Daily Archive: 07/20/2015

Jul 20 2015

Iran: US Congress vs The World

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This morning the United Nations Security Council approved the agreement with Iran that would reduce Iran’s nuclear program. In exchange the UN will lift the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

The 15-0 vote for approval of the resolution – 104 pages long including annexes and lists – was written in Vienna by diplomats who negotiated a landmark pact last week that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for ending the sanctions.

Iran has pledged to let in international monitors to inspect its facilities for the next 10 years and other measures that were devised to guarantee that its nuclear energy activities are purely peaceful.

The Security Council resolution, which is legally binding, lays out the steps required only for the lifting of United Nations sanctions.

It has no legal consequence on the sanctions imposed separately by the United States and the European Union.

The European Union also approved the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, putting in motion the lifting of its own sanctions, which include prohibitions on the purchase of Iranian oil. Europe will continue to prohibit the export of ballistic missile technology and sanctions related to human rights.

The heads of US war mongers have been exploding since President Barack Obama announced the completion of the deal and some took to their fainting couches. On the international front, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his “poutrage” to the Sunday talk shows. The fact that no matter how adequate the agreement may be, to the war mongers it’s a disaster because it won’t let them start a war with Iran:

Many of the Republicans’ statements on Iran in the past few months have just a word salad of insults – “evil”, “malevolent”, “corrupt”, “terrorists”, “the devil” – as though there were a contest to see how many despicable adjectives they could fit into one paragraph. Many of today’s statements then immediately condemned the fact that in Iran crowds sometimes chant “Death to America”. Gee, I wonder why a few people in Iran say hyperbolic things about the US? It’s not like our leading politicians would ever sing songs about blowing up Iran – oh, wait. [..]

For Republicans, the Iran nuclear negotiations have never been about getting “a good deal” for the US. They’ve simply wanted to preserve their ability to kill people in the Middle East whenever they want, and continue to indulge their fetish of American superpower. It doesn’t matter to Republicans whether bombing Iran virtually guarantees that actually will pursue a nuclear bomb (which, again, right now they’re not), or that a deal will hurt the hardliners in Iran that Republicans profess to hate. It only matters that they continue to have an enemy to bomb in the Middle East, and a President to criticize here at home.

Host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” John Oliver covered the agreement in an opening segment pointing out that none of the critics have even read the 140 page document.

Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that the biggest fear is no deal and more than 100 former American diplomats support the accord. Now that the UN and EU have approved the agreement, the focus will be on the US Congress that has 90 days to review it. Meanwhile, heads will continue to explode. Get the plastic sheeting.

Jul 20 2015

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

Paul Krugman: Europe’s Impossible Dream

There’s a bit of a lull in the news from Europe, but the underlying situation is as terrible as ever. Greece is experiencing a slump worse than the Great Depression, and nothing happening now offers hope of recovery. Spain has been hailed as a success story, because its economy is finally growing – but it still has 22 percent unemployment. And there is an arc of stagnation across the continent’s top: Finland is experiencing a depression comparable to that in southern Europe, and Denmark and the Netherlands are also doing very badly.

How did things go so wrong? The answer is that this is what happens when self-indulgent politicians ignore arithmetic and the lessons of history. And no, I’m not talking about leftists in Greece or elsewhere; I’m talking about ultra-respectable men in Berlin, Paris, and Brussels, who have spent a quarter-century trying to run Europe on the basis of fantasy economics.

Robert Parry: Seeking War to the End of the World

If the neoconservatives have their way again, U.S. ground troops will reoccupy Iraq, the U.S. military will take out Syria’s secular government (likely helping Al Qaeda and the Islamic State take over), and the U.S. Congress will not only kill the Iran nuclear deal but follow that with a massive increase in military spending.

Like spraying lighter fluid on a roaring barbecue, the neocons also want a military escalation in Ukraine to burn the ethnic Russians out of the east and the neocons dream of spreading the blaze to Moscow with the goal of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. In other words, more and more fires of Imperial “regime change” abroad even as the last embers of the American Republic die at home.

Much of this “strategy” is personified by a single Washington power couple: arch-neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and an early advocate of the Iraq War, and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who engineered last year’s coup in Ukraine that started a nasty civil war and created a confrontation between nuclear-armed United States and Russia.

Bethany McClean: Fannie and Freddie are Back, Bigger and Badder Than Ever

AFTER the financial crisis of 2008, there was one thing that almost everyone agreed on. The government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, had to go. While shareholders and executives reaped the profits from Fannie and Freddie in good times, taxpayers were stuck with the bill in a crisis. President Obama described their dysfunctional business model as “Heads we win, tails you lose.” But here we are, seven years after the crisis, and nothing has changed.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were meant to make it easier for Americans to buy their own homes. By buying up mortgages issued by other lenders, they enabled the lenders to make more loans. Fannie and Freddie could then package the payments that Americans made on their home mortgages into securities to sell to investors, from big bond funds to foreign central banks. In this way, a saver in China financed the purchase of a home in Kansas.

Charles M. Blow: Sandra and Kindra: Suicides or Something Sinister?

Although the mantra “Black Lives Matter” was developed by black women, I often worry that in the collective consciousness it carries with it an implicit masculine association, one that renders subordinate or even invisible the very real and concurrent subjugation and suffering of black women, one that assigns to these women a role of supporter and soother and without enough space or liberty to express and advocate for their own.

Last week, the prism shifted a bit, as America and the social justice movement focused on the mysterious cases of two black women who died in police custody. [..]

The deaths seem odd: young women killing themselves after only being jailed only a few days or a less than a couple hours, before a trial or conviction, for relatively minor crimes.

And the official explanations that they were suicides run counter to prevailing patterns of behavior as documented by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which has found that, on the whole, men are more likely to commit suicide in local jails than women, young people are less likely to do so than older people, and black people are the least likely to do so than any other racial or ethnic group.

That doesn’t mean that these women didn’t commit suicide, but it does help to explain why their coinciding deaths might be hard for people to accept.

Indeed, because state violence echoes through the African-American experience in this country, it is even understandable if black people might occasionally experience a sort of Phantom Lynching Syndrome, having grown so accustomed to the reality of a history of ritualized barbarism that they would sense its presence even in its absence.

Eric T. Schneiderman: Ending the Crisis of Confidence in Our Criminal Justice System

When President Obama visited a federal prison in Oklahoma last week, he highlighted one of our nation’s most urgent moral issues — the inequitable and ineffective state of our criminal justice system.

In a system that disproportionately harms poor people and people of color, too many Americans have lost faith in the essential American principle of equal justice under law.

Last December, when I called for my office to be appointed as temporary special prosecutor in cases where unarmed civilians die during encounters with police in New York State, I did so in large part to help restore confidence in our justice system.

On July 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted my office that power, an important step towards a renewed public confidence.

However, the crisis of confidence is rooted in far more than those rare, tragic cases in which a civilian dies during an encounter with the police.

Mark Klein: The dismantling of higher education

While researching a recent column for Al Jazeera America on the “killing of tenure” and what it means for the future of higher education, it became clear that the attempts by conservatives to dismantle the institution of tenure, highlighted by the Wisconsin legislature’s removal of previously statutory tenure protections, are only one component of a much wider array of threats to the profession of teaching and research.

For academics lucky enough to have tenure at an “R-1 research university” – one with “extensive” doctoral level graduate programs and support for faculty research as well as teaching – the erosion of traditional tenure protections is damaging because it threatens not only academic freedom but research and teaching that contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. GDP. The continued downtrend in funding for university research has paralleled and is tied to the erosion of tenure, academic freedom and shared governance more broadly. All these trends are tied to the corporatization of the university; that is, the increasingly privatized model of higher education which does away with shared governance and tenure in favor of centralized administration and contingent labor, puts profits and the bottom line ahead of the public good, and efficiency and “customer service” ahead of a well-rounded education that encourages critical inquiry and independent thought.

Jul 20 2015

The Breakfast Club (Sunrise, Sunset)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The first men to walk on the Moon; Viking One lands on Mars; Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler wounded in an assassination attempt; Mountaineer Edmund Hillary and musician Carlos Santana born

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

There’s never one sunrise the same or one sunset the same.

Carlos Santana

Jul 20 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Tale of Two Countries

By NY Brit Expat

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only (Charles Dickens, 1859, A Tale of Two Cities, Book I, Chapter 1).”

Jul 20 2015

On This Day In History July 20

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.

July 20 is the 201st day of the year (202nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 164 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1881, Sitting Bull surrenders.

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the Indian victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers.

Surrender

Hunger and cold eventually forced Sitting Bull, his family, and nearly 200 other Sioux in his band to return to the United States and surrender on July 19, 1881. Sitting Bull had his young son Crow Foot surrender his rifle to the commanding officer of Fort Buford. He told the soldiers that he wished to regard them and the white race as friends. Two weeks later, Sitting Bull and his band were transferred to Fort Yates, the military post located adjacent to the Standing Rock Agency.

Arriving with 185 people, Sitting Bull and his band were kept separate from the other Hunkpapa gathered at the agency. Army officials were concerned that the famed chief would stir up trouble among the recently surrendered northern bands. On August 26, 1881, he was visited by census taker William T. Selwyn who counted twelve people in the Hunkpapa leader’s immediate family. Forty-one families, totaling 195 people, were recorded in Sitting Bull’s band. The military decided to transfer him and his band to Fort Randall, to be held as prisoners of war. Loaded onto a steamboat, Sitting Bull’s band, now totaling 172 people, were sent down the Missouri River to Fort Randall. There they spent the next 20 months. They were allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency in May 1883.