HomeUncategorized2/7 News Roundup & Open Thread – Who Is Matt Duss and Can He Take On Washington’s ‘Blob’? & More
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Don midwest
Don midwest

Russian government & foreign policy – a book review

American Ambassador to Russia under Obama thought he could bring democracy to Russia

George Kennan was ambassador in the 1940’s and his work was a major part of cold war thinking

George Kennan and Michael McFaul are both policy intellectuals who were thrust into a position of actually shaping policy. Each had been conditioned to concentrate on the bigger picture, and both perceived themselves as representing a new course of thinking. Each of them also felt that the policies they authored were badly misunderstood. Nevertheless, Kennan and McFaul are two vastly different thinkers. Kennan, we might say, is the intellectual as historian. Gloomy, often skeptical about democracy, Kennan was a realist by inclination. According to his biographer, John Lewis Gaddis, he was also an elitist, with frustration his default state of mind.

McFaul, by contrast, is a policy intellectual qua social scientist. His competencies are rooted not in history but in comparative politics. He is an optimist, a democratic determinist. In Whiggish fashion, he believes that history has a direction, and that this direction, despite twists and turns, finds its way to democracy. His long-standing relationship with the National Democratic Institute, the U.S. government-funded democracy-promoting outfit of which he writes about with particular affection, is a case in point.

remember Latour that modernism is the arrow of time going from a primitive past to be escaped to a wonderful future — that caught my attention in the article. I added the bold. PROGRESS!!!

George Kennan is an observer. Michael McFaul is an activist. Kennan is temperamentally ambivalent about what America could and should do. McFaul sees inaction as the major sin of any American policy. These distinctions in their intellectual profiles reflect the difference between someone molded by the dour experience of the 1930s and someone shaped by the triumphalism of the 1990s. It also demonstrates the instability and tension between liberal idealism and foreign policy realism.

The Unquiet American
IVAN KRASTEV & LEONARD BENARDO
Michael McFaul’s memoir throws into sharp relief the failures of America’s Russia policy.

And I continue my shameless monologue on Latour with an article that just came up today.

In short the most important issue is global politics and we will continue to struggle with many starts and stops along the way. Latour’s new book is Down to Earth

Down to Earth frames the politics of the past 50 years through the lens of climate change. Stratospheric inequality, the retrenchment of the welfare state and the spread of climate change denial are all part of a single phenomenon: a ruling elite that has sought to escape the impending climate crisis while at the same time denying its existence. This fantasy of escape extends to both the technophile millionaires buying up pastures in New Zealand and to the new cadre of right-wing politicians who deny climate change while erecting borders and walls to shut out the world.

“I didn’t imagine that someone would tell the rest of the world to go to hell – this is the first time we’re seeing politicians who no longer speak of civilising the rest of the world,” Latour told me of Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

As the planet burns, people clamour for the soil of nation states. It’s for this reason that Latour is fascinated by Brexit – he returns to it multiple times during our conversation. “With Brexit, what began as a question of identity has since rematerialised as a connection to the earth, with ministers forced to concede that there will be problems with lorries at Dover, with importing toilet paper – it’s as though the UK has been forced to realise it’s attached to Europe,” he said.

Bruno Latour: the philosopher fighting to save science from itself
In his latest book Down to Earth, the French thinker warns that facts alone are no defence against populism.

Don midwest
Don midwest

Brexit as a pathway for true Global Player through military bases!!!

Britain to become ‘true global player’ post-Brexit with military bases in South East Asia and Caribbean, says Defence Secretary

Britain will open two new military bases in the Caribbean and South East Asia as the country looks to step up its military presence overseas after Brexit, Gavin Williamson has revealed.

The Defence secretary urges Britons to stop downplaying the country’s influence internationally and recognise that the UK will stand tall on the world stage after leaving the European Union.

In an interview with The Telegraph in his Ministry of Defence office, Mr Williamson says: “We have got to be so much more optimistic about our future as we exit the European Union.

That came up on the link. The rest of the article is behind a pay wall.

It looks like countries have not understood the work of Chalmers Johnson who describes the US empire as deployed through military bases. We now have special ops military forces in 130 countries, or more or less, something incredible.

Chalmers Johnson wrote a book entitled “Blowback” which has since become part of the Blowback Trilogy.

From wikipedia

Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire

In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept “blowback” does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes – as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 – the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback. In the first book in this trilogy, I tried to provide some of the historical background for understanding the dilemmas we as a nation confront today, although I focused more on Asia – the area of my academic training – than on the Middle East.

— Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)

The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic

The Sorrows of Empire was written during the American preparations for and launching of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. I began to study our continuous military buildup since World War II and the 737 military bases we currently maintain in other people’s countries. This empire of bases is the concrete manifestation of our global hegemony, and many of the blowback-inducing wars we have conducted had as their true purpose the sustaining and expanding of this network. We do not think of these overseas deployments as a form of empire; in fact, most Americans do not give them any thought at all until something truly shocking, such as the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, brings them to our attention. But the people living next door to these bases and dealing with the swaggering soldiers who brawl and sometimes rape their women certainly think of them as imperial enclaves, just as the people of ancient Iberia or nineteenth-century India knew that they were victims of foreign colonization.

— Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)

Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

In Nemesis, I have tried to present historical, political, economic, and philosophical evidence of where our current behavior is likely to lead. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent. The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government – a republic – that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation is started down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play – isolation, overstretch, the uniting of forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy. Nemesis stalks our life as a free nation.

— Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)

jcitybone

Trying to resurrect their lost empire? Good luck with that

orlbucfan

This is a nasty pernicious universal mindset of stupidity that has crippled humanity for centuries. The blowbacks/corrections against it are violent and bloody. We’re heading down that road again. Not. good. 🙁

OzoneTom
OzoneTom

So will this be paid for with increased austerity in the UK? People are already taking to the streets.

The assumption that the UK will be awash with extra cash is also a fantasy. The government will have it’s hands full with Scotland busting out from the union and the mess in Ireland, just to mention two likely outcomes.

polarbear4

Thanks Don. Hoping to read.

Benny

Subir posted a diary at TOP last night that had to do with a line of questioning to experts on campaign financing and the potential of corruption in the legislative and executive branches. Update: rather than going from tweet to tweet, Now This digital media has the entire exchange in that hearing. Click on the tweet.

OzoneTom
OzoneTom

Love it! This reminds me of RI State Rep Moira Walsh exposing her veteran colleagues having “filing cabinets full of booze” and being sh*t-faced in session: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/08/voting-while-half-in-the-bag-legislator-says-colleagues-are-a-drunken-disgrace

Of course the corruption AOC is “exposing” is causing much more harm, but if there was a halfway functional fourth estate in this country it would have never reached the current state.

jcitybone

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/inheritance-tax-estate-democrats-trump-oligarchy.html

The transfer of wealth across generations is not a small economic or social problem. Inheritances account for two-fifths of all wealth, Batchelder notes. It is a major reason why economic class is stickier in the United States, where a father on average passes on half of his economic advantage to a son, as opposed to one-third or less in other countries.

The Trump era has put an especially fine point on the entrenchment of economic privilege. Trump is the visible representative of American oligarchy. He was raised wealthy and taught the importance of manipulating rules and cultivating political connections that would allow him to protect and expand his fortune, which he has duly passed on to a third generation of Trump children despite their evident lack of ingenuity. Trump hardly even bothers paying lip service to traditional Republican bromides about entrepreneurship and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. The president and his family blend comfortably alongside the princelings of China, the petro-monarchy of the Persian Gulf, and of course the state-designated billionaires of Putin’s Russia.

Centering an attack on inherited wealth also gives Democrats a chance to highlight the still barely known reality of Trump’s sad history in business. Trump is known to the country as a self-made man, whose crude mannerisms suggest some working-class background. In reality, we now know he was primarily in the business of laundering inherited money. Last fall, a trio of University of Maryland political scientists found not only that most voters do not realize that Trump was born into great wealth, but also that learning that he was changes their overall view of him for the worse.

Trump — the real Trump, not the character he played on television — is the embodiment of inherited privilege. He has surrounded himself with crooks and cronies who live by his own values, in which money begets political power, which begets more money, on and on in perpetuity. It is a rare opportunity for a political party to face a politician who embodies the social phenomenon they are trying to fight. A tax on inherited fortunes is a symbolic and substantive blow against the crisis of American oligarchy that Trump simultaneously aggravated and embodies.

jcitybone

https://www.dispatch.com/news/20190207/democrats-in-white-compared-to-kkk-by-trump-adviser

That plea evidently didn’t resonate with one senior adviser to his re-election campaign. Katrina Pierson, who also served as Trump’s national campaign spokeswoman in 2016, took to Twitter after the speech to compare Democratic congresswomen who wore white in tribute to the suffragists to the Ku Klux Klan.

“The only thing that the Democrats uniform was missing tonight is the matching hood,” Pierson tweeted early Wednesday morning.

Pierson, who made false claims on television during the 2016 election about Hillary Clinton’s health and wrongly asserted that President Barack Obama started the war in Afghanistan, was not the only figure affiliated with Trump’s campaign to draw KKK comparisons with the Democrats wearing white.

orlbucfan

How many women were KKK members? Most of the male members would have killed them.

jcitybone

Any wonder that the US falls so high on the corruption index?

Billionaires Flooded Republicans’ Coffers Just Before the Tax Cuts Passed

In late June 2017, Texas political mega-donor Doug Deason had a stern message for Republicans seeking campaign donations: The “Dallas piggy bank” was closed until they repealed Obamacare and passed major tax cuts. Deason said he had urged about two dozen of his wealthy Texas friends to do the same. The billionaire Koch brothers Charles and David also hinted at withholding money.

Just weeks later, the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare collapsed. Tax reform, which one Republican senator said would make repealing Obamacare look like a piece of cake, ominously loomed as the next item on the GOP agenda, and time was running out. Panic set in. By November, as Congress struggled to push a massive tax cut bill forward, Rep. Chris Collins from New York summed up the stakes: “My donors are basically saying: ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

Lawmakers got it done. Just days before the holiday break, relieved Republicans delivered those wealthy donors what they wanted: one of the biggest tax cuts in history, one that would almost exclusively benefit the wealthy.

From the looks of it, GOP politicians got what they wanted, too. From the time the tax bill was first introduced on Nov. 2, 2017, until the end of the year, a 60-day period, dozens of billionaires and millionaires dramatically boosted their political contributions unlike they had in past years, giving a total of $31.1 million in that two months, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics found.

jcitybone

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/428919-some-texas-dems-pushing-orourke-to-run-for-senate-again-not-president

Democratic rising star former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is reportedly being urged by some Texas Democrats to challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn in 2020.

O’Rourke is considering a run for president, telling Oprah Winfrey this week that he would make a decision by the end of the month.

But party leaders and other players in Texas say that O’Rourke could beat Cornyn, a victory that would be a major step toward turning the state blue, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the Morning News that while he would support O’Rourke in either race, he thinks the former El Paso congressman is more likely to win closer to home.

Ed Espinoza, director of Progress Texas, a progressive group, said that O’Rourke could find “a heck of a lot more enthusiasm here at home than in Iowa or New Hampshire.”

jcitybone

https://jacobinmag.com/2019/02/trump-state-of-union-socialism/

But forty years of stagnating wages, rising living costs, and intermittent chaos caused by capitalist economic crisis remade the world — slowly, and then all at once. When Bernie Sanders finally took socialist class politics to the national stage three years ago, people were willing to listen.

Bernie has been so successful at changing the conversation that the President now feels obligated to regurgitate Cold War nostrums about socialism and unfreedom to a new generation.

Good, let him. Each apocalyptic admonition is an opportunity for Bernie, and the rest of us socialists, to articulate a different perspective, one in which freedom and democracy are elusive at present but achievable through a society-wide commitment to economic and social equality. We will only escape “coercion, domination, and control” when we structure society to prioritize the well-being of the many over the desires of the greedy few.

polarbear4

Benny

orlbucfan

In the pictures of the SOTU, Pelosi looks like she’s had a stroke. Look how pinched her face is on one side.

Benny

Insert Clinton Pelosi’s right shoe…

polarbear4

Those centrists are sure feeling their oats! And they don’t understand why Bernie Bros can’t stand them.

Benny

jcitybone

https://newrepublic.com/article/153087/trumps-attack-socialism-colossal-blunder

Trump’s State of the Union paean to capitalism undoubtedly pleased his base, who have been the focal point of his entire presidency. But there are reasons to believe that making 2020 about “America First v. Socialism,” in Axios’ phrasing, might backfire for Trump. While the economy has continued to grow under Trump, there is rising dissatisfaction with income inequality and capitalism itself. Trump may think that red-baiting can make his toxic presidency appear to be the lesser of two evils. But this strategy requires taking greater ownership of a system that an increasing number of Americans think is unfair—and that didn’t work out so well for his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.

Socialism’s long comeback in America began after the 2008 financial collapse, which made Americans keenly aware of the banking industry’s power and the country’s massive wealth inequality. “The richest Americans,” wrote Brown University economist Mark Blyth in his 2013 book Austerity, “own more assets than the bottom 150 million, while 46 million Americans, some 15 percent of the population, live in a family of four earning less than $22,314 per annum.” Outrage over inequality drove the creation of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City in 2011, and in 2016 it was the foundation of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The bigger flaw in Trump’s anti-socialism strategy, though, is that it’s forcing him to be staunchly pro-capitalism at a time when its popularity is severely ebbing. In doing so, Trump is forgetting one of the most important lessons of his 2016 victory. Hillary Clinton made the case that the economy was strong and that Democratic stewardship over it should continue. Trump railed against a “rigged” system that had decimated rural and Rust Belt communities, and he vowed to fix it. This message, combined with his pledge to protect entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, was vital to his upset victory—helping him to win key the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (His approval is now underwater in all three states by double digits.)

Today, Trump is not only embracing the “rigged” system, but further owning his own unpopular economic policies, notably the $1.5 trillion tax cut he signed into law in December of 2017, which largely benefitted corporations and rich Americans. In the State of the Union, Trump boasted that “we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.” But many Americans still aren’t feeling that heat, just as they weren’t in 2016. Most of the economic gains have gone to the top 20 percent, and wage growth, while ticking upward over the past six months, has been largely flat throughout most of the economic recovery. This, much more than Sanders, is why more Americans have warmed to socialism. “The prime mover of millions of Americans into the socialist column has been the near complete dysfunctionality of contemporary American capitalism,” argued Harold Meyerson in The Guardian.

humphrey

It seems like this is how things work in DC now that Trump is in charge.

humphrey

polarbear4

I like this guy! Thanks.

polarbear4

To be fair, it’s worked that way for a while. Just not so garishly.

humphrey

This is worth a click to get the details. It seems quite similar to what happened in 2016.

Benny

humphrey

LOL One can still purchase one of these souvenirs.

humphrey

This could be the headline on Fox News tonight.

humphrey

ZAP!

humphrey

It is from Chris Cillizza but I think he nails it.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/07/politics/pelosi-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-green-new-deal/index.html

Nancy Pelosi just threw some serious shade at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’

Thursday is a big day for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New York freshman Democrat, who has rapidly become one of the biggest stars in her party, will formally introduce her much-touted “Green New Deal”

Nancy Pelosi isn’t all that impressed. Asked about the “Green New Deal” in an interview with Politico on Wednesday, Pelosi dropped this amazing bit of shade on it:

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”
I mean.

Pelosi knows exactly what she’s doing here. Her utter dismissiveness of the “Green New Deal” — and, by extension, AOC, who is the member most closely identified with it, is entirely intentional.

Pelosi knows that AOC is a rising national power — particularly among the most activist and liberal left. Given Ocasio-Cortez’s profile — and her influence among young, liberal members — Pelosi knows she can’t just ignore what the New York Democrat says and does. But she isn’t going to kowtow to AOC either.

Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez was passed over for a spot on the powerful Ways and Means Committee despite the fact that Joe Crowley, who she beat in a primary last summer, had a seat on Ways and Means. That decision didn’t come by accident — and it didn’t come without Pelosi knowing about it and likely directing it.

jcitybone

Well to be fair about the committees, AOC (along with Tlaib and Presley) did get seats on the important Financial Services Committee and the Oversight Committee. Pelosi had to have signed off on that.

Benny

Pelosi did. But it’s a signal that she’s not in the frosh class’s camp at this juncture.

humphrey

CNN is giving him a town hall just like it did for Kamala Harris.🤔

Benny

He did a TH at Purdue University today. Key takeway:

Torabs
Torabs

Fantastic movie reference.

Benny

humphrey

Even Ron Paul gets it with regards to the BDS issue. Too bad many Dems don’t.

Benny

Klobochar voted for the bill out of committee.

Torabs
Torabs

He’ll still vote for it, if McConnell pulls his chain hard enough.

humphrey

Ron Paul is his father.

humphrey

Nancy haz a sad!😢😪

jcitybone

Even CAP can see what’s Blowin in the Wind

humphrey

humphrey

Woops! Not what they intended.😜

polarbear4

With gritted teeth

And fingers crossed behind their backs.

humphrey

A good picture of Bernie.

I think that it is an oldie.

humphrey

Jeremy and Bernie would make a good international team.

humphrey

Not really a surprise.

Benny

I had thought he ran before, but maybe it was only for DNC chair.

humphrey

He has been a Hillary supporter so the establishment will line up behind him.

Benny

I think his timing is right though. It will be interesting to see if anyone else declares for the Dem primary.

humphrey

I doubt that anyone else would stand a chance against him. He would be an improvement over Lindsey ( I ❤ wars) Graham.

humphrey

WOW! A choice of more nail polish colors.

Benny

How does that help male flight attendants?

polarbear4

Maybe they let them paint their nails?😉

jcitybone

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/ocasio-cortez-aoc-green-new-deal-resolution-explained-utopian-and-pragmatic.html

Given this reality, AOC’s decision to append a wide variety of progressive goals — each with its own influential constituency — to her climate plan is tactically sound: If the entire Democratic agenda is rebranded as the “Green New Deal,” a future Democratic government will be less likely to ignore the central importance of climate sustainability to all of its other policy goals; which is to say, a future Democratic government will be less likely to de-prioritize preventing ecological catastrophe.

In other words: If one understands the Green New Deal as a device for maximizing the prospects for congressional action on climate in the near term, then its ideological maximalism is actually pragmatic. And I think that this is how one should understand it. Ed Markey and AOC know that they are not co-emperors of the United States. They understand that whatever they demand will inevitably get filtered through House committees, Senate negotiations, Joe Manchin’s cerebral cortex, and emerge in radically altered form. And they surely know that said form will not be an omnibus bill that enacts single-payer health care, a jobs guarantee, public housing for all, and a comprehensive transformation of America’s energy, agricultural, and transit infrastructure.

As a mechanism for raising expectations for what qualifies as a progressive climate policy — and increasing the probability that Congress passes such a policy within the next decade — the Green New Deal is politically realistic. As a blueprint for a climate bill that is both legislatively viable, and commensurate with the scale of the ecological threat humanity faces, it is not.

But neither is anything else.

There is simply no way to mount a realistic response to climate change without changing political reality. And for now, the Green New Deal is the most realistic plan we’ve got for doing the latter.

polarbear4

Whistling past the graveyard. Whistling past the graveyard.

Benny

jcitybone

House Republican leader wastes no time in freaking out over Green New Deal

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) disagrees with the overwhelming majorities of both parties who support increased investment in clean energy.

On the same day Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a Green New Deal resolution to address the climate crisis and create millions of high wage jobs, McCarthy took to Twitter to say, “‘The green dream’ is actually a nightmare.”

So the Green New Deal is only a nightmare to the extreme conservative Republicans in Congress who are in the pocket of fossil fuel companies and who refuse to support what their constituents — and all Americans — support so strongly.

jcitybone

Howard Schultz says we can balance the budget if we only believe hard enough in the leadership fairy

Tens of people watched a “major policy address” by billionaire oligarch Howard Schultz on Thursday, in which the coffee mogul claimed he could fix the country with platitudes, vague ideas, and impressive-sounding adjectives.

Yet, while Schultz’s speech was heavy on words like “leadership,” “opportunity,” and attacks on the “far left” and the “far right,” the major policy address contained virtually no policy ideas whatsoever.

For the most part, however, Schultz’s vision is that he can save America with vague bromides plucked from bargain-basement management seminars. The “American people are longing for honesty,” he proclaimed. Politicians are “mired” in “revenge politics,” according to Schultz. People need “opportunity, real opportunity.”

jcitybone

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/trump-tax-cuts-doing-opposite-of-promised-corporate-cash-accountants.html

So the law’s putative goals have proven a failure. Tax revenues aren’t holding steady, corporate cash isn’t coming back from overseas, and the tax code is more complex and expensive to comply with than ever. So why aren’t Republicans thinking about repealing or at least revising the bill that has failed to accomplish its goals? Because it’s still doing a great job of accomplishing the actual goal that they really cared about: letting people who own businesses have more money:

E3ECF2F8-939F-4D6F-A86F-587B101996B5.jpeg
Benny

Here’s the full interview of AOC on MTP Daily.

https://www.msnbc.com/mtp-daily/watch/full-interview-rep-ocasio-cortez-on-the-democratic-party-green-new-deal-2020-candidates-143907744362

Very poised, she states her values very clearly and confidently.

humphrey

.

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