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February 22, 2011

Interesting Times: Showdown, Shutdown, Shakedown

We live in interesting times, both abroad and at home.

The Showdown: Two Iranian warships lie off the Suez Canal, a Kharg cruiser and an Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy's 12th Flotilla. Iran has announced their intention for the ships to transition the Suez Canal for a tour of the Mediterranean.

The Iranians are boxed in by several US warships: the USS Enterprise, the troop ship USS Kearsage, missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic. The George Washington, the Abraham Lincoln, the Carl Vinson, and their support ships are all nearby.

Speculation is that if the two Iranian vessels line up single-file for entry into the canal, the American ships will separate them, stop them, and board them searching for missiles destined for Hezballah, in accordance with United Nations resolutions. This is generally perceived as a "hands-off" message to the Mullahs who would exploit the revolutions, uprisings and protests in Arab North Africa.

The Shutdown: The federal government may shut down next week. The most trenchant article I've read (Andrew Leonard in Salon) suggests that the shutdown is likely to happen because it's a political win for all of the players involved - Obama and the Senate get to criticize Republicans, the Tea Party rookies get to deliver on their promise, and the House Republican veterans get to allow the newbs to stub their toes and learn that governance may not be simple. I can't find anything to disagree with in the analysis, so I think the shutdown is likely. The big question: Will Anybody Notice?


The Shakedown: The future of union labor is being challenged in the Wisconsin power play. (soon to be seen in NJ, etc) Accepting payroll and benefit cuts is insufficient; the Republican governors want to eliminate the right to organize and negotiate, striking at the essence of organized labor. From Paul Krugman:
You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too. So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

Curiously, the Tea Party (who brings you the shutdown) and the Wisconsin union-busting are both funded by the Koch Brothers. Forbes (yes, Forbes!) suggests this is the first round in "the final battle against unions":
Without the collective bargaining powers that unions bring as the only real offset to corporate greed and without the organizing strength unions bring to political action, there will be no counter-balance to corporate power. I promise that you will not like the result if our unions should disappear – even if you are not a union member.”


From Robert Reich, Shutdowns and Showdowns, What's Really at Stake:
There’s no doubt that government budgets are in trouble. The big lie is that the reason is excessive spending. Public budgets are in trouble because revenues plummeted over the last two years of the Great Recession. They’re also in trouble because of tax giveaways to the rich.

So the problem isn’t that “we’ve” been spending too much. It’s that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation’s total income. Yes, of course, wasteful and unnecessary spending should be cut. That means much of the defense budget, along with agricultural subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare.

But America is the richest nation in the world, and “we’ve” never been richer. There’s no reason for us to turn on our teachers, our unionized workers, our poor and needy, and our elderly. The notion that “we” can no longer afford it is claptrap.



Interesting times.

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