You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Tom’s Dispatch’ tag.

It won’t be business as usual for very much longer.  The mantle of world power is quite possibly changing hands within my life time.  Lovely.  Alfred McCoy tackles the large geopolitical issues that we will all be facing in the future.

 

The Bipartisan Nature of U.S. Decline

America’s decline started at home as a distinctly bipartisan affair. After all, Washington wasted two decades in an extravagant fashion fighting costly conflicts in distant lands, in part to secure the Middle East’s oil at a time when that fuel was already destined to join cordwood and coal in the dustbin of history (though not faintly soon enough). Beijing, in contrast, used those same years to build industries that would make it the world’s workshop.

In 2001, in a major miscalculation, Washington admitted Beijing to the World Trade Organization, bizarrely confident that a compliant China would somehow join the world economy without challenging American global power. “Across the ideological spectrum, we in the U.S. foreign policy community,” wrote two former members of the Obama administration, “shared the underlying belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the United States’ liking… All sides of the policy debate erred.”

A bit more bluntly, foreign policy expert John Mearsheimer recently concluded that “both Democratic and Republican administrations… promoted investment in China and welcomed the country into the global trading system, thinking it would become a peace-loving democracy and a responsible stakeholder in a U.S.-led international order.”

In the 15 years since then, Beijing’s exports to the U.S. grew nearly fivefold to $462 billion annually. By 2014, its foreign currency reserves had surged from just $200 billion to an unprecedented $4 trillion — a vast hoard of cash it used to build a modern military and win allies across Eurasia and Africa. Meanwhile, Washington was wasting more than $8 trillion on profitless wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa in lieu of spending such funds domestically on infrastructure, innovation, or education — a time-tested formula for imperial decline.

When a Pentagon team assessing the war in Afghanistan interviewed Jeffrey Eggers, a former White House staffer and Navy SEAL veteran, he asked rhetorically: “What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth a trillion? After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.” (And keep in mind that the best estimate now is that the true cost to America of that lost war alone was $2.3 trillion.) Consider it an imperial lesson of the first order that the most extravagantly funded military on Earth has not won a war since the start of the twenty-first century.

Donald Trump’s presidency brought a growing realization, at home and abroad, that Washington’s world leadership was ending far sooner than anyone had imagined. For four years, Trump attacked long-standing U.S. alliances, while making an obvious effort to dismiss or demolish the international organizations that had been the hallmark of Washington’s world system. To top that off, he denounced a fair American election as “fraudulent” and sparked a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, functionally making a mockery of America’s long history of promoting the idea of democracy to legitimate its global leadership (even as it overthrew unfriendly democratic governments in distant lands via covert interventions).

In that riot’s aftermath, most of the Republican Party has embraced Trump’s demagoguery about electoral fraud as an article of faith. As it happens, no nation can exercise global leadership if one of its ruling parties descends into persistent irrationality, something Britain’s Conservative Party demonstrated all too clearly during that country’s imperial decline in the 1950s.

  Liz Theoharis writing for Tom’s Dispatch on poverty and the solidarity and ingenuity of the American people when it came to helping the poor in their country.  The underclasses in the USA have begun to organize again, I just hope it isn’t too late because the road before them is steep and filled with many pitfalls.  The recent addition of social media to the mix with it’s tendency to fragment and cause division among groups will provide a significant challenge for those organizations that wish to once again reform and reforge the poor into a political force in the US.  I hope they succeed as the survival of their nation is dependent on them achieving their goals.

“Another example was the transformative work of the Black Panther Party, whose legacy still impacts our political life, even if the image of the party remains distorted by myths, misrepresentations, and racist fearmongering. This October marked the 55th anniversary of its founding. For many Americans, its enduring image is still of ominous looking men in black berets and leather jackets carrying guns. But most of their time was spent meeting the needs of their community and building a movement that could transform life for poor Black people.

In a recent interview, Fredericka Jones, a Black Panther herself and the widow of the party’s co-founder, Huey Newton, explained that among their projects,

“the most famous and most notable would be the free breakfast the Panthers offered to thousands of children in Oakland and other cities, providing basic nutrition for kids from poor families, long before the government took on this responsibility. We knew that children could not learn if they were hungry, but we also had free clinics. We had free clothing. We had a service called SAFE (Seniors Against a Fearful Environment) where we would escort seniors to the bank, or, you know, to do their grocery shopping. We had a free ambulance program in North Carolina. Black people were dying because the ambulance wouldn’t even come and pick them up.”

Before his murder in 1989, Newton himself characterized their work this way:

“The Black Panther Party was doing what the government should’ve done. We were providing these basic survival programs, as we called them, for the Black community and oppressed communities, when the government wasn’t doing it. The government refused to, so the community loved the Party. And that was not what you saw in the media. You didn’t see brothers feeding kids. You saw a picture of a brother who was looking menacing with a gun.”

As Newton pointed out, the Panthers bravely stepped into the void left by the government to feed, educate, and care for communities. But they were also clear that their survival programs were not just about meeting immediate needs. For one thing, they purposefully used those programs to highlight the failures of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the contradictions between America’s staggering wealth and its staggering poverty and racism, which existed side by side and yet in separate universes. In those years, the Panthers quite consciously tried to shine a light on the grim paradox of a nation that claimed there was never enough money to fight poverty at home, even as it spent endless billions of dollars fighting a war on the poor in Southeast Asia.

Their programs also gave them a base of operations from which to organize new people into a human-rights movement, which meant that all of their community work would be interwoven with political education, highly visible protest, cultural organizing, and a commitment to sustaining leaders for the long haul. While deeply rooted in poor black urban communities, the Panthers both inspired and linked up to similar efforts by Latino and poor-white organizations.

These were, of course, the most treacherous of waters. At the time, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI listed the Black Panthers and their breakfast program as “the greatest threat to internal security in the country.” Government officials recognized that such organizing could potentially catch fire across far wider groups of poor Americans at a moment when the War on Poverty was being dismantled and the age of neoliberal economics was already on the rise.”

Well I’d like to change the channel from the Pandemic Gloom & Doom to the similarly depressing and helplessness inducing topic of climate change. The actors in feel similar in both channels, for instance, the vaccinated can only sit by and watch as the ignorant anti-vax crowd spreads Covid-19 to each other and fills the ICU wards past capacity. Concomitantly we can observe China and the US vie for world dominance economically and militarily while continuing to put stunning amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, catastrophically heating the planet.

Micheal Klare sets out the bare-bones minimum guidelines to avert the upcoming climate catastrophe. Unfortunately said guidelines involve China and the US backing down from their military buildups, finding a peaceable solution to Taiwan, and focusing their economies on moving away from using fossil fuels.

Awesome. No problem. We got this…

“Only when China and the United States elevate the threat of climate change above their geopolitical rivalry will it be possible to envision action on a sufficient scale to avert the future incineration of this planet and the collapse of human civilization. This should hardly be an impossible political or intellectual stretch. On January 27th, in an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis, President Biden did, in fact, decree that “climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.” That same day, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a companion statement, saying that his “Department will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity.” (At the moment, however, the thought that Republicans in Congress would support such positions, no less fund them, is beyond imagining.)

In any case, such comments have already been overshadowed by the Biden administration’s fixation on dominating China globally, as have any comparable impulses on the part of the Chinese leadership. Still, the understanding is there: climate change poses an overwhelming existential threat to both American and Chinese “security,” a reality that will only grow fiercer as greenhouse gases continue to pour into our atmosphere. To defend their respective homelands not against each other but against nature, both sides will increasingly be compelled to devote ever more funds and resources to flood protection, disaster relief, fire-fighting, seawall construction, infrastructure replacement, population resettlement, and other staggeringly expensive, climate-related undertakings. At some point, such costs will far exceed the amounts needed to fight a war between us.

Once this reckoning sinks in, perhaps U.S. and Chinese officials will begin forging an alliance aimed at defending their own countries and the world against the coming ravages of climate change. If John Kerry were to return to China and tell its leadership, “We are phasing out all our coal plants, working to eliminate our reliance on petroleum, and are prepared to negotiate a mutual reduction in Pacific naval and missile forces,” then he could also say to his Chinese counterparts, “You need to start phasing out your coal use now — and here’s how we think you can do it.”

Once such an agreement was achieved, Presidents Biden and Xi could turn to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and say, “You must follow in our footsteps and eliminate your dependence on fossil fuels.” And then, the three together could tell the leaders of every other nation: “Do as we’re doing, and we’ll support you. Oppose us, and you’ll be cut off from the world economy and perish.”

That’s how to save this planet from a climate Armageddon. There really is no other way.

  Very happy to be in Canada for this particular emergency.  The US administration was all over the map has the pandemic started and is paying the price now for having a doofus as head of state.

 

Long-Simmering Realities

In many ways, the current crisis has, of course, just exposed conditions that should have been attended to long ago. Much that suddenly seems broken was already on the brink when the coronavirus appeared. If anything, the pandemic has simply accelerated already existing trends. As a December 2019 Century Foundation report on “racism, inequality, and health care for African Americans” concluded, “The American health care system is beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups.” In fact, in 2019, the London-based Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index had already ranked the American healthcare system 59th in the world for its standard of services.

As bad as Donald Trump and his administration have been, the growing American coronavirus disaster can’t simply be blamed on them. Covid-19 has brought home to the rest of us how over here over there really was. And now, the pathetic White House leadership in this crisis has raised another possibility: autocracy.

The Trump administration’s failure to handle the crisis competently stems in part from the president’s perception that whatever he says, in autocratic fashion, goes — or, as he has often put it, “I can do whatever I want.” From his early assertion that the virus was destined to go from 15 cases to one or disappear in the warmth of April to his fantasy numbers when it came to virus testing or obtaining crucial medical equipment to his recent advocacy of ingesting disinfectants as an antidote for Covid-19, the leader of the United States has come to resemble a run-of-the-mill autocrat spreading disinformation in his own interests. It’s one thing to point to the power-grabbing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the underhanded machinations of the dictator of North Korea, or the ruthlessness of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. It’s quite another to have a power-hungry leader as our own head of state. Once again, we are not immune. There is here.

With Covid-19, the very idea of American exceptionalism may have seen its last days. The virus has put the realities of wealth inequality, health insecurity, and poor work conditions under a high-powered microscope. Fading from sight are the days when this country’s engagement with the world could be touted as a triumph of leadership when it came to health, economic sustenance, democratic governance, and stability. Now, we are inside the community of nations in a grim new way — as fellow patients, grievers, and supplicants in search of food and shelter, in search, along with so much of humanity, of a more secure existence.

The world, in other words, has turned upside down.

An unhappy view of what probably is to come as we come to terms with notion that the institutions in our societies can no longer adequately serve the needs of the people.

Here, then, is a very partial listing of some of the most important of those signals then readily available to anyone bothering to pay attention. On the eve of the Great Reckoning, however, they were generally treated as mere curiosities or matters of limited urgency — problems to be deferred to a later, more congenial moment.

Item: The reality of climate change was now indisputable. All that remained in question was how rapidly it would occur and the extent (and again rapidity) of the devastation that it would ultimately inflict.

Item: Despite everything that was then known about the dangers of further carbon emissions, the major atmospheric contributor to global warming, they only continued to increase, despite the myriad conferences and agreements intended to curb them. (U.S. carbon emissions, in particular, were still rising then, and global emissions were expected to rise by record or near-record amounts as 2019 began.)

Item: The polar icecap was disappearing, with scientists reporting that it had melted more in just 20 years than in the previous 10,000. This, in turn, meant that sea levels would continue to rise at record rates, posing an increasing threat to coastal cities.

Item:Deforestation and desertification were occurring at an alarming rate.

Item: Approximately eight million metric tons of plastic were seeping into the world’s oceans each year, from the ingestion of which vast numbers of seabirds, fish, and marine mammals were dying annually. Payback would come in the form of microplastics contained in seafood consumed by humans.

Item: With China and other Asian countries increasingly refusing to accept American recyclables, municipalities in the United States found themselves overwhelmed by accumulations of discarded glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, and paper. That year, the complete breakdown of the global recycling system already loomed as a possibility.

Item: Worldwide bird and insect populations were plummeting. In other words, the Sixth Mass Extinction had begun.

All of these fall into the category of what we recognize today as planetary issues of existential importance. But even in 2019 there were other matters of less than planetary significance that ought to have functioned as a wake-up call. Among them were:

Item: With the federal government demonstrably unable to secure U.S. borders, immigration authorities were seizing hundreds of thousands of migrants annually. By 2019, the Trump administration was confining significant numbers of those migrants, including small children, in what were, in effect, concentration camps.

Item: Cybercrime had become a major growth industry, on track to rake in $6 trillion annually by 2021. Hackers were already demonstrating the ability to hold large American cities hostage and the authorities proved incapable of catching up.

Item: With the three richest Americans — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet — controlling more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population, the United States had become a full-fledged oligarchy. While politicians occasionally expressed their dismay about this reality, prior to 2019 it was widely tolerated.

Item: As measured by roads, bridges, dams, or public transportation systems, the nation’s infrastructure was strikingly inferior to what it had been a half-century earlier. (By 2019, China, for instance, had built more than 19,000 miles of high-speed rail; the U.S., not one.) Agreement that this was a problem that needed fixing was universal; corrective action (and government financing), however, was not forthcoming.

Item: Military spending in constant dollars exceeded what it had been at the height of the Cold War when the country’s main adversary, the Soviet Union, had a large army with up-to-date equipment and an arsenal of nuclear weapons. In 2019, Iran, the country’s most likely adversary, had a modest army and no nuclear weapons.

Item: Incivility, rudeness, bullying, and general nastiness had become rampant, while the White House, once the site of solemn ceremony, deliberation, and decision, played host to politically divisive shouting matches and verbal brawls.

To say that Americans were oblivious to such matters would be inaccurate. Some were, for instance, considering a ban on plastic straws. Yet taken as a whole, the many indications of systemic and even planetary dysfunction received infinitely less popular attention than the pregnancies of British royals, the antics of the justifiably forgotten Kardashian clan, or fantasy football, a briefly popular early twenty-first century fad.

Of course, decades later, viewed with the benefit of hindsight, the implications of these various trends and data points seem painfully clear: the dominant ideological abstraction of late postmodernity — liberal democratic capitalism — was rapidly failing or had simply become irrelevant to the challenges facing the United States and the human species as a whole. To employ another then-popular phrase, liberal democratic capitalism had become an expression of “fake news,” a scam sold to the many for the benefit of the privileged few.

“Toward the end of an age,” historian John Lukacs (1924-2019) once observed, “more and more people lose faith in their institutions and finally they abandon their belief that these institutions might still be reformed from within.” Lukacs wrote those words in 1970, but they aptly described the situation that had come to exist in that turning-point year of 2019.”

Ouch.

 

 

A soldiers exit essay on leaving the US war machine.

 

What I Won’t Be Missing

“It’s time to wave goodbye to a litany of absurdity that I witnessed in the institution to which I dedicated my adult life. Some peers, even friends, may call this heresy — a disgruntled former major airing dirty laundry — and maybe in some way it is. Still, what I observed in various combat units, in conversation with senior officers, and as a horrified voyeur of, and actor in, two dirty wars matters. Of that, I remain convinced.

So here’s my official goodbye to all that, to a military and a nation engaged in an Orwellian set of forever wars and to the professional foot soldiers who made so much of it all possible, while the remainder of the country worked, tweeted, shopped, and slept (in every sense of the word). 

Goodbye to the majors who wanted to be colonels and the colonels who wanted to be generals — at any cost. To the sociopaths who rose in the ranks by trampling on the souls of their overburdened troopers, trading lives for minor bumps in statistics and pats on the shoulder from aggressive superiors.

Goodbye to the generals who led like so many lieutenants, the ones who knew the tactics but couldn’t for the life of them think strategically, eternally proving the Peter Principle right with every promotion past their respective levels of incompetence. 

So long to the flag officers convinced that what worked at the squad level — physical fitness, esprit de corps, and teamwork — would win victories at the brigade and division level in distant, alien lands.

Farewell to the generals I served under who then shamelessly spun through Washington’s revolving door, trading in their multi-starred uniforms for six- and seven-figure corporate gigs on the boards of weapons manufacturers, aka “the merchants of death” (as they were known once upon a distant time), and so helped feed the unquenchable appetite of the military-industrial beast.

Farewell to the senior generals, so stuck in what they called “their lane” that they were unwilling (or intellectually unable) to advise civilian policymakers about missions that could never be accomplished, so trapped in the GWOT box that they couldn’t say no to a single suggestion from chickenhawk militarists on the Hill or in the Oval Office.

Goodbye to the devotees of American exceptionalism who filled the Army’s ranks, stalwart evangelists of a civic religion that believed there was a secret American inside every Arab or Afghan, ready to burst forth with the slightest poke from Uncle Sam’s benevolent bayonet. 

Ciao to staff officers who mistook “measures of performance” (doing lots of stuff) for “measures of effectiveness” (doing the right stuff). I won’t miss the gaggles of obtuse majors and colonels who demanded measurable “output” — numbers of patrols completed, numbers of houses searched, counts of PowerPoint slides published — from already overtasked captains and the soldiers they led and who will never learn the difference between doing lots and doing well.

Goodbye to battalion and brigade commanders who already had their hands full unsuccessfully “pacifying” entire districts and provinces in alien lands, yet seemed more concerned with the cleanliness of troopers’ uniforms and the two-mile-run times of their units, prioritizing physical fitness over tactical competence, empathy, or ethics.

Godspeed to the often-intolerant conservatism and evangelical Christianity infusing the ranks. […]”

  What’s going on in the US is chilling by nature.  The democratic underpinnings of their society are being being eroded at frightening rate as misinformation, lies, and propaganda replace the space once reserved for reasonable public discourse.  This process of disintegration isn’t new, but is hastened by the current republican administration’s dedication to a post-truth version of reality exemplified by their leader whose internal process seems to be this:  “I am right because I am always right”.

Scary stuff.  Arnold Isaacs, writing for Tom’s Dispatch catches a glimpse into the post-truth world that much of the American leadership seems to be mired in.

 

“President Trump looks like a quite different case. He clearly lies consciously at times, but generally the style and content of his falsehoods give the impression that he has engaged in a kind of internal mental Photoshopping, reshaping facts inside his mind until they conform to something he wants to say at a given moment.

A recent report in the Daily Beast described an episode that fits remarkably well with that theory.

As told by the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, at a March 2017 White House meeting between the president and representatives of leading veterans organizations, Rick Weidman of Vietnam Veterans of America brought up the subject of Agent Orange, the widely used U.S. defoliant that has had long-term health effects on American soldiers and Vietnamese villagers.

As Suebsaeng reconstructed the discussion, Trump responded by asking if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie” — a reference evidently to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. Several veterans in the room tried to explain to the president that the scene he remembered involved napalm, an incendiary agent, not Agent Orange. But Trump wouldn’t back down, Suebsaeng recounted, “and proceeded to say things like, ‘no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.'” His comment directly to Weidman was, “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie.”

What makes the Daily Beast report particularly revealing is not just that Trump was ignorant of the facts and would not listen to people who clearly knew better. That behavior is all too familiar to anyone even casually aware of Trump’s record. The argument with the veterans was different because his misstatement did not arise from any of the usual reasons. He was not answering a critic or tearing down someone who frustrated him or making an argument for a policy opinion or defending some past statement.

Sticking to his version of Agent Orange was purely a reflection of his personality. On a subject one can safely assume he had not thought about until that moment, he seized on a fragmentary memory of something he’d seen on a screen years earlier, jumped to a wrong conclusion, and was then immediately convinced that he was correct solely because he had heard himself saying it — not only certain that he was right, but oblivious to the fact that everyone he was talking to knew more about the subject than he did.

In effect, this story strongly suggests, Trump’s thought process (if you can call it that) boils down to: I am right because I am always right.

Lots of people absorb facts selectively and adapt them to fit opinions they already hold. That’s human nature. But the president’s ability to twist the truth, consciously or not, is extreme. So is his apparently unshakable conviction that no matter what the subject is, no one knows more than he does, which means he has no need to listen to anyone who tries to correct his misstatements. In a person with his power and responsibilities, those qualities are truly frightening.

As alarming as his record is, though, it would be a serious mistake to think of Trump as the only or even the principal enemy of truth and truth-tellers. There is a large army out there churning out false information, using technology that lets them spread their messages to a mass audience with minimal effort and expense. But the largest threat to truth, I fear, is not from the liars and truth twisters, but from deep in our collective and individual human nature.”

It’s easier to believe a familiar lie than the uncomfortable truth – this is our human tendency – but now, more than ever, we need to seek out that uncomfortable space where we see ourselves and our situations for what they are, not what we want them to be.

 

This Blog best viewed with Ad-Block and Firefox!

What is ad block? It is an application that, at your discretion blocks out advertising so you can browse the internet for content as opposed to ads. If you do not have it, get it here so you can enjoy my blog without the insidious advertising.

Like Privacy?

Change your Browser to Duck Duck Go.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,483 other followers

Progressive Bloggers

Categories

July 2022
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Archives

Blogs I Follow

The DWR Community

Myrela

Art, health, civilizations, photography, nature, books, recipes, etc.

Women Are Human

Independent source for the top stories in worldwide gender identity news

Widdershins Worlds

LESBIAN SF & FANTASY WRITER, & ADVENTURER

aunt polly's rants

A fine WordPress.com site

silverapplequeen

herstory. poetry. recipes. rants.

Paul S. Graham

Communications, politics, peace and justice

Debbie Hayton

Transgender Teacher and Journalist

Whirlwind of Scrap Paper

Books, articles and the occasional poem. Posting Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

shakemyheadhollow

Conceptual spaces: politics, philosophy, art, literature, religion, cultural history

Our Better Natures

Loving, Growing, Being

Lyra

A topnotch WordPress.com site

I Won't Take It

Life After an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

VictimFocus Blog

Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Psychologist and Best Selling Author Dr Jessica Taylor

Unpolished XX

No product, no face paint. I am enough.

Volunteer petunia

Observations and analysis on survival, love and struggle

femlab

the feminist exhibition space at the university of alberta

Raising Orlando

About gender, identity, parenting and containing multitudes

REAL for women

Reflecting Equality in Australian Legislation for women

The Feminist Kitanu

Spreading the dangerous disease of radical feminism

Double Plus Good

The Evolution Will Not BeTelevised

la scapigliata

writer, doctor, wearer of many hats

Teach The Change

Teaching Artist/ Progressive Educator

Female Personhood

Identifying as female since the dawn of time.

Not The News in Briefs

A blog by Helen Saxby

SOLIDARITY WITH HELEN STEEL

A blog in support of Helen Steel

thenationalsentinel.wordpress.com/

Where media credibility has been reborn.

BigBooButch

Memoirs of a Butch Lesbian

RadFemSpiraling

Radical Feminism Discourse

a sledge and crowbar

deconstructing identity and culture

The Radical Pen

Fighting For Female Liberation from Patriarchy

Emma

Politics, things that make you think, and recreational breaks

Easilyriled's Blog

cranky. joyful. radical. funny. feminist.

Nordic Model Now!

Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution

The WordPress C(h)ronicle

These are the best links shared by people working with WordPress

HANDS ACROSS THE AISLE

Gender is the Problem, Not the Solution

fmnst

Peak Trans and other feminist topics

There Are So Many Things Wrong With This

if you don't like the news, make some of your own

%d bloggers like this: