Monday, March 30, 2015

Paul Rosenberg on Nixon and "constitutional hardball"

Paul Rosenberg in Destroying democracy is the GOP’s goal Salon 03/30/2015 discusses an idea he credits to Mark Tushnet, "constitutional hardball."

At the time, Nixon’s lawlessness was thought to be an aberration, but it now seems more like the establishment of a new, somewhat sociopathic norm (“madman theory,” anyone?), particularly given how young Nixon hands Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney operated in the Bush administration 30 years later. In the interim, Cheney vigorously defended and covered up Reagan-era lawlessness in the Iran-Contra affair as well. Even more specifically, Nixon’s peace talks sabotage was echoed in electoral criminal activity for both Reagan (the alleged “October Surprise”) and George W. Bush (voter purges).
The bipartisan toleration of high-level misconduct and crime has ebbed and flowed. But the arc of events from Nixon's sabotaging the Paris Peace Talks to Dick Cheney's torture program is a pattern that gets progressively worse.

I wouldn't want to mark the time boundaries of this process too sharply. Corruption and deception are nothing new in American statecraft. But the Cold War created a context in which it grew and intensified to a qualitatively new level.

Today's Republicans would point to the "dictator" Obama's predecessors in that role (in their eyes), Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. And it's true that both in some ways did push the existing limits of their authority, Lincoln in his actions against pro-Confederate Copperheads, FDR in his efforts to boost American defenses against Germany and Japan in the face of determined isolationist Republicans in Congress.

But the criticisms of Lincoln and Roosevelt need to be carefully and critically scrutinized, because both play significant ideological roles in the worldview of today's Republicans.

Strangely enough, conservative Republican Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist (1924–2005) did a good book on Lincoln's Constitutionally controversial wartime actions, All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime (1998).

Kathryn Olmsted has described the FDR-planned-Pearl-Harbor conspiracy theory as "a foundational myth of modern conservatism." Many people have debunked it well. For instance: Gordon Prange, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (1981) and Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (1986). Judith Greer provided a more condensed version in Did FDR know? Salon 06/14/01.

Rosenberg's longish essay looks at the effect of divided government, with one part controlling the Executive and the other controlling one or both Houses of Congress. In that context, he observes:

Democrats have internalized the values of a divided government constitutional order, and don’t even use strongly partisan proposals as bargaining chips. Republicans are still pushing for a radically different constitutional order in the future, and are willing to blow everything up if they don’t get their way, because psycho-politically, they don’t feel they have anything to lose. [my emphasis]
That's a very good description of an important aspect of the Democratic Party's passivity that drives the netroots and other activists nuts. Ironically, it appears in a parenthesis.

Rosenberg also connects it to the ascendancy of neoliberal ideology in the Democratic Party (The right’s Bergdahl calamity: How Bill O’Reilly & Rush Limbaugh discard America’s norms):

... the neoliberal minimalism of Clinton’s policy vision is itself a product of the persistent condition of divided government, and that neoliberalism has substantially replaced New Deal liberalism—the Americanized form of social democracy—within the Democratic Party. ...

... part of what makes things much easier for Republicans in this era is that—with few exceptions—they’re not going up against FDR-style social democrats, with the full-bodied set of attitudes, assumptions, principles and expectations entailed in that constitutional order, but instead face neoliberal Democrats who desire compromise in a framework of diminished expectations.
Digby Parton also writes in the same edition of Salon on where this kind of non-symmetric party dynamics are taking us:

There was a time when we had decided that wars of choice were off the table. We managed to bust that one all to pieces with the invasion of Iraq. For many, many years we had believed that torture was taboo but that’s obviously no longer operative. The torture genie is out of the bottle, especially for unfortunate Americans. And now we are in the process of degrading and abandoning the very long tradition of trading prisoners of war. And we’ve decided that enemy prisoners of war should be held forever, a cruelty reserved only for suspected terrorists up until now.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rumors and rumors of rumors over Greek debt

Jan Strupczewski reports on a new proposal Greece about which some anonymous eurozone officials are speculating that would be a type of parallel currency arrangement in Neither Grexit, nor Grexident. Euro and 'drachma' in parallel? 03/27/2015:

Athens has lost access to bond markets and international creditors are not willing to lend it more money until it starts implementing reforms. An official familiar with the matter told Reuters this week that without fresh funds, the government will run out of money by April 20.

"At some point, when the government has no more euros to pay salaries or bills, it might start issuing IOUs -- a paper saying that its holder would receive an x number of euros at a point in time in the future," one senior euro zone official said.

"Such IOUs would then quickly start trading in secondary circulation at a deep discount to the real euros and they would become a 'currency', whatever its name would be, that would exist in parallel to the euro," the official said.
California Gov. Pete Wilson used a similar device in the State of California once. (Virginia Ellis and Carl Ingram, IOUs for State Workers Broke Law, Judge Says Los Angeles Times 12/03/1992)

Although Pete Wilson's having done it is hardly a reference for it being advisable! Which may be part of why anonymous eurozone officials are floating the idea. (See below.)

Strupzewski's article does make it clear that Greece has good reason to make sure that any Greek default on its debt happens while Greece was part of the eurozone. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has previously discussed such an option:

In a video from 2013 when he was still an academic, Varoufakis made exactly that point.

"My proposal was that Greece should simply announce that it is defaulting within the euro in January 2010 and stick the finger to Germany and say: well, now you can solve this problem by yourself," the future minister was filmed as saying.

The big question then would be if the European Central Bank would then continue to keep the Greek banking sector liquid through its Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) that is designed only for viable banks that have liquidity problems.

If the ECB pulled the plug, the Greek banking sector would most likely collapse, forcing a recapitalization in the new "currency" or, if the consequences of such a collapse were to dire to contemplate, the euro could agree to again recapitalize the banks, possibly even through its bailout fund ESM.
That "stick the finger" ("flip the bird," in Americanish) quote is the one that became so embarrassing to the German "quality" press over a victory of that passage in Varoufakis 2013 speech in which a satire site doctored to make it look like he flipped the bird as he said it. (See my post, Is the German press having its Jeff Gerth moment? 03/18/2015)

Yannis Iannou's 03/20/2015 cartoon "Eurofinger" shows the EU and ECB flipping the bird to Greece:


The Greece-Germany standoff is generating the kind of rumors, speculation and disinformation one might expect. Keep Talking Greece reports in a post mainly devoted to the Reuters story (No Grexit, No Grexident. The IOUs are coming ...!? 03/28/2015):

It looks as if the IOUS-option is not even [being] informally discussed among the euro zone officials. Most likely, they just create scenarios to increase the pressure on Greece.

Of course, the euro zone officials did not forget to mention to Reuters the possibility of capital controls, as well.

Some German finances websites went even so far to upload articles for the sake of articles and scaremongering with the creative titles: Facts check – Capital controls in Greece already as of this weekend?

After two paragraphs and 300 words, the author comes down to the real world away from social media, realizing “that there is nothing about it, excepts some tweets claiming this.”

PS double *sigh*

Citibank throws in with the vulture funds against Argentina

The latest twist in the ongoing story of the hedge funds, appropriately called vulture funds by Argentine officials, trying to drive Argentina into bankruptcy over long-defaulted debt is that Citibank has decided to side with the vulture funds whose most visible spokesperson is Paul Singer, one of the largest donors to the Republican Party. Nixon-appointed zombie Federal Judge Thomas Griesa made dubious legal history by his radical decisions in favor of the vulture funds that disregarded centuries of law and practice in sovereign debt.

The Buenos Aires Herald summarizes the latest this way ('We will maintain Citibank’s suspension' 03/29/2015):

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said the suspension of Citibank Argentina, ordered by the National Securities Commission (CNV) financial watchdog, will stay in place until the bank revokes its agreement not to appeal US Judge Thomas Griesa’s ruling that interest payments on Argentina's restructured local law bonds could not be processed if the bank was allowed to make two one-off payments to help it exit its local custody business.

The official condemned the deal between the bank and the “vulture funds” and said that Citibank is trying to please the vultures and Griesa at the same time but he pointed out that it is leaving its clients (bondholders) helpless.

“(Judge) Griesa in his attempt to extort the country along with vulture funds, has told US Citibank to not let Argentina Citibank to operate with Argentina’s public debt securities in Argentina,” Kicillof explained in an interview with Tiempo Argentino newspaper. “This is a mess because Citibank has opened a branch in this country and it has to comply with this country’s laws.”
The title of this article by Alfredo Zaiat refers to it as "the Citi-Singer Pact," El pacto Citi-Singer Página/12 29.03.2015.

This set of actions has the usual tangle of legal, financial and political complications. But the basics are that Citibank has been caught between its legal obligations to Argentina to process payments to creditors who have renegotiated their debt and Nixon zombie judge Griesa's order blocking them from making the payments. So Citi wants to wash its hands of the whole thing and get out of the custody-payment business in Argentina altogether.

Apparently Citibank figured they stood to lose more money from trying to comply with Argentine law and their custody payments agreement with it than by going along with the vulture funds and their Nixon zombie judge.

Singer and the vulture funds stand to gain money from their position. But they won't go broke or suffer in any meaningful way if they loses. Argentinians, on the other hand, have a great deal to lose, economically, socially and politically.

Not unlike Greece's position in negotiating with Germany over debt and austerity issues, the side that's closer to having nothing to lose has a negotiating advantage in that fact.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

José Pablo Feinmann on why he rejects postmodernism

José Pablo Feinmann explains his own reckoning with postmodern philosophy in Vattimo, dialectos y transparencias Página/12 22.03.2015. He does so in the context of commenting on the thought of Gianni Vattimo, a postmodern philosopher who was recently visiting Argentina.

Feinmann quotes Vattimo to give a description of the aspect of postmodernism on which he focuses in this brief but dense essay. The development of the media of communication, in this postmodern model, allows for the abolition of the Cartesian ego and of the unity of opposites in the Hegelian philosophy, which latter Feinmann references here as the One:

El mundo de la comunicación permite el desarraigo de la dictadura de lo Uno y la liberación de las diferencias. A esto le debemos llamar, dice, el dialecto. Ya no hay una razón. Hay racionalidades locales, dialectos. “Minorías étnicas, sexuales, religiosas, culturales o estéticas, como los punk, por ejemplo” (Ibid, p. 17). Esto no es una manifestación irracional de la espontaneidad. Las diferencias se manifiestan, se emancipan de la dictadura de lo Uno.

[The world of communication permits the uprooting of the dictatorship of the One and the liberatio of differences. This we can call, say, the dialectic. But there is no Reason. There are local rationalities, dialectics. "Ethnic, sexual, religious, cultural or aesthetic minorities, like the punks, for example." {Vattimo} This is not an irrational manifestation of spontaneity. The differences manifest themselves, they emancipate themselves from the dictatorship of the One.]
Feinmann responds with a contemporary Hegelian argument, one based in actual history. He looks at the end of the Cold War circa 1989 and the subsequent enormous expansion of neoliberal "globalization" and argues against what he views as a conservative tendency in postmodernist philosophy:

Voy a decirlo de una vez por todas: los intentos posmodernos han fracasado estrepitosamente. El sujeto cartesiano y el sujeto hegeliano están, hoy, más centrados que nunca. Nadie descentró al sujeto. Nadie lo adelgazó. Nadie lo deconstruyó. El sujeto absoluto es hoy el Sujeto del Poder Bélico Comunicacional. (Así: con mayúsculas fascistas, porque es de derecha y colonialista.) Este sujeto está globalizado y coloniza día tras día las subjetividades de los ciudadanos de este mundo. Su constitución ha sido reciente. Ni Sartre ni Foucault lo vieron. Y los posmodernos, que presenciaron su surgimiento y consolidación, lo interpretaron idílicamente, como el fruto maduro de una democracia comunicacional por cuyo medio se expresarían las distintas, mútiples voces de la libertad, sobre todo una vez caído el coloso comunista. ¿Error, ingenuidad o colaboracionismo? No son – arriesguemos – filósofos del “neoliberalismo”. Pero son –sin la menor duda– filósofos de la caída del comunismo, expresada en el colapso de la Unión Soviética. La distancia entre una cosa y la otra es demasiado estrecha.

[I'm going to say once and for all: the postmodern intentions have failed ostentatiously. The Cartesian subject and the Hegelian subject are today more central than ever. No one removed the subject from its central place. Nobody slimmed it down. Nobody deconstructed it. The Absolute subject is today the Subject of the Communicational Power of War. (Thus: with fascist capital letters, because it is rightwing and colonialist.) This Subject is globalized and day after day colonizes the subjectivities of the citizens of this world. Its construction has been recent. Neither Sartre nor Foucault saw it. And the postmodernists, who were present at its upsurge and consolidation, interpreted it idyllically as the mature fruit of a communicational democracy by whose medium the multiple voices of liberty express themselves, above all when the Communist colossus fell. Error, naivety or collaborationism? There are no - we'll take a risk to say - philosophers of "neoliberalism." But there are - without any doubt - philosophers of the fall of Communism, expressed in the collapse of the Soviet Union. The distance between one thing and the other is too narrow.]

There's a nice word play there in the sentence, "Nadie descentró al sujeto." I translated it above as, "No one removed the Subject from its central place." It could also be translated, "No one put the subject off its game."

In my reading - to use the polite postmodern expression! - Feinmann is arguing that postmodernism as derived from Heidegger and Foucault has a tendency to remove any intellectual basis for challenging the established order because it effectively gives up the concepts of Reason and objective truth. It does rule out efforts to change. But it puts the claims of the powerful on the same level normative as those of the weak, the claims of the tyrants on the same normative level as the claims of their subjects demanding freedom.

Feinmann isn't willing to give up the Hegelian historical subject, nor the Enlightenment standard of Reason, nor the Humeian/Hegelian goal of perceiving objectively material reality accurately.

Feinmann here is on the side of the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Gary Aylesworth in his 2015 entry on Postmodernism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizes the criticism that "second generation" Frankfurt theorist Jürgen Habermas makes of postmodernism:

Habermas argues that postmodernism contradicts itself through self-reference, and notes that postmodernists presuppose concepts they otherwise seek to undermine, e.g., freedom, subjectivity, or creativity. He sees in this a rhetorical application of strategies employed by the artistic avant-garde of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, an avant-garde that is possible only because modernity separates artistic values from science and politics in the first place. On his view, postmodernism is an illicit aestheticization of knowledge and public discourse. Against this, Habermas seeks to rehabilitate modern reason as a system of procedural rules for achieving consensus and agreement among communicating subjects. Insofar as postmodernism introduces aesthetic playfulness and subversion into science and politics, he resists it in the name of a modernity moving toward completion rather than self-transformation. [my emphasis]
Habermas and other Frankfurt School theorists are not only very much aware of the "nightmares of reason." They have been leaders in pointing them out. But they haven't abandoned Reason and the necessity of understanding empirical reality in doing so.

Feinmann also makes his own reckoning with Hegel's unifying concept of the One in the context of Islam's role in world history in El estruendo de los fanáticos Página/12 22.03.2015.

There are also Spanish-language lectures of his on YouTube from a Canal Encuentro series on Michel Foucault (1926–1984).

T2 CAP 11: Foucault [1]:



T2 CAP 12: Foucault II:



Also one on postmodernism more generally, T2 CAP 13: Los posmodernos:


Varieties of Christian Right sloganeering

Sarah Posner has an column on the efforts by some Christian Right leaders to put a kinder-gentler face on their cause for the 2016 election, Evangelicals Looking for Walker to "Do Nothing" in 2016 Election Religion Dispatches 03/09/2015.

She talks in particular about Scott Walker's approach to signalling the fundamentalist base voters that he's One Of Them:

Speaking in 2012 to a teleconference with activists from Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Walker said his faith has enabled him to rise above the “vitriol, and the constant, ongoing hatred” during the recall election he faced in the wake of his anti-union legislation, which has crippled the state’s once-iconic labor movement. Along with the unmistakable contrast of his church-going family with the profane and progressive activists, Walker cited two Bible verses. He didn’t recite them, but for anyone who knows their Bible—as Walker, the son of a Baptist pastor, does—the meaning was clear. The verses that helped him withstand the hatred were Romans 16:20 (“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you”) and Isaiah 54:17 (“no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”)

Should he run for president, Walker may very well turn out to be the 2016 cycle’s evangelical favorite—not because he ticks off a laundry list of culture war talking points, pledges fealty to a “Christian nation,” or because he’s made a show of praying publicly to curry political favor. Although by no means universal, some conservative evangelicals—those who eschew the fever swamps of talk radio, yet share the same political stances of the religious right—are weary of the old style of campaigning. They’re turned off by the culture war red meat, the dutiful but insincere orations of piety.
But she also reminds us that the "religious liberty" slogan currently so popular with the Christianists is also it's own kind of red meat:

The religious liberty issue is, for evangelicals, a “four-alarm fire,” said Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, part of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He said evangelicals expect the candidates “to have the courage of their convictions to persuade people about what’s going on.”

From the Hobby Lobby litigation to cases involving florists, bakers, and photographers refusing to provide services for same-sex ceremonies, the issue has been percolating in the evangelical community for years. In recent weeks, conservative Christians have talked and written prolifically about Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist found liable under the state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to provide flowers for a long-time gay customer’s wedding, and Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta fire chief fired after revelations about anti-gay comments he wrote in a book. ...

Given the level of division over these issues, it’s not clear that voters who aren’t conservative Christians would view the change in emphasis as a tamping down of the culture wars. Legal exemptions to permit florists, caterers, social service providers, or other businesses to refuse service to LGBT people are hotly contested, both in legal circles and in the court of public opinion. In another context, the Hobby Lobby litigation, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act violated a closely-held corporation’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was one of the most scrutinized and debated religious freedom cases in recent memory.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Franklin Graham says cops are God's enforcers and must be obeyed

Why do I think that this "advice" from Franklin Graham on his Facebook page from March 12 sounds like standard segregationist justification for white cops shooting unarmed black people for no good reason?

Well, probably because he's offering the kind of advice in dealing with the police that I guess white people in America have been offering to blacks since forever, i.e., do whatever a white cop says no matter what:

Listen up--Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”
For anyone of any race who wants to both (1) survive potentially hostile encounters with police and (2) not do things that may get you railroaded on some false charge (or for that matter, undermine your legal position if you're doing something not legal), the ACLU has a real-world guide online, Know Your Rights: What To Do If You're Stopped By Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI n/d; accessed 03/26/2015).

I'm pretty sure there are cops who aren't acting on Divine authority every moment they're dressed in their uniform: Iris Carrabers, CBS News 11/25/2013; Mark Wilson, $10M lawsuit filed for alleged SAPD traffic stop rape MySA 03/26/2014.

The ACLU's advice on the kind of situation in which Franklin Graham pretty much explicitly advises that you should treat the police officer as God's personal representative (bolding in original):

IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
Stay calm. Don't run. Don't argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them.
Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.
You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself.
You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may "pat down" your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court."
The liberal-evangelical Protestant journal Sojourners has prrinted the text of An Open Letter to Franklin Graham (03/19/2015 with commentary) prepared by several pastors:

As your brothers and sisters in Christ, who are also called to lead the body, we are disappointed and grieved by your abuse of the Holy Scriptures. You lifted Hebrews 13:17 out of its biblical context and misappropriated it in a way that encourages believers to acquiesce to an injustice that God hates. That text refers to church leadership, not the secular leadership of Caesar.

Are you also aware that your commentary resonates with the types of misinterpretations and rhetoric echoed by many in the antebellum church? Are you aware that the southern slavocracy validated the systematic subjugation of human beings made in the image of God by instructing these enslaved human beings to “obey their masters because the Bible instructed them to do so?”

Your blanket insistence on obedience in every situation exposes an ignorance of church history. God called Moses to resist and disobey unjust authority. Joseph and Mary were led by the Spirit to seek asylum in Egypt, disobeying the unjust decrees passed down by authority figures in order to ensure the safety of Jesus. And Paul himself resisted authority and ultimately wrote Romans 13 from jail.
And they remind Graham that being an apologist for arbitrary authority isn't unquestionably Christian, either:

As one who understands human depravity, your statement demonstrates a profound disregard for the impact of sinful individuals when given power to craft systems and structures that govern millions. The outcome is oppression and impoverishment — in a word, injustice.

Finally, if you insist on blind obedience, then you must also insist that officers of the justice system obey the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right of all to equal protection under the law. Yet, reports confirm unconscious racial biases in policing, booking, sentencing, and in return produce racially disparate outcomes within our broken justice system.

Likewise, you must also call on officers to honor their sworn duty to protect and serve without partiality. The Federal Bureau of Investigations director, James B. Comey, acknowledges that law enforcement has fallen short of this mandate: “First, all of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty. At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.”
Although, I have to say that quoting James Comey to make a point about Christian obligations to promote justice isn't necessarily the ideal choice, either!

But that's not the only way that Franklin Graham is making himself into an ugly piece of work (Stoyan Zaimov, Franklin Graham Says Obama's 'Sympathy to Islam' Will Lead to Christian and Jewish Persecution in America Christian Post 03/03/2015):

The Rev. Franklin Graham has warned in an interview that President Barack Obama is "very sympathetic to Islam" and that America's foreign policy is influenced by Muslims. He added that this influence could lead to Christians and Jewish people being persecuted in the United States.

"There are Muslims that have access to him in the White House. Our foreign policy has a lot of influence now, from Muslims. We see the prime minister of Israel being snubbed by the president and by the White House and by the Democrats and it's because of the influence of Islam. They hate Israel and they hate Christians, and so the storm is coming, I believe," Graham told Gordon Robertson, host of CBN's "The 700 Club" interactive program.

Graham further pointed out that Obama had a Muslim father, and that as a child the president went to school in Indonesia, which has the largest Islamic population in the world.

"So, growing up his frame of reference and his influence as a young man was Islam. It wasn't Christianity, it was Islam," the evangelist said.
Aside from treating "Islam" as inherently evil and threatening to the freedom of Christian and Jews, his premise is just stock rightwing fantasy.

And this by Sami Martin, Franklin Graham Warns Christians in America 'Persecution Is Coming' Christian Post 03/09/2015:

"I believe we're going to see persecution in this country," Graham said during an interview on "Fox and Friends Weekend" on Sunday. "We've already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians. I believe it's going to get worse, and we see no question gaining influence in Washington by those that represent the Islamic faith. We do have a problem in this country and we are losing our religious freedom and we're losing it a little bit day by day."

It's not the first time that Graham, the son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, has issued a warning for Christian Americans. He previously warned that America's morality was crumbling because President Obama "defends Islam and chastises Christians, rebukes our allies and befriends our enemies, and fully supports gay marriage and abortion but denies the religious freedoms of those who don't agree," in a post on Facebook.
This is a typical white Christian fundamentalist persecution fantasy. And it's based on a reversal of intelligible meanings of words and concepts. To Graham and the Christian Right, laws that allow gays and lesbians to live and marry freely are restricting the freedom of Christians because Christians are then no longer "free" to persecute gays and lesbians.

And he says that police, even those who are rapists and murderers, are people we have to obey without question because "they keep watch over" us on behalf of God.

This is ugly fanaticism, not any kind of sensible or honorable version of Christianity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Are universities pampering their students?

Judith Shulevitz's article on seemingly overindulgent university administration's concerned about the feelings of sexual assault victims, In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas New York Times 03/21/2015, has received quite a bit of attention. Shulevitz more-or-less mocks the efforts of universities to create "safe spaces" for students.

Daniel W. Drezner in Why free speech on campus is not as simple as everyone thinks Washington Post offers a nuanced view expressing justifiable skepticism about Shulevitz' perspective.

Stories about the supposed softhearted prissiness and impractical other-worldly softheadedness of college perfessers and administrators always have a certain audience.

Andy Seal also offers broader perspective on the very real-world problems with which colleges and universities have to reckon in Hardy Boys and Girls: On Undergraduates and Self-Infantilization U.S. Intellectual History Blog 03/23/2015.

Seal is also critical of Shulevitz' limited perspective:

I think what she and others have described is neither a process of infantilization nor a process initiated by the students themselves, and her essay badly misdirects readers from the larger transformations in higher education that I believe are actually at issue here.

Let us begin with one of the subtexts of Shulevitz’s essay: that undergraduates today are less mentally strong and flexible than students of yore. Well, it’s not much of a subtext, in fact. She writes, “it’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals — mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like.”

Hardier souls? Is this nostalgia for a tougher generation of students or nostalgia for an environment in which mental health issues were taboo for public discussion? I’m not convinced the latter represents toughness, and I am totally unconvinced that greater administrative responsiveness to students’ mental health is anything but overdue and necessary. Is it possible that, rather than today’s students suddenly becoming emotionally feeble, college administrations, parents, local and national media, and students themselves are more likely to acknowledge the severity and prevalence of depression and other mental health issues? Perhaps administrators and students are simply aware of a datum like this: “nearly 80% of those students who die by suicide never participate in counseling services.” Whom does it really help to encourage students to believe that they are less “hardy” if they find help in that “small army” of mental health professionals?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Venezuela and the Obama Administration retrograde Latin America policies

Mark Weisbrot in How Not to Win Friends in Latin America US News & World Report 03/18/2015 explains how the Obama Administration's confrontational, pro-regime-change position toward Venezuela may not be as contradictory to the more accommodating policy toward Cuba as it appears on the surface:

It is only inconsistent if one sees the opening to Cuba as the beginning of a change in overall U.S. strategy for the region, one that seeks to reconcile with the huge hemispheric political shift that has taken place in the 21st century, and is sometimes known as Latin America’s “second independence.” President Rafael Correa of Ecuador succinctly expressed the regional governments’ disgust with the latest sanctions, saying that it “reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by the imperialists.” He then asked, “Can’t they understand that Latin America has changed?” The short answer to his question is no. Washington is still some ways away from the hemispheric equivalent of Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, which was not just about beginning a process of opening diplomatic or commercial relations but also about coming to grips with the new reality that an independent “Communist China” was here to stay.

Even as the normalization of relations with Cuba proceeds, the White House plans to continue funding “democracy promotion” programs within the country – as well as numerous others in the region. [my emphasis]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Gideon Levy says Netanyahu told the truth about no two-state solution

Israeli peace advocate gives re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backhanded praise for his pre-election statement flatly rejecting a two-state solution (Netanyahu will be remembered for speaking Israel's truth Haaretz 03/22/2015):

I would like to say thank you to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you for telling the truth. Last week you were revealed as the first Israeli prime minister to tell the truth. For at least 25 years most Israeli statesmen have been lying, misleading the world, the Israelis and themselves, until Netanyahu arose – he of all statesmen – and told the truth. If only this truth had been told by an Israeli prime minister 25 years ago, maybe even 50 years ago, when the occupation was born. Still, better late than never. The public rewarded him for this truth, and Netanyahu was elected for a fourth term.

Netanyahu said last week that if he were to be reelected, a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch. Plain and simple, loud and clear. This simple, pure truth was the case for all his predecessors as well – all the prime ministers, peace lovers and justice seekers from the center and the left, who gave false promises. ...

After all, one had to deceive the Americans, bluff the Europeans and cheat the Palestinians, fudge things for the Mideast Quartet and lie to some Israelis. One also had to play for time, to build settlements and get rid of every possible Palestinian partner – Yasser Arafat, who was too strong; President Mahmoud Abbas, who is too weak; and Hamas, which is too extreme. One has to play for time, so the Palestinians become more extreme and everyone understands that there’s no one to talk to. [my emphasis]
This is why I'm leery of the strategy that the Obama Administration is sending up trial balloons on, of the US using the two-state solution to put diplomatic pressure on Israel.

Whatever its short-term advantages of highlighting the irresponsible warmongering of Netanyahu and his Republican allies, it also means that the Obama Administration is pretending the current reality is something other than the fact that Israel now faces the basic choice of being a democratic state that is no longer Jewish either officially or by majority, or being a Jewish apartheid state that is undemocratic.

At this point, it's hard to see how pursuing the phantom of a two-state solution that is no longer feasible actually advances the resolution of the long-standing failure to achieve a lasting peace settlement in Israel-Palestine.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Angie's World: French/Andalucía edition

Heckuva job, Angie, heckuva job!

The French Socialists, the ruling party since 2012, are celebrating because in Sunday's local elections they came in - third.

The Socialists won the Presidency and a majority in Parliament in 2012 campaigning against Angela Merkel's austerity policies. But President François Hollande scrambled to adopt Merkelist austerity policies at an embarrassing speed.

Now in local elections, the Socialist finished with 20% behind the first-place conservatives (UMP) with around 31%, the far-right National Front with around 25%. This was a first round of elections with the top two candidates in each locality having a runoff next Sunday. So in places where the Socialists came in first or second, they still have a shot next Sunday. Christian Wernicke, Konservative UMP klar vor dem Front National 22.03.2015)

If the social-democratic parties in countries like France, Germany and Spain faithfully endorse Merkel's Herbert Hoover economics, why would anyone besides habitual partisans vote for them? Without any distinguishing economic policies, they are opening the way to parties to their left and to demagogues from the right.

In local elections in the Spanish state of Andalucía, the pro-austerity social-democratic PSOE came in first, inflicted big losses on the conservative Partido Popular (PP). Podemos, the left party founded last year and which has been leading in national polls, came in third. The PSOE's results were similar to their last one in 2012 there. The PP's results were the worst in 25 years. The PP is currently the ruling party nationally. (Ana Pardo de Vera, El PSOE toma oxígeno, Podemos se consolida y el PP se desmorona Público 23.03.2015)

I'm sure the significant losses by the pro-austerity ruling parties in both France and Spain will be on Angie's mind when she meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Berlin Monday.

Nisman, his defenders and the puticlubs

Haracio Verbitsky gives this sketch of the political positioning over the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was in charge of the investigation of the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack in Buenos Aires that claimed 85 lives (Señores y señoras Página/12 22.03.2015):

{Nelson} Castro alegó que Nisman fue víctima de un magnicidio institucional, la afirmación dogmática de la exposa del fiscal, la jueza Sandra Arroyo Salgado. En su caso, y en el de la madre del fiscal, Sara Garfunkel, es obvio el interés patrimonial, ya que ningún seguro de vida cubre el suicidio. En la misma línea, y por sus propias razones, el gobierno de Israel sostuvo en el acto por los 23 años del atentado a su {Buenos Aires} embajada {en 1992} que Nisman pagó con su vida el intento de llegar a la verdad. Por eso el fiscal fue sepultado en el sector del cementerio comunitario {judio} destinado a los héroes de Israel. Otro tanto pretenden las organizaciones de lobby estadounidenses, efectores de los servicios de Inteligencia o de la derecha republicana más extrema, que han tomado el Capitolio como teatro de operaciones, con el respaldo del filántropo emplumado Paul Singer.

Pero nada de eso surge de la causa que instruye la fiscal Viviana Fein, caratulada hasta hoy como muerte dudosa. No hay en ella elementos irrefutables para considerar que se suicidó, pero menos aún para decir que lo mataron. Si la investigación culminara con la primera hipótesis, ¿sus restos serían trasladados al confín del cementerio, reservado a quienes se quitaron la vida? Improbable, porque eso implicaría un respeto por la verdad que hasta ahora no se ha manifestado en ese grupo familiar y político.

[{Nelson} Castro alleged that Nisman was the victim of an institutional political assassination, the dogmatic assertion of the prosecutor's ex-wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado. In her case, and in that of the prosector's mother, Sara Garfunkel, the personal family interest is obvious, because no life insurance covers suicide. In the same line, and for its own reasons, the government of Israel maintained in the observation of the 23rd anniversary of the attack on its {Buenos Aires} embassy {in 1992} that Nisman paid with his life for attempting to find the truth. Because of that, the prosecutor was buried in the section of {Jewish} community cemetery designated for heroes of Israel. Another point claimed by the American lobby organizations, operatives of the intelligence services or of the most extreme right wing of the Republican {Party}, which has take the {Washington} Capitol as it theater of operations, with the backing of the feathered philanthropist Paul Singer. {The "feathered" part is a reference to his Singer's role as the most visible of the "vulture funds" leaders currently trying to drive Argentina into bankruptcy with the help of a Nixon zombie judge.}

But none of this emerges from the that the prosecutor Vivian Fein is hearing, caracterized until today as a dubious death. There are no irrefutable elements to consider it a suicide, but even less to say that he was murdered. If the investigation culminates in the first hypothesis, will his remains be relocated to the edge of the cemetery reserved for those who take their lives? Unlikely, because this would imply a respect for the truth that until now this family and political group has not demonstrated.]

Verbitsky is being a tad quaint, or maybe generous, by assuming that there is a "right wing" within the Republican Party, as opposed to its being a hardline rightwing Party generally.

Verbitsky is addressed the defensiveness of Nisman's conservative defenders like Nelson Castro, Sergio Bergman, Nelson Castro and Jacobo Kovadloff, who would prefer not to have the apparent womanizing of Nisman's in the "pickup clubs [puticlubs] of Palermo Hollywood." (Pickup clubs here is a euphemism for whorehouse.) Because, Verbitsky argues, his extracurricular activities with dubious lady friends could be relevant to the question of whether Nisman was being blackmailed in some way. Given the extreme frivolousness of the serious formal charge he made against President Cristina Fernández, evidence that he was playing politics with the AMIA investigation, and his supposed suicide itself, it's hard to say Verbitsky doesn't have a good point there. Verbitsky also includes the suggestion that Nisman could have been using public funds to finance some of his recreational activities in the puticlubs.

Verbitsky discusses some dubious travel claims on the public dime that Nisman made, apparently involving girlfriends of some sort. The article also features a photo of the late Nisman with three party girls. And he observes that without Nisman's death, "no se hubieran abierto sus archivos, con las constancias de su vulnerabilidad ante cualquier extorsión" ("his files would not have been opened with their evidence of his vulnerability to any kind of extorsion").

Verbitsky also takes note of the report a week ago in the rightwing Brazilian magazine Veja last week that was also picked up by the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) news wire and the liberal Israeli Haaretz newspaper alleging a Venezuela-Argentine-Iranian plot based on cockamamie reasoning and evidence. Shredding the Veja story in several ways, Verbitsky also reports that Nilda Garré, a former Argentine Ambassador, who Veja named as a key figure in the alleged Iranian plot - and who Veja misidentified as having been a Montonero guerrilla back in the day - sent a letter to the magazine rejecting their account. Which was so ham-handed and based on such frivolous assumption is was pretty much a joke, anyway. Garré later served as Minister of Defense and Minister of Security under the Kirchner governments of Néstor and Cristina.

The Merkel Age in German journalism

Der Spiegel suffers visibly from the Americanization the German press seems to be undergoing, i.e., the descent of the "quality press" toward tabloid standards.

Critics of the the CDU/SPD austerity policies promoted for years by Angela Merkel in her stone-conservative response to the economic crisis and the subsequent euro crisis had to get a chuckle out of the latest Spiegel cover (13/21.03.2015) showing The Most Powerful Woman In The World with Germany officers in occupied Athens during the Second World War:


But the accompanying story, is actually a defensive piece seeking mainly to deflect criticism about Merkel's nationalistic policies that have been so destructive to the periphery countries of the eurozone. One of the several authors listed for the article is Dirk Kurbjuweit, who seems to be pretty much an Angie-bot. It is titled, "'The Fourth Reich'" ("„Das Vierte Reich“") in quotation marks.

It isn't a very good article, doing a mediocre job of sketching the background of the euro crisis.
And it includes superficial criticism of the Greek government of Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis, talking about "die Verzweiflung einer Regierung, die bislang dilettantisch gehandelt hat" ("the desperation of a government that up until now has acted in a dilettantish way").

But it has a couple of worthwhile moments. Like these two Angie quotes I don't recall seeing before. One is, „Ich stehe ziemlich allein in der EU. Aber das ist mir egal, ich habe recht.“ ("I'm standing really alone in the EU. But I don't care,I'm right.")

And this one that I think describes her European view pretty well: „Wir sind in Europa, was die Amerikaner in der Welt sind, die ungeliebte Führungsmacht.“ ("We are in Europe what the Americans are in the world, the unloved leading power.")

It is followed by a decent article on something that's genuinely embarrassing for Merkel in this situation where Greek debt is a key issue: a forced loan that Germany extracted from Greece during WWII and never repaid. (Manfred Ertel et al, "Eine Frage des Friedens") Because the CDU/SPD position and the one generally echoed by Americanizing German press for years has been that Greeks are lazy and irresponsible and have been living about their means by borrowing too much. For Greece to confront Germany over Germany's having been a deadbeat on that Second World War loan is a good way for them to poke a few holes in the self-righteous and misleading CDU/SPD propaganda line about the Greek debt.

The article helpfully points out that it was the government of technocrats under Quisling Prime Minister Loukas Papademos that Merkel installed to run Greece and did so for six months in 2011-12 that began putting together a report on the Second World War loan on which Germany has been a total deadbeat nation. It was completely in April 2014 under the Merkel-compliant conservative government that went down to a crushing defeat in the January 2015 election.

Later in this edition comes a ridiculously bad piece, "Der Preis für das Comeback" by Christoph Pauly, that ludicrously claims that Ireland, Portugal and particularly Spain are examples of the great success of austerity economics! In a sentence you would expect from a press release from the German Finance Ministry, the article reports (or maybe that should be "reports"):

Das Vorbild für den Aufschwung ist unverkennbar. In der Krise kopierten die Spanier das Geschäftsmodell der Deutschen und setzten auf den Export – mit Erfolg.

[The example for the upswing {in Spain} is unmistakable. In the crisis, they copied the business model of the Germans and concentrated on exports - with success.]
If Pauly has any clue about how the debt crisis actually developed in Spain, he doesn't manage to work it into this piece. He seems to think it was all about reckless gubment spending. As Charlie Pierce often says, "Honky, please."

That doesn't stop him from gushing over a businesswoman who praises the post-crisis privitizations; she runs a business making robotic devices for a Mars mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Which has nothing to do with gubment money, of course! Well, this is the ESA's own description of itself at its website: "ESA is an international organisation with 20 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country."

Pauly gets around to that, praising his model Spanish businesswoman for recognizing that publicly-funded business may not last forever. But this is CNBC levels of reporting. And, to be fair, the neoliberal model doesn't mind pumping tax money into private businesses. It just wants to make sure that the system works for the richest under the control of the richest and everyone else stays far behind.

The concept of "internal devaluation" finally appears in the final paragraph of Pauly's story, a concept and reality central to what Merkel imposed on Spain and other peripheral countries. It doesn't seem that Pauly considers worth explaining. Instead, he grumps about the ungrateful common people not having the good will to accept their problems passively; he also seems to think that Spain has experienced for only three years:

Mehr als drei Jahre interne Abwertung sind auch in einem politisch stabilen Land kaum durchhaltbar. Denn dann gibt es in der Regel Wahlen.

[More than three years of internal devaluation are hardly sustainable even in a politically stable country. Because then elections are held regularly.]
They at least acknowledge there are some tiny problems with the remarkable upswing in Spain, which for some remarkable reason doesn't seem to be apparent to the Spanish public: "Der Abbau der
Massenarbeitslosigkeit, die immer noch bei 23,7 Prozent liegt, geht einfach nicht schnell genug." ("The reduction of mass unemployment, which is still at 23.7%, is simply not fast enough.")

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

Pauly writes, apparently in surprise, that opinion polls seem to indicate that the public doesn't appreciate all the good work accomplished by "the reformers" - "reform" in neoliberal vocabulary meaning high unemployment, low wages, privatization of public property, slashing of pensions and public services, etc. The general Herbert Hoover program, in other words.

Pauly seems to have a total crush on Álvaro Nadal, economic adviser to the current conservative Spanish government. He writes like he drools with joy every time he hears some conservative prick say something about national "competitiveness," which is pretty much a synonym in NeoliberalSpeak for what "reforms" also mean for them. As he puts it, "Spanien setzte auf ein Wunschprogramm der Liberalisierung" ("Spain decided to adopt the wish list of liberalization").

Pauly feels the pain of the Reformers: "Investoren fürchten populistische Parteien wie Podemos, die den Kapitalismus kritisch sehen" ("Investors fear that populist parties like Podemos that view capitalism critically"). No, dude, say it ain't so!

Pauly even reports, apparently in all earnestness, that one of his bitnessman interviewees was outraged about a Podemos supporter that had a Trotsky sticker on his computer! Dang, a Reformer just cain't git no love around here!

And as long as we're talking about suck-up journalism in the German press, Daniel Brössler's piece in the Süddeutsche Zeitung is worth mentioning, Darum müssen es Merkel und Hollande allein machen 20.03.2015. It's about how Merkel and French President François Hollande met together with Alexis Tsipras to discuss Greece's situation. Brössler presents this as a wise statecraft on Merkel's part, recognizing that she can't run the eurozone with Germany as the openly dominant power. He seems to think this is a return to some mythical good ole days where France and Germany acted as the leading core of the EU, and piddly little countries like Belgium shouldn't grump about them doing things that way.

Because, you see, "Was Merkel und Hollande - endlich - gemeinsam in der EU tun, resultiert aus der Kraft des Faktischen und folgt der Macht des Notwendigen" ("What Merkel and Hollande are - finally - doing together in the EU, results from the power of the factual and follows the might of the necessary"). Merkel and Hollande as the world-historical agents of a hack Hegelianism - following "the might of the necessary" - is an interesting twist. But it doesn't change the more important fact that the Socialist Hollande is loyally backing Merkel in her pursuit of ruinous austerity policies for the eurozone. Hollande was elected in 2012 on a program of resisting Angie-nomics. But after election, he scrambled to capitulate to Merkel in a few days time. He made no attempt remotely like the Tsipras-Varoufakis government has made to reverse the austericide policies in their first several weeks in office.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Greece and Germany, Friday the 20th version

C J Polychroniou writes about the eurozone depression in Quantitative easing won't cure Europe's economic woes Aljazeera 03/20/2015:

The euro crisis has had a devastating impact especially on the peripheral eurozone countries (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Cyprus), producing massive unemployment and increasing substantially the debt-to-GDP ratio, mainly thanks to the austerity policies that were implemented in the midst of an economic recession as part of the bailout plans (Italy excluded).

GDP in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy is on the average 7 percent below the pre-crisis levels; Greece's GDP is nearly 25 percent below its pre-crisis peak. The official unemployment rates in the peripheral countries are stratospherically high, indicating that there is no recovery. In Greece the official unemployment rate is 26 percent while in Spain it is close to 24 percent. In Portugal it is 13.3 percent, in Italy 12.6 percent, and in Ireland (the country with the highest net migration level in Europe) at over 10 percent.
And he recommends basic macroeconomic policies as the immediate treatment: "What Europe's economies need are fiscal policies that can stimulate real growth and generate jobs. Large-scale direct stimulus spending by governments will boost the real economy by increasing aggregate demand and will help to cause wages to rise."

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis did a new blog post today Of Greeks and Germans: Re-imagining our shared future 03/20/2015. He gives this helpful historical sketch of the EU/German (so-called) bailout:

I opposed the 2010 and 2012 ‘bailout’ loans from German and other European taxpayers because:

  • the new loans represented not a bailout for Greece but a cynical transfer of losses from the books of the private banks to the weak shoulders of the weakest of Greek citizens. (How many of Europe’s taxpayers, who footed these loans, know that more than 90% of the €240 billion borrowed by Greece went to financial institutions, not to the Greek state or its citizens?)
  • it was obvious that, at a time Greece could not repay its existing loans, the austerity conditions for giving Greece the new loans would crush Greek nominal incomes, making our debt even less sustainable
  • the ‘bailout’ burden would, sooner or later, weigh down German and other European taxpayers once the weaker Greeks buckled under their mountainous debts (as moneyed Greeks had already shifted their deposits to Frankfurt, London etc.)
  • misleading peoples and Parliaments by presenting a bank bailout as an act of ‘solidarity to Greece’ would turn Germans against Greeks, Greeks against Germans and, eventually, Europe against itself.
His post also has a couple of nudge-nudge, wink-wink references to the recent days in which a good part of the German quality press made fools of themselves over a clip from a comedy/satire video that was doctored to make it look like he was flipping the bird to Germany. (Which honestly wouldn't have bothered me if he had!) For instance, he writes:

What should we do now, in 2015, that Greece remains in crisis and our people, the Greeks and the Germans, have, regrettably but also predictably, descended into a mutual ‘blame game’?

First, we should work towards ending the toxic ‘blame game’ and the moralising finger-pointing which benefit only the enemies of Europe.

Secondly, we need to focus on our joint interest: On how to grow and to reform Greece rapidly, so that the Greek state can best repay debts it should never have taken on while looking after its citizens as a modern European state ought to do. [my emphasis]

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Obama Administration sketches a new posture on the Israeli occupation - or does it?

The White House chose Peter Beinart to write their press release in the form of a news story on US policy toward Israel, Enraged by Netanyahu's rhetoric, White House officials believe Israeli-U.S. relations fundamentally changed Haaretz 03/19/2015. Via Beinart, the Obama Administration frames things this way. They complain about Netanyahu's comment about the Arabs voting and about his campaign comments about settlement policy in the occupied territories and his explicit rejection of a two-state solution.

This is a little much to swallow:

There is little President Obama considers more loathsome, administration officials note, than stoking racism to win votes. “Given our own history we have a unique perspective on the idea that minorities’ voting is not something to be condemned or feared,” said one administration official. The analogy is significant because the civil rights movement is Obama’s moral compass. For an administration official to compare Netanyahu to George Wallace or Bull Connor, even obliquely, says a lot about which side of history they believe he’s on. [my emphasis]
Does the "moral compass" that Martin Luther King, Jr. was following in this speech resonate with the President: Martin Luther King's Speech Against the Vietnam War, column by David Bromwich Antiwar.com 03/16/2008?

I'm guessing not.

Ironically, Antiwar.com calls itself "one project of our parent foundation, the Randolph Bourne Institute." But the link leads directly to the segregationist/"libertarian" Mises Institute.

The White House via Beinart floats the following policy options. First one:

... let the Palestinian Authority collapse and let Bibi deal with the calamity that follows. Early this year, Israel began withholding more than $100 million in tax revenue to punish Palestinians for trying to join the International Criminal Court. Since then, the Obama administration has been going around, cup in hand, trying to get European and Persian Gulf countries to give the Palestinian Authority the money to stay afloat.
Number two:

A second option is to allow the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution condemning settlements. In other words, to withdraw America’s veto. Administration officials insist that they will never cut military aid, since that would harm Israeli security. And they say Obama will go on meeting Netanyahu, as unpleasant as that may be. They also won’t support Palestinian efforts at the International Criminal Court, since that feeds Israel’s “delegitimization.”
Beinart doesn't mention it, but both the Cheney-Bush and Obama Administrations have been distinctly hostile to the notion of the ICC having jurisdiction over Americans. We're Exceptional, after all.

Not vetoing UN resolutions that Israel doesn't like, though, would be a notable change in the US diplomatic stance. Realistically, though, as long as "Administration officials insist that they will never cut military aid," Israel is unlikely to take such diplomatic slights that seriously as pressure.

And number three:

The third, and most dramatic, move would be for America to support a UN resolution outlining the parameters of final two state deal. Administration officials expect the French to push such an effort on the theory that UN parameters would attain the iconic status enjoyed by UN resolutions 242 and 388, and, eventually, become the basis for serious talks. The Obama administration would not sign a European-crafted resolution, which they suspect would make specific demands on Israel about territorial withdrawal and the division of Jerusalem while offering only vague language about Palestinian obligations on refugees and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

But there is a serious effort, which began last year, and has already involved extensive negotiations by people close to the administration, to Americanize a final status resolution. Such a resolution would endorse an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and making Jerusalem the shared capital of two states. It would acknowledge that the 1967 lines could be modified by land swaps, but to satisfy the Palestinians, perhaps declare that those land swaps be equal in size. To make the resolution more palatable to Israel, however, the US would insert clear language recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, essentially ruling out a large-scale right of refuge return and making Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank contingent on the performance of Palestinian security forces. [my emphasis]
Here's where I start to suspect that chronic Democratic stumbling may take over.

This stance assumes that the Democrats and the Obama Administration would put their two-state position up against the de facto Republican-Likud position of Greater Israel.

But can we really assume that a two-state solution, even with the best imaginable will on all sides, is a realistic option any more? I very seriously doubt it, though if it could be pulled off in a comprehensive settlement, I would be happy to see it. But it doesn't look very feasible. Robert Perry writes in Netanyahu Unmasks Israel Consortium News 03/18/2015:

The truth is that the two-state solution has been a fiction for at least the past two decades, dying in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the two-state illusion still served important political purposes both for Israelis, who would pay it lip service while continuing their steady encroachment on Palestinian lands, and for U.S. politicians who could point to the mirage as an excuse not to pressure Israel too hard on its human rights violations.

Yet, whenever any U.S. official actually tried to reach that shimmering oasis of a two-state solution, it would recede into the distance. Then, the Israelis would rely on their friends and allies in the news media and politics to blame the Palestinians. Now, however, the illusion of Israel seeking such an outcome in good faith has been lost in Netanyahu’s anything-goes determination to keep his office – a case of political expediency trumping strategic expediency.
Assuming the two-state solution is dead, what we're looking at is basically the choice that Jimmy Carter and others have described: (1) A predominately Jewish Israel with Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories as the subjected population in an apartheid state; or, (2) constructing some version of Greater Israel that would make the occupied territories part of Israel and make the Palestinians there full citizens, which would mean a non-Jewish majority in the not-too-distant future.

And choice, in other words, between a Jewish state that practices apartheid or a democratic state that is not Jewish-majority.

So what would it mean for the Obama Administration or a future one to "insert clear language recognizing Israel as a Jewish state" in a UN decision that would take on the force of international law? That would put the United States more on the apartheid side of that choice.

And if absorbing the occupied territories makes them part of Israel, what would it mean to make "Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank contingent on the performance of Palestinian security forces"?

That resolution only makes sense in terms of a two-state solution, where "Israeli" and "Palestinian" were still two separate things.

But without a final settlement on the nature of the state, doesn't recognizing Israel de jure as a "Jewish state," and giving them the right to have their army in the occupied territories until Israel determines that there is no remaining terrorist threat, mean locking the status quo into place in all essential aspects?

That one is a puzzler to me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is the German press having its Jeff Gerth moment?

Jeff Gerth's first front-page story on the Whitewater pseudoscandal in the New York Times in 1992 represents an historical turning-point in American "quality" journalism. Gene Lyons told the sad story in Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater (1996).

The German press - the "quality" press like Spiegel included - has been in a tizzy over a video of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis which someone making a humorous music video about him doctored to make it look like he was flipping the bird to Germany during a speech.

A TV interviewer sprang the video on Varoufakis during an interview, going for a Meet the Press style "gotcha" moment. Varoufakis denied that he had made such a gesture during the speech in 2013 from which the film excerpt was taken.

The maker of the video, Jan Böhmermann, has now publicly verified that the flipping-the-bird moment was doctored into the scene: Christoph Meyer, Varoufakis bei Günther Jauch: Böhmermann: Wir haben den Stinkefinger gefälscht Süddeutsche Zeitung 18.März.2015.

The German press is starting to indulge their Jeff Gerth/Clinton pseudoscandal inclinations. This is a sad thing for their readers and viewers.

Here is Böhmermann explaining how he did it, Varoufakis and the fake finger #varoufake | NEO MAGAZIN ROYALE mit Jan Böhmermann - ZDFneo 18.03.2015:



This is Böhmermann's video, which is pretty funny (though maybe a little too much bad taste in one or two places), V for Varoufakis 25.02.2015:


Israel and the US post-Israeli election

After Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's win in the Israeli election Tuesday, foreign policy observers and analysts are speculating on what changes in US-Israeli relations may follow.

Netanyahu took the unusual step of publicly announcing his rejection of any possible two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. That has been the longtime official goal of the United States and theoretically of Israel, too. How possible it was and how seriously either country took it has been in question for some time. It was in 2006 that Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid was published, warning that the time for a two-state solution was in danger of passing permanently.

Roberta Rampton and Patricia Zengerle report in U.S. rebukes Israel's victorious Netanyahu on Mideast policy Reuters 03/18/2015:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and said that based on Netanyahu’s comments, "the United States will evaluate our approach to this situation moving forward."

Netanyahu’s insistence that there will be no Palestinian state while he holds office, seen as a maneuver to mobilize his right-wing base, angered the Palestinians and drew criticism from the United Nations and European governments. Chances for restarting long-stalled peace moves already had been low.

U.S. lawmakers were divided on Netanyahu's hardened stance.

"It was remarkable to back-track so significantly on a two-state solution," said Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, adding it could make Washington's effort to mediate more difficult.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he hoped the United States and Israel would see the election as "an opportunity to start over." But he said: "A two-state solution is impossible as long as Hamas exists and runs Gaza."
Yes, you could say that "lawmakers were divided" over Netanyahu's public policy shift.

He has put himself clearly on the side of the Republican Party against the Democratic Party and the Democratic President. The Republicans are happy about that development, as Cenk Uygur explains in Who Are Netanyahu's GOP Supporters? The Young Turks 03/18/2015:



Paul Pillar writes on Netanyahu's Latest Challenge to Obama The National Interest 03/18/2015:

After all the alarming and scaring that this prime minister has done, one of his final scares was to warn that Arab citizens of Israel would actually—you'd better sit down before you read this—vote. This was an even more blatant, and openly racist, approach to the subject of voter turnout among opposing parts of the electorate than the enactment of voter suppression laws in the United States. ...

For the United States, the most significant of Netanyahu's statements in his appealing to the intractable Right of the Israeli electorate was to declare clearly and unequivocally his opposition to a Palestinian state. In so doing, and in affirming his determination to hold on to occupied territory, he offered no honorable alternative way to deal with the trilemma of how Israel cannot hold onto all that land and be a Jewish state and be democratic. Evidently he sees things the same way as his billionaire backer Sheldon Adelson, who said, “Israel isn't going to be a democratic state—so what?”

Of course, there is no surprise in the substance of Netanyahu's statement. It has long been abundantly clear from the conduct of himself and his government that he has had no intention of acceding to creation of a Palestinian state, and that past remarks suggesting that he did were only window dressing. But to move from window dressing and polite fiction to open declaration nonetheless has consequences, not only for the one making the declaration but also for others who have to deal with him. [my emphasis]
As Israel goes even more in the direction of creating an apartheid state, we can expect to hear from Republicans how Israel can serve as a model on how to handle not just "terrorists" but minority populations who are theoretically full citizens of their own country.

Juan Cole describes the implications of Netanyahu's stance in Apartheid Forever: Israel’s Netanyahu rules out Palestinian Citizenship Rights Informed Comment 03/17/2015:

Netanyahu and the Israeli right-of-center say they want to keep Palestinians homeless and without citizenship rights in a state because they fear a Palestinian state will make claims on Israel and present a security challenge. Netanyahu said Sunday that if Israel relinquished the West Bank it would become a bastion of Muslim radicalism (but West Bankers are substantially more secular than the Jewish population of West Jerusalem).

But in fact, Netanyahu and the right are dedicated to Greater Israel, to annexing the West Bank territory and finding a way to expel the Palestinians from it. The Palestinians are not a security challenge– they are like the guard at a bank getting in the way of bank robbers. The bank robbers feel a need to knock him out or kill him, remove him from the scene.

But it is shameful to have Israel preside over 4 million stateless people forever. This is Apartheid. And Netanyahu has just made Apartheid the official policy of Israel, just as South African leader P.W. Botha dedicated himself to making black South Africans stateless and without the rights of citizenship. The only fig leaf Israel had for its Apartheid was the farce of the “peace process” and a pro forma ritual invocation of a “future Palestinian state.” Now Netanyahu has ripped off the fig leaf and stands naked before the world. Botha was called by his victims the “Great Crocodile.” It would be better epithet for Netanyahu than “Bibi.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Risks of a "Grexit"

I don't quite understand the parallel currency proposal that Wolfgang Münchau has been advocating in his columns the last several weeks. But his view of the current state of eurozone risk is clear (Why smoke and mirrors are safer than cold turkey Financial Times 03/15/2015)

... The odds of a Greek exit from the eurozone have shortened dramatically in the past two weeks. The two sides may tone down their rhetoric in the coming days but I cannot see the creditor countries relenting on the conditions of last month’s debt rollover agreement. Nor can I see the Greek government fulfilling them. Since nobody knows how many days or weeks Athens is from insolvency, the risk of a sudden exit is clear and present. Grexit may never happen — but it is time to get ready.

Grexit is not an outcome any rational person would wish for. It will undermine the EU’s geostrategic influence. Economically, it will unmask a hidden truth: that the monetary union is just a beefed-up fixed-exchange system. A large number of financial contracts would instantly default. It is unclear how the global financial system would cope. The eurozone’s fledgling economic recovery would be at risk.

For Greece an exit may well work in the long run if it is well managed; but it will bring economic misery in the short term. The country is still running a current account deficit, meaning it is reliant on external funding to support domestic consumption. That funding may disappear from one day to the next, should Greece default on its creditors.

Greece: the negotiating goes forward

There is lots of venom against Greece from German politicians and the press these days. Because Greece is finally pushing back against the ruinous austerity policy Angela Merkel successfully imposed on them for years via the EU institutions.

Keep Talking Greece reports (Schaeuble’s platitudes: ”Greece’s debt problems because the country lived far beyond its means in the past” 03/17/2015):

Well ... German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is disappointed by the Greek government… And after five years of crisis, he came to the stunning conclusion that “the reason for Greece’s debt problems was that the country lived far beyond its means in the past.

He said on Monday that “the new Greek government destroyed all the trust that had been rebuilt in the past.” ...

OK. We have heard this platitude by Schaeuble quite many times since 2010. Nothing new, nothing important and nothing thoughtful. And nothing, not a single sentence adding solution to the problem.
And the media griping about Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis even in the German "quality" press is at the level of the American press corps chasing the latest Clinton pseudoscandal.

Renee Maltezou and Costas Pitas report for Reuters (Greece rejects 'blackmail', seeks meeting with top EU leaders 03/17/2015):

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to meet top European leaders at this week's EU summit, a Greek official said on Tuesday, as Athens insisted it would not be 'blackmailed' over its debt crisis.

Greece risks running out of cash within weeks but its EU partners, angered by the new government's fiery rhetoric against its international bailout, have frozen financial aid until it shows it is implementing reforms.
This is Merkel putting major pressure on Greece. But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras isn't backing down:

Appealing for European solidarity, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis called on Greece's partners to help release the country from a trap.

"The country is in a position like that of Sisyphus — a man condemned to roll a boulder to the top of a hill, only to see it roll down again," he said in an article co-authored with Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and deputy minister for international economic relations Euclid Tsakalotos in the Financial Times.

"We risk condemning an entire generation to a future without hope. To avoid that, what we ask from our eurozone partners is to treat Greece as an equal and help us escape from this Sisyphean trap."
Tsipras' government is also reminding his EU partners that there are various diplomatic options for Greece. Deutsche Welle English reports (Greece pulls forward Moscow meeting 03/17/2015):

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was already scheduled to visit Moscow in May for the annual Victory Day parade celebrating the capitulation of the Nazis to the Red Army. On Tuesday, he announced that he was making another visit to Russia - a full month ahead of schedule.

"The prime minister will visit the Kremlin following an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin," said a government source without giving a reason for pulling the meeting forward.

Tsipras has made no secret of seeking closer ties to Russia, and a number of Greek officials have openly broached the subject of Athens turning to Russia or China for financial assistance if loan talks with the EU end in failure.
You're doing a heckuva job with your European policies, Angie, a heckuva job!

Deutsche Welle English also reports that Tsipras got the meeting with senior EU officials he was seeking for later this week (Bernd Riegert, Greece on the agenda - again 03/17/2015):

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras prevailed after all: it looks like he's being given the opportunity to address the Greek debt crisis at the upcoming EU summit on Thursday and Friday.

Current EU Council President Donald Tusk had previously refused to put the issue on the agenda, but after a flurry of phone calls between Tsipras, Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, there might very well be a special meeting on the sidelines of the summit. According to Greek Radio, it would include Tsipras, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ECB chief Mario Draghi and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Greece's Alexis Tsipras is coming to Berlin next week

The specter of a disintegration of the eurozone seems to be focusing some minds and panicking others.

Which reaction turns out to be the most sensible depends on the results. The reasoning from either focus or fear that leads to the abandonment of the Hebert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning austerity policies will be the one most likely to save the eurozone.

Angela Merkel has invited Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Berlin for Monday of next week for talks with her. (Merkel lädt Tsipras nach Berlin ein Süddeutsche Zeitung 16.März.2015)

In general, Tsipras meeting with Merkel to discuss solutions to the Greek depression is a good thing. As Jamie Galbraith told Roger Strassburg in January (Mark Thoma, 'The Prospects and Consequences of a Possible Syriza Government' Economist's View 01/23/2015; Greek Prime Minister Tsipras to visit Germany Deutsche Welle 16.03.2015):

Speaking now, as I have been all along, for myself here, I've always as a general rule felt that one negotiates with people you disagree with, not with people you agree with, and you negotiate in good faith. It's an obligation on both sides that you negotiate in good faith, otherwise there's no point in having the negotiation. And I would always choose as a negotiation partner a political authority that has real authority. Certainly the leader of Germany is a person in that position, I would say the most successful and dominant political personality in modern Europe. When you're negotiating, you negotiate with the top person. That makes you more likely to have a favorable result than if you negotiate with someone who is in a very weak internal position, and not able to make changes in policy. [my emphasis]
Merkel via the nominally independent ECB has been putting new pressure on Greek officials over the last week to knuckle under to her maximum demands, which would result in keeping the severe Greek depression going indefinitely.

Paul Krugman wonders if Merkel and the other Very Serious People in the EU hierarchy aren't badly misreading their real situation. In Things To Do When You’re Dead To Davos 03/13/2015, he writes:

A few years ago, debtor-country governments might have gone along with austerity in the real belief that it would pay off in the form of a strong recovery. But the alleged technocrats of Brussels have lost all credibility on that front. Furthermore, while center-right governments are in some cases managing to hold on politically by posing as the only people who can do the painful but necessary stuff, center-left parties that take on the role of agents of austerity have imploded, in some cases essentially disappearing from the scene.

That said, as I’ve noted before, individual politicians — center-right especially, but center-left in some cases — may do OK personally even if their policies are wildly unpopular; they can become fixtures at Davos, look forward to appointments at the Commission or other European institutions. This has, I’d argue, acted as a deterrent to feeding the populist backlash voters are ever more ready to endorse.

But the current Greek government isn’t center-left, and its leading figures are never going to reemerge as Davos Man. For them, success must come in the form of support from their own voters rather than an international elite.
And he says of the current situation in which Merkel still seems to be trying to crush Greece into submission, "this is getting dangerous."

The arrogance of Merkel and her subservient Social Democratic partners in European affairs is illustrated in this report, Schulz: Greek ruling coalition 'a mistake' Deutsche Welle 15.03.2015. Martin Schulz is the EU Parliamentary President as is part of the European Social Democratic party caucus. His home party in Germany, the SPD, is the junior partner in Angela Merkel's coalition government. And Schulz is a loyal Angie-bot. The Deutsche Welle article reports:

The German-born president of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, says he thinks the coalition of left and right-wing parties in the Greek government is not working. The EU is locked in drawn-out talks over Greek reform. ...

"I think the current coalition of the left party with these right-wing populists is a mistake," Schulz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine. The radical leftist Syriza, the party which swept to victory in January and which Tsipras leads, governs Greece with the right-wing Independent Greeks.

The Independent Greeks leader, Panos Kammenos - Greece's defense minister - on Saturday accused Germany of "interfering" in its domestic affairs. His criticism was aimed at German Finance Minister Schäuble, who earlier warned of a "Grexident," which could push Athens out of the euro.
This is standard political mischief, with Schulz trying to tar Tsipras and his SYRIZA Party with the "right-wing populist" label. SYRIZA has 149 seats in Parliament, two short of a majority. The Anel junior partner party has 13. As I wrote when the governing coalition was formed, both parties are pro-European and both opposed to Merkel's ruinous austerity policies. (SYRIZA makes a governing coalition in Greece/Alexis Tsipras sworn in as Prime Minister 01/26/2015)

If Greece were to dissolve the current government and hold new elections, it's likely that SYRIZA would win a solid majority in Parliament and could govern on their own. In fact, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has suggested that as an option in the last few days, and his German negotiating partners understand that as a threat. They certainly don't want a SYRIZA government with an even stronger domestic position than it has now. So Schulz is just blowing smoke with that rhetorical tack.

Donald Tusk, current President of the European Council, also seems to think (in Krugman's words), "this is getting dangerous." (Interview mit Präsidenten des Europäischen Rats: Tusk befürchtet Katastrophe für die EU Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.03.2015)

Tusk says it would be an "idiotic scenario" to push Greece out of the eurozone.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A new - and more than dubious - charge against Argentina over Venezuela and Iran

Haaretz is carrying a JTA (Jewish Telegraph Agency) story that makes me wonder if the US government isn't actively collaborating in some kind of "regime change" operating in Argentina, Iran's 'deal' with Argentine president: Campaign funding for quiet about bombing 03/15/2015.

Since Argentine President Cristina Fernández' constitutional term ends this year and she's leaving office, there's wouldn't seem to be any obvious urgency about ousting her from office.

But politics doesn't always operate rationally, to put it mildly. The experience of the kirchmerismo policy of CFK and her late husband and predecessor as President Néstor Kirchner has been a major challenge to the neoliberal "Washington Consensus" economic model, and a successful one. The vulture funds' fight over Argentina's debt, most visibly lead by hedge fund zillionaire Paul Singer, one of the largest individual contributors to the Republican Party, has give the well-heeled vulture funds interest group particular reason to attack and discredit Cristina, even this late in her final term.

In Argentina, the opposition is scattered and divided, currently looking an uphill fight against whatever candidate Cristina's Peronist Partido Justicialista and its electoral coalition the Frente para la Victoria (FpV) put up to succeed her. The two major media monopolies of the newspapers Clarín and La Nación are both furious at CFK for legislation she sponsored limiting their ability to expand their monopolies.

On top of all this, American and Israeli hawks wanting a war with Iran are very concerned to keep as a propaganda point the as-yet-unproven claim that Iran was behind the deadly 1994 bombing attack on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The prosecutor investigating the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, died in January of an apparently suicide after bringing a formal charge against CFK for allegedly trying to block the investigation of Iranian suspects in the AMIA bombing. The charge itself was obviously frivolous, and the Argentine courts quickly tossed it out. (I've blogged on this numerous times since January.)

But the opposition has seized on this case and run with it despite the frivolity of the Nisman's charge against her. Conservative members of the judiciary have taken an unusual, highly public role in solidarity with the political opposition using this issue as a pretext. CFK and her supporters have taken to calling this faction the Judicial Party. And at least some part of the Nisman gambit against her was encouraged and facilitated by anti-CFK members of the intelligence services (SI), which until the last few weeks has not faced a major reform and has been known to harbor people still sympathetic in some way to the military dictatorship of 1976-83. Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, an SI holdover from the days of the dictatorship, has received particular attention in this regard in 2015.

Daniel CancelPablo Rosendo Gonzalez report for Bloomberg Business, Argentina Calls Ex-Spy to Testify: Challenge Is Now Finding Him 02/09/2015:

In his only known interview, conducted by phone with the weekly news magazine Noticias and published Dec. 16, Stiuso said he planned to retire when he reached 65. The same day the magazine was sent to newsstands, Fernandez removed the top officials at the intelligence agency, including Stiuso, though he wasn’t named publicly. The new head of intelligence, Oscar Parrilli said Feb. 5 that Stiuso retired on Jan. 5.
The Haaretz report from the JTA wire tells a tale involving three Venezuelans now evidently cooperating with the Obama Administration in their regime-change operation against Venezuela, which the Administration has official declared "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." They claim that Iran channeled funds for CFK's 2007 Presidential campaign through Venezuela in exchange for protecting Iranian officials from investigation and prosecution in the AMIA case.

Three problems leap out from the first paragraph of the story. The charge that Cristina was protecting Iranian suspects was central to Nisman's formal accusation thrown out by the Argentina courts, and there is no evidence for it. Nisman's specific charge was that CFK and her Foreign Minister had asked Interpol to remove their "red alerts" on several Iranian suspects. But the head of Interpol during that period said not only did they not push Interpol to drop the red alerts but, on the contrary, had continually pushed Interpol to locate them. Which is consistent with the very public position Cristina took in Argentina and before the United Nations.

The second problem is that the alleged Venezuelan connection with the non-existent effort by CFK to shield Iranian suspects was not part of Nisman's charge. This is the first time I've seen it broached.

Third, it ties in with a previous charge involving a fact, that a US-Venezuelan businessman, Guido Antonioni Wilson, was caught bringing 800 thousand US dollars into Argentina in August of 2007 undeclared. This case became a propaganda point against Venezuela, allegedly showing their interference in other Latin American countries. The incident came at a time that Argentina was in an important negotiations about energy imports from Venezuela. This is a 2007 New York Times report on the incident: Alexei Barrionuevo, Cash-Stuffed Suitcase Splits Venezuela and Argentina 08/14/2007.

Raúl Kollmann reported on the case in 2012 for Página/12, Antonini podría recuperar media valija 12.06.2012:

Los sucesivos jueces nunca dieron por acreditado que el principal funcionario que venía en ese avión, Claudio Uberti, supiera que Antonini traía ese dinero. Uberti era titular del Organo de Control de Concesiones Viales (Occovi), pero en verdad casi ejercía de embajador en el tema más acuciante de ese momento: las negociaciones por la importación de combustibles desde Venezuela. En el expediente no se encontraron pruebas sólidas de un vínculo entre Uberti y Antonini, y se convalidó que el venezolano fue subido al avión por pedido de Uzcátegui, funcionario de Pdvsa. Los jueces y fiscales argentinos que actuaron en el expediente pidieron la extradición de Antonini y también de Uzcátegui, pero ni Estados Unidos ni Venezuela accedieron. Es más: el gobierno norteamericano informó oficialmente el mes pasado que no extraditaría a Antonini. Venezuela nunca contestó.

En Estados Unidos, el caso derivó en un sonado juicio en el que allegados a Antonini fueron acusados de ser agentes del gobierno de Hugo Chávez. Fue un proceso que sirvió en esencia para hacer publicidad contra la administración venezolana y, curiosamente, se le aceptó a Antonini la excusa de que el dinero no era de él sino que eran fondos de Chávez para la campaña presidencial de 2007 de Cristina Kirchner. La hipótesis era todavía más asombrosa si se considera que Chávez llegó a la Argentina al día siguiente del vuelo en el que aterrizó Antonini, y si ése era el objetivo, habría traído los fondos en los dos aviones de su comitiva, que tenían protección diplomática y no serían revisados. Otro dato que evidencia que el dinero era de Antonini es que el empresario registraba giros anteriores de Montevideo a Miami por cifras millonarias, y lo cierto es que en aquella oportunidad estuvo 48 horas en Buenos Aires para luego irse a Uruguay.

{The successive judges [in charge of the case in Argentina] never said on the record that the principal [Argentine] functionary that traveled in this place, Caludio Uberti, knew that Antonini was carrying this money. Uberti was the head of the Organo de Control de Concesiones Viales (OCCOVI), but in reality was almost acting as the Ambassador [to Venezuela] in the most urgent theme of that moment: the negotiations for the importation of fuel from Venezuela. in the documentation, no solid proof was found of a connection between Uberti and Antonini, and it confirmed that the Venezuelan [Antonioni] was placed on the flight at the request of Uzcátegui, official of PDVSA [the Venezuelan state oil company]. The judges and prosecutors that handled the documentation requested the extradition of Antonini [from the United States] and also of Uzcátegui [from Venezuela]. In addition: the American government made an official notification last month [May 2012] that it would not extradict Antonini. Venezuela never responded.

In the United States, the case stemmed from a much-discussed case in which intimates of Antonini were said to be agents of the government of Hugo Chávez. It was a trial that served in essence to make publicity against the Venezuelan administration and, curiously, accepted Antonini's excuse that that money was not his but rather from fund of Chávez for the 2007 Presidential campaign of Cristina Kirchner. The hypothesis was even more astonishing when one considers that Chávez arrived in Argentina the following day after the flight in which Antonini landed, and if that were the objective, he [Chávez] could have brought the funds in the two place of his retinue which had diplomatic protection and would not have been searched. Another datum that indicates that the was was Antonini's is that the businessman registered previous flight from Montivideo to Miami with sums of million, and it is certain that in that opportunity in Buenos Aires for 48 hours to later go to Uruguay.}
This is a reminder that incidents like this, once they get incorporated into a propaganda narrative against an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" can keep popping up for years, even decades, as an ostensible reason for taking controversial actions. In this instance, there is a possibly-true but unproven claim about a 1994 terrorist attack (AMIA) in Argentina newly married to a nearly eight-year-old chestnut about Venezuelan meddling in Argentine politics used as a propaganda club against Argentina's current President. From the Haaretz story:

The Brazilian magazine Veja on Saturday reported that the deal, brokered by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, also provided the Iranians with nuclear know-how.

“I need you to broker with Argentina for aid to my country’s nuclear program. We need Argentinians to share their knowledge on nuclear technology; without this collaboration it is impossible to advance our program,’ Ahmadinejad told Chavez on Jan 13, 2007, according to the testimony of three former Chavez Cabinet members who now live in the United States and are collaborating in crime investigation.

“Don’t worry about the expenses required for this operation. Iran will support everything necessary to persuade the Argentines. I have another issue. I need you to discourage the Argentinians from insisting that Interpol capture the authorities of my country,” added the Iranian president, according to the report. Chavez agreed.

The Treasury Venezuela bought $6 billion in Argentina’s bonds to cover its debt in 2007 and 2008. The Argentine government also received cash for the agreement. One of three former Venezuelan officials said that the famous suitcase of Guido Antonioni Wilson, containing $ 800,000 which he brought into the country without claiming, came from the Iranian regime and was bound for the presidential campaign of Cristina Kirchner and that Chavez was just the middlemen.
This story is very shaky to put it mildly. The charge that Argentina was collaborating with Iran is one that I've not heard before and haven't researched. Politically, though, that seems to be an escalation of diplomatic hostility by the US against Argentina for this story to emerge in this fashion, however shaky its factual foundation is.