Daily Archive: 03/04/2014

Mar 04 2014

American Activist Detained and Beaten in Egypt

Code Pink founder and human rights activist Medea Benjamin was inexplicably detained by Egyptian authorities at the Cairo Airport. The police handcuffed and beat her after removing her to a detention area sustaining a dislocated shoulder and broken arm. The US Embassy was notified of her detention but never arrived to assist her. After being held for several hours, she was put on a plane to Turkey.

On the night of March 3, 2014, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK Medea Benjamin was on her way to Egypt to join an international delegation of women going to Gaza when she was detained by border police in the Cairo airport, held overnight in a cell, and then brutally tackled (her arm badly injured), handcuffed, and deported to Turkey. During her time in the detention cell she had access to a cell phone, from which she contacted colleagues at CODEPINK about the poor conditions of the cell and chronicled her ordeal via Twitter. When the Egyptian police removed her from the detention center, they used such excessive force she sustained a fracture and torn ligament in her shoulder.  [..]

She is currently in Istanbul, Turkey, receiving medical attention at a hospital before she returns to the US. It is still unclear why the Egyptians deported her. Medea’s colleagues at CODEPINK are appalled by the unnecessary use of force by Egyptian authorities.

This morning Ms. Benjamin spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to U.S. peace activist Medea Benjamin, who was just detained at Cairo’s airport by Egyptian police. She was in Cairo to meet up with an international delegation before traveling to Gaza for a women’s conference, but she said she was detained upon arrival and held overnight before being deported to Turkey, where she’s now seeking medical treatment. Medea Benjamin joins us on the phone from Turkey.

Medea, how are you?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I’m in a lot of pain. I’ve gotten two shots of painkiller, but it’s not enough. They fractured my arm, dislocated my shoulder, tore the ligaments. They jumped on top of me. And this was all never telling me what was the problem. And so, it was a very brutal attack, and I’m in a lot of pain.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened. You arrived at Cairo’s airport, and you were attacked there?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: No, I arrived at the airport. When I gave in my passport, I was taken aside, brought into a separate room, where I was held for seven hours without anybody ever telling me what was wrong. Then I was put into a jail cell in the airport, held overnight. And in the morning, five very scary-looking men came in and wanted to take me away. And I said, “The embassy is coming. The embassy is coming.” They were supposed to have arrived. Instead, they dragged me out, tackled me to the ground, jumped on me, handcuffed my wrists so tight that they started bleeding, and then dislocated my shoulder, and then kept me like that, grabbing my arm. The whole way, I was shouting through the airport, screaming in pain. Then the-I demanded to get medical attention. The Egyptian doctors came and said, “This woman cannot travel. She’s in too much pain. She needs to go to the hospital.” The Egyptian security refused to take me to a hospital and threw me on the plane. Thank God there was an orthopedic surgeon on the plane who gave me another shot and put the arm back in its shoulder. But they were so brutal, and, as I said, Amy, never saying why.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the U.S. embassy representative ever come to see you at the airport?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: No. Some of the delegates, including Ann Wright, who had already arrived for the Gaza delegation, had been calling the embassy non-stop. The CodePink people in D.C. were calling the embassy non-stop. They were always saying, “They’re supposed to show up. They’re supposed to show up.” They never showed up. I was on the tarmac. The Turkish airline was forced to take me, but we delayed an hour while they were debating what to do. There were about 20 men there. And the embassy never showed up the entire time.

The full transcript can be read here

Just where was the State Department? Why didn’t they arrive to assist her? They owe Ms. Benjamin an explanation.

Mar 04 2014

The Politics of Racial Divide

Great deal of right wing criticism of President Barack Obama is motivated by the fact that he is part African American. Many of the new voting laws being passed in Republican controlled states are racially motivated. Much of the rhetoric regarding the social safety net is openly couched with terms like “Welfare Queens,” and “lazy, dependent and entitled.” Racism in America is alive and well and flourishing.

Ian Haney López, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley and senior fellow at Demos, writes an account of the history of subtle racists language and how it is used today:

In Dog Whistle Politics, Demos’ new Senior Fellow Ian Haney López offers a sweeping account of how politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests. Dog whistle appeals generate middle-class enthusiasm for political candidates who promise to crack down on crime, curb undocumented immigration, and protect the heartland against Islamic infiltration, but ultimately vote to slash taxes for the rich, give corporations regulatory control over industry and financial markets, and aggressively curtail social services. White voters, convinced by powerful interests that minorities are their true enemies, fail to see the connection between the political agendas they support and the surging wealth inequality that takes an increasing toll on their lives. The tactic continues at full force, with the Republican Party using racial provocations to drum up enthusiasm for weakening unions and public pensions, defunding public schools, and opposing health care reform.

Mr. Haney López joined Bill Myers to discuss the Dog Whistle Politics of Race



The transcript can be read here

Haney López is an expert in how racism has evolved in America since the civil rights era. Over the past 50 years, politicians have mastered the use of dog whistles – code words that turn Americans against each other while turning the country over to plutocrats. This political tactic, says Haney López, is “the dark magic” by which middle-class voters have been seduced to vote against their own economic interests.

“It comes out of a desire to win votes. And in that sense… It’s racism as a strategy. It’s cold, it’s calculating, it’s considered,” Haney López tells Bill, “it’s the decision to achieve one’s own ends, here winning votes, by stirring racial animosity.”

Mar 04 2014

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

Ian Welsh: “Consequences” for Russia over the Ukraine

Obama and Kerry have both told Russia there will be consequences for their actions in the Ukraine.

The question is “what consequences?”  The only thing the West can do which would really hurt Russia and Putin is strong financial sanctions: freeze Russian accounts, institute a trade embargo, etc-the full Iran treatment.

The problem is that Europe needs Russia’s natural gas and oil and Britain, aka. London, aka. The City, needs Russian money.  London is awash in Russian cash, and the London Real Estate market would most likely crash if real financial sanctions were put on Russia.  Since real-estate and financial games are the only thing keeping Britain afloat, this is a total no-go: completely unacceptable to Britain.

Germany, meanwhile, will find any sanctions on energy completely unacceptable.  They can’t replace all that natural gas before next winter, even if the US agrees to sell American natural gas to Europe.

The Russians, to put it crassly, have paid their bribes.  They have made the right people in England, and Europe, rich.  On top of that they supply something Europe absolutely must have: hydrocarbons.

Dean Baker: President Obama, the Do-Gooder

With at least one house of Congress almost certain to be under the control of intransigent Republicans through the rest of his presidency, there is little prospect for any major legislative action over the next three years. However, President Obama has said that he intends to use his presidential power to do what he can to improve the economy and lay the groundwork for future change.

While there are limits as to what Obama can based on executive authority alone, there are many areas where he can have an impact. He already identified one area in his State of the Union Address, when he announced that new federal contracts would require that workers be paid a higher minimum wage. This sort of action can be carried much further.

Eugene Robinson: Before Crimea There Was Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada and So On

Let’s be real. It’s one thing to say that Russia’s takeover of the Crimean Peninsula “cannot be allowed to stand,” as many foreign policy sages have proclaimed. It’s quite another to do something about it.

Is it just me, or does the rhetoric about the crisis in Ukraine sound as if all of Washington is suffering from amnesia? We’re supposed to be shocked-shocked!-that a great military power would cook up a pretext to invade a smaller, weaker nation? I’m sorry, but has everyone forgotten the unfortunate events in Iraq a few years ago?

My sentiments, to be clear, are with the legitimate Ukrainian government, not with the neo-imperialist regime in Russia. But the United States, frankly, has limited standing to insist on absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Closing the D.C. Reality Gap

To understand the country’s frustration with politics, we shouldn’t focus primarily on “gridlock” and “polarization.” The larger problem is a disconnect between what the nation’s capital is talking about and what most citizens are worried about.

The issues discussed at kitchen tables and over back fences relate to getting and keeping good jobs, better educating our children, improving living standards (or, these days, keeping them from falling), and holding families together. The issues that fixate Washington are abstractions such as tax reform, deficit reduction, and whether small government is better than big government. Call the distance between the two sets of priorities the Reality Gap.

Mike Konczal: Mike Konczal

We already have one, it’s a major success, and we can use the post office to expand it rapidly

Trying to get basic banking services to cash Social Security and disability checks was a persistent source of anxiety for Patricia Geary, A 65-year-old Philadelphia resident. She receives her payments in paper form, but since she didn’t have a checking account, she had trouble figuring out how to convert them into usable form.

“It was so stressful,” she told me. “It put me in such a fragile and depressive state that I had to seek out professional help at times.”

Commercial banks have too many hidden fees and minimum balances that are too high to help her. The check-cashing places she relied on require large fees for her to get cash and even more fees to convert some of that cash into money orders to pay bills. Keeping her money entirely in cash made it hard to budget well and left her vulnerable to theft.

Luckily, a public option became available. Geary received a Direct Express debit card that loads her government pension and disability payments. The card has low fees and none of her old financial hassles. “It was so much more flexible and allowed me to be much better at budgeting,” she said. “It’s like I have a bank in my pocket.”

Jared Bernstein: Rep. Ryan’s New Poverty Report: A Fat Thumb on the Evidentiary Scale

Paul Ryan and the majority Republican staff of the House Budget Committee are out with a big document that purports to provide a balanced evaluation of the full spate of federal anti-poverty programs. It’s a detailed, serious look at the issue but is beset with misleading evidence and conclusions. While much of the commentary suggests that federal antipoverty efforts have failed and are fraught by wasteful duplication, the evidence — some of which is in here and much of which is conspicuously missing) — belies that facile claim.

Of course we could improve the efficiency of many of these programs. But a close look at their totality shows considerable and even lasting anti-poverty effectiveness.

There’s also something that I found fundamentally odd about the report. In 200 pages of detailed and carefully researched analysis (excepting omissions, as you’ll see), it’s all windup, no delivery. Rep. Ryan never suggests what he wants to do differently in terms of antipoverty policy. Is this a mystery serial where we have to wait for the next installment (i.e., the House budget)? I think I know why he left out the punch line as I’ll reveal below (I too can create a wonky mystery!).

Mar 04 2014

Ukraine Crisis

If you’ve turned on your television, the radio or read any on line news, you know there was a revolution in the Ukraine that overturned the government of Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych refused to step down, even after he was removed by the Parliament and a warrant for his arrest was issued for the deaths of protesters when the police used snipers to kill unarmed demonstrators in Kiev. Yanukovych disappeared showing up in Russia where Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the deposal of Yanukovych an unconstitutional coup d’etat, On Friday, Putin sent troops into Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea and blockading the Black Sea deep water port of Sevastopol. The UN Security Council met at the New York City headquarters yesterday and NATO will meet for the second time in three day in Brussels at the request of member nation Poland that shares a border with Ukraine.

Crimea crisis: Putin rules out war but will use force ‘as last resort’

• We will not go to war with the Ukrainian people, says Putin

• Claims ousting of Ukrainian president was ‘coup d’état’

• Yanukovych ‘still legitimate head of state’

• Pro-Russian troops and Ukrainian soldiers in tense standoff

Vladimir Putin ruled out war with Ukraine on Tuesday, but also reserved the right to use force “as a last resort” days after his forces took control of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Breaking his silence for the first time since the revolution in Ukraine toppled Viktor Yanukovych, Putin denounced the takeover as an unconstitutional coup d’etat, insisted Yanukovych was still the legitimate head of state, although he declared him politically dead, and said he would not recognise presidential elections being held in Ukraine at the end of May.

Putin emphasised that Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine, or of annexing territory. But he also kept his options open by claiming Yanukovych had written a letter asking for Russian help.

It appeared that Putin was also seeking to send signals to the west, keen to ward off growing US-led pressure for sanctions against his regime and to sow divisions among the Europeans who are economically much more engaged in Russia than the Americans.

He also warned that sanctions were a two-way street that would effect those applying them.

Kerry, Arriving in Kiev, Offers $1 Billion in Loan Guarantees to Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine – In a demonstration of support for Ukraine’s fledgling government, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here on Tuesday with an offer of $1 billion in American loan guarantees and pledges of technical assistance, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.

The purpose of the loan guarantee is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West and to help offset the reduction of energy subsidies from Russia, which has challenged the new government’s legitimacy and occupied the Crimean Peninsula.

The United States will also send technical experts to help Ukraine’s national bank and finance ministry, provide advice on how to fight corruption and train election monitors to help establish the legitimacy of Ukraine’s coming election.

As Prime Russian Trading Partner, Germany Appears Crucial to Ending Crisis

In the face of the diplomatic maneuvering over how to confront a bellicose Russia in Ukraine, one country appears to hold the key to any long-lasting entente: Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse and one of Russia’s primary trading partners.

Whether it is importing fuel from Gazprom or selling Mercedes-Benz to billionaire oligarchs, trade with Russia has played an important role in Germany’s emergence as an economic superpower over the last decade. Germany is now heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs, importing more natural gas from Russia than any other country in Europe.

But Germany’s enhanced status on the world stage – combined with the end of the commodity boom and the onset of economic stagnation in Russia – has also shifted the balance of power. Some analysts argue that it is Russia that has the most to lose if economic sanctions are ever imposed.

This dynamic could offer insight into the role that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will play in any negotiations with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University and Ray McGovern, activist and former senior CIA analyst joined Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss the crisis and who is provoking the unrest.

Russia is vowing to keep its troops in the Ukrainian region of Crimea in what has become Moscow’s biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War. Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said Russian President Vladimir Putin had effectively declared war on his country. Concern is growing that more of eastern Ukraine could soon fall to the Russians. Earlier today, Russian troops seized a Ukraine coast guard base in the Crimean city of Balaklava. On Sunday, the new head of Ukraine’s navy defected to Russia



Transcript can be read here

Mar 04 2014

On This Day In History March 4

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 4 is the 63rd day of the year (64th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 302 days remaining until the end of the year.

In this day in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States. In his famous inaugural address, delivered outside the east wing of the U.S. Capitol, Roosevelt outlined his “New Deal”–an expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare–and told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Although it was a rainy day in Washington, and gusts of rain blew over Roosevelt as he spoke, he delivered a speech that radiated optimism and competence, and a broad majority of Americans united behind their new president and his radical economic proposals to lead the nation out of the Great Depression.

The only American president elected to more than two terms, he forged a durable coalition that realigned American politics for decades. FDR defeated incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover in November 1932, at the depths of the Great Depression. FDR’s combination of optimism and activism contributed to reviving the national spirit. Working closely with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Germany and Japan in World War II, he died just as victory was in sight.

Starting in his “first hundred days” in office, which began March 4, 1933, Roosevelt launched major legislation and a profusion of executive orders that gave form to the New Deal, a complex, interlocking set of programs designed to produce relief (especially government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (of the economy), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation). The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then went into a deep recession. The bipartisan Conservative Coalition that formed in 1937 prevented his packing the Supreme Court or passing much new legislation; it abolished many of the relief programs when unemployment practically ended during World War II. Most of the regulations on business were ended about 1975-85, except for the regulation of Wall Street by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which still exists. Along with several smaller programs, major surviving programs include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which was created in 1933, and Social Security, which Congress passed in 1935.

As World War II loomed after 1938, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggressions of Nazi Germany, FDR gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China and Britain, while remaining officially neutral. His goal was to make America the “Arsenal of Democracy” which would supply munitions to the Allies. In March 1941, Roosevelt, with Congressional approval, provided Lend-Lease aid to the countries fighting against Nazi Germany with Great Britain. He secured a near-unanimous declaration of war against Japan after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, calling it a “date which will live in infamy“. He supervised the mobilization of the US economy to support the Allied war effort. Unemployment dropped to 2%, relief programs largely ended, and the industrial economy grew rapidly to new heights as millions of people moved to new jobs in war centers, and 16 million men (and 300,000 women) were drafted or volunteered for military service.

Roosevelt dominated the American political scene, not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but for decades afterward. He orchestrated the realignment of voters that created the Fifth Party System. FDR’s New Deal Coalition united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans and rural white Southerners. Roosevelt’s diplomatic impact also resonated on the world stage long after his death, with the United Nations and Bretton Woods as examples of his administration’s wide-ranging impact. Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.