Friday, December 7, 2012


US Homeland Security now states that domestic terrorism is more of a concern that foreign-based terrorism. But can the incident a few months ago of a man firing into a Denver movie theatre be considered terrorism, if the perpetrator did not have a clear political motive? Many definitions of terrorism includes political motivation. Here is an article from the Atlantic Monthly, June 6, 2012. It is entitled

Americans Are as Likely to Be Killed by Their Own Furniture as by Terrorism

By Micah Zenko
""The National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) has  released its 2011 Report on Terrorism. The report offers the U.S. government's best statistical analysis of terrorism trends through its Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS), which compiles and vets open-source information about terrorism--defined by U.S. law as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.
Although I invite you to read the entire thirty-one page report, there are a few points worth highlighting that notably contrast with the conventional narrative of the terrorist threat:
  • "The total number of worldwide attacks in 2011, however, dropped by almost 12 percent from 2010 and nearly 29 percent from 2007." (9)
  • "Attacks by AQ and its affiliates increased by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011. A significant increase in attacks by al-Shabaab, from 401 in 2010 to 544 in 2011, offset a sharp decline in attacks by al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and a smaller decline in attacks by al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)." (11)
  • "In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years." (14)
  • Of 978 terrorism-related kidnapping last year, only three hostages were private U.S. citizens, or .003 percent. A private citizen is defined as 'any U.S. citizen not acting in an official capacity on behalf of the U.S. government.' (13, 17)
  • Of the 13,288 people killed by terrorist attacks last year, seventeen were private U.S. citizens, or .001 percent. (17)
According to the report, the number of U.S. citizens who died in terrorist attacks increased by two between 2010 and 2011; overall, a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year. This is not to diminish the real--albeit shrinking--threat of terrorism, or to minimize the loss and suffering of the 13,000 killed and over 45,000 injured around the world. For Americans, however, it should emphasize that an irrational fear of terrorism is both unwarranted and a poor basis for public policy decisions."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’

  Students often write that Iranian leader Ahmadinejad had said that ""Israel must be wiped off the map." It is now widely agreed that it was a mis-translation. 
As the Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele explained in 2006, a more direct translation of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks would be: “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” echoing a statement once made by the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. See this article 
Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’

Monday, December 3, 2012


Excellent discussions again in my UMUC class this week. We discussed the Responsibility to Protect principle, which is aimed at giving nations the ability to intervene in other nations' affairs in the case of widespread human rights abuses. It was noted that only the wealthy countries can actually ''do'' interventions of this nature.  R2P is usually discussed in terms of the UN Security Council making the decision to intervene, but I think it should be the UN General Assembly.
What of self-determination and national sovereignty?  Should the UNSC, as a sort of one world government, or a superpower such as the US,  violate the national sovereignty of country, even if for a good cause? And if so, what about nation building to prevent conflict, or after the intervention?
R2P makes a conceptual link between operations to aid the development of democratic institutions, and the prevention of humanitarian disasters such as wars and widespread human rights abuses.
This brings up the question of the difference between poverty and a humanitarian disaster. For example, India suffers from widespread poverty, and yet it is a democracy with quite a good record for political human rights.  Rwanda is a democracy now, but still suffers enormously from the 90s humanitarian disaster. Nation building may follow a UN war and sanctions, which in themselves cause humanitarian disaster?

(BTW,  I've joined an excellent organization, called Women to Women, and am helping a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to get on her feet. It’s only $30 a month, and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, her project has had to close temporarily due to a flare up of violence there). 

Some students wrote that the US is always called on to help, because it is the most powerful country in the world. What are some alternatives to the power of the Western governments to render aid? There are many regional organizations recognized by the UN.
For example, the African Union could be empowered to act much more efficiently, effectively, and credibly; they do not currently. They require training, resources, and guidance beyond what they currently possess. The ICISS (the INGO that promotes R2P) downplays the role of regional organizations in implementing 2P, and emphasizes the leadership role of the UNSC.

The African Union has accused the West of double standards. Attempts by the International Criminal Court to bring about the arrest of war criminals, has been met with accusations of racism. It's true that the majority of war criminals indicted by the ICC happen to be Africans.  For example...


The ICC has recently released a second international warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s arrest, this time adding the crime of genocide to his list of offenses. Bashir already faces previous charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all of which he has denied.

In fact, only 1 or 2 African countries support the decision of the ICC. The others consider it illegal intervention in another country's domestic affairs The AU will send its troops (if funded) but draws the line when it comes to arresting leaders.

AU forces are under-funded, which is why they have failed to materialize. Personally, I think AU should be funded by the UN. They've done the most to broker an agreement.

Sometimes, individual countries attempt to bring to justice war criminals in other countries. 

A Turkish court is trying four senior Israeli officers  for deadly attack on peace activists at sea in 2010."Senior Israeli Officers Charged With War Crimes Over Flotilla Attack." Meanwhile, 

"Ankara may be facing a daunting probe of its own now, as a report in the weekly Der Spiegel on Thursday prompted German politicians to call for an urgent inquiry into the Turkish military’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish freedom protestors."

 As we are learning in this class, hardly any event in international relations is easily categorized. A good overall question for  R2P interventions, is ''who guards the guardians"? 

The US however, does remain the world's superpower, at least, militarily. Obama came into office promoting R2P. Susan Rice, newly appointed US ambassador to the UN in 2009, said this at the time:

"...we must find more effective means to protect innocent civilians around the world....In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fighting rages on and is reported to have resulted directly or indirectly in more than 5 million deaths, as well as countless rapes, sexual assaults, recruitment of child soldiers, and other major human rights violations...The United States is determined to act to prevent such violations of international humanitarian law. This means, in practical terms, preventing conflicts in the first place, keeping existing conflicts from escalating to mass atrocities, acting early and decisively when they occur, and ensuring that peacebuilding and post-conflict assistance consolidates peace durably once conflict ends. As agreed to by member states in 2005 and by the Security Council in 2006, the international community has a responsibility to protect civilian populations from violations of international humanitarian law when states are unwilling or unable to do so. But this commitment is only as effective as the willingness of all nations, large and small, to take concrete action."

It is now 2012, and the matter of helping the DRC has been dropped. My feeling is that Obama is not promoting R2P anymore.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


A student in my International Political Economy class wrote:

"However, I'd say that it's the reverse that's more true, that the Central Banks are slaves to the markets. The Central Banks can only do so much, and you can bet a million that the private banks will be there to make money when they've done all that they can..."

Which elements in the market are slave to whom, could be analyzed from a Marxist perspective. The capitalist system is the market. The market is motivated by the pursuit of capital above all, not the pursuit of survival. Physical assets and financial products are bought and sold on the market.

Since Marx' death, financial derivatives have arisen that are not based on industrial labor or surplus value derived from labor power. He predicted the rise of credit, but not derivatives, which are a form of gambling ...even on the weather (did you know there are weather derivatives?)

Marx'' analysis of money as a commodity, is useful here. A commodity has use value and exchange value. It's useful for its commensurability in the exchange of commodities, in this case, financial assets like derivatives.

Marx teaches us to relate assets, capital and money back to class interests. Derivatives are a form of competition among hoarders of money. In other words, derivatives hoard and withhold money from the production process (not to speak of the tax shelters that also hoard trillions of dollars). Derivatives prevent the freedom of money to circulate. But I don't think that just eliminating derivatives is going to 'solve' a capitalist crisis, which occur regularly with or without derivatives.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


UPDATED April 28, 2015
UPDATED July 8, 2013
UPDATE: Timothy Geitner, US Treasury Secretary, knew of Libor corruption in 2008, but used the rigged Libor rate to back up bail out funds. See this:
I guess the fox is looking after the chicken coop.

For those of you that think corruption is the purview of low income countries, consider the Libor scandal of last year and ongoing. According to,  the survey system Libor was established 26 years ago to determine banks’ daily estimates of how much it would cost them to borrow from one another for different time frames and in different currencies. Banks self-reported  their interest rates. Libor was not regulated or monitored by an outside, independent agency.
Recall that the current Western-based business model allows the high-street bank to speculate using clients’ monies. 
The  US Banking (also known as Glass-Steagall) Act of 1933 made speculation and investment banking illegal and introduced government-backed insurance for bank deposits.   The Act is often referred to as part of the New Deal, to restore credibility and fairness in the banking industry.
It was repealed in 1999 under President Clinton, under the principle of free trade. In fact, the repeal led to an orgy of gambling with savings and checking accounts of ordinary people, which some analysts say is a cause of the 2008 economic crisis.
Investment banking led to interbank borrowing to maintain investments in money markets. 
The financial crisis of 2008 made inter bank borrowing more difficult. There was less liquid cash. This in turn led investment bankers to lie to each other through Libor, about their interest rates – fixing them at virtually identical lower rates.   
This gave the impression that more liquid cash was available  to banks in the short term,  and that interbank loans were secure even though actual borrowing costs were higher. Individual bankers themselves stood to gain personally from bonuses and their own investments.
On Sept. 13, 2006, a senior Barclays trader in New York e- mailed the person who submitted a falsely low rate, “Hi Guys, We got a big position in 3m libor for the next 3 days. Can we please keep the lib or fixing at 5.39 for the next few days. It would really help.”
At least a dozen firms are being probed by regulators worldwide for colluding to rig the Libor rate. Barclays bank in the UK is being investigated for this fraud, by the UK Parliament. Anyone who purchased derivatives based on an artificially lowered Libor rate, has lost money.  Barclay's president Bob Diamond has stepped down in disgrace.  Barclays was fined a record $451 million. A friend of mine's  Barclays “relationship manager” said he was under orders not to comment, and referred to an incomprehensible statement by Diamond.
Since 1997, Diamond had built up Barclays Capital - the banks' investment wing – producing $4.7bn profits in 2011. 
An editorial in the Financial Times stated: 'For all the diversification benefits, the cultural tensions between investment and retail banking can only be resolved by totally separating the two, of formal Glass-Steagall-style lines.'
The revival of the Glass-Steagl Act is not the only threat to ‘free market’ banking. The biggest fear, according to Diamond himself, is that the government might nationalize Barclays as a response to the global economic crisis.
"If Whitehall was told 'Barclays is at the highest of Libor', they might say to themselves, 'My goodness, they can't fund, we need to nationalize them,' as they had nationalized other British banks," said Mr. Diamond. "We were desperate. We had £6.7 billion of equity being raised. If rumors got on the market that we couldn't fund, then maybe we wouldn't have been able to complete the equity raising."
According to James Cox, an expert on securities law at Duke University Law School: "The other shoes have finally dropped in the LIBOR investigation. Seven other shoes, in fact. Attorneys general in New York and Connecticut have subpoenaed seven of the world's biggest banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase here in the U.S. In broad strokes, the allegations are similar to the ones Barclays settled last month: that the banks abused their power when self-reporting the LIBOR interest rate -- the rate banks use when lending to each other." suggests that US banks will be let off the hook, see:

The Volcker  Rule of 2013 attempts to restrict some kinds of speculative investment by US banks, i.e. curb big risky bets. 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Updated July 24, 2015

The human nature question is, I believe, absolutely pivotal to the study of politics and economics. Very often, I hear my students say that competitiveness and aggression combined with profit making, are driven by biological urges. But biological studies are positing another scenario.

There is an 'altruistic gene' according to biologists:

"...researchers discovered that people with either of two of the variations of the COMT gene (called the Val/Val and Val/Met variations) donated twice as much money to the charity as people with the other variation (called Met/Met), regardless of their gender. In fact, more than 20 percent of the people with the altruistic variations donated all of their money.

In the general population, the number of people with the altruistic variations of the COMT gene varies by ethnicity, says study author Christian Montag, a psychologist at the University of Bonn. Among Caucasians, the ethnicity of all the participants in this particular study, roughly 75 percent carry one of the two altruistic variations: 25 percent carry the val/val, 50 percent carry the val/met, and 25 percent carry the met/met variant.

While researchers have had evidence for years that altruistic behavior is at least partly influenced by genetics, that evidence has come mainly from studies of twins reporting how altruistic they are, which have found that people with identical genetic material show similar patterns of altruism. This is the first study to link altruism to a specific gene.

Psychologist Sebastian Markett, a study co-author also at the University of Bonn, says the results show how a single genetic mutation can have a large effect on our behavior. But he believes science still has much to learn about the genetics of altruism.

'There must be more genes which influence altruistic behavior whose association has not been discovered yet,” he says. “Our future objective will be to identify all of those genes and how they interact with each other to eventually put a pretty complicated puzzle together—with the goal to understand who we are and why we are how we are.'"

But...the richer you get, the more selfish you are! See this

"Lower-class” individuals—i.e., folks without much money or education—demonstrate more compassion and empathy than their wealthy counterparts, according to a series of psychological studies".

Read more:

A new book, WEALTH SECRETS OF THE 1 % by economist Sam Wilkin, posits the very wealthy are more likely to skirt the law by using certain mechanisms that. "involve 'some sort of scheme for defeating the forces of market competition'. Many involve legal manoeuvrings or the exercising of political influence.I haven't read the book so I can't say what methodology Wilkin used to arrive at this conclusion.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


The prompt this week read: Which international relations theories are evident in the ideas expressed by Gertner, Laduke, Waring, Pinky, Marx (as explained by David Harvey and "Spark Notes"), and President Eisenhower?

The readings reflect different interpretations of political economy, which can be defined as “THE STUDY OF POLITICAL DISTRIBUTIONS OF POWER AS MANIFESTED BY ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.”


Up until the global economic crisis of 2007-8, the dominant theories of political economy were

 a) Realism/strategic hegemony. This focuses on the role of the state in the economy, as a matter of national security. Pinky and President Eisenhower address this theory, implicitly. Pinky is more critical of arms spending, from a normative point of view.

 b) Liberalism. This theory advocates a market free from government intervention. President Eisenhower advocates a strong defense of the nation, but  takes a more liberal perspective, in warning against centralization of elite power through arms spending (the military-industrial complex).

 But, advocates of both theories failed to predict coming events accurately. Famously, Queen Elisabeth, in the UK, asked an assembly of UK economists in 2009 why none of them had foreseen the looming economic crisis prior to 2008.

 Solutions to the crisis have been both realist and liberal in nature. The governments of the US and UK for example, have released more money into the economy, a form of government intervention, while encouraging fiscal austerity and supply side reform as advocated by liberalism or neoliberalism.

Fiscal austerity=budget cuts, especially of social services. No increase of taxes on the wealthy sector.

 Supply-side reform=De-regulation or liberalization means the opening up of markets to greater competition. It advocates the growth of financial products such as derivatives, the gambling on future prices.

 Critics say that these solutions are neither innovative or likely to succeed in the long term, because they replicate the same policies that have brought about the crisis in the first place.

One such critic is Adair Turner, a prominent UK economic policymaker. He says that the crises poses fundamental questions about our economic situation. Many of his ideas are reflected in the readings in Week 1, INTL 5400.

Some of his  principle questions are:

 1) Does the conventional emphasis on maximizing GDP make sense?

 2) Should we reconstruct the way in which economics is taught and practised?

 3) Should economics be a moral and not a natural science?

 Constructivism is the theory that allows for the introduction of moral and ethical norms into considerations of politics and economics.

 In Week 1, we are introduced to a number of norms in the context of political economy: Laduke from an indigenous Native American point of view, Waring from a feminist point of view, Marx from the point of view of labor power, without which, he argues, it would be impossible to create profit, or surplus value. Finally, Gertner critiques the Gross Domestic Product as negating moral concerns. He discusses  non-monetized standards, such as the Human Development Index (HDI) which introduce norms such as human good health and environmental sustainability, into the measurement of economic activity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Let’s review some examples of True’s empirical, analytical and normative categories of feminist IR theory, as applied to the readings this week. NORMATIVE CHANGE The women in DRIVE THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL highlight this idea of RADICALLY changing the norms and principles by which society lives. The UNSC resolution that incorporates women into peacekeeping, is another example of normative change. ANALYTICAL FEMINISM Analytical feminism brings previously ignored analytical categories to light. An example of this, would be the legal response to war rapes.As Parker points out, it is a norm that war rape is immoral, but no compensation have been given to victims, and the perpetrators have gone unpunished. Parker is ensuring that war rape is to be analyzed in the legal arena, with practical results to follow. EMPIRICAL FEMINISM This simply means that after one has identified ‘invisibilized’ analytical categories, you compile data about them. How is this done? Authors of “Half the Sky,” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, believe that universities should require all graduates to spend some amount of time in the developing world. This type of education in the West could lead to a future more focused on different types of “power” and seeing INTERNATIONAL POLITICS INVOLVE INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS, PRIVATE LIVES, AND PERSONAL IDENTITIES.” (True, 2005)

Friday, March 23, 2012


This is the Notes from this class, Week 1: HOW DID THE ‘MIDDLE EAST’ GET NAMED? It's a relatively modern term, popularized by Alfred Mahan in early 1900s, an American imperialist. It is a political term, and does not denote a geographical region. “Writing for London's National Review [in 1902], Mahan used the new term in calling for the British to strengthen their naval power in the Persian Gulf. 'As scholar Roderic Davison explains, Mahan’s Middle East "was an indeterminate area guarding a part of the sea route from Suez to Singapore.’ The new coinage played off the terms Near East and Far East,"already in use. “ Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, Additional thoughts: Today, the “Middle East” is still an indeterminate political region. There is no consensus internationally, as to what countries should be included. One could equally include Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. In the 19th Century, Turkey was the 'Near East,' and India, China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia were the 'Far East.’ TURKEY It is believed that 40% of the Turkish population have European origins. Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, considered itself a part of Greater Europe and joined various European institutions. The question becomes, does the government and state of Turkey, today consider itself to be part of the Middle East? This question has economic ramifications, and that is why it’s so sensitive. The Turkish state believes it has fulfilled the criteria to join the European Union. It is therefore not making official claims to be part of the Middle East. See this: The Turks themselves consider this question of whether Turkey is part of the Middle East, to be highly controversial. There are various thoughts. Some want Turkey to be seen as straddled between Europe and the Middle East, but not always facing the West or identified as a “Middle Eastern” country. Some want more of a cultural identification with the Middle East. The question also revolves around Turkish attitudes towards Israel. Recent events (the killing of a Turkish humanitarian activist by Israeli forces) have precipitated a shift against the UK/US/Israeli alliance, and towards Arab and Iranian anti-Zionist sentiments. What is clear is that Turkey is a pivotal 'swing vote' in the region. Given the controversy, I was faced with a hard choice, and decided to simply leave Turkey out of the list of assigned "Middle Eastern" countries in this class! However, it can be part of a topic for your final paper, for example, on Turkish-Syrian relations.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I continue to be amazed by students' final papers in my INTL 5400 International Political Economy class. Here are some recent extracts. Jose wrote in my INTL 5400 2010 class about corruption and the World Bank: Today, the World Bank has lost focus of its primary mission and has developed into an ineffective bureaucracy. Of the 66 less developed countries receiving money from the World Bank for more than 25 years, 37 are no better off today than they were when they received such loans. Of these 37 countries, most (20 in all) are poorer today than they were before receiving aid from the Bank...The underlying corruption of the World Bank is evident in its encouragement of the activities of corrupt government officials across the globe. Reference: Johnson, Bryan. The Heritage Foundation. 16 May 2006. Michael wrote in my 2011 Spring class about US subsidies: To shed light on a wider analytic frame concerning US cotton subsidies and protectionism, it is important to have a short look at the country’s history of agricultural subsidies as well agricultural facts: There are an estimated group of 400 crops, which are grown in the US for agricultural usage. While this represents a good biodiversity range, Kwan point outs that from these 400 food and cash crops grown in the US, the minority of five crops receives the vast majority of all US agricultural subsidies. These commodity crops are corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat. She notes that “ALTHOUGH THE UNITED STATES PAID $164.7 BILLION IN FARM SUBSIDIES FROM 1995 TO 2005, OVER SEVENTY PERCENT—APPROXIMATELY $115.5 BILLION—WAS SPENT ON JUST THOSE FIVE CROPS”(Kwan,575). From these five crops, cotton and cotton farmers receive the biggest share. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, calculates that “THE UNITED STATES SPENDS $34 BILLION A YEAR SUBSIDISING COTTON: MUCH OF THE COTTON IS GROWN IN AREAS WHERE THEY SHOULD NOT BE GROWING COTTON[…] SO IT IS NOT ONLY BAD FOR OUR ECONOMY, BUT IS ALSO ACTUALLY BAD FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT.” (Stiglitz,6). References: Kwan, Charlene C. "Fixing the Farm Bill: Using the "Permanent Provisions" in Agricultural Law to Achieve Wto Compliance." Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 36.2 (2009): 571-606. Stiglitz, Joseph E. Fair Trade for All. How Trade Can Promote Development. Brooks World Poverty Institute Inaugural Lecture., Manchester, UK. Clovis Ouangraoua, in the same class, wrote about Malaysia's bid for independence from World Bank: In fact, MALAYSIA IS THE ONLY EXCEPTION, WHERE EXTRAORDINARILY LARGE FDI INFLOWS (6.6 percent of GDP) WERE LARGER THAN BANK AND PRIVATE SECTOR BORROWING (3.6 percent of GDP). (Steven Radelet, Jeffrey D. Sachs “The Onset of the East Asian Financial Crisis” in Currency Crises, , University of Chicago Press, January 2000, P. 122, 91, accessed 03/07/2012). This exceptional result, the country owes it to a competitive realism strategy that allowed it to shelter its financial markets against foreign markets’ intervention. By rejecting IMF’s policies, Malaysia stood out. The IMF would later be forced to admit that the strategy did pay off despite initial claims of the contrary.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


An Iranian American friend wrote to me "As you know, Islamic feminism is currently enjoying mainstream acceptance in the West to a great extent. Personally, I suspect that this is because they support the status quo in an international political context and only advocate small reforms rather than revolutionary changes."

But there is no blanket approach by the West to support a conservative status quo. In Syria and Libya, the West supports an opposition that includes Al Quaeda and other fundamentalist elements. Same in Egypt, after the Arab Spring of 2011. In Iraq US military forces ousted the secular Sunni and brought the conservative Shia to power in 2003. But in Afghanistan the US is fighting the Taliban and in Yemen and Somalia, the US is engaged in overthrowing fundamentalist groups. As the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, there is no cookie cutter when it comes to foreign policy. Each case is decided on its own 'merits' (if it fulfills a high stake dash to secure access to the world's oil reserves.) For example:

"Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country's future energy industry.
Riven by two decades of conflict that have seen the emergence of a dangerous Islamic insurgency, Somalia is routinely described as the world's most comprehensively "failed" state, as well as one of its poorest. Its coastline has become a haven for pirates preying on international shipping in the Indian Ocean."

• Mark Townsend and Tariq Abdinasir
•, Saturday 25 February 2012 21.04 GMT

Media analyst Eduardo Cohen responds:

"People in the West are told that Somalia has been a failed and violent state for over 20 years.

It's simply not reported that in 2006-7 there were two years of peace when a group known as the Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu and most of the country. They were Muslim fundamentalists but not nearly as hard core as the Taliban or even the government of Iran. There were members who were sympathetic with Al Quaeda but the organization had no ties to Al Quaeda, though the US government claimed they did.

They implemented law and enforcement and for the first time in over a decade and a half women and families could safely walk the streets. They outlawed Khat, the amphetamine like drug that helped fuel more violence.

There was peace. For two years. The US couldn't tolerate that, so they worked with the Ethiopian government to organize, finance and support an invasion by Ethiopia to drive out those who had brought peace. The press act as if that didn't even happen. The Islamic Courts, who also seriously reduced Somalian piracy, were dislodged years ago by the Ethiopians working with the support of US covert (CIA) and special forces (military) and US aerial support (US air and naval forces).

Their removal led to the rise of Al-Shabab who ARE ultra conservative fundamentalists and who ARE connected with Al-Queda.

That, and the current military/covert campaign against Al-Shabab, also led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somalis who are now refugees."

What is the West' interest in Somalia? As well as Somalian oil, the Bab El Mandeb chokepoint is a highly strategic waterway, through which hundreds of millions of oil barrels pass by Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, 30 miles across from Yemen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The Federal Reserve creates and regulates the flow of money into the economy of the United States. We can use the word ‘regulate’ or the word ‘manipulate’. It’s a form of subsidy. When a lot of money flows, businesses take out loans and hire new employees. This can cause overproduction as well as inflation of the money supply. When the boom collapses, workers are laid off and unemployment soars. It’s the job of the Fed to achieve some kind of balance between boom and bust.
Some would question whether the boom/bust cycle is healthy, and ask, who benefits from it?
Everyone can gain during the boom cycle, but in the bust cycle, businesses are purchased and consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. So we can say that only the very wealthy benefit from the up and down nature of the economy.
So that should lead you to ask…who are the Federal Reserve and how is it placed in the context of this cycle? It’s not a government agency. It is composed of 12 private banks in the US. If I were very cynical, I would venture to guess that these 12 banks are not going to suffer during the bust cycle. Meanwhile, smaller high street banks are likely to be gobbled up by the bigger banks. Corporations have ‘rights’, but the smaller corporations are likely to be swallowed up too, by the bigger sharks in the sea. And labor gets misallocated.

Let’s look at this from the point of view of jobs and labor. What and who, actually creates jobs in the US? The biggest corporations are not job creators in the US, which is why President Obama is urging corporations to bring jobs back from overseas. Small businesses (under 500 employees) are the major job creators (65 percent of the jobs between 1993 and 2009, according to the US Small Business Administration.) But as I’ve explained above, these smaller businesses are the most likely to go under during a bust cycle. Additionally, the biggest corporations receive the most tax subsidies, while the smaller ones often endure tax increases and a reduction in loans.
An analyst wrote in December 2011:
“New federal data show that the number of small bank loans to business has fallen to the lowest point in more than a decade, cutting the flow of money to a sector that's usually a job-creation powerhouse.”

Friday, February 10, 2012


My POS 201 Introduction to Politics class (at Northern Arizona University) is in large part an enquiry into the legitimacy of government. The 18th century Enlightenment writer John Locke wrote that government is only legitimate and democratic if it is derived from the consent of the people. Government that is imposed on the people, without their consent, is unpopular and bound to fail. Government must be seen to adhere to popular norms, values and beliefs. Government actions must be seen as appropriate. Legitimacy is derived from the Latin word for law (lex), but does not necessarily mean that all governmental actions have to adhere to domestic and international law. This explains how pre-emptive wars (for example, the US occupation of Iraq in 2003) are largely accepted by the governed, despite being illegal under the laws of war (humanitarian law).

The government must be perceived as sharing the same values as the governed. This implies trust and confidence.

I ask students whether for example, the US government is based on the values of ‘the people’. Students are asked to research various groups that are excluded from high levels of power: the poor, women, ethnic groups etc. For example, 40 percent of the US Congress are millionaires. Can the haves truly reflect the interests of the have nots?

Noam Chomsky, a US political writer, deconstructs the notion of legitimacy in Western government. He examines the methods by which governments gain trust, and thus, legitimacy.

Building from Locke’s idea that government must be consented to freely, Chomsky developed the concept of “the manufacture of consent” (Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media 1988, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky).

As the title suggests, Chomsky and Herman posit that the mass media, because it is owned by ruling elites, distort information and create misinformation to benefit corporate power and the interests of the very wealthy. I think at some level, the public believes it is being manipulated, but feels powerless to stop it. This is evidenced by the fact that only half the population bother to vote, feeling there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans. But that is speculation. More research should be done to find out why and how governments in Western style democracies lose the confidence of the people, and what can be done to restore it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Gerald Lloyd Beeson in my POS 201 Spring 2012 class, describes the research of Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman. Here is an excerpt from Gerald's essay. The prompt asked students to consider whether humans are by nature predominantly aggressive.

" Grossman, in his book “On Killing”, documents various research in military history that shows that men do not want to kill and that it was only by modified training received after World War 2 and the Vietnam War that they managed to increase military killing rates. Grossman cites the battle of Gettysburg, in which 90 percent of the 27,574 rifles found on the field of battle were found loaded and not fired, which means that the soldiers dropped them but did not fire them."

According to Grossman, video games replicate the army's 'train to kill' conditioning techniques, and is responsible for the rising rate of murder among the young.

Gerald Beeson adds ".... Alexia Eastwood points out that “EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE" from studies of psychology actually suggests that “OUR INCLINATION TO SHARE AND COOPERATE ARE HARDWIRED INTO OUR GENETIC CODE” (Eastwood, 1). Eastwood refutes the modern day assumption of economic modeling which is based on Homo Economicus. This theory is all based on the presumption that actions of all men are, essentially, self-serving (Eastwood, Man 1). Eastwood points out that the “ NOTIONS OF POVERTY AND WEALTH” are “SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONS” and are not “UNIVERSAL”. She indicates that other societies demonstrate or represent wealth by redistribution or gift giving (Eastwood, 2)...

As you can see, there is clearly evidence that refutes the ideology that man is essentially a ego-maniacal, self-centered, violent and nu-controllable personage that needs to be monitored by a complex political structure. Society is the way that it is because of social constructions and the political systems."

Works Cited:

Eastwood, Alexia. “Revisiting Economic Man.” Share the World’s Resources. (2010 April 16): Web. 22 Jan 2012.

Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. New York. E-rights/E-reads, 2009. Kindle edition.


Claims about the morality of globalization, tend to revolve around the global income gap. To make your case, students should provide data (see my Guidelines).

Carolyn Cannafax wrote

'For globalization to succeed as an integrative rather than a divisive force, it cannot be formulated as a zero-sum game, or ultimately there will be no winners. Failure to instigate the necessary transformation throughout the international political economy will reformulate its governmental and corporate leaders as victims of their own malfeasance. All are subject to the same environmental degradation, social chaos and economic attrition, regardless of their economic, societal, or political positions.'

Her evidence of the zero sum game is the widening gap between rich and poor.

This 'gap' is subject to controversy. Anti globalists tend to assume there is a widening gap, whereas pro globalists want to believe the gap is narrowing.

It is not controversial that the US is experiencing a widening gap. reports the following:

"A widening gap between rich and poor is reshaping the U.S. economy, leaving it more vulnerable to recurring financial crises and less likely to generate enduring expansions.

Left unchecked, the decades-long trend toward increasing inequality may condemn Wall Street to a generation of unimpressive returns and even shake social stability, economists and financial-industry executives say. "

China, India and other Asian countries, as well as Sub Sahara Africa have seen a widening gap. Whereas, it has been argued that the gap appears to be narrowing in other parts of the world. But as we see in Week 1, INTL 5400, units of measurement of national wealth are controversial.

Here is an interesting article focusing on the debate about income inequality:

Key quotes from the article:

"The September 2004 issue of the prestigious American Journal of Sociology carries an article entitled ‘Accounting for the Recent Decline in Global Income Inequality’ (Firebaugh and Goesling 2004) arguing that global income inequality has declined in recent decades as a result of economic globalization. Firebaugh and Goesling’s main arguments revolve around rapid industrialization in the densely populated regions of China and India.

Robert Wade of the London School of Economics, a notable contributor to debates about global inequality (Wade 2004, 2001) shows that Firebaugh and Goesling’s conclusion of falling inequality is sensitive to a series of choices about measures (how incomes are compared, populations weighted, inequality measured) and data (based on national income accounts or household surveys). When alternative choices are made, global income inequality may increase rather than decline."

Probably sealing the deal, is the discovery that the World Bank got its figures wrong in 2008.

"Contradicting the Bank's celebrated decline in extreme poverty figures last year to less than a billion for the first time, the new measurements revealed a far less optimistic outlook - a total of 1.4 billion poor people in 2005,[1] revised from 986 million in 2004.[2]  A margin of error, in other words, of 42 percent, defining a quarter of the developing world as living without sufficient means for human
survival. "