Archive for International
City leaders and a group of organizers here have been fighting state efforts to take over our city’s water system for several years. City of Asheville v State of North Carolina, et al. goes before the state Supreme Court next month. The originator of the bill (an ALEC board member before he lost his state House seat) insisted transferring control to a regional authority was not the first step towards privatization. You know, we just didn’t believe him. The water situation in Flint, Michigan is sure to come up in oral arguments on May 17.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) of Milwaukee is the Ranking Member of the Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee that oversees U.S. relations with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. She is not too keen on water privatization either. Privatization opponents in Wisconsin recently fought off an effort led by Aqua America Inc. to privatize water there:
The legislation would legalize purchases of water utilities by out-of-state corporations and change existing law to make public referendums on such purchases optional instead of mandatory.
Thanks to Congress slowly drowning the U.S. Postal Service in the metaphorical bathtub, the form I put in the mail to my doctor last week traveled 90 miles south and across a state line for sorting before delivery to his office four miles away. Slow death by mandated prefunding of its retiree health benefits means USPS closed the local mail processing facility last year to save costs, worsen service, and keep government from competing with private firms in the delivery business. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 be damned. The Market demands human sacrifice. (Strange, but its name appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, unlike the Post Office. Must remember to look for The Market in the colonial apocrypha.)
It appears The Market now has turned its attention to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, with a “utility-like mandate to keep credit flowing in the housing markets.” Matt Taibbi examines why the Obama administration is invoking executive privilege to keep secret 11,000 communications covering federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The administration claims the release would harm financial markets. The federal judge that ordered last week’s release says the government simply doesn’t want to be embarrassed.
As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill makes its way through the Senate this week, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have been arguing for new rules that would limit cargo pilots’ flight time to nine hours between rests. We don’t want any accidents.
“Fatigue is a killer,” Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who executed the 2009 emergency airliner landing in the Hudson River, told a press conference. Then again, if you are a drone pilot in the business of deliberately killing people, working six or seven days a week, twelve hours a day is not a problem.
The drone program remains controversial and has its detractors and defenders. Al Jazeera English this week published the confessions of former Air Force drone technician, Cian Westmoreland. He and three other former operators last year called on the president to stop the program, calling the strategy “self-defeating,” one that propagates anti-US hatred. Not to mention his own nightmares:
Not all political deflections are bright and shiny. Hyperventilating over public aid to those at the bottom of the wealth curve is an oldie but goody. Is Wall Street defrauding the planet to the tune of trillions? Well, but LOOK! Over there. A poor person. Eating!
Properly incentivizing the poor is a perennial handwringer for Fox News and other watchdogs of personal morality on the right (who otherwise think the government should mind its own damned business). Nicholas Kristof, however, spares some column inches this morning on the incentives driving our beleaguered corporate persons at the top. He gets downright snarky about it:
A study to be released Thursday says that for each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Goodness! What will that do to their character? Won’t that sap their initiative?
The study in question comes from Oxfam. The group finds:
You have to wonder: Does Donald Trump have any friends? Really? Not many in New York, it seems. Maybe he should visit Mexico for Easter some time. He has lots of friends down there. Tre-men-dous friends. They love him down there:
Mexicans celebrating an Easter ritual late on Saturday burnt effigies of U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, whose anti-immigrant views have sparked outrage south of the American border.
In Mexico City’s poor La Merced neighborhood, hundreds of cheering residents yelled “death” and various insults as they watched the explosion of the grinning papier-mâché mock-up of the real estate tycoon, replete with blue blazer, red tie and his trademark tuft of blond hair.
Media reported that Trump effigies burned across Mexico, from Puebla to Mexico’s industrial hub Monterrey.
Reuters cites a Belgian Public Broadcaster VRT in reporting that a suicide attack rocked the airport in Brussels this morning killing 13 and severely injuring 35 as of this writing. The blasts hit just before 8 a.m. local time. Several news outlets report that explosions also occurred at the Maalbeek Metro station near the EU buildings in Brussels. No deaths reported there at this time. Others say 10 killed at Maalbeek. Early reports tend to be inaccurate.
— US Embassy Brussels (@usembbrussels) March 22, 2016
From Reuters’ live news blog:
The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before the blasts at the airport. Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.
The blasts at the airport and metro station occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action.
British Sky News television’s Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions”.
“I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well…I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked.”
The Independent has this report (5:55 EDT):
Witnesses said the airport blasts happened shortly before 8am local time (7am GMT) in the departure hall near the check-in desks for American Airlines and Brussels Airlines.
Little over an hour later, another explosion was reported at the Maalbeek (Maelbeek) station, near the European Council headquarters and other EU buildings. The capital’s entire public transport system was being shut down.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 22, 2016
Our prayers for the victims and the people of Brussels.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
At a time when Americans are waiting for (and expecting) fistfights to break out at political rallies, thank God for the Brits. At least they’ve retained their sense of humor.
The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has a new polar research vessel designed and ready for construction at a shipyard on the River Mersey. The new ship “will deliver world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.”
But it needs a name. Something noble and historic. Perhaps the name of a legendary British explorer like Shackleton or something lofty and poetic like Endeavour?
The NERC announced the online voting contest to name the nearly $300 million boat to be launched in 2019 recently, and the leading vote-getter so far is the simple but silly “Boaty McBoatface.”
It’s never a good thing to take yourself too seriously. Especially on Monday.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
The establishment Republican ideology prioritizes capital above all else. For them, the market does not exist to serve people: people exist to serve the market. Unregulated capitalism can never fail; it can only be failed by those too lazy, useless and unproductive to serve and profit by it. It is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of its species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security. Worst of all, it blames its victims for its failure to provide solutions to their needs.
Too strong, you think? Consider this excerpt from the NRO piece in which Kevin Williamson condemns Trump’s supporters as apostates from the one, true faith — his (emphasis mine):
It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. … They failed themselves.
After several years of delays, Short Attention Span Theater will again resume production on Repatriation Tax Holiday 2.
Robert Reich flagged District Studios’ announcement yesterday on Facebook:
I’ve spent the last day in Washington, where Democrats are quietly gearing up to negotiate a “tax amnesty” for American-based global corporations that have parked some $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits abroad (mostly in tax havens) to avoid paying their U.S. taxes. The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent, but Obama is ready to offer 14 percent if they’ll bring the profits home; Republicans want 10 percent; some Democratic senators are willing to go even lower (Barbara Boxer is teaming up with Rand Paul to offer 6.5 percent). Corporate lobbyists are swarming over Capitol Hill, suggesting if they don’t get a great deal they might not just keep the profits abroad but even move their corporations abroad (like Pfizer is doing).
It’s the blame game this morning as fingers point to who is to blame for the rise of Trump and Trumpism. Eric Boehlert of Hillary-friendly Media Matters examines how the media’s obsession with Donald Trump has yielded millions in free air time for the billionaire:
We seem to have entered unchartered territory where campaign coverage, at least Trump’s campaign coverage, is based on what’s popular (or what makes money for news outlets), and not based on what’s newsworthy. Casting aside decades of precedent, campaign journalism seems to have almost consciously shifted to a for-profit model.
Writing at The Observer, Ryan Holiday suggested a new paradigm is in play this campaign season:
Politicians have always sought to manipulate the public. What’s changed is that media is now not only a willing co-conspirator, they are often the driving force behind the manipulation. No longer seeing itself as responsible for reporting the truth, for getting the facts to the people, it has instead incentivized a scrum, a wild fight for attention in which anything that attracts an audience is fair game. And as long as theirs is the ring where the fight goes down, they’ll happily sell tickets to as many as will come.