Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Greek National Orchestra Thrown Out on its Ear

         I cannot imagine any sadder sight or sound than this, the Greek National Symphony Orchestra playing Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations at their the farewell concert.
         The whole lot of them are being sacked, after 75 years of unbroken tradition. Yes this is austerity or, to put it another way, this is what the Greeks are having to do to stay in the euro-currency. The latest round of cuts includes not only closing down their national TV station but also firing the whole of the country's leading classical orchestra. These professional musicians are all now going to be using their freedom of movement to seek jobs elsewhere in the austerity-stricken EU, with unemployment rates of 20 -25% in most places, and if they can't find another job...they will be busking.
         If you notice any very talented buskers in the London Underground in the near future, playing core classical repertoire, well...thank the European Union. Because of the determination of the EU commission to keep the Euro-zone intact, and not allow Greece to exit from the single currency, everything that can be cut has been cut. Salaries, pensions, benefits (non-existent now) and all public services have been cut to the bone. Hospitals cannot afford to give treatment and they have virtually no medicines. Schools are surviving with minimal lighting and no heating. Books have been replaced with online learning materials.
        Meanwhile prices of virtually everything have soared. The country is full of people trying to live on in houses where the water and electricity have been cut off for non-payment.
        I remember Greece before it went into the European Union and I remember a country of sturdy, hard-working, proud people with a weak currency that brought in fantastic trade and tourism. A moussaka in a typical island restaurant cost 500 drachmas. I also remember their elation when they went into the EU and the optimism that accompanied it. Then came the wave of apparent prosperity. Grandparents could not believe what the younger generation was spending... and they were right not to believe it. The illusion of riches, all based on subsidies and loans, and a low interest rate, soon melted away and now the country is worse off than it has every been in my lifetime. People are leaving en masse and those who stay are struggling to afford the most basic food.
       I have still got a handful of Greek banknotes from the old drachma currency, tucked away in a drawer. I hope that one day I will be able to go back to Greece and use them to buy a moussaka again.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Can A Coup Restore Democracy?

Egyptians on TV yesterday openly express their jubilation at the army takeover that has ousted President Morsi from power. Not surprisingly women are among those most delighted!

Here is a video of the public rejoicing:-

A military coup in Egypt may paradoxically be the only way back to democracy. President Morsi was elected on a platform of respect for human rights and freedom of conscience. As soon as he got to power, he started to force through the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Sharia law and the oppression of women. Churches were burned down and Christians driven from their homes, some of them attacked and murdered.

An anti-Christian mob launch a frenzied attack on a cathedral filled with mourners

On April 7th, the funeral of five Christians murdered by islamic extremists in a village in Northern Egypt was being held at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo. The cathedral and the crowd of mourners was attacked by islamic extremists armed with machetes. Two people were murdered and many had to flee in terror. The Egyptian police did nothing to protect the Christians and the left-leaning Western media virtually ignored it.

New footage has emerged of men shooting guns, wielding machetes and hurling stones laid siege to the Coptic cathedral in Cairo earlier this month

Since the army takeover, Muslim Brotherhood gangs have been torching Christian churches in revenge. They have burnt down one in the village of al-Minya, where pro-Morsi forces in the last few days distributed threats that anyone joining the rebellion could expect to have their homes, cars, businesses and property burned down.
 Destroying the pyramids - evil non-muslim monuments! - and forcing women to wear the burka in public were two of Morsi's "Arab Spring" policies.
Any head of state who deviates from his professed agenda after being elected (in Egypt or here in the UK) has committed a grave crime, one of the few that really tempt a civilized person to bring back the death penalty. Why? Because it undermines the whole system of democracy and makes peaceful government by consent and negotiation an impossibility. It drives people to resort to violence because they have no other way.

Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, has issued this official message: 
"It is wonderful to see the Egyptian people taking back their stolen revolution in a peaceful way, through the idea of Rebel and its youth."

And this from the Most Rev Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, Anglican Bishop of Egypt (and Jerusalem, the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa): 
At last, Egypt is now free from the oppressive rule of the Muslim Brotherhood! The Armed Forces took the side of the millions of Egyptians who demonstrated in the streets since the 30th of June against President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Armed Forces responded to the invitation of the people to intervene and force the President to step down at the request of the people of Egypt. Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-SiSi invited His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and The Grand Imam of Egypt Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyib, and other political leaders, to discuss the roadmap for the future of Egypt. After this meeting, it was announced that the head of the constitutional court will be an interim leader of the nation. The current controversial constitution is now suspended. The new government will involve capable people from different backgrounds.

As soon as Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced this, millions of Egyptians on the streets went around rejoicing, singing, dancing, and making a lot of fireworks. I have never seen Egyptians rejoicing in such a way! They deserve this joy as they insisted to write their own history!

Since the Muslim Brotherhood ruled the country a year ago, we Egyptians experienced divisions, exclusions, sectarian clashes, fanaticism, a decrease in tourism, and a bad economy.

This is an answer to the prayers of so many people from around the world who were praying for our beloved country Egypt. Please continue to pray for protection from violent reaction of the Islamists which already has started. Pray also for unity and reconciliation after more than 1 year of divisions.

May the Lord bless you!
+ Mouneer Egypt"

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

So Why Did Croatia Join the EU?

At first I assumed that Croatia had joined the EU because it was eager to share the same currency crisis, vast debt-burden, and rocketing unemployment rates of Ireland, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. Were the Croatians envious of the starving children in Greece, or did they aspire to jump out of windows like the homeless unemployed people of Spain? Actually, no.
 I'm grateful to Rodney Atkinson for sending me this clearer explanation....

2012 Corrupt Croat EU Referendum
In the January 2012 Croat referendum on EU membership, according to Marjan BoĆĄnjak of the Only Croatia Party, the same historically intervening powers (Germany, the Vatican, the EU) were involved in the grossest manipulations.

At the first-ever referendum held in Croatia in 1991, the turnout had been 83.5%, of which 94% voted in favour of independence.Changing the Croatian Constitution prior to the January 2012 EU referendum to eliminate the 50% participation rulethe Government mobilised the Roman Catholic Church, German and Austrian owned media and EU propaganda to get a 66% majority for EU membership. But the 43% participation rate meant that only 28% of the Croatian people voted to surrender their democratic sovereignty. 

So, the Government gave huge amounts of public funds to the YES campaign, whilst denying any funding to the NO campaign. State Television, Croatia Post and the City of Zagreb provided free or low cost EU advertising to the Yes side. Just days before the referendum, Foreign minister Vesna Pusic shamelessly threatened Croatia's 1.2 million pensioners that they would lose their pensions if they voted against EU membership.
So now Croatia, the most overt representative of that 1940s fascism, which it has extended by its recent behaviour into the 21st century, is welcomed ceremoniously as a member of the European Union while Serbia, whose people have suffered grievously and with a history of anti-fascism and as an ally of Britain and the USA, is rejected. If the British political class still does not understand what they have done then they are guilty not just of gross incompetence but of a crime of historical dimensions for which a terrible price is being paid.

From Free Nations website.

EU to Harmonize Bribery Rates Across Europe

The plan of the EU  - its vision  - is one of continental-wide harmony and co-operation. A single currency, a single passport and a single rate for bribing officials in any parliament in the 27  - now 28  - member states.
Now that Croatia has joined the vibrant European family it will have to get in line, because if its rates of bribery are higher or lower than those prevailing at Brussels there will soon be a polite little reminder coming its way.
It is simply not fair if the cost of making a law differs from one member state to another. Just as there is a minimum wage, nobody should be allowed to undercut the standard rates of corruption. Veniality must be conducted on a consistent, even-handed basis.

VIENNA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Former Austrian Interior Minister and European lawmaker Ernst Strasser was sentenced to four years in jail for bribery on Monday in a case that prosecutors said undermined trust in European and Austrian institutions.
Strasser had faced up to 10 years in prison after being caught on camera offering to propose amendments to European legislation in exchange for 100,000 euros ($133,500) a year.
"There have been few people in the ... republic who have damaged Austria's image as much as you have," Judge Georg Olschak told a stony-faced Strasser, 56.
"That is why it was necessary to impose a penalty that would have a deterrent impact on possible copycats, and there are likely a few of those."
Strasser's attorney said he would lodge an appeal.
Strasser was exposed by undercover journalists from Britain's Sunday Times posing as lobbyists during a sting operation that ran from mid-2010 to March 2011.
Austria's top law enforcement official from 2000 to 2004, Strasser resigned when the story broke while denying wrongdoing. He said he wanted to protect the Austrian conservative People's Party, of which he was a senior member.
He insisted during his trial that he went along with the "lobbyists" because he believed they were U.S. Secret Service agents and he wanted to find out what they were after.
Olschak dismissed that line as one of the most outlandish he had heard in his two-decade career.
The two British journalists who broke the story in 2011 - Claire Newell and Jonathan Calvert - testified on Monday via video conference, the screen placed so that only court officials - not spectators - could see the undercover reporters' faces.
Calvert told the court the reporters had approached dozens of European Parliament members to sound them out about prospects for amending legislation in return for money, and met around 14.
But it was Strasser, who was an MEP from 2009 to 2011, who made headlines in the sting.
The duo had asked Strasser to amend for clients draft European laws on handling electronic scrap and on regulating investments. They were told it was too late to alter the first, but said Strasser took credit for getting the second changed.
"He came back and said he had achieved an ever better result than we had asked for," Calvert said.
Strasser followed the proceedings calmly, occasionally jotting in a notebook he held in his lap.
"Of course I am a lobbyist," Strasser had told the journalists in a secretly filmed video that has been published on YouTube (
"This is a wonderful opportunity to learn all the people, to have my own network, and to use this network for my, for my companies. It's a very good combination."
Prosecutor Alexandra Maruna, who had kicked off the trial by saying Strasser "massively harmed European politics", echoed his filmed comments in her final summation.
"'Of course I'm a lobbyist,' Strasser said," she noted, turning to him in the dock. "No you weren't. You were a member of parliament."
Strasser is one of several once-mighty Austrian politicians brought down by corruption scandals that triggered tighter laws last year on party funding and politicians' finances.
Witnesses testified that Strasser was obsessed with the idea he was being spied on, but prosecutors repeatedly questioned why he had not gone to the authorities with his fears.
European politicians have battled to keep faith with the post-war ideals of European integration and rejection of extreme nationalism that led to the founding of what would become the European Union more than 60 years ago.
Less than 50 percent of the EU's half a billion citizens voted in the last European Parliament elections in 2009, and a poll in 2011 found that 26 percent had a negative image of the parliament, up from 17 percent three years earlier.
Defence lawyer Thomas Kralik had argued that what his client did may have been morally reprehensible but was not illegal. "The optics are not too nice, but this is a criminal trial. You are not here to judge optics," he told the judge and jury.

Three other European lawmakers were caught in the Sunday Times sting operation - Romania's Adrian Severin, Slovenia's Zoran Thaler and Spain's Pablo Zalba Bidegain. Thaler resigned after the scandal but the other two still sit in parliament. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Heinrich)!