Category Archives: Military

Conventional Wisdom: Humor & Weimar America


As the GOP convention winds to a close, a video take on the event and the election.

We begin with a brutally frank assessment of the Republican convention from Lewis Black, during a guest sport on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

And he’s got the best idea yet on what to do with the two November contenders:

Lewis Black On The Election: “It’s A Social Experiment”

Program notes:

The comedian and star of “Back in Black” on Broadway suggests that by choosing between two deeply unpopular presidential candidates, voters are participating in a grand social experiment.

The election as emerging fascism fueled by both parties

Next up, a Paul Jay interview with journalist and former Berkeleyan Robert Scheer on the emerging fascism of Weimar America, and the way both parties have worked to bring it about.

From The Real News Network:

Robert Scheer: Neofascist Trump or Corporate Hawk Clinton Are No Choice at All

From the transcript:

JAY: So let’s start with question one. Is this just a kind of eccentric right populist, and another variance of the Republican Party? Or is this something that’s gone further into what you can call a new authoritarianism, developing neofascism, or such?

SCHEER: Well, it’s precisely a neofascism, and I think we should explain, particularly to younger people, what we mean by this. Because it’s not just throwing around some frightening word. But we’ve had this phenomenon. We have it right now in Europe. We have it where you’re–basically what you’re, what you had under the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, in Italy and Germany.

And what you’re really talking about is scapegoating real problems, there are real problems, you don’t get fascist movements taking over, rising to power, without people being in pain. Hurting. The economy in shambles, their aspirations are limited, they’re worried about their future. And we have a situation now in the United States that is increasingly resembling a kind of post-Weimar Germany. It’s neofascism, it’s not fascism. But basically, people are perplexed: why is life not getting better? Why is income disparity more glaring? Why did my $38 an hour job in [inaud.] or mining disappear, and now I have to work for $7, $8, $9 an hour. What about the benefits I thought I had? What about my ability to send my kid to college?

So we have lowered expectations in America. We have a great sense of pain. And it’s not, you know, just one region and one group of people. And it’s in that atmosphere that you can basically have one of two narratives to respond. You had the Bernie Sanders narrative that said yeah, we got real problems, here. Income inequality is getting worse. The good jobs are not there. The benefits are not there. And we’re going to propose a progressive alternative. And that’s why Bernie Sanders, you know, almost knocked Hillary Clinton out of the box, because Hillary Clinton represented the establishment that had enabled this kind of pain out there.

On the Republican side, Trump did something amazing. He wiped out the whole Republican establishment. He did it up from Maine to Alabama. And he was able to do it across the country because people are hurting. They’re not fools, they’re not desperate to back a fool. What they are desperate about is having a good life for their kids, for themselves, and they’re worried. And so this demagogue of the right comes along with a neofascist message, and by that I mean precisely blaming the undocumented worker, you know, blaming people who don’t have your religion, or gay people, or minorities, or something of that sort. Blaming them for the problems that people with power have caused.

And that’s the key ingredient of neofascism, is to distract people from the real origin of the problems, and make them think it’s the undocumented Mexican worker, which is absurd. They’re not the people who have destroyed housing in America. They’re not the people who did the collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and all the junk that Goldman Sachs and others did that brought the economy down. And to blame some guy who’s crossed the border, or some woman who’s crossed the border and is trying to clean a house or help raise a kid there for your problems. . .is absurd.

And Michael Moore declares Trump will be the winner

And he gives a plausible rationale for his analysis in this special convention of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Also featured in Tony Schwartz, the man who really wrote Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal and who has proclaimed that Trump’s victory in November would herald the end of civilization:

Bill Maher Live RNC Special Edition: July 20

Program notes:

Bill Maher and his guests – Michael Moore, Dan Savage, Joy Reid, and Tony Schwartz – discuss the 2016 Republican National Convention during this special edition of Real Time.

The urge to purge nets thousands in Turkey


The chaotic Turkish coup failure has been followed by what usually happens when coup;s fail [or succeed for that matter]: a massive purge.

And as usually happens when strong men rule, the urge to purge has spread to academia.

Call it political bulima.

From BBC News:

At least 45,000 people have been rounded up, sacked or suspended from their jobs by Turkey’s government in the wake of last week’s failed coup.

The purge of those deemed less than loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan widened on Tuesday to include teachers, university deans and the media.

The government says they are allied to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies claims he directed the uprising. PM Binali Yildirim said the preacher led a “terrorist organisation”.

“We will dig them up by their roots,” he told parliament.

Turkey is pressing the US to extradite Mr Gulen and the issue was raised during a phone call between US President Barack Obama and President Erdogan on Tuesday, the White House said.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said a decision on whether or not to extradite would be made under a treaty between the two countries.

Obama pushes world closer to nuclear war


While a lot of folks are worried about the bellicose personalities of both major party presidential candidates, don’t forget the current incumbent, who has been busily pushing the world ever-closer to the brink of nuclear war through his Game of Zones plays in Asia and Europe.

While the Obama Administration’s “Asian pivot” has resulted in the first U.S. arms sales to Vietnam since the American humiliation four decades ago and Obama has relentlessly pushed Japan into the imminent scrapping of the pacifistic provisions of that country’s constitution, provisions imposed by the U.S. 60 years ago.

And now the Obama administration is beefing up U.S. forces on the Russian border, bring the threat of nuclear war to its highest level since the peak of the Cold War according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The latest moves in Europe have even upset governments in Western Europe, who see Russian more as a trading partner than as a military threat, says University of Missouri-Kansas City economist and European historian Michael Hudson in this interview with Jessica Desverieux of The Real News Network:

US-NATO Border Confrontation with Russia Risks Nuclear War and Loss of European Partners 

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, we just heard President Obama pledging his allegiance to protecting Europe. Does Europe really need protecting, though?

HUDSON: Well, as soon as Obama made those words, there was a fury of European statements saying that Obama and NATO was making Europe less secure. The French prime minister, Francois Hollande, says that we don’t need NATO. NATO has no role to play in our Russian relations. That leaders of the two major German parties, both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, said that NATO was warmongering. Gorbachev came out and said the world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present. William Perry, the former head of the Pentagon in the mid-90s, said that NATO was threatening and trying to provoke atomic war in Europe.

And one of Russia’s leading military strategists said here’s what the problem is: NATO wants to move bombers and atomic weapons right up to the border of Russia. That means that if they launch over us, we have only a few seconds to retaliate. President Putin a little while ago had given a speech saying that Russia doesn’t really have a land army. In fact, today, no country in the world, in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, has a land army that can invade anywhere. Try to imagine America being invaded by Canada, or by Mexico on its borders. You can’t imagine it. Impossible. No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.

As a matter of fact, what NATO is trying to do is to goad Russia into building up an army so it can undercut its economy by diverting more and more resources away from the economy towards the military. Russia’s not falling for it. Putin said that Russia has no intention of mounting a land army. It is unthinkable that it could even want to invade the Baltics or Poland. But Putin did say we have one means of retaliation, and that’s atomic bombs. Atomic weapons are basically defensive. They’re saying, we don’t need an army anymore. Nor does any country need an army if they have an atomic weapon, because if you attack us we’ll wipe you out. And we’ll be wiped out, too, but you’re never going to be able to conquer us. And no country, really, can conquer any other country. Russia can’t conquer Europe.

So the effect, Putin and the Russian leaders have said, look, if they suppose that an American plane goes a little bit off, like, you know, the ships try to provoke things, we don’t know whether it’s an atomic attack at all. We can’t take a risk. If there’s a little bit of a movement against us, we’re going to launch the hydrogen bombs, and there goes Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Brussels. That’s why you’re having all of these warnings. And Europe is absolutely terrified that Obama is going to destabilize. And even more terrified of Hillary getting in, who’s indicated she’s going to appoint a superhawk, the Cheney protege Flournoy, as Secretary of Defense, and appoint Nuland, Victoria Nuland, as Secretary of State.

And all throughout Europe — I’ve been in Germany twice in the last two months, and they’re really worried that somehow America is telling Europe, let’s you and Russia fight. And basically it’s a crisis.

Headline of the day: Over almost before it began?


From the Washington Post:

Turkey’s president declares coup attempt foiled

  • Armed forces met resistance in streets from the president’s supporters
  • Branches of the police and army fought pitched battles for control of government buildings in the streets of the capital, Ankara, and protesters confronted tanks in Istanbul as Turkey, a major NATO member and key U.S. ally, spun out of control.
  • At least 90 people were killed in the violence in Ankara. More than 1,500 members of the armed forces have been arrested, and 29 colonels and five generals were removed.
  • Emerging in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the plotters: “This latest action is an action of treason, and they will have to pay heavily for that.”

The Game of Zones: Court rejects Chinese claims


China's maritime claims and bases built or under construction by Bejing, via the Yomiuri Shimbun.

China’s maritime claims and bases built or under construction by Bejing, via the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tensions in the Game of Zones underway in the China Seas intensified today with a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration said there declared China has not right to control islands where the Asian economic giant has been constructing military bases and surrounding ocean waters.

The ruling by the court in the Hague is certain to provoke further military confrontations with the U.S., the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan.

Given that the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a policy of rapid remilitarization and plans to strike the pacifist provisions of its post-World War II constitution we can be assured of one thing: Danger and crisis lie ahead.

From BBC News:

The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed.

It ruled on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were:

  • Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting access
  • China had “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea” that formed part of the dispute
  • Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation – one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles granted for rocks visible at high tide.

The ruling is binding but the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement.

More from the New York Times:

The landmark case, brought by the Philippines, was seen as an important crossroads in China’s rise as a global power. It is the first time the Chinese government has been summoned before the international justice system, and the decision against it could provide leverage to other neighboring countries that have their own disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

“It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” said the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler. “This is a remarkable victory for the Philippines.”

But while the decision is legally binding, there is no mechanism for enforcing it, and China, which refused to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, reiterated on Tuesday that it would not abide by it. “The award is invalid and has no binding force,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China does not accept or recognize it.”

The foreign secretary of the Philippines, Perfecto Yasay, said Manila welcomed the decision as “significant” and called on “all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety.”

A harsh rebuke for China, provocations inevitable

The ruling was harsh, a strong rebuke for China’s claims.

Beijing has invested millions, possibly billions, in developed bases and facilities for exercising its control over waters wise in fish and a seabed believed to contain extensive mineral and petroleum resources.

The Guardian offers it’s take on the ruling:

The ruling will make grim reading for Beijing and contains a series of criticisms of China’s actions and claims. The tribunal declared that “although Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other states, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.

“The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

None of the fiercely disputed Spratly Islands, the UN body found, were “capable of generating extended maritime zones … [and] having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the tribunal found that it could — without delimiting a boundary — declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”

There’s a lot more, after the jump, including reaction from Beijing, Tokyo, and Washington. . . Continue reading

More troubles brewing in the Game of Zones


This time it’s North Korea, threatening retaliation for an Obama administration military move in its “Asian pivot.”

From Agence France Presse:

North Korea threatened Monday to take “physical action” after Washington and Seoul announced they would deploy a sophisticated US anti-missile defence system to counter the growing menace from Pyongyang.

Seoul and Washington had on Friday revealed their decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the South following recent North Korean missile and nuclear tests.

The two allies have not yet revealed exactly when and where the system, which fires projectiles to smash into enemy missiles, would be deployed but said they were in the final stage of selecting a potential venue.

“The DPRK will take a physical counter-action to thoroughly control THAAD… from the moment its location and place have been confirmed in South Korea,” the artillery bureau of the North’s military said in a statement, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Shinzo Abe wins votes for Japan remilitarization


UPDATED: At the end, with suspicions confirmed.

Japan may soon rejoin the ranks of the world’s major military powers following Sunday’s election, which ensured that Rightist Prime Minister Abe has the votes to strike the pacifist provisions from the nation’s constitution.

Elections for the upper house of the Diet handed a supermajority of seats to the two-party coalition dominated by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

The pacifist provisions of the constitution, once the pride of the nation, have fallen from favor as Abe’s government, prodded by the Obama administration in Washington, seeks control over key oil-and-mineral-rich sections of the China Seas.

Washington’s eagerness to contain China has led the White House to back the repeal of the antimilitarism provisions in the Japanese constitution imposed by the U.S. in the aftermath of World War II.

The U.S. push is part of Obama’s “Asian pivot,” policies designed to contain and constrain China both economically and militarily. Another part of the Washington, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, neatly dovetails with the prime ministers economic policies, dubbed Abenomics.

Here’s a graphic on Sunday’s results from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

BLOG Japan
From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

The key point of contention was whether a majority of voters would support Abenomics, the prime minister’s economic policy package. Another focus was whether the ruling parties and those among the opposition parties and independents that favor amending the Constitution would be able to secure the two-thirds majority of the 242 House of Councillors seats available — or 162 — needed to initiate constitutional amendment. As of 3:30 a.m. Monday, pro-amendment lawmakers were set to secure 162 seats or more in the upper house of the Diet.

As the possibility of the pro-amendment camp securing a two-thirds majority increased, Abe told NHK, “From now, we will move on to research commissions on the Constitution [in both houses of the Diet], and discussions will be consolidated into which provisions [of the Constitution] would be changed and how.”

Voter turnout is estimated to stand at around 54 percent, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun’s estimates, compared to 52.61 percent in 2013 upper house poll. The lowest voter turnout for a House of Councillors election was 44.52 percent in 1995.

Sunday’s election was the first national election since the minimum voting age was lowered from 20 to 18. About 2.4 million youths aged 18 and 19, including some third-year high school students, joined the electorate.

More from United Press International:

If achieves a two-thirds super majority in the Upper House to match that in the Lower House, Abe could conduct a referendum on constitutional change, including military constraints.

Abe wants to change Article 9, which forbids Japan from fighting wars abroad. It was imposed by the United States after Japan lost in World War II in 1945. The constitution has not been modified since 1947.

“This election was not fought on whether or not to change the constitution,” Abe told TBS as reported by Bloomberg. “I think we are expected to debate thoroughly in the constitutional panel which articles should be changed, while understanding spreads among the people.”

The Game of Zones continue to grow hotter, with no end in sight.

UPDATE: And suspicions confirmed

From the Japan Times:

The Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief on Sunday called for changing the nation’s pacifist Constitution after the ruling coalition won a landslide victory in the Upper House election.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition and like-minded parties appeared to win two-thirds “supermajority” needed to try to revise the post-war Constitution for the first time, some TV exit polls showed, although others only said it is within their grasp.

“Our party is one that calls for reforming the Constitution,” said Tomomi Inada, policy chief of the ruling LDP, after the polls closed.

“Our party has already submitted a draft for reforming the Constitution,” she added.

Revising the Constitution, especially the war-renouncing Article 9, has been Abe’s long-term goal.