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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,691

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Will American Religious Right Groups Go Ahead With Their Kremlin Summit?

As President Obama and world leaders debate whether to go ahead with this year’s planned G-8 meeting in Sochi after Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, American Religious Right leaders are facing a diplomatic dilemma of their own. In September, social conservative leaders from around the globe, including representatives of several major American Religious Right groups are planning to hold the annual World Congress of Families gathering at the Kremlin. The gathering is supported by political leaders in Russian Orthodox Church and will include a joint session with the Russian parliament.

American social conservatives have rallied – with varying levels of enthusiasm – to support Russian President Vladimir Putin as his government has passed a series of anti-gay laws and joined with the church to take up other “family values” issues. These activists, in praising Russia’s renewed push on issues such as gay rights, have largely chosen to ignore the role that social issues are playing in Putin's larger plans.

Issues such as gay rights, abortion rights, and population growth aren't a side project for Putin – they're closely entwined with his tightening grip on power and what Julia Ioffe calls his “appetite for expansion.” For instance, as Buzzfeed's Lester Feder has reported extensively, Russia and its allies in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe have riled up anti-gay sentiment as part of a larger agenda of fomenting distrust of the EU and the West. Putin’s anti-gay crackdown has also been useful in promoting nationalist sentiment within Russia and to provide a useful scapegoat as he tightens his grip on power.

The American Right has found Putin's Russia to be an ally of convenience as they work to build an international movement opposing gay rights, choice, and religious pluralism. But how far are they willing to take the relationship?


Our religious right probably supports Russian takeover in Crimea. If Ukraine is going to become more closely associated with the socialist, humanist, gay-loving pro-choice Europe, our fundamentalists should be happy that at least one of Ukraine's provinces will be under the tight conservative control of their buddy, Vladimir.

Juan Cole: The Crimean Crisis and the Middle East: Will Syria & Iran be the Winners?

The Russian intervention in the Crimea is more direct and dramatic than the one in Syria, with actual troops deployed. But there are similarities. One of the little-noted rationales for Russian support for the Baath government in Damascus is that it is seen as more favorable, being secular and minority-dominated, toward Syria’s roughly 2-3 million Christians, the bulk of them Eastern Orthodox (i.e. the same branch of Christianity that predominates in Russia and among ethnic Russians in the Ukraine). Indeed, there are more Eastern Orthodox Christians in Syria than in Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin is giving as a rationale for troop deployments in Crimea that the ethnic Russian population there is in danger from Ukrainian nationalists.

In both cases, Russia is exaggerating. The vast majority of Syrians who rose up against the Baath were moderates. Only when the regime of Bashar al-Assad responded to peaceful protests with massive military force did the opposition militarize, at which point Sunni extremists and al-Qaeda affiliates came to the fore as seasoned fighters with substantial Gulf money. Most oppositionists are still moderates and most Syrians want more freedoms, not a Taliban state on the Euphrates. The Russian official press often slams those who oppose its provision of huge amounts of money and arms to al-Assad as backing “al-Qaeda,” but that is propaganda.

Likewise the popular movement in Ukraine against President Viktor Yanukovych was not primarily led or fueled by nationalist extremists. Most who went to the streets in Kyiv were disturbed at Yanukovych’s neo-authoritarian tendencies, his acquiescence in Moscow’s demand that he move away from the European Union, and his jailing of his opponent in the 2010 elections (Yulia Tymoshenko) on what seem likely to have been trumped up charges. There was zero evidence of ethnic Russians in Crimea being menaced by Ukrainian nationalists, but plenty of evidence of foreign Russian forces intervening there. Of course, now that Putin has violated Ukrainian sovereignty so blatantly, there could be a backlash against Ukrainian Russians; Putin might even secretly hope for such polarization as a pretext for further intervention.

If Russia is pushed further into Tehran’s arms by US sanctions then ironically Bashar al-Assad and Sayyid Ali Khamenei may be the biggest winners of the Crimean crisis. At the same time, Turkey could also be a winner in the sense that its value to NATO, the US and the European Union will be much enhanced because of its Black Sea presence and its own historical interests in Crimea.


Cole seems to think that economic/financial sanctions on Russia would backfire. That may happen, but a military response is out of the question and some sorts of sanctions seem to be the only alternative to doing nothing. Here's an article that suggests that financial sanctions against Russia's elite might be effective:

“The threat of sanctions could be quite effective” as Russia’s elite have their assets in “Western bank accounts” while the nation’s companies rely on international debt markets for financing, Standard Bank’s Ash said. “The West has quite a lot of leverage on Russia if it’s clever and uses it the right way.”


The 2 main Russian stock markets are down about 8% this morning which would be a decline of about 1,300 in the US stock market. The futures for the US market look like a decline of about 1% when it starts today. The ruble has also sunk to historic lows. Russia is certainly not vulnerable militarily but may be economically.

People being protected from their own government by foreign intervention is the essence

of the UN's Responsibility to Protect. The UN standard, though, requires proof that genocide or mass atrocities are already occurring. It is not preventative in nature. And it requires the consent of the Security Council.

Putin's interpretation of R2P will open the door to its early and more frequent use to prevent atrocities from ever happening. I had no idea that Putin was such a proponent of the use of foreign militaries to protect citizens from their own governments.

Prevention requires apportioning responsibility to and promoting collaboration between concerned States and the international community. The duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and foremost with the State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty. Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility where States are accountable for the welfare of their people. This principle is enshrined in article 1 of the Genocide Convention and embodied in the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility” and in the concept of the Responsibility to Protect.

The three pillars of the responsibility to protect, as stipulated in the Outcome Document of the 2005 United Nations World Summit (A/RES/60/1, para. 138-140) and formulated in the Secretary-General's 2009 Report (A/63/677) on Implementing the Responsibility to Protect are:

1. The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;
2. The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;
3. The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.


He does not sound like a 'semi-reformed' "free trade" supporter. "I am in general a free trader."

I think he looks at the TPP as not being a "free trade" agreement. Many others here have made that case. Only a few of its chapters have anything to do with trade. It is primary about other things.

What he said was that "trade among these players is already fairly free, so the T.P.P. wouldn’t make that much difference". "The economic case is weak, at best, and his own party doesn’t like it. Why waste time and political capital on this project?"

That's where his conclusion that it is "no big deal" came from. He is suggesting that Obama should invest his time and political capital in other areas.

Everyone you disagree with is not a fascist, Tucker. See the definition:

Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism.

Fascist movements shared certain common features, including the veneration of the state, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on nationalism and militarism. Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation and asserts that stronger nations have the right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations.

Fascism borrowed theories and terminology from socialism but replaced socialism's focus on class conflict with a focus on conflict between nations and races. Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky (when an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade) to secure national self-sufficiency and independence through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.


Tucker, switching the focus from class conflict to a focus on "us vs. them" based on "nations (nationalities) or races" or sexual orientation (all attributes one is born with) is the essence of fascism.

Taxing the rich is good for the economy, IMF says

A new paper by researchers at the International Monetary Fund appears to debunk a tenet of conservative economic ideology — that taxing the rich to give to the poor is bad for the economy. The paper by IMF researchers Jonathan Ostry, Andrew Berg and Charalambos Tsangarides will be applauded by politicians and economists who regard high levels of income inequality as not only a moral stain on society but also economically unsound.

Labelled as the first study to incorporate recently compiled figures comparing pre- and post-tax data from a large number of countries, the authors say there is convincing evidence that lower net inequality is good economics, boosting growth and leading to longer-lasting periods of expansion.

In the most controversial finding, the study concludes that redistributing wealth, largely through taxation, does not significantly impact growth unless the intervention is extreme. In fact, because redistributing wealth through taxation has the positive impact of reducing inequality, the overall affect on the economy is to boost growth, the researchers conclude.

The authors concede that their conclusions tend to contradict some well-accepted orthodoxy, which holds that taxation is a job killer.


Seems like a very significant study from a surprising source - which makes it all the sweeter. Can't for Krugman to comment on this.

The authors concede that their conclusions tend to contradict some well-accepted orthodoxy, which holds that taxation is a job killer.

This will be tough pill for the republican party to swallow. OTOH, they are used to rejecting science, facts and the results of studies that contradict the policies they pursue.

"All three are within a few decimal places of the previous highs — which occurred in 1928..."

1928's unmatched record of of income skewed to the top 10%, 1% and .1% came after 8 years of republican regressive taxes, deregulation, weak unions, high tariffs and limited immigration.

Now we have similarly skewed incomes with regressive taxes, deregulation, weak unions, low tariffs and higher immigration. I see which policies are common to both eras of income skewed towards the super-rich.

Great link. Shows that AHI increased more in the 7 years after NAFTA than in the 20 years before it.

As information at the link you provided indicates, inflation adjusted income increased for 7 years after NAFTA (1994-2000) from $48,884 in 1993 (the last year before NAFTA took effect) to $55,987 (Clinton's last year in office) and increase of $7,103 per household or 14.8%. This income did stagnate after 2000, but my guess is the blame for that is more on Bush policies on taxes, regulation and the safety net, then the effect of the Great Recession, than anything else.

By comparison for the 7 years before NAFTA inflation adjusted household income had actually declined from $49,764 in 1986 to $48,884 in 1993.

Indeed in the 20 years before NAFTA that income figure went from $48,557 in 1973 to $48,884 in 1993. So inflation adjusted household income increased by $327 in the 20 years before NAFTA and increased by $7,103 in the 7 years after it.

"People are never told about the progress. Decade after decade, they think it is as it was long ago.

It may come as some comfort to Norwegians that, according to Rosling, the comparatively better performance of American respondents doesn't mean they are better educated: quite the opposite in fact.

The problem for me was not ignorance," he told the audience in his famous TED talk. "It was preconceived ideas."

He said that people in Norway were not kept up to date by the media on changes in global trends, pointing to the deceleration in population growth over the last few decades as the most telling example. According to the survey, there will be two billion children in 2100, a number only seven percent of Americans, six percent of Norwegians and eleven percent of Swedes got correct.

"People are never told about the progress. Decade after decade, they think it is as it was long ago. The world view that emerges corresponds quite well to the world 30-40 years ago. They have a time lag of 30-40 years. Look at vaccination," he continued. "The number of children vaccinated, people think it’s between 20–25 percent who are vaccinated, but it’s 84 percent."

Wonderful article, The Straight Story. Thanks for finding and posting it. It is very interesting to see that people's perceptions of global reality is based on what existed 30-40 years ago. (It feels like this should be the fault of republicans who enjoy living in the past, but I can't figure out exactly why this is the case. )

Switzerland's immigration 'victory' over the EU is a fairytale sold by the far right

Who knew? The Swiss far-right has its own billionaire Koch brother (not related by blood, just by money and ultra-conservative politics)

The winners of the Swiss referendum on EU immigration now tell a story that has become ingrained in Swiss lore: that poor, powerless peasants have cast off their evil foreign lords and masters. Not surprising, then, that after engineering the victory, the billionaire member of parliament Christoph Blocher, of the populist rightwing Swiss Peoples Party (SVP), stated: "Now we take power in our own hands again, the government must represent the will of the Swiss people in Brussels – the sooner the better."

The Swiss business community, our hospitals, schools and colleges, tourism and the building industry which rely on an EU workforce are appalled. Students who benefit from EU exchange programmes and the energy sector which wants to sell its storage capacity to the EU all now fear that their future is called into question.

Of course, Blocher and his followers still believe that the EU will give us a helping hand whenever we need it. But what EU governments want from Switzerland is tax on the undeclared money of their citizens deposited in Swiss banks. Blocher's story of the poor peasant who opposes the foreign king is, in the face of Swiss wealth, ridiculous. The Italians whose workers are no longer welcome in Switzerland now say they want the tax being hidden by Italians in Swiss bank accounts – and if necessary they will name and shame tax dodgers like Germany does.

So their perfectly rational concerns were exploited by the fear campaign waged by the rich Pied Pipers of the right. There are many more such Pied Pipers going around Europe with easy, popular solutions, including the scapegoating of immigrants, in an attempt to win the votes of those with justifiable fears. Switzerland has an unemployment rate of 3.5%; there is a lot to lose.


These "far-right populist" movements always seem to have a billionaire or two providing the finding for their "populism".

Something tells me that Mr. Blocher's "populist" party will not be next turning its attention to changing banking secrecy laws, raising taxes on the rich or any other liberal policy. Being anti-immigrant is "red meat" for the European right. I suspect their "populism" will stop there.
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