Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Parliamentary Cretinism and the Iraq War Budget


Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq!

Have I missed something or has the war in Iraq fallen off the political radar screen lately. The last big splash of news was back in September when General Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker gave their self-servicing positive reports and the Democratic-led Congress tried unsuccessfully to tie funding for the war with a timetable for troop withdrawals. Since then other than rhetoric there has been virtually nothing on the parliamentary playing field. Not to worry though. Just when one had though that the anti-war parliamentary Democrats had gone into hibernation until 2009 (or later) they have come back at us with part two of their parliamentary cretinist strategy.

On November 14, 2007 House Democrats pushed through a $50 billion funding bill for the Iraq war tied to another one of their inevitable timetable schemes, this time with the idea of ending combat by December 2008. The measure passed 218-203, basically along party lines. If this plan sounds familiar it is. This is the same tried and true strategy they have been using since last spring. Here is the problem with that strategy as we are too well aware of by now. The measure cannot pass in the Senate. Moreover, this measure faces the inevitable Bush veto which cannot be overridden give the composition of the Senate. So why would seemingly rational politicians go over the same ground they got beaten down on before? Ah, here is the rub. The Democratic House leadership wants voters to know that they tried. Well, hell yes they did but my read on the midterm elections that brought those self-same Democrats back to power was to actually end the war. Trying is only good in selected situations, maybe horseshoes. This is certainly not one of them. Do we really need any more proof that the parliamentary road to ending the war is a dead end? I think not.

A couple of other interesting points have come up around the political configurations concerning the war budget vote. Last spring Democrats tried to twist arms, break heads and promise the moon in order to get Republican politicians to break with the Bush administration on Iraq. They had some initial success, especially with Senators from hot anti-war states facing reelection in 2008. That tactic ran out of steam once there was an iota of evidence that the ‘surge’ military strategy was working in Iraq, at least for public consumption. The present House vote indicates that the lines have hardened and that there is no political benefit for Republicans to drift far from Bush on the war. Timing means a lot in politics and with elections fast approaching this is one of them.

The other interesting point is the reaction some of the hard anti-war House Democrats to the proposal. In the past upwards of thirty such politicians have voted against previous similar proposals because the timetable was too long or some other reason. The beginning of wisdom here is a straight vote against any funding on principal, not funding tied to some other condition. Apparently a few of the 'hards', notably Representatives Woolsey, Lee and Waters buckled under after being assured that the money would be used to bring the troops home. Why is this important to us? For the last several years the leadership of the non-parliamentary anti- war leadership, United For Peace and Justice, ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, etc. have touted these representatives as our allies. The long and the short of it is we do not need allies who will vote for the war budgets under any pretext. It only adds fuel to my contention that the only way to get the troops out of Iraq is by our own means. Increasingly that appears to be require declaring war on the parliamentary Democrats. Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq!

Sunday, November 11, 2007



As of Saturday November 10, 2007 many of the lights in front of the theaters of old Broadway in New York City are dimmed as Local One of the Theater Employees Union has hit the bricks. The issues, as is seemingly always the case these days, is the attempt, in this case by the theater owners alliance, to get more productivity out of its employees, here the stage hands, for no extra pay. While the New York legitimate theater is hardly the mainstream of the struggle in the fight against the effects of ‘globalization’ even such local battles reflect the very hard drive of international capitalism to win the race to the bottom of the wage scale. Enough.

A couple of comments. In my youth I did yeoman’s work as an unpaid stage hand for various amateur theatrical productions produced by friends, among them a number of works by Bertolt Brecht. Now I will not be a philistine and argue the importance of the stage hands as against the cast but if my experience was any indication these people desire their paid, and then some.

I note from the report of the strike in the New York Times that no all the theaters are closed. Apparently some theaters have different contracts with Local One and are therefore open. This appears to be a strike that will last a while as both sides are far apart. Why I ask are some theaters open? It would seem to me that the beginning of wisdom here in a localized situation that one contract should cover all theaters. Right? Labor, and this after all is what we are talking about, needs to bring as many forces as it can to bear in a strike situation. This is not the case here. Make a note of it for the future, though. Also in the Times article I noted that the theaters in off and off-off Broadway are open. These units need to be organized pronto. In the meantime –Victory to the Stage Hands!