Sunday, October 16, 2011

The end of the occupation of Iraq

The Swords of Qādisīyah, Baghdad (Wikipedia)
The AP reports today that:

The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.
It is significant to note that this is the culmination of a status of forces agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in 2008, and which the Obama administration (or, rather, the bi-partisan military industrial consensus) has been trying to find a way to weasel out of every since.

Unsuccessfully.  Because whoever holds the political power in Iraq right now, which might mean Muqtada Al-Sadr or even Iran, held firm and demanded the end to military occupation.

While there are plenty of caveats to the U.S. forces' departure, including the remaining thousands of "diplomats" and private contractors to try to protect them, this is still a vindication for those of us who have opposed this illegal war and occupation from the beginning, and aggressive empire building more generally.

But mostly, history will record this as independence day for the new Iraq, whatever form that takes.  I for one hope it doesn't take the form of a theocratic dictatorship or a bloody civil war, but that will be up to the Iraqis. 

And that is as it should be.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Labor Day, losing the class war over language

Nine Workmen by James Chapin
There is a good column by E.J. Dionne in the WaPo about the disappearance of the working class from popular culture.

I've been noticing for many years that the working class is disappearing from our LANGUAGE as well.

It's not just the Republicans, who of course hate everything about the working class, and only recognize that some people do actual labor when they are self-employed entrepreneurs like Joe the Plumber.

But Democrats and mainstream liberals never utter the words "workers", "labor", or "working class" anymore either. For several years, they have been using "middle class" as code for working class. It's not the same thing, folks.

In the broadcast emails I see from the AFL-CIO and other union groups, they are no better. The best they can do is "working familes". There the cuddly word "families" is used to soften the scary word "working".

We are long overdue to introduce a discussion of class into our politics, but if everyone seems to think it is off limits to even utter the words "working class", that's going to be hard.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Feel that tremor?

1. Budweiser urges men to skip shaving to save water and the environment.

2. Gillette urges men to stop drinking beer to save water and the environment.

3. Consumer capitalism collapses.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Power concedes nothing without a demand"

Thus spake Frederick Douglass who, while he wrote that in 1857, lived until 1895, well into the perversely-named Gilded Age of American capitalism.

It is a little hard to miss the parallels between the period we are entering and that period of a little over a century ago.

It's not just the obscene and increasing disparities of wealth distribution that should concern us. The real problem is that wealth buys power. It buys influence in all levels of government (accelerated by the Citizens United decision), and public opinion via ownership of media and think tanks. An unequal distribution of yachts does not imperil democracy, but an unequal distribution of power most certainly does.

The conventional overview of U.S. history holds that the excesses of the Gilded Age led to financial collapse in 1993, which opened the door to the reforms of the Progressive Era, which in turn ended amid the nationalism and repression of World War I. Then another period of unrestrained capitalism leading another crash in 1929 and the reforms of the New Deal. Then another pendulum swing back to unfettered capitalism (called "neo-liberalism" internationally) starting around 1980, and accelerating the present day.

What is missing from that simplified overview is the organized Left as a historical actor.

I am not a historian, but I am aware of the struggles of organized labor in the late 19th century, and the prominence of anarchists, socialists and groups such as the IWW around the turn of that century. How significant was it that these forces were ready to take advantage of the political upheaval caused by economic downturn, and achieve reforms from the power structure, who may have viewed them as an alternative to revolution?

Similarly, in the 1930s, the Left we very active and organized, both in reformist and revolutionary sectors, with the Soviet Union as a model, for many, of a tangible alternative to capitalism.

(Indeed, one might argue that the approximately 75-year experiment in Soviet-style Communism represents a deviant tendency in the historic arc of democratic socialism, but that will be the topic of another blog post.)

What this historical overview suggests to me is that capitalism inexorably evolves toward plutocracy (and repression) until it is arrested and reformed by popular Left organization following economic downturn.

Plutocracy? Check. Repression? Check. Economic collapse? Check. Popular Left organization? [crickets]

What happens when there is no check on capitalism's sociopathic tendencies?

Would you care to answer that question for the class, Frederick?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Most distressful country

"...the biggest Irish joke of them all, which underpinned the bank guarantee in the first place: that if we wanted investors to retain confidence in the creditworthiness of the Irish State, we needed to make sure that nobody who invested in our (private sector) banks ever lost a penny?
The latter decision is the one that sank the country."

That excerpt is from an excellent article by Kevin O'Rourke at Euro Intelligence about the Irish financial disaster.

Misguided government loots the middle and working classes in an unending attempt to bail out a corrupt financial sector. It really is the U.S., and the world, financial crisis in microcosm.

Who coined the term "the Big Shitpile" for the unimaginably huge mountain of derivative debt built on a rotten foundation of bad mortgages? It might have been Atrios at Eschaton. Who gets to eat the Big Shitpile?, asks Atrios, knowing full well the answer, in the minds of our bankster overlords, is you and me. Anybody but them.

Every Irish American knows the Great Famine folk history of starved corpses with mouths stained green from eating grass. What color are their mouths now?

And where is James Connolly (pictured above) now that we so desperately need him? I know, I know, the same place as Eugene Debs -- in his pajamas, blogging anonymously.

Antidote to peak delusion

The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic
growth as we have known it is over and done with.

That's the beginning of an article by Richard Heinberg introducing his upcoming book with the working title, The End of Growth. It does a nice job of summarizing the connections between fossil fuel depletion/peak energy, financial crisis, and the end of sustained economic growth -- the jumping off point for this blog.

Heinberg introduced me to the concept of peak oil, in a talk he gave at New College in Santa Rosa around 2002. It pretty much changed the way I look at everything. So, thanks, Richard -- I think!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dept. of Horrifically Mixed Metaphors

I get the fishing thing and that metaphor's long association with Christianity. But within that fishing context, "clean 'em" can only mean ... eviscerate them. Ugh.