Monday, September 29, 2014

ISIL Recruiting Incentives For Poor Youth

First Published in DelawareLiberal on Sept. 29, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist


IS (variously ISIS, ISIL) has recruiting centers set up, employing sophisticated social media to lure desperate young people from middle eastern countries with youth unemployment rates as high as 29%.

This rate is reported by the International Monetary Fund.  Ironically, IMF's own lending policies encourage cut backs in social safety nets to aid those young people.

Analysts I am reading suggest that in addition to recruiting psychopaths and what the New Republic calls True Believers in Jihad, a significant group if not majority of IS foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria are unemployed youth in the most significant numbers from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt.  The Soufan Group's work indicates these countries are the biggest sources of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.  add to that list Saudi Arabia as  a large fighter source.

Ironically, these same countries, excluding Saudi Arabia, are recipients of IMF loans requiring squeezing social welfare budgets to pay  interest and repay loans.  These young recruits are paid $1,000 per month by an estimate from Jordanian government sources; one study reported pay as high as $150 per day.  This is huge money for people in this region.

Another irony; many of these same IMF borrowers with depressed economies offering little opportunity to their young are now members of the Coalition of the Killing joining us in the fight to wipe out IS.  Yes, to wipe out their youth who departed their borders for better "opportunities".  Add to those being wiped out, about 2,500 disillusioned westerner youth  to be wiped out by our western members of the Killing Koalition.

These kids, becoming themselves hardened killers on the battlefield are led by seasoned warriors and Sheikhs from Sunni tribes and former Baathists cut loose by Bush and Bremer.  Some were later hardened in Abu Ghraib by General Sanchez and then released to seek retribution against us.

So once again, just like Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, our misjudgements come back to haunt us.  And the world is looking to us for solutions according to President Obama? We are the "Indispensable Nation"?  They actually want to be led by us again with this track record?  I kind of doubt that, with all due respect Mr. President.

But one fact is obvious.  Figuring into the mix of solutions for the degrading and possible containment of IS for those most affected, the middle eastern countries most threatened  is much work to be done on their economies to provide a future for their young people.

We certainly have a full plate of our own to restore opportunity for our young Americans.  Maybe we should work on that and if successes are experienced, shared with our middle eastern allies.  Then maybe we wouldn't have to send our youngsters off to kill and be killed and our allies wouldn't have to join us in killing their young.

It seems to me that in the mix of possible fixes for this is a reexamination of our role with many of these countries in enabling their governing and economic crises, juxtaposed with the immense wealth created within the companies engaged with the despots ruling these lands.  A lot of it carbon extraction related.  Maybe some of that wealth could be employed to fix what we broke in these far off lands.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Frederic Douglass Explains Racial Malice

First Published in DelawareLiberal on 9/19/2014 by ProgressivePopulist

I am privileged to know and to have worked with Former Congressman Craig A. Washington of Bastrop and Houston Texas who shared this with me.  He represented well the good people of Barbara Jordan's district after having served in the Texas legislature.

Craig is every bit the orator as was Frederic Douglass and a distinguished attorney in Texas, honored by his State Bar and who is credited with many of Texas' high profile cases which advanced civil liberties in that state.  He has always given generously of his valued intellect and leadership skills in areas of progressive reform, including school integration movements where we overthrew a racist, conservative school board in one of the largest school districts in the U.S.A. which was opposing school integration.

He also pro bono represented my spouse in her successful fight to stay on the ballot in a State Board of Eduction race, challenged as a "carpetbagger" by Republicans.  She went on to receive 44% of the vote against a prominent Republican who name appeared on a local stadium; she got that vote advocating a pro-busing platform.

Frederic Douglass was a brilliant leader in the abolitionist movement as well as the women's suffrage movement; he was born in Maryland a slave and later served in several public offices.
Craig makes these observations about Frederic Douglass' seminal observations very pertinent to the animosity President Obama has to wake up every day and deal with with such grace and dignity.
Many people wonder why Republican legislators AND OTHERS are so unrelenting on President Obama. Frederick Douglass gave us the answer over 129 years ago years ago. How Prophetic !

"Though the colored man is no longer subject to barter and sale, he is surrounded by an adverse settlement which fetters all his movements. In his downward course he meets with no resistance, but his course upward is resented and resisted at every step of his progress. If he comes in ignorance, in rags and wretchedness he conforms to the popular belief of his character, and in that character he is welcome; but if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar and a statesman, he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concerning his race, and his coming is resented as impudence. In one case he may provoke contempt and derision, but in the other he is an affront to pride and provokes malice."
Frederick Douglass

Sadly, these words ring true 129 years later. Pass it on ... ... ...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Apocalypse? By American Petro or ISIL?

First published in DelawareLiberal on 9/12/2014 by ProgressivePopulist


Ok, then.  From the President's speech we're sort of at war with ISIL?  Not exactly war, according to John Kerry, but sorta.  Let's just call it large scale counter terrorism, he says.  More like humanitarian bombings.

But, my question is, which is the greater threat, short and long term to Americans?  ISIL with Toyotas, Arabian machetes and machine guns or the American Petroleum Institute with tipping point stage carbon overload?

My bet is on carbon caused warming and flooding.  But, not so fast, because the American Petroleum Institute also has a hand in the middle east crisis and threatened final days caused by the ultimate war between the Caliphate and the Infidels, which apparently includes us here in the U.S. of A.
You see, ISIL is selling pretty huge amounts of crude on the black market thanks to U.S. extraction technology and expertise sold to the producers in both Iraq and Syria.  That crude then ships to black markets allowed by our sort of allies in Turkey and then on to sort of allies in Jordan and not so allied Iran.  The latter at least not yet, unless we smarten up and do a deal with them.

Now, to further explain the American Petroleum Institute's involvement in this extremely convoluted caper, they advocate, lobby and represent companies supplying extraction tools and technology  to these brand new coalition of the killing partners:  Bahran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  In some cases we supply both downstream and upstream oil services.

Oh, and did I mention that funding is flowing to ISIL out of most of these "partners" ?

The million dollar question now is which among these guys, plus other coalition partners of the killing from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon will put enough boots on the ground, headed toward ISIL, not away from them to do the necessary killing with our air, missile and drone support?  Remains to be seen doesn't it?

Frankly, I like Phyllis Bennis's take on all this much better.  In fact, I wish President Obama brought her in as chief of national security.  Her idea, from the Institute of Policy Studies, is a 6 step program:  l.  Stop air strikes creating more extremists, not fewer.  2. No boots, none at all, and no armaments.  3.  Immediately cut a deal with Iran who can do this job on ISIL all alone with diplomacy.  4.  Create a coalition of diplomacy in the U.N., engaging Russia, Turkey, The Saudi's, Qatar and the U.A.E.  5.  Push the U.N. to end the civil war in Syria and exploit the rumored movement toward an Assad exit in Syria.  6.  Undertake massive rebuilding aid with Iraq and Syria and undercut the political/governance ambitions of ISIL there.

It is Ironic that just as President Obama pivots on aiding some Syrian rebel groups, the most successful and reliable option's leader was killed on the battlefield.
By the way, bragging about our successes in Somalia and Yemen, Mr. President?  You're grasping at straws.  Let's focus our energies on stemming the already irreversible climate change impacts on our shorelines and agricultural production and get the hell out of the carbon extraction business, which ought to include fracking.

I was moved to tears at Obama's election in 2008 as our first ever black and anti-war president.  Now I'm moved to tears that the national security establishment and neo-cons have won the hearts and minds in the oval office, in spite of the current warning from both the intelligence and military sectors that attempting to destroy ISIL  on basically our own is a fools errand.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thank You Mr. President For Not Leading And Not Having A Strategery

First Published in DelawareLiberal on 9/4/2014 by ProgressivePopulist

The right accuses President Obama of not "leading", and horror upon horrors, not having a strategery,  err, strategy.  They are amplified by much of the mainstream media who, with the right, succumbed  to the same sky is falling bait fed by the right in 2003.

Au contraire,  Obama's cool headed, analytical, non-knee jerk response to the multiple crises handed to him by forces out of the control of the former U.S. empire is exactly what leadership is and Americans should be grateful for his thoughtful guidance through these minefields.
It seems to me that if we had a military draft, these numb nuts calling for turning the middle east into glass and starting a hot war with Russia, they would be calling for the caution these crises require.  Except that they know that if we had a draft, the elite would once again know how to manipulate the system to exempt their kids.

It is not helpful, by the way, Joe Biden, whom I usually admire, that you refrain from inserting your very Catholic rhetoric about ...."gates of hell" out of the public discourse about these crazy ISIL barbarians.  This kind of speech is painfully close to the Bush gaffe laden reference to "crusades" which caused us so much pain in the middle east.  Stick with your area of expertise, Mr. Vice President, international affairs, not theology.

The imminent threat in the case of ISIL is to the existing order in the middle east.  The base of the solution must come from within that order, who we can likely provide armaments to; we, I'm sure,  are working like maniacs to pull together a coalition among them to take on their imminent threat.  Would it be dandy to have Russia as a partner in that endeavor?  And, just maybe Iran?

This is not a simplistic crisis solved by simplistic shock and awe strategies.  We should have learned several decades ago that you do not successfully bomb zealots out of existence.  Such solutions involve multiple levels of action which require an appreciation for both resolve and nuance, the latter being a strategy unfamiliar to the right and the chicken hawks.
Retaliation and getting even are not rational strategies.  They are irresponsible, irrational responses that real  leaders do not exert.

As for Russia and the Ukraine.  Let's thank our lucky stars that the Ukraine is not a member of NATO, obligating us to engage militarily.  Again, the imminent threat is to much of Europe and they are well equipped to mount strategies to address Russia's goals of some kind of semi-autonomous  eastern Ukraine.

If anything, we should be seriously rethinking our role with NATO in this era and its relevance to our security.  Look, if anything we bear some responsibility for creating the felt need for international ascendance by the Russian people; those Wharton dudes we shipped over there to help build their corrupt plutocracy when the Soviet State was put on the shelf has bred much of the dissatisfaction Putin is trying to address in the wrong way.

As Laurel and Hardy use to say, "we've got one fine mess here".   And President Obama didn't create this mess.  He inherited it.  Thank you Mr. President for not unleashing the bomb throwers and keeping a cool head.   And thank you for explaining to the American people that problems can be complex and often there are few good solutions.  In fact, more often than not,  there are bad solutions and less bad solutions and good minds have to sort these out.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day: Honoring Union Leaders I've Known

First Published in DelawareLiberal on September 1, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist

This 2014 Labor Day give me the opportunity to reflect on the labor leaders and organizers I've had the privilege to know.  Few of those among us who are not union members appreciate the brutal, thankless work done by labor leaders in this country that make our working lives at least halfway tolerable.  I want to honor the several such leaders who have impacted my life so positively.

First, my grandfather,  Stan Worthen.  A guy with just a few years elementary education living in Salt Lake City who organized the Projectionist Union there when movies were barely out of the talkie stage.  I got to see how hard he worked as a lucky kid who got to watch him run those projectors in his underwear because that hot little room above the seating area was so damned hot from the humming projectors.  Yes free movies for me.  But Stan was a scrappy little guy who fought for rights few enjoyed.  It allowed him to enjoy a middle class life, owning his own home with a rose garden in back.  It also enabled my grandmother to have a modest retirement after Stan had his final heart attack in the rose garden.

Next, Don Horn, Sec. Treasurer of the Houston AFL-CIO.  He led that union through its glory days of growth in the 70's and 80's with the oil and population boom that region enjoyed.  A charming, very skilled negotiator, Don was a powerhouse of a community leader as well, taking the union through its very best days in that area.  We lost Don in 2007 but I had the privilege of helping Don with his communications to maximize the esteem the AFL-CIO enjoyed in those days in a very labor hostile boom town era.

Bob Comeaux, Houston, Texas and now San Antonio.  Bob was a young guy I got to meet in the 70's through Democratic politics.  He was a labor organizer who also ran for Democratic political office back in those days.  Bob was an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers and himself taught school.  Though a really young guy back then, he really knew his way around Democratic politics in Texas and taught me much more than I was able to contribute to him.  I helped him with his campaign and he also educated me about the importance of the Party to working class families.

Orell Fitzsimmons.  Orell was a passionate, tough and very combative organizer for SEIU as they were just getting a foothold in Texas in the early 2000's.  I had the privilege of serving as his political director in Texas when I first retired from my hospital consulting business.  I learned up close and person how challenging it was to get hard scrabble school custodial and foodservice workers to engage politically, given their long days and frequent need for extra jobs to put food on the table for their families.  I also learned how difficult it was for unions to salvage their jobs, often sacrificed by school district administrators and school boards in favor of contract companies for custodial and food services who could pay their people way less than union employees, barely surviving already.   I also saw Orell repeat over and over attempts to organize food workers at shiny new stadiums and baseball fields, undermined by management who exploited, threatened and fired those workers exercising the constitutional right to organize for fair wages.

Finally, Wade Rathke.  Orell introduced me to his boss Wade when I was first interviewed.  What a legend.  Wade was the creator of ACORN as well as the regional director of the SEIU out of New Orleans.  Charismatic, brilliant and totally committed to his work empowering low income communities and workers, needful to say I was devastated when ACORN was immolated by the Republican attack by O'Keefe and lightening fast abandonment by my own Democrats.  But Wade was and is undaunted in his continuing work to help poor and minority people attain some long overdue justice in their lives.  In happy contrast, SEIU flourishes and continues to grow as the most hopeful area of labor organizing in an economy what doesn't give a rats ass about those good people who clean up our messes and do the work few of us want.   Wade is still a vital force to be reckoned with.

So, I just want to say Thank You to these dedicated servants of humanity who have so improved my life