Saturday, March 29, 2008

Observations on the Klein/Scahill Guardian article

from The Guardian

While Clinton and Obama denounce the war with great passion, they both have detailed plans to continue it. Both say they intend to maintain the massive green zone, including the monstrous US embassy, and to retain US control of Baghdad airport.

Many liberals are committed to the idea that simply having a Democratic president will reverse the course of destruction that Bush has set, but I think this view is dangerously shortsighted. This is particularly true with foreign policy, which has always been shaped much more by large economic lobbies (multinational business and defense contractors, namely) than the general public, who tend to pay greater attention to the domestic issues that directly affect them. This is why if you look at historical trends in US foreign policy over time, they often remain constant through administrations of either party, because the economic actors who sponsor them operate largely unchallenged.

In other words, if Clinton and Obama can get you to endorse them without making a real commitment to withdrawal we cannot rule out the following sequence:

1. Obama/Clinton gets elected.

2. Liberals go home, leaving the important work of running the country up to someone who is preferable to Bush, in keeping with the theory that the Democrats will set the country straight.

3. The energy industry, defense contractors, etc. show up at the White House and on Capitol Hill everyday, flush with cash and other support for the incumbents, making very persuasive arguments to aides and think tanks and Council on Foreign Relations members as to why it is not in America's strategic interest to "abandon" Iraq.

4. Liberals are at home watching Jon Stewart or playing Xbox -- at any rate, not placing pressure on the administration or Congress to accomplish what they want.

5. Al-qaeda-type groups continue to capitalize on the presence of the world's largest superpower occupying an Arab country.

6. Something gets blown up, again, here at home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Scoop on Social Security

from the Financial Times:

Politicians understand that, with the Social Security Trust Fund surplus declining, they will no longer be able to borrow from them under the table while announcing fictitiously smaller deficits to justify continued expenditures and tax cuts. And they will have to generate funds from other sources of revenue to redeem the bonds after 2017. Rather than admit too much was borrowed recently, and must now be repaid, they want to reduce Social Security benefits. This puts much of the burden on the middle class, who created most of the surplus that has been used to hide the real size of the deficits.

Fundamentally, the Social Security issue is not one of "entitlements" but of the obligation of our government to honour its debt and not reduce Social Security benefits.

People my age talk about the impermanence of Social Security like it is a law of nature, but like any other public initiative, it merely requires adequate funding to exist. The postal system would be "in crisis" too if they never changed the postage rate or otherwise secured funding from the government, after all.

Social Security will exist as long as the public recognizes its importance and does not allow it to be dismantled by interests who stand to gain from its dismantling.

Really though, my view is that even if the government somehow "got rid of" social security, they would have to reinstate it again immediately, because leaving people no guarantee of income does not exactly lead to a "harmonious society," as the Chinese like to say. This is why even under the Bush privatization plan, Americans would have been highly restricted in how they invested "their" retirement funds: Uncle Sam knows whose door gets knocked on when large numbers of people lose everything in an economic downturn. Wiser observers in the government and corporate world already understand this: it is not good for business to have a national riot. This is why an article like this will appear in The Financial Times.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Note on Working with Others in Impoverished Times

Since my co-workers and I do not garner "ample" wages from the highly-profitable activity we undertake on behalf of our employer, I try to lift their spirits by talking up the advantages to having a squeaky clean bank account, purged of "that evil money." This can have a tremendous effect on people who struggle in a perpetual state of barely making ends meet, and who never before considered the spiritual contribution their employer was making in their lives.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Clinton/Obama: "More insidious" on Iraq

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Samantha Power Can't Possibly Be a Real Name

So Samantha Power resigns as foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign because she actually had something to say -- not that it had anything to do with foreign policy -- for the first time. Well, it's one less reason to avoid voting for Obama. I will miss the many "ums" and "ahs" that she contributed to her NPR interviews, after boldly asserting that there are "profound" differences between Clinton and Obama on foreign policy. Maybe she won't have to worry herself over that Secretary of State job that she humbly wasn't considering until the NPR host twisted her arm. She can go back to Havard and write another best-seller on war crimes that other countries commit, ignoring the carnage Harvard's churned out over the years. Even her name sounds like an invention. Obama has truly granted my greatest wish.