EU: Fiscal and Banking Integration – Cyprus Bailout

The Finance Chiefs of Germany, France, Italy and Spain have taken to the stage to discuss new plans for short-term and long-term management of fiscal and banking integration, coming after Cyprus becomes the fifth member of the common currency to request a bailout.

Cyprus Joins Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Greece under EU Umbrella

The finance ministers are meeting today to discuss closer union as laid out by a proposal from European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.  The document proposed greater fiscal union, which could lead to common debt being issued by the Eurozone countries.  There would also be banking union, with a single European banking regulator and a unified deposit guarantee scheme.  Among other proposals were limits on the amount of debt individual countries can take on, annual national budgets can be vetoed if they are likely to mean a county exceeding its debt limits, the possibility of the Eurozone borrowing money collectively could be looked into, a European treasury office to be set up to control a central budget and keep an eye on national ones, common policies on employment regulations and levels of taxation, joint decision-making with national parliaments to give it democratic legitimacy.  Though this seems to provide a groundwork for the progression of the Euro, many of the proposals are merely revisiting previous agreed upon regulations in the Stability and Growth Pact. These regulations failed in the past because of a coordinated supranational entity and a lack of enforcement.  The failure of the SGP came because Germany and France, the countries responsible for the EU and the creation of the pact, violated its restrictions on debt.  The Court of Justice (European Court of Justice) is an example of a supranational entity created to observe and ensure that EU laws, treaties and institutions are adhered to.  Through the infringement procedure, the ECJ is able to place a fixed or periodic financial penalty.  Nevertheless, this institution was not given the proper amount of authority into national areas of its members, thus making it unable to observe the political and fiscal matters of those countries that are now on the brink of default.  So saying, the current list of proposals are nothing entirely new but debates circulating about a joint finance ministry may provide the supranational entity needed to enforce and regulate the further integration needed for the progression of the EU.  In regards to steps towards effective integration, the European treasury would now be able to force Eurozone countries to make changes to their budgets to keep their deficit down, which previously was never enforced and merely left to the individual member states.

“Under these rules, the issuance of government debt beyond the level agreed upon in common would have to be justified and receive prior approval.  Subsequently, the Euro area level would be in a position to require changes to budgetary envelopes if they are in violation of fiscal rules, keeping in mind the need to ensure social fairness.” – Herman Van Rompuy, European Council President

One of the catching points for forward movement by the EU is the divide surrounding join borrowing, something that has kept Germany and France from being the dynamic partnership that so many previously assumed them to be.  It has generally been true that the EU’s movement has been driven forward when France and Germany are in step.  However, they are not in unison anymore.  There is a deep philosophical political divide between them, most evidently exemplified by the dissolution of ‘Mercozy” through the election of the socialist Hollande in France.  The divide of the EU on joint borrowing  is embodied by the concept of Eurobonds, which would be a way to allow countries that are currently unable to borrow money commercially to borrow at low-interest rates.  Some countries, largest of whom is Germany,have resisted this step unless there is much closer fiscal union.  The reason for that is that Eurobonds would have much the same effect as the original introduction of the Euro, which is that they would allow many government access to cheaper loans and therefore, without European supranational control over budgets, some countries would again take on unsustainable levels of debt.  So saying, the Eurozone’s third smallest economy, Cyprus, has become another member to apply for rescue loans.  The country is said to possibly need up to 10 billion Euros, more than half its 17.3 billion annual output.  This comes after Spain formally requested up to 100 billion Euros in rescue loans to recapitalize its banks weighed down by bad loans from a burst real estate bubble.  Both Spain and Cyprus are trying to avoid political humiliation and loss of sovereignty involved in a full state bailout program like those granted to Greece, Ireland and Portugal.  The approaching Brussels summit is expected to agree on a growth package pushed by France, worth around 130 billion Euros in infrastructure bonds, reallocated regional aid funds and European Investment Bank loans.  Spain, along with Italy, is likely to press at the summit for more urgent actions to lower borrowing costs and have proposed measures to reduce the difference in borrowing costs between Eurozone countries.

“The euro crisis is in some war mind-boggingly simple to solve…because it isn’t economics, it’s politics.  If Angela Merkel and her colleagues stood there together with the rest of the Euro area…and if they behaved as a true union, this crisis would be finished this weekend.” – Jim O’Neill, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management

Germany however, is remaining rigid on its stance that it should not finance  a country that indulged in excessive spending.  Because of her rigid stance, Merkel has been target of much criticism and some have suggest that Germany be the country that exists the Eurozone.  The support given is that Germany embodies the problem of the EU, the inability to balance polar opposites on the economic scale.  The periphery countries of the EU are the ones in debt and the ones facing default.  Not only is Germany’s economy inherently strong as a result of the high productivity of its workforce, its exports have added competitiveness because the Euro is undervalued as far as Germany is concerned.  As long as the rest of the Eurozone countries are locked in the Euro with Germany, the only way for them to become more competitive is through austerity measures that cut government spending, reduce welfare budgets, cut wages and raise unemployment.  These are the steps that have been taken for the past 2 years of the fiscal crisis and the aim has been to achieve export-led growth, like Germany.  As long as Germany remains in the Eurozone however, its hypercompetitive stance will make redundant the measures being taken , as the periphery countries will not be able to compete against the power house.  Nevertheless, the support for Germany’s exit may seem well based but its fails to address the fact that Germany is the only country keeping the Euro afloat, funding all bailout measures and without Germany and its seemingly endless pocketbook, the rest of the Eurozone would fall calamitously into a series of defaults and downgrades for years to come.  This would ruin the regional fiscal infrastructure, ruin the global markets, and dissolve international trade with many of the nations dependent on foreign investment.  In short, if Germany were to exit the Eurozone the other nations would be detrimentally affected, regardless the possibility to revert to Eurobonds.

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Egypt: Mohammed Mursi and Egypt’s Foreign Relations

Islamist Mohamed Mursi was declared winner on Sunday of the run-off presidential election, becoming Egypt’s first freely elected president and now faces the overbearing power of the military council that has already curbed his powers as president and dissolved the previous Islamist-led parliament.

Mohammed Mursi’s Victory Represents the Continuation of the Revolution

The election of Egypt’s first democratically elected president has followed with euphoric jubilation, yet the hopes of the Egyptian revolution may fall short as President Mursi currently stands merely as a figurehead of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military junta that maintains widespread control of the country.  So saying, Mursi faces an array of challenges at home and abroad.  So far, the democratic road-map for Egypt has been plagued with militaristic totalitarianism wielded by the military, an iron first that has dissolved the constitution and the democratically elected Islamist parliament.  Under the interim constitutional deceleration, the military council has ensured that it retains the power to make laws and budget decisions until a new constitution is written and a new parliament is elected.  Alongside the challenges to overcome the repressive hold of the military, Mursi also inherits a struggling economy, with widespread poverty, high unemployment and its main source of investment, its tourism sector, is slow to come back after the political and social unrest that has haunted Egypt since its uprising against Mubarak.  The political situation remains very much unsettled amid lingering questions about whether the military will loosen its grip on power.  Its firm handed ruling has already led to mass demonstration and clashes with authorities, illustrating that th revolution still continues.  Although the Egyptians successfully ousted Mubarak and his regime, their jubilation was short-lived as military officials continued the same longstanding policy of using deadly force against domestic populous in cases of emergency.  Thus, the excitement following the election of the former Muslim Brotherhood member may be as short-lived as the cheers following the dispatching of Mubarak.

“The revolution goes on, carries on until all objectives of the revolution are achieved and together we will complete this march.” – Mohammed Mursi, President of Egypt

Although Mursi has resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party so as to represent all Egyptians, he does represent the more conservative Islamist view of the Brotherhood and thus raises many questions about international relations for Egypt.  His win has already had an immediate impact beyond Egypt’s borders, inspiring Islamists who have risen up against autocrats across the Middle East and swept to power in North Africa.  Among the fears of the international community is Iran and the possibility of Iran and Egypt forming diplomatic ties.  Iranian news agency Fars published an interview in which Mursi called for restoring severed ties to build strategic balance and though Egyptian officials denied the interview had taken place, it still illustrated the significant fears circulating about a Islamist revival in the region.  In the heart of these problems is the issue of Israel.  Egypt currently is in accord with Israel due to a 1979 peace treaty that was signed and consolidated under Hosni Mubarak.  Amid the cries of the Egyptian populous, however, are calls for the dissolution of the accord.  The viewpoints are ones shared by the many Islamist figures who have referred to Israeli leaders as ‘vampires’.  The relations of Israel with the rest of the Middle east are best illustrated by Iran, whose supreme leader has called for a perpetual cultural war against the Jewish nation and wishes to see them disappeared from the face of the planet.  The tension has recently been heightened by Iranian mission into uranium enrichment.  So saying, Israel and its Western allies have been very vocal about the continuation of the peace deal with Egypt.  Mursi has stated his intentions to preserve all national and international agreements, but his calls for unity and devotion to the representation of the will of the masses does pose a conflicting point as the masses are not in favor of said agreement.  The victory for the Muslim majority will likely strengthen the hand of Hamas in its fight against Israel because it will give it a moral boost.  The Islamist attitude has become charged after the victory.  Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi has stated that Palestinians look forward to future cooperation with Egypt and its supportive position for the Palestinian cause, once again depicting the balancing game that will be played by Mursi to appease the cultural diversity of the region and uphold his ties with the West and Israel.

“Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential elections.  Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributed to regional stability.” – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister

In retrospect, the democratic election of Mursi represents a historic milestone for Egyptian transition to democracy but it is still a long way from stability and the successful installation of democratic institutions.  Before the declaration of the presidential winner, the military council warned of its intentions to use deadly force against protesters and dispatched more than 1,800 ambulances, which is a clear illustration of the problems that are still rampant in Egypt.  Along with this evident military oppressiveness, the Islamist resurgence does pose a problem for democratic progress and regional peace for the regions of North Africa and the Middle East.  So saying, Mursi faces a plethora of domestic and foreign issues that span from restoring a basic infrastructure in Egypt to maintaining peaceful ties with Israel.

America: Complicit Society – Loss of Government Accountability

The system of democracy propagated in  America is becoming increasingly unaccountable and privatized by narrow special interests that are making negligible the role of the populous and making negligible the system of checks and balances that was installed so as to prevent the rise of unchecked powers in the branches of government.

The ‘Demos’ Have Been Removed From American Democracy

As the great empires of Spain, Rome, Persia and Greece, the American empire’s stance on liberal democracy is waning and being replaced by the rise of narrow business interests concerned with ‘privateering’, militarization, imperialism and the corporatization of the US government.  The populous, given powers to hold accountable a government intended to represent their ethics and interests, has fallen silent and complicit to the growing privatization of government for profiting purposes of a narrow sect of special interest groups.  Rather than adhering to the wishes of the people, the government has turned a deaf ear to the cries of a public subjected to rampant inequality and political alienation.  The days of protest and demonstrations have fallen away, allowing the government to continue on its polarized path without fear of being reproached.  As silence falls onto the masses, the public begins to be victimized by ignorant conformity to polarized propaganda proliferated on mass media communications like FOX and MSNBC.  Conforming to said bias, the public begins to parallel the political consensus that is determined by the dictations of special interests groups that direct the progress, or lack thereof, for the American system.  So saying, this has resulted in an entire system structured around the special interest groups that control the politicians, who control the media, who then control the public.  This chain of events has resulted in the corporatization of the American government, illustrated by the profiteering business leaders that are able to advance policies advantageous to their own agenda.  Examples ranging from Halliburton to Blackwater/Xe are notorious for their connections within the political arena that have resulted in various contracts and schemes advancing their stocks and investments.  The public, already at the back and call of politicians and their corporate puppeteers, has been reduced to a herd meant to trample periodically in support of one or another policy put forth by the 1% of profiting elites.  They have become complicit in the destruction of their own government, adhering to policies unrepresentative of their interests and failing to rise above silent conformity and call for reform.  The age of popular movement was rekindled by the Occupy Movement, yet lacking organization and a coherent message resulted in a rapid decomposition of the movement.  Evidently, the peoples’ hold on the government has been stripped away by their own ignorant conformity to silent obedience to corporations that pledge their allegiance to profits and investments.

“This police state only benefits the rich because the cops give them power to keep us all quiet.  With police disguised as the guardians of the masses; we’ll never suspect their role to save the rich bastards!  You’re all complacent, you’re totally fooled, you bought the system’s lies, but they don’t protect you!” – Anti-Flag, “They Don’t Protect You”

Rather than protecting and empowering all citizens, ‘privateering’ is resulting in the government transferring this moral mission to private enterprises and protecting only those that can afford their higher, profit enhanced, costs.  The right to ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ will be subjugated to profits, once again equating to the dissolution of democracy and its ‘demos’ (people).  The loss of domestic involvement and political accountability has been caused by the manufacturing of consent through the media system, as well as through the fear of physically repressive consequences represented by the growing militarized police state within America.  The creation of the American republic was intended to create a nation based on the people, the ‘demos’.  There was meant to be an equal governance or accountability shared by all the people.  Nevertheless, the idea of government run by pluralism, in which the republic would be structures around the collective deliberation of all viewpoints existing in society, has fallen into decay because of the corporate belittlement of the public.  This is also exacerbated by their ability to create a gap between constituents and their representatives’ ears.  The special interest groups have removed the fear of accountability and the fear of electoral retribution from the decision-making process of politicians.  They have been able to conform society into a homogenized state of complicit behavior, a state of unquestionable loyalty and adherence, that allows for the nation to be run freely by said narrow interests.  This unbridled power was intended to be contained through the separation of governance into branches of government, but this has been dissolved by the totalitarian system of the ‘Pentagonized’ Presidency, an increasingly militaristic executive branch superseding legislation and judicial reviews through sheer force of will.  The other branches of government have become little more than puppets, voting in favor of pro-interest group policies so as to illustrate to the masses a political consensus that they too should support.  So saying, the principle of truthfulness will continue to be, and has been, increasingly replaced by a system of disinformation and corporate created facades that suggest policy decisions are in the interests of the nation.

“Join the corporate army.  For god and country, give up your life.  Don’t try to figure out what’s wrong or right, you never tried to stop, to look, to see that you’re exactly what you’re told to be.  You did everything fucking right.  You followed the system’s guiding light.” – Anti-Flag, “Their System Doesn’t Work For You”

During the Vietnam War, the public did not remain docile and complicit to the hawk behavior of the Johnson and Nixon administrations; rather, the public rose to the occasion and demonstrated their disenchantment with the war, the napalm bombing of Vietnamese villages and the rapid militarization following the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  The people rose and held accountable their public officials and demanded that the violence be brought to an end.  Even after the police state suppressed demonstrations through force, resulting in the death of 4 college students at Kent State, the people did not resign themselves to subservience.  Public opinion is a tool through which society can control the implementation of policies by their government.  This tool has not been utilized to full effect and has resulted costly perpetual wars, the implementation of repressive and corrupt policies, and the growing privatization of the government to groups that are able to line politicians pockets with cash.  This capitalist drive has driven the politicians from the voters who elected them, it has driven them from fulfilling their representative duties, and is resulting in the loss of accountability – the one viable tool given to the people.  This is exemplified by the fact that America has grown increasingly militarized and internationally repressive in order to seize control of assets and resources demanded by the corporations funding those policies.  An example of this privateering, resulting in militarization for purposes of imperialism, is Iraq.  Blackwater/Xe has tens of thousands of mercenaries and pays them around $450,000 a year.  Xe has made billions of dollars on the Iraq Occupations and two-thirds of that has been through no-bid contracts from the government.  Halliburton and Bechtel are another two notorious corporations that experienced huge profit margins from multi-billion dollar contracts given to them by the Bush administration to aid in the mass privatization of state-owned industries in Iraq.  The examples of corporate imperialism through political takeover are endless and extend from the Americas to Africa and to the Middle East.  The people have only stood by and offered their sons and daughters as cannon fodder for the corporate wars, complicit in the imperialist nature of the US and complicit in their own political negligible status.  Through the NDAA and Patriot Act, the government has subdued the American people and has repressed the air of activism.

“Everyone keeps asking, ‘Why’s he so pissed and so angry?’.  When there’s killing in this world, of men and womyn, boys and girls, for the sake of dividend gain.  These actions proclaimed in our name, turn Stars and Stripes into shades of Shame.” – Anti-Flag, “Gift from America: With Love, the USA”

In retrospect, the energy that used to exist in the American populous to demand representation and truth has dwindled away, along with their civil liberties and freedoms that are being infringed upon by corporate sponsored policies.  Privateering is destroying America’s democracy by eliminating the government’s duty to protect and empower all citizens through the democratic institutions installed by the founding fathers to prevent the very thing that is happening, the rise of unchecked government powers that are dedicated to capitalist gains.  Privateering is supplanting the government’s public mission with privatized protection and empowerment of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.

America: The ‘Kill List’ – International Assassination Campaign

The terror state emerging in the West has come to be symbolized by the unfaltering tyranny of the American government, authorizing the infringement of state’s sovereignty for the purpose of slaughter and barbarism through drone strikes on the ambiguous premise of national security.

Obama Launches Unrestricted Drone Warfare for Assassination Campaign

The American system has pledged itself to the protection of free peoples, the security of democracy in lands abroad, and the liberation of those under repressive regimes.  This pro-democracy image has been evinced throughout history by their support of former tyrannies such as Qaddafi in Libya, Pinochet in Chile, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the Shah in Iran, and Mobutu in the Congo, among a list of countless others.   So saying, support for state leaders that avidly exploited their people and violated basic human rights is to be expected from a country based on global hegemony through militarism.  Through its imperialist nature of diplomacy, the American government has secured its hold on international domination through the implementation of repressive puppet-regimes and thus serving the purpose of the profiting corporations that funded the policies.  The iron fist of blood and empire that is the American government has proliferated its ideals of patriotism and security, subduing its public base through mass media, whilst launching military strikes on foreign lands.  Nevertheless, this foreign imposition has evolved into new form of authoritarianism, as demonstrated by the assassination campaign  launched by the Obama administration.  The executive branch, the leader of the free people of the world, has become the judge, jury and executioner of any he deems a threat.  This so-called ‘kill list’ illustrates the new democracy of the American system, allowing one man to determine whether people live or die and thus assume an omnipotent and omniscient power over the global arena.  The American powers seek out and destroy their enemies in foreign lands, no matter the civilian casualties and evident violation of sovereignty.  High in the clouds, lightning bolts ready to cast, the gods of the American government stand resolute in their practices of ‘democracy’, ‘liberation’, ‘diplomacy’ and ‘peace’.  The security presented by internationally accepted borders, UN resolutions on sovereignty and UN resolutions on human rights, have now been made redundant by the American use of drones, an unmanned aircraft to rain down death from the skies without any fear of American casualty. Coincidentally enough, many of the supposed ‘terrorists’ on Obama’s picture book are American born and some are teenagers, once again symbolizing the utter lack of morality that is governing the actions of the terror state in the West.

“So where is the real terrorist?  In the Middle East or in the US?  So who is the real terrorist?  Is it Saddam Hussein or your own President?” – Anti-Flag, “Outbreak”

The accountability of the government to the people has been diluted by the alienation of society from its political system, giving the Washington politicians free reign over the implementation of policies.  The consequences of this unrestricted power are clear, internment camps built around the country to aid in the ultimate disappearing act of those brave enough to stand against the United States of Oppression.  Parallel to the Stalin era camps built-in Siberia that ultimately led to the death of any political prisoners of the USSR, the American government is now aspiring to its own Orwellian era of government.  The singing of the Patriot Act under Bush II was the first clear government authorized infringement of American civil liberties and constitutional rights.  Thereafter, Obama signed the NDAA allowing for the detention of American citizens indefinitely.  One such unfortunate case was Daniel Chong, a college student, who was left in a cell without food or water for 5 days by the DEA.  The insurmountable power of the government has now surpassed imagination, with the President given the final word to authorize drone airstrikes to kill US citizens abroad.  When this program was challenged in a New York city court, the judge refused to rule, stating that there are circumstances in which the executive’s decision to kill US citizens overseas is constitutionally committed to the political branches and judicially unreviewable.  Thus, the ‘death list’ is not only permissible but also acceptable by the ‘justice’ system in America, allowing the President to act as recklessly and inhumanely as possible.  President Obama has placed himself at the helm of this ‘top secret nominations’ process to designate terrorists for kill or capture and yet this book of macabre ‘baseball cards’  of an unconventional war targets dozens of American citizens as well.  Obama’s ferocious campaign into counter-terrorism has resulted in an unrestricted  database of viable targets of his choosing, the authorization of careless targeting and has also led in countless civilian death to be later counted as terrorist associated for having been in close quarters with such a national security threat.  Evidently, Obama’s role in the ‘kill list’ is unprecedented and allows for the executive branch to bypass the checks-and-balances so important to democracy, evolving his role into that of assassin-in-chief.

“You want to save the world?  I can tell you what to do!  This solution is for you!  Answer the call up, join the proud, the few.  Pull on the trigger with your heart and soul.  Cause was is peace, now we know.” – Anti-Flag, “Sold as Freedom”

Obama’s top terrorism adviser John Brennan has stated that the ‘kill list’ targets dozens of US citizens who present a threat to the US on the ‘battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq’ and those in ‘Yemen or in Pakistan or in Somalia’.  So saying, there is an international acceptance of war casualties and the right for a country to kill targeted enemies on a battlefield during a conventional war.  Nevertheless, the ‘kill list’ is not remotely about that, it represents an unconventional warfare that has been declared by the US upon the world and as a consequence has made any person in any state an appropriate target for US slaughter.  The theocracy being built on executive fear, a perpetual state of terror waged domestically and abroad to ensure hegemony and mass complicit behavior, represents the nightmare the founding fathers warned the people about and are now being manifested by the nation-security apparatus that continues to be built-up and institutionalized around the presidency.  The rising powers of the warrior president has left communities around the world in fear and those already targeted, are left without fathers and mothers.  Early last month, Tausug villagers on the Southern Philippine island of Jolo were targeted by a drone strike.  The attack targeted one individual and yet it left 15 people dead a community was left plunged into despair, fear and mourning.  The US, targeting state labeled terrorists, is only sponsoring further US-targeted animosity and given credence to the US-hatred propagated by terrorist organizations around the world.  So instead of combating terrorism and sparking fear in the hearts of ‘America’s enemies’, the US government has sponsored a perpetual costly counter-terrorism war that will only infinitely increase the number of terrorists and American enemies.  Eisenhower was in term during CIA-MI6 operations to oust Mossadegh and distill popular protests in Iran.  The list of America’s sponsored terrorism in lands abroad is boundless and spans into the Americas, Africa and the Middle East.  Evidently, the ‘kill list’ and the use of drones in just another example of unchecked presidential authority, yet the most recent illustration of intensity and expansion of the power demonstrates the boundless ambition of those in power for complete hegemony and control.

“‘Equal Rights.’ ‘Justice’. ‘Democratic Role’. ‘Freedom’. ‘Equality’. All just a total, “Fuck You!’ Empty words in the president slurs in every speech, while scheming behind closed doors with the CIA to undermine Democracy! To undermine Autonomy! To undermine the stability of any leftist populous regime.  Making the president a terrorist!  Making the USA a terrorist!” – Anti-Flag, “America Got It Right” 

In retrospect, the people of the American nation have stood silently by as the president wields unchecked power and instead of standing in defiance, the people seem to permit the President to target fellow citizens for assassination.  The American populous stood by as Bush II signed the Patriot Act allowing for government-run agencies to infiltrate their homes and computers, clearly violating any notion of privacy and freedom.  The American people are complicit in the selling off of the core of values and principles that once symbolized democracy as fought for by the founding fathers.  The 5th Amendment, promising Americans that they will not be ‘deprived of life, liberty, or property, without the due process of law” has been forsaken by the American government.

EU: What the Future Holds for Europe – Greek Elections

Greek voters are returning to the polls on Sunday, leaving hanging in the balance the future of the country’s membership in the Euro and heightening general uncertainty about the future of the EU as a whole.

The EU Has Reached A Tipping Point

In 1952, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French Prime Minister Robert Schuman introduced the beginnings of European integration, uniting the coal and steel industries of France, West Germany and the Benelux countries.  Over the next 50 years, the integration process would come to include a club of 27 states, becoming the European Union, which now stands at a possible breaking point.  Since its creation, the European Union has both expanded in number and deepened in purpose.  Initially a common market with subsidies to farmers, the EU has evolved into a community with coordinated foreign aid and trade policies, open borders among members, a common social policy and a powerful European Court.  Nevertheless, the problems of monetary union began in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty which began the process of monetary union and was intended to begin economic convergence among member states.  The second part, economic convergence, was and is today the hurdle facing the members states of the EU.  The Stability and Growth Pact, introduced by France and Germany, was meant to harmonize interest rates, inflation and government deficits; yet, there were no enforcement measures and the sponsors of the pact, France and Germany, were the first among the states to breach the regulations on deficit as they both exceeded deficits of 3% of GDP.  So saying, how Europe handles the unbalanced economies of its members and its headlong expansion will decide whether the Eurozone recovers from its contagion or slowly disintegrates.

“Today we open the path towards a better tomorrow, with our people united, dignified and proud.  To a Greece where there’s social justice and progress – an equal member of a Europe that’s changing.  Today the people of Greece spake.  Tomorrow a new era begins for Greece.” – Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party

The first challenges to overcome is the Greek’s second attempt at a decisive electoral process, coming after an indecisive round in May resulting in the rise of polar opposites in the party system.   If a working majority emerges under the leadership of the New Democracy Party, Greece has a likely chance of following through its austerity measures, despite animosity and criticism therein involved.  These measures would perpetuate Greek membership in the EU, appease its troika (European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank).  Even if this pro-bailout government is formed, the political paralysis of Greece has already put it behind on its obligations to privatize state industries and improve tax receipts.    If this weekend’s election extends the paralysis begun by May’s vote, the uncertainty whether Greece can remain in the Eurozone will intensify, resulting in another volatile yo-yo of international markets.  Moreover, the uncertainty in Greece would also intensify the pressure on Spain and Italy.  The combined economies of Ireland, Portugal and Greece – three countries that have been bailed out – are smaller than half of Spain, which the Eurozone could not afford to have fail, becoming a ‘too big to bail, too big to fail’ member.  The EU’s willingness to help bailout Spain’s massively indebted baking system has already surpassed the amount of 100 billion euros.  Spain’s financial future is highly questionable as Moody has cut Spanish sovereign debt to just a notch above junk status, on par with Azerbaijan.  Unemployment has also reach record highs, with youth under 25 years of age at 50% unemployment, and house prices are also collapsing.   Nevertheless, another possibility in the Greek elections is that the left-wing Syriza party emerges with a majority, and with its commitment to depart from current bailout agreements like the austerity measures, Greece could very well anticipate a ‘disorderly exit’ from the Eurozone.

“This is the financial equivalent of the Cuban Missile crisis.  And the missile is really a bank run, which ultimately even the Germans can’t be completely immune to.  Not that there will ever be a run on Germany banks, but the effects of a bank run across Southern Europe are going to be felt by the economy.” – Niall Ferguson, Harvard historian

So saying, the future of Europe is at a crossroads, with only a few future scenarios on the horizon.  The first and worst scenario is a disorderly collapse of the Eurozone, starting in Greece but spreading to Spain and Italy.  This scenario would be likely with anything less than a clear victory, the Greek state could fail to meet its troika obligations and would not receive any further bailouts, essentially imploding upon itself.  According to the Greek economic minister, Greece only has enough money to run effectively until July 15.  If this case were to emerge, Germany has stated that it would put fiscal rectitude ahead of its pan-European principles.  Without Germany’s bankroll to help support many of the peripheral member states, the scenario could result in the Eurozone being reduced to a Franco-German core, with the Benelux states attached.  For the rest of Europe and its economy, the consequences would be calamitous; with governments defaulting on debt, a prolonged recession would be a certainty all across the European continent.  The second course is that Europe stumbles through whilst still attempting to achieve banking and fiscal integration.  Given that 80% of Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone, a Greece-troika compromise is not so unlikely and would also bring the country back from the edge of default.  A full recovery would be years away but the country would no longer be the spark to ignite the powder keg of defaults as seen in the first scenario.   The new European Stability Mechanism, due to come into effect next month as a permanent rescue fund, would help recapitalize banks and help cool yields on vulnerable sovereign debt.  With 500 billion euros at its disposal, the ESM would help the EU progress towards Chancellor Merkel’s growth agenda.  Germany aims to move towards a banking union that would insure deposits, progress toward common tax policies, the decline of government debt and the emergency of the Eurozone from its recession, all of which would help ease the pressure on governments struggling to find a common ground.  Though an imposing task, the struggled of the agenda are in Germany’s best interest because 60% of their exports stay inside Europe and without those trading partners, the German economy would be severely impacted.  The final future scenario for the EU is a move towards much closer integration, the fulfillment of the economic convergence promised in 1992.  The new French President Hollande has made this his montra, seeking to stimulate growth and imagination and creativity to deepen financial union, such as a joint fun to pay down debt.  Though it would seem to be a more secure and ideal scenario, the prospect will not gain support from a European public no longer convinced of the benefits of a deeper integration, nor of a German state unwilling to allow more countries to sign onto their bankroll.

“Germany’s strength is not unlimited.  The way out of the crisis can only be successful if all countries are capable of recognising the reality and realistically accessing their strengths.” – Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

In retrospect, the EU was intended to create a fiscal union of members that would be able to avoid repeating mistakes made in the 1930s, yet it seems that the cliff facing them now is illustrating that they have not been able to avoid those mistakes.  Unless the EU community is able to recognize the choices that have been and those that must be made now for the security of the union, and not of individual members,  the EU will most likely cease to exist or be severely reduced in membership and fiscal integrity.  They must enter a much larger form of integration, both political and economic, committing to a more federal system.

America: The American Dream

The American Dream has been epitomized by opportunistic words exalting the surreal standards defining the limitless opportunities, professional success and material wealth of the American nation, yet the reality is far less optimistic and more repressive of such unrealistic expectations.

The Dreams of Economic Opportunity Ring Hallow in America

A land of boundless wealth, employment opportunities, and equality has been cast in idolized lights along the borders of the American nation, prompting foreign and domestic populations to flock to mythological lands of endless promises.  The surreal illustration of the American Dream was defined by the foundation of the nation, structured on the base of equality and freedom for all.  This illustration has grown in magnitude and fabrication so as to encourage competition among the population, creating a society whose pursuit of material gain has paralleled that of a state of nature.  With a capitalist hierarchy emerging to incorporate the 1% of corporations and business leaders that truly govern the infrastructure of the nation, the blinded majority is caught in a perpetual material war against one another.  So saying, the peoples’ dreams for wealth and status have become goals only achieved through treachery and violence, resulting in the gradual decay of morals and values.  Grasping for even a minute fraction of prosperity and progress, the corporate controlled government dangles the peoples’ dreams as a lure to perpetuate the struggle of the people, to perpetuate the onward push of the masses in order to fuel the American machine.  The American Dream has no solid meaning; rather, it is an ambiguous term to be defined by the peoples’ aspirations and dreams.  Nevertheless, the corporations have managed to grasp this term and mutate it into another tool to proliferate their totalitarian power.  The corporations have taken the American Dream and incorporated it into yet another propaganda tool to indoctrinate the masses into their state cloned tools, to indoctrinate the masses into their mindless workers.  Beginning as a tale of rebellion against the foreign oppressors of the British Empire, the American message has perpetuated its message of freedom and liberty, only now the message is hallow and gilded.  The American Empire now stands as the new tyrannical power, seeking to secure its hegemony through repression at home and abroad. With the American Dream corrupted into yet another fabricated tale of American glory, this post aims to examine what the new American message has truly become.

“If I had a lighter in hand with some oil rags, is that what it’d take to wake you from your sleep?  To take you from your American dreams to be surrounded, surrounded in flames!” – Anti-Flag, “Wake Up!”

A large portion of the masses, who were born, raised or have spent much of their formative years within the US have been systematically programmed to truly believe that the American nation is the gold standard when it comes to prosperity.  The misleading propaganda runs rampant throughout the imperialist empire, indoctrinating the new waves of innocent minds into the great American swindle.  The gold standard is held true by a minute fraction of the population, the 1% of elites that create and help promote the fallacious program.  The American capitalist system caters only to the elite class that operates its one-dimensional gearshift, controlling every major apparatus within American society – government, education, media and economy.  The hierarchy is prolonged by the docile masses, complicit in their own polarized inequality.  The people are oppressed, trained to have blind and unwavering faith in the merciless capitalist system that has no regard for the well-being or overall prosperity of the rest of society.  This is not to say that the masses are left to struggle for crumbs, through the comparison is rather appropriate considering the check-to-check standard of living that has become the status quo for over 77% of working Americans.  The capitalist system does not deplete the resources entirely for the working majority, rather its sadistic nature ensures basic needs are met through an employment market based on minimum wages, a wage barely livable.  The barbaric nature has prompted a state of nature, turning brothers and sisters against each other in an endless competition of rugged individualism, a notion inculcated into the hearts and minds of many Americans regardless of their socioeconomic background.  The economic system that dominates American society is not built to sustain all or even most of its populous in prosperity, as promised in the propagated American Dream.  It is truly a system that is catered for the extremely wealthy and their families.  While many Americans work multiple jobs only to make ends meet, the elite class enjoys capital gains tax benefits at almost half the rate of the working class.  It is true that a portion of US citizen’s tax dollars go towards public works and service jobs, but 53% of American tax dollars go towards defense and security, programs that target innocent people domestically and abroad.

“Behind locked doors in session, world sponsored corporate politicians structure policy to build more corporate strength.  Fight strength with strength.  At news conferences they claim, ‘we listen’, while they lock out their constituents.” – Anti-Flag, “What’s the Difference”

The American Dream, along with evident false promises of economic equality, depicts gratuitous employers and endless opportunities, alluding to the sick and hungry migrants that they too can become the poster-child of the American Dream. So saying, the American system has implemented guest worker program to integrate the workers into the competitive markets.  Yet, the guest worker program expanded by the Bush administration has been criticized for locking thousands into a modern-day form of indentured servitude.  The system forces many workers to borrow huge sums of money at high interest rates in order to land short-term, low-wage jobs that all too often end up shorter-term and lower-waged than promised.  Under crushing debt, and legally bound to work only for the employer who filed petition for them, these workers often face the most dangerous and harsh of working conditions in places like shipyards, the forestry department, or construction, with no medical benefits for on-the-job injuries or legal services.  In March 2008, more than 500 shipyard workers from India filed a class action suit against the Northrop Grumman subsidiary Signal International in Louisiana and Mississippi, and against recruiters in India and the US, on charges of forced labor, human trafficking, fraud and civil rights violations.  In 2006, over 600 Indians paid up to $25,000 each for a promise of green cards and permanent US residency.   They instead found themselves trapped in squalid and dangerous conditions, bonded through the H-2b guest work program to an employer, evidently depicting a new form of 21st century slavery.  As a land founded by foreigners, dedicated to a government by and for the people, the American Dream proliferates this historic-based mythological tale of material wealth spanning all classes, depicting a norm of lavish luxury for each individual.  Clearly the propaganda does not compare to the realistic depictions of the conditions facing the migrants workers that continue to advance the American machine onward through their blood, sweat and tears.

“Rats, moneys, mice – teach ’em little tricks.  Stay far from creativity and from politics, ’cause the multinationals need a solid work force or their growing profit margins will be wiped out at the source.  Conform to the status quo, set rules, hold your mind into their fucking tool!” – Anti-Flag, “A Start”

A more frank characterization of the juxtaposition of surreal dream and reality is that of the domestic populous that already exists in the capitalist system and has already resigned themselves to degraded standards of living.  The born and raised Americans are witness to the true America from their cradle to their grave, indoctrinated into a life based on check-to-check living and financial desperation.  As it stands, the federal poverty level is maliciously low: $22,050 a year for a family of four.  According to that number, 21% of all US children – 12 million in all – live in families with incomes ‘below the federal poverty level’, a more useful and compassionate estimate would be 42%, or 30 million.  So saying, the American Dream lies dormant within the children and it is the offspring of America that control the future of the system and its corrupt infrastructure.  The desperation of the scenario is illustrated by the fact that 2,660 children are born into poverty every day within American and 1 in 50 children are currently homeless.  The impoverishment of American society only continues to worsen with job numbers continuing to sink.  After the global recession, reportedly over despite evidence to the contrary, taxpayer dollars were spent on various bailouts dedicated to banks and the auto industry.  These bailouts were to ensure that the corporations, already in control of said politicians, could create jobs and lower the unemployment rate.  Nevertheless, the recent job report of May 2012 showed unemployment rose to 8.2%, thus illustrating that the mass bailouts only further polarized the inequality of the American infrastructure and also perpetuated the degradation of the American populous, all of whom remain desperate and dependent on their corporate overseers.  The disparity in wealth is sure to continue however, as the ruling class needs poverty in order to stay on top of the hierarchy of power, and the people with power drive the realities of the people without power.  The ruling 1% have maintained the gap and inequality in society through the education system, reflected by the realization that impoverished areas have the lowest test scores and the wealthier areas have the highest.  Poverty and testing are benefiting the wealthy and hindering poor.  This is also illustrated by the rising cost of education, making it too expensive for many in society and forcing those who graduate into crushing debt and facing a starting salary that continues to drop.  Thus the conveyor belt continues to propagate an endless stream of desperate and dependent workers willing to enslave themselves to the corporate controlled infrastructure for any measly means to escape the pressure of their debt, a debt put upon them for seeking to better themselves through the promises of the American Dream.

“She never even had a chance.  Mental, sexual, physical violence. Not once she heard an encouraging word, just the phrase ‘you better shut up!’ and ‘you’re going nowhere!’.  Her sad stories, all left untold, so her life became something so out of control: angry, young and poor!” – Anti-Flag, “Angry, Young and Poor”

The American Dream, offering to the world a bastion of stability and socioeconomic liberty for all people, has also stood resolute as a symbol of democracy and domestic freedoms unparalleled in much of the world.  The truth of the propagated system is closer to state sponsored terrorism within its own borders, silencing opposition, implementing censorship and state-control over media, and creating internment camps for its own populous, thus resembling more the police states that foreign peoples sought refuge from.  The tactics of American diplomacy at home parallel to their policies abroad: military force whenever questioned or threatened.  Under the Bush administration, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 and the Military Commission Act were both signed and enacted.  These doctrines made permissible the stationing of military troops anywhere in America by presidential authorization, as well as allowed the President to take control of state-based National Guard units without consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to suppress public disorder.  The move towards martial law clearly marks a transgression on the civil liberties and justices promised to all Americans, as well as an affront to the proliferated ideals of the American Dream.  Not only did the laws allow for the President to assert powers of a dictatorial nature, but it also appropriated $532.8 billion in taxpayer money in grants to the Pentagon to implement the new law which further facilitated militarized police round-ups or protesters, supposed illegal aliens, potential terrorists, and other undesirable in facilities contracted and under construction.  The infringement of basic human rights also continued under the NDAA 2012 (National Defense Authorization Act) signed under the Obama administration, which explicitly states dictatorial authority of the US executive branch to order US military to seize any person, including US citizens, for unlimited detention and without rights.  The political system of the American nation is not one of idolized democracy, not one of equality, not one of freedom; rather, the political system  is one of unwarranted incarceration, of discriminatory repression, and of dictatorial assertions of tyrannical power.

“I will not sign my blind faith away to an unjust leader of the unjust police state.  Corporate masters live in their cess pool of extreme wealth and excess.” – Anti-Flag, “No Borders, No Nations”

In retrospect, the American Dream has become a propaganda poster to indoctrinate the new masses into state tools through which the corporations can ensure their capitalist hierarchy will be secure on their toils of work and sacrifice.  Idolized slogans selling liberty, equality and justice, in a nation defined by borders of electric fences and barbed wire, the American nation has come to resemble a permanent internment camp of indentured serfs and slaves for a repressive political system and a socioeconomic scale defined by mass inequality.  So saying, the pursuit of material gain has resulted in the dissociation of the majority from reality; allowing the elites to continue to publish fabricated tales of a paradise in America, a paradise for all foreign peoples to come to and become the new fodder for the capitalist machine.

China: Tiananmen Square Anniversary

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the repressed Tiananmen Square occupation, a pro-democracy demonstration beginning the night of June 3, 1989 and stretching into the early morning of June 4 in which Chinese troops used lethal force to end the 7 week-long occupation.

23rd Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre – June 4th, 1989

 

After the death of Mao Zedong and a period devoid of leadership due to a rift between those loyal to Maoist doctrine, under the Gang of Four, and the reformist forces under Deng Xiaoping, the reformist leader Deng brought China into a new era.  In the late 190s, Deng embraced elements of free market and socialism, resulting in a mix economy based on market-based reforms.  Because of the rapid change of economic reform implemented under Deng’s ‘4 Modernizations’ and ‘9 Cardinal Points’,  combined with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, cries for social and political reform rang out in China.  Mass gatherings and protests took place in and around Tiananmen Square.  The movement lasted for about 7 weeks, ending after the declaration of martial law on May 20th.  Military convoys entered Beijing on the evening of June 3-4. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) used live fire to clear their path of protesters.  The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, but the majority of estimated range from several hundreds to thousands.  The results of this massacre was international condemnation and Western imposed sanctions and arms embargoes.  Nevertheless, the aftermath of the protests strengthened the power of the orthodox Communist hardliners.  To this day, China is still world renown for its human rights violations and hard-line suppression, the most recent phenomena being the house arrest of blind activist Chen Guangcheng.  Chen is one of a number of activists who have been imprisoned or are currently detained for campaigning for human rights or religious freedom in Communist-led China, illustrating the repressive nature of the regime.  So saying, the government has taken special measures to further censor the acknowledgement of the protests.  In China, there was no mention of the date in Monday’s newspapers.  China has arrested activists and placed others under increased surveillance to stop them from marking the anniversary.  Searches on social media sites have also been restricted to try to prevent any reference to the 1989 events.  The list of blocked words is extensive, including words, names and numbers that relate to the incident, ranging from “never forget” to “tank” to “-ism”.

“This Democracy Movement deserves universal approval.  We ask that its requests be treated appropriately.  We do not desire revenge but we want to completely reveal the truth.  We are in favor of tolerance, but against forgetfulness.  People who are forgetful have no future.” – Chen Guangcheng, Chinese activist

In memory of that day, more than 100,000 people are expected to gather in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park Monday night for a candelight vigil to remember the lives lost.  Among the heroes and memories of 1989 is Ya Weiling, a 73-year-old father of a student who was shot and killed in the crackdown.  Ya and his wife Zhang Zhenxia spent 20 years campaigning for the government to make amends for those killed in the 1989 demonstration.  In a note written before his death, Ya complained of the government’s refusal to hear his grievances about his son’s death and said he would therefore fight with his death.  Ya was later found hanged in a garage below his home.  Another response to the anniversary came from the Tiananmen Mothers group.  The group called for the end of communist rule, and micro-bloggers have encouraged sympathizers to wear all black and present themselves in public placed.  In Hong Kong, a temporary Tiananmen Massacre museum is also open for the week commemorating the courage of those involved and condemning the actions taken by the government.  Among the noteworthy remarks regarding the anniversary, the US State Department issued a remark condemned by the Chinese.  Despite previous attempts at detente considering the heightened tensions concerning activist Chen, the US statement targeted the Chinese government and encouraged the government to release all prisoners still serving sentences for their participation in the demonstration, as well as calling for a full release of all information dealing with the events of 1989.

“We renew our call for China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens; release those who have been wrongfully detained, prosecuted, incarcerated, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest; and end the ongoing harassment of human rights activists and their families.” – US State Department statement

In retrospect, China remains today one of the most prominent countries holding a large history of human rights violations and continues to do so.  Along with rigid support for President al-Assad in Syria, targeted aggression at neighboring Tibet, rising conflict over possession of the Spratly Islands with the Philippines,  and an emerging democracy in neighbor Myanmar, Chinese international relations are very volatile and turbulent.  The government is particularly sensitive this year in the lead up to the once-in-a-decade leadership transition.  In Autumn, power will transfer to a new government of politicians who will decide the future direction for China.  Current President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao are both due to step down.