgency but simply by going to the ballot box.

And that is what the Greeks did. For all the hypocritical praise heaped on this hapless population about how stoically they had accepted their punishment, what patience they had shown in the face of adversity, in effect what good children they had been and had not thrown a tantrum or kicked nanny in the shins. So believing in democracy (what a quaint idea, but perhaps they can be forgiven because they are after all Greeks) they went to the polls.

The first general election in 2012 revealed the protest and rejection of this debilitating regime. The governing PASOK party that had gained 44% in 2009 was decimated. The right wing party of government which had scored 34% in 2009, which had been a bad result for it, gained only 18% in the first round of elections. What could be a more obvious protest and a more democratic way of voicing this protest than that? However, this lead to a hung Parliament and new elections.

The second 2012 elections again gave a clear message. The formerly tiny left wing party of SYRIZA soared to second place. A government coalition was formed by the former arch rivals PASOK & the right wing ND which had in fact campaigned on an anti austerity platform. Nevertheless, the new supposedly anti austerity PM (whose party won a majority of the votes because of that) rushed to grovel at Frau Merkel?s feet and pledge allegiance to her policies.

As a result, a new Memorandum of Understanding, more debt piled onto an already impossible load and even more stringent austerity. By 2015 the end of the proverbial tether had been reached. The general election voted SYRIZA in as the majority party short of only 2 seats for an outright majority and it went into alliance with ANEL a right wing but firmly anti-austerity party.

We shall not go into the negotiating process and so on. But appearing to have reached an impasse the Greek government called for a referendum on the terms proposed. The result was an astounding 61,2% No, despite the scaremongering, the threats, the pleas from all sides of the establishment from the mainstream media to all the political parties and major politicians who have ruled since the colonels fell. Not to mention all the EU establishment from the President of the Commission even the President of the European Parliament and many more who had no place sticking their noses into the internal democratic processes of a member country, and to cap it all, the bank holiday imposed through the ECB?s policy of strangling Greece into submission.

The result? Tsipras capitulates and agrees to even worse terms than before and the certain collapse of what may be left of the Greek economy.

So the question is, if democracy has been effectively abolished in Europe, what does Europe stand for? And second question, how are free democratic people supposed to react, when time after time their democratically expressed will is consigned to the rubbish bin and sneered at by the mighty unelected and unaccountable dignitaries ruling Europe by fiat?

And an addendum here, which marks the trend. The surprising surge in the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour Party leadership in the UK. This has given rise to hysterics and panic. Oh! the cry is, he?s unelectable! Oh we mustn?t go back to the 1950s! Disaster!!! Why? Because he doesn?t fit in with the austerity above all command economies of the European Union that are destroying what Europe used to stand for. The ignorant masses must not be allowed to express themselves! The reaction to Corbyn is the fear of actually letting the electorate voice an opinion of its own rather than having versions of the same foisted on them.

Now, in the olden days, long forgotten now, it used to be the people who decided and voted for the government and policies they wanted. Now the vicious Euro Directorate has presumed it has the right to ordain the policies it wants against the people?s wishes and interests, because otherwise they will be waterboarded and terrorised into submission.

SYRIZA may have been defeated, and Corbyn may be crushed through fair means or foul, but something has begun to stir and that something is VOX POPULI.

Europe is remembering its core values and the European Directorate that has usurped power does not like this at all and will do everything in its power to crush it. Tsipras was crushed, but what are you going to do with the 61% of the population which is now growing even greater, and the spectrum of the will of the people floating all over Europe?

THE PHOENIX PHENOMENON

Some of us may have sneered at the inauguration celebrations. Some of us may have thought they were too kitschy or too Romanesque or too gaudy. Some of us may have thought this pomp and circumstance was even rather outdated. However, one thing that cannot be denied or sneered at is the joy, the sheer joy of the American people all over the United States and beyond, at the inauguration of this new President, Barrack Hussein Obama, of African stock. Who would have imagined this even ten years ago? (Even four!). But the joy and euphoria was hardly entirely due to the ethnic origin, but to the whole change this new President symbolizes. And of course, the hope and expectation that this deep rooted change will go way beyond mere symbolism.

But back to the celebrations. One good friend in the States told me that she thought the best moment of this epic inauguration was when the helicopter took off from Washington taking the big bad Bush away forever. A roar of delight went up from the masses spontaneously, it appears. For all the anti-Americanism, highly enhanced all over the world by the Bush administration, for all the shame many Americans felt when traveling abroad, through this election, the American people have proved themselves. They do not want the things that George W. Bush came to stand for. Things like aggressive, unsanctioned war. Deceit. Infringement of human rights, at home and abroad and so on. To their credit, the first time around the American people did not even vote him. As to his second term, it was the War on Terror and the surrounding deceit and intimidation that terrorized and cowed the electorate into voting him in again. But when you base all your politics on spin, ?Communication? i.e. deceit and bullying, things are not going to last because eventually the lying will be revealed for what it is. Like the WMD never found in Iraq for instance. Bush (or rather Cheney one supposes) forgot Lincoln?s saying, that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. And perhaps this is the most important message from Obama?s inauguration. A leader cannot lead where his followers will not follow.

The road ahead is tough, difficult and will require sacrifice and hardship. A steep price to pay for the Bush follies. To be fair, not just the Bush follies but also those of the Milton Friedman school of Free Market Economics that has lead to the horrendous economic meltdown we are now living in.

However, one of the many myths of the ancient Greeks was that of the Phoenix, the bird that was born again out of its ashes. When the Obama administration takes severe measures to curtail the arrant irresponsibility and greed of the world of finance, it will be very difficult to argue against such measures. One can only imagine the outcry that would have gone up even only a year ago were someone to even suggest the need to regulate the markets. So that may well be a plus for Obama. In any case he is not only rising up out of the ashes but raising America, and the rest of us too, with him. That at least, is the hope. And we should all fight for it to the best of our abilities. If our leader is trying to lead us out of the mess and establish a greater degree of fairness and equality, however painful things may feel at the beginning, we should follow him.

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