Connect with us

Americas

Staring into the Abyss: The Insanity is even Worse than it Looks

Published

on

“The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”-Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, in It’s Even Worse than it Looks

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] s we speak, the transition to a new administration is proceeding at full speed within the Republican party. Billionaires and generals, climate change deniers and social Darwinists of various stripes, sheer incompetents and white supremacists, have been duly selected for cabinet and advisory positions.

The CIA has been duly castigated for revealing that Mr. Putin has put his thumb on the scales of the presidential elections. The Wall Street Journal has been told by tweeting that it knows little about business. We are staring into the abyss and it appears even worse than it looks. The Frankenstein monster is ready to devour its makers: a population reduced intellectually to the level of zombies.

We may be witnessing the systematic dismantling of two hundred plus years of American democracy. There is even talk of secession. How will it be accomplished? With bullying, lies and manipulation, a willingness to say anything that conforms to their ideology, never mind the truth of facts and events; by spending unheard of sums to buy elections with the happy assistance of big business and wealthy patrons for whom the joys of gross income inequality are a comfortable fact of life. By gerrymandering and denying the vote to as many of the poor, the elderly, struggling low-paid workers, and people of color as they can; and by appealing to the basest impulses of human nature: anger, fear and bigotry.

Like the pronouncement of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984, ignorance is strength, falsehood is truth, whether it’s casting paranoid fantasies about thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering 9/11, or warning about terrorists in refugees’ ragged clothing and Mexican rapists slithering across the border. The fever is pandemic not only in the executive branch of the government but throughout the House and Senate right down to state governments. It’s a cruel and “uncivil war” against the poor and the indigent, a sorry spectacle to the rest of the world watching in bewilderment.

Even science is deniable if it furthers the party’s extreme social Darwinian ideology. While the agreements reached by the Paris climate talks could potentially mark a turning point in solving the problem of global warming, the “thought police” within the Republican party makes sure that the party orthodoxy on the subject is upheld: that orthodoxy dictates that there is no man-made global climate. A. G. Scott Pruitt, one such denier has been chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency; that’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Which in effect means that the Republicans are perfectly willing to doom the whole world. They’re in fact on constant attack against the science of climate change, with the latest salvo two House bills have already been passed undermining Environmental Protection Agency rules. It took the current president’s veto to stop them.

In a way, this is part of a long tradition: Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” was published half a century ago but it remains relevant. And if that is not insanity then nothing is. Indeed, climate-denial orthodoxy doesn’t just say that the scientific consensus is wrong. Senior Republican members of Congress routinely indulge in wild conspiracy theories, alleging that all the evidence for climate change is the product of a giant hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists around the world. And they do all they can to harass and intimidate individual scientists.

As far back as last year the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, summed up his House Republican agenda – vowing to pursue legislation that would frame a stark choice for voters in 2016. “Our No. 1 goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda,” he said. A series of retrograde ideas were put forth. Here are seven of them: 1. Reduce the top income-tax rate to 25% from the current 39%. This would be a huge windfall to the rich at a time when the rich already take home a larger share of total income that at any time since the 1920s. 2. Cut corporate taxes to 25% from the current 35%. A giant sop to corporations, the largest of which are already socking away $2.1 trillion in foreign tax shelters. 3. Slash spending on domestic programs like food stamps and education for poor districts. Already 22% of the nation’s children are in poverty; these cuts would only make things worse. 4. Turn Medicaid and other federal programs for the poor into block grants for the states, and let the states decide how to allocate them. In other words, give Republican state legislatures and governors slush funds to do with as they wish. 5. Turn Medicare into vouchers that don’t keep up with increases in healthcare costs. In effect cutting Medicare for the elderly. 6. Deal with rising Social Security costs by raising the retirement age for Social Security. This would make Social Security even more regressive, since the poor don’t live nearly as long as the rich. 7. Finally, let the minimum wage continue to decline as inflation eats it away. Wrong again. Low wage workers need a higher minimum wage.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to free Wall Street from oversight and accountability and to prevent children fleeing the Syrian civil war from coming ashore on US soil. Naturally, they will also be against gun control and Obamacare. All of these sad examples, however, are but symptoms of a deeper disease – the corruption and debasement of society, government and politics. It is a disease that eats away at the root and heart of what democracy is all about.

The opening phrase of the Preamble to the Constitution commits “We, the People” to the most remarkable compact of self-government ever – for the good of all. The Republicans, alas, are shredding that vision as they make a bonfire of the hopes that inspired it and, in the process, will reduce the United States to a third-rate, sorry excuse for a nation. They would tear the Republic apart, rip to pieces its already fragile social compact, and reap the whirlwind of a failed experiment in self-government.

For a glimpse of this kind of world pick up George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lebedoff’s The Uncivil War. They are prophetic of where Western democracy may be heading. In fact, those prophecies may turn out to be more accurate than the positivistic pronouncements of sociologists and political science experts. One begins to wonder if there is still time for a turn around, or have we reached the fatal point of no return?

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

Continue Reading
Comments

Americas

Trump’s Election Shenanigans Pale Before The Threats From Melting Polar Glaciers

Published

on

Despite Joe Biden exceeding the magic number of 270 that guarantees a majority in the electoral college, President Donald Trump has not conceded.  Does he have a plan to overturn the wishes of the electorate? 

According to Trump he did not lose, he was cheated out of a legitimate win by voter fraud and ballot stuffing.  Accordingly, he has filed lawsuits in those critical states with narrow margins of victory for Biden — so far without tangible success — to block certification of the vote and persuade Republican legislatures to overturn the state vote as fraudulent and award the electoral votes to him. 

Trump’s window of action is narrowing.  A major target state was Michigan with 20 electoral votes.  However, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has now certified Biden’s victory meaning he should get its electoral votes. 

While Trump’s shenanigans continue, the world faces a real danger of melting ice sheets and glaciers.  A long term denier of global warming, Mr. Trump now accepts it but believes the earth will right itself without any effort by humans. 

Scientists meanwhile are particularly concerned with the Florida-sized Thwaites glacier in the Antarctic.  Its collapse they fear could destabilize surrounding glaciers eventually causing catastrophic global sea level rises measured not in inches but feet. 

The glacier rises 60 to 75 feet above water across its 75 mile face.  Remembering that 90 percent of it is under gives some notion of the quantity of ice.  The Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel is conducting a survey this winter for the first time as part of a five-year international research program to learn just how fast the glacier is melting and how much it might be adding to rising seas. 

The problem is the shape of the glacier under the water and the warming waters eating away that core while the ice on top gets thicker and thicker as the glacier retreats inland.  At some point the glacier is likely to collapse of its own weight into the ocean.  Scientists who have modeled the scenario fear the process is unstoppable once it starts.  Worse it puts much of the West Antarctic ice sheet at risk of following it into the sea.  Any wonder then that Thwaites is also known as the Doomsday glacier. 

At the other pole the Greenland ice sheet had a record-breaking 2019, shedding the most ice since 1948 — an estimated 532 billion tons.  It of course increases coastal flooding along the eastern seaboard particularly the Carolinas and Florida.  Fortunately for the residents, the 2020 melt from Greenland, while well above the 1981 to 2010 average, was lower than recent years particularly 2019.

Donald Trump does not believe he lost the election and he does not believe in global warming.  Christmas is just around the corner and it’s reassuring to know he believes in Santa Claus . . . and the tooth fairy.

Continue Reading

Americas

Sino-US relations under Joseph Biden?

Published

on

President Trump, hopefully outgoing, was not an out-and-out failure for his electorate. Yet, he was shown the door.

He had many feathers for his cap. Wages among the poorest quarter of workers rose by 4.7 per cent a year, small-business confidence attained a 30-year pinnacle. By restricting immigration and outsourcing, he sliced back jobs for his natives. He blocked China at every step to pander to sentiments of the China-bashing lobby.

His faux pas was desecration of American values of decency, tolerance, truthfulness and honesty. Without proof, he declared his adversary Biden corrupt. He viewed protest against killing of a black, Floyd `an orgy of looting and left wing violence’. He saw `left’ all around, even around ballot-counting staff. 

He saw a cheat around. Pfizer with tardy vaccine-trial success announcement, the WHO chief by not naming `China virus’, and so on.

Rising-China threat

Mr. Trump was viscerally predisposed to viewing China as a looming military threat to peripheral countries, in general, and the USA, in particular. True, Mr. Biden is also viewed as an America Firster. True, China has been the fastest growing economy since 1979. Yet, it is nowhere near surpassing the USA even on one account that is gross Domestic Product, as is obvious from the table:

Country1977 ($)1987($)1997($)2003($)2008($)2019 ($ tr.)  
China843,0971,883,0273,706,6476,187,9838,908,89414.4
USA3,868,8295,290,1297,109,1758,431,1219,485,13621.44

If nothing, the new president is expected to restore an element of decency to the White House

China much behind the USA in military prowess

China trails behind the USA in terms of expenditure on its defence forces and possession of actual military equipment. Despite ongoing modernization, China spends approximately $ 5 billion in arms export far below US exports of about $ 46.5 billion. China\s sales are about 3 per cent of global sales while the USA’s are about 79 per cent.

The US has over 8,000 operational and inactive warheads as against China’s 240 mostly non- deployed.  The US has 2,000 nuclear weapons with strategic/intercontinental range compared with China’s twenty. US have sixteen ballistic missile submarines compared with China’s one, and more than 1000 US nuclear cruise missiles, compared with none for China.

The US has ten aircraft carriers plus one under construction attached to the Fifth and Seventh Fleet. China currently has two aircraft carriers, with a third in early construction, and a fourth planned for sometime in the mid 2020 or 2030s. Their first carrier, the Liaoning was commissioned by the PLAN in 2012, though it was first laid down in the early 1990s.

China’s critics

China critics in the USA are not monolithic. They have many shades including `Engagers’, `Realists’, `Duopolists’, ` China Lead’, `Declinists’ and so on.

The `Critics’ have an un-reconcilable antipathy toward China because of its repression of a wide spectrum of human rights (religious, labour, media and ethnic minority).

The `engagers’ look up for a common ground with China as a matter of national interest. The `engagers’ are optimistic that globalization, economic interdependence and rules of multilateral trade will lead to democratrisation in China.

`Realist engagers’ are convinced that China has learnt lessons from the collapse of former Soviet Union about the dangers of imperial overstretch. As such, China understands the realities of the current international system and limited capacity to change it.

`China Duopolists’ believe the USA and China could cooperate to bring into being a Chimerica (G-2), being the two most important countries.

The `China lead’ school believes China is already on the verge of replacing the USA as the world’s number-one power.

The `Declinists’ believe that demise of the US global leadership already occurred as `Washington consensus’ has been replaced by `. It is now Beijing, not Washington that is dictating new rules to govern the international economy.

Joseph Biden belongs to the `America Firster’ School that China can’t replace the USA as number-one, even if it tries to. After visiting China, Biden wrote `the United States has nothing  to fear from China since it is far ahead of China in size of the economy, per capita income, scientific innovation, and educational excellence among other indicators’ (Biden, China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise, New York Times, September 7, 2011, online ed.).

Global Leadership

At present, China lacks the soft and hard power to supplant the USA.  To do so, China needs to:

(a) Command loyalty of the majority of the countries.

(b) Initiate, innovate and articulate policies, programmes and activities, including dispensing rewards and punishments.

(c) Being a `model’, worth emulating, of values, culture, language, laws, and social and political practices.

(d) Excel in soft-power resources such as educational and public-health systems

Inference

Biden is being welcomed as a whiff of fresh air, though he has no magic wand to change the climate and trade atmosphere.  He has promised to rebuild America’s decrepit infrastructure, spend more on health and education, and ease immigration. .  He has pledged to raise tax on firms and the wealthy.

He is no revolutionary though his policies are tilted to the left of what Trump did.

His job is to re-unite fractious American democracy. He is supposed to shun the personalized style of his predecessor’s rule, scorning decency and truth.

If Mr. Trump exits with grace, Joe’s job would be easier. If Trump makes transition difficult for Biden, the democrats may do tit for tat to Trump. Deprived of immunities, Trump’s tax accounts would be exposed to public scrutiny. And action by enforcement.

Joe understands China better than his predecessor. But, it remains to be seen how the USA would set right the topsy-turvy alliances that Trump had interwoven.

It would be hard for Biden to ignore the plight of minorities in India and the `imprisoned’ Kashmiris. Joe would have to balance strategic interests against conniving at human rights violations.

Continue Reading

Americas

Not Going Back

Published

on

Blessings!In America and in so  many other nations in the world, we have come to the point of not knowing the difference between  truths and falsehoods. What is even more disturbing, too many don’t care about either truth or falsehood as long as my side wins,as long as I benefit,as long as my prejudices are justified. Thus not a few of us  believe and say falsehoods as if they are truths without caring how the lies are hurting others as long as I get what I want be it power, ego gratification,or confirmation of my point of view no matter how absurd or delusionary.

We Americans have been able to easily slip and slide into a society where we no longer care what is true or false as long as we have whatever it is our way sparked by partisan tyranny coming at us from so many sides since we have always been a society like this.From the colonial roots of America to these present times ,we have weaved and embraced myths and lies about who we are and who others are and have used such deceptions to justify notions and structures of domination  and subordination. We have hidden the greedy dirt of wealth and power and buried the human rights of the poor, of women, and of those of oppressed made races under piles of rubbish pseudosciences and everyday degrading stereotypes about those who are different from ourselves or even when  such dehumanizing stereotypes are about ourselves as a pathetic type of internalized self hatred.We have fought wars with the blood of the least among us and have built magnificent cathedrals, universities, skyscrapers, and transcontinental transportation lines through cheap if not enslaved labor and have not said more than a few mumblings about such  historical  grotesque exploitations.We have grown up assuming the theft of Native lands was manifest destiny and that the enslavement of Africans was not all that bad and in fact was a good thing saving those torn from their homelands which we were taught to assume were uncivilized jungles. 

Some of us feel it is still ok to think, if not say that women are just good for the kitchen and making babies and that differently able people have no human rights like job entry and promotion let alone decent education.

We forger or just don’t know  the Electoral College was created to keep  Presidential elections out of the hands of the people,that is, the popular vote thus under the thumb of elite power selection. And now we have seen what happens when that system of elite power of Presidential election can be circumvented by a calculating tyrant.

And then the media  of today helps us be amazed in our learned ignorance and taught illiteracy when the dirty laundry of this nation rises to the surface in the four year nightmare is coming to a messy transition end with lies and tales being told on the way out with enablers who used to be our gatekeepers and protectors along with gullible supporters about to be orphaned. 

Yes, we Americans are a great people but need to come clean about our societal sins.Yes ,we are known for our kindness towards other nations but need to be kind to each other at home we never talk to since we are taught they are above or beneath us. Why not have decent means of healthcare ,education, and economic well being distributed to everyone rather than such means given to the rich and otherwise privileged like Congress, Military, and Corporate America while not even peanuts to the middle class and especially the poor?  

We need a President in a White House who speaks to these truths and does so boldly since four years of nightmare has torn off the societal scab of festering wounds  in sore need of  authentic deep cleaning and healing rather than politically correct smiles and cosmetic gestures in the guise of feel good public policies which do nothing to get out the puss and really heal us from too long infections.

That is,rather than pretending what we have seen and experienced  in this four years nightmare which  has made a degrading circus out of  U.S.Presidential governance and its disgraceful ending as being   unprecedentedly un-American,let us for once go to the mirror and face and tell  the truth no matter how painful. What we have and are experiencing with all the lies and delusions from those in polarized partisan offices we used to trust, is just the blatant  public side of what this country has been always all about.It took an aging spoiled rude  child man  now pouting and kicking and screaming in the White House to teach us that about what America is really all about– maintaining White Supremacy no matter the cost ;the  waste of human talent through the dehumanization of nonwhite  human beings; and catering to the needs of the wealthy while ignoring or justifying the minimization of the quality of life of the under-priviledged.

The question is after the pouting  man with orange hair finally leaves the House either voluntarily or Secret Service eviction on January 20, what will we see by the next occupant of the White House? More of the same old America just of a different partisan ice cream flavour or the transparencies and truths we need to be as a democracy for real thus where decency and equality for all prevails rather than as a nation for a privileged few and a pack of delusionary falsehoods for the rest of us? 

The  festering wounds of America, from the weaknesses of our Presidential governance traditions and policies so easily manipulated by are tyrant to our archaic elections system to systemic racism to the disgraceful  resistance to universal healthcare  and income are now public news for the rest of the world not only we Americans to see. No going back to the good old days which were never good anyways if you were poor,a female, or had non-white skin or ancestry. There is no turning back or turning around, no more sitting on the fence and putting the wet finger to the wind to see which way it is blowing to decide on which direction to turn and go. No more relative morality,all inequalities are wrong and must be rooted out. This is the America the next President of the United States faces.Prime time is finally here.Playful cosmetic and evasive and denial time is finally over for America,for the world.  This is the reason for the historical voter turnout and why the opponent won and hopefully he understands that since we are not going back to sit and waddle in our wounds as a nation   always there now in the open air.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Environment1 hour ago

ADB, Indorama Ventures Sign $100 Million Blue Loan to Boost Recycling

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL) signed a $100 million financing package to reduce...

Development3 hours ago

Global leaders to shape the Davos Agenda ahead of ‘crucial year to rebuild trust’

The Davos Agenda is a pioneering mobilization of global leaders to rebuild trust to shape the principles, policies and partnerships...

EU Politics6 hours ago

G20 leaders united to address major global pandemic and economic challenges

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and President of the European Council, Charles Michel, represented the EU...

Tech News7 hours ago

Digitalization: key to implementing an inclusive and sustainable economic model in Latin America

Latin American manufacturing has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with significant decreases in industrial production, intra-regional...

Middle East9 hours ago

World Powers Must Address the Nexus of Iran’s Terrorism and Diplomacy

On coming Friday, a high-ranking Iranian diplomat will stand trial in Belgium along with three co-conspirators in a terrorist plot....

Defense11 hours ago

European security becomes a matter of the EU only

A rift between the U.S. and the E.U. in the military sphere has become wider. On November 22 the U.S....

Eastern Europe13 hours ago

The new border geopolitics of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Azerbaijan

Borders are spatial-political phenomena that have a prominent importance and place in the global political sphere because they have divided...

Trending