By the time Covid-19 hit, Lily, 28, had been with her employer for four years and in her part-time role for the past two. Not once in those four years had her hourly wage moved above the state-required minimum in her upstate New York town— currently, $12.50. Lily was living with her parents to save money, and, because her job was in ticketing sales for professional sports, it was competitive. She hadn’t given much thought as to why she was paid so little; she was just grateful to work in the industry she loved. But when Lily was furloughed during the pandemic, she had a creeping suspicion her labor had been undervalued. With professional sporting events shut down, she took on remote work, first as a customer service agent, then as a New York contact tracer — jobs that paid nearly double what she had been making. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m worth more than minimum wage,’” Lily says. (Lily is a pseudonym requested in fear of retribution from future employers.) “I didn’t even realize how bummed I was. A plane ticket was 25% of my net worth. I was worrying about putting gas in my car to get to work.”
These remote jobs were temporary, however, and when Lily started interviewing for new positions, she was disappointed to find many companies still only offering just about minimum wage. One job offered an extra $2.50 after negotiation, but Lily turned it down — the venue was also an extra hour away, and she still needed to cover gas.
Lily has mostly been relying on savings to get by after spending over a month hunting for full-time work, hoping to find a job that allows employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. Her goal is a $20 wage, but she worries whether that goal is realistic. She had a “big, revelatory moment” when she was earning more money, she says: “I started eating healthier. I bought myself workout clothes for the first time in years. You can have all the therapy sessions in the world, but an influx of cash will really change the way you feel about yourself.”
A pernicious corporate narrative suggests that workers like Lily — who ask for a decent wage and marginal flexibility from an employer — are simply lazy. Many understaffed employers have chalked up their problems to workers coasting on unemployment benefits or stimulus checks. They complain about the federal unemployment supplement and the states that have loosened the strings on unemployment payments (such as requirements to continually search for a job or to accept any offer).
But the 26 mostly red states that recently terminated the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the American Rescue Plan, purportedly to incentivize workers, did not all see an immediate increase in job searches. Many workers have valid reasons not to return to work regardless of any “incentives” — one of the top reasons being the exorbitant cost of child care. As the pandemic closed daycares and schools and left parents in the lurch, many two-parent households realized it would be cheaper for one parent to stay home rather than work. Others are wary of exposure to Covid-19.
It's amazing how quickly they rush to pretend the problem is the worker and never the employer. I don't want to wear a mask at work. It's hard to breathe in them. If I'm out, I have to use a yellow one and the yellow ones are disgusting. They just collect all this moisture and my whole lower face feels wet. Now I wear the mask. I understand that it's a preventative measure. But I'm a nurse. If I were working somewhere else, especially if it were a job where I felt disrespected and/or not listened to? I wouldn't endure this mask.
Let me be really clear that I can and will wear masks out in public where required. But there's a world of difference between that and having to wear it for eight or more hours straight. And that's asking a lot for a job that doesn't respect you or doesn't fulfill you.
As C.I.'s noted frequently at the gina & krista round-robin, there's also the issue of catching something. If I'm being treated like crap, why am I going to go into work at a job with the public where I'm risking every minute getting COVID?
Employers have treated us like crap for too long. And, as C.I. points out, the 90s were seeing a shift until NAFTA and other efforts at outsourcing. The baby boomers were retiring and going to be retiring and the upcoming generations should have been able to make the rules. Gen X, for example, saw 'casual dress Friday.' And that was supposed to be the first step of many as employers worked to fill jobs but then these trade deals came about and American jobs were reduced leaving the employers able to dictate still.
People have had enough. I understand. We've got three of our adult children who've moved back with us during the pandemic. In one case, one of them isn't working. She lost her job at the start of the pandemic. So she's handling the kids -- her own and the other two's children -- which is work but doesn't pay while her husband works. And they're saving on child care as a result and saving up some money by living with us. People are learning what they can live with, what they really need and asking themselves what they're willing to do.
I say good for them.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:
Tuesday, September 28, 2021. As elections are days away in Iraq, there's a call for them to be delayed, the climate crisis is impacting Iraq, as it corruption, and much more.
With Iraq scheduled to hold national elections in less than two weeks, there's a call for a delay. RUDAW reports:
The governor of Kirkuk said he supports a two-day postponement of the
election in the ethnically diverse province in order to resolve disputes
between different groups and to prevent a repeat of the allegations of
fraud that were made after the 2018 vote.
"The reason behind that suggestion is that we want the national office [of the Independent High Electoral Commission] to come and end the conflict between the components,” Rakan al-Jabouri told Rudaw’s Shahyan Tahseen in an interview on September 14 in Kirkuk.
Turkmen and Arab politicians have called for a week-long delay. One of their concerns was the impartiality of the election office in Kirkuk where they claimed Kurdish staff were stacking the vote in favour of their fellow Kurds.
Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) counts 3,249 people in all seeking seats in Parliament BROOKINGS notes this is a huge drop from 2018 when 7,178 candidates ran for office. RUDAW is among those noting perceived voter apathy, "Turnout for Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary election is expected to be a record low, with a recent poll predicting just 29 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots." Human Rights Watch has identified another factor which may impact voter turnout, "People with disabilities in Iraq are facing significant obstacles to participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Without urgent changes, hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to vote. The 36-page report, “‘No One Represents Us’: Lack of Access to Political Participation for People with Disabilities in Iraq,” documents that Iraqi authorities have failed to secure electoral rights for Iraqis with disabilities. People with disabilities are often effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places and significant legislative and political obstacles to running for office." Another obstacle is getting the word out on a campaign. Political posters are being torn down throughout Iraq. Halgurd Sherwani (KURDiSTAN 24) observes, "Under Article 35 of the election law, anyone caught ripping apart or vandalizing an electoral candidate's billboard could be punished with imprisonment for at least a month but no longer than a year, Joumana Ghalad, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told a press conference on Wednesday." And there's also the battles in getting out word of your campaign online. THE NEW ARAB reported weeks ago, "Facebook is restricting advertisements for Iraqi political parties and candidates in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections, an official has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site."
THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweeted: of how "chromic mistrust in [the] country's political class" might also lower voter turnout. Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) also notes, "Experts are predicting low turnout in October due to distrust of the country’s electoral system and believe that it will not deliver the much needed changes they were promised since 2003." Mistrust would describe the feelings of some members of The October Revolution. Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) notes some of their leaders, at the recent Opposition Forces Gathering conference announced their intent to boycott the elections because they "lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities." Distrust is all around. Halkawt Aziz (RUDAW) reported on how, " In Sadr City, people are disheartened after nearly two decades of empty promises from politicians."
After the election, there will be a scramble for who has dibs on the post of prime minister. Murat Sofuoglu (TRT) observes, "The walls of Baghdad are covered with posters of Iraq’s former leaders, especially Nouri al Maliki and Haidar al Abadi, as the country moves toward its early elections on October 10. Both men however were forced out of power for their incompetence, and yet they are leading in the country’s two powerful Shia blocks." Outside of Baghdad? THE NEW ARAB explains, "However, in the provinces of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala, Nineveh, Kirkuk, Babel and the Baghdad belt, candidates have focussed on the issue of the disappeared and promised to attempt to find out what happened to them."
Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has 90 candidates in his bloc running for seats in the Parliament and one of those, Hassan Faleh, has insisted to RUDAW, "The position of the next prime minister is the least that the Sadrist movement deserves, and we are certain that we will be the largest and strongest coalition in the next stage." Others are also claiming the post should go to their bloc such as the al-Fatah Alliance -- the political wing of the Badr Organization (sometimes considered a militia, sometimes considered a terrorist group). ARAB WEEKLY reported, "Al-Fateh Alliance parliament member Naim Al-Aboudi said that Hadi al-Amiri is a frontrunner to head the next government, a position that can only be held by a Shia, according to Iraq’s power-sharing agreement." Some also insist the prime minister should be the head of the State of Law bloc, two-time prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki. Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters do not agree and have the feeling/consensus that, "Nouri al-Maliki has reached the age of political menopause and we do not consider him to be our rival because he has lost the luster that he once had so it is time for him to retire."
In one surprising development, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) has reported: "Iraq’s electoral commission aims to announce the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10 within 24 hours, they announced on Thursday following a voting simulation."
REUTERS looks at various groupings in the planned elections. We'll note their comments regarding the Sunnis since they've been ignored in most of the western coverage:
The Sunni parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi is leading the Taqaddum, or progress, alliance which comprises several Sunni leaders from the Sunni-majority north and west of Iraq and is expected to get many Sunni votes.
Halbousi's main competitor is Khamis al-Khanjar, a tycoon who joined the Iran-backed Fatah Alliance after the 2018 election. Khanjar's coalition is called Azm.
The Sunni parties usually seek to appeal to tribal and clan loyalties. Sunni groups have shown little unity since 2003, which Sunni voters complains makes them weak in trying to rival Shi'ite power.
Sunnis were attacked and discouraged from participating in Iraq's first elections after 2003 by Sunni insurgents who supported Saddam and Islamist militants who opposed democracy.
The voters are largely apathetic -- in many ways do to a corrupt government that does not serve the people. The President of Iraq has identified corruption as one of the biggest issues in Iraq.
Baghdad: In the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, glossy election campaign posters are plastered alongside jungles of sagging electrical wires lining the alleyway to Abu Ammar’s home.
But his mind is far from Iraq’s Oct. 10 federal election. The 56-year-old retired soldier’s social welfare payments barely cover the cost of food and medicine, let alone electricity. Despite chronic outages from the national grid, Abu Ammar can’t afford a generator.
When the lights go off, he has no choice but to steal power from a neighbour’s line. He doesn’t have the right political connections to get electricity otherwise, he says, a frail figure seated in a spartan living room.
In this country, if you don’t have these contacts, “your situation will be like ours,” Abu Ammar says.
In Iraq, electricity is a potent symbol of endemic corruption, rooted in the country’s sectarian power-sharing system that allows political elites to use patronage networks to consolidate power. It’s perpetuated after each election cycle: Once results are tallied, politicians jockey for appointments in a flurry of negotiations based on the number of seats won. Ministry portfolios and state institutions are divided between them into spheres of control.
In the Electricity Ministry, this system has enabled under-the-table payments to political elites who siphon state funds from companies contracted to improve the delivery of services.
The Associated Press spoke to a dozen former and current ministry officials and company contractors. They described tacit partnerships secured through intimidation and mutual benefit between ministry political appointees, political parties and the companies, ensuring that a percentage of those funds end up in party coffers. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisal from political groups.
Assad Alzalzalee (OCCRP) zooms in on the impact corruption had on schools -- specifically, the promise of anew and state of the art schools:
Mohammad was 11 years old when teachers at his southern Baghdad school told him they would soon be moving from their dilapidated facility into a modern new building.
Today, at 24, Mohammad teaches classes in an overcrowded room in the same old crumbling structure. In Iraq’s searing summer heat, it is almost impossible to get his 60 students to sit still, let alone learn. Nearby, the planned new building remains a steel skeleton on a dirt patch strewn with garbage and populated by wandering cows.
“The modern school we were promised as children remains an elusive dream,” said Mohammad, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym to protect his job.
His school was one of 200 meant to be built by private contractors across the country in a project launched by Iraq’s Education Ministry in 2008. With hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, the effort aimed to rebuild the country’s education infrastructure after years of war and political chaos.
The program has endured a decades-long saga marked by poor administrative oversight, missed deadlines, and low-quality work. And now, 13 years later, most of the schools haven’t been finished to the government’s standards and most of the money is spent, according to government officials.
The school-building effort — known as the Duwaliya projects — came amid the broader failure of Iraq’s education system. In 2011 and 2012, the government took charge of building 1,500 other schools, mostly using state-run contractors who worked with private firms. Most of the money disappeared and only about 10 percent of the schools were finished.
Corruption harms lives, it is a serious issue. Aaron Mate dismissed it last year and then again last week. He's too-cool-for-school apparently -- or seems to thin he is.
In the real world, the author of WE MEANT WELL: HOW I HELPED LOSE THE BATTLE FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE, Peter van Buren, has a piece at THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE:
Yet, as if to create the anti-widget of my dreams, the Washington Post instead reviewed the sprawling literature to emerge from 9/11 over the past two decades—what they generously called “works of investigation, memoir, and narrative by journalists and former officials.” The books included on the list were written by people taking post-mortem credit for issuing warnings they themselves never acted on, agencies blaming other agencies as if all that happened was the FBI lost a pickup softball game to the CIA, and, of course, journalists who helped sell the whole WMD line profiting off their mini-embeds to write a new “classic” war book about What It’s Really Like Out There, Man.
WaPo left my Iraq book off the list, an accidental omission I’m sure. I joke, but I don’t. I wrote ten years ago, as it was happening, how nation building was going to fail in Iraq. It would have made a good bathroom read for anyone headed into the same situation in Afghanistan. So, while WaPo‘s list does a good job with the “celebrity” books of the era, it ignores the people who saw through the lies at nearly every step. I guess many of them did not write books, or at least not Washington Post kind of books.
So of course the list includes Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency Field Manual—the Bible behind the Surge, which outlined how nation building was going to work (update: he was wrong)—but nothing from the weapons inspectors who told the world quite clearly Saddam had no WMD and the whole premise of the Iraq war was a lie. Nothing explaining how the Afghan war was reinvented to cover up not finding bin Laden. Nothing about drone killing American citizens, bombing wedding parties, torture, collateral damage, or any of the things that actually caused us to lose the multiple wars of terror.
I’ve read almost all the books on WaPo‘s list. They would make for a decent but obviously incomplete undergrad survey class syllabus, something like “Opportunities and Losses: America in the Middle East post-9/11,” lots of facts amassed without the necessary critical thinking applied. So here’s what’s missing, the conclusions we do not want to see in black and white 20 years later.
Think of what follows as a B+ final exam submission for that imaginary survey class:
Post-9/11, nobody trusts the government about anything. Partisans support their guy but with a wry “Hey, they all lie.” Any rebuilding of trust post-Watergate died with the weapons of mass destruction and is unlikely to be restored in our age of social media manipulation.
Why the distrust? It’s because they didn’t make mistakes. They lied. Four presidents lied about how 9/11 happened, they lied about WMD, they lied about intentions, they lied about goals, they lied about Pakistan’s role, they lied about the strength of the puppet governments in Baghdad and Kabul, they lied about the vitality of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, they lied about our progress, they lied about it all. They lied to make Pat Tillman’s death seem like Captain Miller’s. And no one was ever punished. Most of the liars were promoted. Quite a few are still working in government, for Joe Biden.
On a simple material level, all the wars—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen—were a waste of lives and money and let loose the havoc of the refugee crisis. And yet we demand the point of 9/11 be our national victimization alone. We even appropriated the term Ground Zero, which once referred universally to Hiroshima.
American foreign policy credibility and our post-WWII imperialist strategy have finally been shown to be a farce. A lesson that should have been clear post-Vietnam needed to be relearned. That means we the public are stupid and gullible. We the nation are still a big, mean dog, but our ability to influence events around the world is limited to barking and biting and only works when barking and biting is the solution. When anything beyond threats is needed, say when dealing with peers, near-peers, or non-allied countries with shared interests, we have few if any tools. That’s why we have no idea whatsoever how to work with Iran or China, and why our strategy with North Korea is hope fat boy slim dies before he (likely accidentally) blows up half of Asia.
The climate crisis effects the whole planet. In Iraq, how's it playing out currently? TJE STRAIT TIMES notes:
In the deserts of Muthanna province, nomadic herders paint a grim picture an increasingly uninhabitable environment.
Decades ago, April used to be a time when the sandy soil turned into grazing land to allow livestock to gain weight ahead of the scorching summer heat. But in recent years, camels have had to make do with scattered patches of scruffy grass.
There's been no rain and the land is dry. The grass has turned into a desert and people have had to sell some of their animals to buy food for the rest.
Simona Foltyn (ALJAZEERA) probed the issue back in April:
“There’s no rain, and the land is dry. The grass has turned into desert. We have to sell some animals to buy food for the rest. This is what life has become,” said Thajeel, his kaffiyeh pulled tightly across his face to shield it from the dry, dusty air.
During our two-day trip across Muthanna’s deserts, nomadic herders painted a grim picture of an increasingly uninhabitable environment, where temperature increases and erratic rains have eroded the sustenance of animals and humans alike.
Studies suggest that temperatures in Iraq will increase two to seven times faster compared to the global rise, while the United Nations projects that temperatures in Iraq will climb by two degrees and that rainfall will decline by nine percent in the coming three decades.
The ramifications can already be felt across Iraq, with urban areas suffering from more frequent dust storms, while farming communities struggle to cope with irrigation water shortages and rising soil salinity.
But in the country’s inhospitable deserts, where the margin of tolerance for weather fluctuations is razor-thin, climate change is spelling an existential crisis for pastoralist tribes.
The crisis is real and there are people who do damage by ignoring it while there are others who do damage by making it worse -- an example of the latter would be the government of Turkey. ANHA reports on the International Water Forum in North and East Syria:
They stressed that the 19-dam "GAP" project of Turkey on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, most of which is located in Kurdistan territory, had eliminated employment opportunities for approximately 5,000 Kurds, increased Turkey's colonial control over Kurdistan, forcibly emptied 4,000 villages of its population for colonial motives, and displaced 1 million people because of these dams, many of them from Kurdistan, and their purpose to displace them.
They went on to say that: "Turkey's objectives from these dams are primarily political, using them as weapons against Syrians and Iraqis, while failing to comply with international treaties. Other facts are that they not only use water as a weapon, but in NE, Syria and Iraq for political, economic and social ends.
They added, "It seeks to displace people by blocking water from them, as the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are of great importance to the people of the region and use them as a negotiating paper against Kurdish areas with the Governments of Syria and Iraq."
They considered the decreasing level of the Euphrates River to be the greatest form of aggression and aggression against Syrians, Iraqis and other neighboring countries, and a crime at the international level, in addition to cutting off drinking water after the occupation of Ras al-Ain in the Allouk water station in the city of Hasaka.
That's how Turkey's government is harming the area. Hunar Hamid (RUDAW) notes how Iran's government is doing the same:
The water level at Darbandikhan dam is the lowest ever seen in the dam’s
65-year history. The shortage is caused by dams in Iran and a lack of
rainfall and it is having a devastating effect on farmers and the
“The decrease in water will be a severe catastrophe if the drought continues next year,” said Rahman Khani, director of the dam.
Farhan Hussein, 52, has been growing rice in Darbandikhan for 35 years and this is the driest year he has ever seen. He can only sow his rice field every other year in order to share the dwindling resource.
“There are around 80 farmers in Banki Khelan village. Those 80 farmers have been divided into two groups due to a lack of rain and drought. Each group plants rice every second year because of water shortages,” he said.
Downstream in Zhallanaw, Yasa Ahmed owns a resort that provides a living for 10 families, but the drop in the water level is shrinking his business. It “means people don’t visit here,” he explained.
A Kurdish official earlier this year declared a “water crisis”. Across Iraq and Syria, more than 12 million people are losing access to water and wheat production has plummeted.
Again, the climate crisis is a crisis for the entire planet. At COUNTERPUNCH, Patrick Mazza reports:
“If we don’t get climate justice, what do we do?“
“Shut it down!”
Call and response when we took a downtown Seattle street in front of the Canadian Consulate and Chase and Bank of America branches and shut it down for 1-1/2 hours last Friday. Our 350 Seattle activists took petitions signed by tens of thousands into all three locations, demanding an end to funding fossil fuel infrastructure, especially tar sands pipelines Line 3 in Minnesota and the Trans Mountain Pipeline in British Columbia, both of which cut through native lands. Outside, the crowd held signs, strung “CLIMATE CRIME SCENE” tape, worked props such as a Biden-Trudeau puppet, did street theater, and made noise.
The event was part of a nationwide wave of actions staged by Stop the Money Pipeline as part of the Deadline Glasgow: Defund Climate Chaos campaign, intended to build heat on political and business leaders to take action equal to the climate crisis at the COP26 climate summit in Scotland November 1-12. Ours was not intended to be an arrest action. The Seattle police were so good as to direct traffic around our blockade. The bike cops were nestled up against a building just out of sight waiting to clear us -using their bicycles as weapons – in case the order was given. But the authorities let our limited-time action pass, knowing it would just make a bigger story if the cops got violent. Over 40 activists were arrested at J.P Morgan & Chase headquarters in New York.
Today, Sept. 24, the youth-led Fridays for the Future stages another wave of protests with a global Climate Strike themed #UprootTheSystem. To find an event in your area, go here. I’ll be heading out to the Seattle action a little later today.
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