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IMG_4785
Monarch butterfly on a dahlia "Pooh" at Longwood Gardens. (Photo by joanneleon. October 1, 2012)
Recently released government economic statistics covering 2010, the first year of real recovery from the financial collapse of 2008, found that fully 93 percent of additional income gains coming out of the recession went straight into the wallets and purses of the top 1 percent.

~ Eric Alterman





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News and Opinion



Anti-Austerity Protests Take 56 Cities in Spain - General strike imminent

Anti-austerity protesters flooded the streets of 56 cities across Spain Sunday to express anger over continual cuts to the public budget that are reaching deep into the pockets of middle and working class citizens.

Organizers claim 72,000 people showed up for the march in Madrid, which was organized by Spain's two major unions CCOO and UGT. Union leaders Ignacio Fernández Toxo of CCOO and Cándido Méndez of UGT criticized the government’s budget slated for next year, saying that “it will only bring more recession and more unemployment.” The projected jobless rate for 2013 is 25 percent. Youth unemployment has passed 50 percent. ...

A survey conducted by Spanish newspaper El Pais on Sunday showed 77 per cent of Spaniards support the protesters and more than 90 per cent think protests will become even more frequent.

    General Strike Solid in Greek Town Chania

    More at The Real News

   
Greece raises security for Angela Merkel's Athens visit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived amid heavy security for her first Greek visit since the eurozone crisis erupted nearly three years ago.

Some 7,000 police officers are on duty, public gatherings are banned in certain areas of the city and protesters were warned to "protect the peace".

However, many streamed into central squares carrying anti-Merkel banners.
[ ... ]
However, outside the lockdown zone, thousands of people have gathered, some carrying banners with slogans such as "No to the Fourth Reich".

Merkel lands in Greece as protesters mass on streets

(Reuters) - Germany's Angela Merkel arrived inGreece on her first visit since Europe's debt crisis erupted here three years ago, braving protests to deliver a message of support - but no new money - to a nation hammered by recession and fighting to stay in the euro.

Thousands of Greeks defied a ban on protests, gathering in Syntagma square in central Athens as Merkel's plane touched down. Two protesters dressed in German military uniforms waved a red-black-and-white swastika flag and held out their arms in the Nazi salute.
[ ... ]
Police have readied 6,000 officers, including anti-terrorist units and rooftop snipers, to provide security during the six-hour visit. German sites in the Greek capital, including the embassy and Goethe Institute, are under special protection.

Merkel was given the red carpet treatment and full military honors at Athens airport. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras greeted her with a handshake as she exited the German air force jet. A band played the German and Greek national anthems.

Greeks to Protest against Merkel's Visit despite Ban

Angela Merkel's visit to Greece is expected to stir up widespread resentment with fears of large scale violence. Merkel has often been seen as one of the hated figures in Greece and even been compared to Adolf Hitler by some local media.

With this in mind police have announced that rallies and open-air gatherings are prohibited in central Athens until Merkel leaves the country. Such a ban on street rallies has not been imposed on the country since 1974 when the military rule was ousted.

CNN Coverage of CODEPINK Stop Drones Delegation in Pakistan

IMF Shakes Austerity Orthodoxy for New Pragmatism

The IMF used to demand a severely conservative orthodoxy in fiscal and financial affairs. Its officials never saw a budget deficit that wasn’t too big or a financial restriction that wasn’t choking growth. As a dispenser of aid to governments under financial duress, the IMF could insist on its way or else, and rarely flinched from doing so.
That made the IMF controversial, and in some quarters detested. It was attacked, including by economists with Nobel prizes, for acting as an instrument of capitalist oppression, concerned only with the repayment of odious debts and to hell with the human consequences. Almost always, in fact, the IMF’s role was merely to explain the facts to government officials who would prefer not to hear them.
That much, at least, hasn’t changed. But the facts have, and so has the IMF’s thinking. In the past few years, through public statements and its many publications, the IMF has moved a great distance.
On fiscal affairs, its watchword is no longer “austerity now” but cautious pragmatism. It used to be more fiscally conservative than the average government. For the moment, it’s arguably less so, often emphasizing the dangers of too much fiscal tightening too soon.

Pressure on governments from the IMF -- the message being "do things our way".
IMF Sees ‘Alarmingly High’ Risk of Deeper Global Slump

The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecasts as the euro area’s debt crisis intensifies and warned of even slower expansion unless officials in the U.S. and Europe address threats to their economies.

The world economy will grow 3.3 percent this year, the slowest since the 2009 recession, and 3.6 percent next year, the IMF said today, compared with July predictions of 3.5 percent in 2012 and 3.9 percent in 2013. The Washington-based lender now sees “alarmingly high” risks of a steeper slowdown, with a one-in-six chance of growth slipping below 2 percent

“A key issue is whether the global economy is just hitting another bout of turbulence in what was always expected to be a slow and bumpy recovery or whether the current slowdown has a more lasting component,” the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook report. “The answer depends on whether European and U.S. policy makers deal proactively with their major short-term economic challenges.”

The IMF’s 188 member countries convene in Tokyo this week as low growth damped by fiscal consolidation in the richest economies hurts developing counterparts from China to Brazil. As the IMF urged measures to boost confidence, uncertainties out of Europe show no sign of abating, with leaders still divided over a banking union and Spain resisting a bailout.

The solar system revolves around Obama's reelection, and apparently Merkel's too.
Christian Schulz, Senior economist Berenberg Bank: "Well there has been a shift in the position towards Greece since the last election.  Clearly the Germans, but also the IMF.  More countries, more institutions want to keep Greece in the Euro and not just because of the risks that a messy Greek Euro could cause but also because of the progress that the new government has made.  Really, this government is the last chance.  After this government, any new government would involve the radical Left, so everybody wants to make this work... Germany does not want to put up any new money ahead of next year's elections. The IMF wants to know now what will happen over the next few years to Greek funding.  A compromise will be forged.  And the Europeans have one big ally on the other side of the Atlantic. The American government also does not want the Greek situation to spiral out of control again ahead of the elections."

Life in Waziristan, 2012 “AD”
Yesterday the CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan heard directly from the victims of U.S. combat drones. We listened intently to the stories of these men who describe their lives in terms of "Before Drones" and "After Drones," in much the same way that Americans refer to their lives "since 9/11."

Imagine having up to 6 drones circling overhead 24 hours a day, making an incessant, constant buzzing sound that never ceases. The sound the drones make creates a deep-seated psychological fear—a sort of emotional torture. The lives of these people have changed completely, their culture and way of life destroyed.

This is a communal society, whose families of 60 to 70 people live in the same compound. The women cook together, the families eat and sleep together. Weddings and funerals are huge gatherings of friends and family—or at least they used to be. Now, "After Drones (AD)" everything has changed. Children aged 5 to 10 no longer go to school. Men are afraid to gather in groups of more than 2 or 3. Weddings, which used to be joyous affairs with music, dancing, and drumming, are now subdued events with only close family members present. And most sadly, since funerals have been the target of drone attacks, they are now small gatherings as well.

    US Peace Activists Join Anti-Drone March in Pakistan; 10 Arrest at NY Military Base Protest
predictions and hypotheticals

It's the first reply to kos's comment, though, that I want to focus on, because I've heard it a hundred times before: yes, we should criticize Obama, but not now. Not during an election season.

First of all, I think that attitude demonstrates the low priority that people give the issue of our military conduct in the Muslim world. Second, it's rather unhelpful to say "if you really care about this issue, you should raise it at exactly the time when expressing it will have the least effect." Yes, American elections are a shitshow of epic proportions. But they are the time when government is most responsive to its citizens. (This is slight praise, in context.) If you really care about a political principle, refusing to speak of it in election time is lunacy. Telling people that this issue is not worth talking about during election time essentially begs the question; it assumes the unimportance of the issue, exactly what we're arguing about.

Most of all, though, this argument would be a lot more compelling if I hadn't just lived through the past four years. I and others have criticized Obama (on drones, on medical marijuana policy, on education, a lot of issues) for a long time. I was criticizing him a year ago and a year before that. And every time, no matter what, it was never the time. Not during the health care fight! Not during the budget fight! Not right before midterm elections! Not right after midterm elections; we just got creamed, we need to rally together! The time was never, ever right. And so it will be with this election. My prediction is that if Obama is reelected, there will be no greater space for criticism from his left. The liberal blogs that are so aggressively defending his every move won't stop because the election is over. And we won't see any invigorated push from conventional progressives against our inexcusable conduct in the greater Middle East.

Afghanistan 'sliding towards collapse'
Afghan forces are far from ready to secure a country riddled with violence and corruption, Red Cross and thinktank warn

The police and army in an increasingly violent Afghanistan will struggle to secure the country when foreign forces leave and the people face a corrupt presidential election in 2014, the Red Cross and a thinktank have warned.
[ ... ]
"Time is running out," said Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group thinktank, in a blunt report about the handover from coalition to Afghan troops. "Steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse.

"Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when US and Nato forces withdraw in 2014."
[ ... ]
"I am filled with concern as I leave this country," the outgoing head of the Afghanistan office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Reto Stocker, told journalists in Kabul. "Since I arrived here, in 2005, local armed groups have proliferated, civilians have been caught between not just one but multiple frontlines, and it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary Afghans to obtain healthcare."

Panetta, Gen. Allen head to NATO, will reassure ministers on Afghanistan insider attacks

BRUSSELS — NATO defense leaders gathering here this week remain committed to the war in Afghanistan, according to U.S. and alliance officials, but there are growing signs that the Afghan political and military hostilities against the coalition are starting to wear on the coalition.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other U.S. officials heading to the meetings say they expect to reassure allies that military commanders are doing all they can to stem the tide of insider attacks, in which Afghan troops or insurgents dressed in their uniforms turn their guns on the coalition forces that they are training and fighting alongside.

[ ... ]

Compounding those military threats, however, is a recent spike in political tensions between Afghanistan’s government leaders and the U.S.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained that the war effort is wrongheaded, and that coalition forces are not fighting the right enemy.





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest



ACLU of Michigan Exposes Police Surveillance Cameras Being Used in Residential Neighborhood

NYPD Arrests Veterans Reading the Names of Afghan War Dead

The Uprising in Andar

Enthusiastic Applause for Obama's EPA in New Mexico

Updates! Video! NYPD Arrests Veterans Reading the Names of Afghan War Dead.








Do Re Mi - Woody Guthrie






Debate

Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?

Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.

Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."  ~ Noam Chomsky

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