Tag Archives: tom engelhardt

Thomas Frank explains how the Democrats became Liberals for the Rich

Summary: The insurgencies on the Left and Right against their parties’ elites by populists and progressives has been much discussed but little analyzed. Previous posts discussed how the Republican Party abandoned America’s workers. Here Thomas Frank, one of the most insightful observers of the Left, explains how the Democratic Party abandoned the progressive movement and America’s workers. The revolutions in both parties will not end in November, no matter what the outcome.

Boston skyline

The Blue State Model:
How the Democrats Created a Liberalism of the Rich

by Thomas Frank
From TomDispatch, 29 March 2016. Reposted with permission

Introduction by Tom Engelhardt

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? is, in a sense, a history of how, from the Clintonesque 1990s on, the Democratic Party managed to ditch the working class (hello, Donald Trump!) and its New Deal tradition, throw its support behind a rising “professional” and technocratic class, and go gaga over Wall Street and those billionaires to come. In the process, its leaders fell in love with Goldman Sachs and every miserable trade pact that hit town, led the way in deregulating the financial system, and helped launch what Frank terms “the greatest wave of insider looting ever seen”; the party, that is, went Silicon Valley and left Flint, Michigan, to the Republicans.

Only a few years after Bill Clinton vacated the Oval Office the financial system he and his team had played such a role in deregulating had to be rescued, lock, stock, and barrel from ultimate collapse. Quite a record all in all.

Put another way, as Frank makes clear, in these years the Democrats (with obvious exceptions) became a more or less traditional Republican party. And if the Democrats are now the party of inequality, then what in the world are the Republicans? Don’t even get me started on the cliff that crew walked off of.

In the following post, adapted from his new book, Frank does a typically brainy thing. Since we’ve all heard for years about how the Democrats have been stopped from truly pursuing their political program by Republican experts in political paralysis, he turns to a rare set of places where, in fact, the Republicans were incapable of getting in the way and… well, let him tell the story.

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Tom Engelhardt: the key to winning wars in the 21st Century

Summary: The greatest US tragedy since 9/11 is our failure to learn from our failed wars, making it impossible to win future wars. We roll on from one disaster to another even larger disaster. Our wars are the seldom-mentioned elephant stalking our candidates on the campaign trail (other than GOP chants to bomb bomb, bomb). Here Tom Engelhardt, who has chronicled our misadventures since right after 9-11, gives a masterly summary of the steps that brought us here. It’s the first step to learning, more valuable than the hours of sound-bites from any of the debates.

Learn from mistakes

 

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

The U.S. Military Bombs in the 21st C
By Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch
Reposted with his generous permission

 

Here’s my twenty-first-century rule of thumb about this country: if you have to say it over and over, it probably ain’t so. Which is why I’d think twice every time we’re told how “exceptional” “or indispensable” the United States is. For someone like me who can still remember a moment when Americans assumed that was so, but no sitting president, presidential candidate, or politician felt you had to say the obvious, such lines reverberate with defensiveness. They seem to incorporate other voices you can almost hear whispering that we’re ever less exceptional, more dispensable, no longer (to quote the greatest of them all by his own estimate) “the greatest.”

In this vein, consider a commonplace line running around Washington (as it has for years): the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.” Uh, folks, if that’s so, then why the hell can’t it win a damn thing 14-plus years later?

If you don’t mind a little what-if history lesson, it’s just possible that events might have turned out differently and, instead of repeating that “finest fighting force” stuff endlessly, our leaders might actually believe it. After all, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it took the Bush administration only a month to let the CIA, special forces advisers, and the U.S. Air Force loose against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s supporters in Afghanistan. The results were crushing. The first moments of what that administration would grandiloquently (and ominously) bill as a “global war on terror” were, destructively speaking, glorious.

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Step back and see The New American Order

Summary:  This is the second half of Tom Engelhardt’s essay about the New America the 1% erects on the remains of the America-that-once-was. This is the vital fact necessary to understand our situation, the red pill that allows one to see the common factor behind so many of our problems.

Reform is not possible until people realize what’s happening — and care about it. Both are necessary. The second will be much more difficult to achieve. What we do with this information will determine the outcome.  If it’s just entertaining reading for the outer party then Tom’s effort was wasted (the inner party know these things; the proles don’t care).    This is the second half to Step back and see The New American Order.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The New Regime

Second Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

4. Rise of the National Security State as the 4th Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight.  Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment.  But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention.  In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own.  Its growth has been phenomenal.  Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians.  The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering.  Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame.  That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor.  As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

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The 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old.

Summary: Today’s article by Tom Engelhardt discusses what might be the greatest issue of our age, the fall of the Second American Republic (built on the Constitution) as the 1% builds a new political regime on its ruins. As with Rome’s evolution from Republic to the Empire, the outward forms remain roughly the same while its essence and dynamics change.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Death of the republic

First Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

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How to Create a National Insecurity State.

Summary:  An essential part of leaning as citizens is learning on whom to rely. We don’t do this well, an important part of the FAILure to learn which has imperiled the Republic. Today Tom Engelhard — editor of the invaluable website TomDispatch — shows how since 9/11 a coterie of always-wrong experts have helped build the national security state.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Department of Fear

How to Create a National Insecurity State

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 8 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

In our era in Washington, whole careers have been built on grotesque mistakes.  In fact, when it comes to our various conflicts, God save you if you’re right; no one will ever want to hear from you again.  If you’re wrong, however… well, take the invasion of Iraq.  Given the Islamic State, that creature of the American occupation, can anyone seriously believe that the invasion that blew a hole in the heart of the Middle East doesn’t qualify as one of the genuine disasters of our time, if not of any time? In the mad occupation that followed, Saddam Hussein’s well-trained army and officer corps were ushered into the chaos of post-invasion unemployment and, of course, insurgency.  Meanwhile, at a cost of $25 billion, a whole new military was trained that, years later, summarily collapsed when faced with insurgents led by some of those formerly out-of-work officers.

But the crew who pushed it all on Washington has never stopped yakking (or being listened to).  They’ve been called back at every anniversary of the invasion to offer their wisdom in the New York Times and elsewhere, while those who counseled against such an invasion have been nowhere in sight.  Some of the planners of the invasion and occupation are now advisers to Jeb Bush as he heads into the 2016 election campaign, while the policy wonks who went off to war with the generals (taking regular VIP tours of America’s battle zones) couldn’t be better thought of in Washington today.

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Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility

Summary:  Epistemic closure has infected both Left and Right in America. Examples of this on the Right are legion. Today we look at an example on the Left, and its potentially severe consequences for this already endangered species in America.

The Last Myth

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Contents

  1. Changes in American politics
  2. “Ending the World the Human Way”
  3. Epistemic closure: it’s a bipartisan illness
  4. Cautionary notes about the Left’s strategy
  5. About the author
  6. Important things to remember about global warming
  7. Climate change couture
  8. Comments

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(1)  Changes in American politics: we all fall down

I have seen many changes in American politics during my life.

  • Twenty years as an active Republican, giving money and time.
  • Then Bush’s reactionary economic policies and the mad reaction to 9-11 pushed me to the Left (crossing the hordes moving the other way), joining what they said was the “reality-based community”.
  • Recent years have proven my hope delusional (again).

People I trusted — on whose counsel I relied upon — joined the climate crusade, abandoning the consensus of climate scientists (also spurned by the Right) in favor of doomster prophecies … which bring us to an article by someone I greatly respect, 44 of whose posts are reposted on the FM website, whose website is on the blogroll and at the top of my daily reading list …

The United States Of Fear

Both sides find fear useful

(2)  About the end of the world

Excerpt from “Ending the World the Human Way
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 2 February 2014

{Climate change} could even be considered the story of all stories.  It’s just that climate change and its component parts are unlike every other story from the Syrian slaughter and the problems of Obamacare to Bridgegate and Justin Bieber’s arrest.  The future of all other stories, of the news and storytelling itself, rests on just how climate change manifests itself over the coming decades or even century.  What happens in the 2014 midterms or the 2016 presidential elections, in our wars, politics, and culture, who is celebrated and who ignored — none of it will matter if climate change devastates the planet.

Climate change isn’t the news and it isn’t a set of news stories.  It’s the prospective end of all news.  Think of it as the anti-news.

All the rest is part of the annals of human history: the rise and fall of empires, of movements, of dictatorships and democracies, of just about anything you want to mention.  The most crucial stories, like the most faddish ones, are — every one of them — passing phenomena, which is of course what makes them the news.

Climate change isn’t.  New as that human-caused phenomenon may be — having its origins in the industrial revolution — it’s nonetheless on a different scale from everything else, which is why journalists and environmentalists often have so much trouble figuring out how to write about it in a way that leaves it continually in the news.

… If the carbon emissions from fossil fuels are allowed to continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, the science of what will happen sooner or later is relatively clear, even if its exact timetable remains in question: this world will be destabilized as will humanity (along with countless other species).  We could, at the worst, essentially burn ourselves off Planet Earth.  This would prove a passing event for the planet itself, but not for us, nor for any fragment of humanity that managed to survive in some degraded form, nor for the civilizations we’ve developed over thousands of years. …

Nuclear Dress Rehearsal

Here’s the strange thing: we went through a dress rehearsal for this in the twentieth century when dealing (or not dealing) with nuclear weapons, aka the Bomb — often capitalized in my youth as a sign of how nuclear disaster was felt to be looming over life itself. …

How does Tom know that anthropogenic climate change will pose such a severe threat, a potential apocalypse? He cites as support for this claim only two articles. Nothing from the IPCC or a major climate agency; both are from the New York Times.

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Mission Failure: Afghanistan

Summary: The very first articles articles at DNI, in 2003, expressed skepticism about the Afghanistan War.  By 2009 it was clear that we could achieve nothing useful from the war. But our military exists to feed itself, disconnected from any rational national goals, and only after ten years has the drawdown slowly began. Today Tom Engelhardt begins the long review, necessary if we are to avoid the post-Vietnam amnesia and learn from our expenditure of blood and treasure in that distant land.

A Message Written in Blood That No One Wants to Hear
By Tom Engelhardt
Published at TomDispatch on 31 July 2012. Posted here with his generous permission.

Imagine for a moment that almost once a week for the last six months somebody somewhere in this country had burst, well-armed, into a movie theater showing a superhero film and fired into the audience. That would get your attention, wouldn’t it? James Holmes times 21?  It would dominate the news.  We would certainly be consulting experts, trying to make sense of the pattern, groping for explanations. And what if the same thing had also happened almost once every two weeks in 2011? Imagine the shock, imagine the reaction here.

Well, the equivalent has happened in Afghanistan (minus, of course, the superhero movies).  It even has a name: green-on-blue violence. In 2012 — and twice last week — Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or mentored by the U.S. or its NATO allies, have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.

It’s already happened at least 21 times in this half-year, resulting in 30 American and European deaths, a 50% jump from 2011, when similar acts occurred at least 21 times with 35 coalition deaths. (The “at least” is there because, in May, the Associated Press reported that, while U.S. and NATO spokespeople were releasing the news of deaths from such acts, green-on-blue incidents that resulted in no fatalities, even if there were wounded, were sometimes not reported at all.)

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