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Archive for October, 2012

Posted by The Agonist on October 26th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

New York Times, By Thomas Fuller, October 26

Phitsanulok, Thailand — A resurgence of sectarian violence in western Myanmar has left more than 60 people dead, according to a local government official, and is renewing concerns that tensions could spread to other parts of the country during a fragile transition from authoritarian rule to democracy.

Win Myaing, a local government official, said by telephone on Friday that 64 people had been killed and more than 2,000 homes destroyed during seven days of sporadic fighting. Some casualties were attributed to security forces opening fire on crowds.

Reports from Rakhine State, the area of the fighting, paint a picture of a chaotic and bloody week of clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities that are increasingly segregated after thousands of Muslims, a minority in the country, fled to refugee camps during the last outbreak of violence in June.

This week’s violence again put Muslims on the run. Hundreds of Muslim villagers fled onto boats and some are still at sea, according to a community leader. The United Nations said people were also heading to the already overcrowded refugee camps it helped set up after the earlier clashes.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 26th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Mitt Romney ought to drop out now:

Look, when he was in Massachusetts, a woman in his own church, he tried to stop her from having an abortion. Her pregnancy was threatening her health and then she developed blood clots that were threatening her life. He couldn’t talk her into stopping the abortion. She had permission from the Mormon hierarchy to terminate this life threatening pregnancy. He went to her parents. What he said to this woman, and this is key, cameras not rolling and what Mitt Romney says to this woman, why should you get off easy? Why should you get off easy? Why should you get off easy? Other women don’t get off so easy. Talking about getting off easy to terminate the pregnancy. I think that Mitt Romney absolutely does not want any exceptions to criminalization of all abortion.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 25th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

So says Christian Caryl in an excellent article for FP magazine online. Caryl praises proportional representation and suggests doing away with the Electoral College system as two ways the US, “the greatest democracy on earth” can turn around a situation where non-voters always outweigh those who vote for the winner, even in presidential elections. Of course, the obvious caveat applies: “But can anyone really expect the two currently existing parties to agree?” It’s like the old joke about the guy stopping to ask directions and being told “well, I wouldn’t start from here.”

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Posted by The Agonist on October 25th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Was there a paedophile ring in No 10? MP Tom Watson demands probe
Martin Hickman, The Independent, October 25

A powerful paedophile network may have operated in Britain protected by its connections to Parliament and Downing Street, a senior Labour politician suggested yesterday.

Speaking from the back benches of the House of Commons, Tom Watson, the deputy chairman of the Labour Party, called on the Metropolitan Police to reopen a closed criminal inquiry into paedophilia.

Well, then, how about that.  Which PM could it be.  The initial guess (not mine) was PM Ted Heath.  But Watson indicated that an open file concerning the case of one Peter Righton had key evidence that the police never followed.  He asked that the police review the case.

Remarkably, PM David Cameron agreed that the case in question will be reviewed.  He expanded his comments to the deviant television kiddie show host (and friend of royalty and the UK elite) Jimmy Savile:   “These allegations do leave many institutions – perhaps particularly the BBC – with serious questions to answer – I think above all the question, ‘How did he get away with this for so long?’.”

The Independent speculates the Prime Minister associated with the prostitution ring at N. 10 Downing Street was none other than the overrated Margaret Thatcher.

This looks like a staged event where both major parties distance themselves from the coming storm which, I suspect, is well known to both of them.

Michael Collins


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Posted by The Agonist on October 24th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Tommy Robinson, head of the violent and openly racist English Defense League, has been arrested in London for passport fraud. He previously somehow managed to enter the US using a phony passport to speak at a conference organized by the equally odious Pamela Geller, and may be extradited to the US.

Inquiring minds want to know how a high-visibility person, with a known history of violence who previously  had been refused entry into the States, managed to get into the US using fake ID. Homeland Security apparently must have been otherwise occupied doing mission-critical tasks like looking at x-rays of hotties.

Do you feel safer knowing the tens of billions spent on border security can’t keep a known thug like Robinson out of the country, even when’s he’s on the government watch list?

A journalist friend in Europe says of Robinson, “I’ve met the little swine. send him to Gitmo.” When he goes to prison in the US, the Ayran Brotherhood will no doubt greet him as a brother.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 24th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Digital Journal, By Robert Myles, October 23

Fukushima – International environmental campaigning organisation Greenpeace claims that Japanese government radiation monitoring stations in the city of Fukushima are seriously underestimating residual radiation levels and public health risks in and around Fukushima.

Seventeen months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, in a press statement today, Greenpeace stated that radiation measurements made by the Japanese authorities in the area around the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant are unreliable. Greenpeace said that Fukushima residents risked exposure to thirteen times the legal limit for radiation.

According to Greenpeace, radiation levels above 3 microsieverts per hour were recorded in parks and schools in the city of Fukushima, whilst the limit is a mere 0.23 microsieverts per hour reports 20 minutes. The city of Fukushima is located about fifty kilometres (about 31 miles) from the nuclear power plant Fukushima Daiichi which was severely damaged as a result of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami which struck on March 11, 2011.

Greenpeace discovered that official Japanese government monitoring stations were systematically underestimating radiation risks for city residents whilst decontamination work was sporadic and insufficient. Areas which had already been evacuated had received more attention than still heavily populated city areas, Greenpeace said in their statement.

Official radiation monitoring stations in Fukushima unreliable: Greenpeace

Greenpeace, October 23, 2012

Tokyo – Following new radioactive contamination checks in Fukushima City and the heavily contaminated Iitate(1) last week, Greenpeace has found that official monitoring stations systematically underestimate the radiation risks for the population, and that the Government’s decontamination work remains patchy, misdirected, and insufficient, with evacuated areas receiving greater attention than heavily populated ones.

More than 75% of the 40 government monitoring posts checked by Greenpeace in Fukushima City showed lower radiation levels than their immediate surroundings, with contamination levels within 25 metres of the posts up to six times higher than at the posts themselves (2).

“Official monitoring stations are placed in areas the authorities have decontaminated, however, our monitoring shows that just a few steps away the radiation levels rise significantly,” said Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International radiation expert. “We fear that these stations give the public a false sense of security.”

“Decontamination can make a significant difference to radiation levels, but there seems to be little progress in the cleanup work, and many hot spots remain throughout Fukushima City,” said Teule. “Low hanging fruit, such as the decontamination of children’s playgrounds and other areas needed to protect the most vulnerable, have not progressed sufficiently despite more than a year and a half passing since the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.”

Japan LNG demand has likely peaked: government official

Reuters, By Bohan Loh & Ramya Venugopal, October 23

Singapore – The spike in Japanese demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) triggered by a halt in nuclear power output in the wake of the Fukushima disaster may have peaked, as two reactors are back online and the summer demand season has passed, a senior government official said.

Japan, the world’s top LNG consumer, boosted purchases further following the shutdown of atomic reactors after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, even as the jump in imports widened its trade deficit to record levels.

“Japan’s demand for LNG is not very likely to expand further because now two reactors are back in operation,” Toshihiko Fuji, a deputy director general at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), told Reuters in an interview.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 23rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Something has been bothering me about the presidential polls. Well, a lot of things. But one in particular has stirred up my mathematical senses.

President Obama has been ahead in a enough states to give him a wide electoral vote victory, but the popular vote across the country has been close. For these reasons, the punditocracy has been concern trolling about a possible disparity in the election between an electoral vote victory for Obama and a popular vote victory for Romney. Here’s one example.

The margins by which Obama has been ahead have ranged from small, say 51-49, to as much as ten points. My mathematics says that, in order for the popular vote to be close, there have to be some big margins for Romney in a few states. But where? The media , for the most part, haven’t said.

Last week, Kevin Drum provided the answer. He was talking about the white working class vote in particular, but I’ll bet the overall margins reflect these numbers.

It was much the same in 2008: Democrats are going extinct as national elected officals in the South, white as well as black; it’s not just Obama’s race, but that hardly can be a positive in that region.

There is very little about this enormous regional disparity in the national press. You can find it if you search hard enough*, but the preferred media narrative is of the possible electoral-popular split. That’s a both-sides kind of story: Bush and now Obama. Nothing to see here.

But when so much of that popular vote margin is concentrated in so few states, the electoral college begins to make a bit more sense. It’s too bad that the South still has not come to terms with the outcome of the Civil War. It’s too bad that one section of the country is so badly out of step with the rest of the country, and the rest of the world. This is where much of the anti-science, the refusal to support public schools, the fear of immigrants is centered as well.

It’s too bad that the media won’t recognize this disparity. They’re acting as though the South is our electoral equivalent of the crazy uncle in the attic. But most of us don’t treat our crazy uncles that way any more, either.

*Thanks to Steve for help with this on a busy day.


Cross-posted at Phronesisaical.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 22nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The floor is open, Agonistas. I’ll be popping in during the debate itself to give a couple of impressions on both style and substance.

And, if you want an even longer winded version, there’s always the DemocracyNow version:

On Monday, Oct. 22. 8:30 p.m. – midnight EDT we will continue our “Expanding the Debate”  series with a special live broadcast of the last presidential debate. We will pause the video after the 2 major party candidates answer each question to include real-time responses from the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson. Libertarian Gary Johnson has declined to participate.

Oh wow, could I stand the excitement. Could my ulcer?


Update – Live Thoughts: Here we go, after the break.

First segment: Beghazi (Drink!) Romney bashes Egypt for Moslem Brotherhood, says Iran four years closer to a nuke, well done Obama for killing OBL (Drink!) but “we can’t kill our way out”. Obama talks about responsible transition in Afghanistan (LOL), will “go after” those who killed Americans in Libya (Drink!).

Romney: we must be able to get Muslim world to reject extremism on its own. Who is this guy and what did he do with Mitt?

Mitt Romney recognizes early that he can’t win with FP critique he’s been using for months. #debate

— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) October 23, 2012

Obama reminds Romney of his saying Russia is US major foe, quips “the 80′s called, it wants its foreign policy back’. Definitely on attack over Romney’s previous comments on Iraq, Russia etc – not letting Romney do his etch-a-sketch act tonight.

Romney doubles down: Russia is a geopolitical foe, Iran is the greatest national security threat”. Reminds Obama he tried to keep troops in Iraq, but failed.

Next question: Syria. Obama says we’re being harsh, in synch with allies – but Syrians must ultimately decide their own future. warns that a military entaglement would be a serious step. Romney says Syria is an opportunity to get at Iran, by identifying and arming proxies to take out Iran’s ally – but not by US boots on the ground. says Syria is Iran’s route to the sea (huh?).

Obama swings back to Libya, spotting Romney doesn’t want to talk about it after last debate. Tries to out-hawk Romney. Romney repeats – arm rebels in Syria but no US military involvement.

CNN’s dial group spikes up any time Romney says that he doesn’t want to send troops to Syria.

— Daniel Drezner (@dandrezner) October 23, 2012

Egypt: Obama backs the revolution there, says people has same aspirations as people here. Romney wishes we’d had a “better vision”, behaved more aggresively on Arab Spring to guide it.

Next segment: America’s role in the world. Romney – “responsibility and privilege of defending freedom”. (Drink!) But America must be strong (Drink!), strengthen military. Segues to economy. Says he won’t cut military budget. Prez should have spoken out for Iran’s green movement (even though it asked US not to). Obama: “America remains the one indispensable nation.” (Drink!) Talks about education, energy independence, reducing deficit to keep US strong. Obama: Gov. Romney proposed “wrong and reckless” policies, praised Bush and Cheney……got us into this mess. Romney takes his cue from Obama – both now talking domestic economy instead of foreign policy.

We’re not even pretending to debate foreign policy anymore

— AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) October 23, 2012

Next: where will the money for a bigger military come from, Mr Romney? Romney: blah, blah, website, Obamacare, blah. Obama: “the math doesn’t work”. Obama proud of spending more on military than next 10 militaries combined, however.

Obama on the Navy having fewer ships: “We also have fewer horses and bayonets.”#ZING

— AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) October 23, 2012

Moderator asks if US should extend nuke umbrella to Israel – obama says “I will stand with Israel if it is attacked” – so, that umbrella is already in place. Hang on, doesn’t Israel have its own nukes? “iran will not get a nuclear weapon’ while he’s Prez. Says Romney wants war on Iran as the “first resort” not the last one. Romney says “nuclear capable” Iran is unacceptable – even one that just has nuclear material! then says war should be last resort…bit of a contradiction there.

Wait, now Romney’s agreeing with Obama on Israel and Iran too? What the hell is the point of this debate?

— Michael Grunwald (@MikeGrunwald) October 23, 2012

Sure sounds like Obama is pledging to strike Iran if things don’t go the way he wants them to.

— AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) October 23, 2012

Obama now hitting back on the “apology tour” meme – “that’s simply not true”. But Mitt did biz with a Chinese oil company doing business with Iran nyah, nyah, neener! romney responds by saying Obama apologised for America dictating to other nations..then says America has never done that. (Rest of world: finish the bottle!)

Romney’s stuttering again – not doing well here. Smirking when it’s Obama’s turn to speak too – clearly rattled as Obama hits him on etch-a-sketch policy statements.

Next up: Af/Pak. (as moderator shuts Romney interruption down, again). “What do you do if the deadline arrives and its obvious Afghans can’t stand up? Do we stay?” Romney: the surge has been successful, we leave in 2014. talks about Pakistan as a failed state with nukes being a reason to stay active in the region, talks about conditional aid to Pakistan. Obama: time to do some nation building here at home (Drink!)

Didn’t Ryan waste 10 minutes w/ Biden talking about how a 2014 Afghan deadline was terrible, because of deadlining?

— Matt Welch (@mleewelch) October 23, 2012

Obama goes on to talk about putting veterans back to work.

Next: “is it time to divorce from Pakistan?” Romney – No. Says ISI is in charge in Pakistan, it has nukes, terrorists could get them ZOMG! On drones: Romney supports the President and will continue, expand, drone strikes.

5 Romney agreements with Obama on foreign policy now, with the drones question.

— attackerman (@attackerman) October 23, 2012

Next segment: China and future challenges for US. Obama says future biggest threat to US natsec is terrorism (no mention of climate change), and that China can be an ally for trade.

“China both an adversary and a potential partner in the international community.” Obama actually calls China an adversary!

— attackerman (@attackerman) October 23, 2012

Romney: Iran is greaest threat, China wants trade not war. They don’t have to be an adversary, if we’re “strong”.

From this debate you can legitimately conclude America’s foreign policy will be almost identical whoever is the next President

— Katty Kay (@KattyKayBBC) October 23, 2012

Romney: there’s a trade war with China going on that we don’t know about, “it’s a silent one” and China is winning. Obama reminds Romney that Romney helped ship jobs overseas. Both then go into a long argument about the US auto-industry and whether Romney said he’d let it die. Foreign policy, what’s that?

Romney’s 11/18/08 NYT Op-Ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”: #finaldebate

— Sewell Chan (@sewellchan) October 23, 2012

Romney now: “I love teachers”, moderator: “we all love teachers.”

Closing statements. Obama first. Closing by saying Romney is Bush Redux, then moving to economy. Romney: I want to see peace, then onto economy.

Unbelievable. An entire fopo debate with NO mention of Europe, Eurozone, Africa, anywhere in Asia other than China.

— Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM) October 23, 2012

And….we’re done. My verdict: Obama did a better job of being moderate-right than Romney did, but of course Obama’s had more practise at it.

The full transcript is here.

Swing state voters say Obama won the debate 53-42, and are planning to vote for him 51-45

— PublicPolicyPolling (@ppppolls) October 23, 2012

The states covered in that swing state poll were CO, FL, MI, IA, NH, NV, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 22nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

So there is a magic wand after all. A revolutionary paper by the International Monetary Fund claims that one could eliminate the net public debt of the US at a stroke, and by implication do the same for Britain, Germany, Italy, or Japan.  

One could slash private debt by 100pc of GDP, boost growth, stabilize prices, and dethrone bankers all at the same time. It could be done cleanly and painlessly, by legislative command, far more quickly than anybody imagined.

The conjuring trick is to replace our system of private bank-created money — roughly 97pc of the money supply — with state-created money. We return to the historical norm, before Charles II placed control of the money supply in private hands with the English Free Coinage Act of 1666.

Specifically, it means an assault on “fractional reserve banking”. If lenders are forced to put up 100pc reserve backing for deposits, they lose the exorbitant privilege of creating money out of thin air.

The nation regains sovereign control over the money supply. There are no more banks runs, and fewer boom-bust credit cycles. Accounting legerdemain will do the rest. That at least is the argument.


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Posted by The Agonist on October 21st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The news of George McGovern’s death at the age of 90 has unleashed a torrent of sanctimonious, ahistorical blather from the usual wingnuts. Now that he’s safely dead, he “was one of the most gentle, decent persons you’d ever encounter in American politics.” McGovern was the “good” kind of liberal, “the last of a breed, a stalwart of modern American liberalism, of the non-communist variety.”

We are mournfully told that McGovern was a relic from the past in a party that “was becoming a New Left organization grounded in radical theories of anti-Americanism and coercivie [sic] economic distribution.” Steven Hayward informs us that “McGovern’s name will always be associated, rightly, with the extreme leftward lurch of the Democratic Party.”

The truth, of course, is the exact opposite. Republicans destroyed McGovern’s campaign by relentless red-baiting and portraying McGovern as a radical leftist — and they did that with the help and cooperation of Democrats. Ever since then, Democrats have been running from the “liberal” tag as fast as they can. Donald Douglas is correct when he says that George McGovern was a war hero “who flew B-24 bombing raids over Germany in World War II.” But that heroic war record didn’t prevent Richard Nixon and his supporters from running a slime campaign — again, with the active assistance of the Democratic Party — that “managed to turn a decorated World War II combat veteran, a devout Christian and a son of the Depression-era Plains heartland into the elite, effete counterculture candidate of ‘amnesty, abortion and acid.’”

That quote comes from Joan Walsh’s excellent article on the history of the 1972 election and how it affected Democrats for decades after. Here’s more:

McGovern’s campaign manager, Gary Hart, would pioneer the idea of “New Democrats” who owed no allegiance to labor. When he ran for Senate in 1974, Hart titled his stump speech “The End of the New Deal.” That same year he proclaimed that his new generation of Democrats were not just ”a bunch of little Hubert Humphreys,” slandering labor’s longtime champion. A young Bill and Hillary Clinton got their start on the McGovern campaign, and it’s hard not to see the impact of McGovern’s defeat on Clinton’s careful centrism and Democratic Leadership Council politics. The DLC was formed in direct reaction to Walter Mondale’s 1984 loss, which was even more lop-sided than McGovern’s. But it was designed to eradicate McGovernism from the party – to define Democrats as tough on crime and welfare, friendly to business, hawkish on defense – everything McGovern supposedly was not. It also involved the party running away from its proud New Deal legacy, and defining itself more as what it wasn’t than what it was.

I can’t end this post without quoting this revealing passage from Steven Hayward’s piece (emphasis is mine):

He said some truly stupid things over the years, such as his carelessly chosen words in a Playboy interview implying that Ho Chi Minh could rightly be compared to George Washington, or his blaming the Cold War chiefly on the United States and the West, writing in his autobiography that “Without excusing the aggressive behavior of the Soviets in Eastern Europe after 1945, I have always believed that we not only overreacted to it but indeed helped to trigger it by our own post-World War II fears.”  He added that “The challenge to the free world from Communism is no longer relevant,” and “I don’t like Communism, but I don’t think we have any great obligation to save the world from it.”  While Nixon and other Republicans wore American flag lapel pins, the McGovernites found appeals to patriotism repellent, and wore the flag—if at all—upside down.  Theodore White observed that “At McGovern headquarters, the word itself, ‘patriotism,’ was a code word for intolerance, war, deception. . . and phrases like ‘peace with honor’ actually did make them gag.”

Ho Chi Minh’s admiration for the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution; and his numerous attempts to get the United States to support the Viet Minh in their attempt to liberate Vietnam from French colonialism — all of which were not simply rebuffed but completely ignored — are a matter of historical record. The idea that the United States massively overstated Soviet military power — e.g., the infamous “missile gap” — and that a small group of highly ideological Cold Warriors in the State Department and the intelligence community like John Foster Dulles, Edward Lansdale, Paul Nitze, Dean Rusk, and Henry Kissinger, among others, massively overreacted to the Soviet Communist threat out of all proportion to the actual danger to U.S. national security — is widely accepted among credible historians, and has been for years. Hayward may disagree on the merits, but the proposition itself is not exactly controversial anymore, at least among those who have looked at the vast trove of declassified Cold War documents and allowed themselves to be exposed to reputable sources outside the right-wing echo chamber. Hayward could start with Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie, published in 1988 and still one of the definitive histories of the early period of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, from the latter years of French rule through the early 1960s.

Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath.

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