Thursday, April 28, 2016

Discussion you should check out

Not a disciple of Thomas Frank.  But IN THESE TIMES has an interesting discussion with him.

I think the excerpt below will make most of us interested enough to check out the full interview:

One of the most shocking quotes in the book is from Alfred Kahn, an advisor to Jimmy Carter, who said, “I’d love the Teamsters to be worse off. I’d love the automobile workers to be worse off.” He then basically says that unionized workers are exploiting other workers.

Isn’t that amazing? He’s describing a situation in the 1970s. There was all this controversy in the 1970s about labor versus management—this was the last decade where those fights were front and center in our national politics. And he’s coming down squarely on the side of management in those fights.
And remember, Kahn was a very important figure in the Carter administration. The way that he describes unions is incorrect—he’s actually describing professionals. Professionals are a protected class that you can’t do anything about—they’re protected by the laws of every state that dictate who can practice in these fields. It’s funny that he projects that onto organized labor and holds them responsible for the sins of another group.
This is a Democrat in an administration that is actually not very liberal. This is the administration that carried out the first of the big deregulations. This is the administration that had the great big capital gains tax cuts, that carried out the austerity plan that saw the Federal Reserve jack its interest rates sky high. They clubbed the economy to the ground in order to stop “wage inflation,” in which workers, if they have enough power, can keep demanding higher wages. It was incredible.

What’s the content of the ideology of the professional class and how does it hurt working people? What are their guiding principles?

The first commandment of the professional class is the idea of meritocracy, which allows people to think that those on top are there because they deserve to be. With the professional class, it’s always associated with education. They deserve to be there because they worked really hard and went to a good college and to a good graduate school. They’re high achievers. Democrats are really given to credentialism in a way that Republicans aren’t.
If you look at the last few Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Obama, and Hillary Clinton as well, their lives are a tale of educational achievement. This is what opened up the doors of the world to them. It’s a party of who people who have gotten where they are by dint of educational accomplishment.
This produces a set of related ideas. When the Democrats, the party of the professionals, look at the economic problems of working-class people, they always see an educational problem, because they look at working class people and say, “Those people didn’t do what I did”: go and get advanced degrees, go to the right college, get the high SAT scores and study STEM or whatever.
There’s another interesting part of this ideology: this endless search for consensus. Washington is a city of professionals with advanced degrees, and Democrats look around them there and say, “We’re all intelligent people. We all went to good schools. We know what the problems are and we know what the answers are, and politics just get in the way.”
This is a very typical way of thinking for the professional class: reaching for consensus, because politics is this ugly thing that you don’t really need. You see this in Obama’s endless efforts to negotiate a grand bargain with Republicans because everybody in Washington knows the answers to the problems—we just have to get together, sit down and make an agreement. The same with Obamacare: He spent so many months trying to get Republicans to sign on, even just one or two, so that he could say it was bipartisan. It was an act of consensus. And the Republicans really played him, because they knew that’s what he’d do.

To go back to your point about education: At one point you quote Arne Duncan, who was Obama’s secretary of education, saying that the only way to end poverty is through education. Why can’t that work?

The big overarching problem of our time is inequality. If you look at historical charts of productivity and wage growth, these two things went hand in hand for decades after World War II, which we think of as a prosperous, middle-class time when even people with a high school degree, blue-collar workers, could lead a middle class life. And then everything went wrong in the 1970s. Productivity continued to go up and wage growth stopped. Wage growth has basically been flat ever since then. But productivity goes up by leaps and bounds all the time. We have all of these wonderful technological advances. Workers are more productive than ever but they haven’t benefited from it. That’s the core problem of inequality.

Now, if the problem was that workers weren’t educated enough, weren’t smart enough, productivity would not be going up. But that productivity line is still going up. So we can see that education is not the issue.

I think it's a discussion you should read because it will make you think.

I don't know what the future is for this country.

There are days where I'm so pessimistic that I think there is no future.

We seem to have driven off the cliff and not grasped yet that we are plummeting.

Maybe we in slow-mo like at the end of THELMA & LOUISE or BUTCH & SUNDANCE?

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, April 27, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, AL JAZEERA is shut down in Iraq, the Defense Dept -- wanting more money -- cites 'progress' in Iraq, the US State Dept suddenly loves protests, and much more.

In 'free' Iraq, where the US-installed Haider al-Abadi still rules as prime minister (for now), AL JAZEERA has been shut down.  The network explains:

The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission has shut down the Baghdad bureau of Al Jazeera Media Network and banned its journalists from reporting in the country.
In a letter to Al Jazeera on Wednesday, the CMC said it was withdrawing the license that allowed Al Jazeera to operate in Iraq due to "violations of the official codes of conduct and broadcasting rules and regulations."

DW notes:

 "We remain committed to broadcasting news on Iraq to Iraqi people, our viewers in the Arab world and across the world," the broadcaster said.
The controversial news network has been banned in Iraq for the third time now. The last time was in 2013, when it reported on a violent military crackdown on Sunni Muslim protestors.

This is 'free' Iraq.

Where thug Haider rules.

Where the US government props up thug Haider and pretends he's not another Nouri al-Maliki.

Despite the fact that he encouraged threats against journalist Ned Parker and that when the REUTERS correspondent had to leave Iraq for the safety of his team and himself, Haider dared to turn it into a joke while visiting the United States.

Haider's a hateful man with a cruel streak even bigger than his rotund belly.

He's hateful and he's not to be trusted.

But so many whores in the press pretend like he's done something or is somehow not Nouri -- as if that's enough?

Pol Pot wasn't Hitler.

But as the people of Cambodia can attest, that didn't mean Pol Pot was Ghandi.

Haider's a thug and a threat.

And the US government has disgraced itself even further in its desperate attempts to prop Haider up.

Why is the US still in Iraq?.

Matt Purple (NATIONAL INTEREST) observes:

The United States is back in Iraq. Actually, it never really left.
President Obama supposedly withdrew all American forces in 2011, except for a few hundred Marines, defense contractors, and military advisors. But it wasn’t long before he began ramping up our presence again, through temporary deployments and other means. This only accelerated after the Islamic State’s blitz through Iraq in 2014. Today, the government has blown through even its self-imposed cap of 3,870 troops, with an acknowledged five thousandAmerican military personnel now on the ground in Iraq. It’s another lazy half-measure—like the disjointed attempt to combat the Taliban—from a president who’s never once laid out a coherent strategy for fighting terrorism.

Why is it still in Iraq?

To 'combat' the Islamic State?

Doesn't seem like it.

Seems like the military still remains in Iraq to prop up  puppet government which still does not represent the Iraqi people.

Maybe when Iraqi politicians are forced to represent the Iraqi people, they'll stop stealing from Iraq?

Maybe when you're puppets installed by a foreign government, you don't give a second though to fleecing the people you supposedly represent?

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appeared before the US Senate Appropriations Committee today.


To plead for money, of course.

To also insist that talk in the House of insisting the next US presidnet make a request in the spring of 2017 for what is needed.

The Defense Dept -- and the current White House and president -- want a blank check and want it written now so that they can cash it whenever they choose to.

They don't want oversight.

They don't want to be responsive to the people's representatives.

That is the Congress.

And they're given control of the purse -- of spending -- for a reason.

A blank check would defeat that control.

Secretary Ash Carter:  There with our support Iraqi security forces retook Ramadi, have been reclaiming further ground in Anbar Province, most recently the city of Hit and along with Iraqi Kurdish forces have begun operations to capture and isolate Mosul with the intent of collapsing ISIL's control over that city.

We keep hearing all of these claims.

Most of which can't be verified.

Like Brett McGurk's endless pimping of the claim that foreign fighters going into Iraq are decreasing.

It's a nice claim but is it really verifiable?


Like so much this White House has offered on Iraq, it's not verifiable.

Carter wanted to talk about success and Anbar.

And he wanted to do so in the same week that Tim Arango (NEW YORK TIMES) offered a look at Anbar which included:

The situation in Anbar has grown increasingly muddled as the Obama administration has stepped up its military support to Iraq, announcing that it will deploy Apache helicopters and position more troops closer to the front lines. It has touted victories in Anbar as an important step toward liberating the country from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and as a prelude to a campaign, possibly this year, to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
But Iran’s proxies are undercutting efforts to unite the civilian population, a necessity if Iraq is to eventually extinguish extremism. In the siege of Falluja, a Sunni city, the Shiite militias have prevented civilians from leaving Islamic State territory while resisting calls to allow humanitarian aid to reach the city. Sunni Arab civilians in the province are increasingly reporting kidnappings and murders by the militias, accounts that American and Iraqi officials say are credible.
In some cases, after civilians have disappeared, their families have received ransom demands. Abu Abdulrahman, a resident of Amiriyat al-Falluja, a city in Anbar under the control of the government, said three of his cousins vanished last year after being stopped at a militia checkpoint.
“We haven’t heard anything about them since then,” he said, although a man approached the family and demanded a ransom of $8,000, which was paid. “He disappeared with the money,” he said.
Conditions are so dire in Falluja for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped there that dozens of people have starved to death, civilians and activists say. Food prices have skyrocketed, with a bag of flour that would cost $15 in Baghdad going for $750, Human Rights Watch has reported.

Back to the hearing for a moment.

Secretary Ash Carter: As we've made this progress with momentum in this campaign clearly on our side, last week in Baghdad, I announced a number of key actions we're taking to continue accelerating our campaign against ISIL.  We'll be placing advisors with the ISF, that is the Iraqi Security Forces, down to the brigade and battalion level to help enhance decision making and responsiveness.  We'll be leveraging Apache attach helicopters to support the ISF's ongoing efforts to envelop and retake Mosul [. . .]

Mosul was seized in June of 2014.

How much longer is it going to be before the city is 'retaken'?

US President Barack Obama's plan or 'plan' has been enacted since August of 2014.

Mosul's still not liberated.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced/claimed:

Strikes in Iraq
Bomber, fighter, ground attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 23 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL tunnel systems, an ISIL tunnel entrance, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL recoilless rifle and an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Beiji, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.

--- Near Fallujah, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed two ISIL mortar systems and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Hit, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL machine gun and an ISIL anti-air artillery piece.

-- Near Kirkuk, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area.

-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Mosul, five strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL fighting position and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun.

-- Near Qayyarah, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area and an ISIL supply cache.

-- Near Tal Afar, three strikes destroyed two ISIL tunnel systems and an ISIL front-end loader and denied ISIL access to terrain.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

Day after day, that nonsense takes place.

Over and over since August of 2014.

There is no progress.

Isn't it past time questions about Iraq were asked?

Let's switch to Tuesday's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Mark Toner.


MR TONER: Yeah. Sure, Michel. Iraq it is.

QUESTION: Do you have any (inaudible) the partial cabinet reshuffle today and the demonstrations by the followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr?

MR TONER: Well, I’ll start with the protests. And we obviously – we support the Iraqi people’s freedom of expression and assembly, just so long as these are peaceful protests. Peaceful protests are an integral part of a functioning democracy, and it is our understanding that, up till now, these protests have been, in fact, peaceful. Moving forward, the security for the international zone is the Government’s of Iraq’s responsibility, so they can probably answer best any further questions about security around these protests. But we obviously support the Iraqi people’s right to express themselves nonviolently.
In terms of the cabinet reshuffle, I’d obviously refer you to the Government of Iraq to comment on the specifics. But Secretary Kerry said when he was in Baghdad just a few weeks ago that it’s important to have political stability, to have a unified and functioning government as rapidly as possible, in order to move forward so that Iraq’s efforts to combat and defeat ISIL are not affected and not interrupted. So we urge all parties to work in tandem and work together to move the political process forward in ways that advance the interests and the aspirations of the Iraqi people and in accordance with the Iraqi constitution.

Oh, goody, political stability.

That's the argument that let Nouri al-Maliki get a second term (the Iraqi people did not elect him) and that let him stay on throughout his second term.

Even though he was overseeing the beating and raping of Iraqi girls and women in jails and prisons -- often illegally imprisoned.

Even though he targeted Iraq's LGBT community, unleashed the Shi'ite militias on them, sent his Interior Ministry into the schools to demonize them and call for their deaths, etc.

Even though he used both terms to actively encourage the persecution of Iraqi Christians to the point that his two terms saw a great reshuffling of Iraqi Christians from Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq to the Kurdish north instead -- because the Kurds could and would do what Nouri wouldn't: try to protect Iraqi Christians.

Even though he terrorized and killed civilians for the 'crime' of protesting.

Even though he had reporters kidnapped and tortured for the 'crime' of reporting on the protests.

Nouri al-Maliki's rap sheet is never ending.

But he was kept in place for 'political stability.'

He provided no stability to Iraq.

But the US government felt he was 'their man' and that if they propped him up long enough, at some point he was going to get that hydrocarbons law passed.

It's still not passed.

So today finds Barack and company putting their faith in Haider.

By the way, it's cute that the State Dept can now support protests.

During the year-plus of non-stop protests, the State Dept could never find a way to defend the protesters.

Not even following the Hawija massacre.

But today, they're all on board with protests.

Because they aren't protests.

They're support rallies for Haider.

Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has released his zombies on the streets of Baghdad to rally for Haider and create the appearance of support.

Back to the State Dept's struggle with truth on Tuesday.

QUESTION: About – thanks, Mark. Regarding Muqtada al-Sadr --


QUESTION: -- is there any concern at this point in this building about his influence in Iraq? On multiple occasions in the last three months, he’s been able to swiftly get well over 100,000 people into the streets of Baghdad. He’s also overseeing one of the more influential and successful Shia militias in the country in the fight against the Islamic State. He seems to have reemerged as a major player there. I wonder if you can comment on that and whether that’s a good thing or are there concerns here.

MR TONER: Well, I think, just answering your last question first, I mean, it’s a perfectly fine thing, as long as he wants to be a part of the political process and not work against it. I would just – you’re certainly right that he is able to still wield tremendous influence within Iraq. That’s clear by these current protests. And again, as we often say about these kinds of environments is that, if you’re willing to quote/unquote “play by the rules” and be a voice for positive change within a society, then that is part of the democratic process and we support that. So certainly we, again, recognize his influence. We recognize that he’s still an influential figure in Iraq, but we just encourage that his influence remain, as I said, positive and peaceful.

QUESTION: Is there some indication that it’s not at this point?

MR TONER: No, I just – I mean, look – I mean, just in the past we’ve had concerns. And going forward --

QUESTION: We actually had a target on his head for a few years.

MR TONER: Well --

QUESTION: And he was – I don't know if he was ever indicted --

MR TONER: I’m not sure about that either. But all I’m saying is --

QUESTION: But his forces at one time were at war with U.S. forces occupying Iraq.

MR TONER: That’s correct.

QUESTION: I know that was a long time ago.

MR TONER: No, I understand that. That’s why – and partly – that’s part of my caveat. I mean, that’s why I say what I say, is that I think as Iraq evolves politically there is, in many countries that are evolving politically, an opportunity for some of these individuals to transition, if you will. But we view always this transition with caution.

His caveat?

That's cute.

"Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr."

The US government came up with that billing for Moqtada.

And they didn't mean it as a compliment.

But these days, Moqtada dances for Haider so the US is all prepared to stick dollars in Moqtada's g-string as well.

There is no coherent policy for Iraq because there's no concern for Iraq or the Iraqi people.

It's still about getting hands on Iraq's natural resources.

All this time later.