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Submitted by Megan Iorio on 19 September 2012 - 5:16pm
The secrecy with which the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have been conducted is enough to make anyone nauseous. Outside a small group of international negotiators, few have been allowed access to the negotiating text—and no one is allowed to tell the dirty public what the negotiators are about. We outsiders—or, as the US Trade Representative likes to call us, "stakeholders"—have had to rely upon a series of leaked drafts, each of which contain a number of bile-inducing stipulations; although even with these leaks, we are still quite in the dark as to what the agreement presently contains. Calls to make negotiations transparent have been deflected by US officials, who hold that the time for public input is after talks are complete, the logic of which certainly churns my stomach.
When the 14th round of negotiations closed just a few days ago, the eleven-nation group of Pacific-rim countries was mercifully still a ways away from consensus. This is fortunate, because at least, while it is still on the drawing board, the TPP can't actually make anyone ill.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 17 September 2012 - 3:18pm
When I sat down to take in the headlines yesterday on the New York Times website, I was not altogether pleased with the paper of record. Admittedly, I am in an almost constant state of perturbance when it comes to the Times; however, their particularly heinous reporting on the Bibi "red line" hullabaloo Friday got my blood up, propelling me to dash off a long letter to the new Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, from whom I have yet to receive a response. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting posted an excellent write-up of the affair, so I won't bother doing so here. Suffice it to say that my exasperation level was unusually high.
So imagine my mirth when I came upon the following excerpt in the piece "Israeli leader makes case against Iran on US TV":
Mr. Netanyahu, who also appeared on the CNN program "State of the Union" on Sunday, sought to link the violence [at US embassies in the Middle East] with Iran's nuclear ambitions, arguing that Iran's leaders were driven by the same fanaticism that enraged the protesters. Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, though it has never publicly acknowledged it.
WHAT? Did the New York Times just mention the fact that Israel has nukes!? Oh SNAP! Day-um, hear that, Bibi? Bet that BURNS!
But what could have possibly gotten into the Times to allow such a tawdry fact into their Iran reporting? It's not like a mention was called for by the information preceding it. I think that my reaction to its inclusion was so marked precisely because there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the Times to mention the Israeli arsenal at this particular point in the piece.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 23 August 2012 - 12:45pm
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to cut domestic spending in order to increase military spending. Regardless of whatever else may be true - that is, regardless of whether you think more military spending is otherwise a good idea, or how you feel about the public services that would be axed by greater domestic cuts - their plans to cut domestic spending in order to increase military spending would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
How many jobs? A plausible estimate is that their plans to cut domestic spending in order to increase military spending would cost at least 530,000 jobs.
What does 530,000 jobs mean in the context of the U.S. economy? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently about 12.8 million unemployed out of a labor force of about 155 million, for a measured unemployment rate of 8.3%. If an additional 500,000 people were employed today, there would be 12.3 million unemployed and the unemployment rate would be 8%.
By comparison, in September 2011, economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics estimated that if two stimulus measures were allowed to expire the end of 2011 - the 2% employee payroll tax holiday and the emergency unemployment insurance program - that would cost 750,000 jobs in 2012. As you may recall, there was a huge fight about whether those two stimulus measures should be allowed to expire. The job loss from replacing military cuts with domestic cuts is roughly of the same order of magnitude. If it was worth fighting about saving those 750,000 jobs by extending the stimulus, then it's worth fighting about saving 530,000 jobs by not replacing military cuts with domestic cuts.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 19 July 2012 - 9:22pm
There are two major items of concern in the July 19, 2012 New York Times story "Hezbollah Is Blamed in Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria."
First, the article states
The bombing comes at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but Israel and the West say is a cover for developing weapons.
But it is not true that Israel and the West say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. A number of top US and Israeli military and intelligence officials have publicly stated that they do not believe that Iranian leadership has decided to develop nuclear weapons. Furthermore, neither the most recent intelligence reports out of the US and Israel, nor recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, say that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
Second, the author's use of "confirmed" in the first sentence of the article is, I believe, misleading:
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 17 July 2012 - 2:07pm
This week, a series of showdowns is expected in the House over the Pentagon budget, when House Members vote on amendments to the Defense Appropriations Bill to cut the overall level of military spending, end or limit the war in Afghanistan, and draw down troops permanently stationed in Europe.
What happens in these votes will have a big influence on the expected negotiations over replacing the impending "sequester" automatic cuts of the Budget Control Act with a package of revenue increases and spending cuts. If you want cuts in military spending to be on the table, now is the time to speak up.
Until now, the bigfoot military contractors and their most stalwart allies in Congress have fought with great success to keep real cuts in military spending away from the table. What has mostly happened until now is that most of the previously projected increases in spending have been cut, so that under the President's plan military spending would rise roughly with inflation. It's an important start, certainly, to stop the previously projected increase, but it's not a real cut from past spending levels. If the automatic cuts were to go through, that would cause a real cut in military spending, although military spending would still be above what it was during the Cold War. But the conventional wisdom is that the automatic cuts won't happen; at the end of the day, they will be replaced by a package of revenue increases and spending cuts.
The question is what is going to be in that package.
Until now, the GOP leadership position has been that cuts in military spending are off the table.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 16 July 2012 - 10:02pm
Congressional offices will be paying special attention to phone calls coming in this week on the Defense Appropriations bill, so call your Representative today! Here's what you do:
- Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative's office.
- Tell the person who picks up or your Rep's voice mailbox, "Hello, my name is _______, I live at _______. I urge Rep _______ to support amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill that would cut the Pentagon budget, end the war in Afghanistan, and draw down US troop levels in Europe."
Amendments expected to cut the military budget include:
- Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion (a freeze at FY12 levels) from the military budget;
- An amendment to cut $7 billion to align the bill to spending caps under the Budget Control Act;
- Barbara Lee amendment to cut $19 billion, corresponding to program cuts proposed by Project on Defense Alternatives and the Cato Institute.
Amendments expected to end or curtail the war in Afghanistan include:
- Barbara Lee amendment to cut all funding for the war except for what is needed for a safe and responsible drawdown;
- Walter Jones and Rosa DeLauro amendment preventing the use of funds past 2014 in support of any mission that does not have explicit Congressional approval.
And when you're done, report your call below.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 9 July 2012 - 9:13am
Thursday night, by what the Christian Science Monitor called the "thinnest of margins" the General Assembly of the 1.9 million member Presbyterian Church USA failed to approve a resolution requiring the church to divest its $20 million investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard over the ties of these companies to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
The vote at the PCUSA's General Assembly in Pittsburgh was 333-to-331. In percentage terms, 49.85% were in favor of selective divestment from the Israeli occupation and 50.15% were opposed.
No doubt many among what Peter Beinart calls "the American Jewish establishment" celebrated the result. They had pulled out the stops to block the Presbyterians' selective divestment move. 1300 rabbis and 22,000 other Jews wrote to the Presbyterians, falsely seeking to characterize the proposed move as "the use of economic leverages against the Jewish state."
PRESS RELEASE: Letter From Prominent Americans, Delivered to Ecuadorean Embassy London, Urges Asylum for Assange
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 25 June 2012 - 2:03pm
JFP's Policy Director Robert Naiman just hand delivered our petition from over 4,000 JFP members and a letter signed by prominent Americans including Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, Daniel Ellsberg and Glenn Greenwald, urging Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to grant Julian Assange's request for asylum.
PRESS RELEASE: Letter From Prominent Americans, Delivered to Ecuadorean Embassy London, Urges Asylum for Assange
For Immediate Release
June 25, 2012
Letter From Prominent Americans, Delivered to Ecuadorean Embassy London, Urges Asylum for Assange
Letter signed by Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Wolf, Daniel Ellsberg, Danny Glover, Oliver Stone, Bill Maher, Patch Adams, MD, Mark Weisbrot and other prominent Americans; petition signed by 4000 Americans
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 18 June 2012 - 5:43pm
Talks in Moscow between the P5+1 and Iran have apparently hit the same wall that ended last month's Baghdad meeting. The West wants Iran to halt its 20% enrichment, ship its 20% stockpile out of the country, and close down Fordo. And what is it willing to give in return? Safety upgrades for an Iranian civil nuclear reactor and some airplane parts. The West's negotiating position does not address either of Iran's desiderata: sanctions relief and acknowledgement of Iran's right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.
The one redeeming feature of this offer is that it could be construed as an implicit acceptance of a civilian nuclear program in Iran, but … seriously? The West is expecting Iran to give up some of its best bargaining chips for airplane parts?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 1 June 2012 - 4:05pm
There's a conventional wisdom in Washington that there's nothing we can do politically to stop the U.S. government from killing innocent civilians with drone strikes.
But it ain't necessarily so.
Speaking only for myself, I'm willing to stipulate that killing "high value terrorists" who are known to be actively preparing to kill Americans is wildly popular, regardless of whether it is constitutional and legal.
Here's what's not wildly popular: killing innocent civilians.
This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. This is an American issue. Go to the reddest of Red America. Stand outside a megachurch or military base in the Deep South. Find me twelve Christian Republicans who are willing to sign their names that they want the U.S. government to kill innocent civilians. I bet you can't do it. Killing innocent civilians is un-American.
Consider: after what widely reported news event did even Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum say maybe we ought to get our troops out of Afghanistan? After it was reported that a U.S. soldier massacred Afghan civilians.
The historian Howard Zinn suggested that it's a backhanded compliment to the American people that our government lies to us about what it's doing in other people's countries. Because it suggests that if the American people knew, they would never stand for it.
Thanks to a New York Times report this week, we now know. In an echo of the Colombian military's "false positives" scandal, our government is killing people with drone strikes and then decreeing that "military age men" killed by U.S. drone strikes are automatically "combatants." Born a chicken, raised a chicken, now you're a fish.