Monday, March 31, 2008

For the lack of CHIPAC

Chinese kosher takeout in Jerusalem
Roger Cohen writes in the New York Times
It’s the end of the era of the white man.(...) The West’s moment, I thought, is passing. Money and might are increasingly elsewhere. America’s little dose of socialism from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson might stave off the worst but cannot halt the trend.(...) Asian statistics can be numbing. With one third of humanity, the numbers get big. There are now 450 million cell phones in China.(...) By 2030, India will probably overtake Japan as the world’s third-largest economy behind the United States and China. (...) What you feel in Asia, said Claude Smadja, a prominent global strategist, is “a burst of energy, of new dreams, and the end of the era of Western domination and the white man.”(...) Everything passes. In the 17th century, China and India accounted for more than half the world’s economic output. After a modest interlude, the pendulum is swinging back to them at a speed the West has not grasped. It’s the end of the era of the white man; and, before it even began in earnest, of the white woman, too.
David Seaton's News Links
The US presidential campaign drags on, taking on more of an "out of body", purgatorial aspect daily: casting a drugged, dreamlike, veil of censorship over the discussion of America's role in the world. A discussion which the Bush presidency had heretofore so productively stimulated.

Most affected and surrounded by taboos at presidential campaigning time is, of course, the Middle East and the relationship between Israel and the USA. Mearsheimer and Walt, Jimmy Carter, James Baker and even hapless Zbigniew Brzezinski have all become as radioactive as the Reverend Wright... Joe Lieberman doesn't let "maverick" John McCain out of his sight.

The relationship with Israel and its effect on America's role in the world is a forbidden topic which has to treated gingerly and tiptoed around with euphemisms like "neocon", which is a little like a circus veterinarian having to speak elliptically of elephants: "can I say large? oops, did I say large?".

Anyone who is interested in this relationship will find no more interesting reading than in one of web's better blogs, "Mondo Weiss", by Philip Weiss, essential daily reading for anyone with a finger on the pulse of America's zeitgeist. The relationship is in crisis whether it can be spoken about or not. Because, as Roger Cohen writes in the New York Times, this is the end of the era of the white man.

In the end, the rise of China will settle the Middle East.

It probably won't be to the Israeli's satisfaction, because the eventual existence of a China Israel Public Action Committee or "CHIPAC" is doubtful.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was supposed to set in motion a domino effect which would lead to new democratic regimes in Iran and the Arab world that would recognize the state of Israel. Instead it has only hastened the decline of American influence there and around the world. Among the beneficiaries of this decline are the Chinese and among the biggest losers are certainly the Israelis who have bet all their chips on American hegemony and their ability to manage it.

The only possible interest that the Chinese have in the Middle East is regional stability and a steady flow of oil without political risk.
The only thing the Chinese want from the Israelis, military electronics, the US won't let them buy. What do they care about Israel? China is the ultimate obstacle to neocolonial "values-based, gunboat diplomacy"; the giant defender of the Treaty of Westphalia. A treaty that ended a war without end.

Probably a lot of Israel's present behavior is explained by the hysteria-producing feeling that this is the "last dance": the "last days" of the White Man's Burden. The feeling of having made flesh the slogan for Sam Peckinpah's classic western, "The Wild Bunch"... "they came too late, they stayed too long."

In a few years the Israelis simply won't have the same levers of power in their hands they do today and they will be forced to make what Ariel Sharon called "painful concessions", only a bit more painful than Sharon ever dreamed (dreams?).

This is not a plot or a conspiracy, it is simply that the world is not longer a white soliloquy. What was abnormal was that China wasn't a central player in world affairs. The "Judeo-Christian" canon is no longer the universal instruction book.


Israel, a tiny country without raw materials for China's industry, with its eternal distortion of the Middle East and its interference in internal American politics, is nothing more than a pain in the ass to the Chinese.
The Chinese aren't antisemites, one round eyed "foreign devil" is probably much the same as another to the inhabitants of the Kingdom of the Center. China certainly cannot be shamed by our demons either.

If anything were ever in America's interest it is to have peaceful relations with China. The people you step on going up are the people you meet on your way down. However there are countless Hollywood stars and a multitude of pundits and politicians of both parties that are eager to confront China at every turn: it is certainly bi-partisan, stretching from Madelene Albright in the Democrats to the Republican neocons. Both Obama and McCain want to increase the size of America's ground forces. All of them seem eager to involve the United States in dozens of Wilsonian armed goose chases around the globe. it reminds me of the famous riddle, "how do you hide a circus elephant on 5th Avenue?". The answer is, of course, "in a parade of circus elephants". DS

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The metaphor of the perfect rose

David Seaton's News Links
A florist once told me a story that may or not be true, but strikes me as a rich metaphor or political Zen koan to meditate upon.

I was buying a rose to take to the hostess of a party and I was looking at the long stemmed "perfect roses". On choosing one I leaned over to smell it. "It doesn't smell at all!" I said. "Those roses never have any smell" she replied, "but I can fix that, if you want."

"How?", I asked.

"With this spray" she said, holding up an aerosol can and giving the rose a psssssssssssst. The smell was heavenly.

"Is that artificial?" I asked.

"Absolutely not! It's made from genuine roses" she said.

"Huh?", I inquired.

"The spray is made from taking thousands and thousands of ugly, little roses that smell just like roses are supposed to smell and crushing and pressing them for their essence to put it into these cans, so that these 'perfect' roses can also smell nice", she explained. "The 'perfect' roses are very expensive and the roses that actually smell like roses are very cheap, ...I think they come from somewhere in Asia."

_______________________________

On reflection it seemed to me that, in the story of the roses, the florist had revealed some "life principal" to me. I don't want to milk it to death, so I'll just leave it to my readers to draw their own conclusions from it... if it strikes any chords... or nerves in them. What kind of rose am I, are you? DS

Friday, March 28, 2008

Milton Friedman turns in his grave: our Berlin Wall

David Seaton's News Links
Here is how Wikipedia describes Milton Friedman:
According to The Economist, Friedman "was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it". Alan Greenspan stated "There are very few people over the generations who have ideas that are sufficiently original to materially alter the direction of civilization. Milton is one of those very few people."In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated minimizing the role of government in a free market as a means of creating political and social freedom. In his 1980 television series Free to Choose, Friedman explained his view of how free markets work, emphasizing his conviction that free markets have been shown to solve social and political problems that other systems have failed to address adequately. His books and columns for Newsweek were widely read, and even circulated underground behind the Iron Curtain. (...) His views of monetary policy, taxation, privatization and deregulation informed the policy of governments around the globe, especially the administrations of Ronald Reagan in the U.S., Brian Mulroney in Canada, and Margaret Thatcher in Britain.
And this is how über-bear Nouriel Roubini describes the crisis we are entering:
I would argue this is the worst financial crisis the U.S. has had since the Great Depression. We haven't seen this type of real financial turmoil for the last 70 years. Of course, it's not going to be as bad as the Great Depression. But this isn't your typical run-of-the-mill recession that in the last two episodes lasted only eight months with a minor contraction in output. This is going to last at least 12 months and more likely 18 months, which is something we haven't seen in decades
The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel Chimes in:
On the Richter scale of government activism, the government's recent actions don't (yet) register at FDR levels. They are shrouded in technicalities and buried in a pile of new acronyms. But something big just happened. It happened without an explicit vote by Congress. And, though the Treasury hasn't cut any checks for housing or Wall Street rescues, billions of dollars of taxpayer money were put at risk. A Republican administration, not eager to be viewed as the second coming of the Hoover administration, showed it no longer believes the market can sort out the mess."The Government of Last Resort is working with the Lender of Last Resort to shore up the housing and credit markets to avoid Great Depression II," economist Ed Yardeni wrote to clients.
And for the maraschino cherry on the whipped cream topping here is this from Martin Wolf, chief economist of the Financial Times:
Remember Friday March 14 2008: it was the day the dream of global free- market capitalism died. For three decades we have moved towards market-driven financial systems. By its decision to rescue Bear Stearns, the Federal Reserve, the institution responsible for monetary policy in the US, chief protagonist of free-market capitalism, declared this era over. It showed in deeds its agreement with the remark by Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, that “I no longer believe in the market’s self-healing power”. Deregulation has reached its limits.(...) If the US itself has passed the high water mark of financial deregulation, this will have wide global implications. Until recently, it was possible to tell the Chinese, the Indians or those who suffered significant financial crises in the past two decades that there existed a financial system both free and robust. That is the case no longer. It will be hard, indeed, to persuade such countries that the market failures revealed in the US and other high-income countries are not a dire warning. If the US, with its vast experience and resources, was unable to avoid these traps, why, they will ask, should we expect to do better?(...) we must start in the right place, by recognising that even the recent past is a foreign country. (emphasis mine)
Nouriel Roubini says,"
Of course, it's not going to be as bad as the Great Depression."
Now, it is really difficult to be more pessimistic than Professor Roubini and it would be impertinent for me to try... I would only say that it is going to be "different" from the Great Depression.

I think that I probably factor in a lot more intangibles than a scientific economist like Roubini would think proper to. I see this discrediting of America's philosophy of finance as just another element in the general discrediting of the United States as a brand. As Martin Wolf says,
"Until recently, it was possible to tell the Chinese, the Indians or those who suffered significant financial crises in the past two decades that there existed a financial system both free and robust. That is the case no longer."
In the same way that "shock and awe" is "no longer. Or that Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the value of the dollar "no longer" represent anything "free and robust". There is more than one way to go bankrupt.

All these different elements affect each other in so many negative, mutually magnifying ways, that, in their turn, have so many variables themselves, that to predict with precision the outcome of all this would be like predicting next year's weather. Forgive me if I incur in the sin of quoting myself from a few days back:
What do you call it when many problems, all with many intersecting vectors, each with its own conflicting internal contradictions, all of them in mutual contradiction with each other, all of which then line up like planets in a malignant horoscope? A series of thesis and antithesis with a dialectical result that can only produce a sinister synthesis? The US military calls this construction a "clusterfuck"; sometimes known by the NATO, phonetic-alphabet acronym, "Charlie-Foxtrot". The United States finds itself at this moment immersed in full-spectrum, multilayered, universal, clusterfuck of historic proportions.
The way I look at things, this is our Berlin Wall.

Since the 1980s we have been living in the world of Milton Friedman. His theories are not surviving this crisis. For some people on the right this will disrupt and shred their intellectual certainties to the same degree that the fall of the Berlin Wall did to the certainties of many on the left.

This is certainly not the end of the world. Look at Russia. They will probably never be as powerful as the USSR was and like us they still can't make a decent car, but after a few perfectly horrible years, they are dong ok.


Like them, we'll still have the atomic bomb and people will still be afraid of us and with good reason, but nobody will think we are cool anymore.

I think I'll kind of miss that. DS

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The West plays with Tibetan lives

David Seaton's News Links
It might not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Richard Gere is a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

When westerners think of Tibet they think of the Tibetan spiritual superstar, the Dalai Lama and they naturally sympathize with the Tibetan’s desire for independence.

The Chinese, imagining an independent Tibet in NATO, with Mount Everest covered with American radar and CIA listening equipment, don’t.

Unfortunately for Tibetans, Tibet, besides its art treasures, the marvels of its Himalayan landscapes and the spiritual wealth of its unique form of Buddhism, has vast amounts of timber, uranium and gold that resource hungry China covets and a unique strategic position overlooking the world’s other rising giant, India. To expect the Chinese to trade any of this for a brilliant Olympic opening ceremony is disingenuous to the point of cynicism.

Sadly for Tibet, Washington, bogged down in two wars, with its economy troubled and its currency debauched, views China as a major threat, not just in Asia, but in Africa and Latin America as well. Richard M Bennett, an intelligence and security consultant writing in Asia Times observed that, “it would be rather surprising if the CIA was not taking more than just a passing interest in Tibet. For Washington this may seem a heaven-sent opportunity to create a significant lever against Beijing, with little risk to American interests. The Chinese would receive worldwide condemnation for violating human rights and it will be young Tibetans dying on the streets of Lhasa rather than yet more uniformed American kids.”

So, as HDS Greenway
wrote in the Boston Globe, “If Tibetans are encouraged to further resist, it will be as with the Hungarian uprising, or the call for Iraqis to rise up during the first Gulf War - a hollow gesture that will lead to more repression in which the United States has no intention to intervene.” Writing in the Guardian, Parag Khanna quoted a Chinese intellectual, "The Soviet Union collapsed because they experimented with glasnost before they achieved unity among the peoples." Khanna observes that, “Large empires are maintained through a combination of force and law; and as recent weeks illustrate, China is determined not to waver.”

Western globalization's discourse today is so filled with self-referring, self serving ideological constructions, that contemporary China's radical pragmatism seems mysterious. The authoritarian Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of China has taken China on a path that has little to do with Marx but quite a bit to do with Lenin. Lenin himself defined “Communism” simply as “state power plus the electrification of the whole country.” If we change the word “electrification” for “development”, we have a very workmanlike description of today’s China. DS

Parag Khanna: China's "Wild West"- Guardian
Abstract: It is difficult to find a westerner who does not intuitively support the idea of a free Tibet. But would Americans ever let go of Texas or California? For China, the Anglo-Russian great game for control of central Asia was neither inconclusive nor fruitless, something that cannot be said for Russia or Britain. Indeed, China was the big winner.(...) Both Tibet and Xinjiang have the misfortune of possessing resources China wants and of being situated on the path to resources China needs: Tibet has vast amounts of timber, uranium and gold, and the two territories constitute China's geographic gateway for trade flow outward - and energy flow inward - with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Decades of labour by the army and swarms of workers have paved the way for unchallenged Chinese dominance. The high-altitude train linking Shanghai and Lhasa that began service in 2006 represents not the beginning of Chinese hegemony, but its culmination. Tibet and Xinjiang today set the stage for the birth of a multi-ethnic empire in ways that resemble nothing so much as America's frontier expansion nearly two centuries ago. Chinese think about their mission civilatrice much as American settlers did: they are bringing development and modernity. Asiatic, Buddhist Tibetans and Turkic, Muslim Uighurs are being lifted out of the third world - whether they like it or not. They are getting roads, telephone lines, hospitals and jobs. School fees are being reduced or abolished to promote basic education and Chineseness. Unlike those Europeans who seek to define the EU as a Christian club, there are no Chinese inhibitions about incorporating Muslim territories. The new mythology of Chinese nationalism is based not on expunging minorities but granting them a common status in the paternalistic state: Uighurs and Tibetans, though not Han, are told they are Chinese. "The Soviet Union collapsed because they experimented with glasnost prematurely, before the achieved unity among the peoples," explains a Chinese intellectual in Shanghai who studies central Asia. Large empires are maintained through a combination of force and law; and as recent weeks illustrate, China is determined not to waver.(...) Ironically, China's near absolute sense of security over both provinces is the greatest hope for a Chinese glasnost: China no longer faces any meaningful resistance to its rule and so some day may lighten up. Spiritual Tibetans have long looked south to Nepal and India for their cultural underpinnings, and in the 18th century Tibet was allowed a functional autonomy from China, a model the current Dalai Lama has proposed. Once he passes the scene, China might be less anxious about cultural exchange between Buddhists, further restoring Tibet's role as the Silk Road passage it was when Dunhuang's Caves of the Thousand Buddhas were carved, more than a millennium ago. Tibetans and Uighurs will gradually become more prosperous than their neighbouring Mongols, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Afghans, Pakistanis, Indians, and Nepalis - and this may provide a basis for Chinese claims of a benevolent hegemony elsewhere in Asia. But China will achieve that dominance before it talks about it. READ IT ALL

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A timely reprint


David Seaton's News Links
I wrote the text below way back in November of 2006, forgive me for quoting myself, but I find it just as pertinent today... especially when I survey the three candidates that have risen to the top of no less than 300,000,000 people and have the nerve to offer to lead them in times like these.

This is what I mean when I say that Bush is not a cause, only a symptom.



History gives innumerable examples of fools and knaves, physical and mental degenerates, who find themselves ruling hereditary monarchies or inheriting a dictatorship from a murderous and suddenly deceased parent. This is not supposed to happen in a democracy or at least not happen twice: as the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

What is truly terrible and simply shameful and hopefully inexplicable is how a nation of 300M people, with strong democratic traditions, filled with universities and libraries, of legendary wealth and possibilities, could freely choose from among their enormous number a sinister, mean spirited fool and then seeing how he led them from disaster to disaster, choose him again.

The problem isn't Bush. The world is filled with knaves and fools. The question is how Bush got where he is and how got there again.

This is just as interesting a question as how an Austrian clochard and failed watercolorist once became the leader of Europe's most powerful country, the home of philosophers, poets, musicians and scientists.

It is a question that must be answered. So let's stop blaming Bush for being Bush and begin to blame the real culprits.


Who are the real culprits? If this is a democracy, we ourselves are, obviously. DS

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Image makeover?

The proverbial lipsticked (stuck?) pig
"What does (Obama) offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy." Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic

"Last year, there was no question at all about the way Wall Street’s financial contributions to the new Democratic majority in Congress helped preserve, at least for now, the tax loophole that lets hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. Now, the securities and investment industry is pouring money into both Mr. Obama’s and Mrs. Clinton’s coffers. And these donors surely believe that they’re buying something in return. Let’s hope they’re wrong." Paul Krugman. New York Times
David Seaton's News Links
Although my readers may have long since wearied, I never tire of repeating that George W. Bush is a symptom of America's decline, not its cause. When a major country becomes decadent, defined as "marked by excessive self-indulgence and moral decay", the reasons are very complex, their roots are hard to trace. The society produces the leaders, not the other way around.

My favorite example of this complexity is the theory that Rome’s decline was brought about by the lead pipe plumbing of the Roman patricians that caused their women to become infertile, thus leaving the empire without leadership cadres.

Following the Roman model, Bush is Caligula’s horse.

Finding the reasons for America’s decline is something that will provide doctoral thesis material for generations of Chinese historians: at his moment, however, we are simply caught in the middle of it.

We have practically no control, or no control at all, over the general situation. In the midst of decadence, anything we can realistically demand, we can only demand of ourselves: stoic lucidity and a human heart. These are times for not only the "inner Lenin", but also the "inner Seneca".

The idiotic Democratic primary race seems to have drained what little seriousness the disastrous Bush presidency had provoked among progressive minded Americans. At this moment the possible knock on effects of the financial sector's meltdown and the Middle East quagmire are certainly more important than the "super delegate" count... Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. But those who had begun to read Noam Chomsky, Tony Judt, Chalmers Johnson, Andrew Bacevich, Jimmy Carter, Mearsheimer & Walt, etcetera in record numbers now seem solely concerned with the ruined and creaking structures of Franklin Roosevelt's coalition's smoking debris. The result of all of it will be simply another layer of lipstick on the pig.

Are citizens asking the correct questions?
  • Does anyone really believe that any topflight, professional, national politician, with what national campaigns cost these days, is ever going to confront or bring down a major source of funding like Wall Street?
  • Does the deregulation of the financial sector that has brought about the present meltdown have anything to do with that sector's campaign contributions to both political parties?
  • Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?
  • Does anyone really believe that any professional American politician of national stature is ever going to apply enough pressure on Israel to insure compliance of UN-242? ...And speaking of Israel and American politicians: where is the little bird brave enough to push that cuckoo's egg out of America's nest?
Is there any solution to any of this?

Good news, bad news.

The good news? Yes there is.

The bad news?

It will take a long time... about twenty years if we start right now.

I believe the possible solution lies in local politics and in the US House of Representatives: politicians that are near to the actual people who vote for them and whose every move can be watched closely by local progressive activists interconnected nationally through countless Internet forums. Politicians whose campaigns would get cheaper as their local reputations grew.

Congresspersons in this movement should be politicians whose greatest ambition is to rise by seniority (that means getting reelected from their district many times) to sit on and to eventually chair the powerful key House committees. Here is power that could be truly controlled by the voters if they kept their elected representatives under a powerful magnifying glass. This movement could be independent of both the Republicans and the Democrats and a President or Senator of either party that defied these powerful Congresspersons would do so at his or her peril. In this way a practical progressive agenda could be pushed forward without submitting itself to the national corporate media circus.

To my mind this is probably the only way real progressive change can ever occur in our present system. DS

Monday, March 24, 2008

Intuition and analysis

David Seaton's News Links
What role does intuition play in analysis?

That all depends, of course, on the analyst.

In my opinion intuition or "gut feelings" only have value in cases where you have immersed yourself in a subject, where concentration has been sufficiently intense for the saturated subconscious to surrender a shortcut to the goal.

The best explanation I can ever remember reading of this selectivity of intuition came from some Indian sage who remarked that the Virgin Mary doesn't appear to devotees of Krishna, nor Govinda to the little shepherd girls of Fatima.

Intuition of this sort has to be subjected in its turn to the same process of concentration and rumination that produced it in the first place. Then, of course, a certain rigor as to the accuracy of the intuitions or "keeping score" has to be in place. This is where the Spanish expression that "the Devil knows more because he is so old than because he is the Devil", comes into play.

I learned the practical aspects of this dialectic of input/feedback/synthesis in a way that is probably not common to most political analysts. For a decade of what many (not me) would consider the best years of their lives, I was a painter (artiste peintre not house). I made a serious attempt at this and managed to show in good galleries and sell enough of my work to live. How I recycled myself into political analysis is another story. Suffice to say here that I never cease to be surprised at how useful the methods developed in painting have been in studying anything else.

What did I learn as a painter besides never to trust an art dealer or buy cheap paint?

In no particular order: that it is fundamental to study the entire space you are working on all the time; that the smallest change in one place changes everything else; that the space around an object is as, or more important than, the object itself; that in every situation, there is a center, perhaps hidden, around which everything in the situation revolves; that, for the clear mind, objectivity and subjectivity are two faces of the same coin... and so on and so on.

Then there are two maxims of Picasso's that go back to the relationship between effort and intuition.
"inspiration exists, but it has to find us working" and of course, "I do not seek. I find" and then too, at least in my particular case, "I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them".

This all came up because in a previous post I said that I had a feeling of foreboding about Barack Obama and a reader, quite reasonably, inquired, "yeah, well, did you have any intuitions about Bush in 1999?" and funny enough, I did at the time.

I had supported Al Gore during the campaign and he is still my favorite for president today, but in '99, at the time of the election limbo, of "hanging chadsville"... I got this very strong intuitive impression that Dubya's presidency would be "transformational"... as indeed it has been.

Did I have any "foreboding"?

No, just the strong feeling in those sunny, pre-9/11 times that the Bush restoration would bring great change.

Has Bush been terrible?

You bet!

Does that have an upside? Ask Picasso.

"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction."

Seen from that point of view the Bush presidency has been very productive.


Here, what I call my "inner Lenin" comes into play. If most of the planet considers, in poll after poll, that US hegemony is the most dangerous and destabilizing element in the world today, then the sooner it ends, the better for everyone and if the cost of maintaining this hegemony absorbs so much of the nation's resources that it is depriving the American people of essentials like health, education and ultimately, old age pensions, the sooner it ends, the better for the American people.

Again Picasso:
"I don't believe in accidents. There are only encounters in history. There are no accidents."

And best of all for closing: "
You mustn't always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer." DS

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter egg

video
David Seaton's News Links
Like everyone, I have friends and acquaintances who like to use up precious bandwidth by sending jokes and junk to all the people on their mailing lists. Like the poor, they are ever with us.

Just for once I got something I really enjoyed and since at this moment I am occupied doing research I thought I'd try out the Google video blog feature and show you this video.


I have no idea who this pale and aged rapper is, but I find him very funny. If anybody could tell me who he is I would be grateful. DS

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sorry Folks

The Penitent Magdalene - Titian
David Seaton's News Links
They say, "never apologize, never explain", but that is a lousy attitude among friends and I consider the readers of News Links my friends.

I know that several of my long time readers are very unhappy with me because I don't share (to put it mildly) their enthusiasm for the freshman Senator from Illinois... I truly wish I could, but I can't.

I have laid out my reasons at length in numerous posts, so I won't go into them again, suffice to say that underneath the reasons lies a feeling of foreboding about this man. Something is there that gives me the creeps.

I am also very worried by the intense partisanship someone who objectively has done nothing of any note inspires in such numbers of people only by mouthing platitudes.

This readiness
to worship and follow pure hot air among such masses of citizens of the most highly armed nation in the history of the world simply frightens me.

At my age I have learned to trust my hunches, when I have concentrated on a theme and am saturated with information... I can't remember the last time I was wrong when I got the whim whams. So I am really sorry if any of my friends are unhappy or offended, but that is the way I see it. DS

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting real: the trial by fire

David Seaton's News Links
Henry Ford said that "history is bunk". I think most Americans agree with that and truly want to believe that it is possible to completely erase the past and begin anew... But, in fact the relations between white America and the decedents of African slavery are America's Balkans, which as Churchill said, "produce more history than they can digest". Any American city is Bosnia-Herzegovina. And this is not really about color.... it's about history. A Bosnian Muslim and a Bosnian Serb share the same language and morphology, but history has them at each others throats. Color is just the uniform that American history assigns each player in this horrible game. Denying it doesn't change anything.

I first discovered this when, here is Europe, I was thrown into the company of Cubans and Venezuelans of color and later with African exchange students. No history separated us, there was no tension at all on either side, we hung out together in the most natural way... Even in England, the relationship with students of the British Caribbean, was fluid. African-Americans have told me they experienced the same thing. For all of us it was an inexpressible relief.

It is not about color it is about history. Contrary to what Obama says, we are not "one people", but two peoples, each with distinct, but overlapping cultures, who must share the same space and learn to live with each other and even love one another. I think we have as good a chance as the Bosnians do, but not any better one.

I believe that Barack Obama illustrates perfectly my idea that race relations in the USA are cultural and that color is only a uniform that normally goes with the culture.

Obama is culturally "white". He was raised in Hawaii by white grandparents and went to private schools where the significant non-white population is Asiatic and that not only didn't Hawaii ever have any history of African slavery, it wasn't even a part of the United States at the time of the Civil War. He also lived in Indonesia, where he would have been treated as an American expatriate... an object of mild curiosity. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Muslim Indonesia attaches any particular stigma to African ancestry.

In short, to paraphrase Reverend Wright, I doubt if any white person ever called Barack Obama "nigger" in his whole life. It seems to me that the Obama took the personal decision to become part of African-American culture, in the same way he could have gone to an ashram in India and become a yogin. Attending such a radically black nationalist church as Wright's was Obama's way of joining the new culture... Now he has been caught by it.

I think Barack Obama is an immensely talented politician, but for him to really become anything great, I think it is essential for him to first fail miserably at something important.

In my opinion this campaign if the first real event in his whole life. If he fails now at this imposture, he may come out of this trial by fire burned a shade darker and a much more interesting and important figure in American life.

More than President at this point I see him as the natural successor to Ted Kennedy. To be President he needs more time in the oven. Paradoxically what Obama is going through now is making him into a culturally genuine African-American. That is when his real story finally begins. DS

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grandmother cringe factor

David Seaton's News Links
Barack Obama describes his grandmother as:
"a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
I don't know for sure if I'm the only one who found this all a tad supercilious, but I suspect I'm not.

It turns out that I too come from serially broken homes like Obama and, hey, I too had a white grandmother, who like Obama's, was
"a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who love(d) me as much as she love(d) anything in this world"
And hey, huge coincidence.... she too was frightened of black men just like Obama's. Wow.... and that made Obama cringe?

Cringe?

Good thing he never listened to Chris Rock on the subject:
"The media has distorted our image to make us look bad, why must you come down on us like that, brother? It ain't us, it's the media." Please, cut the fucking shit, okay. Okay? Okay? When I go to the money machine tonight, alright, I ain't looking over my back for the media: I'm looking for niggas!'
Now that makes me cringe, and I don't cringe very easily. You don't have to be Bill Cosby to know that there is huge problem in the United States of America with black men.
"The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. While the United States currently incarcerates 750 inmates per 100,000 persons, the world average rate is 166 per 100,000 persons.(...) African Americans, who are 12.4 percent of the population, are more than half of all prison inmates, compared to one-third twenty years ago. Although African-Americans constitute 14 percent of regular drug users, they are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 56 percent of persons in state prisons for drug crimes." “Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost? US Senate Report
And many of the causes of this problem were well described by Obama's "old uncle" Reverend Wright, (I bet the 'old uncle' bit made Wright cringe). Here is how he preached it.
"The government gives them the drugs [referring to the Iran-Contra Affair], builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people...God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme"
Now brother Noam Chomsky couldn't have said that any better. If we were going for truth and not truthiness, Obama would have defended both his white granny's and Jeremiah Wright's views, because both of them are making intelligent and realistic comments about a problem that affects both their lives, as it does any American of any color that lives anywhere but places like Iowa and Minnesota.

So, in fact, where others see a history making, earth shaking, speech steeped in authenticity, I only see Tony Blair with a fabulous tan. DS

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The dollar sinks


David Seaton's News Links

Jeffrey Frankel is a professor of economics at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. He sees the US dollar being replaced by the euro as the world's dominant currency by 2015. As you can read below, he seems to know what he's talking about.

What does having the worlds' dominant currency really mean? What does it mean to physically produce the money that everybody around the world buys nearly everything with?

It means that when ever the USA owes anybody money they just print some and give it to them. And for years and years America's creditors have accepted that. Can you imagine how much fun it would be if you could do that too? Scribble "twenty dollars" on a piece of paper and walk away with some groceries that you could actually eat?

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had gone through life like that and suddenly had to stop? If you are an American living on dollars, you have and now you will. It's not going to be any fun. DS

Frankel: The euro could surpass the dollar within ten years - VOX
Abstract: In the past, US deficits have been manageable because allies have been willing to pay a financial price to support American global leadership; they correctly have seen it to be in their interests. In the 1960s, Germany was willing to offset the expenses of stationing US troops on bases there so as to save the United States from a balance of payments deficit. The American military has long been charged less to station troops in high-rent Japan than if they had been based at home. Repeatedly the Bank of Japan, among other central banks, has been willing to buy dollars to prevent the US currency from depreciating (late 1960s, early 1970s, late 1980s). In 1991, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and a number of other countries were willing to pay for the financial cost of the war against Iraq, thus briefly wiping out the US current account deficit. Unfortunately, since 2001, during the same period that the US twin deficits have re-emerged, America has lost popular sympathy and political support in much of the rest of the world. The hegemon has lost its claim to legitimacy in the eyes of many. In sharp contrast to international attitudes at the dawn of the century, opinion surveys report that the US is now viewed unfavourably in most countries. The next time the US asks other central banks to bail out the dollar, will they be as willing to do so as Europe was in the 1960s, or as Japan was in the late 1980s after the Louvre Agreement? I fear not. The decline in the status of the pound during the course of the first half of the 20th century was part of a larger pattern whereby the United Kingdom lost its economic pre-eminence, colonies, military power, and other trappings of international hegemony. As some wonder whether the United States might now have embarked on a path of “imperial over-reach,” following the British Empire down a road of widening budget deficits and overly ambitious military adventures in the Muslim world, the fate of the pound is perhaps a useful caution. The Suez crisis of 1956 is frequently recalled as the occasion on which Britain was forced under US pressure to abandon its remaining imperial designs. But the importance of a simultaneous run on the pound and President Eisenhower’s decision not to help the beleaguered currency through IMF support unless the British withdrew its troops from Egypt should also be remembered. READ IT ALL

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama: a new beginning?


David Seaton's News Links
William Faulkner defined the situation: "The past isn't dead; it isn't even past."

The past is always with us... to paraphrase Joe Louis, "we can run, but we can't hide."

The Indians (from India) put it in an even more graphic expression, "so the meal, so the flavor of the belch".

There is some idea going around that somehow, through Obama's divine grace, I suppose, we can miraculously put hundreds of years of history in the icebox and begin anew.

The Reverend Wright is the just the "flavor of the belch." DS

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Race and gender politics are killing the American left

David Seaton's News Links
The American left, which is afraid to touch "class politics" has gotten lost in issues of race and gender.

The real problems of the United States are not about race or sex: it is about social class.

Race and gender are issues that cloud the vision and divide disadvantaged people from their common problems. This is part of the "genius" of the American system, its talent for endlessly dividing, co-opting and distracting dissent.

Being poor is what marks Americans, their children and grandchildren for failure and desperate lives, not sex of gender. American women of color like Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey are firmly entrenched in the upper-middle class despite being "victims" of both racism and sexism.


The real victims of the American system are the poor (especially the children) of all colors and sexes. Unlike most other developed countries, in the USA it is almost impossible for them to escape from that condition. Adequate resources are simply not being spent on health and education.

The following analysis of the Obama-Hillary bloodletting by über-neocon, Charles Krauthammer is very insightful. I am certainly not a fan of his; I would consider him what the English used to call, "a nasty piece of work", but, a trained psychiatrist, he is very intelligent and perceptive. DS


Krauthammer: Adventures In Identity Politics - Washington Post
Elections can be about policy, personality or identity. The race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is surely not about policy. The differences between the two are microscopic. It did not start out that way. Last year, when Hillary was headed toward a coronation, she deliberately ran to the center. (...) When she began taking heat for those positions from the other candidates and the Democratic Party's activist core, and as her early lead began to erode, she quickly tacked left and found herself inhabiting precisely the same ideological space as Obama. With no substantive policy differences left, the Obama-Clinton campaign was reduced to personality and identity. Not advantageous ground for Hillary. In a personality contest with the charismatic young phenom, she loses in a landslide.(....) If you cannot successfully pretty yourself, dirty the other guy. Hence the relentless attacks designed to redefine Obama and take him down to the level of ordinary mortals, i.e., Hillary's. Thus the contrived shock on the part of the Clinton campaign that an Obama economic adviser would tell the Canadians not to pay too much attention to Obama's anti-NAFTA populism or that Samantha Power would tell the BBC not to pay too much attention to Obama's current withdrawal plans for Iraq. The attack line writes itself: Says one thing and means another. So much for the man of new politics. Just an ordinary politician -- like Hillary. Power, the maladroit Obama foreign policy adviser, is caught calling Hillary a "monster." A resignation demand nicely calls attention to the fact that the Obama campaign -- surprise! -- hurls invective. And a strategic mention of Tony Rezko, the Chicago fixer who was once Obama's patron, nicely attaches to Obama a whiff of corruption by association. These attacks have a cumulative effect. Obama mania is be What to do? First, adjust your own persona.(...) Did Bill Clinton deliberately encourage racial polarization by saying before South Carolina that one expects women to vote for Hillary and blacks for Obama? Or, after the primary, by dismissing Obama's victory with: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice"? With Bill Clinton, you never know. And there is no proving cause and effect, but the chronology is striking. Two weeks before the South Carolina primary, Obama was leading Hillary among blacks by only 53 percent to 30 percent. Ten days later, Obama was ahead 59 to 25. On voting day, he got 78 percent of the black vote. By the time the campaign trail reached Mississippi on Tuesday, Obama was getting 92 percent of the black vote. And only 26 percent of the white vote. The pillars of American liberalism -- the Democratic Party, the universities and the mass media -- are obsessed with biological markers, most particularly race and gender. They have insisted, moreover, that pedagogy and culture and politics be just as seized with the primacy of these distinctions and with the resulting "privileging" that allegedly haunts every aspect of our social relations. They have gotten their wish. This primary campaign represents the full flowering of identity politics. It's not a pretty picture.(...) The optimist will say that when this is over, we will look back on the Clinton-Obama contest, and its looming ugly endgame, as the low point of identity politics and the beginning of a turning away. The pessimist will just vote Republican. READ IT ALL

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kouchner's call: the thrill has gone


Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, "It will never be as it was before." "I think the magic is over," he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States. Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister
David Seaton's News Links
I've been living abroad for many years and have had a good opportunity to evaluate America's image in the world. I think it is important to note that, although Bush has aggravated the situation and hastened the deterioration of America's image, he was not a primary cause, only another symptom.


Symptom of what?


In one word, "decadence".

The general view is that the United States is a power in decline. Some are happy at this decline, while others are saddened by it, and still others, like the Israelis, are terrified by it, but all are in agreement that the USA is decadent.


What Bush has done is to cause a significant number of people to evaluate the USA in a Chomsky like manner. It could be said that Noam Chomsky's critique of American power is now mainstream. We owe that to Bush's clumsiness. A majority of people in the world (if we are to believe the polls) see America as the "problem", not the "solution". Its desire to project its power by any means is considered the prime destabilizing factor in the world.


To compare the foreign policies of Clinton to Bush II, would be like comparing two magicians: Clinton would be David Copperfield, brilliant, perfect execution, but only smoke and mirors in the end and Bush would be like a children's birthday magician that reaches in his top hat and instead of a rabbit, come up with only a handful of rabbit poop. Both are fakes, but one is a pro and the other is incompetent.


It would behoove the United States to not think about ordering and cleaning up other people's messes, but to engage with all its resources in cleaning up its own mess: health, education, infrastructure, governance, corruption, etcetera. It would be good if it reduced its military spending and reconstructed its manufacturing sector. The list is endless. In the meanwhile America's foreign policy should be minimalist, realist, and not engaged in Wilsonian tilting at windmills.

If Bernard Kouchner, who is one of the world's most enthusiastic "liberal interventionist", thinks the "magic" is gone, believe me that the magic is gone: gone to where, to use a Spanish expression, "the wind turns around to come back."
DS

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Admirals, foxes, cabbages and kings

Admiral William Fallon
"A fateful debate is now taking place at the Pentagon that will determine the pace of U.S. military withdrawals for what remains of President Bush's term. Senior Pentagon officials -- including, we hear, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Army Chief of Staff George Casey and Admiral Fallon -- have been urging deeper troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five "surge" combat brigades already scheduled for redeployment this summer.(...) their rationale for troop withdrawals seems to have less to do with conditions in Iraq and more with fear that the war is putting a strain on the military as an institution." Wall Street Journal

'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' Colin Powell told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.' Pottery Barn Rule

"In War, victory should be swift, if victory is slow, men tire, morale sags. Sieges exhaust strength; protracted campaigns strain the public treasury.
If men are tired, moral low, strength exhausted, treasure spent; then the feudal lords will exploit the disarray and attack. This even the wisest will be powerless to mend.(...) No nation has ever benefited from a protracted war.(...) The skillful warrior never conscripts troops a second time " Sun Tzu, 500 BC

"It’s probably Fallon’s good sense that made it impossible for him to work for this administration."
Cato Institute

David Seaton's News Links
Admiral Fallon's revelations in Esquire, nearly constitute what in 19th century Spain and Latin America was called a pronunciamiento. In a sense, so was the intelligence report that Iran had dropped its nuclear program. This is probably as close to a coup d'etat as you can get in the United States today. The military and intelligence establishments are defying the President. Fallon has taken early "retirement" in order to publicize his views and throw a monkey wrench into the neocon/Israeli juggernaut to have the United States attack Iran before there is a changing of the guard in the White House.

I have very little to add to the many articles and columns being written about the Fallon affair. I would only underline the concern that I detect among the professional soldiers for the deteriorating state of the armed forces as an institution. This concern goes back before Bush. The Clinton administration was very impatient with the Powell Doctrine, "What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about, if we can’t use it?" asked Madeline Albright. And although Barack Obama wants to "change the mindset that got us into the war", his recently canned adviser, Samantha Power wants to send the US armed forces all over the world to prevent genocide and stabilize failed states and bring democracy to the benighted heathen. Über-neocon Robert Kagan has this to say about Obama's military philosophy:
Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism. He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face."
This endless patrolling of the world's sewers is something that the US armed forces desperately don't want to do. I think that it is forgotten that in many ways the armed forces are a community of families, deeply rooted in American life, with a continuity over generations. The recent film "In the Valley of Elah" gives some of the flavor of that.

Probably the only reason I am skeptical that John McCain is eager to follow the Bush/neocon/liberal-interventionist doctrine of endless tilting at windmills all over the globe is that his father and grandfather were US Navy admirals. The Republican candidate spent his entire life until entering politics in the US Navy: it is his home town, his youthful reality and dreams. Politics was a second choice career for him when he saw that his "lost" years as a prisoner of war were a detour from the chain of command that made it practically impossible for him to be an admiral like his father and grandfather.

I just can't imagine anyone with that background using up the lives and families of the men and women he grew up with in fool's errands, which may in fact not even be in America's greater interest. Not even Colin Powell himself could have such deep emotional ties to the military community that McCain must have. I can just imagine the hell he would catch from his Navy wife of a mother.

Nobody campaigning for the presidency is going to say a word that would trouble or concern AIPAC, so I discount all the words that all of them pronounce. I am only looking at their lives and trying to see their deepest motivations. It may be innocent on my part, but I feel that McCain's threats to bomb Iran follow the teachings of the timeless master of strategists, Sun Tzu:
"Strong words combined with an aggressive advance are a sign of impending retreat."
This is the context within which I see Admiral Fallon's "pronunciamiento". DS

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A slim hope

Stephen M. Walt, left, and John J. Mearsheimer.

David Seaton's News Links
Why do I think at this point that McCain would be a better foreign policy choice than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Basically because I think that on foreign policy, deep down, he is in the line of traditional, Eisenhower Republicanism. It is George W. Bush and Cheney that are outside the party traditions, up to their necks in Wilsonism.

Frankly I think McCain wants to actually do what Dubya said he wanted to do in 2000. That would be a G.H.W. Bush "restoration". Baker, Scowcroft, Powell doctrine stuff. Even Rice was supposed to be in that line. The surprise was when, after 9-11 Bush-II threw in his lot with the former Trotskista neocons. Even Yassir Arafat, who was pretty sharp, thought that Dubya was going to be like his father... they say the disappointment broke the old fellow's heart (sniff).

Although unfortunately phrased, Baker correctly defined the basic relationship between the oilmen Republicans and the Jewish community. I don't think that underlying logic has really changed. I suspect (hope?, pray?) that McCain is a closet Mearsheimer-Walt devotee.

The surprise was Dubya, who went against his entire culture and background to avoid antagonizing the people his father thought had cost him his reelection. I don't imagine that McCain has the same oedipal problems with Bush-I that Bush-II does, nor to share in his evangelical, last-days devotion to maximalist Zionism. In short, I'm hoping that he is an old fashioned, country club Republican.


As to McCain's professions of undying support for Israel, as Master Sun said, "war is deception": you don't telegraph your intentions. Keep AIPAC neutral. Talk about a hyperbolic, "hundred years in Iraq". Talk about, "bomb, bomb, bomb: bomb, bomb Iran". Neither a hundred years in Iraq nor bombing Iran appear doable: America is maxed out.

The fact is that if the USA could go to war with Iran it would have already happened; Cheney would have done it long ago if he could have. However, the United States' military is overextended and weary, and the country is on the brink of financial collapse. Setting the Middle East on fire would only push it over the edge.

Getting out of Iraq with some dignity is the number one foreign policy priority of the USA and the only existent plan for getting out of Iraq is the Baker Iraq Study Group's and negotiating with Iran is the key to its success.
That is why the Israelis still hate Baker.

My feeling is that domestic policy (health care, education) should be in the hands of the Democrats and foreign policy should be in the hands of the "realists" and that US foreign policy should be deliberately minimalist, not the sort of Quixotic, Wilsonian brew that Obama is offering up or the Madeline Albright redux that Hillary is flogging.

None of this is at all sure, but frankly I cannot see any other successful alternative. DS

Sunday, March 09, 2008

OK David, if you're so smart...

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Quite a few people who read my posts have written to me saying, "David, it is all very well to criticize, but do you have any constructive suggestions to make? What do you suggest we do besides sitting around making cynical remarks like you do?" In fact some have used even harsher language than that. (sniff)

I gladly accept the challenge. This is a very fair question and deserves to be answered in some detail. Like the man said, "What is to be done?"

First I think it is important to look into the problems that the political class are being called upon to solve. What are the problems, and can they be solved by politicians? If so, which politicians are best suited to solve which problems?

As complex as the United States is, and as entwined and tangled as its problems are, I think they can be broken down roughly into two groups: domestic policy and foreign policy.

On the domestic front, the major issues, in my opinion, are establishing universal health care and protection of the working poor during what looks like turning into a severe recession or worse. The economic situation has many experts totally puzzled, that in itself bodes ill. Next on the list of priorities is repairing America's aging infrastructure. If we consider public education of quality part of infrastructure, then this is quite a shopping list. If we add guaranteeing the pensions of the soon to be retiring boomers to it, it is obvious that economies will have to be made in other areas... The military budget springs to mind.

This takes us closer to foreign policy.

Probably no one has a clearer grasp of where America's foreign policy and its domestic needs overlap than Chalmers Johnson. Here is how he defines the problem:
"We are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels.(...) in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call "opportunity costs," things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs -- an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing."
At this point the most glaring waste of resources is the miscarried war in Iraq. Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University author of "The New American Militarism", is one of the clearest thinking political analysts working in the United States. He described the situation in an article in the Los Angeles Times:
"The truth is that next to nothing can be done to salvage Iraq. It no longer lies within the capacity of the United States to determine the outcome of events there. Iraqis will decide their own fate. We are spectators, witnesses, bystanders caught in a conflagration that we ourselves, in an act of monumental folly, touched off."
So obviously the war in Iraq has to be ended and America's military budget has to be cut back and resources reassigned in order to attend to the needs of the American people themselves.

Up till now the only detailed and credible blue print for getting out of Iraq with some shred of dignity is James Baker's, "Iraq Study Group" report, called "dead on arrival" by such neocon luminaries as Robert Kagan and William Kristol. Daniel Pipes at the extreme right of ultra-zionist, neo-connerie, denounced the Baker report in the following terms:
"Of course, small minds assert that problems in Iraq are "inextricably linked" to the Arab-Israeli conflict – thereby repeating the precise mistake that lead co-chairman James A. Baker, III, made in 1991. He then led the effort to abandon the Persian Gulf and turn to the Palestinians, leaving Saddam Hussein in power for another dozen years and contributing directly to the present mess. In the new report, Mr. Baker and his colleagues call for a Palestinian state and even demand that a final settlement address the Palestinian "right of return" – code for dismantling the Jewish state. They peremptorily declare that "the Israelis should return the Golan Heights," in return for a U.S. security guarantee."
The right wing Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, described the report in these terms,
"How embarrassing. Senior figures from both major American parties have, in broad daylight, betrayed such staggering naivete that their report might not have passed muster with a reasonably discerning high school teacher, let alone offered a serious basis for US foreign policy."
And in the left leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Shmuel Rosner wrote of how Governor Bill Richardson lost Jewish support by mentioning the "B word".
"Israel, he said, should be a bi-partisan issue he said charitably. And with this sense of bi-partisanship in mind pulled out of his hat the first name he could think of: Former Secretary of State James Baker. Baker was a member of an administration "widely viewed as the most hostile ever to Israel." Saying you might appoint him as your envoy (John McCain also did it in the past) is like telling people a "more balanced policy" is needed. It seems just fine to the untrained eye, but is actually a code-word which has only one meaning: I'm prepared to pressure Israel."
James Baker must be doing something right. Pressuring Israel is truly the belling of the cat. There is no solution in the Middle East short of Word War III that doesn't pass through settling the Palestinian conflict. The only one, except Jimmy Carter, that has ever really tried to bell the cat is James Baker.

Baker is supporting McCain:
"I am proud today to endorse John McCain for President of the United States. Senator McCain is a great American leader, a true hero, a thoughtful and a dedicated Republican, and a person whom I greatly admire."
And McCain is supporting Baker:
"Secretary Baker has a distinguished record of service to our country and our party. I look forward to his counsel and am honored to have his support."
The Forward, America's foremost Jewish newspaper commented at length on the endorsement:
Along the way to winning the presidential nomination of the Republican Party this week, Senator John McCain picked up the endorsement of James Baker, a former secretary of state with a long history of rocky ties with the American Jewish establishment. In the weeks since the February 28 endorsement, little protest has been heard from pro-Israel circles, and Jewish activists say Baker’s support is unlikely to become a campaign issue. Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama, meanwhile, has been heavily scrutinized for accepting the support of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, like Baker former administration officials who have riled the American Jewish community with their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish Republicans are quick to point out that the communal shrug toward Baker’s endorsement could turn antagonistic should the Arizona senator name the former secretary of state as an adviser, a role Brzezinski plays in the Obama campaign. At least one Jewish Democratic activist, however, is already crying foul, claiming that the American Jewish community is giving McCain an undeserved free pass. “There is a very, very disturbing double standard,” said Matt Dorf, a Jewish Democratic consultant who also works on Jewish communal issues with the Democratic National Committee. “I cannot think of any other figure in the Republican Party who raises more concerns than Jim ‘F**k the Jews’ Baker.”
There has been something moving on the right for some time now, among "realists" like James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, or Meersheimer and Walt; among libertarians like Ron Paul and the Cato Institute; or paleoconservitives like Pat Buchanan. All of them are pushing for a reevaluation of America's policy of foreign intervention. On the Democratic side, can anyone seriously imagine Hillary Clinton, Senator from New York, pressuring Israel. Frankly I can imagine McCain going up against anybody except his mom.

As to Barack Obama, the aforementioned neocon, Robert Kagan is enthusiastic about "Obama the Interventionist".
America must "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good." With those words, Barack Obama put an end to the idea that the alleged overexuberant idealism and America-centric hubris of the past six years is about to give way to a new realism, a more limited and modest view of American interests, capabilities and responsibilities.(...)To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States. "We cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy." The "security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people." Realists, call your doctors. Okay, you say, but at least Obama is proposing all this Peace Corps-like activity as a substitute for military power. Surely he intends to cut or at least cap a defense budget soaring over $500 billion a year. Surely he understands there is no military answer to terrorism. Actually, Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism. He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face." He wants to ensure that we continue to have "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world." Obama never once says that military force should be used only as a last resort. Rather, he insists that "no president should ever hesitate to use force -- unilaterally if necessary," not only "to protect ourselves . . . when we are attacked," but also to protect "our vital interests" when they are "imminently threatened." That's known as preemptive military action. It won't reassure those around the world who worry about letting an American president decide what a "vital interest" is and when it is "imminently threatened." Nor will they be comforted to hear that "when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others." Make every effort? Conspicuously absent from Obama's discussion of the use of force are four words: United Nations Security Council.
Do you see anything here that would liberate enough funds to attend properly to America's domestic agenda? I don't.

America cannot continue to intervene all over the world for a simple reason, Americans as we saw in the video featured in the previous post, know next to nothing of the world and care less. The people in the video are not morons, they are able to earn a living and, to coin a phrase, "put food on their families". They just don't care. What this means is that America's foreign policy can never be democratic.
This means that it will be always prey to those who are focused on a single issue, like the Israel or Cuban lobbies. In my opinion that means that it should be minimalist in the line of Ron Paul. But Ron Paul is against universal health care and so is McCain, no?

What is the answer to all of this? How can we square this circle? How should Americans vote in November?

First lets run through the possibilities, as I see them:

Will the Democrats ever achieve universal health care. Maybe, probably not.

Will the Republicans ever vote for universal health care. Never.

Will the Democrats ever pressure Israel enough to pacify the Middle East? Never.

Will the Republicans ever
pressure Israel enough to pacify the Middle East? Maybe, probably not.

Not very promising is it?

Taking all of this into account, I recommend that Americans vote massively for Democratic candidates in local, congressional and senate races. The Democrats should have majorities in both houses to comfortably override any presidential veto. This might bring about universal health care and keep the Republican from sending more taliban to the Supreme Court. And for president... vote for John McCain. I don't think either Hillary or Obama are ready for prime time and I think both of them would continue with "liberal interventionist" adventures, which make any improvement in domestic policy impossible.

Is this really a solution? No, not really. DS