Spinning a democratized Middle East

April 18, 2003 at 11:28 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Spinning a democratized Middle East

David Olive has a great column in the April 13 Toronto Star that explains how “Not since Vietnam has mendacity so thoroughly characterized both the goals and methods of U.S. foreign policy.” He covers a lot of ground, including a comparison of administration rhetoric to reality. Colin Powell, for example, recently asserted that the US would not abandon post-war Iraq by leaving it to its own devices. On German TV, Powell asked, “And guess who will be the major contributor, who will pay the most money to help the Iraqi people to get back on their feet?” (…) “It will be the United States, as always.” Olive incredulously asks, as always?, before reviewing the facts: “As chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the Gulf War, Powell would very well know that America’s allies paid $53 billion of the $63 billion cost of that war. That about two-thirds of humanitarian and reconstruction work in the developing world is paid for by Europeans. That European and Canadian forces, among others, cleaned up after the Americans in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Of the U.S. record in post-war Afghanistan, already in chaos as insurgent Taliban gangs terrorize civilians and aid workers, Powell said: ‘We are helping them to rebuild and reconstruct their society. That pattern is the American pattern. We’re very proud of it. It’s been repeated many times over, and it will be repeated again and again.’ That claim is preposterous. After the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. returned Kuwait to its despotic emirs and left Saddam to murder thousands of dissidents. In the aftermath of 1990s U.S. interventions in Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan, local autocrats and warlords lost no time re-imposing their violent rule. In a must-read analysis of Bush war strategy in the current Washington Monthly, Joshua Micah Marshall writes that the administration’s ‘preferred method has been to use deceit to create faits accomplis, facts on the ground that then make the administration’s broader agenda impossible not to pursue …. Strip away the presidential seal and the fancy titles, and it’s just a straight-up con.'” And here’s Olive’s succinct conclusion: “The neo-con theory behind the Iraq campaign is that a democratized Middle East will be a safer place, because democracies don’t make unprovoked attacks on other countries. It’s an attractive idea. But when the world’s most powerful democracy launched its invasion of Iraq last month, that theory failed its first test.” In Baghdad, meanwhile, tens of thousands protested in the streets against American occupation.

Abundant Play Dates: Can the Games Begin?

April 18, 2003 at 8:57 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Abundant Play Dates: Can the Games Begin?

Walking at the beach today, a frisky, playful dog I mistook for a puppy jumped all over Jigger, my Cairn terrier, and the two spontaneously struck up a playdate. This happens all the time in the mile-long stretch of Dallas Road that is Victoria’s official off-leash area (there are many unofficial ones). It turned out, though, that this dog was already 11 years old, hardly a puppy. Her owner said, “I’m very proud of her, to me she’s still a puppy.” That idea of taking pride in the dog’s personality struck me as curious, yet somehow right. These two — owner and pet, not just pet and pet — were playing together, too, and she articulated that we are somehow proud not just of our dogs — such great animals! — but also of our own ability to play. And she was implicitly adding: it’s good to be proud of being able to play. The ability to play is so abundant in human makeup. It is NOT a scarce commodity. But that’s easy to forget, especially when you train your gaze on all the things that are wrong with the world. Suddenly, abundance disappears and scarcity rules, simply because good things get squeezed out by all the crap. (I know all about that — my mother’s favourite maxim still resonates: “Life is like a chicken coop ladder, full of shit from top to bottom.” It was a guidebook for scarcity. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I would stay calm during these onslaughts, and I bet she thought I was retarded.) But if you want to feel abundant and playful, you have to be able to feel that your life is not determined by scarcity. It gets harder and harder to do when you realize that part of the agenda of the status quo is to increase scarcity, partly by letting those at the top squeeze out everybody else’s abundance. I suppose they’re ruled by scarcity-thinking, too, because they think that by squeezing their hands real tight around something, they’ll hold it. Try that with water some time. An open hand works better. So, how can we play longer, better? How can you write a blog that points to all the stupid stuff going on, without letting scarcity spread all over it? How do you make it abundant and playful, and still manage to critique? Could play be a strategy? I really think there’s a strong possibility that we are heading toward global-corporate fascism, and that embedded in our very cognition of what’s subject and what’s object is a flaw that might prove to be fatal, yet I put children into this world …who play all the time because that’s their work. I hope they remember to play forever, and that a child’s sense of abundance-in-play, not some old men’s sense of scarcity, will lead us.

Free (unpaid) labour – free speech = new economy

April 18, 2003 at 12:06 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Free (unpaid) labour – free speech = new economy

AlterNet has a transcript of the speech Tom Robbins gave a couple of days ago (April 15th) to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Robbins’s emphasis is on the loss of civil liberties within the US, the dumbing down of the political stakes and rhetoric, the climate of fear this has created amongst the people, and the role of the press in defending free speech. A friend of mine in the greater Boston area — a mere 20 miles beyond the Republic of Cambridge city limits — is afraid to put a pro-peace sticker on her car’s bumper, which seems right in line with Robbins’s assessment.

But it’s about the money, too, as the Toronto Star notes:
“Earlier this month, Republican Senator Ted Stevens (Alaska), chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations committee, said New York City’s police and firefighters should show their patriotism by forsaking pay for overtime work. ‘I really feel strongly that we ought to find some way to convince the people that there ought to be some volunteerism at home,’ said Stevens. ‘These people overseas in the desert — they’re not getting overtime…. I don’t know why the people working for the cities and counties ought to be paid overtime when they’re responding to matters of national security.'”
Meanwhile, the tax breaks proposed by the Administration would enable George Bush to save over $44K in taxes, Dick Cheney about $107K. The Toronto Star columnist I’m pointing to adds: “This is not an hour of patriotic glory for CEOs who continue to push for pay hikes after years of abysmal corporate performance. And press for a dividend-tax cut windfall, happily abetting the debauchery of the country’s finances at a time of budget crises. And, yes, of widespread sacrifice by low-income Americans at home, and by modestly paid men and women putting their lives on the line abroad.”

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