Thursday, April 10, 2008
Answer of the Day
If economists are so convinced of the benefits of free trade, why aren't American voters?
The answer, of course, is that those combined benefits are not necessarily felt by individuals. Instead, what many Americans, including US business owners, notice is that trade with other countries can make them poorer.
—John Mervin reporting in "Free trade and the US election"
Why, yes. I have been noticing that. But some Americans must have received the benefit or it wouldn't be allowed to continue. I wonder who.
Censorship of the Day
A critically acclaimed movie about Yasukuni Shrine, Japan's controversial memorial to its war dead, has been pulled from Tokyo cinemas amid a campaign of right-wing intimidation and death threats against the distributors.... Yasukuni explores the shrine's role as a rallying point for the Japanese far right and its tortured relationship with Japan's undigested war history.
Well, at least it was a movie and not a cartoon that set them off.
News of note — Apr 10 08
- David Boaz of the libertarian Cato Institute has discovered that the personalized Starbucks Card will permit "socialist" slogans such as "Si Se Puede" (Yes, we can!) and "People Not Profits!" but will not permit the catchphrase of free-market capitalism "Laissez Faire." I suppose that's what comes from drinking shade-grown coffee.
- The Bank of England has cut its interest rate to 5.0% from 5.25% paralleling the desperation moves of the U.S. Federal Reserve to "prevent disruption in financial markets," which is to say, to keep the banking system from collapse. The worries have been exacerbated by an assessment from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—
The risks of a more painful correction have been highlighted by the IMF’s bearish forecast that UK growth will slow to 1.6 per cent this year and in 2009 – much more gloomy than forecasts by the government and most independent analysts.
And when you consider that the IMF isn't exactly trying to depress us, what does that tell you?
- If you don't get it, maybe this will help—
Money markets in the US and Europe are signalling renewed fears about the financial strength of banks, with key confidence barometers almost returning to the levels that preceded the collapse of Bear Stearns.
Tensions are rising in the money markets in spite of the injection of huge amounts of liquidity into the banking system by central banks. Traders say market conditions suggest the Bear rescue has not completely alleviated worries about counterparty risks.
Not completely. No.
- Britain's rail system is bursting with passengers and freight—
The only previous years known to have seen higher passenger traffic than 2007 are the war years of 1943, 1944 and 1945, when passenger traffic was boosted by a substantial number of troop trains, with a high point of 34.5 [billion] miles in 1945.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
"First" of the Day: an American spies for the Constitution
Lt. Cdr. Matthew Diaz, who served a six-month jail term, was the first American convicted of passing classified information to an American rather than a foreign organization.1
The information that Lt. Cdr. Diaz passed was the names of 551 inmates of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. He was working as an attorney there for the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG). He printed out a list of names and sent it in a Valentine's Day card to the Center for Constitutional Rights. At the time the Center was trying to file habeas corpus briefs on behalf of the prisoners but was stymied by the government's refusal to release their names. Diaz attempted to rectify the problem. The names were eventually released under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
In fact, Lt. Cdr. Diaz accomplished at least two "firsts"—
This past May, Matthew Diaz became the only United States serviceman to be convicted and imprisoned for an act of insubordination directed at the Bush administration’s detention policies.
A sad comment upon the military.
[W]ith the Constitution, my legal training, Supreme Court ruling, and my own morality as my compass, it was not long into my tour at Guantánamo before it was clear to me that we were doing things contrary to the law.
As Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky from the Cardozo School of Law put it recently, I was operating in a system that had badly derailed from fundamental norms of justice. It was outrageous that a few unaccountable leaders and their House lawyers could turn everything we stand for in the wrong direction and then lie about it.
Diaz also quoted from Supreme Court Justice Brandeis—
"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole of the people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law and invites every man to become a law unto itself. It breeds anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means would bring terrible retribution."
And so it has come to pass.
In addition to a relatively light 6 month's imprisonment (he was facing 13 years), Diaz was expelled from the Navy and lost his license to practice military law. He is appealing his conviction. In the meantime, according to Joe Conason, he may permanently lose his license to practice law.
All this reminds us that crime doesn't pay—unless you're in government or finance.
Guantánamo: "The cleanest place we're holding people" (6/30/06)
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Lie of the Day
This time Gen. Petraeus returns to Washington having led one of the most remarkably successful military operations in American history. His antiwar critics, meanwhile, face a crisis of credibility – having confidently predicted the failure of the surge, and been proven decidedly wrong.
An editorial in the Independent expressed the truth succinctly—
The war's advocates have given credit for a downturn in violence since last summer to the deployment of 30,000 more US troops in Baghdad, the so-called "surge" strategy.The word is leaking out. I was startled recently to see a graphic on CNN that consisted of a downward-pointing arrow representing the reduction of violence in Iraq. Sixty percent of the reduction was attributed to al-Sadr's cease-fire order to his militia.
But actually, the relative calm has been the result of a combination of the de facto sectarian partition of the capital and the ceasefire imposed by al-Sadr on his militia. Now that ceasefire is apparently on the verge of breakdown, we see how tenuous the "improvement" in Iraq has been.
Republican Candidate of the Day
Louisiana's 6th District will be holding a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, a Christo-Republican who resigned in February to be president of the Managed Funds Association—in other words, to become a lobbyist for the hedge funds. The district includes Baton Rouge, the state capital.
Primary run-offs were held last Saturday, and the Republicans picked their favorite—Woody Jenkins.
Among his political liabilities ... is a connection to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, from whom he purchased a phone list during his 1996 Senate run. He was fined $3,000 in 2002 by the Federal Election Commission for illegally concealing the purchase.... However, Mr. Jenkins has high name identification, a loyal grassroots following and support from social conservatives, including an endorsement from the Family Research Council. —Susan Davis reporting in "Democrats' Hopes Rise for House Seat"
Another Republican family-values man. Of course his Democratic opponent also promises to continue Louisiana's great traditions—
Mr. Cazayoux supports gun rights, opposes abortion rights and the creation of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He pledged to join the Blue Dogs, a coalition of fiscally conservative House Democrats, if elected.
Monday, April 07, 2008
The assault on Sadr City
Like many others, I'm trying to piece together a coherent picture of recent events in southern Iraq and Baghdad. Certainly the assault on Basra and Baghdad shouldn't be viewed in isolation from General Petraeus' update to Congress tomorrow on the progress of the "surge."
In the meantime, I'll refer you to two earlier posts for some background on these events: Taking sides in a civil war (January 2007) in which an assault on Sadr City and the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr was initially contemplated by the U.S. just as the "surge" was getting underway, and Muqtada al-Sadr and a date to watch (February 2007) in which Muqtada's strategic retreat prior to the onslaught was considered. They were reasonably prescient.
Now that the U.S. has launched an attack in the heart of Baghdad, this interview with Lt. Col. Dan Barnett, commander of the operation, gives us some notion, from the American perspective, of its progress—
4/8/08 - That video disappeared rather quickly from Youtube, so here it is again.