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Greece: they must not pass

by talos Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 01:32:07 AM EST


"Martial law has to be imposed for these measures to be implemented"


This loan shark says, make them pay, beat them until they pay
everything, but don't beat them so hard that they can't keep paying. 
That loan shark says, if you don't make an example of this one, the
others won't respect you.  Beat them to death.  And it is between these
two poles that the bankers, ratings agencies, and EU leaders oscillate

How is Greece taking the new loan deal that accompanies the PSI? Most compare it to a dictatorship, a foreign occupation, the kind of terms a victor imposes on a defeated country. No wonder: Two years of the most grinding austerity, has caused a destruction of the Greek economy that has no precedent, in peacetime, as official nominal wages dropped 15%, unemployment passed the 20% mark and, according to polling company VPRC, the bottom 90% of Greek households, suffered in 2011 alone loss of income on average ~45% of their incomes.

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The gaping abyss of neoliberal "reform"

by talos Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 08:12:52 PM EST





About a month ago, on the 16th of December, IMF mission chief for Greece, Poul Thomsen, told reporters that the country's economy
"...is continuing to trend downwards, reflecting that the hoped for improvement in market sentiment and in the investment climate is not materializing,"

Having finally recognized, after two years of producing an unmitigated societal and economic disaster, the failure of its plans, its estimates and its projections, one would expect the IMF to backtrack from its pro-depression policies, and start proposing something less catastrophic for Greece and the rest of the EU periphery (and eventually the whole of the EU and the rest of the world)... Well, no, one wouldn't really, if they knew the history of the IMF and the recent history of the EU debt debacle, but that would be the rational thing to do. Actually the IMF did the exact opposite: after a treatment that has driven the patient close to death, it is asking to increase the dosage of the same deleterious medicine in line with the Merkozy school of Hooverian economics:

"The numbers show that Greece's budget deficit continued to rise in November, while the recession, spurred on by suffocating austerity measures, has cancelled out a large part of the extra income that the government hoped to gain from emergency taxes.
Indeed, provisional figures from the Ministry of Finance show that the state budget's "black hole" broadened by 5.1% in the first 11 months of this year, reaching 20.52 billion euros, compared to a total of 19.5 billion a year ago.


In order drastically to reduce public spending, therefore, the so-called "troika" has asked the Athens government to carry out further severe austerity measures, including the redundancy of a further 150,000 public sector workers by 2015, in addition to the 30,000 who will be released by the end of this month.  The demands of the "troika"... were announced by the Minister for Administrative Reform, Dimitris Reppas, following a meeting with representatives of the international creditors: Matthias Mors, Mark Flanagan and Bob Traa.  Reppas explained to the officials that the redundancy of surplus state employees has not had the desired effect because the measure was applied hurriedly and without correct assessment..."

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NLP article and some further notes

by talos Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 06:13:14 AM EST

I was asked by the good folks over at the New Left Project for a write-up on the situation in Greece, after the "national unity" government quieted things down. You can read the article, titled "'National Unity' in Greece" here.
In brief I hold that a. This is far from settled, b. new struggles and renewed dissatisfaction are imminent and unavoidable (barring some sort of massive change of EU course, naturally) and c. that the whole situation has made a hard-left government a not totally fanciful idea:

It has become obvious over the past couple of years of the harshest austerity imposed in Europe since the Second World War that the true opposition to IMF/ECB policies comes from the streets and popular protest. As the fabric of society crumbles in Greece it seems improbable that a population in such distress can be pacified by a change of government guard. The coming months until the elections (supposedly due in February, though the date isn't set yet) will be crucial. Should the left manage to unite in an anti-austerity front as effectively as the elites have united behind the new Greek PM, Greece, so the polls seem to indicate, could be the first country in Europe to elect a hard left government. But there is a long way to go and the Communist Party, the largest party of the left, insists that it isn't interested in such a front. It remains to be seen whether it will keep to this line in the face of intensifying austerity.  

A set of new polls came out hours after this was posted at NLP. This is the result from Public Issue, a polling company that seems to be the most constantly trustworthy among those that have published a poll this week (results normalized to 100%, interestingly intent of abstention has fallen precipitously this month to "only" 27%):

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Greek referendum roadshow hits Cannes: Exploring the gamespace

by talos Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 at 08:55:25 AM EST

As the Greek Prime Minister is already in Cannes to meet with the G20 leaders and "discuss" the prospect of a referendum on the rescue package, I'll try to outline some possible outcomes originating from Papandreou's decision, and hopefully start a discussion on the dynamic of the current situation as a whole...

Let me start with four presuppositions:

  1. I still believe that Papandreou's game is aimed internally at Greece and that he will fold tonight under G20 pressure (basically Merkozy)
  2. The worldwide explosion that the possibility of referring austerity to be judged by its victims caused, a basic process of democratic legitimization, shows that the Greek government either purposefully or through its incompetence failed to protect its population both during the spring of 2010 and the summer of 2011, from at least the more outrageous of the troika's demands, although it could have. Greece was then even more so the most powerful country in the world. A 2010 threat to pass acceptance of the IMF programme through a popular plebiscite, would have seriously and drastically reduced the scope of the shock therapy Greece was put through or eliminated it all together, with very important effects on global austeritarian dominance hence.
  3. There is no real way that a referendum on the 26/10 deal can be held on January (or any other month for that matter) in Greece. The real threat is the threat of a sustained threat.
  4. The Greek PM is reacting to increasing social unrest in Greece, and is possibly at this point worrying even for his physical safety, but certainly about the fact that he is right now one of the most despised figures in Greek political history. The referendum idea is the result of a panicked reaction to massive popular pressure. Especially the shock of the massive and ubiquitous protests on the 28th of October national holiday which were literally unprecedented...

So let's examine what the real stakes and strategies are going to be tonight, if only to get a grasp of what is in the cards and what are possible outcomes for the players in this game...

front-paged by afew

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Greece: What austerity has accomplished. Exactly

by talos Wed Oct 26th, 2011 at 05:02:09 AM EST

Captions
Slide 1 (glass): In 2009 23% of children lived at poverty levels
Slide 2 (glass): Today?
Slide 3 (apples): In Athens 1 in 11 inhabitants are fed through solidarity services
Slide 4 (eggs): Last year 6 out of 10 have limited their consumption of food
Slide 5(black): We started our missions in Uganda
Slide 6 (black): Now we face a humanitarian crisis in Greece
Slide 7: Send food to Medecins du Monde

In the press release they are asking for aid to help prevent the winter of 2012 from becoming a killer winter...

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Questions From a Worker Who Reads - from an iPad

by talos Mon Oct 10th, 2011 at 09:11:03 AM EST



Questions From a Worker Who Reads, Bertold Brecht, 1935

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year's War. Who
Else won it?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man?
Who paid the bill?

So many reports.
So many questions.

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Greek National Liberation Front - 70th anniversary

by talos Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 08:42:38 PM EST

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the National Liberation Front (Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo - EAM) in Nazi-occupied Greece. In other circumstances it would pass barely noticed, with speeches from surviving war heroes, a brief spotlight on history, the bravery of the war generation, perhaps at the German Occupation and its aftermath in the Civil War. A festival, a memorial service by various parties on the left. Something like that.

As history is sending us into most troubled waters again however, it seems to acquire a deeper significance this year. A call to arms in a sense. A different kind of "arms" than at the time of course, and a call to return to the original sin of post-war Greece, the post-war political triumph of nazi collaborators.

Thus I take the opportunity to present to Eurotrib a two part BBC documentary on the Greek Civil War, that was aired only once in the 1980s and then vetoed by the British diplomatic service as "unfair" to post-war British efforts in Greece. This was something I meant to do for a while now since I have kept in mind DoDo's request for an extended diary on the subject something I now know I'll never have time to pen, so I think the two videos will do nicely as a useful and pretty much, accurate version of the events of the time... In a sense, the Greek Resistance and the Greek Civil War are still present in political discourse, disguised yet potent and still color the lexicon of modern debate. As the Germans left, I note, George Papandreou Sr, the current PM's grandfather, came into the national spotlight as a major political presence.



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Greek government nearing its end? The Thessaloniki Expo demonstration

by talos Sat Sep 10th, 2011 at 08:16:08 AM EST

The Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TITF) holds a special place in Greek politics. Traditionally it is there that the Greek Prime Minister presents his government's economic policy, every September. Leaders of other parties also give press conferences in response. It is the event that marks the beginning of Greece's political season, and as such it is an annual milestone, some times critical: A lame appearance in TITF in 2008, was a watershed for the Karamanlis government, the former PM, and a turning point for the Socialists on their way back to political power.

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A manifesto for a new european oligarchy?

by talos Sun Jul 24th, 2011 at 08:15:32 AM EST

In a recent essay in Der Spiegel, titled "Democratization Can't Save Europe, The Need for a Centralization of Power", Prof. Herfried Münkler (of "post-heroic society" fame) states, more clearly than anyone else I've read, the demand for an elite dismissal of democracy in Europe. This is not an exaggeration:

In light of this failure of the elites, it is hardly surprising that we are hearing renewed calls for the democratization of Europe. Suddenly, the people are expected to fix what the elites have botched. Since they are already being asked to pay for the problems caused by the elites, many believe that the people should have more say in how and by whom Europe is controlled.

As reasonable as this might sound, by no means does it make as much sense as it seems at first glance. Even after the democratization of Europe, the elites in Brussels and Strasbourg will still be in charge. The only option available to the European people, to the extent that they can be referred to as such, would be to react to obvious failure by voting their leaders out of office -- and to vote an opposing elite to take their place. Whether this would fundamentally change anything is open to question. [...]

Pushing for the democratization of Europe is akin to playing a reckless game that can quickly lead to European disintegration. Those who see democratization as a logical reaction to the crisis may not even be aware of this risk. They see democratization as an automatic reflex in response to the crisis. But democracy needs the kinds of conditions that do not exist in Europe today.

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Greece: No other plan but plunder

by talos Tue Jul 12th, 2011 at 03:26:22 AM EST

There's this old Nasreddin Hodja tale, where a villager sees Nassredin, standing sadly by the side of the road and asks him "What's the matter Hodja?". "I'm very upset my friend" he replies, "I have been teaching my donkey how to manage without eating, and just as he was getting the hang of it, he died!"

This was the story that came to my mind as I was reading about the great progress that the Greek economy has been making by following the ECB / EU Commissars' guide to bankruptcy market creditworthiness:

A deeper-than-expected recession caused Greece's central government deficit to widen by almost one third in the first half of the year, widely missing an interim budget target under the country's bailout plan, the finance ministry said on Monday...

... Net budget revenues dropped 8.3 percent year-on-year to 21.81 billion euros, compared with a 25.08 billion euro target. Spending before payments on the country's debt increased 4.5 percent to 25.62 billion euros, 7.1 percent above target.

The ministry attributed the revenue shortfall to a more severe economic slump than had been anticipated, and one-off road taxes that boosted revenue in the previous period

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Flash brief from the #greekrevolution

by talos Wed Jun 29th, 2011 at 12:34:07 PM EST

...And "Greek Revolution" seems a very appropriate term to describe what is happening in Syntagma square right now...
Too busy demonstrating and participating, to post (Although see some notes from yesterday below), I've managed only tweets... Here's a brief note, to sevrve as an update repository...

Police violence is escalating, propped by groups of partially dubious "anarchists", clashes to day involved "regular" demonstrators, you can cut the rage with a knife, just like the air since teargas is so thick that it's like an alien planet. I'm very worried about where this leads. When the indignants met the first 48 hour strike in 50 years, they became again a force worth reckoning....

The Greek parliament, meaning the compliant team of "socialists" minus just one MP of the ten that hinted they might vote against the Medium Term Programme, just voted 155 for and 138 against (5 present, 2 absent), to sell off the country to banksters and crooks (if they find buyers that is, else they'll give it away), lower life expectancy and gut social spending. At this moment with the scenes in Syntagma looking more and more like Tahrir square and pictures from a battleground, luxury hotels being evacuated and grandfathers (never mind kids) chanting "Cops, Pigs Murderers" and calling for the burning of parliament. I don't think its over yet.

I'm off again to Syntagma. Although getting back might be a tad difficult at this moment...

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Greece: if austerity doesn't work... Try more austerity!

by talos Wed Jun 15th, 2011 at 03:14:41 AM EST


A government of accountants. In fact, a government of accountants working for foreign banking interests and against anything that might remotely legitimize them as a Greek government: The new medium-term programme for the Greek economy is out, and it is a monster that combines new onerous indirect tax hikes, new direct taxes on the poor and the middle classes (those that cannot avoid taxation), possibly the largest and most rapid privatization programme in the history of the world, and gigantic public expenditures cuts.

This is Socialism for the 21st Century - bankster collaborator style...

Another update from the eye of the storm - promoted by DoDo

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Here be dragons: Lies, horror populi and subversion amidst hope and chaos

by talos Sun Jun 5th, 2011 at 10:30:11 AM EST


Takis Michas' article in the WSJ, written a month ago, about Greece and what he describes as its Descent into Anarchy (full article reproduced here) is a stunning piece of disinformation on the situation in Greece, an outlandish view of the disaster unfolding in the country, tainted by class prejudices and ideolepsy. It is so utterly unrooted in reality, that, were it published in Greece anonymously, it would be unclear whether this was perhaps a parody. This is the pinnacle of a genre of alarmist anti-left writings that seem to pop-up regularly in the local MSM to lecture the restless natives on the vileness of resistance to Authority and its true Prophet, the IMF, and blame the Left as sole instigator of all sorts of violence: A"violence" however, which on closer inspection mostly consists of jeering a corrupt politician or two, staging a protest against the pauperization of this or that social group, peaceful civil disobedience and strikes. In a zoology of militantly conformist, fear-mongering tall tales on display in the government-friendly media (and that's 90% of all MSM media), Michas' piece is Godzilla. That's why it was perhaps too tall for the Greek press and required a global newspaper to print it.

The WSJ readership of course, needs this potent injection of fear-mongering anyway, as the plebes in the US are rapidly becoming unruly themselves, faced with shouldering the costs of the banker bailout and this cautionary tale form the exotic Near East, complete with leftist dragons, is perfectly timed for domestic use.
As I said, if this was published in a Greek newspaper, in Greek, it would offer a hilarious peek at the paranoia that the crisis has bred among the country's upper classes, and would not merit a response significantly different from "you should go out more often". Since it is published in English, in a paper as broadly read among ruling elites as the WSJ, and might skew the perception of what is actually happening in Greece, it requires debunking, especially as I have seen the article being referred to on the www as some sort of authoritative picture of Greek "anarchy", since its publication. In the process it will provide an opportunity to relate the true story of the budding, if still incoherent, mass resistance to the ECB/IMF fiscal stormtroopers and their caretaker government in this peripheral ECB province I'm writing from, but also the truly darker side of collapsing neighbourhoods, mindless violence and general despair that is emerging from the deep cracks that the prolonged ECB/IMF induced depression has carved on the already decrepit social body. This panoramic view of civil discontent and societal unrest that answering Michas' article must include, and the true dangers lurking as the crisis deepens will be the major theme of this post, along with a discussion of things that have happened after the publication of this article: it has been a month thick with events.

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The Greek colony

by talos Mon May 30th, 2011 at 04:41:16 AM EST

According to the FT, Greece is in the process of completely relinquishing its sovereignty to its creditors:

European leaders are negotiating a deal that would lead to unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatisation of state assets, in exchange for new bail-out loans for Athens.

This is pretty much an explicit call to plunder the country. So much for solidarity it seems...

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Merkel's racist lies

by talos Wed May 18th, 2011 at 09:14:36 AM EST

Chancellor Merkel has decided to chide those lazy Southerners for being well... lazy:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has attacked southern European countries such as Greece where people retire early and take lots of holidays, saying they can no longer enjoy such lifestyles at the cost of other EU members like Germany

Apparently Ms. Merkel is under the impression that Germans work more than Greeks, an impression that could have been easily dispelled were she to turn to the OECD statistics instead of the vile and racist punditry of German populist right-wing rags. The OECD tables show that for Greece the average annual hours actually worked per worker in 2009 reach 2119, versus 1390 for Germany. That is a little over 60% of hours worked by Greeks. Spanish workers worked 1654 hours. Portuguese 1719.

But what about the number of days of paid leave? Surely Germans have fewer holidays than the Greeks. Well, not according to Wikipedia. In Greece the number is +/- 20 days, depending on seniority, while in Germany it's 4 weeks.

Then pensions? It surely is a scandal according to The Local that reports this nonsense, that:

"The current Greek retirement age of mid- to late-50s is to be raised to 65 for men this summer as part of a package of changes to be introduced by the government this year"

But wait, if it is now set to rise to 65, what exactly is the problem? And how about that mid to late 50s myth. The actual average age of retirement in Greece before the IMF and the ECB shock was 61, as testified i.e. in this Reuters story.

Salaries then! What about those enormous Greek salaries. Well according to Eurostat:

...Greece... has the most underpaid private sector employees compared to the rest of the "Eurozone". In Greece, the average gross monthly wage, including social security and taxes, is 803 euros [about £700 or US$1063], while the lowest gross salary in, for example, Ireland is 1300 euros, in France 1250 euros and in the Netherlands 1400 euros

I'm not even considering that the wingnut Austrian policies that the ECB, with the aid of the IMF is implementing in Greece, have resulted in three succesive years of deep contraction (and who knows how many more) - a depression actually, coupled with high inflation, and sky-rocketing unemployment (it's difficult I note to be productive when there are no jobs out there) and that by these policies Germany and the core EU is relegating Greece to colonial status and pauperization, despite the fact that, as JC Junker has admitted, the German government has been complicit with Greek governments in hiding (and profiting I should add as the recent scandals in Greece involving German companies show) and perpetuating the large scale theft of the Greek economy by corrupt politicians and oligarchs...

To hell or the front page ... Colman

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Kristallnacht in Athens

by talos Sat May 14th, 2011 at 10:32:59 AM EST

Scenes from the Nazi pogrom against immigrants Athens 12/5

As Greece was reeling from the violent repression that broke up the large anti-austerity demonstration in Athens, and led to a critically wounded demonstrator (who is doing better but is still in danger of losing his life or suffering permananent damage), Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) the local neo nazi party, which last autumn managed to elect a City councilor in Athens, went on a rampage in Athens' decrepit residential neigbourhoods of Kypseli and Patissia attacking immigrants and their shops, breaking windows, invading homes and sending as many as 50 people to the hospital (while dozens more were too afraid to seek medical help) with knife wounds and blows. This unprecedented in scale attack, came after a demonstration in the crime-ridden neighborhood protesting the stabbing and murder of a local inhabitant (who was Greek) in heartbreaking circumstances: the man went to get his car to take his pregnant wife to the hospital where she was to give birth to their child and the robbers attacked him to take the video-camera he was carrying in a pouch.

frontpaged with minor edit - Nomad

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The revelations of Strauss Kahn

by talos Fri May 6th, 2011 at 08:15:26 AM EST

Last night (Tuesday May 3 - Nomad) in one of the most viewed shows on Greek TV, Lakis Lazopoulos a popular comedian showed an excerpt of an edited part of a documentary that has been shown on Canal + last month, if I'm not mistaken. We already knew, since March, that in this documentary, he divulged that the Greek Prime Minister was scheming with the IMF, to impose the sort of Shock Therapy Greece is living through - as the respected daily Kathimerini reported that:

Prime Minister George Papandreou called for the intervention of the International Monetary Fund in Greece at the beginning of December 2009, or two months after he took over the governance of the country, while he was publicly categorically rejecting such a possibility

In fact Papandreou was elected, less than two months earlier, by campaigning against the relative light austerity program that the New Democracy Conservatives ran on (and with quite reasonable arguments) and explicitly dismissing the idea that Greece would have to turn to the IMF for help. His, by know infamous, campaign slogan was "there is [plenty of] money".

The video (it's in Greek but DSK's statements are in French - starting ~ 0:42) reveals that the discussions between the two men involved more than a single communication:


frontpaged with minor edits - Nomad

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Jake's Greek LTE, questions and discussion

by talos Mon Apr 4th, 2011 at 09:18:49 PM EST

Some weeks ago Jake posted a comment/LTE draft in my last diary on the Greek crisis, that I promised to translate and circulate in the Greek blogosphere and perhaps try to publish in a newspaper or two. While I failed in my attempt to do the second, the first was more of a success. I posted it in my Greek blog (note the stamp!) and saw the piece circulated around various aggregators and blogs. This led to a discussion and a number of questions, which we thought with Jake could be answered here, as they might be of interest to the ET community, serving also as a vehicle to discuss the issue of what is to be done with and what will become of the EU periphery's (and beyond) debt crisis. Thus I post the final draft of Jake's LTE here, followed by a list of selected questions and comments that were posted or received by email...

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High Drama: Greece under the "troika"

by talos Fri Feb 18th, 2011 at 09:10:40 AM EST




Image: Translation of a poster by the king of Greek web agit-prop, Antista-chef

A couple of weeks ago a rather obscure dairy company, Neogal, based in the town of Drama, near the Greek-Bulgarian border, received a phone call from a representative of the troika (Greece's de facto governing authority, comprised of representatives of the IMF, the ECB and the EU Commission) - others say that they actually visited the town, but that's probably not true. They wanted to ask a few questions regarding the wage deal it had agreed on with its workers.

from the diaries - Nomad

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The 11th thesis on wikileaks

by talos Thu Dec 9th, 2010 at 04:39:11 AM EST


The highly sage, practical bureaucrats who secretly and unjustifiably think of themselves in the way that Pericles openly and rightly boasted of himself: "I am a man who is the equal of anyone both in knowing the needs of the state and in the art of expounding them" -- these hereditary leaseholders of political intelligence will shrug their shoulders and remark with oracular good breeding that the defenders of freedom of the press are wasting their efforts, for a mild censorship is better than a harsh freedom of the press. We reply to them with the words of the Spartans Sperthias and Bulis to the Persian satrap Hydarnes:


"Hydames, you have not equally weighed each side in your advice to us. For you have tried the one which you advise, the other has remained untried by you. You know what it means to be a slave, but you have never yet tried freedom, to know whether it is sweet or not. For if you had tried it, you would have advised us to fight for it, not merely with spears, but also with axes."

Karl Marx: On freedom of the Press

1. What is in the long run perhaps more important than the actual content of the leaked cables, or the revelations of atrocities uncovered and admitted in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the uncovering through its reflexive response, of what is practically a mechanism of internet control by powerful state and non-state actors. From Amazon to Pay Pal, from DDOS attacks to credit cards and data visualization companies, and then outside the web to banks, the Swedish and British court systems, Interpol, the whole world it seems - everybody fell on wikileaks with a vengeance that was meant, I suppose, less to silence this particular story (something that I imagine even the most deluded of state and corporate technocrats knew was pointless) but rather to inflict damage against the organization at a time when it was growing stronger and, more importantly I imagine, to discourage any further groups or networks from joining the game. This is not mainly an attempt to shut down, but rather to intimidate and contain...

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Your take on today's news media

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Your take on today's news media

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