The ‘Other 14′ on UNSC Speak Up

that the UN Security Council members sent a tough message to the US:

In a move which Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (current Security Council president) called historic, diplomats from almost all regional blocs represented on the council stepped to the microphone Tuesday after closed council consultations on the Mideast to condemn the lack of progress toward a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The call for bilateral negotiations without preconditions would seem a normal thing to ask for,” he said.

But Churkin said the Palestinians are overwhelmed militarily and in every other way by the Israelis and without preconditions they would not get a fair shake in negotiations.

Britain’s UN Ambassador said Israeli security and Palestinian statehood are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.

The diplomats – including key U.S. allies in Europe – also criticized the council’s failure to take action against escalating violence by Israeli settlers and urged a speedy resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, also speaking for EU members France, Germany and Portugal, said “Israel’s security and the realization of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals.”

South Africa emphasized that Israeli settlement activity is the main obstacle to peace talks.

While the United States was not mentioned by name, the diplomats anger was clearly directed at Washington which vetoed a resolution in February backed by the 14 other council members that would have demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.

It’s about time the Security Council had this debate. The US stands isolated in its ‘Israel: right or wrong’ positions that have set peace talk back years.  Maybe the next move will be to censor one of its members.  Especially significant was Churkin’s criticism of the false equivalency on what ‘no preconditions’ means for the Palestinians and Israel.

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Egyptian Women Rally Against SCAF

Thousands of Egyptian women took to the streets Tuesday to protest their  brutal beatings and repression at the hands of the military council.  Historians had to look back almost a century to find any precedent for the rally for and by women in opposition to the SCAF governing council.

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And We Complain About Dysfunctional Iraqis!

This is what’s happening .

1.  First Republican House leadership wanted to have a two month bill that would extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

2.  Republican House members rejected this.

3.   Meanwhile, the Senate passed a two-month extension by  89-10, an overwhelming bi-partisan  majority for a bill endorsed by Senate Minority Leader McConnell.

4.    The Senate left for the holidays and will return January 2nd.

5.     Normally, with a situation this serious and a bill passed across parties by the Senate, House members would vote to pass the Senate bill. INstead, the House did not take a vote on the bill itself, but used a procedural rule to have a joint Senate-House Committee reconcile the differences.  In this way, Republicans would be protected from the burden of having voted against the payroll cut and UE extensions.

So these are the choice:

1.  The House passes the Senate bill that gives a 2 month extension

2.   President Obama calls the Senate back to vote on a house fill for a full year extension.  The Houses passes it, too

3.   A House/Senate Committee works out the differences.  But since the House never voted on an actual bill, how that would happen is unclear.

4.   No bill is passed and unemployment insurance runs out for millions and millions more will see a significant increase in payroll taxes.

Don’t these people realize that taking money out of peoples’ pockets now is a clear and present danger to the economy?








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Texas Judge Calls for Investigation of Prosecutor

Michael Morton is the latest of 45 Texas inmates exonerated of murder convictions based on new DNA evidence.  But Morton’s case may finally draw some lines against prosecutorial misconduct in the criminal justice system.  According to

What is unprecedented is the move planned by lawyers for the man, Michael Morton: they are expected to file a request for a special hearing to determine whether the prosecutor broke state laws or ethics rules by withholding evidence that could have led to Mr. Morton’s acquittal 25 years ago.

“I haven’t seen anything like this, ever,” said Bennet L. Gershman, an expert on prosecutorial misconduct at Pace University in New York. “It’s an extraordinary legal event.”

In 2010, however, a Texas court ordered the DNA testing, and the results showed that Mrs. Morton’s blood on the bandanna was mixed with the DNA of another man: Mark A. Norwood, a felon with a long criminal history who lived about 12 miles from the Mortons at the time of the murder. By then, Mr. Morton had spent nearly 25 years in prison.

What’s striking about the case is that more prosecutors are held responsible for withholding evidence which may help free a defendant.  In this case, the trial judge ordered the prosecutors to turn over any evidence that might favor Mr. Morton’s innocence to his lawyers.  But Ken Anderson, then the prosecutor, now a state judge, handed only a small fraction of what his office had collected in its investigation.

Missing from the file was the transcript of a telephone conversation between a sheriff’s deputy and Mr. Morton’s mother-in-law in which she reported that her 3-year-old grandson had seen a “monster” — who was not his father — attack and kill his mother.

Also missing were police reports from Mr. Morton’s neighbors, who said they had seen a man in a green van repeatedly park near their home and walk into the woods behind their house. And there were even reports, also never turned over, that Mrs. Morton’s credit card had been used and a check with her forged signature cashed after her death.

The current judge is allowing Morton’s lawyers investigate whether Anderson can be criminally charged with malfeasance.  But here’s the clinker:

Experts, however, are skeptical that Judge Anderson could face serious punishment or disbarment, even if the court were to decide that he had committed malfeasance. Susan R. Klein, a professor at the University of Texas Law School who specializes in criminal issues and prosecutorial ethics, said that such actions would be “incredibly unusual,” particularly after the Supreme Court’s decision this year against a Louisiana prosecutor, Harry Connick Sr., for his failure to turn over evidence that ultimately led to an exoneration.

Any lawyers out there? Why aren’t more prosecutors charged in these types of cases?

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Egyptian Violence & No US Response

So far, at least, I haven’t heard of any response from the US government regarding the and suppression by the SCAF, or military council, in Egypt.  Demonstrators at Tahrir Square now call for the military council to step down and let the newly elected (last round of voting in January) Parliament choose an interim civilian government to oversee the drafting of a new constitution.

The violence is some of the worst of the last year, as the video below shows.  And the state-run media, despite scenes like these, are claiming the demonstrators are rioting and killing each other (!).  Egyptian propagandists are creating the same ‘blame the demonstrators’ narrative that Mubarak tried to derail democratic demands.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, is not participating in the demonstrations but focusing on another strong showing in the third round of voting.  But both the Tahrir groups and the Brotherhood are demanding that a civilian government, not the military council, draft the new constitution.

The timing of the military crackdown is skillful.  Knowing that the Brotherhood would likely focus on elections, they have viciously confronted Tahrir groups temporarily isolated from allies.

Below is one of the most graphic, explicit videos to come out of Egypt since Mubarak thugs rode camels and horses through Tahrir Square last winter.

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North Korean Leader Dead

Kim Jong-il, y.  He was 69 years old and suffered a stroke in 2008.

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Iraq on Slippery Slope

The Maliki government as well as other factions in Iraqi politics lost little time invoking their special kind of sovereignty just two days after President Obama declared the Iraqi War over for Americans.  Well, at least formally.  No troops doesn’t mean no Americans.  The US Embassy will have 16,000 people attached to it, including military advisers and private contractors hired to replace American military trainers.

Yesterday the aftershocks of American military intervention began. One third of elected Iraqi parliamentarians, those affiliated with the Sunni-Secular Iraqiya Party, walked out as PM Maliki moved to arrest the Sunni Vice-President.  No on has the pulse of the Middle East better than :

Only a couple days after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared the Iraq War over and turned the last US base in Iraq over to the Iraqi military, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has struck against a Sunni Arab vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi. , a member of the now Sunni-dominated Iraqiya Party. , which al-Maliki controls, confirmed the warrant.

Three members of the VP’s security detail had been under investigation in recent days, charged with engineering a car bombing inside Iraq’s Green Zone on November 28, The car bomb had been constructed inside the Green Zone (a protected area in downtown Baghdad encircling government offices and embassies) which admittedly does point to a member of the political elite. It is alleged to have gone off prematurely. Apparently Hashimi is now being fingered as the mastermind of the car bombing.

So much for leaving Iraq a stable, democratic model.

The back-story is that Sunnis have been denied autonomy and representation at the hands of a Shia-led government.  Sectarian violence since 2003 has cut both ways, Sunni and Shia.  The US responded with alarm:

The American ambassador, James F. Jeffrey, has raced to ease the political crisis. On Thursday and Friday, American officials contacted senior Iraqi political figures to try to establish the facts concerning the detentions, urge restraint and exhort the parties to support the vision of a pluralistic and democratic Iraq.

Republicans love the theory of the ‘slippery slope’ and have used against Obama policy proposals.  For example, Obamacare builds a ‘slippery slope’ bound to result in ‘death panels’ and rationed health care.

Actually, the metaphor is most applicable to Iraq.  Bush war planners were warned by many Iraqis and Iraq experts in the West that a US invasion of Iraq could lead to violent sectarian fighting, the complete rupture in civil society and chaos.  And that’s what’s happened.

Colin Powell infamously said, ‘If we break it, we own it’.  We don’t own it anymore.  The Iraqis are left to clean up the mess themselves.


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Human and Economic Rights Inseparable

In some ways, Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street merchant whose business was confiscated by the Tunisian police, is like Rosa Parks.  Both were apolitical citizens living under oppressive conditions.  Both had enough of the humiliation and injustice that followed them since birth.

Both took one dramatic step against the local power structure.  Parks refused to move to the back of a segregated bus and unknowingly sparked the 1950s civil rights movement in the US.

Mr. Bouazizi set himself afire, a more dramatic protest against an Arab autocracy that ruled on behalf of its elite supporters and against the millions of Tunisians trying to make a living in a society stacked against them.

Comparing the two, of course, is somewhat ham-fisted.  A modern, developed, democratic country is far different from a post-colonial Norther African state that achieved formal independence from France a few decades ago.  Refusing to move to the back of a bus is not the same as self-immolation.  Yet the actions of both – as the most ordinary of citizens in their society – changed the worlds they lived in.

This week’s article in by Hernando De Soto does justice to the martyrdom of Bouazizi.  It does justice to the Arab Spring.  The hundreds of millions of Arabs who rallied for democratic change over the last year weren’t inspired by politicians and elites but by the brave and desperate act of someone they didn’t even know, a no-body, just as Rosa Parks sparked an out pouring that no US politician could

This article demonstrates what’s at stake in American foreign policy.

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