Barack Obama: Two Time Nobelist?

You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.

Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More

2 Killed in Texas After Firing on Anti-Islam Group’s Event

New York Times, By Liam Stack, May 3

Two gunmen were killed after they opened fire Sunday evening outside an event hosted by an anti-Muslim group in Garland, Tex., featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, local officials said. According to the authorities, the two assailants shot a private security guard and were, in turn, shot and killed by police officers. Officials did not give the identities of the gunmen or the security officer and did not assign a motive for the attack. The F.B.I. referred reporters’ questions to local officials.

The shooting began shortly before 7 p.m. outside the Curtis Culwell Center, where organizers were hosting the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, an event run by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Muslim organization based in New York (photograph of Pamela Geller, head of AFDI, above).
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I was talking to my son today about the current news out of Baltimore. He is young still and taking history in high school, which is to say he is in an environment where (at last) some effort is being made to tie current events to their precedents. His high school experience is significant in that it is situated in the city, not in the suburbs. There is a racial divide in our town like there is in so many others, and it is reflected in the make-up of his school. I think he is aware of the impact Baltimore is having on a number of his classmates, but he is only dimly aware of the broader pattern.

So tonight, I walked him through what I could remember about similar events. A sense of scope and scale helps.

There were the Watts Riots of 1967. Lasted a week.

There were riots in 1968 in Louisville, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Chicago, Wilmington DE & Detroit as well as Baltimore after MLK was assassinated. They lasted at least four days. I recalled only they were wide-spread, but I had to look-up how much so.

There were the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles in 1992 which lasted six days following the acquittal of the officers. I looked up the tape of the beating and showed it to my son. I let him make his own assessment of what the police did.  I pointed out to him that some states and municipalities tried shortly after that to make it a criminal offense to photograph police on duty. I remember that incident being the proximal cause.

We have now had the Ferguson unrest which has run a protracted period from August 9 to August 25 in 2014, and again in November 24 to December 2.

And now back to Baltimore, April 19 through April 25, and possibly beyond because the indictments brought down on six police officers are not verdicts. My sense of the situation is this: two years from now there will be at least four if not six acquittals—plus one more riot.

I don’t know about the media in your area, or the scuttle-butt at your local diner, but I know I have not seen a single article or news report that dares put these events into a single account, and I think there is a reason for that. I am only hoping that the teachers in high school make an effort to bring the headlines into the broader context it deserves, but I do not have to look far to see the resistance forming. Read More

Report Says American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification

New York Times, By James Risen, April 30

Washington – The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

Patriots! Patriotism!

Baltimore descends into chaos, violence, looting

The Baltimore Sun, By Kevin Rector, Scott Dance and Luke Broadwater, April 27

After almost two weeks of tension over the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore descended into chaos Monday.

Roaming gangs of mostly young men clashed with police in the streets, seriously injuring officers; tore open businesses; and looted their stocks. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard, and state police requested as many as 5,000 reinforcements from neighboring states.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a weeklong citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Tuesday.
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7.5 [Upgraded: M7.9] Magnitude Quake Hits Nepal

AP, By Binaj Gurubacharya, April 25

A strong 7.5-magnitude earthquake has hit near Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu and the U.S. Geological Survey says it expects heavy damage.

Early reports from Kathmandu say some houses have been damaged and walls toppled.

There is no immediate word on casualties.

The quake hit around noon Saturday and was also felt in neighboring India as well as in Pakistan.

M7.5 – 35km E of Lamjung, Nepal
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Armenian Church to canonize 1.5 million genocide victims

AFP, By Irakli Metreveli, April 23

Yerevan – The Armenian Church prepared Thursday to canonise up to 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces as tensions over Turkey’s refusal to recognize the killings as genocide reached boiling point.

The ceremony, which is believed to become the biggest canonisation service in history, comes ahead of commemorations expected to see millions of people including heads of state Friday mark 100 years since the start of the killings. The Armenian Apostolic Church announced the canonisation service for the “martyrs of the Armenian Genocide,” calling for a “prayerful participation in this historic event.”

The service will be held in Armenia’s main church, Echmiadzin, an austere fourth-century edifice believed to be the Christian world’s oldest cathedral. The ceremony will run from 1300 GMT and end at 1515 GMT to symbolize the year when the massacres started during World War I.

“Today’s canonisation unites all Armenians living around the globe,” Huri Avetikian, an ethnic Armenian librarian from Lebanon who arrived in her ancestral homeland to attend the service, told AFP.

The Independent: System Of A Down perform in Armenia for the first time to mark genocide’s 100th anniversary
NPR: System Of A Down, Armenia’s Favorite Sons, On Facing History

Storm of the century batters Sydney and the Hunter, leaving three dead and homes destroyed

Sydney Morning-Herald, By Nick Ralston, Peter Hannam, Lucy Cormack & Ella Rubeli, April 21

The biggest storm to hit Sydney and the Hunter region this century swept along the coast, leaving at least three people dead, dozens of others needing rescue and entire homes washed away in floodwaters.

Heavy rain and cyclonic winds saw power cut to hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as three hospitals, and the closure of 100 schools.

It also caused chaos on the roads and public transport, with felled trees, blown over power lines and slippery conditions making it a nightmare commute in the morning and afternoon peaks.

The destructive winds, which topped 130km/h, dumped blankets of sand from Sydney’s beaches onto nearby streets and carparks. The storm also forced the closure of the Sydney Harbour port, leaving passengers on board the Carnival Spirit cruise ship stranded in swells of up to nine metres outside Sydney Heads.
RT: 3 killed, 200,000 homes without power as ‘worst in decade’ storm rages in Australia
RT: Aftermath video.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Toward Absolutist Capitalism

Naked Capitalism, By Lambert Strether, April 20

There are many excellent arguments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), two of which — local zoning over-rides, and loss of national sovereignty — I’ll briefly review as stepping stones to the main topic of the post: Absolutist Capitalism, for which I make two claims:

1) The TPP implies a form of absolute rule, a tyranny as James Madison would have understood the term, and

2) The TPP enshrines capitalization as a principle of jurisprudence.

Zoning over-rides and lost of national sovereignty may seem controversial to the political class, but these two last points may seem controversial even to NC readers. However, I hope to show both points follow easily from the arguments with which we are already familiar. Both flow from the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, of which I will now give two examples. more

MoJo Explicator: Here’s What You Need to Know About the Trade Deal Dividing the Left