Showing posts from July, 2007

Krugman on Bush's Health Care Views

In spite of the fact that almost every other advanced capitalist state has some form of universal health care the US considers it some sort of socialist plot and even most Democrats will not even say straight out they are in favor of some single payer system. The result is a health care system that is the most expensive in the world but far from the best particularly for the working poor. It is so inefficient that even without universal care the public expenditure in the US is greater than that in the UK that has a universal system--as percentage of GDP. But the US also has a huge private expenditure as well.

The New York Times
July 30, 2007

An Immoral Philosophy


When a child is enrolled in the State Childrens Health Insurance
Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example,
after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of
attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likel…

Israel to receive 30 billion US in defence aid

The US military manufacturers must be making a mint these days with the excessive use of munitions and loss of copters, vehicles etc. in Iraq and Afghanistan and now they will get huge orders from Israel and Saudi Arabia.

AFX News Limited
Israeli PM announces 30 billion US dollar US defence aid
07.29.07, 6:47 AM ET

JERUSALEM (Thomson Financial) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the US has agreed a 25 percent increase in its military and defence aid to Israel, to 30 billion US dollars in the next 10 years.

'In my last meeting with the president of the United States, we agreed that the aid would stand at 30 billion dollars over the next 10 years, meaning over three billion dollars a year, starting next year,' he said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

'This is an increase of over 25 percent in the military and defence aid of the United States to Israel,' he added.

Olmert described the new package as a considerable improvement and a very important e…

US funding Blair as envoy?

Probably Blair will toe the US line whether or not the US pays his salary. It has already been made abundantly clear by the US that his mission is to build up Palestinian authority institutions..i.e. further isolate Hamas. No doubt the US just wants to get their running dog up and running and the details of funding can be worked out later. Anyone who thinks the peace process is objective between Palestine and Israel has rocks in their head. In fact it is so biased it will be a wonder if even Abbas will able to bend enough to attain a deal.

US state department 'funding Blair'
By Mark Seddon, diplomatic correspondent

Blair's appointment provoked outright
hostility from Russia [AFP]

There are questions emerging over Tony Blair's appointment as the Quartet's [the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia] Middle East envoy.

The uncertainties start with funding, who is paying the bills for the former British prime minister's new job as specia…

Crisis in Maliki Government

The Iraqi government always seems to be in crisis. Not too long ago it was the Sadr group that had pulled out, now its a Sunni grouping. It is interesting that this article talks as if the surge has made the security conditions better. From the continuing carnage every day it is hard to see that it can be that much better. The parliament did just pass a bill to privatise refineries. The US should be happy. I wouldn't expect refineries to start sprouting up like mushrooms though!

Iraqi government in deepest crisis By Sam Dagher
Fri Jul 27, 4:00 AM ET

Baghdad - Iraq is in the throes of its worst political crisis since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the new democratic system, based on national consensus among its ethnic and sectarian groups, appearing dangerously close to collapsing, say several politicians and analysts.

This has brought paralysis to governmental institutions and has left parliament unable to make headway on 18 benchmarks Washington is using to measure progress in Ira…

US Bill bans permanent bases, control of oil in Iraq

Well nothing is forever. I guess that is the moral of this bill. Or maybe the moral is that disguising policy by denial has bipartisan support. If there is no desire to control oil why is the new oil bill giving oil companies a much freer hand and privatising much oil except in name so important as a benchmark. How is it that the bases in Iraq are being expanded and that the US embassy is going to be the largest in the world. The US may not be in Iraq permanently but it will certainly be there as in Korea for the indefinite future.

WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday forbidding permanent U.S. bases and any U.S. control over Iraq's oil.

The bill, approved 399-24, bans any funds appropriated by Congress from being used "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States economic control of the oil re…

US Angry at Saudi Role in Iraq

Some neo-cons have long favored changing policy towards the Saudis and even promoting regime change. Articles in the New York times and elsewhere now show a drift of US policy toward more criticism of the Saudis. The Saudis promoted the ill-fated unity government of Hamas and Fatah much to the dismay of the US. The US and Israel have already lured Egypt and Jordan into supporting Abbas against Hamas.
The Saudis are very concerned with Shia and Iranian power in Iraq. Support for insurgents comes from the Saudis as well as foreign fighters. Certainly the Saudis will not abandon the Sunni cause in Iraq although they might be persuaded to join in the Quartet Egypt and Jordan in isolating Hamas. On the other hand the Saudis may hope to gain more respect for holding out for Palestinian unity or at least try to promote it.

U.S. Increasingly Frustrated With Saudi Role in Iraq: Report
2007-07-27 04:23am

The Bush administration has become increasingly frustrated with the government of …

Iraqi Oil Minister: There are no legal unions in Iraq

So where are all the US unions screaming about the new democracy in Iraq where there are no legal unions. The US troops are fighting to secure a union-free Iraq! The main stream press will maintain a deafening silence on this you can be sure. But where are the big union organisations worldwide?

Shahrastani: No Legal Oil Unions in Iraq
Unions Object to Draft Hydrocarbons Law, Call for Shahrastani's Resignation
By BEN LANDO Posted 23 hr. 49 min. ago
WASHINGTON, DC (UPI) -- Iraq's oil minister said Iraq's oil unions are not legitimate and have no more standing in the debate over the oil law than an ordinary citizen.

"There are no legal unions in Iraq," Hussein al-Shahristani said Wednesday in response to a question about various factions' positions on the controversial oil law. "Those people who call themselves representatives of the oil workers have not been elected to the position."

Shahristani spoke to UPI by phone from Baghdad.

The lone remaining law fro…

Iraq bill passed to privatise oil refinieries.

This will no doubt please the US administration. Although none of the US benchmarks are near being met at least now there is some opening in the energy sector for foreign investment. A state that is privatising can hardly be a failed state in the jargon of global capitalism.

Parliament Passes Law to Privatize Refineries
Measures Designed to Boost Iraq's Capacity, End Fuel Shortages
By BEN LANDO Posted 17 hr. 37 min. ago
Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- Iraq's Parliament has approved a law privatizing the country's oil-refining sector in order to lure investment and stem a fuel shortage.

The law, approved Tuesday, is a step toward relinquishing government involvement in the refining sector and, when poverty is alleviated, moving Iraqi consumers from state-subsidized to market prices for fuel.

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told United Press International Wednesday from his mobile phone in Baghdad that the government will provide incenti…

Governments Buying Equity Stakes Worldwide

Of course it is only certain governments that are doing this. The US and European capitalist states adopt the ideological stance that governments are not in the profit making business just private investors! China is still socialist enough that it is quite happy to have government owned industries and now it is capitalist enough to invest for profit globally!

Governments Get
Bolder in Buying
Equity Stakes
and MARCUS WALKER in Berlin
Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2007; Page A1

Foreign governments, flush with cash and no longer content with the
returns to be had on safe but low-yielding investments like Treasurys,
becoming increasingly aggressive players on the equity front.

The new boldness of these government-controlled investors was on
Sunday night when entities controlled by the governments of China and
Singapore agreed to invest as much as $18.5 billion in return for
stakes in
the big British bank Barcl…

Transiting a US airport

This account rings a sympathetic bell with me. I found that the cheapest way to fly to the Philippines from Winnipeg was via Chicago. On the trip out there was no problem since I went through US immigration at Winnipeg and my bags went straight through to Manila. I had no problem changing planes to catch JAL to Narita and then on to Manila.
Coming back was a different story. JAL in Manila told me my bags were booked right through to Winnipeg. I didn't believe them and I was correct. Transiting Japan from the Manila flight is no problem. You just walk from one part of the terminal to another to catch the plane to Chicago. You don't go through immigration or reclaim your bags.
When we arrived in Chicago we had to go through immigration even though we were just changing planes. There were cameras and fingerprint apparati but I wasn't required to use them or rather I just ignored them and no one said anything! The processing computer broke down so we had to wait about half…

Vietnamese women active in business

I wonder if there are more women than men in Vietnam? Perhaps there were a lot of men killed during the Vietnam war. No doubt women held positions of responsibility during the communist period as well and this carried on during the transition back to capitalism. Communism has always theoretically stood for the equality of women but as with other ideals is not always evident in actually existing communist states.

Wall Street Journal hails Vietnamese businesswomen

The Wall Street Journal run a front-page article on the outstanding role of Vietnamese women in doing business in the Southeast Asian country.

Author Laura Santini related the life of Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh from Ho Chi Minh City, who had worked as a volunteer medic in the south, contracted malaria and dodged US attacks before going to the north and then studying abroad.

Returning to Vietnam, Ms. Mai Thanh took a job at the Refrigeration & Electrical Engineering Corp (REE) based in Ho Chi Minh City, and quickly moved up the rank…

Majority in both Poland and Czech Republic oppose participation in US missile Shield.

Of course the fact that a majority oppose the shield is no guarantee that the installations will not go ahead. No doubt the Polish and Czech government expect some reward from the US and unless there is real political trouble they will go ahead.

More Czechs Reject U.S. Missile Shield
July 24, 2007
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - People in the Czech Republic are increasingly opposed to participating in a United States defence plan in Central Europe, according to a poll by CVVM. 65 per cent of respondents reject the construction of a missile defence shield base in their territory, up four points since May.

An additional 74 per cent of respondents want the government to call for a nationwide referendum on this matter.

In December 2002, U.S. president George W. Bush announced plans for the development of initial defence capabilities, which include ground-based and sea-based missile interceptors, as well as sensors located in space. Washington has explained the project as a means to defend the …

President Bush on War on Terror and Al Qaeda in Iraq

Bush makes Al Qaeda in Iraq the main target now of the actions against the insurgents. However, the surge clearly targets Shiite militias and other Sunni insurgents in Baghdad. Note that nowhere in the speech does Iran figure into the equation. The foreign fighters mentioned often come from US allies such as Saudi Arabia. None are mentioned as coming from Iran. Bush conveniently overlooks the fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq is in Iraq because of the US invasion yet its presence in Iraq is now used as a justification for staying there. The moral is create a threat and then use that threat as a justification! Bush does not realise that US actions in Iraq actually serve to recruit more Al Qaeda type terrorists. It is true that so far this has not resulted in any new significant terrorist actions in the US but they are killing US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and elsewhere.
Anyway Bush manages to ignore the other actors among insurgents and concentrate only upon Al Qaeda types. The aim is…

Iran and US agree to co-operate against Sunni insurgents?

This is from Juan Cole's website. Most commentators just ignore the role of Saudi Arabia but not Cole thank goodness!

Informed Comment
Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

US-Iran Alliance Against Sunni Guerrillas?

The headlines will probably concentrate on the shouting match between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iranian diplomat Hassan Kazemi Qomi at their meeting in Baghdad. Crocker accused the Iranians of giving training and weapons to Shiite militias, some of which ended up being used against US troops in Iraq. The Iranian diplomat denied the charges. But in my view the money graf in this Telegraph report is this one:

' the two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents. The committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qa'eda in Iraq, officials said, but not those[Shiite] militia groups the US accuses …

Australia gives Philippines low marks in governance, peace, reforms

This is from the Tribune Although much of this analysis is likely correct I think that in some cases economic growth may very well exacerbate income inequality and even produce poverty for some. I get the gut feeling that the Australian commentators want reforms that will open the Philippines to more foreign investment. The main reforms should have to do with corruption but the filipinos also need to curb the power of the leading rich families who manage to control the system. That the Philippines still has controls on foreign ownership of land and investment is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just that it is used to protect the elite rather than to advance the interest of all filipinos.

Australia gives RP low marks in governance, peace, reforms


Australia has cited lack of good governance, restoring peace and security and slow economic reforms as the greatest challenges currently facing the Philippines.

In its May 2007 bilateral overview, the Australian Department of Foreign…

Supreme Court of Philippines Orders AFL, Arroyo, and police to produce missing activist.

It remains to be seen whether anything will happen as a result of this order. No doubt everyone will deny involvement. It is a little surprising that the Court ordered this since the court is often thought of as beholden to Arroyo. Not this time around or in some other cases as well.

Philippine Supreme Court orders Arroyo, military, police to produce missing activist

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine Supreme Court has ordered President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the military and police to produce a missing left-wing activist in court later this week, officials said.

The July 16 order, made public by court officials Tuesday, stemmed from a habeas corpus petition filed by the mother of Jonas Burgos, who was kidnapped by gunmen on April 28.

Witnesses said they saw Burgos being dragged by six armed men and a woman who identified themselves as policemen from a restaurant in a suburban mall to a waiting car. The license plate was later traced to ano…

Two articles on Illegality of Afghan war

Usually criticism of the Afghan war is based upon anything but the illegality of the war. When illegality is brought up a UN resolution that legitimises the occupation after the fact is cited. But this does not make the original invasion legal. There is a similar UN resolution legitimising the US led Iraq occupation.

September 17, 2002

Is Bush's War Illegal?
Let Us Count the Ways
by Francis Boyle

The "Blowhard Zone"

On September 13, 2001 I got a call from FOX News asking me to go on the O'Reilly Factor program that night, two days after the tragic events of September 11, to debate O'Reilly on War v. Peace. It is pretty clear where I stood and where he stood. I had been on this program before. I knew what I was getting in to. But I felt it would be important for one lawyer to get up there in front of a national audience and argue against a war and for the application of domestic and international law enforcement, international procedures, and constitutional…