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What Sandra Bland Illustrates About the “Right to Abuse”

2015 July 22

If you haven’t seen it already, here is a (doctored, but still damning), video of Sandra Bland’s arrest.

Note that she did nothing which would warrant arrest and was taken into custody on what amounts to a freestanding “resisting arrest” warrant.

Her real crime was “disrespect of cop,” of course. She didn’t put out her cigarette when asked, she was annoyed to be stopped.

Racism appears to have been operative here, but I want to point out something else. Being black is also a proxy for “no one important.” “No one important” is proxy for “as a cop or other authority figure, I can do what I want to you.”

Sandra Bland clearly knew her rights. Sandra Bland is dead. (Sandra Bland may well be dead because she knew her rights and the cop didn’t want to go to trial over that arrest. Or it may have been punishment for an “uppity black.”)

You have precisely and only the rights that you can enforce, the rights that you have the power to enforce. You have no other rights, and you never did.

“You” can be a group. If a group of citizens is strong enough, it can insist upon being treated according to what the law actually requires (or even better than the law requires, as in the case of, say, bankers). Such a group has rights. But they have those rights only because they can hold anyone who violates those rights accountable and that ability is well-known.

People don’t like when powerful individuals say “Do you know who I am?” but that’s a simple assertion of rights. It’s a way of saying, “You can’t do certain things to me, because I can retaliate.”

We have an ideology that everyone should be treated the same before the law. In America, and indeed every country, it is untrue. Some people are always more equal before the law. Of course, that it is always untrue does not mean that in some places and times it is more true than others.

Here in Toronto, the man who filmed former mayor Rob Ford doing crack was sentenced to jail. Ford was followed by police for months, so in addition to the crack video, they have plenty of other evidence of his drug use. Rob Ford has never seen the inside of a courtroom, let alone a jail cell. He never will.

But a message has been sent: Dare to try and blackmail someone important like Ford for committing a crime, and you will go to jail, and the “important” criminal will not.

Some animals are more equal than others.

The Black Lives Matter movement is an attempt to notify police that blacks are no longer fair game for abusers; that you can’t get your rocks off killing them; that there are consequences. It is an attempt to say, “Blacks have rights.” They aren’t even really trying to stop the sort of abuse in the arrest video; they’re just trying to stop it from turning into the final abuse: murder by cop.

This is America. And this is your lesson in power. Real power.

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The Iranian Nuclear Deal

2015 July 18
by Ian Welsh

This is a Good Thing™.

I suspect, however, that one of the main reasons for it is to bring Iranian oil back online fully, thus pushing down the price of oil further, which will damage many countries the US wants damaged and will help the US economy (no, the US is not yet an oilarchy itself, low oil prices are still better).

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When Will Greek Looting and Austerity End?

2015 July 15
by Ian Welsh

Back in 2010 a friend predicted it would end when Greeks stormed parliament and beat or hung members of parliament.

It seems that, while that may or may not be literally the case, in general terms it is one of three possible end states. Since there are always enough MPs willing to sign any deal, no matter how bad, because they personally do not suffer the consequences of said deals, bringing the consequences home will be necessary.

The second possibility is the Schauble plan. It is odd that Schauble, though extraordinarily punitive, is willing to offer a pretty good deal for Grexit. He’s worked hard for it, and maybe he’ll be able to force it through yet. So far he has been stymied primarily by the fact that the Greeks will accept any deal, no matter how bad. You can imagine Schauble thinking:

“I want the Greeks out, so I’ll offer bad deals, surely they’ll leave.”

“Hmmm, that didn’t work, I’ll offer a worse deal!”

“No!?  A terrible deal, then?”

“Ah, ha, finally, a NO vote in the referendum.”  (Rubs hands together with glee.)

“Now, an apocalyptically catastrophic deal on one hand, countered with a reasonably generous plan for support if they leave!”

“No? No!?”

So, Schauble, having realized that Greece will not leave no matter how terrible the deal inflicted on them, must now convince not Greeks, but other key European decision makers.

The third possibility is that a truly radical government takes over in Greece: Likely Fascists or Communists. Someone who actually says what they mean about austerity and will do whatever it takes to end it.

Remember, Hitler did turn the German economy around. Mussolini turned around the Italian one.

One can hope it will be a slightly nicer set of people, but we are definitely in a period where the “decent” people mostly don’t have the necessary courage to stand up for anything that matters; certainly not the courage to actually face down neo-liberalism.

This isn’t a joke post, though I wish it was. I want everyone to remember the rule of prosperity and rights.

You have exactly and only the rights and prosperity which are useful to your lords and masters or those you are able to secure from them with force or the credible threat of force.

Any rights or prosperity you have beyond that will always be taken away from you.


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Syriza Wins in Greece: What It Must Do

2015 July 13

(Given the way Greek financial negotiations have played out, I think my first take is timely/relevant, and have restored it to the top. Originally published in January. -Ian)

It would have been better if they won last time, Greece is pretty fully looted now. But Greeks thought they were Europeans, and didn’t realize the contempt that French and Germans had for them, nor how willing they were to kill and impoverish large numbers of them.

There is a great deal of hand-wringing in conventional circles over the Syriza win. They are worried about the Greeks exiting the Euro (Grexit) and defaulting on their debt.

Greece should do both of these things, or something close to it. (Rolling the debt over into 100 year bonds at 1 percent, for example.) Greek debt is at a level which is effectively impossible to pay off and has been made much, much worse by all the “aid packages” and “bailouts” given by their “fellow” Europeans. (a.k.a., they should have defaulted years ago.)

As for the Euro, Greece can’t print it, and Greece will need to print money.

I worry that Syriza is serious about negotiating on the debt. There is essentially no chance the Troika (well, really, Germany) will give them acceptable terms on a write-down. Negotiations should be intended only to go on long enough to demonstrate that a good deal is not possible. While they are ongoing, the Greeks should be preparing for Grexit and repatriating all the resources they can. Since Greek debt is under foreign law, debt vultures will go to the courts to seize all foreign Greek assets once Greece does default or restructure its debt.

Greece needs to recognize that it will effectively be a financial pariah, unable to access Western money markets. It will have almost no hard currency, and no ability to buy goods which require hard currency.

This is a huge problem for Greece because it has neither oil nor the ability to feed itself. Syriza MUST have a plan to deal with both these problems. Neither is insurmountable.

For oil, Greece will simply have to make a deal with Russia, Venezuela and/or Iran. Greece will be a pariah state just like them, and they have oil. What does Greece have to offer? Well, sub voce, access to Greece. Greece will be out of the Euro, but it will still have borders with Europe. Once whatever you want into Europe is in Greece, it’s easy enough to get it into Europe. And anything those countries want from Europe, the Greeks can obtain and ship to them. Grey market, baby, and grey market finance, as well.

In terms of food, a deal must be made with a food surplus nation. I would suggest Argentina, which has plenty of food. (This is incorrect, Greece can feed itself, Greeks will just have to eat less imported foods.-Ian)

Remember that Greece has one of the largest merchant marines in the world. It has that to trade, and it has access to Europe to trade.

In addition, currency controls must be put on immediately and the borders must be secured against those trying to move goods out of the country (a.k.a., Greece’s useless rich).

Given that all this will cause Greece to be completely loathed in Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris, they may also wish to consider seizing much of whatever means of production remain in the country. If they want a reason, simply use the Lagarde list of Greek oligarchs who haven’t paid their taxes, and seize their back taxes—with plenty of interest.

The media is playing this as an anti-austerity vote, and it is. But voting anti-austerity for a country like Greece, which can’t feed itself, has no oil, and doesn’t have a lot of industry, is one thing, not being austere is another. If the Greeks want a decent life again, they will have to take on some of the most powerful nations in the world and at least fight to a draw.

Many nations are in the same boat as Greece: Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Argentina. Greece needs to make the necessary alliances with such countries and it needs to align with the rising Chinese block.

Doing this requires a psychological step that many Greeks may be unwilling to take: A recognition that their interests do not lie with Europe and an understanding that Europeans are willing to see them impoverished, homeless and dead. Greeks who are living in the past and think the EU is about prosperity for everyone in the EU need to learn otherwise.

If the Greeks are unwilling to be coldly pragmatic and give up their illusions about who they are, what their fellow Europeans are willing to do to them, and what their actual assets are, then Syriza will fail, and Greece will continue on their path of impoverishment.

I wish the Greeks all the best.

(26/01/15 – There is some dispute over whether the Greeks can leave the Euro and not the EU.  See this paper for a discussion — pp 26-29.)

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Yet Another Deal

2015 July 13
by Ian Welsh

So, Tsirpas has agreed on a deal. It includes 50 billion in collateral to be managed by a fund controlled by Juncker.

We’ll see if the Greek parliament will pass it.

I have yet to see a single indication that Syriza ever made the necessary moves to allow for an orderly Grexit, though the EU has. They went into this fight relying on the good will of, yes, their enemies. (That they did not realize they were negotiating with their enemies was their first mistake.)

This is yet another step necessary for the end of the neo-liberal era. A tragedy, cruel beyond any justification, but that’s rather the point. Westerners, not just the rest of the world, need to understand who they are ruled by, and that no one is immune to their cruelty.

The EU’s leaders, however, have most likely done what is in their personal self-interest. They are either the people who inflicted austerity, or the politicians who accepted it. Under no circumstances could it be shown that there was another choice with better outcomes. If so, they would be fools or criminals, having inflicted unnecessary pain.

I am particularly amused by the Finnish government’s ferocity towards Greece, since Finland, now that Nokia is dying and lumber prices are down, needs to devalue its currency. Being in the Euro, it cannot, and must instead suffer.

In time, everything the Finns value about their country’s social network will be sacrificed to stay in the Euro.

I don’t believe in people getting what they “deserve,” because we’d all be fools to want that. So let’s just say that the Gods enjoy using our most fervent desires to destroy us.

I’ll keep covering Greece as necessary, but the topic is beginning to become tedious. Horrible people doing horrible things to incompetent fools who refuse to resist, but simply lie there taking kick after kick to the nads while saying, “But we love you, we want to be one of you, do anything to us, so we can prove our devotion.”

I no longer have much preference for how this turns out. It is clear that, while Grexit would be preferable in principle, Tsipras and Syriza could not so much as manage a lemonade stand, let alone handle something as difficult as leaving the Euro under hostile fire and then rebuilding prosperity with Europe opposing them every step.

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Greek Talks Continue

2015 July 12
by Ian Welsh

Basically the Greeks offered the EU everything they had asked for before and then some, but the EU won’t take it, they want their pound of flesh for being embarrassed by the referendum.

I get that Syriza and some Greeks don’t want Grexit, and will do virtually anything to avoid it, but I’m hoping (probably vainly) that there might be some depths to which they will not sink, some abasement they will not endure, some calamity they will not inflict upon the weakest and poorest in their own society.

Probably not. Not quite sure why I still have faith in humanity to ever do the right thing when any other option exists.

“OK, now that you’re crawling, down on your belly!”


Feel free to use this thread for talk about Greece.

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Greek Bailout Offer Passes

2015 July 11
by Ian Welsh


the Greek bailout offer passed 250 Yes, 32 No. But from 162 govt MPs, 8 abstentions, 7 absent, 2 no.

I’ve said my piece on this. To be crude, Tsipras and his party have been: stupid through all this, not understanding what they were up against; cowards, in not standing  up, and; fools, in not making any contingency plans.

This is emotive, judgmental language, but this is a big mistake, with wide reaching consequences.

There are still some possibilities of this turning out well (unlikely for Greece), but for Spain, Italy, and so on, if their left-wingers learn the correct lessons from this and figure out how to gird their loins. There will be no meaningful negotiation. If they get into power, they must be prepared to take unilateral action.

If the left continues to blink, the people who don’t blink will be the far right.

We are in a pre-war, pre-revolutionary world, and we are coming up on a century which will see far more death and suffering than did the 20th century. Far, far more. Continued gutlessness by those who would claim to be trying to stop such things is making the baselines scenario worse and worse and worse.

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What Does Syriza Have a Mandate to Do?

2015 July 10
by Ian Welsh

Syriza’s mandate, given twice, is as follows:

End austerity without leaving the Euro.

This mandate cannot be executed. Without leaving the Euro they can cannot reduce their debt sufficiently, nor avoid imposed austerity from their creditors.

Does that mean they must accept any deal?

If they do, they have violated their mandate as well. They have not left the Euro, sure, but they also haven’t ended austerity.

So, they are forced to choose between two parts of a mandate. They may end austerity. Or they may leave the Euro.

I will suggest that since the austerity is what is killing and impoverishing Greeks that, given a choice between these two opposed goals, they should leave the Euro.

The counter-argument is that leaving the Euro will make things even worse.

This is true. But there is a very strong argument that it will do so only for two to three years and that after that Greece would be better off than it would be still in the Euro, and therefore, still in austerity.

It is insane to say, “This mandate has two parts, we cannot do both, and therefore we must choose the one which will lead to suffering for which we can see no end-date, rather than taking a chance will likely end the suffering sooner, and in the forseeable future.”

Greece did have its own currency, you know. And the economy was better then. It is not like no one still alive remembers a Greek economy outside of the Euro. Acting as if the world will end if it goes back to the Drachma is deranged.

That is all.

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Meanwhile, Some Music!

2015 July 10
by Ian Welsh

I have been listening to what are now oldies, but were the track of my teen years. Lovely as a counterpoint to Greek disaster news.

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New Greek Proposal—Essentially the Same

2015 July 10

So, this is basically the same deal as they refused last time, just a little worse. There is some talk that American pressure has made Merkel decide to consider a debt writedown, which they will do by extending the duration of some of the bonds. It is unclear if this will really happen.

If this deal, or some form of it even with mild debt reduction, is accepted, Greece will remain under austerity and in depression.

Syriza will say they had no mandate to leave the Euro, and it’s true they never asked for one. But they did have a mandate to not accept this bad a deal, I believe.

More to the point, they did have a mandate to end austerity, and they will have failed.

I think part of this is due to clearly delusional thinking: They really did believe that Europe would let them cut a deal which wasn’t harsh austerity.

Much is incompetence: They did not make the necessary preparations for Grexit. They had no BATNA–best alternative to a negotiated agreement. As such, they basically had to accept whatever Europe offered. If it wasn’t for American intervention, I’m not sure they’d have been able to get even what they’ll get after the referendum. (Americans intervened because a Grexit could have been the first move in Greece spiraling towards the Russian orbit.)

The rest is simple spinelessness. Cowardice. Yeah, I’m just going to say it.  This is a cave.

This is a mistake politically as well. Having failed to end austerity, Syriza will not be the next government of Greece. If they had gone to Grexit and the economy had recovered by the next election, they’d be golden and probably a majority party for a generation.

I wrote what I think the consequences of Syriza blinking (I consider this them blinking) yesterday.

Please read that post. It is an important one. This failure will have huge consequences for the future of Greece, Europe, and, indeed, the world.

Enjoy your weekend, and listen to some 80s ballads.

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