Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 23rd, 2015

Irony in action: Saudi Arabia to head UN Human Rights panel—and the US State Department welcomes that

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Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia – easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes – was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.

Most of the world may be horrified at the selection of Saudi Arabia to head a key U.N. human rights panel, but the U.S. State Department most certainly is not. Quite the contrary: they seem quite pleased about the news. At a State Department briefing yesterday afternoon, Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner was questioned by the invaluable Matt Lee of AP, and this is the exchange that resulted:

QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.

MR TONER: Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was named to head the Human Rights Council, and today I think they announced they are about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Muhammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?

MR TONER: I’m not aware of the trial that you – or the verdict – death sentence.

QUESTION: Well, apparently, he was arrested when was 17-years-old and kept in juvenile detention, then moved on. And now, he’s been scheduled to be executed.

MR TONER: Right. I mean, we’ve talked about our concerns about some of the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our Human Rights Report, but I don’t have any more to add to it.

QUESTION: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?

MR TONER: Again, I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s – we would welcome it. We’re close allies. If we —

QUESTION: Do you think that they’re an appropriate choice given – I mean, how many pages is – does Saudi Arabia get in the Human Rights Report annually?

MR TONER: I can’t give that off the top of my head, Matt.

QUESTION: I can’t either, but let’s just say that there’s a lot to write about Saudi Arabia and human rights in that report. I’m just wondering if you that it’s appropriate for them to have a leadership position.

MR TONER: We have a strong dialogue, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that spans, obviously, many issues. We talk about human rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it’s an occasion for them to look at human rights around the world but also within their own borders.

QUESTION: But you said that you welcome them in this position. Is it based on improved record? I mean, can you show or point to anything where there is a sort of stark improvement in their human rights record?

MR TONER: I mean, we have an ongoing discussion with them about all these human rights issues, like we do with every country. We make our concerns clear when we do have concerns, but that dialogue continues. But I don’t have anything to point to in terms of progress.

QUESTION: Would you welcome as a – would you welcome a decision to commute the sentence of this young man?

MR TONER: Again, I’m not aware of the case, so it’s hard for me to comment on it other than that we believe that any kind of verdict like that should come at the end of a legal process that is just and in accordance with international legal standards.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR TONER: Sure.

That’s about as clear as it gets. The U.S. Government “welcomes” the appointment of Saudi Arabia to a leadership position on this Human Rights panel because it’s a “close ally.” As I documented two weeks ago courtesy of an equally candid admission from an anonymous “senior U.S. official”: “The U.S. loves human-rights-abusing regimes and always has, provided they ‘cooperate’ . . . . The only time the U.S. government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they’re carried out by ‘countries that don’t cooperate.’”

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 September 2015 at 12:06 pm

What Pope Francis could say that would stun Congress

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Jon Schwarz has an interesting article in The Intercept:

There are many things Pope Francis could say in his Thursday address to Congress that would make them uncomfortable. Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican Catholic from Arizona, has already announced that he’s refusing to attend because the Pope may urge action on global warming. The Pope could also strongly criticize capitalism, as he did in great detail in his 2013 apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel

But the Pope’s critique of the world has an even more radical component, one that’s gotten little notice in the United States — maybe because it’s so radical that many Americans, members of Congress in particular, might not even understand what he’s saying.

And what Francis is saying is that capitalism and our growing environmental disasters are rooted in an even older, larger problem: centuries of European colonialism. Moreover, he suggests this colonialism has never really ended, but merely changed forms — and much of U.S. foreign policy that’s purportedly about terrorism, or drugs, or corruption, or “free trade,” is actually colonialism in disguise.

That’s a perspective that no one in Congress — from Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders or anyone in between — is going to get behind.

The Pope’s most extensive denunciation of colonialism is probably his speech last June at the World Meeting of Popular Movements (an event nurtured by the Vatican at the Pope’s initiative) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It’s genuinely startling. Read this and try to imagine what would happen if it were spoken at the U.S. Capitol:

The Earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil.” … Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women …

Let us always have at heart the Virgin Mary, a humble girl from small people lost on the fringes of a great empire. … Mary is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. …

[W]e see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice. … The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain “free trade” treaties, and the imposition of measures of “austerity” which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor. …  At other times, under the noble guise of battling corruption, the narcotics trade and terrorism — grave evils of our time which call for coordinated international action — we see states being saddled with measures which have little to do with the resolution of these problems and which not infrequently worsen matters.

Moreover, the location of the event and the Pope’s speech was certainly not random. Bolivia today is an international symbol of both the evils of European colonialism and resistance to it, with history running from the founding of La Paz in 1548 to right now.

For instance, while it’s almost completely unknown in Europe and the U.S., an estimated eight million indigenous Bolivians and enslaved Africans died mining silver for Spain from the Bolivian mountain Cerro Rico — or as it’s known in Bolivia, “The Mountain That Eats Men.” Potosí, the city that grew up around Cerro Rico, is now extraordinarily polluted, and the mountain is still being mined, often by children. On the conquerors’ side of the ledger, Potosí was the source of tens of thousands of tons of silver, leading to the Spanish phrase vale un potosi — i.e., worth a fortune. (Some also believe the U.S. dollar sign originated from the design of coins minted there.)

More recently, in a faint echo of Potosí, the International Monetary Fund tried to force the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to lease its water system to a consortium of international investors. Enormous, successful protests helped make then-Congressman Evo Morales famous — enough so that he went on to become Bolivia’s first-ever indigenous president.

Morales kicked out the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008, and now the U.S. has secretly indicted several Bolivian officials connected to his administration — under, as the Pope might put it, “the noble guise of battling the narcotics trade.” The U.S. also appears to have been behind the forcing down of Morales’ presidential plane as it flew across Europe from Moscow, because the U.S. believed Morales might have had Edward Snowden onboard.

This history is why the Pope could tell Bolivians, “I do not need to go on describing the evil effects of this subtle dictatorship: you are well aware of them.”

And whether white people are ready to hear it or not, Bolivia’s experience is the norm across the planet, not the exception. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 September 2015 at 12:02 pm

Idiocracy is here: The GOP job-killers

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Two columns worth reading: “Defunding the ExIm Bank,” by James Fallows in the Atlantic, and “Republican Job Killers and the Export-Import Bank,” by Joe Nocera in the NY Times.

It turns out that ignorance and zealous ideology don’t work well in governing.

From the first article:

. . . The anti-ExIm argument was that big, rich companies like Boeing or GE should not depend on taxpayer help for financing their sales to customers overseas. That might sound true enough, within the confines of the 11th-grade Ayn Rand Debating Club.

In the actual world we inhabit, those firms are competing with others from Europe, China, Japan, Brazil, Russia, South Korea, etc. From places, that is, where government officials dozed through (or laughed at) the Ayn Rand part of the economics courses and are happy to promote their own exporters.

The results? Here’s one, from a Reuters story yesterday: . . .

From the second:

. . . What Oberhelman finds “staggering,” Immelt finds “hard to believe” and McNerney finds ironic is the refusal of Republican extremists — led by the House Financial Services Committee’s chairman, Jeb Hensarling — to allow a vote on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a vote that would pass in a landslide. The Ex-Im Bank, which insures and sometimes finances export sales, had to stop making deals at the end of June, when its reauthorization deadline came and went.

Although the Ex-Im Bank still exists, it has been reduced these days to managing its portfolio, rather than underwriting or insuring new deals. According to Boeing, its foreign rival Airbus, which can tap not one but three export credit agencies, is spreading the word to potential aircraft customers that Boeing can no longer compete when bids require sovereign insurance. That is hardly the only such example.

The damage this is doing to our economy is starting to become clear. In recent weeks, Boeing, America’s largest exporter in dollar volume, made two sobering announcements: first, that Asia Broadcast Satellite canceled an $85 million satellite contract expressly because there was no Ex-Im support. (Boeing is hoping to renegotiate.) More recently, Kacific, a Singapore-based satellite company, told Boeing not to bother bidding on a satellite contract, again because of a lack of Ex-Im financing.

As a result, McNerney told me, “layoffs in the hundreds” have taken place in Boeing’s satellite division.

This week, it was G.E.’s turn to make Ex-Im-related news. First, it said it would move 400 jobs to France to manufacture — and export — gas turbines, and 100 final assembly jobs to Hungary and China. Then it said it would create a new turboprop center in Europe that would employ up to 1,000 people. In both cases, G.E. said the moves would allow the company to take advantage of European export credit agencies.

When I spoke to Immelt, McNerney and Oberhelman, whose company also uses the agency, they all sounded astonished that this important tool, which they need to compete with companies abroad, was being taken away for purely ideological reasons. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

23 September 2015 at 9:20 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Another beer-fragranced shave: Oatmeal Stout

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SOTD 23 Sept 2015

Shaver Heaven makes a nice beer-fragranced shaving soap, their Oatmeal Stout, from which the Simpson Duke 3 Best brush drew a fine lather, thick and ample.

Three passes with the Gillette NEW shown—a lovely razor—and then a generous splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar, which I like a lot—thus the repeat.

Now we turn from beer to spirits, for tomorrow’s shave. Oddly, I cannot think of any shaving soaps with a wine-oriented fragrance…

Written by LeisureGuy

23 September 2015 at 8:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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