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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A selfish world is not in our interests.  The paradox of America First is that it not only harms our trading partners and our strategic partners, it forces them to do the same to us and others.  Trade and international relations, like friendship or marriage, is not a zero sum game.  Taking care of one’s constituents is what politicians are supposed to do.  Doing that well requires vision and wisdom one only hopes this administration will acquire before too much damage is done.

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888310_40006bf856fa4889a769e8d5541e98d4The on-going clash between left and right is putting at risk the stability of Constitutional democracy, the rule of law, peace, and prosperity.  Conservatives and Liberals must stop shouting at each other long enough to notice and protect more important shared values, and to halt the destruction of institutions in motion now that threatens to destroy us all.

Left and right speak to some common goals including shared prosperity, and respect for democracy and the rule of law.  Where left and right part is the means.  Left sees state intervention on behalf of those who struggle as the means to shared prosperity, whereas right sees less fettered market forces as the means to shared prosperity.

Neocons and demagogues push the right a fatal step further – they see the destruction of the state as legitimate means to an end.  Economic self-interest has been perverted into hostility to the state, hostility to foreigners, and hostility to stabilizing international norms and institutions.  For some conservatives, it has been a convenient rhetorical tool to sell limited taxation and regulation at the ballot box.  However most conservatives never sought to destroy the institutions of democracy.

Now, reap the whirlwind.  The destruction of the state and the rise of demagogues is a danger to all, right and left.

[H]istory tells us where this leads – demonizing foreigners, domestic political opponents, and the judiciary, domestic strife, calls to violence, and the inevitable final refuge of struggling dictators – war

That brings us to Thomas Picketty, whose simple and unassailable observation about income and wealth reveals a dangerous failure to deliver on the promise.  Left and right can debate why until the cows come home.  What’s undeniable is that the status quo isn’t working well enough for too many of us.  That is an unstable situation, and it is a fundamental threat to peace, prosperity and democracy.

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The #1 most pressing problem is that left and right are dissipating all their energies debating the means to prosperity, and are missing out on the far more important shared concern.  Demagogues and authoritarians seek to destroy the state as a path to free markets and personal power.  They will take us all down with them if we do not act.  The green elephant in the room (above) threatens to destroy us all.

The hope is in a faith that unites many: Constitutional democracy, rule of law, state institutions, the international security architecture, and a kind of global integration good for all.  This is where we must turn our attention.

This is a call for good people on the right and left to put aside the questions that divide, for a time, and turn to the far more urgent problem – how do we preserve Constitutional democracy, the international security architecture, peace, and human decency against the rising tide of nationalism, foolish demagoguery, authoritarianism, and ill-informed or malevolent leadership?

If we don’t act, history tells us where this leads – demonizing foreigners, domestic political opponents, and the judiciary, domestic strife, calls to violence, and the inevitable final refuge of struggling dictators – war.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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citizenshipThere are many grounds to criticize the immigration order, but a Muslim ban it is not.

The order is harsh, ambiguous, and appears to have had inadequate internal review before being published.  Moreover, the idea itself is a blunt, likely ineffective or counter-productive policy tool. But it is not a Muslim ban.  Reporting it that way undermines credibility of the very institutions whose credibility is needed to hold the Trump administration to account.

The order should have a sunset provision, provision for the screening of friends and such as translators for the State Department and military, and should move from blanket ban to individualized, careful screening as quickly as possible.

Criticism of the order is justified, but it should focus on the actual flaws, better alternatives, and avoid hyperbole.

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trump-vs-chinaThe first casualty of Trump’s withdrawal from TPP is not trade – it’s trust. China is the beneficiary.

History may record that the American Century ended in the Pacific today with TPP.  China is poised to become the axis about which all other Asian countries must revolve – economically, politically and militarily.  America has left the stage.

It’s no surprise that dependability doesn’t figure in Trump’s transactional world view. He built an empire by repeatedly, publicly walking out on his commitments. And, as he will tell you, that’s how he won.  Q.E.D.

TPP was not a great deal. It should not have been signed. But it should have been renegotiated. The strategic value to America of Pacific prosperity and stability would have been enormous. The loss will reverberate down through history, and will be seen as a fateful turning point for Asia and for Pax Americana generally.

If there’s any hope, it’s that Trump’s withdrawal may be a negotiating position, not a final answer.

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donald-trump-sexist-comments__optYour daughter will be at new risk for sexual predation, assault or even rape if Trump is in the White House.

Trump’s election would give license to your daughter’s boss, teacher, boyfriend, husband, or any man in a position of celebrity or power, to do what Trump does. Trump’s election would put your daughter at risk because it would loudly say to other young men that this society not only tolerates sexual predation, but celebrates, enables and even ennobles those who prey on women.

Trump is no mere philanderer, adulterer or admirer of women. Adultery is, after all, a consensual act. He is a repeat sexual molester who boldly confessed to making a habit of sexual assault and battery (which, under the law, means unwanted physical contact).

It’s not just his own admission – others accuse him of sex crimes, too (see https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/20/donald-trump-sexual-assault-allegations-jill-harth-interview). Strange reversal, isn’t it, when a sexual super-predator brags of his own guilt, and the victims’ statements are merely the corroborating evidence?

Serial sexual predators such as Trump should be on trial for their crimes, not in the Oval Office.

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It may be time to work for Donald Trump’s nomination. Trump’s catastrophic defeat in the general election is now sufficiently certain, his chances of fracturing the Republican party, and his chances of bringing in congressional Democrats on his negative coattails, that the patriotic thing to do may be to work for his nomination. Either Hillary of Bernie is likely to best Trump, unless, paraphrasing Governor Edwin Edwards they catch one of them in bed with a live boy or a criminal indictment. And Hillary may even be able to survive an indictment. She wouldn’t be the first Clinton to do so.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is a real electoral threat. Perhaps not as unhinged as Donald Trump, he represents a more classically Republican neoconservative danger to America. And his chances of beating Hillary are pretty good. Her average polling margin over Cruz is within the margin of error on most polls at the moment, so a tie. Florida recount, anyone? That’s a chance we can’t take.

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paxromanamapDonald Trump wants to end Pax Americana because it costs too much. Countries protected by American military dominance must pay, according to Trump, because we can’t afford our present posture.

Contrary to Trump, we can’t afford to abandon defending others. The cost of our own defense would rise, and we would endanger ourselves, if we walk away.

There’s a quid pro quo in place. Everyone benefits. Especially America. If we stop providing global stability, others would need to see to their own defense, and the fundamental post-war deal would unravel. We would trigger a dangerous return to a multi-polar, unstable world. That kind of isolationism is dangerous and misguided.

By providing a security umbrella we save others money, that much is so. But we also save ourselves, and we increase our own security. Countries under our umbrella pose no threat to us, and they pose no threat to others. Thus our potential rivals face a simplified defense posture, and so do we. They need only concern themselves with a unified western world, and we need only concern ourselves with a few rivals.

Could we ask for more from our putative friends? Yes. Specifically, we must demand that the Saudis and others abandon tolerating and promoting religious fanaticism. Their cash and their troops are secondary. Trump should know this if he aspires to be President.

If Trump has his way, and we return to a multi-polar world, all military budgets would be larger, especially ours. Each country would necessarily go after its own parochial agenda, with our ability to moderate allies’ behavior greatly diminished. The risks of local tensions escalating out of control would be much greater.

Pax Americana remains a safer and cheaper situation for all. We must not abandon it, even if Mr Trump wins the election. He claims he listens to the best people. Let’s hope he does, before he triggers a of round regional conflict and global re-militarization.

Update: An editorial in USA Today concludes, “this prospective commander in chief’s views are not just irresponsible: they are cataclysmically dangerous.”

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