US politics

Do The Nordic Codetermination Moonwalk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/08/2018 - 5:29pm in


US politics

I am amused.

Thus, Kevin D. Williamson:

Senator Warren’s proposal entails the wholesale expropriation of private enterprise in the United States, and nothing less. It is unconstitutional, unethical, immoral, irresponsible, and — not to put too fine a point on it — utterly bonkers.

Yglesias points out that this is obviously false.

Williamson responds to Yglesias (while being careful not to link to Yglesias): “property rights would be diminished by the adoption of Warren’s plan.” That is, there would be wealth redistribution.

How could Yglesias not see that saying the first thing was just saying the second thing?

“It isn’t a difficult thing to understand, unless you have an investment in failing to understand it.”

How did The Atlantic fail to snap this prize up when they had the chance?

Decoding the Deep State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/08/2018 - 8:31pm in


Law, US politics

Robert Litt has a piece in Lawfare, which probably deserves some further attention, if only because smart people seem to be misinterpreting it:

I’ve never met Litt personally, but I’ve some idea of his modus operandi, from other research (he played a significant role in negotiations that Abraham Newman and I discuss in our forthcoming book on transatlantic battles over homeland security). His primary objective throughout these negotiations was to ensure that intelligence agencies could continue to do what intelligence agencies do, with a minimum of outside interference. That, I am pretty sure, explains the Lawfare piece. He isn’t handwringing about norms- he’s going to bat for the people who he used to work for.

The argument of the piece isn’t aimed at the general public – it is aimed at Brennan and others who may get their security clearances revoked by Trump in the coming days and weeks. And while the piece is rhetorically framed as an attack on Trump, it is really a warning to Brennan et alia – that if they take Trump on directly in the law courts, they will compound the damage that Trump is doing (as Litt sees it). Litt’s argument is the following:

For years, courts have declined to review the merits of security clearance determinations … Even when Congress established protections for intelligence whistleblowers, it provided only for administrative, rather than judicial, review. … In revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, President Trump has undercut this position. As Judge Gregory Katsas recently noted in a concurring opinion in Palmieri v. United States, “whether a plaintiff can seek to undo the denial or revocation of a security clearance, based on non-frivolous constitutional challenges” has not yet been definitively determined. And it’s hard to imagine a stronger constitutional case than the president has just handed advocates of judicial review. So far as is apparent, there was no process at all, let alone due process, or even any consultation with intelligence agencies in stripping Brennan’s clearance.

I don’t know whether or not Brennan intends to challenge the revocation of his clearance in court. There are good reasons not to, including the burdens inherent in litigation and the fact that he likely has little need for the clearance. But if he does, he should have little difficulty in persuading a court that his clearance was revoked in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment right to criticize the president. That will then squarely present the issue of whether courts are powerless to prevent such abuse of the clearance system—and the result may be that the president’s control over security clearances, long jealously guarded, will have been weakened as a result of one president’s tantrum.

Again, while the direct criticisms are aimed at Trump, the implicit message is that Brennan, if he takes legal action, will very likely damage presidential power and the independence of intelligence agencies. His action will oblige courts to straightforwardly confront an issue that they have been able to avoid in the past – whether or not there is a constitutional need to balance the ability of the presidency to control the security clearance and classification system against people’s First Amendment rights to say what they want. Furthermore, any legal action by Brennan would present the argument in ways that would make it more likely that the judge would rule for Brennan’s First Amendment privileges, and against the president’s authority. This action would have the former director of the CIA as the plaintiff. Public statements by Trump make it clear that there wasn’t, in fact, a plausible national security rationale for revoking Brennan’s clearance. All of this would mean that the judge would be far less likely to defer to the national security interest of the state, and the unique ability of the administration (which has access to classified information) to determine what that interest should be.

This – and now we are getting to what I imagine Litt’s motivation for writing the piece to be – could create a quite dangerous precedent, as far as intelligence agencies are concerned. The mention of “intelligence whistleblowers” is not just a random example. It’s dropping a strong hint that a judgment that says that First Amendment rights can trump the intelligence community and executive branch’s judgment could set a precedent that would be built on, in other situations where the First Amendment and intelligence needs are in conflicts. Future Edward Snowdens could find themselves in a significantly stronger legal position – and we’d never want that to happen, would we.

Unlike some people on the left, I’m basically OK with a tactical alliance with people in the national security establishment, insofar as there are shared political interests. Trump is a disaster across many dimensions, and you look for allies where you can get them. But you should also be clear about the places where your interests and the interests of your allies diverge. Litt’s piece implicitly highlights a very sharp divergence of interests. I can see why Litt might object to court actions that could strengthen free speech at the expense of the intelligence community’s autonomy. I can’t see why this is a likely problem for the left, or for genuine liberals either.

It’s Not Just Carbon Dioxide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/08/2018 - 6:59am in

A consensus seems to be emerging that climate change has begun exceeding its natural variability, and that accelerating global warming is something to be feared.  What makes me think so?  Accounts of widely-shared experiences on the front pages of the newspapers that I read: forest fires; melting ice; famine, flood, and drought; ecosystem collapse and species loss. The Economist’s cover ten days ago was, “Losing the War against Climate Change.”

What can we hope to do about it?  It’s hard to tell, since, at least for the present, it seems only one problem among many: trade wars, international rivalries, urban-rural disparities, even arguments about the nature of truth.Yet many ways of narrowing differences exist, beginning with, as noted, the great but sometimes dangerous teacher of experience.

I’d like to suggest that we pay special attention to another mechanism.  I think someone, not me, should carefully examine and compare the coverage that climate change receives from the three major American newspapers, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, with other nations and other languages soon to follow.

There is, obviously, a wide divergence in treatments of these issues. For example, the Sunday magazine of the Times last week devoted an entire issue to a 30,000- word article accompanied by striking photographs of various disasters, titled “Thirty years ago, we could have saved the planet.” Meanwhile, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, arguing that Trump administration deregulation policies were “improving consumer choice and reducing cost from health care to appliances,” celebrated the decision to freeze corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards as “Trump’s Car Freedom Act.”  The two issues are not tightly connected, the editorial argued, offering a crash course in the microeconomics of auto-emissions regulation in a dozen paragraphs.

The Times magazine was especially striking.  Nathaniel Rich, the author, writes, “That we came so close, as a civilization, to breaking our suicide pact with fossil fuels can be credited to the efforts of a handful of people, a hyperkinetic lobbyist and a guileless atmospheric physicist, who at great personal cost, tried to warn humanity of what was coming.”

Of the story’s heroes, the lobbyist, Rafe Pomerance, seemingly had been born to his role: “He was a Morgenthau – the great-grandson of Henry Sr., Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire; great-nephew of Henry Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary; second cousin to Robert, district attorney for Manhattan,” The physicist, James Hansen, had been the first to raise the alarm, as lead author of a Science paper, in 1982, then, forcefully, before a Senate hearing in the heatwave summer of 1988.  Rich’s story has its villains, too: White House chief of staff John Sununu and Office of Management and Budget director Richard Darman, who together blunted a drive to cap carbon emissions during the George H. W. Bush administration.  And of course there is the author himself; the son of former Times columnist Frank Rich and HarperCollins executive editor Gail Winston. I don’t know about the three novels Rich has published, but a previous article in the Times Magazine, about the history of a Dupont Co. product called PFOA, for perfluorooctanoic acid, was awfully good.  This new article is divided into two chapters, with all the years since 1989 compressed into a short epilogue. My hunch is that they are drawn from a book in progress.

Rich’s article elicited a response from WSJ columnist Holman Jenkins, Jr., “Fuel Mileage Rules Are No Help to the Climate.”  Incorporating the arguments of the paper’s editorial more or less by reference (he probably wrote it), Jenkins disparaged Rich’s attachment to international climate treaties that “by their nature would have been collusion in empty gestures.”  He scolded him for failing to note that “the US has gone through umpteen budget and tax debates without a carbon tax — which is unpopular with the public, but so are all taxes – ever being part of the discussion.”

That seemed to be jumping the gun, given that Rich’s magazine article so clearly seemed part of a longer account.  Perhaps later Rich will get around to the issue of quotas vs. prices as a way of limiting carbon dioxide emissions.  Still, I was glad to see Jenkins bring up what seems to me to be the central issue of what can be done to curb global warming.  He blamed “the green movement” for “hysterical exaggeration and vilifying critics” for the failure to obtain widespread support “the one policy that is nearly universally endorsed by economists, that could be a model of cost-effective self-help to other countries, that could be enacted in a revenue-neutral way that would actually have been pro-growth” (as opposed to a presumed drag on it). t

I’m not so sure that the Greens, or even the Democrats, are mostly to blame. It’s true that the WSJ has periodically published op-ed pieces propounding carbon taxation – for instance, here. But if the paper’s editorial board has taken the initiative in arguing that global warming is a serious threat and that urgent measures are required to combat it, I haven’t noticed. Jenkins wrote, “A carbon tax remains a red cape to many conservatives, but in fact, it would represent a relatively innocuous adjustment to the tax code. It could solve political problems for conservatives (who want a tax code friendlier to work, savings, and investment) an as well as for liberals (who want action on climate change.)”

I was among those who were disappointed when the Times a year ago discontinued the position of its public editor. To that point it had been the leader among newspapers employing news professionals to plump for high standards of public discussion. Other papers rely on columnists (like Jenkins) to augment debate. and preserve a semblance of even-handedness. Newspaper discourse is a little like an ongoing series of judicial proceedings. Acting as advocates – reporters, for readers; editorialists, for publishers – obey different rules to summon experts to support their pleadings. A seminal event in the saga of global climate study occurred sixty years ago when the US established a carbon dioxide observatory atop a volcano in Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Who will establish an equally disinterested project to monitor major emissions of newspaper hot air — the Times magazine piece, the WSJ editorial page — on the topic of global warming?

The post It’s Not Just Carbon Dioxide appeared first on Economic Principals.

Voter Fatigue: Why Brenda from Bristol wouldn’t complain if she knew what Americans have to put up with.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/08/2018 - 1:14am in


US politics

Someone on Westminster Hour this week, discussing the idea of a people’s vote, mentioned the poor British voter who won’t be grateful to be drawn back to the polls for yet another vote. Brenda from Bristol was cited.
[UPDATE: in the first comment below Russell Arben Fox points us to this much better piece by the late Anthony King which says the same things and much more…]

Well, they should try living here. I voted this week in the primaries. I voted in only three of the races—Governor, State Assembly, and (because my wife was hovering over me and pressed the button herself), Lieutenant Governor (whatever that is—and I should add that I spelled it wrong 7 different ways before finally looking it up). But there were plenty more races, some uncontested (I don’t vote in uncontested races, unless I feel strongly negative about the candidate, in which case I write in the name of my most distinguished former colleague). Here’s a list of the other races:

Attorney General
Secretary of State
State Treasurer
US Senator
US Congress
County Sheriff
County Clark of Circuit Court

I have to vote again in November in the general election.

Every year we have one or two school board elections—primary, and general (in the spring—there are 4 elections per year in even years, and two a year in odd years).

Here’s a selection of other positions for which there is a primary, and a general, election (some are in the spring, others in the fall):

County Excutive
County Board member
City Council membet
School Board member (2-3 per year, all at large, which ensures very limited ideological diversity, but not, I’m afraid, high levels of expertise either about education or about politics).
State Supreme Court
District Attorney
Some other judgeships
Some other sheriff-like positions
Some others that I can’t be bothered to look up, because if you haven’t got the point by now they won’t help.

Just to make it more difficult to make a reasonable judgment, more than half the races above are ‘non-partisan’ in my State. “Non-partisan” does not, of course, mean non-partisan; what it means is that no party affiliation can be recognised on the ballot paper itself, so that voters cannot use that piece of information to help them make their choice. Voters are, if they are responsible, expected to find out about every single candidate in all these races. In non-partisan primaries, the two top candidates go forward to a general election, unless one candidate got a majority of votes, in which case that candidate is the outright winner, despite the fact that voting turnout in primaries is known to be very low.

And then there’s the point that Seth Ackerman makes in the quotation contained in Corey’s previous post:

In the United States, the law basically requires the Democrats and the Republicans to set up their internal structures the way that the government instructs them to. The government lays out the requirements of how they select their leaders and runs their internal nominee elections, and a host of other considerations. All this stuff is organized by state governments according to their own rules.

Parties can’t have official candidates at all in ‘non-partisan’ races. In ‘partisan’ races the State organizes the nomination process and effectively opens it up to non-party members—I can contribute to the candidate selection in whichever party I choose, despite not being a member of any of them. This is important because it makes the nomination process readily influenced by money. What prompted this post is that, in the primary for Governor, government control of the nomination process is particularly vicious this time around. 8 candidates are on the Democratic primary ballot. A responsible voter will have tried to figure out which of the 8 has the best function of being able to beat the incumbent and being able to be a good Governor. I’m reasonably attentive to politics in my state—surely more so than most voters?: I can rule out 2 or 3, and have a preference among the others, but it is not a carefully reasoned preference because I have a job, a family, and sometimes like to enjoy some leisure. Oh, and there are hundreds of other races for me to learn about. If the Democratic Party were a normal political party that got to select its own candidates, it would institute a Borda Count, in which I would put my (unreasoned) preference top, and leave off the three who definitely shouldn’t be the candidate. If I were a member of the party, that is: as a non-member, I wouldn’t, in fact, participate.

But I’d still have a large number of elections to vote in for which I can’t gather relevant evidence. Brenda from Bristol should count herself lucky if she gets a people’s vote.

The Fog of Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/07/2018 - 11:10pm in


US politics

Regulators in Berlin plan to block the Chinese acquisition of a German company under a tough new “critical infrastructure” law, according to the business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. The sale of Leifeld Metal Spinning, a Mittelstand machine tool manufacturer with customers in the aerospace and nuclear industries, would be the first transaction prevented under a measure passed after a Chinese appliance maker bought Germany’s largest maker of industrial robots, in 2016. The Financial Times picked up the news

EP has no way of knowing, but the guess here is that at least the timing of the decision was a consequence of the truce declared last week in Donald Trump’s trade war with the European Union.

From its start, broad bipartisan support in Washington for strong protectionist measures has been understood to be grounded in anxiety about China’s technological progress. Trump’s chief strategist is US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a long-time critic of Chinese industrial policy. Xi Jinping’s “Made in China 2025” plan has touched off alarms in European capitals as well.

The issue has been obscured by President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to launch a two-front war, lashing out at European, Canadian and Japanese allies with steel and aluminum tariffs, and threatening new taxes on imported cars.

Like any global conflict, Trump’s trade blitzkrieg has been difficult to follow.  I read four daily newspapers, and I gain much from each of them.  I share The New York Times’s indignation at virtually every aspect of the Trump administration, so I enjoy their full-throated denunciations of the president and his team. On the other hand, I expect political divisions to continue after Trump leaves office, so I appreciate the level-headed mix of stories and their play in the first section of The Wall Street Journal (the editorial pages mostly get my dander up).   Most cunning in moving the broad story forward has been The Washington Post, even before adding two leading reporters to its staff, Devlin Barrett,  formerly of the WSJ, and John Hudson, of Buzzfeed.

But on the topic of trade, the Financial Times beats the others hands down. It’s not just world trade editor Shawn Donnan, whose dispatches are regularly a day or two ahead of the rest. Here is his recent “Big Read” piece, part of an ongoing FT series about the competition between the US and China over artificial intelligence. (The WSJ’s Greg Ip has a slightly different angle.) The FT’s columnists – Martin Wolf, Edward Luce, Philip Stephens, John Thornhill – are more closely attuned to trade policy as well.

The US trade war with China is missing a widely-recognized  casus belli. The Soviet Union’s success in launching its Sputnik satellite, in 1957, beating the US into space, sparked a vigorous response. The creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency were established within a year. In Education and Military Rivalry, Philippe Aghion and Torsten Persson studied expansions of mass education that tracked military threats in Europe in the nineteenth century and in a much larger sample of countries in the years after World War II.  The National Defense Education Act of 1958 created thousands of PhDs in emerging fields.

Yet neither Trump nor the Republican-led Congress is proposing any such galvanic responses to Xi’s “Made in China 2025” program. Instead, the president has begun a trade war that so far has succeeded mainly in threatening to put big agriculture on the dole.  The Republicans have passed a tax bill exacerbating already deep divisions between the states.  Meanwhile Trump is waging a campaign not so much anti-intellectual as anti-fact. It keeps crowds coming to his rallies, but it is disastrous way to confront an external threat. Instead, try the careful review of the last twenty-five years of China policy byWSJ veteran Bob Davis for a start.

This much is coming clear.  The fog of war is bad enough.  The fog of Trump is worse.

The post The Fog of Trump appeared first on Economic Principals.

The Man with the Two-Storey Brain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 12:52am in

Since Holbo is encroaching on my territory by writing about Dark Web Intellectualism, turnabout is fair play. Paul Krugman’s knowledge of science fiction is vast and impressive. Still, I can’t imagine that when he tweeted this:

he knew that he was invoking one of the great (if sadly little known in this Age of Bronze) recurring characters from 2000AD’s Tharg’s Future Shocks. Alan Moore’s Abelard Snazz was the Man with the Two-Story Brain, or, as we’d say today, a Very Stable Genius, who specialized in handling “complex problems with even more complicated solutions.” For example – Snazz’s More Robots Less Crime approach, as described by Wikipedia:

On the planet Twopp, crime is so rampant that even the Prime Minister, Chancellor, and Commissioner are robbed down to their underwear on their way to visit double-brained, four-eyed “Mutant Supermind” Abelard Snazz, President of Think, Inc. The officials of Twopp ask Snazz for a solution to the planet’s crime problem. Snazz’s answer is to create a race of giant police robots, heavily armed and programmed to make unlimited arrests. Snazz is hailed as a genius by his sycophantic robot assistant, Edwin. Unfortunately, the police robots are so efficient that they arrest all of the criminals on the planet, and continue to fill out their arrest quotient by arresting citizens for minor offences, such as breaking the laws of etiquette, good taste, and grammar. With everybody getting arrested, the officials return to Snazz for help. Snazz creates a race of giant criminal robots to keep the robot police busy, thus saving innocent people from being arrested. However, the perfectly matched conflict between the robot police and robot criminals creates an all-out war which kills scores of innocent bystanders. After another visit from the officials, Snazz’s latest solution is to create a race of little robot innocent bystanders to suffer in the humans’ stead. This saves the people from harm, but it also leaves the planet Twopp overcrowded with robots. The humans abandon the planet, and when Snazz announces his idea of building a giant robot planet for them, the enraged officials have had enough and eject Snazz and Edwin into outer space.

Wikipedia fails to mention the arrests of children for removing the “do not remove” tags from mattresses, which particularly impressed me as a child. Still, the proposal for building a giant robot planet is pretty good.

The Two Putins

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/07/2018 - 6:59am in

As shocking as anything that Donald Trump said in Helsinki last week was Vladimir Putin’s emphatic claim that “the Russian state has never interfered, and is not going to interfere, into internal American affairs, including election processes.”

Just as there are two NATOs, there are two Vladimir Putins.  When US policy didn’t change during his first eight years in office, Putin changed his own.  Gradually he became an antagonist – and a demonstrable liar.

Much of what I know about the Russian president I owe to Steven Lee Myer’s biography, The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin (Knopf, 2015), which, despite its tendentious title, is a first-rate book.  During seven years in Moscow for The New York Times, Myers lost all sympathy with his subject, and, by the end of the book, regards him as a little more than a megalomaniac, returning to the presidency in 2012 “with no clear purpose other than the exercise of power for its own sake.” That much, I think, is pretty clearly mistaken. But the bulk of Myers’s sensitive and extensive reporting permits the reader to reach a conclusion independent of the author.

As an officer in the KGB in the 1980s, watching the Soviet Union begin to fall apart, Putin learned much about the virtues of credibility. He was, for instance, unusually candid in the campaign manifesto, “Russia at the Turn of the Millennium,” that he published on the eve of replacing Boris Yeltsin at the end of 1999. Russia’s economy had shrunk by half in the 1990s, he wrote; it was a tenth the size of the United States, then a fifth the size of China. Fifteen years of robust growth would be required just to reach the level of Spain or Portugal.

For the first time in the past two hundred [or] three hundred years, [Russia] is facing the real threat of slipping down into the second, and possibly even third rank of world states. We are running out of time to avoid this.

Putin took office as a conciliator, eager for economic integration with the West. He was the first to offer assistance to the Bush administration after 9/11. He did not object to a US base in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan to support the invasion of Afghanistan. He journeyed to Texas to visit George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch.

A series of disappointments followed. NATO continued a second round of expansion, admitting seven nations, including Lithuania, Latvia and Eastonia, former republics of the Soviet Union.  Putin flew to Germany and France to join them in their opposition to the invasion of Iraq, without success. The US quietly supported the Orange and Rose Revolutions – westernizing movements in Ukraine and Georgia, and bruited those nations eventual entry into NATO.

Perhaps the most decisive development came when Chechen hostage-taking left 400 dead in the north Caucasus city of Beslan in September 2004. Afterwards, Putin blamed the US for failing to work closely with Russia in cracking down on Chechen rebels.  All were terrorists in Moscow’s eyes; in Washington’s opinion, some were moderates with legitimate aspirations to independence.

Putin spoke out strongly in February 2007 in a speech to a security conference audience that included several American grandees.  The New World Order with “one master, one sovereign,” was increasing tensions, not diminishing them. “Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions” were causing more deaths than  the bi-polar world that had existed before 1989, he said.

The next developments are familiar. A short war with Georgia in 2008 designed to emphasize its Finlandization in Moscow’s eyes.  President Obama’s appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  The Arab Spring and NATO’s intervention to remove the Qaddafi regime in Libya.  The beginnings of civil war in Syria. Putin’s decision to replace Dimitri Medvedev as president after the latter served a single term. Clinton’s support of election protests, and, above all, the events in Ukraine in 2014 that led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Even then, Putin relied on the reputation he had built for candor, starting with  “Russia at the Turn of the Millennium.” The emotionally-charged speech to both houses of the Russian parliament announcing the annexation of the Crimean peninsula was analyzed and annotated by the BBC.  It stands up well as an act of persuasion to those who grant Moscow’s right to a Monroe Doctrine of its own. Even the pretense of the “little green men” who stage-managed the referendum by which Russia obtained the consent of the locals seems to fall within the penumbra of truth-telling. Nations aren’t expected to disclose orders of battle when going to war.

It was the downing of a Dutch airliner by missile in eastern Ukraine that marked Putin’s departure from Western standards of credibility.  The Russian government denied any role in the in incident, in which 298 persons perished, but investigators concluded that only a senior Russian military commander could have ordered the sophisticated anti-aircraft system deployed to Ukraine.

It was the same thing again last week when Putin denied that the Kremlin had sponsored a massive campaign of digital theft and political tinkering with US social media in 2016. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Clemson University researchers had discovered that Russian operatives had spun out 18,000 tweets, at the rate of a dozen a minute, on the eve of Wikileaks’ first disclosures of emails stolen from Clinton’s campaign manager.

It’s not that Russian interference changed the election.  If any last-minute gambit was decisive, it was the incipient mutiny in the FBI’s New York office, for which former US attorney and New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani served as the mouthpiece.  It’s that the Russian invasion of digital discourse was a flagrant violation of previous norms.  Presumably it arose from exasperation; undoubtedly it made matters worse.  But there is no reason to think that it changed the result of the election.  The fact remains that Trunp won, 304 to 227 votes in the Electoral College. There will be another election in little more than two years.

Apparently Trump hoped to return home from Helsinki with a written Russian promise that the government wouldn’t encourage or even allow such trespassing again, starting with the mid-term elections. “There was the idea that if Trump brought home such a guarantee, he would be seen as having scored a victory,” an unnamed Russian lawmaker told Demetri Sevastopulo and Kathrin Hille  of the Financial Times. “But the proposed text amounted to an admission of guilt.”

Twenty-seven years after the end of the Soviet Union, Russia and the United States are once again foes. This time the valences are reversed.  The US is the expansionist power. It is Russia promulgating a doctrine of containment. Both nations are led by men who cannot be taken at their word. US overreaching is not likely to continue indefinitely, any more than did Soviet behavior the last time around. But this much is already clear. Putin is a major figure in the history of his country.  Trump is slowly being disowned by his.

The post The Two Putins appeared first on Economic Principals.

Would be/Wouldn’t be

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/07/2018 - 5:43am in


US politics

The Death of Stalin and the Trump administration have plenty in common.

Negative Dialectics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/07/2018 - 9:26am in

“The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative,” “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”

That’s not even a double-negative.

In other news, scholars have decided Wittgenstein meant that whereof he could not speak, thereof he would not be silent. Hamlet meant that is not the question. Heidegger wants you to know that nothing does not nothing. (Repeat: does not nothing.) Also, it turns out there is a typo in Nietzsche’s The Gay Science:

341. The heaviest weight. – What if some day or night a demon weren’t to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine. ’ If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you want this again and innumerable times again?’ would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for no thing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

That clarifies Nietzsche on Eternal Return pretty good. Any questions?

The Two NATOs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/07/2018 - 12:00am in

“Disastrous,” was how the Financial Times yesterday described Donald Trump’s visit to Europe. Were you to extend Trump’s influence indefinitely into the future, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the bedrock of US foreign policy for the past seventy years, would be finished.

If, on the other hand, Trump is repudiated in 2020 – my guess is that he will be – the future of NATO depends on what happens in the Congressional elections of 2018 and 2020, and the presidential elections of 2020 and 2024.

That means the discussion of NATO can go forward, at least tentatively, pretty much without reference to Trump’s boorish behavior in Belgium and Britain last week. That future has relatively little to do with whether member nations will spend more of their gross domestic product on defense.

There are, in fact, two NATOs.  The first was cobbled together in a hurry in 1948 in response to a Soviet-sponsored coup in Czechoslovakia and the blockade of Berlin.  The second emerged, starting in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first was shepherded into existence by Harry Truman.  The second was created by Bill Clinton.

When the Berlin Wall was dismantled in 1989, the reunification of Germany, a key US foreign policy objective in the years since the end of World War II, was suddenly within reach.  First, however, the question of the possibility of a unified Germany’s status within NATO had to be resolved. In exchange for assurances by the administration of George H. W. Bush that NATO would stop there, “would not move an inch” farther east, Russian leaders assented and the armed forces of the former Soviet satellite switched sides.

President Bill Clinton didn’t feel bound by any such promise.. Clinton had visited the Soviet Union in 1970 as a graduate student and had formed his own ideas.  He named as Deputy Secretary of State his roommate from those days, former Time Magazine Moscow correspondent Strobe Talbott, and quietly prepared to offer membership to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which by then were actively seeking it.

As Clinton’s intention became more widely known, senior figures in his administration, including Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and his deputy William Perry, warned privately of a “train wreck” if NATO enlargement proceeded.  Foreign policy intellectuals of both parties, led by Cold War strategist George Kennan, and including Senate Armed Services Committee head Sam Nunn, arms control negotiator Paul Nitze, and Senator Bill Bradley, went public with their opposition in 1996, on the eve of the formal vote.

Clinton and Talbott were undeterred. After the re-election of Russian president Boris Yeltsin, planning began to offer NATO membership to seven more former Soviet satellites: the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, plus Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia (now separated from the Czech Republic), Macedonia and Slovenia.

George W. Bush replaced Clinton in 2001 and, after 9/11, proceeded with the expansion that the Clinton team had planned, while also invading Afghanistan and Iraq. After the Bush administration quietly supported the “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, and, the Russians believed, withheld key information about separatist terrorist activity out of sympathy with Chechen independence aims, Russian president Vladimir Putin protested strongly against American’s “unipolar” ambitions in a speech to an international security meeting in Munich in 2007. The next year, Russia briefly went to war against Georgia to make his point.

The Obama administration carried on with NATO enlargement after 2009, overseeing the admission of Croatia and Albania that the Bush administration had planned, adding Montenegro to the list, and bruiting the possibility of membership for Georgia and Ukraine. In 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Putin’s reelection to a third term as president, enraging him. In 2013, her successor, John Kerry, supported a second “color revolution” in Ukraine. Those events then led in March 2014 to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

This second version of NATO is often lumped together with the first. Enough time has passed that veterans of the Cold War are aged; the policy-makers who would have succeeded them had George H.  W. Bush been re-elected in 1992 have been mostly on the sidelines for twenty-five years. Architects of the second NATO dominate the mainstream news. Thus talk show host Rachel Maddow last week introduced Victoria Nuland as “one of the most experienced American diplomats walking the earth.”

In fact Nuland began her governmental career by as Strobe Talbott’s State Department chief of staff for several years. She became Vice President Dick Cheney’s advisor in the Iraq war, served for four years as NATO ambassador, before becoming State Department spokesperson for Hillary Clinton and, eventually, Assistant Secretary for Europeans and Eurasian Affairs. It was Nuland who, while passing out cookies to demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square, was taped by Russian operatives declaiming to the American ambassador “F- the EU[’s]” wishes with respect to the resolution of the crisis. Today she is chief executive of the Center for a New American Security.

Will Trump figure in the future of this narrative?  Not much, as long as he isn’t re-elected to a second term. With respect to the future of NATO, there is no alternative to waiting to see how his presidency turns out – and re-examining the history of US-Russia relations while we do. Sonorous stories about the Berlin blockade, the Cuban missile crisis, and the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union are no substitute for well-informed debate about the second NATO.

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