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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 16 May

by Fran Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:06:40 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 


Europeans on this date in history:

1910 – Birth of Olga Berggolts, a Russian poet. She is most famous for her work on the Leningrad radio during the city's blockade, when she became the symbol of city's strength and determination. (d. 1975)

More here and here

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 EUROPE 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:04:11 AM EST
France 24 | Medical workers, students protest against reforms | France 24
Protest a hospital reform plan, thousands of French medical workers took to the streets, dismissing government concessions aimed at easing tensions. Students likewise staged rallies against a shake-up of the university system.

REUTERS - Thousands of French medical workers took to the streets of major cities on Thursday to protest against a hospital reform plan, dismissing government concessions earlier this week aimed at easing tensions.

 

Students likewise staged rallies across France, continuing their 15-week battle against a shake up of the university system that has also been watered down by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:15:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. Again Warns Britain on Detainee Memo - NYTimes.com

LONDON -- Renewing a warning given to Britain while President George W. Bush was in office, the Obama administration has threatened to curb the exchange of intelligence information between the countries if a British court makes public the details of the interrogation techniques used against a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who claims he was tortured. Skip to next paragraph Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

Binyam Mohamed, 30, a former Guantánamo detainee, is now living in Britain.

In a letter forwarded to the High Court in London by British government lawyers this month, the Obama administration said the flow of information could be affected if the court made public a summary prepared by the Bush administration for Britain's Foreign Office on the treatment of the former detainee, Binyam Mohamed. Mr. Mohamed, 30, a citizen of Ethiopia who was arrested as a suspected terrorist in Pakistan in 2002, was released from Guantánamo and flown to Britain three months ago.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:16:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right now UK domestic politics is in such a bind that I'm not sure Brown wouldn't ignore him for electoral advantage.

Mind you, that could be wishful thinking.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:36:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
do you think the UK security establishment would allow him?

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 10:11:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France 24 | Biden confirms 'unwavering' US support for Georgia | France 24
In a phone conversation with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, US Vice President Joe Biden re-affirmed his country's "unwavering support" for Georgia's territorial integrity, threatened by Russian-backed separatist movements.

AFP- Vice President Joe Biden affirmed "unwavering" US support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity in a phone conversation Thursday with its president, the White House said.
   
The Georgian presidency, in a statement from Tbilisi, said Biden also expressed support for Mikheil Saakashvili's "democratically elected government" but there was no mention of that in account of the conversation provided by Biden's office.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:17:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Xenophobia Threatens Italy, President Giorgio Napolitano Warns - NYTimes.com

ROME -- President Giorgio Napolitano warned Thursday that intolerance and xenophobia posed a danger for Italy as the lower house of Parliament approved wide-ranging security legislation that includes measures toughening Italian immigration policies.

Speaking at a conference in Rome, Mr. Napolitano warned that there was a danger that social tensions would be inflamed by "public rhetoric that, even in Italy, does not hesitate to incorporate intolerant and xenophobic tones."

Under the terms of the bill, which was passed Thursday by the Chamber of Deputies after three confidence votes Wednesday to approve amendments, illegal immigrants entering or residing in Italy will be fined up to 10,000 euros, or about $13,500, before being expelled.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:18:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Council President immediately issued a statement that Napolitano "was not referring to us." Senator Umberto Bossi remarked that he only listened to the voice of the people. He remarked today that had the security bill not passed, there could be a racist reaction. So long as there's a strong government that makes laws that the People wants, the racist solution remains remote. He further added that the Left wants to overrun Italy with immigrants so that they can give them the right to vote.

It is difficult to find anyone else in the political landscape that "...does not hesitate to incorporate intolerant and xenophobic tones."

This evening the representative of the UNHCR in Italy, Lauren Jolles, declared once again that the Italian government's policy is in contrast with the 1951 Convention of Geneva.

Worth noting is a photo-reportage by Paris-Match on the Italy's forced deportation of boat people to Libya. Note the latex gloved hands of the Italian officials (as pointed out today by Francesco Merlo in la Repubblica).

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:41:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the truth of this?
Senator Umberto Bossi remarked that he only listened to the voice of the people.

Can it be a spontaneous wave of grassroots intolerance emerging? Or as I expect, political elites creating and exploiting fears for their own ends? We are certain;y familiar with this in the US.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 10:20:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The latter exploits the former- hardsells it to critical mass. Like the "Silent Majority," Il Popppolo! doesn't exist.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:02:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Duchess of Alba may lose home to Spain's land-grabbing coastal law - Times Online

She does not have to kneel before the Pope but she may have to kneel to Spain's new property laws.

The Duchess of Alba, 82, holds at least 44 noble titles and can cross Spain without stepping outside her own estates, but the country's wealthiest aristocrat has become the highest-profile victim of contentious new legislation that may result in the demolition of thousands of homes.

Spain's Socialist government, keen to clean up the ugly concrete jungle along its costas, has taken a dim view of the duchess's turreted summer residence on the Costa del Sol and wants parts of it bulldozed.

A wall and a lawn leading to Casablanca beach in Marbella may contravene the so-called Coastal Law which states that all land within 100m (328ft) of a shoreline is public property and bans building within that area. Any private building falling within this zone can be knocked down depending on a local authority's interpretation and enforcement of the legislation.

---
The law has ramifications for thousands of British expatriates who bought villas next to the Mediterranean and now face the prospect that their properties could be reduced to rubble. Homes owned by Spaniards have already been knocked down in Tenerife and Cantabria in northern Spain.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:20:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Justice minister Malik steps down

Labour MP Shahid Malik has stepped down as justice minister pending an inquiry into claims about his expenses made in the Daily Telegraph.

Standards chief Sir Philip Mawer will investigate claims he failed to declare a subsidised rent.

Mr Malik insists he did not breach the ministerial code and he was "pleased" to have the chance to clear his name.

The MP - who is the biggest casualty yet of the expenses scandal - called for the media "bloodfest" to stop.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked Sir Philip, his official adviser on ministerial interests, to investigate the claims as quickly as possible and his report could come within days.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:31:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Steps down eh ? But he still remains an MP. I don't want fig leaf meaningless resignations, I want them facing re-election

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gulfnews: Gorbachev seeks to ease Europe's fears about Russia

Moscow: Mikhail Gorbachev said on Wednesday that Europe still misunderstands Russia nearly two decades after the Soviet collapse, and he dismissed as nonsense portrayals of his country as aggressive.

Gorbachev, who resigned as the Soviet Union's last president when the Cold War superpower disintegrated in 1991, said Russia does not want military conflict but suggested it should be treated as an equal.

"We must achieve an understanding of Russia by Europe. This is absent," Gorbachev told a news conference, according to excerpts posted on the website of his charitable foundation.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:52:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[Bakchich] Lors de la conférence de presse pour la remise de son rapport annuel, la Cnil a fustigé le gouvernement sur la loi Hadopi. [Bakchich.fr] At its annual report press conference, the CNIL attacks the government over the Hadopi law.
Alex Türk, le président de la Cnil, tenait hier après-midi une conférence de presse pour les 30 ans de l'autorité. Il en a profité pour lancer une pique au gouvernement sur la loi Création et Internet.Alex Türk, the president of the CNIL, held a press conference yesterday for on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the authority's foundation. He took the opportunity to attack the Government on the Creation and Internet law.
Matignon avait en effet sollicité la Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés (CNIL) pour réaliser un rapport début 2008 quant au très controversé projet Hadopi. Rapport qui a fuité dans le courant de l'année mais qui n'a jamais été rendu public. Et pour cause. La Cnil avait émis un avis défavorable, ponctué de recommandations. Au rang desquelles le contrôle de l'autorité judiciaire dans le traitement des données des fournisseurs d'accès pour intercepter les pirates de l'internet. Un point qui ne posait aucun problème à la ministre de la Culture, Christine Albanel. Cette dernière avait estimé que le droit d'accès à internet n'était pas un droit fondamental.Matignon had indeed requested the Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés (CNIL) [National IT and Freedom Commission, an official civil liberties watchdog: afew] for a report back in 2008 about the very controversial Hadopi project. The report was leaked during the year but was never published. And for good reason. CNIL's advice, unfavourable to the law, came with a number of recommendations. Among which, judicial control of the treatment of ISPs' data with the intention of intercepting Internet pirates. This point didn't seem problematic to the Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel , who claimed that the right of access to the Internet was not a fundamental right.
Hier, la commission a pris sa revanche. Son président a profité de la remise de son rapport annuel pour fustiger le gouvernement dans une double page intitulée « Hadopi : Histoire d'un avis « T( r )op Secret ». La Cnil était contre le projet de loi Hadopi proposé par le gouvernement, qu'elle jugeait attentatoire aux libertés. Et ce dernier l'a bâillonnée. « Nous ne pouvions pas nous exprimer parce que nous ne sommes pas en mesure de le rendre public », a expliqué Alex Türk. Le « rapport est resté dans l'ombre et silence pendant des mois parce que le gouvernement n'a pas voulu le publier ».Yesterday, the Commission took its revenge. Its president seized the opportunity of the delivery of its annual report to criticize the government in a double page entitled "Hadopi: The story of a "T(r)op Secret" note. The CNIL was against the government's Hadopi bill, which it considered prejudicial to civil liberties. And the government gagged the Commission. "We could not communicate on our advice because we are not allowed to make it public," , explained Alex Türk. The report remained in the shadows and silence for months because the government did not want to publish it." .
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 01:07:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:04:37 AM EST
EP09: Challenging "I ain't bothered" « Vive l'Europe
The world is confronted with three crises: The economic crisis; the energy crisis; and the impact of climate change. All are intertwined and their caurse and effects are reciprocal, according to Jeremy Rifkin, the American author of The European Dream. Recently in Prague he passed a stark message that we must take on the move towards a low carbon society within the next decade or risk "the end of civilization as we know it".
So challenges are enormous and it falls within the remit of the next European Parliament to deal with a fair share of them. Against such a back drop, why is the sentiment I ain't bothered leading in the polls prior to the 5-7 June vote?
by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:25:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Northern Perspective » Blog Archive » Not helpful

In an interview with the Swedish Daily Dagens Industri, the Swedish Prime Minister Mr. Reinfeldt says (my translation) that "the voters are rational, they realize that the EU election is not (as) decisive for their everyday life and for the future." He continues to say that there is a "tremendous difference" between national parliamentary elections and elections to the EP since the EP "has no influence on formation of government or influence" [?]

This is a remarkable statement from the leader of the country that is next in turn for the Presidency. The Czech Presidency was an unmitigated disaster.  The statement by the Swedish Prime Minister makes us wonder if the Swedish one will be any better.  And does he really believe that the EP "is not (as) decisive for [the voters' ] everyday life and for the future"? At best this is irresponsible, at worst it reflects a tremendous lack of understanding of how the EU works.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Slovakia struggles to avoid lowest EU vote turn-out again

EUOBSERVER / BRATISLAVA - An African-born singer, a fitness trainer and an ex-hockey star MEP are trying to scoop Slovak votes in the upcoming elections, while officials struggle to prevent a repeat of 2004, when Slovakia had the lowest turn-out ever recorded in the EU assembly's history.

"Many Slovaks know me as a comedian but they do not know that I speak six languages and graduated from university," is Ibrahim Maiga's reply to widespread incredulity over his election bid with a minor, left-wing party.

Voting: does optimism or cynicism motivate Slovak absentees?

Now a Slovak citizen commonly known as "Ibi," he was born in Mali and came to the former Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s as a university student, before quickly becoming famous as a singer and actor.

Ibi says that if he is elected, Slovakia - often criticised in Brussels for its testy relations with Hungary and its treatment of Hungarian and Roma minorities - would prove "its citizens are neither nationalists nor racists."

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:54:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 ECONOMY & FINANCE 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:05:04 AM EST
FT.com | Willem Buiter's Maverecon | Does the ECB/Eurosystem have enough capital?

`Enough capital for what?' should be the question prompted by the title of this post. The short answer, amplified below, is "enough capital to be able to engage in effective monetary policy, liquidity policy and credit-enhancing policy (including quantitative easing or QE), without endangering its price stability mandate."

Let's consider the conventional balance sheets of the ECB and of the consolidated Eurosystem (the ECB and the 16 national central banks (NCBs) of the Euro Area.

The most recent publicly available balance sheet of the ECB is in the 2008 Annual Report, published in April 2009.  It is reproduced here:

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:12:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany's economy experiences biggest contraction in 39 years | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 15.05.2009
Germany's economy shrank dramatically in the first quarter of 2009. According to new figures released Friday, both Germany and Europe are now in the midst of record-breaking economic downturns. 

Official figures show that Germany's recession worsened in the first quarter, as the economy shrank by 3.8 percent compared to the previous three-month period.

This is the fourth quarter in a row of falling gross domestic product (GDP), which is the basic measure of an economy's economic performance. Last quarter the economy shrank by 2.1 percent after two quarters of contracting 0.5 percent.

The Federal Statistical Office says this is the strongest contraction Germany has seen since 1970, when it began tracking quarter-to-quarter growth. It is also the first time since reunification in 1990 that the German economy has experienced so many quarters of negative growth.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:21:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Vanishing Exports: German, Euro-Zone Economies Report Massive Shrinkage - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The global economic crisis depressed GDP in Germany and the entire euro zone during the first quarter of 2009. Berlin's preliminary 3.8 percent drop in GDP is even worse than economists predicted.

With demands for exports dropping, the German economy was hit hard during the first quarter of 2009, with gross domestic product shrinking by 3.8 percent compared to the previous quarter. The decline was the biggest quarter-on-quarter drop since Germany began collecting GDP data in 1970 -- but some economists nevertheless expressed cautious optimism.

 A steam turbine factory in the eastern German city of Görlitz: Exports are getting hit particularly hard by the economic crisis.

Still, the fall was more precipitous than expected. Forty-five economists polled by the news agency Reuters prior to the data's release had predicted a drop of only 3 percent. GDP is considered the most important measure of a country's economic health because it takes into account both products and services.

"The collapse has come as a result of a drop in exports and investments," a Federal Statistical Office spokesperson said after the release of the data on Friday. At the same time, private and state spending increased slightly during the period, preventing an even worse outcome. The government is expected to present its official figures on May 26.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlin unveils plan to help rid banks of toxic assets | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 13.05.2009
The German cabinet has approved a draft law to help rid lenders of an estimated 200 billion euros ($272 billion) in worthless assets. Banks can swap the assets against guaranteed state loans for up to 20 years. 

The aim of the "bad bank" plan is to clean up lenders' balance sheets and restore confidence in the financial sector. The bill, drafted by Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, would enable banks to receive state guaranteed loans on commercial terms, in exchange for offloading their troubled assets.

Through the government's financial market stabilization fund, SoFFin, lenders would be able to swap toxic assets for guaranteed state loans worth 90 percent of the original value of the assets. Lenders would pay an annual fee and be able to "freeze" the assets until better times come along. After a maximum of 20 years, they would have to pay back any losses to the government. Some believe the German banks hold more than 200 billion euros of troubled assets.

"In the interests of the real economy, we are buying time so that the so-called toxic assets can be cleared up," explained Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Thomas de Maiziere.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
everybody here is going back to basics. While the electronics stores are closing left and right, we've beginning to exceed year ago sales in the bookstore.

I don't know what part of Germany's export economy is hurting, but I'd expect Porsche, BMW and Audi have lost the bottom part of their market.

I'd never seen a Cooper Mini here before 2009. They're all over the place now. And Vespas. Haven't seen those in decades.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 10:34:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cooper Minis are the "bottom part" of BMW's market

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:33:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me rephrase...the BMW brand may be losing the bottom part of its market.

Tough crowd here.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:58:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mini is a BMW brand.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:19:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I gathered that, however that's not generally known to non auto enthusiasts like myself. However, it looks suspiciously like the Cooper, says "mini" on it, and the BMW prop is nowhere to be seen on the thing. Of course, imagining an automobile manufacturer in the UK these days should have raised immediate suspicions on my part.

Let me clarify further: perhaps the bottom part of the luxury car market has disappeared in the latest economic turmoil.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:09:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, Minis are not the bottom part of the luxury market, they are the top-end bit of the small car market, and demand for that is not abating, as far as I can see from my neighborhood, where every other car seems to be a(n expensive) version of the Mini. People here need cars that are easy to park, but still luxurious enough.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:45:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd never seen on before, other than on some old BW television rerun of Jim Clarke racing in some road rally, or in some European stock car race.

Now, I've seen three different Minis in the parking lot this year, and soon expect to see the Vespas and other models chained to the signposts in their return to the store from the winter hiatus.

What were we talking about, anyways?

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:04:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it's the other way around. Given (in U.S.) $20k to spend on a car, would you rather have a very fancy Mini with lots of nifty options, or a stripper Cadillac? Previously, the answer was the Caddy, but now, as Jerome says, every other car on the street is a Mini.

Or, in my neighborhood, a 30 year old VW.

by asdf on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 04:00:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Check this out: WikiCars / Mini. Ahh, the time line is most excellent.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Recession not over yet for eurozone

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A new survey released by the European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday (14 May) suggests the euro area economy will contract by twice as much this year as previously predicted, dampening recent talk of the green shoots of recovery and an end to the recession.

Conducted among 52 forecasting experts from across Europe, the ECB survey predicts GDP growth for the 16-member area is likely to shrink by 3.4 percent in 2009, a significant deterioration on a similar February forecast of a 1.7 percent decline.

The eurozone's troubles are not over, say forecasters

However, the experts predict the area's growth will edge back into positive territory in 2010, with a modest expansion of 0.2 percent expected.

The news comes despite the extensive measures taken by the bank since the recession started.

These include the cutting of interest rates to a record low of one percent last week, coupled with the announcement of plans to buy €60 billion of covered bonds held by banks.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Law, Economics, and Regulation

James Kwak,  Baseline Scenario

One of the curious things about coming to law school was discovering the very high regard that "economics" is held in, at least in some areas like torts and contracts, where "law and economics" has become the primary theoretical construct. In essence, this school of thought holds either that the law has developed in such a way as to promote efficient economic outcomes, or that it should promote efficient economic outcomes. There is now an empirical branch of law and economics, but historically the law and economics approach was largely theoretical. For example, in United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 159 F.2d 169 (2d Cir. 1947), Judge Learned Hand wrote that the whether behavior is negligent should be determined by multiplying the probably of an accident by the cost of the accident and comparing that to the cost of taking precautions. Twenty-five years later, Richard Posner argued that this rule would lead to the optimal level of accident prevention, because it doesn't make economic sense to pay more for accident prevention than the corresponding reduction in the expected costs of accidents; at that point, the firm would be better off just paying damages to accident victims.

The Hand-Posner principle has filtered into the world of public policy and regulation as the argument that the benefits of regulation must exceed their costs. This argument is ascribed to Cass Sunstein, who "cruised through Tuesday's Senate confirmation hearing" to be the "regulatory czar" in the new administration.....In principle, he would be able to review new regulations being defined throughout the executive branch. So the cost-benefit model of regulation - already favored by the previous administration - may become more firmly entrenched in the federal government.

-Skip-

This can be a particular problem when it comes to regulations that affect health or the environment. It affects any chronic health condition that simply makes people feel worse, since it's difficult to quantify the cost of your feeling crummy. (I know there are economists who work on this kind of valuation; they include my wife, which is why I know how difficult this is.) Then imagine trying to do the cost-benefit analysis on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. It's easy to estimate the cost of technology to reduce smokestack emissions. But what's the cost of not doing so? How do you estimate the total cost of the ice caps melting, sea levels rising, violent storms becoming more frequent, huge swaths of agricultural land turning to desert, and so on? How do you estimate the benefits of new shipping lanes opening up? And how do you estimate the likelihood of any of this happening?

Finally, to return to our favorite application, imagine that the government had considered the idea of systemic risk regulation five years ago. It would have cost money; it would have created new disclosure requirements for banks and possibly hedge funds; it would have required countercyclical measures in a boom that would dampen economic growth. Those are the costs of regulation. And how would anyone have estimated the benefits? No one would have estimated the scenario we face today - trillions of dollars of asset writedowns, 3.3% contraction in the U.S. economy and counting, even more severe damage elsewhere in the world economy. And as a result, the regulation would have died.

I always caution my clients that, if a suspended speaker falls, it might kill the wife of a tort attorney who is planning on filing for divorce.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:19:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Posner is pretty much an odious academic, disingenious to a fault, holding at arms length discursion of statutory limitation on "free markets" --that is the lawful activity of participants-- in order to embellish economic jargon such as moral hazard, incentive, asymetry and adverse selection (intentions for which US laws in general and properly provide no definition) with the faintest threads of statistical calculation and financial legitimacy.

The hypothetical pursuits of legal scholars is always amusing. An ABA spokesperson not too long ago informed me,

Our system is not designed for a business context, and does not contemplate a commercial environment.  Rather, it was designed to satisfy policies adopted by the ABA House of Delegates for service to the profession, and to the disciplinary agencies that exist among the various states and jurisdictions that regulate lawyers.  We simply are not in a position to assist you.  I trust there are other systems in the business environment that will be more suited to your research.

Posner turned up on my radar when last autumn Team Obama floated Sunstein to take over OMB/OIRA or Regulatory Affairs (Jan  2009 PR, WSJ) and with an invidious interest in establishing federal standards for health information technologies (HIT) data exchange --collection, storage, distribution, trade. Sunstein purportedly is expert in administrative law except he's never sat a bench or apparently litigated administrative law in an actual "behavioral economic" setting, that I've discovered. But he has been known to allude to conventional activity-based accounting as if he himself had at one time performed such a business analysis...of a federal or state agency, much less one single firm.

Anyway, Posner, Sunstein, Hahn: some dated Chicago theories of political economy of "welfare." Check out the collegial debate.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:18:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alameda Corridor feels effects of trade slowdown

     Los Angeles Times  May 15, 2009

The slowdown at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is having a ripple effect on the Alameda Corridor, the 20-mile rail route built to speed the flow of cargo from ships to retail shelves. Reacting to a swift erosion in the corridor's traffic and revenue, Fitch Ratings recently placed about $2 billion worth of Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority bonds on a "rating watch negative."  That was a signal that the ratings service intends to more closely monitor the corridor's ability to repay its debts.

The corridor authority has enough of a revenue cushion to last until late next year, said its chief executive, John Doherty.  If the situation doesn't improve by then, he said, the agency will have to turn to the governing boards of the ports, which are obligated to cover shortfalls of up to 40% in the authority's annual debt payments.....The corridor, which opened in 2002, is suffering from the sharp downturn in international trade.

-Skip-

The Port of Los Angeles, the nation's largest cargo gateway, reported Thursday that the number of containers carrying imported goods fell 15% to 279,194 in April from the same month in 2008, while exports dropped 4% to 140,829.  At Long Beach, the No. 2 U.S. container port, inbound loaded containers fell 29% to 199,051 and outbound loaded containers declined 31% to 112,976 in April.

The collapse in international trade has been largely invisible to most people, noticeable perhaps only because of lighter truck traffic on the nation's most heavily traveled freeways. But the industry isn't expected to recover until next year, no doubt adding to last year's 46,000 lost trade jobs locally, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

"The international trade outlook for 2009 and beyond faces several challenges," said the group's Jack Kyser.  In a trade report issued Wednesday, Kyser and fellow economist Nancy Sidhu projected that the number of containers moving through the twin ports would fall 13.5% this year on top of an 8.9% drop last year. International trade is expected to begin growing again next year, but the ports are expected to see only a 1.6% rise in imports and exports.



"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:40:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More Analysis of NPR Trying to Discredit Elizabeth Warren   Naked Capitalism  Yves Smith

The Columbia Journalism Review takes apart an interview by Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money, which we linked to earlier this week and caused some consternation among readers who listened to the program. Davidson took a combative stance towards Warren, painted her as out to get the banking industry and out of step with mainstream America (really? most Americans are as disgusted with the practices of credit card companies as she is). He also interrupted her repeatedly.

CJR also makes a broader point: the media has been trying to marginalize Warren in a completely different fashion, by simply refusing to cover her.

The CJR points out that no banking industry executive would have been treated this way, and it's 100% correct. What it fails to note that it isn't just becoming standard practice to question liberals merely for being liberal, suggesting that a diversity of views is a bad thing. And frankly, women are easier to take on. It's socially acceptable to interrupt them, which can throw off one's line of thought. In court, it's a tactic of counsel to raise a lot objections to throw off opposing counsel. Even the mild mannered Charlie Rose at point in an interview Naomi Klein questioned he at points in a way that he seldom does (making faces and interrupting her) but threw softballs to financial industry stalwarts like Timothy Geithner and Morgan Stanely CEO John Mack. In a interview with Elizabeth Warren, he was did not challenge her but did set some snares that she did not walk into.

NPR was a good organization prior to the mid '90s, when they had a near death experience courtesy of the Republican Congress.  Funding was cut way back and they were "encouraged" to take on corporate sponsors, including Archers Daniel Midland.  According to NBBooks, Charlie Rose's wife is from the same family as John Mack's wife.  Read his current diary.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:58:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Charlie Rose is the esthetes' O'Reilly. His command of facts is not what attracts celebrities to his cavernous stage, it's his command of a particular audience demographic which PBS reserves for his sychophantic antics.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:32:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Off the Charts - This Recession Is Not a Good Time to Be Middle-Aged - NYTimes.com

IN this recession, it is better to be old. Being young has some advantages, too. Skip to next paragraph Multimedia Graphic For Older Americans, Less Pain

But being in the middle of the spectrum -- in your 30s or 40s -- seems to be the worst place to be.

The Pew Research Center released a poll of Americans this week that found people over 65 were generally suffering less from the recession. Fewer of them reported being forced to cut back on household expenses or said they had trouble meeting rent or mortgage obligations.

"The most vivid finding to emerge from this survey is that older Americans -- most of whom have already retired and downsized their lifestyles -- have been far better insulated from the current storm than those who need to worry about keeping their jobs and building up diminished retirement accounts," wrote Rich Morin and Paul Taylor of Pew Research.

The elderly benefit from a greater safety net than do other Americans. Many are collecting pensions, and Social Security and Medicare are available. Just 7 percent of those over 65 reported problems in obtaining or paying for health care, a third the proportion of younger adults.

by Fran on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 05:18:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]

At the end of the day it is earnings which underpin the prices of productive assets.

The current stock market looks like a Wile-E-Coyote market to me.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 08:15:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 WORLD 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:05:25 AM EST
Gulfnews: 'You can't authorise murder': Hersh

Dubai: Pulitzer prize-winning American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh recently said that former US vice-president Dick Cheney headed a secret assassination wing that targeted America's enemies abroad.

Video: Seymour Hersh interview

Gulf News catches up with him on his trip to Dubai for the Arab Media Forum to ask about those revelations as well as issues concerning Barack Obama, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Egypt.

GULF NEWS: You have spoken about an assassination unit that reported to Cheney called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). There have been allegations that this unit was responsible for former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri's assassination.

SEYMOUR HERSH: I can't verify [that]. What I said was, and what I have written more than once, is that there's a special unit that does high-value targeting of men that we believe are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities.

In Cheney's view this isn't murder, but carrying out the "war on terror". And in the view of me and my friends, including people in government, this is crazy. The vice president is committing a crime. You can't authorise the murder of people. And it's not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's in a lot of other countries, in the Middle East and in South Asia and North Africa and even central America.

In the early days, many of the names were cleared through Cheney's office. One of his aides, John Hanna, went on TV and acknowledged that the programme exists, and said killing these people is not murder but an act of war that is justified legally.

The former head of JSOC has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan, which is very interesting to me.

About Hariri, what I've always maintained - I was in the position of seeing and interviewing President Bashar Al Assad on the day Hariri was killed in February 2005 - it seemed clear to me that he knew nothing about it. But I never wrote anything about it, even the fact that I was there, because I had no empirical or factual basis for knowing whether he was involved or not, and I never did. And I decided to wait for the investigations and they have come up with no concrete evidence that Syria did it. Despite the fact that one of the earlier investigators speculated that he did, he didn't know.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
White House Watch - Deconstructing Obama's Excuses

In trying to explain his startling decision to oppose the public release of more photos depicting detainee abuse, President Obama and his aides yesterday put forth six excuses for his about-face, one more flawed than the next.

First, there was the nothing-to-see-here excuse. In his remarks yesterday afternoon, Obama said the "photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."

But as the Washington Post reports: "[O]ne congressional staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the photos, said the pictures are more graphic than those that have been made public from Abu Ghraib. 'When they are released, there will be a major outcry for an investigation by a commission or some other vehicle,' the staff member said."

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:14:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The World from Berlin: Does America Need a Truth Commission for Torture? - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

President Barack Obama has shied away from publishing more torture images from Abu Ghraib and is leaning toward continuing the military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. German commentators worry that the new president will be weighed down by his predecessor.

In the early weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama made huge strides in overturning the widely condemned political legacy of George W. Bush. He reached out to Muslims, reversed Washington's myopic environmental policies and began rebuilding frayed relations with US allies in Europe and elsewhere.

US President Barack Obama has come under fire for his decision to resist the release of Abu Ghraib torture photos. This week, though, has shown that some Bush-era stains aren't so easy to wipe away. On the first day of his term, Obama ordered the closure of the Guantanamo prison and ordered that all hearings underway in the military tribunal system set up by the Bush administration be halted pending review.

The hurdles to integrating the cases into the US justice system ultimately proved too high, though, and Obama administration officials said on Thursday that the president had decided to go on using the military commission system. Though a few changes will be introduced to improve the system's fairness, the decision promises to unleash a new wave of criticism from civil rights groups who have accused Obama of not reversing enough Bush policy.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:23:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the pictures are devastating.  That's why the US govt. has been suppressing them.  The legal wrangling is almost entirely over and it's been known since last year that these images would become available via FOIA (some have already gotten around).  

Chiding Obama for not becoming the messenger in this case is not particularly useful.  I would be very concerned if they were taking illegal action to try and keep these photos out of the public eye (ala Bush Admin) but they are not.  This is pragmatic and smart political move that leads to the exact same outcome as one where he unleashes them out of his own wallet at a press conference; everyone sees the images and everyone is disgusted.

This also gives him cover politically should pressure to prosecute the perpetrators grow loud enough to warrant action (I think this is his real concern).  Obama has used the FDR language before, that in order to get certain things people will have to "make him do it."  

What the reactionary left-wing in the US has not yet figured out is that they've got a fox guarding the henhouse.  For the past 40 years there's been a real guard and if you asked him what was going on he'd stonewall you, lie or have you arrested.  People are so discouraged that they're not yet comfortable walking up and asking.  When they do they're frequently finding that the new guard is much more amenable.  

by paving on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:38:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
paving
What the reactionary left-wing in the US has not yet figured out is that they've got a fox guarding the henhouse.

I've been over at dkos the last few days on this, and yeah, the community there is split. Lots want investigations leading to indictments, others want to continue trusting Obama (after all, he stopped the torture didn't he?)

He put in a liberal hawk as SecState, failed to support Chas Freeman who was under fire from AIPAC, ended the investigation of Steve Rosen (who orchestrated the attack on Freeman) for espionage (over FBI protests):

Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman attributed the withdrawal of the case in part to the Obama administration.

"We are extremely grateful that this new Administration . . . has taken seriously their obligation to evaluate cases on the merits," the lawyers, Abbe D. Lowell, John Nassikas and Baruch Weiss, said in a statement.

as well as maintaining FISA, stepping up the war in Afghanistan, keeping up Predator sirstrikes in Pakistan, keeping the Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq. . . .

I also took a look at Al Rogers post on Obama's first centenial: 100. Window dressing. Almost all of it.

It looks like we might have a Bush-Lite administration here.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:08:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First of all, don't take D-Kos seriously and you'll be on the right track.

If you stay too focused on the ends you miss the process.  How does one successfully prosecute someone like Dick Cheney?  This is not a minor thing to do and it's not going to be easy no matter how guilty we all know he is.  You ever seen a police officer go on trial for killing someone in the line of duty?  Yeah, it's a situation like that, except 1,000 times more difficult.  The manner in which the Obama administration (give Holder some credit) is going about this may actually lead us all to and end where members of the Bush administration are prosecuted for these crimes.  An approach as suggested by the likes of D-Kos, namely knocking down the doors and handing out indictments, won't get us shit except for a bunch of righteous back-patting and a hoard of people who feel better about themselves.  I don't want to feel better about myself because I voice dissent, I want to see these shitbags in jail so the next guy thinks twice before doing it.  In China government corruption is punishable by death and they do it frequently.  We might learn something from that approach.

Your next examples such as continuing Gates as SecDef are just the inertia of the Federal Government.  Gates may have the same job but it's got a new description.  This year his description is to wind down the war in Iraq and do it quietly.  Have you hard anything about this? Nope.  Why not? Because he's doing it quietly.  Why is this going to work?  Because the right man, the man who knows the people and the lay of the land, is on the job.  When Iraq is wound down who will replace him?  Most likely someone more to our liking.  Obama is very pragmatic.  This is a great example of that.

If there's one thing I'm really liking about Obama it's his refusal to listen to the "cause du jour" wing of his party.  You want someone to protect you from AIPAC?  Get a Senator.  El Presidente has real shit to do.

Stepping up the war in Afghanistan?  It's on fire.  What would you have him do?  Enlist the Pakistani military? Check.  Funnel huge amounts of troops and money to the country to stabilize it?  Rebuild schools and whatnot?  Um, yeah, I think that's what is going on.  If it's a 600,000 troop clusterfuck in two years feel free to say "I Told You So" but for now there is no evidence for such a drift.

As for FISA it is in my opinion foul shit.  But that box is long since open.  Will it be shut down?  I think it will.  Is it a huge priority, relatively speaking?  Are you kidding - of course not.

If you pull your head away from the wall and see the big picture (in three months Obama can't possibly do much more) you'll notice that quit a bit of good has been done in terms of foreign policy.  Quite a bit of good has been done in terms of where the federal government is spending its money.  Quite a bit of good headway has been made on the issue of healthcare in the United States.  

Your argument serves a purpose - it gives Obama someone on his left to criticize for cover.  Keep it up and maybe this country might just get it right for once.

by paving on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:22:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent analysis.

Even an unsuccessful prosecution of someone high up works though, say, for the reason that he has immunity or that insufficient law exists to bring him to trial. It puts the most important idea out there that this is criminal behavior and needs to be addressed.

This is important:

An approach as suggested by the likes of D-Kos, namely knocking down the doors and handing out indictments, won't get us shit except for a bunch of righteous back-patting and a hoard of people who feel better about themselves.

See my take on this regarding foreign policy here as well as my oft-repeated position on the ethical perspective, and finally, and most important (another point I try to make repeatedly) here, that the real focus on the torture issue shouldn't be on those going on trial, but on the victims, that's the prize right there.

Ok, you've got me on this one:

If there's one thing I'm really liking about Obama it's his refusal to listen to the "cause du jour" wing of his party.

I definitely seized on this issue because it dovetails nicely with my areas of interest, and in the long run, serves everyone's interest if the rule of law is upheld and is seen to be doing so. Among other, similarly valid reasons, there needs to be both domestically and internationally, brakes applied to the influence of the powerful and wealthy, be they states, multinational corporations or what have you.

In our foreign policy, we've never really gotten beyond the realist image. It plays to our strength, after all. I'd like to think though, that the US stood for something more than the fact that we can bomb everyone else to hell and back, or for every individual's right to fill up the tank in their SUV on the cheap. In a recent diary, charminly titled, I think you'll agree, A brain fart, I put the question out there: "why did we invade Iraq, anyways?"

Well, I have my answer. Oil was part of it, but I think the real reason was merely because we could. To some key players in the previous administration (by no means all of them), it was a great power play aimed on asserting our supposed global dominance and showing the world the consequences of messing with America. Has Obama turned the wheel and steered the US on another course? No. He has only indicated the possibility of doing so.

What would this entail for me? Among other things:

  • Acceding to the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ that the Reagan administration withdrew in consequence to being brought before the court in Nicaragua v. The United States of America,

  • Acceding to jurisdiction of the ICC,

  • Ratifying the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,

  • Passing statutory law making mandatory the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which relate to law enforcement and the requirement that a detained foreign national's right to be put in contact with his consulate "without delay", rather than when his trial is half over (50-odd Mexicans lay on death row in the US who were either not informed of their right or refused it),

  • Rescinding the rest of (parts of it have already been repealed) ASPA,

  • Withdrawing Understanding (5) that the Senate made part of its ratification of the Convention against Torture:
    5) That the United States understands that this Convention shall be implemented by the United States Government to the extent that it exercises legislative and judicial jurisdiction over the matters covered by the Convention and otherwise by the state and local governments. Accordingly, in implementing articles 10-14 and 16, the United States Government shall take measures appropriate to the Federal system to the end that the competent authorities of the constituent units of the United States of America may take appropriate measures for the fulfilment of the Convention.
    which to my mind obviates the "shall" language which compels criminal proceedings against torturers (and takes the decision out of Obama's hand, giving him political cover for what should never have been a political decision in the first place.)

A lot to ask? You bet. Any of it going to happen? Nope. We're still on the road of trying to broker a peace in the I/P conflict, which is never going to happen, and trying to arrange affairs in south Asia to our satisfaction, which is just as futile.

The world is still in the grip of power politics in which as we've seen time and again, the powerful can invade the weak with impunity. To my mind, the only way out of this is shown by the EU experiment: transnational governance and the international adherance to the rule of law. Otherwise, the cataclysms of the 20th century, in which 125 million people perished, are certain to crop up again when the balance of power, which realists cling to, topples again.

Can Obama actually do any of this? Of course not. He can lay the groundwork for the next guy to do so, however. That's what I'm looking for, things like the appointment of Harold Koh as legal advisor to the State Department. Ceasing a policy of interrogation practice that doesn't yield much of anything or is just plain counterproductive was an easy giveaway. So. As I pull my head back away from that wall, I see more of what I want. It's that easy.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:25:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you pull your head away from the wall and see the big picture (in three months Obama can't possibly do much more) you'll notice that quit a bit of good has been done in terms of foreign policy.

I find the first part of that statement of yours to be very obnoxious, not conducive to discussion and not worthy of progressive manners. I'm debating whether to give it a 2 or just finish this post.

Second point: I am tired of hearing this explanation of pragmatism. The fight is against vicious people who have engaged a war against the American people and much of the world for nearly 60 years. Each time they are in power they suck the lifeblood from the concept and glory of 'free and open' government. And when they lose a little of their power, they act all "You gotta work with the system and be inclusive" and "We are here protecting the interests of the American people".

It is a trap. And when the half-way, work within their system, measures turn into failures, people get anxious and put them back in power.

This definition of pragmatism is capitulation. Either the government is open and makes a claim for the high road and the high goals of a living Constitution, or it is failing.

So, sure, let Holder and each cabinet executive build a case bit by bit. But the president is the moral authority whose goals they have to reach. But arguments of not releasing photos because they will harm the soldiers is pandering and witless and worthy of a 2nd class citizen. After 60 years of graceless autocracy by the military and industrial socialists and the corporations who drug up Americans both literally and figuratively, we must insist on better.

Personally, I don't believe that Obama is Bush-lite, but many of his important actions have certainly been.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:04:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His analysis of the situation is correct, but it focuses more on the political aspects, which Obama must in fact deal with.

It has been insinuated that I'm a purity troll on dkos for taking this position, which only indicates the administration's need to educate the electorate. I am waiting for this process to begin. Oddly enough, it's Gates, in asking for a stronger diplomatic effort all around and the limits of what the military can accomplish, who implies the necessity to move in this direction.

Obama's public position seemingly goes the other way, which is largely the source of my frustration.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:45:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"...the political aspects, which Obama must in fact deal with."

This is, of course and in fact, understandable. But I don't agree.

He is not going to get that 30% of the RidiculousRightTM to agree with him by being only 30% a rapist.

He has to lead. Let his cabinet slog it out in the trenches. But he should be raising the flag of Purity and let everyone else catch up.

It should be easy to do. The phrases are there. We, The People. To Promote the General Welfare. To Promote Domestic Tranquility. To Establish Justice. To Provide for the Common Defense. To Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity.

Nothing in there about To Be Pragmatic about Releasing Torture Photos, To Kill Innocents Abroad, To Secure Oil by Financing a Military Juggernaut. To Make Certain that Corporate Socialism Reigns Supreme.

I would say that it should be an honor to be considered a purity troll on Kos. It reminds me of a phrase in the technology world: It is impossible to make things foolproof, because fools can be so damned clever. Somehow it relates to feint hearted liberals who don't understand the basics of democracy.


Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 05:59:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In one comment @ dkos, I opined that the political downside were he to initiate a criminal investigation might be less than he imagines.

Someone, somewhere, made the calculation that the world is better off with the democrats in power (a proposition that, on the whole, I agree with. We've seen what 30 years of republicans in power entails) and that the way back to power was to avoid doing anything that might arouse the right. Avoiding the notion that the democrats wish only to safeguard their seats, as many undoubtedly do, and the notion that historically, the democrats have been just as guilty of abuses of power as the republicans, our question then becomes: at what price do we keep these democrats in power?

Criminal proceedings against torturers, including those with command responsibility, is but a pale substitute for prosecuting the far vaster crime of ordering the war of aggression against Iraq. But as there's no statute I'm aware of against ordering an invasion, criminal investigations against torture is all we have left. That's my calculation. Start at the top.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 07:06:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they prosecute Cheney specifically for ordering torture in order to get prisoners to make up confessions that justify the war in Iraq, you get close - even though the prosecution will be for torture, many people will regard it as a prosecution for ordering the war itself. Another reason to start at the top.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 07:34:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see a way to get any closer.

I read somewhere that the States Parties to the ICC is currently negotiating over the crime of aggression, which falls under the ambit of the ICC. I haven't looked for any more information yet (I really should, and soon) so I wonder what the sticking points are.

In the meantime, I revisited Joseph Nye's "Understanding International Conflict" again. He opens with a very clear and concise dissertation on the place of morality (as well as the times when morality should take a back seat to survival) in international relations:

We can therefore reject complete skepticism [that morality has no place] in international politics. Morality is about choice, and meaningful choice varies with the conditions of survival. The greater the threats to survival, the less room for moral choice. At the start of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians argued, "Those who really deserve praise are the people who, while human enough to enjoy power, nevertheless pay more attention to justice than they are compelled to do by their situation." Unfortunately, the Athenians lost sight of that wisdom later in their war, but it reminds us that situations with absolutely no choice are rare and that national security and degrees of threat are often ambiguous.

(emphasis mine. This is the passage I was looking for. For whatever reason it resonates, and I felt the need to read it again.)


Everyone made choices. The numbers of those with some degree of culpability culminating in the passage of the AUMF in Iraq in 2002 is considerable: the administration and congress we know of. But how about the press? Judith Miller and Michael Gordon of the NYT? Others in every major news organization except Knight-Ridder? (Especially FauxNews) Can people who are willing to be used, if it suits their unrelated professional needs, be excused? How about a torturer? The one physically applying the technique? I recently read the Human Rights watch report (by following links from Fran's Salon post, Suspected war criminal to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan) in which is told the account of an E6 (sergeant) who, after repeatedly asking the question, "isn't this treatment illegal?" was told by superiors not to pursue this line. Now where was he going to go after being told this? Up the chain of command? To get the ruling of a military lawyer? What's his culpability? Or that of others around him who witnessed that outcome but who were asked to commit a crime?

There is a difference between upholding the rule of law and going overboard in the name of moral purity, and just whom should be targeted for prosecution needs to be thought about very carefully.

For my part, the emerging story about torture crystallized for me the reason that neocons were so eager to go to war. Torture was their preferred method of interrogation not because of the information it would reveal (which at best would be suspect), but because the neocon way is the way of force, be it in the prison cell or on the battlefield. Apart from this mention of it, I'm not going to go on about the racial implications here, I think they're evident enough, but this too would point toward the psychology that if it didn't create, then certainly played a part in enabling this whole mess.

My earlier question is answered, not with any great revelation, but with a result that feels solid and demonstrable: oil profits (h/t to whomever described that meeting where oil barons met prior to the invasion to divide the Iraqi fields - I've since seen a corroborating account), racial hated, and the desire (which, frankly, I never quite grasped) to demonstrate the prerogatives only a great power possesses.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 10:16:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well said~!

That is certainly an interesting point of consideration. How does one place shame on the news outlets. Perhaps one can't do much more in an open society that should take pride for insisting on free press and free discussions.

Conduct Unbecoming...Violation of Trust...Capitulation to Power...

These are not things that the public should be proud of.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon May 18th, 2009 at 03:26:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First of all, don't take D-Kos seriously and you'll be on the right track.

You're right. In the past day or so, they've all joined hands and passed through the looking-glass together with the ban-gate thing.

There are some good diarists there though, one would hope after this that they'd move to another site. I myself am going to give Booman a look.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon May 18th, 2009 at 07:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Suspected war criminal to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan

On July 22 2006, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled "No blood, no foul" about American torture practices at three facilities in Iraq. One of them was Camp Nama, which was operated by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), under the direction of then Major General Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal was officially based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but he was a frequent visitor to Camp Nama and other Special Forces bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where forces under his command were based.

An interrogator at Camp Nama described locking prisoners in shipping containers for 24 hours at a time in extreme heat; exposing them to extreme cold with periodic soaking in cold water; bombardment with bright lights and loud music; sleep deprivation; and severe beatings. When he and other interrogators went to the colonel in charge and expressed concern that this kind of treatment was not legal, and that they might be investigated by the military's Criminal Investigation Division or the International Committee of the Red Cross, the colonel told them he had "this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there's no way that the Red Cross could get in."

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the international body charged under international law with monitoring compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and it, therefore, has the right to inspect all facilities where people are detained in a country that is at war or under military occupation. To hide prisoners or facilities from the ICRC or to deny access to them is a serious war crime. But many U.S. prisons in Iraq have held "ghost" prisoners whose imprisonment has not been reported to the ICRC, and these "ghosts" have usually been precisely the ones subjected to the worst torture. Camp Nama, run by McChrystal's JSOC, was an entire "ghost" facility.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:14:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama to revive terror tribunals - Americas, World - The Independent

Barack Obama will restart Bush-era military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced but with new legal protections for terror suspects, US officials said yesterday.

The President suspended the tribunals within hours of taking office in January, ordering a review but stopping short of abandoning George Bush's strategy of prosecuting suspected terrorists.

The military trials will remain frozen for another four months as the administration adjusts the legal system that is expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees at the US naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thirteen detainees -- including five charged with helping orchestrate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- are already in the tribunal system.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:27:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tribunals to return, detainees to have more rights | TPM News Pages

President Barack Obama will restart military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a Bush-era trial system he once assailed as flawed but with new legal protections for terror suspects, U.S. officials said.

The changes to the system, which will affect a small number of detainees, will be announced Friday.

The military trials will remain frozen for another four months as the administration adjusts the legal system that is expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees at the U.S. naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thirteen detainees -- including five charged with helping orchestrate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- are already in the tribunal system.

Two senior administration officials outlined several of the rules changes, which will be carried out by executive authority, to The Associated Press on Thursday night. They include:

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:27:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and yet kossacks claim that he closed GITMO. [massive sigh]

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:10:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera English - Asia-Pacific - Outcry grows over Suu Kyi charges

The US and EU have condemned Myanmar's government for bringing charges against the country's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she was "deeply troubled" by Myanmar's "baseless charge" against the Nobel Peace laureate, saying the military government was looking for a "pretext" to place further unjust restrictions on her.

"We call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally along with her doctor and the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held," Clinton said on Thursday.

She added that she would raise the issue with Myanmar's ally China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional group, of which Myanmar is a member.

Her calls were echoed by the EU's special envoy to Myanmar, who said the new charges brought against Aung San Suu Kyi were without foundation.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:45:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerusalem plan called dangerous

RIYADH: Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal yesterday called an Israeli plan to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and surround the city with Jewish-controlled sites "dangerous and provocative."

Lauding US efforts to relaunch the Middle East peace process, Prince Saud called on Israel to freeze all demolition orders against Palestinian homes, something that has become a cause for growing international concern.

Addressing a joint news conference with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen here, Prince Saud backed the Arab peace initiative and called for the immediate revival of the Middle East peace process.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:51:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 LIVING OFF THE PLANET 
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:06:02 AM EST
Cisgenesis: cross fertilization, but a bit quicker - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - English
The first potato that's resistant to Phytophtera has been developed. Phytophtera is better known as potato rot, a fungus which can wipe out whole harvests. Botanists at the University of Wageningen have developed the resistant potato using a form of genetic modification. The has all the advantages of gene technology, without raising with moral and environmental objections.

Genetic modification has a bad name. The artificial addition of foreign genes into a plant or animal creates a living organism which does not occur naturally. That sounds creepy, but it gets really scary when the organisms start to spread, mutate or mingle with other species. Wouter van Eck, an expert with the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth, (pictured left) paints a frightening picture:
by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:16:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
George Monbiot: Climate change displacement has begun - but hardly anyone has noticed | Environment | guardian.co.uk
The first evacuation of an entire community due to manmade global warming is happening on the Carteret Islands

Journalists - they're never around when you want one. Two weeks ago a momentous event occurred: the beginning of the world's first evacuation of an entire people as a result of manmade global warming. It has been marked so far by one blog post for the Ecologist and an article in the Solomon Times*. Where is everyone?

The Carteret Islands are off the coast of Bougainville, which, in turn, is off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They are small coral atolls on which 2,600 people live. Though not for much longer.

As the Ecologist's blogger Dan Box witnessed, the first five families have moved to Bougainville to prepare the ground for full evacuation. There are compounding factors - the removal of mangrove forests and some local volcanic activity - but the main problem appears to be rising sea levels. The highest point of the islands is 170cm above the sea. Over the past few years they have been repeatedly inundated by spring tides, wiping out the islanders' vegetable and fruit gardens, destroying their subsistence and making their lives impossible.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:18:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cocaine and LSD found in air of Spanish cities - Telegraph
Spanish scientists have discovered traces of cocaine and LSD in the air in the cities of Madrid and Barcelona.

Air pollution has long been a fact of life in Spanish cities, but scientists now say that it is not just smog that chokes people as they walk to work or stroll through the park.

A new study has found the air in Madrid and Barcelona is also laced with at least five drugs - most prominently cocaine.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:24:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Better Water Use Could Reduce Future Food Crises
The challenge of meeting future water needs under the impacts of climate change and rapidly growing human demands for water may be less bleak than widely portrayed a team of Swedish and German scientists says.

If the overall water resources in river basins were acknowledged and managed better, future food crises could be significantly reduced, say researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, Stockholm Environment Institute and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The challenge of meeting future water needs under the impacts of climate change and rapidly growing human demands for water may be less bleak than widely portrayed.

An analysis by a team of Swedish and German scientists quantifies for the first time the opportunities of effectively using both "green" and "blue" water to adapt to climate change and to feed the future world population. The study was recently published in the journal "Water Resources Research".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 01:09:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 LIVING ON THE PLANET 
 Society, Culture, History, Information 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:06:29 AM EST
Explorer-Scouts Train in Post-9/11 Law Enforcement Methods - NYTimes.com

IMPERIAL, Calif. -- Ten minutes into arrant mayhem in this town near the Mexican border, and the gunman, a disgruntled Iraq war veteran, has already taken out two people, one slumped in his desk, the other covered in blood on the floor. Skip to next paragraph Multimedia Slide Show Explorers Train to Fight Terrorists, and More Enlarge This Image Todd Krainin for The New York Times

In a training exercise run by Border Patrol agents, Explorer scouts from Visalia, Calif., prepare to storm a "hijacked" bus. More Photos » The New York Times

Imperial County relies on the local criminal justice system. More Photos > Readers' Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

The responding officers -- eight teenage boys and girls, the youngest 14 -- face tripwire, a thin cloud of poisonous gas and loud shots -- BAM! BAM! -- fired from behind a flimsy wall. They move quickly, pellet guns drawn and masks affixed.

"United States Border Patrol! Put your hands up!" screams one in a voice cracking with adolescent determination as the suspect is subdued.

It is all quite a step up from the square knot.

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence -- an intense ratcheting up of one of the group's longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:09:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pretty scary stuff, the scouts as a paramilitary unit. and of course, being so young they never question the indoctrination

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:42:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Hitler youth?"

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:36:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 PEOPLE AND KLATSCH 

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:07:00 AM EST
BBC NEWS | Europe | The battle of the Berlusconis

She also voiced her anger over plans by Mr Berlusconi's coalition to line up several attractive young women for June's European Parliament elections, describing the party's list as "shamelessly trashy" and a "dangerous degradation of Italian politics".

Maria Laura Rodota, a commentator with Corriere della Sera's popular online forum on pop culture and politics - in Italy, the two go hand-in-hand - says Mrs Berlusconi has "struck the most formidable and effective challenge to Berlusconi's mystique to date".

But, she says, "it's extraordinarily sad that it had to be his wife who denounced him and not a female politician or the leader of the opposition".
---
Some commentators have noted that Mr Berlusconi's party quietly dropped most of the attractive female candidates from its European list, after Mrs Berlusconi's outburst.

It may be a small victory, but it's certainly seen by some as a symbolic one.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:12:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"...it's extraordinarily sad that it had to be his wife who denounced him and not a female politician or the leader of the opposition".

Only Veronica Lario would have had the necessary media impact. Prominent female leaders and politicians have chastised Berlusconi for his political machismo for years, getting only bemused smiles. It's no secret to the point there's even a name for it: celodurismo or "hard-dickism".

Thatcher took a cocktail of male hormones. Italian politics is driven by Viagra and cocaine.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:16:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Polish priest publishes sex guide

A Polish Catholic priest has published a book which provides married couples with a theological and practical guide to spicing up their sex lives.

In his book, Sex as you don't know it: for married couples who love God, Father Ksawery Knotz aims to sweep away the strait-laced attitudes many hold.

Sex in marriage, the Franciscan friar explains, should not be boring but "saucy, surprising and fantasy packed".

The book, which has the backing of the Polish Catholic Church, has been a hit.

The Sw. Pawel publishing house has ordered a reprint after Poles snapped up the first 5,000 copies within weeks of them going on sale.

by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:17:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
gotta see this
by paving on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:40:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why Carla Bruni and Mick Jagger may be spending the night together - Times Online

Mick Jagger might soon have a new neighbour in his Paris flat: his old flame Carla Bruni.

The possibility of the Rolling Stone and his ex-girlfriend rubbing shoulders in the stairwell of the same building emerged with news yesterday that President Sarkozy and his wife have been out house-hunting and recently inspected the former Left Bank home of Yves Saint Laurent.

Sir Mick has long owned a flat two floors up from the late fashion designer's vast apartment. The garden duplex was home to the spectacular art trove that Saint Laurent collected with Pierre Bergé, his partner, which was sold for €373 million (£335 million) in February.

The duplex, which is worth well over €10 million, was visited by the Sarkozys last week, residents said. There was no official word on the couple's plans, but they have been looking for lodgings more suitable than the secluded town house that Ms Bruni rents in the Villa Montmorency, an ultra-expensive private street in the grand 16th arrondissement.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:21:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Abstinence Counselor Charged With Sexual Assault of Student : The Curvature
A man who counsels teens on how to remain sexually abstinent has been arrested and charged with sexual assault (from further descriptions, seemingly rape) of one of his "students":


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:35:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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