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Member since: Tue Feb 9, 2010, 11:51 PM
Number of posts: 2,936

About Me

Long time reader on DU and liberal/progressive. Up until recently I have not posted a lot. But I am very concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the people there. Liberals need to understand what is really happening, because Ukrainians are in a very dangerous situation and the geopolitical thing (US/Russia) is actually distracting from the realities that Ukrainians are facing on the ground there. So I have been posting a fair amount about that situation.

Journal Archives

Obama, Putin: Checkmate

October 1, 2015
Obama, Putin: Checkmate

(Story at counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/01/obama-putin-checkmate/)

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s message at the UN General Assembly was stark; either sovereign states get together in a broad coalition against all forms of terror, and the principle of statehood is respected as enshrined in the UN charter – or there will be chaos.

This UN General Assembly revealed that the Obama administration’s perpetual newspeak does not cut it anymore. A review of UN speeches by both Putin and Obama is almost painful to watch. Putin acted like a serious global statesman. Obama acted like a poseur flunking a screen test.

Putin’s key talking points could not but be easily accessible to the Global South – his prime audience, much more than the industrialized West.

1) The export of color – or monochromatic – revolutions is doomed.

2) The alternative to the primacy of statehood is chaos. This implies that the Assad system in Syria may be immensely problematic, but it’s the only game in town. The alternative is ISIS/ISIL/Daesh barbarism. There’s no credible “moderate opposition” – as there was not in NATO-“liberated” Libya.

3) Only the UN – as flawed as it may be – is a guarantor of peace and security in our imperfect, realpolitik geopolitical environment.

Gotta slay those myths


Neoliberals With Chainsaws: Rampant Deforestation in Peru and the Future of the Amazon

Neoliberals With Chainsaws: Rampant Deforestation in Peru and the Future of the Amazon


Since the election of President Ollanta Humala in Peru in 2011 priority has been given to neoliberal policies, free trade agreements, integration into the Pacific market through the Pacific Alliance (with Mexico, Colombia and Chile), and the intent to increase exports in order to promote wealth in the country. It appears, if one takes a look at macroeconomic indicators, that the economic situation in Peru is going very well: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased 25 percent since 2010 with a growth rate around 6 percent in the past 5 years, the country debt has decreased from 25 percent of the GDP to 20 percent, and inflation remains impressively low at about 3 percent.

While the economy is on the rise, Peru´s economic model is based on a certain abundance of natural resources. The main exports of Peru are primary products due to excessive mining and deforestation leading to many problems for local populations and Indigenous People. Gold represents around 20 percent of the country’s exports, copper ore around 18 percent, the refined petroleum nearly 7 percent while lead and refined copper account for 4.2 percent each, which means that more than half of Peruvian exports are based on extraction of resources. This economic model, based on primary resources, is now at its limits because of new global economic turmoil. The demand for commodities will decrease and competition will intensify among countries that export their resources with the decline for European markets and the difficulties of the Chinese to shift from an export-driven economy to one based on internal consumption. If this pessimistic forecast holds, decreasing commodity prices and increasing production due to competition will result in an environmental catastrophe.

Deforestation and economic development

Economic growth has been set as the most important goal of the Peruvian government under President Ollanta Humalla and is a priority that Peru wants to achieve at all costs. As stated by Mary Menton from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), an international center of investigation that conducts research on the use and management of forests in less-developed countries, “much of this growth is happening — and is likely to keep on happening — at the expense of the Peruvian Amazon.”


Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight

Source: New York Times

Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection.

The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“What is it that they are doing differently that has led to this dramatic increase?” said Dr. Judith Aberg, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She said the price increase could force hospitals to use “alternative therapies that may not have the same efficacy.”

Turing’s price increase is not an isolated example. While most of the attention on pharmaceutical prices has been on new drugs for diseases like cancer, hepatitis C and high cholesterol, there is also growing concern about huge price increases on older drugs, some of them generic, that have long been mainstays of treatment.

Although some price increases have been caused by shortages, others have resulted from a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-priced “specialty drugs.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/business/a-huge-overnight-increase-in-a-drugs-price-raises-protests.html

This Drug has been in use since 1953.

Pharma firm hikes life-saving drug price by 5,500%

The medical community is outraged by a 5,500 percent price hike for Daraprim, after a big NY-based pharmaceutical company purchased the patent for it. The drug has been on the market for over 60 years, and can be essential to certain AIDS and cancer treatments.

The New York-based Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill in just over a month after buying the rights for the drug from Impax Laboratories.

The drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis, the second most common food-borne disease that affects patients suffering from AIDS and cancer. It has been produced since 1953 and is on the WHO List of Essential Medicines. But now medical associations are beating their drums about the sudden price hike and potential affordability of Daraprim as a treatment.


Ukraine bans 41 international journalists and bloggers

Ukraine bans 41 international journalists and bloggers
Committee to protect Journalists


New York, September 16, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores a decree signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today which, according to a copy viewed by CPJ, bans at least 41 international journalists and bloggers from Ukraine for one year. The journalists and bloggers were among 388 people named as representing an "actual or potential threat to national interests, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," according to news reports.

"We are dismayed by President Poroshenko's actions, including a ban on dozens of international media covering Ukraine," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "While the government may not like or agree with the coverage, labeling journalists a potential threat to national security is not an appropriate response. In fact, this sweeping decree undermines Ukraine's interests by blocking vital news and information that informs the global public about the country's political crisis."

The 34 journalists and seven bloggers named in the ban come from Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The decree, which was published on the presidential website, does not explain what press coverage Ukrainian authorities deem as a threat to national security. Three BBC journalists including Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg were banned. In a statement, Andrew Roy, foreign editor of the BBC, called the ban "a shameful attack on media freedom," and described it as an "inexplicable measure to take against BBC journalists who are reporting the situation in Ukraine impartially and objectively," The Guardian reported.

The vengeful god of Kim Davis: The powerful forces we ignore when we fixate on one Kentucky clerk

The vengeful god of Kim Davis: The powerful forces we ignore when we fixate on one Kentucky clerk

The temptation to lock onto the story of Kim Davis risks ignoring the manipulative figures behind the scenes

Brittney Cooper


I used to be a conservative evangelical Christian. As a teenager, I was obsessed with remaining a virgin until marriage, appalled at the choices of a couple of my friends who needed to terminate teen pregnancies, and obsessed with my “sins” and everyone else’s. So I understand the thinking that informs the asinine and misguided show of (un)righteous indignation that is Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The God of (white) evangelical Christianity is obsessed with the policing of sex –in particular, who has it, how they have it, in what context, and with whom. Though some “good” evangelicals try to reframe these clearly hypocritical rankings of “sin” by insisting that God hates all sin, the truth is that most evangelicals believe that God is primarily appalled by non-normative sexual appetites. More specifically, God hates gay sex, though God may love gay people. God loves heterosexual marriage though, and because of this, God will continue to forgive you for numerous divorces and remarriages, as long as you ultimately end up in a good Christian, straight marriage. Or you stay celibate. Those are your only options.

For many people, this level of moral regulation sounds downright bizarre, not to mention damn near impossible to achieve. And if you are anything like me, such unholy and retrograde thinking causes you to have a complicated relationship to the church, or to reject it altogether.

Such belief systems are driven by fear – fear of God’s wrath, fear of the end of days, fear of divine retribution.

But here’s the thing. There are our moral quibbles with Kim Davis’ belief system and then there are our legal quibbles with it. I have both. Fear (and misguided thinking) can cause one to believe that upholding a person’s basic civil rights amounts to a condoning of their choices. But these moral panics only happen around issues of sexual regulation. We are society that believes that even mass murderers deserve defense attorneys. We do not equate the providing of legal representation with the condoning of crime. It is about the basic protection of rights. The idea that those who issue marriage licenses must agree with the romantic choices of those getting married is patently absurd. There are clear distinctions to be made about marriage as a civil institution, which is open to all, and marriage as a religious institution, which is regulated by individual churches and religious traditions.


SALON-Outright lies from the New York Times: What you need to know about the dangerous new phase ..

Outright lies from the New York Times: What you need to know about the dangerous new phase in the Ukraine crisis

While establishment media toe Washington's line, violence and instability have shaken the Ukraine this week
Patrick L. Smith
SALON Magazine


The slightly fetid “phony war” in Ukraine—the unsettling stagnation noted in this space a month ago—is emphatically over. Suddenly there is movement on several fronts, and some of it is promising. But this is a dangerous moment, too, chiefly because Washington’s bet on the post-coup government in Kiev, bad from the outset, is on the brink of producing a result so ugly and shameful its consequences all around cannot now be calculated.

I refer to the very real potential, as of Monday, for a coup mounted by violence-adoring ultra-rightists—those neo-Nazis airbrushed out of the news coverage even as they now maraud through the Ukrainian capital almost with impunity. “The far right won’t make a full move on the Poroshenko government now,” a Ukrainian émigré said on the telephone Tuesday. “I think it’ll be a couple of months before we see that.”

Comforting, isn’t it?

In effect, we will now watch a race between those attempting to forge a negotiated settlement in Ukraine—and the prospects for this look good once again—and the collapse of the Kiev government precisely because the European powers are now forcing it to accept such a settlement. You tell me who is going to break the tape.

Before I go any further, there is an aspect of this new phase in the Ukraine crisis that needs to be noted right away. The narrative advanced over the past 18 months by most Western media—and all corporate American media, without exception—is coming unglued before our eyes. This is going to make it even more difficult than heretofore to understand events by way of our newspapers and broadcasters.

Already we see the kind of contorted reporting always deployed when our media have to cover their tracks after long periods of corrupt, untruthful work. Per usual, the most consequential offenses occur in the government-supervised New York Times.

Continued here:

Europe’s New Barbarians

Europe’s New Barbarians

by Conn Hallinan


On one level, the recent financial agreement between the European Union (EU) and Greece makes no sense: not a single major economist thinks the $96 billion loan will allow Athens to repay its debts, or to get the economy moving anywhere but downwards. It is what former Greek Economic Minister Yanis Varoufakis called a “suicide” pact, with a strong emphasis on humiliating the leftwing Syriza government.

Why construct a pact that everyone knows will fail?

On the Left, the interpretation is that the agreement is a conscious act of vengeance by the “Troika”—the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund—to punish Greece for daring to challenge the austerity program that has devastated the economy and impoverished its people. The evidence for this explanation is certainly persuasive. The more the Greeks tried to negotiate a compromise with the EU, the worse the deal got. The final agreement was the most punitive of all. The message was clear: rattle the gates of Heaven at your own peril.

It was certainly a grim warning to other countries with strong anti-austerity movements, in particular Portugal, Spain and Ireland.

But austerity as an economic strategy is about more than just throwing a scare into countries that, exhausted by years of cutbacks and high unemployment, are thinking of changing course. It is also about laying the groundwork for the triumph of multinational corporate capitalism and undermining the social contract between labor and capital that has characterized much of Europe for the past two generations.

It is a new kind of barbarism, one that sacks countries with fine print.

Take Greece’s pharmacy law that the Troika has targeted for elimination in the name of “reform.” Current rules require that drug stores be owned by a pharmacist, who can’t own more than one establishment, that over the counter drugs can only be sold in drug stores, and that the price of medicines be capped. Similar laws exist in Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, Cyprus, Austria and Bulgaria, and were successfully defended before the European Court of Justice in 2009.



Mikhail Gorbachev: US Military an 'Insurmountable Obstacle to a Nuclear-Free World'



Mikhail Gorbachev: US Military an 'Insurmountable Obstacle to a Nuclear-Free World'

Interview Conducted by Joachim Mohr and Matthias Schepp

In a SPIEGEL interview, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discusses morals and politics in the nuclear age, the crisis in Russian-American relations and his fear that an atomic weapon will some day be used.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe there is a danger of nuclear war?

Gorbachev: I'm very worried. The current state of things is scary. The nuclear powers still have thousands of nuclear warheads. Nuclear weapons are still stationed in Europe. The pace of reducing stockpiles has slowed considerably. We are witnessing the beginning of a new arms race. The militarization of space is a real danger. The danger of nuclear proliferation is greater than ever before. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force, primarily because the Americans did not ratify it. This would have been extremely important.

SPIEGEL: Mikhail Sergeyevich, during your inaugural speech as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985, you warned of nuclear war and called for the "complete destruction of nuclear weapons and a permanent ban on them." Did you mean that seriously?

Gorbachev: The discussion about disarmament had already been going on for too long -- far too long. I wanted to finally see words followed by action because the arms race was not only continuing, it was growing ever more dangerous in terms of the number of weapons and their destructive capacity. There were tens of thousands of nuclear warheads on different delivery systems like aircraft, missiles and submarines.

SPIEGEL: Did you feel the Soviet Union was under threat during the 1980s by the nuclear weapons of NATO member states?

Gorbachev: The situation was that nuclear missiles were being stationed closer and closer to our adversary's borders. They were getting increasingly precise and they were also being aimed at decision-making centers. There were very concrete plans for the use of these weapons. Nuclear war had become conceivable. And even a technical error could have caused it to happen. At the same time, disarmament talks were not getting anywhere. In Geneva, diplomats pored over mountains of paper, drank wine, and even harder stuff, by the liter. And it was all for nothing.

SPIEGEL: At a meeting of the Warsaw Pact nations in 1986, you declared that the military doctrine of the Soviet Union was no longer to plan for the coming war, but rather to seek to prevent military confrontation with the West. What was the reason behind the shift in strategy?

Gorbachev: It was clear to me that relations with America and the West would be a lasting dead end without atomic disarmament, with mutual distrust and growing hostility. That is why nuclear disarmament was the highest priority for Soviet foreign policy.

SPIEGEL: Did you not also push disarmament forward because of the financial and economic troubles facing the Soviet Union in the 1980s?

Full Interview:


US Propaganda on Crimea Misleading, But 'Understandably' So - French MP

US Propaganda on Crimea Misleading, But 'Understandably' So - French MP

According to French senator Yves Pozzo di Borgo, who visited Crimea together with a group of ten French legislators, US propaganda over Crimea is understandable even though it does not reflect the peninsula's realities.

French parliament member Jerome Lambert, who visited Crimea together with a group of ten French legislators, told Sputnik that the visit showed that US propaganda over Crimea is understandable even though it does not reflect realities on the peninsula.

"The US is trying to deploy in Europe and counteract Russia. The American point of view is understandable. And when there is an understanding of this, there are explanations to American propaganda, the propaganda of some US allies in Europe," Jerome Lambert said.

The French lawmakers, led by lower-house National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee member Thierry Mariani, said they came to Crimea to get a real sense of what is really going on in the Black Sea peninsula. During the July 23-24 trip, the parliamentarians visited Crimea, where they met with government officials.

Full story:

The Financial Attack on Greece: Where Do We Go From Here?

The Financial Attack on Greece: Where Do We Go From Here?


The major financial problem tearing economies apart over the past century has stemmed more from official inter-governmental debt than with private-sector debt. That is why the global economy today faces a similar breakdown to the Depression years of 1929-31, when it became apparent that the volume of official inter-government debts could not be paid. The Versailles Treaty had imposed impossibly high reparations demands on Germany, and the United States imposed equally destructive requirements on the Allies to use their reparations receipts to pay back World War I arms debts to the U.S. Government.

Legal procedures are well established to cope with corporate and personal bankruptcy. Courts write down personal and business debts either under “debtor in control” procedures or foreclosure, and creditors take a loss on loans that go bad. Personal bankruptcy permits individuals to make a fresh start with a Clean Slate.

It is much harder to write down debts owed to or guaranteed by governments. U.S. student loan debt cannot be written off, but remains a lingering burden to prevent graduates from earning enough take-home pay (after debt service and FICA Social Security tax withholding is taken out of their paychecks) to get married, start families and buy homes of their own. Only the banks get bailed out, now that they have become in effect the economy’s central planners.

Most of all, there is no legal framework for writing down debts owed to the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), or to European and American creditor governments. Since the 1960s entire nations have been subjected to austerity and economic shrinkage that makes it less and less possible to extricate themselves from debt. Governments are unforgiving, and the IMF and ECB act on behalf of banks and bondholders – and are ideologically captured by anti-labor, anti-government financial warriors.

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