Archive for International

May
31

Round up the unusual suspects

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When the IRS’ chief of criminal investigation this week uttered the phrase “World Cup of fraud,” for a moment I thought he meant criminal indictments were finally being issued for Wall Street bankers over the criminal practices that precipitated (and followed) the 2008 financial crisis. How naive.

“If you touch our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or through using our world class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption,” FBI Director James Comey said of the charges leveled this week against officials of FIFA, international soccer’s governing body.

Not being a big team sports guy myself – as the Monkees’ Davy Jones said, “It’s ’cause I’m short, I know.” – I had to Google FIFA. This explainer from Vox helps:

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May
30

More than meets the eye

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When a conservative politician uses some oddball term that makes my ears prick up, makes me cock my head like a dog and baroo, I have learned to dig deeper and not simply shrug it off. It is often a dog whistle. There’s more going on than meets the ear.

So when President Obama went to bat for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, kept it out of public view, and seemed ready to go to the mat for an agreement that seems likely to hurt American workers, you would think I might have done the same instead of thinking it was just the neoliberal agenda. But when Mike Lux yesterday (Slavery? Really?) highlighted that, in pursuit of the TPP, the first African-American president was ready to oppose any moves by the Senate requiring Malaysia to put the brakes on its tolerance for slavery, something finally clicked. Perhaps there was more going on than meets the eye. I dug deeper.

First, Ryan Grimm at Huffington Post:

That measure would bar governments considered to be complicit in human trafficking from receiving the economic benefits of a fast-tracked trade deal. Menendez, the author of the provision, has described it as a human rights protection that will prevent U.S. workers from competing with modern-day slave labor. The administration has pushed against the provision, saying it would prevent Malaysia from participating in the deal, and eliminate incentives for the country to upgrade its human trafficking enforcement. Human rights advocates strongly support the language that passed the Senate on Friday.

The president argues that if the U.S. doesn’t cut deals with these partner countries, China will, to U.S. disadvantage.

But you know all that. Mike Lux at C&L writes, “We’re not going to object to slavery because a country that openly engages in it might trade more with China than with us? Doesn’t this kind of blow up the whole ‘most progressive trade agreement in history’ thing?”

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Categories : International, National
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May
27

Super-deluxe, Extra-special, Inc.

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Avoiding responsibility is just what the corporate form was designed for, wasn’t it? That’s why corporations will always go to the mat to protect their special rights and privileges as super-citizens. Those include not to facing jail time for repeated criminal behavior. Petty crime? Three strikes and you’re out. Corporate crime? Nobody’s counting. Justice for corporate crime is a different ball game.

“Banks have been on a criminal wilding,” Katrina vanden Heuvel writes, “allegedly laundering money for drug dealers, systematically defrauding homeowners on their mortgages, routinely committing perjury in courts and much more.” Their companies pay fines, yet virtually no one in charge goes to jail. Isn’t that special?

RJ Eskow ticks off a lengthy series of criminal behavior by large banking firms: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS Financial Services. All repeat offenders:

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May
26

Isn’t that special?

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Re: Trans-Pacific Partnership investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals.

Query: If corporations can sue over loss of “expected future profits” they didn’t earn, can people get food over loss of “expected future work”?

It has always seemed to me that people should be holding the corporate leash, not wearing the collar. “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.” Yet we seem ready to hand mega-corporations a new and improved leash.

TPP is a “sellout of democracy” by “well-intentioned, sophisticated, realistic people … used to disregarding democracy when they want to accomplish something important,” writes Duke law school’s Jedediah Purdy at Huffington Post (emphasis mine):

From what we know of the TPP, it works as an economic policy straitjacket, locking its members into a shared set of market rules. It even brings in “investor-state dispute settlement” — a fancy term for allowing foreign corporations to sue governments whose lawmaking interferes with their profits, outside the courts of law, in suits resolved by private arbitrators. All of that is fundamentally anti-democratic. It reverses the basic and proper relationship between a political community and its economy. But plenty of Americans are seeking just that reversal. Not all of them believe the market is perfect and magical; but they believe it works, more or less, and that democracy does not. They are more than half right that this democracy, “our democracy” (a phrase that’s hard to say without irony), does not work. And that is the reality that makes their anti-democratic agreement so plausible.

I just said it in plain English. That extra-legal process violates not only democratic principles, but all the “Makers” and “personal responsibility” bullshit our corporate Brahmins spew to keep the rest of us in line — especially the poorest among us. But when you are that special, living your hypocrisy is just another of the perks.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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May
25

Damned dirty hippies

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US war casualties in a C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base
This photo and 361 others have been released by the Air Force due to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Memory Hole, and can also be found at this site. Initially, the request was denied, but were released after an appeal by The Memory Hole. Shortly after the release of the photos, the Pentagon barred any further releases of photos to the media. According to Dover AFB spokesman Col Jon Anderson: “They’re not happy with the release of the photos“.
(Public domain image.)

The sun is just up and I put out the flag. It is Memorial Day again. There will be a ceremony downtown later to honor America’s war dead. Some in Washington are clamoring to send more Americans to join them.

We have seen stories lately that Memorial Day originated in 1865 with freed slaves in Charleston, SC. They took it upon themselves to give a proper burial to hundreds of Union soldiers from a prison camp at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club who had been buried in a mass grave. Whether that event was the inspiration for the national holiday established in 1868 is conjecture. According to Yale historian David W. Blight, the “Martyrs of the Race Course” have since been moved to the National Cemetery at Beaufort, South Carolina. The track is now a park adjacent to the Citadel military college.

I was on the Isle of Palms a few miles east of there on October 7, 2002, watching, the night George W. Bush gave the televised speech in Cincinnati. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at Saddam Hussein in an effort to convince the American people we needed to go to war against Iraq (as the White House had already decided). The well-orchestrated, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld propaganda effort has been much in the news lately. A decade later, Americans have largely concluded, knowing what we know now, that we, the Bush administration, and a cheerleading national press were misled by bad intelligence.

No, we weren’t. David Corn put it plainly last week: “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, & Co. were not misled by lousy intelligence; they used lousy intelligence to mislead the public.”

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Categories : Iraq, National
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May
24

Like that could happen

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Privacy advocates worry that military drones could soon be used to spy on Americans. An activist friend trying to get reporters to publicize how the military plans for its squadrons of Predators, Reapers, etc. to share the National Airspace System (NAS) with private and commercial aircraft is greeted with the kind of skepticism one might have gotten a few years ago for suggesting the NSA was bulk-collecting Americans’ phone records. Like that could happen.

Others have worried about hackers hijacking unmanned or commercial aircraft and, say, flying them into buildings. Like that could happen.

According to Der Spiegel last week, IT expert Chris Roberts has shown what, in theory, could happen with commercial airliners:

According to the FBI document, which was first made public by the Canadian news website APTN, Roberts was able to hack into the onboard entertainment systems — manufactured by companies such as Panasonic and Thales — of passenger planes such as the Boeing 737, the Boeing 757 and the Airbus A320. He did so a total of 15 to 20 times between 2011 and 2014. To do so, he hooked his laptop up to the Seat Electronic Box (SEB) — which are usually located under each passenger seat — using an Ethernet cable, which is unsettling enough.

But Roberts may also potentially have used the SEB to hack into sensitive systems that control the engines. In one case, he may even have been able to manipulate the engines during flight. He says that he was able to successfully enter the command “CLB,” which stands for “climb,” and the plane’s engines reacted accordingly, he told the FBI, according to the document.

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May
17

Any More Like Her At Home?

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From a Last Word segment on Friday:

Ivy Ziedrich, the 19-year-old Nevada college student who told Jeb Bush that his brother created ISIS, joins Lawrence O’Donnell for her first national interview in a Last Word exclusive.

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May
01

Freedom’s untidy

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So in light of recent events in Baltimore, a friend dredged up this nugget from the memory hole:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave that explanation for the looting in Baghdad at a briefing on April 11, 2003. He followed those remarks by saying:

… freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that’s what’s going to happen here.

[snip]

The task we’ve got ahead of us now is an awkward one, because you have to go from a transition — from a repressed regime to an unrepressed regime that is free to do good things and also do bad things, and we’re going to see both.

Notice how easily the untidiness in Baltimore knocked ISIL, a.k.a. Rumsfeld’s Baby, right off the front pages? Yes, ISIL is that much of an existential threat to America.

The scary thing for Iraq and Syria, however, is that now the media-conscious ISIL will want to do some “bad things” that put them back on the front pages.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Apr
25

Silenced for speaking her mind

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We have become disturbingly accustomed in this country to police shootings of unarmed, black men. This is not another one of those:

Pakistan civil liberties activist and social worker Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi Friday night as she headed home from a talk on the troubled Balochistan province. She was 40.

According to the Dawn website, Sabeen left The Second Floor — she was the director of T2F which she called a community space for open dialogue — with her mother shortly after 9 pm and was on her way home when she was shot. She died on the way to hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body. Her mother was said to be in a critical condition.

“No one has claimed responsibility for her shooting, and police have not named any motive,” reports CNN, plus this background on Mahmud:

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Apr
24

Don’t fear the Reapers

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First MQ-9 Reaper arriving at Creech AFB, March 2007
By United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.

But who’s counting? As Digby pointed out last night, there is a lot less precision to these “precision” drone strikes than meets the monitors of drone pilots at Creech Air Force Base. The government can’t even keep count of how many Americans they’ve killed. The Guardian reports:

The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday.

The lack of specificity suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring “near certainty that the terrorist target is present”, the US continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill, a practice that has come to be known as a “signature strike”.

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