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Laelth

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Macon, GA
Home country: USA
Member since: Sat Oct 16, 2004, 02:36 PM
Number of posts: 20,956

Journal Archives

Yes, this is all about energy--Syria, Iraq, IS, and the President's Speech.

Yesterday, the President announced his intention to escalate our campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in both Syria and Iraq. The doves of DU, as we all should expect, are outraged. I've seen calls here for complete American isolation and American energy independence. I've also seen anguish over what appears to be a never-ending war against "terror" and expressions of horror that the United States is, once again, engaging in a war of choice against an alleged enemy that has done us no harm.

Frankly, I am sympathetic to all of these arguments, but the truth is rather more complex. This is all about energy, as many DU posters acknowledge and concede. Energy matters. Japan, which has no oil or natural gas resources of its own, gets 80% of its energy from the Middle East. Our allies in Western Europe (the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and a lot of other countries) lack sufficient energy reserves of their own to sustain their energy consumption. The United States, for better or for worse, has become the guarantor of the free flow of energy from the Middle East to our allies. We can not fail in this task, for, if we do, our allies' economies will crumble, and our own economy is so intertwined with that of our allies that if we were to allow Russia (the bogeyman, here) to control the price of energy flowing to our allies, our own economy would suffer, and it would suffer dramatically. We insure the free flow of oil and natural gas out of the Middle East. In exchange, the world has agreed to allow energy to be traded in our currency, USD, and this has made us rich and powerful. We must resist any attempt by any nation or power who proposes to trade energy in any other currency. Our ability to fund our national debt is directly tied to the world's trading energy in USD. It would be very stupid for us to become isolationists and only worry about our own energy needs in this environment (as the President fully understands).

So, we must stay involved in the Middle East, and we must insure the flow of energy to our allies. We continue to do so. That's what the conflicts in both the Ukraine and Syria are all about. We initially supported the overthrow of Syria's Assad regime for this very reason. Our European allies asked us to facilitate a pipeline from Northern Iraq (through Syria) to the Mediterranean, so as to relieve the pressure of the Russian monopoly on natural gas flowing to Western Europe. We wanted to oblige, and we began preparing to topple Assad's regime (a Russian and Iranian surrogate state) in order to relieve that pressure and allow the needed pipeline. We probably encouraged Saudi Arabia to support IS for this purpose. Then something strange happened. Cameron, the UK's Prime Minister, took the issue to Parliament, asking Parliament to back a war in Syria against Assad's regime, and the UK's Parliament bucked him. They refused to authorize war, and President Obama was left holding the bag. He backed off from war against Syria, and we did not escalate. In the end, I think this was a good thing, but it embarrassed Obama, and it did not resolve the central problem--Russia's monopoly on energy sales to Western Europe.

Then we chose another route. We pushed for an independent Kurdistan, and we convinced Turkey to allow a pipeline through their country to move energy from Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq to the Mediterranean. This has worked. The envisioned pipeline is up and working and Europe now has access to Middle-Eastern energy through Turkey. I don't know what we promised the Turks in order to get this concession (probably our refusal to support a populist revolt against Turkey's current regime), but at this point in time even Israel is backing an independent Kurdish state, and the United States is also doing so (in private, at least). Note that when Israel makes a move in the Middle East, it's almost certain that whatever they are doing has the full backing of the government of the United States.

We should all acknowledge that the current conflict in Ukraine is about the same underlying issue (Russia's monopoly on the flow of natural gas to Western Europe). There our initial strategy also failed. We backed a right-wing coup in Ukraine to release the pressure on Russia's energy monopoly (significant natural gas flows through Ukraine to Western Europe), and we have almost created WWIII as a result. The Ukranian conflict has yet to be resolved. I give the President credit for not engaging us in the war in Ukraine (yet), but this conflict could escalate and require our involvement (Goddess forbid). Nevertheless, the Ukraine conflict has now taken a back seat (and we have not become more involved) because the Kurds are now shipping energy resources to Europe though Turkey. Russia's monopoly has been broken, and our allies are pleased about that.

As it stands, we don't need Syria for our pipeline. Turkey is taking care of that for us--so long as we maintain an independent Kurdistan, and that's what the current action against IS is about. IS was threatening the Kurds (they even captured a major dam in Kurdish territory), but IS has been driven away from the dam and is now retreating. SA and its gulf-state allies have withdrawn their support for IS. Now, IS has no rich backers. They have limited funds and are in retreat on all fronts. IS is not a threat to the U.S.

But we're still going to engage in limited military action against them. Why? Because IS has no allies left, and because the drums of war are beating. In order to fend off the constant charge that Democrats are "weak on defense," the President must do something (if for no other reason than to protect our electoral interests in the 2014 mid-terms). We can't look soft. We have to look strong, and the President has decided to project that image.

Can you blame him? Can you blame any politician in a republic or constitutional monarchy for insuring that the price of energy is low? If you were the head of a nation, and you allowed energy prices to double in your country, what would you think would happen? Most likely, you and your party would get voted out of power and you might not see power again in your nation for a generation. European politicians are deeply concerned about Russia's energy monopoly. We, their ally, have tried to help them escape this monopoly. That's what this is all about.

I don't like the fact that it's so easy to gin up support for war in the United States, but I give the President credit for doing something (if only to protect Democrats who are running for office in 2014), while at the same time circumventing Russia's energy monopoly and keeping the United States out of any full-scale, troops-on-the-ground war over this issue.

-Laelth

Who will help the Kurds?

Now that President Obama has launched a program of humanitarian aid for the Kurds and has authorized limited offensive air strikes against IS, DU has erupted in debate along very familiar lines. Some support the President's decision and the course of action he is taking. Others abhor his decision to risk involving the United States in yet another war in the Middle East.

A recent DU thread asks whether we are "ready" for another war in the Middle East, and I think it's author is right to caution us that "limited" assistance to the Kurds could very well spiral into full-scale war (as we learned from Vietnam). That's a very real risk, and well-meaning people on DU are worried about that prospect. Some of them argue (in typically isolationist terms) that the Kurds are not our problem. Some even go so far as to argue that the Middle East is not our problem (even though they know that Japan, for example, which has practically no oil reserves of its own, gets most of its oil from the Middle East).

This isolationist/pacifist bent among my well-meaning peers at DU is what prompted this thread. To those people who rightly fear another pointless war I ask, who will help the Kurds (who are being attacked, brutally, by IS)? One person suggested that Turkey should help. Iran, which also has a substantial Kurdish population could help, if they were so inclined. The point of this thread is to suggest that nobody wants to help the Kurds. If the United States doesn't do it, nobody will.

Consider the following map:



The Turks do not want an independent Kurdistan. They're probably secretly pleased that IS is attacking the Kurds and forestalling their ambition to establish an independent state. The Turks, for their part, are intent upon keeping their Kurds and their Kurd-inhabited lands (which are rich in mineral resources). It's unlikely that the Turks will help the Kurds, and Turkey is a NATO ally, so we have to consider their interests very carefully whenever we make decisions that impact the region.

The Iranians do not want an independent Kurdistan. As such, they are unlikely to aid the Kurds and are, most likely, secretly pleased that IS is attacking the Kurds. Iran doesn't want to lose territory to an independent Kurdistan, so they are unlikely to aid the Kurds in their fight against IS.

As such, it appears to me that the only state on Earth that has both the power and the will to aid the Kurds is the United States. President Obama agreed to provide humanitarian aid and limited military strikes for this reason. We created this mess in Iraq with a disastrous decision to go to war in 2003. The people of Iraq were much better off under Saddam Hussein, as most sane people can see in retrospect, but because we created this mess, I feel we have a continuing duty to ameliorate the damage that we caused, and that's what I think the President is doing now.

Will this action lead us to full-scale war? Perhaps. Note that ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) no longer exists. Neither does ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). They have both been superseded by IS (The Islamic State) led by a Caliph to whom, supposedly, all Muslims owe allegiance. IS is an existential threat to peace and security throughout the Muslim world. We will have to deal with them sooner or later. For the time being, however, President Obama has decided to aid the Kurds--quite specifically and in a very limited way. Because no other nation has the ability and the willingness to do so, I think he made the right call. Personally, I'd rather deal with IS now, in its infancy, before it grows into a greater menace.

For the time being, however, I ask DU this question: if we don't help the Kurds, who will? Perhaps nobody, and this is a key factor that President Obama considered in making the decision to engage, once again, in this volatile region.

-Laelth



20K

For my twenty-thousandth post I just want to say that I am only slightly embarrassed by the magnitude of posts I have so-far recorded on DU. 20K posts in just under ten years, i.e. @2K posts/year, isn't too obsessive ... is it?



In any event, thanks to DU's admins, moderators, volunteers, and jurors for letting me hang around for so long. I have enjoyed my DU experience, and I intend to continue to do so. Thank you all (the entire DU community) for making this a great place to stay informed and to discuss ideas with allies and intelligent, like-minded people.



-Laelth

"What shall we do now?" (re. the UCSB shootings)

Michael Moore responded to the UCSB shootings in a Facebook post (quoted here) with his usual argument about the need for better gun control. Accidentally, perhaps, he hit upon what I see as the underlying issue that demands our attention when he said this:

Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that?


Moore asks the right question, but then drops it like a hot potato, preferring, instead, to focus on the guns. I see this whole mess as a gender issue--as a backlash against the enormous gains in power that women have made over the past century. I see our obsession with guns as a lame and futile attempt to re-assert some kind of "masculine" power. I see the success of right-wing parties in Europe as a product of the same backlash. In fact, I see the political success of the modern Republican Party as a result of the same, underlying issue. How else can we explain why so many people vote against their best interests?

Strangely enough, this topic is hardly ever addressed on DU (as I noted here). Perhaps it is too frightening for us to rationally grasp and consider. Many years ago, I taught an upper-level, college rhetoric course in which we focused on Pink Floyd's 1982 film, The Wall, for a few weeks. It was a transformative experience for me. The following short clip from that movie is illustrative. If you haven't seen the movie, I'd recommend you do so if you have any interest in gender studies. Just take a look at this short segment from the movie (and try to pay attention to the lyrics):



As hideous and shocking as that imagery may be, I think it explains a great deal about the world as we know it today. What to do about this is another question altogether, but I strongly feel that we should talk and think about the dramatic changes in our gender roles and sexual dynamics over the course of the past century.

-Laelth

The Indian Election of 2014 (informed ramblings)

The greatest democratic election in the history of humanity concluded on Monday, May 12, after 551 million Indians cast their ballots for their own representatives in the Lok Sabha, the lower and more powerful House of the Indian Parliament. Turnout reached 66% (pretty good for India, and considerably better than what we manage in Presidential elections in the United States). Regarding the election, President Obama said:

"I congratulate the people of India on concluding their national elections. India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom," Obama said.

"The United States and India have developed a strong friendship and comprehensive partnership over the last two decades, which has made our citizens safer and more prosperous and which has enhanced our ability to work together to solve global challenges," he said.

"We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India's next administration to make the coming years equally transformative."

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/obama-looking-forward-to-working-with-next-indian-govt/1/361573.html


India, being the largest republic on Earth in terms of population and a country with which we have strong economic ties, matters. If you want to know more about what just happened in India, keep reading. President Obama rightly noted that a new government will come to power in India as a result of this election, and that has significant implications for both the United States and for the world.

The Parties and the Players

The first thing you need to know is that India has been governed, with only a couple of interruptions, by the same political party and its coalition since India's 1947 independence. That coalition (called the United Progressive Alliance or UPA) is a center-left coalition that is dominated by the Indian National Congress--INC, for short, but this political party is usually called (quite simply) "Congress." Opposing Congress and its UPA coalition is a center-right coalition called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA for short). The dominant and controlling party in the NDA is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP for short--in English the name means "Indian People's Party").

Leading Congress and the UPA is its candidate for Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi, who is both young and attractive but also shy and reluctant. Rahul Gandhi effectively inherited his current position (Member of Parliament for Amethi) from the powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics since independence. Rahul's mother, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, has been President of the INC since 1998. Rahul's father, Rajiv Gandhi, served as Prime Minister from 1984-1989. Rahul's grandmother, Indira Gandhi served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 until 1984. Rahul's great-grandfather, Jawaharal Nehru was India's first Prime Minister and held the post from 1947 until he died in office in 1964. Nehru was a close associate of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the Gandhi we all know), but also note that there is no blood relation between Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the Nerhu-Gandhi dynasty. Nerhu's daughter, Indira, married Feroze Gandhi, a Zoroastrian Parsi from Bombay (Mumbai), who was not at all related to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was a Hundu and was born in Porbandar, in Gujarat (state), India. As you might imagine, many Indians object to the Nerhu family's adoption (and co-opting) of the Gandhi name in service to their own political agenda. Gujaratis are particularly sensitive to this as they see Mohandas Gandhi as their native son. Many of them reject the Nerhu-Gandhi political dynasty for having "stolen" their hero's name.

Speaking of names, we, in the West, often refer to Mohandas Kamarchand Gandhi as "Mahatma Gandhi." "Mahatma" means "great soul," but Gandhi, himself, believed in the essential equality of all souls. He rejected the honorific title "Mahatma." He claimed that it "pained" him to be so honored. Hindu Gujaratis continue to refer to Gandhi as "Mahatma" (because they are rightly proud of him), but I refrain from using that title because it is, essentially, in opposition to everything that Mohandas Gandhi wanted to achieve in his lifetime.

Opposing Rahul Gandhi and his coalition (the UPA) is the BJP/NDA's candidate for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Modi has been elected Chief Minister of Gujarat four times and has held that office since 2001. My Indian friends are primarily Gujarati (and if you know any Indians with the last name "Patel," it is likely that they are from Gujarat). These friends tell me that Modi is a great leader who will "clean up" Indian politics (and they are right to note that Indian politics are notoriously corrupt). Modi reformed the Gujarati economy, focused on public works, and (as these friends argue) "transformed" the state. Modi has benefited from vast media exposure, and is projected to be the next Prime Minister of India. (More on that later.) Modi leads the center-right NDA coalition, and he is a media star compared to the apparently-sedated Rahul Gandhi.

Regarding India (and how these ramblings are informed)

Most Americans can't really fathom India. While the United States is highly multi-cultural and multi-religious, no nation-state on Earth compares to India in terms of religious, cultural, class, and racial diversity. None. As I mentioned above, I have Indian friends from Gujarat. Gujarat is the 10th most-populous state in India (and it has a population of 60 million, roughly the size of Italy). India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has a population the size of Brazil (nearly 200 million people). If 800 million Indians died tomorrow, India would still have more citizens than the United States. It's really beyond the comprehension of most Americans.

Narendra Modi, having run a state with as many people as Italy has for the past 13 years, is no political novice. He knows what he is doing, and he has proven to be a capable leader. That said, he is the leader of the center-right coalition, and said coalition carries with it baggage that is quite familiar to us in the United States. All of the pro-Hindu religious parties in India back Modi's NDA (just as our Christian fundamentalists back the GOP). Modi uses Hinduism (and the fact that most of India is Hindu) to advance his agenda.

Nationalism vs. Communalism

Mohandas Gandhi was an Indian nationalist. He sought a united and independent India (in all its multi-cultural and multi-religious glory), but he opposed what he called "communalism" (that political tendency to favor religious/caste/state/regional interests over and above the health of India as a whole). Narendra Modi has been accused of being a "Hindu nationalist," but it chaps my hide to see Western media describe Modi in this way. Modi (if you want to disparage him) is a Hindu communalist, not a nationalist. Frankly, nobody can run India as a communalist, so these kinds of attacks on Modi are silly, imo, but there is no doubt that a number of Hindu communalist parties are allied with Modi's BJP.

There are roughly 150 million Muslims in India (nearly half the population of the United States). The Congress Party has consistently maintained a secular and tolerant attitude toward religion in India since the party's inception (following Gandhi's teachings). Note that Gandhi opposed the partition of India. He wanted a united, multi-religious India, and he did not think it wise to create separate states (Pakistan and Bangladesh) for Muslims. Nevertheless, the British decided to partition India because the Muslims (who ruled India under the Mughal Dynasty for hundreds of years prior to the British Raj), feared that they would be persecuted by the majority Hindu population if said population ever gained political power in India. Note that many religions originated in India, including Hinduism, Buddism, Sikhism, and Jainism, and that adherents of many other religions are present in India, including Christians, Zoroastrians, and Muslims. India is outrageously diverse in terms of religion, and I am of the opinion that no leader of the country could rule effectively as a "communalist," but that certain politicians (Modi is just one example) play upon communal instincts in the populace to advance their own political power.

Whereas the Congress Party defines itself by its multiculturalism and tolerance for all Indian religions, the BJP and its allies are perceived as being pro-Hindu and much less tolerant (and, given the company they keep, this is not a baseless accusation). That said, Modi (in his campaign) avoided discussing religion and caste and, instead, focused on economic development and the corruption within the Congress Party. Congress, for its part, occasionally played upon fears of religious genocide (some going so far as to evoke the name of Hitler) to stoke the fears of the religious minorities in India in order to secure their loyalty at the ballot box. This is the background from which we can understand the 2014 Indian electon.

2014 Exit Polls

In 2009, the Indian government banned the release of exit-polling data until the entire election was completed. We, in the United States, are accustomed to having a single "election day," but this isn't practical in India given the number of people who have to vote. Instead, the election is staggered over several weeks so that the state can marshal its resources and focus on one area of the country at a time. The election concluded on May 12. Results will be released tomorrow, May 16, 2014.

Exits polls (as is typical for India) have been all over the place. Exit polls are notoriously bad in India. In the 2004 elections, the exit polls showed a BJP landslide that did not materialize, and the same happened in 2009. This is not because the elections in India are corrupt or unfair, but for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, many Dalits are afraid to upset their landholders (Dalits, i.e. untouchables, are the poorest of the poor in India, and they are beholden to the wealthy people who own the land they farm). Dalits are often afraid to be honest when asked about their electoral choices, and, in addition, most Indians are fully aware that the Indian media is owned and controlled by wealthy interests in India. They want to appear on television as badly as your average American, and they think their chances are better if they tell the media what they think the media wants to hear (i.e. the right-wing media bias is as present in India as it is in the United States). Our exit polling in the U.S. tends to be more accurate because Americans are less afraid to say what they think (this is a blessing of our 1st Amendment which we protect vehemently--see Citizens United). The Indians don't have the same kind of reverence for speech. Thus, for these reasons, their exit polling has always been unreliable.

Current exit polling shows a victory for Modi and the NDA. How big a victory is the only question. It takes 272 seats to control the Lok Sabha. Current exit polls show the BJP (alone, minus its allied parties) getting anywhere between 220 and 290 seats. Even if the BJP (alone) doesn't get 272, it's clear that the center-right coalition (The NDA) will cross the 272 threshold. Barring unforeseen circumstances, a new Indian government led by Narendra Modi will soon take power in India.

My Conclusions

As I mentioned above, I have a number of Gujarati friends, and they are quite excited about a Modi victory. Modi is from Gujarat, after all, and state loyalty means more in India than it does in the United States. In part, this is because most states have their own native languages--Gujarati (Gandhi's native language) is different from Hindustani, Bengali, Urdu, Marathi, and all the Dravidian languages of Southern India). Frankly, as enthusiastic about Modi as my friends are, I don't share their enthusiasm, but I placate them. It's their country, after all, and I feel I have little right to object to their politics.

Modi's project is essentially neo-liberal, and the more I study the issue, the more I dislike the BJP and the center-right coalition. In many ways, Narendra Modi is the Ronald Reagan of India. That said, Congress has been in power for too long, and a brief respite may be in order. That is my hope ... for a brief NDA coalition government, followed by the return of a stronger, less-corrupt, left-center, Congress-led coalition in 5 years. Rahul Gandhi is a very weak candidate, ultimately. Besides which the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has ruled for too long. Dynasties are not healthy for a republic.

I seriously doubt, however, that the BJP will get over 240 seats. The NDA, on the other hand, will cross 272. That much seems certain, but recent history shows that exit polls showing a BJP/NDA landslide are usually in error. I will be stunned if the BJP gets the 290 seats predicted by the exit polls of the most pro-Modi members of the Indian media.

Results will be announced tomorrow, May 16, 2014. Stay tuned.

-Laelth

Who will choose our 2016 nominee?

This is not a poll. It's supposed to be educational, and it's a response to a naive but well-intentioned DU thread that appeared recently and sank like a stone. That thread questioned whether or not Elizabeth Warren's populism resonated sufficiently within the Democratic Party to allow Warren to win the nomination were she to seek it.

There are many of us who still believe (or cynically advance the proposition) that our nominees are selected based upon their stands on "issues" that affect the electorate. The idea is that Democrats will vote for the primary candidate that most closely reflects and advances his or her own political ideology, and that the person who is closest to "mainstream" thought within the Democratic Party should win. This notion is now absurd (and it may have always been absurd).

Most people who are paying attention realize that money drives politics in the United States, and this rule applies to the Democratic Party's nominating process as well. The best indicator of a candidate's chances to win a primary election is that candidate's ability to fundraise. Policy and ideology (while not entirely irrelevant) are but minor concerns in the grand scheme of our national politics. As such, when we consider who our likely nominees will be for the 2016 Presidential election, our first concern should be the fundraising capacity of the candidates in question.

Here's the list of the top three fundraisers in the Democratic Party, in order:

1) Barack Obama
2) Hillary Clinton
3) Elizabeth Warren

Noam Scheiber, in a seminal essay, explains that there are two, separate, and competing money-generating machines working in the Democratic Party. One is controlled by President Barack Obama, and it is dominant. Obama inherited this machine from John Kerry who, by endorsing Obama and throwing his machine behind him, allowed Obama to secure the 2008 nomination. Obama, for his part, improved Kerry's machine and created the greatest and most powerful donation-generating mechanism in the history of American politics, but it remains true that the Clinton machine (inherited by Hillary from her husband) remains potent and can not be dismissed. Elizabeth Warren, for her part, is building her own, separate fundraising machine, and she has been remarkably successful in doing so, but her fundraising capacity lags behind that of our President and Hillary Clinton significantly.

Given this dynamic (considering the reality of fundraising capabilities in the Democratic Party today) it seems clear to me that Barack Obama will choose our next Presidential nominee. Someone will inherit his fundraising machine, and that person is likely to win the nomination. To whom he will give his machine is the only relevant question.

I hope, of course, that he decides to throw his weight behind Elizabeth Warren. Those who take Warren at her word that she's not running for President are rather naive, I suspect. At the very least, Warren is keeping her options open (as she should--being the savvy politician that she is), but the release of her latest book, A Fighting Chance, is the best indicator I have yet seen that she intends to pursue the nomination. A book like that (laying out a general political philosophy and advancing specific policy proposals to address the nation's ills) is a prerequisite for a Presidential run these days. As an aside, liberals who want to support Warren and who would like to see her run should buy the book. She needs the money, and she needs to be able to point to significant sales of the book in order to convince the "money people" who run the Democratic Party to back her.

That said, the main "money person" in the Democratic Party, at the moment, is President Barack Obama. His machine is our strongest, and the person to whom he gives this machine is likely to win the nomination. I hope he chooses wisely, but I don't believe for a second that our nominating process has anything to do with "issues" or "ideas." If only that were true. Instead, money runs the process. The best indicator of our likely nominee in 2016 is that candidate's ability to marshall and unite the big donors (with some help from millions of small donors) who drive American politics today. Ultimately, it's up to President Obama. Whomever Barack Obama chooses to inherit his colossal (and unprecedented) machine is likely to win.

-Laelth



Capitalism is NOT a dirty word.

In my world, a liberal is a capitalist who seeks to shield capitalism from its own excesses and who hopes to channel capitalism's productive energy into a system and society that creates wealth for all. Capitalism is certainly better than socialism--i.e. state ownership of all property.

Ultimately, capitalism works, and it works well, but it works better when liberal laws are in place to insure that all citizens benefit from it (and not just the wealthy few at the top).

It is serious error for liberals to disparage capitalism. Liberals are capitalists. We just want a sane, just, and humane capitalism.

-Laelth

Increase the minimum wage!

An editorial appeared in the local paper on December 12 to which I had to respond. Here's what the local hair-on-fire conservative had to say:

Every God-created human being, born of Adam, has the right to have the things that are necessary for life: shelter, food, clothing, etc. No one in this day and time wants to accept the responsibilities of their own actions. If they have a child out of wedlock, kill it or have it and get more food stamps, there is no shame or disgrace associated with their decisions. The lost of reputation and standing in the community doesn’t matter anymore. The moral conscience of our country is on life support and fading fast. Trusting anyone is a thing of the past. Honor is becoming obsolete. Respect is taught, but more than that, young people follow the example we set.

Grandmothers of today raise their children’s children, so the parents can work or do other things. Can you imagine what kind of grandmothers this generation will produce? This generation of “me and mine” will not be raising anyone else’s children for sure. This is what our current society is producing -- not a self-supporting, responsible generation, but one dependent on the government, handouts and the sympathy and kindness of others.

It has been said that the oldest profession is prostitution. That has changed today. It is being on government assistance, a new form of prostitution and another practice of slavery. Once you’re in the system, you do not get out very easily. Will this current pattern change? Only if parents become more responsible and change. Hopefully, they will..


To which I responded as follows:

In the December 12 edition of The Telegraph, J. M. Bass bemoans the irresponsibility and moral failings of today’s youth. I think his indignation is misguided.

For many years now, studies have shown that American workers are the most productive in the world. Because we work very hard in the United States, it’s hard to stomach Mr. Bass’ complaints about dependency and laziness. Many Americans with jobs still have to rely upon government assistance in order to survive. Wal-Mart, America’s largest employer, pays its “associates” so little that most of them qualify for government aid. In this way, taxpayers subsidize both Wal-Mart’s low wages and its obscene corporate profits.

Elizabeth Warren, a former economics professor who is currently serving in the United States Senate, has shown that the 1962 minimum wage, if it were adjusted for both inflation and increases in productivity, would currently be about $22.00/hr. ($44,000/year.). No wonder American families could survive on just one income in 1962. Our world is very different now. I know a couple of college-educated people with government jobs who are making $18,000/year—less than half what a burger-flipper would have made in 1962.

While the stock market is recording new highs, American wages are approaching record lows. Our Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. is both embarrassing and exploitative. In France, the minimum wage is the equivalent of $13.00/hr. In Australia, it’s $15.00/hr. Naturally, our business leaders insist that calamity will befall us if we raise the minimum wage. Nonsense! Australia seems to be doing just fine with a minimum wage that’s over double ours, and our economy was thriving in 1962 when the minimum wage was the equivalent of $22.00/hr. Why can’t we return to those economic glory days?

The answer is simple. Greed is keeping far too many Americans impoverished. Increase the minimum wage and Mr. Bass’ Scrooge-like complaints about people who are less fortunate than he is will evaporate.


My editorial appears in this morning's edition of the paper. Let us hope it does some good.

-Laelth

This, my friends, is far too typical for my generation.



Not to exacerbate any generational warfare which, I agree, is counterproductive, but to educate my Boomer and Millennial friends, today's Doonesbury explains the frustrations and life experiences of many GenXers. Would those Ph.D holding, hard-working, and intelligent people be waiting tables or working as nannies 20 years ago? Somehow, I doubt it. It's not like we Xers don't work hard. We do. It's not that we lack ambition. We don't. Our world is simply much worse, economically, than the one into which our parents were born.

I don't blame Boomers for giving us Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics. I do blame Boomers for their apparent lack of concern and action on this subject. In their defense, I suspect that Boomers lack a frame of reference to understand how much harder it is to live in this world now. The United States was at its richest in 1973, and it has been getting poorer ever since. Boomers came of age when we were at our richest, and they don't seem to understand why their children and grandchildren are struggling. The lack of sympathy and concern many of us get from some boomers (especially our family members) is disconcerting and depressing.

Thus, I post this strip as a friendly and poignant reminder. Take care of your children and grand-children, Boomers. We've had plenty of "tough love." Many of us now need some real love.

-GenX Laelth

Remember this: Iran gave us Ronald Reagan.

Those who celebrate the recent signs that the United States is moving toward a peaceful relationship with Iran should remember that it was Iran that was principally responsible for Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Had it not been for the hostage crisis, it is likely that James Earl Carter Jr., the 39th President of the United States and the only Georgian ever elected to that office, would have been re-elected in 1980. If that had happened, it is likely that Ronald Reagan would never have risen to prominence and that we would not have fallen into the supply-side, voodoo-economics disaster into which Reagan led us so gleefully. Morning in America, indeed!

I am not a hawk, and I do not favor or advocate war with Iran, but the map below shows that we have been working on isolating Iran and preparing to fight Iran for a long time:



The fact of the matter is that from 1979-1981 (for 444 days) the Islamic Republic of Iran embarrassed the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and it appears that we vowed (Democrats and Republicans alike) to avenge this embarrassment.

President Obama has given signs that he intends to back away from our plan to seek revenge, and I applaud that move, even if it means that we have angered some allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. Peace is still better than war, and I welcome this peace, even though it also represents a belligerent move on our part--one that Party loyalists are far too happy to ignore. As I have argued elsewhere, this is part of the "pivot" in US foreign relations toward a greater focus on Asia. Iran sells most of its oil to China, and just as the TPP is a move to isolate China, so this peace deal with Iran is a move to threaten China's oil supply. We are changing focus, for better or for worse.

It's very un-progressive to lack respect for foreign countries and their citizens, and I do respect the younger generations in Iran (who want more freedom and have been unjustly sanctioned for the acts of their parents and grand-parents). That said, I have a special kind of loathing for Iran, and I am skeptical of any plan to make peace with Iran because I still blame them for Ronald Reagan and 30+ years of supply-side economics.

Peace with Iran is a noble goal, but I will never love Iran, and I will always remember the effects their Islamic revolution had on my country. America must share the blame, here, for installing and propping-up the Shah as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. In many ways, we caused Iran's Islamic revolution, but part of me wishes (and many people who actually are hawks agree) that we had used Iran to send a message to the world that it's just not cool to take Americans hostage, and, if you do, you will pay a heavy price.

Perhaps that message has been received, and if it was received without our going to war, all the better. I'll still never forgive Iran for giving us Ronald Reagan, even if I do forgive some Democrats for being hawks in regards to Iran.

-Laelth
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