Thursday, November 5, 2015

UN Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict

Gaza Commission of Inquiry Members

On July 23, 2014 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HCR) requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to

.. to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry ... to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014... [1]

The mission of the Commission of Inquiry is to

... make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults, ... [2]

Current Commissioners:
A third commissioner, original Chair William Schabas of Canada, resigned in February 2015.


1. Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict

2. Report of the independent international commission of inquiry established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S - 21/1, March 26, 2015.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Should be Candidate for 2015 Photo Award

This is a little girl in Gaza taking a nap in a bucket of water trying to beat the heat. Electricity is unavailable due to the destruction of local power sources by Israel.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Why So Much Attention on Spending Side of Greek Budget?

There are two economic elements at play in understanding the situation in Greece.  One is the government budget or fiscal element.  The other is the balance of trade element.

You could say that currency, e.g., the euro, dollar, pound, is a third element. Economist Paul Krugman* refers to the euro currency as a "straight jacket" on Greece's economy for the following reasoning related to their balance of trade. A country with its own currency, say the Drachma for Greece, can increase its trade exports if the value of its currency decreases; in this situation, its goods look cheaper to other countries that have higher valued currencies. However, if Greece has the euro as its currency, which cannot adjust downward in an economic crisis, it's economy doesn't have a key tool to right itself when in trouble. Krugman says this is the key problem in Greece right now.

The other economic element is the Greek budget itself. Yet the media has been focused on more austere budgets in Greece, that is, cutting spending. This myopic focus is due to two things. First, budgets shortfalls are open to a simplistic explanation by the establishment media: If your budget is short, then cut spending. But this overlooks he simple fact that budgets have two sides, a revenue side and a spending side; a growing economy can add revenue to a budget. The excessive focus on cutting spending overlooks the fact that budget austerity itself can cause an economy to shrink and reduce the available revenue for the budget.

The second reason for so much focus on the budget-cutting aspect of the Greek situation is that the establishment lenders have pushed an agenda of budget austerity. Krugman believes that the three main lenders understand this could hurt the Greek economy, but that they have an ulterior motive related to their free market ideology; they would like the see a leftist government like Syriza, and its alternative economic views, fail.

With this introduction, read more by Krugman on Greece and these issues (June 29, 2015).

Here's a chilling question posed by Krugman:  What if exits the Euro currency, has a bad year or two, then starts to succeed? Think the establishment would let it succeed?

*  Paul Krugman is the 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bernie Sanders, Ten-Thousand Strong in Maddison

Speaking truth to power is a challenge to the establishment. That is what you get with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 2016 presidential candidate.

He's not a pretty-boy candidate. Bernie Sanders is a candidate of by and for the common people. The Hill reports:
Democrats close to Clinton aren’t sounding the alarm over Sanders just yet. They believe he has a low ceiling of support that doesn’t extend beyond the anti-establishment contingent.
That could be wishful thinking. Sanders just packed a stadium in Madison, Wisconsin with 10,000 people. That's impressive this early in the campaign season. This event gained the attention of CNNNBC News, Washington Post, to name a few establishment news media outlets that felt they couldn't ignore the event.

We'll keep an eye on this candidate who challenges the establishment.
 Bernie Sanders in Madision, WI 7/1/15

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Establishment Fears Organized Challenge to Corporate Power

Remember the hacked Stratfor emails? Stratfor's is a geopolitical intelligence firm, whose establishment clients
get direct access to our analysts and to our global networks, enabling them to better assess geopolitical risk, make strategic investm
ents and expand into challenging regions.

One of the most overlooked or forgotten revelations of those emails had nothing to do with particular events, people or places. Rather, Stratfor revealed the establishment's fear of a movement challenging corporate power. Their email related to the Yes Men's activities surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal India poison gas disaster.
Stratfor analyzed whether the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster would lead to an increase in anti-corporate activism.

"With less than a month to go [until the 25th anniversary], you'd think that the major players -- especially Amnesty -- would have branched out from Bhopal to make a broader set of issues. I don't see any evidence of it," wrote Bart Mongoven, Stratfor's Vice President, in November 2004. "If they can't manage to use the 25th anniversary to broaden the issue, they probably won't be able to."
The Yes Men cited the e-mails, which continued well into 2011, as evidence that anti-corporate activists and movements such as Occupy Wall Street are having an effect.

"Just as Wall Street has at times let slip their fear of the Occupy Wall Street movement, these leaks seem to show that corporate power is most afraid of whatever reveals "the larger whole" and "broader issues," i.e. whatever brings systemic criminal behavior to light," the group said in a release.

Read Full Article

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Open Letter from Harvard Econ 10 Students

The following letter was sent to Greg Mankiw by the organizers of today’s Economics 10 walkout.

Wednesday November 2, 2011

Dear Professor Mankiw—

Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.

As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.

A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.

Care in presenting an unbiased perspective on economics is particularly important for an introductory course of 700 students that nominally provides a sound foundation for further study in economics. Many Harvard students do not have the ability to opt out of Economics 10. This class is required for Economics and Environmental Science and Public Policy concentrators, while Social Studies concentrators must take an introductory economics course—and the only other eligible class, Professor Steven Margolin’s class Critical Perspectives on Economics, is only offered every other year (and not this year). Many other students simply desire an analytic understanding of economics as part of a quality liberal arts education. Furthermore, Economics 10 makes it difficult for subsequent economics courses to teach effectively as it offers only one heavily skewed perspective rather than a solid grounding on which other courses can expand. Students should not be expected to avoid this class—or the whole discipline of economics—as a method of expressing discontent.

Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.

We are walking out today to join a Boston-wide march protesting the corporatization of higher education as part of the global Occupy movement. Since the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America, we are walking out of your class today both to protest your inadequate discussion of basic economic theory and to lend our support to a movement that is changing American discourse on economic injustice. Professor Mankiw, we ask that you take our concerns and our walk-out seriously.


Concerned students of Economics 10


Thanks to William Black's Blog for the lead on this.