Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Manner of Beast?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi describes her work:
"You have to go to somebody who is totally, completely, entirely opposed to war funding, and you need to have them vote on it. And you don't even want to vote on it yourself," she said in the July interview.


Drop the Shop

A small ad adjacent to an article on the Copenhagen climate talks caught my eye. Under the heading, “Green Shopping”, was a small ad for a wireless energy monitor. The text informed me that I could instantly see the difference in energy use and cost that I gain by the various changes I make toward conservation. All for £34.95. All this anyone can do for free by observation and calculation. Of course, one doesn’t get immediate information. On the other hand, one does not end up with another abandoned trinket in a never-ending chain of consumption.

And then the complete absurdity of the heading,” Green Shopping”, struck me. Green shopping is as much of a contradiction in terms as military intelligence or good war. A truly green economy would discourage consumption away from the plastic, fantastic and worthless. A green economy would encourage and promote smaller scale, more sustainable models of economy and enterprise. Shopping, as in “buy more stuff!”, would not be part of that equation.

A green economy would also be a just economy. If Copenhagen is to have any real legacy, it must deal with planetary and climate issues as one world, where all people and nations share equal rights and responsibilities, a world where a wealth and economic power is concentrated among a few to the detriment of the many. Naomi Klein offers some hopeful possibilities toward that end in The Nation.

Since tomorrow is the opening salvo in the nation's biggest retail extravaganza of the year, this is a good time to think about consumption and consumerism. I personally will not buy any trinkets or gifts tomorrow. If I shop at all, I will shop for food. Otherwise, I'll stay away from the stores. I'll pretty much do the same for Christmas. I rarely exchange presents other than something I make myself. Otherwise, I put my gift money into donations.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grinding Inevitability

No war is good. That's one of the verities in my world. Even a justified war is bad. Violence, death and destruction are anathema to individual liberty, freedom and enterprise. Longer wars are even worse; waste and loss are multiplied over the years. Neither human beings nor societies do well under such circumstances.

That’s a sobering thought in the ninth year of the Global War on Terror, aka the Long War and now Overseas Contingency Operations. Whatever we call it, it is wasting the United States and its forces.

Our forces are the canary in the coalmine. If any doubt remains about the long-term consequences for American service members of endless deployments as foreign occupiers, look at the collateral damage of domestic violence and reckless behavior at any of our major military communities. The war came home long ago. Mental health care for returning veterans is shockingly inadequate.

Traditionally, the military has considered mental health problems to be the individual's personal shortcoming: Just Suck It Up And Get With The Program. Despite the talk about addressing the psychological wounds and stresses, the traditional attitude is still prevalent. Dahr Jamail reports one soldier's experience dealing with PTSD and the Army. Harassed for seeking care and ultimately discharged for a "personality disorder", that soldier now advocates for improved mental health care for military personnel. Meanwhile marine combat veterans get counseling for combat trauma in trailers adjacent to gunnery ranges where the sounds of war are omnipresent.

Along with the serious psychological trauma of combat and the physical casualties, this endless war is draining the national treasury at an alarming rate. Republicans and so called fiscal hawks swoon at the thought of spending ONE TRILLION DOLLARS on health care in the next ten years but think nothing of spending SIX TIMES THAT AMOUNT on war and military shit. That’s because they and we are simply used to it and cannot imagine a world without all that military shit, no matter what it does to the nation’s long-term welfare.

That’s why I will be exceedingly angry and greatly saddened when Obama announces his decision next week to send more troops to Afghanistan. The one thing I won’t be is disappointed. I never let myself believe that he would do anything else.

post script

I will gladly welcome a surprise from Obama like this.