news bites from Greece

Have you been keeping up with the news in Greece?  I’ll fill you in on some of the stories that are playing big here.

– This morning on a TV talk show, the representatives of several political parties were debating/discussing, as happens constantly on Greek TV.  All very unremarkable, until the representative of the fascist/neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, Mr. Ilias Kasidiaris, started cursing Ms. Liana Kanelli, the representative of the Communist Party; then Ms. Rena Dourou, the representative of Syriza, made a reference to the pending criminal charges (robbery, illegal weapons possession, etc.) against Mr. Kasidiaris – he reacted by throwing water at Ms. Dourou.  When Ms. Kanelli objected, saying “get out of here,” he turned on her and beat her up – literally – punching her multiple times in the face, all on camera.  Then he took off.

The police are looking for him, with a warrant for his arrest for assault.   The news reports are repeating that Mr. Kasidiaris can be arrested, because he is only a candidate for Parliament at the moment, and is not currently covered by Parliamentary Asylum.  (However, it should be noted that Parliamentary Asylum protects members of Parliament from being charged with white collar crime, not assault, so the media is being irresponsible on this point.)

You can see the video here.  The Golden Dawn representative is the man in the lower left who is talking at the beginning.

Unemployment numbers were just announced for March 2012:  21.9%, a new record.

– A new movement has started in Greece.  If you have a relative who has recently died of cancer, turn in their leftover chemotherapy drugs because there are a lot of cancer patients who can’t get chemotherapy anymore.   Many sick people – chronically and acutely – are unable to find the drugs they were prescribed at any pharmacy or hospital – they simply aren’t available at any price.  And those who can locate them, despite those drugs being covered by the insurance that they have paid for, must pay cash in full, on the spot – “or die,” as they remind us on the news.

– The new tax laws require that any homeless person, living on the street, with €0.00 income for tax year 2011, eating from trash cans, handouts, and free Church soup kitchens, and no personal possessions (property, automobile, etc.), will owe €116.25 for income taxes for 2011.  If that money is not paid, the tax evader can go to prison.  In Greece, income taxes are determined based on what it costs to live in Greece – and only secondarily on what your employer reports that you made.  If you make less than what the government thinks it costs to live in Greece, you are charged the tax rate for the “cost of living,” not your actual income. This has the effect of taxing the very, very poorest people at a higher percentage rate than the wealthiest Greeks – in fact, at a rate far over 100% of their income.

– 70% of Greeks will owe taxes this year, instead of getting a tax refund – but even so, there is a rumor circulating that those who are owed a tax refund won’t be receiving it.  Time will tell….

– One of the new parties, Creativity Again, recently joined up with Action, a like-minded party led by a long-time politician.  Creativity Again sought votes under the slogan “Politics Without Politicians.”  The party is starting to implode as members are turning on each other. It was considered almost certain that Creativity Again-Action would get the 3% minimum vote to get into Greek Parliament but that is now looking unlikely.

– Remember the HIV-positive prostitute scandal that was used by the government to try to deflect attention from the economy?  It has been reported that 15 of the men who were their customers and asked to be tested have been found HIV positive.  Furthermore, several of the illegal brothels that were closed down during that scandal have reopened.

– A political commercial for New Democracy has caused a huge stir throughout the country.  The ad is here:

In the ad, a 4th grade (my guess) teacher is sitting at his desk while a student is standing at the blackboard with a pointer.  The teacher has written the names of several European countries on the board.  He reads off the names while the student points to them.  “Portugal, Spain, France… these countries are in the Eurozone.”  A wise and world-weary little girl asks, “And Greece?  Why isn’t Greece in the Eurozone?”  The teacher can’t answer as he struggles with his internal feelings of guilt and despair.  The girl insists.  The camera shows the accusatory faces of other children.  The ad ends with script reading “We don’t play with our children’s future.  Greece needs a responsible proposal.  We move forward – Responsibly – Determined.  New Democracy.”

The ad was panned from every direction.  Terrorizing people for votes.  Exploiting innocent children to play a political game.  Showing the teacher – who, under austerity, would have lost about half his income – as feeling guilty for his vote, presumably for Syriza (all of this is implied of course).  Saying nothing about the New Democracy program at all.  It is widely believed that this ad will work against New Democracy in the upcoming election.  New Democracy seems to suffer from very poor judgment, or poor ‘market research’ at least, in this election.

… and that’s what’s happening here in Greece these days!  I don’t know how much of this made it onto the international news, so… maybe you heard it here first!