The New New Anti-Communism

Published on / (FPIF), by John Feffer, January 5, 2010.

… In a recent editorial, the Post lambasted Clinton’s speech on human rights in which she quite sensibly added “oppression of want” to the traditional concerns with the oppression of tyranny and torture. “Ms. Clinton’s lumping of economic and social ‘rights’ with political and personal freedom was a standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked,” the Post opined …

… Art of Extraction:

A teacher puts out chocolate-chip cookies for her elementary school students, along with toothpicks and paperclips. The children use play money to buy the cookies and the mining equipment, and then proceed to dig out the chips as if they were chunks of coal. After calculating the time spent in this activity, they are ready to add up the costs of coal mining.

“At first blush, this classroom exercise seems innocent enough,” I write in The Art of Extraction. “The exercise becomes considerably less innocent when you learn that it’s part of a series of lesson plans that the American Coal Foundation, an industry organization, distributes to schools. It becomes even less innocent through juxtaposition in poet Mark Nowak’s powerful new book Coal Mountain Elementary. Nowak places these lesson plans next to two other sources: news accounts of coal mining accidents in China and excerpts from the verbatim testimony of miners, rescue workers, and families connected to the Sago, West Virginia mine disaster of January 2006. These are the true costs of coal mining, measured not in swallowed chocolate chips but in human lives” …

… The Pentagon Is Happy:

The unemployment rate remains ghastly, the U.S. debt continues to pile up, and the overall economy has about as much stability as a Jell-O shot. But one U.S. institution remains well-fed and happy: the Pentagon.

“The Pentagon budget increased for every year of the first decade of the 21st century, an unprecedented run that didn’t even happen in the World War II era, much less during Korea or Vietnam,” writes FPIF contributor William Hartung in Obama and the Permanent War Budget. “And if the government’s current plans are carried out, there will be yearly increases in military spending for at least another decade. We have a permanent war budget, and most of it isn’t even being used to fight wars — it’s mostly a giveaway to the Pentagon and its favorite contractors.”

As Barbara Ehrenreich argues in her new book, reviewed by FPIF contributor Rubrick Biegon in The Foreign Policy of Optimism, relentless optimism is an endemic problem in the United States that translates into an exceptionalist foreign policy and a blinkered economic policy. “Perhaps the clearest connection between America’s penchant for positivity and the wider world is the ongoing global recession, which began in the United States. Ehrenreich persuasively illustrates how positive thinking blinded both elites and non-elites alike to the gathering economic catastrophe, resulting in what is likely to be the first contraction in global economic output since World War II.”

Finally, on an even more pessimistic note, FPIF contributor Gabriela Campos reviews Mark Danner’s latest collection of essays. “Danner’s compilation of his past work reveals misery, destruction, and violence but also provides critical analysis of American foreign policy in the last quarter century. American foreign policy has been plagued with hypocritical and weak decisions where its consequences mostly affected those in distant places.” (full text).

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