Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for December 7th, 2010

Congratulations, Governor Dayton!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 7, 2010

After the Minnesota Supreme Court shot down Emmer’s last gambit earlier today, it was inevitable that he would concede. The pleasant surprise here is that he faced reality as quick as he did:

@uptakemn UpTake Minnesota
Tom Emmer to concede #mnrecount and Gov’s race to Dayton tomorrow at 10:30 am in Delano says @KSTP . MNSUPCO opinion sunk Emmer. #stribpol

Our first Democratic governor in over two decades — and he’s a real Democrat, too.

Posted in 2010, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

This is what the breakdown of empire looks like

Posted by Charles II on December 7, 2010

DemocracyNow reports that the US hold over Latin America has reached a breaking point:

Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay Recognize Palestinian State in Occupied Territories

The Palestinian effort for statehood has received a boost with recognition from three South American countries. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have each declared their recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on the 1967 borders. Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman announced his government’s stance on Monday.

Héctor Timerman: “The president of the nation, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, sent a letter to the president of the National Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, saying that the Argentine government recognizes Palestine as a free and independent state in the borders as they were in 1967 and according to what the parties determined during the negotiation process.”

Israel has harshly condemned the moves as an affront to the so-called “peace process.” With U.S. support, Israel has insisted on maintaining control of large Jewish-only settlement blocs that carve up the West Bank. Aid groups meanwhile continue to denounce the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and ongoing restrictions in the West Bank. Kate Allen of Amnesty International said Palestinians are being “systematically” deprived of water.

Kate Allen: “There is a systematic and deliberate means of stopping water getting to Palestinian families, and that is having a dramatic effect upon the way in which people are able to live their lives. Water is an absolute basic necessity. It’s a human right. It is shocking to see that the Israeli government is behaving in this way.”

Here’s the Amnesty report:

The inequality in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians is striking. Palestinian
consumption in the OPT is about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much. In some rural communities Palestinians survive on far less than even the average 70 litres, in some cases barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended by the WHO for emergency situations response.

Access to water resources by Palestinians in the OPT is controlled by Israel and the amount
of water available to Palestinians is restricted to a level which does not meet their needs….

Water rationing is common, especially but not only in the summer months, with residents of different neighbourhoods and villages receiving piped water only one day every week or every few weeks.

The water consumption is not just personal consumption or hygiene, but agricultural consumption, industrial consumption, and so on.

The behavior of Israel toward the Palestinians in denying them water is so shocking that it demands a human response. But the realities of this world are such that when the dominant power, the hegemon says that an abuse is acceptable, other countries tend to shrug and turn away. What has happened is that US power has fallen so low that other countries are no longer doing that. An independent pole of power has emerged in South America, and it sees its future tied more closely to the non-aligned world than to the US.

And this ties together in an odd way with Wikileaks. One sine qua non of power is that consequences have to be predictable. No matter if the lottery prize is large or small, if the lottery doesn’t pay reliably or if the winners are pre-determined, no one will buy a ticket. The United States based its post-WW II world position on the condition that it would be the honest broker, that it would establish a system of international law that everyone–including the hegemon– would obey. The 1967 agreement is a conspicuous example where, for over 40 years, the United States has promised that some day it would be honored.

And the lynching of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is another gross abrogation of international law. Consider the elements of lawlessness (see Glenn Greenwald for an overview):
– Assange has not even been formally charged with a crime (although that may have changed as of December 6th). He is wanted for questioning in a case that would have no chance outside of Sweden.
– It is possible that the warrant issued by Sweden could be merely a pretext to get Assange to a country where he can be extradited–or, perhaps, kidnapped– by the US or other countries.
– No legal arrest warrant existed in the UK until December 6th, at which point Assange voluntarily surrendered.
– Notwithstanding, the US media has labeled this a “manhunt” (ABC’s Brian Williams apparently started the usage, but it has spread)
– the US media has broadcast of calls by people like Bill Kristol and Sarah Palin urging his murder.
– US officials have labeled him a terrorist which is equivalent to saying that he has no right of due process.
– a priority Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for an offense that has never rated such a step.
– lawful services, such as Internet access and access to financial transfers have been denied to Wikileaks under a variety of subterfuges.
– the head of the Department of Justice has made it clear that he has already reached judgment in the case, and he sounds to me as if he is prepared to use ex post facto laws to perform a sham prosecution.
– At least one US politician, Mike Huckabee, has called for a hanging, trial optional. Dianne Feinstein is not far distant from that stance.

At its most basic meaning, the word “law” means something that is generally applicable. The law of gravity applies not just to apples but to Newtons. The law against murder applies not just to men but to women.

So, what we see in the case of Assange (as we see in the denial of water to Palestinians and the case of Manuel Zelaya or the Bush v. Gore) are evidence of governmental lawlessness: the disproportionate, improper, or hypocritical application of the form of legal process to an individual or organization without consideration for the heart of the law: its general applicability. US officials leak documents all the time and are not prosecuted. In the Plame case, Bush Administration officials leaked extremely highly classified information which did aid America’s enemies; only one even faced prosecution, and that turned into a sham.

We do not expect human beings to be perfectly consistent. But when a great power abuses the law in so many and such flagrant ways, it loses its moral authority. It becomes like the cop on the beat who everyone knows takes bribes. The entire system of law breaks down.

Do not blame bin Laden or Al Qaida or “socialists” or “liberals” or even “Tea Partiers” or “conservatives” (per se) for the collapse of American power. What is happening is what the prophets of scripture described happening as the Davidic Kingdom fell. Where there is no justice, neither is there peace. Where the wealthy and powerful do what they please, bribing the judges, the strength of their moral authority collapses. One need not even believe in God to believe that the world is watching–and turning away in disgust– as the United States reduces itself from the noble stature it acquired after World War II to the status of a petty, vengeful despot. Nor need one believe that it is desirable for US power to decline– I certainly don’t: who will fill the vacuum? Despotic China? Russia? European countries who are equally corrupt? International criminals? Individual corporations?– to see that the United States is bringing about its own demise by failing to uphold the spirit of the law.

Posted in Brazil, Honduras, israel, Latin America, wrong way to go about it | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Grover Wins Again: Eating Our Seed Corn So The Rich Don’t Pay Taxes

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 7, 2010

The disastrous tax “deal” Obama reached with the Republicans — wherein he used a longtime Republican wet dream, the Social Security payroll tax cut, to “pay for” a pitifully-small unemployment extension rather than letting the Bush tax cuts on the rich expire — reminds me of this prescient Britt Robson piece in City Pages called “Minnesota Eats Itself”:

In some ways the checkered two-year reign of Tim Pawlenty has looked less like an exercise in governance than a deliberate and increasingly harrowing game of chicken. Since famously signing on to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota’s “no new taxes” pledge during his 2002 gubernatorial run–a classic instance of a politician being led in shackles to exactly the spot where he meant to stand all along–Pawlenty has remained steadfast in his commitment to austerity now and forever. His first budget cycle, in 2003, found the state facing a $4.2 billion hole in its finances that Pawlenty himself, as a tax-hawking member of the state legislature, had been instrumental in creating.

Pawlenty balanced that first biennial budget with a flurry of fiscal derring-do that left many legislators and onlookers alike to sort out later what had actually happened:

* $2 billion in cuts to state services

* more than a $1 billion taking of onetime monies, most of it from the tobacco settlement fund

* the imposition of approximately $400 million in additional user fees

* the shifting of more than $150 million worth of obligations onto local property taxpayers

* and the juggling of hundreds of millions more dollars through various accounting shifts and delayed payment arrangements.

Less than three weeks after the passage of this budget, Moody’s Investors Service–“the most thorough of the bond houses, and the one we always paid the most attention to,” says former Republican Governor Arne Carlson–downgraded Minnesota’s bond rating from AAA to AA1.

And that was in 2005. Pawlenty has had another five years to make things even worse since then. His cuts got even deeper, and so did the state budget deficit, which now stands at over $6 billion.

We’re seeing a similar scenario play out nationally, except this time it’s under a Democratic administration and Democratic lame-duck Congress: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, 2010 | 3 Comments »

 
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