News Releases

Failed State: Greece or European Union?

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at me.com, @submergingmkt
Henry is former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. He is now senior fellow at the Columbia University Center for Sustainable International Investment.

He said today: “Several noted economists — including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman — have said that what the EU is doing to Greece makes no sense from an economic point of view. And they’re right, it doesn’t from an economic point of view — but it may from a political point of view.

“This has been absurdly consumptive and could have been avoided with less than $20 billion, far less than the Detroit bailout. Germany has all but said it seeks the ouster of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who didn’t create this mess. He’s even now agreeing to a 23 percent VAT [sales] tax.

“Consider that while they are putting the screws on the left-wing government in Greece, much of the U.S. and European establishment is working to help the right-wing government in Ukraine as it seeks to restructure its $125 billion in debt and its economy is falling apart. No moralizing there.

“This is a punitive policy and it’s about making an example of Greece. Clearly, part of the dynamics is that the EU is worried about the rise of the left in Spain and other countries. Meanwhile, Le Pen’s party in France and other right-wing parties are celebrating all of this.

“To get out of the situation, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has said he’d like to more effectively tax the rich and he asked for help from the Swiss in finding an approximate $100 billion in taxes from foreign tax havens. But the Swiss have refused to release information on rich Greek tax cheats.” Henry is also senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network and was lead author of the report “The Price of Offshore Revisited,” [PDF] which estimated that total wealth in tax havens worldwide was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

He continued: “The suffering in Greece is palpable; the people are petrified. There’s 25 percent total unemployment and 60 percent youth unemployment. It’s been a bigger drop than in the U.S. during the Great Depression, now they can’t get money out of their ATMs. And the EU is effectively blocking Greece from stimulating its economy back to health.

“The Greek debt is an unserviceable debt. It didn’t get invested in useful assets. Much of the debt was actually accrued after Greece adopted the Euro — which itself was done under dubious circumstances — with German and French banks lending money to the Greek government for weapons. Then, when the financial crisis — which wasn’t Greece’s fault — hit, these private banks got paid off and institutions like the IMF assumed much of Greece’s debt. Those institutions are harder to deal with than private creditors.

“Now, the EU, rather than deal with this like a bankruptcy situation and taking a haircut on the debts, is preaching more and more austerity — which has failed miserably. The EU is the real failed state here. They’re effectively putting Greece in debtors prison. There needs to be a bankruptcy court to deal with sovereign debt.

“Part of the problem is the dynamics of the EU, especially with these Nordic countries with relatively affluent populations and a Calvinist attitude. [John Maynard] Keynes wrote in 1921 about why German war debts had been forgiven. Ironically, it’s been Germany that’s historically been one of the great beneficiaries of debt forgiveness — and now they’re screaming at Greece to pay up.”

Israeli Siege of Gaza Halts Freedom Flotilla

AP is reporting: “Israel’s navy intercepted a Swedish vessel attempting to breach a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip early Monday and was redirecting it to an Israeli port, the military and the activists said.

“The military said that after exhausting all diplomatic efforts, the government ordered it to block the vessel. Israeli naval forces boarded the Marianne ship and searched it in international waters without needing to use any force, the military said.

“The ship was carrying about 20 activists, including Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Three other ships that were part of the original flotilla reversed course before encountering the Israeli navy. …

“While Israel insists there is no siege, there are severe restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade, with virtually no exports. The international community, including the United Nations, has repeatedly called for an end to the blockade.”

Those on the Freedom Flotilla also include former State Department official Ann Wright; and Robert Lovelace, former chief of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in Canada.

DAVID HEAP, david.heap at gmail.com, @GazaFFlotilla
Heap is with Canadian Boat to Gaza, one of the organizing groups. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition released a statement: “We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was ‘uneventful,’ because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the Estelle were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters. … Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean. We demand that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detainment of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid.”

Heap is available for interviews and can facilitate interviews with Freedom Flotilla participants as they become available.

ROBERT NAIMAN, press at justforeignpolicy.org, Also via ANN IGHE, igheann at gmail.com, skype: ann.ighe
Naiman is with U.S. Boat to Gaza and Ighe is spokesperson for Ship to Gaza Sweden. Naiman is senior analyst with Just Foreign Policy. He was recently interviewed about the Freedom Flotilla along with Lovelace by The Real News.

Naiman recently wrote the piece “#FreedomFlotilla III Exposes Anti-Democratic Extremism of the Israeli ‘Center’,” which states:

“Who are the people that the ‘centrist’ Lapid called ‘a gang of terrorism supporters’ that Israel needs to ‘deal with’ as if it were ‘trying to disperse a violent protest’?

“Participants in the #FreedomFlotilla III include the former President of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki; Israeli Knesset Member Basel Ghattas; Spanish Member of the European Parliament Ana Miranda; Jordanian Member of Parliament Yahya Abo Soud; and Moroccan Member of Parliament Abouzaid El Mokrie El Idrissi. …

“Retired IDF Major General Shlomo Gazit, who was head of IDF military intelligence, has called on the Netanyahu government to leave the flotilla alone. He wrote in Haaretz:

“‘The ship that is currently making its way toward Gaza…isn’t carrying military cargo. It is seeking to focus world attention on the blockade that Israel is imposing on the 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip…The world is accusing us of still maintaining Gaza under military occupation. We, in turn, are seeking to prove that we have withdrawn, but we haven’t disengaged. We continue to control everything going in and out, and that is a continuation of an occupation government.'”

Obama Administration Disavowed Report on Rightwing Violence

DARYL JOHNSON, daryl at dtanalytics.org
Johnson was the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence & Analysis from August 2004 to April 2010. In 2009, his report “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [PDF] was released and then disavowed by the administration. Johnson is now owner of the law-enforcement consulting firm DT Analytics.

Available for a limited number of interviews, Johnson recently wrote for the New York Times: “Today, there are still literally hundreds of analysts throughout the U.S. government looking for Islamic terrorist threats, including from Al Qaeda and its affiliates, yet, there are mere dozens of federal government analysts looking at domestic non-Islamic extremists. This disparity needs to be rectified.

“In February, the White House held a summit on ‘Countering Violent Extremism.’ Its aim was to build awareness, counter extremist narratives and emphasize community-led intervention. The summit’s agenda, however, primarily focused on Islamic terrorism. A successful strategy for countering violent extremism must include all forms of radicalism, including that of far right extremists.” Johnson also wrote the piece “I Tried to Warn Them: I wrote the infamous report that led Homeland Security to gut its right-wing terrorism unit.”

RANIA KHALEK, raniakhalek at gmail.com, @RaniaKhalek
Khalek recently wrote the piece “Expert: Obama ignored surge of rightwing extremism that inspired Charleston killer,” which states: “Johnson’s prophetic 2009 report predicted that the election of America’s first Black president coupled with an ailing economy would spark a resurgence in rightwing extremism, with ‘white supremacist lone wolves’ posing ‘the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy — separate from any formalized group — which hampers warning efforts.’

“Johnson’s report also drew attention to the danger of extremists recruiting military veterans.

“Though intended exclusively for law enforcement, the report was leaked immediately after publication, generating a firestorm on the right.

“Whipped into a frenzy, conservative media outlets and Republican lawmakers mischaracterized the report as an Obama administration conspiracy to smear all conservatives as potentially violent extremists.

“In a stunning display of political cowardice, the Obama administration caved in to the pressure.

“Within days of the leak, newly appointed DHS secretary Janet Napolitano apologized for the report and Johnson’s DHS unit was slowly disbanded over the following year, leaving behind just one analyst to assess all non-Islamic extremist threats for DHS.

“Six years later, Johnson’s prescient warnings have been tragically vindicated again and again.

“In 2012, U.S. army veteran and neo-Nazi skinhead Wade Michael Page stormed into a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and fatally gunned down six worshippers.

“Last year, Frazier Glenn Miller, the former ‘grand dragon’ of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a longtime anti-Semite, killed three people outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas.

“Two months later, anti-government extremists Jerad and Amanda Miller killed three people in Las Vegas.”

Greece: Economic Elites vs Democracy?

USA Today reports this morning: “Global stocks lurched lower Monday as Greece closed its banks and imposed restrictions on cash withdrawals to try to prevent a deepening financial crisis from worsening amid faltering bailout talks with its international creditors.”

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, panayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He has been published in numerous journals including Monthly Review and Capitalism Nature Socialism.

He said today: “Since its election in January the Greek government has, in its attempt to reach an agreement, made many concessions to the eurozone’s austerity agenda. The fact that, in the course of the negotiation, Greece’s European partners always asked for more suggests that they may not have truly desired an agreement, instead preferring to squash the only European government with the audacity to openly criticize the neoliberal consensus. The European response to the Greek prime minister’s announcement of a referendum also displays the long-standing aversion of European economic and political elites to democratic processes that allow European people to have a say over the future of the European project.

“Although European elites have usually found a way to shrug off any referendum results they didn’t like, doing so doesn’t look good, since it undercuts the founding myth of European unification, namely the idea that the European project signifies the transition of European societies from a dark past of totalitarianism to a bright future of stable and robust democracy. Such a future is nowhere to be seen as Keynesian policies are, in effect, banned within the Eurozone and as the European institutions and the IMF are attempting to repeat the scenario that played out back in 2011, when the announced popular referendum by then-prime minister George Papandreou was aborted under pressure from German chancellor Merkel and then French president Sarkozy. The political and economic fallout, both in Greece and internationally, of Greek capital controls will determine whether the referendum does take place as planned. A resounding ‘No’ to the European proposal would face the Europeans with the dilemma of either risking the rupture of the Eurozone or negotiating in good faith with the Greek government.”

“The Secret History of Gay Marriage”

AP writes: “The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, a historic culmination of decades of litigation over gay marriage and gay rights generally.”

YASMIN NAIR, nairyasmin at gmail.com, @NairYasmin
Nair is co-founder of the group Against Equality. She just wrote the piece “The Secret History of Gay Marriage,” which states that just before the Supreme Court decision “All this simulated anxiety reminds me of the stereotypical Victorian woman, pretending to be surprised by the attentions of a suitor: ‘Why, I never! Gay Marriage in my lifetime? Heavens, I am quite taken aback!’

“Surely, given the tremendous shifts in both cultural and legal attitudes to gay marriage both here and abroad, we might finally drop this pretense of surprise.

“Still, gays and lesbians everywhere are pretending. And part of this cultural exercise involves a rewriting of history to make it seem like marriage is not only the natural but the only desired outcome of decades, really, centuries of queer existence. …

“The secret history of gay marriage is that it was never a topic of huge concern in the LGBTQ community until the rise of the mainstream gay organisations in the mid-1990s. Here’s what really happened: Following a depletion of political energy post-AIDS, we saw the growth of groups like Human Rights Campaign and the older National Lesbian and Gay Task Force (now The National LGBTQ Task Force), led by mostly white gay men and women or the occasional token people of color who fervently believed that normative politics was the only way to go.”

Nair’s work has appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters and How to Stop It, Windy City Queer: Dispatches from the Third Coast, Arab Studies Quarterly and Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.

Obamacare Wins; 6 Million Keep Insurance — 35 Million Remain Uninsured

SUPEME COURT ACAIDA HELLANDER, M.D., ida at pnhp.org, @pnhp
ROBERT ZARR, M.D., M.P.H., rlzarr at yahoo.com, Also via Mark Almberg, mark at pnhp.org
Hellander is director of health policy and programs at Physicians for a National Health Program, a 19,000-member organization of doctors headquartered in Chicago. She co-edits PNHP’s newsletter, is a frequent contributor to the International Journal of Health Services, and is co-author of the book Bleeding the Patient: The Consequences of Corporate Health Care.

Zarr is a pediatrician at Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C., where he cares for a low-income and immigrant population. He is president of Physicians for a National Health Program. Almberg is the group’s communications director.

The group just released a statement: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies in about three dozen states will spare more than 6 million Americans the health and financial harms associated with the sudden loss of health insurance coverage.

“For that reason alone the decision must be welcomed: Having health insurance is better than not having coverage, as several research studies have shown.

“That said, the suffering that many Americans are experiencing today under our current health care arrangements is intolerable, with approximately 35 million people remaining uninsured, a comparable number underinsured, and rapidly growing barriers to medical care in the form of rising premiums, copayments, coinsurance and deductibles, and narrowing networks.

“The unfortunate reality is that the ACA, despite its modest benefits, is not a remedy to our health care crisis: (1) it will not achieve universal coverage, as it will still leave at least 27 million uninsured in 2025, (2) it will not make health care affordable to Americans with insurance, because of high copays, deductibles and gaps in coverage that leave patients vulnerable to financial ruin in the event of serious illness, and (3) it will not control costs.

“Why is this so? Because the ACA perpetuates a dominant role for the private insurance industry. Each year, that industry siphons off hundreds of billions of health care dollars for overhead, profit and the paperwork it demands from doctors and hospitals; denies care in order to increase insurers’ bottom line; and obstructs any serious effort to control costs.

“In contrast, a single-payer system — an improved Medicare for All — would achieve truly universal care, affordability, and effective cost control. It would put the interests of our patients — and our nation’s health — first.”

ADAM GAFFNEY, M.D., gaffney.adam at gmail.com, @awgaffney
Gaffney is a research fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a frequent writer on health policy, blogging at theprogressivephysician.org and publishing in USA Today, Salon, Dissent, Jacobin, In These Times, Truthout, and elsewhere.

Last week Gaffney wrote an article in Jacobin that included the following comments: “It is important to understand that the Affordable Care Act isn’t — and is never going to be — adequate for delivering health care justice. At the same time, the sudden withdrawal of private health insurance from millions of Americans would be a human travesty that no sensible left should countenance, much less celebrate. Yet such an acknowledgement must not mean turning a blind eye to the deep structural inadequacies of our health care system, which will persevere, whatever the decision of the Supreme Court, until more fundamental change — a single-payer health system — is won.”

UN at 70: “Foxes in Charge of Global Chicken Coup”?

The United Nations Charter was signed on June 26, 1945 — 70 years ago this Friday — in San Francisco. [Note: IPA has a new online calendar — a tool for journalists and others: accuracy.org/calendar.]

The Charter states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”

JAMES PAUL, james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN. He just wrote a two-part piece “The UN Disappoints on its Seventieth Anniversary,” the first part of which will be published today by Inter Press Service.

He said today: “From time to time, it has seemed that the UN might have a breakout moment, that it might take the lead in a transition to what used to be called ‘global governance’ — more participatory, more just, more peaceful. But it never happened — certainly not in the ‘post Cold War’ world dominated by the United States and its Western ‘allies.’ The UN effort to control transnational corporations collapsed by the mid-1990s, initiatives to make the Security Council more responsive to international law failed, the promising global conferences came mostly to naught. Washington forced Kofi Annan to purge his senior staff and toe the line, once the Iraq War was well under way. The White House crudely forced out UN ambassadors that did not conform to its wishes. And Congress threatened to pull the plug on funding. The foxes were in charge of the global chicken coop.

“Clearly, not much remains of the high hopes and aspirations attached to the UN since 1945. But what else do we have? Is this creaky institution reformable? Doesn’t it serve some important functions like convening climate change conferences, managing global disease, attending to refugees, and regulating global air transport? At 70, the UN is both a terrible disappointment and an indispensable institution still. It signifies that ‘another world is possible’ and indeed urgently necessary. But with the temperatures rising, inequality growing and states failing, it is difficult to see how the UN will be able to build a bridge to another future before it’s too late.”

See list of “U.S. Position on International Treaties.”

Despite Public Opposition, Obama and Republicans Ramming “Fast Track” Through

The Los Angeles Times is reporting: “President Obama’s fast-track trade bill cleared a key procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate, all but ensuring it will win final passage this week and be sent to the White House for his signature.

“Despite deep reservations from many in the president’s party, enough Democratic senators appear ready to join most Republicans to finish the legislation, which has sputtered in Congress but is a top White House priority.”

A CBS/New York Times poll released in June found a majority oppose what the Congress and the President are pushing. [See question 29]

MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, [in D.C.] manuel at ips-dc.org
Manuel Pérez-Rocha helps to coordinate the Networking for Justice on Global Investment project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

He said today: “The vote is a disappointment in the eyes of all those in the world concerned about U.S. corporate expansionism. … But these moves have also helped cement a global solidarity movement on how so-called trade deals push through corporate agendas. This global solidarity movement needs to stop these deals — which has happened before — and start developing structures of new global relationships that drive standards upward.”

Pérez-Rocha wrote the working paper “TTIP — Why the World Should Beware,” which states: “The trade and investment partnership TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which is currently being negotiated between the EU and the U.S., will affect the whole world. But the other world regions, like the BRICS or the Global South are being excluded from the trade negotiations and hardly get attention in the debates around TTIP. This trend is shifting today: because TTIP as an ‘economic NATO’ is putting the rise of the BRICS, especially China and Russia, into relation with a looming ‘descent of Europe.’ According to the negotiating partners, the economic rise of the BRICS has to be prevented. But at what price?

“TTIP is a threat not only for the EU and the U.S., but for the whole world. Ultimately TTIP would serve as an instrument to the economic and political elites of the West to maintain their hegemonic power and dominance. The price is to be paid by the people in the Global North as well as in the Global South.”

Pérez-Rocha wrote the articles “NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate” and “NAFTA’s 20 Years of Unfulfilled Promises: The trade deal has become an engine of poverty in Mexico.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese
Zeese and Flowers are with Popular Resistance, which is part of the Stop Fast Track coalition. They are leading protests outside the Capitol.

Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance, said today: “The Obama trade agenda that Congress is considering fast tracking through Congress will lower wages, export jobs, increase the wealth divide and increase the trade deficit. This is the consistent history of trade agreements written for trans-national corporations. They benefit big business interests at the expense of the people and planet. Senators who vote for Fast Track are driving the race to the bottom for the U.S. economy and voters need to know they are the reason our downward decline.”

Flowers, also co-director of Popular Resistance, stated: “The international treaties being negotiated by the president go beyond trade to impact every area of our lives. They will raise the costs of health care, undermine food safety, lead to more poisoning of the water, land and air and worsen the climate crisis. Additionally, the ISDS [Investor-State Dispute Settlement] provisions mean that we will not be able to enact laws that protect our health and safety even at the local level.”

The Racial Divide Remains in a “Squint Society”

FERNANDO A. TORRES, fernandofenatorres at gmail.com
Torres is editor of LatinOPen. He recently wrote the piece “The Racial Divide Will Never Be Resolved If We Don’t Call It By Its Name,” where he asks, “Why is it so difficult for the mainstream media to mention the word racism?

“Reviewing the national headlines and news of the latest massacre – this time in Charleston, S.C., I find no mention of the word. I checked the AP stylebook just to be sure and saw no problem with the word ‘racism.’ So what is this reticence to mention it? With massacres of this type happening almost every five weeks, has it perhaps become a dirty word?

“If we want to start the much needed national debate, we have to first call these horrendous actions by their name, racist murders.

“Orwell at his best. If we continue rummaging the dictionary to sanitize as much as we can or if we continue swallowing the pill of the ‘lonely guy’ or the ‘bad apple’ we will continue, perhaps forever, asking ‘why?’

“Instead, what I found in the national news was ‘a hate crime.’ But that term really doesn’t go to the heart of the matter. Any killing is a hate crime but a racist lynching is not just any killing. Not even ‘terrorism’ is the most appropriate word because terror is what these massacres cause us to feel but it is not, deep inside, the perpetrator’s aim.

“And it is not the just the Confederate battle flag, or any other symbol, it is the state of mind, the education system, the media, the capitalist/market system, the craziness of gun ownership, coy politicians, TV’s biased images and references, Hollywood, the alive and kicking underground organized racist mobs (my list goes on and on), that have perpetuated racism since the first slaves touched ground in Jamestown.

“For the ‘Bay Area’ media the grieving will take more than a basketball celebration parade to sweep it under the rug. I realized this when on a street near Solano avenue in Albany, Ca. I saw a white woman crying out loud in her parked car… her radio was broadcasting details of the massacre. My most sincere condolences to this heart-broken women.

“We are not a color-blind society, we are a squint society unable to focus and the truth is that we still live in a racist commune where race matters, a lot.”

South Carolina Church Killings and Roots of White Supremacy 

JIM LOEWEN, jloewen at uvm.edu
Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. His books include Lies My Teacher Told MeThe Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader; Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Markers and Monuments Get Wrong. 

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net
Hagler is senior pastor with the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. He said today: “There are attacks against black people all around the world: from attack on a church in Charleston; police violence in Baltimore; deportation of ‘Haitian’ looking people in the Dominican Republic; violence against Africans in Israel and oppression of Palestinians there. We must stand and act against racism wherever it manifests itself — worldwide and without geographical or ethnic limits.”

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is an activist in South Carolina and was just interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC — see video.

Gray’s books include co-editing Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence. He posted on his Facebook page: “Some tried to chide me on issuing a call of sorts to white people about the environment that creates a Dylann Roof. Well, the Confederate flag, a flag of white supremacy flies on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds along with a statute of white supremacist ‘Pitchfolk’ Ben Tillman. Countless streets and buildings are named after Confederate heroes. The president of the College of Charleston routinely dresses up as a Confederate general and fights mock battles. And this is the same man who blocked putting a statute of Denmark Vesey on the Statehouse grounds calling him a murderer of white people. This is where we live and what is ingrained everyday in our psyche without apology. I’m against white supremacy and I apologize to nobody for being against it.” See his piece from 2002: “South Carolina and Its Confederate Flag.”

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