Today’s U.S. invasions echo past
NYT, 2/19 — What is striking about “Honor in the Dust,” Greg Jones’s fascinating new book about the Philippine-American War, is not how much war has changed in more than a century but how little…..American troops are greeted on foreign soil as “saviors” and then quickly disposed as occupiers. The United States triumphantly declares a victorious end to the war, even as bitter fighting continues. Allegations of torture fill the newspapers, horrifying and transfixing the country….
To force information from a Filipino mayor believed to have been covertly helping insurgents, American soldiers resort to what they call the “water cure….” When his stomach is full to bursting, the soldiers begin pounding on it with their fists….Then they turn on the spigot again. The technique was perfected during the Spanish Inquisition….
President…McKinley….argued…that “territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause….”
Theodore Roosevelt…nurtured a deep and unshakeable contempt for what he called the “unintelligent cowardly chatter for “peace at any price….” Roosevelt wrote…”this country needs a war….”
“Honor in the Dust” is less about freedom of the Philippines than the soul of the United States.”
Asian women faint in GAP factories
GW, 2/10 — Workers in Cambodia [suffer]….low pay and long working hours, which workers said were partly responsible for a series of mass faintings involving hundreds of workers at factories supplying H&M, Gap and sports brands. Up to 300 workers were to give evidence about the fainting incidents and about living conditions resulting from low wages….
[In] at least 11 garment factories, more than 1,500 workers fainted or collapsed last year.
In August, nearly 300 workers passed out in one week at a Cambodian factory supplying H&M….More than 100 people were reported to have been taken to hospitals after the incidents….
Clothing and footwear is [sic] a vital part of Cambodia’s economy, employing more than 300,000 people, mostly women. Last year the industry was responsible for 85% of the country’s exports and earned $4.5 billion.
Greeks rebel against wage cuts, layoffs
NYT, 2/13 — ATHENS — After violent protests left dozens of buildings aflame in Athens, the Greek Parliament voted early on Monday to approve a package of harsh austerity measures demanded by the country’s foreign lenders….
Measures include, among others, a 22 percent cut in the benchmark minimum wage and 150,000 government layoffs by 2013 — a bitter prospect in a country ravaged by five years of recession and with unemployment at 21 percent and rising….
Angry protesters in the capital threw rocks at the police, who fired back with tear gas. After nightfall, demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, setting fire to more than 40 buildings.
Charter schools fail but get funds
NYT, 2/21 — The charter school movement has expanded over the last 20 years largely on this promise: If exempted from some state regulations, charters could outperform traditional public schools because they have the flexibility and would be more readily tailored to the needs of students. Another selling point is that these schools are supposed to be periodically reviewed when they renew their operating permits — and easily shut down if they fail.
It has not worked out that way. Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools, financed with public money and operating in 40 states, are often worse than traditional schools, the state and local organizations that issue charters and oversee the schools are too hesitant to shut them down….
When weak charters stay open, students are deprived….
Vast youth unemployment in Europe
NYT, 2/16 — Perhaps the most debilitating consequence of the euro zone’s economic downturn and its debt-driven austerity crusade had been the soaring rate of youth unemployment. Spain’s jobless rate for people ages 16 to 24 is approaching 50 percent. Greece’s is 48 percent and Portugal’s and Italy’s 30 percent….
The lack of opportunity is feeding a mounting alienation and anger among young people across Europe…..
Experts say that the majority of those who took to the streets in London last summer were young people who were unemployed….
Classified by statisticians as NEETS (not in education, employment or training), they number about 1.3 million, or one of every five 16-to-24-year-olds in…Britain.
Inspectors: a fig leaf for big biz
NYT, 2/14 — Apple’s announcement on Monday that an outside monitoring group, the Fair Labor Association, has begun inspecting its suppliers’ factories in China rekindled a debate over how effective the group has been in eliminating labor abuses….
The Fair Labor Association is largely a fig leaf,” said Jeff Ballinger, director of Press for Change, a labor rights group. “There’s all this rhetoric from corporate social responsibility people and the big companies that they want to improve labor standards, but all the pressure seems to be going [in] the other direction — they’re trying to force prices down….”
[Inspection]…was criticized by numerous labor unions and anti-sweatshop advocates as toothless and too cozy with…corporate members.
Bishops push for unplanned births
NYT, 2/12 — ….Birth control is cheap, you’re thinking, and far less expensive than a baby (or an abortion)….The cost of birth control is one reason poor women are more than three times as likely to end up pregnant unintentionally as middle-class women.
In shot, birth control is not a frill that can be lightly dropped to avoid offending bishops. Coverage for contraception should be a pillar of public health police…If we have to choose between bishops’ sensibilities and women’s health, our national priority must be the female half of our population.
Britain waves nukes at Argentina
NYT, 2/11 — Rio de Janeiro — Argentina lashed out at Britain on Friday in an increasingly tense territorial dispute over the Falkland Islands, accusing Britain of developing a nuclear-armed submarine....The dispute began to regain steam in 2010, when British companies start exploring for oil in the water around the archipelago….
Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations….did no confirm or deny that Britain had sent a nuclear submarine to the region.
“We do not comment on the disposition of nuclear weapons, submarines, etc.,” he said…He acknowledged that British nuclear submarines “go around the world in international waters.”
“That is what makes them deterrents,” he said.
Pushing lies on climate into schools
NYT, 2/16 — Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science is planning to push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools….Heartland Institute…plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. “Principals and teachers are heavily biased towards the alarmist perspective,” one document said.
Effort to undermine climate-science instruction are beginning to spread across the country….The curriculum would claim, for instance, that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy.”
It is in fact not a scientific controversy. The vast majority of climate scientists say that emissions generated by humans are changing the climate and putting the planet at a long-term risk…
U.S., not Israel, plans Iraq War
NYT, 2/20 — ….Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009, said flatly last month that air strikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program were “beyond the capacity” of Israel, in part because of the distance that attack aircraft would have to travel and the scale of the task”…
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who’ll say, ‘Here’s how it’s going to be done — handful of planes, over an evening, in and out.”….
[The U.S.] would be sucked into finishing the job — a task that even with America’s far larger arsenal of aircraft and munitions could still take many weeks, defense analysts said. Another fear is of Iranian retaliation.
…Should the United States get involved — or decide to strike on its own — military analysts said that the Pentagon had the ability to launch big strikes….
“There’s only one superpower in the world that can carry this off, “ General Deptula said….
Protests blame ONLY free market capitalists; need plan
GW, 2/10 — ….So what remains of the revolution? As the events recede and solidify it becomes clear that 2011 was, above al, a cultural revolution “ a loss of fear in the dictatorships of north Africa; a loss of apathy among educated youth in Europe, Latin Americana don’t eh U.S. And the revolution consisted of this: a mass rejection of the values dominant during 20 years of free market capitalism.
Free market ideology painted Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as icons of economic progress. Free market norms of regulation created the banking crisis, and the demanded we should bankrupt states instead of banks. And free market patterns of wealth distribution created the most potent political meme of 2011 — which was… “We are the 99%”….
At this point, the questions for the young activists become remarkably similar, whether they are in Oakland or Alexandria. What are the social and political alliances necessary to keep the dream alive; what a re the compromises to be made with mainstream politics, hierarchy and power? Anarchism has traditionally answered “none.” Marxism, a social democracy and liberalism have a history of failed alliances with one another in the mid-20th century….
In short, 2012 may be the year the counter-culture accumulated by young people in the good years, and deployed in what has been called “the senseless beauty of rebellion” finally has to concretize into a program, a coherent vision….
Mental quirks cause workers’ ills?
NYT, 2/10 — …For lower-education working men....we have become a society in which less-educated men have great difficulty finding jobs with decent wages and good benefits. Yet somehow we’re supposed to be surprised that such men have become less likely to participate in the work force or get married, and conclude that there must have been some mysterious moral collapse caused by snooty liberals….
…The distinguished sociologist William Julius Wilson…in 1966…published “When Work Disappears: The New World of the Urban Poor,” in which he argued that much of the social disruption among [blacks] popularly attributed to collapsing values was caused by a lack of blue-collar jobs in urban areas. If he was right, you would expect something similar to happen if another social group — say, working-class whites — experienced a comparable loss of economic opportunity. And so it has.
SO we should reject the attempt to divert the national conversation away from soaring inequality conversation away from soaring inequality towards the legend moral failings of those left behind…The social changes taking place in the working class are overwhelmingly the consequence of sharply rising inequality, not its cause.