World

Judges as Defendants, Directors as Judges

The Law in These Parts asks tough questions about the role of the courts in Israeli settlement policy.

Praxis Films

This time, it seems, justice has won: The West Bank settlement outpost of Migron must be demolished. So ruled the Israeli Supreme Court this week.

Summers' Colleague Criticizes Kim

(AP Photo / Michael Dwyer)

Larry Summers has been unnaturally silent on President Obama’s surprise decision to pass him over for the World Bank presidency in favor of Dartmouth University president and public health hero Jim Yong Kim. Well, one of Summers’ closest chums at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Lant Pritchett, has now gone public with a scorching blast at Kim. Pritchett told Forbes magazine, “It’s an embarrassment to the U.S. You cannot with a straight face say this person is the most qualified to lead the World Bank.”

Americans Want Out of Afghanistan

(Flickr/The U.S. Army)

The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire.

A Surprise World Bank Pick

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

President Barack Obama startled handicappers by selecting Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim as the U.S. candidate to lead the World Bank rather than the reported front-runner Larry Summers, Obama's former National Economic Council director.

The Korean-born Kim is a medical doctor, anthropologist, and MacArthur fellow, best known for his pioneering work to fight HIV and tuberculosis in the Third World. Kim helped develop treatments for drug-resistant TB, and then successfully pushed to reduced the cost of anti-TB drugs. He is close associate of Dr. Paul Farmer, the lead founder of Partners in Health and subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

What’s Right with This Picture?

Getty Images

Lately, I’ve been very Eeyore-ish about women’s lives. There’s plenty of reason for that. Ruth Rosen nicely lays out the backlash against women’s reproductive lives in her article about the current counter-reformation, as she puts it, against women’s bodily autonomy. Of course, any attempt to roll back women’s reproductive rights is an attack on women’s economic independence, since women can only control their educational and financial lives if they can control their fertility.

Fingers Crossed for Greece

The second Greek bailout gets the green light, but the country isn't out of the woods.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

The successful conclusion last Friday of the PSI (Private Sector Involvement), the bond exchange process for Greece’s private creditors, was good news—both for the country and for the eurozone. Voluntary participation in the deal reached 85.8 percent (out of a total of 206 billion euros in Greek government bonds which were up for exchange). The level of participation reached 95.7 percent with the decision to activate the Collective Action Clauses (CAC) recently added to the legal contracts governing 177 billion euros of bonds under Greek law, forcing recalcitrant creditors to participate in the process. This means a 105 billion euro gross reduction in Greek debt—out of a total of 368 billion.

A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance

Why are Obama trade negotiators pushing the extreme Trans-Pacific Partnership, and why is it being negotiated in such an untransparent manner?

AP Photo

It takes quite a “trade” agreement to undermine financial regulation, increase drug prices, flood us with unsafe imported food and products, ban Buy America policies aimed at recovery and redevelopment, and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards before tribunals of corporate lawyers. Trade, in fact, is the least of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Pacific Pivot

America needs to try something new when it comes to international trade.

(Flickr/James O'Sullivan)

On November 12, 2011, I listened as President Barack Obama told business leaders attending the Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu that “we’ve turned our attention back to the Asia Pacific region” and announced two vehicles for that return. These were the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, now under negotiation and to be concluded by the end of this year, and the Pivot to Asia, meaning a redeployment of American priorities and military forces away from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.

Not a Great Deal for Asia

The Trans-Pacific Partnership could end up hurting the broader economic interests of both the U.S. and smaller Asian nations.

(Flickr/images_of_money)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is best understood as President Barack Obama’s extension of the Bush-era doctrine of “competitive liberalization.” Frustrated with pushback at the World Trade Organization by nations like China, Brazil, India, and South Africa, the United States seeks a coalition of the willing to import a commercial framework that rewards private firms at the expense of the common good. That policy regime is ailing in the U.S. and gets worse when exported.

The Myth of the Level Playing Field

The boast that American workers are naturally superior to other workers and would therefore “win” in any fair competition is problematic at best and at worst, a pander to our national delusion of exceptionalism.

(Flickr/twintermute)

"Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you: America will always win.”  —Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 24, 2012

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the latest act in the tragic farce of American trade policy. Earlier versions included the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.–designed World Trade Organization, the opening of the U.S. market to China, and the signing of more than a dozen additional bilateral free-trade deals, including last year’s agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

Hold Off on the Obama Victory Dance

The president's re-election chances have improved, but Obama faces severe tests on energy and national security.

(Flickr/Tyler Driscoll/Obama for America)

Things have been breaking well for President Obama. Economically, job growth has outperformed expectations. The unemployment rate could be below 8 percent by Election Day. Politically, Republicans are engaged in the sort of demolition derby once reserved for Democrats. The protracted Hillary-Barack duel of 2008 seems like a love feast compared to the Mitt and Rick slugfest. All this is reflected in the president’s rising approval ratings.

However, Obama faces a daunting two-part challenge related to Iran’s nuclear assertions, with implications for both national security and sustainable energy. A misstep could cost him the presidency and cause the country to take a disastrously wrong turn in these two critical areas.

What's Up With All the MEK Ads?

If you’ve been watching cable news lately, there’s a good chance that you’ve noticed some out-of-the-ordinary adverts. Namely, a 30-second spot done in the grainy style of a spy-thriller flashback calling for the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group, to be taken off the official U.S. terrorist watch list. It’s a conspicuous outsider in the typical ad roster filled with car commercials and cholesterol meds, which might have led some viewers to wonder, “What’s up with that?”

Ask and ye shall receive.

What does the MEK purport to be?

As tabloid editors who traffic in celebrity divorces and teen-idol feuds well know, there are two sides to every juicy story. In the words of the commercial mentioned above, the “MEK is Iran’s democratic opposition working for a nuclear-free Iran founded on human rights.” The ad employs cinematically ominous music and a narrator whose vocal stylings are more stress-inducing than a pelvic exam, all to great effect. It closes with pictures of U.S. politicians and officials who have publicly supported the group, along with the imperative, “Secretary Clinton, for democracy and freedom in Iran, delist MEK.”

This sentiment is well in line with how supporters of the MEK portray the group—as a political movement with freedom-fighting roots going back to the overthrow of the shah. The MEK didn’t mesh well with Iran’s new Islamic government, however, (Marxist leanings appear to terrify powerful imams just as much as they do senators from Wisconsin), and its members were booted from the country in 1981.

When Bibi Met Barack

Netanyahu's evaluation of Iran is based on mythology. Can Obama hold him back?

(AP Photo/Ron Sax)

We mortals are not privy to a transcript of the meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. If we had one, it would not show whether the Israeli prime minister relaxed enough to smile at one of the president's jokes, or how long Netanyahu paused before answering if and when Obama said, "Do not start a war with Iran. Period." There was no joint statement afterward, reportedly because the American side knew in advance that the leaders did not agree on enough to fill a respectable press release. According to the leak from Netanyahu's team to every Israeli news organization, the prime minister told Obama that Israel had not yet decided whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Tinderbox in Israel

Discrimination against Palestinians in the country is reaching frightening levels. 

(Flickr/tamar_levine)

This is the second in a two-part series on Israel's policies toward its Palestinian minority. To read the first part, click here.

A few weeks ago an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset was interrupted repeatedly by a female member of a far right party. He finally told her to “shut up,” whereupon she stood up and poured a cup of water over his head.

The video went viral, and the joke was: “The only good Arab is a wet Arab.”

How to Contain a Nuclear Iran

Regime change is a pipe dream. Is there a way to keep peace in Tehran without it?

Four years ago, when then-Senator Barack Obama was locked in a tough battle for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, he did something candidates for national office in the United States almost never do: He offered sense rather than sensationalism on Iran. Proclaiming in a primary debate his willingness to meet with Iran’s reviled president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was not as radical as it seemed; indeed, every U.S. president since Iran’s 1979 revolution has sought negotiations with Tehran. But in the context of a country still polarized by the Iraq War, Obama’s offer sounded like a rookie mistake. His Democratic rival at the time, Hillary Clinton, described Obama’s stance as “irresponsible and, frankly, naïve,” and his Republican opponents were considerably less generous. Under fire, Obama chose to double down rather than back down, highlighting his commitment to diplomacy as emblematic of his intention to reboot America’s role in the world.

Pages