Goodbye Greece

Another young Greek emigrating abroad. This one goes to Italy. For a better life. For more opportunities. Or simply, for an opportunity.

This was his last Facebook status update from a Greek IP address. He says: Goodbye Greece. And this farewell might not just be on geographical terms.

Yiannis Karageorgos

The Greek Abu Ghraib

CCTV footage has emerged from Nigrita Prison in northern Greece where Albanian inmate Ilie Kareli was tortured to death last month.

The video, made available to Kathimerini.gr on Thursday, shows Kareli being escorted by guards into a waiting room after arriving at the prison and then being led to his cell, apparently bruised and half-undressed. Kareli died a few hours later as a result of a chest injury.

He was allegedly beaten by a number of guards while waiting to be shown to his cell at Nigrita.

The video also contains stills of Kareli bearing visible signs of abuse on his face, back and arms.

Seven guards from the facility were given extra time on Wednesday to prepare their defense on charges of torturing Kareli to death, a day after seven of their colleagues were remanded in custody in connection with the same affair.

Source: ekathimerini.com

There is life after austerity

samargouria

The guy in the photo (right) is Angel Gurría, general secretary of OECD. When he last met Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (left) last November he congratulated him for managing to bring Greece in the top position, internationally, of the list with the countries carrying out structural reforms.

These reforms were supposed to improve the way the Greek economy functions but also to rationalise the Greek public sector. Last summer, the Greek government had decided to suddenly close down ERT, the Greek Radio & TV Broadcasting company. The idea of firing all of a sudden around 2,500 employees was that ERT was a corrupt and expensive public organisation. At the beginning there was absolutely no plan – after the huge public pressure and uproar that ERT closure’s caused, the government announced that there would be a new state broadcaster created soon. It would more efficient than ERT, cheaper and more transparent.

Almost a year later, a few days ago, Eleftherotypia newspaper published the cost of a show that is now being broadcasted by NERIT, ERT’s kitsch and unpopular successor. It’s a new version of a show about tourism (that used to exist during ERT), trying to convince Greeks to spend their summer (money) in Greece rather than abroad. As if there is enough income distributed in the society for international plane tickets. Anyway, back to the show, here’s its budget.

nerit-spatali

On the left column you can see the people hired for the show (by specialty) and on the right you can see their payment (for the 2-month period which this contract is valid for). In the country where the minimum wage is down to around 500 euros per month, there is a journalist who will be paid 5.208 euros for reading the text messages that viewers send to the show. Out of the 11 people that will compose the journalistic part of the team, two will be handling the social media, each also paid 5.208 euros for these two months. The same will be the payment for the person who will be responsible to call and book the guests of the show while the editor-in-chief of the show will receive 8.060 euros. For two fucking months! That’s efficiency and rationalisation of ERT’s costs.

And if you want to compare with ERT’s already high wages [compared to the rest of the media market] the guest-booker in the old version of the show (at ERT) was earning about 30% less than the current NERIT’s payment.

As for increased transparency, these people have been hired without a some kind of competition, no job vacancy announcement, no evaluation of applicants.

A vicious circle, creating worst monsters than the ones we had in a supposed attempt to modernise, to get improved, to restructure [sic].

venizelos gurria

Back in his December 2013 visit, Angel Gurría had also met Evangelos Venizelos, the Frank Underwood of the Greek political scene. After the many congrats for Greece’s obediency, the OECD general secretary told him a sibyllic ‘There’s life after debt” which kept me wondering what the hell he was trying to say.

I get it now. There is indeed going to be life after the austerity. Those who get paid 5.000 euros for reading text messages will survive. The rest will have to emigrate abroad. Those who can afford their basic medication will survive. Unlike the woman in Lesvos who died last week [inside the local hospital!!!] simply because she couldn’t afford her medicines for hypertension.

There will be more international congratulations for this government and for these policies that cause such collateral damage. The elections are approaching and Samaras has invited everybody to congratulate him so that Greeks can be convinced that we’re on the right track, that we are exiting the crisis. Angela Merkel will be the next one with her visit planned in the coming days. Others will surely follow. They should all feel responsible if this vicious circle continues.

Baltakos Gate

Here’s a video that is expected [or should] cause tremors in the Greek political scene. Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris leaked this video today where he secretly filmed a discussion with cabinet secretary Takis Baltakos.

During the conversation, Baltakos can he heard saying that there was no evidence to substantiate the crackdown on Golden Dawn following Fyssas’ fatal stabbing by a Golden Dawn supporter last September.

He says that Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou and Interior Minister Nikos Dendias appealed to the chief prosecutor at the Supreme Court, Efterpi Goutzamani, a so-called devout Christian, that Golden Dawn were “pagans, idolaters, Nazis and opposed to Christianity”.

Baltakos also said that the crackdown on Golden Dawn was to stop the party drawing support from New Democracy.

Some initial conclusions:

  1. The Samaras administration has secret channels of communication with Golden Dawn.
  2. Prime Minister Samaras has appointed the Supreme Court Prosecutor simply because she comes from a nearby village.
  3. This otherwise independent prosecutor is paying back favors.
  4. Ministers of the Samaras administration can order arrests by picking up the phone.
  5. A case can be “put in the archive” with a short 30 minute investigative committee at the parliament.
  6. There’s no one to turn to if someone wants to file a claim for corruption against the current administration.

This is probably going to create an avalanche of events so stay tuned. By the time I managed to subtitle the video Baltakos has resigned but, in a modern functioning democracy, both Athanasiou and Dendias should resign too. If not Samaras himself too!

As to who is Takis Baltakos, I copy below some facts from EnetEnglish.

Takis Baltakos was appointed by Antonis Samaras to the key political position of government general secretary in June 2012.

He has been identified with the most rightwing section of New Democracy, and is said to have “led opposition” to proposals crackdown on neonazi Golden Dawn.

In December 2012, he told the head of the National Commission for Human Rights, Kostis Papaioannou, that “he doesn’t care, in his capacity as a representative of the government and New Democracy, about the committee’s work and human rights, nor about the country’s international obligations”. Papaioannou was presenting his annual report to the government. He said Baltakos opened it at a chapter on racist violence and threw it on the table, saying, “We are not interested in the human rights of foreigners.”

In 2013, he is alleged to have said that cooperation between New Democracy and Golden Dawn in future elections was “undesirable but not an unlikely possibility”.

In May 2013, it was reported that he was one of the key officials involved in holding up an antiracism bill on the grounds that it could “potentially cause problems”. The bill would have outlawed incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders”.

Baltakos was a leading voice against moving against Golden Dawn, up to September 2013, when the government was pushed into taken action after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. According to the Wall Street Journal, Baltakos said that a crackdown “would backfire, winning the party sympathy from voters disgusted with the establishment and alienating conservative constituencies such as the army and church.”

Last week, he said he has been an “anticommunist” all his life and that the Greek left has “plagued” the country since 1942, the year it took up arms against the occupying Nazis.

Rejecting cannibalism

I saw this poster today. On the wall outside my neighborhood’s Unemployment Office. It was full of young people and as I was arriving there a dark, stony feeling was felt in my stomach. Approaching the entrance, this poster made me feel better. No matter how desperate some people can get, they won’t turn to each other. The poster says (in free translation from a Greek colloquial expression):

We are hungry! And we don’t plan to eat each other!

poster hunger

Why is such a newspaper allowed to exist?

I’ve been thinking for quite some time now to start posting the front pages of what is probably the shittiest newspaper in Greece. It’s called Eleftheri Ora (Free Time?) and it’s the single most antisemitic, conspiracy-loving, anti-immigration, nationalist piece of toilet paper circulating in Greek news stands. It has a very low circulation (maybe some hundreds) but, still, it is there in its effort to spread all kinds of bullshit ideology, urban legend, conspiracy theories and general crap.

Today’s cover made me finally start this column in my blog where I shall be posting their front pages so that you can see what kind of newspaper Eleftheri Ora is. I will be using the same comment at the end of every post about this newspaper, “Why is such a newspaper allowed to exist?” since such a paper would be banned or fined to death in probably all the countries of Europe. I’m not really into banning things, I am the romantic guy who believes that an educated society can reject racist ideology or stupid antisemitism. But Greece, like the rest of EU, has the relevant laws that would forbid a paper like this to be published, hence the question; Why is such a newspaper allowed to exist?

eleftheri ora 20130131

Today’s front page (on the top) has a headline saying “All young Greek women who had sex with Albanians are at risk for cervical cancer – 75% of Albanians examined had Hepatitis!!!”

From now on, I shall place all posts on Eleftheri Ora under the category tag “WTF” which can also be found on the menu bar.

One Sunday morning

Good morning!

One of my girlfriend’s Facebook friends posted this photo at 6.30 this morning.

patras fire

Patras, Greece. 19/1/2014 Photo by Dimitris Gkioulos

Dimitris Gkioulos wrote next to the photo: Two hours ago, a woman living across the street from where I live was burnt from a fire created by a heating device. I woke up to her desperate cries “Fire! Fire!”. Now let’s calmly continue our day…

Due to the continuing austerity and the ridiculous tax on heating oil, people in Greece are forced to use cheap and often dangerous ways to heat themselves during the winter. Burning wood in fireplaces or even braziers has been the solution for many of them. As a result, the extensive use of firewood has caused tens of deadly accidents so far and, in the case of areas surrounded by mountains like the Athens basin, it is also responsible for the phenomenon of smog. See my post here (“Greece is on fire or the alter of austerity“) for more on this topic.

Meanwhile in Athens, the smog keeps haunting the city. I’ve even noticed that the traditionally minimalist weather reports are now enriched by a new qualitative index. Smog risk. In the UK you have the windchill factor, in Greece we have the smog risk. A number working in the subconscious, telling you whether you can exercise in the open air, dry your washed clothes outside or simply take a stroll in the local park for some fresh air.

Some days ago, early one morning, I took these photos. This is how smog looks like on a bright sunny day in Athens.

Update: I just noticed that there was also a relevant blog post about the fire accident in Patras. Here’s the link and here’s the translation:

4am in the morning and you jump out of your bed to a desperate cry “Fire! Fire!”. You go out to the balcony and you see this [see photo above]. And then the neighbours tell you about yet another brazier next to you, yes another victim, a woman. I didn’t ask what was her name, how old she was, if she had friends, children, grandchildren, dreams or just pills and stress about her pension. I was ashamed. That’s what it was. And when I returned home the air was smelling burnt flesh. Your fucking culture…

ps. She was 62 years old. Yet another victim (the count is lost) of the undeclared war. The war is always a class war but, right now, we must just shut up.