Tag Archives: Reagan

The Old American Century

The American Century is over.  As the 20th century turned into the 21st century there was an effort to turn the new century into one completely dominated by the United States corporations. This attempt was spearheaded by a right wing organization called The Project for the New American Century.

This “project” was started in the 1990s  by conservative “intellectual” William Kristol and other hardliners. Mostly “chickenhawks” who love the idea of using military force on other parts of the world while eschewing any participation in any wars themselves. Other key figures in the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) were the members of the Bush family, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others.

When the Supreme Court ended the vote count in Florida in 2000 and gave GW Bush the presidency it allowed this group to come to power. Recall the when GW Bush was searching for a running mate in 2000 his family chose Dick Cheney to lead the search for the “best man” for the job. Cheney ended up choosing himself. Rumsfeld, another member of the PNAC then was appointed Secretary of Defense.

In this context the attack on 9/11 occurred. In power was a group of people who firmly believed that the US should lead the world , not by example or as a haven for democracy, but as a belligerent military force. So, although Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the PNAC goal was to capture the oil fields and control that major resource.

So, in direct violation of international law and the Security Council of the UN, the US invaded Iraq. The catastrophe that followed lead to the destabilization of the Middle East, emergence of ISIS and a continued crisis that we see even playing out today.

The “New American Century” had turned out to be short lived. And a bust.

The second half of the 20th century was certainly dominated by the US. Not just by US military power, but by the exporting of American values. Democracy replaced colonialism as an organizing force in much of the world. JFK’s Peace Corps was probably the most effective propaganda tool for democracy. Americans were seen as decent, good people. Rich, spoiled, but with a conscience and eager to help. Those days are gone.

Any moral or ethical superiority that may have existed  (even if only illusory) has long gone. We now live in a new world.

The USA has lost not only it’s moral ascendancy, but has become largely irrelevant to much of the world. We are no longer a place to look to for leadership. We are a place to sell stuff. And Americans, no matter how much they complain, are flush with wealth compared to most of the rest of the world.

Donald Trump did not cause this. But he has accelerated the trend. It is a good development, in my mind, the the US no longer dominates the world economy. But the desire to “go it alone” as Trump has done, has eliminated much of the influence for good the US has had in the past. Isolationism and excessive nationalism lead to WW1 . And WW2.

Rejection of international agreements and institutions did not begin with Trump. I recall Mr Reagan attacking the UN and suggesting it could sail away into the sunset across the Atlantic. Geography aside, that sentiment became the mantra of the GOP and the right wing in the 1980s. And continues even today. It is based on an ignorance of history and an arrogance of power.

But in the 21st century the ideas of the 20th no longer hold. At least not in the rest of the world. Russia has re-emerged as a czarist regime after a brief fling with democracy. China is aggressively spreading its influence into every continent. The sleeping giant Napoleon had warned us about has awoken. The European Union, abandoned by the US and attacked by Putin, is strengthening itself in response. India is on the move. Saudi Arabia and Israel are both arming at alarming rates,poised for the inevitable conflict.

The US is no longer the awesome force it once was. That was an inevitable process. But the US has become a side show. An observer of global problems, no longer a participant in solving them. The 21st century was never going to be an American Century. Trump had nothing to do with those global realities.

But, by removing the US from international agreements and international solutions, the Trump folks are contributing to the inevitable catastrophe of extreme nationalism. Any student of history knows where extreme nationalism leads. The US has become the world’s gun dealer. Leadership without a national conscience. Without a plan for a positive world.

Without US positive engagement in global organizations the 21st century could very well become the Century of Chaos and Totalitarianism. While the US may sit on the sidelines, it will not be able to avoid the effects. The tsunami will not be stopped by a wall.

https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_1441

 

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Lies Liberals Tell, Part 1

Lies Liberals Tell  (Confessions of a Born-Again Liberal)

Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban

Part 1 of a 7 part series.

The elevation of Donald Trump to the position of most powerful human being on the planet Earth should make all of us re-examine our most basic beliefs about mankind. Of course, Donald Trump did not win the majority of votes. (Latest count shows him losing by almost 3,000,000 votes) So his philosophy and beliefs do not reflect the values of most Americans. Nevertheless, he was able to garner enough votes in enough states to win the electoral college majority. So, while he is a “minority” president, the mere fact that he was even close in the popular vote this election gives us pause and causes us to reconsider where we stand as liberals. Furthermore, the fact that he exercises immense power with little or no regard to the desires of the majority must make us more than a little worried.

As a lifelong liberal I have had a number of core beliefs challenged by this development.  Perhaps liberals have been lying to themselves about America and what it stands for. Perhaps we need to dispose of illusions and lies we have been telling ourselves. In this short 7 part series  I will discuss some of the beliefs, which have turned out to be lies, that liberals have held for years. Things we thought were true. We have been dead wrong.

I am not suggesting that we abandon these ideas and beliefs. But we need to accept the reality that significant minorities of our population do not hold the same core beliefs that we do. We can no longer take for granted that most Americans share these core values and beliefs. In order to go forward in a practical way, we need to accept the reality that we have been, in large part, lying to ourselves about a significant number of  citizens of The United States.

Lies are organized into the following categories.

  1. Society
  2. Reason
  3. Mean Well
  4. Fairness
  5. Responsibility
  6. Inevitability of Progress
  7. It Can’t Happen Here

Lie # 1: We are all in this together in society.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Those are the first words of the US Constitution. “We”. Not “I”. We . We will establish a government that supports society. Remember that after the Revolutionary War the 13 colonies formed a union. The Articles of Confederation knit together the colonies in a loose union based on the interests of individual states. The United States , in the sense that we know it today, was not an easy sell. (See the Federalist Papers for a thorough discussion of the issues).

To form a more perfect union. The founding fathers discovered that a loose union would not last. It would either break apart into sectionalism or completely dissolve as each state demanded sovereignty and independence. The result would be a weakened group of states. Easy prey for European nations seeking dominance.  The weakness would be an invitation to chaos and interference by foreign powers.

The solution was to develop a document that guaranteed some unity among the diverse parts of states along the eastern seaboard. The Preamble to the Constitution establishes the philosophical framework for that unity. An attempt to pull together  the north and south, the rural and urban, the large states and small ones, into a cohesive society. Only by uniting the divergent elements into a new society could unity be secured.

So, we have, at the very beginnings of the United States, the fundamental understanding that “society” was the key to success. And how do we attempt to build this new society? By establishing the purposes of government. Clearly, these purposes were to unite , not divide. The divisions were already there. Clear. The need was to superimpose on those divisions a system that would  lead to national unity.

Establishing justice. A liberal idea, that justice is the key to any acceptance of a new system. People should be treated fairly and justly. For society to function people need to accept that they will be treated fairly. To do otherwise leads to dissolution or revolution. After all, the Revolutionary War was fought because a large segment of the population felt that British tax laws were unjust.

Promote the general welfare. The idea that government should be active, not passive, in developing plans and assistance to benefit society. Government has been established to facilitate what is good for people and society in general.  So we see in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution a laundry list of practical steps Congress should take to promote the general welfare. Among them are such things as coining money and regulating trade. Building roads for the public. Establishing post offices.  Doing whatever is needed to promote science and “useful arts” by securing patent rights. To raise money and pay debts as needed for the military and general welfare.

We see an active national government. One that does not sit back. One that actively pursues, through taxation and other legal remedies, the general welfare of society. A government involved in people’s lives in order to help make those lives better and fuller. A government, by its very nature, designed to benefit its citizens individually and collectively .

This basic concept, that the US Constitution is established, in part, to provide for a just and good society, was at the core of the Constitution. It has also been a core belief of liberalism. Because, the fact is, the designers of the Constitution were extremely liberal for their time. While they were still acting in ways that we would consider reactionary today, but that the overall sense of the document is certainly liberal at its core. A new type of government. Designed to assist the people and develop society, as opposed to the old way of thinking that government should serve the elites at the expense of the peasantry.

Don’t all Americans agree with this fundamental truth? This is the first liberal lie we tell ourselves.

American liberals tend to accept the idea that the proper role of government is to assist and support society. That includes society’s weakest members as well as the most fortunate ones.

However, the emergence of the “new right” under Ronald Reagan and continuing through the Bushes and Trump puts that belief to the test.  John F Kennedy, in his inaugural address said: …”Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…” (society). Ronald Reagan replied in his first inaugural address: “…government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”.

Reagan and those who  follow his philosophy turn the Preamble to the US Constitution on its head. Government, they believe, is not supposed to “promote the general welfare” Quite the opposite. Government should promote the elites and let society devolve into a dog-eat-dog world. Greed is good. Regulation is evil. Society exists only as a battleground of self-interest and self-promotion, not as a cooperative venture where all of us have a stake and where all people can participate fully. Some must lose big time so others can win big time.

Liberals need to recognize that the seductive “me-first” ideology has taken hold of a very significant portion of people in America. They have been propagandized into accepting the notion, which is at odds with the Preamble, that they should reject idea of the “common good”. That the “common good”  is seen as equivalent to communism or Marxism. This distorted notion of the role of government has taken hold and forms the basis for the “new right”. They incorrectly assume that any “public good” must inevitably lead to some kind of communistic equality. They are blind to the Constitutional mandate to promote the general  welfare.

So, liberals need to recognize that millions of Americans no longer hold to the founding fathers’ core belief. Of course, to liberals the contradiction is glaring.

For example, the states that consistently vote for the “less government”,  new right, largely Republican candidates are the very states that benefit most from the federal treasury. These “welfare states” take much more from the federal government than they send to Washington, DC in taxes. While they condescendingly refer to others as “takers” they themselves have not paid their own way in years, if ever.

Nevertheless, liberals need to deal with the reality. Millions of Americans no longer support a key tenet of the Constitution, that government has a significant role in maintaining a just society and is responsible for promoting a good society.

 

 

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Time to Do Nothing

In 1949 Mao Zedong and the communists took over China. They instituted communist policies . In response the US cut off all relations with the People’s Republic of China for many years. Mao was a dictator. Harsh. Ruthless. The US would have nothing to do with him. He was an enemy.

Then, in 1972 , Richard Nixon did what was necessary. Mao did what his subordinates did not want him to do. Nixon visited China, met with Mao and started the opening up of trade and cultural relationships. The rightwing in China and the US were outraged by this betrayal of ideals. They wanted conflict, not reproachment.

The world did not end. The US was not defeated. In fact, over time, China has become a major world player and dominant economic force. A major trading partner with the US.

In 1986 the Russian leader, Gorbachev, met with the US leader, Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev had opened up Russia and the Russian people to the possibilities of democracy. Perestroika and glasnost . Reagan, a fervent anti-communists, saw an opportunity to cooperate on arms control. Both men signed the arms reduction deal which helped defuse the 40 years of hostility and tension between the two superpowers. Both men were criticized as “weak” by hardliners at home.

While Russia has fallen back into a dictatorship, the arms deals have held. Billions that could have been wasted by both nations on military spending has been saved. Not to say that both countries still spend way too much on the military. More than either needs for its defense. It was a bold, unpopular move for Reagan and Gorbachev to make.

But Reagan took a step toward an enemy and helped change the world.

Vietnam was a communist nation. The US fought a long war before ultimately admitting defeat. The hatred of many toward the North Vietnamese (and to some extent the South Vietnamese) was overwhelming. They were ruthless. They were despicable. The hatred of Americans by the millions of Vietnamese who had family killed by the “invaders” was also overwhelming.

In 1994, almost 20 years after the US left Vietnam, Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo. Once again US companies could do business in Vietnam. Vietnam could be brought fully into the world trading system. Trade between the two nations now has reached billions of dollars a year. Former enemies have become trading partners.

Which brings us to Kim Jung -Un. The dictator of North Korea. Yesterday Mr Kim called for talks with his neighbor, South Korea. And South Korea responded positively. Both sides see no reason for increased hostility and increased fear. The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has asked the US to postpone joint military operations as a gesture of good will. He wants to open up talks with his enemy to the north.

Would it not be nice if North and South Korea opened up more and more trade relations? Would it not be nice if these two nations could tone down the rhetoric and begin more cultural and economic interactions? Hasn’t history taught us that even the most hated  enemies can, over time, become trading partners? And once nations forge strong trade partnerships they both have a stake in keeping the peace and developing economically.

Nixon taught us that. Reagan taught us that. Clinton taught us that. Have we learned?

Let us hope that the US encourages this new interaction between the 2 Koreas. Or at least does not do anything to undermine the possibility of peace. Then, 20 years from now the people of North and South Korea may be able to freely visit each other and take advantage of increased trade and wealth.

If the US just lets it happen. Sometmes just doing nothing is enough.

 

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The Reagan Babies

When I was a tyke going to school in a medieval Catholic dungeon I learned about the Pagan Babies.

We would bring in our pennies on Friday and Sister Attila of the Holy Order of Terror would collect the coin. Our little coppers were going to be sent to some missionary in Africa to help convert the “pagan babies”. These little babies evidently had not gotten the word about the all-merciful god. Our job, as little Catholic babies, was to save them.

Whether the money actually went to Africa or to the Vatican I don’t know. Our second grade class did not hire a CPA to check the books. Maybe the load of coppers  went to fund  Sister Attila’s  “Bloody Mary” stash. Perhaps the pennies fed the local liquor economy. Either way, a good cause.

The thing about these Pagan Babies living in Africa was this.

They were ignorant. They were hapless and hopeless. They did not know the truth. They were condemned to a life of squalor and prejudice and stupidity. We pitied them. We felt sorry for them. They knew only what they had been taught. Narrow minded . Ignorant. In the dark. What would  happen when they reached adulthood? How would this ignorance manifest itself?

Which brings me to their American counterparts. The Reagan Babies.

The Reagan Babies were brought up in the 1980s. They were brought up on the mantra that “government is evil” and “greed is good”.  They were told that poor people are poor because they are lazy. And the rich are wealthy because they deserve to be wealthy. They were told that labor should be cheap. Black people are criminals. Most of all, that working people should not have rights.

They were brought up to worship a god that demands obedience and fear. An intolerant, political god who builds hells here on earth for the “fallen” called prisons. And builds “wealth” by buying out real businessmen who actually build real businesses. Then stripping them and selling off the parts. A god that tells us that society is bad. People should not care for each other. The god of the Old Testament.

These Reagan babies have now become politicians. Roughly in their forties . They have achieved power. They want to destroy Social Security. They want to destroy the Civil Rights Act. They want to destroy unions. They want to destroy the concept of a public education for all. Most of all, they want to destroy the very idea of a “social contract”. And they have had some degree of success. The Rubios. The Cruzes. The Ryans. The Brownbacks. The Scott Walkers. The “young studs” of the Republican Party. The Reagan Babies.

We donated out pennies to save the Pagan Babies from ignorance . The Reagan Babies cannot be saved. They have been been taught a narrow view of life. They have been taught to embrace authoritarianism of “supply side” economics and an intolerance for the non-believer. They have been taught that the very concept of “society” is bad. No one is his brother’s keeper. They have come of age and now we are reaping the rewards of Reaganism.

The irony, of course, is that the Reagan Babies are supported by many of the very people they hold in contempt. Working Americans. Older Americans. True believers who  keep sending their hard earned pennies  (and votes) to the Reagan Babies.

Even as 2nd graders we would not have fallen for that scam.

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Imagine If Hillary

Watching the GOP try to blame Secretary Clinton for the terror attacks in Benghazi, I started to think about other events.

One wonders if the GOP response to these events would have been different if Hillary Clinton had been president.

1. Imagine if Hillary had been POTUS on September 11, 2001. Would the GOP have joined together in unity to condemn the terrorists? Or would their response have  been to blame the Hillary for not keeping us safe?

2. Imagine if Hillary had been POTUS on August 6, 2001 when the daily presidential briefing given to Mr Bush read, in part:

“…bin Ladin implied in his television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow  the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and bring the fighting to America….bin Ladin told his followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington…

…we have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting , such as that from a (NAME BLANKED OUT) service saying that bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft….

…FBI information …indicates  patterns of suspicious activity in this country (USA) consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal  buildings in New York…”

http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/terrorism/80601pdb.html

And one month later hijacked planes were used to take down the World trade Center and the Pentagon.

Imagine the GOP response. World Trade Center. Hijackings. New York. Washington. FBI information!

3. Imagine if Hillary had been POTUS when Karl Rove, one of Mr Bush’s closest advisors  “outted” a CIA agent because her husband dared to tell  the truth about the faulty “Yellowcake” reports. The ultraconservative columnist Robert Novak revealed the identity of the secret agent and identified Rove as the source. All because her husband, Joe Wilson, exposed the “yellowcake” story as a fabrication.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Karl_Rove:_Outing_Valerie_Plame

Now, imagine if one of Hillary’s closest advisor had leaked the name of a CIA operative , putting not only the agent’s  life in danger but the lives of all agents in foreign countries who may have had contact with that agent. Imagine the GOP response. Imagine if the reporter who leaked the name had been Rachel Maddow instead of Robert Novak. Imagine.

4. Imagine Hillary was POTUS  when the US military installations were attacked on two separate occasions in Lebanon (when Reagan was POTUS). When  the marines guarding the barracks were not allowed to  have live ammo in their weapons ! Imagine if Hillary  had been in charge instead of Ronnie. What would the GOP do with that one? Marines guarding a barrack with no ammo in their weapons! Imagine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Beirut_barracks_bombing

5. And imagine Hillary had been POTUS during the GW Bush years. The fact is that there were 60 deaths and 13 embassy attacks while GW Bush was commander-in-chief. 60 deaths. 60. Imagine what the GOP would do with that.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/may/12/john-garamendi/prior-benghazi-were-there-13-attacks-embassies-and/

This is not to blame Bush or Reagan for terror attacks. Or not having omniscient powers. .After all, the world is a dangerous place, especially the Middle East.  And the GOP seems to accept that when a GOP administration is in office. But for Hillary it is a different standard.

Another attack will come. Imagine that  Hillary Clinton is POTUS when that happens.  She most probably will be. Just wait for the GOP response to THAT one. You won’t have to imagine it.

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Solar Panel Redux

May, 2014 news item: The installation of solar panels on the White House roof is complete. They will not generate much electricity but they serve as a symbol that it is time for the US to move toward non-fossil fuels. Time to look to the future and break our dependence on oil.  Barack Obama is also trying to get $2 billion for this new  technology. Perhaps sometime in the future we will look back on this as the beginning of the end of the stranglehold of fossil fuels as an energy source.

1979 news item: Jimmy Carter has installed solar panels on the White House. They do not generate a lot of electricity but are a symbol of what America can do in the future. If we have the will. In the midst of the Arab oil crisis this is a start to free us from dependence on fossil fuels. No need to invade the Middle East. Carter’s extensive energy plan calls for wise investment in solar technology.  All he needs is a willing Congress.

Carter states….” ….a generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”

1981 news item:  The adventure ends. In one of his first acts a president, Ronald Reagan commands that the solar panels be removed from the White House.  As a symbol that America will remain addicted to fossil fuels. Any hopes that America may become free of dependence on the fossil fuel industry is dashed. The panels are sent to Maine’s Unity College where they provide free electricity for heating water.

35 years of lost research and development. 35 years of increased dependence on oil. 35 years of backward thinking.  Thank you Ronnie, your legacy lives on and on …at the gas pump. Next time you fill er up, think of Ronnie.

 

 

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