Damian Mac Con Uladh

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Grey-haired men pestering children

In Uncategorized on 13 January 2015 at 12:29 pm

Have you been wondering about those election adverts put out by political parties in recent days? Thanks to Kostas Kallergis, you can now view them with English-language subtitles. Kostas also throws in his analysis of the message they are trying to convey.

When the Crisis hit the Fan

The Greek political parties have started broadcasting their political ads and thought it might be interesting to translate some of them for (fun) you.

New Democracy (ruling party) has produced three videos so far. The first one is a desperate (in terms of acting, at least) attempt to show Antonis Samaras close to the younger generation (the majority of ND’s voters are above their 40s or even 50s).

The reference to the stadium is one more cheap attempt to attract votes of supporters of AEK Athens football club. They have been asking for a new stadium for more than a decade now and New Democracy is promising to make their dream too. I loved two details in this video.

The first one is that our PM indirectly admits that Greece, the country he has been governing for the past 2,5 years, is not a normal and serious country yet.

The second…

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A sniff at democracy

In Uncategorized on 18 December 2014 at 10:04 am
(Photo: ProtoThema.gr)

Independent MP Grigoris Psarianos appears to sniff the inside of the jacket of his colleague Rachel Makri (Photo: ProtoThema.gr)

This is a scene from the backbenches of the Greek parliament, where the government yesterday evening failed in his first attempt to have its candidate for state president elected, in a process that will likely go to another two rounds and, as is looking increasingly likely, to national elections.

The government managed to muster a mere 160 votes, twenty short of the 180 it will need to see Stavros Dimas, its presidential hopeful, ensconced in the state’s highest office. Only five MPs from outside the two coalition parties supported Dimas in the first round of voting, including independent MPs Grigoris Psarianos, Spyros Lykoudis and Christos Aidonis, who decided that the responsible thing to do for the country at this juncture was to vote with the government and prevent snap elections.

Ahead of the vote, one would think that the gravity of the situation facing the country would be playing on the minds of all MPs, especially Psarianos (a former Syriza (2007-10) and Democratic Left (2010-14) MP, now independent), Lykoudis (elected with Democratic Left in 2012, now independent and head of a new party called the Reformers) and Aidonis (elected with Pasok in 2012, independent since 2013), who, after all, are presented as paragons of responsibility who have the country’s best interests at heart, leading the way for others to follow.

But minutes before the vote, a roll-call procedure which got underway shortly after 7pm, Psarianos had other things on his mind. In this image, taken at 6.59pm, we apparently see him sniffing – yes, sniffing! – the coat of a female colleague, independent deputy Rachel Makri (who can be seen in the centre of the photo below), who had taken her seat two benches down shortly beforehand.

(Photo: TheToc.gr)

Rachel Makri (centre) wearing a light blue coat (Photo: TheToc.gr)

Holding the jacket is novelist Petros Tatsopoulos, an independent MP who was elected on a Syriza ticket in 2012, who is clearly amused. Sitting in front of Psarianos is Lykoudis. On his left is Aidonis, bursting into laughter. Joining in on the fun from across the aisle is Markos Bolaris, an independent MP who was expelled from Pasok in November 2012.

Like schoolboys in the back row of the classroom, they probably thought no one would notice, despite the intense media focus on the proceedings. But a group of men in the 50s and 60s getting a kick out of smelling an item of clothing belonging to a younger female colleague is anything but responsible parliamentary behaviour.

It’s hard to know what Psarianos was up to. Only he could tells us. As a passionate wearer of angler jackets, even in the parliamentary chamber, perhaps he’s afflicted with some kind of jacket-envy, given that he’s not that particularly well-endowed when it comes to that item of clothing.

Grigoris Psarianos speaking from the parliamentary tribune (Photo: ienimerosi.gr)

Grigoris Psarianos speaking from the parliamentary tribune (Photo: ienimerosi.gr)

In Syntagma Square : Syrian Refugees Fight Back

In Uncategorized on 10 December 2014 at 9:34 pm

The Samos Chronicles blog has produced the most comprehensive account of why Syrians are protesting on Syntagma Square. In their own words, Syrians explain why they find themselves in Greece and why they are determined to continue their journeys to their intended destinations.

The Samos Chronicles is written by Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones, emeritus professor of social policy and social work at the University of Liverpool.

Samos Chronicles

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There are many aspects to the desperation which has driven the Syrian refugees to this self-organised protest. Many of them are on hunger strike. One common bond is the fear of being trapped in Greece with no money and no support. Without money to pay your way out of Greece clandestinely you face a frightening future.

Many of the Syrians who make it to Greece have some money; some have much. In many respects those in Syntagma square, are more privileged than the millions of Syrians living in the camps in Turkey or Jordan. Of the 11 million Syrians refugees today (including those internally displaced within the country as well as outside the borders) only 4% make it to Europe.

We were told many stories in the Square of people selling homes, cars and businesses to pay for the escape from Syria. But as a consequence of there being no…

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Baltakos plans new rightwing force with ‘serious’ Golden Dawn figures, claims report

In Uncategorized on 6 October 2014 at 11:56 am
Takis Baltakos and Ilias Kasidiaris

Takis Baltakos and Ilias Kasidiaris (Photo: Ethnos.gr)

Takis Baltakos, the former cabinet secretary and righthand man of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, is planning a new rightwing political force that could include “serious” figures from Golden Dawn, a Sunday newspaper has reported.

Baltakos was forced to resign in April after a video surfaced showing him engaged in what appeared to be a friendly conversation in his parliamentary office, with leading Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris.

According to Ethnos on Sunday, Baltakos hopes to have the new party established by February at the latest. The newspaper also claims that Kasidiaris, currently in custody pending trial along with other Golden Dawn leaders on charges of running a criminal organisation, is involved in this venture.

Excluded from the party would be Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Michaoliakos, who, along with other Golden Dawn figures, is viewed by those planning the new entity as a liability.

Since his resignation as the most powerful official in the government, Baltakos has made no secret of his political plans. Asked in August if he will form a new party, he said that “when the time comes, everything will have been done”.

In a frank interview with To Vima in August, Baltakos, who described the Orthodox church and armed forces as “pillars of the nation”, said that it was imperative for New Democracy to swing to the right to win over the 16.5% of the electorate that lies to its extreme.

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Filming The Road to Sparta

In Uncategorized on 11 September 2014 at 11:50 am

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The past and present of an ancient race dating back to 490BC is the subject of a new short film whose makers are seeking €15,000 in crowdfunding to get from the road to the silver screen.

The Road To Sparta is about four individuals, including the great ultra-endurance runner Dean Karnazes, running the 2014 Spartathlon, a 246km ultramarathon between Athens and Sparta.

Today’s Spartathlon runners are following in the path of Pheidippides, the runner sent by the Athenians to Sparta in 490BC in a bid to raise reinforcements to fight the mighty Persian army in what was to be the Battle of Marathon.

According to the historian Herodotus, he arrived in Sparta “the next day”. In 1982, an RAF officer, John Foden, set out to see if that was possible. After he and two colleagues succeeded, the Spartathlon was born the following year.

The race starts at 7am at the foot of the Acropolis and passes through Elefsina, Megara, Kineta and Corinth, on its way towards the most historic of destinations in Sparta: the feet of the statue of Leonidas, the Spartan leader who found immortality with the 300 at Thermopylae ten years after the Battle of Marathon.

The brainchild of journalist Barney Spender, the 30-minute film will not be a straightforward sports documentary “but more of an artumentary where sport meets history meets music, a film of brain, brawn and beauty”.

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Same old shit

In Uncategorized on 9 September 2014 at 11:45 am

Kostas Kallergis on the depressing and stupefying spectacle that is Nerit, the new Greek state broadcaster that replaced what the New Democracy/Pasok coalition claimed was “a symbol of corruption and waste”. Well, one year one, Nerit is a thousand times worse than ERT and the same old hiring policies are continuing.

When the Crisis hit the Fan

Lots of you have asked me why I haven’t been writing any more in the past three or four (or five?) months of this blog’s hibernation. My answer is “same old shit”. Like this one.

It’s been a bit more than a year since the government decided to suddenly close down ERT, the public broadcaster. One of the main arguments was that the government wanted to create something new, a new broadcaster without the political dependencies of the past. Today they have proved (once more) what a big fat lie that was. So here’s the story.

There’s this journalist and anchorman called Nikos Evaggelatos. NERIT, which is the brave new sister of the old corrupt ERT, announced today that it’s hiring him for a news show. Credible Typologies blog wrote that initially NERIT’s BoD was a bit wary of the deal because (wait for it…) New Democracy approved him but…

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Greek island police chief snapped giving Nazi salute

In Uncategorized on 7 September 2014 at 10:58 am
Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos giving a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos giving a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

A photograph has emerged showing the police chief of a Greek island giving a fascist salute in front of a Nazi-era train in a German museum.

In the image, published in Ethnos on Sunday, Lieutenant Yiorgos Kagkalos, chief of police on the island of Hydra, can be seen with an outstretched right arm. Behind him, on a red locomotive, is a large Reichsadler, a stylised eagle combined with the Nazi swastika used as a national emblem in Nazi Germany.

Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos gives a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos gives a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

According to Ethnos, the photograph was taken on 13 March 2011 when Kagkalos visited the Nuremburg Transport Museum. The train appears to resemble a Elektrolokomotive E 19 12, a model of which is kept at the museum.

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Athens police detain women who attended rehearsals for antiracism play

In Uncategorized on 3 September 2014 at 11:18 am
Photo: Steve Criddle/Flickr

Photo: Steve Criddle/Flickr

Three members of the cast of a play that deals with racism were stopped and detained by police on Monday after finishing rehearsals, despite being in possession of valid residence permits.

The three, all women, were stopped by police and asked for their papers in Keramikos, central Athens, at around 9pm, outside of the Eutopian Workshop, where the rehearsals for the play, “No to racism from the cradle”, take place.

Police at the scene, who were not wearing service numbers and refused to reveal their names, told the women and bystanders that they were detaining them because they appeared “suspicious”.

The women were then transferred, in a patrol car bearing the registration EA 20281, to the Attica aliens bureau on Petrou Ralli street, where they were detained for two hours.

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The parallel universes of Greek journalism

In Uncategorized on 29 October 2012 at 4:50 pm

Journalism is under attack in Greece: today, Kostas Vaxevanis appeared in court for publishing a controversial list of over 2,000 Greek residents with accounts in a Swiss bank. The Greek government had the list for two years and did nothing with it; another five EU countries reportedly brought in 10bn euros using information obtained from the same bank.

Then, two television presenters on state NET TV were “suspended until further notice” because they had said Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias had got it wrong when he said torture accusations made by 15 antifascists against the police were false.

Dendias had said that medical reports to be published would show that no torture took place. The problem for him was that the forensic experts documented injuries that supported the victims’ claims of torture, something that the presenters, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi, dared suggest showed that Dendias was talking through his hat.

Amid this climate, the following news wire was put out by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Greece’s semiofficial news agency claiming that Greece is now a “model country” for the way it deals with money laundering.

I’m publishing it here verbatim, as it’s unlikely to appear in any media anywhere in English (although some newspapers have run the original Greek version).

The reaction from people I’ve shown to already has been laughter and disbelief. No Greek can or will take this report seriously.

Greek money laundering machines – not (cc alpenfelt)

Greece no longer ‘problem’ country vis-a-vis money laundering, corruption

Greece not only has stopped being considered a “problem” country with respect to money laundering and corruption since June 2011, but according to official data of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but is also considered a model-country as regards the framework and organisation of its mechanisms for clamping down on money laundering, a document from Areios Paghos (Supreme Court) deputy chief prosecutor and the Independent Authority on money laundering and audit of assets statements Panagiotis Nikoloudis that was submitted to parliament on Monday said.

The document, submitted in reply to a question tabled by Independent Greeks MP Maria Kollia-Tsarouha, also cited newer statistics for 2012, which Nikoloudis said “are not ready to be announced yet but are specific and convincing, and allow the thought that soon the image of Greece will change abroad, and chiefly the way that the state acts in the specific areas”.

The independent authority chief also submitted to parliament, in his document, figures concerning the clampdown on money laundering and corruption in 2011, noting that the independent authority had investigated and identified 162 cases of money laundering, which it forwarded to the authoritative prosecutors, and at the same time seized a “criminal product” of 223,982,146 euros.

Comparing this to other EU countries, the document said that Belgium — which is acknowledged as having the best organized and equipped unit — had seized a total of 22,223,656 euros, while Portugal, which was about the same size as Greece, had seized 30,077,972 euros whereas much larger Spain had seized the sum of 12,398,000 (in 2005) and Britain, with its SOCA unit, had seized a criminal product of 327,600,000 euros.

How can we explain the riots in Greece?

In Uncategorized on 20 December 2008 at 11:19 pm

What led to the December riots in Greece?

It’s a question everyone’s been asking themselves since the unprecedented violence that erupted after the fatal police shooting of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6.

To outsiders, Greece appears to be a wonderful country: blue skies, wonderful beaches and fantastic food. And there’s the laid-back lifestyle. It all appears so tranquil, so they say.

The reality within Greece for many Greeks is somewhat different. This country is not a failed state, but it’s a highly dysfunctional one that, in recent years, has been plagued by disasters (the forest fires of 2007 and 2008) and political and economic scandals (Olympic overspending, the phone-tapping scandal, the post-7/7 mysterious abduction of a group of Pakistanis, the Zachopoulos affair, the Vatopaidi affair, etc etc.). Indeed, the scandals are so frequent that they all seem to blend into one continues battle between the media and public on the one hand and the government on the other to establish the facts.

Life is difficult for many and this was the case before the credit crunch. Wages are ridiculously low and prices outrageously high. Greeks love cafes yet this country is probably one of the most expensive places to buy a coffee in Europe. It’s also one of the most expensive places in the EU to buy clothing and footware. Rents are also high.

The ongoing protests have mainly been a student and schoolpupil affair. Greek schoolchildren, particularly those who live in the big cities (ie Athens) are an unhappy lot. Most attend state schools during the day where they learn very little. In the evenings, the go to private cram schools (frontistiria) to study all subjects, not just foreign languages. Some teenagers I spoke to spend 18 hours in these frontistiria, at great cost to their parents and to their general mental and physical well being.

It’s simply not healthy for children to spend 7 hours in school during the day and a further 3-4 hours in a cramming academy in the evening. They also have to find time to do homework as well.

Greek schoolchildren find themselves in being processed through a machine that is geared to produce nothing else but good university-entry exam results. In the vast majority of state secondary schools there are no extracurricular activities such as drama, music or sports. If anything in undertaken in this direction, then it is the responsibility of the schoolkids or their parents, who again have to pay for all this.

No wonder these children are full of anger.

Not only are they are overworked, but they face a bleak future. The aspire to go to university but know full well that very little awaits them once they finish their primary degrees. Even if they obtain a postgraduate degree — there are thousands of Greek postgrads in Italian, German, French and British universities — their job prospects are bleak.

This generation of Greeks is facing the reality that they will be worse off than their parents.

Many young Greeks want change. They are turning against the corrupt political system that their parents have supported since the end of the dictatorship in 1974. They all know the problems the country has but are not willing to tolerate them anymore.

They are fed up of the country’s rulers, especially those who seem to have inherited political office (such as Prime Minsiter Karamanlis).  The alternative, socialist Pasok, is equally unattractive for the same reasons (the Papandreou dynasty).

They are fed up with the endless political game that accompanies every scandal.

They are fed up with the same old faces in the windows on Greece’s bizarre TV “chat news”.

They are also fed up with the ever-decreasing value of the money in their pockets as a result of inflation.

They are also fed up at the wanton destruction of the environment and the government’s paying lip-service to ecology.

They are also fed up of the police.

The Greek Police are almost universally reviled in Greece. Even conservative voters have no respect for the force. Respect has to be earned and it appears to me that the Greek Police has not earned the respect of the population nor does it have any idea how it can earn this respect.

Distrust of the police goes back to the Junta years. The police was never fully democratised after the fall of the Junta.

Of course, they are baldly paid like all civil servants, they are badly trained and they are corrupt like the rest of the system.

Unless they make an attempt to engage in dialogue with the people they are supposed to be protecting (community policing), particularly in flashpoints like Exarchia, then nothing will change.

Neither will anything change as long as the police and state prosecutors remain the political tools of the government. They must show more determination in combating top-level government corruption.

Will anything change?

This is another question that people have been asking.

The youth and students are discontented. They know what the problems are, but the danger is that various micro-groups will try to channel this protest movement into demanding laughable, unrealistic and nebulous aims such as complete social revolution and/or the abolition of the state! That’s simply not going to happen in 2008. The protests will end up demanding everything and achieving absolutely nothing.

The protests might lead to a change in policing if that remained the key focus. But arguably, the police are merely a product of a bad system and are certainly not at the root of it.

Some young people have told me that the protests need to be far more creative (and, above all, peaceful) in order to produce change.

There also needs to be real dialogue in society about the problems facing the country, but not in the daily mainstream TV media chatnews format or through the microparties of the left.

I saw one creative example of that today. Through Facebook, a group called for a “mobbing” on the central Syntagma Square this afternoon around the city’s (second) Christmas tree. A few hundred turned up, and the police — green (riot) and blue (regular) — were there as well. The police were determined to protect the tree — fearing that it could be set on fire — so they circled it. It was exactly what the protesters wanted, as they were now able to encircle the police, all 30 of them.

What followed allowed for the protesters to express everything they wanted to express: the sang anti-police slogans, danced around the tree and the police. They laughed. They even dumped some old pigmeat at their feet.

Apart from the protesters, hundreds of Christmas shoppers looked on and very few of them seemed to have any objection to what was going on. As mentioned above, the police have very little respect from most of society.

Basically, they humiliated the representatives of a force using verbal means. Granted, it wasn’t too pleasant for the police concerned, but they took it well. They were clearly under orders not to escalate the situation in any way.

The whole event allowed for the venting of frustration. After an hour or so when everything that could have been said was said, most of the demonstrators moved away peacefully. So did the police. And the tree remained unscathed.

Had the police resorted to its normal heavy-handed tactics, the world news would be broadcasting another report on rioting in central Athens and possibly another burning tree.