Archive for category This Blog

Scottish Independence

I’m curious – does anyone think Cameron’s government will survive if Scotland votes for independence tomorrow?

No Comments

Destroy ISIS – That’s The Objective?

ISIS

President Obama is now the fourth President in a row who’s leading us into war in Iraq. Additionally, he again wants to attack Syria (but Washington seems to have switched sides in the Syrian civil war since a year ago). Considering the outcomes of previous American military adventures in the Middle East, is this really a good idea? The plan, such as it is, will consist of using mostly air power and special operations forces in cooperation with allied ground forces. The stated objective is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS. However, we’ve failed to “destroy” any of the Islamic insurgent forces we’ve fought against over the past 13 years – they are all still thriving, including ISIS (which started out as al-Qaeda in Iraq).

Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the WaPo:

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead… “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Adding to the level of difficulty is the fact that the USA will be fighting on the same side as Bashir al-Assad, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. And the nascent Iraqi government of of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is an uncertain ally at best. Probably half the Iraqi Army has been rendered combat-ineffective as a result of ISIS advances.

More info:
5 Questions About The War Against ISIS That No One Should Be Embarrassed To Ask

UPDATE:
John Kerry Says U.S. Is ‘At War’ With ISIS. Last week he claimed just the opposite.

30 Comments

America’s Political Autism and Obama’s ISIS Response

The President’s approach to ISIS is a symptom of national failure, intellectual, institutional and leadership fatigue engulfing the US. The idea that we can do something, anything, about ISIS is an illusion.

Johan Galtung:

There are other factors, but the common denominator is us, US.

Change that policy and the world would be easier to cope with.

But, the problem is whether Washington is too autistic to think thoughts beyond its bombing-droning-sniping obsession.

The Guardian, 9 July 2014: “Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown. Social science is being militarized to develop social tools to target peaceful activists and protest movements.” The US military is turning inward, obviously to protect the white 1% who feeds them.

Galtung sees the phenomenon of mass shootings in the US as a symptom of our political problems:

Moreover, it comes on top of another sad phenomenon in the USA: the increasing collective shootings all over the country, geographically and socially, in addition to the usual homicides and suicides, bad enough. The standard analysis is to psychiatrize the murderer, searching for a profile and its likes in society to prevent more shootings.

Another approach would focus on the shootings as a collective, slow suicide of a US incapable of solving its countless problems, even addressing them, to the point that people simply give a damn, kill what they see as the problem including, often, themselves. General demoralization has such consequences, like the suicide epidemic at the end of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and beyond, lasting to our days.

The US can solve the problems facing us. We have to admit that the problems exist before we can solve them. The end of empire is a delicate time. We have the wit, the innovation, the intellect to navigate successfully. Do we have the will?

1 Comment

Undoing Citizens United

Citizens United was a disastrously bad Supreme Court decision. The Senate is voting today on a Constitutional Amendment that would restore the right of Congress to regulate campaigns.

Anyone betting Republicans vote against it?

14 Comments

President Obama’s Endless Summer

The Endless Summer (1966)
“The Endless Summer” (1966)

This is the perfect time to pay homage to the classic documentary by Bruce Brown. I love summer, and every year it ends too soon. However, the point of this post is to criticize President Obama for political cowardice, again. Last June, the President postponed the possibility of executive action on immigration until the end of summer.

The right-wing noise machine and the Tea-GOP loudly reacted as if Obama had actually done something. They threatened impeachment proceedings, and then another government shutdown over the immigration issue.

Now the rumor from the White House is that maybe, maybe, something will be done after the November election. This is typical nonsense we are used to from the Democrats. I get it in the form of fundraising pitches over the phone. “Support our candidates,” the script goes, “and then later, someday, you might get some good policy.” I always tell them: “Do something good NOW, and later, if I’m happy about it, I might vote for a Democrat.”

The demoralizing spectacle of a President and his party in retreat on the immigration issue isn’t going to get them many progressive voters in November. We’ll be reading about the “enthusiasm gap” again, and the reason for it won’t be a mystery.

Worst of all, President Obama has set records as the “Deporter in Chief.” The Obama administration took just over five years to exceed the 2 million deportations that took place under all eight years of the Bush administration, which held the previous record after ramping up deportations following the 9/11 attacks. Every month of delay brings thousands more deportations and broken families.

UPDATE:
President Obama caves to Tea-GOP threats, does nothing to stop deportations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Abandoning his pledge to act by the end of summer, President Barack Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration until after the November congressional elections, White House officials said.

After the Dems lose the Senate, will they wonder why there was an “enthusiasm gap” and progressives didn’t come out to vote?

96 Comments

Labor Day

Seeing as it is Labor Day, a post on labor seems appropriate.

Courtesty of some friends, I recommend this article at Salon. The article recounts the bizarre vote at the VW plant in Tennessee in which anti-union organizers used regional political, cultural and racial resentment to defeat a union vote. The stats show pay and safety at union shops are better than non-union shops. Unions are good for workers.

18 Comments

Facts About The Low-Wage Economy

The high cost of low wages

According to the National Employment Law Project (PDF), low-wage jobs made up 22 percent of job losses from Bush’s Great Recession, but accounted for 44 percent of employment growth after the recession. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession.

On FDL today, Peter Van Buren points out some facts about the low-wage economy:

  • One in four U.S. employees are low-wage workers. That is 20 percent higher than in the United Kingdom, and the highest percentage among industrialized nations.
  • The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
  • In 1968 the federal minimum was $1.60 per hour, approximately $10.70 in 2013 dollars
  • 88 percent of minimum-wage workers are adults, with more than a third over age 40.
  • The percentage of low-wage workers with at least some college education spiked 71 percent since 1979, to 43.2 percent today.
  • The way you functionally subsidize companies paying low-wages to workers– ponying up the difference between what McDonald’s and others pay and what those workers need to live via taxpayer-paid SNAP (food stamps) and other benefits– is a hidden cost in plain sight.
  • If the nation’s largest private employer Wal-Mart increased wages to $12 per hour it would cost the company only about one percent, so that made-in-China $10 item would run you all of $10.01.
  • A Paychex/IHS survey, which looks at employment in small businesses, found that the state with the highest percentage of annual job growth was Washington, which also has the highest statewide minimum wage.
  • Nationwide, even a small hike to $10.10 an hour would put some $24 billion a year into workers’ hands to spend and lift 4.6 million Americans out of poverty. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of our economy.
  • Two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are not employed by small businesses. Better yet, one survey shows three out of five small business owners favor raising the minimum wage; their profits depend on a strong local economy, which requires more money in local consumers’ hands.

64 Comments

Opposition to Common Core Based on Misunderstanding of Common Core

The Tribune published a short article pointing out that while many Utahns are opposed to the Common Core standards, they don’t actually know what the Common Core standards are or how they were devised: Read the rest of this entry »

3 Comments

Are we (finally) seeing the end of US Imperialism?

No.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy approach (Don’t do stupid stuff) has been unbelievably better than the Bush administration’s approach (do as much stupid stuff as possible).
Read the rest of this entry »

17 Comments

All Hell Breaking Loose in . . . Ferguson MO?

Ferguson MO is apparently going up in flames and from what I’m seeing, the local police force is reacting in predictable but incredibly bad ways.

Yesterday, reporters from HuffPo and WaPo were roughed up and arrested.

The statement from WaPo:

The Ferguson Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lowery’s detention.

The following is a statement on the incident from Washington Post Executive Editor Martin D. Baron:

Wesley has briefed us on what occurred, and there was absolutely no justification for his arrest.

He was illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers. Then he followed officers’ instructions to leave a McDonald’s — and after contradictory instructions on how to exit, he was slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.

After being placed in a holding cell, he was released with no charges and no explanation. He was denied information about the names and badge numbers of those who arrested him.

We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK. We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.

From HuffPo:

The Huffington Post called the Ferguson Police Department to inquire about the status of Reilly shortly after tweets indicated that he had been arrested. The person who picked up the phone — who identified himself as “George” — said he couldn’t give any information at this time and that there was no one who could do so. Asked for his last name, he mumbled something quickly. When pressed for the spelling of his name, he hung up.

The Huffington Post called back and again asked for information on Reilly. We were simply put through to the “Ferguson jail” voicemail. On the third try, George again insisted he didn’t have any information at this time and referred us to the city’s website for email information. When again asked for his last name, George simply hung up.

The HuffPo reporter:

“The officer in question, who I repeatedly later asked for his name, grabbed my things and shoved them into my bag,” said Reilly, who appeared on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” shortly after his release to recount the arrest. “He used his finger to put a pressure point on my neck.”

“They essentially acted as a military force. It was incredible,” Reilly said. “The worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald’s and then sarcastically apologized for it.”

As an interesting point, Reilly, the HuffPo reporter, pointed out that the police were shouting “Stop resisting” as they arrested him:

“You know you always see cops yelling, ‘stop resisting, stop resisting,’ and that’s something that happened here — but I wasn’t resisting,” Reilly said. “This is just something that these cops yelled no matter what you were doing. I let my arms go limp … wasn’t trying to resist anything.”

From what I’ve read, it sounds as if the local police are overwhelmed and over-reacting. People are getting hurt.

I have this idea in my head that a problem in our culture right now is an overabundance of fear of social disorder. Fear of terrorism so we have to do the airport striptease. Fear of crime so we militarize our police forces. It’s not a coordinated effort but it is chaotically effective in feeding exactly what it fears most. In this case, the police over-react and create contempt for the police so next time something like this happens, the violence starts sooner, the crack down comes faster and even harsher. It divides the police from the people. The police stop seeing themselves as serving and protecting the people and start seeing their job as controlling the people. It’s harmful.

22 Comments

Only One Depressing Moment At The Paul McCartney Concert

I’ve lived in Salt Lake City all my life and although I’m not religious, I think we used to have a great culture and a fascinating history which includes the federal government sending troops out here to gain high ground and point their guns at the populous. It’s ,undoubtedly, a good thing that nothing came of that.

Bully for me; a lifelong friend got me a ticket to see Paul McCartney perform at [the-venue-I-refuse-to-name] last night. The Tribune did a good review and so did the Deseret News.

Disclaimer: I love what The Beatles did to improve music and politics. The concert was chaotic perfection.

If The Beatles did nothing else, they served to bridge Britain and American music. They invoked a healthy competition of creative music the world will never forget. Kudos to whatever happened between Brian Epstein and Ed Sullivan.

During the last encore, Paul carried an American Flag onstage, and other band members carried a Britain flag and a Utah Flag.

Besides the fact that the concert was un-flawed in my mind, was the fact that I was sitting next to two teenage boys who were around the same age as I was when The Beatles hit the scene. They knew the words to the old songs and the ones I hadn’t even heard by McCartney.

My eyes were drawn to a couple who looked liked they had never exercised a day in their life, who danced vigorously for the entire three hours.

Here’s the bad part, and subject of this post:

Paul asked the audience how many of us were from Salt Lake City and I raised my hand before clapping. He, then, asked how many were NOT from Salt Lake City and the response was overwhelming by twice.

I don’t like polls. :(

3 Comments

President Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’… And We Still Do

Last Friday, President Obama informed a White House press conference that the U.S. government has engaged in torture as a matter of policy. Not that he plans to do anything about that. In fact, he hasn’t even banned every torture technique in use by the CIA and the military.

“We tortured some folks,” he said. “We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and a plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law-enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.”

The fallacy here, whether or not it’s intentional, lies in the fact that torture (in addition to being a crime under federal law) is not an intelligence interrogation technique. The experts will all tell you that torture is good for one thing only: extracting false confessions. The Bush administration employed torture to get some detainees to say what they wanted to hear, namely that Saddam Hussein’s regime was tied in with al-Qaeda. For example the torture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, provided false information regarding chemical weapons training between Iraq and al-Qaeda that was used by the Bush Administration in their efforts to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. Al-Libi recanted in January 2004. This sort of thing is what they now call “faulty intelligence” instead of lies.

President Obama is getting credit simply for using the dreaded “T” word that the media usually avoid by talking about American “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Of course reporters are not afraid say “torture” to describe what China does to prisoners, for example, even if it’s the exact same thing the CIA did.

On FDL, Jeff Kaye picks up on something important. Here’s what else the president said, referring to the still-secret Senate Select Committee torture report (emphasis added):

And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects. And that’s the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.

Kaye notes:

Only “some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques”? Not all? Was this merely a slip of the tongue by the President? No one in the press corp seemed to notice, and no one took him up on the issue… though it is very much worth noting that Jeremy Scahill reported in July 2011 on the CIA’s continuing use of black sites and torture in an important article in The Nation. Others had surmised as much even earlier.

Apparently President Obama, whether he meant to or not, has confirmed for the record that torture is still practiced by the U.S. government.

More info:
Obama Admits He Banned Only “Some” of the CIA’s Torture Techniques

UPDATES:

Fox Gives Liz Cheney A Platform To Attack Obama For Mentioning Torture
White House To Make Torture Report ‘Impossible To Understand’

13 Comments

%d bloggers like this: