[REPORTED IN FOREIGN POLICY FEB 4, 2016]: I guess if Pakistan is bewildered by Trump and Putin is enthusiastic (perhaps not the endorsement that Trump needs) and his effigy is a hit in Dusseldorf,and he’s “Taken New Hampshire”, the dude is having a very good week… shiels/2/11/16
‘The Rise of the American Taliban’
Pakistan’s elite on the Trump phenomenon.
BY LAWRENCE PINTAK FEBRUARY 4, 2016
‘The Rise of the American Taliban’
KARACHI, Pakistan — In the strongholds of hard-line Pakistani Islamist thought, they are talking about Donald Trump and laughing. Then they shake their heads with concern. “He doesn’t belong in the White House, he belongs in a mental hospital,” 46-year-old Hafez Tahrir Ashrafi, a Muslim cleric who is head of the country’s Ulema Council, told me with a throaty roar. An obese man with a wild dark beard, Ashrafi is an advisor to the Pakistani government and a former jihadi who fought in Afghanistan as a youth — Pakistani media has quoted him endorsing suicide bombing against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “We do not believe the Americans will elect a man like that with his very dirty statements,” Ashrafi continued. “But if that happens, then he creates the problem not for the Muslims, but for the Americans and for himself.”
Ashrafi is not alone in that view. Sen. Ted Cruz may have won Iowa, but it’s Trump who has Pakistan’s elite simultaneously amused and concerned.Sen. Ted Cruz may have won Iowa, but it’s Trump who has Pakistan’s elite simultaneously amused and concerned. Ten days of interviews in late January with a broad cross-section of Pakistani intelligentsia — Islamists, liberals, policymakers, and bloggers — can be summed up in a single sentence: Trump is a clown, but he is a dangerous clown who could cause long-term damage to U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
Pakistan’s relationship with the United States is complex. It has been a vital ally in the Afghan war, but its intelligence services have played both ends against the middle, supporting some extremists for its own geopolitical aims, while battling others. The country is in a virtual state of civil war and there are deep divisions between the civilians and military leadership. The army has been locked in a major offensive against militants in the tribal areas and a simultaneous operation to wrest back control of Karachi, the commercial capital, from militias and criminal gangs, and there are ongoing rebellions in several parts of the country. But Pakistan’s importance to U.S. foreign policy is seen in both its efforts to help broker a deal in Afghanistan and its efforts to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
And it’s that positive side that makes Trump’s campaign rhetoric so problematic. “When people who are not sophisticated hear his comments and see Americans voting for him, that translates into anti-U.S. sentiment,” says Dr. Ishrat Husain, a former central bank governor under the early 21st-century regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. “We can only hope he doesn’t get the nomination. That would be a disaster.”
But many Pakistanis who are “sophisticated” also question what Trump’s success so far says about the direction of American society. They fear they are getting a glimpse into the dark side of the American psyche — and seeing it reflected back in their own. More than 4,600 people died of violence in Pakistan in 2015, according to the country’s Centre for Research and Security Studies — which in itself is a sharp drop from the more than 7,600 people who died in 2014.
“We’re living in a world where we seem to be competing for the space from which you can preach or promote intolerance of the other,” says Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the nonprofit Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, with exhaustion in her voice.
Inside the heavily fortified walls of the Lahore University of Management Sciences, some of the country’s best and brightest study business, computer science, and engineering, with images of careers in the United States dancing in their heads. “Social media is full of posts about Trump,” a graduate student, who asked not to give her name, told me when I asked if Pakistanis are paying attention to the campaign. “Positive or negative?” I teased, just to see the reaction. She and her friends erupted in laughter. “Negative, of course!”
In Pakistan these days, one hears much talk of visas denied and dreams quashed. The daughter of a close friend recently earned her medical degree. She just returned home to the city of Lahore after three months looking for opportunities in the United States where she had always dreamed of being a doctor. Now she is having second thoughts. An Australian or New Zealand accent may be in her future. “She just didn’t feel comfortable with all she was hearing and seeing on television,” my friend told me. “She felt like people were judging her wherever she went.”
Trump may be a fixture on the social media feeds of educated Pakistani youth, but he has been largely AWOL from the mainstream media. Ditto the primaries as a whole. “It barely comes up in our editorial meetings,” Fahd Husain, executive director of Express News TV, one of Pakistan’s dozens of often-sensational news channels, told me, sitting in his Lahore newsroom.
At the Karachi headquarters of Geo TV, one of the country’s largest networks, I heard much the same. Geo has aired most of the GOP and Democratic debates with Urdu translations, but the broadcasts have elicited relatively little comment. “People are more concentrated on what’s happening in Pakistan,” says Azhar Abbas, Geo’s news chief. Not surprising given that the nation is still reeling from the deaths of more than 20 people, most of them students, in a January attack on a university — just the most egregious recent example of the daily carnage. “Now we will not kill the soldier in his cantonment, the lawyer in the court, or the politician in parliament, but in the places where they are prepared, the schools, the universities, the colleges that lay their foundation,” a Pakistani Taliban leader warned after the attack.
Badr Alam, the self-effacing editor of The Herald, an English-language newsweekly, sheepishly notes that another reason for the lack of coverage of Trump — and the campaign in general — is that many Pakistanis, including editors, simply don’t understand the U.S. primary system. “In the media I think there will be 10-15 people who would really know how the election happens.”
But Hameed Haroon, Pakistan’s most influential publisher — and Badr’s boss — says there is also a conscious decision on the part of some editors not to stir the international relations pot. The Pakistani media does not normally hesitate to publish anti-American rants, but Haroon, whose family owns the Dawn media group, says those opinions are usually tied to specific U.S. policy actions and include “a retreat mechanism,” by which he means that when policies or policymakers change, the framing of the United States in the media changes.
Trump, says Haroon, endangers that fail-safe “retreat mechanism” in U.S.-Pakistani relations. “It’s not a conscious censorship as such, [but] to enshrine Trump as an example of how bad America is would open up darker perspectives and dis-balance the possibility of any positive perception of America in this region,” he told me.
Not everyone is so grim. “The Europeans have become more tolerant [toward Islam], but tolerance can be condescending,” says Muneer Kamal, chairman of both the Karachi Stock Exchange and the National Bank of Pakistan, who thinks Trump is an aberration. “The Americans have moved to a completely different place — acceptance” of Muslims.
Still, Trump and Hillary Clinton are upending Pakistan’s policy worldview about relations with Washington: Since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to the well-worn trope, Democrats tilt toward India, Republicans tilt toward Pakistan (and more problematically, Pakistani military dictatorships). Clinton may be a Democrat, but she’s a proven commodity — someone Islamabad can deal with. The battle of inflammatory soundbites on the Republican side has Pakistani heads spinning.The battle of inflammatory soundbites on the Republican side has Pakistani heads spinning. “This time around,” according to retired Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, head of the Center for International Strategic Studies think tank, which is close to Pakistan’s military and political leadership, “we can’t make sense of the Republican party.”
“You need a dose of Hillary to clean out a dose of Trump,” says Dawn’s Haroon. But he and others worry that isn’t enough, that something more fundamental is taking place in American society that will reshape U.S. foreign policy.
There’s that theme again: the dark side. Economist Kaiser Bengali, an advisor to the governor of the province of Baluchistan, calls it “the rise of the American Taliban,” which he says began in the Reagan administration and is now hitting critical mass with the Trumpites. “This is against the democratic values,” warns Dr. Farid Ahmed Piracha, number two in Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamist group. “If there is such mindset, then there will be more difficulties for the United States and more terrorism.”
But let’s not be misled. As every foreign correspondent knows, there is one ultimate go-to source for the real ground truth in every country: the taxi driver.
Heading through the deserted, early morning streets toward the airport in the military capital Rawalpindi, fending off hawkers and beggars at each red light, my hotel driver Syed and I talked U.S. politics. On the other side of the world, Iowans were donning boots and parkas as they headed toward — well, wherever it is Iowans go in that bizarre quadrennial ritual.
“How many days lasts American election?” asked Syed.
“Ten months,” I replied, wondering how I was going to explain this.
There was a long, pregnant pause.
“Hillary is a nice lady,” he said.
And we drove on.
Image Credit: Joe
From the New York Times Sat. 1/16/16…. This should start a worthwhile dialogue about the quiet impact of the unprecedented Obama Presidency.
Timothy Egan new York times Jan. 16, 2016
I still hold onto a couple of magazine covers and newspaper front pages, despite their preservation in the digital afterlife, marking the moment when a nation that had embraced African-American slavery chose a black man to be its president.
Barack Obama’s election in 2008 swept “away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease,” The New York Times reported. The New Yorker, with its cover of a glowing Lincoln Memorial, heralded “the resurgence of America’s ability to astonish and inspire.” They sensed “the beginning of a new era.”
You couldn’t help thinking of these trumpets of hope while watching the graying head of the president on Tuesday night. As he walked to the exit, he turned to soak in the scene of his final State of the Union address. “Let me take one more look at this thing,” he said.
By any objective measurement, his presidency has been perhaps the most consequential since Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Ronald Reagan certainly competes with Obama for that claim. But on the night of Reagan’s final State of the Union speech in 1988, when he boasted that “one of the best recoveries in decades” should “send away the hand-wringers and doubting Thomases,” the economic numbers were not as good as those on Obama’s watch.
At no time in Reagan’s eight years was the unemployment rate lower than it is today, at 5 percent — and this after Obama was handed the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Reagan lauded a federal deficit at 3.4 percent of gross national product. By last fall, Obama had done better than that, posting a deficit of 2.5 percent of G.D.P.
Still, Obama can shape only so much of his own legacy. A big part of the 44th president’s place in the national narrative will depend on what happens to the forces of darkness that were unleashed in his time — things that can’t be quantified by a government agency.
Much of the country is now more openly intolerant, quick to hate and nasty. One reaction to Obama has been the rise of an opposition party that is a home for xenophobes, defeatists and alarmists. They are the Eeyore Party with a snarl. As we heard again during the Republican debate on Thursday, Obama’s opponents are drawn to the “siren call of the angriest voices,” as Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina artfully put it. If the majority follows those voices, the Obama presidency will shoulder a sizable amount of the blame.
Is that really his fault? Did his presidency give rise to a bigoted billionaire with know-nothing followers? Part of the ugliness seems a reaction to the straitjacket of political correctness, which preceded Obama, and got worse in some corridors, mainly academia. But it may also be that the country was not ready for a transformational president; rather than sweep away the last racial barrier, his years in office showed just how deep-rooted the sentiment behind those barriers remains.
These are tricky questions, ones that cannot be answered with certainty. But give Obama, the rare politician who is prone to honest self-reflection, credit for raising the issues himself. One of the “regrets of my presidency,” he said on Tuesday, was that the “rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”
Could Obama, with that first-class intellect to go with a first-class temperament, with that pitch-perfect sense of humor, have been a better schmoozer and deal maker? Certainly. He was never very good at hiding his condescension for Republican leaders. But that party was united in a single goal — to defeat him at every turn.
This Congress is done with him. That was as clear as the blank prairie stare on the face of House Speaker Paul Ryan. What was a dysfunctional, bickering relationship is now a divorce. Call in the lawyers. Obama could propose Grandmother Appreciation Day and not get a single vote from Republicans because, well, he proposed it.
On policy, then, Obama has been a remarkable doer, though you wouldn’t know it from the curiously inept self-promotional apparatus of his White House. The swagger we saw from this president on Tuesday — saying, “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” and “if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change have at it, you’ll be pretty lonely” — was absent most of the last seven years.
But on the mastery of changing hearts and minds, the “ability to astonish and inspire,” he falls short. His presidency, as of now, has not been transformational. He has 370 more days, or thereabouts, to make a dent in a hard history.
How Progressives Can—and Must—Regain the Moral High Ground
In the South, we’re building a broad, new movement rooted in right and wrong, not left and right.
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber IITODAY 5:00 AM
National movement: Rev. William Barber (center) speaks to media at a Moral Monday rally in Albany, New York, in 2014.
National movement: Rev. William Barber (center) speaks to media at a Moral Monday rally in Albany, New York, in 2014. (Courtesy of North Carolina NAACP)
After the Civil War, when the peace had been won and Reconstruction had begun, The Nation sent a writer through the South to report on the fledgling democracy. Both the heirs of William Lloyd Garrison and the new black citizens of Dixie understood that winning the South could mean a new America. Fifty years ago, when the South stood in the throes of a Second Reconstruction, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. filed reports on the civil-rights movement for this publication. King sought not only to document the South as it was, but to envision the nation as it should be. “Throughout our history, the moral decision has always been the correct decision,” he insisted. And the struggle for that moral decision, King added, was being waged in the South.
Fifty years later, it is easy for progressives to write off the South. Whatever flag flies over them, statehouses across Dixie harbor extremists who have gerrymandered voting districts and, now freed from the Voting Rights Act, have launched a raft of new anti-voting legislation. To many liberals, these George Wallace look-alikes are precisely what the South’s new Duck Dynasty deserves. In any case, the conventional wisdom goes, the struggle for the South is hopeless.
I beg to differ. As a preacher rooted in the Southern freedom movement, I find myself strangely hopeful at the beginning of 2016. Like Dr. King, I hold this hope as a moral conviction and a practical concern. But I, too, do not hold it without attention to the South as it is.
As in America’s First and Second Reconstructions, the South is crucial—and winnable—today. It matters not only because it is a region where American democracy has been envisioned, embattled, lost, and won for more than a century. It matters also because hard data, like those outlined in a 2014 Center for American Progress report, suggest that “registering just 30 percent of eligible unregistered black voters or other voters of color could shift the political calculus in a number of Black Belt states.” In North Carolina and elsewhere, black voters now turn out at percentages rivaling those of white voters, which is remarkable given the socioeconomic realities of the racial landscape. President Obama won North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida in 2008, and only narrowly lost North Carolina in 2012. Latino turnout rises every election cycle in North Carolina. And issues like healthcare, voting rights, and public education have sparked new “fusion” coalitions. If people of color in the South can learn to utter and understand new languages, a reshaped political landscape is possible through coalitions with Latinos, the LGBTQ community, labor, and religious progressives.
* * *
The question is not whether CNN will see this, but whether progressives themselves will see it. The patches of the fusion coalition in the South lie all around us: Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, the Equality Federation, Southerners On New Ground, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, and progressive churches. But progressives and liberals must learn not to throw away the moral high ground and walk away from religious discourse. At the heart of faith is love, justice, fairness, and a measure of mercy for all people. Many people get to a social ethos grounded in love by way of ethical reasoning or political tradition. But we must not write off the millions, from Baptists to Buddhists, who get there by way of a myriad of faith traditions.
Over the past decade here in North Carolina, we have witnessed the power of moral dissent to challenge the forces of injustice. Our adversaries have hijacked the concept of morality and shifted it to such personal matters as abortion and homosexuality. But by taking back the moral high ground on issues like Medicaid, voting rights, and poverty, our Moral Mondays movement won the support of a dozen major religious denominations and rallied tens of thousands in the streets of our cities and towns.
Though Democrats narrowly lost the 2014 US Senate race in North Carolina, our coalition mobilized voters of color at record levels. More than a thousand civil-disobedience arrests kept our issues in the news, which drove opinion polls sharply in our direction. The extremist legislature’s approval ratings fell to as low as 17 percent. The South as it is demands that we learn to hear and speak languages not our own in a fusion coalition that can usher in a Third Reconstruction.
This is why progressives must learn to “speak in tongues” toward a new political Pentecost, because the issues we face in 2016 are not matters of left and right; instead, they are matters of right and wrong. What religious tradition urges its devotees to fleece the poor and destroy public schools? What concept of God informs the believer that it is right to turn hungry children away from preschool programs where they can get a head start in life and a nutritious breakfast, or to deny poor children medical care and dentistry? What Scripture permits the beating of prisoners or refuses a person a fair trial? We have a genuine moral vision, and it is time that we embraced it.
* * *
Ten years ago, I became president of the North Carolina NAACP, promising to move us “from banquets to battle.” We soon learned something important about North Carolina: There wasn’t a huge crowd standing together in any one place, but if you added up all the different groups who were standing for their justice issues, the potential base for a coalition was large.
So we sketched a list of 14 justice “tribes” in North Carolina: folks committed to public schools, a living wage, access to healthcare, environmental justice, immigrant rights, redress for black and poor women forcibly sterilized in state institutions, the public financing of elections, affordable housing, and better funding for historically black colleges and universities. We had people battling discrimination in hiring, the death penalty, and the glaring injustice of our criminal-justice system. These tribes consisted of committed people who’d been working on their issues for years. Some had been able to mobilize thousands of people for a particular event, especially when their issue was a hot news item. What could happen, we asked, if we all came together for a People’s Assembly in the state capital?
Representatives of 160 organizations showed up and identified their issues. Then we asked them to list their enemies and obstacles. Though our issues varied, we all recognized the same forces opposing us. What’s more, we saw something we hadn’t had a space to talk about before: There were more of us than there were of them.
This was the beginning of North Carolina’s moral movement. We built power for seven years, winning several victories in coalition with other progressives. We passed same-day on-site voter registration and early voting before electing Barack Obama in 2008, thereby breaking the Republicans’ “Solid South,” which national strategists had relied on since Nixon’s 1968 Southern strategy.
This victory inspired the well-financed backlash that brought our movement national attention. When Republicans spent $30 million to take control of state legislatures in 2010, we saw their plan in action: Here in North Carolina, they defunded state government through a flat tax that increased the burden on poor people while giving the wealthiest a windfall; denied federally funded healthcare to half a million people; rejected federal unemployment benefits for 170,000 workers and their families; made dramatic cuts to public education; deregulated industries with a demonstrated record of environmental abuse; proposed a constitutional amendment to deny equal protection to gay and lesbian citizens; and passed the worst voter- suppression bill that America has seen in half a century.
In response, our Moral Mondays protests emerged as the largest state-focused civil-disobedience campaign in US history, because our coalition saw that this attack on North Carolina wasn’t just about us and our well-being. As the national electorate shifts to become majority nonwhite, reactionaries who would hold onto power have decided to remake government at the state level, especially in the South. On the ground in North Carolina, we’ve seen their agenda for the nation.
* * *
We stand together because we have learned in practice the importance of our shared history. Fusion politics emerged in the late 1860s, right after the Civil War, when blacks and whites together created a new electorate in the South. They rewrote state constitutions, guaranteed voting rights, and defended equal protection under the law. Fusion coalitions expanded labor rights and pushed progressive tax reforms to build the first public-school systems and address the economic injustices created by slavery. The same fusion spirit animated movements in several Southern states into the 1890s, when white conservatives, unable to beat them at the polls, crushed them with violence.
If these extremists are cagey enough to work together, we should be shrewd enough to unite against them.
Again in the 1950s and ’60s, fusion politics took on Jim Crow segregation. Blacks, whites, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, students, and labor unions united to create a new kind of politics: Rooted in opposition to racism and poverty, the new fusion movement displayed a deeply moral center along with a commitment to nonviolent direct action. The right to vote was essential, but the movement was far larger than that, standing against what Dr. King called the “thingification” of human beings and creating what he termed a new “sense of somebody-ness.” It won legal victories like Brown v. Board of Education and legislative milestones like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. None of this would have been possible, of course, without strategy in the streets.
Fusion history teaches us to see strength in coalition. Much like the First and Second Reconstructions, the forces fighting us on voting rights, educational equality, and racial disparities in the criminal-justice system are the same ones behind the attacks on LGBTQ rights. The advocates of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and greater burdens on everyone else are the same ones pursuing a new Jim Crow through voter-suppression bills and race-based redistricting. They are the forces refusing to expand Medicaid and driving the resegregation of our public schools. If these extremists are cagey enough to work together, we should be shrewd enough to unite against them. None of us can wait until our special issue is under fire and then try to rally the people.
We must commit to 21st-century fusion politics and build a multicolored movement. “I go back to the South,” Dr. King said, and we must see that our future is down in Dixie, in homegrown, state-based coalitions. If we win even a couple of states in the region, the presidency becomes a foregone conclusion and the movement will have blossomed.
* * *
Down here in North Carolina, we have been witnessing signs of a political Pentecost that offers a way forward together for the nation. A recent Southern voting-rights conference in Durham drew young organizers from across the South. Most were activists from the Moral Mondays movement, Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, Southerners On New Ground, the NAACP, and other progressive groups. About a third of the attendees were venerable warriors from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, including Bob Moses, Dave Dennis, and other movement legends. Another third were solidly middle-aged voting-rights activists from Mississippi, Georgia, and North Carolina. And the final third were student activists, black and white.
Early on during our time together, a tension emerged when some participants dismissed Black Lives Matter in passing as “just a hashtag,” as if no “real” organizing had been going on. Certain elders also indulged the cliché that “We have the wisdom, but young people have the energy.” All of this infuriated the under-30 crowd of activists, who knew they had wisdom worthy of attention. The younger folks immediately stood up and called an early-evening caucus—young people only—and then a later session for everyone to hammer out our differences. Some thought the conference would soon break up (which wouldn’t be a first in movement meetings).
But the young people showed immense democratic poise. The spirit of Ella Baker seemed to guide their deliberations as they listened to one another closely and gave everyone a chance to speak. The conversation was as much poetry as prose, occasionally literally, as speakers cited spoken-word wisdoms and hip-hop visions. Fingers popped in acknowledgment of a point. A consensus began to form. At a later plenary, where their elders waited uneasily, the youth did some patient teaching. Dispelling any notion that energy was their lone asset, the young people turned to voting rights. Voting itself was important, they conceded, but only as part of a larger movement strategy. And the battle for voting rights had crucial consequences, they observed, but in large measure as a tool for recruitment. Only a movement could change things deeply enough.
The elders caught the spirit and recognized the power of this discernment. It was true, they said, and this was really the point. They had perhaps gotten lost in nostalgia for the voting-rights struggles of the past or distracted by the mere mechanics of the current ones. Building a movement was the point—and that could only happen by bringing together all of the pieces of our common struggle.
The spirit that emerged in that room is one we’ve seen stirring across the South. It was named well by the prophet Joel, whom St. Peter quoted at a Pentecost celebration some 2,000 years ago: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.”
The signs we’ve witnessed in North Carolina point to a fresh political wind in 2016. A deep sense of unrest drives the success of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. But the radically Pentecostal populism we’ve witnessed in the moral movement pushes us to consider the possibility of a higher ground for both parties. We’ve seen conservative preachers stand with LGBTQ activists to resist a constitutional amendment against marriage equality. Our rallies on the Statehouse lawn turned into old-style revival meetings where we came together in the most diverse gathering in North Carolina’s history, not only to celebrate our common future but also to put our bodies on the line in civil disobedience. Black, white, and brown; civil-rights and labor activists; gay and straight; rich and poor—nearly 100,000 of us marched on Raleigh together in the dead of winter. We went east and organized with a Republican mayor and the local NAACP to save a hospital in Belhaven. We went west and organized seven new chapters of the NAACP in counties that are majority Republican and nearly all white. And in the 2014 midterm elections, we defeated a number of Tea Party candidates in those western North Carolina counties where we planted young organizers.
* * *
We need this kind of moral fusion movement to build power for a Third Reconstruction. Even if morality is not your mother tongue, a Pentecostal moment means learning to speak new languages. But it also means learning to hear and understand them, seeing our common cause with sisters and brothers we didn’t know we had.
This much is certain: When the elders see visions and the young people dream dreams, something new is possible. My prayer for 2016 is that this new America might become the headline we can’t stop talking about.
REV. DR. WILLIAM J. BARBER II The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is co-author of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, published in January 2016 by Beacon Press. He is filing regular dispatches from the southern movement for racial justice for The Nation.
We hope this is true. TIME WILL TELL. Paul Ryan’s face helped the Democrats during this speech.
FROM THE NATION: 1/13/16
Barack Obama Refuses to Be a Lame-Duck President
- Obama’s final State of the Union address left no doubt that he intends to give 100 percent in the final 12 months of his second term. And he started doing so on Tuesday night.“I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse—and heroin. We just might surprise the cynics again,” he told Republican members of Congress, adding that he wanted to work on an agenda that extended “from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.”
- Obama rips a politics and an economics that is “letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules.”And he used his State of the Union address to do just that.It will only happen if we fix our politics.But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.
- What Obama was proposing was an honest debate—as opposed to one that divides and demonizes for purposes of political positioning—and he took a side in that debate.“[We] need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion.” —Barack Obama “[We] need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong,” said Obama. “The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that ‘to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.’ When politicians insult Muslims whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.”!“The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage,” Obama explained. “We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.”So it was that, while Obama detailed the successes of his presidency, he also laid out a fresh vision.
- At the heart of this State of the Union address was an argument that America can meet the challenges posed by a technological revolution, globalization, climate change, and threats to domestic and global security by recognizing opportunities to change and grow as a nation.We live in a time of extraordinary change—change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.
- That’s a grand vision, which is worthy of pursuit.This president must work with a Republican congressional opposition that has taken obstructionism to extremes. That opposition continues to seize on every opening to attack and ridicule Obama; on Tuesday, Republicans sought to exploit tensions following the brief detention by Iran of the crews of two small US Navy patrol boats that reportedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters.The better strategy is to focus on uniting the Democrats behind popular initiatives, such as a minimum-wage hike or initiatives to address the crushing burden of student-loan debt, and to take advantage of election-season jitters to convince vulnerable Republicans to do the right thing.
- The combination of a bully pulpit and an election year can be a powerful one for a savvy president, and Obama is savvy.These are the tools available to any president. But they are only of value when a president is ready to use them, rather than to slip away into a diminished lame-duck status.
- Obama’s final State of the Union address signaled a determination to use those tools. Progressive and responsible Americans should be excited by this prospect. Barack Obama says he wants to do great things in the final year of his presidency. That’s great news for everyone who recognizes that, while the 2016 presidential race may be exciting, the person best positioned to achieve progress in the country in 2016 is not a candidate. It is the sitting president, who in 2012 was reelected with a popular vote and Electoral College mandate to serve a full four-year term. A quarter of that second term remains, and Obama has indicated that he is ready to make something of it—in Washington and on the 2016 campaign trail—as a president who remains “optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
- But if it is not possible to build coalitions to do the right thing, Obama has other tools. His increasing comfort with the use of executive orders is significant, as it allows Obama to make immediate and popular policy shifts that will be hard for a successor to undo. The president should be just as comfortable using his veto power. And he should employ every opportunity to make appointments and to fight for the approval of those appointments where it is required.
- The task will be made even more difficult if the president focuses his energies on advancing the fundamentally-flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the agreement, as do many Republicans. If Obama squanders his last year trying to cobble together a coalition of corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats to vote against the best interests of working Americans and the environment, he runs the risk of creating deeper divisions—not just between parties but within them—and he might still lose the TPP fight.
- The pursuit will not be easy, however.
- America has been through big changes before—wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did—because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril—we emerged stronger and better than before.”
- In the key section of the speech, Obama said:
- While the president used a good deal of his address to acknowledge the reality of the race to replace him, he also reminded Americans that he has a year to lock in accomplishments and to initiate progress that will extend into the tenure of the next president—whether that president is a Democrat or a Republican.
- Extending on that theme, as part of a substantial discussion of foreign policy, Obama argued for diplomacy and global cooperation rather than more wars. This was not an anti-war address, but it was a speech that argued against the sort of indiscriminate and ill-thought war making proposed by the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
- The president was at his strongest when—in a clear rebuke to billionaire presidential contender Donald Trump and his fellow Republican contenders—he decried the anti-Muslim rhetoric of billionaire presidential contender Donald Trump and his fellow contenders.
- “I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut,” he said. “But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.”
- Obama acknowledged that “there are areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years — namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. And here, the American people have a choice to make.”
- The president even proposed some ground rules for the politics of 2016, arguing for voting rights, for an end to gerrymandering and for genuine campaign-finance reforms—saying that “we have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.”
- A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and imperatives of security.
- “The future we want—opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids—all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates,” said Obama, who added that
- At a point when the race to replace him is as volatile as it is unsettled, Obama cannot simply presume that he will be turning the Oval Office over to another Democrat following the 2016 campaign. As politically agile and engaged as any president in modern times—he is the first Democrat to win a majority vote in two successive presidential races since Franklin Delano Roosevelt—Obama knows that what he does in coming months could influence the presidential contest.
- The pressure to “do the right thing” is real—and immediate.
- Obama recognized that, while it is important for purposes of history and politics to reflect on what has been accomplished since January 20, 2009, it is even more important to focus on what can and must be accomplished before January 20, 2017.
- Barack Obama has finished 87 percent of the mission to which the American electorate assigned him with overwhelming mandates in 2008 and 2012. But he is not prepared to coast cautiously or quietly through the last of his eight years as president.
- President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address, Tuesday, January 12, 2016.(AP Photo / Evan Vucci, Pool)
This for Americans may not be the best time to reflect on bombing as a strategy, but here goes. Syria is being bombed by several disciplinarians, including the U.S. from time to time, but to what effect? Certainly 1 is to send refugees out in record numbers– among other factors. As background, here is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut (who knew a bit about bombing—and see/read Slaughterhouse Five); and it goes well beyond bombing as a questionable tactic:
“I think a lot of people teach savagery to their children to survive. They may need the savagery but it’s bad for the neighbors.”
And I offer this old paper/ article I wrote 10 years ago on reasons for bombing, especially by America, and especially in World War II. Those who stick it out and even Skim the article to the end shall be rewarded with a gift certificate to TARGET.
For true believers, such as Gen. Curtis LeMay, architect of bombing strategies for both the ending German and Japanese war strategies, it was all a logical if brutal solution:
“We were going after military targets. No point in slaughtering civilians for the mere sake of slaughter. Of course there is a pretty thin veneer in Japan, but the veneer was there. All you had to do was visit one of those targets after we’d roasted it, and see the ruins of a multitude of tiny houses, with a drill press sticking up through the wreckage of every home. The entire population got in the act and worked to make those airplanes or munitions of war…men, women, children. We knew we were going to kill a lot of women and children when we burned that town. Had to be done.”
“WHY WE BOMB” Frederick Shiels / Olson Project for OXFORD UNIVERSITY
ROUNDTABLE, LINCOLN COLLEGE, MARCH 2012
Following many years of intense interest in the subject of the United States’ impact on Third World countries, the events of the first three years of the 21st Century prompted me to start a systematic study of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. military actions in the 20th. These include wars, police actions, and other occupations. It might be asked: why not also study American deaths resulting from the aggression of others, such as the 9/11 attacks, Pearl Harbor, or the Lusitania sinking in 1915? This is work that needs to be done and has been done to a limited extent, and the roughly agreed-upon figure for such 20th C. fatalities stands somewhere around 4000— nearly 2000 deaths at Pearl Harbor (three fourths of the dead) were military.
Or why not study American military deaths caused by the political/ military hostility of Others? This, too, is a worthy scholarly mission , one that has been attempted, and the 20th C. death count for Americans, mainly in two World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam wars, hovers at around 500,000. The military deaths on the other sides of American wars is harder to calculate, for reasons that will become apparent. To take but one example, American battles in the two world wars and, to a lesser extent, Korea and Vietnam, were fought alongside allies. But a fair estimate for such deaths in these wars— and a very conservative estimate–would be around 4 million.– half in Germany and Japan, half in Korea and Vietnam.
For my study, civilian casualties on the other side is the preferred focus, because:
- Conservative estimates just for civilians in Japan, Germany, Korea and Vietnam would put the death toll at above 4 million,
- The killing of civilians of any sort in a military action would have been appalling to most Americans in the 1700s and 1800s with the exception of wars against American Indians,
- The killing of civilians in wars, declared or undeclared, is frowned upon in international law and the human rights literature regardless of which states are seen as having started the hostilities, and
- Americans, rightly or not, believe themselves to be” outside the curve of historical imperialism” and generally to display more sensitivity to human life and safety and welfare than, say, Germany, Russia, China or Japan, and perhaps, if one looks at Indochina and India, France and Britain.
The argument to this point is not that Americans or their government like killing foreign civilians or even that they tolerate it casually, but rather that the American government, with the tacit approval of its citizenry, has killed civilians, mostly from altitudes of greater than 10,000 feet, often with considerable planning, and intentionally, with the use of carefully designed weapons (and–less often– unintentionally).
So focusing for now on World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, we want to highlight several reasons given as justifications for treating non-military people as expendable in some measure and perhaps with some reluctance. Foreign civilians in these conflicts died in very large numbers, mostly from aerial bombs, which we will account for here, but also from chemical sprays, ground artillery fire, and as more or less innocent bystanders near the fields of battle.
One of the most horrific aspects of the World Trade Center and Pentagon killings of civilians was that they were so unexpected. No sense of danger attended the thousands of office workers heading into lower Manhattan and Arlington, Virginia on the morning of September 11, 2001. Many, though not all of the civilians in cities like Dresden, Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Nagasaki–to name a few–and Pyongyang and Hanoi and the numerous smaller towns and villages of North Korea and Vietnam did go through a prolonged awareness of danger, risk, and deprivation before meeting their ends. The loss of loved ones in firestorms and blast-collapsed structures was more or less anticipated as a possibility, sometimes over a period of years–say, 1943-45, 1950-53, or 1965-72.
The broad reasons for the killing of civilians in Germany, Japan, from bombs dropped over urban centers, might be summarized as follows:
(1) Germans and Japanese had the misfortune to live under governments, either unelected (Japan)or elected by a minority (Germany)that had launched aggressive wars in Europe and that had themselves taken millions of lives, military and civilian,
- The United States had committed several million men, mostly between the ages of 18 and 30, to extract or help allies extract several million German and Japanese military men from places like France, Scandinavia, the USSR, China, the Philippines and Korea. To shorten the war and reduce the cost in America lives, it might be necessary to sacrifice an unspecified number of civilian lives, mostly in about 80 German and Japanese cities (each). This unspecified number turned out to be about 900,000 each in Germany and Japan– these are the most conservative estimates and focus largely on the air raids during the 2-year period mid-1943 to 1945.
- A certain number of German and Japanese civilians, who perished and a similar number of those who were maimed for life, worked in factories, government offices and transportation networks vital to the Axis war effort. Also there were large numbers of doctors, postal employees, nurses, sanitation workers, firemen, and other civil personal who, while at the center of the war machine, were involved in keeping the war machine’s more active participants healthier, cleaner, safer and to be able to communicate better.
Before breaking this reasoning down, we might anticipate a powerful question from the reader or audiences.: why devote so much attention to the populace in warring states so clearly devoted to the mass killing of others and conquest by force? To answer that “two wrongs don’t make a right” would be to oversimplify in more than one way. But in any case, before moral judgments are made, any national American project involving tens of thousands of bomber crew members under orders from career officers and civilians to carry out acts that result in a loss of life roughly equaling the combined populations of Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco and St. Louis, or the entire state of Oregon OR Connecticut or Oklahoma, is surely deserving of careful study. Such investigations have been made– and some very good ones**– but mine is the only one that both focuses on civilian deaths and attempts to compare the way in which civilians died in at least seven different military conflicts.
Return to the central question of why we bomb civilians. A breakdown of reasons for the official sanction of carefully planned actions leading to large numbers of deaths and injuries can
proceed as follows:
- Following Sherman’s 1864 dictum that “war is all hell” and needs to be made as painful as possible, generations of strategists have used “Shorten The War” as a rationale for all sorts of war intensifying strategies. These have included: massive drafts to throw as many soldiers as possible against the enemy, development of terror weapons such as the machine gun, heavy naval vessels capable of devastating coastal shelling and, beginning in the 1930s, aircraft designed to drop explosives, or even deadly gas, onto masses of infantry, fortifications, and, finally, cities. In chilling words of Douhet, the Italian air-war theorist, depicting air attack:
First would come explosions, then fires, then deadly gases floating on the surface and preventing any approach to the stricken area. As the hours passed and night advanced, the fires would spread while the poison gas paralyzed all life. ** Schaffer 21, Douhet
Politicians and generals on all sides in World War II spoke longingly of shortening the war and no doubt they were sincere.* More recently, the creation of “smart” bombs and “shock and awe tactics,” especially for use against Iraq in 1991 and 2003, provide an updated strategy of using highly accurate and very noisy bombs to cow the enemy into a faster surrender, while taking world public opinion sensibilities into account.
Even before World War Two, a US Army Air Corps tactical manual regarded air attack as “a method of imposing will by terrorizing the whole population.” It was, as Schaffer puts it, vastly preferable to long wars of attrition like the First World War[cite p 27]
Proving that hammer blows against a foreign population can shorten a conflict has been more difficult. It has made intuitive sense to say that Germany and Japan might well have fought longer had they not lost so many cities and industrial cites to massive air attack. This is most dramatically illustrated in the hasty Japanese call for a cease fire after the second atomic bomb obliterated Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 and the little- known final devastating conventional bomb raid in Tokyo August 13th.
It has argued for example been argued, for example, that Hirohito’s speech coming shortly after the second atomic bomb, represented a consensus that the level of destruction had become intolerable:
[Surrender Speech by Japanese Emperor Hirohito, August 14, 1945 [five days after Nagasaki]
The surrender announcement, broadcast by radio, was the first time Japanese people had ever heard the voice of their leader.To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan’s self- preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone——the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people——the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. **
However there is also evidence that a little publicized final convention bombing raid on Tokyo, after Nagasaki on August 13, was decisive in bringing about surrender. On August 10, 1945, a day after Nagasaki, Japanese leaders still disagreed on the desirability of surrendering according to the Potsdam unconditional surrender terms. Hirohito ordered that the surrender be accepted, provided he be allowed to retain the throne. The Americans responded on August 11 that they recognized the Emperor but could not guarantee his position. All bombing was suspended pending a definitive Japanese response. When none was received, Gen. Arnold ordered the largest conventional raid of the war, with over 1000 planes, which took place on August 13th. The raid received little publicity and is little-mentioned in accounts of the war . The Emperor’s public statement of surrender (quoted above) followed the next day. It is not entirely clear whether further consideration of the implications of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the final Tokyo raid was decisive. Perhaps both together were. [See J. Smith and M. O’Connell, The Last Mission, Broadway Books, 2002]
- Save American lives– Although nobody likes a long war, Americans in particular have
placed a premium on speed and the use of machinery to shorten fighting time and perhaps transfer the human sacrifice (almost literally) that is war, from our side to theirs. High technology air and armed vehicle fighting tends to protect American– and other– combatants relative to the number of killed and injured on the other side, and the conflict shortened. It has been argued that not only American military lives would be saved and men transferred to the protection of high altitude aircraft and armored ground machines, but also, ultimately, many “enemy” lives–especially civilian–could be spared by the application of concentrated intense force.
- Make war more “merciful”- A shorter war with less loss of life would certainly be more humane, if it could be demonstrated that it could be achieved. The argument has been used, as with the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 and with the Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003. Of course such arguments are very difficult to prove: the best one can normally do is make a strong case. In the August, 1945 case of Japan, a sort of acceleration of the Japanese willingness to consider surrender occurred, first privately and then quite openly, publicly, and quickly with the Emperor’s call to end the fighting after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped on 9 August. What might be easier to establish is that shortening wars through terror bombing can take place, that the loss of life might not be reduced overall, but may be transferred from U.S. forces to foreign civilians. The term “merciful” (Churchill’s term for the use of atomic weapons was “avert a vast, indefinite butchery”) in any universal sense seems inappropriate unless there is a way of demonstrating that more American military would have died in a drawn out land battle such as the Japanese “home island” invasion envisioned for the fall of 1945.
The moral and strategic implications of these first three arguments for bombing are not simple. Even if it appears that a war has been shortened because of city-busting tactics (e.g., Japan, summer, 1945) it is very hard to demonstrate that fewer civilians would have died if the war continued with more ground fighting and less aerial destruction. Merciful to the American soldier probably, but merciful in universal human terms, probably not. A World War Two with more intense aerial attacks on German and Japanese infrastructure outside of cities, or on concentration of German and Japanese military forces, say in Russia or the South Pacific islands, would have killed different civilians, but probably smaller numbers of civilians and certainly more uniformed military. Most would agree that reducing civilian deaths in favor of military would be desirable, except that many of the military were young draftees and a number of civilians were directly involved politically or economically with the war effort. There are some shades of gray here to be reckoned with. The classic account of the debate over the “necessity” of using atomic weapons is Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, updated 1996. **
- Easier to demonstrate is that bombing campaigns dramatically reduce the production and output of “enemy” economic systems in Germany and Japan, and certainly North Korea, though to a lesser extent . Bombing damaged the North Vietnamese economy as well, although in a more limited way because of its less centralized and capital intensive infrastructure. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey published September 30, 1945, goes into great detail about the gradual destruction of German and Japanese industries by U.S. (and in the case of Germany British) bombing sorties. Preferred targets were steel, machine tool, tank, aircraft, other munitions factories and oil refineries. There were many other target categories as well. During World War Two the kind of pinpoint bombing available in the 1980s and 1990s into the Twenty First Century was not an option. When the nearly 300,000 tons of bombs were dropped over the two Axis powers between 1943 and 1945, much of the targeting was industrial and infrastructure sites. However, as other parts of this essay relate, a significant minority of bombings took out largely residential areas and an additional percentage of bombings against the war related cites, especially urban took the lives of tens of thousands of civilians as “collateral damage.”
5.A more specific and quite interesting American argument about the assault on enemy populations is that bombing civilians –literally the “inhabitants of cities”– thins out the number of industrial workers and potential soldiers, “castrating” (in FDR’s memorable metaphor) the opposition and quite literally reducing the number of future war-makers. For Roosevelt it was weakening German society by reducing the number of war-prone Germans:
We either have to castrate the German people or you have got to treat them
in such a manner so they can’t just go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past…[Schaffer 88]
Ronald Schaffer goes on to cite Robert Dallek’s citation of Roosevelt’s comments to Secretary of War Henry Stimson that:
It is of the utmost importance that every person in Germany should realize that this time Germany is a defeated nation. I do not want them to starve to death, but, as an example, if they need food to keep body and soul together beyond what they have, they should be fed three times a day with soup from Army soup kitchens…The fact that they are a defeated nation , collectively and individually must be so impressed upon them that they will hesitate to start any new war. ** [in Dallek, Roosevelt, 472-473]
- Bombing cities is more simply an efficient way of destroying industry, infrastructure and human capital. The problem with this reasoning is that attacks on cities destroyed much that was not directly involved in industrial production, although perhaps demonstrably involved in war-making indirectly: residential neighborhoods in non-industrial areas, urban targets of limited industrial value (e.g., Dresden and Nagasaki) including also schools, churches, hospitals and small businesses. An important part of the literature on aerial bombardment examines these non-industrial targets and questions the need for their destruction much as military policy-makers debated the wisdom of such targeting during the wars under consideration here. ** [Michael Sherry’s and Ronald Schaffer’s books are especially good in short sections on non-industrial “psychological” urban targets and residential areas; also Werrell]
- An early and more specialized motive for the bombing of German, Japanese, and–later– Korea and Vietnamese cities, especially toward the beginning of those conflicts, was to demonstrate the physical vulnerability of the civilian population and urban centers that could affect both popular and leadership morale. It was believed that the post-Pearl Harbor air raid on Tokyo led by Gen. James Doolittle in April, 1942 achieved a stunning morale victory for the U.S., even though damage was quite modest by later standards. Early raids on Berlin (Nov. 1941) had been costly for the British but symbolically important. These raids were suspended during 1942 (until 1943) because of the heavy anti-air defenses around the city.
- A demonstration effect for non-enemy but rival powers– this is a curious but credible perspective that notes the desire of some generals directing attacks on eastern German cities to make a statement about U.S. air power to the Soviets occupying those regions in ever greater numbers as well as to the Germans themselves. Schaffer notes that the (British) Royal Air Force bomber command was especially convinced that striking the heart of Berlin would impress the Russians with the “effectiveness of Anglo-American air power.” Schaffer quotes Air Force General David Schlatter, writing in his diary just before the Yalta conference:
I feel that our air forces are the blue chips with which we will approach the post-war treaty table and that [Operation THUNDERCLAP] will add immeasurably to their strength, or rather to Russian knowledge of their strength.” **[D.M. Schlatter Daily Diary, Jan 28, 1945, file 168.7052-5, 44/10/41-45/07/11, Alfred F. Simpson Historical Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, cited in Shaffer, p. 96]
- 9. Self-preservation for pilots-Another reason to bomb German, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese cities thoroughly was to take out industries and military installations that would endanger bombers and crews (!) Through construction or emplacement of anti-aircraft equipment: guns, fighter planes, etc. [specify which cities had such factories and installations].
- Terror bombing– related to many of the already mentioned reasons for air bombardment but worth focusing on as a special motive is the terror and morale-eroding effect of punishing air raids. This has been one of the most sensational and closely argued debates in the reconsideration of the value of city destruction, 1943-45, 1950-53, and 1965-72. In 1944 noted Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport sent out a survey, later forwarded to the Strategic Bombing Survey, asking “leading members of his profession” their views on the probable effects of bombing on German and Japanese morale. The responses reflected as much division on the question as their was in the upper ranks of the Air Force leadership.** [Schaffer, p. 90]
- Dehumanization– Related to and magnifying some of the effects of the rationale for bombing missions listed above, is the oft-commented on tendency of societies and their military forces to dehumanize the other side. This process starts with leaders: Hitler, the Kaiser, Tojo, Hirohito; extends to the enemy military forces: “Huns” “Storm Troopers” “cruel Japs” and finally, in an age of total war, to the Other Society itself. Amerindians become expendable, more modern foes need to be castrated, exterminated, etc. There is a great range of feelings within the societies: not all Germans had contempt for Jews and Slavs, too many did; not all Japanese had disregard for the lives of conquered Asians– too many did; not all Americans felt the large numbers of civilian deaths in Germany and Japan were acceptable, but many did.
There seems to be some correlation between the power and scope of “enemy conquest” and the degree to which the corresponding society is deemed evil and worthy of severe counter-blows. Racism and differentiated xenophobia, discussed below, certainly contribute to rationalizing mass counter-killing. But the success of Germany and Japan and the perceived direct threat they posed to the United States, made the massive onslaught against their cities in some ways easier than the less publicized air attacks on North Korea, and the much more criticized attacks on North Vietnam.
**This might be an opportune time for a short but needed digression from the flow of this presentation: [consider inserting this earlier in oral presentations]: by cataloguing the devastation inflicted by American bombing missions, we are not saying that the German, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese leadership and military were less than cruel or violent themselves. Atrocities abounded and excessive violence was not just “fallen into”, but carefully planned in some cases in substance if not in form and exact execution. And we are not saying that American allies do not share responsibility for helping get the U.S. involved and coordinating the attacks on enemy cities alongside the Washington leadership. The point is that the atrocities of enemies and shared brutality of Allies only partly absolves the U.S. from confronting fully the acts of collective destruction it has practiced.
- Racism and Differentiated Xenophobia– Fueling the “Anger and Revenge” motives for strikes against Japanese cities in particular was a long- standing American animus toward Asians (the “Mongol race”) and particularly the Japanese, who had never been colonized. A history of immigration restrictions, anti-Japanese laws in California, resentment in the 1930s as the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere became bigger and rougher, capped by the post Pearl Harbor internment of Japanese American civilians, raised the tolerance for total war against “the Japs.”
And when Allied prosecutors sitting in the gutted capital city of Japan in 1946 accused the country’s leaders of promoting the indiscriminate destruction of “men, women and children alike”, they still did so with little sense irony. Japan had merely reaped what it had sowed. ** Dower p. 41
This was compounded by newsreels of Japanese atrocities in China and the Philippines. The Bataan Death March would establish a public opinion climate against Japan that would give license to the fiercest air assault on any nation, including Germany, in the history of warfare before or since. It is essential to note, however, that the public opinion contempt for Asian culture and the differentness of its people predated the aggressive phase of Japanese expansion after 1931 and was reflected in US newspapers nearly 40 years before that time:
Some, like the Hearst newspapers, warned of a yellow peril led by Japan as early as the 1890s, and maintained an unwavering editorial policy of anti-Oriental polemics over the next half-century.**Dower, p. 157
In the war itself, the no surrender, no-prisoners policy of Japanese soldiers and officers in the island hopping campaigns of the Pacific reinforced the image of a people for whom life was cheap and sacrifice a given. One of many famous Japanese soldier/sailor poems reads:
Across the sea, corpses soaking in the water
Across the mountains heaped upon the grass
We shall die by the side of our lord
We shall never look back. ** [Dower 25}
Dower and other scholars have also noted that the Japanese entertained many of their own racial stereotypes of effete Westerners, including Americans, with their exaggerated noses and ears, reflected in cartoons and drawings and in the press generally.
The Pacific war has been characterized as “The War Without Mercy.” 1941-1945 was replete with surprise attacks, forced marches, torture of prisoners, island battles in which the dead outnumbered the square mileage of the island to a power of 10 or 20, aerial firebombing, and, ultimately, kamikaze and flame- throwers-in-caves attacks (Okinawa), capped off by two bombs 1000 times more powerful than any explosive ever dropped from an airplane.
The race-based analysis that the atomic bomb was used against the Japanese but would not have been against the Germans is debatable. The first A-bomb was tested in New Mexico on July 21, 1945. Had Germany still been in the war, the chances of a sizeable bomb being used against a German city would have been high. I know of no memorandum or scholarly writing that indicates that the Manhattan Project was designed for Japan only.
In addition to racial prejudice intertwining with other forms of resentment against Japan to fuel the deadly incendiary assault on its cities, there was an American public opinion history– by no means unique to this country– of what might be called differentiated xenophobia. As a relatively isolated power 3,000 miles from Europe and 8,000 from Asia, the Americans had contact over the years with foreign cultures mainly through immigrants coming into the U.S. and from foreign travel, mostly by the elite classes– at least until World War One. Although there was not the kind of distaste for foreign cultures found in, say Korea or Japan before 1870, Americans did share what might be called an Anglo-American disdain for non-white, but also in varying degrees, Latin based Cultures (American and European) and Slavic as well as Celtic cultures. This observation greatly oversimplifies, but does help explain a somewhat greater reluctance to participate in the city bombing of Germany than Japan and also the receptivity of Americans for assisting the British over the Germans. Political ideology and perceptions of who the aggressors were in the world wars thus accounts for a great deal.
- Anger and Revenge– When returning to the central question of “Why We Bomb,” we can differentiate between two genera of mid- Twentieth Century bombing: A. the use of bombs in later campaigns against North Korea and North Vietnam in which strategic and racial factors blended together to break the will of Asian communist nations that were upsetting the geo-political equilibrium sought by the United States and B. the earlier use of air attack against cities to cripple the populations of states engaged in costly wars of regional conquest, namely Germany and Japan.
North Korea had its urban landscape flattened because it tried to reunite all of Korea under its rule in 1950. No other country was involved in its real estate altering efforts. North Vietnam similarly attempted, ultimately successfully, to bring the South under its control in the late 1950s and 1960s, and the price of doing so was made higher by punitive U.S. air attacks.
In the case of Germany there was successful annexation of the Low Countries, Austria, western Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the rest of Eastern Norway, Denmark and France, with threats of conquest for Greece, Britain, and Russia by made-late 1941. The brutality of Hitler’s attacks on those societies, including civilians and particularly ethnic minorities like the Jews and gypsies and whole ethnic majorities like Slavs (the contrast between treatment of Germans and Slavs in Czechoslovakia was characteristic) is legendary: aerial bombardment of Dutch, Polish and British cities, concentration camps, execution of city officials wherever resistance was met and sometimes when it was not met. Japan’s equally unrestrained moves into China, Indochina, Malaya, the Philippines and much of the Western Pacific offended international human rights sensibilities (insofar as they were developed at the time) as well as the geopolitical status quo.
I would argue that in any war, from medieval conflicts to religious and Amerindian wars in the 16th and 17th centuries to more modern wars, strategy has been colored in varying degrees by revenge and anger for past mistakes and slights. When the townsfolk of Puritan Massachusetts torched Wampanoag villages in King Philip’s War, they did so at first tentatively and later vigorously in response to attacks on Deerfield, Springfield, and other settlements. More to the current point, when the German Luftwaffe leveled Rotterdam, and parts of Warsaw and London, it mirrored the Nazi leadership and some of the German body politic’s loathing of European neighbors that had A. humiliated the Germans after World War I (UK), B. stood between Germany and those foes (Netherlands, Belgium) and C. held substantial German populations under the rule of the Slavic kin of Russia and then the Soviet Union (Czechoslovakia, Poland). While conquests and economic motives drove part of Berlin’s war machine, the octane of the fuel that the machine was running on was heightened by feelings of settling a score, rationalized by perceived slights from London, the Hague, Brussels and the Slavic capitals to the East.
When Japan launched its assaults on China between 1931 and 1938 and then moved against Hawaii, the Philippines, Indochina, the Dutch East Indies, it was for far more than the establishment of Tokyo’s hegemony over and economic exploitation of those areas. The motives were, equally, contempt for Asian neighbors that had allowed themselves to be colonized and animus against the European and American hegemons defiling Asia. In a certain sense, when the bombs fell and shells flew and bayonets thrust, causing such agony in Shanghai, Nanking, Rangoon, and Manila, the collective contempt for lesser Asian peoples in the eyes of Japanese leaders and their soldiers was intensified by a national resentment of American, British and French slights—the U.S.’s pro-Russian mediation of the Russo-Japanese War was an early example– against the “People of the Rising Sun. “
Right after the December 7, 1941 attack, General Leonard Gerow of the Army Chief of Staff’s planning office, had noted: “Perhaps the best way to offset this initial defeat is to Burn Tokyo and Osaka.” [Cited in Sherry, p. 115, note on p. 384]
And as the war was moving toward a conclusion, top generals were mindful, in the wake of the first a-bomb attack, of how a score was being settled:
When General Leslie R. Groves , the director of the Manhattan Project, told [Gen. Henry] Arnold and General Marshall about the attack on Hiroshima, Marshall suggested that it would be a mistake to rejoice too much, since the explosion had undoubtedly caused a large number of Japanese casualties. Groves replied that he was not thinking as much about those casualties as about the men who had made the Bataan Death March. Afterwards, in the hallway outside Marshall’s office, Arnold slapped Groves on the back and exclaimed, ‘I’m glad you said that,–it’s just the way I feel.’” **[Schaffer, p. 154, also quoting Groves in Now It Can be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (New York, 1962) p. 324.
So it was, with different historical particulars, with the vast aerial counter-thrust against Germany and Japan. There was a need not simply to stop the Tokyo and Berlin juggernauts, but also to avenge the losses of innocents in the paths of the aggressors and to avenge the humiliation of London and Washington for the Blitz against London, Coventry, Liverpool, and the smashing into Pearl Harbor, Manila, and British Hong Kong, Rangoon, and Kuala Lumpur.
British pilots over Dresden and Hamburg were well aware that those targets that were contributing to the war effort that had leveled sections of London, Manchester, and Belfast and equally as acutely, had necessitated the enlistment of many thousands of British and, later, American soldiers who were dying because of German bellicosity. American pilots and bombing crews flew mass sorties that lit up Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and two dozen other Japanese cities of size with the knowledge that the targets below had spawned the soldiery that had laid waste to Chinese and Philippine cities and, far more centrally, brought hundreds of thousands of American farmers, businessmen, workers, and budding professionals overwhelmingly under 30 years of age into the path of harm and death in the Pacific.
Because most accounts of bombing campaigns stress strategy, logistics, and statistical results: square mileage of flattened buildings, targets destroyed, civilians killed and injured, there is often not a clear way to gauge the extent to which the anger of leaders and the desire for revenge may shape these campaigns and their execution. The historian is forced to rely on anecdotal evidence: accounts of generals and politicians, memoirs of pilots and bombing crew-members, and– to a very limited extent– memoranda and journalistic pieces composed by players in the drama– in World War II men like Eisenhower, Arnold, Spaatz, Kuter, and even Roosevelt and Stimson. As with all of our motivation categories for the bombing of civilian areas, it would be valuable to have these sorts of recollections to leaven “the official record”. It would also be enlightening to compare these with memoirs of British, German and Japanese bombardiers. Anger does not always bottle and age well, however, and there is no guarantee the recollections would translate what went through the minds of theater commanders, mission weary pilots and worried White House and Pentagon occupants.
CONCLUSION: AND WAS IT WORTH IT?
Here we seek to pull together the strands of motivation to engage in what must surely rank as one of the most weighty and morally debatable human endeavors in history: the destruction of several dozen cities and 4 million or so civilian lives as part of the effort to subdue four adversaries: Germany Japan, Korea and Vietnam between 1942 and 1972. The distinguished British military historian, Gen. J.F.C. Fuller, in his The Second World War, writing of the July 1943 raid on Hamburg in particular, as part of a general discussion of the bombing of German cities said:
Eyewitnesses described how the holocaust was so terrible that the air was sucked into it from outside of the perimeter of the fire. Many were suffocated or shriveled up by the intense heat. Others were drowned on throwing themselves into the canals that ran through the city. Days later, when the nearby cellars were opened, thousands were found to have perished as if cooked in an oven….These appalling slaughterings, which would have disgraced Attila, were justified on the plea of military necessity– only military objectives were attacked. In Britain, there were vindicated by the Archbishop of York, because they would shorten the war and save many thousands of lives. **[Fuller, 238]
It is widely agreed that the cost of city-blitzing was extremely high. The debate rests on whether the strategic and national humanitarian objectives achieved (save American lives) were met (by the cost extended to others) and the surprisingly difficult and closely related question, for many, of whether the cost was too high. This inward debate played itself out early within the minds of the bomber crews themselves and those who advised them:
Airmen especially criticized the long and dangerous raids on Berlin. Typical complaints in a June 1944 survey were that the city is not a military target and bombed mainly for “headlines.” and “I don’t believe in spite bombing.” Almost three quarters of veteran flyers stated they occasionally or “quite often” had undergone missions “not worth the cost.” **[Crane, 38] and
One man was only able to keep his sanity by following his chaplain’s advice to “keep it impersonal and not to focus on what happened on the ground “He rationalized that he was doing his best to hit military targets, helping shorten the war and save lives in the long run. Yet he was still troubled throughout his tour by recurrent thoughts of an incident in which he had almost hit the city’s amphitheater with an errant bomb. [ibid.]
These perspectives, it must be emphasized, still represent a small sampling, a “minority report” of doubts set against an orthodox consensus that many of the life-saving, war-ending goals were met. Our thirteen ways of accounting for city-bombing can be collapsed into four broad areas: A. “Taking lives to save other lives” B. “Help defeat the enemy by psychological and physical means” C. “The results of anger, revenge, sometimes aggravated by racism and xenophobia, and
- “Collateral damage”: that is, civilian lives lost in spite of an attempt to avoid taking them while aiming at other targets. For true believers, such as Gen. Curtis LeMay, architect of bombing strategies for both the ending German and Japanese war strategies, B & C melted together seamlessly:
We were going after military targets. No point in slaughtering civilians for the mere sake of slaughter. Of course there is a pretty thin veneer in Japan, but the veneer was there. All you had to do was visit one of those targets after we’d roasted it, and see the ruins of a multitude of tiny houses, with a drill press sticking up through the wreckage of every home. The entire population got in the act and worked to make those airplanes or munitions of war…men, women, children. We knew we were going to kill a lot of women and children when we burned that town. Had to be done. [LeMay with McKinlay Kantor, Mission with LeMay, Garden City, Doubleday, 1965, p. 384]
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, Vintage Books, 1996
Crane, Conrad. Bombing, Cities, and Civilians, U. Kansas Press, 1993
Dower, John. War Without Mercy, Pantheon, 1986
Fuller, J.F.C. . The Second World War, 1939-1945: Duell, Sloan and Pearce (NY), 1954
Keegan John. The Second World War, Penguin, 1990
Neillands, Robin. The Bomber War, Overlook, 2001
Schaffer, Ronald. Wings of Judgment, Oxford, 1988
Sherry, Michael. The Rise of American Air Power, Yale, 1987
Stokesbury, James. A Short History of World War II, William Morrow, 1980
Werrell, Kenneth. Blankets of Fire, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996
Churchill, Winston, The Grand Alliance, Mariner Books (reissue), 1986
Le May, Curtis (with MacKinlay Kantor), Mission with Le May, Doubleday, 1965
Truman, Harry S. Memoirs, Smithmark reissue, 1995
On “FOREIGN POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF CORRUPTION”
Shiels: points to ponder~ TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL lists the U.S. as 19th among the world’s countries in its Corruption Perceptions index. I’m not sure about this ranking, and whether the U.S. system of “legal corruption” (see UN Commission Against Corruption—UNCAC) “evolved” definition of corruption below). It is well and good to monitor countries for corruption and rank them (though this is subjective). Michigan historian and political scientist Juan Cole, loaded with publications—if controversial—lists 10 items that make the US one of the most corrupt countries in the world. I do not necessarily agree with all of these, but I would add some other practices, such as the handling of the 2000 election, especially in Florida. Note, by the way, that Cole is only assessing FEDERAL corruption perceptions. You can be sure that the 50 states and large municipalities engage in “Olympic Competitive” corrupt practices. Of course much good must also be credited to governments.
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL’s rankings surely have some flaws. For example they list LATVIA as 54th in corruption perception,and Cyprus as 29th.
This is laughable. At the end of this “memo” I cite a major Cyprus business publication, citing EU statistics, note that Cyprus has some major problems. I know from living in and studying Latvia that that country does have its share of questionable practices, but nothing on the scale of Cyprus (29th) or Georgia (51st).
UNCAC is the most recent of a long series of developments in which experts and politicians have recognized the far-reaching impact of corruption and economic crime that undermine the value of democracy, sustainable development, and rule of law.
They have also recognized the need to develop effective measures against corruption at both the domestic and international levels. International action against corruption has progressed from general consideration and declarative statements to legally binding agreements. While at the beginning of the discussion measures were focused relatively narrowly on specific crimes, above all bribery, the understanding of corruption has become broader and so have the measures against it.
UNCAC’s comprehensive approach and the mandatory character of many of its provisions give proof of this development. UNCAC deals with forms of corruption that had not been covered by many of the earlier international instruments, such as trading in influence, abuse of function, and various types of corruption in the private sector. A further significant development was the inclusion of a specific chapter dealing with the recovery of stolen assets, a major concern for countries that pursue the assets of former leaders and other officials accused or found to have engaged in corruption.
Top 10 Ways the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
While it is true that you don’t typically have to bribe your postman to deliver the mail in the US, in many key ways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global South suspects. After all, the US economy is worth over $16 trillion a year, so in our corruption a lot more money changes hands.
- 1. Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the US has long political campaigns in which candidates are dunned big bucks for advertising. They are therefore forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes. All American politicians are basically on the take, though many are honorable people. They are forced into it by the system. House Majority leader John Boehner has actually just handed out cash on the floor of the House from the tobacco industry to other representatives.
When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, soon thereafter French police actually went into his private residence searching for an alleged $50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the L’Oreale heiress. I thought to myself, seriously? $50,000 in a presidential campaign? Our presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars each! $50,000 is a rounding error, not a basis for police action. Why, George W. Bush took millions from arms manufacturers and then ginned up a war for them, and the police haven’t been anywhere near his house.
American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the the 1%. American democracy is being corrupted out of existence.
- 2. That politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed. Billions were spent and 3,000 lobbyists employed by bankers to remove cumbersome rules in the zeroes. Thus, political corruption enabled financial corruption (in some cases legalizing it!) Without regulations and government auditing, the finance sector went wild and engaged in corrupt practices that caused the 2008 crash. Too bad the poor Afghans can’t just legislate their corruption out of existence by regularizing it, the way Wall street did.
- 3,That the chief villains of the 2008 meltdown (from which 90% of Americans have not recovered) have not been prosecuted is itself a form of corruption.
- 4 The US military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major states. [Shiels: actually it is the next 29 states] What isn’t usually realized is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military. It is corporate welfare on a cosmic scale. I’ve seen with my own eyes how officers in the military get out and then form companies to sell things to their former colleagues still on the inside.
- 5.The US has a vast gulag of 2.2 million prisoners in jail and penitentiary. There is an increasing tendency for prisons to be privatized, and this tendency is corrupting the system. It is wrong for people to profit from putting and keeping human beings behind bars. This troubling trend is made all the more troubling by the move to give extra-long sentences for minor crimes, to deny parole and to imprison people for life for e,g, three small thefts.
- 6. The rich are well placed to bribe our politicians to reduce taxes on the rich. This and other government policies has produced a situation where 400 American billionaires are worth $2 trillion, as much as the bottom 150 million Americans. That kind of wealth inequality hasn’t been seen in the US since the age of the robber barons in the nineteenth century. Both eras are marked by extreme corruption.
- 7. The National Security Agency’s domestic spying is a form of corruption in itself, and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance, it is highly unlikely that various forms of insider trading and other corrupt practices are not being committed. If you knew who Warren Buffett and George Soros were calling every day, that alone could make you a killing. The American political class wouldn’t be defending this indefensible invasion of citizens’ privacy so vigorously if someone somewhere weren’t making money on it.
- 8. As for insider trading, it turns out Congress undid much of the law it hastily passed forbidding members, rather belatedly, to engage in insider trading (buying and selling stock based on their privileged knowledge of future government policy). That this practice only became an issue recently is another sign of how corrupt the system is.
- 9. Asset forfeiture in the ‘drug war’ is corrupting police departments and the judiciary.
- 10. Money and corruption have seeped so far into our media system that people can with a straight face assert that scientists aren’t sure human carbon emissions are causing global warming. Fox Cable News is among the more corrupt institutions in American society, purveying outright lies for the benefit of the billionaire class. The US is so corrupt that it is resisting the obvious urgency to slash carbon production. Even our relatively progressive president talks about exploiting all sources of energy, as though hydrocarbons were just as valuable as green energy and as though hydrocarbons weren’t poisoning the earth.
Even Qatar, its economy based on natural gas, freely admits the challenge of human-induced climate change. American politicians like Jim Inhofe are openly ridiculed when they travel to Europe for their know-nothingism on climate.
So don’t tell the Philippines or the other victims of American corruption how corrupt they are for taking a few petty bribes. Americans are not seen as corrupt because we only deal in the big denominations. Steal $2 trillion and you aren’t corrupt, you’re respectable.
From Cyprus Mail:
EU: corruption hindering business
…Around 55 per cent of companies in Cyprus who took part in a public tender over the last three years claim that corruption prevented them from winning the contract, the highest percentage in the EU, according to the Commission’s anti-corruption report published on Monday.
Conflicts of interest in bid evaluation were reported in 76 per cent of cases, collusive bidding in 68 per cent, abuse of negotiated procedures in 62 per cent, unclear selection or evaluation criteria in 61 per cent, and amendment of contract terms after the contract is concluded stood at 55 per cent….
- Blog post on What do we do with Inequality and what does that mean to You?This is the first of an ongoing series, with some dialogue and comment, we hope. It is are that we will take an extended passage from a journal and launch a discussion series based on this. But I encountered a rare passage from an author in MONTHLY REVIEW (not always the most vivid of progressive publications) that I found so compelling that I want the first “cut” to speak for itself. Imagine at a very practical level, what it is like to “grow up with advantages” in modern America—and without them. See how this passage captures that, and drawing implications should follow. Our source is from Michael Yates in the March 12, 2012 issue of MR, pp. 9-10 in an Article entitled “The Great Inequality,” … he quotes at length from his own book, Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012) pp.58-59… (Yates is co-editor of Monthly Review and an economist, formerly of the U. of Pennsylvania): In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where I lived for many years, there is an extraordinarily wealthy family, the Hillmans, with a net worth of several billion dollars. One of their homes, along once fashionable Fifth Avenue, is a gorgeous mansion on a magnificent piece of property. About three miles east of this residence is the Homewood section of the city, whose mean streets have been made famous by the writer John Edgar Wideman. On North Lang Street there is a row of three connected apartments. One of the end apartments has been abandoned to the elements to the rodents and drug users. This is gang territory, and if you are African-American, you do not go there wearing the wrong colors. Poverty, deep and grinding, in rampant on this street and in this neighborhood, which has one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates. Consider two children, one born in the Hillman house and another in the North Lang Street apartment. In the former there are two rich and influential parents. In the latter there is a single mother working nights with three small children. Let us ask some basic questions. Which mother will have the best health care, with regular visits to the doctor, medicine if needed and a healthy diet? Which child is more likely to have a normal birth weight? Which child is likely to get adequate health care and have good healthcare in early childhood? If the poor child does not have these things, who will return to this child the brain cells lost as a consequence? Which child is more likely to suffer the ill effects of lead poisoning? Which child is more likely to have an older sibling, just 12 years old, be responsible for him when the mother is working at night? Who will be fed cookies for supper and be entertained by an old television set? If the two children get ill in the middle of the night, which one will be more likely to make it to the emergency room in time? Which child will start school speaking standard English, wearing new clothes, and having someone at home to make sure the homework gets done? Which child will travel, and which will barely make it out of the neighborhood? As the two children grow up, what sort of people will they meet? Which will be more likely to meet persons who could be useful to them when seeking admission to college or looking for a job or trying to find funding for a business venture? Which will be more likely to be hit by a stray bullet fired in a war over drug turf? Which will go to the better school? Which will have access to books, magazines, newspapers, and computers in the home? Which one will wear worn-out clothes? Which will be embarrassed because his clothes smell? Which will be more likely to have caring teachers who work in well equipped and safe schools? Which will be afraid to tell the teacher that he does not have crayons and colored paper at home? Which will learn the grammar and the syntax of the rich? Which child will join a gang? Abuse drugs? Commit a crime? Be harassed by the police because he is black? When these two children face the labor market, which will be more productive?
To ask these questions is to answer them. And when we considered that the poor child in the United States is better off than two thirds of the world’s population, we must consider that most of the world’s people live in a condition of deprivation so extreme that they must be considered to have almost no opportunities at all. They are almost as condemned as a person on death row in a Texas prison.
Strong words? Yes. Mr. Yates would not back down from a single one of them, nor would we. Please let us know what You think.
If the Russians–Putin– join up with OPEC in cutting oil production, you may want to take your road trip sooner, rather than later.
Oil prices jumped in world markets October 5 after Russia’s energy minister over the weekend said Russia might attend an OPEC meeting to discuss the depressed state of oil prices.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the Sochi-2015 international investment forum October 3 that Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries might organize a meeting between technical specialists.
“Russia is ready to participate in discussing the situation emerging in the oil and gas markets,” he said.
It would be a first for Russia, which as one of the world’s top three oil producers has never joined or cooperated with the price-setting cartel. But today’s depressed oil prices have been crushing Russia’s economy and government revenues.
Novak’s remarks sent oil prices soaring by 2.3 percent in London trading, with Brent crude settling up at $49.25 a barrel.
“The news provided strong upside momentum in the oil market, as Russia has been thus far unwilling to cut oil production and cooperate with OPEC members to support current low crude oil prices,” said Myrto Sokou, analyst at Sucden Financial Research.
Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS
Some pretty impressive, if not perfect, info here! Pay attention, conservatives.
SEP 5, 2014 @ 03:46 PM 734,744 VIEWS
Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing
Adam Hartung ,CONTRIBUTOR
I cover business growth & overcoming organizational obstacles.
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Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today issued America’s latest jobs report covering August. And it’s a disappointment. The economy created an additional 142,000 jobs last month. After six consecutive months over 200,000, most pundits expected the string to continue, including ADP which just yesterday said 204,000 jobs were created in August.
One month variation does not change a trend
Even though the plus-200,000 monthly string was broken (unless revised upward at a future date,) unemployment did continue to decline and is now reported at only 6.1%. Jobless claims were just over 300,000; lowest since 2007. Despite the lower than expected August jobs number, America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014.
And that is great news.
Back in May, 2013 (15 months ago) the Dow was out of its recession doldrums and hitting new highs. I asked readers if Obama could, economically, be the best modern President? Through discussion of that question, the number one issue raised by readers was whether the stock market was a good economic barometer for judging “best.” Many complained that the measure they were watching was jobs – and that too many people were still looking for work.
To put this week’s jobs report in economic perspective I reached out to Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners and author of Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box (which I profiled in October, 2012 just before the election) for some explanation. Since then Polaris’ investor newsletters have consistently been the best predictor of economic performance. Better than all the major investment houses.
This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American history
Unemployment Reagan v ObamaBob Deitrick: ”President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’
“As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.
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“President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his sixth year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.
“We forecast unemployment will fall to around 5.4% by summer, 2015. A rate President Reagan was unable to achieve during his two terms.”
What about the Labor Participation Rate?
Much has been made about the poor results of the labor participation rate, which has shown more stubborn recalcitrance as this rate remains higher even as jobs have grown.
U3 v U6 1994-2014Deitrick: “The labor participation rate adds in jobless part time workers and those in marginal work situations with those seeking full time work. This is not a “hidden” unemployment. It is a measure tracked since 1900 and called ‘U6.’ today by the BLS.
“As this chart shows, the difference between reported unemployment and all unemployment – including those on the fringe of the workforce – has remained pretty constant since 1994.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject
“Labor participation is affected much less by short-term job creation, and much more by long-term demographic trends. As this chart from the BLS shows, as the Baby Boomers entered the workforce and societal acceptance of women working changed, labor participation grew.
“Now that ‘Boomers’ are retiring we are seeing the percentage of those seeking employment decline. This has nothing to do with job availability, and everything to do with a highly predictable aging demographic.
“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the eight years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”
Economic growth, including manufacturing, is driving jobs
When President Obama took office America was gripped in an offshoring boom, started years earlier, pushing jobs to the developing world. Manufacturing was declining in America, and plants were closing across the nation.
This week the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its manufacturing report, and it surprised nearly everyone. The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) scored 59, two points higher than July and about that much higher than prognosticators expected. This represents 63 straight months of economic expansion, and 25 consecutive months of manufacturing expansion.
New orders were up 3.3 points to 66.7, with 15 consecutive months of improvement and reaching the highest level since April, 2004 – five years prior to Obama becoming President. Not surprisingly, this economic growth provided for 14 consecutive months of improvement in the employment index. Meaning that the “grass roots” economy made its turn for the better just as the DJIA was reaching those highs back in 2013 – demonstrating that index is still the leading indicator for jobs that it has famously always been.
As the last 15 months have proven, jobs and economy are improving, and investors are benefiting
The stock market has converted the long-term growth in jobs and GDP into additional gains for investors. Recently the S&P has crested 2,000 – reaching new all time highs. Gains made by investors earlier in the Obama administration have further grown, helping businesses raise capital and improving the nest eggs of almost all Americans. And laying the foundation for recent, and prolonged job growth.
Investment Returns Reagan v ObamaDeitrick: ”While most Americans think they are not involved with the stock market, truthfully they are. Via their 401K, pension plan and employer savings accounts 2/3 of Americans have a clear vested interest in stock performance.
“As this chart shows, over the first 67 months of their presidencies there is a clear “winner” from an investor’s viewpoint. A dollar invested when Reagan assumed the presidency would have yielded a staggering 190% return. Such returns were unheard of prior to his leadership.
“However, it is undeniable that President Obama has surpassed the previous president. Investors have gained a remarkable 220% over the last 5.5 years! This level of investor growth is unprecedented by any administration, and has proven quite beneficial for everyone.
“In 2009, with pension funds underfunded and most private retirement accounts savaged by the financial meltdown and Wall Street losses, Boomers and Seniors were resigned to never retiring. The nest egg appeared gone, leaving the ‘chickens’ to keep working. But now that the coffers have been reloaded increasingly people age 55 – 70 are happily discovering they can quit their old jobs and spend time with family, relax, enjoy hobbies or start new at-home businesses from their laptops or tablets. It is due to a skyrocketing stock market that people can now pursue these dreams and reduce the labor participation rates for ‘better pastures.”