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Gender: Male
Hometown: Connecticut
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Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Journal Archives

TPP a Trojan horse

September 27, 2013

By Sachie Mizohata and the Association of University Faculties

(See petition against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement here in English and or here in Japanese.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is a proposed trade pact that Japan is negotiating with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam (as of September 2013). The TPP aims to increase the liberalization of economies in the Pacific region through abolition of tariffs on trade as well as reregulation. [1]

In 2008, the United States joined the talks "and has espoused a hard core complete free trade policy", which has vastly expanded the scope of the negotiations. [2] With both the US and Japan as participants, the pact would cover nearly 40% of the world's economy. [3] Japan officially joined one of final rounds of the negotiations in July 2013 in Malaysia, as the participating countries intend to finalize the TPP negotiations (at least partially) by the end of 2013. [4]

The TPP agreement affects not only trade issues, but also non-trade matters that immensely impact lives of citizens in all participating countries. [5] The areas at stake include, for example:

Domestic court decisions and international legal standards (eg, overriding domestic laws on both trade and non-trade matters, foreign investors' right to sue governments in international tribunals that would overrule the national sovereignty);

in full:http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/JAP-02-270913.html

Obama-Rouhani: lights, camera, action

By Pepe Escobar

The stage is set. By now it's established Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has given full authority to the new administration of President Hassan Rouhani to talk directly to Washington about Iran's nuclear program.

This happened only a few days after US President Barack Obama leaked that letters had been exchanged between himself and Rouhani.

Rouhani's empowerment was first confirmed later last week by extremely credible former nuclear negotiator ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian in this op-ed published in Japan. Mousavian was Rouhani's deputy in Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) from 1997 to 2005. Then Rouhani himself expanded on it this Wednesday in an interview with NBC.

It's crucial to consider the Supreme Leader's exact position. This past Tuesday, he addressed the elite of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran. [1] The key quote: "We don't accept nuclear weapons, not for the sake of the US or others, but
because of our beliefs, and when we say that no one should have nuclear weapons, certainly we are not after them either."

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-190913.html

What Does Opposition to War in Syria Tell Us About the State of International Law?

September 16, 2013

The roller coaster of international debate over Syria in the past three weeks seems to have come to a stop as the framework of an agreement has been reached to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program and the United States has moved back from the brink of war. For those who celebrate the rule of international law, this may be a welcome turn, but it is too soon to breathe easy because, like any roller coaster, the ride might be gearing up for another go-around; it is still not clear that a unilateral military intervention is off the table. Beyond that, for much of the American public, anyway, the prospect of a U.S. strike is unappealing not necessarily because of its illegality, but rather because of its punitive and open-ended nature. Nonetheless, proponents of international law may find some hope in the prevailing American attitude toward war. The last ten years may not have convinced the United States of the validity of the international rules on the use of force, but they have made much of the world warier of using military force for political aims.

Is Military Intervention Still on the Table?

The weapons deal reached last week calls for Syria to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and demands the removal and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons materials in the first half of 2014. The agreement is to be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that, according to reports, will threaten sanctions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter if Syria fails to comply. Does this mean that a violation by Syria will result in military intervention? Not necessarily. Chapter VII covers the Security Council’s powers with respect to a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.”

Colloquially, “Chapter VII” is used to denote that the Security Council means business, and many contrast this with Chapter VI, which covers “pacific settlement of disputes.” But it is important to note that the coercive measures contemplated under Chapter VII include not only the use of armed force, but also economic sanctions and severance of diplomatic relations—coercive measures, yes, but far from martial in nature. Thus, in its 2011 resolution imposing an arms embargo against Libya and ordering an assets freeze and travel ban against Libyan officials, along with a referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, the Security Council was likewise acting under Chapter VII—but military intervention was not addressed until a separate resolution weeks later.

With these other Chapter VII options on the table, U.N. authorization of military intervention in Syria appears even less likely. And Russia’s clear stance against the use of force, combined with their permanent member status and veto, might all but seal the case against Security Council action to intervene militarily. Accordingly, there is a distinct possibility that Syria will end up in violation of the recent agreement, but at the center of a new stalemate regarding the consequences. While some have likened the current situation to that in Iraq ten years ago, it is at this point that the similarities would become much more concrete.

- See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/09/16/what-does-opposition-to-war-in-syria-tell-us-about-the-state-of-international-law#sthash.zblHnMhG.dpuf

Larry Summers’ Take on Efficient Markets and Regulators: Brilliance v. Idiots

By William K. Black

Perhaps the only useful thing to come out of the Obama administration’s inept contest between Larry Summers and Janet Yellen as Ben Bernanke’s successor is the purported agreement among economists and other policy makers that the Fed Chair should make the introduction of effective regulation and supervision by the Federal Reserve a top priority. It would be even better if this agreement were real and would be sustained. Regulation and supervision have never risen above tertiary concerns at the Fed and every institutional pressure will push the new Fed Chair to ignore supervision.

Here is the preliminary reality test that any candidate to run the Fed should be asked: Do you agree that it is an untenable conflict of interest for examiners and supervisors to be employees of the regional Federal Reserve Banks, which are owned and controlled by the banks that the regional banks examine and supervise? Note that our Nation has already reached a policy decision that this type of conflict is untenable, which is why we ended the analogous role of the Federal Home Loan Banks as the employers of the examiners and supervisors. The long-time former head of Fed supervision told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that the close ties to the member banks that the regional Federal Reserve Banks maintain harms supervisory vigor (Spillenkothen white paper). Any candidate who answers “no” to the reality test question has, at a minimum, failed to think serious about effective supervision. The crisis should have taught any thoughtful person that such gratuitous conflicts of interest are intolerably destructive.

In reading the arguments of economists who urge that Summers would be a superior regulator and supervisor I have discovered a common theme. Summers thinks the critical issue for a range of topics related to regulation is brilliance v. stupidity.

The key advantages of effective examination, supervision, enforcement, regulation, and assistance to prosecutions come when each of these functions is integrated under a comprehensive understanding of avoiding or terminating the criminogenic environments that produce the perverse incentives that drive our epidemics of control fraud and the resultant financial crises. This allows the regulators to avoid financial crises (as we did in 1990-1991 by ending an incipient epidemic of fraudulent liar’s loans in California). It also allows regulators to contain existing epidemics as we did with the overall S&L debacle. I’ll mention only four of the scores of steps we took because we understood control fraud mechanisms. We adopted a rule restricting growth. This struck the Achilles’ “heel” of every accounting control fraud. We also understood the distinctive traits that lenders engaged in accounting control fraud exhibit and used them to identify the worst frauds, and prioritize them for enforcement actions and closure, while they were still reporting record (albeit fictional) profits. We deliberately popped the bubble in Southwest real estate by cracking down on the frauds that were hyper-inflating that bubble. We ended the regulatory race to the bottom by prohibiting states from engaging in competitive regulatory laxity.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/09/larry-summers-take-on-efficient-markets-and-regulators-brilliance-v-idiots.html

U.N. Inspection a Figleaf to Justify Air Strike on Syria

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2013 (IPS) - The United Nations, which has remained deadlocked over Syria, is in danger of being craftily exploited to justify the impending air strike on Damascus.

The threat of double vetoes by Russia and China against an attack on Syria has shifted the focus to the U.N. team of inspectors whose report on the chemical weapons attack may be released either later this week or next week.
"The claim will be that the U.N. is involved and somehow that means it's a legal attack." -- Michael Ratner of the Centre for Constitutional Rights

But the conclusions of the report are predictable – within the team’s limited mandate, as laid out by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The team is expected to only confirm the use of chemical weapons in Syria and leave unanswered the more important question of who used those weapons.

The Syrian government and rebel forces are blaming each other, with no positive proof on either side.

But the administration of President Barack Obama has repeatedly said the U.N. evaluation is “irrelevant” – and it knows more about the chemical weapons attack than the United Nations does and hopes to.

in full: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/09/u-n-inspection-a-figleaf-to-justify-air-strike-on-syria/

Six countries still at large on chemical arms

Sept. 11, 2013

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS - If Syria eventually agrees to relinquish its stockpile of chemical arms under the 1993 international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), what of the six other countries that have either shown reluctance or refused to join the treaty?

Currently, there are 189 states that have signed and ratified the treaty prohibiting the manufacture, use and transfer of the deadly weapons. But seven member states have been holdouts: Myanmar and Israel have signed but not ratified, while Angola, North Korea, Egypt, South Sudan and Syria have neither signed nor ratified.

If Syria agrees to accept the US-Russia proposal to abandon its weapons under the CWC, it still leaves six others outside the treaty.

A meeting of the Security Council to discuss Syria, scheduled to take place Tuesday, was cancelled without explanation.

If a resolution, inspired by Western nations, is adopted by the council later in the week, Syria is expected to agree to hand over all of its chemical weapons for storage and destruction by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague, Netherlands.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-110913.html

Zero Prosecutions of Elite Banksters Is Too Many Prosecutions for the Wall Street Journal

Unintentional self-parody was the result to a coordinated effort by the systemically dangerous institutions' (SDIs) press flacks to gin up outrage that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would have the audacity to sue the SDIs' for their manifold violations of the law. The Wall Street Journal recalled one of its former opinion page pundits to active duty as a shill for the Street. George Melloan's August 25 column warned:

"If dubious prosecutions continue to mount, they could backfire on the regulatory agencies and further diminish sinking public confidence in government. Ask the folks at the IRS."

Given the fact that there are zero prosecutions of any of the elite bankers whose frauds drove the crisis, the phrase "if dubious prosecutions continue to mount" is surreal. Melloan's IRS reference is a threat aimed at the banking regulators. If they ever emerge from their torpor and begin make criminal referrals and demand that DOJ prosecute the banksters Melloan is threatening to reprise the kneecapping that that Republicans members of Congress inflicted on the IRS at Senate hearings in 1997. Senator Roth (R. Del.) staged the hearing quite brilliantly as a series of alleged "horror stories" often told by alleged IRS "whistleblowers"

Leandra Lederman, a very conservative scholar, wrote a law review article that quoted the Republican leadership's apocalyptic description of the hearing and the IRS.

in full: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-k-black/zero-prosecutions-of-elit_b_3836564.html

Do warmongers dream of playing chess?

September 10, 2013

By Pepe Escobar

The frantic spin of the millisecond is that the White House is taking a "hard look" at the Russian proposal for Bashar al-Assad to place Syria's chemical weapons arsenal under UN control, thus defusing (or at least postponing) yet another US war in the Middle East.

Oh, the joys of the geopolitical chessboard - Russia throwing a lifeline to save US President Barack Obama from his self-spun "red line".

True diplomats are supposed to prevent wars - not pose as warmongers. American exceptionalism is of course exempted. So just as Secretary of State John Kerry had the pedal on the metal selling in a London press conference yet another war, his beat up Chevy was overtaken by a diplomatic Maserati: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

This was Kerry's slip: "... [Assad] could turn over any single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over. All of it. And without delay and allow the full and total accounting for that. But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done obviously."

remainder: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-03-100913.html

Syrian girl shows war through eyes of a child


Sequester Hits Special Education Like ‘Ton of Bricks’

* Let's not forget the history here, as we watch the vulnerable become increasingly left out.

Sequester of Fools
Published: February 21, 2013

Sequester Hits Special Education Like ‘Ton of Bricks’
By Adrienne Lu, Stateline

September 10, 2013 Text Size A A

Since the first day of class for most schools in Michigan last week, Marcie Lipsitt’s phone has been ringing nonstop with parents distraught about cuts to their children’s special education services.

A new round of special education cuts were taking hold, prompted by a 5 percent reduction in federal funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), said Lipsitt, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities and co-chair of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education.

Lipsitt said it means that many schools have eliminated resource rooms where children can go to get help in areas such as math, reading, writing and organizational skills. Many schools will have fewer speech, occupational or physical therapists, along with social workers and school psychologists, which means students who previously received speech therapy twice a week might only receive it once week, for example. And in some general education classrooms that had two teachers — one for the whole class and one specifically to support students with special needs — the special education teacher has been eliminated.

“For Michigan, it hit like a ton of bricks,” Lipsitt said. “Conditions are eroding and children are not being allowed to become taxpayers. They’re not being given access to independence, being productive, being ready for a global workforce.”

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