Friday, September 26, 2008

 

A Heroine From the Brothels

In his op-ed column, “A Heroine From the Brothels,” in yesterday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof focused needed sunlight on the worldwide epidemic of sex trafficking, which he noted, “is widely acknowledged to be the 21st-century version of slavery, but governments accept it partly because it seems to defy solution.”

However, I’m disappointed that Kristof did not include at least a passing reference to the thousands of Iraqi women and girls, many under 14, who were forced into prostitution as a result of Bush’s and the GOP’s War on Iraq.

These young victims are part of a massive flood of refugees from Iraq—conservatively estimated at more than 2,000,000 through 2007 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The 2,000,000 refugees who fled Iraq constitute almost 8% of Iraq’s population. On a per capita basis, this is equivalent to about 23 million Americans fleeing the United States, or eight times the entire population of Iowa. (Another 2,500,000 Iraqis—10% of Iraq’s population—are war refugees within Iraq.)

The vast majority of Iraq’s refugees outside Iraq live in Syria and Jordan, where they cannot work legally. As a result, tens of thousands of Iraqi women and girls—estimates range to 50,000 and more—have been forced into prostitution in order to survive.

Some have been pimped by male relatives, and many more fear being hunted down and killed by relatives or Iraqi militias, many of whom believe prostitutes must be punished with death.

I believe America’s corporate media, including The New York Times, have taken it upon themselves to protect American sensibilities from the horrors of war. And rather than focusing blame and punishment where it belongs, it’s safer to sweep everything unpleasant under the rugs of “unintended consequences” and “collateral damage.”


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

 

The Most Important Thing You Can Do Today—Listen To This NPR Podcast

Understanding America's Financial Meltdown: Terry Gross Interviews Michael Greenberger

If you are trying to understand America's financial meltdown and the catastrophic risks facing not just Wall Street but also Main Street (i.e., all of America), then listen right now to this 38-minute podcast.

If you want to know more about credit default swaps and other risky financial instruments that lurk in the shadows, unregulated, behind the GOP curtains, then listen to this podcast now.

"Could Wall Street Woes Set Off A Global Crisis?"
Terry Gross, host of "Fresh Air," interviews Michael Greenberger on National Public Radio.

I believe Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, is the most articulate expert on these topics.

Greenberger is the director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland and the principal deputy associate attorney general at the Justice Department. He previously served on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The podcast's url is: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94686428

Friday, September 12, 2008

 

David Brooks' Op-Ed in Today’s "New York Times" (Sept. 12, 2008)

David Brooks' op-ed piece, “The Social Animal,” in today’s New York Times provokes thought, and I thank him for that.

Perhaps as the result of a recent revelation personally experienced, Brooks correctly states what really is an obvious truism, that we are not a society “of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another.” Of course.

He continues, “Recent Republican Party doctrine has emphasized the power of the individual, but underestimates the importance of connections, relationships, institutions and social filaments that organize personal choices and make individuals what they are.”

After reading his piece, one wonders why this conservative refuses to support the man, Barack Obama, who best espouses the social connections that Brooks extols.

More important, Brooks misses the central point that America’s many huge financial debacles—with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money stolen or lost—have not been caused by interconnected individuals “at the bottom” somehow collectively making bad decisions, but rather by GOP operatives at the top who gamed the system.

The gaming of the system breaks Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”—a sometimes useful metaphor which holds that individuals pursuing their own interests tend in the aggregate to produce the most good for the larger society—because that “invisible hand” assumes a free market, a level playing field.

That level playing field did not exist with respect to any of the humongous financial disasters of the last three decades. From the S&L scandals and bailouts of the 1980s, to government contracting fraud in Iraq, to the recent home mortgage financial fiasco, rigged structures are plainly visible.

Huge casinos were established, with the winnings going to the “lucky” few—the GOP’s constituency of “top two-percenters” and huge corporations—and with the losses, countless trillions of dollars, being shouldered by U.S. taxpayers.

Always, here’s the key question to ask when the GOP talks about reform: “Does the proposed scheme involve taxpayer money or a guaranty by the government, and, if so, which parties stand to gain most when things go well, or not so well.”

When John McCain and the GOP talk about “reform” and use wonderful words like “freedom,” “deregulation” and “privatization,” be sure to count your fingers.

We should applaud David Brooks for the steps—albeit baby steps—that he has taken on the road to recovery from the GOP Dark Side, and we should pray that this conservative continues to evolve.

Monday, September 8, 2008

 

Need Quick-Growing Testicles for Our Progressive Leaders

Having watched the national conventions of America's two major political parties, I offer the following:

The Left plays CHESS (by the rules, cerebral, soundbite free, hard to explain) while the Right plays WHACK-A-MOLE with sledge hammers (unfettered by facts and fairness.)

The Left is dumb enough to show up at a knife fight with only knives (butter knives, at that.)

We all should have known we were in trouble when impeachment was taken off the table.

The leaders of the Left refuse to attack McCain's so-called strengths.

The Left accepts as truth all the GOP Myths carefully crafted and nurtured by the GOP and Big Media over the years, including:

(1) that McCain is a maverick,
(2) that the media are liberal,
(3) that the GOP is fiscally responsible,
(4) that the GOP better represents American family values, and
(5) most astounding, that the GOP is strong on national defense.

We need a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to invent some quick-growing testicles for the so-called leaders of the progressive cause.

Short of that, let's all redouble our efforts ... let's make those calls, register voters, do something every day. Let's take back our democracy!

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