Archive for the ‘ Rule of Law ’ Category

Security cameras vs. the Miami Gardens Police Department

Ravaged by drug crimes and gang activity, Miami Gardens finally found some statistical relief the last couple of years in overall crime only to be overshadowed by climbing homicide rates. The Florida city is in dire need of trusted cooperation between law enforcement and the community.

However, the community is not only being short-changed by the efforts of the Miami Gardens Police Department, their rights are being violated in the process. The infringement has been so drastic as to prompt shopkeeper Alex Saleh to purchase and install 15 security cameras to surveil and document police activity at his store. One of his employees, Earl Sampson, has been arrested countless times for trespassing at the store, his own place of work. In spite of not once being convicted of anything more than marijuana possession, his rap sheet stacks intimidatingly high against him: 56 arrests, over 100 searches, and 258 times he has been stopped and questioned.

Sampson isn’t the lone victim to the harassment. Another employee was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Charges were never filed, however, as the firearm was found during an illegal search captured on security cameras.

Once Saleh signed up and posted a sign endorsing zero tolerance as the police had requested his business to do, the police have frequented the store at incessant rates. Saleh claims that the police have harassed him as well once he started questioning them and sticking up for the rights of his employees and customers. On one occasion a patrol of 6 policemen comprising the entire Miami Gardens Rapid Action Deployment squad marched in and posted up ceremoniously for 10 minutes side by side as one went in to use the restroom. Saleh, bemused, could only ask questions to which the squad gave no response. On another night, two policemen followed Saleh out to his car and wrote him up for the tail light above his license plate being out. Two more patrol cars came to bring the total policemen necessary to write a tag light ticket to 6. They searched his car and found a gun, which Saleh had a license to carry. Saleh claims the police threatened with an expletive that they were going to get him before they finally left. The security tape of the parking lot from the night before captures a perfectly working tag light on Saleh’s car.

There are plenty of ways to analyze and speculate about the controversy in Miami Gardens and the egregious profiling habits of its police department. What is most important, however, is to realize how iconic this case is of the social injustice that plays out in the United States on an everyday basis and the real lives it ruins.

The ACLU recently released a report revealing that although whites are a little more likely to smoke marijuana, blacks are almost 4 times as likely to get arrested for it. Racial profiling abounds, and hopefully ambassadors like the Alex Saleh’s sticking up for victims like the Earl Sampson’s can do enough to at least bring awareness to the injustice of a society that too often would prefer to roll over and sleep on it.

To explore further how far behind the U.S. is compared to other social democracies concerning issues like these and many more, please visit our Social Justice page at InternationalComparisons.org.

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The solution to Syria; looking beyond the U.S. and the U.N.

Guest editor: Dr. Sherman Lewis, Professor Emeritus Political Science, California State University East Bay

U.S. policy toward Syria has, from the start, been too simplistic and short term. It has been too highly influenced by domestic politics and U.S. exceptionalism. President Obama’s latest proposal, a limited cruise missile strike on chemical weapons, is like a scalpel without an operating room. The Russian initiative, while better than a U.S. strike and helpful, deals with too little of the problem. Syria certainly has crossed a red line against chemical weapons, evidently more than once, but there should also be action in response to another red line that was crossed, war crimes against civilians.

We need a long term, multilateral strategy to overcome two powerful networks, the secular Baathist Alawite regime under Assad, and the Jihadists. Our previous blog reviewed policy from a U.S. perspective. Here, we present a complex policy in which the U.S. plays an important but limited, less visible role.

Credit: truthdig.com

In wake of the UN’s “indesputable” and “thoroughly objective” report that Syria did use chemical weapons,

most eyes are fixed on the U.S., Russia, and Syria for the next step, but they will not affect the larger, more important problem that has caused many more deaths: the Syrian Civil War. Stopping Assad’s use of chemical weapons is impotent unless it’s part of a larger strategy.

The primary requisite is cooperation among critical anti-Assad stakeholders: the U.S., NATO, the European Union, the Arab League, the gulf states, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Syrian civilian leaders with their various interests, ethnicities and sects, and Turkey. The stakeholders would commit a process taking five to ten years.

First, the Arab League would establish a Task Force with Turkey as its Secretariat. The Task Force, in consultation with Western powers, makes policy decisions. The Secretariat serves as the exclusive spokesperson to the media for the multilateral effort. All other stakeholders and actors take a step back from the media for the sake of multilateral functionality. When asked what the U.S. strategy is, President Obama defers to the Arab League saying that the U.S. will work through the Task Force, and that as conditions change and news develops, the Secretariat will keep everyone updated. The U.S. is a superpower, but must act like it is not. Syrian and Arab national interests need to be the major driving force.

Secondarily, the Secretariat establishes an area in the Hatay area of Turkey north and west of Syria for greater refugee capacity and for political and military operations. The Hatay area is about 20 to 30 miles (30 to 50 kilometers)  wide and seems to have room for a sizable, temporary new town. This area of Turkey has access to the Mediterranean at Iskenderun, and has small airports. The flat areas are farmed, to be avoided, and the barren hills are difficult to use, but still feasible.  The area would be a capital in exile for the FSA and Syrian civilian leaders for political, diplomatic, military, and educational purposes.

Every Syrian who wants to be a part of a post-Assad regime is required to spend most of the year there to begin the networking necessary for a functional post-Assad regime. The fractious leadership has to work out its differences and find a way to work together. The FSA and Syrian civilians lack political and diplomatic cohesion and need a place for extended discussion to coordinate civil and military leaderships. They need to agree on who will hold what positions in a post-Assad regime, on what the major policies will be, and on some process for making decisions. This can be developed only over a long period of time. FSA commanders are required to rotate out of Syria for political education and networking. Upon return, they educate their troops about the discipline necessary to get the arms and training they want. Part of that education includes how to relate to the Jihadists, the danger they pose to Syria and Islam, and why the West is so sensitive about them.

With outside military support, the FSA would be able to gradually liberate and secure more nearby areas of Syria. The strategy assumes that military action is necessary to create the conditions for a cease fire and negotiations. When the FSA agrees to critical conditions, the West and gulf states assist it. The Turkish Secretariat manages military assistance from all stakeholders. A select few and trusted FSA fighters receive training and the arms necessary to take out Syrian airplanes, tanks, and heavy artillery. If there are no Assad airplanes, there is no need for the West to have a no-fly zone. The Syrian army will still be strong, but the FSA will have a better chance, and fewer civilians will be slaughtered.

Gradually, as Sunni areas are secured by the FSA, Syrian civilian leaders go from the temporary capital to relatively safe areas of Syria. If civilian leaders want to avoid being frozen out of politics by the FSA, they should take some role in the fighting and get to know the fighters. The liberated areas need to be well-administered and have some economic recovery to show that a future under the FSA and civil leadership can work.

Credit: internacional.elpais.com by Enric González

The Secretariat helps train the FSA and civilians for control and civil administration of liberated Sunni areas. The FSA avoids Alawite areas and does everything possible to avoid communal war, which is a goal embedded by their political education.

Assad commanders and leaders increasingly become subject to International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments. The combination of staying out of Alawite areas and indicting Assad officials gradually develops a wedge to break the Alawite allegiance to Assad. This helps to avoid more communal violence but requires discipline and will lead to a more federated, less centralized Syria. Easing of communal tensions also reduces the intensity of fighting where the Syrian army feels it is defending not just Assad, but its community. Local cease-fires allow the FSA more resources to suppress the most dangerous jihadist operations.

A similar strategy is established to persuade the Russians that a post-Assad situation of decentralization with less fighting is not a power gain for the West and can protect Russia’s economic interests. Similarly, the Iranians need to feel confident that Shiite interests are protected and that an FSA victory improves Iranian security.

Having the Arab Task Force as the leading policy maker is important to prevent the West and particularly the U.S. from imposing its version of the Syrian national interest.

Once Syrian civilians and the FSA have a coherent working relationship, essentially a one-party system over an expanding area of Syria, they negotiate with Alawite communities so that Assad and his officials are removed from power. Once a ceasefire is stable, reintegration begins and, eventually, Syria can achieve some degree of democracy.

All feedback is highly welcomed in our comments section, below, or on other social media.

Syria vs Obama: duplicity’s consequences

Simultaneously venerable yet duplicitous. If the US is to use force to respond to the Syrian conflict, the discouragement of chemical weapons is a worthy ends, yet the means are hardly beyond reproach. It is a bit ironic, indeed, that the US is playing the role of the UN (with Russia, of course as Syria’s ally, debilitating any serious action with its veto power in the Security Council) and enforcing the agreements from the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), one of the few major international agreements ratified by the US. For every supposedly venerable reason to make war, there’s two or three more international treaties the US has not ratified or has ratified yet violates.

Still, President Obama’s decision was a cunning one from a domestic policy and an international relations (IR) perspective.

I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.

Domestically, his decision to welcome the debate and leave it to Congress to have the final say when it’s his authority ultimately as Commander in Chief is a wise one. Not only does this allow Obama to share responsibility should things go awry, he also creates a difference between himself and his predecessor’s assumption of power. Of course it is also placative for the US war-tired public that he has promised the omission of ground troops. Let’s hope this isn’t him leaving the door open for a drone showcase–yet another controversy (note the date of linked article).

Concerning an IR perspective, Obama walks a tight rope of (supposedly) humanitarian interventionism between warmongering and pure-hearted assistance. Again, Obama is clear in claiming that he desires to have no political impact with the strike than to discourage the CWC breach. According to these statements, Obama has no intention in affecting the outcome of the war, lingering in Syria, imposing the Washington Consensus, or meddling in Syria’s politics to influence their resources.

(It should still be said that the US’ decision to dish out the punishment for international treaty violations is controversially overstepping to put it mildly, let alone absolutely hypocritical as far as international agreements are concerned. The US is trying to exemplify Syria, but does this set the precedent for the US’ responsibility to enforce the CWC?)

Even after Saturday, we have no idea what cards Obama is keeping close to his chest or to what extent the content he has revealed is intended as a cover for undisclosed incentives. But if Obama doesn’t follow through with what he assured on Saturday, that the “… action will be limited in time and scope,” he will be held responsible by not only the international community, but his own Congress and people. And if Obama means what he says, he’s got a hell of a road ahead of him and obstacles to overcome before he’ll be able to follow through.

PCBs and Monsanto’s marred reputation

On the Health Regulation page, publishing soon at  www.internationalcomparisons.org as we announced last week, we will include in the statistic table each country’s policy on  polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The United States, most of the world, and all other advanced democracies have banned PCBs. Still, PCBs are noteworthy and relevant to our research to the extent that it’s a great introduction to Monsanto’s lack of business and political ethics. After reviewing the information, below, we understand better why the precautionary principle is absolutely irrelevant in U.S. health regulation policy.

  • Monsanto deliberately hid, tampered with, and denied scientific evidence of PCBs’ hazardous properties up to and beyond its U.S. ban in 1977

    As meticulously outlined by foxriverwatch.com, Monsanto has a prolific history of publicly denying knowledge of the damage caused by PCBs (as they did in 197019731974, 1979, 1993), or altering scientific reports (as they did in 1949, 1969–a critical year: see also the Planet Waves report as well as The Nation report–, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1990) despite privately receiving from others and making their own warnings concerning its harm (as they did in 1937, 1938, 1951, 1956, 1959, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1979, 1980, ).

  • Monsanto neglects safety as its own responsibility and places it on government regulation

    Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.

    -Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications

    In fact, in several instances Monsanto has rewarded employees who have intentionally bucked and stalled the government’s ability to regulate.

  • Monsanto sticks close to the federal government not only by an intimate and thorough lobbying campaign, but also by its revolving door relationship between top-tiered company positions and presidentially appointed offices in the EPA, FDA, USAID, and USDA (Obama’s no exception)

    NAME

    MONSANTO JOB

    GOVERNMENT JOB

    ADMIN

    Toby Moffett Monsanto Consultant US Congessman D-CT
    Dennis DeConcini Monsanto
    Legal Counsel
    US Senator D-AZ
    Margaret Miller Chemical Lab Supervisor Dep. Dir. FDA,
    HFS
    Bush Sr,
    Clinton
    Marcia Hale Director, Int’l
    Govt. Affairs
    White House
    Senior Staff
    Clinton
    Mickey Kantor Board Member Sec. of Commerce Clinton
    Virginia Weldon VP, Public Policy WH-Appt to CSA, Gore’s SDR Clinton
    Josh King Director, Int’l
    Govt. Affairs
    White House Communications Clinton
    David Beler VP, Gov’t & Public Affairs Gore’s Chief Dom.
    Polcy Advisor
    Clinton
    Carol Tucker-Foreman Monsanto Lobbyist WH-Appointed Consumer Adv Clinton
    Linda Fisher VP, Gov’t & Public Affairs Deputy Admin
    EPA
    Clinton,
    Bush
    Lidia Watrud Manager, New Technologies USDA, EPA Clinton,
    Bush, Obama
    Michael Taylor VP, Public Policy Dep. Commiss. FDA Obama
    Hilary Clinton Rose Law Firm, Monsanto Counsel US Senator,
    Secretary of State
    D-NY
    Obama
    Roger Beachy Director, Monsanto Danforth Center Director USDA NIFA Obama
    Islam Siddiqui Monsanto Lobbyist Ag Negotiator
    Trade Rep
    Obama

    Source: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/

    This list is nothing new, as some reports exposed the relationship fifteen years ago.

    Such relations also have pertinent implications in explaining such issues like why Monsanto has gotten away without charges from the EPA during a fraudulent investigation in the early 1990’s.

What the Snowden scenario offers us from an international affairs perspective

Edward Snowden’s pursuit for political asylum is captivating from many international affairs perspectives. One that particularly has my attention is to what extent U.S. exceptionalism will attempt to buck not only other states’ sovereignty, but also international rule of law.

Where’s Snowden? Credity: heavy.com

Indeed, this could turn out to be a fascinating showdown indicating which holds more pertinence: the cumulated efforts among international organizations, the relevance of international law, and assistance from human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International versus the once highly favored, yet still proven counterweight, U.S.

Snowden’s claiming under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that he is entitled to political asylum, and that it is the sovereignty of a host nation (in this case Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and potentially Russia) to grant him. Somebody should probably point out the irony in the United States’ prolific reluctance to sign and ratify international treaties, yet still deny rights granted in treaties that they not only signed and ratified, but its former First Lady also championed and authored.

Such duplicity is nothing new coming from the U.S., but the organization and cooperation in the international community could pose a threat that the U.S., especially given its waning clout, is not used to facing.

The link between guns and U.S. crime

Although it’s worth researching, evaluating the relations of the Connecticut catastrophe to mental illness or “manhood” isn’t within the scope of internationalcomparisons.org. Rather, we focus our attention on national statistics about gun deaths and gun control.

We’ve updated the site to arrange arms ownership rates to be sandwiched between crimes per capita and homicides per capita. Countries like Japan indicate the potential impact gun control can have with a 0.6 ownership rate cozily resting between 19.17 crimes per 1,000 capita and 0.5 homicides per 100,000 capita.

The U.S. is at the opposite end of the spectrum with 61 traumatic reminders since Columbine. Compared to the next to worst advanced democracies studied on internationalcomparison.org, the United States owns over twice as many firearms (88.8 per 100 capita) and suffers twice the homicidal rate (5.4 per 100,000 capita).

There’s plenty to be done concerning gun control without repealing the Second Amendment; tighter restrictions with closer regulation would be appropriate to achieve the goal of the Second Amendment which is a well regulated militia. Earlier this year in Colorado, concealed guns were okayed on college campuses. Four other states also allow firearms on campuses. Loaded weapons are permissible in bars in five different states. In eleven states, felons have less to worry about when they try to have their right to bear arms restored. A well regulated militia would be an easy start. Stricter (not total) gun control would be an easy start in order to ensure arms don’t end up in the wrong hands.

A recent open-forum article in the San Francisco Chronicle recommends the following steps: 1.) Close the gun-show and private-sell loopholes to require background checks. 2.) Include more data for background checks in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. 3.) Ban military assault weapons designed to kill many people quickly. 4.) Repeal immunity of gun makers from litigation so they are treated like manufacturers. 5.) Ban large capacity bullet magazines.

Two well established groups have advocated for reasonable gun laws: the Brady Campaign and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. After the mass murder in Connecticut, a number of additional groups are advocating for gun control.

Rule of Law Index and the WJP

Internationalcomparison.org is proud to announce the launching of a new page. Based on a report from the World Justice Project, The Rule of Law page is an indication to what extent individual countries have been able to provide coherent laws and regulations. With ten different factors being assessed, The World Justice Project focuses on the relevance, just application, and accessibility to each country’s laws. The index also accounts for extra-governmental influences such as media as well as emphasizing the importance of limiting corruption. This is the first of such a report from the World Justice Project which aspires to release a new Rule of Law Index annually. The findings of the Rule of Law index have the United States ranking last in seven out of the ten factors among the countries on internationalcomparison.org. Sweden and the Netherlands have ranked the highest.