Your New Nevada Assembly Speaker…

According to an investigation by the Reno News & Review, as summarized in The Atlantic (excerpted below), Nevada State Assembly Speaker-elect Ira Hansen is a full-on neo-Confederate, in his own self-authored and self-recorded words over a two decade period to present:

​The News & Review published excerpts in which he opines, among other things, that women shouldn’t serve in the military “except in certain roles,” that “homosexuals” often downplay the “grossly disproportionate numbers of child molesters, called ‘pederasts,’ which fill their ranks,” and that the Clinton administration was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. His most eye-opening remarks, however, are about African Americans.

“The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies,” Hansen once wrote in a column about education reform. “For American blacks, being denied choice and forced to attend the failing and inferior government school system is a form of involuntary servitude.” His use of the epithet “negroes” extended beyond historical metaphor to refer to black state legislators and to the current president of the United States.

Hanson’s thoughts on slavery do not end there. “The lack of gratitude and the deliberate ignoring of white history in relation to eliminating slavery is a disgrace that Negro leaders should own up to,” he once wrote. Paradoxically, Hansen also pays homage to the slaver aristocracy that fought to keep millions of black men, women, and children in chains. When discussing the Confederate battle flag on display in his office, Hansen wrote, “I fly it proudly in honor and in memory of a great cause and my brave ancestors who fought for that cause.”

I take it he shares fellow Nevadan Cliven Bundy’s lack of that anti-Confederate spirit the state’s founders so enthusiastically tried to foster as Nevada entered the Union mid-war. They’re clearly bosom buddies in blatant racism and condescension toward Black Americans.

As the News & Review explained, his elevation to power was a long time in the works, despite it coming as a bit of a shock, because of the rise of the party’s radicals in every level of party authority in Nevada, which has been charted for quite some time:

The GOP members passed over Assembly Republican leader Pat Hickey of Reno to choose Hansen. It was treated as a victory for the more radical wing of the party, which took over the Clark County and state party organizations in 2012, cutting presidential candidate Mitt Romney loose from state GOP support.

While members of the GOP caucus talked about a united front, they selected as speaker a legislator who is one of the most contentious public officials in the state. Hansen doesn’t like blacks, gays, Israel, many Republicans, and most Nevadans—he once wrote that newcomers to the state, who constitute four of every five Nevadans, should accept Nevada as it is or leave.

Hansen has opposed Republican presidential nominees Robert Dole and Mitt Romney (“way too liberal”), and other Republicans at lower levels.


Civilian Kafando takes Faso presidency, but with military premier

Yesterday, Burkina Faso made the next step in its transition with Michel Kafando, the country’s former longtime UN Ambassador, being formally sworn in as the civilian Interim President until elections are held next November.

However, in a troubling development announced Wednesday, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida — who headed the military government for three week’s following the October 31 and November 1 coups, was appointed Interim Prime Minister, the crucial post which will actually appoint all the cabinet ministers for the coming year.

Civilians consider Zida’s appointment as a betrayal of their “revolution” and Guy Herve Kam, spokesman for the Citizen Broom association said “we are worried, but that’s all.”

There are reports that Western diplomats have advised against Zida’s nomination.

A senior military official revealed that the military and the politicians had a gentleman agreement. He said that “it was on this understanding that we gave the post of president… to civilians.”

In another worrying turn, it was revealed that the Transitional Charter governing the country for the next twelve months will include an interim legislature, as opposed to the restoration of the existing (elected) National Assembly, suspended by the military during the coup. That would make sense if the principle of the move was to rectify the fact that the Assembly’s composition is heavily skewed toward the ruling party of former dictator Blaise Compaoré, except that we have no idea who will choose its members. And that’s a bad sign…

As traced on this blog in the past three weeks, initially promising suggestions of a representative process to choose an interim president from suggestions by a wide range of interest groups and constituencies ended up simply evolving into the military submitting a short list of candidates (with a clear preference for Kafando), followed by the appointment of the coup leader to the prime minister’s post. We can reasonably expect a similarly flawed selection process for the temporary legislature, with a heavy hand of the military behind the scenes.

However, as I argued previously, it’s still possible (though unlikely) that this is less a power grab and more a recognition of political realities in a country stunted by 27 years of one-man-one-party rule and fractured opposition:

In fact, I’m not fully convinced that a stable transition is even possible in Burkina Faso without substantial military involvement (and heavy supervision from the international community). On the one hand, military-guided transitions to democracy have a super high failure rate (not sure if that’s adjusted for economics though); so that’s an argument for a rapid transfer. But on the other hand, Burkina Faso has 40+ political parties, an absurd and borderline non-functional constitution (now suspended by the military), no legitimate successor to the presidency, and so on. Thus, I’m kind of thinking the military might actually be the only valid option here for overseeing the transition, as it serves as a unifying factor cutting across competing affiliations.

I just don’t think Zida can be trusted any more, if he ever could, now that he’s maneuvered himself into the premiership, a job he has no place being — both in terms of governance experience and in terms of permitting a legitimate transition to democratic, civilian rule.

And then there’s this reminder from Reuters:

Zida, previously considered a close ally of the president, received counter-terrorism training in the United States in 2012 on recommendation from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou. He attended a second U.S. military course in Botswana.


500 “targeted” killings since 9/11

Worth noting.

As of today, the United States has now conducted 500 targeted killings (approximately 98 percent of them with drones), which have killed an estimated 3,674 people, including 473 civilians. Fifty of these were authorized by President George W. Bush, 450 and counting by President Obama. Noticeably, these targeted killings have not diminished the size of the targeted groups according to the State Department’s own numbers.

Shameful, ineffective, permanently damaging.

And heavy drones usage is trend that’s probably going to get way worse:

Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.
Britain, Israel and Norway are already deploying missiles and drones that carry out attacks against enemy radar, tanks or ships without direct human control. After launch, so-called autonomous weapons rely on artificial intelligence and sensors to select targets and to initiate an attack.

Britain’s “fire and forget” Brimstone missiles, for example, can distinguish among tanks and cars and buses without human assistance, and can hunt targets in a predesignated region without oversight. The Brimstones also communicate with one another, sharing their targets.


MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt via Wikimedia)

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt via Wikimedia)

House GOP investigation: No Benghazi coverup. (Duh.)

Seventh investigation is the charm. Oh wait, nope, same result: No improper response and no coverup.

From the Associated Press (with my bolding):

A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. […] The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel.

Congrats for wasting our time and money ginning up a ridiculous conspiracy theory that everyone (who isn’t a seething moron) already knew was untrue.


The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

*Smashes head into desk until senseless.*

Meanwhile, in the land of actual things in real life, the city of Benghazi is on the verge of falling to an unrecognized Islamist-aligned government’s militia, while nearby Derna just became an ISIS exclave in Libya.

But I’m sure they’ll call for years of pointless investigations into that too, after it’s all over, once they’ve finished milking the fictional angles of this tragedy to stir up the base.


Italy’s economy: Cocaine and prostitutes to the rescue!

One of the key features of the European Union and eurozone currency system, as outlined in the early 1990s, is that member country’s would be expected to keep their budget deficits low and their public debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios reasonably under control. On the latter indicator, the debt is the numerator and can be changed by increasing or decreasing borrowing (and by extension, of course, annual spending). The GDP makes up the denominator and rises or falls as the national economy grows or shrinks. Changing either part affects the ratio.

The reason for such controls being imposed by the various European Union treaties is to limit currency value fluctuations in one country that will necessarily affect the currency’s value in another country also on the euro that might have a different set of economic concerns.

italian-republic-emblem-largeUnfortunately, one of the persistent features of Italy specifically has been high debt and low growth. In mid-2013, even after several years of cutbacks, the Italian debt to GDP ratio as a percentage was 130% (meaning the total debt was 30% larger than the entire calculated value of the Italian economy).

Moreover, GDP was growing on average at 0% a year (often actually negative in practice) in the fifteen years from 1998 to 2013. Similarly, annual deficit to GDP ratio targets demanded by the European Union were also not being met. And yet, the EU wanted the ratios reduced further, even though additional rapid cuts in the numerator (total debt or annual deficit, depending on the ratio in question) might start shrinking the denominator (the economy size), thus leaving the ratio more or less unchanged.

Enter the unelected Prime Minister Matteo Renzi — the former Mayor of Florence (and Italy’s youngest prime minister ever, even including Mussolini) — who dramatically assumed control of the country in February. His Finance Ministry has hit upon a brand new solution to help solve the problem in time for the next round of budgeting.

When your supranational federation orders you to rein in your deficit-to-GDP ratios, you can either slash all spending haphazardly until the deficit size falls to an acceptable level — the usual approach — or you can blow up your GDP massively by piling into your calculation everything under the sun, including hookers and blow. YAY MATH!


Drugs, prostitution and smuggling will be part of GDP as of 2014 and prior-year figures will be adjusted to reflect the change in methodology, the Istat national statistics office said today. The revision was made to comply with European Union rules, it said.

Renzi, 39, is committed to narrowing Italy’s deficit to 2.6 percent of GDP this year, a task that’s easier if output is boosted by portions of the underground economy that previously went uncounted. Four recessions in the last 13 years left Italy’s GDP at 1.56 trillion euros ($2.13 trillion) last year, 2 percent lower than in 2001 after adjusting for inflation.

“Even if the impact is hard to quantify, it’s obvious it will have a positive impact on GDP,” said Giuseppe Di Taranto, economist and professor of financial history at Rome’s Luiss University. “Therefore Renzi will have a greater margin this year to spend” without breaching the deficit limit, he said.

And that’s the big, dirty secret of the concept of GDP, as well as GDP-based targets: They are blunt instruments that depend at heart on a necessarily arbitrary system of measurement, which can be manipulated in the official figures in any given country by including or excluding various sectors of the economy — particularly in the gray or black markets.
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Report: Tear gas used in Nigeria parliament

BBC Africa today:

Nigerian security forces have fired tear gas inside parliament, just before a crucial debate on security in the conflict-ridden north-east.

Reports say the police were trying to stop House of Representatives speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering. Mr Tambuwal defected to the opposition [APC party] from the ruling PDP last month. His former colleagues have since argued he should be stripped of his speaker role.

(Police denied using tear gas, but the photos I saw clearly showed some type of gas or smoke canister had been used.)

Recently, Speaker Tambuwal briefly threw his hat in the ring for the next presidential election before dropping out earlier this week to run instead for Governor of the far-northwestern Sokoto State and clear the field for a single APC presidential candidate. He had adjourned his chamber following his defection to the opposition, to avoid being ousted from the speakership by the ruling PDP, which I think has now been narrowly surpassed in the chamber by the opposition APC. The House had only been called back into session today for a special vote.

In addition to the deployment of tear gas, there was an extended confrontation between security forces and the Speaker (along with his followers), according to the Premium Times of Nigeria:

Mr. Tambuwal had earlier managed to drive through the first gate of the complex before his convoy was stopped at the second gate.

After several minutes, Mr. Tambuwal was later allowed in after he abandoned his car and escort vehicles at the gate.

Other lawmakers, mainly from the All Progressives Congress, APC, were also stopped from driving through the second gate.

At least 15 APC lawmakers scaled the assembly fence to access the building, our correspondent at the assembly said.

Mr. Tambuwal was later stopped at the third gate, and was finally allowed in after a prolonged argument with security operatives.

Witnesses say lawmakers came out of the assembly, overpowered the security, and damaged the third gate to allow the speaker in.

Eventually, the Speaker and his supporters made it inside anyway, but reportedly (Daily Post of Nigeria) no vote was held in the chamber on the key measure.

The BBC again, to explain the significance:

Parliamentarians were due to debate a presidential bill seeking the extension of the state of emergency in three states hardest hit by the militant group Boko Haram. BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman says many opposition MPs opposed the extension of the state of emergency because they say it has failed to bring an end to the insurgency.

The National Assembly has been closed until Tuesday in response to the events today. The Senate failed to pass an extension as well, suggesting it may not pass at all.

Map of Nigerian states attacked by Boko Haram from 2010-2013. An ongoing state of emergency exists across three northern states. (Credit: Nerika - Wikimedia)

Map of Nigerian states attacked by Boko Haram from 2010-2013. An ongoing state of emergency exists across three northern states. (Credit: Nerika – Wikimedia)

Zimbabwe purge imminent?

Joyce Mujuru, the main (or most direct) rival for Zanu-PF ruling party control against Robert Mugabe’s wife in the increasingly public battle to become then next president of Zimbabwe, has been accused by state media of plotting to kill President Mugabe. I assume this accusation means she is about to be purged on trumped charges, possibly along with key supporters, thus securing Mrs. Mugabe’s succession (or at least narrowing the field to eliminate direct competition for the same base).

Al Jazeera:

Zimbabwe’s vice president Joice Mujuru has said that she is taking legal action against pro-government newspapers that accused her of corruption and plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.

“I am accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the legitimate Zimbabwean government led by His Excellency RG Mugabe,” Mujuru said her in first full response to charges against her in the state media, including recent reports that she is leading a plot to assassinate the leader.

“I deny any and all allegations of treason, corruption, incompetence and misuse of public office being routinely made against me in The Herald and The Sunday Mail newspapers.”

She said she consulted her “legal practitioners to take the necessary steps at law to restore my good reputation, political standing and dignity”.


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