Belabored Podcast #40: Philanthrocapitalism, with Joanne Barkan

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The so-called education reform movement is funded by a handful of very wealthy donors who impose their ideological views through massive infusions of cash. Dissent‘s Joanne Barkan has spent years researching and writing about the ideology of the philanthro-ed-reformers, how they are similar to and different from older philanthropists like Ford and Carnegie, and how they’re corrupting democracy. She joins Michelle and Sarah to talk about her work. In labor news this week, London’s public transit workers go on strike; Tennessee may yet see a unionized auto plant; NFL cheerleaders rise up against wage theft; and workers rise up against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.


Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee to Vote on Union Membership

Tube Strike: London Underground Action Disrupts Commuters

Why We Are Striking, from the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association

Oakland Raiders Cheerleaders File Suit Alleging Wage Theft

Episode 31: Relief Work

Episode 25: Shutdown

Free Trade and the Loss of US Jobs

Stop Fast Track

Conversation with Joanne Barkan:

Portland Teachers Vote to Strike

Joanne Barkan:  They Shall Overcome

Joanne Barkan: Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy

Joanne Barkan: Who is Victimizing Chicago’s Kids?

Joanne Barkan: Hired Guns on Astroturf: How to Buy and Sell School Reform

More Joanne Barkan at Dissent

Argh, I Wish I’d Written That!:

Sarah: Kathleen Kuehn, Why Are So Many Journalists Willing to Write for Free?

Michelle: Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, How Inequality Hollows Out the Soul

The Last Great Strike - UC Press [Advertisement]

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The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.