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Journal Archives

Europe: Between Democracy and Oligarchy ( New Left Project )

Though Ukraine’s structural problems go far deeper than the current upheavals over aligning more closely with the European Union, the fact that this peculiar international body can spark pitched street battles refutes one lazy but perennial assertion of its critics: that the EU is simply a trade organisation – a glorified NAFTA – which in the broad scheme of things matters little, both to the populations of Europe and in terms of continental governance. Critics point to low voter turn-out all across member-states and high levels of disillusionment among new entrants as evidence that the Union has little real effect on people's lives and little impact on where power lies – either national or transnational – within Europe. But as Ukraine proves, the status of relations with the EU is capable of summoning extraordinary social forces, a rallying point not only for the immediate question of membership but also for much broader questions about the paths of national development prospective member states find themselves on. The task of understanding the EU – and what membership of a future Union might mean for prospective members – is more important than ever. The violence on the streets of Kiev demands a reassessment of critics’ complacency.

Patterns of European integration (beginning, in most histories, with the European Steel and Coal Community of 1951) have by no means been monolithic. Indeed, for a long time the political institutions designed to underwrite and extend the deepening processes of economic integration were largely neofunctionalist in their goals: aiming for a gradual harmonisation of national tensions through an equally gradual extension of the Community's legal remit. This was expansion by stealth, occasionally in an explicitly social or corporatist and welfarist vein. The most famous of the Community's architects, Jean Monnet, was pragmatically federalist and pro-democratic. ‘Is it possible,’ he asked, ‘to have a Common Market without federal social, monetary and macro-economic policies?’ Monnet has more or less been proved right by the eurozone crisis, though political pressures (especially in Germany) continue to resist that conclusion. Major political and economic imbalances between member states continue to undermine any movement towards greater integration of this federal variety.

The Europe Union's other predominant ideology, that of intergovernmental realism, conceives of action undertaken by national governments as the primary locus of European integration. Intergovernmental realists stress the importance of national governments, and point to how further integration will proceed from interactions between states, not above them. Thus neofunctionalist liberals of the Monnet variety stress the transnational processes at work in integration, aiming to further it through the fostering of greater power for international institutions operating outside of or beyond the sovereignty of nation states. Intergovernmental realists, however, stress the limits of possible supranational integration owing to the self-interested nature of national governments. Realists are convinced that the highest form of legal order is one which mediates between self-interested nation-states, curbing their democratic excesses through old-fashioned diplomatic manoeuvring. As such the nation is conceived as the pre-eminent political actor on an international terrain of Hobbesian anarchy with no novel conception of sovereignty emerging. Though such an approach may be appealing for those wishing to understand continued national conflicts within the Union, it has only occasionally reflected the piecemeal reality of EU development, which has involved a good deal of class compromise between states, trade unions and financial institutions, among other conflicting parties.

Nevertheless, by the early 1990s European integration appeared to be stagnating under conditions of a fractious world economy and apparently divergent political and economic paths – with German corporatism, French social-welfarism, and British emulation of the American ‘neoliberal’ model all representing conflicts among Europe's ruling elites. It took the sudden collapse of Communism in the USSR, the Balkans and the states of East-Central Europe (all widely unforeseen) to reignite pro-integration passions. Despite the obvious confidence boost the end of the ‘Evil Empire’ gave the western half, no amount of good-will could fund reunification efforts (on the part of Germany) and reconstruction efforts (on the part of the soon-to-be-Union as a whole). Even if European voters largely supported the drive towards integration, the process itself was carried out in the interests of capital accumulation. The newly democratised states on the periphery would become highly profitable, relatively risk-free spaces of capital investment. Though a great deal of public funding went in to reconstructing Eastern Europe, the overwhelming tendency was for capital – in the form of factory relocations, foreign direct investment, and enormous financial lending – to seek major profits. Thus, following 1989, the specifically pro-market forces underlying EU integration and expansion were foregrounded.

remainder: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/europe_between_democracy_and_oligarchy

Ukrainians Breathe Sigh of Relief As Diplomatic Efforts Continue Between West & Russia

Professor Nicolai Petro lays out how the Crimea crisis could be resolved, as tension remains between pro-EU groups and Russian supported factions

March 6, 2014


Nicolai N. Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island. During the collapse of the Soviet Union he served as special assistant for policy in the U.S. State Department. He has published widely on Russian and international politics, and is currently in Ukraine on a Fulbright research fellowship. His web site iswww.npetro.net.

The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the Fulbright program or the U.S. Department of State.

Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Following the Russian takeover of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, Western and Russian diplomats are meeting in Paris to discuss how to resolve the political crisis in Ukraine. The European Union has also offered a $15 billion aid package to Ukraine on the condition that it reaches a deal with the International Monetary Fund over austerity measures and domestic gas subsidies.

Now joining us to discuss all this is Nicolai Petro. Nicolai is a professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island, and he has been in Ukraine since July as a visiting scholar and has observed the current crisis firsthand.



Feds Earmark Millions For Disability Housing Assistance

By Shaun Heasley

March 4, 2014

Federal housing officials are putting $120 million on the table to help thousands of people with disabilities access rental assistance.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Tuesday that state housing agencies can apply now through May 5 for a share of the funding that’s intended to help prevent homelessness and unnecessary institutionalization of those with disabilities.

The money is available under HUD’s Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program, an initiative created through a 2010 law designed to expand community-based housing options for people with disabilities.

To participate, state housing agencies must work with local Medicaid and health and human services agencies to identify and assist individuals with disabilities who require long-term services and supports to live independently in the community.


Resolving Nuclear Arms Claims Hinges on Iran’s Demand for Documents

WASHINGTON, Mar 1 2014 (IPS) - The Barack Obama administration has demanded that Iran resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme as a condition for signing a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Administration officials have suggested that Iran must satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the allegations in the agency’s report that it has had a covert nuclear weapons programme in the past.

But the record of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA shows Tehran has been ready for the past two years to provide detailed responses to all the charges of an Iranian nuclear weapons work, and that the problem has been the refusal of the IAEA to share with Iran the documentary evidence on which those allegations have been based.

The real obstacle to providing those documents, however, has long been a U.S. policy of refusing to share the documents on the assumption that Iran must confess to having had a weaponisation programme.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, declared Feb. 12, “The authenticity of each allegation should be proven first, then the person who submitted it to the agency should give us the genuine document. When we are assured of the authenticity, then we can talk to the agency.”


Warning: Saudi mayhem ahead

By Pepe Escobar

Move over, Peter O' Toole. It's Charles of Arabia time. Prince Charles switched to Lawrence mode when he went schmoozing and dancing in Riyadh this past Tuesday with the natives. And just like clockwork, the next day BAE Systems - Europe's number one weapons peddler - announced that the UK and the House of Saud had agreed on "new pricing" for an extremely juicy deal; 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

The Eurofighter is a direct competitor of the spectacularly unsalable French Rafale and the very expensive American F-35s and F-16s. The Associated Press duly included in its dispatch - reproduced by virtually every newspaper around the world - the
Washington-enforced meme "Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are fortifying their military capabilities to counter a perceived threat from regional rivals, particularly Iran." As if Tehran was going to bomb the House of Saud tomorrow.

The Eurofighter, on the other hand, has already been employed against fellow Arabs - as in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's humanitarian bombing of Libya back to failed-state status. It's open to debate whether the House of Saud might be tempted to employ it against the enemy within: aspiring Saudi women drivers.

Brandishing the official excuse that near-nonagenarian King Abdullah was not able to receive him, Charles of Arabia declined to discuss with the House of Saud the absolutely appalling women's rights, migrant workers' rights and for that matter the full human rights situation in the kingdom. Of course not; this is only brought up when demonizing Russia, China and/or Iran.

remainder: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-03-210214.html

Edwin Sutherland: The 75th Anniversary of His Coining The Term White-Collar Crime

By William K. Black


This year is the 75th anniversary of Edwin Sutherland’s presidential address to the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 1939. In the course of beginning to write a book from a white-collar criminological perspective about our modern financial crises I decided to reread Sutherland’s address (which was published as an article in 1940) to see how it stands up in light of modern white-collar criminological research and theory. It reads exceptionally well today. It is not even archaic in tone. Sutherland begins by listing eleven (there were two van Sweringen brothers involved in their scam) examples of the kind of criminals he was referring to.

“The present-day white-collar criminals, who are more suave and deceptive than the ‘robber barons,’ are represented by Krueger, Stavisky, Whitney, Mitchell, Foshay, Insull, the Van Sweringens, Musica-Coster, Fall, Sinclair, and many other merchant princes and captains of finance and industry, and by a host of lesser followers.”

Musica-Coster is hyphenated because he used an alias, as did his brothers, to aid his ability to continue to defraud even after one set of his frauds was discovered. Each of the eleven people listed ran what we now call a “control fraud” (where the person controlling a seemingly legitimate entity uses it as “weapon” to defraud. Ten of the individuals controlled private entities. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was the corrupt public official leading the Tea Pot Dome scandal. I am near Minneapolis this semester (go north for the winter, brilliant idea) and in driving into the city tonight I saw Foshay Tower (the tallest building west of Chicago and east of California when it was built). Wilbur Burton Foshay made Sutherland’s list.

Nine of the eleven fraud schemes involved financial sector frauds. Harry F. Sinclair, who purchased the sweetheart lease to the Tea Pot Dome from Secretary Fall, was engaged in good old fashioned corruption. Sutherland recognized that accounting was what we now call the “weapon of choice” in financial sector frauds.


The Arab Spring is not over

by Jimmy Carter @CarterCenter February 14, 2014

Jimmy Carter writes that the democratic process requires patience and the right forms of assistance

There have been dramatic political upheavals in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and the Carter Center — the nonprofit foundation I head that seeks to promote human rights, democracy and alleviation of suffering worldwide — has been invited to witness the transition process from authoritarianism to democracy in all of them. We still see citizens struggling to improve their lives and shape their own destiny, with sharply different prospects.

Egypt has been least adaptable to change, and is undergoing a reversion to de facto military rule — perhaps even more restrictive than under former President Hosni Mubarak and previous regimes. The Carter Center witnessed reasonably good elections for parliament and president in 2012, when the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated Freedom and Justice Party and its presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, emerged victorious. But Egypt’s high court nullified the parliamentary choices, and instead of requiring a new election when Morsi proved unable to govern under these circumstances, there was a military takeover with the apparent approval of a public whose first priority was stability.

Dissent was severely restricted for citizens and journalists during last month’s approval of the new constitution, which limits the scope of Islamic law and provides for more gender equality and personal freedom, but gives the military ultimate authority. Seemingly immune from constitutional restrictions, the generals of Egypt’s armed forces control their own budget, select the defense minister and retain the right to conduct trials of civilians in military tribunals. The Interior Ministry and judiciary are also granted extraordinary privileges.

Our role in Libya has been to observe the post-Kaddafi election in July 2012 and prospectively to witness the election this month of delegates who will draft a new constitution. The interim government, expected to function until the end of this year, is weak and unable to administer all regions of the country, especially areas in the east and the southern desert that are controlled by militia factions. This threatens national stability and the oil revenues that fund the state. The delegates will be divided among the country’s three regions, giving exceptional weight to the underpopulated and historically alienated regions — equivalent to advantages that America’s founders gave smaller states in the U.S. Senate and Electoral College, which we have learned to accommodate.


Report Prompts Renewed Push To Limit Restraint, Seclusion

By Michelle Diament

to Senator Harkin, I so do not want him to retire.

February 13, 2014

Widespread use of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s schools is putting kids with disabilities at risk and current laws offer families little recourse, a U.S. Senate investigation finds.

A 54-page report from the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unveiled Wednesday documents 10 cases where students have experienced restraint or seclusion at school. Among them are the story of a 12-year-old Florida boy with developmental disabilities who was restrained 89 times in 14 months without his parents’ knowledge and the case of a 14-year-old in Georgia who committed suicide after being repeatedly secluded at school.

The findings were issued as Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced plans to introduce federal legislation to limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, practices which data suggest are most frequently used on students with disabilities.

Currently, Harkin said that there are laws to protect individuals in jails and hospitals but there are no nationwide standards for schools.


( Updated ) Mom creates birthday Facebook page after son says he has no friends

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 11, 2014 (KALAMAZOO, Mich.) (WLS) -- Ten-year-old Colin, of Kalamazoo, Mich., told his mom not to throw him a birthday party because he has no friends.

Colin, who suffers from Asperger's, told his mom there would be no point in throwing a birthday party because all of the kids at school "don't like me" and "make fun of me."

That's when Colin's mom came up with a special surprise. She created a Facebook page called "Happy Birthday Colin" where people can leave birthday messages for Colin, and it's getting lots of attention.

Leave a birthday wish on Colin's page

"I am Colin's mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th," she wrote February 2. "Because of Colin's disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don't like him... He eats lunch alone in the office everyday because no one will let him sit with them.

"So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day," Mom wrote.

The page has 81,389 likes so far. Colin's mom said she's hoping to keep it a secret until March 9. But he's already heard chatter at school about being on the news.


Misread Telexes Led Analysts to See Iran Nuclear Arms Programme

Analysis by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, Feb 5 2014 (IPS) - When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

The supposed evidence of military efforts to procure uranium enrichment equipment shown in the telexes was also the main premise of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme from 2003 through 2007.

But the interpretation of the intercepted telexes on which later assessments were based turned out to have been a fundamental error. The analysts, eager to find evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, had wrongly assumed that the combination of interest in technologies that could be used in a nuclear programme and the apparent role of a military-related institution meant that the military was behind the procurement requests.

The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Credit: public domain.
In 2007-08, Iran provided hard evidence that the technologies had actually been sought by university teachers and researchers.

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