Quotulatiousness

January 13, 2013

Britain considering reinforcements for Falkland Islands

Filed under: Americas, Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:54

If nothing else, the heated rhetoric from Argentina is encouraging the British government to think about sending more military resources to the Falklands:

Britain is prepared to send additional military backup to the South Atlantic as a ‘show of force’ to Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

It is understood an extra warship, another RAF Tycoon [sic] combat aircraft and further troops could be dispatched to the region ahead of the March referendum over whether the islands remain part of the UK.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the options being proposed by planners at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, London, include conducting naval exercises in the region.

Alternatives include sending elements of the Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade — the airborne task force which includes members of the Parachute Regiment — which has just completed a series of demanding exercises in Spain preparing for ‘general war’.

Islanders will vote on March 11 on whether they wish to remain an overseas territory of the UK.

It is expected there will be a 100 per cent ‘yes’ vote, which intelligence officials have warned the Prime Minister could lead to an aggressive ‘stunt’ by Argentina, such as planting the country’s flag on the island.

The “successes” of the drone war can only be measured in body counts

Filed under: Africa, Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:48

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins discusses the negative aspects of the drone war:

The greatest threat to world peace is not from nuclear weapons and their possible proliferation. It is from drones and their certain proliferation. Nuclear bombs are useless weapons, playthings for the powerful or those aspiring to power. Drones are now sweeping the global arms market. There are some 10,000 said to be in service, of which a thousand are armed and mostly American. Some reports say they have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in 9/11.

I have not read one independent study of the current drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the horn of Africa that suggests these weapons serve any strategic purpose. Their “success” is expressed solely in body count, the number of so-called “al-Qaida-linked commanders” killed. If body count were victory, the Germans would have won Stalingrad and the Americans Vietnam.

Neither the legality nor the ethics of drone attacks bear examination. Last year’s exhaustive report by lawyers from Stanford and New York universities concluded that they were in many cases illegal, killed civilians, and were militarily counter-productive. Among the deaths were an estimated 176 children. Such slaughter would have an infantry unit court-martialled. Air forces enjoy such prestige that civilian deaths are excused as a price worth paying for not jeopardising pilots’ lives.

[. . .]

Since the drone war began in earnest in 2008, there has been no decline in Taliban or al-Qaida performance attributable to it. Any let-up in recruitment is merely awaiting Nato’s departure. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has called the attacks “in no way justifiable”. The Pakistan government, at whose territory they are increasingly directed, has withdrawn all permission.

The young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana protested in the New York Times of the carnage drones are wreaking on the politics of his country, erasing “years of progress and trust-building with tribes”. Yemenis now face al-Qaida recruiters waving pictures of drone-butchered women and children in their faces. Notional membership of al-Qaida in Yemen is reported to have grown by three times since 2009.

Calling it a “debt ceiling” is misleading: it’s actually a “debt sky”

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:40

In Reason, Sheldon Richman explains the absurdity of allowing governments to go this deeply into debt:

The last time the debt-ceiling controversy arose, it occurred to me that if the raising the “ceiling” is a mere formality — if in fact the sky’s the limit to government borrowing — it’s no ceiling at all. Hence, I dubbed this charade the “debt sky.”

Those who favor automatic increases in the “limit” — or no limit at all — give the game away when they argue that the borrowing authority must be increased because the full faith and credit of the United States is on the line. After all, they say, the money is needed to pay bills already incurred, not for new spending. Obama makes this claim routinely, as though the case for raising the limit is open and shut.

Who knows if that is true? But if it is, think about what it means. Congress has been incurring bills the payment of which depends on a future increase in the debt limit that theoretically could be rejected. It’s bad enough that Congress can incur financial obligations under the statutory authority to borrow; it’s intolerable that Congress can incur financial obligations based on a possible but not certain future expansion of its authority to borrow. This is truly government run amok.

You and I can’t force banks to raise our credit-card limits merely because we have bills to pay. Why should Congress be able to do the equivalent? The road to fiscal responsibility would begin with an end to this practice. Better yet, no more raising of the debt limit — cut spending and live within the current limit. And even better: No more borrowing. Government borrowing is a source of many evils, not least of which is that for decades it made big government appear cheaper than it is. Could the federal government spend nearly $4 trillion a year if it had to raise every penny through taxation? Unlikely. A tax revolt would have been ignited. But let the government borrow a trillion dollars a year, more than 40 cents of every dollar spent, and government looks relatively inexpensive — or it did before things got so out of hand that everyone could see the looming danger.

“Please don’t pathologize this story”

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:34

A plea for understanding, not just for the late Aaron Swartz, but also for the ethically broken justice system:

No doubt it is a certain crazy that brings a person as loved as Aaron was loved (and he was surrounded in NY by people who loved him) to do what Aaron did. It angers me that he did what he did. But if we’re going to learn from this, we can’t let slide what brought him here.

First, of course, Aaron brought Aaron here. As I said when I wrote about the case (when obligations required I say something publicly), if what the government alleged was true — and I say “if” because I am not revealing what Aaron said to me then — then what he did was wrong. And if not legally wrong, then at least morally wrong. The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too. But as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine.

[. . .]

Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Cory Doctorow has a heartfelt obituary up on Boing Boing.

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