Posts from our progressive community

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 17:57
Here, on how the Wall government has Saskatchewan on the road to the same post-truth politics that laid the groundwork for the spread of fictitious "news" and Donald Trump's election.

For further reading...
- Dan Tynan, Craig Silverman and Terrence McCoy are among those who have reported on the development of a new strain of false media aimed purely at supplying the confirmation bias demanded by Trump supporters. 
- Tabatha Southey commented on the problem with public demand for fabricated news. And Rachel Giese discussed how Facebook's actions to enable or monitor posts from false news sites could affect Canada as well, while Van Jones warned that we're not immune from a Trump-style campaign.
- Finally, for a look at how the Saskatchewan Party government has handled the factual employment data supplied monthly by Statistics Canada, this search shows how the truth has been buried by what should be a neutral source of information when (and only when) it says absolutely nothing that can be spun for Brad Wall's benefit. And the single press release from this year shows how far Wall will stretch to try to claim some political advantage: of particular note, see the conspicuous lack of any mention of the year-over-year losses by industry which effectively match the cited gains.

Clinton By Two

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 16:13

Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump in the popular vote by more than two million and they're still counting.

If Greg Palast is right, there are millions more that were disqualified by Republican skulduggery. In his mind there's no doubt, none, that this election was stolen.

Remember "Snakes and Ladders"?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 14:41


Well, Americans should brace themselves, for their future holds a lot more snakes and damn few ladders.

I have long been convinced that the American public and, to a lesser extent, our own have been groomed, conditioned into a state of powerlessness. Fake news and the corporate media cartel have been instrumental in leaving Americans divided, confused and incapable of discerning their own best interests.

I cannot think of a society as riven as that of today's America. They are burdened with suspicion, anger and paranoia; divided along generational, political, ethnic, religious and economic lines among others. This has eroded their social cohesion, facilitating the theft of both their economic and political power. That step, in turn, has created the requisite conditions to permit first political capture and then regulatory capture.

Political capture was achieved when wealthy and powerful interests succeeded in insinuating themselves between the voting public and those they elected to represent them. The result has been America's "bought and paid for" Congress of the past three decades.

Regulatory capture, the payoff for succeeding at political capture, was showcased during the Bush/Cheney regime years when representatives of regulated industries were appointed to run the agencies empowered with regulating those same industries on behalf of the American public.

Lincoln warned of "a house divided." America's house today is all that and much, much more.

I have never known of a society remotely as politically illiterate as modern America's. They are truly Gullibillies, happily swallowing the diet of rich horseshit shovelled down their throats and always coming back for seconds.

America has long since ceased being a democracy. The Gilens (Princeton) and Page (Northwestern) study released by Princeton in 2014 chronicled that. Now that political and regulatory capture have taken hold, liberal democracy has been displaced by an early form of illiberal democracy. The public still votes but their votes don't matter. This paves the way for the next step - the transition to outright oligarchy. Trump may be a catalyst.

The American people will decide their fate. They will either rise up and cast out the money lenders from the temple, i.e. the neoliberals both Republican and Democrat, to permit a restoration of progressive democracy or they must submit to an era of economic and political feudalism, 21st century style, and acquiesce to the powerlessness of serfdom. Either way they'll probably be met by state violence and lesser forms of coercion.


Use Your Words

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 14:29
This, courtesy of our friends at Raw Story:

(function(d, s, id) { if (d.getElementById(id)) return; var js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//cdn4.wibbitz.com/static.js"; d.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].appendChild(js); }(document, "script", "wibbitz-static-embed"));Recommend this Post

When the President Does It, That Means It Is Not Illegal.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 12:35

Takes you back, doesn't it? Back to the days of Richard Milhous "Tricky Dicky" Nixon. It came up in the Frost-Nixon interviews.



Flash forward to 2016. Now we have the Giant Orange Turd channeling the worst of Nixon.

At a Tuesday lunch with the New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump said several things. He said that Breitbart is “just a publication.” He said that his son-in-law could make peacebetween Israelis and Palestinians. And, when asked about whether or not his past (or present) business activity constitutes a conflict of interest, he said, “The law’s totally on my side. The president can’t have a conflict of interest.”
As Trump sees it the law is "totally on my side" because, when it comes down to it, he is the law.

The A, B, C's of Dictatorship

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 12:27

Harvard prof and Foreign Policy columnist, Steven Walt, has a thoughtful essay, "10 Ways to Tell if Your President is a Dictator."

My fears about Trump’s foreign policy have always been two-fold: that he might pursue a more sensible grand strategy but do it incompetently, thereby weakening America’s international position, or that he will eventually get co-opted by the foreign-policy establishment and repeat the Blob’s most familiar mistakes. Based on some of his early appointments — like Islamaphobe Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security advisor — we might even get the worst of both worlds: unrealistic goals pursued ineptly.
But if you live in the United States, what you should really worry about is the threat that Trump may pose to America’s constitutional order. His lengthy business career suggests he is a vindictive man who will go to extreme lengths to punish his opponents and will break a promise in a heartbeat and without remorse. ...Nor does he regret any of the revolting things he did or said during the campaign, because, as he told the Wall Street Journal afterward, “I won.” For Trump, it seems, the ends really do justify the means.
Walt continues to list 10 warning signs ordinary Americans should watch out for after Trump takes over on January 20th. It's a long but worthwhile read. Follow the link above.
I've been pondering whether Trump might inadvertently do what the moribund Democrats have persistently failed to achieve? Could Trump mobilize the American left? How would it happen? Would it be left versus right? Might America fracture on generational lines - angry old white folks on one side, everyone else on the other?
Trump may unintentionally bring down the very power structure he now thinks he owns, creating the conditions by which he and his order are run out on a rail of unrest. He wouldn't have to check off many of professor Walt's 10 boxes to empower and energize a resistance determined to toss out their mostly corrupt government, Republican and Democrat.




Another One

Northern Reflections - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 06:26

Crawford Killian voices the frustration that many of us who spent our lives in the classroom feel in the wake of the American election:

As a lifelong teacher, this really alarmed me. After all, I’d spent over 40 years trying to teach students to be critical thinkers with well-tuned bullshit detectors, able to detect a bogus argument and counter it with solid evidence. I wasn’t alone; critical thinking is built into the B.C. curriculum, and no doubt the curricula of most American schools as well.

Yet here was a president-elect who was a living, breathing repudiation of what teachers dedicate their lives to. It’s bad enough to get panned on RateMyProfessor.ca, but Donald Trump’s triumph really rubbed our collective nose in our failure. A teenage Trump would have been the class clown in any school in North America, and promptly flunked. Instead he has flourished through a long life and many wives and bankruptcies. Now he’s proved that anyone, indeed, can become president of the United States of America.
Searching for an explanation of Trump's triumph, Killian returned to the work of Jean Paul Sartre and Theodor Adorno, two survivors of Nazism:


Reading Sartre again in 2016, I found him unpleasantly timely: “The rational man groans as he gropes for the truth; he knows that his reasoning is no more than tentative, that other considerations may supervene to cast doubt on it. He never sees clearly where he is going; he is ‘open’; he may even appear to be hesitant.

“The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith; at the outset he has chosen to devaluate words and reasons. How entirely at ease he feels as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. …

“[Anti-Semites] know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. 
There are echoes of Neal Postman there. And Theodor Adorno spent a lot of his time researching the authoritarian personality:

“Hitler posed as a composite of King Kong and the suburban barber,” a projection of the fantasies of his followers.

“Hitler was liked,” Adorno argues, “not in spite of his cheap antics but because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning.” So he could shout the unspeakable things that his followers had long thought, including the prospect of sadistic cruelty against the enemy.

Seen in that light, Hitler’s raving and Mussolini’s strutting were strictly show business, a way to market violence. They were also literally irrefutable. The late historian Tony Judt noted that “The fascists don’t really have concepts. They have attitudes.” You can’t debate an attitude.
Again, more echoes of Postman.

History has had its share of dangerous clowns. We are now going to have to live with another one.

Image: The Guardian

Donald Trump's Monstrous Thanksgiving

Montreal Simon - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 06:01

WhoWhatWhy

Donald Trump is spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago castle, no doubt surrounded by his court of bigots and other deplorables.

And he's urging his people to unite and support him so he can make America great again.

But they would be crazy to do that, because they have nothing to celebrate.

And this Turkey Day in America couldn't be more monstrous.
Read more »

Rick Mercer on Kellie Leitch's Race Baiting Campaign

Montreal Simon - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 04:05


With every passing day Kellie Leitch's absurd attempt to be Canada's Donald Trump is looking more desperate and pathetic.

She's been getting a lot of free publicity, and doing her best to sound like Trump...



But it's not getting her anywhere. Only three members of the Con caucus support her compared to eighteen for Andrew Scheer.

And one of those three is Peter Van Loan...
Read more »

I Stand With Standing Rock #NoDAPL!

The Regina Mom - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 22:08

the regina mom is more than a little concerned about what’s going on in North Dakota. Indigenous people who witnessed the graves of their ancestors being dug up so that a pipeline can cross a river, a pipeline that will endanger their water and the water supply for millions downstream, are being terrorized.

The brutal and barbaric attack by a militarized police force acting on behalf of the failing and flailing oil and gas industry was over the top! the regina mom watched the live feed coming in  on Sunday night.  When she heard the police defending it, saying they didn’t use water cannons or grenades, that they were putting out fires, she was enraged!  And now a young woman may lose her arm because she supported the water protectors, was there praying with them.  Not only are there witnesses to the grenade attack but there’s also video footage.

There’s also this, from Wab Kinew, a musician, author, broadcaster, educator and an NDP Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Canada.  He reminds us all that the action taken by the Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock is a spiritual one.  A spiritual one.  In their cultural and spiritual traditions, water is sacred.  Mni wiconi.

“Traditional Indigenous people do not see Standing Rock as activism. For people who have heard the words ‘mni wiconi’ since birth, this is simply answering the call of duty,” Kinew said.

He added that while everyone may not agree on how to fight climate change, the situation in North Dakota is a “powerful lesson for us in how not to pursue reconciliation.”

On Saturday, November 26 at 3 pm CST the regina mom will Pray With Standing Rock.  From Wikipedia:

Prayer (from the Latin precari “to ask earnestly, beg, entreat”)[1] is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication.

For the regina mom prayer is poetry, meditation, and song.  She invites you to join in the global prayer in your own way.  Register at praywithstandingrock.com so that they have an idea of the numbers, read the great information they have posted there, and keep abreast of ongoing activities at www.facebook.com/unify.

Mni wiconi

 


Wednesday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 14:14
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roy Romanow writes about the dangers of focusing unduly on raw economic growth, rather than measuring our choices by how they actually affect people's well-being:
At the national level, the picture that emerges over the past 21 years is a GDP rebounding post-recession but Canadians literally continuing to pay the price. From 1994 to 2008, the living standards domain rose 23 per cent. Then it plummeted almost 11 per cent and has yet to recover. Gains made on reducing long-term unemployment and improving the employment rate were lost. Income inequality is rising. And, despite increases in median family incomes, millions of Canadians struggle with food and housing costs. When living standards drop, community, cultural and democratic participation follow suit. Surely, this is not our vision of equality and fairness in Canada.

(Canadians) were hardest hit in the leisure and culture domain, which declined by 9 per cent overall. We’re taking less time enjoying arts, culture, sports — even vacations — the very activities that help define us as individuals. On the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial, household spending on culture and recreation is at its lowest point in 21 years.

To begin to narrow the gap, we can build on strengths, such as the education domain. Since domains are highly interrelated, we know that when more people graduate from high school and university, there is a positive effect on health and on almost all aspects of social, economic, and community participation. Strength in community vitality shows Canadians feel they belong and readily help one another. Collectively, we sense that action is required. There is growing support for forward-thinking programs, such as basic income and upstream health care approaches that tackle well-being issues at their roots. - Neil MacDonald highlights some of the obvious problems with the Libs' plan to go even further down that road with an infrastructure bank. And Dru Oja Jay argues that instead of pushing to put all major infrastructure development under the control of the existing financial sector, the Libs should be working on building a banking system that works for people.

- Carl Zimmer discusses the devastating effect global warming is already having on the Arctic region. And CBC reports on the massive health benefits of eliminating the use of coal power.

- Finally, Chelsea Nash reports on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand's observation that there are necessarily tradeoffs between facilitating voting and centralizing information in the hands of political parties - and it should come as no surprise that the Cons are trying to prevent the former by claiming their entitlement to the latter. And Althia Raj reports that Thomas Mulcair is leading the charge to restore public funding in order to reduce the influence of big money in politics.

Juxtaposition

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 14:00
Brad Wall is perfectly happy to waste time tweeting his outrage at a business operating with both foreign and domestic suppliers.

But Brad Wall couldn't care less whether provincial money earmarked to clean up messes in Saskatchewan actually stays in the province - choosing instead to cut out local businesses entirely:
The province’s Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Orphan fund put out a request for proposals (RFP) in January looking for companies to, “successfully conduct the down hole abandonment(s) on oil, gas and industry related wells, flow line abandonments and well site decommissioning....
About 10 of the 15 companies that applied to clean those orphaned sites up were Saskatchewan-based, but the government chose four Alberta-based companies to do the work.

Trump Will Blind NASA's Eye on Earth

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 08:43


Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.Here's how Trump strategist, Steve Bannon's Breitbart responded to the news:Trump at NASA: Hasta la Vista Climate Fraud and Muslim Outreach…
NASA’s top climate scientist Gavin Schmidt has warned President-Elect Donald Trump that the planet just won’t stand for having a fully-fledged climate denier in the White House.

Good luck with that one, Gavin. Or “Toast” as we’ll shortly be calling you…

Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), told the Independent:

“The point is simple: the climate is changing and you can try to deny it, you can appoint people who don’t care about it into positions of power, but regardless nature has the last vote on this.”

This is the worst possible time for NASA's Earth imaging programme to be shuttered. Like all demagogues, including the one we just got rid of, Trump's decision making is informed, not by knowledge and fact, but by belief and ideology. To the extent that there's still time to do meaningful things to slow or adapt to climate change, that won't be accomplished if we're guided by belief and ideology or, as Trump describes it, "gut instincts."

Donald Trump's Desperate Need To Be Loved

Montreal Simon - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 08:32


Donald Trump spent every day of his long campaign for the presidency demonizing Hillary Clinton and calling her a criminal.

He vowed that one of his first acts if he was elected would be to appoint a special prosecutor to go after her and jail her.

While his rabid supporters chanted "lock her up, lock her up."

But yesterday while having lunch at the New York Times, Trump seemed to change his mind.
Read more »

Van Jones Warning to Canada. Listen Up.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 08:01

"It can find a home in your country, too, if you don't stand up to it."
Van Jones understands the bigotry Trump has tapped across America does not respect borders. There is plenty of low life in Canada to carry that same torch, burn that same cross.
A high-profile American political commentator says Canadians are flat-out wrong if they think a candidate like Donald Trump couldn't succeed here.

Van Jones, a CNN political contributor and former White House policy adviser, spoke with reporters on Tuesday evening about the U.S. election ahead of a Toronto event organized by the Broadbent Institute.

"Most Americans right now are just heartbroken about the whole thing," Jones said, noting both major parties have major flaws — the Democrats for their elitism, while the Republican Party has become a safe place for bigots.
"The country is so divided over these two broken parties that nobody wants to go home for Thanksgiving dinner."

Words Are Important

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 06:40


Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

- Excerpt from George Orwell's Politics and the English Language

As a reader, writer and retired English teacher, words have always been important to me. Words rarely exist in a vacuum; they are almost always laden with context, either implicit or carefully spelled out. They have the power to convey meaning and truth, but they also have tremendous power to either help to heal or to destroy. Words need to be respected.

It is within this context that I was very happy to see ThinkProgress offer this note from its editors:
You can learn everything you need to know about the “alt-right” by looking at the man who popularized its name. Credit goes to Richard Spencer, head of the white supremacist National Policy Institute (NPI), and one of the country’s leading contemporary advocates of ideological racism.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Spencer keynoted an NPI conference in Washington, D.C. Over the course of his speech, he approvingly quoted Nazi propaganda, said that the United States is meant to be a “white country,” and suggested that many political commentators are “soulless golem” controlled by Jewish media interests.

... ThinkProgress will no longer treat “alt-right” as an accurate descriptor of either a movement or its members. We will only use the name when quoting others. When appending our own description to men like Spencer and groups like NPI, we will use terms we consider more accurate, such as “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”We will describe people and movements as neo-Nazis only when they identify as such, or adopt important aspects of Nazi rhetoric and iconography.

The point here is not to call people names, but simply to describe them as they are. We won’t do racists’ public relations work for them. Nor should other news outlets.An article by Lindy West in The Guardian makes a similar point:
In my column last week, I wrote: “One defining aspect of alt-right white supremacy is that it vehemently denies its own existence … This erosion of language is an authoritarian tactic designed to stifle dissent. If you cannot call something by its name, then how can you fight it?”

So I was heartened yesterday when KUOW, a public radio station in Seattle, released a statement announcing that they will be substituting “white supremacy” or “white nationalism” for “alt-right”. The reasoning, laid out in a memo to staff: “‘Alt right’ doesn’t mean anything, and normalises something that is far from normal. So we need to plain-speak it.”Such measures as described above are all to the good. As I wrote in a recent post, New Yorker writer David Remnick points out the fact that the media are now beginning to 'normalize' Donald Trump and his ilk. This must not be allowed to continue, and it is to be hoped that more news agencies will find the courage and integrity to tell things as they are, not the way their corporate masters and Trump racists want us to believe.

I leave you with one final warning from Orwell:
Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. Recommend this Post

Which Number?

Northern Reflections - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 05:29

We live in a digital age -- a time when numbers are everywhere. One number -- we've labelled it GDP -- has taken on a mystical quality. It has become the sole measure of our progress -- or lack of it. But there are other numbers that give a much more comprehensive measure of how far we've come or how much we have regressed. Roy Romanow writes:

Based at the University of Waterloo, the CIW [the Canadian Index of Wellbeing] tracks 64 indicators representing eight domains of vital importance to Canadians’ quality of life. Where GDP counts money circulating in the economy, the CIW captures fluctuations in community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use to describe how we’re really doing.
And that number explains what has been happening in Canada, the United States and Britain:

From 1994 to 2014, Canada’s GDP grew by 38 per cent while national well-being only rose 9.9 per cent. What’s more, the 2008 recession stole our living standards, our leisure and volunteer time, even our sleep — and we never got them back.

At the national level, the picture that emerges over the past 21 years is a GDP rebounding post-recession but Canadians literally continuing to pay the price. From 1994 to 2008, the living standards domain rose 23 per cent. Then it plummeted almost 11 per cent and has yet to recover. Gains made on reducing long-term unemployment and improving the employment rate were lost. Income inequality is rising. And, despite increases in median family incomes, millions of Canadians struggle with food and housing costs. When living standards drop, community, cultural and democratic participation follow suit. Surely, this is not our vision of equality and fairness in Canada.
Canadians’ were hardest hit in the leisure and culture domain, which declined by 9 per cent overall. We’re taking less time enjoying arts, culture, sports — even vacations — the very activities that help define us as individuals. On the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial, household spending on culture and recreation is at its lowest point in 21 years.
For the last thirty-five years our policy makers have suffered from economic tunnel vision. Each month they have waited for that monthly GDP measurement -- and for quarterly stock market results -- like addicts waiting for a fix. And, like all addicts, they have lost sight of the big picture. 
Romanow insists on looking at the big picture:
Critics will argue that governments cannot afford to worry about well-being, especially when GDP is fragile. What we cannot afford is ongoing environmental degradation. We cannot afford the human and economic costs of poor health. We cannot afford the erosion of equality and fairness that underpins Canadian democracy.
The complex issues of our time require evidence, integrated systems thinking and proactive approaches. As we set our course for the next 150 years, we need to place the well-being of all Canadians at the very heart of Canada’s vision.
Image: University of Waterloo

If There's One Thing We Ought to Have Learned.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 11/22/2016 - 23:18


One thing that we have learned about Donald Trump, both from his last two years on the campaign trail and from the Trump of earlier decades, is that it takes a real Gullibilly to believe anything that comes out of his mouth.

Trump used to say all manner of mainly liberal things on issues such as women's rights and such. That was before he chose to infiltrate the GOP. Then he promised his faithful dupes all manner of radical initiatives including a 2,000 mile wall along the Mexican border, the deportation of 12-million Mexican and Central American illegal immigrants, stealing the oil of the Middle East, "bombing the shit out of" ISIS, prison for abortion, on and on and on. Oh yeah, and jailing Hillary.

Less than a week after losing the vote by a significant margin but nonetheless winning the election, Trump is reneging on all those promises that drew the horde of Gullibillies to his side. He is, we're told, going to kill off the TPP but, aside from that, most of the rest was a rich diet of horseshit he fed to the dupes.

Does that mean Trump has been self-neutralized? Has he cut off his own cojones? Much as I would like to believe that I can't. That's because he's a pathological liar, willing to say whatever suits his personal interests from one day to the next.

So don't be sucked in by the kinder, gentler Trump. This is one guy you can never take at his word.


When the "Indispensible Nation" Becomes Expendable.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 11/22/2016 - 22:51


Writing in Foreign Policy, Max Boot argues that "Trump's 'America First' Is the Twilight of American Exceptionalism."

Boot's essay begins with an extensive catalogue of the similarities between Obama's policies and what Trump will likely deliver. He finds Obama a latter day Jefferson and sees in Trump a 21st century Jacksonian. For those not familiar with Jackson's populism, that may not be a very good thing for America:

One of their big divisions is over international institutions. Obama negotiated an international accord to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases; Trump has said global warming is a Chinese hoax and called for pulling out of the Paris agreement. Obama negotiated a nuclear accord with Iran; Trump promises to renegotiate it, calling it a “disgraceful deal” and an “embarrassment to our country.” Obama is a free-trader who negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); Trump is a protectionist who vows to withdraw from the TPP, rip up NAFTA, and impose tariffs. Obama has been supportive of NATO, working to expand the forces that the alliance deploys in Eastern Europe and the Baltics to guard against Russian aggression; Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and questioned the need to station U.S. troops to defend countries that don’t pay enough for the privilege.

...Obama is a believer in international organizations and international law; Trump is not. It is hard to imagine Trump saying, as Obama did: “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” In turn, it is hard to imagine Obama ever threatening to bomb the “shit” out of another country, to steal its oil, or to torture detainees — all of which would constitute war crimes.
In the terms coined by Walter Russell Mead, Obama is a Jeffersonian, while Trump is a Jacksonian: The former believes that the United States should perfect its own democracy and go “not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” whereas the latter believes that “the United States should not seek out foreign quarrels” but that it should clobber anyone who messes with it. What unites Jeffersonians and Jacksonians, in spite of their substantial differences, is that both support quasi-isolationism — or, if you prefer, non interventionism — unless severely provoked.

Obama has been intent on pulling the United States back from the Middle East. The result of his withdrawal of troops from Iraq and his failure to get more actively involved in ending the Syrian civil war has been to create a vacuum of power that has been filled by the likes of the Islamic State and Hezbollah. Undaunted, Trump has said he wants not only to continue the pullback from the Middle East (he wants to subcontract American policy in Syria to Putin) but also to retreat from Europe and East Asia. He has suggested that he may lift sanctions on Russia and pull U.S. troops out of countries (from Germany to Japan) if he feels they are not paying enough for American protection. It is quite possible, then, that Trump’s foreign policy would represent an intensification rather than a repudiation of Obama’s “lead from behind” approach.

American power survived eight years of an Obama presidency, albeit in diminished form. If the president-elect governs the way he campaigned (which, admittedly, is not necessarily a safe assumption), there is good cause to wonder whether U.S. ascendancy will survive four to eight years of Trumpism. The post-American age may be arriving sooner than imagined, ushered in by a president with an “America First” foreign policy.

American power, and the advantages that flow from it, is something of a con game, a confidence game. American dominance depends on the confidence that other nations, ally and adversary alike, place in it. It's the glue that holds Europe, Asia and the Middle East in America's camp.
Americans, like their president-elect, have largely lost sight of how much depends on this confidence game. America went from being the world's largest creditor nation at Ronald Reagan's first inauguration to the world's largest debtor nation, eight years later when Reagan's work was done. 
America has remained the world's largest economy over the intervening years but it's never been enough. For decades the US has sustained balance of trade and balance of payment deficits, its debts bought by foreign creditors on the strength of their abiding confidence in America as leader of the free world. This confidence has also allowed America the benefits of having the US dollar as the world's reserve currency. That leaves its creditors subject to American monetary policy and parlour tricks such as 'qualitative easing' that essentially discount American debt held by its foreign creditors.
America's allies are already worried about a world led by Donald Trump. He's already fallen in with a bad lot from Putin to Erdogan, Farage, Orban and lePen. Trump may give America's creditors the impetus they never found under Obama to switch the reserve currency to a basket of leading currencies - European, Chinese, Japanese and American. That could leave America forced to borrow in other nations' currencies without the benefit of its own monetary policy manipulations and at potentially higher rates. That's a truly iffy way to "Make America Great Again." As Boot suspects, Trump may indeed usher in the post-American age. And that is a contingency for which our government needs to prepare but who am I kidding?









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