One of my favorite blogs is Justin Smith. He’s always worth reading but this is particularly good.
One of the memes circling around the French Internet shows the mayor of the town of Roanne telling a huddled group of refugees that they cannot stay, since they are not Christian. “Neither are you,” is the reply.
Yes, some people are so ignorant as to believe that all Syrians are Muslims, but the most relevant clarification is not that some are not, but that that is irrelevant to the refugee crisis.
At the popular level in Europe, there is both dispiriting xenophobia and its opposite, a seemingly unprecedented preparedness to welcome the refugees and to take responsibility for their well-being. State officials have so far tended to play to the interests of the xenophobes, mostly not by expressing outward xenophobia (with plenty of exceptions of course, as with the mayor of Roanne, or with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán), but by classic buck-passing, insisting that the crisis is someone else’s problem. This is particularly the case for the poorer countries of the EU to its south and east, which are of course also the countries that are so placed as to first receive the refugees travelling by land (and, more perilously, by water). The absence of any obvious authority, either at the union-wide level or in each individual member state, reveals, like no other situation has since the EU’s expansion to include former Soviet Bloc states, that transnational body’s utter impotence and irrelevance.
American liberals and progressives love to fawn over the great liberal democracies of northern Europe with their advanced welfare states and their commitment to fair distribution of resources to all citizens. Yet as long as these societies continue to adhere to a sharp political and moral distinction between citizens and outsiders, between those who are in the system and those who are outside of it, what they have accomplished is scarcely any more worthy of praise than the sort of ‘socialism’ we see practiced within major corporations. European social democracies that extend medical care and education to everyone who has theirpapers in order, while expelling irregular migrants in nighttime raids and strong-armed police operations, are not truly egalitarian societies, but protection rackets. The extent that European citizens are today, en masse, resisting this arbitrary distinction between citizen and non-citizen, in order to come to the direct aid of the Syrian refugees, is precisely the extent to which Europe is living up to its claim to be Christian.
Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.
Inside Climate News, By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song & David Hasemyer, September 16
At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.
“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.
It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.
A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.
The Globe & Mail, By Stephanie Nolen, September 18
San Salvador – It’s been nearly a year since Myrna Ramirez walked out of jail for the last time, but she still can’t quite believe she is free. She can’t believe, in fact, any of it: that she served nearly 13 years in jail for attempted murder, that she nearly bled to death in police custody, that she missed her daughter’s childhood – all because she went into premature labour at home one night, asked a neighbour for help, and that neighbour reported her to authorities for attempting to terminate a pregnancy.
She joined a prison wing full of women who ran afoul of El Salvador’s abortion law, perhaps the most restrictive in the world. “It’s like some kind of nightmare,” Ms. Ramirez says.
In 1998, after the civil war, El Salvador adopted a new law that outlawed abortion in all circumstances. Unlike the law it replaced, there are no exceptions for cases of rape, severe fetal abnormalities or threat to the mother’s life from pregnancy. Only six other countries in the world, all in Latin America and the Caribbean, have similarly prohibitive laws; in one, Chile, the President is pushing an easing of the law to allow abortion in some situations.
El Salvador, however, has the most active enforcement of its abortion law. Here authorities investigate and prosecute women whose pregnancies end before 40 weeks in what may be miscarriages or stillbirths or preterm labours, such as Ms. Ramirez’s. Judges have sentenced women convicted of terminating pregnancies to prison terms of up to 40 years.
The Daily Beast, By Shane Harris & Nancy Youssef, September 9
It’s being called a ‘revolt’ by intelligence pros who are paid to give their honest assessment of the ISIS war—but are instead seeing their reports turned into happy talk.
More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.
The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.
“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.
Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.
Why the new Sustainable Development agenda is “fundamentally compromised” by corporate interests – UN records reveal that the intergovernmental body has already marginalised the very groups it claims to be rescuing from poverty, hunger and climate disaster.
Insurge Intelligence, By Nafeez Ahmed, September 4
At the end of this month, the UN will launch its new 2030 Sustainable Development agenda for “people, planet and prosperity” in New York, where it will be formally adopted by over 150 world leaders.
The culmination of years of consultations between governments, communities and businesses all over the world, there is no doubt that the agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer an unprecedented vision of the interdependence of global social, economic and environmental issues.
But records from the SDG process reveal that insiders at the heart of the UN’s intergovernment engagement negotiations have criticised the international body for pandering to the interests of big business and ignoring recommendations from grassroots stakeholders representing the world’s poor.
Formal statements issued earlier this year as part of the UN’s Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations on the SDGs, and published by the UN Sustainable Development Division, show that UN ‘Major Groups’ representing indigenous people, civil society, workers, young people and women remain deeply concerned by the general direction of the SDG process — whereas corporate interests from the rich, industrialised world have viewed the process favourably.
US military academy official William Bradford argues that attacks on scholars’ home offices and media outlets – along with Islamic holy sites – are legitimate
The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman, August 29
New York – An assistant professor in the law department of the US Military Academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a “treasonous” fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.
In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.
Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.
“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote.
AP, August 12
London – Amnesty International approved a controversial policy Tuesday to endorse the de-criminalization of the sex trade, rejecting complaints from some women’s rights groups who say it is tantamount to advocating the legalization of pimping and brothel owning.
At its decision-making forum in Dublin, the human rights watchdog approved the resolution to recommend “full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.” It argues its research suggests decriminalization is the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights.
“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world.”
Summertime, and the posting ain’t easy.
When the spirit is willing, Agonistas, please add comments on anything to this free-form thread. Of course, play nice. –
Leading group of psychologists faces a reckoning following repeated denials that its members were complicit in Bush administration-era torture.
The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman, July 11
The largest association of psychologists in the United States is on the brink of a crisis, the Guardian has learned, after an independent review revealed that medical professionals lied and covered up their extensive involvement in post-9/11 torture. The revelation, puncturing years of denials, has already led to at least one leadership firing and creates the potential for loss of licenses and even prosecutions.
For more than a decade, the American Psychological Association (APA) has maintained that a strict code of ethics prohibits its more than 130,000 members to aid in the torture of detainees while simultaneously permitting involvement in military and intelligence interrogations. The group has rejected media reporting on psychologists’ complicity in torture; suppressed internal dissent from anti-torture doctors; cleared members of wrongdoing; and portrayed itself as a consistent ally against abuse.
Now, a voluminous independent review conducted by a former assistant US attorney, David Hoffman, undermines the APA’s denials in full – and vindicates the dissenters.
Sources with knowledge of the report and its consequences, who requested anonymity to discuss the findings before public release, expected a wave of firings and resignations across the leadership of an organization that Hoffman finds used its extensive institutional links to the CIA and US military to facilitate abusive interrogations.
The Guardian: US torture report: psychologists should no longer aid military, group says
Independent Review: APA ethics independent review: medical professionals and torture
The news says Greece has voted against Euro-Austerity. Forecasters are suggesting there will be a stern “it’s just business” reaction by the bankster community, so they will insist Greece get out of the EU, and then they shall recruit all lenders to apply every economic pressure upon Greece with ‘extreme prejudice’ . They hope to embarrass the Greek leadership while maximizing the misery of Greek citizens. Most American commentators I read say there will be almost no ripple effect felt by the American economy.
Today, in a comment by Lisa over at Ian Welsh’s blog, I read of a possible consequence that never crossed my mind: coup d’etat.
On the one hand, it does not make much sense. The governing party will be under tremendous pressure to ease the already awful economic pain Greece suffers and the odds in favor of succeeding are long. Unless the nation finds a way to sacrifice and rebuild on its own, the Greek people are very likely to boot their government out. Given the debt load, this might happen to one or more succeeding governments. With that in mind, agents who might otherwise contemplate a violent short-cut may be better off biding their time.
Lisa was one of the commenters who alluded to the history of regime change. While I have believed all along that Greece was going to vote “no” because of national or cultural pride, I had not considered that the 1% have their pride too— the pride of possession, nine-tenths of the law.