Posts tagged with politics

Let’s talk!

I wanna get to know all of my followers more and I also really want to talk politics. Let’s talk!

I am a political science major and I really spend most of my time reading about environmental problems, economic inequality, international relations (particular MENA and the Levant), electoral politics, and outside agitation. I also really enjoy discussing the media, both old and new.

Talk. Shall we?

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In Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan today, the same holds true. Few young men join the Taliban, al Qaeda, or the Islamic State because they happened to hear a persuasive sermon or read a rhetorically powerful fatwa. They join because their uncles, cousins, and brothers have joined; because they don’t like the heavily armed outsiders who stroll around like they own the place; because they need the money; because they’re frightened of the consequences to themselves or their families if they don’t join; or all of the above. Yes, many swallow whole the ideology of whichever extremist group holds sway in their region — but they swallow it not because al Qaeda has a “persuasive narrative,” but because humans are social and imitative animals; we adopt the habits, ideas, and narratives of those we value and trust.

Ros Brooks, former Counselor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in the Obama admin from 2009-2011., on Foreign Policy

This is a quote from her latest Foreign Policy piece titled “Six Lessons America Seems Thoroughly Incapable of Learning

1. Other people’s nationalism (or tribal, ethnic, religious, or familial loyalty) is as real as ours.

2. It’s not a “war of ideas.”

The posted quote is from this section.

3. There is no “them.”

4. The fog of war is even foggier than you think — and it extends well beyond warzones.

5. When we get self-righteous and condescending, we annoy people; when we issue meaningless ultimatums, we look dumb.

6. “Don’t do stupid shit” is a sound maxim, but it’s not a strategy. Neither is “leadership.”

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the Export Control Reform Initiative of 2010

"Under the Export Control Reform Initiative, however, the State Department will now only strictly control arms that provide the U.S. military with a critical advantage, such as target drones and stealth technology. Tens of thousands of high- and low-tech war materials such as unarmed Black Hawk helicopters and radiation-hardened microchips, which are critical components in the operation of missiles and satellite systems, now fall under the Commerce Department’s export controls. According to the White House, approximately 90 percent of the military vehicle-related items the State Department approved for export in 2009 would now be under Commerce Department control. (It’s unclear how much this affects defense contractors’ bottom line.) In doing so, the United States is devaluing the many export controls the U.S. government has adamantly urged other countries to adopt and is making it easier for U.S. and foreign arms to reach countries under U.S. and U.N. Security Council arms embargoes.

The administration has also created a new, narrow definition of “specially designed” in U.S. law. This definition — which appears to contradict the U.S. federal judiciary’s interpretation and the U.S. government’s long-held position in several multilateral agreements on arms control and nonproliferation — will allow companies to avoid export controls by deliberately designing items that can be used with controlled and uncontrolled items. In other words, if a company develops cockpit indicators for fighter jets with a secondary use in civilian planes, the indicators would likely no longer be subject to U.S. export controls.”

- “Obama’s Admin Deregulates and Reclassifies To Help Make Arms Proliferation Easier”, by Colby Goodman, Foreign Policy

Further Reading: Export Control Reform, from

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) Export Control Reform (ECR) information page

Why Export Control Reform Matters

Drones and Donuts: Impacts on Communities of Color

A few weeks ago I went to a panel discussion about the domestic use of drones (aerial vehicles without an on-board pilot). In particular, we discussed how our local police force here in St. Louis, Missouri is wanting to buy a drone and also about a “real time intelligence center” connecting surveillance cameras that we ALREADY HAVE set up in over 24 neighborhoods.

I will try and recap some of the highlights from the discussion.

First Speaker: Faizan Syed, from CAIR, or the Council on Islamic Relations. The speaker was born in Pakistan and he mentioned that Pakistanis used to be very pro-American in sentiment; now with drones flying over and their sovereign air-space being breached, he argues that a majority - maybe even a super-majority of people, are actively opposed to the United States now.

This is disheartening and an example of the blowback potential/argument against drone use.

His main point was this: we normalize what we know. He brings up the point that metal wands in airports used to be considered HIGHLY problematic, and there was opposition against the infringement of our civil liberties. Now, it’s commonplace. Wands were only the beginning…

Syed mentioned the economic losses Muslim establishments encountered because people were scared of being caught up in the dragnet that was the NYPD Muslim surveillance program.

Links to horrible stories he referenced:

NYPD Secretly Surveilled Muslim Communities

Homeland Security Act, 2002. This allowed for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Second Speaker: Freddy Chavez, from Latinos in Action (I will withhold providing a link because there are multiple LIA’s according to Google and I’m not 100% on which one Mr. Chavez is from.)

Mr. Chavez discussed the militarization of the border and immigration services. Mr. Chavez, who came into the U.S. as an undocumented person over 30 years ago. Now he is a citizen and he is strongly opposed to immigration services using drones. What stuck out to me about his comments was he said that the border acts as funnel - a bottleneck, and it traps thousand of people from MANY different countries who ultimately want to do what they can do to feed their family.

A link to some of the issues Mr. Chavez remarked on:

Drones on our Borders

U.S. Border Patrol Increases Use of Unmanned Drones for Surveillance

Third Speaker: John Chasnoff, former program director of the ACLU of Missouri.

Chasnoff spoke at length about how data and surveillance footage can easily be mistaken and innocent people can become targeted simply for being in areas of high crime. Chasnoff cited a recent ACLU of Massachusetts study that shows that “police routinely fail to respond to live “hits” alerting them to the location of stolen cars.” What are they using the automatic plate scanners for, then? Well, without all of the info it is hard to say for sure. The ACLU notes that the Boston Police Department targeted communities of color - such as South Boston, and Mattapan - and that this program is “simply compiling vast databases that give officers the ability to retroactively track millions of innocent motorists without a warrant.” The original expose by the Boston Globe, utilizing research put out by investigative journalism group Muckrock, did have a significant impact and the automatic scanning program  in Boston has been “indefinitely suspended.”Chasnoff’s main point seemed to be that policies, laws, and outside and public scrutiny are badly needed to catch up with all of the new technology we are seeing become ubiquitous. Guilt by metadata or association is not strong framework to build a thriving community; and it’s not -contrary to emerging belief - scientific or without human error by any means.

Links to the Boston story:

Data suggests Boston police targeted South Boston, Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester with license plate readers.

Concluding thoughts:

You don’t build a strong society on fear. You don’t build trust in people who know they are potentially being watched. Citizens have the right to know what police are doing in our cities and a massive and inclusive conversation must be had in regards to new technologies and their impact on our lives. We are entering a new world and the rules are largely yet to be written. Public understanding and input is a demand that we should all be making.

I am looking forward to the final panel series which is to be held next Wednesday, May 21st at the ACLU of Missouri. It’s focus is on mass surveillance.

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U.S. federal govt. shutdown.

This is the 17th federal government shutdown since 1976.

In 1990, the shutdown was the Executive’s fault; not this time.

The House members of Congress are literally 8 year old kids. NO offense little kids!

"Members of Congress continue to be paid, because their pay cannot be altered except by direct law." LET THIS SINK IN.

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By obscuring the context, the benefit of hindsight can actually make history harder to understand. During the 1930s, when immigration restrictions prevented more German refugees from entering the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt couldn’t have known that the Nazis were later going to murder millions of Jews. But knowing what happened later, it is easy to portray him as callous. When he did learn about the murder of millions of Jews, he had no understanding of “the Holocaust,” which came later and is now so embedded in our consciousness that it is hard to imagine what it was like to live without such knowledge.
Lawrence Zuckerman, “FDR’S Jewish Problem”, the Nation, Aug. 5, 2013
If you’re following Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin because you think they are worthwhile voices or useful sources of information, you’re a terribly misinformed far-right kook. If you’re following them because you have to keep on top of whatever Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin are screeching about today, because you know that your constituents consider them worthwhile voices or useful sources of information, that’s just as bad. Because whether the Republican Party is full of true-believing kooks or merely people forced to act like true believing kooks in order to keep their seats, the result is the same: a party that can’t be negotiated with because it exists in an alternate media universe with its own history and set of facts.
Alex Pareene, “GOP’s Delusional, Far-Right Twitter Bubble”,

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For the first time since Reconstruction, the GOP controls both North Carolina’s governor’s mansion and its general assembly. These are not the moderate, business-minded Republicans that North Carolinians have long been accustomed to. They are pushing a hard-right agenda on a broad range of issues, from taxes to social services to schools and election laws. They are scrambling to turn back the clock before demographic changes push their brand of right-wing politics to the margins.
Chris Kromm, Sue Sturgis, “North Carolina’s Tug-of-War”, The American Prospect, June 2013

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Debt is the most effective way to take a relation of violent subordination and make the victims feel that it’s their fault. Colonial regimes did this all the time; they would charge people for the cost of their own conquest, via taxes. However, using debt in this way also has a notorious tendency to rebound, because the subtle thing about debt relations is that, on a certain level, they are premised on equality—we are both equal parties to a contract. This both makes the sting of inequality worse, because it implies you should be equal to your creditor but you somehow messed up, but also, makes it possible to start saying ‘wait a minute, who owes what to who here?’ But of course once you do that, you have accepted the idea that debt really is the essence of morality. You’ve accepted the masters’ language.
David Graeber, anthropology professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, interviewed by The White Review.

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I’m off work/school today: let’s talk politics, science, philosophy, what-have-you.

Hit me up.