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The conclusion of Paul Street’s essay is important in naming the situation the US currently inhabits.  “You cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad” is the idea that lies at the bottom of the problems plaguing the United States.  The notion that there are people, by default, undeserving of the same rights you grant to your citizenry, who don’t deserve the access to the rights/responsibilities (liberty, equalty, happiness) is eroding those very same ideals within the United States itself.

 

What Goes Around: “Trampling on the Helpless Abroad” Comes Home

     A final matter concerns the problem of imperial chickens coming home to roost. Liberals don’t like to hear it, but the ugly, richly documented historical fact of the matter is that their party of binary and tribal choice has long joined Republicans in backing and indeed crafting a U.S. foreign policy that has imposed authoritarian regimes (and profoundly undemocratic interventions including invasions and occupations) the world over. The roster of authoritarian and often-mass murderous governments the U.S. military and CIA and allied transnational business interests have backed, sometimes even helped create, with richly bipartisan support, is long indeed.

     Last fall, Illinois Green Party leader Mike Whitney ran some fascinating numbers on the 49 nation-states that the right-wing “human rights” organization Freedom House identified as “dictatorships” in 2016. Leaving aside Freedom House’s problematic inclusion of Russia, Cuba, and Iran on its list, the most remarkable thing about Whitney’s research was his finding that the U.S. offered military assistance to 76 percent of these governments. (The only exceptions were Belarus, China, Central African Republic, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.). “Most politically aware people,” Whitney wrote:

     “know of some of the more highly publicized instances examples of [U.S. support for foreign dictatorships], such as the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt… apologists for our nation’s imperialistic foreign policy…try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule.  But my survey…demonstrates that our government’s support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule.”

     The Pentagon and State Department data Whitney used came from Fiscal Year 2015.  It dated from the next-to-last year of the Obama administration, for which so many liberals recall with misplaced nostalgia. Freedom House’s list should have included Honduras, ruled by a vicious right-wing government that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped install in a June 2009 military coup.

     The problem here isn’t just liberal hypocrisy and double standards. The deeper issue is that, as the great American iconoclast Mark Twain knew, you cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad.  During the United States’ blood-soaked invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Twain penned an imaginary history of the twentieth-century United States. “It was impossible,” Twain wrote, “to save the Great Republic.  She was rotten to the heart.  Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home.”

     “Just a decade after Twain wrote those prophetic words,” the historian Alfred W. McCoy has observed, “colonial police methods came home to serve as a template for the creation of an American internal security apparatus in wartime.” The nation’s first Red Scare, which crushed left and labor movements during and after World War One, drew heavily on the lessons and practices of colonial suppression in the Philippines and Cuba. As McCoy shows in his latest book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,the same basic process – internal U.S. repression informed and shaped by authoritarian and imperial practices abroad and justified by alleged external threats to the “homeland” – has recurred ever since.  Today, the rise of an unprecedented global surveillance state overseen by the National Security Agency has cost the US the trust of many of its top global allies (under Bush43 and Obama44, not just under Trump45) while undermining civil liberties and democracy within as beyond the U.S.

    “The fetters imposed on liberty at home,” James Madison wrote in 1799, “have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers abroad.” Those are wise words well worth revisiting amidst the current endless Russiagate madness, calculated among other things to tell us that the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of the nation’s vast and ever more ubiquitous intelligence and surveillance state are on our side.

Menon’s arguments are quite rational, but with the current American Republican Administration having rational arguments doesn’t count for much.

 

“Here’s a prerequisite for avoiding war in Korea: stop believing in the North’s denuclearization, attractive and desirable as it might be (if achieved through diplomacy).

It doesn’t follow, however, that war can’t be avoided.  Kim Jong-un and his inner circle are not, in fact, irrational beings immune to deterrence.  Their paramount aim is to ensure the survival of the North Korean state. Starting a nuclear war would destroy it.  Yes, many people have perished in North Korea (whether due to repression or famine), but deterrence worked in the cases of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong, both of whom enacted policies that killed millions. Mao supposedly even boasted that China could survive a nuclear war because of its huge population.

Coming to terms with the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea and trusting in deterrence may not sound like a perfect ending, but under the circumstances it’s undoubtedly the best way to avert catastrophe.  And that, unquestionably, is the urgent task.  There are other ways, down the line, to make the Korean peninsula a better place through dialogue between the two Koreas, by drawing the North into the regional economy and reducing troops and weaponry on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone.  These shouldn’t be ruled out as infeasible.

For them to happen, though, South Korea would have to separate itself from Trump’s war plans by refusing to allow its sovereign space (land, sea, and air) to be used for such a preventive war.  The symbolism would be important even if Trump could strike in other ways.

Seoul would also have to build on two recent positive developments that emerged from a surprise January 9th meeting between the Koreas.  The first is the agreement on Kim Jong-un’s proposal (initially advanced by the South last June) to send a North Korean contingent to the February Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  The second flowed from South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s follow-up idea of restoring the hotline between the countries and beginning discussions of how to tamp down tensions on the peninsula.  (Pyongyang shut down the hotline in February 2016 after South Korea’s conservative government closed the Kaesong joint industrial zone located in the North, which then employed more than 50,000 North Koreans.)  Moon’s suggestion doubtless eased the way for the subsequent agreement to hold future military talks aimed at reducing the risks of war.

There are further steps Seoul could take, including declaring a moratorium on military exercises with the United States — not just, as now (with Washington’s consent), during the February Olympics and the Paralympics that follow and end in March, but without a preset time limit. While such joint maneuvers don’t scare Pyongyang, moves like flying American B1-B bombers and F-15C fighter jets in international airspace off North Korea’s coast do ratchet up the tension.  They increase the chances of one side concluding that the other is about to attack.

Trump may continue his threats via Twitter and again denigrate the value of negotiations with Pyongyang, but South Korea is a powerful country in its own right. It has a $1.4 trillion economy, the 11th largest in the world (versus North Korea’s paltry $32.4 billion one), and ranks sixth in global exports.  It also has a formidable military and will spend $34 billion on defense in 2017 — more than North Korea’s entire gross domestic product.  It is, in short, anything but the Asian equivalent of a banana republic for which Donald Trump should be able to write the script.

Trump’s generals and the rest of the American foreign policy establishment won’t welcome independent initiatives by Seoul, as witness the condescending remark of a former official about the hazards of South Korea “running off the leash.”  Predictably, mainstream warnings have already begun.  Cunning Kim Jong-un wants to drive a “wedge” between the United States and South Korea.  He’s trying to undo the sanctions.  Agreeing to talks with Pyongyang will only communicate weakness.  The United States must demonstrate its resolve and protect its credibility.  And so it goes.

Policies based on these shibboleths, which portray South Korea as an American dependency, have brought us to the brink of war.  Continuing them could push us over the edge. “

   The adage that says ‘a capitalism will sell you the rope to hang him with’ comes to mind while reviewing the latest round of Feed the Rich that is going in in the United States.  It is frightening the pace at which the plutocrats are lining their pockets and fleecing the general population of the United States.

The dogmatic slumber brought on by the corporate class has never seemed so intense and impenetrable as it is now under the current Republican administration.  Grievous actions and policy just seem to float by carried on waves of expressed outrage, but tangible action/opposition never results.   If the US was a functioning democracy, the streets should have been and still should be filled with people decrying the malfeasance being carried out in their name.   But what is happening – crickets, and very quiet obsequious ones that that.

So, it is time to stoke some anger and rage at the current political order.  Le me help you get started with this snipped from an article by Paul Street writing for Counterpunch.

 

“Here we are now, half a year later, careening into a dystopian holiday season. With his epically low approval rating of 32 percent, the orange-tinted bad grandpa in the Oval Office has won a viciously regressive tax bill that is widely rejected by the populace. The bill was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress whose current approval rating stands at 13 percent. It is a major legislative victory for the Republicans, a party whose approval rating fell to an all-time low of 29 percent at the end of September—a party that tried to send a child molester to the U.S. Senate.

The bill itself had an approval rating of 25 percent prior to passage.  No wonder. The arch-plutocratic tax “reform:

+ Drastically slashes the corporate tax rate without closing loopholes and deductions that allow the nation’s already cash-flush corporations to register their profits overseas and while doing nothing to switch corporations’ focus from maximizing short-term returns to investing in the creation of more jobs and higher wages.

+ Encourages corporations to invest in automation without offering any assistance to displaced workers.

+ All but eliminates the estate tax for the nation’s richest families.

+ Adds $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt over the next decade, setting the stage for major slashes to the nation’s three biggest social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare (they will be cut back in the name of “scaling back” so-called entitlement programs to “reduce the deficit.”)

+ Gives a major tax cut on profits multinational companies have stashed in offshore tax havens.

+ Cuts taxes on “pass through” businesses – a benefit that will be disproportionately enjoyed by the rich.

+ Makes it easier for rich people to classify themselves as businesses to get a tax break.

+ Increases the complexity of the tax code.

+ Tightens deductions for lower- and middle-income wage-earners.

+ Subsidizes private and religious schools, a boon to corporate school privatizers and the religious right.

+ Repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate, which will leave millions without health insurance and raise the cost of health insurance.

The GOP tax bill rewards the already rich and punishes the poor at “a time,” The Atlantic notes, “when post-tax corporate profits have hovered at a record-level high for the last seven years, and the 1 percent’s share of total income is higher than at any time in the second half of the 20th century.” It is what New York Magazine calls a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans.”  It is “certain to exacerbate income [and wealth- P.S.] inequality at a time when the playing field is already heavily tilted to towards the rich.”

The New Gilded Age is slated to become yet more grotesquely unequal. As Trump might, it’s unbelievable. The nation’s economy is already so savagely unequal that the top 10th of its upper 1 percent owns as much wealth as its bottom 90 percent. Its corporations are raking in record profits. Half of its citizens have no savings. Half its population lives in or near poverty. Twenty-one percent of its childrenare growing up at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, and 41 million Americans—12.3 percent of the population—are “food insecure.” Not disparate enough!

The dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats, the party of “inauthentic opposition,” are hardly more popular than the radically regressive Republicans.”

If there was ever time for a third party in the US, it would be now.

 

The United Nations is a marginalized entity, like the League of Nations, it was formed with the idea that humanity, as a species can do better than just sit within our imaginary borders and fling poo (sometimes thermonuclear) at each other.

It’s a noble and nice idea.

And that’s about it.

Any sort of movement toward a more globalized world is always drowned out by the odious strains of nationalism and exceptionalism of the powerful countries of the world.

The summation of Noam Chomskey’s work in international politics is this: “The same rules should apply to everyone.” Strip away the academic writing and the dense prose and you will see him return to this thesis repeatedly. A war crime is a war crime whether it is committed by the ‘good guys’ or the ‘bad guys’ and the judgments and punishments meted out should be the same in both situations. This, of course, would mean that every US president would be charged with war crimes and would be prosecuted thusly – a flight of fantasy in the current geopolitical order – but it would be what a just world would look like.

Possessing the biggest stick should not be an automatic exemption from the rules that everyone else has to follow. Breaking news on this one though – the current bearers of the big stick club resoundingly disagree with me on this point. And thus the big stick carriers rightly get annoyed when marginally global institutions like the UN fail to toe the line on important issues regarding the ‘national interest’ (see imperialism/exceptionism).

“The United Nations general assembly has delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The vote came after a redoubling of threats by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said that Washington would remember which countries “disrespected” America by voting against it.”

Way to go UN! As far as impotent political statements and actions go, you are doing fantastic work.

“Despite the warning, 128 members voted on Thursday in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal.”

It’s hard to find a more prescient example of US exceptionalism.  The constant untrammelled stream of unwavering support for Israel – notwithstanding the incredibly shitty things Israel is doing/has been doing to the Palestinians for decades- by the US merely underlines how irrelevant the UN is to US foreign policy and its associated imperial ventures.

“Twenty-two of the 28 EU countries voted for the resolution, including the UK and France. Germany – which in the past has abstained on measures relating to Israel – also voted in favour.

Thirty-five countries abstained, including five EU states, and other US allies including Australia, Canada, Colombia and Mexico. Ambassadors from several abstaining countries, including Mexico, used their time on the podium to criticise Trump’s unilateral move.

Another 21 delegations were absent from the vote, suggesting the Trump’s warning over funding cuts and Israel’s lobbying may have had some effect.

While support for the resolution was somewhat less than Palestinian officials had hoped, the meagre tally of just nine votes in support of the US and Israeli position was a serious diplomatic blow for Trump.”

Yeaaaaaa Canada – we abstained.  Such a bold move for our country, we’re really standing up to the injustice and stupidity being visited upon the world by our neighbours to the South.

*sigh*

I suppose it is the best we can do given our geographical and economic situation.  But wouldn’t be nice if we could just denounce this bullshite -rightly on moral an ethical grounds – without always having to defer to the realpolitik of the situation.

 

[Source: The Guardian]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The latest uproar from the Trumpian led Republican Administration down South:

    ” -Washington (CNN)  President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday and announced plans to relocate the US Embassy there, a move expected to inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace.

     “Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do,” Trump said from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room.”
    It is surprising to find nuggets of truth in what comes out of the current American Republican presidency.  US policy has always been one of obstructionism toward any sort of reasonable peace between Palestine and Israel.  Having this truth out in the open must be somewhat uncomfortable for many Americans and other supporters of the official historical narrative.  Noam Chomsky has been reporting on the false “peace process” for decades:

    

      “Many of the world’s problems are so intractable that it’s hard to think of ways even to take steps towards mitigating them. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not one of these. On the contrary, the general outlines of a diplomatic solution have been clear for at least 40 years. Not the end of the road—nothing ever is—but a significant step forward. And the obstacles to a resolution are also quite clear.

     The basic outlines were presented here in a resolution brought to the U.N. Security Council in January 1976. It called for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border—and now I’m quoting—”with guarantees for the rights of both states to exist in peace and security within secure and recognized borders.” The resolution was brought by the three major Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, Syria—sometimes called the “confrontation states.” Israel refused to attend the session. The resolution was vetoed by the United States. A U.S. veto typically is a double veto: The veto, the resolution is not implemented, and the event is vetoed from history, so you have to look hard to find the record, but it is there. That has set the pattern that has continued since. The most recent U.S. veto was in February 2011—that’s President Obama—when his administration vetoed a resolution calling for implementation of official U.S. policy opposition to expansion of settlements. And it’s worth bearing in mind that expansion of settlements is not really the issue; it’s the settlements, unquestionably illegal, along with the infrastructure projects supporting them.

    For a long time, there has been an overwhelming international consensus in support of a settlement along these general lines. The pattern that was set in January 1976 continues to the present. Israel rejects a settlement of these terms and for many years has been devoting extensive resources to ensuring that it will not be implemented, with the unremitting and decisive support of the United States—military, economic, diplomatic and indeed ideological—by establishing how the conflict is viewed and interpreted in the United States and within its broad sphere of influence.”

-Noam Chomsky Speaking to Amy Goodman

So really, this latest ham-handed announcement should not be a surprise when viewed in context of the historical precedents on record.  So, what we are seeing is really the fruition of guided US policy in Israel regarding the one-state solution that moving the embassy to Jerusalem implies.

    “Except in stages, the one-state option is an illusion. It has no international support, and there is no reason why Israel and its US sponsor would accept it, since they have a far preferable option, the one they are now implementing; with impunity, thanks to US power.

     The US and Israel call for negotiations without preconditions. Commentary there and elsewhere in the West typically claims that the Palestinians are imposing such preconditions, hampering the “peace process.” In reality, the US-Israel insist upon crucial preconditions. The first is that negotiations must be mediated by the United States, which is not a neutral party but rather a participant in the conflict. It is as if one were to propose that Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq be mediated by Iran. Authentic negotiations would be in the hands of some neutral state with a degree of international respect. The second precondition is that illegal settlement expansion must be allowed to continue, as it has done without a break during the 20 years of the Oslo Accord; predictably, given the terms of the Accord.

     In the early years of the occupation the US joined the world in regarding the settlements as illegal, as confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Since Reagan, their status has been downgraded to “a barrier to peace.” Obama weakened the designation further, to “not helpful to peace,” with gentle admonitions that are easily dismissed. Obama’s extreme rejectionism did arouse some attention in February 2011, when he vetoed a Security Council resolution supporting official US policy, ending of settlement expansion.

     As long as these preconditions remain in force, diplomacy is likely to remain at a standstill. With brief and rare exceptions, that has been true since January 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution, brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, calling for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, with guarantees for the security of all states within secure and recognized borders. That is essentially the international consensus that is by now universal, with the two usual exceptions – not just on Middle East issues, incidentally. The consensus has been modified to include “minor and mutual adjustments” on the Green Line, to borrow official US wording before it had broken with the rest of the world.”

“The one state/two state debate is irrelevant as Israel and the US consolidate Greater Israel” – Noam Chomsky

The reason for this post is that I had to get some context out there as I’m hearing, even on my beloved CBC, about America’s “concern” over the what will become of the “peace process”.  It is such a crock of shit.  There has not been and nor will there be any sort of “peace process” with US acting as an “honest broker” in the proceedings.

Paul Street writing for Counterpunch. :

“The Republican deal with the Trump phenomenon has always been based on opportunism. The Trumpenstein’s growingly evident status as an irreversibly deadly liability for the Republican agenda could make it easy for top GOP players to unsheathe their knives and sink them into the president’s back.

With Trump having already exasperated numerous key players in the nation’s corporate and financial ruling class, military command, and major party elite, it’s not inconceivable that he could get flown off the White House grounds for good before January 20, 2021 – through impeachment and Senate removal, resignation, or even (the last likely mode of removal) 25th Amendment removal (on grounds of incompetence).  He’s toxic bad for the national brand – an emperor with no convincing democratic or humanitarian clothes to cloak the ugly imperial and capitalist nakedness of the American System.

Trump smells too much of neo-fascism – a clownish and highly venal version, to be sure – for the tastes and needs of the U.S, ruling class. He’s not how the American wealth and power elite rolls. If the U.S. is “fascist,” its fascism cooks on a low flame and small burner. It exhibits a distinctly “inverted” (demobilized and neoliberal, plutocratic, “market”-mediated and corporate-managed) form of the disease. To say this, however is not to praise to the contemporary U.S., with its vicious, eco-cidal ruling class and its reigning sociopathic institutions. Under the “inverted totalitarianism” (U.S. political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s term) that is 21st century America’s “corporate-managed democracy” (Wolin again), many of the basic objectives of fascism – the defeat of unions and the working class, the degradation of democracy, the enforcement of hierarchy and savage inequality, racial subordination, the marginalization of the Left, racial divide and rule, militarization of society, and permanent arms and war economy – are achieved without the discomfort and uncertainly imposed by barking dictators, and marching, torch-carrying brown-shirts. Chilling as it may sound to say, fascism would be redundant in the United States today. The U.S. ruling class doesn’t need it. It doesn’t need Dear Leader authoritarians even just of the dog-whistle variety. It gets the same results with a different – more atomized, privatized, apathetic, consumerized, and “inverted” – model of authoritarian rule, one that makes an insistent and deceptive claim to be a great force for modern Western democracy, Enlightenment values (even if U.S. presidents end every major speech with “God Bless America”), and freedom at home and abroad.”

How long can this go on?  I’m really not sure.  The dumpster fire that is the 45th presidency seems to have a bad case of inception-itis – the administration seems to be one version or another of a dumpster on fire all the way down.

  Nationalism is one of the major currents in US society that is wearing away the roots of their democratic nation.  The capitalist 1%’ers are using their political and media distractors in a desperate ploy to place the blame for working classes on immigrants and people who are not white.

Blaming the ‘other’ for your country’s problems is chapter one material in the corporatist manual.  It so much easier to blame people with non-white skin for taking away our jobs than admit that the system we have in place systematically eliminates well paying jobs (via outsourcing or technological advancement) in pursuit of profit and efficiency.

We can see the roots of this game plan in what Trump and Bannon are on record as saying:

     “President Donald Trump’s special adviser Steve Bannon has long disparaged South Asian high-tech workers such as Kuchibhotla and Madasani. In 2015, Bannon interviewed candidate Trump on the Breitbart News Daily radio show. Bannon suggested that there were far too many Asians in the high-tech industry in the U.S. and that perhaps there should be barriers placed on their entry. The H-1B visa, which allows high-tech workers to enter the U.S., is a particular grouse of Bannon’s. Trump expressed doubts about Bannon’s extreme views: “We have to be careful of that, Steve,” Trump said. “You know,” he continued, “we have to keep our talented people in this country.” Bannon would have none of it. “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think…,” he said, then hesitated. “A country is more than an economy,” Bannon said. “We’re a civic society.”

     By “civic society”, Bannon meant that the first priority of the U.S. should be to its own “native” citizens. In other words, white Americans need to be the first in the queue for the benefits of the country. In March 2016, Trump absorbed Bannon’s position. “The H-1B programme,” Trump said, “is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labour programme and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first.” When the term “American workers” is used, people like Purinton and Page hear “white workers”. It is what they signal when they yell: “Go back to your country.”

     In another radio show, in April 2016, Bannon said that the migrants to the U.S. “are not Jeffersonian democrats”. “These are not people with thousands of years of democracy in their DNA coming here,” he said. The idea of democracy in the DNA could only imply that certain “races” have democracy under their skin and that Asians are not in that company.”

Pretty chilling considering these mooks now have their clumsy hands on the levers of power in the US.  We can see the nationalism – even white pride – glowering in the statements of Bannon and Trump.  This present white nationalism flies in the face of the American demographic situation, one in which the US is become less white every year, and will only serve to increase the internal tension and strain on the democratic civic integrity of the US.

 

[Source: Vijay Prashad writing for Counterpunch]

 

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