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Letter from Athens: Meet The New Year, Same as the Old Year – Skip to 2024

December 31, 2022

Phew, 2022 couldn’t end fast enough for a lot of people in Greece, the ones who were most affected – as always – with struggles to make ends meet while the rich and privileged prospered and profited, as the late singer Leonard Cohen, who spent a lot of time on Hydra, famously put it.

The last week before the new year is typically when the Ostrakon Award is given to the ignominious winner of losing in Greece, the person we most want to see banished, at least for a year, if not for life.

But it would have been at least a 10-way tie in 2022 because the scoundrels and rapscallions, the wicked and evil and corrupt and the just plain flat-out greedy eager to dip their hands into the public till in any fashion were lining up.

So it’s easier just to recall and quickly forget all the bad that happened, apart from a few highlights like Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressing Congress and getting the ear of alleged Hellenophile Joe Biden. If only to yell into it in a futile attempt to wake up Rip Van Winkle. I’d rather have Pappy Van Winkle but I don’t have $4000 for a bottle.

So much bad news and so little time, and while it wasn’t 2020 – when the coronavirus struck and made life more dangerous and miserable than any other time absent world wars – the pandemic is still killing in Greece.

Few care because the health measures were lifted to bring in tourists, and it worked, at least if money is the real barometer (hint: it is, and whatever’s in second place is very far behind.)

We live now in the best of times and the worst of times because technology has given us such advances in science that the vaccines for COVID were turned out faster than the United States could make bombers in World War II.

But it’s also given us social media trolls and troglodytes who worship the likes of Elon Muskrat and ex-President Psycho.

Just when Greeks thought the biggest story, apart from Turkey threatening to invade every other day or so, was the revelations about the phones of 15,745 people being bugged by the National Intelligence Service EYP – and alleged use of Predator spyware (The Lives of Others) – along came Eva Kaili.

Even if she is proved innocent of taking bribes from Qatar, the former Vice-President of the European Parliament – stripped of that title after being arrested – is the new Poster Girl for Entitlement in Greece.

That’s something in a country with so much open corruption and open secrets about it that it has to be tracked by Opaque International.

And the Greek police haven’t been able to find billionaire Ivan Savvidis, the owner of the PAOK football team and King of Thessaloniki, for almost five years, since an arrest warrant was issued for carrying a sidearm onto the playing field.

No one cares about the spyware and phone bugging scandal because it targeted journalists and politicians, and until people realize their phones are just tracking devices and they find everything on them is in the hands of EYP they never will.

The year 2022 also saw a continuation of the seemingly endless cases of femicide by Greek husbands and partners and boyfriends that pushed sexual harassment cases into the background, but no story was more shocking than that of Roula Pispirigou.

She was a mother of three children until being charged with killing them, which garnered her the attention she apparently craved, her defense being it was just an apparent coincidence.

Her lawyer said two coroners fixing the causes of death were wrong – but that three doctors he got to testify differently – were right, so maybe she can throw herself on the mercy of the court and say she lost three children.

This case was even more reprehensible – if you can imagine that – than the serial rape and pimping of a 12-year-old girl for which a shopkeeper was accused – working with her mother, who just lost out to Pispirigou for the 2022 Mother of the Year award.

Some 213 men were said interested in answering an ad about the little girl and the names were known to police but not released.

It’s just a coincidence too that the man accused posted pictures of himself chanting in church on Facebook, hugging members of the clergy and prominent New Democracy politicians and actors, presenting himself as a supporter of the arts although having only a mini-market.

This stuff never ends. The alleged sex abuse scandal around the children’s charity Ark of the World (Kivotos tou Kosmou) has already faded and look for the priest who ran it, Father Antonios Papanikolaou, to walk away free.

The level of sordidness pushed former New Democracy lawmaker Andreas Patsis and Member of the European Parliament Maria Spyraki – from New Democracy – into the Bush Leagues of Badness.
Patsis was ejected because he couldn’t explain how his wealth increased 830 percent and some ties to bad loans, yadda yadda yadda, etcetera etcetera. Nothing happened to Spyraki, who struggled to explain office allowances in Brussels. She denied wrongdoing but she paid back the European Parliament 21,240 euros ($22,554) to close the books on that.
Check here next year for the same stories, different names.

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