Archive for the ‘International’ Category

At last the TPP comes before Congress

April 17, 2015

I’ve been ranting so long about the danger and harm in the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that I’m at a loss for something new to say now that it is actually before Congress for a vote.

The TPP is an agreement among 12 nations, including the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan, which would set limits on financial regulation and food safety standards and make drug patent and copyright laws more restrictive.

hulk-tppIts most controversial provisions is the Investor State Dispute Settlement system, which would allow foreign investors to seek sanctions against governments whose labor, environmental, health and other laws deprived it of its just profits.

Under ISDS, “foreign investors” – mostly transnational corporations – have the ability to bypass U.S. courts and challenge U.S. government action and inaction before international tribunals authorized to order U.S. taxpayer compensation to the firms.

Today Congressional leaders announced support for fast track authority, which means that the House of Representatives would have no more than 60 days to debate the agreement and the Senate 30 additional days, after which they would vote “yes” or “no”.

This does not mean that fast track has been approved.  This would require a vote by the full House and Senate, which is yet to come.

The TPP is a thick and complex document.  Negotiations have been conducted under strict secrecy, and the material will be new to most members of Congress.  What little is publicly known comes from leaked negotiating documents, many of them through WikiLeaks.  (Thank you, Julian Assange).

If TPP is approved through a fast track process, I would bet that dozens of congresspeople a year later will be saying they wouldn’t have voted for it if they had realized all that was in it.

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Doctors Without Borders on the TPP

April 17, 2015

tpp_infographic2_0

It is too late to modify these harmful rules.  Negotiations among the United States and 12 other nations have been completed, and it is now up to the United States Congress to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement—or not.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on the TPP

April 17, 2015

tpp_1Well, it’s too late now to try to influence the negotiations.

Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, the chair and vice-chair of the Senate finance committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the chair of the House ways and means committee, agreed to support fast-track approval for the proposed 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

This would mean that the House would have 60 days to discuss the agreement, and the Senate would have an additional 30 days, before they voted “yes” or “no”, with no possibility of amendment.

The fact that President Obama and powerful Congressional leaders support fast track does not mean that it has been approved.  The procedure requires a vote of the House and Senate, and, since there is strong opposition in both parties, it may well not be approved.

The world invests in China’s new bank

April 16, 2015

aiib-graphic

Fifty-seven governments, including all the major powers except the USA, Canada and Japan, have signed up to participate in China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The AIIB may or may not be an important force in building infrastructure in Asia.  But the eagerness of the world’s governments to participate shows a willingness to follow the leadership of China even against the advice of the USA.

The red countries on the map are governments that participate in the Asian Development Bank, which is supported by Japan and headquartered in Manila, who also participate in the Asian Infrastructure Investment banks.  The blue countries on the map are other countries who have joined the AIIB.

The yellow countries are Asian Development Bank participants who held back from joining the AIIB.

I know, from reading of history, that China is following a pattern of drawing other countries in to itself rather than engage in overseas conquest.

During the Age of Discovery, for example, Europeans had a trade deficit with China and also India.  All the exploits of Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus were intended to find a route by which the European nations could trade directly for the porcelain, silk and spices of Asia rather than through Muslim middlemen.  All the gold and silver that Cortez and Pizarro found in the New World and brought back to Spain eventually went to China and India.

China went into temporary eclipse during the 19th and early 20th century, but the current Chinese government has restored China to its historic position—the nation that the rest of the world comes to, and tries to connect with.

I do not claim to know whether how much Asian infrastructure will in fact be built through the AIIB, nor what the future holds for China.  As stockbrokers say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.  But for now, the Chinese policy of offering things to people is more successful than the U.S. policy of forcing things on people.

LINKS

57 nations approved as founding members of China-led AIIB by Gary Huang for the South China Morning Post.

The infrastructure gap: Development finance helps China win friends and influence American allies by The Economist.

The power of the new Chinese investment bank by Richard Javed Heydarian for Al Jazeera.

 

Hillary Clinton promoted fracking to the world

April 16, 2015

Urkaine_map

gas_landsMy e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey in Baltimore sent me a link to a well-researched article in Mother Jones documenting how Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State promoted fracking in foreign countries.

Fracking—hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas—is a destructive process that, among other things, creates increased risk of earthquakes and contamination of ground water and uses up vital supplies of fresh water.

I’m opposed to fracking unless there is a more desperate need for fuel than there is now.

But however you look at it, promotion of fracking in foreign countries in no way benefits the American public, except for a few wealthy investors and corporate investors, such as Beau Biden, the Vice President’s son, who is on the board of directors of an energy company that hopes to do fracking in Ukraine.

There is a strong grass-roots opposition to fracking in many countries, and, to the extent that the American government is seen to be promoting fracking, this generates ill-will toward the U.S. government and Americans generally.

Unlike in the USA, most landowners do not own the mineral rights under their land. Those rights are owned by governments and can be sold, leased or given away even if the owner objects. So fracking decisions are not usually made by an individual landowner to get income, but by government officials.

Hillary Clinton did not decide to promote fracking on her own. This is President Obama’s policy.

I doubt Republicans in Congress have any objection to promoting fracking abroad. They object to the Obama administration presuming to regulate fracking on U.S. public lands.

LINK

How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World by Mariah Blake for Mother Jones.

China’s new bank is a great attractor

April 13, 2015

AIIB-Asian-Infrastructure-Investment-Bank-Countries

The world is rushing to join the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is China’s alternative to the U.S.-influenced World Bank.

The Shanghai-based bank would raise $50 billion to invest in Asian infrastructure projects, such as dams, airports and electric power plants.

Only founding members are entitled to a vote.  Reuters reported that voting will be weighted so that Asian members have 75 percent.  China will announce the names of the founding members on Wednesday (April 15).   The Economist explained:

The AIIB is but one of a number of new institutions launched by China, apparently in frustration at the failure of the existing international order to accommodate its astonishing rise.

Efforts to reform the International Monetary Fund are stalled in the American Congress.  America retains its traditional grip on the management of the World Bank.  The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) is always directed by a Japanese official.  [snip]

China, flush with the world’s biggest foreign-exchange reserves and anxious to convert them into “soft power”, is building an alternative architecture. 

It has proposed not just the AIIB, but a New Development Bank with its “BRICS” partners—Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa—and a Silk Road development fund to boost “connectivity” with its Central Asian neighbors.

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Racial discrimination is alive and global

April 6, 2015

race.cardRacial minorities, older workers, gays and lesbians and others face unfair discrimination all over the Western world.

That was the conclusion of a British economist named Judith Rich after studying field experiments in 17 countries using equally-qualified testers of different races, ages and so on.

The 70 studies have investigated if discrimination exists on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, obesity, caste and religion. Significant and persistent discrimination against the vast majority of these groups in all markets was found.

High levels of discrimination in hiring were recorded against ethnic groups, older workers, homosexuals and men applying to female-dominated jobs.

Immigrant groups were discriminated against despite being educated in schools, and proficient in the language, of the country of residence.

Middle Eastern and Moroccan groups across Europe and African-Americans in the United States were discriminated against when seeking jobs or housing.

An African-American applicant needed to apply to 5o percent more job vacancies than a white applicant to be offered an interview.

Having a higher qualification made virtually no difference for African-Americans but it made a significant improvement in interview offers for whites.

Even more disturbingly, white applicants with a criminal record received more interviews than African-Americans with no criminal record.

Older workers needed to make between two to three times as many job applications as a young worker to get an offer of interview.

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The Iran nuclear deal looks torpedo-proof

April 4, 2015

Am I the only one who finds it just a little bit odd that the American officials loudly claiming Iran cannot be trusted to fulfill any deal are simultaneously pledging that they will not fulfill any deal?  Is it possible they have such little self-awareness?

via Hullabaloo.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry deserve a lot of credit for the nuclear deal with Iran, as do President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and the other diplomats who worked on the negotiations.

iran nuclear deal mapI think it is the best deal that can be expected.   The Iranians have nuclear power plants, which they are not willing to give up.  Any nation with nuclear power has the capability to develop nuclear weapons.

What the Iranians have done is to give up equipment and uranium stockpiles that would have enabled them to develop weapons-grade uranium and plutonium overnight, and to submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that they do not do so.

It is crazy for Republican Senators presidential candidates to threaten to torpedo the deal.

What made the economic sanctions effective against Iran in the first place is that they were supported by U.S. allies and the Security Council of the United Nations.  Under the agreement, the other negotiating parties, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China and other countries will resume trade with Iran no matter what the U.S. government does.

The only ones who would be hurt if the U.S. government renounced the deal would be Americans who want to do business in Iran.

iran-nuclear-non-proliferation-israel-unThe problem of the spread of nuclear weapons is more than just Iran.  Almost all industrial nations—Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and many more—have the capability to develop nuclear weapons.

Actually, it is a tribute to the world’s good sense that only nine nations are known to have nuclear weapons—the USA, Britain, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

The only way to stop the spread of nuclear weapons on a long-term basis is for the existing nuclear power to agree to disarm and to turn over control of nuclear materials to an international agency.  Every nuclear-capable nation, not just Iran, should be open to the IAEA.

LINKS

The Iran nuclear deal, translated into plain English, by Max Fisher for Vox news.

The Iran Nuclear Deal, by the Numbers by Graham Allison for The Atlantic.

A good deal: How both sides can sell the Iran agreement back home by Ali Vaez for Reuters.

What if the US & UN sanctioned Israel over its nukes the way they did Iran over enrichment? by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew’s authoritarian utopia

March 30, 2015
Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

Lee Kuan Yew, who died last Monday, was one of the world’s most successful rulers.  I am uneasy about his success because it was based on rejection of  American-type ideas of democracy and individual freedom.

Under Lee’s 50 years of formal and informal rule, Singapore went from being a Third World backwater with no natural resources to a gleaming technopolis and the world’s third major financial hub after London and New York. GDP per capita increased by several orders of magnitude.

It refuted the modern idea, or rather dogma, that democracy and individual liberties are indispensable components of economic modernization.

A clever foreign policy enabled great relations with both the US and China. Visible corruption is all but non-existent; the story might be apocryphal, but apparently Lee once even went as far as allowing the execution of a friend for stealing from the state.

via The Unz Review.

Lee was a proponent of so-called “Asian values” of hierarchy, obedience and discipline, which I don’t think of as being uniquely Asian.  They could just as easily be called Prussian values.

When I was younger, I thought American ideals were validated by the fact that, in the USA, the common people had a better life than they did almost anywhere else, and that things worked better than they did almost anywhere else.  Now, as I look at the dysfunctional American government and predatory American corporations, I have to wonder.

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The passing scene: March 20, 2015

March 20, 2015

When a Summer Job Could Pay the Tuition by Timothy Taylor as the Conversible Economist.

greater-western-library-alliance-7-638

When I attended college in the 1950s, any young American could earn enough working at a full-time summer job, and a part-time job during the school year, to pay tuition at a state university.  The USA is generating just as much wealth per person as it was then, so there is no inherent reason why that shouldn’t still be possible.

Wrong-Way Obama? by William Greider for The Nation (via Truthout)

The world economic situation is very much like it was on the eve of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  World leaders need to work together to create jobs, and to write down debt that is a burden on economic growth and never going to be paid anyway.  The Transpacific Partnership Agreement is the exact opposite of the kind of international agreement that is needed.

Who Owns the Post Office? by Mark Jamison for Save the Post Office (via Angry Bear).

The Founders of the United States didn’t think of the Postal Service as a business.  They thought of it as a means of binding the nation together.   Benjamin Franklin, once a postmaster, would have been shocked by closing of post offices in small towns because they didn’t generate enough traffic.

How Parents in One Low-Income Town Are Raising Hell to Save Their Schools by Alan Richard on Alternet.

School teachers will tell you that the key to better schools is parents getting involved.   Parents in a small town in Mississippi have figured out how to make that work.

Peasant Sovereignty? by Evanggelos Valliantos for Independent Science News.

A recent study of nine European countries is the latest study to confirm that peasants and small farmers are more productive than large mechanized farms based on industrial agriculture.  If decision-makers are concerned about feeding the world, they should be thinking about how to get land in the hands of hard-working peasants who have little.

Turning Japanese: coping with stagnation by Roland Kelts for The Long+Short.

Japan is considered a failure by some because its economy isn’t growing.  But the Japanese economy and culture work well for the Japanese.  We Americans could learn something from them.

The facts about negotiations with Iran

March 16, 2015

The Iran negotiations are not about a treaty or executive agreement between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

images_104They are about whether the United Nations Security Council will pass a resolution saying that Iran is in compliance with the inspection provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970, and that therefore UN sanctions are no longer needed.

The negotiations are not just between the USA and Iran.  The U.S. government is taking the lead, but the negotiations are being conducted on behalf of the USA, Britain, France, Russia and China, the five permanent Security Council members, plus Germany.

The 47 Republican Senators who wrote a letter to Iran, questioning President Obama’s authority to negotiate, either didn’t know these basic facts or didn’t care.  I don’t know which is worse.

The signers included three Republican presidential hopefuls, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.  Among other possible Republican candidates, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and ex-Gov. Rick Perry of Texas endorsed the letter, and  ex-Gov. Jeb Bush, former HP executive Carly Fiorina, ex-Senator Rick Santorum and Gov. Scott Walker all spoke favorably of it.   This doesn’t speak well of the GOP.

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Why the alliance of Netanyahu and the GOP?

March 16, 2015

The overwhelming majority of Jewish people in the United States vote for the Democratic Party, but it is the Republicans who are the strongest supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  And vice versa.  Why is this?

P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and Sen. Tom Cotton

P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and GOP Sen. Tom Cotton

I think that Republican hawks see Netanyahu’s Israel as a model of the kind of aggressive, militarist nation that they would like to see the United States become.

American Jewish voters mostly support Democrats because, based on their historical memory as an oppressed people, they favor civil rights, labor rights and humanitarian causes.   These are values rejected by the dominant faction of the Republican Party and by the Likud party in Israel.

I think that another reason is that Republicans appeal to the apocalyptic Christian minority that believes that the establishment of Israel is the fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy about the End Times.  Jewish people in the USA find these Christians scary, recalling their history of persecution, but they are exactly parallel to the apocalyptic Jewish minority in Israel.

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The twilight of NATO?

March 15, 2015

27602NATO was formed as a defensive alliance in which the Americans promised to protect Europe.  It has become an offensive alliance for Europeans to support U.S. interventions.   This does not benefit Europe.   American leaders should not take European support for granted.  I question how long NATO can endure.

∞∞∞

Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Germany Concerned About Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine by the staff of Der Spiegel

NATO and the Two Central Conflicts of the Ukraine Crisis by Karel von Wolferen, a leading Dutch journalist.

Extreme staircases of the world

March 7, 2015
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Tiger and Turtle, Germany

Tiger and Turtle, Germany

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain

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War and peace: Links & comments 2/27/15

February 27, 2015

In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad by Marcin Mamon for The Intercept.

Failed states, where governmental authority has collapsed, are ideal venues for warlords, organized crime and terrorists.  Ukraine fits the profile.

Ready for Nuclear War Over Ukraine? by Robert Parry for Information Clearing House.  (Hat tip to Corrente)

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia, and is unafraid of nuclear weapons.

The Cold War and Ukraine by William K. Polk for Counterpunch.

Russia sees NATO forces in Ukraine today as the United States saw Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 .

Germany’s army is so under-equipped that it used broomsticks instead of machine guns by Rich Noack for the Washington Post.  (Hat tip to Marginal Revolution)

What Is Russia’s Answer to Greece’s Plan B – Smile, Blow the Whistle, Pass the Red Card by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

In short, Russia does not intend to bail out Greece.

 


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