Latest Developments, May 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Arming Bahrain
Reuters reports that the US has decided to resume “some military sales” to Bahrain, despite heavy criticism of the Gulf state’s human rights record.
“The State Department did not give a total value for the items being released but emphasized that the equipment being approved was “not used for crowd control” as the majority Shi’ite community continues to protest against the Sunni royal family following a crackdown last year.
U.S. officials said among the sales now allowed to go forward would be harbor security vessels and upgrades to turbo-fan engines used in F-16 fighter aircraft as well as legislation which could pave the way for a future sale of a naval frigate.
Items still on hold, besides the missiles and the Humvees, include teargas, teargas launchers and stun grenades.”

Trayvon targets
Gawker reports that someone selling gun range targets designed to look like murdered Florida teen Trayvon Martin said the market response was “overwhelming” and the item sold out in two days.
“The Orlando-based [Local 6] news station says it spotted an ad for the targets — since removed — on a ‘popular firearms auction website.’ They feature a black hoodie similar to the one worn by Martin on the night he was shot by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, along with a drawing of a Skittles bag and a can of iced tea.”

Hurting one’s cause
Reuters reports that JPMorgan Chase’s $2 billion in losses have given new impetus to the push for greater regulation of the US banking sector.
“Analysts said it is not yet clear if the trades would have violated the forthcoming Volcker rule reform.
[CEO Jamie] Dimon has been critical of the Volcker rule, a provision in Dodd-Frank that will ban banks from proprietary trading, or trades that are made solely for their own profit.

On Friday, Democratic senators Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley, who wrote the legislative language on the Volcker rule, said the outstanding proposal is flawed because it would give banks the latitude to hedge against portfolio risk as opposed to individual positions.
‘That’s a big enough loophole that a Mack truck could drive right through it,’ Levin said during a conference call.”

Worse than useless
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie gives his take on what “all the talk of corporate social responsibility” is really worth when it comes to large-scale mining operations.
“The era of voluntary guidelines has not only been ineffective, it has been worse than useless. Although they may have led to incremental improvements in some areas, their real purpose has been to undermine attempts to develop effective legal sanction, both national and international, which is the only thing that will ultimately keep the destructive instincts of mega-wealthy companies at bay.”

New France?
Senegalese singer Baaba Maal assesses the significance of François Hollande’s election as new French president.
“I’m Senegalese and France is very connected to my country. France needs to open its eyes to the potential of its former colonies and to realise that these relationships have changed. People want to collaborate but with mutual respect. Whether that’s a respect for our culture, for our governments or for our business potential. It’s about sitting around the same table and talking together as equals. Of course our relationship hasn’t always been easy but we are in it together.”

Taliban poetry
The New York Times’ C.J. Chivers reviews a new collection of poetry written by Afghan insurgents.
“The Afghan war, of course, is a far broader phenomenon than its cemeteries, rifle skirmishes, house searches, airstrikes and bombs. The anthology covers wider themes, too, giving voice to many common Afghan complaints, including that the influx of Western cash has been corrupting to those who have received it and alienating to most everyone else.
I am astonished at this time of the dollars;
In poverty, I lost friendship.

Capitalist values
Essayist William Deresiewicz writes on the fundamental nature of capitalism and the policy implications of popular sentiment toward the wealthy.
“There are ethical corporations, yes, and ethical businesspeople, but ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic. To expect morality in the market is to commit a category error. Capitalist values are antithetical to Christian ones. (How the loudest Christians in our public life can also be the most bellicose proponents of an unbridled free market is a matter for their own consciences.) Capitalist values are also antithetical to democratic ones. Like Christian ethics, the principles of republican government require us to consider the interests of others. Capitalism, which entails the single-minded pursuit of profit, would have us believe that it’s every man for himself.”

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