- MacLean’s: Shocking article about NATO compensation schemes for civilian deaths in Afghanistan. It’s a business. Compensation for one tragedy was $20,000 and a new car, whereas for another death, it was just $210. That NATO forces are able to put a dollar value on human life through bargaining is proof of the devastating and dehumanizing effects this war is having. End it now before any more blood ends up on our hands.
- Via Andrew Sullivan, HuffPo: Visualizing what America’s armies hath wrought in Iraq: 100-150k dead civilians, 2 million refugees abroad, 2 million displaced persons domestically. If you had any illusions about this empire being a liberal or ennobling one (contradiction in terms), they must be shredded by now.
- The Globe & Mail: In news that should shock no one, a Kelowna (B.C.) Mountie kicked the hell out of a suspect. You can watch the video yourself. Eyewitnesses report that the suspect, Buddy Tavares, was complying with the officer. Cops are not your friend.
- Juan Cole: We already knew about Jawaher Abu Rahmah, the Palestinian woman killed by Israeli tear gas recently. Add to the list of Israel’s victims the names of Anas Salih (died in Gaza after being denied the exit visa he needed to get medical treatment) and Omar al-Qawasmeh (innocent man murdered in his home in a case of mistaken identity). The occupation must end.
- Glenn Greenwald: Writing about the “climate of fear” the American government has created in the minds of its citizens. I used to study totalitarian regimes. Many scholars agreed that the worst kind of censorship they exercised was the self-censorship that went on in the fear-wracked minds of their citizens. This self-censorship is now here in America. Progress!
- Radley Balko at Reason: Guess what–stupid anti-meth laws had the unintended consequences of making the meth trade far more profitable and seeing a boost in meth use. But hey, at least those kneejerk laws that make you feel like a criminal when you go to buy cough medicine kept some old lady without an ID from getting the Nyquil she wanted.
- NYT: Do not forget the name “Nasrin Sotoudeh.” She is a human rights lawyer in Iran who has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, disbarred, and (my favorite) banned from leaving Iran for 20 years. “You are such an awful criminal that…we cannot bear to have you leave us!” What a vile place. Sotoudeh’s “crime” was talking to the foreign media.
- National Post: In this time of governmental austerity, the Canadian government has somehow found additional money to expand their prison capacity. To be fair, Canada’s incarceration rate is much lower than America’s. This move still repulses me. At best, it is a cynical way to “create jobs,” never mind the fact that building more jail cells creates a powerful incentive to fill them. At worst, it is a declaration of faith in the untruth that locking more people in cages makes a better society. It doesn’t.
- Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy: Post on the Illinois budget crisis, where income taxes may be jacked up to cover a deficit. I don’t have a strong position on the budget crisis. What I do have a strong position on is oft-quoted beltway “libertarian” Megan McArdle, who wrote, “Whether or not you think these programs should exist, they do now, and you can’t simply throw people off who planned their lives around them.” Time to write that loser out of the libertarian movement.
- Via Thomas DiLorenzo, Anne Applebaum: It’s not often a mag like Foreign Policy prints an article titled “Homeland Security Hasn’t Made Us Safer,” so relish it for now. After unmasking the fact that DHS is a porkbarrel subsidy program, Applebaum writes, “As for the TSA, I am not aware of a single bomber or bomb plot stopped by its time-wasting procedures.” Amen.
- Via Liberale et Libertaire: “Serious” and “respected” pundit Matt Yglesias recently called for the U.S. to institute a gendarmerie system (as he put it, “a quasi-military federal organization specialized in police/security functions rather than finding and killing bad guys per se.”) Sweet Jesus! As if the thing that this horrid little police state needs to get it going again is more cops with more power.
- MacLean’s: This article about drunk driving nearly made me cry. In each case discussed, a drunk driver killed a beloved passenger. In each case, the family of the dead victim asked for clemency for the drunk driver, a friend of their lost loved one. In each case, Leviathan said, “Down, slave! I know what is best for this society,” and promptly threw the book at the offenders. No respect for the dead.
- Cienna Madrid at The Stranger: Blogging from day two of the inquest into the
murderdeath of half-deaf woodcarver John T. Williams at the hands of SPD Ofc. Ian Birk. A homicide investigator apparently tried to claim that the legal-sized whittling knife Birk claimed Williams had open but was found closed at the crime scene somehow magically closed itself when Williams dropped it. Mmmm-hmm. Then Birk took the stand to admit that he never called for back-up in 10-second confrontation that ended with Williams dead on the pavement. Birk has the gall to claim Williams looked at him threateningly, even though dashcam footage shows the perpetually drunk Williams shuffling across the street in a pitiful and harmless enough way that other pedestrians continued to walk towards him. It can’t happen in this inquest, but I look forward to the day Birk faces murder charges.
- NYT: Israeli bloggers question their government’s use of tear gas following the tragic death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah. Awesome work, bloggers. It is a powerful and important thing for the world to understand that not all Israelis support the brutal thuggery and murder carried out in their name.
- NYT: The Russian opposition thought they had a way around the country’s absurd permit process for protests–sending out protesters willing to stand an approved distance away from each other. Now pro-Kremlin groups are counter-picketing the solo protesters by standing near them, just to get them arrested. Of course, the cops are not arresting the pro-Kremlin folks. Vile.
- Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: In case you still thought NAFTA was really a free trade agreement, did you know Mexican truckers have been banned from driving in the U.S. since 2009? This then led to punitive tariffs from Mexico. Sounding like free trade, right? Well, Obama might be about to address the situation, but not without the noxious Teamsters warning us how awful that would be for America.
- NYT: My, my, the Israelis are bloodthirsty lately–the latest allegation is that they killed a 65-year-old Gazan man on his farm…for getting too close to the security fence. Of course, Palestinians responded with violence of their own.
- NYT: The post-election crackdown in Belarus is getting worse. Lukashenko’s rotten state is now trying to place Danil Sannikov, the 3-year-old son of (arrested) opposition leader Andrei Sannikov and his (arrested) journalist wife Irina Khalip, in an orphanage. Never mind that his grandmother has been appointed to care for him! How dare Lukashenko bring innocent children into his bloodsport.
- Daily Anarchist: Another “ugh” moment from this (formerly good) blog–author Seth King says that it is right to milk the state for benefits. Why? “Only then will the productive class begin to realize that paying taxes is for chumps.” Also, “you are not responsible for its theft because you never condone forced wealth redistribution.” Whatever helps you sleep at night after you’ve spent your ill-gained food stamps, Seth. Shameful.
- Brendan Kiley at The Stranger: The fourth (and last) installment in an awesome investigative series on the drug war. Kiley comes to the conclusion that the best thing to do is legalize all drugs. This is very good. The only problem is this statement: “The only way out is to legalize—and regulate—everything.” Regulate it? Why? Just let people put what they want into their bodies and face the consequences. If they don’t like the risk, then don’t ingest the drug or create a private testing organization to give them the safety they want. Even if I disagree with regulating, it’s a great and invaluable piece of writing.
Posts Tagged ‘civilian casualties’
Posted in Miscellany, tagged Afghanistan, Aleksandr Lukashenko, Anas Salih, Andrei Sannikov, anti-meth laws, Belarus, Buddy Tavares, budget crisis, Canada, civilian casualties, civilian deaths, collateral damage, Danil Sannikov, DHS, drug war, drunk driving, Ian Birk, Illinois, Iran, Iraq, Irina Khalip, Israel, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, John T. Williams, Kelowna, Megan McArdle, Mexican truckers, Mountie, NAFTA, Nasrin Sotoudeh, NATO, Omar al-Qawasmeh, Palestine, police brutality, prison system, Russian opposition, Seattle, tax hikes, Teamsters, tear gas, TSA, whittler, woodcarver on 01/12/2011| 1 Comment »
Posted in American politics, tagged Apache Helicopters, black sites, Bradley Manning, civilian casualties, Collateral Murder, Der Spiegel, extraordinary rendition, Iraq, Iraq Body Count, Iraqi detainees, New York Times, torture, Wikileaks on 10/26/2010| 2 Comments »
WikiLeaks has done it again, this time releasing over 400,000 pages of classified documents on the Iraq War. God bless you, Bradley Manning! Before I get into the new information, let me just say that I loved the Yahoo News headline today wondering why the Sunday morning talk shows essentially ignored the WikiLeaks documents. Is it really a mystery? Those spineless “journalists” are all tools of the American imperialist-security complex. Of course they are going to ignore these documents, they’ve got two wars to perpetuate!
The NYT and Der Spiegel both had preferential access to the documents. I liked the presentation employed by the Times more, sort of bundling big clumps of documents together into related portfolios. The two most interesting bundles were about the treatment of detainees and civilian casualty figures.
The documents on detainees are, unfortunately, almost all about their treatment by other Iraqis. The information is horrifying: torture, death, abuse, etc. The U.S. seems to have done a little wink-wink, nod-nod show most of the time and let the Iraqis “investigate” abuses for themselves. Oh, and the U.S. used the threat of Iraqi detention to intimidate detainees in our custody. This stuffy is horrifying, but it’s not surprising at all. It’s basically a carbon copy of the model the CIA has been employing around the world since whenever extraordinary rendition started. We don’t need to torture people ourselves when we can find all manner of thugs from failed authoritarian states who are unemployable in any career except for violence and who would love to torture fellow humans in places beyond U.S. jurisdiction. If the slaves back home get wind of it and try to do anything, just invoke state secrecy against them and let the courts take over!
The civilian casualties in the report add up to an additional 15,000 deaths. That pushes the Iraq Body Count to somewhere between 98-106,000 civilian deaths. That’s blood on our hands, guys. We didn’t have to fight this war. Saddam was no saint, but even his infamous gassing of the Kurds at Halabja amounted to something like 3000-5000 deaths. Keep our crimes in perspective.
Der Spiegel‘s best reporting was on unfair attacks conducted by Apache helicopters, of which the infamous Collateral Murder video was just the tip of the iceberg, it seems. It’s easy to point your joystick at people trying to surrender and click a button that will eliminate them. It feels just like a video game. Maybe you can even compare your kill stats with your buddies back at the base!
Don’t let the war-loving mainstream media fool you: the WikiLeaks Iraq documents reveal new and damning evidence about our awful war in Iraq. Don’t let the government fool you, either: these documents don’t put anyone in any more danger than our continued ignorance would. The Surge is unraveling. Chaos is returning. We broke Iraq, but sticking around indefinitely isn’t going to help anything. Don’t let the military fool you into thinking our conduct there is justified. End the war now, bring the troops home, and don’t forget to Free Bradley Manning and donate to WikiLeaks.
Posted in Miscellany, tagged 15 Penn Plaza, advertising, Afghanistan, Ahlam Mohsen, AIDS, Armed Services Committee, Benigno Aquino, bombing Iran, botched rescue, brain, bungled rescue, Carl Levin, civilian casualties, collateral damages, Donald Tsang, drug legalization, economic nationalism, Empire State Building, Gary Hart, HIV, Hong Kong, hostage crisis, Houston Police Department, Iran, journalism, Julian Assange, Just Say Now, moral culpability, Penn Station, Philippines, police brutality, Potash Corp., property rights, rape, Russia, safe sex, Saskatchewan, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, TSA, unprotected sex, war with Iran, zoning laws on 08/25/2010| Leave a Comment »
As promised, here’s the links I owed you from last night.
- NYT: the Empire State Building whines and petitions for the imposition of state power in a private real estate dealing to keep another tall building from being built too close to theirs. In fact, they don’t just want to stop this project, they want to create a “17 block no-go zone” around their building. How would that be worded? “Hereby resolved that within this 17 block zone, fundamental economic and civil rights are declared null and void.” If the Empire State Building guys want to protect the skyline, then they should go buy up the land where this tower is going to be built. What they are doing right now is crying and playing emotionalist media politics in the hope of getting the gun barrels of state power behind them.
- Center for a Stateless Society: college student Ahlam Mohsen faces five years in prison for throwing a pie at Senator Carl Levin D-MI. Mohsen chose Levin because he chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee–making him one of the bloody-handed sickies in Washington most responsible for our two immoral wars. So the guy who perpetuates wars that kill hundreds of thousands of civilians is a victim and the woman who throws a pie at him and kills no one is a criminal. Hmm. Interesting bit of calculus there. Show your support for Mohsen by liking this Facebook group.
- The Volokh Conspiracy: Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of lawmakers in my home state of Ohio, who decided that a mother and father did not need to be notified by the coroner that their dead son’s brain would be removed and held indefinitely as part of a criminal investigation. Wow. I’m all in favor of solving crimes, but couldn’t the state at least have asked them or even just notified them? And if the parents weren’t suspects in the crime, why would the state have any right to seize the brain at all?
- NYT: an investigation kicks off into the killing of 8 Afghan civilians and the wounding of 12 more by NATO forces. The dead included two women and a child. I think I have an answer for that emotionally abusive Time magazine cover with the noseless girl and the “What happens if we leave Afghanistan” header–what happens if we leave Afghanistan is that no more blood of innocent Afghans ends up on our hands. How do people support this war anymore? What business do American teenagers have dying on behalf of a corrupt president and his dope baron brother and being put in situations in which they kill innocent people? End the war now.
- Photography is not a Crime: Houston police detain a man and impound his camera for taking photos of a TSA checkpoint. God forbid you take a picture of them telling old ladies to take off their shoes and making people remove liquids from their bags. At least this story has given me a good idea for what to do the next time I feel bored. I think it’s gotten to the point that all of us need to take our cameras everywhere and take pictures of everything–test them, force them to back down, force them to recognize our rights.
- Der Spiegel Online: an HIV-positive German pop star goes on trial for having unprotected, disclosure-free sex with men, including one who now has HIV. It’s interesting because the defendant is a woman and we usually think of men as being more likely to desire unprotected sex, so there has to be some distinction made between not telling a partner who doesn’t want to use a condom that you have HIV and telling a partner who wants to use condom not to use it and also not disclosing that you have HIV. Oh, and I also wonder how they have any means of proving that the aggrieved man contracted HIV from this singer and not someone else. I don’t know all of the details of this case, but it sounds like it would probably be better handled in civil than criminal court.
- Moscow Times: following the trial of a cop who beat a drunken, chained-up reporter into a coma and later saw the reporter die. This story coming from Russia and the Russian state’s “respect” for journalists (see: Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasia Baburova, Natalia Estemirova) well-known by now, I have to wonder if this death was accidental. Even if it was an accident, it remains yet another barbaric instance of police brutality.
- Via Jacob Sullum at Reason, HuffPo: Facebook drops ads from pro-legalization group Just Say Now because its pot leaf logo violates a ban on ads for “smoking products.” According to HuffPo, the ban is really only tobacco product advertising. I don’t really care what Facebook does with their advertising policy because they’re a private company and it’s their right to set policy as they see fit. But this decision leaves me with even less respect for Facebook. Tobacco, marijuana, alcohol–maybe you don’t like these things, but if you’re a company that doesn’t believe adults should have the right to put them into their bodies without government interference, then I have precious little interest in continuing to do business with you.
- The Globe & Mail: addressing the potential sale of Saskatchewan-based Potash Corp., the world’s largest Potash producer. It was private, then got seized by a provincial NDP government in the 1970s, later when private again and now is coveted by an Australian mining company. In the CBC coverage I heard and in this article as well, the primary response seems to be nationalistic whining. Sample some of the stupidity in this article–“Potash belongs to the people of Saskatchewan. They, and they alone, can decide how the material under their province should be exploited, and by whom.” “If there’s one industry in which Canada should be a world leader, with its own multinationals spanning the globe, it’s mining. Take Toronto’s Barrick Gold Corp. out of the equation, and our industry presence worldwide is pathetic, given our domestic attributes.” Being born in Ohio gives me no more entitlement to or veto rights over the sale of the soybeans grown in the northwest corner of the state than being born in Saskatchewan gives some random dude in Regina any claim to potash commodities his province. And then there’s this whole idea of being a world leader. Economic nationalism leads to really dumb decisions like bailing out General Motors. Whoops.
- Via Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative, Gary Hart: if you’re the sort of brainless, death-worshiping moron who thinks bombing Iran would be a good idea, here’s a list of five pragmatic reasons for why it isn’t.
- Julian Assange round-up: Glenn Greenwald points out instances of blatant lies being used in a classic “throw out a whole bunch of crap and hope some of it sticks” attack against Assange. It’s really cute how the war-worshipers are trying to discredit the one guy who is just putting a ton of facts out there and saying “read through it and interpret it how you like.” And in what seems like an oddly assured, authoritative handling of the issue, the NYT tells us that we have no reason to worry that the rape charges against Assange could have been planted. Of course we have no reason to wonder about the potential involvement of a government that fanatically hates Assange and did crazy things like plant rumors that Martin Luther King was a gay communist and gave Fidel Castro poisoned cigars to ruin his beard. I can sleep so much better now!
- Hong Kong tourist tragedy in the Philippines mega-post: in case you missed it, a disgruntled Filipino cop took a bus full of tourists from Hong Kong hostage and ended up killing eight of them. Let me just begin by saying that this cop deserves to burn in a very warm place for a very long time–don’t use violence to resolve your grievances, especially when it’s violence against people who had absolutely nothing to do with creating your grievance. My favorite piece was in The Globe & Mail, perhaps because it focused on the narrative of the Chinese-Canadian Leung family, which lost three of its five members on the bus. Horrific. The NYT piece is good, too–less narrative, but more time spent looking at potential causes, including a theory that Filipino police stood down in tacit agreement with the disgruntled officer’s grievance. South China Morning Post published this fascinatingly tone-deaf, responsibility-abnegating screed from the Filipino president blaming TV coverage for the failed rescue attempt on the bus. And then for good measure and balance, SCMP replied with an op-ed of its own, squarely placing the blame on the aforementioned Filipino president. I don’t know anything close to all of the details, but I do know that I feel deeply saddened for the eight people who were killed and their families. Violence is awful.
Posted in Miscellany, tagged anti-war, biometric data, Canada, China, civilian casualties, clean water, collateral damage, Communist Party, DUI, emigration, human rights, ISAF, Julian Assange, Michelle Obama, NATO, pacifism, peace, Pentagon, refugees, Secret Service, security scanners, Spain, Taliban, taxis, UN General Assembly, water, water access, Wikileaks, x-ray scanners on 08/06/2010| Leave a Comment »
- NYT: a NATO airstrike kills somewhere between 4-32 Afghan civilians. More blood on our hands, everybody. We voted in the elections that produced the politicians who started this war just as we voted in the elections that produced the politicians who escalated this war. Our participation in those elections was our consent. So whilst the blood falls most immediately on the commanders who ordered this airstrike and the pilots who carried it out, it falls, too, on our hands. Still think it’s a just war? Still want to kill people to make peace and fail to protect noses? Hopefully you’ve woken up and realized it’s time to get involved in the sort of left-right peace coalition we discussed here yesterday.
- Nick Gillespie at Reason: covering one of the stories of the day, Michelle Obama’s vacation in Spain, for which taxpayers will at least be footing the tab for 70 Secret Service agents. The Europhile in me think it’s refreshing to see someone from the presidential family vacationing in glorious Europe. It bothers me that European leaders like Sarkozy feel no pressure in choosing to vacation in America, but the idea of an American president in Europe or elsewhere is apparently so deeply upsetting to the nationalistic American public that we can’t even discuss it. On the negative side of the ledger, I love that Ms. Obama is going to Spain with 40 of her supposedly closest friends. People don’t have 40 close friends, lady. Cut the artificiality. Also, it bugs me to no end that we the taxpaying masses will be footing her security bill. She’s a private citizen. If she wants Secret Service coverage on a voluntarily-scheduled vacation, then she should pay for it.
- NYT: Pentagon asks WikiLeaks to return leaked documents. At first glance, it sounds like a cute little kid demanding his toy back, but the more you read this article, the more you recognize that a lot of the statements from the Pentagon sound like threats to WikiLeaks. Consider: “Mr. Morrell said that if asking WikiLeaks respectfully did not work, the Pentagon would resort to other steps, which he did not describe. ‘We will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing,’ he said.” Julian Assange, watch your back!
- Jacob Sullum at Reason: feds admit that they’ve already broken their word about not saving body scan images from security x-ray scanners. I’m not prudish about nudity, but there’s no reason we need the x-ray scanners to begin with and there’s even less of a reason for the feds to save the resultant data. At least they are making sure we don’t forget how consistently they lie when it comes to matters of the security state and civil liberties. Oh, and remember–you never have to walk through an x-ray scanner, you can always request an alternate method like a metal detector, wanding or pat-down.
- Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: guy starts a free shuttle service to prevent DUIs, gets ambushed by a protection racket local taxi operators. The best part is that he’s even been arrested for running his shuttles without licenses. I understand that the cabbies want to protect their turf and make money. I understand that they can’t really compete with a free shuttle service. Still, there must be a better way to resolve the issue, especially when you consider the guy they took down was trying to solve a real societal problem.
- AlterNet: UN General Assembly passes a resolution recognizing “the human right to water.” When exactly did this Enlightenment project go off the rails? Water issues are an unfortunately large problem in our world today. Helping people in problem areas access clean water is a priority I can support. However, creating new positive rights out of thin air is not the way to do it. How can people have a natural right to a material good or quantity? Natural rights are negative rights; that is, freedom from something, like censored speech or gun ownership restrictions.
- NYT: wealthy Chinese use money to buy their way out of their corrupt, anti-humanistic dictatorship. Good for these emigres. I guess I am glad that Western governments allow them to invest their way to permanent residency, but ideally Chinese who want to emigrate would be treated as refugees fleeing a dictatorship and given a fast-track to permanent residency in the free West, regardless of wealth.
The combined cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan recently surpassed the benchmark of jaw-dropitude that is $1 trillion, so people have been taking more notice than usual. On this topic, I liked Elisabeth Bumiller’s feature in the NYT today. Money quote:
A second look at the numbers shows another story underneath. In 2008, the peak year so far of war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs amounted to only 1.2 percent of America’s gross domestic product. During the peak year of spending on World War II, 1945, the costs came to nearly 36 percent of G.D.P.
The reason is the immense growth, and seemingly limitless credit, of the United States economy over the last 65 years, as compared to the sacrifice and unity required to wring $4 trillion from a much smaller economy to wage the earlier war. To some historians, the difference is troubling.
“The army is at war, but the country is not,” said David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian. “We have managed to create and field an armed force that can engage in very, very lethal warfare without the society in whose name it fights breaking a sweat.” The result, he said, is “a moral hazard for the political leadership to resort to force in the knowledge that civil society will not be deeply disturbed.”
That’s the thing. We do have round-the-clock cable and internet news coverage of these wars in a way that we have never had before. But probably not since the horrors of Fallujah have most Americans really had any sense of the human loss that is going on in our name. I saw a figure in Der Spiegel today that blew me away–at the height of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1968, there were roughly 1,000 soldiers dying each week. By comparison, the entire coalition has taken fewer than 2,000 deaths in nearly a decade in Afghanistan. So long as limbless men aren’t wheeling around our streets asking for money and an “acceptable” number of flag-draped caskets are showing up at the local airport, most people seem perfectly content to grumble about the war a bit in between breaks of pro sporting events and American Idol. (more…)