Greeks vote to reject Eurozone bailouts conditioned on austerity measures

The polls closed in Greece (at noon EST) with various Greek television stations projecting “No” to be the winner. The referendum asks voters to approve (Yes) or to disapprove (No) of tough austerity measures that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are requiring the Greek government to impose on its citizens as a condition of receiving additional bailout money. The government is recommending a “No” vote. All Greek citizens are required by law to vote, although that law has not been enforced for many years.

A majority of Greek citizens have decided that the austerity demanded by the money lenders is just another word for debt slavery that they are no longer willing to accept. I support the “No” vote because I am opposed to idea of central bankers conditioning loans on the elimination safety nets that consist of financial assistance programs that protect those who are least able to survive financial disadvantage; namely, the unemployed, the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized.

The central bankers support neoliberal economic theory that promotes balancing budgets on the backs of the poor, a policy that I despise and repudiate. The “No” vote probably will result in Greece getting kicked out of the Eurozone.

Anxiety Over Possible ISIS Attacks in US Expected to End When CNN Grows Bored with Fear

Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all
Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all

All throughout the week prior to the Fourth of July in the United States, CNN, as well as other media outlets, incessantly repeated vague threats about ISIS launching terrorism attacks during the holiday.

On June 30, CNN quoted unnamed US officials who claimed “symbolic July 4th celebrations coinciding with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan will further embolden ISIS supporters in the US to unleash attacks.” The media organization, as well as other outlets, spread the contents of a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, which warned law enforcement agencies of the potential for attacks in advance of the holiday.

The bulletin was titled, “Holiday Celebrations Remain Attractive Target.” It was sent to 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States and warned Independence Day celebrations and activities that “appear to defame the prophet Mohammed” would “likely result in threats or plans to conduct violent extremist acts.”

It is July 5, the day after “lone offenders” were expected to strike a decisive blow somewhere in the so-called home of the brave.

Former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes, who now works as a CNN law enforcement analyst, said this morning, “I think there have been a lot of people hyper ventilating over the last couple of weeks of what was to happen.”

Fuentes added:

…[T]he fact that some crazy ISIS follower chose not to grab a butcher knife and go out the door and attack somebody is not because they chose not to, not because of the measures that were taken. All the security measures are designed to contain an attack, minimize it, but really are going to be in response to an attack. So, if someone or a small group of someone carries out an attack, the police are there to stifle it so that no further attack is made. But people are still vulnerable up to that point.

So, yes, we’re not going to be able to stop, we’re going to be talking about this next year on July 4th and the year after that and the year after that, because we can’t contain the message ISIS puts out and the ability of people to track that message on the Internet and then the ability in their crazy brains to follow it…

Essentially, no matter how many bombs the US-led coalition drops against ISIS in Iraq, no matter how many sting operations are launched by the FBI against alleged ISIS supporters, the US cannot stop ISIS propaganda from spreading. So long as the propaganda can reach individuals on the internet, there is a potential for someone to launch an attack. (Note: Some of ISIS’s propaganda calls out US atrocities against Muslims and security officials likely recognize that resonates with some people because the propaganda contains a few grains of truth.) (more…)

Sunday Food: Greek Lamb

Dish of roast lamb
Dish of roast lamb

(Picture courtesy of Kal Hendry at flickr.com.)

Cannot resist taking the day of the Greek referendum on whether or not to cave to EU demands that it sacrifice its economy, for the offering of that sacrificial lamb cooked up in Greek fashion.   This takes a twist on the usual lemon flavoring, and goes with the Orange is the New Black theme too.

While I’m treating the situation with humor, this is a classical tragedy for the people whose ability to make a living by doing the honorable work available to them has been taken away.   It is fraud by deception to offer one thing, in this case a working economy, and give another for the exchange value.   The Greek workers have not been treated honestly by banksters, or the former leaders who made this bad bargain on their behalf.

Greek Orange Roast Lamb:

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • 1 half leg of lamb

  • 10 to 12 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm pieces

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 4 tablespoons dark french mustard

  • juice of one large orange

  • 1 tablespoon oregano

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Method
Prep:30min  ›  Cook:1hr  ›  Ready in:1hr30min 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4. In large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, mustard, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. Once combined, add potatoes to bowl and coat thoroughly with mixture. Transfer the potatoes to a large roasting tin.
  3. Next, cut 2cm deep slits into the lamb, and stuff the garlic cloves into the slits. Place the lamb into the bowl with the remaining orange juice mixture; coat thoroughly and transfer to roasting tin on top of potatoes. If any of the orange juice mixture remains in the bowl, pour over the lamb and potatoes.
  4. Bake uncovered until potatoes are done and lamb is medium / medium-well (approximately 60 minutes). Check every 20 to 30 minutes while baking, and add a bit of hot water if you find the potatoes are drying out.

Cook’s note

If you prefer, use the juice of two lemons instead of the orange for another traditional preparation.

This should be delicious, as the result of the referendum may also prove to be.

(Picture courtesy of Sharon Mollerus at flickr.com.)

Carrying water for the EU
Carrying water for the EU

The Superpower Conundrum: The Rise and Fall of Just About Everything

(Image: Hawaii Independent)

By Tom Engelhardt

The rise and fall of great powers and their imperial domains has been a central fact of history for centuries. It’s been a sensible, repeatedly validated framework for thinking about the fate of the planet. So it’s hardly surprising, when faced with a country once regularly labeled the “sole superpower,” “the last superpower,” or even the global “hyperpower” and now, curiously, called nothing whatsoever, that the “decline” question should come up. Is the U.S. or isn’t it? Might it or might it not now be on the downhill side of imperial greatness?

Take a slow train — that is, any train — anywhere in America, as I did recently in the northeast, and then take a high-speed train anywhere else on Earth, as I also did recently, and it’s not hard to imagine the U.S. in decline. The greatest power in history, the “unipolar power,” can’t build a single mile of high-speed rail? Really? And its Congress is now mired in an argument about whether funds can even be raised to keep America’s highways more or less pothole-free.

Sometimes, I imagine myself talking to my long-dead parents because I know how such things would have astonished two people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and a can-do post-war era in which the staggering wealth and power of this country were indisputable. What if I could tell them how the crucial infrastructure of such a still-wealthy nation — bridges, pipelines, roads, and the like — is now grossly underfunded, in an increasing state of disrepair, and beginning to crumble? That would definitely shock them.

And what would they think upon learning that, with the Soviet Union a quarter-century in the trash bin of history, the U.S., alone in triumph, has been incapable of applying its overwhelming military and economic power effectively? I’m sure they would be dumbstruck to discover that, since the moment the Soviet Union imploded, the U.S. has been at war continuously with another country (three conflicts and endless strife); that I was talking about, of all places, Iraq; and that the mission there was never faintly accomplished. How improbable is that? And what would they think if I mentioned that the other great conflicts of the post-Cold-War era were with Afghanistan (two wars with a decade off in-between) and the relatively small groups of non-state actors we now call terrorists? And how would they react on discovering that the results were: failure in Iraq, failure in Afghanistan, and the proliferation of terror groups across much of the Greater Middle East (including the establishment of an actual terror caliphate) and increasing parts of Africa?

They would, I think, conclude that the U.S. was over the hill and set on the sort of decline that, sooner or later, has been the fate of every great power. And what if I told them that, in this new century, not a single action of the military that U.S. presidents now call “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” has, in the end, been anything but a dismal failure? Or that presidents, presidential candidates, and politicians in Washington are required to insist on something no one would have had to say in their day: that the United States is both an “exceptional” and an “indispensible” nation? Or that they would also have to endlessly thank our troops (as would the citizenry) for… well… never success, but just being there and getting maimed, physically or mentally, or dying while we went about our lives? Or that those soldiers must always be referred to as “heroes.”

In their day, when the obligation to serve in a citizens’ army was a given, none of this would have made much sense, while the endless defensive insistence on American greatness would have stood out like a sore thumb. Today, its repetitive presence marks the moment of doubt. Are we really so “exceptional”? Is this country truly “indispensible” to the rest of the planet and if so, in what way exactly? Are those troops genuinely our heroes and if so, just what was it they did that we’re so darn proud of?

Return my amazed parents to their graves, put all of this together, and you have the beginnings of a description of a uniquely great power in decline. It’s a classic vision, but one with a problem.

A God-Like Power to Destroy (more…)

We must rely on science to inform us about climate change and its causes

The existence or non-existence of climate change and global warming can only be determined by empirical observation and interpretation of data. These activities are scientific in nature, not religious. Scientists have been collecting and interpreting the data for many years. Studies analyzing the data have been published and reviewed in peer reviewed professional journals for many years leading to consensus in the community of climate scientists that due to human activity, climate change and global warming have been occurring at an accelerating rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Science consists of asking questions and forming theories that answer those questions that can be proven or disproven. Religion, on the other hand consists of asking questions that cannot be answered by empirical observation. Instead, answers ultimately depend on faith. For example, we cannot prove the existence or nonexistence of God.

Climate change deniers generally base their doubts on religious ideas such as a belief in God’s stewardship of the planet and his promise to preserve it until he returns. However, religious ideas by their very nature cannot prove or disprove the existence of climate change or global warming and they cannot identify a cause.

For these reasons, politicians who question climate change and global warming by relying on religious ideas are merely proving their own ignorance. Their opinions are irrelevant and should be disregarded.

Resource: Can Religion and Science Coexist?

The Roundup for July 4th, 2015

A fitting song for today.

Greece And The Giant Grexit, Day 5

A new poll found 44 percent of Greeks favoring “Yes” and 43 percent favoring “No”

– Greece is on the edge of collapse with capital controls implemented and shortages across the country

– Greek banks dismissed a report saying they were looking into a “haircut” of deposits

Part one with professors John Weeks and Ozlem Onaram on the Greek referendum and the troika’s response

International Politics

Overall

Part two of two with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former Sergeant Bryce Lockwood on Israel’s attack against the U.S.S. Liberty 48 years ago

– France declined to offer Julian Assange asylum after reviewing his request

– A coalition of former British officials, along with other Britons, called for the U.S. to release Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo Bay (more…)

Saturday Art: ‘Tea Time’ by Jean Metzinger – Beginnings of Cubism

File:WomanWithFlowers1920 - MetzingerLegoûter.jpg

Cannot find a picture of just the right side painting, sorry.

(Picture courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art at wikipedia commons.)

The beginning of the movement in art called Cubism is sometimes ascribed to the display of the painting above right, by theorist and artist Jean Metzinger.   Building  on Cezanne’s later paintings, it left behind the style of perspective that made a two dimensional canvas give the illusion of another dimension, and presented many surfaces at once.

The original concept startled and inspired Picasso, Braques, Gris and several other esteemed artists of the day, and discernibly influenced their painting of that time.

Tea Time is an oil painting on cardboard with dimensions 75.9 x 70.2 cm (29.9 x 27.6 in), signed Metzinger and dated 1911 lower right. The painting represents a barely draped (nude) woman holding a spoon, seated at a table with a cup of tea. In the ‘background’, the upper left quadrant, stands a vase on a commode, table or shelf. A square or cubic shape, a chair or painting behind the model, espouses the shape of the stretcher. The painting is practically square, like the side of a cube. The woman’s head is highly stylized, divided into geometrized facets, planes and curves (the forehead, nose, cheeks, hair). The source of light appears to be off to her right, with some reflected light on the left side of her face. Reflected light, consistently, can be seen on other parts of her body (breast, shoulder, arm). Her breast is composed of a triangle and a sphere. The faceting of the rest of her body, to some extent, coincides with actual muscular and skeletal features (collar bone, ribcage, pectorals, deltoids, neck tissue). Both of here shoulders are coupled with elements of the background, superimposed, gradational and transparent to varying degrees. Unidentified elements are composed of alternating angular structures, The colors employed by Metzinger are subdued, mixed (either on a palette of directly on the surface), with an overall natural allure. The brushwork is reminiscent of Metzinger’sDivisionist period (ca. 1903–1907), described by the critic (Louis Vauxcelles) in 1907 as large, mosaic-like ‘cubes’, used to construct small but highly symbolic compositions.[8]

The figure, centrally positioned, is shown both staring at the viewer and gazing off to the right (to her left), i.e., she is seen both straight on and in profile position. The tea cup is visible both from the top and side simultaneously, as if the artist physically moved around the subject to capture it simultaneously from several angles and at successive moments in time.

“This interplay of visual, tactile, and motor spaces is fully operative in Metzinger’s Le Gouter of 1911″, write Antliff and Leighten, “an image of an artist’s model, semi-nude, with a cloth draped over her right arm as she takes a break between sessions […] her right hand delicately suspends the spoon between cup and mouth.” The combination of frames captured at successive time intervals is given play, pictorially, in simultaneous conflation of moments in time throughout the work. The Cézannian volumes and planes (cones, cubes and spheres) extend ubiquitously across the manifold, merging the sitter and surroundings. The painting becomes a product of experience, memory and imagination, evoking a complex series of mind-associations between past present and future, between tactile and olfactory sensations (taste and touch), between the physical and metaphysical.[9]

Though less radical than Metzinger’s 1910 Nude—which is closely related to the work of Picasso and Braque of the same year—from the viewpoint of faceting of the represented subject matter, Le goûter is much more carefully constructed in relation to the overall shape of the picture frame. “Not only was this painting more unequivocally classical in its pedigree (and recognized as such by critics who instantly dubbed it ‘La Joconde cubiste’) than any of its now relatively distant sources in Picasso’s oeuvre,” writes David Cottington, “but in its clear if tacit juxtaposition, remarked on by Green and others, of sensation and idea—taste and geometry—it exemplified the interpretation of innovations from both wings of the cubist movement that Metzinger was offering in his essays of the time, as well as the paradigm shift from a perceptual to a conceptual painting that he recognized as now common to them.”[10]

The quite atmosphere of Tea Time “seduces by means of the bridge it creates between two periods”, according to Eimert and Podksik, “although Metzinger’s style had already passed through an analytical phase, it now concentrated more on the idea of reconciling modernity with classical subjects”.[11]

A preparatory drawing for Tea Time (Etude pour ‘Le Goûter’), 19 x 15 cm, is conserved in Paris at the Musée National d’Art ModerneCentre Georges Pompidou.[12]

(snip)

Pictorial space has been transformed by the artist into the temporal flow of consciousness. Quantity has morphed into quality, creating a ‘qualitative space’, “the pictorial analogue”, write Antliff and Leighten, “to both time and space: temporal heterogeneity and the new geometries.” In accord with this view of pictorial space, Metzinger and Gleizes encouraged artists to discard classical perspective and replace it with creative intuition. “Creative intuition is manifest in an artist’s faculty of discernment, or ‘taste’, which coordinates all other sensations.” Antliff and Leighten continue, “As we have seen Metzinger celebrated this faculty in Le Gouter, and Apollinaire advised artists to rely on their ‘intuition’ in The Cubist Painters (1913).”[9][28]

Metzinger’s interests in proportion, mathematical order, and his emphasis on geometry, are well documented.[10] But it was his personal taste (gout in French) that sets Metzinger’s work apart from both the Salon Cubists and those of Montmartre. While taste inTea Time was denoted by one of the five senses, it was also connoted (for those who could read it) as a quality of discernment and subjective judgement.[10] Le gouter translates to ‘afternoon snack’ but also alludes to ‘taste’ in an abstract sense. This painting, writes Christopher Green, “can seem the outcome of a meditation on intelligence and the senses, conception and sensation. The word in French for tea-time is “le goûter”; as a verb. “goûter” refers to the experience of tasting.[24]

(more…)

Democrats and Republicans are headed in opposite directions

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are improving in the polls while everyone else appears to be treading water. Sanders has been drawing large crowds with his common sense populist message and he has raised $15 million in the past two months. The Huffington Post is reporting that he is rising in the polls in Iowa and starting to catch up to Hilary Clinton. He likely has a broader base of supporters than she does even though she has raised $45 million. For example,

His campaign reported receiving 400,000 contributions during the past two months from 250,000 total contributors. Nearly 87 percent of the total amount raised during the quarter came from the donors who contributed $250 or less.

According to the Clinton campaign, 91 percent of its donations were $100 or less in value. But they declined to say how many individual people contributed to Clinton’s campaign.

In addition, the media appears to be laying off the false accusation that he cannot be elected because he is a socialist. That old red-baiting maneuver worked 30 years ago, but it doesn’t appear to carry much weight today. All this is good news for Sanders and progressives as we head into the July 4th weekend.

Meanwhile, Trump’s hate message about immigrants from Mexico appears to be gaining traction among white Republican voters who hate LGBT people, same-sex marriage and the immigrants. The silence from most of the other Republican candidates reflects unfavorably on the Republican Party. The other candidates are not helping their brand by refusing to criticize his appeal to hatred and prejudice.

Therefore, the Democrats and the Republicans are headed in different directions and that is good news too.

Have a safe and happy July 4th weekend.

The Roundup for July 3rd, 2015

Hooray, it’s Friday!

Greece and The Giant Bailout, Day 4

– The International Monetary Fund admitted Greece needed 60 billion euros, in the next three years, and major debt relief to survive

– German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel: Alexis Tsipras is a threat to the “European order”

Remember that time Greece forgave Germany’s debt?

– There are two sides in regards to the Greece crisis: Those for Greece and those against. We must side with Greece

– The Independent Greeks, a party in the coalition government with SYRIZA, are angry with Tsipras’ recent decisions and protesting against SYRIZA

– Previous Greek prime ministers called for a “Yes” vote on Sunday; Of course, the elites who caused this mess in the first place would decide to side with the bourgeoisie

– Greek Financial Minister Yanis Varoufakis: If Greece votes yes, then I will resign (more…)