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LPF v FEC: follow-up complaint filed in court

A bit out of date as I forgot about it for a while, but I want to keep up coverage of this.

https://ivn.us/2017/05/30/legal-battle-against-presidential-debate-commission-rages-on/

I continue to believe that the effective blocking of 3rd parties in US politics greatly compounds the dysfunction of the political system – as was so plain to see in the 2016 election, with voters stuck with two unappealing choices.

Syria, US-Russia showdown

This is a topic I’m now keeping a distance from, mostly, but it’s important enough subject not to ignore completely.

So the US shot down a Syrian warplane. Statements from the Russian MOD and the Pentagon followed. Aside from the usual huffing and puffing and claims of innocence / fighting terrorism, both statements seemed to contain seeds of a resolution of the conflict via division of territory. The Russian statement threatening to apply something along the lines of a no-fly-zone to the region west of the Euphrates. The Pentagon statement specifically disclaiming the objective of fighting the Syrians regime or its allies (although simultaneously claiming the right to forceful intervention).

From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any airborne objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets

 

The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.

The Coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally. The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.

The Coalition calls on all parties to focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security.

The fallacy of the “more-expensive” criticism of Single Payer [Adam Gaffney / Jacobin]

The fact is, the major added cost of single payer is the price of covering the uninsured and expanding coverage for the rest of us.

So if universal health care is “too expensive” with single-payer financing — with its widely agreed upon efficiencies and capacity to substantially reduce drug prices — it would be absolutely too expensive to attain without it.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/06/single-payer-health-care-universal-medicare-for-all

This link is to a brief rebuttal to a WAPO editoral opposing single-payer healthcare on the grounds that it’s too expensive. As the above quote says eloquently, what is too expensive is the US system of privatized healthcare, which encourages profiteering, for lack of a better word.

As a personal note, most of the work I have and had has been funded in some way by US health care. (largely design of research equipment that ultimately feeds into either pharma or biology underpinning medicine, more recently the odd process equipment project for manufacture of med devices). I’m certainly thankful for it, but from my limited contact with both pharma and med devices at least (I am typically separated by 3-5 layers of intermediary companies), as well as working briefly at clinical diagnostic labs a while back, I can say first-hand that there are incredible resources and wealth available to the industries making up the US health care system, and a lot of talented people who focus on the business above all, and a lot of other talented people who know better than to fight the system and go along for the ride. Meanwhile, the direct care providers are relatively few in number and are usually overworked. We are capable of great things, but the system is not set up for that – not until a dense ecosystem of insurance, equipment, pharma, hospital management, law, finance etc all get a piece. Each of them has a vital part to play, but the goal of delivering a public service is a distant by-product at best.

Privatization here is not automatically bad, the system does produce fantastic technologies after all, but the balance of power of the existing US system is tilted severely against the interests of the public.

 

Neoliberalism and the Grenfell Tower disaster

Phil Ebersole's Blog

If British reports are to be believed, the Grenfell Tower inferno in central London might have been averted for a cost of a mere $6,000 — or a little more than $100 for each of the 58 unfortunates who, on the best estimate available this weekend, perished in the disaster.

According to the London Daily Mail, when the tower was recently renovated, builders opted for a cladding material so inappropriate that it is rated “flammable” in Germany and its use in tall buildings in even lightly regulated America is banned.  The attraction was a saving of a mere 10 percent.  On the Mail’s numbers, that added up to a total saving compared to a safe material of £5,000 — equal to a little more than $6,000.

Such is the dystopia that deregulation, British-style, has wrought — a dystopia whose excesses are now finally coming to be widely recognized by…

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France parliament election results

République en Marche, Macron’s newly formed centrist party, together with its bloc partner party MoDem, comes away with something like 60%+ of the seats. This gives France’s incoming government the green light to potentially make substantial changes, for better or worse. Presumably, economic reforms (i.e., privatization) are to come. Half of France’s GDP is tied to the government sector, so how this is done will definitely have consequences. There is also the possibility of a more assertive foreign policy for the EU’s largest military power – something that in the recent past was embodied by Libya, for example.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-election-idUSKBN1980TX

https://www.thelocal.fr/20170618/macron-set-for-landslide-victory-in-elections-hit-by-record-low-turn-out

Other remarks:

  • The Socialists were nearly wiped out – in a formal sense. If you think of LREM as a rebranding of the same old parties, then in fact the same old just got streamlined.
  • Abstention was a historic high, but in line with the steadily decreasing turnout trend of the past 20 years, for French parliamentary elections. So in reality, this is not that special.
  • Also I want to note that France has single-seat districts, so there is not proportional representation, although there are runoffs so it’s not as antiquated a system as the US Congress. Some more detail here (wiki). Note for instance that LREM got 28% of votes in the first round (33% with its bloc partner party), but by the end of the second round, picked up just about all the minor parties and came away with a huge total in seats (the only exception being FN voters who presumably went Republican in the 2nd round). In contrast, PS, FN, and LFI came up with substantially fewer seats than they would have under proportional representation (at least assuming people would vote the same in a PR system as they did in the first round of a runoff sytem, which is not certain). Although in this case, this kept FN out, to rely on an undemocratic structure simply makes it possible to avoid doing the work to build a society which doesn’t vote for far right parties, and of course it lets one or two parties monopolize government.

Next, we will look to see what happens in Germany. Probably more CDU/CSU. Then Italy next year probably.

 

Interrogating the Qatar Rift

Global Justice in the 21st Century

 

The abrupt announcement that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE, Yemen, the Maldive Islands, and the eastern government in divided Libya have broken all economic and political ties with Qatar has given rise to a tsunami of conjecture, wild speculation, and most of all, to wishful thinking and doomsday worries. There is also a veil of confusion arising from mystifying reports that hackers with alleged Russian connections placed a fake news story that implicated Qatar in the promotion of extremist groups in the region. Given Russian alignments, it makes no sense to create conditions that increase the credibility of anti-Iran forces. And finally the timing and nature of the terrorist suicide attacks of June 7th on the Iranian Parliament and on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini adds a particularly mystifying twist to the rapidly unfolding Qatar drama, especially if the ISIS claim of responsibility is substantiated.

 

Four preliminary…

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FBI/NSA makes a warning / gives advice to leakers [Reuters]

link: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-leaks-idUSKBN18W2VE

rlwinner.jpg

We have a winner. Reality Leigh Winner, whose sometimes silly-face selfies are now showing up all over the tubes, was arrested for leaking an NSA document to the Intercept. The document is another intel distillation / summary, in the alleged Russian hacking series – this time describing a phishing effort directed at the email accounts of local election officials.

More interestingly, the leaker, a 25 year old Air Force gal turned top-secret contractor, was promptly arrested after being reported by someone at the Intercept (or so the story goes), where she sent her leaked docs. The docs (or whatever portion of them was fit for public consumption) were released to the public anyway.

A detailed description then followed this morning, as the lead story in the national news: Of how she got caught by a watermarking feature of the printer at her agency office, and of the equally relevant fact that the Intercept made no effort to protect her identity.

A warning to leakers? A guideline for future leakers to be more careful with tech? The anti-Trump wing of the government making a scorched-earth move in expectation that the pro-Trumpers may soon gain meaningful control over anti-leaker efforts – or vice versa? Fun fun.

The upshot of all the digital drama of the past year is that, hopefully, the public becomes better educated about technology-privacy issues, in particular learning that closed-source tech is full of potentially nasty surprises. (And we’re just getting started … just wait until the Internet-Of-Things dimension is fully tapped, and/or quantum computing becomes available rendering all transmissions intercepted in the early 2000’s wide open).

At the same time, we seem to be heading into a crummy Orwellian state, probably regardless of which party ends up steering the boat.