…greece, an odyssey from debt to deliverance…

…no need for charon or cerberus…

Brazil has a population of some 200 million, compared with Greece with one of some 11 million.

So we set sail with a teaser from down south. And for that we have to thank Jake Johnston of The Americas Blog of CEPR. From this, armed with analysis our imaginations can safely take to flight, but without the bravado of Icarus. Why is the US Government Still Hiding What They Did to Brazil in 1998?  Read the rest of this entry »

…’free trade’, corporate free-for-all? the fault, dear Ralphie, is not in…

…our stars, but in ourselves, that we are neither corporations nor their lackeys…

[As the Bard glowers at this abuse of one of his chef d’oeuvres – clearly, not hors d…]

And the challenge could not be more insurmountable, as Rex-cum-President would hold court among his fawning supplicants, and is interrupted by an interloper, ‘You’re In My House’: Obama Shuts Down Heckler At White House. Lest there be any doubt of ‘L’état, c’est moi!’,

“As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers but not when I am up in the house,” he said later, to laughter from the crowd. “If you are eating the hors d’oeuvres, know what I’m sayin’? And drinking the booze.”

[bold added for emphasis]

Class, real class. Or should that be crass? Clearly, the peasants get the ‘booze’, the ‘elites’, the Dom Perignon, Château Neuf du Pape, and similar ‘unpronounciable’ boissons. (Was there not some ban against French in the US Congress, where ‘French fries’ would become ‘Freedom fries’ and similar asininity?) Hors d’oeuvres for the plebs, not ‘finger food’ – progress?

Yet such an exceptional performance of a graceless but educated ‘elite’ toward an impolite and under-educated illegal (!) that garnered media raves would fail to impress or deter or daunt Ralph Nader.

Nader continues to show fine form. This week he bemoans the fate that is to befall many of the US populace with the progress to passage of the plethora of ‘T’s’ – TPA, TAA, TPA, TTIP. In, King Obama, His Royal Court, and the TPP, one of the observations he makes, one, known to US legislators but ignored,

Only corporations, astonishingly enough, are entitled to sue the U.S. government for any alleged harm to their profits from health, safety or other regulations in secret tribunals that operate as offshore kangaroo courts, not in open courts.

The good news here is that this is a condition that faces very many countries, many weak countries, and no way, no how will the US have to undergo anything remotely similar. After all, which country writes and rewrites (and enforces) the rules, when the rules rule against it? The US and the multinational corporations (MNCs) and, especially, ICSID of the World Bank have not been particularly considerate toward many such countries. (It is already established that the US is a corporate ‘democracy’, with extravagant, media promoted, theatre.)

One case in point is El Salvador, a very poor country with great mining potential, but one with severe water supply problems. Poor country or not, El Salvador is being sued for wanting to prevent further pollution of its already severely contaminated water resources. A recent article from The Guardian is apt,  Lawsuit against El Salvador mining ban highlights free trade pitfalls. We begin to get a picture,

El Salvador is an impoverished country, but its citizens live above riches: the country has an estimated 1.4m ounces of gold buried underground, as well as silver and copper.

It may be surprising, then, that no mining is allowed. In 2008, after mining operations polluted the water supply in San Sebastián, sparking a clean water crisis, then-president Antonio Saca stopped issuing new mining permits. Its legislature has considered and failed to pass an official moratorium or permanent ban on mining since then, but the government has continued to deny all permit applications.

And here is where the Investor-State Dispute mechanism enters. As The Guardian would report,

The Pacific Rim case, which has been ongoing since 2009, has been a mix of public and private. Pacific Rim initially claimed that El Salvador had violated the Central American Free Trade (Cafta) treaty. The tribunal proceedings for the case were streamed on the internet and all documents were posted to the World Bank International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes website.

Then in 2012, the tribunal found that Pacific Rim, as a Canadian company, could not invoke Cafta. The company changed its claim, accusing El Salvador instead of violating its own investment law.

As we see, the corporation exercises the initiative, health or environmental cost irrelevant. TeleSUR would have its take, OceanaGold vs El Salvador: Foreshadowing ‘Trade’ Under the TPP?

The Central American country of El Salvador could be forced to pay US$301 million to Canadian-Australian mining multinational OceanaGold as the two face off in a World Bank investor-state tribunal with proven tendency to favor corporate interests over arguments for protecting national sovereignty, the environment, and human rights.

Where did OceanaGold come from? It is the new name – complicated, this corporation business. And, yes, should El Salvador lose, that US$301M is a hefty chunk of change for the country, some two percent of its GDP.

That has been one area of extreme vulnerability of such countries, though Bolivia has recently enacted law to ‘level the playing field’. Another area concerns Intellectual Property (IP) Rights – patents and copyrights. The medical benefits that flowed from generics in such countries may well be reduced. Dean Baker in his post at Truth-Out, The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Drug Patents and President Clinton, makes this point,

There are many serious issues raised by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the one that may have the greatest long-term impact is its provisions on drug patents. The explicit purpose is to make patent protection stronger and longer. While these provisions are likely to lead to higher drug prices in the United States, they will have their greatest impact in the developing world.

[bold added for emphasis]

No great imagination is needed to envisage the likely impact of any merger among health insurance companies in the US – with the more robust patent protection of ‘free trade’ in force – and the deleterious effects beyond its borders. That the US populace is acquiescent, resigned to a regimen of high health costs and low benefits is no reason, no incentive for other countries to imperil or unravel their own social and economic gains – to benefit corporate, in particular US, interests.

…independent states or serfdom, for whom the bell tolls?…


…’free trade’, tpa, tpp, ttip – ahab and moby dick…

…is the us president now emulating ahab as role model?…

Clear inexperience is evident, even here. Obsessed with smiting his indomitable nemesis, the grandiloquent one has enlisted yet more allies to his cause. Unfortunately, these allies have demonstrated superb incompetence. Not only that, among the many, very experienced and well-known in the sphere of economics, are two who have rallied to the defence  of Senator Warren, the new Moby Dick of a floundering, foundering Ahab.

Paul Krugman who has to date expressed disappointment at the churlishness of the attacks against Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose education, experience and probity on the issue have caused such exasperation. This time he resorts to slight indirection to make his point. Instead of directly calling out the culprits, he takes on the messenger. with the implicit caution to the source on slavish stenography, ‘A word to the wise…’, Hypocritical SlothRead the rest of this entry »

…us msm, ensnared in its webb of deception?…

…and headed, herded to a zero, dark, dark future?…

Journalistic integrity, protean concept to the MSM. As if any further evidence were needed on the role of the corporate US MSM in not fully informing, ‘misleading’ (?), the public on matters on which the public should be dutifully and truthfully informed, now comes a movie. Immediately coming to mind are thoughts like ‘dereliction of duty’, ‘gross irresponsibility and culpability’. First, the irony of that word, ‘democracy’, takes us on a journey, and Glenn Greenwald is the guide, WHAT ‘DEMOCRACY’ REALLY MEANS IN U.S. AND NEW YORK TIMES JARGON: LATIN AMERICA EDITION. An excerpt that will inspire the journey.

One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

Read the rest of this entry »

…us msm, tpping the lie? fantastic!…

…or, tripped up with its tpp lie?…

Where do we start? Why not with the US ‘newspaper of record’, of fame that includes from its pantheon the likes of Judith Miller, Michael R Gordon, John F Burns, and WMD.

There is that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal being negotiated in secret. Not so bad, if one were not aware of the pervasive influence of US corporations in the process. Yet with this secrecy, back in November 2013 the NYT would give its still many readers, A Pacific Trade Deal. Red flags would go up on this,

A good agreement would lower duties and trade barriers on most products and services, strengthen labor and environmental protections, limit the ability of governments to tilt the playing field in favor of state-owned firms and balance the interests of consumers and creators of intellectual property. Such a deal will not only help individual countries but set an example for global trade talks.

Utter rubbish. Aside the fact that this proposed deal has very little to do with trade, and for its well-established obviousness, there was that awkward detail observed by the far less read EFF, How Can the New York Times Endorse an Agreement the Public Can’t Read? Read the rest of this entry »

…the bible made me do it, and other idiocies…

…just following orders, instructions of the Bible?…

In St Matthew there is that well-known invocation that starts, ‘Suffer little children…’ Well in the US, we see,

Outrage in Arizona: US dumps hundreds of illegal migrant kids in AZ warehouses. An excerpt,

Another 700 children were scheduled to be transported from Texas to the Arizona facility over the weekend. Following their brief holdover, the detainees – many of them women, children and unaccompanied juveniles – are abandoned without food and water.

Perhaps someone, even passably familiar with language, should explain to these moral, law abiding patriots that the Biblical phrase does not have an exclamation after ‘children’, and that ‘suffer’ really means allow, permit. After all, what’s this ‘In God We Trust’ business. Read the rest of this entry »

…of vice and virtue…

…to put life and laughter into proper context…

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) of the UK ventured into an area hitherto not considered in the national income accounts. The results of its efforts are interesting, as The Guardian reports, Drugs and prostitution contributed almost £10bn to the economy in 2009.

According to the report, for the base year of 2009, illegal activities (drugs and prostitution) contributed  an estimated £9.7b (0.7%) to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of that figure, cannabis (‘ganja’) contributed approximately £0.83b, some 0.086% to the 2009 GDP. If that pattern of use and contribution were to continue for six years, ganja would have contributed some 0.51% to national output. (The Guardian’s datablog provides the data for the DIY-er.) So, 0.51%, an insignificant figure? Not if we head over to the Virtue section… Read the rest of this entry »