Syria: Why Assad did not use chemical weapons to kill Syrian citizens

The proposal that Asad used chemical weapons in order to kill Syrians depends on the following steps, from the almost certain through steps with less and less certainty

  • it was chemical weapons that were really to blame for deaths in the recent attack
  • chemical weapons were in fact launched by forces supporting Assad, and not opponents
  • chemical weapons were launched by Syrian government forces
  • chemical weapons were launched by Syrian government forces under the direction of president Assad
  • chemical weapons were launched by Syrian government forces under the direction of president Assad in order to kill a group of ‘rebel citizens’

The problem with the last step, is that chemical weapons are very evidently no more effective to kill the people in question than conventional bombing, as previous bombing raids have shown. So if all you want is to attack those people, why go to the trouble of using expensive and troublesome chemical weapons? Continue reading

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Tribalism, Racism and Despair: The xenophobia cycle

hands-of-all-races-640x350.jpgIt feels like the world is in the grip of a wave of xenophobia, and we just seem so far from a solution.  From extremist Muslim terrorists through to the Donald Trump presidential campaign and the British ‘Brexit’ vote, the is a worldwide rise in at least the visibility of intolerance, if not intolerance itself.

Here in Australia, the problem is also very evident.  From the national political obsession with refugees and the disturbing measures to manage refugees,  through to the ‘Cronulla race riots‘ and the recent rise of the political party ‘One Nation’ which has a voter appeal often associated with a message of intolerance.

This week one Australian television station has been running a series of programs examining these issues, and I was watching ‘Hack Live‘(episode 2) from this series when I heard what I felt was a very telling slip, that exposed the cycle of racism and xenophobia.  One the panellists on the program who was a voice of reason,  “Nayuka Gorrie“, made what I consider the slip.  The point is that if she made this slip, anyone and everyone could make such a slip. There is no criticism of Nayuka Gorrie here.

The slip was to point the finger a set of injustices at a race, rather than at racists.  It may seem a fine point, but I feel this is a very key point and that even the best of us should be oh so careful with our words.  A point was being made in deflecting inflammatory accusations against Muslims, by pointing out the injustices against Indigenous Australians, not by Muslims, but by ‘whites’.  And this was the slip.  It is oh so important in breaking the cycle of racism to be accurate in that it was not a ‘race’ who created the problem.  People of the same ‘race’ who live in, for example Norway, are in no way connected to the problem, and it is entirely possible that some of those to blame for injustices against Indigenous Australians were in fact of Muslim faith, given that no faith is exempt from having racist members.  In fact, so strong was racism during the time of some of the injustices against Indigenous Australians listed that many did not even consider Indigenous Australians has as full human beings.  But the problem was not a specific race, but rather racism itself, and we have to be so careful not to slip in to blaming a race for racism, as this just creates an ever strengthening circle.

A wonderful example is set from world war II, where the victims of racism have managed to keep blame focused on the racist regime and key racist individuals, and avoid blaming a specific race for the horrific racism they suffered.

It is so difficult for the victims of racism to avoid the trap.  The victims are victims as a result of racists, who out of fear commit racist acts, these racists themselves believe they are acting for a race, and as such invite reprisal and blame across the whole ‘race’ they believe they represent. Victims can so easily follow the logic of the racists and the result is that racist acts breed reciprocal racism. The reciprocal racism feeds and intensifies the original racism, and on in goes in an ever intensifying spiral.

So much caution is required, to blame racism for racist acts, and not attribute the blame to a specific race. Even though the racists believe they represent a race, do not blame that race.

Brexit and Trump: Common Theme?

I suggest there are two key points in common between the nomination of Donald Trump as the republican candidate, and the ‘Brexit’ vote in the United Kingdom:

  • the failure of our economic system to deliver distribute of increased economic wealth
  • a backlash against immigration

Economics.

The first point is that we have created a disconnect between a strong economy, and wealth of most individuals.  This has created a situation where people are desperate for change, and do not believe economic growth alone will deliver for them as individuals. Trump and Brexit offer what can be seen as trying something different, even though in both cases the ‘establishment’ says the economy will suffer.  People want their own circumstance to improve, and have lost faith that improving the economy will improve their personal outcomes.

The “it’s the economy stupid” from the Bill Clinton presidential campaign, is out of date.  Now it has to be “here is why it will get better for normal people”.

Immigration.

Also in common between the Brexit proposition, and the platform of Donald Trump, is at least caution towards immigration.  Is this simply a rise of xenophobia, or is there an underlying reason for rise of this sentiment.

In the developed world,  internal population growth has basically slowed to a halt.  Now population growth is almost entirely driven in developed countries from immigration.   Could it be that the same instinct responsible for smaller families,  also creates an inner desire to not find a new way to expand the population?

Is it that the world has simply become too crowded?  Already, almost 1 in 100 people are displaced and have no home country. Humanity has just gone through an unprecedented growth in population. Many people have worried about producing sufficient food for the expanding population, but perhaps unwanted displaced people will be the biggest problem from the growing population?

Whatever the reason, simply declaring people are wrong in fearing immigration is not the solution.

The Message.

Our current economic system evolved for the growth age that ended forever with the GFC.  The world needs focus on how to adjust our economic system, and better solutions to providing for all of the global population.  These are not small challenges addressed by minor tweaks to what is happening now.  That there needs to be real international attention to these problems of the level currently given to global warming.  I will post more on both topics.

 

Trump: Real Problem, No Solution

The USA does have a real problem.

Donald Trump has a campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.  So has America stopped being great?  The USA has changed from a country where most people saw their incomes increasing and saw themselves getting richer, to a country where most now see themselves getting poorer.  For people seeing themselves as becoming poorer, America seems not as great as it was. Donald Trump may not have the answer, but so far he is the only one in the campaign saying he sees that there is a problem, and he recognises the pain, and that America is as great as it should be.  I suggest this is propelling Trump forward, and if the Democrats keep denying there is any problem, then Trump could go all the way.

Look at the graph to the right. From the mid 1920s, src= http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/until the early 1980s  the gap between the rich and poor in the USA closes. Most of the population were getting closer in wealth to the rich, so they also felt richer.   This was also a period overall of real wage growth, people not only felt richer, the were getting richer.  From the early 1980s gap between most people and rich started widening again, making people feel less and less rich. Over this same period most data sources has seen no real median income increase  and many suggest for the most recent few years there has been an income decline.  So while middle America is at best going nowhere the rich still get richer than ever making everyone else feel relatively increasingly poor. Continue reading