Archive for International

Just yesterday I was wondering what ever happened to “frivolous lawsuits” and the runaway juries Big Bidness and Republican lawmakers used to cite as reasons to push for tort reform. It seems Republicans couldn’t deliver. Big Bidness went to Plan B: circumventing the courts entirely. The New York Times brings us up to date:

Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court.

“This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

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No Shots Fired? Whassup With That?

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We shoot first here and ask questions later. Because … because.

Categories : International, National
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Saints and Scrooges

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“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

CEOs who don’t act like CEOs are a rare breed, and newsworthy. Even more so when they are not fictional. Susie Madrak highlighted one the other day at Crooks and Liars. Seems this guy found out it paid off to double the salary of his entry-level employees. Blasphemy! Rush Limbaugh branded him a socialist. Need we say more?

In April, Dan Price, CEO of the credit card payment processor Gravity Payments, announced that he will eventually raise minimum pay for all employees to at least $70,000 a year.

The move sparked not just a firestorm of media attention, but also a lawsuit from Price’s brother and co-founder Lucas, claiming that the pay raise violated his rights as a minority shareholder.

But six months later, the financial results are starting to come in: Price told Inc. Magazine that revenue is now growing at double the rate before the raises began and profits have also doubled since then.

On top of that, while it lost a few customers in the kerfuffle, the company’s customer retention rate rose from 91 to 95 percent, and only two employees quit. Two weeks after he made the initial announcement, the company was flooded with 4,500 resumes and new customer inquiries jumped from 30 a month to 2,000 a month.

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Exxon Playing Dumb

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No slip-up, Sherlock

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While George W. Bush finger-paints in Crawford, TX, Tony Blair is still taking heat in England for the Iraq invasion. A six-year public inquiry into the affair is still unpublished. Only now, tentatively, has Blair admitted things have not gone as smoothly as Bush/Cheney promised (emphasis mine):

Only one of Tony Blair’s mea culpas in his CNN interview stands out as truly significant: his partial acknowledgment that without the Iraq war there would be no Islamic State (Isis).

Until now, Blair had refused to link the two, insisting instead in the lead-up to the war that sending western troops would deny jihadis an arena and prevent Saddam Hussein from using them as proxies in his standoff with the west.

Blair would only admit there were “elements of truth” in claims that the Iraq invasion gave rise to ISIL, now in control of swaths of Iraq and Syria, just the opposite of a key public goal of the Iraq invasion:

“Of course, you can’t say that those of us who removed (former Iraqi dictator) Saddam (Hussein) in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015,” Blair told U.S. network CNN.

Critics say the U.S. decision to disband Saddam Hussein’s army after the invasion created a huge security vacuum exploited by al Qaeda, which was eventually replaced by Islamic State.

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Categories : International, Iraq
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Sham democracy and kangaroo elections

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In 2008, there were financial bailouts for megabanks and foreclosures for homeowners. There was vulture capitalist Paul Singer seizing an Argentine naval vessel in a dispute over debt in 2012. There was the European Central Bank bringing Greece to heel this summer after voters in January elected Alexis Tsipras to end the “vicious cycle of austerity.” Coming Soon: TPP. There are probably other cases as well. If it was not clear already who is really running the planet, here is another clue.

In Portugal’s elections earlier this month, Socialists, Communists, and the Left Bloc had won enough seats to form a coalition government, displacing the center-right Forward Portugal Alliance (PAF). And then?

Elections in Portugal this week offered the latest sign that when an individual European nation’s voters challenge eurozone austerity policies, the monetary union — and the international creditors it represents — takes precedence.

Portugal’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, fueled an ongoing debate about the future of European democracy on Thursday when he reappointed an outgoing center-right prime minister despite election results that gave three left-leaning political parties the majority of seats in parliament.

Silva asked incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to remain and to form a new government. Opposition Socialists threaten to bring down his government with an immediate vote of no confidence.

Writing for the Independent, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard sees where this is going:

Greece’s Syriza movement, Europe’s first radical-Left government in Europe since the Second World War, was crushed into submission for daring to confront eurozone ideology. Now the Portuguese Left is running into a variant of the same meat-grinder.

Europe’s socialists face a dilemma. They are at last waking up to the unpleasant truth that monetary union is an authoritarian Right-wing enterprise that has slipped its democratic leash, yet if they act on this insight in any way they risk being prevented from taking power.

That is a nicer way of saying that what you thought was government by consent of the governed is really more like your student government experience in high school. The principal has the power to overrule. It is a sham democracy. Where once people might have held business’ leash, now we wear the collar.

This may still be reversible if Americans lead. But right now it appears there is only enough indignation for pushing back in Europe. America is so besotted with bread and circuses that people cannot even muster enough indignation to get off the couch, vote, and find out just how short their leashes actually are.

Fielding Mellish: I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Swing to the left

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Political dynasties are not unheard of. The U.S. presidency went from Adams to Adams and from Bush to Bush. It could go from Clinton to Clinton next fall. On the other hand, Jeb! might be a Bush too far.

Yesterday, Canada went from Trudeau to Trudeau in a swing to the left:

Canadians voted for a sharp change in their government Monday, resoundingly ending Conservative Stephen Harper’s attempt to shift the nation to the right and returning a legendary name for liberals, Trudeau, to the prime minister’s office.

Justin Trudeau, the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, became Canada’s new prime minister after his Liberal Party won a majority of Parliament’s 338 seats. Trudeau’s Liberals had been favored to win the most seats, but few expected the final margin of victory.

Well, that’s promising, and perhaps catching. Maybe that’s why Scott Walker proposed building a wall on our northern border.

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Categories : International
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Death by Drone: What a pitch for Verizon

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Finding your way around in The Intercept’s labyrinthine “The Drone Papers” is disorienting. By design, one supposes. The effect of reading through this account of America’s assassination program — ahem, “targeted killings” — is akin to the complaint of drone operators that watching targets via drone-mounted surveillance cameras is like “looking through a soda straw.”

Like any good techies, the military seems obsessed with power, speed and accuracy. They are “enamored by the ability of special operations and the CIA to find a guy in the middle of the desert in some shitty little village and drop a bomb on his head and kill him,” according to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And obsessed in particular, with eliminating “blink“:

A “blink” happens when a drone has to move and there isn’t another aircraft to continue watching a target. According to classified documents, this is a major challenge facing the military, which always wants to have a “persistent stare.”

The conceptual metaphor of surveillance is seeing. Perfect surveillance would be like having a lidless eye. Much of what is seen by a drone’s camera, however, appears without context on the ground. Some drone operators describe watching targets as “looking through a soda straw.”

Credit Tolkien with the conceptual metaphor of the lidless eye. (I’m sure a reader will correct me.)

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What about the rights of irresponsible gun owners?

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This dropped into the in-box yesterday from MoveOn:

I’m a gun-owning evangelical Christian Republican. I campaigned against President Obama two times. But after the Oregon shooting, I agree with him: we need responsible gun legislation in America.

That’s why I’ve decided to team up with MoveOn. And boy, I didn’t see that coming. But I believe MoveOn has the guts and grit it’s going to take to reach and mobilize responsible gun owners across the political spectrum, including more than 22,000 MoveOn members, to rally support for executive actions by President Obama that could reduce gun-related tragedies.

Now wait just a gosh-darn minute. Isn’t it the American Way, isn’t it our God-given right to be irresponsible gun owners, to go out in a blaze of glory or with a hearty, “Hey, watch this!”? Because Freedom?

If you haven’t noticed, David Waldman — @KagroX, über-patriot — has been celebratin’ the heroic exploits of uninfringed Real Americans in his Twitter feed under the hashtag #GunFAIL. It just seems fitting to acknowledge the fine job he’s doing. Irresponsible gun owners have 2nd Amendment rights, too.

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Reifying the economy

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From Europe to the Pacific rim, capitalism marches on. Right over democracy. Guess what? People don’t like it. You remember people? They’re the ones, as Pope Francis suggested, the economy is supposed to serve, not rule:

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they say is anti-democratic and will lower food safety, labor and environmental standards.

The organizers — an alliance of environmental groups, charities and opposition parties — said 250,000 people were taking part in the rally against free trade deals with both the United States and Canada, far more than they had anticipated.


Opposition to the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has risen over the past year in Germany, with critics fearing the pact will hand too much power to big multinationals at the expense of consumers and workers.

“What bothers me the most is that I don’t want all our consumer laws to be softened,” Oliver Zloty told Reuters. “And I don’t want to have a dictatorship by any companies.”

Yet that is what it appears we have. We are moving towards “authoritarian capitalism” like China and Singapore, says Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek:

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