Archive for International
If justice means a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but it means nothing more than a sideways glance at a CEO who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars, then the promise of equal justice under the law has turned into a lie. – from Rigged Justice
In the first of what she promises will be annual reports on enforcement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren this morning released Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy. Calling the Obama administration’s enforcement against corporate criminals “feeble,” Warren’s report cites 20 criminal and civil cases from 2015 in which authorities punished corporate crimes – where they were enforced at all – with a slap on the wrist. Prosecutors took only one of these cases to trial. She follows up with an op-ed in the New York Times, writing, “These enforcement failures demean our principles.” The report begins:
Much of the public and media attention on Washington focuses on enacting laws. And strong laws are important – prosecutors must have the statutory tools they need to hold corporate criminals accountable. But putting a law on the books is only the first step. The second, and equally important, step is enforcing that law. A law that is not enforced – or weakly enforced – may as well not even be a law at all.
And what exactly did Grady Flores do to warrant spending the next six months in jail? She photographed a peaceful protest outside Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, New York. The base is where the US trains pilots to launch drone strikes in the Middle East, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. It wasn’t a crime for her to be taking pictures of the demonstration, but when she briefly and unintentionally — yes, unintentionally — stepped onto a road that belongs to the base, she violated what authorities called “an order of protection,” which had been issued in 2012 to forbid protesters from approaching the home or workplace of Col. Earl Evans, a commander of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard. She had never met Evans, never threatened him, never showed any intention of harming him.
Nonetheless, a town justice, David Gideon, issued the order to “protect” the Colonel from the activists. That’s right — the commander of a major military operation, piloting drones on lethal missions half-way around the world, requested a court order of protection against a group of mostly gray-haired demonstrators whom he had never met. In stepping briefly on the roadway at the base, Grady Flores violated that order, despite the fact that, as she says, “We weren’t at the security gate. We were out at the roadway.”
Not all drugs have to be injected, ingested or inhaled. Yesterday, I drew parallels between the man-made crisis on Wall Street and the man-made water crisis in Flint Michigan. The reason is that the amoral pursuit of personal gain is an addiction that goes far beyond Wall Street. The Big Short made a big impression, can you tell?
The Guardian’s Tim Adams spoke with “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis about the film’s protagonists:
The idea that the madness was going to get worse did not occur to him. “In fact, it got worse and worse to the point where people were paid unbelievable fortunes just to do stupid things with money. Even the movie can’t really get this across. The movie gets across that there was a bet and these smart guys were on the right side of the bet. And those smart guys made hundreds of millions of dollars. That inevitably leaves you thinking that the people on the other side of the bet lost. Of course, the banks went down. But the real story is the actual people on the other side of the bet also got very rich despite the banks collapsing. If no matter what side of the bet you are on things are still going to work out for you, the world is upside down.”
In filing the NAFTA claim, TransCanada said it “had every reason to expect its application would be granted” as it had met the same criteria the U.S. State Department used when approving other similar cross-border pipelines.
It’s like suing for breach of promise. Except America never promised. Think Progress has this:
In the notice to submit a claim for arbitration, TransCanada notes that two previous pipelines, carrying oil from the same tar sands region across the U.S. border, were both approved. This, TransCanada claims, suggests that the denial was political in nature, which is prohibited under NAFTA.
It was the warmest Christmas on record in New York City, with swimmers out at Coney Island and Rockaway Beach and record highs from Maine to Florida. Oh, and rare December tornadoes in Michigan, Indiana, and across the South. Even without what could turn out to be the most powerful El Niño on record, “The bottom line is that the world is warming,” Jessica Blunden, a NOAA climate scientist in Asheville, N.C. told the New York Times in October.
Today is the eleventh anniversary of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed nearly a quarter million people. It is also known as the Boxing Day tsunami, after the December 26th tradition in the Britain and its former colonies. The British Isles face their own Boxing Day natural disaster this morning:
Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waiting for me
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailin’
– from “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin
The Chinese continue their efforts to colonize the South China Sea. Dump sand and concrete atop reefs and atolls in and around the Spratly Islands and — voila! — the 12 miles around their man-made islands magically become sovereign Chinese territory. (Or do they?) Smack dab in the middle of sea lanes that according to reports carry “more than $5 trillion of world trade ships every year, a fifth of it heading to and from U.S. ports.”
All of it effectively out of view of the eyes of the world, by the way.
In late October, the United States dispatched the USS Lassen to conduct a “freedom of navigation” cruise in the area to assert that the waters around the new islands are international waters. Foreign Policy reports:
At Foreign Policy, Stephan Walt considers what America might be doing if we were really serious about addressing terrorism. For some reason, he doesn’t think we are.
Jumping around here.
I’m positive organizations like Fox News and CNN do not intend to help al Qaeda or the Islamic State, but that is in fact precisely what they are doing.
One of the best ways to discredit extremist movements is to make them look ridiculous, so that joining or backing them is seen as stupid, uncool, or embarrassing. Instead of constantly portraying the Islamic State and its ilk as cruel, cunning, fanatical, dedicated, dangerous, etc., we should spend at least as much time depicting them as ignorant, backward, inept, misguided, and absurd.
“The problem’s not solved because of this accord.” – President Barack Obama
Environmental issues are not my forte, but I followed live the release of the Paris agreement yesterday morning nonetheless. The president later gave this statement:
“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” Obama concluded. “We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.”
D.R. Tucker at Political Animal wrote passionately about the Paris agreement:
Donald Trump’s “bold statement” on banning Muslims from the country has freed us (at last). Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told Chris Hayes on All In last night that Trump has freed us from “politically correct enforcement” and opened up space for serious consideration of his immodest proposal. Meaning Muslim is the new N-word (or something) and can be used derisively in polite company by Real Men. The segment was jaw-dropping.
Transcript at Crooks and Liars.
A stunned Hayes offered past cases where Americans traveled the Road to Xenophobia before — sans Hope and Crosby — to their historical regret. King brushed them aside and went off on Sharia law and how Islam is incompatible with the Constitution:
HAYES: Let me ask you this. Why are you so confident that they got that wrong, that we now look with the sort of benefit of hindsight, we say well, clearly that’s bigotry. Catholics weren’t infiltrating America to bring it orders down from the Vatican.
Thomas Piketty told Le Monde he believes inequality is a major motivation for Middle Eastern terrorism and that Western nations share blame for it:
Piketty writes that the Middle East’s political and social system has been made fragile by the high concentration of oil wealth into a few countries with relatively little population. If you look at the region between Egypt and Iran — which includes Syria — you find several oil monarchies controlling between 60 and 70 percent of wealth, while housing just a bit more than 10 percent of the 300 million people living in that area. (Piketty does not specify which countries he’s talking about, but judging from a study he co-authored last year on Middle East inequality, it appears he means Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. By his numbers, they accounted for 16 percent of the region’s population in 2012 and almost 60 percent of its gross domestic product.)
Piketty’s argument that terrorism rooted in inequality is best countered economically has not gained much traction in the U.S., writes Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post. That is in part because measuring inequality in the region is hampered by low-quality economic statistics.