Monday, July 20, 2015

Left becoming disillusioned with the EU supergovernment

Greece bailout: breaking the spell for Europe's Left-wing parties.  Big government finally seen as oppressive

The EU establishment henceforth faces what it has always feared: a political war on two fronts. It has long been fighting an expanding coalition of free marketeers, parliamentary souverainistes and anti-immigrant populists on the Right.

After the scorched earth treatment of Greece over the past five months - culminating in the vindictive decision to impose yet harsher terms on this crushed nation just days after its cri de coeur in a referendum - it has now lost its remaining emotional hold on the Left.

This has been coming for a long time. We conservatives have watched in disbelief as one Socialist party after another immolates itself on the altar of monetary union, defending a "bankers' ramp", as the old Left used to call it.

We have seen the Left apologise for 1930s' policies, and defend a pro-cyclical fiscal regime imposed on Europe by a handful of "Ordoliberal" reactionaries in the German finance ministry.

By a twist of fate, the Left has become the enforcer of an economic structure that has led to levels of unemployment once unthinkable for a post-war social democratic government with its own sovereign currency. It has found ways to justify a youth jobless rate still running at 42pc in Italy, 49pc in Spain and 50pc in Greece. It has acquiesced in the Long Slump of the past six years.

It meekly endorsed the EU Fiscal Compact, knowing that it imposes a legal requirement on eurozone states to slash public debt - by 1.5pc of GDP in France, 2pc in Spain and 3.5pc in Italy and Portugal - every year for the next two decades. This is a formula for permanent depression. It outlaws Keynesian economics, and Classical economics. It is a doomsday construct.

This is what they have defended, because until now they dared not question the sanctity of EMU.

And so the once mighty Dutch Labour Party has been reduced to a pitiful relic. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party has lost its Left wing to the rebel Podemos movement, freshly victorious in Barcelona. Support for France's socialist leader, Francois Hollande, has been cut to 24pc in the polls, as the French working class defects to the Front National.

Yet finally, events in Greece have broken the spell.

"Progressives should be appalled by the European Union's ruination of Greece," wrote Owen Jones in The Guardian. The new term "Lexit" is gaining currency.

The voices of the Left are uneasy. Their instincts are to oppose everything that Ukip [anti-EU conservatives} stands for. "At first, only a few dipped their toes in the water; then others, hesitantly, followed their lead, all the time looking at each other for reassurance," Mr Jones wrote.

Yet the cruelty on display in Brussels has trumped all. Mr Jones runs through the names.  "Everything good about the EU is in retreat; everything bad is on the rampage," says George Monbiot. The EU is being portrayed "with some truth, as a cruel, fanatical and stupid institution", says Nick Cohen.

Variants of this debate are stirring across Europe. Luigi Zingales, an adviser to Italy's premier Matteo Renzi, has become a flaming eurosceptic.  "This European project is dead forever. If Europe is nothing but a bad version of the IMF, what is left of the European integration project?" he wrote as Greece capitulated.

Whether or not it was a "coup", as the Twitterati alleged, there is no doubt that Syriza was compelled by financial coercion to abandon its election promises. It must even repeal all "fiscal" laws passed since January.

Without rehearsing 15 years of Greek controversy, let me just say that the country's crisis is a collective responsibility of the creditors, the EMU elites, the Greek oligarchy and, ultimately, of a jejune Alexis Tsipras.

The Troika bail-out in 2010 was intended to save the euro and European banks at a time when there were no defences against contagion. Greece was not saved. It was sacrificed. The roots of the "Greek Spring" can be traced to this original sin.

The EMU creditors never acknowledged their own guilt. They never made an honest attempt to negotiate with Syriza, even on matters of common ground. They demanded that the austerity terms of the prior Memorandum be enforced to the letter, hiding behind Pharisaical talk of rules.

Let us not forget that the European Central Bank brought about the final collapse by freezing emergency liquidity to the Greek banks, forcing Syriza to shut the lenders' doors, impose capital controls and halt imports.

It was a political decision - dressed up with technical flammery - and was arguably illegal. It is very hard to reconcile with the ECB's treaty duty to uphold financial stability. One plain fact is clear: technocrats brought an elected government to its knees.

We all know what the game was. Germany and its allies were determined to make an example of Syriza to discourage voters in any other country from daring to buck the system.

I doubt that this will work, even on its own narrow terms. Podemos remains defiant. It has accused the EU institutions and the Spanish government of committing an "act of terrorism".

It is, in any case, a double-edged strategy. Costas Lapavitsas, a Syriza MP, said the salient message of the past five months is that no radical government can pursue sovereign policies as long as it is at the mercy of a central bank able to switch off liquidity.

"It is now perfectly clear that the only way out of this is to break free of monetary union," he said.



The Most Glaring Flaws in Obama's Iran Deal

The Obama administration's nuclear agreement with Iran has major flaws that could dangerously undermine the long-term national security interests of the United States and its allies.

Although the administration entered the negotiations pledging to cut off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, the agreement amounts to little more than a diplomatic speed bump that will delay, but not permanently halt, Iran's drive for a nuclear weapons capability.

The agreement in effect legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

Once key restrictions on uranium enrichment expire in 10 to 15 years, Iran will have the option to develop an industrial scale enrichment program that will make it easier for it to sprint cross that threshold.

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Iran used red lines and deadlines to wear down the administration, which played a strong hand weakly.

The administration undermined its own bargaining position by making it clear that it wanted a nuclear agreement more than Tehran seems to have wanted one, despite the fact that Tehran needed an agreement more for economic reasons.

The administration's downplaying of the military option and front-loading of sanctions relief early in the negotiations reduced Iranian incentives to make concessions.

This gave the Iranians bargaining leverage they have used shrewdly.

Iran dug in its heels on key red lines proclaimed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while the administration's red lines gradually became blurred pink lines.

Iran's nuclear infrastructure is left largely intact. Centrifuges will be mothballed but not dismantled.

Iran's illicit nuclear facilities Natanz and Fordow, whose operations were supposed to be shut down under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, have now been legitimized, despite the fact that they were built covertly in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Iran is essentially rewarded for cheating under the agreement. It gained a better deal on uranium enrichment than Washington has offered to its own allies.

Taiwan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates were denied enrichment arrangements that Iran now has pocketed.

Instead of dismantling Iran's nuclear infrastructure, the agreement dismantles the sanctions that brought Tehran to the negotiating table in the first place.

This fact is not lost on our allies, friends and "frenemies" in the region.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understandably sees Iran's potential nuclear threat as an existential issue, denounced the deal as "a historic mistake."

Sunni Arab states threatened by Iran are likely to hedge their bets and take out insurance by working to expand their own nuclear options.  Saudi Arabia already has let it be known that it will demand the same concessions on uranium enrichment that Iran received.

The Saudis have begun negotiations to buy French nuclear reactors and this civilian program could become the foundation for a weapons program down the line.

Other Arab states and Turkey are likely to tee up their own nuclear programs as a prudent counterweight to offset to Iran's expanding nuclear potential, after some of the restrictions on its uranium enrichment program automatically sunset.

The end result could be accelerated nuclear proliferation and a possible nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.

Another major problem is verification of Iranian compliance. The administration's initial insistence on "anytime/anywhere" inspections was downgraded to "sometimes/some places."

Iran has up to 14 days to weigh the requests of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. If it decides to object, its objections would be relayed to an arbitration committee that would have 7 days to rule. If it rules against Iran, Tehran would have another 3 days to arrange an inspection.

This gives Iran up to 24 days to move, hide or destroy materials sought by inspectors. This is far from a foolproof system, particularly in light of Iran's long history of cheating.

Sanctions relief is another potential headache. Tehran would benefit by the release of about $150 billion of its money frozen in overseas accounts. Ultimately the Iranian economy would be boosted by tens of billions of dollars more through a surge of oil revenues as oil sanctions are lifted.

This could help Iran reshape the regional balance of power and establish hegemony over Iraq, Yemen, important oil resources and oil supply routes.

Much of this money will go to fund the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthi rebels, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups funded by Iran.

This would rapidly lead to escalation of the wars, shadow wars and civil wars already taking place around the Middle East.

The dangers posed by Iran's enhanced ability to finance global terrorism would be compounded by the administration's last minute capitulation on the U.N. arms embargo, which will be gradually eased if Iran remains in compliance with the agreement.

This would allow Iran to upgrade its conventional weapons through imports from foreign suppliers and enable it to more easily arm its foreign allies and surrogates.

The bottom line is that the Obama administration now has signed an agreement that will expand Iran's power and influence, strain U.S. relations with its regional friends, weaken long-standing non-proliferation goals on restricting access to sensitive nuclear technologies and contribute to the evolution of a multi-polar nuclear Middle East.



Wisconsin Supreme Court halts illegal  raids on conservatives

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has effectively killed the "John Doe" case which led to home raids and intimidation of a wide range of Wisconsin conservative activists.

Here is the key finding, which completely shreds both the legal theories and motives of the prosecutors, completely vindicates the targets, and praises those who fought back legally against prosecutorial misconduct:

"133 Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points. It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a "perfect storm" of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation."

Andrew Grossman, who filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case and who has served as counsel to Eric O'Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth (two of the targets of the investigation) in various federal civil rights litigation against the prosecutors, provided me with the following statement:

"Today's decision puts an end to one of the worst abuses of power ever seen in Wisconsin law enforcement. The next step will be holding those responsible accountable for their actions. The Court's recognition that the John Doe was a politically motivated "dragnet" of Gov. Walker's allies provides strong support for Cindy Archer's civil rights action against the Milwaukee prosecutors and lawsuits by potentially any of the other John Doe targets".



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1 comment:

Robert said...

Now, it needs to be nut-cutting time for the corrupt special prosecutor and his co-conspirator corrupt judge who harassed Wisconsin's citizens for exercising their First Amendment civil rights! May they get well-deserved time in SuperMax Cell Block C with Big, Bald Bubba, who should find them cute enough for his tastes.