You’ve gotta hand it to Bibi in trying to outdo the Audacity of Hope Presidency with his Audacity of Fear Prime Ministership. Remember way back when some of us hadn’t realized how stupid it would be to invade a country that had nothing to do with the recent attack we’d suffered? As Josh Marshall recalls for us today, the then-private citizen actually testified in Congress in support of invasion, promising that
“there is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons — no question whatsoever. If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”
Which turned out to be God’s honest truth. But even as unusual, perhaps unprecedented, as it was for a private citizen of another country to address a Congressional committee in favor of us going to war, his secretly negotiated deal, apparently not even disclosed to his own national security advisor (a position he pushed to create), is not only pushing it a stage further than Bibi has allowed himself to go in the past, but it’s created a rift in Democratic party support for him. Of course, all but openly campaigning for Romney didn’t help, nor do his close ties with Sheldon Adelson et al.; but such a direct slap at American foreign policy by a sitting Prime Minister whose country depends on US support is beyond not only his own most extreme antics but anything I can remember. He appears from the outside to have conflated his own political career with the physical existence of the country he leads; and someone whose hold on reality is that loose is truly dangerous.
As John Kerry said today, “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush… We all know what happened with that decision.”
The Obama administration seems to be using every tool that it considers within bounds to make clear to Israelis that the current Prime Minister and PM candidate has already damaged the most critical relationship Israel has, and practically the only supporter to judge by votes taken at the UN over the decades. And of course it probably won’t matter; despite being behind in the polls, Bibi’s probably the best positioned to put together a coalition that surpasses the 61-seat threshold for a majority. That spells trouble for Israel, and not just with the US. He may have misunderestimated the sitting President’s resolve to do something significant in his final two years, or the frustration that his intrasigence has engendered on practically every side.
As Josh puts it, “Kerry’s point is a simple if brutal one: Netanyahu has a history of trying to get the US to launch major wars in the Middle East.”
Is it really going to be the pro-war party and the not-so-sure party once again? That show went off the air somewhere between Watergate and the last US helicopter leaving Saigon.
I was prompted to these ruminations by an email from my Congresswoman, who has announced her support for postponing Netanyahu’s speech, and failing that will not attend the speech.
I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents. And when it’s not in the context of an overwhelming number of statements about the exceptionalism of America, it sounds like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter…
He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.
Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the French Revolution:
The precept given by a wise man, as well as a great critic, for the construction of poems, is equally true as to states:—Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. There ought to be a system of manners in every nation, which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
I’ve been trying to think of something nice to say about Rudolph Giuliani, but the only thing I could come up with is that at least he out-grew the comb-over. For the nasty bits, you’ll have to read this dissection of the great patriot by Wayne Barrett in The New York Daily News.
Ed at Gin and Tacos asks a question to which most of the answers are depressing in the extreme. And virtually none of our true failures will even be discussed in run-up to the 2016 coronation. Or after it. Been down so long it looks like up to us.
What exactly are we good at anymore? At least during the Cold War we were able to prop up right-wing dictators or interfere with the internal politics of tinpot countries enough to ensure that the right strongman was “elected.” Now we can’t even do that right. Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan (where all efforts at Nation Building / winning Hearts and Minds have been abandoned and ground forces are now exclusively interdicting terrorists) have proven definitively that our conventional military power — honestly the only thing we have as a nation at this point that we can claim is Number One and not be fooling ourselves — is of limited use in the modern world. We’re great at it. We can blow up your tanks, shoot down your planes, sink your ships, and bomb your cities into oblivion better than anyone else.
The question is, so what? What good is that anymore? If we have to fight a conventional World War III with Russia or China — doubtful at best — we’ll do quite well. With that and a bus pass, as my grandfather loved to say, you can get a ride on the bus.
We’ve ceded our strengths in manufacturing, education, and non-frivolous technology to the rest of the world. Our welfare state is an embarrassment. Our law enforcement and justice system are a case study in corruption. Our Congress and state legislatures are cautionary tales of what not to do. Other industrialized nations laugh at our health care system. Our standard of living is declining, wages have stagnated for three decades, and the rising cost of living is slowly making 99% of us poorer as we work longer hours with no mandated vacation or personal leave. Is the U.S. still a better place to live than the majority of the countries on Earth? Of course.
But we’re not comparing the U.S. to Chad. Compared to our peer group, it’s hard to figure out what our strengths are anymore other than consuming energy, maintaining a giant stockpile of nuclear weapons, and having a big, powerful, expensive conventional military. Oh, and I guess we’re pretty good at spying on everyone’s telecommunications, although if I had to place a wager I’d bet the Israelis, Russians, or Swiss are even better at it.
The failure of the Iraq War creates some eerie similarities between the modern U.S. and the final years of the USSR. After wrecking its economy and standard of living with profligate military spending for thirty years, the Soviets found themselves pulling out of Afghanistan in defeat (and the government they installed had collapsed by 1991, too). The rest of the world, including the U.S., looked on and asked, “If you’re spending that much on the military and you can’t even win a war against a Stone Age country, what CAN you do?”
It was a valid question. It is a valid question to ask ourselves as well. We’ve bled ourselves dry paying for two wars since 2002 and massive annual defense budgets every year for more than a half-century now. What do we have to show for it? Shouldn’t we at least be able to do Military Stuff right? If we can’t, what exactly do we have going for us?
“Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom” is the title of HB 321. The preamble of this legislation says, “The scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe.” It would give public school teachers legal immunity if they want to teach “alternative” theories.
From the Facebook of a major political party’s pick to be vice president of the United States:
I have never and will never let the shroud of victimization cover me — God’s given me way too many undeserved blessings to dishonor His goodness by wasting time crying “victim” — but I’m happy to recall the hundreds of Palin-centric false reports if it helps America understand you must never trust JournoList-types. (Well, not exactly “happy” to do it, but willing — all the whilst throwing up a little bit in my mouth, believing the reason the harshness perpetuates may be for others’ edification.)
Here’s Brown University economics professor Mark Blyth explaining how lucky we were that Paul Ryan’s efforts to wreck the American economy were only partially successful:
Europe is about to basically fall apart by trying to teach a tiny little country the size of Alabama a lesson in moral hazards, which could lead to the implosion of its banking system once again, and this time [ECB President Mario] Draghi has no more tricks in his bag to solve the problem. They really are on a path to blowing up the eurozone and it’s looking very likely that they’ll do that.
Back in the United States, you went through the craziness of the sequester and that stuff and, ultimately, $78 billion of discretionary, nondiscretionary, on a $17 trillion economy is enough to be annoying but it wasn’t enough to actually do real damage. Once the brakes were off, then, of course, the economy started to recover more. Now, you’ve got the eurozone dragging the world economy down; you’ve got China slowing down; the United States is the only place left that’s actually growing. Why is that? Because it’s the one that cut the least. It doesn’t mean austerity is over and it doesn’t mean the Republicans aren’t going to come back with the same old-time medicine and illogical nonsense masquerading as economics — because, basically, they represent people who don’t want to pay taxes — it doesn’t mean that that’s gone, that we’ve all woken up and said, Whoop dee do!
From Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Guy, a good point:
The real shame is that even though members of the non-“fake” news media respected Stewart, and spoke reverentially about his influence on their understanding of their own business, no one in the legitimate press followed him up Bullshit Mountain to pursue Fox News as a story. Do you understand what I mean by that? Fox isn’t just a news organization with a somewhat different take on current events — it’s an Orwellian propaganda ministry for a large, white nation-within-a-nation that votes in every election and therefore decides the political course of the larger America no matter how much of a lock Democrats seem to have on the presidency.
What Fox has done to America is the great untold news story of our generation. Jon Stewart got that, and mainstream media figures admired him, but the mainstream press never followed up on his stories. The MSM figured he had it covered (or, more likely, figured that he never had to worry about suddenly needing a job in an industry where only Murdoch seemed to be expanding).
The only major takeout on Fox News that I recall was a New Yorker profile way back in 2003. Its focus was on Roger Ailes, the former GOP hitman who still runs the network. But not only is Fox an even more newsworthy target today, it’s also an easy one. By now there must be hundreds of disaffected employees and ex-employees wandering around and willing to talk. They wouldn’t even have to be disaffected, actually: no greater blabbermouth exists than a newsman (or in this case a television “news”man). I’d do the job myself, only I’m on social security now so I don’t have to get my hands dirty anymore.
President Obama, God love him in this instance at least, has finally cracked open the door to Cuba. Soon it will swing wide, in spite of all the shrieking from the GOP and a few Democrats. Their corporate supervisors will see to that. There is, after all, money to be made down there. Count on it, it won’t be long before Sheldon Adelson opens a casino in Havana, with the kind of floor show too hot for even Las Vegas. The legendary Superman himself must be long dead, but surely Sheldon could come up with another foot-long Cuban hot dog to sit up straight for the Yankee tourists.
But enough of the future. Let’s look at the pointless, stupid and murderous past: the undeclared war on Cuba we have been waging for more than half a century. Its most active phase began under Saint Jack, and would have led to a nuclear holocaust if a grown-up, Nikita Khrushchev, hadn’t stepped in at the cost of his own career. Instead our little weenie war continued under a series of cowardly presidents who all, except Saint Ronnie, certainly knew better. So two cheers for President Obama (It would have been three if he hadn’t stalled around till he was re-elected).
For those who have forgotten the backstory of this vicious folly or never knew it, here’s a brief history from Noam Chomsky. We should, as a nation, be ashamed of ourselves. But we, as a nation, consider shame Un-American.
You’ve got to be incredibly delusional to come up with a policy that puts Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on the same side of an issue. But Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama has managed to pull it off. Read this by Kevin Zeese in Mint Press News. Excerpt:
The views of Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on this conflict are quite similar, though it’s difficult to find two more polar opposites regarding U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, Chomsky has been a long-time critic of Kissinger for the bombings in Southeast Asia and the various coups against democratic leaders that occurred during his tenure. Chomsky has said that in a just world, Kissinger certainly would have been prosecuted for these actions. (These were the war crimes that CODEPINK recently protested before the Senate Finance Committee.)
Yet when it comes to Ukraine, Chomsky and Kissinger essentially agree with each other. They disagree with the more hawkish Obama administration and the even more extreme Sen. John McCain — who are both escalating the conflict in their own ways.
The original sin in this whole terrifying mess was our decision to act like a bunch of drunken Patriot fans when Gorbachev decided to end the Cold War in 1989. It wasn’t enough to win the game. We had to tear down the goal posts and beat up Seahawk fans in the parking lot. Which is to say we set out immediately to expand NATO and the European Union right up to Russia’s borders. A quarter century later we are still doing it, which is why Obama touched off the present conflagration by overthrowing Ukraine’s elected president and installing a US/NATO stooge. You could look it up.
From The Washington Post, a fun fact that is unlikely to go viral in the MSM:
Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.
I find the whole situation surrounding the upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu endlessly fascinating. As you’ve no doubt read Speaker Boehner has invited the PM to address the House of Representatives, which is not in itself unusual. But the context is troubling: here in the US the Senate is considering new sanctions on Iran in the very midst of negotiations with that country over the future of its nuclear program, sanctions that are explicitly aimed at scuttling the negotiations undertaken by the Obama administration. The PM’s speech will almost certainly argue in favor of the sanctions, another blatant interference in US politics by a old pro looking for personal advantage in muddy waters.
In Israel, there’s an election coming up, a surprise election in that Netanyahu called it before he was required to by law, which presumably means he considered it politically preferable to do so. The speech is now scheduled for two weeks before the election, a date apparently set at the PM’s request, and one that will have him on Israeli TV a great deal just as the election approaches looking diplomatic and looming over his competitors on the world stage.
Icing on the cake is that Israel’s current Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, negotiated the arrangements for the speech with Boehner’s office in secret. Dermer, in fact, met for a couple of hours with Secretary of State Kerry on the day before the speech was announced and failed even to mention it to Kerry. In personal life that would be considered a pretty serious slight, and from what I understand it’s a pretty serious one for diplomats as well.
At TPM Josh Marshall rounded up the current knowledge and reporting on the topic. Of the Dermer/Kerry meeting he said, “In almost any other case, such bad faith and duplicity would lead a host country to ask that an ambassador be withdrawn.” There are undoubtedly many reasons why that wouldn’t happen in this case, from the supposed blow such action might deliver to the special relationship to the possibility that Netanyahu would publicly consider refusing to withdraw until after the election, and the more likely possibility that the request to withdraw would be received in Israel as an inappropriate attempt to interject into the election the contempt the two leaders hold for each other.
Now, though, the President and Secretary of State have both refused to meet with the Prime Minister during his visit; the tide seems to be turning against Netanyahu’s political maneuvering (though as many have pointed out he is a political grandmaster) — even Fox News pundits have criticized the speech; and the Ambassador’s role in secret and even duplicitous negotiations with Speaker Boehner is public knowledge. While the White House might be politically barred from requesting withdrawal, it couldn’t be more obvious that the Ambassador will henceforth be considered unworthy of trust by the very individuals he’s sent here to work and communicate with. Israelis arguing that Netanyahu has already endangered the special relationship would thus seem to have some hard data, in fact almost-real-time play-by-play, showing how the PM puts his own political fortunes ahead of the interests of the country. It’s hard, after all, to argue that Dermer is anything but useless as ambassador to the US until such time as Republicans control the White House.
Finally, if I can think it through this far, I expect Netanyahu can as well. What is his strategy? Does he imagine that the GOP now has its act together enough to elect his man-bae Mitt? Crazy as that sounds, I think he shared, perhaps still shares, pollsters with the Romney campaign, so maybe he’s similarly misguided. Is this an act of political desperation, scrambling for anything that floats? Or perhaps it has become natural to him to think first of how he might muddy the waters. He has maintained himself at the top of the heap for longer than anyone since ben Gurion despite having little personal support from the public at large, few long-time allies, and no obvious powerful coalition or interest behind him. In the US that wouldn’t work, but in the world of Israeli politics where the smallest and most extreme parties often determine the top office-holders, Netanyahu makes it fly. This sort of maneuvering works best in complex, unclear, even muddy sitations. Perhaps Bibi has a plan, despite how it looks right now. Though we can certainly hope not.
Like all truly workable, practical, sensible and desirable political proposals in the world’s greatest democracy, this one too ain’t never gonna happen. It comes from a comment to this posting on The Dish.
Forget the draft. The way to make both politicians and the electorate think more carefully about our use of military force would be a war tax. Imagine if every foreign military intervention automatically triggered substantial increases in income tax rates, especially in the top tax brackets. It could be arranged so that multiple simultaneous foreign interventions would cause multiple increases, with two or more interventions leading to essentially confiscatory taxes on incomes over $1M.
I don’t know whether a draft would really cause anyone to think more about their foreign policy choices, but if I know Republicans, confiscatory taxes would definitely do the trick. It also seems more just: the draft idea deprives young people of their freedom and possibly their lives in an attempt to influence the donor class’ political choices, while the war tax would leave young people alone and directly target the kinds of people who hold influence over politicians.
From Fox News:
Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin is saying she is “seriously interested” in running for president in 2016, injecting some intrigued into next year’s race and the already crowded field of potential GOP candidates.
Palin — also a former vice presidential nominee and a perennial potential candidate — has twice told reporters over the past several days that she is interested in running.
The 50-year-old Palin made her comment before speaking on Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit, the first big conservative gathering of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
Palin first told ABC News, while serving wild boar chili on Thursday to the homeless in Las Vegas, that she is interested in the 2016 presidential election.
They say that the first person in any political argument who stoops to invoking Nazi Germany automatically loses. But you can look it up: According to a 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the English word “privatization” derives from a coinage, Reprivatisierung, formulated in the 1930s to describe the Third Reich’s policy of winning businessmen’s loyalty by handing over state property to them.
In the American context, the idea also began on the Right (to be fair, entirely independent of the Nazis) — and promptly went nowhere for decades. In 1963, when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mused “I think we ought to sell the TVA”— referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant complex of New Deal dams that delivered electricity for the first time to vast swaths of the rural Southeast — it helped seal his campaign’s doom. Things only really took off after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sale of U.K. state assets like British Petroleum and Rolls Royce in the 1980s made the idea fashionable among elites — including a rightward tending Democratic Party.
From the The Guardian:
As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet, the Pentagon said.
During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1bn to more than $11.4bn, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8bn.
Repeated clicking on the screen grab above will result in nothing but finger fatigue, whereas a single click here brings up video of game highlights. The price? For you, nothing.
From the Associated Press:
Department spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Wednesday that the new rugs at the sheriff’s administration building say “In Dog We Trust” instead of “In God We Trust.”
The forest green rugs with the sheriff’s yellow badge were in the entrance area for a couple of months when the error was discovered.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center is looking to hire a college student or recent graduate—
—able to travel on a regular basis, as much of our work involves overnight (Mon-Thurs) travel to east Texas and southeast Louisiana. Individual trip duration will vary from 1 night to 4 consecutive nights. The student will be exposed to year-round field conditions including extremes of temperature, humidity, and rain. In addition, field work involves long days/nights traversing through swamps, streams, and other wetlands. Many field work days are in excess of 8 hours, sometimes not returning to the hotel/Wetlands Center until 2 a.m. or later. Many field locations are in remote areas with snakes, alligators, bees, wasps, mosquitos, and spiders. The student must be comfortable with catching amphibians and reptiles (excluding venomous snakes and alligators). The student must also be comfortable riding in boats and canoes, and wading in waist-deep waters.
Those interested may apply to Hardin Waddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
…except that the Supreme Court has since declared legal the whole corrupt process described below by Henry George, Jr. in The Menace of Privilege (1906). Which is, I guess, one way of stamping out crime.
There would, perhaps, be little need for the creating of corporations were it not for the granting of privileges. But artificial persons, which have more powers than natural persons and life-everlasting, are far better suited than natural persons to take care of privileges — to fight for their continuance and extension. As a consequence it has now become almost an invariable rule either for artificial persons under the general corporation laws to receive from Government the special grants of power; or else such privileges, being granted to natural persons, are at once by them turned over to corporations or artificial persons. And these artificial persons possessing Government grants, are the most active and most potent of all persons in politics.
The very significant aspect of the Presidential contest of 1904 was the charge by opponents against the managers of each of the two great parties of receiving campaign contributions from the large privilege-possessing corporations. More significant still was the common belief that the charge was true, the partisan view being that, while the opposing candidate would of necessity be contaminated by such money, their own candidate was too upright and too strong to be swerved in the least from principle, affected in the least for evil. Yet Presidents are but men, subject to men’s strengths and weaknesses. And just as Mr. Buchanan was most complacent in face of the growing aggressiveness of the slave power which seated him and supported him in the Presidency, so monopoly powers might reasonable expect at least protection from a Chief Executive which their money and their efforts materially contributed toward seating in the White House.
In what wonderful new ways will 2015 lift America up, up, and away from the political morass and income stagnation of 2014? The New York Times is on the case:
“Among Democrats, that means greater government spending on education, infrastructure and even direct job creation. Among Republicans, it means far-reaching shifts in taxation and regulation.” [Question to ponder: in what ways are these strategies revisions of the Democratic and Republican playbooks?]
Democratic strategy starts with improved education and training to enhance workers’ skills and productivity:
More than $500 billion a year, “across as many dimensions as you could,” from early education to community college to vocational training matching worker skills to employers’ needs [Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, formerly chairman of the Obama Council of Economic Advisors]…
“Direct government job creation to tighten labor markets, bid up wages, and enhance prospects for the long-term unemployed.” [Jared Bernstein, former chief economic advisor to vice president Joseph Biden]…
Support infrastructure spending to create short-term jobs and boost long-term potential with better seaports, airports and highways…
$200 billion annually in new public and private infrastructure spending for ten years [Lawrence Summers, former director of the National Economic Council and president of Harvard University]…
For Democrats especially, boosting economic growth is only part of the solution. Another part is countering economic trends that have most benefited the highest-earning families…
Expanding incentives for workers to acquire stock in their employers, and for employees to offer workers incentive pay tied to the firm’s profitability [Richard Freeman, Harvard labor economist; “We presented some of these things to the Obama administration and the Wall Street guys just killed them.”]…
The Republican debate consists largely of getting government out of the way:
Reducing occupational licensing for some industries, like cosmetology [Michael Strain “of the conservative YG Network”]…
Shorter copyright terms for books, movies and other intellectual property would spur fresh innovation and job creation [James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute]…
Lifting the long-standing ban on United States oil exports and relaxing restrictions on liquefied natural gas exports [Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office under G. W. Bush]…
Moving away from taxing income toward taxing energy sources [Steve Bell, long-time Senate Republican aide now at the Bipartisan Policy Center]…
But the most popular conservative idea for boosting incomes is overhauling corporate taxation…Because loophole beneficiaries do not want to give them up, “revenue neutrality” makes cutting rates much harder [for Congressmen]. Casting off this constraint and simply lowering rates, said Kevin Hassett, and economist at the American Enterprise Institute, would cause corporations to rapidly bring overseas jobs home.
And so, dear friends … on to 2015!
Iowa center Bethany Doolittle goes up as Rutgers goes down, 79-72, on Saturday in Piscataway. Which is in New Jersey. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
For a good time, listen to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, describe his experiences researching several endangered species for a BBC radio documentary entitled Last Chance To See. These are animals that are being driven to extinction by mankind’s thoughtless intrusion into their habitats. If this doesn’t turn you into a conservationist nothing will, but his description of traveling through places like Madagascar, Komodo Island, China and New Zealand will have you rolling on the floor, so laugh and cry at the same time. You’ll be glad you watched this. Really, you will.
Adams died of a heart attack just a couple of days after this talk. I imagine he would be saddened, though not the least bit surprised, that things have only gotten worse over the last decade.
Happy New Year to Bad Attitudes readers! I hope this year brings you whatever you need.
And I’m hoping that for the world, too, though in the latter case I remain somewhat skeptical. In the US, as we stare down the barrel of a Hillary Clinton presidency, with a possible challenge from Jeb Bush, it’s good to be reminded that other civilized countries — perhaps I should omit “other” — are not as locked into the old order as we remain. In fact there are active movements to change that order, for example in the two parties I mentioned in a previous post, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. The ranks of both parties were empty a few years ago, and now the powers that have controlled the government to the benefit of their own class at the expense, both fiscal and moral, of the rest are feeling the heat. The level of panic is evident in their actions, such as the surprise call for snap elections in Greece after the third failure of the legislature to elect a president, a largely honorary role in that country’s system; the maneuvering among old-order parties in Spain to overcome existing differences and partner against the new power that has arrived so recently yet seems so fearsome; and even the uncertainty in the UK about the upcoming election and the probability of another coalition of convenience or some other form of minority government.
As usual, Seamus Milne puts it better and more clearly:
The powers that be in Europe are determined to prop up a failed economic model regardless of the cost — as they will be in Britain if Labour wins the general election in May. The aftershocks of the breakdown of that neoliberal regime are still being felt across the world economy — in falling commodity prices, capital flight, stagnation and recession. But the interests that depend on it won’t let go without a serious challenge.
That’s just as true in terms of global power. The US and its satellites, including Britain, may have suffered a strategic defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan — symbolised by last weekend’s ceremony to mark the end of Nato’s combat mission, held in secret for fear of Taliban attacks. But they’re not letting go either. Some 13,000 troops are staying on as “trainers”, just as thousands of western troops have been returning to Iraq for the war against Isis — the al-Qaida breakaway spawned by their own invasion and occupation — with talk of a major assault in the spring.
In the same spirit, every effort was made at the time of the Arab uprisings of 2011 to hijack, control or crush them. Some of the results can be seen today in the disaster zone across the Middle East, the growing power of the western-backed autocracies of the Gulf, the brutality of Egypt’s new dictatorship and the maelstrom in post-intervention Libya, whose civil war is likely to intensify in the coming months.
Here’s hoping the world finds ways to cope, and we all live long and prosper!
According to the latest Gallup Poll, Hillary Clinton is the most admired women in America, and she has been for 17 of the last 18 years. This will be used to help create the Hillary Is An Unstoppable Juggernaut narrative that is just getting underway and will soon become unendurable. The same process that brought us Regular Guy George W. and Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is now going to sell us Hillary Clinton, Unbeatable Titan of 2016, and maybe even The Most Beloved Women in America Since Eleanor Roosevelt!
It’s just another bullshit media narrative. Once the meme machine shifts in gear it can con you into believing anything. It can convince you that goose eggs are caviar and grape soda is wine if powerful people want it that way, but it would still be bullshit. Hillary Clinton and the Beltway claque can delude themselves all they want about her inevitability and her appeal, the fact is it won’t matter when the campaign starts in earnest. She’s popular right now because nobody has seen her lately. She occasionally makes pronouncements about Important Events, but apart from that she’s largely been out of the public eye. Well, everybody loves their mother-in-law when she’s back home in Olathe, but during a two week’s visit at Christmas her virtues quickly fade.
Will Hillary Clinton still be the most admired women in America six months deep into the campaign? Will wall-to- wall coverage of her robotically calculating, condescending, transparently cynical politicking still warm the hearts of Americans? It won’t, and half the country will view her just like they viewed Ann Romney: an arrogant and entitled aristocrat who thinks the little people smell.
Meanwhile, another bullshit narrative will come barreling down the road and catch Team Clinton utterly flat-footed, just like in 2008. They will discover, too late, that “Vote For Hillary — It’s Her Turn!” is neither an appealing nor an effective campaign strategy. And once the Chris Matthews-Maureen Dowd set grab hold of this new bullshit narrative, Hillary will be in deep, deep trouble. That bullshit narrative might look something like this: Jeb Bush, A New Kind of Conservative, Nobly Fighting to Redeem His Family’s Name.…Read on
Remove the word “rail” and change “Westminster” to “Washington”, and Polly Toynbee is describing the US rather than the UK.
For those at the sharp end — the low-paid, the food bank users, bedroom tax debtors and all who struggle with rising rents and unpayable bills on fallen incomes — life will become more or less bearable according to the swing of the electoral pendulum. For middling earners fretting over inescapable commuter rail fare rises, outraged by the energy companies’ cartel, anxious over their children’s chance of finding a decent footing in work or housing, what happens at Westminster matters more than ever. Those feeling alienated need to know that not voting is no protest: it’s a vote gifted to those you most detest.
What we need here is our own Syriza or Podemos. But past empires have prevented such occurrences as long as they were strong enough to do so. Here again we have the chance to be different, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
Anton Chekhov died in 1904 from tuberculosis at the tender age of forty-four. One of my old Russian instructors, an Armenian linguist and grammarian from the Soviet Union, met Chekhov’s widow when she was at an advanced old age. He asked her if she might say a few words about the great writer.
“Ehh, ” she shrugged, airily waving her hand, “it was so long ago I can barely remember.”
Have you ever wondered what public toilets in Ancient Rome looked like? Of course you have. They looked like this:
It was a social occasion. You could take a shit and talk shit at the same time (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). (It just sort of dropped out.)
This is one Roman custom I could bypass, although they had many I admire. For example, I can think of some prominent CEOs, politicians, and “public servants” I wouldn’t mind seeing get tossed to the lions, provided it didn’t harm the animals in any way.
You’ve probably read about the Steve Scalise controversy. In brief, the third-ranking House Republican offical is from Louisiana, and he’s in trouble. It turns out that in 2002 he spoke to a rally organized by white supremacists including the infamous David Duke.
Scalise’s office is denying that he knew who Duke was twelve years ago, but that’s transparently silly. Duke had mounted a surprisingly strong run for governor in 1991. In 1999 Scalise was a state representative, in which context he was asked by Roll Call how he could compete with Duke in an election for Congress. He replied, “The novelty of David Duke has worn off… The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.” In 2004 Scalise voted against making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. Ninety legislators voted in favor, while Scalise took his stand with the six who voted against. These are not the actions of a Louisiana politician who’s unaware of David Duke.
Clearly Boehner will have to dump him. Given the GOP’s PR-only efforts to reduce the toxicity of the brand among anyone other than older rural whites, having an(other) open racist on the top leadership team is not in the cards, whatever views the other leaders and their supporters might hold privately. But I was struck by one thing Scalise said in his own defense:
I don’t support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout South Louisiana… I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group … I still went and spoke to them. I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.
The League of Women Voters, in Scalise’s mind, is as radical a group as David Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization. And when making such a ridiculous statement he is not laughed out of the room, but instead can expect a number of heads nodding in agreement at every Republican gathering.
Chomsky has long said that the goal of those we now call the one percenters is to roll back the twentieth century, a period during which an increasing portion of the population gained some basic rights, de jure if not always de facto. In some areas (e.g., the federal safety net) they have managed to impede or block progress; in others (e.g., financial regulation, federal secrecy) they have turned back the clock to the Depression era.
Most regrettably of all, they have cheapened public discourse to the point that non-partisan organizations advocating participation in voting can be compared to racist hate groups and no one bats an eye. Just par for the course in covering today’s Republican party.
So how much mileage can the US get out of North Korean hackers? I’m no expert — I only play one on a blog, ha ha — but on the villain scale, I place them higher than Somali pirates but lower than hooded ISIS maniacs waving severed heads around.
Let’s face it, the whole war on terror thing is getting old. It just doesn’t rally the people like it used to. Americans crave newness and novelty. If you give them the same old enemies over and over again they will get bored, and if they get bored they might start seriously complaining about jobs and the economy and stuff, which mustn’t be allowed to happen.
So what’s an incompetent and increasingly unpopular national security state to do? They can’t wait around for Putin to become a Hitler forever, and their attempt to turn him into one was a big fat dud. So until something bigger and badder comes along, scary North Koreans doing scary things on computers will have to do. The fact that they might not have been responsible for that dastardly plot to prevent Americans from seeing a crappy movie is irrelevant. It has truthiness, and truthiness is all our national security institutions need in order to stir up hysteria, start shit with someone, and demand more funding (and power).