Sunday, November 29, 2015
Fortunately, not everyone on the Left is as short-sighted as the leaders of VFP. Last spring Yes! magazine ran an interesting article entitled "Can the Left and Right Unite to End Corporate Rule? An Interview with Ralph Nader and Daniel McCarthy". It may be too little, too late but it is a hopeful sign nevertheless. Below are a two excerpts from the interview.
Ralph Nader: Well, liberalism and conservatism, in various ways, have been hijacked by corporatism.
Liberalism in the 18th and 19th centuries was the classic philosophy aimed at restraining arbitrary government power—then often exercised by kings and emperors. Civil liberties were the foundation of freedom of speech and due process of law, which became part of our Constitution.
Fast forward, you now have corporate liberals— like the Clintons—and you have the corporatists who call themselves conservatives throughout Congress. They're all pushing corporate welfare and bailouts for banks.
What we're trying to do here is go back to fundamental principles and un-hijack conservatism and liberalism. When we do that, we see that there's a convergence of support on a lot of major issues.
McCarthy: Yeah, the two parties and the bipartisan elite have had their own kind of convergence on a strategy for dominating the country, both in government and in big business.
Americans of all ideological stripes have been feeling a great deal of alienation, resentment, and anger. But it's very difficult to talk about the actual structure of government and of the economy and to explain how it is that people have been effectively disenfranchised and manipulated. It’s much easier on both the left and the right to focus on cultural issues, where you can have scapegoats and think that those are the central issues, and to ignore these more structural problems.
I think the left's embrace of identity politics in the 1960s and '70s was disastrous for the working class. It was very bad for the labor union movement, it was very bad for any number of economic issues. Which is not to say that there wasn’t a place for the civil rights movement. Of course there was. But identity-based politics went from being a necessary thing to being something that started to preclude some of the economic and other policy efforts that needed to be undertaken.
And similarly on the right. It's not just a matter of a cynical manipulation of the public by going for hot-button issues. There really was a sense among many ordinary people in the 1960s that something had gone culturally wrong in the country. Crime rates were going up, promiscuity was going up. There were changes that people found weird or disorienting. Whether or not they were right or wrong, they were unfamiliar and new, and therefore alarming.
This set of emotional complexes was turned into the so-called culture war, to the detriment of anything that would reform our economy, our self-government, or our foreign policy. Those sort of complex issues have been thrown by the wayside in favor of identity politics.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
As Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, said this week, "For several decades to come there is no meaningful alternative to American supremacy, as a practical matter."
Source: "Cracks in America's Armor, or America's Will?" by David Wood, March 11, 2004. Newhouse News Service.
Source: Thucydides, Greek historian (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) in his History of the Peloponnesian War, Rex Warner, trans., (Penguin Classics, 1972), book 1, chapter 1.
Sunday, November 08, 2015
"... there were many nights during the war when God withdrew from our battlefields. When the sons of men fight against each other in hardness of heart, why should God not withdraw? Slavery is evil, God knows, but war is evil, too, evil, evil."
I also mostly agree with Bruce Huber's assessment of the decision. Huber is a professor of energy law at the University of Notre Dame and yesterday he told NPR:
Well, in my view, it's not really a very big decision at all. I don't think it would even make my top 10 list of the most significant events for the environment. It's not a decision that has much of an impact on our domestic energy infrastructure. And it's, frankly, not a decision that is going to have that much of an impact on the environment either ... it simply was one of a whole mass of pipeline projects that are out there that are either underway or in the inaugural stages. And furthermore, the construction of the pipeline itself was not a major determinant in whether this oil actually comes out of the ground in northern Alberta. If you didn't want to go the pipeline route, you could transport the oil by rail, as we've been doing in great quantities out of North Dakota in recent years.Huber goes on to comment on Bill McKibben's response to the decision claiming: "it's clear that what he's [McKibben] referring to is the fact that this particular decision had assumed this larger symbolic importance." I don't know if McKibben would agree but I think it's true that the decision is "largely symbolic". Now don't get me wrong, symbolism is very important but only time will tell if the Keystone XL decision marks a key turning point in the campaign to significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels.
See also: Keystone XL: A Horse Already Out of the Barn?
Source: "Brothers in Civilianland" by Max Black on Takimag.com
Sunday, November 01, 2015
Source: Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (New York: Knopf, 2014) pp. 96-97.