Dymaxion World: Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity

Yglesias:

I fear that historical evidence of poor economic performance in the wake of asset price bubbles bursting is creating a mood of dangerous complacency. You can read that as evidence that we’re destined to experience an extended period of poor growth, but you can also read it as evidence that what normally happens after a bust is that policymakers implement an ineffective response. And as Posen argues, accepting the view that slow growth is inevitable is a major cause of ineffective policy and becomes self-fulfilling. Japan started growing once it got some policymakers who believed it was possible for Japan to grow, and thus that they would try pro-growth things and try them on a large scale.

Meanwhile, in Greece:

This dire prognosis comes even despite Athens’ massive efforts to sort out the country’s finances. The government’s draconian austerity measures have managed to reduce the country’s budget deficit by an almost unbelievable 39.7 percent, after previous governments had squandered tax money and falsified statistics for years. The measures have reduced government spending by a total of 10 percent, 4.5 percent more than the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had required.

The problem is that the austerity measures have in the meantime affected every aspect of the country’s economy. Purchasing power is dropping, consumption is taking a nosedive and the number of bankruptcies and unemployed are on the rise. The country’s gross domestic product shrank by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Tax revenue, desperately needed in order to consolidate the national finances, has dropped off. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society.

And back in the US, the one signature Obama program on easing the economic crisis was a deliberately cruel hoax:

Was HAMP a bait-and-switch? Did Treasury know all along that it was likely to fail in its stated aim, but go ahead with it anyway because of its second-order effects? That seems to be the message they’re sending — that HAMP was a way of encouraging owners to apply for loan modifications, not because they were likely to get those modifications, but just because the sheer fact of applying for the modifications would help out homeowners generally, by reducing the rate of foreclosures, and banks too.

When Jared Diamond’s book Collapse came out, a lot of people focused on the first part of the argument (hey, collapse happens!) and ignored the second part of it: namely, that governments are frequently unwilling or unable to make the social changes needed to stave off calamity. Indeed, they often make the exact wrong choices that make conditions worse.

I’d say the last two years have given a lot more evidence to that argument.

Continue reading

Sudbury Against War and Occupation: Afghans mark Independence Day with anti-occupation protests

Afghans mark Independence Day with anti-occupation protests
by Derrick O’Keefe, from Rabble, August 19, 2010. (Link via P.C.)

Today marks 91 years since Afghanistan gained its freedom from the British Empire, following three bloody wars of independence. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a video statement to mark the occasion. It’s worth watching or reading the text in full, if only to appreciate the new Empire’s irony-laden platitudes.

This August 19th, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, I want to congratulate the people of Afghanistan on 91 years of independence.

This is an occasion to celebrate the freedom your nation achieved more than nine decades ago — a proud moment in your long and rich history. It is also a chance to look to the future — a future that people across Afghanistan are working hard to build, in partnership with citizens from many nations, joined together in a shared vision of a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.

I had the honor of visiting Afghanistan last month — the fifth visit I’ve made in my lifetime and my second as Secretary of State. And every time I return, I’m reminded of the warmth of the Afghan people and the resilience that you show in the face of great challenges. I have seen for myself the progress that you’ve been making and that we’ve been honored to support you in doing — one street at a time, one community at a time — promoting peace and planting the seeds for long-term progress.

The people of the United States share a stake in your future. So we are proud to join you today in celebrating your past. But more importantly, as we extend to you our best wishes for a happy and safe Independence Day, to send you our strong support, our partnership and our friendship for all of the years ahead. Thank you very much.

Of course for almost nine years now the U.S.-led occupation has denied freedom and independence to the people of Afghanistan. Whatever sheen of consent and legitimacy the U.S./NATO project once had is now long gone. Wikileaks has just confirmed for the rest of us some of the reality that Afghans have been facing: year after year of increases in troops and overall violence, and a Special Forces war running rampant on both sides of the Af-Pak border.

I reached Malalai Joya somewhere in Kabul yesterday over a crackling phone line. She informed me that Afghans would be marking their August 19 independence day by protesting against the NATO occupation. She explained that for security reasons she would be personally unable to attend, but that she knew of supporters planning to take part in anti-occupation protests in Jalalabad. As the New York Times reports, residents there have already been taking the streets in response to the type of brutality that puts the lie to Clinton’s goodwill message. The conflicting casuality reports are now very familiar to anyone remotely paying attention to media coverage of the war:

The disputed raid occurred early Wednesday in the Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar Province, about nine miles from Jalalabad, the largest city in eastern Afghanistan. It was at least the third raid in the district in four months, and in each, the military’s account and that of local people have been sharply at odds, with local residents insisting that those killed were civilians and the military asserting that there were Taliban present.

Hundreds of suburban residents of Jalalabad blocked its main east-west highway on Wednesday to protest the killings.

Local residents said that the two men killed were both civilians, while a NATO military spokesman said that they had been shot by American troops only after opening fire themselves…

Meanwhile, on the homefront the propaganda war continues. TIME magazine’s cover story about Afghan women earlier this summer has been widely discussed and debated. Long-time correspondent Ann Jones and others have called into question the veracity of the narrative, while a number of organizations explained the real political and historical context of Afghan women and the war.

One noteworthy statement, which I was happy to sign, was issued by the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI). I hope this statement makes the rounds of the networks that make up the mostly-dormant U.S. anti-war movement. It’s well past time to shake off the slumber induced by Obama and seriously mobilize for an end to this war. That would be the least we could do for Afghans, who continue to show resilience “in the face of so many challenges” by fighting for a true and lasting independence from foregin domination.

‘What Happens if We Stay in Afghanistan’: A Response to TIME Magazine

The August 9, 2010 issue of TIME magazine featured a striking cover photograph of an 18-year-old Afghan woman, Aisha, who was disfigured by the Taliban last year. The cover title read, “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.” While Aisha’s story and the stories of many other women like her may depict some part of the reality of women’s lives under the Taliban, TIME’s conclusion that continuing the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is necessary, is highly misleading and troubling.

Afghan women, like women around the world, have lived under very oppressive conditions for decades. Many women remain indoors, without education or health care, or economic security, have early marriages, and are unprotected from domestic violence. Today, after a decade of the U.S.-led occupation, the lives of Afghan women have become worse, not better: in addition to facing continued oppression under the Taliban and the equally oppressive Northern Alliance, they also live in a war zone.

TIME’s statement echoes and resurrects the same justification for the war given during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan: if U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, any rights gained for Afghan women will be reversed by fundamentalist forces. However, this false logic grossly ignores the history of the U.S. imperialist relationship and presence in the region and its effect on women’s rights. During the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, the U.S. armed the anti-Soviet Mujahideen forces, who were at one point led by Osama Bin Laden. In subsequent years the Taliban rose to power, with the United States as its ally. In 2001, when the Bush administration sought to topple the Taliban regime, the United States armed and enlisted the help of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of warlords with its own track record of human rights abuses. Indeed, the United States has consistently chosen the side of fundamentalist allies at the expense of Afghan women, and has always sought its own gains in the region.

In its nine long years, the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan has done nothing to improve the conditions for people in Afghanistan, especially for women. As the classified documents recently leaked by WikiLeaks.org corroborate, the coalition forces have been killing hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the 2009 civilian death toll, close to 2,412 civilian deaths, was the highest of any year since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, and an increase of 24% from 2008. There has been a general increase in violence and civilian deaths because of occupation. A Human Rights Watch Press Alert in 2005 stated that up to 60% of law makers in the lower house of Afghanistan’s newly elected parliament are directly or indirectly connected to human rights abuses. By 2009, the U.N. human development index ranked Afghanistan 181 out of 182 countries. The maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan reveals the highest ever documented. Over the past decade, the immensely corrupt, U.S.-backed Afghan regime led by Hamid Karzai has passed and maintained numerous misogynist laws, including the one that put Aisha in jail after she fled from her in-laws.

For the last decade, the occupying forces of the U.S. and its NATO allies have nourished warlords and supported a corrupt government, leading many to join the Taliban and increasing their influence across Afghanistan. Increased civilian deaths, a fundamentalist resurgence, and deadly bombing raids have led to a devastated country and a Taliban stronger than ever before. TIME’s claim to “illuminate what is actually happening on the ground” falsely equates the last decade of occupation with progress. The occupation has not and will not bring democracy to Afghanistan, nor will it bring liberation to Afghan women. Instead, it has exacerbated deep-seated corruption in the government, the widespread abuse of women’s rights and human rights by fundamentalists, including Karzai’s allies, and stymied critical infrastructure development in the country. The question should not be “what happens if we leave Afghanistan,” the question should be “what happened when we invaded Afghanistan” and “what happens if we stay in Afghanistan.”

The Afghan people are capable of creating their own democratic future. Progressive groups and democratic parties in Afghanistan are fighting to reconstruct the peace and safety of their country, and more often than not, are forced underground for fear of their safety. Despite the repression from the U.S.-backed Karzai government, thousands of brave students and women have come out on to the streets of Kabul to protest the bombings and the continued war. It is from these forces that a larger progressive movement will emerge that could play a role in bringing real democracy to Afghanistan. If the United States continues the occupation, the space for progressive forces becomes increasingly limited.

We must know and remember, that liberation never comes from occupation. We must know and remember, that there will always be resistance to occupation. Occupations, no matter where they take place, from Iraq to Palestine to Turtle Island, are unjust. The American people must come out in support and solidarity with the resilient peoples of Afghanistan and elsewhere who are fighting for their own liberation, and must call for the end of all U.S. wars and occupations.

Initial Signatories:

South Asia Solidarity Initiative
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Derrick O’Keefe co-writer of the autobiography Malalai Joya — A Woman Among Warlords
Veterans For Peace
Courage to Resist
Anjali Kamat, Producer, Democracy Now!
Robert Jensen, University of Texas, Austin, TX
The South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) is an organization based the United States that is in solidarity with progressive social movements and democratic politics in South Asia. We believe in the shared history and common struggles of South Asia and break from the confines of nation-states to carry forward an alternative vision for South Asia and its peoples.

Continue reading

I’m back!

Good morning faithful readers! It must be a good morning, because I’m back from holidays! After spending a week on the east coast of our beautiful country (no I didn’t see the Prime Minister on his east coast tour), it’s good to be back!

Alas, as exci…

Continue reading

On cooperatives and housing.

I’ll get back to my electoral series eventually, I swear. But I had this weird idea today and I wanted to spell it out. It’s not an argument; more just thinking out loud. (Well, so to speak. “Speak”.)We don’t have enough housing going to the people who…

Continue reading

Going Ahead as Planned

It seems after the European Union’s own legal court put a hault on the ban of seal products, the EU will disregard the ruling and go ahead with the ban as of today. Prime Minister Harper is quite upset with the fact that the EU would not respect their …

Continue reading

liberal catnip: Disgust

Well, I suppose I’ve put this off long enough.

There’s one word that sums up why I haven’t been blogging lately: disgust.

It crept up slowly and finally and reached a crescendo with an exclamation point at the beginning of the farce of a Gitmo “military tribunal” for former child soldier Omar Khadr – an expression of the moral bankruptcy of the American Empire™ and our own minority Conservative government which, despite a Canadian Supreme Court ruling stating that his charter rights were violated, has refused to lift a finger to help Khadr.

His “trial” has now been postponed for one month while his military lawyer recovers from an apparent gallbladder surgery-related illness.

Let me share an interview transcript with you that exemplifies why I’ve reached the point of disgust.

On July 26, 2010, CNN’s Larry King interviewed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the infamous Pentagon Papers.

ELLSBERG: You know, the people who put U.S. forces in harm’s way, 100,000 men and women are — in Afghanistan, are the last two administrations, but particularly this one — the last administration, particularly this one, with a decision to escalate the war. It’s — I think it takes a lot of — I don’t know what to say, chutzpah (INAUDIBLE) for people who made the reckless, foolish, and I would say, irresponsible decisions to escalate a war that I’m sure they know internally is as hopeless as these new revelations reveal it to be.

And yet, they’re preferring to send men and women into harm’s way to die and to kill civilians and others — in a war that I think they perceive is endless and hopeless, rather than to face the accusations of generals that they have, these politicians have lost a war that the generals claimed is winnable, they claimed that very foolishly.

I’d say that was exactly the same as the boss I served in 1965, Lyndon Johnson. He didn’t want the General Johnson, the chief of staff of the Army, and others to resign if he didn’t give them enough of what they were asking for. I think President Obama has made the same terrible error.

***

KING: Daniel, do you understand why Mr. Gibbs, representing the president, is so upset?

ELLSBERG: Well, he’s very upset in part because he’s working for a president who has indicted more people now for leaks than all previous presidents put together. And two of those people — Thomas Drake and Shamai Leibowitz — have been indicted for acts that were undertaken under Bush, which George W. Bush administration chose not to indict.

Powerful, indisputable facts.

But then came this:

ELLSBERG: So this is an administration that’s more concerned about preventing transparency, I would say, than its predecessor which I’m very sorry to hear. As somebody who voted for Obama and expect to vote for him again, despite all this.

So, why should I care how Ellsberg votes?

The point is that this isn’t about him.

It’s about citizens who, in the face of horrendous human and civil rights violations, continue to support the perpetrators as if they have no other choice.

It’s about citizens who surrender their power to an oligarchy whose only function is to sustain itself – rights be damned.

It’s about citizens who think that believing in The Goodness of a leader trumps the very real and destructive actions of that leader.

It’s about people who put the survival of political parties before the principles those parties are supposed to stand for.

It’s about people who would rather “move forward” and not do what the law and international treaties demand: prosecuting government war criminals – a festering wound that has now been re-opened with this little parade of the so-called “last combat brigade” leaving Iraq this week – book-ended by the spokesman for US forces in Iraq, Maj Gen Stephen Lanza, (in an interview with Rachel Maddow) declaring that it’s not a “war” anymore. The only thing missing was a “Mission Accomplished” banner for Obama to stand in front of.

It’s about a dangerous subservience to governmental and corporate authority.

It’s about an addiction to money and the supposed promise it’s believed to fulfill.

It’s about media more interested in maintaining access and survival than credibility.

It’s about focusing on contrived political issues when the fundamentals of our very lives are at stake.

It’s about disgust.

And it’s about damn time more people woke up. Or maybe living in a suspended state of ignorant apathy is the best most people can do. Is that it? If it is, count me out. I refuse to live my life cowering in fear of my supposed “betters” when they have done nothing to earn my trust, respect, support or vote. You don’t get to trample on peoples’ rights and expect anything but disgust in return.
 

Continue reading