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Showing posts from December 28, 2014

Working the Dark Side

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David Bromwich, London Review of Books, Vol. 37 No. 1 · 8 January 2015, pages 15-16

[Today's must-read piece, a chilling article on torture and the ongoing legacy of Dick Cheney. *RON*]

A week before the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA, a Staten Island grand jury chose not to return an indictment for the police killing of Eric Garner – a large black man standing on the sidewalk of a street in New York City. The attention of millions had been transfixed by a video that showed the fatal attempt to arrest Garner. Looking on wearily as he saw the police approach, Garner told a cop that he was doing nothing wrong, in fact he had just broken up a street fight (which was why the police were called). They were always harassing him, he said. In the foreground of the image, a cop hung back from Garner at arm’s length, then closed in (with an eye on other police at the edge of the picture); he began to poke Garner, to trick…

Profit from Crisis: Why capitalists do not want recovery, and what that means for America

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[An old piece, but I just ran across it, and it gives an interesting perspective. *RON*]
Jonathan Nitzan & Shimshon Bichler, London School of Economics, 15 May 2014

After years of recession and sluggish growth, for many, an economic recovery is the light at the end of the tunnel that will lead to greater employment, higher income and perhaps less inequality. While conventional economic wisdom holds that capitalists should be just as anxious to see recovery as workers, Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler argue that it is actually in capitalists’ interests to prolong the crisis, as their relative power increases in times of stagnation and unemployment. Using U.S. data from the past century, they find that when unemployment rises, capitalists can expect their share of income to rise in the years that follow. Unless society takes steps to decrease unemployment, capitalists are likely to continue to pursue stagnation for their own gain.

On May 27t…

Break Up Citigroup

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[It's beginning to look as though breaking up the mega-banks could become a viable theme for the next presidential election. And yet... *RON*]
Simon Johnson, Project Syndicate, 26 December 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s presidential campaign is already well underway. The election is not until November 2016, and very few candidates have formally thrown their hats into the ring, but the competition to promote and develop ideas – both behind closed doors and publicly – is in fully swing.

Earlier this month, Citigroup took advantage of this formative political moment by seizing an opportunity to score a tactical victory – but one that amounts to a strategic blunder. Using legislative language apparently drafted by Citi’s own lobbyists, the firm successfully pressed for the repeal of some of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms. The provision was then passed after it was attached to a last-minute spending bill – a tactic that ensured very little de…

Buddhist militancy triggers international concern

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[For years now Aung San Suu Kyi has remained steadfastly silent about the violent ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar. Part of my marking of the New Year includes throwing out my copy of her memoirs. *RON*]

James Crabtree and Michael Peel, Financial Times, 28 December 2014
Shahabadeen Sahira had a traumatic first-hand view of a new wave of militant Buddhist nationalist groups, whose rise across parts of Asia has triggered growing international alarm.

Wearing a black headscarf, the elderly Muslim former schoolteacher recalls her ordeal in June, when a gang burst into her home near the southern Sri Lankan coastal town of Aluthgama, during the worst religiously-inspired violence to hit the tropical island nation in three decades.

“They came and took everything I had,” she recalls of the men from the country’s largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority, who burning dozens of homes in two day of clashes with local Muslims, resulting in three deaths. “My hou…

Stephen Harper position on global Arms Trade Treaty reads like a page out of NRA handbook

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["Stephen Harper is a very aggressive wolf in a self-righteous sheep’s clothing. But his heart seems cold as ice, as he counts off the dollars earned – and the votes assured – from selling death abroad." *RON*]

Warren Bell, Vancouver Observer, 27 December 2014
The global Arms Trade Treaty, brokered through the United Nations in a lengthy process, came into effect this Christmas Eve, 2014, 90 days after the 50th nation had ratified it.

Canada has refused to sign or ratify this landmark agreement, which will begin to stem the vast tide of armaments, from pistols to rocket launchers to tanks, which sweeps over the world every day.

Most arms come from rich industrial nations like Canada and the US and go to poor countries with undemocratic governments.

On the same day the treaty came into force, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird issued a written statement (the only way this government communicates most of the time) rationalizing…

The News in Moscow

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[If asked, I presume Apple would say they are being 'patriotic': "Apple’s online store stopped taking orders from Russia and reopened a few days later with vastly higher prices." See also Russia Debt One Grade Above Junk With Downgrades Coming, How Likely is Default?
*RON*]
By Masha Gessen, New Yorker, 27 December 2014

The news in Moscow is that everyone has a new television and some people have a new car, but no one has any money or plans for winter vacation travel—or any plans for the future, really. When the ruble collapsed in mid-December, a man went to an Audi dealership to find that only one new car was still available; while he was test-driving the car, someone else bought it in cash sight unseen. Several people told me this story as though it was about a friend of theirs, and it may in fact be true. It is certainly true that large electronics stores have sold out of expensive television sets, which are apparently the dur…

A Whale Has Done What People Have Not: Stop Tar Sands Oil

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[Belugas -1, TransCanada - 0? Possibly. Note the weasel words used by the TransCanada spokesman - "hit the pause button." They don't say stop, they say pause. *RON*]
By Taylor Hill, Take Part, 10 December 2014

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, halted work on an oil export terminal in Quebec after beluga whales were sighted in the area.

The move followed the decision of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to assess the whales as endangered. They had previously been classified as threatened.

“This news that there’s a recommendation to place those belugas on the endangered species list, for us, was a signal that we needed to hit the pause button,” TransCanada spokesman Tim Duboyce told Reuters.

The beluga population in the St. Lawrence Estuary has dwindled from a high of 10,000 to 1,000.

“Without protection of its critical habitat, this population is expected to shrink further,” says a a COS…