Daily Archive: 06/14/2012

Jun 14 2012

Real Politics

Sometimes called Realpolitik (use your best Henry Killinger accent)-

Let’s Talk Turkey About Greece

Ian Welsh

2012 May 26

Greece is going to have get hardcore and creative about creating a new economy.  Since the monetary authorities intend to starve them and deprive them of oil, they must retaliate hard.  Greece has a number of options, and this is what Greece should do You don’t play nice with people who are trying to cause a famine in your country.

  • Greece has a large fleet.  Use it to strip mine the Mediterranean of all resources possible.  Yes, the Med is a fragile ecosystem.  If the other Euros don’t like it, they can not punish Greece, otherwise Greece will have to feed itself.  The Euros could send fleets, but as the British-Iceland fishing war proved, that’s prohibitively expensive.
  • Start gun-running and other black market activities up.  European gun-running currently goes through Albania.  Greece has much better ports.  If the Euros don’t like it, they can militarize Greece’s borders at a cost much higher than feeding the Greeks.
  • Become a full on black-hole for banking.  If anyone wants to store money in Greece, they can.  No questions asked, no forms needed.
  • Make deals with other “pariah” and semi-pariah nations.  Start with Iran and Russia for oil (Iran will be happy to give oil in exchange for black market help).  Make a deal with various 2nd world nations for food, start with Argentina, they have no reason to love the IMF or the European Union, which promised to “punish” them for nationalizing oil in Argentina.  In exchange Greece can offer use of their fleet, for cheap, and port rights for the Russian navy.  They’ve wanted a true warm water port for some time.  Offer them a nice island in the Med with a 30 year lease.
  • Hold on for a couple years.  Odds are that soon enough Ireland, Spain, Portugal and maybe others will leave the Euro.  They won’t be in any mood to screw Greece for their ex-Euro masters.  Heck, odds are 50/50 that there won’t be a Euro zone at all in 3 years, since Germany wants to screw everyone, including France.
  • Nationalize basically every industry.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s going to be necessary.  Hundreds of billions of dollars have fled Greece in the past 3 years, in fact that was one of the main reasons for dragging out the “bailouts” (really, bailouts of German banks), to let the money flee.  All Greek assets are going to be frozen overseas, so the Greeks will need to work with what they have.
  • No more money goes out of the country.  Slap on currency controls, to make sure what money is there doesn’t leave (this is aimed at Greece’s rich).  If any banker or anyone else circumvents them, throw them in jail, the sentence should be life, generous, since they are committing treason.
  • Seriously change the tax system, and insist on really taxing the rich.  Go to heavily progressive taxation, reduce the burden on the poor (a large number of people now), this will buy support.
  • A food rationing system, with cards and delivery to every person in the country will be necessary.  It won’t be fun, but combined with the above, you can make sure that no one starves.

Greece has been under siege for years now, and traitors within its own country (its politicians) have betrayed it.  This means Greeks are in serious danger of suffering a famine.  The response to that, by Greeks, will have to be pragmatic and severe.  If non-Greeks don’t like it, that’s too bad.  When millions of people are in danger of starving, a country does what it has to.

Jun 14 2012

Egypt: Court Desolves Parliament, Election Unconstitutional

Egypt’s high court has dissolved the first democratically elected Parliament and declared that former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmad Shafiq, can remain in the race for president:

The rulings by the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose judges are Mubarak appointees, escalated the power struggle between the Brotherhood and the military, which stepped in to rule after Mubarak’s fall. The decisions tip the contest dramatically in favor of the ruling generals, robbing the Brotherhood of its power base in parliament and boosting Ahmad Shafiq, the former Mubarak prime minister who many see as the military’s favorite in the presidential contest against the Brotherhood’s candidate.

Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader and lawmaker Mohammed el-Beltagy said the rulings amounted to a “full-fledged coup.”

“This is the Egypt that Shafiq and the military council want and which I will not accept no matter how dear the price is,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

The Brotherhood and liberal and leftist activists who backed last year’s revolution against Mubarak accused the military of using the constitutional court as a proxy to preserve the hold of the ousted leader’s authoritarian regime and the generals over the country. Many of them were vowing new street protests.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said in a Twitter post:

According to the BBC, last year’s Parliamentary elections were “against the rules”

The court had been considering the validity of last year’s parliamentary election, because some of the seats were contested on a proportional list system, with others on the first-past-the-post system.

It decided that the election law had allowed parties to compete for seats reserved for independent candidates.

The head of the supreme court Farouk Soltan told Reuters: “The ruling regarding parliament includes the dissolution of the lower house of parliament in its entirety because the law upon which the elections were held is contrary to rules of the constitution.”

Many of the seats ruled unconstitutional were won by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In his New York Times article, David D. Kirkpatrick noted the consequences of the new president taking power with no Parliament to hold him on check:

The ruling means that whoever emerges as the winner of the runoff will take power without the check of a sitting Parliament and could even exercise some influence over the election of a future Parliament. It vastly compounds the stakes in the presidential race, raises questions about the governing military council’s commitment to democracy, and makes uncertain the future of a constitutional assembly recently formed by Parliament as well.

The decision, which dissolves the first freely elected Parliament in Egypt in decades, supercharges a building conflict between the court, which is increasingly presenting itself as a check on Islamists’ power, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The ruling, by the highest judicial authority in Egypt, cannot be appealed and it was not clear how the military council, which  has been governing Egypt since Mr. Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011, would respond. But in anticipation that the court’s ruling could anger citizens, the military authorities reimposed martial law on Wednesday.

The ruling is a result of the Islamic dominated Parliament passing a law that barred prominent figures from the old regime from running for office. Critics of the law said that it targeted Shafiq and the court, in its ruling, said that the law lacked “objective grounds”, was discriminatory and violated “the principle of equality.”

Since the Mubarak’s fall, Egypt’s military has promised to hand power to an elected president by the start of July, but with no constitution and now the prospect of no parliament to write one, the new president is unlikely have his powers defined by the time he comes into office. And that has all the earmarks of a disaster for the Arab Spring and democracy in Egypt.

Jun 14 2012

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

Ibrahim Mothana: How Drones Help Al Qaeda

“DEAR OBAMA, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda,” a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter last month. President Obama should keep this message in mind before ordering more drone strikes like Wednesday’s, which local officials say killed 27 people, or the May 15 strike that killed at least eight Yemeni civilians.

Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan – “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”

New York Times Editorial: The Court Retreats on Habeas

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Congress could not strip federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from non-American prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, the 5-to-4 majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to be a landmark victory for the rights of detainees. “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” Justice Kennedy wrote in Boumediene v. Bush, and “the framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance,” must be part of the American legal framework.

But this week the court rejected appeals in seven habeas cases involving detainees challenging the legality of their imprisonment. (The justices also rejected an appeal in a separate civil suit brought by Jose Padilla, an American citizen, against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials for abuse and torture during his detention.) With no dissents in the denials, it is devastatingly clear that the Roberts court has no interest in ensuring meaningful habeas review for foreign prisoners.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Billionaires Against Billionaires

For those who believe money already has too much power in American politics, 2012 will be a miserable year. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, lassitude at the Federal Election Commission and the growing audacity of very rich conservatives have created a new political system that will make the politics of the Gilded Age look like a clean government paradise.

Americans won’t even fully know what’s happening to them because so much can be donated in secrecy to opaque organizations. It’s always helpful for voters to know who is trying to buy an election, and for whom. This time, much of the auction will be held in private. You can be sure that the candidates will find out who helped elect them, but the voters will remain in the dark.

Amy Goodman: Across That Bridge, Again

As the election season heats up, an increasing number of states are working to limit the number of people who are allowed to vote. Already we have a shamefully low percentage of those eligible to vote actually participating. Florida, a key swing state, is preparing for the Republican National Convention, five days of pomp promoted as a celebration of democracy. While throwing this party, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, along with his secretary of state, Ken Detzner, are systematically throwing people off the voter rolls, based on flawed, outdated Florida state databases.

Many eligible Florida voters recently received a letter saying they were removed and had limited time to prove their citizenship.  Hundreds of cases emerged where people with long-standing U.S. citizenship were being purged. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, “of those singled out to prove their citizenship, 61 percent are Hispanic when only 14 percent of registered Florida voters are Hispanic,” suggesting an attempt to purge Latinos, who tend to vote Democratic. Recall the year 2000, when then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris systematically purged African-Americans from voter rolls. The U.S. Justice Department has ordered Detzner to stop the purge, but he and Gov. Scott promise to continue. The Justice Department has sued the state in federal court, as have the ACLU and other groups.

Robert Sheer: See You at the Club: Fed Fat Cats Dip Into the Till

Statistics are boring, but it’s important to wrap your head around this latest one from the Federal Reserve as the definitive epitaph for the American dream. Wall Street’s financial shenanigans, the banking games that made some fat cats outrageously wealthy as they turned home mortgages into toxic securities, wiped out 20 years of growth in American families’ net worth. [..]

That outcome, disastrous to the American ideal of a nation of mostly middle-class stakeholders competing on a relatively equal economic playing field, was preordained. When tens of millions lost their jobs and homes as a result of financial swindles that the Federal Reserve failed to prevent, this ostensibly public agency, with strong bipartisan support in the White House and Congress, adroitly directed the flow of public funds to save the bankers while abandoning their victims.

Robert Reich: A Back Door to the Public Option

Any day now the Supreme Court will issue its opinion on the constitutionality of the Accountable Care Act, which even the White House now calls Obamacare.

Most high-court observers think it will strike down the individual mandate in the Act that requires almost everyone to buy health insurance, as violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution – but will leave the rest of the new healthcare law intact. [..]

The fact is, there’s enough the public likes about Obamacare that if the Court strikes down the individual mandate that won’t be the end. It will just be the end of the first round.

Jun 14 2012

On This Day In History June 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 14 is the 165th day of the year (166th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 200 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1777, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopts a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

The Flag Resolution of 1777

On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Flag Day is now observed on June 14 of each year. A false tradition holds that the new flag was first hoisted in June 1777 by the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment.

The 1777 resolution was most probably meant to define a naval ensign, rather than a national flag. It appears between other resolutions from the Marine Committee. On May 10, 1779, Secretary of the Board of War Richard Peters expressed concern “it is not yet settled what is the Standard of the United States.”

The Flag Resolution did not specify any particular arrangement, number of points, nor orientation for the stars. The pictured flag shows 13 outwardly-oriented five-pointed stars arranged in a circle, the so-called Betsy Ross flag. Although the Betsy Ross legend is controversial, the design is among the oldest of any U.S. flags. Popular designs at the time were varied and most were individually crafted rather than mass-produced. Other examples of 13-star arrangements can be found on the Francis Hopkinson flag, the Cowpens flag, and the Brandywine flag. Given the scant archaeological and written evidence, it is unknown which design was the most popular at that time.

Despite the 1777 resolution, a number of flags only loosely based on the prescribed design were used in the early years of American independence. One example may have been the Guilford Court House Flag, traditionally believed to have been carried by the American troops at the Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781.

The origin of the stars and stripes design is inadequately documented. The apocryphal story credits Betsy Ross for sewing the first flag from a pencil sketch handed to her by George Washington. No evidence for this exists; indeed, nearly a century had passed before Ross’ grandson, William Canby, first publicly suggested it. Another woman, Rebecca Young, has also been credited as having made the first flag by later generations of her family. Rebecca Young’s daughter was Mary Pickersgill, who made the Star Spangled Banner Flag.

It is likely that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the 1777 flag while he was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department, sometime between his appointment to that position in November 1776 and the time that the flag resolution was adopted in June 1777. This contradicts the Betsy Ross legend, which suggests that she sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag by request of the government in the Spring of 1776. Hopkinson was the only person to have made such a claim during his own lifetime, when he sent a bill to Congress for his work. He asked for a “Quarter Cask of the Public Wine” as payment initially. The payment was not made, however, because it was determined he had already received a salary as a member of Congress, and he was not the only person to have contributed to the design. No one else contested his claim at the time.

Jun 14 2012

My Little Town 20120613: Fireworks

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

One advantage of living in a little town is that I could set off fireworks.  Arkansas has a quirky law that allows sale of fireworks only a few days per year, a week or so around New Year’s Day and a week or so around Independence Day.  I would get my parents, when I was little, to stock up.  Later I would stock up myself.

I have seen lots of folks who have been injured by fireworks (when I was little, many of the consumer protection rules had not been put in place).  Until adulthood I was never injured by any kind of firework (I DID come close a few times).

Jun 14 2012

What We Need To Know: Trans-Pacific Partnership

Back in February of this year when we were battling ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA to protect the internet, I wrote about the Trans Pacific Partnership which would have impose even stricter provisions on copyright law and the internet than ACTA. Well, TPP hasn’t gne away and the secret negotiations by the Obama administration has raised serious questions from both sides of the Congressional aisle. The trade document (pdf), which has been a more closely guarded secret than Dick Cheney’s location, was leaked by Public Citizen a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. Their analysis of the stealth policy that is being advocated by the super corporations and the Obama administration is, in a word, frightening.

A leak today of one of the most controversial chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) reveals that extreme provisions have been agreed to by U.S. officials, providing a stark warning about the dangers of “trade” negotiations occurring under conditions of extreme secrecy without press, public or policymaker oversight, Public Citizen said.

“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”  [..]

The TPP may well be the last trade agreement that the U.S. negotiates. This is because TPP, if completed, would have a new feature relative to past U.S. trade pacts: It would remain open for any other country to join later. Last month, USTR Kirk said that he “would love nothing more” than to have China join TPP.

In one move without congressional ratification, the agreement could:

  • offshore millions of American jobs,
  • free the banksters from oversight,
  • ban Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy,
  • decrease access to medicine,
  • flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products,
  • and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.
  • Zach Carter of Huffington Post reveals that the agreement confers on multinational corporations the ability to circumvent US laws and regulation:

    Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings. [..]

    While the current trade deal could pose a challenge to American sovereignty, large corporations headquartered in the U.S. could potentially benefit from it by using the same terms to oppose the laws of foreign governments. If one of the eight Pacific nations involved in the talks passes a new rule to which an American firm objects, that U.S. company could take the country to court directly in international tribunals.

    Public Citizen challenged the independence of these international tribunals, noting that “The tribunals would be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as ‘judges’ and as advocates for the investors suing the governments,” according to the text of the agreement.

    Some of the other parts of the agreement would raise the cost of medications, while it would make life saving drugs inaccessible, it might as well have if they’re too expensive. Some of the other provisions would also:

  • Expand pharmaceutical patenting and create new drug monopolies, by lowering patentability standards and requiring patentability of minor variations of older, known medicines.
  • Lengthen drug monopolies by requiring countries to extend patent terms.
  • Eliminate safeguards against patent abuse, including among others the right of third parties to challenge patent applications (pre-grant opposition).
  • Risk facilitating patent abuse by requiring countries to condition marketing approval on patent status (patent linkage). Under patent linkage, even spurious patents may function as barriers to generic drug registration.
  • Expand exclusive control over clinical trial data including through an extra three years of data exclusivity for new uses of known products (in addition to five years exclusivity for first uses) and a new provision on biotech medicines.
  • Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules said, “Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”

    On the impact on US environmental laws, Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club, an environmental group said, “Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy.”

    These negotiations have been going on since Obama took office. They are backed by the US Chamber of Commerce and by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who urged the US to finalize the deal.

    Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced legislation for more transparency and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) leaked a document from the talks on his website. (Hmm. Will Issa investigate himself?)

    So much for this promise from Obama and the DNC (pdf):

    We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications

    And Obama supporters tell us that Romney is worse. Really? I see no difference between the them.