Friday, April 29, 2016

Galeotti on Putin's preparations to stay in power forever

Prof. Mark Galeotti -- in Moscow! -- is brilliant on how an ageing, increasingly isolated, paranoid dictator with no way out except jail or the morgue is consolidating police-spy power around himself, and substituting regular army troops for expendable mercenaries, as Putin prepares his gov't. to overreact and "break heads" to head off any popular riots -- a Russian Maidan. Will the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution be the trigger?
And there's the truism that Western observers always have trouble with, yet Galeotti oft repeats: In Russia, money is a "symptom" of power, not vice-versa like in the neoliberal West. In Russia money could be gone tomorrow; whereas power can get money or whatever money can buy whenever it wants. So Russia is beyond oligarchy. It's hard for us Westerners to conceptualize.
Everyday Russians expect their leaders to be corrupt, Galeotti argues, therefore, the Panama Papers were a big yawn for Russians. It's the corruption "in their face" that bothers everyday Russians. And so for now Russians don't make the connection between everyday corruption and Putin's regime. For now.

War College
By Jason Fields
Reuters | April, 29, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016

Is the U.S. alone against ISIS?

This old semi-satirical article from The Atlantic disturbed me:

Defeating ISIS: The Board Game

I read this and ask myself, who is our ally against ISIS?  Nobody.

(Granted, this was before Russia entered the picture; but it's surprising how little Russia changed things in the regional calculus).

This started by asking myself, why is our #1 ally in the Mideast, "the only democracy in the Middle East," Israel, not helping us against ISIS, at least not openly?  I read the news; I read nothing about Israel in the fight against ISIS.

This thought alone disturbs me.

It disturbs me even more that countries in the region don't see ISIS as the biggest threat, but rather their neighbors, or homegrown groups.  Or the Kurds, whom Russia and the U.S. love to love but can't really support too much, because of Turkey.

What disturbs me the most, I guess, is that the world's #1 military power seems to care a lot about ISIS while all the countries where ISIS actually exists don't seem particularly bothered by it.  

It bothers me when I'm feeling manipulated. I don't like being jerked around. I think that's what's going on with ISIS.

THUNDERCLAP! Fox acknowledges class struggle

Without a moment's pause for reflection, Donald Trump has done a cannonball into the cesspool of U.S. neoliberal consensus politics. He's upset the still, fetid waters with his bloated, self-unaware orange corpus and in reaction conventional politicians and pundits are floundering, saying and doing things you would never see or hear them do otherwise, when everybody sticks to the script.

Such was the case yesterday with far-right political pundit Charles Krauthammer on the O'Reilly Factor.

Mark this moment: tried-and-true conservative Charles Krauthammer said that class and (lack of) education were central to Trump's appeal and the U.S. Presidential race.

He said, beautifully, that the GOP is already a party of whites, so Bill O'Reilly's adducing "white grievance" was irrelevant to the GOP primary contest.

Krauthammer said that Trump has tapped into something else.

If a Democrat would have said this on any other Monday, FOX would have shrieked "class warfare." But this was no ordinary Monday, no ordinary GOP primary. And sometimes, a little bit of the truth squirts out when you bite into a bullshit sandwich.


P.S. -- The bullshit bread of this truth sandwich was Krauthammer's assertion that we don't know how to address lack of education and opportunity in America. No, we know plenty. Just listen to Bernie Sanders. Step 1: Educate, train and heal American workers without putting them into a lifetime of debt. Step 2: Stop giving tax breaks and trade deals to multinational corporations (MNCs) that are nominally American yet do most of their production, and pay most of their taxes, overseas, and then "import" their products into America. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Apple.