Mike Lofgren: Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives

Summary: Here’s another article describing how America has begun what might be a pre-revolutionary situation. Both Left and Right have revolutionary aims, but only the Right has captured and harnessed one of the major parties. Great changes often come in unnoticed “on little cat feet“, and only roar after they’re well-established.

“’Republicans this year don’t want managers, they want transformers,’ conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, a Cruz supporter, told The Hill. ‘They don’t want reform, they want revolution. They don’t want a better government, they want a new government. The ground has shifted and the grassroots conservatives have taken the establishment’s preeminence away.’”
— From “Governors flop in Republican race“, Jonathan Easley, The Hill, 8 Nov 2015.

Revolution

Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives

by Mike Lofgren
Posted at Bill Moyers & Co, 9 November 2015
Posted here with the authors’ generous permission.

There is much to commend in Thomas Schaller’s recent piece describing the built-in structural advantages that the Republican Party enjoys in the American electoral system. Some analysts believe this advantage derives from the systematic gerrymandering of legislative districts; others declare it a result of a voluntary demographic “sorting” of Democrats into metropolitan areas and Republicans to exurbia. Schaller sees that it is both and that the two phenomena reinforce one another.

Structural bias: It’s worse than you think

That said, the structural imbalance in the American political system is even more pronounced than Schaller depicts. The “small state” bias in the Senate that he condemns derives from the Connecticut Compromise during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the agreement that gave each state equal representation in the United States Senate. It was initially favored by smaller Northern states, which were then growing less rapidly in population, but after incorporation of the infamous three-fifths rule allowing states to include slaves in their head count for representation in the House, it became a tool of the reactionary Southern oligarchy to block any tampering with slavery for the next seven decades.

Yet even after the three-fifths rule and slavery were abolished amid the greatest effusion of blood in American history, the same elements that controlled the antebellum Senate continued to have a lock on that chamber until the 1960s. Ira Katznelson has described in persuasive detail how the many reforms – sweeping in their scope – that President Roosevelt believed were necessary both to save capitalism from itself and to modernize the United States were delayed and watered down by the Southern bloc controlling the Senate. And it took another thirty years after that to end Jim Crow.

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How to use refugees as geopolitical weapons, brutal but effective

Summary: Today we have another in this series about migrations and their destabilizing effects, with excerpts from the insight works by Kelly M. Greenhill (Assoc Prof of political science, Tufts U). She describes the dynamics of past migrations, and how flows of people can become a powerful weapon.

“If we acknowledge that the new principles of war are no longer “using armed force to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will,” but rather are “using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.”

— From the preface to Unrestricted Warfare (1999) by Qiao Liang (乔良) and Wang Xiangsui (王湘穗), Colonels in the air force of the People’s Liberation Army.

Geese flying

The appearance of so many new forms of conflict (aka 4th generation war) since WWII has produced many surprises. Perhaps none as strange as the mass movements of people, deliberate and inadvertent, spreading the contagion of disorder — the hatreds, enthusiasms, and chaos from unstable regions to stable ones. The US has experienced relatively benign but still politically and economically contentious flows from Latin America. Europe is gripped by destabilizing flows with no end in sight.

Kelly M. Greenhill (bio below) has pioneered investigations of this phenomenon, with conclusions of urgent current interest. For an introduction to her work see “Using Refugees as Weapons“, NYT op-ed, 20 April 2011 — Opening…

In the early days of what grew into the Libyan uprising, Muammar el-Qaddafi summoned European Union ministers to Tripoli and issued an ultimatum: Stop supporting the protesters, or I’ll suspend cooperation on migration and Europe will be facing a human flood of from North Africa. Given Libya’s history as an attractive transit point for North Africans seeking entry to Europe, it was a credible threat.

For one thing, it has worked to varying degrees at least four times in the last decade alone. Indeed, it was only the European Union’s promise to lift the last remaining sanctions against Libya in the fall of 2004 that persuaded Qaddafi to staunch what was then viewed as an alarmingly large flow of North Africans onto the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa and, from there, onto the Continent. To that point in 2004, about 9,000 people had landed on Lampedusa, 1,600 of whom arrived in the month prior to conclusion of the agreement between Brussels and Tripoli. Although these numbers were not trivial, they were nothing compared to the predicted 750,000 to one million North Africans anticipated by Western European leaders this time around.

… what happened in 2004 was not an isolated event. In 2006, and again in 2008, Qaddafi extracted from the E.U. additional financial aid and equipment (such as boats) that could be used for migration enforcement. In late 2010, the E.U. and Libya concluded a further £500 million accord, which succeeded in stopping, or at least demonstrably slowing, the flow of people across the Mediterranean — until the outbreak of unrest in Tunisia.

Tragic though it is for the victims of this kind of unconventional coercion, Qaddafi’s threatened use of demographic bombs is neither new nor unique. As I demonstrated in a study published last year, there were at least 56 attempts to employ the direct or indirect threat of mass migrations as a non-military instrument of influence between 1951 and 2006.

In about 73% of cases where it was attempted, would-be coercers got at least some of what they sought; in about 57% of cases, they achieved most, if not all, of their objectives. The majority of these coercive attempts were initiated by authoritarian dictators such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro, East Germany’s Erich Honecker, the former Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Uganda’s Idi Amin. However, it is worth noting that the threat and actual manipulation of mass migrations has also been employed by democratic leaders like West Germany’s Konrad Adenauer and Dwight Eisenhower of the United States.

There is a new government in Libya, but their tactics remain the same, as in this November 2 article in The Telegraph: “Libya warns it could flood Europe with migrants if EU does not recognise new self-declared government.”

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Three ideas for celebrating Veterans Day, ways to make the day a big one

Summary: After the parades and picnics, here are three suggestions for ways to celebrate Veterans’ Day. Make it more than just another holiday.

Veterans' Day

Contents

  1. Force Congress to fully fund care for Veterans.
  2. Hire a Vet.
  3. Support our troops, active and retired.
  4. For More Information.
  5. Video: A History of Veterans’ Day.

 

War reveals a people’s true values and priorities, cutting through the facade of what we say to show what we do. But each year we have the ability to grow, forcing our actions to more closely meet our aspirations. Every holiday offers the opportunity to remind ourselves of whom we want to be. The day after every holiday gives the opportunity to do so.

Here are some suggestions for this Veterans Day, ideas for commitments you can make to your friends and family as dinnertime toasts.

Veterans Administration

(1) Force Congress to fully fund care for Veterans

“One year after outrage about long waiting lists for health care shook the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency is facing a new crisis: The number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50% higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems, department officials say.”
— “Wait Lists Grow as Many More Veterans Seek Care and Funding Falls Far Short“, NYT, June 2015.

There is no excuse for under-funding care for veterans. Even during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ care has been a problem — well reported in the news for a decade. It’s in the news again. Unless we speak out it will be in the news again next year.

Oddly, while each year brought stories about active duty and vets suffering poor medical care, our military leaders had no difficulty funding the projects they considered important, such as the malfunctioning, insanely expensive F-35. Even now the problems remain while DoD starts the gravy train for a new bomber (in turn to become insanely expensive, like its predecessors).

We were given ample advanced notice. VA execs routinely warned of the coming need for radically higher funding. Plus there were many studies supporting their forecasts, such as from 2007 — “Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Long-term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits” by Linda Bilmes (Harvard).

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El Niño, The Media Star: Separating Hype from Probability

Summary: Unscrupulous activists and publishers desperate for clicks prey our fearfulness, giving America hysteria about the normal events of life. Last year was Ebola and the “super monster” El Nino (both duds). This year we have the “Godzilla El Nino” (unprecedented since 1950, excerpt for 1982-83 and 1978-79). There are sources of reliable information. Previous posts pointed to journalists and our meteorological agencies. This post gives more detail about its effects, giving an excerpt from the Browning World Climate Monitor.

North America during a Strong El Nino

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

El Niño, The Media Star: Separating Hype from Probability

Excerpt from the November 2015 issue of the Browning World Climate Bulletin
Posted with their generous permission.

El Niño may be the only climate event that needs its own press agent. Once it was determined that there will be a strong El Niño, it has dominated the headlines. Some of these headlines are intelligent warnings and others are exercises in attention-grabbing hyperbole. Let’s separate the probability from the hype.

The Danger of Analog Years

One of the great dangers of some of the current headlines is that many of the reporters are comparing this upcoming El Niño event to the huge El Niño of 1997/1998. While both years have powerful El Niños dominating the Tropical Pacific, they have a number of climate factors that do not match.

Climate probability is a mosaic of factors. North American winters are shaped by what is happening in the Atlantic and Arctic as well as the Pacific. Even in the Pacific, El Niño is not the only factor affecting the West Coast.

Summary forecast for the US: Expect a strong El Nino this winter to warmer conditions in the northern tier of states and most of Canada lead to lower heating demand, as well as fewer travel and transportation difficulties. The southern tier of states should get cooler, wetter conditions, usually enough to end drought conditions in all but Southern California. California should expect more precipitation but not enough to end the drought.

The West Coast – The Region Most Affected by El Niño

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Patrick Cockburn looks at the new, strange developments in the Syrian war

Summary:  At first just another civil war in a small State, the Syrian civil war increasingly becomes a fulcrum on which rotates the regional powers of the Middle East and several of the world’s great powers. Each phase of the expanding war has defied the confident predictions of experts. Here journalist Patrick Cockburn describes the state of the war. As for the future, anything can happen.

Syria flag

“Too Weak, Too Strong: the state of the Syrian war”

By Patrick Cockburn
London Review of Books, 5 November 2015 issue
Posted with the permission of the author and the LRB.

The military balance of power in Syria and Iraq is changing. The Russian air strikes that have been taking place since the end of September are strengthening and raising the morale of the Syrian army, which earlier in the year looked fought out and was on the retreat. With the support of Russian airpower, the army is now on the offensive in and around Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, and is seeking to regain lost territory in Idlib province. Syrian commanders on the ground are reportedly relaying the co-ordinates of between 400 and 800 targets to the Russian air force every day, though only a small proportion of them come under immediate attack. The chances of Bashar al-Assad’s government falling – though always more remote than many suggested – are disappearing. Not that this means he is going to win.

(1)  Failure of the US air war

The drama of Russian military action, while provoking a wave of Cold War rhetoric from Western leaders and the media, has taken attention away from an equally significant development in the war in Syria and Iraq. This has been the failure over the last year of the US air campaign – which began in Iraq in August 2014 before being extended to Syria – to weaken Islamic State and other al-Qaida-type groups. By October the US-led coalition had carried out 7323 air strikes, the great majority of them by the US air force, which made 3231 strikes in Iraq and 2487 in Syria.

But the campaign has demonstrably failed to contain IS, which in May captured Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. There have been far fewer attacks against the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the extreme Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, which between them dominate the insurgency in northern Syria. The US failure is political as much as military: it needs partners on the ground who are fighting IS, but its choice is limited because those actually engaged in combat with the Sunni jihadis are largely Shia – Iran itself, the Syrian army, Hizbullah, the Shia militias in Iraq – and the US can’t offer them full military co-operation because that would alienate the Sunni states, the bedrock of America’s power in the region. As a result the US can only use its air force in support of the Kurds.

The US faces the same dilemma in Iraq and Syria today as it did after 9/11 when George Bush declared the war on terror. It was known then that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi and the money for the operation came from Saudi donors. But the US didn’t want to pursue al-Qaida at the expense of its relations with the Sunni states, so it muted criticism of Saudi Arabia and invaded Iraq; similarly, it never confronted Pakistan over its support for the Taliban, ensuring that the movement was able to regroup after losing power in 2001.

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The Great Lie at the Peak of “Everest”

Summary: Here Locke Peterseim reviews the new film “Everest”. As he does so well, he provides insights not just about the film, but also about the story it tells of business and personal adventurism in the 21st century. See the links at the end for the trailer of “Everest” and for stunning views of the actual Mt. Everest.

Poster for "Everest".

 

The Great Lie at the Peak of “Everest”

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
Reposted with his generous permission.

In recent years I’ve often used the term “spectacle” as a critical slur when it comes to CGI scenery over substance.

But there’s reason I get on my soapbox about moviegoers’ increasing addiction to grand cinematic (usually CGI) imagery, and it’s not just because a growing number of popular films spend so much time and budget on money-shot visuals and so little on characters, story, or themes. It’s because spectacle doesn’t just dazzle, it seduces. And in that seduction, it can deceive, delude, and betray.

Anymore I cringe when I hear some hack refer to Hollywood as “The Dream Factory” — not because I don’t think films shouldn’t ever contain hope and inspiration or even escapist fantasy or stress-relieving comedy. It’s because those things should always be earned and supported by strong, multi-dimensional films.

But if you let children vote for what they want for dinner, they’re gonna choose candy and cupcakes most nights. And in the past 50 years, corporate Hollywood has come to increasingly let the audiences’ box-office vote become the only voice the Industry listens to. So we’re not getting escapism and empty-calorie dreams once in a while for dessert — we’re getting them for nearly every (at least mainstream Cineplex Hollywood) meal.

We’re all aware of this when we watch a Jurassic Park or Avengers or Fast and Furious movie. Think of those as Hostess snack cakes — everyone knows what’s in them when they buy and eat them; everyone knows they’ll get a sugar rush and later a stomachache. The problem is that our steady diet of empty cinematic calories, usually in the form of awesome CGI grandeur, has numbed us to our own addiction. We ingest so much spectacle, we’re no longer consciously aware of what it does to us.

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Is Europe sliding towards civil war?

Summary:   Islamic immigrants (and their descendants) are only 5% or so of Europe’s population. But their numbers are rising fast due to their higher fertility and continued high rate of immigration. Here Dutch journalist and author Renzo Verwer shares his grim speculation about the future of Europe if this continues. Second post in this series.

Warehouse Fire

Warehouse burning on 4 November 2005 in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France. AFP Photo by Jack Guez; GettyImages.

Europe: Sliding Towards Civil War?

By Renzo Verwer
From website of Martin van Creveld, 15 October 2015
Posted with the author’s generous permission

Day by day, thousands of asylum-seekers from Africa and the Middle East are entering the EU in search of their Promised Land. Germany alone expects 750,000 in 2015. Over the first half of 2015 the EU has admitted 400,000. This foreshadows a great increase over the figure for the whole of 2014, which stood at 562,265. To be sure, not all these people will be allowed to stay. Far from it. But many will remain, legally or not.

As any child can understand, this vast inflow, both legal and illegal, will necessarily have consequences for European society. Yet quite a few European leaders claim that nothing will change. Or even that immigration will have a positive effect on the society in question; for instance, by providing industry with labor. Not so. First, the fact is that each immigrant costs the country in which he or she chooses to settle tens of thousands of Euro a year. Second, their arrival often means that religious and ethnic tensions start being imported. Having seen how these things developed in an Amsterdam flat shared by Ethiopians and Eritreans, I can bear personal witness to this problem. Not nice; not at all.

Take a look at the following piece of news, originating in a mall Dutch village blessed by a center for immigrants in search of refugee status (“In Orange you for or against asylum seekers” — in Dutch). A fascinating quote:

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