Greek Update: Proposal? What Proposal? I Thought You Were Going To Make A Proposal

Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras, accompanied by his new finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, arrived at an afternoon meeting of Eurozone finance ministers without a formal written proposal. That’s right. No proposal. The Wall street Journal reports,

Emboldened by Sunday’s poll results, Mr. Tsipras’s government sought a consensus with opposition parties for a new bailout proposal to present. But that plan offered no economic-policy specifics beyond a call to reduce Greece’s debt mountain.

At the so-called Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers, Mr. Tsakalotos read out proposals the government had presented last week, but promised that a new plan would be sent to creditors on Wednesday, three European officials said. That would allow Mr. Tsipras to await the outcome of the summit before he commits to any new moves.

He asked the finance ministers to approve interim financing until the end of the month when Eurozone leaders meet again to discuss the Greek situation.

Needless to say, they were not amused. Many warned that Greece will be expelled, unless he gets serious.

I do not think they realize that he is serious.

Meanwhile, the banks remain closed and they are running out of cash.

He advised the ministers that a new proposal will be submitted tomorrow, but they do not appear to be willing to negotiate. I believe Tsipras is attempting to milk this process as much as possible to expose the Troika, the finance ministers and the eurozone leaders as money obsessed capitalist pigs with no social conscience.

He just wants to make them look bad.

If Only Chicago Police Treated All Marijuana Smokers As If They Were Deadheads

Tens of thousands of fans of the Grateful Dead traveled to Chicago for the final three reunion concerts, which the band’s “core four” musicians will likely ever perform. Police knew numerous fans would smoke marijuana. However, police only made one arrest for cannabis possession in violation of the city’s ordinance against public weed consumption.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported, “Chicago Police officers made only one arrest for possession of cannabis on Friday and wrote only two possession of cannabis tickets Sunday in connection with the concerts.”

“While in most cases cannabis possession is a ticketable offense, as residents would expect CPD’s primary focus was on fighting violent crime and addressing the illegal guns that threaten our communities,” Chicago Police Department communications director Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement emailed to the Sun-Times.

This could be considered common sense policing if it were not for the fact that the Deadheads in attendance were primarily white. Tickets for the “Fare Thee Well” concerts at Soldier Field were not necessarily cheap and ranged from $59.50-$199.50. So, many of the fans were from the middle and upper class.

In March, the Sun-Times reported that blacks were “busted 16 times more than whites for small amounts of pot in 2014—including tickets and arrests. And four every white Chicagoan busted for marijuana, four Hispanics were busted, according to police statistics. Those stats come despite the fact that white Chicagoans outnumber both black and Hispanic Chicagoans by a ratio of approximately 3-to-2.”

Charlene Carruthers of Black Youth Project 100, told the Sun-Times, “It’s hyper-surveillance and harassment for what shouldn’t even be an offense. No one should be arrested for having 15 grams of marijuana or less. Even the cost of a ticket could throw someone into a very difficult situation.”

Citations can range from $250 to $500.

The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy put out a report in May 2014 that showed all of the neighborhoods in the top 20 percent for marijuana arrests, except for one, was “majority black.”

According to the FBI, Cook County, where Chicago is located, had the “biggest racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests among the 25 most populous counties in the nation in 2010.” (more…)

Jill Stein: Time To Reject The ‘Lesser-Evil’ & Stand Up For The Greater Good ?

The presidential campaign season is upon us, and the corporate-aligned, two-party duopoly is dominating the conversation taking place in American media. In turn, the corporate-funded media is selling only candidates whose agendas align and don’t disrupt commercial fundraising.

In this winner-take-all system, voters are left to choose between the lesser of two evils.

And Americans are growing weary of the status quo. Indeed, over 58 percent of Americans believe a third U.S. political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic parties “do such a poor job” representing the American people.

Support for endless war, crony capitalism, the Orwellian police state, apartheid in Israel and much more — the establishment that drives these policies is not only ignoring the cries for an alternative that will bring about real change and real peace, but it’s purposely leaving third-party candidates out.

As the fight for a viable third party rages on, Dr. Jill Stein announced her presidential campaign on June 22. She’s running on the Green Party ticket — the only party to not accept corporate funding. And her platform prioritizes people, the planet and peace over profits.

I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Stein about the struggle for a third party in the United States and hear her take on issues that matter most to the people. Take a look.

*This post was republished with permission from MintPress News.

Thank You for Supporting My Husband, Jeffrey Sterling, Who is Now in Prison

Jeffrey Sterling

[*Editor’s Note: The following is a message that was sent to Roots Action members and is published with permission.]

First, I want to express my deep appreciation to you for signing the petition that urged the government to drop charges against my husband, Jeffrey.

“As a whistleblower, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling went through channels to inform staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the ill-conceived and dangerous CIA action known as Operation Merlin,” the petition said.

Unfortunately, the government went ahead with its prosecution. After a trial with huge flaws (see background links below), the jury convicted Jeffrey. Last month, he began serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.

I can’t tell you how awful it is now to be separated from Jeffrey in this way. The Bureau of Prisons chose to assign him to a penitentiary in Colorado, almost 900 miles from our longtime home in the St. Louis area.

Now that Jeffrey is in prison, it’s extremely important that the government not succeed in isolating him. You can help!

* You can lift Jeffrey’s spirits by sending him a letter or postcard. (That’s the only contents of mail that the prison system will allow.) Please be positive and avoid any negative statements about the government or any individuals, since inclusion of such comments could cause problems for Jeffrey with authorities.

Here’s his postal address: Jeffrey Sterling, 38338-044, FCI Englewood, Federal Correctional Institution, 9595 West Quincy Ave., Littleton, CO 80123. (more…)

Over Easy: Summer Vacation

Alexander Springs – Don Richards Flickr Creative Commons

The first year we spent in Naples Florida after moving there my family discovered two things. First that come June the whole town pretty much emptied out and  the reason was that it was just too bloody hot and humid to stick around. Even though the gulf was close by, it was no relief as by July it was like swimming in hot pea soup.

We then decided that the next year we had to vamoose as well. Our finances were meager but we still had our camping equipment from when we used to camp across Pennsylvania. So we decided to camp and after looking at the maps chose Ocala National Forest. It had a number of camping areas and chose Alexander Springs. So the following year off we went. Up US27/17 to Ocala National Forest.  Where we would camp for about two weeks or so.

Alexander Springs was so named as this the name of the springs that was pretty much the center of the park. At the time – 1965 or so – not very improved. It did have showers but all the roads were dirt and it was a bit of a hike to the restroom facilities. At least they were no out houses.  There were hiking trails and all plus swimming in the springs.

Now Florida springs are NOT warm even in the middle of August. The water temperature of the water coming out of the spring – or boil as it’s called – is around 68-72 degrees year round. This might seem a bit chilly but when the outside temperature is 90 some degrees and the humidity around 90%, it’s delightful. The biggest attraction though is scuba diving and a lot of people go there just for that.

As a family and even sometimes with friends we would go camping there up until sometime in the late 1970s.

One year in the late 1980s or so we decided to do something different and go up to the western mountain region of North Carolina. So I searched the library for a suitable place and cam across one that wasn’t horribly expensive and sounded quite nice. Called the Old Mill House or some such. A converted Mill where tht top and bottom floors were separate rental units and was able secure to bottom unit for my mother, brother and I.

Located just outside of Franklin NC and not too far from Smoky Mountain National Park. And it had this nice creek or stream out behind it that one could go tubing on or wade in. I like the wading part the best.

One thing about that part of NC is that where ever you want to go is either up or down a mountain side from where ever you happen to be. Even and maybe especially if you walk. Outside our humble retreat was a dirt road the was went up and down. When I first arrived – being a flat earth Floridian – I could barely get up part of the road. But after a week or so was able to get quite far up it.

Lots of tourist type things there like “Gem minds” where one could [for a price] search through the dirt for precious gems etc. The had a slush and everything to do it as well.  Not too far away was Highlands NC. Kind of an upscale artist hang out.

Driving around those narrow mountain roads though can be a bit scary. Fortunately that part of NC get very little winter snow etc. However in the summer the weather can be quite changeable. Where it will be bright and sunny than go around a mountain curve and it’s raining cats and dogs.

Wile my brother was camping, my mother and I went on a bit of a “Walk about”. Driving through the back roads to see the area. [mostly her idea]. My mother would like to stop sometimes and take snap shots of some old barn etc. I allowed as how this might not be a great idea, as this was “Mayberry” country with stills and people who like to take pot shots at you just for fun.

All in all it was quite nice.

A Month in Palestine

Tom Blanx

By Tom Blanx

This May, I travelled to the West Bank in occupied Palestine.

I had a fairly good idea of the kind of things I would see when I went, but wanted to take a closer look at what I think is an unfair and asymmetrical situation. I don’t stand against Jews or Israelis. I stand against racism, violence, oppression and ignorance, and all of those things, I think, are here.

During my time in the West Bank, I lived and worked with a Palestinian farmer who runs a Permaculture Project in a small village called Marda. I wanted to see for myself what life was like for Palestinians living under occupation and how Permaculture could help.

Knowledge is everything and with that in mind I’m sharing everything I saw, heard, thought and felt in the time I was there.

Below are excerpts from Tom Blanx’s blog. Read the full blog here.

Getting in

For those who haven’t been, Israel’s not the easiest of places to get in and out of. And if you plan on checking out the occupied territories you’ll need to be a bit creative with the truth. Despite my polite passport note from the queen, I decided not to reveal how freely I would be passing while on my travels as it would have most likely landed me straight back on British soil. This had happened to previous volunteers so the NGO I had organised the trip with had suggested that I lie.

With the help of Murad, my Palestinian friend and his friend, an Israeli who will remain anonymous, I pretended I was traveling to help and learn on a farm in the south. I probably could have said I was there for a beach holiday or Christian visit too, but a bag full of work boots and full length clothing might have been a giveaway. Murad told me to just remain calm and answer all questions confidently but it was a nerve racking and intimidating experience. Much more than I remember it being when I was 18 coming here. In the end I think I got in through by inadvertently playing dumb.

Getting into the West Bank was more straight forward. I got on a bus from Tel Aviv bus station all the way to Ari’el (An illegal settlement, next to Marda). There are no stops or checkpoints for settlers (on the way in) so all I had to do was get off before the bus turned into the settlement where Murad was waiting for me and I was in. A better understanding of his instructions, some Hebrew and useful geographical knowledge and I probably wouldn’t have ended up bang in the middle of the Ari’el in the isolating situation of looking for a Palestinian village. I haphazardly navigated my way out of on foot and was an hour late – not the look I was going for, but I guess he was going to find out what I’m about sooner or later.

Marda

Marda is in the Salfit district which is biggest producer of olive oil in Palestine. The village is effectively a ghetto, with reinforced steel gates at each end for when the army want to shut it down and a high metal fence and barbed wire around it, although some of these had been damaged and removed. There used to be resistance here, but like in lots of the rest of Palestine, occupation has become normalized. These days the village is quiet and peaceful. People work and children go to school, cats wonder around the place looking for food and donkeys everywhere sound like they’re dying. The village sits directly under the hilltop Ari’el settlement, the 4th biggest in the West Bank. Murad said he used to play there with his friends when he was young before Zionists confiscated and destroyed 9000 dunams of it, in the late 70s to build luxury homes, streets and a university for Israelis and Jewish immigrants. The juxtaposition of the two towns, is a powerful thing to see and its something that you can’t help but see, every day.

As I arrived in Marda another volunteer was leaving. Her name was Judy, a 60 year old American woman from Australia traveling by herself. I wouldn’t normally mention someones age or circumstances but I think its significant as many people think the West Bank is too dangerous to travel to and that women could be more vulnerable here. Neither are true. It was her 5th visit to Marda so I wanted to get as much information out of her as I could in the 30 minutes she had left. She gave me the dos and donts about living in Marda, how to be with Murad and told me to explore as much as I could of Palestine “You can’t characterise Palestine on what you see in just Marda as much as you can’t characterise the US on what you see in Miami.” (more…)

Loss of democracy is real cost of membership in Eurozone

The Greek people have discovered that the real cost of their membership in the Eurozone is the loss of their democracy, a price they will not pay. Democracy began in Greece. They know that it is priceless. From Wikipedia:

The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”, which was found from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (krátos) “power” or “rule”, in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens; the term is an antonym to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratía) “rule of an elite.”

Indeed, the right of a nation’s people to self-determination by democratic vote should be an inalienable human right. No foreign nation, affiliation of nations or corporation, especially a bank, should be permitted to govern in place of a democratically elected government. Yet, that is basically what the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) was attempting to do when it conditioned a financial bailout on the government imposing severe austerity measures that would shred the nation’s safety net during a time of severe economic hardship. Austerity measures generally hurt the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized. They create more problems than they solve and they inflict hardship and suffering on those who are already suffering. They are the weapon of choice in World War III, a merciless and unconscionable class war waged by the rich against the middle class and the poor. The rich want to suspend or replace democracy, impoverish everyone else, control people through debt slavery and acquire all of the wealth on the planet. They use austerity measures to increase their wealth while eliminating safety nets. Pure unadulterated greed.

Another purpose of the austerity measures appears to have been to inflict massive pain and suffering on the people in hopes of motivating them to vote the current government out of office. Such interference in the internal politics of Greece is intolerable and should serve as a warning to other member nations that their democratically elected governments may be destabilized by the financial backers of the Troika in service to the rich.

Despite a failing economy with high unemployment and homelessness, sixty percent of the Greek people courageously voted against the Troika’s severe austerity measures. Good for them. I think they should immediately begin creating a new currency to replace the Euro. By permitting it to float or devalue, Greek exports will be cheaper when purchased in Euros or other foreign currencies such as the dollar. Similarly, imports will cost more, a condition that creates an incentive to produce products for export. A devalued currency also creates favorable conditions for tourism, which has been Greece’s leading industry. (more…)

Hillary Clinton Pledges to Defend Israeli Apartheid & Fight BDS Movement in Letter to Mega-Donor

Hillary Clinton - June Campaign Photo

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban, a mega-donor, assuring him that she would make countering the global Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a priority. She invoked a recent terrorist attack against Jews in Paris to condemn BDS and specifically sought Saban’s advice on how to fight back.

“I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or ‘BDS,’ a global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges,” Clinton wrote [PDF]. “I am seeking your advice on how we can work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

Clinton expressed serious concern over comparisons between Israel and South African apartheid.

“Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival,” Clinton asserted. “Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world—especially in Europe—we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. After all, it was only six months ago that four Jews were targeted and killed in a Kosher supermarket in Paris as they did their Sabbath shopping.”

The invoking of a terrorist attack against Jews in Paris is a nasty attempt to cast the growing nonviolent BDS movement as anti-Semitic. In fact, to read Clinton’s letter in its entirety, one has to believe Israel is engaged in no acts of occupation or oppression against the Palestinians and a movement is mobilizing out of hatred or baseless assumptions about Israel.

In a column for the Los Angeles Times published in May 2014, Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, explained that apartheid is not merely used to inflame tensions. It very specifically has legal meaning, as outlined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. (Note: The UN General Assembly adopted the convention in 1973 and most UN member states except for Israel and the United States have ratified the convention.)

From Makdisi’s column:

According to Article II of that convention, the term applies to acts “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” Denying those others the right to life and liberty, subjecting them to arbitrary arrest, expropriating their property, depriving them of the right to leave and return to their country or the right to freedom of movement and of residence, creating separate reserves and ghettos for the members of different racial groups, preventing mixed marriages — these are all examples of the crime of apartheid specifically mentioned in the convention.

Israel engages in all of these actions against Palestinians. In fact, as Gil Maguire has shown, Israel “created an apartheid system and became an apartheid state at the end of the 1967 war.”

One of Clinton’s arguments in her letter is that BDS seeks to “punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict.” She indicates she supports a two-state solution and that can only be achieved through “direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians—it cannot be imposed from the outside or by unilateral actions.”

If anything, it is Israel which seeks to unilaterally impose a resolution and that resolution is protect and even expand apartheid.

Former President Bill Clinton shared in 2011 the reason why the “peace process” failed. According to Foreign Policy, Clinton claimed it was because of the reluctance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration to “accept the terms of the Camp David deal” and a “demographic shift in Israel” that made the Israeli public “less amenable to peace.” (more…)

Joe Wilson: What He Didn’t Find in Africa

FDL’s own bluewombat (aka Jon Krampner), whose last literary endeavor in these parts was his December 2012 peanut butter book salon, focuses on politics in his latest effort. On July 6, the 12th anniversary of Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s New York Times op-ed piece “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” blue will release his e-book about the Plamegate controversy that broke out in the wake of Wilson’ op-ed. Blue’s e-book is called “Joe Wilson: What He Didn’t Find in Africa.”

Wilson’s commentary was the first major public attack by an establishment figure on the lies the Bush/Cheney administration used to sucker the US into the Iraq War. It ignited a political, media and legal firestorm and led to the vindictive outing of Valerie Plame, Wilson’s wife, as a CIA undercover spy devoted to protecting the United States from weapons of mass destruction. It also led to the criminal conviction of one of the highest-ranking public officials in American history: Scooter Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty on two counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice and one of making false statements.

Last year, blue conducted two interviews with Joe Wilson, and exchanged e-mails with him, Valerie Plame Wilson and Marcy Wheeler, proprietor of the emptywheel blog and author of Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. He also did, in his own words, “lotsa research.”

The e-book was originally envisioned as the sample chapter for a paper, ink and glue book, a series of biographical portraits of Bush/Cheney-era whistleblowers and dissidents. But even leftish publishers felt Bush and Cheney were old news and passed. Blue, who is nothing if not persistent, then decided to publish it as a 9,000-word e-book.

“’What He Didn’t Find in Africa’ is a good, brief summary of a remarkably complex case,” says Krampner. “In an effort to cover up its criminal wrongdoing, the Bush administration skulked around in the shadows and launched a complex counter-factual counter-narrative about its role in lying us into the Iraq War and violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. This e-book helps arm anyone who wants to punch holes in Bushco’s fabulism about Plamegate with the facts they need to do so.”

Joe Wilson: What He Didn’t Find in Africa” will be published on Smashwords.

Senate Measure Would Expand FBI’s Power to Target Internet Thought Crimes Under Guise of Fighting Terrorism

FBI Director James Comey

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved a measure in the 2016 intelligence authorization bill, which would require social media websites and email services to flag “terrorist activity” for the FBI and other law enforcement and security agencies.

According to the Washington Post, the measure would not “require companies to monitor their sites if they do not already do so.” It would apply to “electronic communication service providers,” and ensure they report videos or other content posted by “suspected terrorists.”

The expansion of power, which would increase the government’s power to undermine freedom of expression, is supposedly not supported by “industry officials” from companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

From the Post:

…“Asking Internet companies to proactively monitor people’s posts and messages would be the same thing as asking your telephone company to monitor and log all your phone calls, text messages, all your Internet browsing, all the sites you visit,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the provision is not yet public. “Considering the vast majority of people on these sites are not doing anything wrong, this type of monitoring would be considered by many to be an invasion of privacy. It would also be technically difficult.”…

Government officials may claim it is necessary for the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. However, what the measure would do is increase the capability of the United States security state to engage in preemptive prosecution—to target and prosecute individuals or organizations who have beliefs, ideology, or a religious affiliations which make them a person of interest for the government.

For example, consider the case of Tarek Mehanna, who is currently serving a seventeen and a half-year prison sentence after he was convicted of material support for terrorism in December 2012.

Mehanna was “born in the United States to Egyptian immigrant parents and grew up outside of Boston. He became a devout Muslim who was fiercely critical of US foreign policy, especially in Muslim countries,” Amna Akbar wrote for The Nation. “He believed deeply in the right of Muslims living in Muslim-majority countries to defend against foreign occupation. And he talked about it. He subtitled “jihadi” videos; he translated an archaic oft-translated Arabic text 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad [by Anwar Al-Awlaki]; and he engaged in religious and political debate online through instant messages, emails and web postings.”

Mehanna took a trip to Yemen in 2004 for “religious and language instruction.” The government has conceded there were no terrorism training camps in Yemen. Still, the government maintained he traveled to Yemen to train with a terrorist group.

The FBI began to spy on him in 2005 and attempted to turn him into an informant. When Mehanna refused, the FBI pledged to make his life difficult. Mehanna continued to translate texts, including various works about jihad by Afghan and Iraqi scholars. He posted them to his website, along with poetry and other writings. Mehanna was arrested in 2008 and charged with “conspiracy to give material support to terrorism by translating radical Arabic writings into English and posting them on his website,” according to the Project for the Support and Legal Advocacy of Muslims (Project SALAM).

Mehanna never acted under the direction of Al Qaeda yet the government insisted in court that his work had been intended to “inspire others to engage in violent jihad.” In fact, as Akbar noted, at no point did the government present evidence that Mehanna had provided support to any designated terrorist organization. There was no evidence that his translations caused harm. There was no evidence that his translation had incited “imminent criminal conduct.” What he was convicted of committing was inspiring others to “support opinions the United States government finds objectionable,” particularly opinions related to radical Islamic thought.

In 2013, Mehanna’s appeal was denied, which further solidified the power government prosecutors have to target people for speech and expression deemed dangerous. He is serving his sentence in a “communications management unit” in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, which means he is living in conditions of solitary confinement and confined to a cell 23 hours a day.

Mehanna’s postings would undoubtedly fall in the category of activity the FBI and other security agencies would want internet companies to flag, even though there was no explicit intent to incite any violence whatsoever. (more…)