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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: Raising the Bar

Re: “Hug a Greek Today

Just the process of trying learn more about Greece's political and economic crisis of the last 6 years, and the light speed acceleration of the last two week is more than just an intellectual exercise for Americans. Yes, there are issues unique to Greece, such as its dysfunctionally byzantine national and local system of business regulation that make Oakland's notoriously slow process for getting a restaurant permit look streamlined. But there are also problems that are just as relevant to Oakland residents as they are to Greeks.

Many of these issues share the same feature: voters trusting politicians to make correct decisions and not looking public policy gift horses in the mouth such as when politicians tell voters, don’t worry about those great public retirement benefits (and in Greece, publicly funded pensions for private doctors, engineers, accountants) that are too good to be true.

The susceptibility of their elected officials to encumber Greeks with financial products engineered by European and American private sector banks and investment firms was only one example. As you say this was done eagerly by both right and left wing Greek governments. And as some of the other posters here say, a large chunk of the borrowed money went to pay the wages and pensions of ordinary Greeks who should have asked questions, though a disproportionate share probably disappeared into the pockets of the oligarchs.

As in Oakland where the Goldman swap that still costs us $5 million/year for the next half a decade was negotiated years ago by council members eager to raise money to induce Al Davis to bring his Raiders back, the borrowing by successive Greek governments was a Faustian deal with investment bankers playing Mephistopheles to eager elected officials.

The Greek prime minister’s decision to call a national referendum on an EU offer that had already expired was reckless and confusing. He kept telling voters that if they voted No he would be able to negotiate a better deal. What was he smoking? He knew what the German political situation was and he went ahead and stuck his thumb in Germany’s eye. That made it certain that the German negotiators would punish Greece.

After your wrote your article, the editorial writers of the financial sector media such as the Economist and Financial Times have softened their views over the last two weeks. Similarly, Krugman and Rich are no longer saying how simple it would be to end austerity or have Greece leave the Eurozone and everything will fix itself; blaming everything on the greedy banks. The Economist and the FT no longer support austerity measures with ballooning debts that the IMF now says are unsustainable for Greece to ever repay. They seem shocked that Greece is now getting forced to sell off it's nationalized industries to pay foreign debt. It’s mostly voters in Germany, Holland, Latvia and a few others with their manipulative leaders that still talk only about more austerity and moral hazard. We can tell German’s that’s cruel and callous. That they forgot how much debt the US forgave Germany after WWII. But it’s understandable that Germans are pissed off at losing their investments plus facing guaranteed spending billions more money on Greece.

Pretty much everyone else in Europe who knows the Greek situation, realizes that more austerity has created a humanitarian disaster and deepened the economic one. Whether Greece stays on the Euro currency or leaves. Whether their creditors stretch the debts out another several decades or forgive some of it, or Greece leaves the Eurozone and defaults on its debts, ordinary Greeks will be suffering for years.

Bankruptcy has a long and honorable history in the US for individuals and corporations. Even state and local governments are allowed to get debt forgiveness unless they are Puerto Rico. As one of my biz school professors explained it: bankruptcy enables a fresh start. That's a good thing. Most of Europe understands that now. What's not clear is whether European EU politics and policies will allow that to happen.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Len Raphael on 07/16/2015 at 10:29 PM

Re: “Hug a Greek Today

What took place on July 5 now seems to have been overtaken by events, new events, which basically cancel the July 5 decision by Greek voters. The matter is complicated, but yesterday, July 15, the Greek "congress" made a new decision for the people, i.e., to accept austerity for Greece as dictated by the EU (and in the first instance the gaggle of powerful European interests conniving to save big Euro-banks). The people of Greece have been spurned by their own leaders. No matter, thing would be bad any way you slice this? Perhaps. One things is for sure, and that is that Greeks are in for a very hard time. Zorba will not be dancing on the beach in the new scenario, and the historical easy going life-styles are going to end for Greeks. After being admitted to the EU the Greeks ran up their shiny new credit cards to the max, and fast. Those chickens have come home to roost. This is now something that only "Payday Loans" and its staggering interest rates can solve? Well see.

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Ken White on 07/16/2015 at 12:46 AM

Re: “Hug a Greek Today

Wall Street did not produce or inflict the debt. The Greeks received money they borrowed. The Banks did not drown them in debt, the Greeks took it on. They borrowed and spent. They did not build. Expanding Government, Unions and corruption have prevented growth. The Greeks thought they found a new free source of money. They want other peoples money to spend. It's how they got into trouble. Other Counties are stupid to lend them more money.

4 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by James A. Hudkins 1 on 07/15/2015 at 10:40 PM

Re: “Hug a Greek Today

What this article fails to mention but is worldwide news, is that since this July 5 vote, the Prime Minister who called this referendum and encouraged his voters to vote "No", has agreed to conditions even more stringent than the conditions that the Greece population voted against!

And the actual cost of the absolutely pointless referendum? $120 million. I guess the Greece doesnt care how much a pointless gesture costs since they plan on having other European countries pay for it.

But nonetheless, congratulations Greece!

6 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Clarence C. Johnson on 07/15/2015 at 11:53 AM

Re: “Hug a Greek Today

Thanks for this great analysis. Just like Detroit, Greece is being forced to sell off its national assets, such as its ports, in the name of "fiscal responsibility." This is part of the experiment to see how far the anti-democratic forces of hyper-capitalism can take this austerity experiment to enrich themselves.

6 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Lisa Lindsley on 07/15/2015 at 9:18 AM

Re: “Financing the Destruction of American Lives

Thank you for connecting all these dots. Kudos to the pension participants who refuse to play along while their investments in guns undermine the society in which they will, or are, hoping to enjoy a well-earned retirement.

Posted by Lisa Lindsley on 07/14/2015 at 7:00 AM

Re: “Three Cheers for the Pope

Climate-change denier is a stupid term created by chicken-little climate alarmists. Climate always changes. The real issue is whether humanity is contributing to the tiny amount of planetary warming, and what, if anything, we should try to do about it.

Humanity does harm the planet in various ways. Do you want to be the first to give up your house because it changed the environment that was there before? I didn't think so.

To only focus on the negative is to ignore the positive. Technology has meant that we can keep up on the news without having to cut down forests or use bleach to create white paper.

You doom and gloomers need to get out and explore nature. You will see that there is quite a bit of nature to enjoy.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Vincent Sauve on 07/02/2015 at 9:56 AM

Re: “Three Cheers for the Pope

You rightly commend Pope Francus for his contribution to this debate. What you fail to acknowledge because of your own cultural bias (PC?) a way of thinking that links abortion to the throw-away culture which the encyclical sees as one of the pernicious roots of the ecological crisis.

Posted by Tom Webb 1 on 07/02/2015 at 8:42 AM

Re: “Three Cheers for the Pope

You rightly commend Pope Francus for his contribution to this debate. What you fail to acknowledge because of your own cultural bias (PC?) a way of thinking that links abortion to the throw-away culture which the encyclical sees as one of tfe pernicious roots of the ecological crisis.

Posted by Tom Webb 1 on 07/02/2015 at 8:41 AM

Re: “Financing the Destruction of American Lives

Hi michael.sagehorn,

Thanks for the comment. The "deductive leap," as you put it, wasn't ours. It was the members of the two largest teachers unions in California, CFT and CTA, who demanded divestment from firearms companies that manufacture weapons illegal for sale in California by CalSTRS.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Darwin BondGraham on 06/18/2015 at 3:08 PM

Re: “Financing the Destruction of American Lives

How can you make a deductive leap between an investment in a profitable industry (firearms) to a brutal killing? Oh I forgot-it's the East Bay Express logic.

Companies that make firearms are posting record profits in part because folks fear the inability of government to maintain order and protect public safety. As a teacher I expect and demand that my pension fund managers seek to expand my own investments in my monthly pension contributions.

Until the time when thieves, robbers, and murdering thugs are despised and hunted down by society's leaders and punished severely, many people will seek to defend themselves and buy weapons. If the firearms industry is profitable, I would rather have my pension fund capitalize on its earnings.

4 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by michael.sagehorn on 06/17/2015 at 10:05 PM

Re: “The Air Jordan Frenzy

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Posted by Editor on 03/24/2015 at 2:10 AM

Re: “The Real Martin Luther King Jr.

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1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Editor on 01/15/2015 at 3:44 AM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

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Posted by Editor on 12/20/2014 at 8:09 AM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

I support the protests. Cops have long used excessive force, killing old ladies with potato peelers from a distance, and such.

I think the police reform should go even further. The rules should restrict escalation. That is, a raised fist, or even a brick should not be met with a shot to the head. Even further, police should always obey the same rules they enforce against us. For example, no speeding and stop sign running.

0 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Gary Baker on 12/20/2014 at 4:22 AM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

I like your sentiments, Jay. But, I disagree. Protests do not matter very much. They never have. The civil rights movement was won in courtrooms, with the ballot box, and with economic force (in the form of boycotts) more than by protesting.

Real change on the issue of police brutality requires political action. You dismiss the importance of the vote. You are way off base. You mistake flash for substance.

Example- Ferguson. African-Americans are 67% of the population of Ferguson. Yet, they have about 12% voter turnout (which is likely made up of mostly of older white voters). That is why they have the police force that they have.

The people of Ferguson have been done a disservice. No one helped them organize an effective strategy to achieve meaningful change. First, a massive voter registration drive should have occurred. Then, they should have started recall petitions on the County Prosecutor, mayor, governor, and all the other politicians who have failed them. That nonsense with grand juries and all that would not have happened. Politicians would be doing back flips to prosecute brutal cops if they knew the alternative was their own political suicide.

Likewise in Oakland. If black and brown VOTERS were scaring these politicians with threats of recall. If politicians knew it was the end of their political life if they failed to institute meaningful reforms. If elected officials knew that there would be 90% voter turnout at the next local midterm election to vote their ass out of office. Guess what? Reforms would be happening in a big way. Guess why they aren't? Black and brown people don't vote and don't give money to help finance campaigns. So politicians don't really much care what black and brown people think. Instead they are thinking - I wonder how much longer these stupid protests will last? I hope this winter weather shuts down them down.

6 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Gerald Bowman on 12/18/2014 at 8:58 PM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

Actually, I don't think there has been much denigrating of peaceful protests in Oakland. What I and many others have criticized is the hijacking of those protests by the so-called Black Bloc, the trashing of businesses which are frequently owned by first and second generation immigrants, the danger to life by shutting down freeways and, perhaps most telling, the very muted response by progressives like you to these attacks on our community.

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Thomas Higgins on 12/18/2014 at 8:46 AM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

This comment was removed because it violates our policy against anonymous comments. It will be reposted if the commenter chooses to use his or her real name.

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Editor on 12/18/2014 at 3:34 AM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

Thanks for the overview and political insight. I thought I’d just add this update about Cleveland:

Last month, twelve year old Tamir Rice, a Black child with a toy gun in an inner city park, was shot down by police within seconds of their arrival on the scene. The cops, having failed to follow even their own police protocols for defusing any potentially harmful situations, then left him to die as they delayed calling the paramedics, instead busying themselves with handcuffing and throwing into a police cruiser Tamir’s 14 year old sister who tried to come to his aid. The city is in mourning and protest, this coming hot on the heels of the Ferguson and NY murders by police.

Here in Cleveland demonstrators shut down traffic on the shoreway two weeks ago in protest of police brutality. Organized groups of students participated from Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Akron, Kent State University, John Carroll University, Baldwin Wallace University, and other schools, and groups of youth that were hanging around downtown at the start of the demonstration spontaneously joined the protest; a proud moment for Cleveland.

I'm a pediatrician. I practiced in the inner city of Cleveland for 25 years. Tamir wasn’t my patient, but I believe that many children in his extended family were. Though I recently retired, I still read the Cleveland Plain Dealer every day, as I have done for years, partly to see which one of my previous patients or their parents have been murdered or abused. The count is growing. It brutally reflects the hardships and injustice of life in Cleveland, and other cities, for poor people of color.

So I still have one foot in the ghetto (and very well might return to work in an inner city clinic part time after the new year), and one foot… in my privileged life, relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor after all these years. It’s a rather schizophrenic sensation at times. But as I recover from years of burn out, having set myself free from the county hospital system that can easily eat up even the most balanced person’s sanity, I’m looking to perhaps raise my voice and become a community activist again, having been well-trained in the antiwar movement of the sixties; years of advocating for my patients notwithstanding. Ah – life full circle. My blood is boiling and the streets are calling.

Besides, I can’t let all the family glory go to my younger brother who was arrested at the recent Cleveland demonstrations. He was held overnight, never charged, and released over 24 hours later. Interestingly, the Cleveland police, deciding to take an unusual conciliatory stance, and therefore claiming that they were respectful of community sentiment and the demonstrators right to protest, repeatedly denied that there had been any arrests; an outright lie.

On that note, I’m hoping for a safer saner new year, but I don’t think that will ever come without some significant struggle. As Jay Youngdahl so succinctly put it: “without street action, change will not come.”

Lisa R. Brand, M.D.

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Lisa R. Brand on 12/17/2014 at 1:24 PM

Re: “Why You Should Support the Protests

Thanks for this thoughtful and well written piece, Jay.

I'm not far from regarding the heavily militarized and increasingly well integrated "police" as being an occupying army these days, asking as many have "who is it they are so well postured to go to war against?" Indeed, who do they serve and protect?

With about half the population being thrown mostly out into the economic cold, the answer to this question might seem obvious. Which I will state: Not Us, Usually. (If you haven't read it, you might take a look at this piece from SALON: ONE NATION UNDER SWAT: HOW AMERICA'S POLICE BECAME AN OCCUPYING FORCE)

Largely standing by while this process of "changing everything" moved quickly into our society, we now confront a monster that isn't much interested in what we think about it. They might at this stage not even be much interested in what we do about it.

It is possible to confront their authority and the authority of those directing them in the streets, but that is a conflict they are well enough going to win usually, especially in terms of violent confrontation. No news with that. Of course, they can escalate the street violence at will, as you observe. There's no such thing as playing fair in this.

This aspect of the larger class war is, in the corporate media, mostly colorized as being mostly disruptive, though they do genuflect now and again towards noticing the United States remains a very racist society. No mention of Class War At All. That's as forbidden as using the word "fascist." As forbidden as saying Working Class instead of Middle Class usually is. Changing the way people talk about such things is one thing the internet IS good for...

No mention of people generally being driven to extremes by The New Economy, the one that treats a too sizeable proportion of them as being disposable. Not just ghetto disposable. "Third World" disposable.

How many new prisons will be built to contain all of those millions of people newly criminalized or simply intolerably marginalized once they really step on the gas of the machine they've constructed? Alex Jones sounding stuff I suppose, this kind of thing. Conspiranoid nonsense, we're always being told. Or something like that. And in some constructions, that's mostly just what it is.

However,take a looke at all those fascist cops!

bake

Posted by terrybake on 12/17/2014 at 10:43 AM

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