Thursday, November 27, 2014


By Joyce Barnathan

The hit podcast Serial, a journalist’s exploration of whether a young man was wrongly convicted of murder, breaks new ground for our field. There are reams of articles and TV “newsmagazines” that expose the killers of the famous—and not so famous—in gruesome detail. What makes Serial so special and so meaningful for journalism is reporter Sarah Koenig’s transparency. She takes her listeners along with her as she ponders the innocence or guilt of Adnan Syed. As she says, she has no skin in the game. She is simply looking into a story about a promising high school student of Pakistani origin accused of killing his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, an exuberant, talented teenager of Korean descent.

For journalists listening to the series, Koenig does what we all do, all the time. We find an interesting topic and pursue it with great skepticism. Our goal is to bring to the public insights and understanding that people wouldn’t otherwise have. In some cases, our work has the potential for tremendous impact, as it does in this case. If she uncovers that Syed is indeed innocent (after spending 15 years in prison), his life could change dramatically.

What Koenig does that we don’t normally do is share our thoughts and views as we research a story. Normally we do all that work before publishing. We give our audience the most intelligent assessment we can. We go through the same hard work of interviewing and researching as Koenig—and we suffer through the same anxieties and soul searching. The difference is, we never make that work public. She breaks new ground because she makes journalism more transparent—and in my view, adds tremendous credibility to our field.

There are other calls to make journalism more transparent—not because people mistrust the profession but because openness adds to its credibility. Established journalism organizations have ethics policies, seasoned editors, and even experienced media lawyers when needed. Our audiences are hardly aware of all the vetting that goes on before a story is published or aired. That’s why Richard Gingras, head of Google News and a director at the International Center for Journalists, together with Sally Lehrman at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, are launching the Trust Project. They want to find cues that let readers know what goes on behind the scenes as a way of distinguishing great journalism from the tsunami of editorial detritus that claims to be high-quality.

Gingras and Lehrman are exploring how to capture the basic journalism process. Was a reporter or photographer truly on the scene for a story? Did a seasoned editor look for gaps, tighten the language, and poke for holes? Did a lawyer vet a controversial piece to ensure that it is bulletproof? And how, Gingras and Lehrman ask, do we convey this behind-the-scenes professionalism to readers? Their project is just getting off the ground.

I’m a proponent of this kind of transparency. Our mission—to serve as watchdogs in the public interest—leads us to cast the light on others. But by casting the light on ourselves, exposing how we come to conclusions (as in Serial’s case) or how we simply produce good journalism, we enhance our audience’s trust in our work.

Let the sun shine in.


By Laird Ryan

Considering a wide range of media reports and commentaries on the UK’s ongoing devolution debate – do the solutions politicians seem to be offering genuinely address the issues as seen by local people?

In recent weeks, the media has been awash with articles and reports about proposed new ways of governing different parts of the UK.  Clearly, the Scottish referendum has awoken a sleeping giant – something that our national political class should ignore at its peril.  Because devolution goes to the heart of the localism debate, we’ve put together a representative cross-section of what’s out there.

The centre cannot hold: councils across the UK hit back at Hague

The local government associations from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have written to William Hague, who chairs the cabinet committee looking at devolved powers.  Their letter accuses the government of trying to ‘second guess what is best for localities’ and calls for a bold approach to a new system of governance.  It also states: Any new settlement which ignores the re-awaking of local identity in the UK is likely to be unsustainable.

Post-referendum Scotland

Glasgow City Council’s Labor Leader Gordon Matheson claims that Scotland’s incoming First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is stifling revolution, arguing that unlike England’s City Deals, the SNP is in effect seeking to centralize power in Holyrood. 

Labor’s leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, says that more localism in Scotland can help ‘thwart the threat of nationalism’.  Commenting on her party’s boycott of William Hague’s committee, she said that a “convention, driven by the people – indeed, for the people – with views and voices from communities across our country, would mean that change could be part of addressing feelings of powerlessness in the face of globalisation and its impacts.”

How do people in England feel?

Some 80% of people in England support having more powers devolved to local areas, a BBC poll on devolution has suggested.  This also showed that 66% support the idea of allowing only MPs from England to vote on laws in the Westminster Parliament that affect only England.

Which one’s the True North?  Is it George Osborne’s ‘Powerhouse’? Or Nick Clegg’s ‘Futures’? Or, as we’re suggesting in LocalismWatch, something that’s far more nuanced?  Judge for yourselves, and let us know!

DevoManc and Combined Authorities

On 3 November, Greater Manchester’s 10 metropolitan councils and the government reached a ‘trailblazing agreement’ to devolve powers to a combined city region authority, shortly to be headed by an elected mayor.  Here’s the official view from Manchester City Council’s press office.

The Manchester Evening News headlines the current bookies’ odds on who will be the city region’s first elected mayor.  (Sir Richard Leese is the runaway front-runner, with ex-Man Utd manager David Moyes trailing at 200/1.)  But George Osborne’s piece on the agreement comes much further down the page.  An indication, perhaps, that not everyone in Greater Manchester is a party to this top-down deal?

Elsewhere in OurKingdom, Michael Dawson addresses that very point: only two years ago, Mancunians rejected an elected mayoralty at a referendum. And yet, Dawson suggests, ‘one extremely out-of-touch politician (Osborne) can overturn an electorate in less than two weeks of scheming’, with the collusion of a ‘cabal of jumped up’ council leaders whose main loyalty is not to Manchester but Whitehall. In a similar vein, John Fenwick argues that the lack of due democratic diligence in imposing the new structure may have undermined its legitimacy.  In Fenwick’s opinion, a Combined Authority simply merges two policy failures of current and previous governments: regional policy and directly-elected mayors.

Not to be outdone, the Labour opposition has presented its own slant on ‘city regions’.  The Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, has recently set out the case for regional mayors in a ‘more federal’ UK.

Birmingham City Council’s Labour Leader, Sir Albert Bore, has long promotedan elected metro-mayor for the West Midlands. The Chancellor, for his part,cannot but agree.  Days after the Greater Manchester accord was announced, Birmingham and the four Black Country authorities unveiled their own ‘Super Council’ plan.

Unlike their Mancunian counterparts, attempts to broker governance agreements across the West Midlands have always been fraught with difficulties. But the momentum of events in Manchester—plus the lure of extra government funding in these austere times—have concentrated neighbouring council leaders’ minds wonderfully. Hot on the heels of the Birmingham announcement, Coventry and Solihull said they, too, would be joining the Combined Authority.

Not everyone agrees.  Bill Ethridge, one of the region’s three UKIP MEPs, notes that Birmingham also rejected an elected mayor in a 2012 referendum, and argues that a combined authority would be ‘undemocratic’. In his view, the West Midlands agreement is “typical of the Labour party seeking to concentrate power over the people by moving the centre of power further away from people.”

Merseyside’s six councils do not want to be left behind in the devolution rush. Joe Anderson has been Liverpool’s Elected Mayor since 2012, but has no jurisdiction over his neighbours. Anderson is campaigning for an area-wide deal, as it would be “a success for the government if they include the Greater Liverpool region in their move for devolvement and decentralisation of powers.” Of course, he’d like to be its metro-mayor. George Osborne is happy for such an arrangement in principle, but only if every Merseyside council assents.

Bristol has its own elected mayor – the architect, George Ferguson. Local opinion about his performance, and the added value of the role, is divided. However, research by Bristol’s two universities has concluded that the elected mayor has improved their city’s visibility, and that council decisions are now more responsive to community needs. As with Liverpool, the mayor cannot govern beyond his city limits, but Communities Secretary Eric Pickles would be happy to devolve powers to a Bristol ‘city region’, if neighbouring councils so wish.

Similar views on Combined Authorities prevail in the East Midlands. Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, told the BBC: This isn’t about power for power’s sake. It’s about ensuring that those closest to the people have the necessary freedom, flexibility and accountability to plan and deliver local services.

What about London?

One reason why many people support devolution to English localities is as a counterbalance to ‘overweening’ central control. But as Tim Donovan observes, this raises dilemmas. Londoners, like their provincial counterparts, widely believe that central government holds the purse strings over too many key services. The most perceptive commentators point to a growing behind-the-scenes power struggle between two-thirds of England’s ruling ‘Bullingdon Triumvirate’ – George Osborne and Boris Johnson. James Ashton sees calls for devolution as a backlash against the capital and argues that now is the time for London to grab more powers.

But it’s not just the big cities: doesn’t everyone need to be heard?

A trawl of local newspapers shows that the momentum for devolution has been intensified across Britain. A primary focus, however, has been about council mergers to save services in the face of cuts, rather than promoting local identity.

This is certainly true in East Lancashire, where a recent meeting of local politicians convened by Labour grandee Jack Straw resolved to examine the feasibility of creating a single cost-saving authority. Two equally vulnerable areas in the North are also progressing Combined Authority status.  Darlington Council leader Bill Dixon said the plan for the Tees Valley was to develop a body for adding “great value but at very little cost”. Lord Haskins, who chairs Humberside’s Local Enterprise Partnership, believes that a devolved body there should be “a combined economic development authority with a very specific job to do.” But he warns: “The local authorities have got to come together willingly – and that is something for them, not me.  If you force people into something, it will not work.”

Not every community, though, is urban, or identifies with a wider ‘city region’. In a further attempt to ingratiate himself with electors in Labour’s target constituencies, Ed Miliband recently convened a ‘Shadow English Regional Cabinet Committee’. At its inaugural meeting, he announced a package of measures that an incoming Labour government would adopt. An English Devolution Act would devolve powers such as letting 100% of additional business rates revenue be retained and allow councils and the NHS to join forces locally to end the ‘care divide’. A guaranteed £30bn funding transfer to the regions, through five-year ‘county deals’, would support transport, housing and skills.  Additionally, the regions would have responsibility for transport in a way already enjoyed by London.

But as a BBC report reveals, rural village dwellers have a very different take on localism, and governance in general, to Westminster village dwellers. A Shropshire County Councillor, who owns a hardware shop and a poultry business, puts it well: “City people don’t understand rural areas.” He is troubled by their idea of the countryside “as a theme park where you go for the weekend to breathe deeply and go cycling”.

What are we to make of this?

Wherever we live and whatever our position on the political spectrum, it’s clear that the UK’s current governance structures—and indeed, the parties and individuals who personify those structures—no longer relate to most people’s daily lives, needs or expectations. As Jane Merrick says, ‘It’s the buses, stupid,’ – in other words, folk are more likely to care about the number 508 from Leeds to Halifax today than HS2 a couple of decades hence. She argues that the 2015 General Election could well be decided by local issues, seat by seat, candidate by candidate.

That, basically, is why LocalismWatch exists. We want to see free-range localism, not the caged version that the Westminster village keeps serving us.


By Chad Nelson 

The grand jury proceedings for Michael Brown’s killer, Darren Wilson, show us just how fictional the United States government’s system of checks and balances is. Unfortunately, the only ones who appear to be pointing this out are the protesters on the ground in Missouri — that is when they’re lucky enough to secure two-minute- interviews on the nightly news programs.

It seems logical: how could a state prosecutor possibly carry out a truly adversarial criminal prosecution of one of his closest allies in the state criminal justice system — a police officer? The symbiotic relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the police department is clear. Without arrests, the prosecutor has no criminal charges to press. Without a prosecutor to pursue the legal case against the alleged criminal, the police officer’s work is all for nought. The two offices work closely together, almost always collaborating in criminal matters. They have mutual interests, the one’s success depending largely on the success of the other.

This close working relationship between prosecutor and police officer is not viewed as controversial in most cases. People generally understand that police officers and prosecutors are a team — much like two members at different points in a factory assembly line. But in a prosecution like that of Darren Wilson, the criminal defendant is the police officer. What prosecutor, who depends upon a good working relationship with his local police department, wants to alienate the department by zealously prosecuting one of its members? It’s certainly possible, but one would have to think that such rebel prosecutors are few and far between.

The protesters who utter such concerns about the validity of a state prosecution of a police officer have their finger on an issue that market anarchists have long recognized. Government checks and balances are a farce. In For a New Liberty, Murray Rothbard notes that allegedly “separate” branches of government are just that — separate branches of the same government. A well-functioning government depends upon the mutual success of all branches. They are not in competition with one another, despite occasionally engaging in turf wars which might create the appearance that they are. To think that one government branch, bureau or department would carry out a truly oppositional battle against another is to ignore common sense.

Further compounding the backwardness of the state criminal justice system, the prosecutor carries out a legal case against the alleged criminal, not on behalf of the victim, but instead, on behalf of “the people.” These unidentified “people” are presented as the aggrieved party in a state criminal prosecution, but again, common sense leads us to question the wisdom of this setup. The real victim in Michael Brown’s case was clearly Michael Brown. In all crimes, it is the actual victim who ought to be carrying out the prosecution of the criminal. The victim alone is the interested party in the matter. In Michael Brown’s case, had Brown’s surviving family members had a choice, a state prosecutor would likely have been the last attorney they would have selected to represent them in the courtroom.

Michael Brown’s killing, indeed all police killings of citizens, serve to highlight some of the enormous procedural flaws inherent within the American criminal justice system. It is skewed in favor of the state from the get-go.


Premier Samaras, leader of New Kleptocracy mafia, hoodwinks that he sees a light at the end of the tunnel, but that is a train of disaster coming! Samaras’s plans to sever an international lifeline that has kept Greece afloat since 2010 are adrift, after representatives of the Greek government and its creditors failed to break a deadlock over future financing in talks that ran deep into the Parisian night.

Scarcely a week goes by in Greece without new revelations of political corruption. But Greek impunity law, introduced by Turkoglu, allows Greek ministers to get bribes, but it does not allow them to launder that money!  That’s why out of all these ministers who got huge bribes, only Tsochatzopoulos got in trouble!  

The annual ritual of haggling over budget numbers, a feature of Greece’s scrutiny since its 2010 bailout, took to the road this year with two rounds of negotiations in the French capital that broke up yesterday.  In this round, neither side was prepared to accept the arguments of the other, meaning that an impasse over freeing up the last tranche of the country’s bailout remains in place.

Graecokleptocrats have long been dubbed the untouchables.  MPs cannot be touched, because they are protected by impunity, engraved in the ridiculous constitution of Greece!  MPs have received bribes and kickbacks amounting to two hundred billion euros since the end of dictatorship in 1974, and nobody can do anything about it.  A seat in the parliament comes with a robbing license. 

As time before the country’s bailout expires is running short, Greek government officials, including Türkoğlu, founder of kleptocratic impunity, and Miniplenty Minister Hardouvelis, said today that Athens is willing to accept a short technical extension to the bailout beyond December.  While such an extension is possible if Greece asks for it, the political pressure for a quick completion of the review is high.

Greece has all the right conditions for corruption: plenty of bureaucracy, kangaroo justice, laws with numerous loopholes, impunity of kleptocrats, and economic pressure.  Regarding bribes and robbing the Greek Treasury, Premier Andreas Papandreou infamously advised Graecokleptocrats: We all agree, of course, that we are allowed to give ourselves a little present from time to time, but please don't make it too large!

Eurogroup earlier this month reached agreement with Greece that the country should receive an Enhanced Conditions Credit Line from the European Stability Mechanism to backstop Greece following expiry of the current bailout at the end of the year.

The failure to seal a deal led Greek shares down 2.6 percent on the Athens Stock Exchange today. Greece’s 10-year bond yields rose 12 basis points to 8.4 percent. Turkoglu, leader of Pasok mafia, asked Joerg Asmussen whether it was possible to reorganize figures so Greece’s fiscal gap for 2015 and 2016 appears smaller than it actually it is!  For Asmussen, these words characterize the old Greece and outdated inefficient systems for which he fundamentally has no understanding.

Samaras is pushing for an exit to the 240 billion-euro ($300 billion) bailout at the end of the year, a goal that would make this the final review of Greece’s compliance with the terms agreed with Troika. Lagarde is bewildered by the stupidity of Graecokleptocrats!  Some executives at Greek state enterprises have annual salaries of 300,000 euros!  

Moreover, Greeks wonder why the offshore accounts of rich ministers have not been traced and why the names of hundred Graecokleptocrats who took many billions of euros in bribes have not been published.  Lagarde does not trust Graecokleptocrats, because they never apply what they vote in the Grand Brothel of Kleptocracy on Syntagma Square! 

For that ambition to be realized, the current review must be completed by year’s end, which realistically means by Dec. 8, when euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels for the last time this year. Greece’s lenders have said that completing the review is a condition for negotiating a credit line, which will replace regular bailout disbursements as of January.  Dumping euros on Greece is ridiculous.  It’s unfair to squander hard-earned German euros, and it’s unfair for Greeks to be addicted to German handouts. Nobody wins in dumping, which increases sinecures, laziness, profligacy, diseconomy, political corruption, and bad attitude.

All Greeks know most politicians are corrupt.  Graecokleptocrats span the gamut of political corruption. Bribe is the gift bestowed to influence the recipient's conduct. Kickback is a payment to a person in a position of power or influence for having made an income possible. Embezzlement is outright theft of entrusted funds. Patronage is favoring supporters. Nepotism is favoring kin. Cronyism is favoring kith. Graft is an unscrupulous use of a politician's authority for personal gain.  

The major sticking point between the sides going into the talks was the troika’s insistence that Greece needs to find about 2.5 billion euros in additional budget cuts to meet its fiscal targets for next year. That issue remained unresolved at the end of the talks in Paris. The talks were held at Greece’s representation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

Greece is the queen of political corruption in Occident. The impunity of the 300 MPs of the Grand Brothel of Kleptocracy on Syntagma Square is the most freakish thing on Earth.  Even though Graecokleptocrats loot many billion euros in bribes and churning, Graecokleptocrats cannot go to jail! 

Graecokleptocrats are protected by the parliamentary immunity, and nobody can touch them, no matter what. Moreover, they have the nerve to jail dissident bloggers.  It’s a long way from the 300 Spartans of Leonidas!  Allons enfants de la Grece!  

Greece has consistently met its fiscal targets with creative accounting in the past years, and the government hoodwinks that it is being punished for this success!  While Italy and France persistently ignore agreed-upon European Union budget-deficit rules, Troika is attempting to make an example out of Greece, because Graecokleptocrats lie and play dirty games like hell. Troika’s claim that there’s a 2.5 billion-euro-wide fiscal hole is reasonable. 

Michael Christoforakos, former president of the Greek subsidiary of Siemens, revealed some names of the 200 Graecokleptocrats, who shared two billion euros in kickbacks, to the prosecutor of Munich, where he escaped from Greece.  He also deposited all names with two public notaries in Munich, in case he gets murdered by agents of Graecokleptocrats.  This way he stays alive!  But the Greek government has not pressed charges against the 200 Graecokleptocrats, because they are protected by immunity and they are in power in Greece, members and ex-members of the Greek government and parliament.  You just cannot press charges against yourself!  Moreover, the Greek government does not even reveal their names for the voters to know who they are voting for.

Christoforakos also revealed the names of twenty journalists who received many million euros in hush money to keep their mouth shut about the billion euro kickbacks to the 200 Graecokleptocrats.  Needless to say, those Graecokleptocrats who did not receive kickbacks are also guilty, because they all knew about the bribery of their colleagues and said nothing about it.  The suitcases with the cash were whistling around them.  There is no way they could not hear all that loud whistling!  So, in reality we are talking about four hundred guilty people!   Since Greeks continue to vote for the same crooks again and again, they deserve what they get!

The Greek government never bothered to ask the Munich prosecutor for the Christoforakos list of 200 Graecokleptocrats who received two billion euros in bribes from Siemens. In another infamous list, SDOE is currently investigating the assets of sixty Graecokleptocrats. 

The largest bribes originate in the military industry. Military procurement is a corrupt business from top to bottom. The process is dominated by advocacy, with few checks and balances. Most people in power love this system of doing business and do not want it changed. War and preparation for war systematically corrupt all parties to the state-private transactions by which the government obtains the bulk of its military products. There is a standard 10% bribe to kleptocrats for military purchases. 

Participants in the military-industrial complex are routinely blamed for mismanagement, fraud, abuse, bribes, and waste. All of these unsavory actions, however, are typically viewed as aberrations, malfeasances to be covered-up, while retaining the basic system of state-private cooperation in the trade of military goods and services and the flow of bribes. These offenses are in reality expressions of a thoroughgoing, intrinsic rottenness in the entire setup.


Your government is your #1 enemy.  Brutal police and kangaroo courts are tools to enslave you to your government.  But badges and benches do not grant extra rights. It’s your duty as a citizen to become a popopaparazzo, recording police misconduct. Use your smartphone to unmask cops, kangaroos, marilizards, godzillas, and other bastards of kleptocracy. 


The political philosopher Edmund Burke once remarked that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good folks to do nothing. A glaring example is my persecution by the government of Greece, which grossly violates my civil rights.


Martin Niemöller said:  First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me!


EU practices double standards on civil rights.  It’s freakish for EU to interfere in the civil rights of foreigners, but condone the abuse of my civil rights, a citizen of EU!  EU should get its own house in order before lecturing others. EU should rein in barbaric Greece, the most corrupt country of Europe with prisoners of conscience, testilying police, malevolent prosecutors, perjurers, and stupidest jurists.   Basil Venitis,,

Greece is an incivil nation with kangaroo justice, overcriminalization, brutal police, huge political corruption, persecution of dissident bloggers, huge bureaucracy, huge taxation, and 23% VAT.  Freakish Graecokleptocrats use the kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents. 


I accuse the government of Greece for:

·        Persecuting me for four years

·        Stealing my life

·        Stealing my computer and files

·        Spreading lies about me on all Greek media

·        Using the kangaroo justice as a political tool

·        Postponing my trial eight times

·        Locking me in jail without toilet and pillow for a night

·        Taking away my hypertension pills

·        Making me urinate in a bottle

·        Humiliating me with handcuffs, fingerprints, and mug shots


It’s been now four years since the government of Greece stole my life, my computer, and my files.  Nobody cares, nobody gives a damn!  I have done absolutely nothing, and I am being persecuted by the Greek government without any real reason.  My ordeal is against all rules of civil society and treaties that Greece has signed.  Greece, a corrupt country without a functioning justice system, has gone bananas.  Graecokleptocrats use the kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents.   Graecokleptocrats think the laws exist to give them whatever they want!   Basil Venitis,,




On October 18, 2010, a gang of six brutal cops of the violent Greek Cyber-Crime Unit (CCU), a real godzilla, supervised by a dishonest prosecutor, a disgusting liar, raided my home in Athens and stole my computer, software, files, documents, and personal data.


The brutal policemen locked me in jail for a night, they humiliated me with handcuffs, fingerprints, mug shots, and lies, leaked false information to the media parrots, and the corrupt Greek government initiated sham ex-officio court proceedings for a stack of freakish trumped-up charges!


There was neither pillow nor toilet facility in my jail cell. I had to urinate in a bottle!  I, a 69-years-old man with high blood pressure, was not allowed to keep my hypertension pills with me. There was neither toilet paper nor soap in the whole CCU jail.


Greece, a country of infinite political corruption, perjury, injustice, and brutal police, must be revamped.  Ex-officio law suit, αυτεπαγγελτος, the most dreadful word in justice, means the state sues somebody without involvement of the accuser.  This terrible scheme has been used by the corrupt Greek government to persecute me. 


Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, sued me, and she wouldn’t show up in court, because the corrupt state took over her position! 




At the ex-officio law suit, the accuser just hits and runs!  This hit-and-run justice is the most disgusting kangaroo justice on Earth.  The accused must be in a position to face his accuser eyeball to eyeball. The right to confront and cross-examine one’s accuser is a sign of civility. The malicious accuser slings false accusations against you, the state takes over, the accuser disappears from the court, and the trial is postponed infinite times!  This is penalty of the presumed innocent.  This is penalty without trial.  This is kangaroo justice of Third World countries!  This is barbarity and brutality, pure and simple. Justice deferred is justice denied.  Shame, shame, shame on extremely corrupt Greece.



Please email appeals to

·        Calling for the immediate stop of the persecution of Basil Venitis.

·        Stating that you believe these trumped-up charges to be politically motivated and intended to prevent him exercising his right to freedom of expression against political corruption.

·        Seeking assurances that the civil rights of Basil Venitis will always be respected.


By Laurence M. Vance

Drive by some churches on election day, any election day—primary, general, or runoff, and you will see a strange sight. Among all the signs imploring you to vote for a particular political candidate or ballot initiative will be found another sign that says “Vote Here” or “Precinct X” or “Polling Place.”

This practice of churches letting their county governments use their facilities as polling places is a shame, an embarrassment, and a disgrace.

I blogged about this disgraceful practice at least twice during the last election cycle (see here and here). Due to some sincere questions about my condemnation of this disgraceful practice, I want to explain in more detail why churches shouldn’t be used as polling places.

We know that elections in this country at the national, state, and local levels are a sham. The Democratic and Republican Parties have the system rigged to prevent or make it almost impossible for minor or third parties to even get on the ballot. There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties. The only way to vote against crook D and crook R is to not vote. Statistically, you have more of a chance of getting in a car accident on the way to vote than your vote counting for anything. Voting, in the words of Lew Rockwell, is “the sacrament of the State religion.” Voting, as I have said many times, for the lesser of two evils (meaning voting Republican) is still evil.

I like what H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) said about voting:

    Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

    There’s really no point to voting. If it made any difference, it would probably be illegal.

And especially what he said about government:

    Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

    I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

But enough about voting or not voting. I want to focus on why churches shouldn’t be used as polling places. What I have to say is true regardless of whether individual Christians vote or don’t vote.

First of all, a church is not being an enemy of the community if it does not allow its facilities to be used as a polling place. Doing so is strictly a voluntary thing, and not all churches do it, although I am sure that more would if they had larger facilities. No one drives by a church on election day and thinks that the church is an enemy of the community if no one is there voting. Many voters would probably think it perfectly reasonable that a church was not a polling place on election day. If a church really wanted to show itself a friend of the community, there are many other ways to do so without turning the church into a polling place on election day. A church could advertise that all in the community are welcome to attend church services—and then preach the gospel to them, operate a food pantry to give away food to the needy—and a New Testament along with the food, offer English lessons to those whose first language is not English—and have them memorize Bible verses, provide free day care for single mothers in the community—and teach their children to sing Christian hymns.

Second, inviting the county government to use the church’s facilities as a polling place is an unnecessary, impious, ungodly, avoidable, unholy, and sacrilegious union of church and state. Churches should do everything in their power to keep government and its bureaucrats away from the church, and especially if the church operates a Christian school.

Third, most conservative churches consider it a grave sin for someone to vote for a Democrat or for a candidate who is pro-abortion. Allowing the church to be used as a polling place means that the church is allowing sin to take place on its property that it could have easily prevented. Those who argue that some voters will vote for pro-abortion Democrats anyway regardless of where they vote so what difference does it make would never make that excuse for someone to smoke a joint or entertain a hooker in his car on the church property.

Fourth, speaking of hookers, since politicians are whores, doing favors for money, wouldn’t churches that help facilitate such a relationship be pimps?

Fifth, if a church is used as a polling place, there will be scores of political signs placed on the church property for people to see as they drive into the church parking lot to go and vote. Many conservative churches consider Obama to practically be the devil incarnate. Yet, in the 2008 and 2012 elections, there were Obama signs on their property. Even in elections now, what many evangelicals consider to be the devils party—the Democratic Party—will have signs for their candidates on the church property. Most conservative churches wouldn’t allow a Democrat’s political sign within a hundred feet of the church property if they could help it. So why does election day suddenly make this all right?

And sixth, it is wrong to think that a church could get away with letting a county government use its facilities as a polling place in order to send a message to voters—although this would be the only reason for a church to be used as a polling place that would be somewhat legitimate. Imagine people coming to vote being confronted with signs posted in the church that said:

    “ ‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’ Like All of Those Political Television Ads”

    “Abortion Is Murder”

    “You Are an Idiot If You Vote Democratic”

    ”The Wicked Shall Be Turned into Hell”

    “Why Are You Bothering to Vote?”

    “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation”

    “Politicians Are Crooks”

    “Jesus Is the Only Way”

    “Vote to End Obamacare”

County election officials would immediately force the signs to be removed.

But, of course, even the most moderate of signs would not be allowed. During the last election, a church in George Township, Michigan, found this out. The church, Georgetown Bible Church, which is a polling place, posted a sign outside the church that said simply “Vote Biblically.” Election officials in Ottawa County received numerous complaints about the sign, but determined that it was “far enough from the church that it didn’t violate election laws.” Georgetown Township officials “asked the church to consider changing the sign out of consideration for those who complained.”

Is your church used as a polling place? You might want to ask your pastor or church leaders to reconsider this disgraceful practice.


Take 5 offers a brief introduction to famous experts in a Q&A format. The featured expert selects 5 out of 10 questions to answer.

A specialist in Hellenistic history, Joseph G. Manning of Yale focused much of his early work on understanding the interactions between Greek and Egyptian economic and legal institutions in the Ptolemaic Egypt. His scholarship now takes him in some new and exciting directions, including working on the modeling of Egyptian history using cultural evolutionary theory, among other approaches, in the Seshat Project (see below), examining comparative bureaucratic developments in the Mediterranean and China, and the history of property in the context of ancient law

Manning's adventures have included climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and climbs throughout North America including, most recently, one in a remote Alaskan range.

What scholarly/research project are you working on now?

I'm working on several things; some are longer-term projects and ideas. At the moment, there are two main projects: (1) The completion of a monograph, “The Economy of the Ancient Mediterranean World,” for Princeton University Press and due for submission in about a month! This is a summary and analytical work on research on various aspects of ancient economic systems around the Mediterranean. It's actually amazing how much work has been done and is ongoing on the topic, especially from the point of view of new archaeological information. (2) The quantification of Egyptian history from the Neolithic to the Roman period, i.e. about 15,000 years of human experience.

This is a fascinating project that I have been part of for some time. It is designed by Peter Turchin at the University of Connecticut and Oxford anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse. We are coding all human civilizations across 160 variables from political structure to territorial size, legal institutions to religion, and I've been responsible for editing the Egyptian data. We have now completed a preliminary data set and it is absolutely fascinating to see 15,000 years of human history in such fine-grained detail. It's never been done before in this way. I am having a small meeting in Oxford in early September to have a few scholars critique the results so far. There is likely to be some disagreement (which will be most welcomed), but also I think that we will astonish a few people, and it is likely that this work will revolutionize how ancient history is done. Very exciting stuff.

What important lesson(s) have you learned from your students?

There are many but the main one, perhaps, is that I am always, always reminded that when I present material in class I bring assumptions (including that the stuff is inherently interesting!) that are not always shared by my students, and this forces me to go back to the drawing board to re-examine my own priors, and to figure out how to present issues and problems that excite me in a clear way. It's a very valuable lesson, and it directly feeds back into my own research.

What do you do for fun?

Cycling to stay fit, but mountain climbing is the main fun activity these days, and I have some big goals in the Himalayas that I am shooting for in the next couple of years. I try to get in to some mountain range whenever I can.  Listening to jazz is a daily thing for me.

What would people find surprising about you?

Probably my diverse range of interests from stamp collecting to bike racing and climbing large mountains. It must be the Gemini in me.

What person, living or dead, would you like to spend a day with?

For sure it would be Mark Twain, perhaps on a riverboat on the Mississippi. How could you top that?


Germany has prepared an emergency plan just in case Eurozone collapses. What’s covered in the plan? An exit strategy to go back to the Deutsche Mark.

Emergency plan to go back to the Deutsche Mark. That’s the title of the top secret document that landed on the desk of Merkel. In Germany the debate about the euro, has always been going on in the background. Some parliamentarians of the CSU, the Bavarian party allied to the Christian Democrats, have prepared a strategy document to deal with the eventuality of the implosion of Eurozone.

Marine Le Pen’s possible victory in France and the referendum being promoted by the 5 Star MoVement, are symptoms of the fragility of Eurozone.

For the moment, no decision has been taken, but he Chancellor’s office is preparing for what has been defined as an emergency situation. It seems that the idea is to get the Bundesbank prepared so that it could swing into action with a two month time frame and swiftly print the old Deutsche Marks so they could be ready to take the place of the Euro if needed. In Berlin, the worry is that the long drawn out economic crisis in many EU countries could increase the pressure on national governments to stop respecting the rules of the single currency, as France has already done. And in this case, many German politicians are starting to think that it would be better to go back to the Deutsche Mark than to stay with the Euro without precise rules. 

The disastrous political consequences of a collapse of Eurozone will deter countries from allowing the currency to fail. The high value that member states attach to their involvement in the larger European process would prevent them from abandoning euro.

Germany is a proud exporting nation, and around 40 percent of its exports go to other Eurozone nations. German annual exports exceed the €1 trillion level. But the very companies enjoying this current success are accustomed to being able to export their goods at the lowest and most stable prices. The euro made both possible. The common currency eliminated exchange rate fluctuations in Eurozone, the euro appreciated less strongly than the deutsche mark. In other words, it kept prices competitive.

Greece would regain competitiveness by leaving Eurozone by devaluating the drachma. But Greece would still have to pay back a large share of its debt, even after exiting from the common currency, in euros. But that repayment would be made far more difficult as a result of the drachma's devaluation.  A grexit would also hit German and French banks, which have a high degree of exposure to Greek debt.

Should a weak country like Greece pull out, a panicked reaction by its citizens is to be expected. In expectation of currency devaluation, hundreds of thousands of people would likely clean out their bank accounts, creating a run on banks. People would subsequently try to put their money in foreign banks. A capital flight like this would finish off banks that are already in distress. 

Were the entire Eurozone to dissolve, even a strong country like Germany would suffer. In this case each former member country would have to establish a new exchange rate for their new currency. Europeans would then have an incentive to swap their remaining euros against a strong national currency, like the deutsche mark. Thus Germany would attract piles of capital, in turn increasing inflation pressure.

Libertarians feel a deep sorrow that things could develop like they have in Eurozone considering that the fundamental mechanisms at play now were there for everybody to see. It had been obvious to libertarians from the outset that a single interest rate for 17 countries with different inflation rates was a recipe for real estate bubbles and banking crises.

A single-currency area without central decision-making or fiscal transfers and coordination of budgets by federation was bound to lead to trouble. The sadness is that, in spite of that, this was allowed to happen. Millions and millions of people are suffering. The European cooperation project is suffering, and a crisis of legitimacy has resulted.

Greece and the rest of Eurozone have no rational future unless they can reclaim control of their own currencies. An end with horror is better than a horror with no end, the horror that is now ahead of us for the unforeseeable future.

Europe's politicians don't want to look beyond the end of their nose. A kleptocrat thinks of the next election, but a statesman thinks of the next generation. Today we need statesmen more than ever, and if it's statesmen making the decisions here and now, then Greece's exit must begin now.

Monetary union had to be embedded in a political union. They didn't know what they were doing when they started this thing, and they still don't know what they're doing. But if it collapses, it's going to be hell. It was relatively easy to enter; it's going to be much more traumatic when it breaks up. Greece’s default is inevitable. Greeks would be foolish if they were to continue to pay that. The burden is just unsustainable.

The only way out of the crisis is either to dissolve Eurozone or for Eurozone to go down the path of fiscal union, entailing a single ministry of finance, mutualized sovereign debt, euro bonds, and major budgetary transfers from richer to poorer Eurozone members. In other words federation, fast political union as you have in the United States, which means enslavement to Brussels.

The European depression did not fall from heaven, it is not an accident. It is the result of the European economic and social system and of the European Union institutional arrangements. They both form a fundamental obstacle to any further positive European development, an obstacle which cannot be removed by cosmetic changes or by more rational short term economic policies. The problems are deeper.

The first part of the problem in the European economic and social system itself. It is more than evident that the overregulated economy, additionally constrained by a heavy load of social and environmental requirements, operating in a paternalistic welfare state, cannot grow. This burden is too heavy and the incentives to a productive work are too weak. If Europe wants to grow, it has to undertake a fundamental transformation, a systemic change.

The second part of the problem is in the European integration model. The artificial, absolutely unnecessary centralization, harmonization, standardization and unification of the European continent based on the concept of an ever-closer Europe is another fatal mistake.

It can be discussed from many perspectives, but as we all know it found its climax in the monetary unification of Europe. Its failure was inevitable. Its consequences – especially for economically weaker European countries which were used to undergo unpleasant, but adjustment-bringing devaluations of their currencies repeatedly in the past – were well-known in advance as well. All economists who deserve to be called economists had known that Greece and some other countries were doomed to fail having been imprisoned in such a system.

The benefits – promised as a result of accepting a common currency – never arrived. The assumed increase in international trade and in financial transaction was relatively small and was more than offset by the costs of this arrangement.

In good economic weather, even the non-optimal currency areas could function, as all kinds of fixed exchange rate regimes did for some time. When bad weather came – the financial and economic crisis at the end of the last decade – all the inconsistencies, weaknesses, inefficiencies, discrepancies, imbalances and disequilibria became evident and the monetary union ceased to properly function. This can´t be considered a surprise. In the past all fixed exchange rate regimes needed exchange rates realignments sooner or later which is another argument found in every elementary economic textbook.

The expectations that a very heterogeneous European economy would be made homogenous by means of monetary unification were proved to be wrong. The same is true about all – now proposed – banking and fiscal unions. The European economies have diverged, not converged since the introduction of euro. The elimination of one of the most important economic variables – of the exchange rate – from the existing economic system led to an inexcusable blindness of politicians, economists, bankers, and all other economic agents.

Kleptocrats pretend they were not warned in advance about the possible consequences of the European common currency! But everyone was warned, some people did not listen. Greece did not bring about the current European problem, Greece is the victim of the Eurozone system. The system is a problem. Greece made just one tragic error – to enter the Eurozone. Everything else was its usual bad behavior.

Greece´s degree of economic inefficiency and its propensity to live with a sovereign debt was or should have been well-known to anyone. To let Greece leave the Eurozone would be the beginning of a long journey of this country to a healthy economic future. The Greeks hopefully already understood that one size does not fit all and we only wish the same would be understood by leading EU politicians.  They don´t see it, however.

Time is ripe for a fundamental decision: should we continue believing in the dogma that politics can dictate economics and continue defending the common currency at whatever costs or should we finally accept that we have to return to economic rationality?

The answer to such a question given by the overwhelming majority of European politicians until now has been Yes, we should continue.  Our task is to tell them that the consequences of such a policy will be higher and higher costs for all of us. At one moment, these costs will become intolerable and unbearable. We should say No. We should accept that we find ourselves in a blind alley and in such a case the only possible way out is the way back.

What we need is not a new summit in Brussels, but a fundamental transformation of our thinking and of our behavior. Europe has to undertake a systemic change. Coming to such a decision needs a genuine political process, not the approval of a document prepared behind closed doors by a group of EU bureaucrats. It must arise as an outcome of political debates in individual EU member countries. It must be generated by the people, the demos of these countries. There is no demos in Europe, there are just inhabitants of Europe.

We undergo a crisis. But crisis is a process of creative destruction. Not everything can be saved and maintained. Something must be destroyed or left behind in this process, especially the wrong ideas. We should get rid of utopian dreams, of irrational economic activities and of their promotion by European governments. Part of this implies that even some states, such as Greece, must be left belly up. The opponents of such positions keep saying that such a solution would be costly. It is not true. The prolongation of the current muddling through is more costly. The costs the Europeans are afraid of are already here. They are the sunk costs.



Eurokleptocrats create a stupid banking union to socialize the debts of banks of PIGS. The next step will be the introduction of stupid eurobonds. By the time France is hit by the crisis, Merkel will no longer be able to refuse this stupid demand. 

This development will ultimately lead to a stupid system that has little in common with a market economy. ECB and ESM will then direct the flow of capital into countries where it no longer wants to go. This will result in growth losses throughout Europe, and money will continue to be thrown out the window of PIGS. Furthermore, it will create considerable discord because it makes closely allied countries into creditors and debtors.


Merkel and Barroso are the Bonnie and Clyde of Europe, robbing banks!  Breaking with previous EU practice that depositors' savings are sacrosanct, EU now robs depositors.  That infuriates depositors in eurozone's weaker economies and investors fearing a precedent that could reignite market turmoil.  Robbing depositors is definitely a no-no. If you can do this once, you can do it again.  Eurozone has deteriorated to a robber of depositors.



The bailin mechanism will stabilize a failing institution so that it can continue to provide essential services, without the need for bailout by public funds. Recapitalization through the write-down of liabilities and their conversion to equity will allow the institution to continue as a going concern, avoid the disruption to the financial system that would be caused by stopping or interrupting its critical services, and give the authorities time to reorganize it or wind down parts is what is called bail-in.

In short, if a bank needs to resort to bailin, authorities will first bailin all shareholders and will then follow a pre-determined order. Shareholders and other creditors who invest in bank capital (such as holders of convertible bonds and junior bonds) will bear losses first.

Deposits under €100,000 will never be touched: they are entirely protected at all times.

Deposits of natural persons and SMEs above  €100,000 will
1) benefit from a preferential treatment (depositor preference) ensuring that they do not suffer any loss before other unsecured creditors (so they are at the very bottom of the bail-in hierarchy) and
2) Member States can choose to use certain flexibilities to exclude them fully.

The outcome of the compromise supports a regime which, to the furthest extent possible, places the responsibility of covering bank losses on private investors in banks and the banking sector as a whole.

In some cases, in particular in the context of a systemic crisis, it may be necessary to depart from that principle and allow for the use of public funds to finance bank resolution. There is the necessary flexibility in the compromise text to do that.


Economic confidence is often the most fragile of things. Whether anything happens to robbing depositors, Fourth Reich has fired a shot across every European depositor. Given that interest rates already pay a derisory return, thanks to Quantitative Easing, ordinary savers may prefer keeping notes under the mattress to risking a bank deposit robbery. A Eurokleptocratic mafia has left contagion risk stalking Eurozone.

Large investors who found Cyprus an attractive climate for business have already set their eyes on other offshore centers. The future prosperity of Europe is increasingly being held hostage by a mafia of Eurokletocrats rooted in denial. Their tragically deluded solution is more Europe, despite a democratic deficit, vast swathes of unemployment, and a lost generation of young jobless citizens.


An ECB bazooka cannot restore competitiveness to PIGS, but would only encourage profligacy, kleptocracy, and metastasis of the cancer of socialism. European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is a joke. ESM’s finances depend on the very same countries that it is supposed to bail out. This isn’t stability, but a Ponzi scheme!  


Stephan Götzl, head of a Bavarian banking association, compared the European Commission’s granting itself the final say on winding up troubled banks to the type of law that allowed the Nazis to seize power!  Götzl says: We in Germany have had a bad experience with enabling acts.

The Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) gives the commission ultimate authority over the eurozone’s ten thousand banks, with responsibility to pull the plug on a shaky lender and the authority to overrule its home state.

Merkel says: In my view, SRM gives the commission powers it does not possess according to current EU treaties.

Schäuble warns EU to respect the limits of the law or risk major turbulence.  Barnier hoodwinks Fourth Reich cannot afford to wait for treaty change, which is typically an arduous process that can take years.

Fourth Reich’s economic catastrophe is unfolding so slowly that it has come to seem like business as usual.  Socialists managed to convince ECB to bring out the bazooka, in other words, undertake massive purchases of government bonds to resolve the crisis.

Never before, the stupidity of the European Commission was as prevalent as with FTT!  It’s now obvious that EC is the #1 enemy of Europeans and must be abolished. The stupid financial transaction tax (FTT) is a euthanasia pill for financial markets.  Since eleven Eurozone countries adopted this stupid tax, all major financial institutions of these countries move to Zurich and New York. 

Brussels has declared a war against London by imposing FTT on transactions of FTT-zone financial institutions brokered in London, the financial center of Europe!  This is a good reason for Britons to vote for brexit.  This is it!  Britons are mad as hell, and they cannot it take it from EU anymore.  Barroso should take FTT and shove it!

As requested by the 11 Member States that proceed with this stupid tax, the proposed Directive mirrors the scope and objectives of the original stupid FTT proposal put forward by the Commission in September 2011. The stupid approach of taxing all transactions with an established link to the FTT-zone is maintained, as are the rates of 0.1% for shares and bonds and 0.01% for derivatives. As always, the rates will be astronomically raised later.  Don’t forget VAT started at 5% and now is at 23%!

Whenever the European Commission (EC) does something very stupid, it calls it smart.  Smart has become a European euphemism for very stupid!  EC declares FTT is very smart!  Jose Barroso hoodwinks that when applied by the 11 Member States, this Financial Transaction Tax is expected to deliver revenues of 30-35 billion euros a year. No way Jose!  FTT will deliver losses of one trillion euros!  90% of all major financial institutions of these countries will move to Zurich and New York.

The European Commission has issued new proposals on a financial transaction tax, making it crystal clear that financial institutions in member states such as the United Kingdom, outside the FTT zone, can and will be taxed.

According to the commission proposal the tax will be due if any party to the transaction is established in a participating member state, regardless of where the transaction takes place. This is the case both if a financial institution engaged in the transaction is, itself, established in the FTT-zone, or if it is acting on behalf of a party established in that jurisdiction.

Eleven nations have already signed up to participate in a tax on financial transactions and will proceed by the enhanced cooperation mechanism. Britain and 15 other members of the European Union will not introduce the tax. We now have it in black and white that the commission wants to tax financial institutions in the UK even though they are not within the FTT zone.

The commission proposal is clearly targeted to tax financial services in the City of London even though the UK government does not want to be one of the participating member states. This is a deliberate assault on the City of London. The UK government will have no say on this tax system but businesses within its borders will have burdened by this FTT. The commission obviously ignores the American cry of no taxation without representation – they have ignored the lessons of history and will in time face rebellion.

This tax will help push financial services outside the EU altogether, to New York, Switzerland, and other growing financial centers around the globe. This proposal is to introduce a financial transaction tax just in EU. However, we live in a global economy, if we become uncompetitive through taxation or regulation, people simply move their businesses elsewhere. To do this would be an act of Kamikaze economics.

These novel and unilateral theories of tax jurisdiction are both unprecedented and inconsistent with existing norms of international tax law and long standing treaty commitments. There is a high risk that their adoption could lead to double and multiple taxation, a deterioration of international tax co-operation and trade protectionism.

Allied to EU financial regulation, this financial transaction tax will do a lot of damage to London.  What is happening here is the EU is taking an opportunity to bash the financial sector, and doing it in the most crude and harmful way. Another important issue here is the crucial rate of taxation.  This taxation is just the beginning, because the FTT tax rate will be ratcheted up over the coming years to squeeze more money from the financial services industry.