In response to the devastating floods in the Balkans, where they’ve received 3 months’ rain in 3 days, (Making California and most of the Western US Jealous), the US Government is on the alert for the perpetrators.
They’re not looking at the Koch brothers (and other climate change deniers), oh no, they are completely innocent and this was no “extreme weather” event. It’s much more sinister.
I’d like to address some things that I think may be going wrong in Washington D.C. and offer some solutions as I see them. This is also happening at the state level and should have a similar message to them. Who I am doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter if I’m a man or a women. It doesn’t matter what race I might be or my political affiliation. The problems I feel that need to be addressed, most crucial at this time like no other in the past century, have nothing to do with political interests or interests specific to one person. The only identifying thing you need to know about me is that I am a citizen of this country and my concerns are the concerns of America. Read More
People joke about President Obama’s abilities at eleven-dimensional chess. I think that Obama has a long-term strategy, more understandable than eleven-dimensional chess. I also think that it’s quite different from much of what passes for strategy in political Washington.
Obama came into office in January 2009 with an enormous number of problems facing the country. He had been dealing with the financial crisis since his election. That crisis was, in a way, the culmination of the financialization of the American economy, which, along with tax and other policy, had hollowed out prospects for the middle class. The country was stuck in two wars that had very little to do with its national interests. Other aspects of the “War on Terror” that damage the perception of the US abroad and damage civil liberties at home persisted long after any utility had disappeared. North Korea had demonstrated nuclear weapons, and Iran was engaged in pursuit of technology that could make nuclear weapons possible for them.
Perhaps the most difficult problem Obama faced, though, was an apathetic electorate and media that depicted that president as the only political actor in the country. Democracy can’t work without the participation of the people.
Obama would have seen that apathy before, as a community organizer. Poor communities are often demoralized or do not know how to fight for what they need. The organizer’s job is to get citizens active in helping themselves. This involves many things: educating citizens on their rights and ways to go about changing their circumstances, which would include the political process; and encouraging the citizens to take action on their own behalf. Read More
China’s meteoric rise to global economic power has come at a dire cost to human rights, says artist Ai Weiwei. While onlookers in the West are dimly aware of the massive relocations, political corruption, widespread worker riots, and environmental disasters that have accompanied China’s astonishing recent growth, Beijing’s control of Chinese media has made the extent of these problems difficult to ascertain. Ai Weiwei, named “most powerful artist in the world” of 2011 by ArtForum magazine, has made it his mission to confront Beijing’s corruption and hypocrisy at home and on the international stage. It has earned him police beatings, extended detention, tax persecution, and the silencing of his popular blog and Twitter account, yet he continues, undaunted. Here, in a Big Think interview at his Beijing studio, Ai Weiwei discusses the challenges China faces to becoming a truly “great nation.”
For Americans following the Israel-Gaza conflict through mainstream television news, Sunday marked a welcome departure from the frequent unbalanced analysis that has long prevented any meaningful understanding of the situation. MSNBC’s Up With Chris devoted a lengthy segment to the conflict with a guest lineup that actually lent itself to an informative and balanced conversation about the escalating conflict.
(Originally posted by openDemocracy, republished under a Creative Commons license)
The US elections are now over, but crucial foreign policy decisions remain on the table. Foreign aid was hardly discussed in the US presidential elections, and neither Romney nor Obama said whether American assistance should still be funnelled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
This neglect is unfortunate, given the current global backlash against externally supported NGOs. The time has come for western and international donors to reconsider the way in which they support human rights, democracy, gender equality, and other liberal causes in the developing and former Communist world. Supporting liberal NGOs can be useful, but it must be done carefully and modestly, lest it undermine the same agendas it seeks to promote.
The assumption is that the more Iranians suffer, the more their leaders will feel the pressure and either change course or be overthrown in a popular uprising. And yet, there is no evidence to suggest that this is probable, and the Iraqi case suggests the opposite. During the U.N. blockade, Saddam was able to blame foreigners for the nation’s suffering, and ordinary Iraqis—those who might have been expected to show discontent at his misrule—grew more and more dependent on the rations he distributed. Furthermore, America’s insistence that an end to sanctions was conditional on Saddam’s departure removed any incentive he might have had to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. In 1997, he stopped doing so, with the results we all know.
This time, the U.S. is at pains to show that the Islamic Republic will gain a life-saving reprieve if it falls in with U.N. resolutions calling on it to stop enriching uranium. If that happens, Hillary Clinton said in October, sanctions might be “remedied in short order.” But Iran’s supreme leader dismissed her words as a “lie.”
Khamenei and those around him believe that sanctions policy is part of a bigger American project of Iraq-style regime change. There is some logic to this; recent western tactics against Iran include sabotage, assassination and diplomatic isolation—hardly indicative of a desire for detente. The most recent round of nuclear negotiations foundered, in part, on Iran’s growing conviction that the U.S. will make no significant concession on sanctions unless Iran drastically scales down its program of uranium enrichment. That seems unlikely to happen–not simply for reasons of image and prestige, but because, as American hostility sharpens, Iran may judge its nuclear program to be the best defense it has against the fate that befell Saddam.
By sunrise the next day, it was clear to Romney that they had acted too quickly. The campaign learned that four Americans had been killed in an attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Even to some Republicans, Romney’s hasty statement looked insensitive.
“We screwed up, guys,” Romney told aides on a conference call that morning, according to multiple people on the call. “This is not good.”
His advisers told him that, if he took back his statement, the neoconservative wing of the party would “take his head off.”He stood by it during an appearance in Florida. Two days later, Obama traveled to Joint Base Andrews to meet the four flag-draped coffins.
What you are going to see over the next week is an overt effort by Democrats to politicize the issue of disaster response. They’re right to do it. Conservatives are already complaining about this, but the attempt to wall disaster response off from politics in the aftermath of a disaster is an attempt to insulate Republicans from the consequences of their policies.
Funding for FEMA is something the parties wrangle over, with Republicans pushing to limit the agency’s budget, and Democrats pushing back. FEMA has to fight for its share of a constricted pot of money for domestic non-entitlement spending, a pot of money that the Republicans propose to radically constrict. How radically? Romney’s budget promises require shrinking domestic non-entitlement spending as a share of the economy by about two-thirds.
The Republican proposal to eviscerate this wide array of public functions is one of the underdiscussed questions of the election. Republicans have defended it using a very clever trick. They don’t explain how they would allocate the massive cuts to all these programs. When President Obama explains what would happen if those cuts were allocated in an across-the-board fashion, Republicans scream bloody murder. And when any single one of those programs enters the political debate, they can deny plans to make any specific cuts: They won’t cut education, they won’t cut support for veterans, and so on.
The GOP is the party arguing for splurging on a long vacation at the beach rather than repairing the roof. Naturally, they want to have this argument only when it’s sunny and never when it’s raining. There’s no reason to accommodate them.
As Scott Lemieux (h/t) rightly notes, “Policies have consequences… . It’s “political” to point this out, but not in any negative sense.” Sandy has highlighted (and further widened) the measurable gap between the respective policy platforms of the Obama & Romney campaigns relating to critical federal infrastructure and crisis management resources. And no amount of frantic Etch-a-Sketching (nor simian-esque shit-flinging from the sub-literate wingnut fringe) will damn that hemorrhagic fissure.