Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 30th, 2015

I would vote NO in the Greek referendum: Joseph E. Stiglitz

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors.

In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP.

I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been.

But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn.

Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands.

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems.

The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.

But why would Europe do this?

Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy?

In January, Greece’s citizens voted for a government committed to ending austerity.

If the government were simply fulfilling its campaign promises, it would already have rejected the proposal. But it wanted to give Greeks a chance to weigh in on this issue, so critical for their country’s future wellbeing.

That concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the eurozone, which was never a very democratic project.

Most of its members’ governments did not seek their people’s approval to turn over their monetary sovereignty to the ECB.

When Sweden’s did, Swedes said no. They understood that unemployment would rise if the country’s monetary policy were set by a central bank that focused single-mindedly on inflation (and also that there would be insufficient attention to financial stability). The economy would suffer, because the economic model underlying the eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers.

And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalised those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: many European leaders want to see the end of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government.

After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth.

The EU seems to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate.

It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July.

Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks.

A Yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.

A No vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

I know how I would vote.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University.

His most recent book, co-authored with Bruce Greenwald, is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015.

Asad Ghsoub shared this link

Stiglitz votes No.
“We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. ”

Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks
theguardian.com

I chose peace: I’m Not my terrorist father?

On November 5th, 1990, a man named El-Sayyid Nosair walked into a hotel in Manhattan and assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Defense League. (This Meir Kahane was a typical mass murderer)

Nosair was initially found not guilty of the murder, but while serving time on lesser charges, he and other men began planning attacks on a dozen New York City landmarks, including tunnels, synagogues and the United Nations headquarters.

Those plans were foiled by an FBI informant. but the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was not. Nosair would eventually be convicted for his involvement in the plot. El-Sayyid Nosair is my father.

1:02 I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1983 to him, an Egyptian engineer, and a loving American mother and grade school teacher, who together tried their best to create a happy childhood for me.

It wasn’t until I was 7 years old that our family dynamic started to change. My father exposed me to a side of Islam that few people, including the majority of Muslims, get to see.

It’s been my experience that when people take the time to interact with one another, it doesn’t take long to realize that for the most part, we all want the same things out of life.

However, in every religion, in every population, you’ll find a small percentage of people who hold so fervently to their beliefs that they feel they must use any means necessary to make others live as they do.

1:54 A few months prior to his arrest, he sat me down and explained that for the past few weekends, he and some friends had been going to a shooting range on Long Island for target practice. He told me I’d be going with him the next morning.

We arrived at Calverton Shooting Range, which unbeknownst to our group was being watched by the FBI. When it was my turn to shoot, my father helped me hold the rifle to my shoulder and explained how to aim at the target about 30 yards off. That day, the last bullet I shot hit the small orange light that sat on top of the target and to everyone’s surprise, especially mine, the entire target burst into flames.

My uncle turned to the other men, and in Arabic said, “Ibn abuh.” (Like father, like son). They all seemed to get a really big laugh out of that comment, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I fully understood what they thought was so funny. They thought they saw in me the same destruction my father was capable of.

Those men would eventually be convicted of placing a van filled with 1,500 pounds of explosives into the sub-level parking lot of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, causing an explosion that killed six people and injured over 1,000 others. These were the men I looked up to. These were the men I called ammu, which means uncle.

 By the time I turned 19, I had already moved 20 times in my life, and that instability during my childhood didn’t really provide an opportunity to make many friends. Each time I would begin to feel comfortable around someone, it was time to pack up and move to the next town.

Being the perpetual new face in class, I was frequently the target of bullies. I kept my identity a secret from my classmates to avoid being targeted, but as it turns out, being the quiet, chubby new kid in class was more than enough ammunition.

So for the most part, I spent my time at home reading books and watching TV or playing video games. For those reasons, my social skills were lacking, and growing up in a bigoted household, I wasn’t prepared for the real world. I’d been raised to judge people based on arbitrary measurements, like a person’s race or religion.

4:17 So what opened my eyes?

One of my first experiences that challenged this way of thinking was during the 2000 presidential elections. Through a college prep program, I was able to take part in the National Youth Convention in Philadelphia. My particular group’s focus was on youth violence, and having been the victim of bullying for most of my life, this was a subject in which I felt particularly passionate.

The members of our group came from many different walks of life. One day toward the end of the convention, I found out that one of the kids I had befriended was Jewish.

Now, it had taken several days for this detail to come to light, and I realized that there was no natural animosity between the two of us. I had never had a Jewish friend before, and frankly I felt a sense of pride in having been able to overcome a barrier that for most of my life I had been led to believe was insurmountable.

Another major turning point came when I found a summer job at Busch Gardens, an amusement park. There, I was exposed to people from all sorts of faiths and cultures, and that experience proved to be fundamental to the development of my character.

Most of my life, I’d been taught that homosexuality was a sin, and by extension, that all gay people were a negative influence. As chance would have it, I had the opportunity to work with some of the gay performers at a show there, and soon found that many were the kindest, least judgmental people I had ever met.

Being bullied as a kid created a sense of empathy in me toward the suffering of others, and it comes very unnaturally to me to treat people who are kind in any other way than how I would want to be treated.

Because of that feeling, I was able to contrast the stereotypes I’d been taught as a child with real life experience and interaction. I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, but I’m well acquainted with being judged for something that’s beyond my control.

Then there was “The Daily Show.” On a nightly basis, Jon Stewart forced me to be intellectually honest with myself about my own bigotry and helped me to realize that a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation had nothing to do with the quality of one’s character.

John was in many ways a father figure to me when I was in desperate need of one. Inspiration can often come from an unexpected place, and the fact that a Jewish comedian had done more to positively influence my worldview than my own extremist father is not lost on me.

7:04 One day, I had a conversation with my mother about how my worldview was starting to change, and she said something to me that I will hold dear to my heart for as long as I live. She looked at me with the weary eyes of someone who had experienced enough dogmatism to last a lifetime, and said, “I’m tired of hating people.” In that instant, I realized how much negative energy it takes to hold that hatred inside of you.

7:34 Zak Ebrahim is not my real name. I changed it when my family decided to end our connection with my father and start a new life. So why would I out myself and potentially put myself in danger? Well, that’s simple.

I do it in the hopes that perhaps someone someday who is compelled to use violence may hear my story and realize that there is a better way, that although I had been subjected to this violent, intolerant ideology, that I did not become fanaticized.

Instead, I choose to use my experience to fight back against terrorism, against the bigotry. I do it for the victims of terrorism and their loved ones, for the terrible pain and loss that terrorism has forced upon their lives. (Zad is awfully well position to experience other worldviews and many opportunities to change)

For the victims of terrorism, I will speak out against these senseless acts and condemn my father’s actions. And with that simple fact, I stand here as proof that violence isn’t inherent in one’s religion or race, and the son does not have to follow the ways of his father. I am not my father.

Patsy Z shared this link

“Empathy is more powerful than hate, and our lives should be dedicated to making it go viral.”

Zak Ebrahim was seven years old when his father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
t.ted.com|By Zak Ebrahim

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