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Archive for the ‘news’ Category

The privatization of war, part 4 (Foreign policy, privatized)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 6, 2007

Here’s a reprint, in full, from the New York Times. You might be asked to subscribe if you click on the link. The accompanying graphic is excellent.


Foreign Policy, Privatized
Published: October 5, 2007

WHILE most Americans are aware of the controversy over the role of the private security company Blackwater in Iraq, probably few understand that armed contractors in Iraq are just the tip of an iceberg. Across the globe, in everything from diplomacy to development to intelligence, contractors are a major American presence, and only a small fraction of them carry weapons. American foreign policy, to a great extent, has been privatized.

The charts below, based on figures from the Federal Procurement Data System, tell the story. In 2005, federally financed contractors were working in every United Nations-recognized country except Bhutan, Nauru and San Marino.

It has become conventional wisdom to blame the Bush administration for the “hollowing out” of government, but this misses the mark. While contract spending has more than doubled since 2001, serious federal efforts to outsource began under President Bill Clinton.

Nor is contracting necessarily bad: United States money creates jobs for the local population, and humanitarian organizations like Save the Children, CARE and Catholic Relief Services have relied heavily on dollars from Washington. Outsourcing can play to America’s strengths, exploiting our capacity for innovation, flexibility and efficiency.

Yes, as we have seen in Iraq, hiring contractors can lead to severe problems with accountability and fraud. And while steps like making contractors liable for civil penalties may manage some symptoms, they will not cure the disease. We need to devise far better ways of overseeing contractors worldwide.

Some are tempted to turn back the clock and reassert traditional government authority, denouncing private-sector greed and the “coalition of the billing.” But that would be a terrible mistake, for outsourcing is in part a rational response to the new possibilities of the information age. The challenge will be to manage creative forms of collaboration between government and the private sector in ways that serve the public interest.

Allison Stanger, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, is writing a book on the privatization of American power. Omnivore is a graphic design firm in New York City.


Posted in Allison Stanger, Blackwater, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, New York Times, news, Omnivore, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, The privatization of foreign policy, US military | 4 Comments »

The privatization of war, part 3.9 (Blackwater aids terrorists)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 22, 2007

In one of the more amazing stories to date, Blackwater is being investigated by Federal prosecutors for illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq that may have been sold on the black market and then wound up in the hands of terrorists. So, there’s a distinct possibility that, when Blackwater contractors are under attack in Iraq, they’re being fired upon with their own weapons. You can’t make this stuff up!

Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater aids terrorists, Blackwater back at work, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, military contractors, military privatization, news, politics, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, terrorists, US military, weapons smuggling | Leave a Comment »

Saving Halloween in the Castro

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 20, 2007


A community group, Citizens for Halloween, is attempting to save the Castro Halloween party both from Mayor Gavin Newsom and from a potential riot. For further info, check the above website, or come to the C4H meeting this Saturday, September 22, at 1 pm, in the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood St.

Posted in anti-suburbanization, Bay Area, Bevan Dufty, Castro Street, Citizens for Halloween, Eureka Valley, Gavin Newsom, gay, Halloween in the Castro, Halloween party, LGBT, life, news, NIMBY, NIMBYism, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, The Castro | Leave a Comment »

Neva again!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 16, 2007


One of the few reasons to pick up and read the San Francisco Chronicle, Neva Chonin’s column “Live! Rude! Girl!”, is no more. Her last column appeared in yesterday’s Pink Section. The Chron is currently losing $50 million a year, and is in the process of axing 25% of its staff. There won’t be much left of the print edition once the cuts have gone through, and speculation is rife (here and here) that the Chron will stop printing altogether, and rely solely on its web page. Neva can be found on myspace, here.

Posted in Live! Rude! Girl!, Neva Chonin, news, pink section, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Chronicle | 1 Comment »

Radical news

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 14, 2007

IndyMedia is touted as a good source for radical news. I find it inconsistent in quality and coverage. Its attempt to cover the laundry list of leftist causes and categories often makes it unwieldy and not very relevant. The regionally-based IndyMedias occasionally yield useful local news, but suffer from the same problems as the umbrella site. For my money, and my interests, LibCom’s news is first rate. It has a very strong labor component, and seems to be updated quite frequently.


Posted in IndyMedia,, news, radical news | Leave a Comment »

Giuliani time by the bay

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 4, 2007

After some thought, I don’t believe suburbanization is the right word for what Mayor Gavin Newsom has in mind for San Francisco. Newsom fancies himself a “new democrat,” someone who is moderate, centrist, and capable of creative solutions to social problems that are business-friendly at the same time. He has repeatedly cast his eyes toward New York City, and in particular, Giuliani’s time as its mayor. He has emulated NYC’s efforts to clean up Central Park with respect to problems in Golden Gate Park. Newsom has asked New York officials for advice on how to handle the homeless. And his latest idea has been to propose setting up special courts for “quality of life” crimes. Gavin Newsom wants to Giulianize San Francisco.

Newsom’s special courts idea has hit a snag with the SF Board of Supervisors. Board President Aaron Peskin reduced the proposed court’s budget from $750,000 to $500,000, then agreed with other supervisors on the Budget Committee to put the money on reserve. This has increased tensions between the Mayor’s office and the Board of Supervisors, as well as split the Mayor’s own people as to how to handle the Board.


That “quality of life” crimes are committed by folks with little quality of life should be apparent to all. There needs to be more of an effort to debunk the myths of Giulianism. Jennifer Roesch’s excellent piece “The Mussolini of Manhattan” is a start, as is Robert Lederman‘s vendor and artist news from New York City. That Giuliani might be our next president scares the bejesus out of me.

Posted in Aaron Peskin, Central Park, Gavin Newsom, Giulianism, Giulianize, Golden Gate Park, homeless, new democrat, New York City, news, nuisance crimes, quality of life, quality of life crimes, Rudolph Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Board of Supervisors | Leave a Comment »

Latest British bombing attempts

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 30, 2007

Here’s a rather well-done, not to mention on-the-spot analysis of the latest attempted bombings in Britain, which can be found here on the Guardian UK website.


New face of the bomber

Jason Burke analyses eight key issues already emerging from the attacks
Sunday July 1, 2007

1. Islamic militants are almost certainly responsible.
This will become finally clear when the identity of the men arrested at Glasgow airport becomes known. The police are still working on gathering images of the London attacks, but will hope the Scottish strike will lead them to any fugitive bombers.

2. The attacks are linked.
They are probably the work of the same loose network. The strike on Glasgow is unlikely to be the result of the pure ‘copycat effect’ for the simple reason that it takes longer than 36 hours to assemble in secrecy a car, petrol and gas canisters.

3. The bombs are amateurish.

We are a long way from the technologically advanced devices and the painstaking preparation work of 9/11, the 1998 bombings of US embassies in east Africa, or even the 7 July attacks on London. This is good news, in that it means Islamic militants are short on expertise and find running sophisticated operations very difficult, not least due to public vigilance and the work of the security services. But it is bad news in that it means that the threat is coming from the people who are hardest to stop: ordinary citizens angry or disturbed enough to become radicalised. Terrorist organisations can have a highly trained, structured, disciplined body of very competent militants or a diffuse network of less skilled and less disciplined individuals, but not usually both. The former is more effective, the latter more resistant.

4. No suicide bombings.

The fact that the London attacks, at least, did not involve the death of the bomber points to a domestic source. Almost all strikes directly commissioned by the al-Qaeda ‘hard core’ of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri involve the death of the bombers. This change may be the result of a lack of long-term psychological preparation of the attackers.

5. Plots involve British citizens or immigrants who have spent some time in the UK.

However the cell behind the recent attacks could be heterogeneous: one emerging theme is a new mix of ethnicities and even languages within groups. The internet remains extremely important to the radicalisation process, with British security services desperately trying to track the moment when ‘the virtual goes real’. Following recent trends, the bombers are likely to be young (possibly in their late teens) and radicalised very rapidly.

6. Too much can be made of the ‘Iraq link’.

Yes, vehicle bombs with gas cans and petrol have been used extensively in Baghdad, but car bombs are hardly an innovation. There were massive vehicle-borne bombs in Pakistan in the Nineties, in Lebanon in the early Eighties – and of course in the UK.

7. Bands of brothers.

Though not yet identified – reports about a ‘clean image’ of one bomber were not correct – officials say there is a strong chance that anyone involved in last week’s events will be linked to other plots. Islamic militant terrorism works through personal associations, which means that everyone eventually has a connection to everyone if you follow enough links.

8. Message to the UK.

The attacks are something that say: what we are engaged in is far bigger than politics. This is about a battle between good and evil. The timescale is long, the cause is far greater than the arrival or departure of a Prime Minister or even a single war, even those in Iraq or Afghanistan. The threat will remain high for the foreseeable future.

Posted in bombings in Britain, Britain, car bomb, Guardian UK, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, Jason Burke, news, Observer, politics, Scotland, suicide bombing | Leave a Comment »

No blue tsunami

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 18, 2007

Sarkozy and his UMP party didn’t quite achieve the “blue tidal wave” they were hoping for. They have 314 out of 577 seats, a clear majority, but less than the 357 they held under Chirac. Sarkozy is still taking this as a mandate to implement his conservative reforms, and I still predict a lot of social unrest in France for the next five years. Whether workers, students, and banlieue residents will be able to successfully resist those reforms is another matter.

(story here)

Posted in France, news, Sarkozy, UMP | Leave a Comment »

Werewolves of London

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 16, 2007


Sometimes, I don’t find much of interest in the Guardian Weekly.

This issue (June 15-21 2007, Vol 176 No 26) was too preoccupied with the latest British scandal — government involvement in paying a 1 billion pound bribe to a Saudi prince to secure an arms deal for BAE Systems — not to mention the government’s attempts to suppress any reporting or investigation of the matter. It’s front page news, a two-page spread on BAE, and a good percentage of the Comment & Debate section.

I found a pair of articles — Angelique Chrisafis’s “French right poised for parliamentary victory,” and “Sarkozy looks to Mediterranean” by Reverchon and Tuquoi in Le Monde — to have interesting implications. Sarkozy’s UMP party is predicted to sweep elections for the National Assembly, getting up to 500 seats out of 577, ushering in a conservative “blue tide” of “slashing taxes, loosening the 35-hour week, limiting strike powers and cutting the numbers of public sector workers.” Buoyed by victory upon victory, Sarkozy is turning his attention to creating an economic union between Europe and North Africa, on the logic that France and other European countries can discourage immigration from North African countries by encouraging rapid economic development in the Maghreb. That’s, of course, the same logic of NAFTA, supporters of which claimed would help Mexico develop economically, thus cutting down on the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico to the US. We all know how well that worked out. Sarkozy’s victory, and the victory of the UMP, will no doubt heighten class struggle in France. Sarkozy will face a combative working class, rebellious students, and riotous banlieue that should make Margaret Thatcher’s confrontations over striking miners and the poll tax look like a pink tea.

Finally, there’s an item in Derek Brown’s “Week in Britain” about East Sussex police putting more officers on duty during full moons to “combat nocturnal violence and rowdiness.” He mentions Michael Zimecki, of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who wrote a paper linking lunar cycles and criminality. “There is no evidence, as yet, of werewolf activity in either Poland or Sussex.”

Posted in BAE Systems, bribery, Britain, East Sussex, France, Guardian Weekly, Margaret Thatcher, Ministry of Defense, NAFTA, news, North Africa, Sarkozy, Saudi Arabia, UMP, werewolf, werewolves, werewolves of London | Leave a Comment »

All the news that fits

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 12, 2007


What? No front page story on Paris Hilton’s latest travail?

Well, it is the Guardian Weekly after all. I just wanted to highlight a few items in this week’s edition (June 8-14 2007, Vol. 176 No 25).

— Jean-Jacques Bozonnet has a fascinating story on the Italian state. (“Torrent of criticism has Italian politicians fearing implosion”) Apparently, the Italian political apparatus is ten times the size of its neighboring European countries. A local business leader is quoted as saying: “The cost of political representation is equal to that of France, Germany, the UK and Spain together. The party system alone costs taxpayers 200m euro a year, compared with 73m euro in France.”

— A day in the life of an anonymous private security contractor in Iraq entitled “It’s the wild west: we’re a taxi service with guns.”

— A reprint from the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein entitled “US middle class doing just fine.” I think I’ll run down a copy of the study in question as it flies in the face of most things I’ve experienced about the American economy.

— “Danger: upheaval down under,” an opinion piece by Will Hutton of the Observer, details striking parallels between the political climate in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, with an emphasis on the state of the social-democratic Left. Here’s two salient quotes: “One answer is being provide by a nascent Australian progressive think-tank, Per Capita. The left has to invest in people, design markets so that companies deliver public-interest outcomes, extend the polluter-pays principle to every form of economic activity where private companies do not pay for the damage they generate and start to develop a story about promoting individual wellbeing. It is a fine wish-list, and the ambition can hardly be faulted. The question remains: how?” And there’s Hutton’s concluding paragraph: “It is not that the right has a better or even good answer to the questions of our times. It is that the modern left, unless it is prepared to say something concrete about how it wants the economy to look in the future and takes steps to shape it, has little to say either. And if it’s the incumbent government, the consequences is staring it in the face.”

— A whole secti0n on the “G8 and the world.” It asks the rhetorical question: “Developed nations’ leaders have promised to give poorer states a better deal. Are they delivering?” The answer is, no.

— A cyberpunk flavored story about how RFID tags are being used to help make sense out of the baffling confusion that is Tokyo. (“Tagging Tokyo’s streets” by Michael Fitzpatrick) “The city with no street names.”

— A well-deserved savaging of Don DeLillo’s latest novel which I think applies to most of the man’s pretentious oeuvre. (“An inevitable DeLillo, an unoriginal DeLillo” by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post)

It’s still probably on the newsstands, in case you’re interested.

Posted in Australia, Britain, Don DeLillo, G8, Guardian Weekly, Iraq, Italian politics, Italy, life, New Zealand, news, Paris Hilton, private security contractors, RFID, the Left, The Observer, Tokyo, Washington Post | Leave a Comment »