Former Ukraine PM released from prison, a new beginning?

The embattled former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from prison in the middle of what appears to be a monumental shift in government in the former Soviet republic.

A stark contrast from her usual publicity photos pre-prison, the wheelchair-bound former head of government broke down in tears when she announced that her countrymen were “heroes, [and are] the best of Ukraine.”

No stranger to political revolution, the then-recently defended Ph.D. student was instrumental in bringing about the Orange Revolution, a political shift that brought her and her political coalition, “Bloc Yulia,” to power in Ukraine, becoming Prime Minister, and Forbes-rated third most powerful woman in the world, behind then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Communist China’s Vice Premier Wu Yi.

With the release of Tymoshenko, the sitting President’s effective political enemy, does this signal a true shift of power within the former Soviet state; or just a simple placation move while the President figures out his next move from a Russia-bordering stronghold?

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Detroit Skyline. Courtesy of Mike Boening www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

Detroit Bankruptcy… Why is this such a big deal? I will tell you…

Yesterday, at 4:07PM, on approval from Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr ordered the City of Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection under Title XI of the USC.  Sure.  Other cities have done this before — and people and businesses do it every day, but what’s the big deal?

The big deal is simple: Detroit is the largest municipality in history to declare itself insolvent.  This not only is going to be a major rule-writing moment in American legal history, but also has the potential to do as much harm as it does good over the long term.

The long term positives are fairly simple: Detroit, if successful, will be relieved of most of it’s obligations, and many of the others will be repaid at drastically reduced amounts, as ordered by a federal bankruptcy judge.  This will allow Detroit to begin paying its bills — without borrowing to do so, as it has for the past decade.  This is a good thing.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

The bad news is what gets cut.  The Emergency Manager of Detroit made it clear that his priorities were people first, then creditors — meaning he wanted to protect pay, pensions and benefits for workers and retirees of the City of Detroit as much as he could.  He made this abundantly clear; but stated it was not off the table.  Creditors and contractors would be the next priority.  Creditors didn’t take kindly to this, and indeed, made THAT also clear.

Before all this can happen though, the filing sets in motion several things: the first is immediate relief from creditors.  As of the moment the bankruptcy was filed, for the moment, creditors lost all rights to any money for the time being.  This can, if the Judge allows, give Detroit enough relief to pay what’s necessary to keep it running: it’s employees, contractors and even things like the light bills.  What’s next, and likely beginning to happen today, is the investigation by the court of wether or not Detroit CAN qualify for a Title XI bankruptcy.  Just because one files doesn’t mean one qualifies.  This sets into motion a massive audit of EVERY creditor of every DOLLAR owed BY the City — likely including employees as well.  Next, creditors to the city have a right to appeal, and will likely use the excuse that the City/Emergency Manager negotiated in bad faith, just to hold the process up — as it’s their legal right to do so.  Assuming the City is found to be eligible, the Judge then decides what gets the axe, what gets paid, and who gets paid in what amounts; as likely, those who do get paid (speaking in the terms of creditors and contracts) will likely get paid only a portion, if not a FRACTION, of what they’re owed.

Because this move essentially lays waste to Detroit’s already junk-level bond and credit, the move also will not at all inspire confidence in businesses in Detroit, particularly those who DO business with Detroit.  My major fear is large employers will wind up packing up, and saying “So long, Detroit — it was a nice ride, we wish you the best of luck.”  Not only is this further revenue from taxes and spending lost, just one or two larges businesses to do so could inspire other businesses OR people to flee as well.  A CLEAR vote of no-confidence by the business sector if it were to happen.

Make no mistake, we’re witnessing history — the municipal equivalent of Lehman Brothers is happening as we  speak; which will write books and rules on how to accomplish such a bankruptcy in the future.

I see a Title XI as a mixed blessing for Detroit.  The good — DEFINITELY comes with the bad here.

“We have a great city, but a city going down hill for the last 60 years,” he said at an evening press conference. He said 38% of the city’s budget is being spent on “legacy costs,” such as pensions and debt service. He said police take almost an hour to respond to calls, compared to a national average of 11 minutes, and that 40% of street lights in the city are turned off.  That’s unacceptable,”
    — Kevyn Orr
    Emergency Manager, City of Detroit

Detroit city skyline shot courtesy of Mike Boening
www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

Guantanamo Bay Prison — The 21st Century Manzanar?

ImageThe more and more I give thought to it — the more and more I wonder if history will look back on our generation, and judge the indefinite imprisonment of those at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as our version of Manzanar.

Japanese Issei, Nisei or Sansei were often the most targeted group for forced relocation during World War II — relocated almost strictly due to their lineage, family ties, or just because they even looked Japanese.  Other groups were forced to relocate as well, but Japanese Issei and Nisei were the groups targeted the most.

Thankfully, none of the prisoners at Guantanamo are children or family members; but many similarities exist: they are not afforded a civil trial, as the prisoners have been designated as “unlawful military combatants,” in that while they are not a member of a recognized, uniformed military service, they either conduct, have been trained to conduct, or otherwise engage in or support militarized warfare.  However, interestingly enough, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch maintain that the United States has not held the Article 5 tribunals required by the Geneva Conventions. The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that, “Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law.”

I do give the United States Intelligence Community credit when I say that they are privy to information about these people that we, as civilians, do not know.  It’s quite possible these people are as dangerous as the US Government says they are — why otherwise hold them?  But…  why is there a[n apparent] lack of jurisprudence for these people?  Do those who fall between the cracks of the law just sit there, and wait for a trial that may never come?  Will history look back on Guantanamo Bay Detention as a necessary evil, and something that kept the United States safe?

Or…

Image

…will it be a stain of blood on our hands that even time can’t wash away?