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pampango

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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,686

Journal Archives

AI: ‘Keep up international pressure against abuses in Syria’

Global pressure must be applied to all parties in the Syrian conflict to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law, Amnesty International said as the League of Arab States gathered in Qatar for a summit and BRICS nations met at a separate event in South Africa.

“The opposition must not waver - it has both a duty and an opportunity to denounce abuses carried out by armed opposition groups and stand in line with international humanitarian law - paying lip service to it is not enough” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.

While it is clear that the vast majority of war crimes and other gross violations continue to be committed by government forces, Amnesty International’s research points to an escalation in abuses by armed opposition groups, which have increasingly resorted to hostage taking and to the torture and summary killing of soldiers, pro-government militias and civilians.

In a recent briefing, Summary Killings and other abuses by armed opposition groups, the organization documented dozens of such cases. Amnesty International has most recently documented violations by Syrian security forces and pro-government militias in the briefing, Government bombs rain on civilians, in a long line of reports highlighting targeting of civilians, arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other abuses since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/keep-international-pressure-against-abuses-syria-2013-03-26

Financial advisers to the legions of wealthy foreigners with bank accounts in Cyprus

are under orders to withdraw their funds any way they can.

Professionals who have built livelihoods out of the country's offshore banking boom predicted that whatever the outcome of last-ditch rescue talks in Brussels, the Cypriot economic model is broken.

"Ninety-nine per cent of my clients are saying 'find a way to get my money out', in any way," said Petros Valko, a financial consultant who manages funds worth about €100m. "No matter what [the government] does now, the Cypriot economy is over. Trust is our main commodity, and it's gone."

"The damage is done," said Demos Antoniou, CEO of Compass, a Limassol-based consultancy with a roster of foreign clients. "Now we have to see what we can save, work hard for the next few years and try to reverse this situation." He said the proposal of a deposit levy had caused serious damage to the island's reputation. "From the day they announced the possibility of a haircut, that was it," he said. However, the government could still find a way to lure foreign investors. He said: "They need to give them incentives to make them stay here. Yes, we need the Russians – but they also need us. In what other European country can they get a 10% tax rate, 0% tax on profit, plus interest on deposits. They need more incentives now. The government doesn't have a plan for this – that's the problem."

Wealthy foreign investors, mainly Russians, have flocked to Cyprus to take advantage of its low taxes and lack of scrutiny over the origin of funds. The crisis has thrown up accusations that Russians were able to launder huge amounts of money through transactions based on the island.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/24/cyprus-economic-model-broken-advisers

Krugman has referred to this as Iceland II. Iceland's banking sector was even bigger compared to the rest of its economy than is that of Cyprus. It was able to bounce back after cutting back the role of its banks. Hopefully, Cyprus can come back with a more balanced economy just as Iceland has.

UK Guardian: Why UKIP, the Tea Party and Beppe Grillo pose a threat to the mainstream

These populists are asking the right questions, but they don't have the answers. Mainstream parties must revitalise and respond

The rise of populism across western Europe and the US – especially in its radical right form – poses more fundamental questions for democrats than has been acknowledged. Whether we are talking about UKIP, Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement or the Tea Party, populists of all kinds are exposing old and hidden fault lines in democracy, and mainstream democrats need a greater alertness to the nature of the threat.

Populists pose a basic question: why is democracy not run as the true expression of a morally pure "will of the people" against a self-serving and corrupt political, bureaucratic, plutocratic or legal elite? This is a forceful question as old as democracy itself and it reveals what has become liberal democracy's unspoken compromise – democracy is bounded by institutions, laws and constitutional limits. It is democracy through pluralism and compromise; "minorities rule" as the American democratic theorist, Robert Dahl, described it.

Mainstream democrats take their cue from American republican democracy with its checks and balances and self-restraint. This is an impediment to the true democracy for populists. They wish to sweep away any barrier to their desired ends – whether of the left or the right.

So the Tea Party proposes a radical reduction of the role of the federal government in the US political system. The FPÖ challenged the authority of Austrian courts with respect to upholding minority rights. UKIP demands a UK withdrawal from the EU. The Front National drives an anti-Islamic and anti-Gypsy agenda in France. Geert Wilders' PVV – following in the footsteps of Pim Fortuyn – also confronts fears over the growth of Islam and its purported incompatibility with Dutch values. Viktor Orbán's Fidesz rewrote the Hungarian constitution to give the executive more authority over the courts and to safeguard "traditional family values".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/24/ukip-tea-party-beppe-grillo-threat

It is human nature that people do not like living under repressive kings/dictators.

I wouldn't like it. You wouldn't like. 'They' don't like it. The French didn't like it in the 1780's. The Russians didn't like it in 1917. Not surprisingly - Arabs being people too - they don't like it either.

Usually there is little that anyone can do about one's government - particularly so if a government uses the military, police and security services to maintain control of society and preserve their rule. Just because people are not constantly demonstrating or actively rebelling (resulting in being jailed, tortured and killed) against a repressive government does not mean that they are happy about their situation.

I'm sure the French king, the Russian tsar and every other king/dictator, when faced with a revolution, thought "Where did this come from? The peasants all seemed to be happy last year. Who's causing this unrest? Must be some foreigner! My people love me."

If, hypothetically, Obama had come up with a strategy to replace Mubarak and Assad with fundamentalist Islamic governments then the tea partiers would congratulate themselves. He would have proven that he is a Muslim fundamentalist bent on installing Sharia law in the US. Their train of thought (if you can give them this much credit):

Obama started the Arab Spring in Tunisia rather than in Egypt or Syria, because he wanted to try it out in a small country that has nothing that we are really interested in. He saw how well it worked in Tunisia - how easy it is to fool people that their lives will be better without a dictator; they still believe that 'human dignity' stuff just like the French and Russians did long ago!

Having seen how well the Arab Spring game worked in Tunisia, Obama then took his show on the road to Libya, Egypt then Syria because he hates 'secular' dictators (even those that have done the US' bidding for decades) and really wants fundamentalist dictators. It worked in Egypt when the US-supported military largely refused to shoot civilians in large numbers; it worked in Libya when the military did shoot back, but NATO bombed them; it may or may not work in Syria where the military shot back and no one bombed them.

Once a fundamentalist dictator is safely installed in Syria, Obama will go after Jordan, Algeria, Morocco and every other 'secular' government. Once that is accomplished Obama will have to decide whether to go after Europe first (where the far-right already worries that Muslim influence is ruining the continent) or go straight for Sharia law in the US and an Obama socialist/Islamic dictatorship).

End of tea party 'train of thought'.

We have come to expect that kind of lunatic 'thought' from the far-right in the US.

I suspect most on the left who have qualms about what is happening in the Arab Spring prefer secular dictators to unpredictable democratic governments that have to deal with the frustrations and contradictions created by decades of repressive rule. Muslim fundamentalists were often the only even semi-effective opposition to entrenched dictators, so when the dictators were removed they got much credit. Secular dictators may have been able to enforce some decent policies but, since they ruled through repression, their policies were discredited and created a backlash that surfaced when society opens up.

Just as the French and Russian revolutions did not 'succeed' in creating stable, progressive governments in the short run, Arab democracies have struggled. One can only hope that things improve over time and that the backlashes, frustrations and contradictions created by repressive rule will be replaced with progress as people learn to deal with their societies' problems.

We don't have to wall of the world's poor in order to have a strong middle class.

Every other developed country trades more than the US yet has a stronger middle class. The reason: they have more progressive taxes, strong unions and stronger middle classes.

Waving the $2/day foreign worker bogeyman as the cause of our economic problems is using semi-logic like republicans do when they argue that raising the minimum wage will increase unemployment - "When you raise the price of something, you get less of it." It sounds logical except that real-world experience shows that raising the minimum wage actually increases employment for a variety of reasons.

Similarly progressive countries are not afraid of that scary $2/day worker from "Dark Africa". In fact the EU has one-way free trade with the poorest countries in the world so that they can export their products to Europe without import tariffs. In spite of (because of?) this Europe has the best distribution of income in the world and much stronger unions and middle class than the US has. They seem to know that the African worker is not their enemy.

Europeans tax themselves heavily and progressively, support strong unions and safety net and trade with the rest of the world much more than we do. Too many Americans seem to prefer low/regressive taxes, weak unions and a shredded safety net, then blame our problems on African workers. With low/regressive taxes, weak unions and a shredded safety net we could eliminate every import from every poor country in the world (kind of a walled-off society) and we would still have the same problems.

republicans raised tariffs in 1921 and 1924 which dramatically reduce trade, and guess what happened? By 1929 we had the worst inequality of income that we had ever had in the US - not surpassed until the 'bush tax cuts' destroyed any progressivity in our tax system. Tariffs don't make a strong middle class. If we ignore history and evidence of what works, we mimic what republicans like to do - appeal to emotion and use semi-logic to scare people.

Great news! In the West the health of the middle class is more a function of income distribution

and how equitable/inequitable it is. For instance per capita income in the US is $49,600. With an equitable distribution of income we would have a strong middle class and little poverty. In that scenario few would complain that 'the global south' is catching up to something approaching our level of prosperity.

Instead we have by far the most inequitable income distribution of any developed country - thanks largely to our own regressive tax system and weak labor laws - which motivates some to view the improvement of life in the 'global south' with some envy and a sense that 'your prosperity is coming at our expense'.

This is great news. 95% of the world's population lives outside the US. I am sure that we all wish them the best. Here at home, we need to make our tax system more progressive, strengthen our labor laws and make many other changes so that our middle class can prosper as it does in other developed countries.

A Pew poll taken in January supports what you are saying, particularly about 'compromising'.



http://www.people-press.org/2013/01/17/section-2-views-of-congress-and-the-parties/

The most resistant to compromise were conservative republicans and those who agree with the tea party. The most open to compromise were liberal Democrats and 'lean Democratic' independents.

Liberal Democrats were also more open to compromise than conservative Democrats which seems strange on the face of it. You would think that conservative Democrats would be more willing to compromise. In terms of policy beliefs they are closer to their 'conservative' buddies in the republican party.

Liberal Democrats must be more open to compromise for reasons other than policy positions since they are farther from republican policy choices than anyone else. Their willingness to compromise must be due to the fact that they are more open and tolerant of opposing views which is what you might expect from a group that values diversity and does not expect everyone to agree with them.

Pew: Tea Partyers are more likely than all other Americans to support reductions in foreign aid and

the budget of the State Department (but not the Defense Department)

Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are more likely than all other Americans to support reductions in foreign aid and the budget of the U.S. State Department. But they are less likely to back trimming military spending and anti-terrorism efforts. This may be because Tea Party sympathizers are generally more hawkish than their fellow countrymen.

About three-quarters of Americans believe that Washington should reduce the government’s budget deficit through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with the greater share coming from belt tightening, according to a mid-February Pew Research Center survey. But 57 percent of Tea Party leaning Republicans think all deficit reduction should come from spending cuts.

In particular, Tea Party sympathizers would like to see a cut back in aspects of American soft power. More than eight-in-ten would decrease aid to the world’s needy, compared with 43 percent of all other Americans who support such economizing. And 41 percent of Tea Party adherents would reduce the State Department’s budget.

But U.S. hard power continues to receive Tea Partyers’ backing. Only 15 percent want to cut the Pentagon’s budget (compared with 27 percent of all other Americans who favor such action) and just 13 percent support reducing spending on anti-terrorism defenses.

http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/03/04/will-budget-cuts-isolationism/

Kind of confirms what we already knew. Tea partiers don't exactly try to keep their sentiments a secret.

Krugman: The EU is "one of the best things to have happened to humanity over the past century".

... one of the truly awful things about the Bush years was the deliberate conflation of the person sitting in the White House with the nation. If you criticized Bush, you were anti-American; if you denounced the Iraq war, you were attacking the troops.

So, look at what the Brussels tweeters are saying — namely, that an attack on the wrongheaded economic doctrine of Olli Rehn (European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs) is an attack on Europe, that anyone who criticizes the hash they are making of policy must be an American who hates Europe. Um, no.

As it happens, I’m very much pro-European; I consider the European project, the path of peace through prosperity and integration, one of the best things to have happened to humanity over the past century. I’ve seen the good work Europe has done in promoting democracy.

My problem isn’t with Europe, it’s with the bad policies that are ripping Europe apart, and with the officials who for whatever reason — intellectual inflexibility, ideological blinders, or, I suspect, sheer personal vanity, an unwillingness to admit that they were wrong — have refused to consider any modification of these policies despite years of disastrous results. And the attempt of these officials to wrap themselves in the mantle of European unity is truly contemptible.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/bushifying-the-berlaymont/

I had always figured that Krugman was pro-EU, just anti-austerity believing that is both extremely bad economic policy and damaging to the idea of a "prosperous and integrated" Europe. This is the clearest statement of it that I have come across.

More evidence I guess for right wingers that Krugman is a socialist at heart.

UK Spreme Court may force government to follow EU pollution law

UK may be on verge of new pollution law, with case regarding obligations to EU being heard by lords on Thursday

The supreme court could force the government to take steps to urgently reduce dangerous air pollution in many British cities to meet European limits, following a landmark hearing this week.

ClientEarth, a group of campaigning lawyers that has brought the case, will say that the government has a legal duty to comply with EU timescales and its plans to reduce pollution are woefully inadequate.

It will say that the government has known that air pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates now kill as many people each year in Britain as obesity and road accidents combined. The EU legislation was passed into European law in 1999 and Britain should have complied by 2010. However, it has refused even to apply for an extension until January 2015.

Government lawyers are expected to argue that Britain is under no legal obligation to meet air pollution time limits set by Brussels and that it is impossible to meet the targets.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/07/supreme-court-air-pollution-legislation

Interesting case pitting the 'national sovereignty right' not to comply with regulations passed by international organization to which the country voluntarily joined versus the international organization's ability to force countries to comply with regulations that the body has adopted.

In this case the court is a British one, not an international one. It will be interesting to see how the court rules. While this case revolves around the UK's responsibility to comply with pollution laws adopted by the EU, the principle could be applied to other areas as well.
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