Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Case Against Military Intervention in Syria

by the Editors of The Nation, issue dated 9/16/13

There are both practical and humanitarian reasons to oppose US airstrikes in response to the horrific chemical weapons attack.

The images filtering out of the eastern suburbs of Damascus on August 21 were horrifying. Uploaded by residents using cellphones and video cameras to YouTube and other social media, they depict hundreds of Syrian civilians victimized by a chemical weapons rocket barrage, writhing in pain, foaming at the mouth and dying, with no visible wounds of the sort that would arise from conventional weapons. Doctors Without Borders has confirmed over 300 killed and said the symptoms “strongly indicate” that neurotoxic agents were used.

As we go to press, a swelling chorus of condemnation, led by the Western powers and including the Obama administration, has laid blame for the attack squarely on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The administration’s desire to uphold the international convention banning the use of chemical weapons is commendable, but so far there’s no independent verification of the Assad regime’s responsibility. Even so, Washington is reportedly preparing limited military action against Syrian government forces.

If the Assad regime is responsible for this attack—as certainly seems plausible—what could airstrikes be expected to accomplish? And why should the “humanitarian” response to this horrific event be military intervention? Although the American public is, with good reason, overwhelmingly opposed to military involvement in Syria’s chaotic civil war, much of the pundit and political classes have been calling for a US attack on Syrian military targets. Their rationale is not only that Assad must be punished for committing an atrocity but that US “credibility” is at stake—that, having declared the use of chemical weapons a “red line,” Obama will not be taken seriously if he doesn’t order military action. But any credibility Washington had in the region was lost long ago—if not in its war against Iraq based on false WMD allegations, then certainly in the chaos that resulted from the Libyan intervention. And Washington’s recent assent to the bloody coup in Egypt raises serious questions. Why does the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Cairo, and the killing of some 1,000 unarmed protesters, elicit little US response, while an attack killing perhaps the same number of civilians outside Damascus brings missile strikes?…

continue reading at The Nation

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Filed under Mid East other / S Asia, Peace, Security, Terrorism, War

Snowden Files: Loophole Makes All Emails, Phone Calls Subject

By James Ball, Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian UK, 9/11/13, at Reader Supported News

The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens’ email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.

The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing “warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans”.

The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs.

The intelligence data is being gathered under Section 702 of the of the Fisa Amendments Act (FAA), which gives the NSA authority to target without warrant the communications of foreign targets, who must be non-US citizens and outside the US at the point of collection.

The communications of Americans in direct contact with foreign targets can also be collected without a warrant, and the intelligence agencies acknowledge that purely domestic communications can also be inadvertently swept into its databases. That process is known as “incidental collection” in surveillance parlance.

But this is the first evidence that the NSA has permission to search those databases for specific US individuals’ communications….

continue reading at Guardian UK

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Filed under Rights, Justice, Law

The March on Washington, August 28, 1963: My View

Diane Ravitch’s blog: A site to discuss better education for all, 8/28/13

Fifty years ago today, I took the train to Washington,
D.C., with my then-husband Richard to participate in the most
important protest of our era. We were not part of a group, though
we knew many groups that were involved. We went on our own, as
citizens, who wanted to add our voices to others to demand a
society free of the racial barriers that denied equal rights to
Americans whose skin color was not white. We knew Bayard Rustin,
one of the organizers of the event, very well. Bayard is not well
known today, his picture seldom appears in history textbooks, yet
he was the great thinker and organizer behind the March on
Washington. He was a close friend of both Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and A. Philip Randolph, the legendary black labor leader. Bayard
has been unjustly neglected in history books because he was gay; he
was also a pacifist. He happened to be brilliant and a great
political strategist. Bayard was a strong believer in coalition
politics. He knew that blacks on their own would be unable to bring
about change, but blacks in alliance with organized labor had the
power to organize great events and make politicians take notice.
When we got to the Washington Monument, we found ourselves in a sea
of people of all races and all colors and all ages. …

continue reading at Diane Ravitch’s blog: A site to discuss better education for all

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Filed under Education and schools, Rights, Justice, Law

Stop Larry Summers Before He Kills Again

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News, 27 August 13

Say what you will, the combative Harvard economist Larry Summers is a brilliant apostle of John Maynard Keynes and a strong advocate of using government spending to stimulate faltering economies and create jobs. He also understands – and has shown mathematically with Berkeley economist Brad deLong – why inflation does not become a threat in a severely depressed economy.

But, for all his smarts, Larry Summers has one major crime on his rap sheet. He helped orchestrate the Clinton-era deregulation that ended up fueling the crash of 2008, killing economies, jobs, growth, and hope across the globe. President Obama should not name him to head the Federal Reserve, which would only encourage him to kill again.

Like it or not, the Fed remains Washington’s most powerful regulator of the financial sector. As one of the most destructive deregulators of our time, Larry Summers is exactly the wrong fox to guard the henhouse. Close to Wall Street, for whose firms he sometimes works, Summers also profited personally from the deregulation, but he is far more dangerous than a hired killer. He believes in what he does.

This comes through clearly in an October 2009 Frontline documentary called “The Warning.” It is available online, as are the transcript and full-length interviews, from which I’ve taken most of what follows.

“The Warning” takes us back to the Bill Clinton boom of the late 1990s and tells of a very personal clash over how best to manage America’s rapidly expanding financial sector. Should we stick to the regulatory approach that had guided the American financial system with relative safety since the New Deal? Or should we let the “free market” – or to be more precise, Wall Street – regulate itself, even in the case of fraud?

Backing self-regulation stood Summers, who had become deputy secretary of the Treasury, along with two financial titans – his mentor and former head of Goldman Sachs, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and the long-time Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, a disciple of the über-capitalist Ayn Rand and an ideologue with an almost mystical faith in free markets….

continue reading and view links at Reader Supported News

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax