The Long War Journal is a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neo-conservative think-tank in Washington, DC that has been shown to systematically underestimate information about the drone war.
A new study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes are “significantly and consistently underestimated” by tracking organizations which are trying to take the place of government estimates on casualties, which the Obama administration won’t comment on because the drone war is technically secret.
The study “warns that low civilian casualty estimates may provide false assurance to the public and policymakers that drone strikes do not harm civilians.” Many low-ball estimates – like those from Long War Journal and New America Foundation – are due to reliance on news reports, which “suffer from common flaws” like trusting “anonymous Pakistani government officials or unnamed witnesses for the claim that ‘militants’ – rather than civilians – were killed.”
But even if we take this probably low-ball estimate as a decent enough approximation of the truth, there is a huge problem in estimating how many of the 223 killed were civilians. The Long War Journal says that 19 percent were civilians.
But according to the New York Times, the Obama administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
In addition, as The Washington Postreported last week, the Yemeni government as a policy tries to conceal when US drones kill civilians, instead automatically and systematically describing the victims as al-Qaeda militants, regardless of the truth.
“Forget,” Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations sarcastically implores, “that most of the 223 people killed by US airpower in Yemen are not ‘the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists,’ but actually primarily engaged in a domestic insurgency.”
The US is taking out the domestic enemies of the Yemeni government – not individuals engaged in direct attacks on the United States.
“I’m particularly worried that the US drones in Yemen are being used to settle long-standing scores on the ground,” writes Yemen scholar Gregory D. Johnsen.
The US has bombed Yemen at least 42 times in 2012, up from an estimated 10 times in 2011. This, unsurprisingly, has prompted anger among the local populations and has coincided with a marked increase in the estimated number of al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.
“Our entire village is angry at the government and the Americans,” a Yemeni villager named Mohammed told the Post. “If the Americans are responsible, I would have no choice but to sympathize with al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda is fighting America.”
But the NDAA and the extended FISA should at least rouse the ire of Americans themselves: US citizens on US soil can now potentially be targeted. This is new, this is dangerous, right?
Well, no, not quite, as least as far as the interception of communications goes.
The Echelon system, exposed in 1988 by British journalist Duncan Campbell and reinvestigated in 1999, put in place just such a (legally dubious) mechanism for watching domestic citizens. The surveillance state was already in place, even if through a back door, as you can see from this article I wrote 4 years ago, which included the following paragraph:
ECHELON was an agreement between the NSA and its British equivalent GCHQ (as well as the agencies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) whereby they shared information they gathered on each others’ citizens. GCHQ could legally eavesdrop on people outside the UK without a warrant, so they could target US citizens of interest, then pass the product over to the NSA. The NSA then did the same for GCHQ. Thus both agencies could evade any democratic oversight and accountability, and still get the intelligence they wanted.
The only difference now is that FISA has come blasting through the front door, and yet people remain quiescent.
The devastating massacre that took place a few short weeks ago in Newtown moved hearts across the world. It also rekindled several debates, one of which had to do with the contrast between the West’s – fully understandable — horror at the mass death of children in Newtown, and the striking absence of an emotional response to the deaths of children “mistakenly” killed in U.S.-directed drone strikes. This debate has received a significant amount of attention in the blogosphere, and less attention in the overseas press. It has not been taken up at all by the United States mainstream press. Moreover, in contrast to gun control, no major political party is interested in curtailing the United States’ several drone wars, despite its highly dubious ethical and legal foundations.
This debate turns, then, on how we in the West perceive the violent deaths of these non-Western children. Two possible answers emerge. The first is to maintain that “their” children simply aren’t worth that much anyway. Hence, their deaths are insufficient grounds for concern. It is a racist perspective, but it is consistent. The second answer agrees that the violent death of any child, anywhere, is an equally terrible tragedy, as Falguni Sheth and Glenn Greenwald have argued. Yet, many holding this view also contend that while they would agree that a tragedy occurred in Newtown, a similar moral status should not be ascribed to the many children who are the “accidental” casualties—even when these are the routine and predictable consequence of drone strikes. To this line of thinking, the perception that a tragedy has occurred must turn upon the context of the death of the child and the motivation behind the killing. The mere fact that one or more children have died by violence is insufficient to establish that a tragedy has occurred. Consequently, the name ‘Adam Lanza’ is reviled for being the perpetrator of the Newtown massacre, but to suggest anything even remotely like a similar condemnation of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is to associate oneself with a “lunatic fringe.” Why is that? [READ]
… By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Jr. administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf and Africa under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against international terrorism; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect”. Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of two-thirds of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundament and energizer of the global economic system – oil and gas. The Bush Jr./ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. In this regard, the Bush Jr. administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species. Libya and the Libyans became the first victims to succumb to AFRICOM under the Obama administration. They will not be the last.
This current bout of U.S. imperialism is what Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal work Politics Among Nations (4th ed. 1968, at 52-53):
“The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination—a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind… “
It is the Unlimited Imperialists along the lines of Alexander, Rome, Napoleon and Hitler who are now in charge of conducting American foreign policy. The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like twin Swords of Damocles over the heads of all humanity.
“Workers have become so deeply indebted on their home mortgages, credit cards and other bank debt that they fear to strike or even to complain about working conditions. Losing work means missing payments on their monthly bills, enabling banks to jack up interest rates to levels that used to be deemed usurious. So debt peonage and unemployment loom on top of the wage slavery that was the main focus of class warfare a century ago. And to cap matters, credit-card bank lobbyists have rewritten the bankruptcy laws to curtail debtor rights, and the referees appointed to adjudicate disputes brought by debtors and consumers are subject to veto from the banks and businesses that are mainly responsible for inflicting injury. The aim of financial warfare is not merely to acquire land, natural resources and key infrastructure rents as in military warfare; it is to centralize creditor control over society. In contrast to the promise of democratic reform nurturing a middle class a century ago, we are witnessing a regression to a world of special privilege in which one must inherit wealth in order to avoid debt and job dependency.”—
In an audio recording released over the weekend, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has offered bounties to anyone who kills US Ambassador Gerald Feierstein and any US soldiers deployed inside Yemen.
The group says the bounties are good for six months, and are three kilograms of gold for Feierstein and $23,000 for any American soldier killed while inside Yemen.
The exact details of the US deployment to Yemen are unclear. The Pentagon admitted to US troops being attacked in Aden in March, the first time they’d even admitted troops were in Yemen at all. Since then special forces have deployed in “advisory” roles.
The US embassy has yet to comment on the bounties, but has repeatedly labeled AQAP as the “most dangerous” al-Qaeda auxiliary in the world.
“President Barack Obama has signed into law a five-year extension of the U.S. government’s authority to monitor the overseas activity of suspected foreign spies and terrorists [anyone]. The warrantless intercept program would have expired at the end of 2012 without the president’s approval. The renewal bill won final passage in the Senate on Friday.”—Obama Signs FISA Warrantless Wiretapping Program Extension Into Law
… But only because Democrats [and Republicans] want it to be part of the “Grand Bargain” in the debt ceiling battle coming up in February.
Off one table and onto another - this government and their fucking tables… And I’m really excited to watch another “debate” over raising the completely mythological “debt ceiling” after the excitement of the fiscal cliff and the exact same debate last year (also known as the “reality TV approach” to governance).
“I don’t think Gates and Zuckerberg are good role models for young people. And not just because they dropped out. It’s more subtle. Most kids who try to be the next billionaire entrepreneur will fail. There probably isn’t even one such success in the class of 2013. So most will be disappointed. And if we push the kids toward that, we will lead them to believe, mistakenly, that it’s enough to create a massive fortune. It is not enough. And if they fail to create the fortune, according to this standard, they will have failed in life. So, not only will we have set this generation up to fail, but we have just certified the mistake of past generations, that wealth itself has meaning. It has a lot less meaning, imho, than most people think.”—Thread: Silicon Valley is wrong about college (via ayjay)
“The jittery accounts of the accused men reveal dramatic stories of espionage: furtive meetings with handlers; disguising themselves as Taliban fighters, fruit sellers or even heroin addicts; payment of between $150 and $450 per drone strike; and placing American-supplied electronic tracking devices, often wrapped in cigarette foil, near the houses and cars of Qaeda fugitives. But the videos are also portraits of fear and confusion, infused with poignant, even darkly comic, moments. Curiously, some say they have been hired through Pakistani military intelligence officials who are identified by name, directly contradicting the Pakistan government’s official stance that it vehemently opposes the drone strikes.”—
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had attempted Saturday to use the “fiscal cliff” fight to advance a proposal to adopt a chained consumer price index—“chained CPI”—scheme that would slash cost-of-living increases for Americans who rely on Social Security and other government programs. The Obama administration had entertained the “chained CPI” switch earlier in December. But as the critical point when a deal to cut Social Security might have been made, Reid said “No.”
That simple rejection of the false premises of Paul Ryan and all the other fantasists who have tried to push Social Security over the “fiscal cliff”—and into the grips of the Wall Street speculators—confounded the political pawns and the “expert” pundits who imagined that “entitlement reforms” (Washington for Social Security cuts) were “inevitable.”
Within hours of Reid’s Sunday announcement, McConnell and the Republicans backed down and it was clear, finally, that Social Security was “off the table.”
Reid’s firm rejection of any cuts actually moved the negotiations forward — making clear to the Republicans that they would get no deal on Social Security.
“I was really gratified to hear the Republicans have taken their demand for Social Security benefit cuts off the table,” said Reid, the wily Nevadan who has repeatedly defied political expectations to save his own seat (in 2010) and then to increase the Democratic Senate majority (in 2012). “The truth is they should never have been on the table to begin with.”
“This cyber attack and the two drone strikes carried out under cover of the holiday are all part of Obama’s ‘light-footprint strategy.’ The intent is to maintain America’s military dominance in the world without large-scale lengthy, expensive and unpopular wars. It also is part of an effort to entirely free counterterrorism operations from the constraints of laws and politics to allow for unchecked executive power to engage in whatever acts considered necessary by the national security state. And the public is expected to simply trust the Obama administration as it transforms warfare into something that occurs completely in the shadows unbound by traditional checks and balances of government.”—Kevin Gosztola, US Drone Strikes, Cyber Attacks Carried Out Under Cover of the Christmas Holiday
Mueller has been the FBI director since the week before Sept. 11, 2001, and has been intimately involved in virtually every significant counter-terrorism policy decision since. If he does not know if U.S. citizens can be killed by the federal government within the United States, it is hard to imagine who would. The Obama administration has never confirmed if the federal government can kill U.S. citizens at home, though [Attorney General Eric] Holder claimed that there are no limits to “the geographic scope of our ability to use force.” [++]
A federal judge in California has rejected the Obama administration’s effort to use secret arguments and evidence to defeat a lawsuit relating to the so-called no-fly list designed to keep suspected terrorists off of airline flights.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup turned down a motion by the Justice Department to dismiss former Stanford student Rahinah Ibrahim’s lawsuit against various federal government agencies over her reported inclusion on the no-fly list as well as an incident in September 2005 where she was barred from taking a flight from San Francisco and detained for a couple of hours.
Alsup, who sits in San Francisco, also refused the Justice Department’s offer to show him affidavits from law enforcement officials which the government would not share with Ibrahim or her attorneys.
“Here the government seeks to affirmatively use allegedly privileged information to dispose of the case entirely without ever revealing to the other side what its secret evidence might be,” Alsup wrote in an order filed last week. “Only in the rarest of circumstances should a district judge, in his or her discretion, receive ex parte argument and evidence in secret from only one side aimed at winning or ending a case over the objection of the other side. Here, the government has not justified its sweeping proposal.”
“It has gone so far as even to redact from its table of authorities some of the reported caselaw on which it relies! This is too hard to swallow,” Alsup wrote. [++]
… This $13 trillion debt creation to save banks from having to suffer a loss was not accused of threatening economic stability. It enabled them to resume paying exorbitant salaries and bonuses, dividends to bondholders and also to pay counterparties on casino-capitalist arbitrage bets. These payments helped the 1% receive a reported 93% of the gains in income since 2008. The bailout thus polarized the economy, giving the financial sector more power over labor and consumers, industry and the government than has been the case since the late 19th-century Gilded Age. All this makes today’s financial war much like the aftermath of World War I and countless earlier wars. The effect is to impoverish the losers, appropriate hitherto public assets for the victors, and impose debt service and taxes much like levying tribute. “The financial crisis has been as economically devastating as a world war and may still be a burden on ‘our grandchildren,’” Bank of England official Andrew Haldane recently observed. “‘In terms of the loss of incomes and outputs, this is as bad as a world war.’ he said. The rise in government debt has prompted calls for austerity – on the part of those who did not receive the giveaway. ‘It would be astonishing if people weren’t asking big questions about where finance has gone wrong.’”
But as long as the financial sector is winning its war against the economy at large, it prefers that people believe that There Is No Alternative. Having captured mainstream economics as well as government policy, finance seeks to deter students, voters and the media from questioning whether the financial system really needs to be organized in the way it is. Once such a line of questioning is pursued, people may realize that banking, pension and Social Security systems and public deficit financing do not have to be organized in the way they are. There are much better alternatives to today’s road to austerity and debt peonage.
Federal regulators are proposing that new automobiles sold in the United States after September 2014 come equipped with black boxes, so-called “event data recorders” that chronicle everything from how fast a vehicle was traveling, the number of passengers and even a car’s location.
Emerging Consensus Shows Climate Change Already Having Major Effects on Ecosystems and Species
“Plant and animal species are shifting their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events – such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating – at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago, according to a technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment.
The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. More than 60 federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation and Arizona State University in Tempe, authored the assessment.
“These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven’t previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.
Grimm explained that such mismatches in the availability and timing of natural resources can influence species’ survival; for example, if insects emerge well before the arrival of migrating birds that rely on them for food, it can adversely affect bird populations. Earlier thaw and shorter winters can extend growing seasons for insect pests such as bark beetles, having devastating consequences for the way ecosystems are structured and function. This can substantially alter the benefits people derive from ecosystems, such as clean water, wood products and food.
“The impact of climate change on ecosystems has important implications for people and communities,” said Amanda Staudt, a NWF climate scientist and a lead author on the report. “Shifting climate conditions are affecting valuable ecosystem services, such as the role that coastal habitats play in dampening storm surge or the ability of our forests to provide timber and help filter our drinking water.”
Another key finding is the mounting evidence that population declines and increased extinction risks for some plant and animal species can be directly attributed to climate change. The most vulnerable species are those already degraded by other human-caused stressors such as pollution or exploitation, unable to shift their geographic range or timing of key life events, or that have narrow environmental or ecological tolerance. For example, species that must live at high altitudes or live in cold water with a narrow temperature range, such as salmon, face an even greater risk due to climate change.
“The report clearly indicates that as climate change continues to impact ecological systems, a net loss of global species’ diversity, as well as major shifts in the provision of ecosystem services, are quite likely,” said Michelle Staudinger, a lead author of the report and a USGS and University of Missouri scientist.
For example, she added, climate change is already causing shifts in the abundance and geographic range of economically important marine fish. “These changes will almost certainly continue, resulting in some local fisheries declining or disappearing while others may grow and become more valuable if fishing communities can find socially and economically viable ways to adapt to these changes.”
Natural resource managers are already contending with what climate change means for the way they approach conservation. For example, the report stated, land managers are now more focused on the connectivity of protected habitats, which can improve a species’ ability to shift its geographic range to follow optimal conditions for survival.
“The conservation community is grappling with how we manage our natural resources in the face of climate change, so that we can help our ecosystems to continue meeting the needs of both people and wildlife,” said Bruce Stein, a lead author of the report and director of climate adaptation at the National Wildlife Federation.
Other key findings of the report include:
Changes in precipitation and extreme weather events can overwhelm the ability of natural systems to reduce or prevent harm to people from these events. For example, more frequent heavy rainfall events increase the movement of nutrients and pollutants to downstream ecosystems, likely resulting not only in ecosystem change, but also in adverse changes in the quality of drinking water and a greater risk of waterborne-disease outbreaks.
Changes in winter have big and surprising effects on ecosystems and their services. Changes in soil freezing, snow cover and air temperature affect the ability of ecosystems to store carbon, which, in turn, influences agricultural and forest production. Seasonally snow-covered regions are especially susceptible to climate change because small precipitation or temperature shifts can cause large ecosystem changes. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters are already increasing the likelihood of pest outbreaks, leading to tree mortality and more intense, extensive fires. Decreased or unreliable snowfall for winter sports and recreation will likely cause high future economic losses.
The ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and more severe storms. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are most vulnerable to the loss of coastal protection services provided by wetlands and coral reefs. Along the Pacific coast, long-term dune erosion caused by increasing wave heights is projected to cause problems for communities and for recreational beach activities. However, other kinds of recreation will probably improve due to better weather, with the net effect being that visitors and tourism dollars will shift away from some communities in favor of others.
Climate change adaptation strategies are vital for the conservation of diverse species and effective natural resource policy and management. As moreadaptive management approaches are developed, resource managers can enhance the country’s ability to respond to the impacts of climate change through forward-looking and climate science-informed goals and actions.
Ecological monitoring needs to be improved and better coordinated among federal and state agencies to ensure the impacts of climate change are adequately monitored and to support ecological research, management, assessment and policy. Existing tracking networks in the United States will need to improve coverage through time and in geographic area to detect and track climate-induced shifts in ecosystems and species.
Federal law requires that the U.S. Global Change Research Program submit an assessment of climate change and its impacts to the President and the Congress once every four years. Technical reports, articles and books – such as this report — underpin the corresponding chapters of the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, due out in 2013. This technical report is available at the USGCRP website, as are other completed technical reports. Additional lead authors of this report include Shawn Carter, USGS: F. Stuart Chapin III, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy; and Mary Ruckelshaus, Natural Capital Project.”
“[T]he White House was (surprise!) being totally disingenuous with its purported worry that people would conflate the warrantless wiretap program with the collection it conducts using Section 215 [of the PATRIOT Act]. More likely, they were worried that having these debates at the same time would make it more obvious that they’re conducting part of their warrantless surveillance program under the FISA Amendments Act, and part of it under Section 215.”—Wiretapping Your Business Records: The White House Doesn’t Want You To Be Confused | emptywheel
“The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61). As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a ‘terrorist threat’.”—
Col. Babagul Aamal is a proud veteran of 28 years in the Afghan National Army. Short and fit, with a thick black beard, he’s a leader who blurts out exactly what he’s thinking.
“I don’t talk politics — I talk facts,” Aamal said, wearing a sweater beneath his uniform in his unheated command office on a dusty base 40 miles east of Kabul.
It shames him, Aamal said, that he is not allowed to wear his pistol when he enters the fortified gate of the new American military base next door. Though he’s a brigade commander, he’s required to stand before an airport-type scanner with his arms raised, almost in surrender. [emphasis added]
Three years ago, on December 17, 2009, the Obama administration launched its first strike on what it believed to be an AQAP training camp in southern Yemen.
Unfortunately, what the Obama administration believed to be a terrorist training camp turned out to be a bedouin encampment, and the Cruise missiles equipped with cluster bombs ended up killing at least 55 people, including 35 women and children.
That opening strike in the US’ war against AQAP in Yemen was a disaster, a strike so bad that the Pentagon lawyer who authorized it famously said later: “if I were Catholic, I’d have to go to confession.”
Of course, that strike also had a radicalizing effect on people in southern Yemen and - despite US claims to the contrary - appears to have driven recruits into the waiting arms of AQAP.
The US, we have been told over and over, has worked hard in recent years to make sure that something like the al-Majalla strike never happens again. Not only because it kills civilians but also because it actually exacerbates the problem the US is trying to solve in Yemen: the continued threat of AQAP.
As one man tells Raghavan: “If I am sure the Americans are the ones who killed my brother, I will join al-Qaeda and fight against America.”
This is exactly what people told me on my latest trip to Yemen in September/October earlier this year. When the US kills women, children and tribesmen (whom the US considers militants, but Yemenis all to often do not) the US is driving people to join AQAP, not because al-Qaeda’s ideology or theology has suddenly become palatable to them, but rather because as Raghavan’s article points out: AQAP is the only one fighting back against the country that killed their relatives.
Like Raghavan’s piece this is a must read and when read together two paragraphs jumped out at me.
First, from Talyer’s piece:
“Seven of the victims were breadwinners. Now we have 50 people in our village with no one to care for them,” said Awadh, the local sheikh. “Who will raise them? Who will educate them? Who will take care of their needs?”
Now from Raghavan’s piece, talking about the same strike:
AQAP sent emissaries to Sabool to offer compensation to the victims’ relatives, seeking to fill the void left by the government, which has provided no compensation to the survivors and the families of those killed. Some relatives have joined AQAP since the attack, said Hamoud Mohamed al-Ammari, the security chief of Radda.
This is clear: the US bombs, kills civilians and AQAP sends compensation - ie, helps out the families that have been killed - and takes advantage of the carnage the US has sown to reap more recruits.
This is at once all too sad, and at the same time all too predictable. [++]
“Coming to the results, Australia had fairly regular gun massacres before 1996. On the criterion of more than four deaths, there haven’t been any since. More generally, both gun homicides and gun suicides have declined substantially. … To sum up, gun control worked reasonably well, but not perfectly in Australia. The same would probably be true of the US.”—Banning guns: the Australian experience | Crooked Timber
Pakistani Taliban executed twenty one of the 23 Levies [tribal police] personnel kidnapped earlier this week, police sources told DawnNews in wee hours of Sunday.
The political administration of Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar have confirmed that 21 Levies officials were shot dead by the militant group in a cricket ground near Peshawar’s Jan-e-Khawarr area.
Meanwhile, one kidnapped official who survived the ordeal has been transferred to Lady Reading Hospital in critical condition while another reached home safely after managing to escape from captivity.
On Thursday, 23 personnel were kidnapped after an attack on two levies posts by militants in the Frontier Region Peshawar, police said. The attackers were wearing security forces’ uniforms and were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, sources added. Two policemen were also killed in the attacks.
Later, a Taliban spokesman for Dara Adamkhel, Mohammad Afridi, had told Dawn newspaper by phone that his group had carried out the attack.
Afridi had claimed that eight personnel had been killed and 23 had been kidnapped.
A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.
Erika Menendez was charged in the death of Sunando Sen, 46, who was crushed by a train in Queens on Thursday night, the second time this month a commuter has died in such a nightmarish fashion.
Menendez, 31, could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.
"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001, when they put down the twin towers, I’ve been beating them up," Menendez told police, according to the district attorney’s office.
Israel’s far-right former minister Avigdor Lieberman was charged on Sunday with fraud and breach of trust, allegations that prompted his resignation as foreign minister two weeks ago, justice officials said.
Lieberman, who has denied the accusations, remains head of the Yisrael Beitenu party that has formed a coalition with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party ahead of a January 22 parliamentary election.
Israeli justice officials said Lieberman was indicted on charges relating to the promotion of an Israeli diplomat who had illegally given him information about a police investigation against him.
Under Israeli law, conviction on the fraud and breach of trust charges could disqualify Lieberman from holding a cabinet post in the next government.
“… the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are all engaged in their own divergent agendas, [but] what the NATOGCC war has already accomplished is one objective - very similar, by the way, to Iraq in 2003; it has completely torn the fragile Syrian social fabric to shreds. That is disaster capitalism in action, phase I; the terrain is already prepared for a profitable ‘reconstruction’ of Syria once a pliable, pro-Western turbo-capitalism government is installed.”—
Yet in parallel, blowback also works its mysterious ways; millions of Syrians who initially supported the idea of a pro-democracy movement - from the business classes in Damascus to traders in Aleppo - now have swelled the government support base as a counterpunch against the gruesome ethnic-religious cleansing promoted by the “rebels” of the al-Nusrah kind.
Yet with NATOGCC on one side and Iran-Russia on the other side, ordinary Syrians caught in the crossfire have nowhere to go. NATOGCC will stop at nothing to carve - in blood - any dubious entity ranging from a pro-US emirate to a pro-US “democracy” run by the MB. It’s not hard to see for whom the bell tolls in Syria; it tolls not for thee, as in John Donne, but for doom, gloom, death and destruction.
Five people were killed and three others sustained injuries in a US drone attack on a house in Mana Gurbaz area of the remote and mountainous Shawal Valley in North Waziristan Agency on Friday.
Official and tribal sources said the drone fired four missiles and pounded a house in the forest-covered Shawal Valley, sited 90 kilometres northwest of Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan.
They said it was for the first time that a drone carried out missile attack in the cloudy and rainy weather in the volatile tribal region.
One official said the death toll could rise as some of the injured were in critical condition. “There was heavy snowfall in Shawal valley when the drone fired missiles and targeted a house,” said the official. He said drones in the past used to remain off the sky during rain.
There was no immediate information about the identity of those killed in the drone attack.
Yemeni security officials speaking to the press said the three killed were “al-Qaeda militants”, but – as The Washington Postreported earlier this week – the Yemeni government as a policy tries to conceal when US drones kill civilians, so claiming the deceased are al-Qaeda militants is merely an automated response.
“Much left-wing economic analysis has focused on conflicts between fractions of capital; for instance, between a ‘productive’ industrial capital and a ‘speculative’ financial one. But the main players in industrial capital are now so transnationalised and so linked, because of that, to transnational finance that they are no more likely to break with a globalised capitalism than finance is. This means that the traditional strategy of reformist labour movements—of allying with industrial capital against international finance—is no longer in the cards.”—
Our world is still very much made up of nation states with quite discreet economies and class and social structures.
That said, many of those economies are integrated into the production networks of multinational corporations (MNCs), which produce, outsource or contract in many different countries. Many states are now highly dependent for a massive proportion of their GNP on exports and trade, which is in turn linked inextricably to international banking (through trade credits, currency market derivatives, and so on). Investment and commercial banks have become thoroughly internationalised. In these respects one can say that what Marx spoke about in the 1850s—capitalism as a system with globalising tendencies—has been more or less realised.
What role do states play in underpinning this global capitalist order?
Our book begins with two quotations. One is by David Held, formerly of the London School of Economics, who in the early 1990s spoke of an increasingly transnational world economy bypassing even the most powerful states. The second is from Eric Hobsbawm, in his wonderful Age of Extremes, saying that MNCs would prefer a world ‘populated by dwarf states or by no states at all.’ The book is an attempt to correct those terrific misconceptions.
MNCs need states. When they move around the world, they land on so many more states. Far from wanting these states to be dwarfs, they require states with the capacity to protect property, take contract disputes through relatively efficient and competent legal and juridical systems, build infrastructure and ensure a stable labour force. The notion that MNCs, foreign direct investment and transnational banking operate outside state systems, or that they don’t depend on states every bit as much as capitalism depended on states to emerge in the first place, is simply other-worldly.
But is it true to say that economic globalisation, while not dispensing with the need for a state, does sharply restrict the economic policy options (capital controls, welfare programmes) a state may pursue by rendering many prohibitively expensive?
Yes. But states were never in a position in which capital controls, insofar as they were interfering with access to capital accumulation, were not costly. Social democratic welfare policies and the types of capital controls that existed in war-time and after WWII (although the Americans only adopted them temporarily) were designed to facilitate the rebuilding of capitalism.
During WWII capital controls were intended to secure a type of capitalism that was oriented towards free trade and transnationalisation (and, to be sure, liberal democracy) as it battled a type of capitalism that was economically nationalist. Capital controls after WWII were explicitly designed, on all sides, to give Western European and Japanese states breathing space, so that all their capital didn’t immediately flee to New York. But they were always designed to be temporary. The type of capital controls adopted, then, facilitated the development of capitalism and financial markets within the countries that retained them.
The same is true of twentieth century welfare policies. There is no question that the welfare state was a product of real reforms. But whether introduced from above or as a result of working class pressures from below, they were for the most part structured so as not to undermine capitalist social relations. Even universal unemployment insurance was structured in such a way as to avoid undermining labour markets: you only received unemployment stamps after you’d been in the labour market and you only stayed on them for as long as your stamps, for which you’d paid in, let you. So it’s important to avoid drawing a sharp distinction between capital controls and welfare reforms, and the reproduction of capitalist social relations.
That said, I think the way you pose the question is correct. One does need to look at the way in which the internationalisation of capitalism has shifted the costs of certain policy compromises that were struck when labour was strong. More generally, one should examine how globalisation affects the balance of class forces within each nation state, and vice versa. [continue]