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Newsletter 5-21-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the means, please consider becoming a paying member. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

No Craic

(1) After destroying much of Gaza's health infrastructure (beyond targeting clinics and disabling the strip's only COVID-19 testing lab, the Israeli Defense Forces also killed the second-in-charge within Gaza's coronavirus task force), knocking out a desalination plant that has left a quarter million without access to clean drinking water, displacing upwards of 75,000 people and rendering 2,500 suddenly homeless, disrupting much of the electricity grid, killing and injuring hundreds, and destroying this lovely guy's bookstore/publishing house (you can donate to help him rebuild it here), Israel looks to have accepted a ceasefire. As of the time of writing, it will go into effect at 2 AM Friday morning.  

Outside Gaza, popular mobilizations on both sides of the greenline are bravely continuing. This all follows from Tuesday's historic general strike, participation in which has resulted in hundreds of Palestinians inside Israel proper being summarily dismissed from their jobs. The biggest actions on Thursday may have been in Umm al Fahm (near Haifa), where tens of thousands turned out for the funeral of 17 year-old Muhammad Kiwan, who was shot in the head by Israeli forces earlier this week.

If Israel's active campaign in Gaza will soon peter out, its asphyxiation of the millions living there will continue unabated, just as its machinery of control/dispossession in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will continue humming, and just as Palestinians inside the '48 borders will continue to face their own unique system of discrimination. In view of such underlying conditions and the more contingent developments of the moment, it seems reasonable to predict that this particular episode in the struggle for Palestinian emancipation may only just be getting started. A crew of savvy organizers spread across Palestine's disjointed geography, including in the diaspora, have shown themselves deft in opening up new (and old) theaters and in using new (and old) means for contesting the status quo. More impressively, perhaps, these same people have managed to at least partially displace Palestine's official leadership within the public's imagination, and to create the prospect of a genuinely alternative future.    

Those atop the Palestinian Authority especially are unlikely to go quietly, of course. Despite everything that has happened in recent times and despite the obvious failures of their gambit in Oslo, they will plod along as requested by those who pay their bills. Nevertheless, the possibility that Palestine's national struggle will be freed from the shackles of the Peace Process Inc. and all those it has enriched in Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Washington does seems real for the first time in a long time. Organizational strength will need to be built in order to wage a long battle of attrition against the PA and Israel alike, but at least the energy is there.

(Should one be unfamiliar with the concept of sumud, which in the Palestinian national context describes the steadfastness of their people's commitment toward enduring and resisting oppression, it is encapsulated rather perfectly in Wissam Nasser's photograph below.)

Credit to Wissam Nasser

(2) Pierre Concialdi of International Alert has just published a study establishing that roughly half of those families living in Tunisia's capital city of Tunis lack the income needed to "access the conditions for dignified lives."

Despite the housing market being slightly more forgiving outside the capital, standards of living are still tracking sharply at a national level as well. Country-wide, 84% of households earn less than 1500 Tunisian Dinar per month (about $550), which leaves them nearly 900 Dinar short of the figure that Concialdi and his team conservatively posit as the threshold for a humane and decent quality of life.

With the government set to now push forward with austerity--prospective spending cuts are to target the public sector wage bill and what energy subsidies remain--Tunisia's deflationary spiral will accelerate even further over the next five years. The pain being visited upon the vast majority of the country's residents will intensify, too, though creditors will make out well by dint of the Central Bank's pledges toward keeping interest rates high (in order to control inflation) and liberalizing the currency trade.

The nominal reason that all this suffering is to be afflicted on Tunisia (or any other debtor country in the global south) is so that it may bring its public debt down to what the IMF et al consider a sustainable level. Alas, even if taken on its own cruel terms, the policies being recommended will probably end up backfiring. By compressing aggregate demand, after all, you also inevitably compress your potential tax revenues. No healthy revenue streams-->no hope of consistently balancing budgets.  

(3) Per new amendments to the Commercial Companies Law, the UAE is, as of June 1, to allow 100% foreign ownership of onshore companies for the first time.

Though old hat when it comes to political economy in the UAE, the move is likely to deepen the transnational character of the regime's ruling coalition--with non-national capitalists coming to play an increasing role in sustaining profit rates and buttressing the various royal families. One can expect it will also facilitate the tax avoidance efforts of multinational firms, who may seek to use mergers & acquisitions to move their capital to the Emirates or to take advantage of the many opportunities for that Dubai affords when it comes to money laundering.

Mad Craic

(4) Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lohmeier, a commander in the (checks notes) United States' Space Force, was fired this week after he went on a podcast to promote his new book (again checks notes) "Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest & The Unmaking of the American Military."

The main thesis articulated in Lohmeier's book and podcast appearance looks to be that institutions throughout the United States, inclusive of the military, have been taken over by "Neo-Marxist" ideas and practices, as is evinced, in the author's mind, by the rise of diversity and inclusion training as well as by the hegemony of, you guessed it, critical race theory.

The paranoid style adopted by numpties like this guy is truly something to behold. What is most notable to my mind is that unlike previous generations of reactionary malcontents, our contemporaries cannot even be bothered to devote the minimal amount of work needed to either define a coherent enemy or to construct a superficially consistent conspiracy.

Anyway, though he does not seem to know what Marxism is, let us hope Lohmeier is right and that the American military is indeed in the midst of being taken over by such elements.

(5) A poll was recently conducted to query which animals men and women thought they could beat in a fight. The findings are quite interesting.

22% of men think they can defeat a chimpanzee in combat, which is, frankly, insane.

(6) Though the world is shrinking the spaces within which it is allowed to exist, pastoralism is still hanging on in many parts. Here, you can see 1400 sheep begin their 30 day, 580 kilometer journey from Sierra de Fuentes in Spain to pasture lands in Leon.

God speed.

Great Craic

(7) UNCTAD, Eurodad, and MSP Alternatives put out a new report examining how public banks across the world have responded to the pandemic. More than a retrospective, based on a review of best practices, the report also posits how public finance can be used going forward in order to both help deal with our current crisis and in order to deliver a more just, sustainable, and prosperous future for all.

A lot of brilliant people are involved with the writing and editing of the manuscript, so give it a look if the topic interests.

(8) Over at Carnegie, a new edited volume overseen by Frederic Wehrey and Michelle Dunne provides a rather comprehensive look at the folly of the United States' foreign policy engagements with the Middle East. In adopting a securitized approach--one "anchored in conventional arms transfers, brick-and-mortar military basing, and bilateral ties with autocratic Arab states that privileged military-to-military relations over other forms of American influence"--the US has, in the authors' telling, done little beyond lacing the pockets of defense contractors and enabling a rather vile collection of local allies to perpetuate strategic and human catastrophes.

(9) On Tuesday, Representative Katie Porter put up another one of those poster-board presentations where she eviscerates the ideological nonsense put forth by many of America's finest kleptocrats. On this occasion, the industry in question is biotech, and the man subjected to her inquiry is the CEO of Abbvie Pharmaceuticals. As Ms. Porter shows, all these myths of skyrocketing drug prices being the cost of innovation is absolute bunk.

(10) Here's a video of a wolf doing his first ever howls. He/she is pretty dope.

Have a great weekend.


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.