Monday, January 26, 2015

Power to Hoi Polloi

The people of Greece finally had enough of the Troika extermination plot. "Austerity" being simply a euphemism for Social Darwinism, the Polloi threw caution to the wind and voted in the SYRIZA party over the weekend. The name is an acronym for the Coalition of the Radical Left. But when even Paul Krugman* says the winners aren't nearly radical enough to bring Greece out of its Great Depression, you begin to wonder if this victory is just more of the same Hope and Change rhetoric that we jaded Americans fell for, once upon a time.

It doesn't bode well that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras's first order of business will be to meet and work with the same psychopaths who caused all the mess in the first place, to try and work out a debt deal to ease some of the pain. It harkens back to  Barack Obama's first order of post-election business:  the appointment of the same inept crooks who wrecked the economy to continue running the economy. Obama immediately held meetings with Republicans and conservative columnists to show his solidarity with austerity and deficit reduction, instead of showing solidarity with the Polloi by talking up a massive jobs program. 

The difference is that, unlike the European troika of sadists, the Obama administration dressed the gaping wound with an inadequate stimulus bandaid -- with simultaneous "quantitative easing" injections of public money (bond-buying) from the Fed into the coffers of the mafia -- to supposedly help blunt the effects of the incipient mass whipping. In other words, our elected officials committed reverse bribery by artificially propping up a criminal enterprise. The stimulus was supposed to shock the economy into health. But to many of us, the "recovery" has felt more like a Taser blast to the gut.

 The wealth gap grows apace, its severity promising to surpass that of the Gilded Age. According to Gini coefficient measurements, the United States is still the most unequal country on earth.

While the US unemployment situation is nowhere near as bad as Greece's 27% rate, the "recovery" here can only be called the New Abnormal. People who found work again are working for much less money and with much less job security.  The parts of the stimulus that were supposed to help ordinary people -- extended federal unemployment benefits and expansion of the food stamp program -- are things of the past. The TARP bailout, theoretically designed to help people stay in their homes, was another boom for the banks.  In the infamous words of former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, it served to "foam the runway" so that the criminal banking cartel wouldn't have to suffer from the epidemic of foreclosures coming down the pike.

Main Street got evicted. Wall Street got richer than ever on the public dime.

The middle class is now the Precariat.

So while we're celebrating the Greek people giving a giant middle finger to the plutocrats, here's a dose of reality from the World Socialist Website:
In the run-up to the elections, Syriza officials were busy behind the scenes reassuring journalists, economists and politicians that an election victory posed no danger to the banks. European news site EurActiv wrote: “Key to Syriza’s ascent, party officials say privately, is a calculated effort to moderate the radical leftist rhetoric that prompted Der Spiegel to name Tsipras among the most dangerous men in Europe in 2012.”
 Former Syriza leader Alekos Alavanos stressed that the party would pose no threat to the banks in an interview with the Financial Times of London two days ago. “Even Mr Tsipras’ predecessor as Syriza chief, Alekos Alavanos, questions whether the party’s rhetoric matches its intentions,” the FT concluded, citing Alavanos’s remark that Syriza “now is a moderate party.
”Economist Jean-Marc Daniel reassured France’s 20 Minutes that Syriza would do no long-term harm to the stock portfolios of the affluent and the super-rich. “The stock market does not usually like the beginning of ‘left’ governments, but it picks up gradually as they abandon their program. What is most striking about Alexis Tsipras, is that he is already diluting his program,” Daniel said.
If representatives of finance capital state so openly and with such confidence that Syriza is no threat to them, this is because Syriza has been thoroughly vetted by the banks and intelligence agencies. Since Syriza emerged as a major electoral force in Greece in 2012, Tsipras has met publicly with the Greek army and repeatedly traveled to the major capitals of the euro zone and to Washington—after declaring himself an admirer of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.
Remember how the Republicans got the suffering masses to boost the obscene wealth of the Kochs and the whole oligarchic cartel? They called Obama a Kenyan Socialist Marxist, even as Obama quietly and obligingly did the bidding of the oligarchic cartel.

The great part of the SYRIZA victory, of course, is that it's inspiring and energizing people all over the world at the same time it is exposing the wanton criminal behavior and gross incompetence of the global ruling class. A Greek political story has become an international event. Revolutionary change occurs in increments. The election of one politician is never an end in itself, just a possible means to an end.

As SYRIZA politicians were gaining power, so too were hoi polloi ("the people.") The Greeks were never as spellbound by Tsipras as so many of us were with Obama. They took to the streets the minute the Troika imposed austerity in 2008 and Greece's military police started shooting and arresting dissenters. National strikes were the order of the day. Eventually the activists stopped pleading with their elected officials and began an Occupy movement, camping out in front of Parliament and engaging in direct, bottom-up democracy. They literally turned their backs on the establishment.

Austerity is the absolute equivalent of sadism. The Troika is made up entirely of the severely mentally ill, in politics (Germany/Merkel), banking (IMF, Goldman Sachs) and transnational companies. When at least half the Greek population fell into poverty, the austerians reacted by imposing a literal death sentence upon them. Cuts to public health spending have climbed right along with the official death rate.

The first Memorandum in May 2010 (bailout deal) for a loan of 109 billion Euros cut health spending by 10 percent. The second Memorandum, for a loan of 172 billion Euros in March 2012, took another 1 billion Euros out of the health budget. And a package of cuts passed by the government in September 2012 reduced government spending by a further 11.9 billion Euros -- more than half of that in pensions and public health programs. Pharmaceutical behemoths simply refused to ship any more life-saving drugs to the cradle of democracy. The culling of the herd was deliberate and effective.

 Child labor has returned: it is estimated that 100,000 Greeks under the age of 16 are working for slave wages. Many more are begging in the streets.

And unbelievably (or rather all too believably) the Masters of the Universe are demanding still more pain and suffering. Economist and white collar crime expert Bill Black does a great job eviscerating the New York Times propaganda, which quotes the same elite austerian cartel (the Peterson Institute)  which funded and spearheaded Obama's own Catfood Commission now demanding more suffering for the Greeks.

If you hoi polloi want any relief, you first have to "play by the rules", just like Obama's favorite Bootstrap Family. And that involves going hungry, running up education debt, doing without medication, and settling for low-wage jobs while the elites laugh all the way to the too-big-to-fail bank, stomping on and squashing you as they go.

(* I didn't get to comment on Krugman, because his column still hadn't appeared by the time I went to bed close to midnight. The Times must have freaked out that their resident liberal columnist wrote that SYRIZA isn't nearly extreme enough.)


Kat said...

Even the liberal NYT...
last week some old rich guy that in Saudia Arabia was described as a "cautious reformer".
Today we are greeted with this op ed about the latest Stalin incarnate:

annenigma said...

Well, well. That didn't take long. Divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book. The pundits, even some socialists, are now trying to turn the people against Syriza, suggesting they fell for a bunch of phonies. Did they happen to say these things about Syriza BEFORE the election?

Pablo Iglesias, the 'father of Spanish socialism' grouped even the Spanish and French socialist parties in with the rest of the servants of imperial capitalists in a campaign speech for Syriza in October. It wouldn't surprise me if the global capitalists would be generous to anyone willing to smear Syriza. If they get published and can influence others, so much the better.

Personally, I think it's a huge victory for Greeks and all world citizens. Greeks are taking the lead in the global Occupy movement to restore Democracy to the people and end the tyranny of the imperial capitalism. To all the glass half empty thinkers, I suggest they consider if Syriza had lost.

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if we read a lot more criticisms of Syriza. I'm just surprised it started on Day 1. But I guess some people were ready and waiting to put their propaganda campaign into action.

Here's my comment from a previous post where I quoted Pablo Iglesias, a leader of the anti-globalization movement:

'Winning the elections is far from winning power'.

'There is a worldwide party that is much stronger than the Third International was. It’s the party of Wall Street, which has servants everywhere. These functionaries have carry different ID cards. Some have cards from New Democracy, others from PASOK, others from Merkel’s CDU, others from the Socialist Party in Spain or France. [But] Juncker, Merkel, Rajoy, Samaras, Hollande, and Renzi are all members of the same party – the party of Wall Street. They are the Finance International.

This is why, no matter how modest our objectives are, no matter how wide the consensus in our societies regarding them is, we must not lose sight that we are confronting a minority with a lot of power, with very few scruples, and fearful of the electoral results when their parties don’t win. Don’t forget that the powerful almost never accept the results of elections when they don’t like them.'

I can just hear Victoria Nuland now - "Fuck the Syriza!" as she plays her part in plotting the downfall of Syriza and a financial coup of the Greek government. First they'll try to marginalize them, then buy them, then bribe them, then threaten them with sanctions, so Syriza has little time. Greece is going to need all the help in the world to survive the mighty Godzillionaires.

Godspeed Syriza!

Denis Neville said...

@ annenigma

Yes, “divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book.”

Fear the Shing!!!!

In Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, the Shing are an alien race who have invaded and seized control of Earth because of their ability to lie telepathically. The Shing are parasites. They rule the planet, but don’t build anything or do anything for the benefit of society. They maintain control over humans by breaking them into smaller communities and pushing them into rural settlements. The Shing eradicate these human settlements if they try to do anything big or cooperative, and so humans are forced to live in primitive groups, trying their hardest not to be noticed, fearing anyone who comes near their community.

The Shing are just like today’s Godzillionaires.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen or anyone...
as of Mon night, 1155pm, jan 26,

Any idea why NYT op ed columnists, editorials are not showing by the usual time, in eve? 1030pm or so?
Last night's Krugman was not posted thru most of the night, and others.

Change or glitch?
Charles Blow I did find either by going to columnist list, or else I googled him and found the column.

Valerie said...

Interesting perspective, Karen.

I hope Greece follows the way of Iceland. I heard the president of Iceland interviewed three or four years ago when he and his Parliament decided that the people of Iceland shouldn't have to pay for the failure of private banks and went rogue. He said that Russia stepped in to help them. So interesting that Putin has offered to meet with the Greek Prime Minister to discuss possible terms.

I hope it goes well for the Greeks. No country should have to have its population gutted in order to pay for high flying bankers to treat their system like a casino. Someone needs to rein the bankers in and it is clearly not going to be the leaders of the European Union or Obama.

Karen Garcia said...

Anne and all: just thought I'd put out there that the real socialists are not impressed. Remember when "leftist" Francois Hollande beat Sarkozy in an anti-austerity crusade, after which he promptly kissed Angela Merkel's feet? Chris Hedges was about the only one who had been pegged from the get-go as the French Obama. Hope Tsipras is different and stands his ground against the oligarchy.

Meredith: I suspect that the op-eds are now getting posted much laterin response to complaints that the same green-checked commenting cartel always get first dibs and top billing. The later posting is a way to level the playing field, as it were. Even the die-hards aren't likely to be waiting up at 3 a.m. (even midnight PST)just to be the first to comment. Either that, or staff are all out sick or conducting a work slow-down. The Gray Lady has laid off quite a few people recently.

Ste-vo said...

Thanks for this Karen. And I am so interested to read what you may say about this from the Grey Lady:

I read the headline this AM and stared at it for like 10 minutes. I stared at it.

Meredith NYC said...

re op eds getting posted later .....I'd think no matter what time they go up, the 'trusted commenter' elite would still go 1st before the rest, since they're un-moderated.

And how do you know there have been complaints about the greens top billing?

Tonight though, Bruni's column is up earlier if click on the list of columnists on the left. And the other night same with Blow. Strange.

if they change the hours, then many people won't be available to comment, or just won't bother. You'd think the Times would notify readers of the change.

annenigma said...

If anyone still thinks new Greek prime minister Tsipras is anything like Obama, just look at his newly appointed cabinet of 'academics, human rights advocates, mavericks and visionaries'. No Larry Summers or Timothy Geitner types anywhere in sight. Didn't we know we were screwed from Day 1 when Obama named those guys?

Tsipras' finance minister is a radical Marxist economics professor who just announced that negotiations will only be with government leaders, not with the bankster troika. Radical is a word that keeps coming up. Obama is about as radical as white bread.

Oh, and Tsipras is an avowed atheist, not a phony Bible toting drone killer like our own President Peace Prize.

Karen Garcia said...

The appointment of a Marxist economist is indeed a hopeful sign. It's still too early to tell how this will all play out. Although Tsipras already promised that Greece will not default on its onerous debt, maybe this is a bluff, a way for him to display both his reasonableness and the Troika's cruelty before the real revolution gets underway. I am rooting for SYRIZA to prevail. Must. Resist. Cynicism!!!


There have been complaints about the verified vs. unverified commenting system from the get-go. Margaret Sullivan addressed the issue and got many irate comments complaining about certain commenters being able to hog the discussion.

Also, I was part of an email exchange among some commenters and a Times moderator-editor named Aron Pilhofer before he quit to go to The Guardian. Apparently, staff have been inundated with complaints about the two-tiered commenting system. When I suggested that all the regulars should be verified, his response was that if I didn't like it, they could always get rid of the unmoderated system altogether. In other words, shut up. He also referred to me as "hawkish" for wanting a more democratic system.

I have mixed feelings about the op-eds now being posted at 3:30 a.m. On the positive side, there are new people I never heard of appearing at the top. (except Larry the Limerick Guy who apparently never sleeps.) The same person isn't posting multiple comments/replies to comments. Negative side, hundreds of both verified and unverified participants are now being shut out, due either to the extreme lateness of the hour of posting, or the fact that people have other things to do in the a.m. besides post a comment as they rush to get ready for work, or otherwise go about their days. I think the upshot will be fewer people overall commenting on op-eds. Maybe a light bulb will go off heads of the bean counters, that they're losing ad revenue based on fewer clicks on reader comments.

This is all still assuming that the new time schedule is a result of deliberate policy rather than staff being out sick, or some other temporary glitch.

Whether the NYT will ever deign to address this issue directly is anybody's guess. I assume that Margaret Sullivan might weigh in, eventually.

Oh, the name of the head moderator is Etim Bassey, if you want to contact him.

thersites said...

Truly enjoyed your piece on Tsipras, Karen. I think your skepticism is warranted, but a bit premature. (Then again, is it ever too early to be skeptical?)

In Greece there is a colloquialism: "Add a little water to your wine". It means to tone down your orthodoxy - bend a little.

The admonition was once offered to me by an older, wiser woman who felt I was too strict in my judgment of a father's misdeeds. Human nature - especially as glimpsed through the difficulties of those Greeks who survived the Nazis (and the grueling Civil War AND the junta) - was far more complicated than my narrow moral position allowed.

"Add a little water to your wine" implies that I was not accounting for human frailty - including, potentially, mine own, had I found myself in the same position.

I think Tsipras will be adding just a little water to the wine, as any successful negotiation might entail. He will be no ideological angel; Greece cannot afford angels at this moment. The job requires someone foxier - and in large part, he has already made progress by starting his negotiations from the true left.

In essence, Tsipras has spooked Merkel just as Kazantzakis' Zorba spooked the monks who controlled the remaining forests of Crete. God willing, the timber will be forthcoming. What Zorba will do with it is another problem.

Two historical "footnotes" (unless history's foot stepped on YOU): That "civil war", if you believe a certain now-banned BBC documentary, was largely Churchill's making. And the Greco-Balkan expression about watering one's wine has nothing to do with the watered-down wine that Socrates and his aristo friends enjoyed!