December 14, 2014 archive

Jon Stewart – We Can’t Breath

Adapted from Rant of the Week at The Stars Hollow Gazette

We Can’t Breathe

Back Into The Frying Pan

The eurozone crisis – history is repeating itself … again

Larry Elliott, The Guardian

Sunday 14 December 2014 06.09 EST

Let’s start with Greece, which was where the eurozone crisis began all those years ago. The French statesman Talleyrand once said of the Bourbons that they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. The same applies to the bunch of incompetents in Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt responsible for pushing Greece towards economic and political meltdown.

Greece’s recent economic performance has been pretty good. The economy is growing, unemployment is on the decline and the debt to GDP ratio has come down a bit. Time, you might think, to cut Athens a bit of slack. Not if you are the German government, the European commission or the European Central Bank. No, they are insisting on even more austerity and continued surveillance by the International Monetary Fund.

But the Greeks have had a bellyful of austerity. They have had enough of being pushed around. Predictably, support for the anti-austerity Syriza party is strong and the mood is angry. In an attempt to regain the initiative, the government in Athens brought forward the dates for the votes in parliament to elect a new president. If by the time of the third vote at the end of the December, the centre right’s candidate Stavros Dimas, a former EU commissioner, has not secured 180 votes out of 300 – unlikely as things stand – there will be an election that Syriza could win.

The chances of it doing so will certainly be enhanced unless the Bourbon-in-chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, learns when to keep his mouth shut. By saying he wanted “known faces” rather than “extremist forces” in charge in Greece, the European commission president was the perfect recruiting sergeant for Syriza.

The gamble seems to be that Syriza, assuming that there is an election in which it emerges victorious, will either do a U-turn on austerity voluntarily or be forced to do a U-turn due to hostile market reaction. The collapse of a Syriza government will herald the return of a centre-right government who will do what Juncker and Angela Merkel tell them to do.

But this has not been properly thought through. A crisis in Greece will take months to unfold. Bond yields will rise in every eurozone country seen as vulnerable: Portugal, Spain, Italy and, perhaps, Belgium. Business and consumer confidence will be hit. Concerns about the non-performing loans held by Europe’s shaky banks will be reignited.

A fresh Greek crisis will have spillover effects. It will lead to a fresh recession and deepen deflation. Weak growth and falling prices are a toxic combination for highly indebted countries, because they raise the real value of debts while cutting national output.

Beppe Grillo of Italy’s Five Star Movement has said. “Eventually will come a time when a politician will hold up a copy of the EMU [European Monetary Union] treaty, declare it null and void, and the debt null and void right along with it. That politician will be elected.”

And the moment that politician will be elected may not be all that far away. The only conceivable way to solve some – if not all – of the design flaws in the euro is for a strategy that involves debt forgiveness, expansionary policies in the countries – such as Germany – that can afford it, a large-scale quantitative easing programme from the European Central Bank and much more aggressive attempts to rid the banks of their toxic assets.

Unfortunately, this is not on the table. Eventually, once the crisis is raging, the ECB may well overcome Germany’s misgivings about buying sovereign bonds and dip its toe in the water with a limited QE programme. It will be too little too late, and in any case contingent on further so-called structural reforms, shorthand for wage cuts and the dilution of labour rights.

Mad as Hellas

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

DEC. 11, 2014

The Greek fiscal crisis erupted five years ago, and its side effects continue to inflict immense damage on Europe and the world. But I’m not talking about the side effects you may have in mind – spillovers from Greece’s Great Depression-level slump, or financial contagion to other debtors. No, the truly disastrous effect of the Greek crisis was the way it distorted economic policy, as supposedly serious people around the world rushed to learn the wrong lessons.

What happened last time, you may recall, was the exploitation of Greece’s woes to change the economic subject. Suddenly, we were supposed to obsess over budget deficits, even if borrowing costs were at historic lows, and slash government spending, even in the face of mass unemployment. Because if we didn’t, you see, we could turn into Greece any day now. “Greece stands as a warning of what happens to countries that lose their credibility,” intoned David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, as he announced austerity policies in 2010. “We are on the same path as Greece,” declared Representative Paul Ryan, who was soon to become the chairman of the House Budget Committee, that same year.

In reality, Britain and the United States, which borrow in their own currencies, were and are nothing like Greece. If you thought otherwise in 2010, by now year after year of incredibly low interest rates and low inflation should have convinced you.

(T)he devastation in Greece is awesome to behold. Some press reports I’ve seen seem to suggest that the country has been a malingerer, balking at the harsh measures its situation demands. In reality, it has made huge adjustments – slashing public employment and compensation, cutting back social programs, raising taxes. If you want a sense of the scale of austerity, it would be as if the United States had introduced spending cuts and tax increases amounting to more than $1 trillion a year. Meanwhile, wages in the private sector have plunged. Yet a quarter of the Greek labor force, and half its young, remain unemployed.

Meanwhile, the debt situation has if anything gotten worse, with the ratio of public debt to G.D.P. at a record high – mainly because of falling G.D.P., not rising debt – and with the emergence of a big private debt problem, thanks to deflation and depression. There are some positives; the economy is growing a bit, finally, largely thanks to a revival of tourism. But, over all, it has been many years of suffering for very little reward.

The remarkable thing, given all that, has been the willingness of the Greek public to take it, to accept the claims of the political establishment that the pain is necessary and will eventually lead to recovery. And the news that has roiled Europe these past few days is that the Greeks may have reached their limit. The details are complex, but basically the current government is trying a fairly desperate political maneuver to put off a general election. And, if it fails, the likely winner in that election is Syriza, a party of the left that has demanded a renegotiation of the austerity program, which could lead to a confrontation with Germany and exit from the euro.

This is what happens when an elite claims the right to rule based on its supposed expertise, its understanding of what must be done – then demonstrates both that it does not, in fact, know what it is doing, and that it is too ideologically rigid to learn from its mistakes.

Repeat after me- Neoliberal Economics Does.  Not.  Work.


Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Since the release of the summary of the Senate’s Torture Report, the torture apologists have been out in force calling the report inaccurate and misleading, and repeating long debunked lies about the accuracy of the intelligence. Chief among them this week will be former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney who will be Chuck Todd’s guest on this morning’s “Meet the Press“. The Intercept‘s Dan Froomkin has some suggestions for [questions Chuck might want to ask Dick instead of the usual “MTP” treatment of rolling over and playing dead at the feet of the contentious war criminal.

Of all the questions proposed, my favorites are the one Chuck asked Glenn Greenwald:

Why shouldn’t you be charged with a crime?

and this one that Dan had proposed Cheney be asked in 2011:

Just how much had you had to drink before you shot your friend in the face?

Dick Cheney Will Eat Chuck Todd For Breakfast Unless Todd Does Exactly What I Say

When Cheney was vice president, his chief M.O. was to spread false information and savage his critics, while avoiding any sustained inquisition. He often did that through intermediaries.

But when he needed to take things into his own hands, “Meet the Press” was “best” because, while there might be a tough prepared question or two, then-host Tim Russert could be counted on to follow up obsequiously or not at all, without in any way knocking the veep off his talking points. [..]

But I have some ideas about what Todd could do differently. (And so did several of my Twitter followers.)

The key is quite simple: Instead of asking Cheney for his reaction to the report, Todd should use the opportunity to ask Cheney factual questions, to fill in gaps in the record. [..]

Q. Why did people within the CIA start talking about torture, when historically their view was, as Senator Feinstein mentioned in her speech on Tuesday, that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers”?

Q. Do you know who first came up with the idea of using torture as part of the interrogation of detainees?

Q. What was the first time you heard anything about making interrogation tactics more brutal?

Q. When was the first time you heard about waterboarding? What was your reaction?

Q. How often were you or your office in touch with the CIA in late 2002 and early 2003 about interrogation matters?

Q. Describe your chief counsel David Addington’s involvement in developing interrogation policy.

Q. What was the first report you heard that made you think torture was “working”?

Q. What do you consider torture? [..]

Q. Do you have any reason to dispute the report’s description of “rectal feeding” and “rectal hydration”? Had you heard anything about this before? Does that sound OK to you?

Q. Did you watch any of the videos of detainees being interrogated at the black sites ? What was that like for you?

Q. Did you ever speak directly to someone involved in administering those interrogation tactics? What was that like? [..]

Q. A 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that you bore direct responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Didn’t you notice that the interrogation tactics you architected for CIA use had migrated into the military?

Q. Did you ever suggest to anyone that any specific interrogation practice be stopped?

Q. Do you think it’s likely that some of these tactics will be returned to use in the future?

Q. How would you feel if an American were subject to this kind of interrogation? How would you want the country to respond?

Q. Do you plan to travel to Europe?

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: This Sunday’s guests are former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; Army veteran Eric Fair; and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

The roundtable guests are:  Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MM); former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham: and CNN & SiriusXM host Michael Smerconish.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schhieffer’s guests are: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA); Sen. Angus King (I-MA);  Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI); and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

His panel guests are Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal; Michael Gerson, Washington Post; Charles Ellison, The Root; and Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: This Sunday’s “MTP” guests are: Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Hopefully by now Dick will have read the report. The panel guests are a mystery. I love a mystery.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley:

Nest week will be Ms. Crowley’s final appearance as host. She announced her resignation from CNN last week.

Ms. Crowley’s guests are:  Rep. Peter King (R-NY); and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA).

Plus, part two of Candy Crowley’s exclusive interview with President George W. Bush.

On This Day In History December 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 14 is the 348th day of the year (349th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 17 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1995, the Dayton Agreement is signed in Paris.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Agreement, Dayton Accords, Paris Protocol or Dayton-Paris Agreement, is the peace agreement reached at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio in November 1995, and formally signed in Paris on December 14, 1995. These accords put an end to the three and a half year long war in Bosnia, one of the armed conflicts in the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Some articles erroneously refer to the agreement as the Treaty of Dayton.


Though the basic concepts of the Dayton Agreement began to appear in international talks since 1992, the negotiations were initiated following the unsuccessful previous peace efforts and arrangements, the August 1995 Croatian military Operation Storm and its aftermath, the government military offensive against the Republika Srpska, in concert with NATO’s Operation Deliberate Force. During September and October 1995, many of the world powers (especially the USA and Russia), gathered in the Contact Group, applied intense pressure to the leaders of the three sides to attend the negotiations in Dayton, Ohio.

The conference took place from November 1 to November 21, 1995. The main participants from the region were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (representing the Bosnian Serb interests due to absence of Karadzic), Croatian President Franjo Tudman, and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic with Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey.

The peace conference was led by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and negotiator Richard Holbrooke with two Co-Chairmen in the form of EU Special Representative Carl Bildt and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Ivanov. A key participant in the US delegation was General Wesley Clark (later to become NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) in 1997). The UK military representative was Col Arundell David Leakey (later to become Commander of EUFOR in 2005). The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) served as legal counsel to the Bosnian Government delegation during the negotiations.

The secure site was chosen in a bid to curb the participants’ ability to negotiate in the media rather than at the bargaining table.

After having been initiated in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995 the full and formal agreement was signed in Paris, France, on December 14, 1995 also by French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. President Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister John Major, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The present political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its structure of government were agreed upon as part the constitution that makes up Annex 4 of the General Framework Agreement concluded at Dayton. A key component of this was the delineation of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line, to which many of the tasks listed in the Annexes referred.

The agreement mandated a wide range of international organizations to monitor, oversee, and implement components of the agreement. The NATO-led IFOR (Implementation Force) was responsible for implementing military aspects of the agreement and deployed on the 20th December 1995, taking over the forces of the UNPROFOR.

Ironically, the chief architect of the Dayton Accord, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, died yesterday, December 13, in Washington, DC. May he rest in peace.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

UN members agree climate deal at Lima talks

14 December 2014 Last updated at 07:36


United Nations members have reached an agreement on how countries should tackle climate change.

Delegates have approved a framework for setting national pledges to be submitted to a summit next year.

Differences over the draft text caused the talks in Lima, Peru, to overrun by two days.

Environmental groups have criticised the deal as a weak and ineffectual compromise, saying it weakens international climate rules.

The talks proved difficult because of divisions between rich and poor countries over the scale and scope of plans to tackle global warming.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Ten years on, a survivor’s fear of torture doesn’t go away

A Greek island – yours for the price of a London flat

Egypt refers hundreds to military tribunals

Farhana Yamin’s simple yet radical idea: zero emissions

‘Stupid’ US sanctions won’t undo my government: Maduro

The Breakfast Club (Rollin’ and Tumblin’)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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Breakfast Tune: Valerie June, Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (live session)

Today in History

George Washington dies at age 67; Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his group reach South Pole; Leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia sign an internationally-brokered peace treaty. (Dec. 14)


Operation Socialist

By Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept


Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies.

Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”

The full story about GCHQ’s infiltration of Belgacom, however, has never been told. Key details about the attack have remained shrouded in mystery-and the scope of the attack unclear.

Now, in partnership with Dutch and Belgian newspapers NRC Handelsblad and De Standaard, The Intercept has pieced together the first full reconstruction of events that took place before, during, and after the secret GCHQ hacking operation.

Based on new documents from the Snowden archive and interviews with sources familiar with the malware investigation at Belgacom, The Intercept and its partners have established that the attack on Belgacom was more aggressive and far-reaching than previously thought. It occurred in stages between 2010 and 2011, each time penetrating deeper into Belgacom’s systems, eventually compromising the very core of the company’s networks.

Heaping serving of news & blogs below. Coffee, Prozac & Snowden’s Jig

Late Night Karaoke

Late Night Karaoke