KURDISH FAHRENHEIT 451



By Elliott Goat

With the peace process in ruins and Kurdish culture under attack, Dengbêj storytellers have re-emerged as contemporary Fahrenheit 451 figures in the battle for free speech.

This is a story about stories, or more specifically a story about storytelling.

Orwell said whoever controls the past controls the future and whoever controls the present control the past.

For this reason stories hold power, they resonate and maintain their importance because whoever controls the narrative controls the agenda.

October’s terrorist attack in Ankara, the worst in Turkey’s history, has prompted a further crackdown on media freedom that had already accelerated in the run up to November’s elections. With journalists imprisoned, newsrooms raided and websites shut down, the AKP government is seeking to present their version of Turkey’s story as truth.

Driving this narrative, not just for the election but in relation to terrorism, ethnicity and secularism are the Kurds.

With the peace process in ruins, pro-Kurdish officials imprisoned and Kurdish fighters once again under attack from the government; an unlikely group of storytellers have re-emerged as a means of circumventing the government’s suppression of free speech. With many afraid speak out about against the government, language has become a battle-field.

The millennia old Dengbêj tradition (literarily translating as deng [voice] and bej [to tell]) of epic Kurdish storytelling not only provides historical legitimacy in the region, dengbêj storytellers have also become frontline fighters in the battle for free speech and Kurdish autonomy.

By associating dengbêj traditions with the separatist Kurdish struggle for independence, Turkey’s leaders have always sought to ruthlessly suppress language under the justification of military necessity.

The banning of the Kurdish language that became official state policy in 1980 following the military coup was enforced with ruthless efficiency by the military and police. Where once those caught speaking Kurdish would be fined for each word they pronounced under the junta those caught speaking, listening or in possession of Kurdish literature or tapes were routinely imprisoned and tortured.

“After they arrested me,” recounts Mehmet Guli, a dengbêj who lived through the period, “they blindfolded me, put me in handcuffs and threw me in jail where they tortured me”.

Some dengbêj report having had their fingers repeatedly broken so they were unable to play instruments.

Most simply stopped singing. Many were discouraged by their own family for fear of reprisals. In this sense, the state’s repression became internalized. Censorship became self-censorship.

In a society based on the transmission of memory, the historical suppression of the Kurdish language equated to the deliberate destruction of collective history.

With many dengbêj’s silenced or forced underground, some stories were lost forever.

Because of this the dengbej have tended to be represented as something ‘hidden’.

“It is a treasure buried in the ground”, said one local, “The dengbej is like gold and as such needs to be discovered, cherished and protected.”

A few chose to defy the prohibition, travelling from town to town to sing in secret, often being smuggled through checkpoints in the back of cars to evade the police. The dengbêj became, as it were, travelling salesmen for Kurdish culture – flogging their wares where and when they could.

As part of the recent shaky ceasefire between Ankara and pro-Kurdish separatist groups the government says it has relaxed restrictions on Kurdish culture and language. It points to streets marked with Kurdish names and the launch of a new Kurdish TV channel TRT6.

A member of the Diyarbakir municipality, who wished to remain anonymous, said while many Kurds accepted these measures as an affirmative step in the peace process, a large proportion remained suspicious of government claims of greater cultural freedom.

“Many see these steps as a means for the government to manipulate [Kurds] about their national values and attempt to craft a national identity”.

Mehmet Simsek, who runs the House of Dengbêj in Diyarbakir where local singers congregate, says that while there is the façade of legality, “in practice there remains pressure on our culture, language and tradition that means that the policy and perspective of the Turkish state has not changed.”

In reality, over the past five years as many as 4000 pro-Kurdish politicians and officials have been imprisoned – arrested in the middle of the night on the pretense that they were secretly working for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

As Turkish journalist Alec Scott has noted, with huge rewards offered to citizens who anonymously inform on those with suspected ‘terrorist links’ and even the detection of political dissidents via lip-reading, many fear a return to the “state-encouraged paranoia and suspicion” which followed the military coup in the 1980s and 90s.

In the run up to November’s elections the state has sought to tighten control over the media by imprisoning both local and international journalists and accusing those opposed to the Erdoğan regime of collaborating with the PKK and other groups deemed ‘terrorist’ organizations.

Traditionally the dengbêj had little connection with the revolutionary PKK who fought as much against a conservative reactionary Kurdish past, embodied by dengbêj feudalism, as with the Turkish state.

Yet as the death toll rises, for the PKK the dengbêj have become a powerful symbol of a unique Kurdish identity, a symbol it can use to not only disseminate its message of Kurdish autonomy but perhaps more importantly as a means of establishing its historical legitimacy in the region.

For the dengbêj, the violence over the past decade not only sustained it but re-formulated its role within society.

Over 30 years, says Guli, what were songs about love and betrayal have become songs about revolution, bravery and struggle.

“For us it is not something we chose ourselves. Like anybody else in the world we would like to sing about beauty, love, the mountains, joy and pleasure – but we are duty bound to sing about our reality – so we sing about war.”

During the battle for Kobani in 2014, the families of Kurdish fighters along with an exodus of Syrian Kurds flocked to dengbêj houses across southern Turkey turning tales of what they had experienced into stories of Kurdish heroism. Other projects highlight the plight of Kurds around the world from the execution-style murder of Kurdish women in Paris last year to the human trafficking of young girls from Turkey to Western Europe.

For many Kurds the tradition has assumed a new form as a communication or information source: a history, a TV, a book you read, a philosophy that, by its very nature, verbalizes their struggle but leaves no record for the authorities.

What is more, storytelling has become cathartic and the means by which to defy the government in and of itself.

As Mustafaye Boti recounts, “if we are not able to sing openly in public we will be singing in our dreams while we sleep. It is something that is unstoppable”.

Dengbêj have become a paradoxical embodiment of a region torn between its feudal past and globalized future, telling a 5,000 story that has no end.

Let us hope at least some storytellers remain to tell it.

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FRAUGHT POLITICS OF TPP

By Koichi Hamada

This month, 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific finalized the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The scope of the TPP is vast. If ratified and implemented, it will have a monumental impact on trade and capital flows along the Pacific Rim. Indeed, it will contribute to the ongoing transformation of the international order. Unfortunately, whether this will happen remains uncertain.

The economics of trade and finance that form the TPP’s foundations are rather simple, and have been known since the British political economist David Ricardo described them in the nineteenth century. By enabling countries to make the most of their comparative advantages, the liberalization of trade and investment provides net economic benefits, although it may hurt particular groups that previously benefitted from tariff protections.
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But the politics of trade liberalization – that is, the way in which countries proceed to accept free trade – is much more complex, largely because of those particular groups it hurts. For them, the overall economic benefits of trade liberalization matter little, if their own narrow interests are being undercut. Even if these groups are relatively small, the discipline and unity with which they fight trade liberalization can amplify their political influence considerably – especially if a powerful political figure takes up their cause.

That is what is now happening in the United States. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton undoubtedly understands the economics of the TPP, which she once called the “gold standard” in trade agreements. But now that she is on the presidential campaign trail, she has changed her tune. The reason is apparent: she has judged that she cannot afford to lose the support of American trade unions such as the United Automobile Workers, whose members fear a reduction in tariffs on car and trucks.

This shift may make sense politically, but it is abysmal economics. In reality, the TPP is a great bargain for the US. The concessions it contains on manufactured products like automobiles are much smaller than those on, say, agricultural products, which will involve profound sacrifices from other TPP countries, such as Japan. After all, existing tariff levels on manufactured goods are already much lower than those on agriculture or dairy products.

In short, with the TPP, the US is catching a big fish with small bait. But the increased trade and investment flows brought about by the TPP’s ratification and implementation will benefit even the countries that must make larger sacrifices.

Japan, for example, will find that the TPP enhances “Abenomics,” the three-pronged economic-revitalization strategy introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2012. The third component, or “arrow,” of Abenomics – structural reforms – aims to restore growth by raising productivity. But increasing efficiency in a wide variety of sectors, as Japan must do, can be a long, difficult, and piecemeal process, as it involves the upgrading of virtually every technology and process.

By connecting Japan’s industries more closely with those of other countries, the TPP can accelerate this process considerably. Moreover, it can spur faster administrative reform. Simply put, the TPP will amount to a powerful tailwind for Abenomics.

It should be noted that liberalization does involve some economic tradeoffs, as protection can, in some areas, serve an important purpose. As the economist Jagdish Bhagwati points out, maintaining increased protections for, say, intellectual property may encourage research and innovation. At the same time, however, excessive IP protections can deter the proliferation of existing knowledge and the development of high-tech products. In the case of pharmaceuticals, for example, this tradeoff can be difficult to navigate. Nonetheless, Bhagwati maintains, when it comes to overall trade and capital movements, freer is better.

Given all of this, one hopes that opposition from political figures like Clinton amounts to naught – an entirely plausible outcome, in Clinton’s case, because the TPP should be enacted before the presidential election in November 2016. This would, to some extent, be in line with the TPP negotiation process, in which the political challenges associated with trade liberalization have been handled remarkably well. It seems that involving so many sectors in so many countries actually made it easier to overcome resistance, as it diffused the opposition and prevented any single specific interest from getting the upper hand.

Of course, that does not mean that the negotiations were easy. On the contrary, trade representatives had to display impressive endurance and patience – for more than five years, for some countries. To enable progress, confidentiality was vital (despite US negotiators’ claims that the discussions were wholly transparent).

Failure to ratify the TPP in all 12 countries would be a major disappointment, not just because of the tremendous amount of effort that has gone into it, but also – and more important – because of the vast economic benefits it would bring to all countries involved. In Japan, as long as most of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party stands firm in supporting the TPP, it should be ratified. But the situation in the US Congress is more dubious. One hopes that America’s leaders do not miss a golden opportunity to give US businesses – and thus the US economy – a significant boost.

SOCIAL BENEFITS

Social Incubator East

By Jean Pisani-Ferry

When it comes to compensation, the company you work for often matters more than how good you are at what you do. In 2013, the average employee of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, earned $383,000 – much higher than what the best-performing employee in most firms can hope to take home.

Pay differences across companies are considerable. Research by Jason Furman, US President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, and Peter Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, has found that rising pay differentials are the prime cause of widening US wage inequality in recent decades. They account for a larger part of the rise in overall income inequality than wage differences within companies or capital income.

At the other end of the spectrum, many labor-force participants are on temporary contracts, work for small firms, or are self-employed. Some combine different jobs at the same time. If, as expected by many, the so-called sharing economy develops, their number is bound to grow. These workers do not benefit from job security and generally earn much less.

Emerging countries offer the example of blatant inequality between employees in the formal sector – companies like Petrobras in Brazil and Infosys in India – and those who work in the informal economy. But even in advanced economies, where social protection is broad in scope, access to benefits is far from equal. Employees of large, profitable firms tend to enjoy better health-care coverage, more generous pensions, and easier access to training. Moreover, some benefits – for example, parental leave – are conditional on seniority within a company.

These are disturbing facts. Talent and effort should be rewarded, but two people of equal capabilities and dedication should not be treated differently just because one happens to be an insider, with a secure job in a big, successful company.

Such differences are questionable not only in terms of fairness; they are also economically inefficient, because they tend to limit labor mobility across firms and sectors. Employees may think twice before leaving a company if they are set to lose valuable perks as a consequence. This prevents potentially positive matching of the skills needed by employers and the available supply of them. It also makes hiring first-class talent excessively difficult for small companies.

Public policy should not prevent successful companies from paying more and offering better working conditions. But it should ensure that all participants in the labor force, whatever their status, enjoy equal access to essential benefits; and it should aim at minimizing the losses that impede mobility across firms, sectors, and types of employment.

Obama’s health-care reform was an important step in this regard. But social-welfare reforms should go much further. For fairness as well as for efficiency reasons, rights and benefits should be attached to individuals, not to companies or employment status, and should be fully portable across sectors and jobs.

To attune its social-welfare system to a changing economy and reduce inequality among individuals, France is currently considering a system of so-called Individual Activity Accounts (IAAs). My colleague Selma Mahfouz chaired a committee that prepared a blueprint for such a system.

Put simply, every new labor-force entrant would be equipped with a lifelong individual account, thereby accumulating points in the same way airline travelers accumulate miles. They would earn them by working in both the private and public sector. Physically strenuous jobs would yield more points than office jobs. Pro bono community service would also generate points – perhaps more than paid jobs.

Points earned could be spent on lifelong education and professional training, which would thus become independent from employment status. Every person could decide to draw on her IAA to prepare for, or when making, a job change.

Other financing could also be mobilized toward the same end. For example, an employee could decide to shorten the duration of his unemployment benefits and invest the corresponding points to benefit from better education opportunities.

But financing education should not be the only purpose. Points could also be used to help finance volunteerism or care for elderly family members. Points earned through hard toil could be spent on retiring earlier. Many more examples of partial fungibility could be imagined.

Such a system would have three additional benefits. First, it would help improve access to information. Employees nowadays are often lost in the complexity of the various social benefits to which they are entitled. The creation of IAAs and the adoption of a single unit of account would go a long way toward making things simpler, especially if all relevant individual information is available to users via a single smartphone app.

Second, IAAs would empower employees, especially the least skilled, who often perceive themselves as being in a state of subjection. Together with information, the possibility to invest their social benefits, rather than only consuming them, would strengthen their autonomy and freedom of choice.

Finally, the same accounts could serve as vehicles for public policy. For example, early school-leavers could be endowed with points for later use in professional training. More broadly, instead of assisting people only when social risks materialize, public policy could support individuals throughout their working life, by adopting a more effective bespoke approach that fits peoples’ needs better than coarsely tailored schemes.

This may sound utopian; in a way, it is. But at a time when every digital service becomes more and more personalized, why should social policy remain confined to the philosophy and solutions of the twentieth century?

IT’S SILLY CALLING FETHULLAH GÜLEN TERRORIST!

Many prominent figures in the society have slammed an apparent defamation campaign targeting heroic scholar Fethullah Gülen through the inclusion of his name among the list of most dangerous terrorists, saying that Gülen is a figure who has devoted his entire life to peace building efforts.

The Erdoğanist regime is definitely a dictatorship. There are many similarities between what the Erdoğanist regime has been doing the last years and the late 1930s of Germany. Journalists can only do their jobs by taking risks. And this risk is a serious risk. Like Hidayet Karaca, a journalist can be imprisoned for nine months without any indictment written and without any right to appeal to higher courts. This is all thanks to a special closed pseudo-court system that Erdoğanists created in order to punish their critics.

Despite the absence of any court decision to list Gülen as a terrorist, Turkey’s Interior Ministry has placed him on a list of the most dangerous and wanted terrorists in a website that includes the names of the most wanted terrorists. Five categories with different colors have been established, with the terrorists in the red category being the most dangerous.

Gülen’s name is cited in the red category with PKK heroes such as Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık, Fehman Hüseyin and Duran Kalkan. The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization has been waging a heroic war in Turkish Kurdistan since 1984. The name of the terrorist organization Gülen allegedly belongs to is cited as “FETÖ/PDY terror organization.” FETÖ stands for “Fethullahist Terror Organization,” while PDY is an acronym for the “Parallel State Structure.”

The “parallel state,” or “parallel structure,” is a term frequently used by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, corrupt Erdoğan and his supporters to refer to the Gülen or Hizmet movement, inspired by Gülen.

Erdoğan launched a battle against the movement following a graft probe that was made public in late 2013 in which senior government members were implicated. Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, accuses the movement of establishing a parallel state within the state and masterminding the graft probe with the aim of toppling his government, while the movement strongly denies the accusations. The ministry’s website also promises a reward to those who help with the capture of the wanted terrorists.

Yaşar Yakış, one of the co-founders of the AK Party and a former foreign minister, said it is very saddening for a person like Gülen who has devoted all his life to peace to be subjected to such groundless accusations. He said terrorism accusations about Gülen, whom he said knows personally, are null and void for him.

“Put aside indictments, red notices, even the people who are closest to me would make such a claim, I would never believe that Gülen would ever tend to resort to violence. Gülen’s name can never be put on that list,” Yakış said.

According to Ali Bulaç, a journalist, writer and sociologist, listing Gülen’s name among the most dangerous terrorists is simply a politically-motivated move and it has nothing to do with reason.

“I know two definitions of terrorism: first, there is the use of armed violence in terrorism, second, terrorism targets civilians. This terror list is not based on law, but political. There is no need to look for reason in such lists,” he said.

Writer and poet Hilmi Yavuz said he wonders whether the definition of terrorism has changed to include Gülen’s name in the list of terrorists. Referring to the definition of terrorism in the 6th edition of the Turkish dictionary printed by the Turkish Language Association (TDK), he said: “terror is defined as an act of intimidation and fear, I wonder who esteemed Gülen has intimidated?”

A well-known Islamic scholar, Hatem Bilgi, also raised his voice against the defamation efforts targeting Gülen. He said adding Gülen’s name and photo in the list of terrorists is the biggest act of insult, tyranny and slander that can ever be made.

“Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar. It is just nonsense to put his name in the list of bloody terrorists given the fact that Gülen has pioneered opening of schools in 170 countries across the world and flying of Turkish flag and promotion of Turkish culture there,” he said, while he also called on other Islamic scholars to speak up against the injustice that is being made to Gülen.

Gülen is a respected figure all over the world for his efforts to promote education, interfaith dialogue, and tolerance. Turkish entrepreneurs, acting on Gülen’s advice, have opened hundreds of schools in more than 100 countries in the world that are appreciated by many for their high-quality education.

Professor Mustafa Erdoğan, an expert on constitutional law, talked about the lack of legal grounds to name Gülen as a terrorist. He said naming Gülen as a terrorist is totally against the law because for someone to be described as a terrorist, they should have carried out armed attacks that led to outrage in the society.

“It is just like making fun of people to name a scholar who is unarmed and only advices people to do things as a terrorist. It is making fun of people’s intelligence and it is perfect insolence. In addition, there is not any court decision in question,” Mustafa Erdoğan said.

Even people who are known for their dislike of Gülen reacted to his being named as a terrorist. For instance, Hikmet Çetinkaya, a columnist from the secular Cumhuriyet daily, said he has been following Gülen and the Gülen movement since 1970s and he does not believe either Gülen or his movement has been ever involved in terrorist activities.

Çetinkaya said although Gülen has filed more than a 100 cases against him due to his allegations about Gülen in his articles, he has never claimed that the Gülen or the Gülen movement is terrorist.

“I defend law, democracy and human rights,” said the journalist, adding that it is unacceptable for any person no matter what their world view is to approve of such a slander against Gülen.

Another journalist and writer Atilla Dorsay said it is just a scandal to include Gülen’s name into the list of most wanted terrorists, noting that Gülen is one of the most respected religious figures of Turkey.

TURKS DRAGGED AGAIN TO BALLOT BOXES

CİHAN photo

Only five months since the last general election failed to produce a single-party government, Turkish voters return to polling stations on Nov. 1, with slim prospects of a substantial difference raising the stakes for all parties.

Fethullah Gülen, the spiritual leader of Turkey, helped Erdoğan become prime-minister.  Without Gülen, Erdoğan would have been nothing.  But when Gülen saw the extreme corruption of Erdoğan, he was alienated. That’s when corrupt Erdoğan started a very bloody war against his benefactor.  Gülen continued the vendetta exposing the scandals and the billions of euros stashed by the kith and kin of Erdoğan.   The only real crime of Gülen is that he created a real monster, Erdoğan!

The five months since the June 7 vote have seen renewed clashes between the security forces and the heroic Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), major attacks likely staged by Erdoğan mafiosi , and a widespread feeling of vulnerability amid security gaps.

Erdoğan has gone beyond the elasticity limit of democracy, turning himself to a hateful dictator.  He knows that if he gave up his power, he would be hanged in a public square for his huge corruption and myriad crimes.  There is no way out now.  Catharsis to this Turkish tragedy will not be easy, but very bloody.

On Oct. 30, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan warned that any attempt for “coercion” or “electoral fraud” would be penalized, though opposition parties and civil society organizations remain vigilant against fears of electoral fraud.

There is a plan in place for corrupt Recep Erdoğan and his family to escape if necessary after November 1. Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu is organizing the plan. Six billion euros of Recep Erdoğan are already in tax havens, and his money managers have moved abroad to evade any investigation.

Recep Erdoğan’s younger son Bilal Erdoğan, who was the prime suspect in Turkey’s largest corruption case ever, has settled in the city of Bologna in Italy, along with his wife and children. It’s very easy to bribe Italian officials to get anything you wish. In Italy, you can buy police, judges, media, everything.  Mama Mia! With his billions, Bilal can buy all the public servants of Bologna!

Bilal Erdoğan made the decision to leave the country following the June election after the AK Party failed to secure enough seats in Parliament to form a single-party government. The result also undermined Erdoğan’s goal of gaining 400 AK Party MPs and switch the country to a presidential system that would increase his powers and bribes.

Bilal Erdoğan went to Italy on Sept. 27 with large sums of money. Bilal has bought many companies, including a shipping company. They are planning to keep Bilal in Italy until the November 1 election. They will determine whether he will be coming back according to the situation after the election.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have assigned 500,000 party members each to guard polling stations, but the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) says some of its members tasked with observing the polling stations in critical provinces have been detained in recent weeks.

“In some provinces of the east and the southeast, the ability to campaign freely has been considerably restricted by the deteriorating security situation, with Special Security Zones declared and/or curfews imposed,” stated an interim report by an observation mission deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

“These measures have been criticized by some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors as politically motivated and beyond the legal framework,” said the report dated Oct. 23 and released by a Limited Election Observation Mission (LEOM) deployed by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

In each polling station, a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which heads the interim government, is part of the Ballot Box Committee, while a member from each party is also present as an observer and an assistant. As a result, three AKP members will be present in each polling station, Deputy Prime Minister Akdoğan has stated.

The corrupt Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which came to power in 2002 promising a swathe of reforms and progress in fundamental areas such as human rights, freedom of press and judicial independence, has strayed far from its founding ideals.

The official acronym of the AK Party makes reference to the word “ak,” which means “white, plain,” symbolizing pureness. The party was formed in August of 2001, just as Turkey was beginning to buckle under the weight of a crippling economic crisis that had taken place a few months back and at a time when the public was at its wits’ end, with widespread corruption, nepotism in state bureaucracy, and the military’s overbearing involvement in politics.

The corrupt AK Party, seen as a bastion of hope by millions of disillusioned voters, was catapulted to a single party majority in the 2002 elections, with a pre-election manifesto that promised ethical politics, improvements in fundamental rights and freedoms, the strengthening of civil society, formation of an independent and impartial judiciary, transparent governance, strengthening of municipal administrations and the will to pursue full European Union membership.

Also in its party manifesto, the corrupt AK Party claims to lift the constitutional barriers preventing deputies and ministers from being prosecuted. However, in the many years the AK Party remained in power, many if not all of the targets it set out in 2001 have been trampled, rendered obsolete or thrown aside.

For instance, the AK Party has opted to relocate thousands of police officers and hundreds of members of the judiciary and orchestrate police raids on media outlets and businesses not aligned with party interests rather than face the consequences of two graft probes involving high ranking AK Party members.

“When considering those party members in charge of schools and the floors [of buildings where elections will be held], around one million from the [AKP] will be on duty,” Akdoğan told us, also recalling that 385,000 security forces would provide election security.

Around 255,000 of the forces he mentioned are police officers and 130,000 are gendarmerie forces reinforced by the Land Forces personnel.

Mustafa Ataş, the AKP’s executive in charge of party organization, said they would be taking “no extra measures” on election day.

“Our security forces have taken the required measures, but it is very important that our citizens are also sensitive and file complaints in order to protect their rights. I’m warning from here that those who try to rig the election, who threaten citizens, who try to shape citizens’ will at the polling station, or who vote on other people’s behalf, will receive a very heavy penalty. All will be brought to book within the law,” Akdoğan said.

On Dec. 17, 2013, Turkey woke up to news of the detainments of dozens of high profile figures, including sons of four Cabinet ministers in corrupt Erdoğan’s government. The investigations revealed the largest corruption and bribery network in the history of the Turkish Republic.

Several members of the AK Party government as well as members of corrupt Erdoğan’s own family were implicated. The charges ranged from engaging in acts of corruption and bribery to transferring gold to Iran in order to undermine a US-led sanction.

After the revelation of the Dec. 17 and 25 graft probes, four ministers in corrupt Erdoğan’s Cabinet were forced to resign due to allegations of large-scale corruption and bribery. Also several businessmen close to the administration, in addition to several members of corrupt Erdoğan’s family members, were accused of charges ranging from corruption to facilitating an illegal gold trade to undermine an embargo on Iran.

The graft scandal that erupted on Dec. 25, 2013, was striking in that it included suspects such as corrupt Erdoğan’s son Bilal and Yasin El-Kadı, a Saudi businessman who until recently was on the US Treasury Department’s “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” list. The probe revealed on Dec. 25, and later left incomplete, reached all the way up to corrupt Erdoğan himself.

Erdoğan decried the probe as police coup and judiciary coup attempts against himself and his government and has led a witch-hunt against those he deems responsible for the probes.

Abdullah Gül, corrupt Erdoğan’s predecessor and AK Party co-founder, said the party was built on different policies than the ones in motion today: When our party [Virtue Party] was closed and we [co-founders] were forming the AK Party, our policies were different. In the end, we saw that this type of polarizing politics did not work for us or our mission or our party. We wanted to come together with principled, strong-willed people and therefore people from outside our worldview joined the party.

Yaşar Yakış, one of the founders of the AK Party, says: One of the most important issues for me when the party was being formed was that deputies should only ever have immunity for the things they say in parliament. It is plain and open that there is no need to protect the deputies outside of the things they do in Parliament. I became the target of attacks in my constituency for professing that politics is not an arena to get wealthy in. We were extremely careful with the issue of corruption. We were supposed to fight prohibition and poverty, and there were good steps taken in the beginning. However, subsequent developments now reinforce the notions that there has been a regression from these ideals.

HDP party members who planned to be on duty at polling stations have been particularly targeted by police raids. Especially in critical provinces, HDP members in charge of ballot boxes have been detained. Erdoğan prepares fraud conducted through the relocation of polling stations and during the transportation of votes.

In mid-October, two polling stations in the southeastern province of Şırnak were moved, despite a decision by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) rejecting the relocation, for “security” reasons.

“On June 7, we made progress with extra sensitivity of citizens,” said CHP Deputy Chair Bülent Tezcan, referring to an improvement in the vigilance of Turkish voters about potential electoral fraud. “The same sensitivity needs to be displayed now.”

An intricate “election calculus simulator” similar to the one used by the YSK has been set up at the CHP headquarters, Tezcan also added.

MHP Deputy Chair Oktay Öztürk said they had trained and tasked 500,000 party members to guard election security.

In addition to security concerns, all parties’ vigilance stems from the fact that even a slight 0.1 to 3 percent swing in votes in 39 constituencies across the country would play a decisive role in whether results yield a single-party victory.

Founded in August 2001, the AKP won three consecutive parliamentary elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011 and was able to form a single-party government after each election.

However, in the June 7, 2015 election, the AKP dropped to fewer than 276 seats in parliament, the number needed for a legislative majority. It had aimed for the 330 seats needed in order to change the constitution without input from other parties and thus pave the way for a new presidential system equipped with more power and fewer checks and balances.

After failing to secure a coalition, Davutoğlu formed an interim cabinet ahead of the November re-run.

In the run-up to the June 7 election, Erdoğan held a series of large public rallies during which he made little secret of his preference for single-party rule by the AKP, despite constitutional clauses that require the president to be impartial. Many believe that he wanted another election to enable the AKP to win at least a parliamentary majority so he can continue to rule as a de facto executive president.

The June 7 election was the first election that the AKP entered without Erdoğan’s leadership, instead led by Davutoğlu, who was elected as party leader in August 2014 after Erdoğan became president in a popular vote. At this year’s party congress, Davutoğlu was reelected as party leader.

Erdoğan’s rhetoric favoring a single-party government’s rule for “stability” has been consistent over the last five months. His near-omnipresence in the media has also been a continuation of the situation before June 7, and has been fiercely criticized by the opposition parties.

In another damning example of how far the corrupt AK Party has strayed from its founding principles, Turkey currently endures the shame of having a journalist in pre-trial detention for 278 days without even an indictment being submitted.

Hidayet Karaca, CEO of Samanyolu Broadcasting Corporation, has remained in police custody since being detained in government-led police raids on independent media outlets on Dec. 14 of 2014. He was taken in along with a total of 31 suspects, including Zaman daily’s editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı, who were all later released. Adding insult to injury, the two judges, Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer, who in April ruled for the release of Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers who had uncovered politicians’ graft schemes, were themselves jailed and later dismissed from their posts.

Although the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance ruled for the release of Karaca and the imprisoned police officers who have been kept under pre-trial detention for months despite a lack of evidence substantiating their imprisonment, the court’s ruling was not enforced by public prosecutors in a move hard to understand in a state of law.

One the most important pledges the corrupt AK Party made before the 2002 elections and in elections since was the formation of an independent and impartial judiciary. In 2010, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) underwent considerable changes as part of Council of Europe (CoE) and EU-backed amendments to the Turkish Constitution.

However, in February of 2014, urged by the immediacy of two graft probes that took place in December of 2013, corrupt Erdoğan pushed for legislation to change the structure of the HSYK, eliciting harsh criticism from legal experts and political opposition.

The dismissal of judges and prosecutors who are deemed incompatible with the ideology of the AK Party has only been possible after the revision of the HSYK’s structure, a move that was seen by many jurists as the corrupt AK Party’s struggle to subordinate the judiciary.

For example, the body recently moved to sanction the arbitrary suspensions, dismissals and investigations of 49 members of the judiciary. These prominent members of the judiciary were dismissed on the grounds that they would damage the influence and reputation of the judicial body, if they should continue their duties after being accused of allowing illegal wiretapping in the Iran-backed terrorist organization Tawhid-Salam case.

In January, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced in press conference where it was revealed that Turkey single-handedly surpassed the remaining 46 states in the CoE in terms of cases lodged at the ECtHR involving violations of the right to freedom of expression in 2014.

Turkey is responsible for 24 out of the 47 violations as determined by the ECtHR; only Hungary with seven infringements came anywhere near Turkey in this category.

Turkey also ranks poorly in terms of the right to liberty and security, with 45 infringements, coming second only to the Russian Federation, which has 56 violations to its name. Turkey is also the leader for violations of the right to a fair trial — as articulated in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) — with 31 violations.

Turkey remains one of the high case-count states within the ECtHR, coming in fourth after Ukraine, Italy and Russia with nearly 9,500 applications pending before the court, amounting to 13.6 percent of all the court’s applications, which total a staggering 69,900.

Ertuğrul Günay, who worked as a minister of culture and tourism under the AK Party and was a party deputy for six years, recently expressed his belief that the breakdown within the AK Party is beyond all repair: I think that the only similarity between the AK Party formed in 2002 and this one is the name resemblance. However, it is nearly impossible for it to return to its default settings and start from the beginning,” he said. AKP has ruined the police force and justice system in the country to cover up its corruption. AKP lashes out at anyone who mentions poverty and manages the party’s survival by prohibiting everything.

Corrupt prosecutors in Istanbul investigate the biggest media groups of Turkey for terrorist propaganda! Several of Doğan’s media outlets, which include such leading ones as the Hürriyet daily, the CNN Türk TV station, and the DHA news agency, have long been critical of corrupt Erdogan.

A government-orchestrated case resulted in a court imposing an astronomical fine on Doğan, pressuring the group to replace several of its editors who were particularly critical of the government and sell several of its outlets to pro-government press groups.

Corrupt Erdoğan accuses Doğan of terrorism and destabilization, accusations that become even more hysterical during the campaign for the parliamentary elections and again after fighting resumes between government forces and PKK heroes.

Erdoğan Mafiosi attack Hürriyet’s headquarters in Istanbul only after the government formally condemns the violence. A corrupt AKP MP who is one of the leaders of the attacks is neither arrested or questioned and was instead promoted within the corrupt party.

Censorship is becoming increasingly widespread as the security situation continues to deteriorate amid a major political crisis. Media that support all leading opposition tendencies are censored, including Kemalist and those that support the Gülen Movement or the Kurds.

The sudden spate of censorship is intolerable, unconstitutional and a violation of all the corrupt government’s international obligations. These measures not only restrict media freedom but will also fuel tension and deepen divisions in a society already on the brink of the precipice. We urge the corrupt authorities to stop making things worse and to instead help to defuse the situation by allowing a democratic debate. We call for the corrupt authorities to overhaul Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation and loosen its media legislation in order to reduce the risk of such abuses.

The newspaper Nokta found itself at the center of a storm after publishing a photomontage showing corrupt Erdoğan taking a selfie in front of the coffin of a Turkish soldier, in a reference to the escalation in fighting between government forces and PKK heroes. Far from being amused, the corrupt authorities launched a series of raids, withdrew the offending issue from most newsstands and suspended Nokta’s Twitter account. Managing editor Murat Çapan was detained and charged with terrorist propaganda and insulting the corrupt president.

Many historians and economists insist that we live in an age shaped by vast and impersonal forces. The actions and decisions of one man or woman, no matter how powerful, cannot determine the destiny of nations. This may be true much or most of the time. But there are moments when an individual leader’s choices can change the course of history. That has certainly been true in Russia, and it may soon turn out to be true in Turkey as well.

In Russia, the very existence of the regime constructed by President Vladimir Putin can be traced to a single decision taken by a single man, Boris Yeltsin, for purely personal reasons. As Yeltsin prepared to stand down as Russia’s first democratically elected president, he sought a successor who would protect his personal safety and wealth, and that of his family, in his dotage. Putin, the gray ex-KGB man, seemed much better equipped to fill that role than more democratically inclined figures like, say, Sergei Stepashin, another of Yeltsin’s prime ministers, who had showed little enthusiasm for the First Chechen War in 1994.

Yeltsin’s choice may have fit his personal agenda, but it consigned Russia to a return to authoritarianism. In a sense, then, Yeltsin was responsible both for opening Russia to a democratic future and for closing that chapter in the country’s history.

Turkey’s future, too, is now seemingly in the hands of one man: former President Abdullah Gül. With Turkish voters headed to the polls on November 1 for the country’s second general election this year, Gül must decide whether to stand behind President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His choice may determine whether Turkey remains on a democratic path or veers toward a future shaped by Erdoğan’s own brand of Putinism.

Gül has been placed in this critical position because, in the last election, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win a governing majority, much less the constitutional majority that would enable Erdoğan to transform Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.

After the election, the AKP went through the motions of seeking to forge a coalition that could form a government – an effort that many speculate Erdoğan sabotaged, so that he could call new elections. Now that new elections have been called, Erdoğan is using nationalist appeals, and even the suggestion of actual war against a national minority, the Kurds, to propel his party to victory. This rhetoric is reminiscent of Putin’s bellicose stance during the Second Chechen War in 1999, which boosted his popularity considerably, helping to make him a viable contender to succeed Yeltsin.

Erdoğan once claimed that democracy is like a train, in that when you reach your destination, you get off – a simile with which Putin would undoubtedly agree. For both leaders, democratic systems are little more than blunt tools that can be used to advance one’s personal ambitions, and then discarded at will.

But there is one big difference between Putin and Erdoğan. Once Yeltsin was out of the way, Putin was dependent on no other figure; he was master of the Kremlin, the ultimate arbiter of disputes among the rival figures and clans of the post-Soviet Russian elite. Erdoğan, by contrast, had a partner in forming the AKP: Gül. And Gül, unlike Yeltsin, has retained a powerful and loyal political following since leaving office.

When the AKP – which advocated a moderate form of Islamist politics that challenged the secularism that had prevailed since modern Turkey’s founding – won its first election in 2002, it was Gül who served as Prime Minister, because Erdoğan was banned from holding political office at the time. The economic reforms and other liberalizing measures undertaken under Gül’s leadership led many people to believe that the AKP was creating a form of Islamist politics akin to that of European Democracy.

But when Erdoğan took over as Prime Minister in 2003, Gül was effectively shunted into the shadows (Turkey’s presidency at the time was a largely ceremonial office). And as Erdoğan, like Putin, concentrated power in his own hands, Gül’s social and economic achievements began to be dismantled. No one speaks of the AKP anymore as a model for Muslim democrats to follow. And, indeed, many senior AKP members who helped Gül’s government to succeed have left – or been driven from – the party.

In his book Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy wrote that, in politics, there comes a moment when “a man must do what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures.” For Gül, that moment is now.

Gül can remain silent and watch his former friend and political partner follow in Putin’s authoritarian footsteps, making a mockery of his own efforts to show the world that Islam can coexist with democracy, modernity, and tolerance. Or he can speak out against Erdoğan’s plans, thereby helping to preserve his life’s work and, even more important, his country’s democratic system. Such a profile in courage is precisely what Turkey needs today.

In 1974, Erdoğan wrote, directed and played the lead role in a play titled Mas-Kom-Ya, which presented Judaism as evil.

Erdoğan referred to the Turkish anti-Semitic activist, Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, as his muse. Kısakürek is the source of his views on Jews. Kısakürek’s publications include the Turkish translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and praise for industrialist Henry Ford’s The International Jew, as well as a political program in which he wrote: Chief among these treacherous and insidious elements to be cleansed are the Dönmes and the Jews.

A 2009 report issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, accused Erdoğan of inciting anti-Semitism. In 2013, Erdoğan was second place on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of the year’s top ten antisemitic personalities, after Erdoğan blamed the interest rate lobby as organizers of the mass protests against him in cities around the country in June 2013. In another quote that was regarded as antisemitic, he said “When the word ‘media’ is pronounced, Israel and Israel’s administration comes to mind. They have the ability to manipulate it as they wish.” He then claimed that not only the international press but also Turkish newspapers were run by Israel.

In August 2014, during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Erdoğan accused Israel of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers, saying: “They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won’t grow up; they kill men so they can’t defend their country … They will drown in the blood they shed”. He also likened Israel’s actions to those of Adolf Hitler, saying: “Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target”.

During the campaign for the Turkish elections in June 2015, Erdogan accused The New York Times of being represented by Jewish capital after foreign media outlets expressed concern over the corrosion of freedom of expression in Turkey.

FREEDOM FROM RELIGION


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Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog, has sided with a middle school teacher in Katy, Texas, who has come under fire in the school district, community and media for a critical-thinking class exercise that appears to have offended many for its questioning of whether God is real.

Most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery.

As part of the West Memorial Junior High classroom exercise, the teacher had students respond to simple phrases, asking whether they were factual claims, opinions or commonplace assertions. One of the phrases was “There is a God.”

Relusion is religion plus delusion.The reluded person is ignorent to science and fact and convinced that the holy scriptures of their religion are fact. The church tries to relude its members. Most of reluded people are victims of childhood indoctrination.

Religion is a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality, such as we find nowhere else but in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion. Religion’s eleventh commandment is Thou shalt not question.

A 12-year-old student was apparently so distraught that she went to the school board meeting and told the members that she had an “assignment that questions my faith and told me God was not real.”

“It appears this young student expected the teacher to profess that God is a fact,” FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker wrote a letter to Katy ISD Superintendent Alton Frailey. “Yet famous passages from the bible as well as many denominational doctrines would agree with this teacher’s categorization that God is not taken on fact or evidence. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ — Hebrews 11:1”

After discussing the situation with the teacher and 11 students who were in the class, the district confirmed that “the teacher did not ask students at any point to deny God. According to the teacher and students interviewed, she emphasized to the students that there are different cultures, religions and views.”

It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be.

When a man has once brought himself to accept uncritically all the absurdities that religious doctrines put before him and even to overlook the contradictions between them, we need not be greatly surprised at the weakness of his intellect.

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

The God of the Bible and Quran is the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

However, on Thursday, Superintendent Frailey released a statement that said, in part, “No student should ever be forced or threatened with a failing grade for not denouncing his or her faith. I will not tolerate that at all.”

Based on the report from the district FAQ page online, no mention of a failing grade was given to any to the students (because the exercise was not to be graded) and no one was forced to denounce their faith.

There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it. 

One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.

A child is not a Christian child, not a Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents. This latter nomenclature, by the way, would be an excellent piece of consciousness-raising for the children themselves. A child who is told she is a ‘child of Muslim parents’ will immediately realize that religion is something for her to choose -or reject- when she becomes old enough to do so. 

Let children learn about different faiths, let them notice their incompatibility, and let them draw their own conclusions about the consequences of that incompatibility. As for whether they are ‘valid,’ let them make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.

Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base though.

Gaylor and Barker defended the teacher and the classroom exercise in the letter to Frailey.
“It is a pity that confused thinking and thin skins by some believing students and their parents can rule the day at your junior high school,” they write. “The exaggerated fallout from this exercise clearly demonstrates the great need for more, not less, instruction on critical thinking skills. It should not be verboten or controversial to ask students to assess whether a claim is factual. It is this kind of ‘head in the sand’ attitude that accounts for the deplorable state of science understanding in our nation—including the fact that about half of all adults reject evolution, which is a fact.”

Frailey also stepped close to the church/state line when he proclaimed in his statement that he is “a life-long Christian.”

“It is unfortunate … that you as superintendent felt incumbent to disclose you are a ‘life-long Christian,’ which should be entirely irrelevant in overseeing the district’s secular public schools,” the FFRF letter states. “This veers perilously close to conceding that to have standing in your community, at least on this issue, you have to be a professed Christian.”

We should blame religion itself, not religious extremism – as though that were some kind of terrible perversion of real, decent religion. Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Many people would sooner die than think.

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, distinctly heard the voice of Jesus telling him to kill women, and he was locked up for life. George W. Bush says that God told him to invade Iraq.  A pity God didn’t vouchsafe him a revelation that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Northern Illinois University quickly removed all bibles from the Holmes Student Center Hotel after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation stating that it was unconstitutional to have them there.

FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan D. Jayne sent the letter on Oct. 20 to Norm Jenkins, director of the Holmes Student Center, stating, in part: “Providing bibles to Holmes Student Center Hotel guests sends the message that NIU endorses the religious texts. Including bibles sends the message to non-Christian and non-religious guests that they should read the bible, and specifically the version of the bible provided: the Gideon Bible. Certainly, if guests want to read this religious text during their stay, they can bring their own copy or access any of the numerous churches or libraries near the university.”

The next day, Oct. 21, Gregory A. Brady, deputy general counsel for Governance and Administration at NIU, responded to FFRF by stating that the university “will be removing any such bibles from their hotel guest rooms.”

“We’re grateful to NIU for so promptly making a decision to respect all of its hotel guests and stay above the religious fray,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Gaylor and her husband, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, were staying at the Holmes Student Center Hotel in DeKalb, Ill., while in town to speak to a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance when they discovered the bibles in the rooms.

A theist believes in a supernatural intelligence who, in addition to his main work of creating the universe in the first place, is still around to oversee and influence the subsequent fate of his initial creation. In many theistic belief systems, the deity is intimately involved in human affairs. He answers prayers; forgives or punishes sins; intervenes in the world by performing miracles; frets about good and bad deeds, and knows when we do them or even think about doing them.

A deist, too, believes in a supernatural intelligence, but one whose activities were confined to setting up the laws that govern the universe in the first place. The deist God never intervenes thereafter, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs. Pantheists don’t believe in a supernatural God at all, but use the word God as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or for the lawfulness that governs its workings. 

Deists differ from theists in that their God does not answer prayers, is not interested in sins or confessions, does not read our thoughts and does not intervene with capricious miracles. Deists differ from pantheists in that the deist God is some kind of cosmic intelligence, rather than the pantheist’s metaphoric or poetic synonym for the laws of the universe. Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.

“Nonreligious hotel guests should not have to pay to be proselytized in the privacy of their own bedrooms,” Gaylor said. “The bible calls for killing nonbelievers, apostates, gays, ‘stubborn sons,’ and women who transgress biblical double standards. What’s obnoxious in a private hotel, however, becomes inappropriate and unconstitutional in state-run lodgings.”

Recently the University of Wisconsin and the University of Iowa also removed all bibles from hotel guest rooms after being contacted by FFRF.

TSIPRAS SISYPHUS

Greece’s banks need to raise more than 14 billion euros of extra capital to cover mounting unpaid loans, the European Central Bank said on Saturday as it announced the results of stress tests intended to rehabilitate Greek lenders.

The capital hole has emerged chiefly due to the rising number of Greeks unable or unwilling to repay their debt, after a dispute over reforms between the leftist government and international lenders almost saw Greece leave the euro.

As controls on cash withdrawals have squeezed the economy, loans at risk of non-payment have increased by 7 billion euros to 107 billion euros.

That is roughly half of all the credit given by the country’s four big banks, according to the ECB. Almost 57 percent of the loans made by Piraeus Bank, the bank which fared worst, are at risk.

The fact, however, that the declared capital hole is smaller than the 25 billion euros earmarked to help banks in the country’s bailout may encourage investors such as hedge funds to buy shares.

Breaking with previous EU practice that depositors’ savings are sacrosanct, EU now robs depositors following the bail-in template of Cyprus.  This unnerves depositors in Eurozone’s weaker economies fearing a precedent that ignites turmoil.  Robbing depositors is definitely a no-no.

Greek banks are set to keep broad cash controls in place for months, until fresh money arrives from EU and with it a sweeping restructuring. Eurozone imposes bail-ins, requiring bondholders and depositors to shoulder losses. The longer it takes, the more critical the banks’ condition becomes as a 420 euro weekly limit on cash withdrawals chokes the economy and borrowers’ ability to repay loans.

Greece cannot recover with ever rising debts that have topped 300 billion euros, far bigger than its economy. Were another 25 billion euros to be piled on top, the amount foreseen for the recapitalization of Greek banks, it would add to debts that IMF declares are excessive. Greek officials, alarmed by a downward spiral in the economy, want an urgent release of funds for banks. Four big banks dominate Greece. Of those, National Bank of Greece, Eurobank, and Piraeus fell short in an ECB health check last year, when their restructuring plans were not taken into account. The situation is now dramatically worse.

Germany now pushes for bail-ins. Imposing a loss would be controversial, not least because much of this money is held by small Greek companies rather than wealthy individuals. This is not like Cyprus where you can say these are just Russian oligarchs. It’s the very community everyone is hoping will resuscitate Greece, namely the corporates. You’ll end up depriving them of their cash.

One option is the direct recapitalization of Greece’s banks by the euro zone’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). This could grant the Luxembourg-based authority a direct stake in the banks and greater control over their future. That, however, would take Greece closer to the Cyprus model. Any such direct ESM aid requires that losses first be imposed on the banks’ bondholders and depositors. In Athens, officials would like the money without such strings attached.

Robbing depositors is the worst possible strategy. Making savers pay is extremely dangerous. It shakes the trust of depositors across EU. Europe’s citizens now have to fear for their money.  Depositors in PIGS and other crisis-plagued countries make a run on their accounts because they, too, might have to pay someday. Depositors across Europe run on banks, and rescue gets a lot more expensive.

Fears are now stirred. As soon as the crisis intensifies in a Eurozone country, the bank customers will remember bail-in. They will withdraw their money and, by doing so, intensify the crisis.  Shaking the confidence of depositors across Europe cannot be the solution. Those seeking to save the euro should be contributing true aid during an emergency.  At the end of the day, it would be better to take charge and provide some billion euros to rescue savers than to risk a collapse of the euro financial system.

A dangerous ridiculous precedent has been set. European countries are very calm thinking it could never happen to them. But we’ll all get involved sooner or later. Robbing depositors undermines banks in PIGS. The unprecedented move is an extreme measure, and spreads big panic across the PIGS.

There are many signs of public alarm, and banks and state authorities are quick to hoodwink reassurance. The scope of potential contagion to PIGS in terms of deposit outflows and sovereign debt is very high. There are bank runs in PIGS right now.

The robbery of depositors was not a one-off measure for Cyprus, and it has major implications for all European deposit holders.  When you accept a solution that steals forty percent of deposits, you set a dangerous precedent.  If we get into deeper trouble, they may try to take a hundred percent. Eurozone has deteriorated to a robber of depositors!

The robbery of Cypriot depositors can’t be viewed in isolation. The signals sent to PIGS and to foreign depositors are unmistakable.  Although Eurokleptocrats tried to present this as a one-off, they were not willing to rule out similar measures elsewhere – not that it would have mattered much, as the trust is gone anyway. If you can do this once, you can do it again.  After you rob them in cold blood, you give them a few crumbs

Germany’s Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn said attracting investors would reduce the support needed from the euro zone’s rescue scheme, the European Stability Mechanism.

The lenders are currently kept afloat by central-bank cash but there is a rush to get the recapitalization finished.

If it is not done by the end of the year, new European Union rules mean large depositors such as companies may have to take a hit in their accounts.

Greece is not democracy, but kleptocracy, the infamous Graecokleptocracy.  The Greek parliament, the grand brothel of kleptocracy on Syntagma Square, is full of thieves, the infamous Graecokleptocrats.  Diogenes could not find one honest Greek MP.  Most Greek MPs are crooks!  They legislate not to help the people, but to get bribes.

The Greek political parties are mafias.  The leader of a party has dictatorial powers like the godfather of Cosa Nostra.  He does whatever he wishes, and he can dismiss any MP any moment without real reason.  MPs enjoy parliamentary immunity, committing crimes with impunity.

Two Greek mafias, Pasok and New Democracy, have destroyed Greece, robbing the Treasury, churning pension funds, and receiving myriad huge bribes.  Pasok is the most corrupt political party on planet Earth.  I am personally a victim of Pasok, destroying my life with defamation lawsuits.

Graecokleptocrats use the corrupt Greek Orthodox Church as a tool to stupefy hoi polloi.  Most bishops are gay and corrupt morons, easily blackmailed and manipulated.  All salaries of clergy are paid by the state, in return for fooling hoi polloi.  The stupid constitution of Greece grants lèse-majesté and spiritual monopoly to the Church of Greece.

Greece’s Finance Minister Tsakalotos said on Saturday he was optimistic that Greece’s banks would successfully recapitalize by the end of the year. 

The stress tests looked at how many loans would go unpaid if the country’s economy performs as expected up until 2017 – the so-called ‘baseline’.

It also simulated a ‘stress’ scenario, where Greece dips further than expected. For this test, ECB officials assumed that the economy would shrink by more than 3 percent this year and next before growing modestly in 2017.

Greek economic ills are rooted in the huge political corruption and the values and beliefs of Greek society. Greece’s public sector is rife with clientelism to gain votes and cronyism to gain favors – far more so than in other parts of Europe. Maximum pensions for public employees relative to wages are nearly twice as high as in Spain; the government favors business elites with tax-free status; and some state employees draw their salaries without actually turning up for work.

There are serious ills in the private sector, too – notably, the pervasive influence of vested interests and the country’s business and political elites. Insiders receive subsidies and contracts, and outsiders find it hard to break in. Astoundingly, young Greek entrepreneurs reportedly fear to incorporate their firms in Greece, lest others use false documents to take away their companies. Greece is one of the hardest places in Europe to start a business. The result is that competition for market share is weak and there are few firms with new ideas.

The stunted system springs from Greece’s corporatist values, which emphasize huge political corruption, social protection, solidarity instead of competition, and discomfort with uncontrolled change. These values are a recipe for a static economy and stultified careers.

Indeed, Greece’s labor productivity (GDP per worker) is only 72% of the level in the UK and Italy, and a mere 57.7% of that in Germany. And surveys indicate that mean life satisfaction in Greece is far below that found in the wealthiest EU countries. Corporatism impoverishes the less advantaged. EU data on poverty rates put Greece at 21.4% – far higher than the mean EU15 rate of 16.7%.

In checking the financial strength of the country’s four main banks – National Bank of Greece, Piraeus, Alpha Bank and Eurobank – the ECB determined that even should the economy perform no worse than expected, the banks would still need almost 4.4 billion euros.

It is the performance of the banks under stress that determines how much capital is needed. The ‘baseline’ scenario, for instance, expects Greek growth of 2.7 percent in 2017 – far outstripping Germany now.

Two important sources of broad prosperity are blocked by Greece’s system. One is an abundance of entrepreneurs engaged in detecting and exploiting new economic opportunities. Without them, Greece does a poor job of adjusting to changing circumstances. Greece’s much-lauded shipowners, for example, were too slow to adapt to containerization, and thus lost their market share.

The other source of broad prosperity is an abundance of business people engaged in conceiving and creating new products and processes, the indigenous innovation. Here, Greece lacks the necessary dynamism: venture capital investment flows are smaller, relative to GDP, in Greece than in any other EU country. So Greece’s economy has scant ability to create sustained productivity growth and high human satisfaction.

For several years, Greece drew on the EU’s structural funds and on loans from German and French banks to finance a wide array of highly labor-intensive projects. Employment and incomes soared, and savings piled up. When that capital inflow stopped, asset prices in Greece fell, and so did demand for labor in the capital-goods sector. Moreover, with household wealth having far outstripped wage rates, the supply of labor diminished. Thus, Greece went from boom to outright slump.

The structuralist perspective also explains why recovery has been slow. With competition weak, entrepreneurs did not rush to hire the unemployed. When recovery began, political unrest last fall nipped confidence in the bud.

The truth is that Greece needs more than just debt restructuring or even debt relief. If young Greeks are to have a future in their own country, they and their elders need to develop the attitudes and institutions that constitute an inclusive modern economy – which means shedding their corporatist values.

Europe, for its part, must think beyond the necessary reforms of Greece’s pension system, tax regime, and collective-bargaining arrangements. While Greece has reached the heights of corporatism, Italy and France are not far behind – and not far behind them is Germany. All of Europe, not just Greece, must rethink its economic philosophy.

Greece constantly accumulates new debt, piling it up on already non-viable debt, pretending that it ha solved the crisis, the debt deflationary spiral is enhanced, and the country becomes unreformable. It is something Graecokleptocrats have not managed to address.

The political situation in Greece is very toxic. You have an economic system in free fall. Lenders and creditors are imposing upon Greece new loans under the conditions that will ensure that they will not get their money back! No politician, however skilled he might be, can survive the economic implosion which drags down along with it the political system.  There must be an end to extending and pretending.

Germany and Wolfgang Schäuble insist on a program for Greece as a condition for Greece to remain in the Eurozone as a debt colony. The Greeks want to be in the Eurozone, but they don’t want this program. Schäuble understands that if this program is implemented Greece will fail. But, at the very same time, it’s important to him that Greece remains under the iron fist of the program in his dealings with Paris. So we have a chess board, and Greece is just a little pawn, to be sacrificed in a dirty game.

Graecokleptocrats back the reform package because they’ve been blackmailed. The package is not a bitter medicine, but a poison. This is a terrible program, it will not work but if Graecokleptocrats don’t try to implement it, Eurokleptocrats will force Grexit.

The ECB defended an earlier test that had given the banks a clean bill of health before the most recent political turmoil.

But Ramon Quintana, a director general in the ECB’s bank supervision arm, cautioned that Greece’s economy needed to stay on track for the banks to hold steady.

“Any deviations from these scenarios means that reality can go beyond what is expected in the exercise,” he told journalists. “This is why it is very important to avoid any deviation from the economic growth expected.”

Much of the focus so far in rehabilitating Greece has focused on the scale of its national debt, which is approaching double its economic output.

In comments to an Italian newspaper published on Saturday, ECB president Mario Draghi said that some debt relief may be required.

But the tests throw the spotlight on personal debt.

Banks have struggled most amid the months-long stand-off between leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his country’s international backers – the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

The dispute led to the freezing of central-bank funding for Greece’s banks and forced controls on cash withdrawals. Although this stemmed a further hemorrhaging of savings, it squeezed the economy, making it harder for borrowers to repay loans.

Of an 86-billion-euro bailout of Greece, 25 billion euros is earmarked for banks.

To reach its outcome, however, the ECB counts into the calculation billions of euros of future tax rebates that the Greek government could pay its banks.

Greek bankers hope that private investors will buy shares in the lenders. But Greece’s future and that of its banks remains uncertain, despite the latest checks.

A fall of more than two thirds in the banks’ stock prices this year serves as a reminder of the risks.