Daily Archive: 03/21/2013

Mar 21 2013

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 3 Early Evening

Still More Games!

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
6:30 TBS (1) Louisville 29-5 (16) N.C. A&T 20-16
7 CBS (4) Michigan 26-7 (13) South Dakota St. 25-9
7 TNT (6) Arizona 25-7 (11) Belmont 26-6
7 True (5) UNLV 25-9 (12) California 20-11

Mar 21 2013

The Legacy of the Iraq War in the US (and by extension the world)

This week with all of the focus on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, I’ve been reading a lot of analysis of the war and its legacy.  I think that most of the commentators that I’ve read thus far have either missed or failed to appropriately assess the gravity of at least one legacy of the war.

I think that the crucial legacy of the Iraq war is how inconsequential the dissent of the people is to those that make the decisions.  I was listening to Democracy Now the other day when they had Arundhati Roy on, and they said that 50 million people around the world had protested against the commencement of hostilities.  If I am remembering correctly, I and my family joined between a million and a million and a half Americans around the country who marched in protest on that day.

The voices of millions of people didn’t make a difference.

We pointed out that they were clearly lying. It didn’t matter.  They got their war on.

As time wore on and the war became increasingly unpopular, that didn’t seem to matter, either.  There was no stopping the powers that be.

They tortured people and disappeared people and later bragged about it on national teevee.

There have been no prosecutions, only a “forward looking” president who has expanded some of the worst policies of his war criminal predecessors.  In the pursuit of his inherited wars and his own new ones, he has committed what many see as war crimes of his own. Among them are his assassination programs, “signature” murders and the cruel and inhuman punishment of at least one whistleblower.

Nothing seems to stop these people and there is no force in our “democracy” that seems to be up to the task of making things right.

That, I think is the most momentous legacy of the Iraq war – our system seems to be a military juggernaut that is utterly unaccountable to anyone.

Mar 21 2013

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 3 Late Afternoon

More Games!

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
2:30 CBS (6) Memphis 30-4 (11) St. Mary’s 28-6 Midwest
3:10 True (3) Marquette 23-8 (14) Davidson 26-7 East
4:10 TBS (1) Gonzaga 31-2 (16) Southern 23-9 West
4:30 TNT (5) Oklahoma State 24-8 (12) Oregon 26-8 Midwest

Mar 21 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: The Sequester Hits the Reservation

The Congressional Republicans who brought us the mindless budget cuts known as the sequester have shown remarkable indifference to life-sustaining government services, American jobs and other programs. So what do they make of the country’s commitments to American Indians, its longstanding obligations to tribal governments under the Constitution and treaties dating back centuries? [..]

Here lies a little-noticed example of moral abdication. The biggest federal health and safety-net programs – Social Security, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and veterans’ compensation and health benefits – are all exempt from sequestration. But the Indian Health Service is not.

Sen. Sanders: The Grand Bargain Could be Grand Sellout

The media appear fixated about when and if a so-called “grand bargain” on our economy will be reached. Wrong question! The question we should be asking is: What should be in a “grand bargain” that works for the average American?

At a time when the middle class is disappearing, 46 million Americans are living in poverty and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, we need a “grand bargain” that protects struggling working families, not billionaires. [..]

A federal budget is not just a set of numbers. It is a value statement of what we, as a nation, stand for. We must fight for a grand bargain that stands for justice, opportunity and the needs of our middle class. We must reject any approach that continues the economic assault on working families.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase

$16 billion.

That’s how much JPMorgan Chase has paid in fines, settlements and other litigation expenses in the last four years alone. [..]

Life is still good for Dimon and some of the other senior executives at JPMorgan Chase: Shareholders can’t — or won’t — fire them. The government won’t prosecute them. Taxpayers are helping them get rich. And every day their institution becomes bigger and more powerful. Sure, all that power doesn’t come cheap, but they’ve found other peoplewilling to pay the price …

$16 billion and counting.

The price of evil may be high at JPMorgan Chase, but the malefactors who actually committed the wrongdoing aren’t paying it. Wrongdoing and incompetence may be expensive. But for executives at JPMorgan Chase and our other too-big-to fail banks, it’s also surprisingly affordable.

John Cavanagh: Inequality Is Hurting Us All

If the levels of greater income equality of 1968 still prevailed today, the poorest fifth of Marylanders would be earning twice what they take home now.

Inequality hurts us all.

Imagine if you could go back 45 years to 1968. That year, after three decades of creative policy from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal through President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, the United States was one of the world’s most equal nations.Now imagine that instead of falling into the extreme inequality of today, the United States had stayed at the levels of greater equality of that era. What would be the benefits?

Col. Ann Wright: 10 Years Later and I’m Still Protesting War

A decade after I stepped down as the deputy ambassador in the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia, the war in Iraq is over for Americans, but continues for Iraqis. The whirlwind of sectarian violence brought on by the U.S. invasion and occupation continues to blow there.

The war on Afghanistan is now in its 13th year and as the anniversary of my resignation day approaches, I find myself outside the gates of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, protesting war and, in particular, President Obama’s killer drone programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Although Obama’s kill list, the CIA drone attacks in the undeclared war on Pakistan and the assassination of three American citizens by drone in Yemen receive most of the media and congressional attention, the incredibly large number of drone strikes in Afghanistan has gotten scant coverage-and that is why I am at Creech.

Robert Sheer: Dumb Wars, Now and Forever

It is a staple of our widely trumpeted Judeo-Christian heritage that the acknowledgment of sin is a prelude to redemption. So how is it that there is no palpable sense of soul searching associated with the 10th anniversary of a war based on officially concocted lies and a policy of torture? It is because the presumption of a unique American claim to an original and enduring innocence perseveres, no matter the death and destruction.

Indeed, some of our most celebrated publicists defined moral deceit as virtue in justifying the Iraq War. “As far as I am concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in April 2003, when U.N. inspectors had clearly established that the proclaimed basis for invading Iraq was a lie. “Mr. Bush doesn’t owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue).”

 

Mar 21 2013

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Day 3 Early Afternoon

The Big Dance.

First 4 of 16, the only teams I have a rooting interest in this year are Syracuse and Michigan State.

Time Network Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
noon CBS (3) Michigan State 25-8 (14) Valparaiso 26-7 Midwest
12:30 pm True (6) Butler 26-8 (11) Bucknell 28-5 East
1:30 pm TBS (8) Pittsburgh 24-8 (9) Wichita State 27-8 West
2 pm TNT (13) New Mexico State 24-10 (4) St. Louis 26-6 Midwest

Mar 21 2013

On This Day In History March 21

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 21 is the 80th day of the year (81st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 285 days remaining until the end of the year.

March 21st is the common date of the March equinox (although astronomically the equinox is more likely to fall on March 20 in all but the most easterly longitudes). In astrology, the day of the equinox is the first full day of the sign of Aries. It is also the traditional first day of the astrological year.

On this day in 1804, the Napoleonic Code approved in France.

After four years of debate and planning, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte enacts a new legal framework for France, known as the “Napoleonic Code.” The civil code gave post-revolutionary France its first coherent set of laws concerning property, colonial affairs, the family, and individual rights.

In 1800, General Napoleon Bonaparte, as the new dictator of France, began the arduous task of revising France’s outdated and muddled legal system. He established a special commission, led by J.J. Cambaceres, which met more than 80 times to discuss the revolutionary legal revisions, and Napoleon presided over nearly half of these sessions. In March 1804, the Napoleonic Code was finally approved.

The Napoleonic Code, or Code Napoléon (originally, the Code civil des Français), is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified. It was drafted rapidly by a commission of four eminent jurists and entered into force on March 21, 1804. The Napoleonic Code was not the first legal code to be established in a European country with a civil legal system, it was preceded by the Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis (Bavaria, 1756), the Allgemeines Landrecht (Prussia, 1794) and the West Galician Code, (Galicia, then part of Austria, 1797). It was, however, the first modern legal code to be adopted with a pan-European scope and it strongly influenced the law of many of the countries formed during and after the Napoleonic Wars. The Code, with its stress on clearly written and accessible law, was a major step in replacing the previous patchwork of feudal laws. Historian Robert Holtman regards it as one of the few documents that have influenced the whole world.

Contents of the Code

The preliminary article of the Code established certain important provisions regarding the rule of law. Laws could be applied only if they had been duly promulgated, and only if they had been published officially (including provisions for publishing delays, given the means of communication available at the time); thus no secret laws were authorized. It prohibited ex post facto laws (i.e., laws that apply to events that occurred before them). The code also prohibited judges from refusing justice on grounds of insufficiency of the law-therefore encouraging them to interpret the law. On the other hand, it prohibited judges from passing general judgments of a legislative value (see above).

With regard to family, the Code established the supremacy of the husband with respect to the wife and children; this was the general legal situation in Europe at the time. It did, however, allow divorce on liberal basis compared to other European countries, including divorce by mutual consent.

Mar 21 2013

They Weren’t Wrong; They Lied

On MSNBC’s the “Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell looked back at many of the voices who where for and against the invasion of Iraq. He said that those who were advocating for the war got it “wrong.” Well, Lawrence O’Donnell got it wrong because Pres. George W. Bush, Vice Pres. Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, at the time National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell weren’t “wrong,” they lied. They lied to Congress, the press, the world and us.

They knew they were lying. They knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear program, no connection to 9/11, Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. They exposed a CIA agent and her operation that was tracking Iran’s nuclear program in order to discredit her husband who said there was no evidence of a nuclear program. We will never know what happened to the people who were working with her in that operation.

They have gotten away with the worst war crime of the 21st century and, perhaps, in the history of this country. Shame on them, shame on Congress and the Justice Department for not doing its due diligence and shame on us for not demanding they be held accountable.

I’m not ready to make nice

Mar 21 2013

The Legacy of the US in Iraq

Warning: The video below the fold in this article contains very disturbing pictures that may be difficult for many to watch.

It is now ten years since the the United States launched its illegal invasion of Iraq based on a string of lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and wild accusations of Sadaam Hussein’s connection to Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and 9/11, all for control of Iraq’s oil riches by one evil man, Richard “Dick” Cheney. What the US has left behind is a devastated country:

Ten years ago, Iraqis, even if they had originally opposed them, hoped that the US invasion and occupation would at least bring an end to the suffering they had endured under UN sanctions and other disasters stemming from defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Today, people in Baghdad complain that they still live in a permanent state of crisis because of sectarian and criminal violence, pervasive corruption, a broken infrastructure and a dysfunctional government. Many Iraqis say that what they want in 2013 is the same as what they wanted in 2003, which is a visa enabling them to move to another country, where they can get a job.

But even worse, the US left a health care crisis that will last for generations, not just the lack of care and hospitals but a legacy of horrific birth defects and cancer that has been caused by depleted uranium (DU) contamination. DU, along with lead and mercury, was contained in the armor plating and ammunition used in attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. The high rates of double and triple cancers, as well as miscarriages, still births and bizarre birth defects, in the cities of Basra and Falluja, have been blamed on DU by researchers. A study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (pdf) that focused on maternity hospitals in the cities of Basra and Fallujah opens with this stunning paragraph:

Between October 1994 and October 1995, the number of birth defects per 1,000 live births in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital was 1.37. In 2003, the number of birth defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital was 23 per 1,000 livebirths. Within less than a decade, the occurrence of congenital birth defects increased by an astonishing 17-fold in the same hospital.  A yearly account of the occurrence and types of birth defects, between 2003 and 2011, in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital, was reported. Metal levels in hair, toe-nail, and tooth samples of residents of Al Basrah were also provided. The enamel portion of the deciduous tooth from a child with birth defects from Al Basrah (4.19 lg/g) had nearly three times higher lead than the whole teeth of children living in unimpacted areas. Lead was 1.4 times higher in the tooth enamel of parents of children with birth defects (2,497± 1,400 lg/g, mean±SD) compared to parents of

normal children (1,826± 1,819 lg/g).

The article concludes:

Present knowledge on the effects of prenatal exposure to metals, combined with our results, suggests that the bombardment of Al Basrah and Fallujah may have exacerbated public exposure to metals, possibly culminating in the current epidemic of birth defects. Large-scale epidemiological studies are necessary to identify at-risk populations in Iraq. The recognition that birth defects reported from Iraq are mainly folate-dependent offers possible treatment options to protect at-risk populations.

From Mike Ludwig at Truthout, there are currently over 300 contaminated sites that are in need of decontamination.

In 2012, European researchers visited a scrap metal site in Al Zubayr, an area near Basrah in southern Iraq. A local police officer told them that the site had at one time held military scrap metal from the bloody battles waged during the American invasion. A local guard told the researchers that children had been seen playing on the scrap during that time, and both adults and children had worked disassembling the military leftovers. At one point, the guard said, members of an international organization with equipment and white suits showed up, told guards that the site was very dangerous and “quickly ran off.” [..]

There are between 300 and 365 sites where depleted uranium contamination was identified by Iraqi authorities the years following the 2003 US invasion, with an estimated cleanup cost of $30 million to $45 million, according to a report recently released by IKV Pax Christi. Iraqi authorities are currently cleaning up the sites, mostly located in the Basrah region, and 30 to 35 sites still need to be decontaminated.

Mar 21 2013

The Cyprus Game of Chicken

Cyrus banks will remain closed until Tuesday as the government of Pres. Nicos Anastasiades struggles to find away to avert a banking failure and withdrawal from the euro.

Crisis talks among the political leadership in Nicosia are set to resume on Thursday after late-night meetings to discuss a “Plan B” broke up on Wednesday without result.

EU officials voiced frustration but little sympathy for an ambitious but now bust banking system that extended itself well beyond the island; Russia, whose citizens have billions to lose in those Cypriot banks, called the EU a “bull in a china shop”. [..]

Finance Minister Michael Sarris extended a stay in Moscow, where Russian officials said he asked for a further 5 billion euros on top of a five-year extension and lower interest on an existing 2.5-billion euro loan from Moscow.

According to Yves Smith at naked capitalism not all of Cyprus’ banks are in the same shape and “the back story is complicated”

It’s key to understand that this crisis was created by the Troika. Cyprus asked for a bailout nine months ago and the deadline is a bond payment this June. And while it has become fashionable to pin the blame for this mess on Cyprus, the backstory is more complicated. From Cyprus.com:

   Not all the banks are in the same condition.

   (a) Cyprus has two money-center type banks: Laiki (Popular) Bank and Bank of Cyprus.

   (b) Laiki was purchased by a Greek vehicle (Marfin Investment Group) backed by Gulf money. Marfin’s purchase of Laiki took Laiki from being a fairly conservative local bank to being highly exposed to Greece. Laiki is definitely insolvent and needs to be restructured.

   (c) Bank of Cyprus has been more conservative vis-a-vis Greece, but still has meaningful exposure. It is conceivable that, given time, Bank of Cyprus could survive.

   (d) Beyond the main two banks, there is Hellenic Bank (a much smaller bank with much less Greek exposure), Cyprus Development Bank (no Greek exposure), the Co-ops (no Greek exposure) and the Cyprus subsidiaries of foreign banks (aka, Russian, English, etc banks), also with no Greek exposure.

   (e) All the local oriented banks (BoC, Laiki, Hellenic, Coops) have exposure to the local real estate market that went through a bubble during the 2000-2009 period. This exposure however is not short-term and could be resolved over the period of years. It is a problem, not a crisis, and is offset by the fact that the two main banks have quasi-monopolistic earnings power locally. Given the time and some financial represssion (a la the United States) and the local issues would be manageable.

In other words, the bank that is the epicenter of the problem was driven into the ditch by foreign buyers. Now admittedly, the local bank supervisors did nothing to stop that, but can you point to a single national bank regulator (ex the Canadians) that put much in the way of constraints on their banks prior to the crisis.

Paul Krugman’s take on this:

Still trying to wrap my head around the Cyprus situation; what makes it so interesting (as in “may you live in interesting times”) is the role of the island as a tax, regulation, and law enforcement haven.

It’s not just about the Russian connection, but that connection is really huge. Here’s another metric: Cyprus is, according to official figures, the largest single foreign direct investor in Russia – this from an economy roughly the same size as metropolitan Scranton PA. What’s that about? The FT explained it a while back: [..]

And a key aspect of the current mess is that the Cypriot government isn’t willing to give up this business. That’s why solutions like converting large deposits into CDs haven’t been on the table; once round-tripping Russians know that they can find their money trapped for long periods, they’ll go find another treasure island.

Stay tuned for more to come.