Friday, October 09, 2015

The Great Patriotic War, still most the "unknown war" in the US

Robert Farley writes about the German-Soviet front of the Second World War in The Most Horrific War of All Time: Russia vs. Germany The National Interest 10/08/2015.

It is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. A jointly-made US-Soviet documentary during the detente years was called The Unknown War (1978) in its US release, The Great Patriotic War in the Soviet release. Burt Lancaster narrated the American version:

New York Times correspondent Harrison Salisbury did the English-language companion volume, The Unknown War (1978). The American title refers to the fact that the German's "eastern front," the war with the USSR, was little known in the US compared to the war in western Europe and the Pacific. That is still true today.

The script for the American version of the documentary reflects a sentimental view of the war. Salisbury's book conveys a more jaded Cold War version.

I'm not fond of sentimental histories. But understanding the sentiment and the propaganda are also part of understanding wars. And historical accounts also have to be read with a mind to the current and previous propaganda spins that might be reflected in them.

Farley sets the stage this way:

On June 22, 1941, the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe struck Soviet forces across a wide front along the German-Soviet frontier. Romanian forces attacked into Soviet-occupied Bessarabia on the same day. The Finnish armed forces joined the fight later that week, with Hungarian troops and aircraft entering combat at the beginning of July. By that time, a significant contribution of Italian troops was on its way to the Eastern Front. A Spanish volunteer division would eventually join the fight, along with large formations recruited from Soviet prisoners of war and from the local civilian population of occupied Soviet territories.

The course of the war is far too complicated to detail in this article. Suffice to say that the German enjoyed overwhelming success for the first five months of the war, before weather and stiffening Red Army resistance led to a Soviet victory in the Battle of Moscow. Germany resumed the offensive in 1942, only to suffer a major defeat at Stalingrad. The Battle of Kursk, in 1943, ended the Wehrmacht’s offensive ambitions. 1943, 1944, and 1945 saw the pace of Soviet conquest gradually accelerate, with the monumental offensives of late 1944 shattering the German armed forces. The war turned the Wehrmacht and the Red Army into finely honed fighting machines, while also draining both of equipment and manpower. The Soviets enjoyed the support of Western industry, while the Germans relied on the resources of occupied Europe.
That Battle of Kursk, by the way, was the largest tank battle in history. It took place in July and August, 1943. It was a massive German counterattack. The 2012 Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite article on the battle describes it this way: "The Battle of Kursk was the largest tank battle in history, involving some 6,000 tanks, 2,000,000 troops, and 4,000 aircraft. It marked the decisive end of the German offensive capability on the Eastern Front and cleared the way for the great Soviet offensives of 1944–45."

It noteworthy that this was a summer battle. Something to keep in mind the next time you hear that it was the Russian winter that defeated the Germans on their eastern front.

The German invasion and occupation were gruesome business. The mass killing in the Holocaust began just after the invasion of the USSR. One of the horrifying aspects of the situation was that many Russian Jewish communities had regarded the treatment they had received from the Germans in occupied areas during the First World War as better than what they received from the Russians. So there were many cases in the Second World War of Russian Jews in contested areas fleeing to get behind German lines.

Salisbury wrote:

Hitler had incorporated into his Nazi ideology an old Neitszchian concept of the "superman." The superman in his definition was a German "aryan," blond, clean-cut, healthy, obedient. Hitler was waging war, he insisted, to provide lebensraum, living space, for this new breed of super-German. He proposed to clear the eastern spaces of untermenschen, that is, all subhuman species such as Russians, Ukranians, Poles, Jews, "Asiatics," etc., etc.

The German armies moved eastward with special orders, such as the "commissar" order under which every Communist official who was captured would automatically be shot. There was also the "kugel" order, a bullet in the head for any prisoner who attempted to escape or was believed to be thinking of escaping.

Under this philosophy millions of Russians, Jews and Poles died. There were six million Jewish victims in Europe including possibly two million in Russia. The Germans did not always bother with bullets or concentration camp furnaces. They simply starved their victims to death. The Germans captured about 5,754,000 Russian soldiers in the war. The number who survived' as prisoners of war was a little more than 1,000,000. That is, only one in five or six of the men and women who fell into German hands survived to the end of the war. (And, shameful to say, most survivors were sent straight from German prisoner camps to Soviet labor camps by Stalin.) Several million Russians were driven into Germany as forced labor. Probably half this total died of starvation and disease.

No one knows how many persons in Russia were killed by the Germans out of hand ... But there was no doubt that the number ran to millions.
It was very ugly stuff.

Farley gives this summary:

Towards the end of the war, the Soviets did their best to return the favor. Soviet depredations against the German civilian population of East and Central Europe do not generally received the same degree of attention as German actions, in no small part because of an enduring (if problematic) sense that the German deserved what they got. Other Eastern European populations were caught in the crossfire, suffering starvation and other depredations from both sides. Nevertheless, there is no question that the Soviets (and the peoples of Eastern Europe) suffered far more deeply from the war than the Germans.

The raw statistics of the war are nothing short of stunning. On the Soviet side, some seven million soldiers died in action, with another 3.6 million dying in German POW camps. The Germans lost four million soldiers in action, and another 370000 to the Soviet camp system. Some 600000 soldiers from other participants (mostly Eastern European) died as well. These numbers do not include soldiers lost on either side of the German-Polish War, or the Russo-Finnish War.

The civilian population of the territory in conflict suffered terribly from the war, in part because of the horrific occupation policies of the German (and the Soviets), and in part because of a lack of food and other necessities of life. Around 15 million Soviet civilians are thought to have been killed. Some three million ethnic Poles died (some before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, but many after) along with around three million Jews of Polish and another two million of Soviet citizenship (included in the Soviet statistics). Somewhere between 500000 and 2 million German civilians died in the expulsions that followed the war.

Quotable quotes from Rick Perry and others; also "authenticity"

"A broken clock is right once a day." - Rick Perry (Steve Goldstein, Oops — Rick Perry says broken clock is right once a day New York Post 09/03/2015)

David "Bobo" Brooks provided an illustration today on the PBS Newshour, when he said when he said of the Republicans, "It's not that they don't believe in the Democratic President. They don't believe in the democratic process."

Bobo reverts back to form later in the segment where he complains about Hillary Clinton's alleged lack of "authenticity."

Speaking of which, Michael Tomasky harshes on the press for their superficiality over things like "authenticity" (Authentic Candidates Suck Daily Beast 10/09/2015):

[A]uthenticity is overrated in the first place. I hate authenticity. Authenticity sucks. It’s a substitute for critical thought and actual argument, and the political media harp far too much on it. ...

I can’t tell you the number of straight-news reporters who’ve said to me over the years something like: Yes, OK, Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham or whoever may be a little out there, but you know what? At least he really means it. What you see with him is what you get. To which I would rejoin, well, that’s fine, but so what ...

I’d much rather have a president who inauthentically raises the minimum wage and passes paid family leave than one who authentically eliminates the federal minimum wage and does what the Chamber of Commerce tells him to do on all such matters. [my emphasis]
Charlie Pierce has some similar thoughts, also in relation to Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Enough of Hillary's Heart Is in Enough of the Right Places Esquire Politics 10/09/2015):

There has been a lot of talk recently about Hillary Rodham Clinton's suddenly tougher positions on things like Wall Street reform, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and our old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline. There is handwringing on the Left and snark from the elite media, most of whom learned at the feet of the late investigative collator Big Tim Russert that every politician – especially ones named Clinton – have to stand by every word they've ever said in public and have to hold every position once they've declared it. Frankly, I don't care if it was the strength of Bernie Sanders's challenge, or the intervention of Baal, that got HRC committed to the correct side of these issues, as long as she's there now. ...

Enough of her heart is in enough of the right places for me, thanks.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Is the Republican leadership crisis an advantage for the Democrats?

It should be. But Steve M reminds us that our national press is major-league dysfunctional in recognizing the actual condition of the Christian Republican White Man's Party. In Yeah, It Probably Is 1998 for the Republicans, and That's Not Good for America No More Mister Nice Guy 10/08/2015, he reminds us of how the press eagerly and irresponsibly smeared Al Gore in 1999 through the stolen election of 2000. The fact that 1998 had been a fiasco for Republicans despite being on off-year election didn't prevent the Supreme Court from handing the Presidency to Shrub Bush in 2000. The fact that the Republican House was in a leadership crisis didn't stop the press from treating Bush as Mr. Regular Guy and Gore as as an out-of-touch liar and general stiff. He writes:

This happened in the late 1990s despite a leadership crisis among congressional Republicans, and despite Republicans' apparent compulsion to pursue unpopular extremist measures as if they just couldn't help themselves. All that was true, and yet it didn't hurt the GOP. Republicans had Gore on the ropes throughout the campaign. He eked out a popular-vote win in 2000 but still didn't become president. The GOP controlled all three branches of government for most of the next six years.

So enjoy the Republicans' crisis while it lasts. Unless it lasts all the way through the fall of 2016, it will be a non-factor in the election, just as the 2013 shutdown was a non-factor in 2014. Liberal and centrist voters have no long-term memory for this sort of thing. The mainstream press always wants to revert to the preferred narrative: that the GOP is a sane, responsible party. There would probably have to be tanks in the streets in late 2016, with Louis Gohmert as the lead driver, before GOP chaos had an electoral effect. (my emphasis)
Charlie Pierce weighed in with his distinctive style on the state of matters in the House (This Speaker of the House Sh*tshow Is Far From Over Esquire Politics 10/08/2015):

The balance of power in half the national legislature now seems to be in the hands of the crème de la crazee. (This is such a mess at this point that Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from Wisconsin, and a man whose ambition makes Satan look like Uriah Heep, has done everything except hire a skywriter to say he's not interested.) Is this finally enough for the elite political press to notice that half the American political process is in full-blown dementia?
Sadly, the answer is almost certainly no, no, no, it won't be enough.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Robert Fisk on the "Syria Moderates" fantasy

Robert Fisk takes a no-nonsense look at the Syrian situation in Syria’s ‘moderates’ have disappeared... and there are no good guys The Independent 10/04/2015: "The Russians, we are now informed, are bombing the “moderates” in Syria – 'moderates' whom even the Americans admitted two months ago, no longer existed."

Those Syrian Moderates have proven to be remarkably hard to locate!

Fisk gives us a bit of history:

“American officials” – those creatures beloved of The New York Times – claim that the Syrian army does not fight Isis. If true, who on earth killed the 56,000 Syrian soldiers – the statistic an official secret, but nonetheless true – who have so far died in the Syrian war? The preposterous Free Syrian Army (FSA)?

This rubbish has reached its crescendo in the on-again off-again saga of the Syrian “moderates”. These men were originally military defectors to the FSA, which America and European countries regarded as a possible pro-Western force to be used against the Syrian government army. But the FSA fell to pieces, corrupted, and the “moderates” defected all over again, this time to the Islamist Nusrah Front or to Isis, selling their American-supplied weapons to the highest bidder or merely retiring quietly – and wisely – to the countryside where they maintained a few scattered checkpoints.
He doesn't have a very high opinion of the Russian role there: "The Russian military are killers who go for the jugular. They slaughtered the innocent of Chechnya to crush the Islamist uprising there, and they will cut down the innocent of Syria as they try to crush a new army of Islamists and save the ruthless regime of Bashar al-Assad."

Fisk also claims that the Chechnyan issue has a direct connection to Russia's Syrian intervention:

The first [Russian] strikes – far from being aimed at the “moderates” whom the US had long ago dismissed – were directed at the large number of Turkmen villages in the far north-west of Syria which have for many months been occupied by hundreds of Chechen fighters – the very same Chechens whom Putin had been trying to liquidate in Chechnya itself. These Chechen forces assaulted and destroyed Syria’s strategic hilltop military Position 451 north of Latakia last year. No wonder Bashar’s army put them on the target list.

Doctors Without Borders pressing for independent investigation of hospital strike

Doctors Without Borders (MSF from their French name) is demanding an independent investigation of the deadly US bombing of one of their hospitals in Afghanistan this past weekend.

The Young Turks report on the hospital bombing, White House Fighting Independent Investigation Of Hospital Bombing 10/07/2015

Aljazeera America reports in Obama apologises to MSF and Afghans for Kunduz strike 10/07/2015:

US President Barack Obama called the head of medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) and the Afghan president to apologise for the US air strike that hit a hospital in the provincial capital of Kunduz.

Obama called President Ashraf Ghani and MSF President Joanne Liu on Wednesday to express regret for the loss of life in the attack that killed 22 people and injured 37 others.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama offered his condolences to the aid group's staff and assured that there would be a thorough and objective accounting of the facts. ...

In New York, Jason Cone, executive director of MSF in the US, called for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to be activated for the first time since its 1991 creation under the Geneva Conventions. ...

Liu spoke of the chaos as the bombs fell for an hour.

"Our patients burned in their beds, MSF doctors, nurses and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other," she said.

Marcy Wheeler (Obama’s Apology Fails to Convince Médecins Sans Frontières DOD’s Investigation Is Adequate Emptywheel 10/07/2015) has a question: "The US sure seems to want to avoid an independent investigation into this bombing. Why?"

The Doctors Without Borders group is right to demand an independent investigation. The US military, NATO and the Afghan government are virtually certain to officially conclude it was all a sad mistake.

Shifting US alliances on Syria

Fred Kaplan gives a "realist" analysis of the current US situation in Syria (Desperate Measures Slate 09/28/2015)

The United Stares has no vital interest in Syria, and Obama has no desire to get bogged down in a messy civil war. And yet the war is spreading; its disorder threatens allies in the region, and it has unleashed the most calamitous refugee crisis the world has seen in decades. When Obama first realized he had to act, he tried to build a coalition based on Sunni nations—Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, the Gulf states—and a new government in Iraq that pledged to be more inclusive toward Sunni militias and tribal leaders. But the Sunni nations proved less forceful—and the new Iraq less inclusive—than he hoped; the most promising coalition partner, Turkey, seemed more interested in pounding Kurds than jihadists.

And so, Obama has been forced to join an alliance of powers—Iran, Russia, and (take a deep breath) Assad—that always seemed to have the most potential, because their interests in fighting ISIS were most vital and least ambivalent. Alliances are rarely purebreds. Had Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill resisted allying with Joseph Stalin to fight Adolf Hitler, on the grounds that Soviet Communism was hardly less evil than Nazism, then they would have lost World War II while standing on their moral dudgeon. The war against ISIS isn’t nearly as titanic, but the principle is the same: Sometimes the world presents you with terrible choices, and you have to go with the least terrible—at least for the moment.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A crackpot ghost helping to run the Republican asylum

David Corn last week takes a look at how much Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson admires a deceased Mormon fundamentalist crackpot who is also one of Glenn Beck's main gurus, maybe the main one. (Ben Carson's Love Affair With a "Nutjob" Conspiracy Theorist Mother Jones 08/29/2015

That would be the late authoritarian kook, Willard Cleon Skousen (1913-2006). I wrote about him on this blog in Glenn Beck's political guru 09/21/2009:

Skousen was a Morman rightwinger who taught at two Mormon universities and served for four years as the Salt Lake City chief of police, until the ultra-conservative mayor of the time fired him for being too hardline. "He operated the police department like a Gestapo," the mayor said.

Skousen in the early 1960s after being canned as police chief was involved with far-right groups like the Birchers' American Opinion Speakers Bureau, the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, the All-American Society and the American Security Council. Zaitchik writes that Skousen in the early 1960s became "the nation's most prominent Birch defender." The Birchers were angry at Barry Goldwater's movement because the 1964 Republican Convention that selected Goldwater as its Presidential nominee also condemned the Birch Society which viewed former President Dwight Eisenhower as having been a Communist. The pique of the Birchers against Goldwater, despite his endorsement of many views to their liking, was probably not irrelevant to the fact that Goldwater's parents had been Jewish, though they had converted to Christianity.

The Skousen book that Beck so loves is The 5,000 Year Leap (1981). But he also made ripples in the sphere of far-right influence with other volumes like The Naked Communist, The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society, The Naked Capitalist (1970) and The Making of America (1982), the latter of which claimed that slaveowners had been the "worst victims" of the slavery system in the Old South.

As [Alexander] Zaitchik explains, the Mormon journal Dialogue: The Journal of Mormon Thought in its Autumn-Winter 1971 issue published a symposium on The Naked Capitalist, which was receiving notable attention from conservative Mormon intellectuals. Dialogue has made the symposium available on its Web site, including a pitch by an admirer of Skousen's book and a response by Skousen himself. You can get a first-hand look there at the ideology on which Beck is operating and recommending to his followers as it looked during the first Nixon administration, long before the "teaparty" movement became a favorite media entertainment item.
This is a picture of Ben Carson's and Glenn Beck's intellectual mentor:

It's fascinating to see in Corn's article that just last year, Carson referred to Skousen's book The Naked Communist this way: "It was written in 1958. Cleon Skousen lays out the whole agenda, including the importance of getting people into important positions in the mainstream media so they can help drive the agenda. Well, that's what's going on now."

A paranoid conspiracy theory that worked for the Birchers and similar rightwinger fringers in 1958 still can work for them today in only slightly modified form. Only today it works for mainstream Republicans like Ben Carson.

Victor Ferkiss wrote in 1962 ("Political and Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, Right and Left" Annals 344; Nov 1962):

The single most important tenet of right-wing radicalism is the absoluteness of the menace of communism and the struggle against it. It is not only an important or the most important thing in the world, it is the only thing. Everything that happens is a function of it - a nationalist revolution in Africa, government medical care for the aged, or less homework in schools - just as for Marx everything was epiphenomenal to the control of the means of production. The Communists are winning because they recognize the absoluteness of the struggle; the United States is losing because, save for the radical right, it does not. [my emphasis]
It sounds this is true today for Skousen disciple Ben Carson, as well.

Frekiss also noted how the Radical Right then turned their paranoid against the all-threatening external Communist menace against domestic political figures that had nothing to do with Communism:

Today, ... the radical right ... holds that the Communists are basically weak and that what makes them strong is our failure to use the strength we possess-a concomitant of our failure to recognize the absoluteness of the struggle. Get rid of the traitors, spies, and do-gooders in our midst, and we will triumph over communism with a minimum of effort and expense.
What he said in the ellipse was, "the radical right de-emphasizes
military as well as foreign-aid expenditures." They still gripe about foreign aid, that's a perennially favorite grievance. But today they love, love, love military expenditure. Frekiss there was talking about the isolationist right of the John Birch Society type, which espoused the kind of segregationist "libertarianism" that the Paul family professes now. It always had a militaristic core. And Rand Paul's political evolution over the last few years shows a lot of that side of this type of "isolationist" radicalism.

But, amazingly, Frekiss also wrote about the Radical Right of 1962, "One noteworthy element is missing: racialism." He just went right of the tracks on that one!

Another article in the same number of the Annals, "Conservatism" by Jasper Shannon, shows how anti-Communism made for fluid distinctions between conservatives and reactionaries:

The frenzied frustration of the Cold War made Marxian communism the symbol of every kind of wickedness. Unable to destroy the enemy abroad, many conservatives turned to a real or fancied enemy within. Not content with warning against the diminishing number of official members of the American Communist party, baffled conservatives broadened the definition of communism to include anyone whose views they regarded as dangerous. Liberals and even moderate conservatives fell under the sweeping charges of what one may call the emotional conservatives. Some of these radical-right persons clung to General Douglas MacArthur as a forlorn hope for the presidency in 1952. Embittered by MacArthur's failure to win a considerable following, they supported Robert A. Taft. When Taft was defeated by Eisenhower, the wrath of these inflamed rightists turned against Taft for not throwing his delegates to MacArthur. No language was too strong to be applied to either Taft or Eisenhower in this moment of agonized disappointment.
That reference to Ohio Senator Robert Taft is relevant to discussion then and now about the split between conservatives and reactionaries. In practice, the boundaries between conservatives and Radical Right were often hard to detect.

And in the US today, finding those boundaries is practically an impossible effort.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Recognizing rightwing authoritarianism

Rick Perlstein has a very insightful piece on political authoritarianism and how we understand it today, versus how it was understood in the 1950s and 1960s in the US, Donald Trump and the "F-Word" Washington Spectator 09/30/2015.

The f-word in this case is "fascism." Rick gives a good summary of how the word has been degraded almost to meaninglessness in US politics today:

The “f-word” has nearly vanished from everyday political discussion in America, and for good reason. It’s become the kind of epithet that stops thought instead of enhancing it. But serious people used to talk about the relevance of the German experience to American politics. In 1964, Philip Rahv, a founding editor of the marquee intellectual journal Partisan Review, wrote that the movement that nominated Barry Goldwater for president represented “a recrudescence on American soil of precisely those super-nationalistic and right-wing trends that were finally defeated in Europe at the cost of a great war, untold misery, and many millions dead.”

But within a couple of years, when student protesters were closing down universities through violence and the threat of violence, people like Ronald Reagan said that was exactly what fascists did, so he deployed National Guardsmen to keep campuses open––which student protesters called fascist in turn.

By the end of the 1960s both sides were throwing the f-word at one another with abandon. But in current American politics, the word has survived via the abject stupidity of many thousands of right-wing readers of one of the worst books ever published, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism (2008), which made much of the fact that both Hitler and a heck of a lot of liberals were vegetarians.
And he offers this contrast because today's political discourse around authoritarianism and that of the 1950s and 1960s:

It’s a devolution to an older style of political thinking that felt perfectly logical in the 1950s and early 1960s, among writers for whom civilization’s descent into blood-soaked barbarism was recent memory. The writing that followed it was either explicitly or implicitly rooted in a Marxist style of thinking, which is to say a Hegelian style of thinking: if history was “supposed” to develop in a certain direction (toward socialism; toward liberal democracy), how, then, to account for the hard-right turn no one had predicted? The process of strong men taking advantage of weak men, with the strongman, his victims, and their willing executioners produced by the neuroses attending the breakdown of traditional ways of life, seemed to be encoded within modernity itself.
He probably overstates the degree to which all such thinking was "either explicitly or implicitly rooted in a Marxist style of thinking." Because liberal Cold Warriors who carefully insisted on their allergy to Marxism shared similar concerns, as did even some conservatives.

In the two decades after the Second World War, it was meaningful to make distinctions between "genuine," pro-democracy conservatives and "conservatives" who were really more-or-less anti-democracy authoritarians and reactionaries. The latter were direct ideological descendants of the prewar America First crowd. Which is kind of like saying they were ideologicval descendants of themselves, since very often they were the same people. The brand of segregationist "libertarianism" practiced by Papa Doc and Baby Doc Paul traces a clear ideological history back to the prewar rightwing isolationists. The Christian Front meeting in 1945 that I referenced in the post Trump as Radical Right agitator (08/21/2015) illustrates a very early postwar link in that chain.

Thus, the Nelson Rockefeller/Barry Goldwater divide in the Republican Party in 1964 was widely understood even among Republicans as one between conservatives and reactionaries, though the names they used for each other were often a bit harsher than that.

The Philip Rahv article that Rick references from Partisan Review 31:4 (1964), in which he one of the contributors to a set of brief essays under the general heading, "Some Comments on Senator Goldwater," includes the passage that Rick partially quotes in the passage shown above:

Goldwater and his zealots are not conservative in any intelligible sense of the term. They are out-and-out reactionaries. It takes very little political sophistication to see that Goldwater is not in the least a replica of the late Senator Taft, who was genuinely a conservative. His [Goldwater's] movement represents a recrudescence on American soil of precisely those super-nationalistic and right-wing trends that were finally defeated in Europe at the cost of a great war, untold misery, and many millions dead. No wonder Europeans, with that experience back of them, regard Goldwater with horror. [my emphasis]
Without elaborating on it much further here, there is a risk in over-stressing the difference between conservatives and reactionaries in the Republican Party prior to the Nixon Administration, which began merging those two tendencies in a way that made them effectively indistinguishable long before Donald Trump became the Republican man-crush of the moment. When Teddy Roosevelt fought the trusts on behalf a genuinely popular constituency, the Big Business wing of the Party represented by Old Man Taft (William Howard Taft the President, father of the Senator Robert Taft so commonly held up as a contrast to Barry Goldwater.) Politicians like Thomas Dewey continued the liberal tradition in the Republican Party. But he co-existed in a Republican Party with radical-right isolationists, admirers of Mussolini and Hitler, and authoritarian Liberty League types. For a grumpy take of my own on Robert Taft, see Barry Goldwater and 2012 Republicanism (1) 10/17/2012.

Rahv also comments on an aspect of our political culture that has remained central even after the enemy against which it was primarily directed, the Soviet Union, went out of existence: "Our hard-nosed Cold Warriors are interested in Communism, which they would be forced to invent if it did not exist, principally as a means of frightening the electorate and creating and artificial popular demand for their own elevation to power." (my emphasis)

Rick Perlstein gives us an excellent example of why we need to recover more of the sense of the risks of democracy degenerating into a rightwing authoritarian system, whether we call it by the "f-word" or something else:

Trump has now provided more 'specifics' about his immigration plan: a forced population transfer greater than any attempted in history, greater than the French and Spanish expulsions of the Jews in 1308 and 1492; greater than the Nabka of approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from British-mandate Palestine; greater than the 1.5 million Stalin consigned to Siberia and the Central Asian republics; greater than Pol Pot’s exile of 2.5 million city-dwellers to the Cambodian countryside, or the scattering of Turkey’s Assyrian Christians, which the scholar Mordechai Zaken says numbers in the millions and required 180 years to complete. Trump has promised to move 12 million Mexicans in under two years––'so fast your head will spin.
Trump is not being ostracized by other Republican candidates because of this. Our star reporters and pundits are too focused on the horse-race and reality-show spectacle of the Republican Presidential clown show to pay much attention to what a radical, horrendous measure Trump is proposing. (Despite the massive media coverage he's receiving at the moment, several polls have shown him slipping in popularity among the Republican base, particularly to his fellow non-politician candidate Ben Carson, e.g.: John Merline, Donald Trump Falls: Ben Carson Surges To Lead In Poll Investor's Business Daily 10/02/2015)

I'll close by noting that, as much as we need to get back more of that postwar sense about the danger of authoritarianism that Rick describes from the postwar decades. there is also a significant danger that we also see in those decades: the idolizing of "centrism" as the antidote to "extremism of the right and left." That aspect of the postwar Cold War consensus is not only alive and well among the Beltway Village press. It has metastasized into the cult of High Broderism, whose central tenet is Both Sides Do It.

In that worldview, the "center" is defined as being some ideal point between the two major parties, allowing the Village pundits and analysts to posture as being wisely above the fray and advising Both Sides to embrace bipartisan compromise. High Broderism effective prevents them from acknowledging, probably even from fully recognizing, a key fact about present-day American politics, in the words of Charlie Pierce, "that one of our two political parties has lost its mind and that it has committed itself to wrecking our politics if it doesn't always get its way." (The Ron Fournier Effect: Because Democracy Disturbs the Horses Esquire Politics Blog 06/09/2015)

Good guys with guns

Rosanne Cash, who has been active in her opposition to gun proliferation and in favor of domestic arms restrictions, is a fine essayist and short story writer, as well. At her Facebook page today, she did a long post on this topic. And it includes a good debunking of the insane idea routinely promoted by gun proliferation advocates that the answer to gun violence and mass shootings is for everyone to carry loaded guns at all times:

Several years later, my precious daughter, Chelsea, was held up at gunpoint in the jewelry store where she worked. The gunmen held her for twenty minutes. I'm so grateful she was not killed and I'm also so acutely aware that the difference between me and the moms carrying the photos on the march is a split second. Do NOT tell me that Chelsea 'should have had a gun.' If she had, she'd be dead. She is not physically or mentally able to coolly aim a gun at someone who is already pointing a gun at HER, and fire sharp-shooter style at another human being while terror-stricken. Nor am I. Nor are millions of other people.

The logic that 'if more law-abiding citizens had guns, there would be fewer mass shootings' is confounding to the point of nihilism. What's the end game? Every first grade teacher should have a gun in her desk to prevent another massacre like Newtown? Every pastor in his pulpit? Every movie-goer, mall shopper, night club patron and mom pushing a stroller, until we are reduced to anarchy and violence in every social venue of this country? [my emphasis]
This is an interesting report from The Young Turks on a real-life situation on a would-be "good guy with a gun" at the Oregon college where last week's now-routine mass shooting occurred, Two Amazing Acts Of Heroism During Umpqua College Shooting 10/02/2015:

In that clip, the Young Turks team refer to this incident of a presumed "good guy with a gun" from a week ago: Witness Who Fired on Carjackers Sought After Northwest Houston Attack ABC 13 09/27/2015; One man is injured after a carjacking and shooting at a gas station in north Houston Saturday night 09/27/2015.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

"Stuff happens" in our super-precise military strikes too

And it needs to stop.

Hamid Shalizi and Andrew Macaskill report (U.S. says conducted air strike near Afghan hospital that killed 19 Reuters 10/03/2015):

The U.S. military said it conducted an air strike on Saturday near a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the northern city of Kunduz that killed 19 staff and patients, including three children, the medical aid group said.

The U.S. military said it had launched a strike during battles with the Taliban that "may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility" but said details were still not clear and promised an investigation.
Which will almost inevitably find that no one in our glorious military didn't anything the tiniest bit wrong.

"Stuff happens," Jeb! BUSH said after the latest mass shooting in Oregon. (Jessica Taylor, 'Stuff Happens' Comment Creates Firestorm For Jeb Bush NPR 10/02/2015) That's also what the military typically comes up with in investigating their own killing of innocent civilians unintended collateral damage.

The Tampa Bay Times also reports on the US attack on the hospital in U.S. defense secretary offers condolences after airstrike kills 16 at Doctors Without Borders hospital (w/video) 10/03/2015. A general offered the ritual "thoughts and prayers": "'While we work to thoroughly examine the incident and determine what happened, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected,' said Gen. John F. Campbell in a statement."

I guess that's now permanent standard boilerplate for all mass killings, foreign and domestic. "Stuff happens," after all, and what can our glorious generals do about it?


U.N. Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein led a chorus of condemnation, without saying who carried out the strike, and that an assault on a hospital could amount to a war crime.

The medical charity said its staff phoned military officials at NATO in Kabul and Washington during the morning attack, but bombs continued to rain down for nearly an hour. [my emphasis]
Charles Lane wrote in Crimes of War 2.0 (2007):

Hospitals, of course, enjoy a special protected status under international humanitarian law. It is a war crime deliberately to attack a hospital or other medical unit, whether civilian or military. It is also unlawful to use a hospital in direct support of a military operation - to convert one wing of the hospital into an ammo dump, for example. (Indeed, hospitals that are misused in this manner Lose their legal protection.) Medical personnel in general may not be attacked; but at the same time it is unlawful to use medical facilities, or related equipment such as ambulances, as camouflage or protection for military personnel, or as a shield for military forces.

International humanitarian Law is not. however, completely inflexible in how it evaluates collateral damage to hospitals that may result from attacks on legitimate military targets nearby. The rule of thumb is that if the damage to the hospital is not excessive in view of the direct and concrete military advantages to be gained from attacking the nearby target, then the damage may be considered lawful. [bolding in original; italics mine]
More from Reuters:

The hospital had treated almost 400 patients in the 150-bed hospital since fighting broke out on Monday, most for gunshot wounds. So many patients have flooded in that the hospital had to put them in offices and on mattresses on the floor.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman said last week there would be no air strikes inside the city because of the risk of mass civilian casualties.

Ghani's predecessor, Hamid Karzai, fell out with his backers in Washington in part over the number of civilians killed by bombs in the nearly 14-year-old war, America's longest military conflict.
Knut Dörmann and Jose Serralvo recently wrote (The Obligation to Prevent Violations of International Humanitarian Law Intercross 09/24/2015):

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is convinced that international humanitarian law (IHL) continues to strike a judicious balance between the principles of humanity and military necessity. There is no doubt that compliance with existing rules of IHL would significantly alleviate the suffering of the victims of war. Unfortunately, contemporary armed conflicts – like those in Syria, South Sudan or Ukraine, to name but a few – illustrate how lack of respect for the law has become one of the biggest challenges facing IHL today. [my emphasis]
Needless to say, the United States, which still prides itself as being Leader Of The Free World, contributed mightily to that present state of affairs through the criminal invasion of Iraq, the torture program, and the continuing reckless military interventions in various states from Libya to Yemen will little worry about the niceties of international law.

That really is a case where Both Sides Do It, even if the Republican Party today is more crassly enthusiastic about it than the Democrats.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Tom Edsall strikes again, telling the Dems they're doomed

I think of Tom Edsall as kind of a high-level troll, one who trolls liberals with warning that all is lost with their silly, wimpy lost cause.

He's at it again with What if All Politics Is National? New York Times 09/29/2015.

Edsall has done some good work reporting on the gutter right. He's no Dave Neiwert, but he's good at that.

Still, the impression left by the position he took back in 1991 in his book Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (1991) and in articles in the years immediately afterward stuck with me.

That book basically argued that the party that most successfully defined itself as the anti-black party would be permanently dominant. And he was going out of his way, using some shaky arguments and dubious reading of statistics to make that point. Despite his reputation as a liberal, he certainly seemed to think that outcome was more-or-less desirable. I haven't parsed all the numbers he uses in this piece, but this is a red flag: "From 1960 to 1980, Republican House candidates won just under 60 percent of the districts where Republican presidential nominees performed well."

Well, yes, that is back when the phrase "liberal Republican" hadn't yet started sounding like something out of an over-imaginative alternative-reality novel. I'm guessing that in the former Confederate states, the percentage of Democratic House candidates winning in states that Republicans Presidential candidates carried would be high during that period, as well. Meaning that they would heavily skew his figures. Edsall is just too loosey-goosey with his stats for my taste.

Part of Edsall's thing here is nostalgia for the mythical good ole days of Bipartisanship, Tip 'n Ronnie having a beer together, etc.

My mini-meta view of Edsall's problem is that he's basically lazy in his assumptions. In 1991, he was looking at three successive Republican Presidential victories and assumed that because of the charms of white racism that the pattern would continue as long as the grass will grow and the rivers will run. Then in 1992, California flipped to the Democratic column and has stayed there, which blew Edsall's 1991 assumptions out of the water.

In this article, he's trying to make a permanent trend out of the shift of previously Southern Democratic districts to Republican. But the Republicans milked that particular cow dry long ago. A big part of the Reps' advantages in the states right now has to do with their aggressive redistricting practices and Democratic fecklessness in the "red" states.

In other words, we need that 50 State Strategy back! Edsall makes it sound like some immutable sociological law.

Also, he misses a basic aspect of the political effects of inequality. As Jamie Galbraith explained in his book Inequality and Instability (2012), the most dramatic increases in inequality are actually fairly isolated geographically in a few zip codes around places like Boston, Silicon Valley, New York and Los Angeles. But if the growth in inequality is geographically restricted, Edsall's analysis of the national effects of growing inequality producing increased support for Republicans is based on a false assumption.

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells wrote about another of Edsall's books, The Age of Austerity, that deals with equality and political polarizatio in Getting Away with It Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, Getting Away with It New York Review of Books 07/12/2012. They argued that Edsall was wrong to argue that a struggle over resources resulting from increasing inequality is driving the polarization of politics. They also find a different explanation in what academics call an imminent critique of Edsall's own book:

So where does the embittered politics come from? Edsall himself supplies much of the answer. Namely, what he portrays is a Republican Party that has been radicalized not by a struggle over resources — tax rates on the wealthy are lower than they have been in generations — but by fear of losing its political grip as the nation changes. The most striking part of The Age of Austerity, at least as we read it, was the chapter misleadingly titled “The Economics of Immigration.” The chapter doesn’t actually say much about the economics of immigration; what it does, instead, is document the extent to which immigrants and their children are, literally, changing the face of the American electorate.

As Edsall concedes, this changing face of the electorate has had the effect of radicalizing the GOP. “For whites with a conservative bent,” he writes — and isn’t that the very definition of the Republican base?—

the shift to a majority-minority nation [i.e., a nation in which minorities will make up the majority] will strengthen the already widely held view that programs benefiting the poor are transferring their taxpayer dollars to minority recipients, from first whites to blacks and now to “browns.”
[my emphasis in bold]
I haven't read The Age of Austerity. So I don't know if his NYT article from the past week reflects an argument he made there.

But it sure seems to me that in 1991, he took the race-driven electoral success of Republicans in the Presidential race and treated it as effectively permanent. Now that the Democrats appear to have a long-term lock on the Presidency, especially in the kind of lazy analysis our Pod Pundits and star reporters apply, Edsall is looking at the race-driven electoral success of Republicans in Congress and state legislatures and treats it as effectively permanent.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Krugman on continuing Republican voodoo tax policies

Paul Krugman takes the release of Donald Trump's tax proposals as the occasion to evaluate the current thinking of the Republican Party on taxes: And Then There Were None 09/29/2015.

Speaking of Trump's proposal, he writes:

... which would, surprise, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit. That’s in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.

At this point there are no Republican candidates deviating at all from the usual pattern. Why, it’s almost as if nobody in the party ever cared about deficits except as an excuse to slash social spending, and is totally committed to redistributing income upward.

And there is, of course, no evidence — zero, nada, zilch — that cutting taxes on the rich will yield large economic benefits.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Trials and tribulations of the EU

Here's a couple of articles offering rather gloomy outlooks for the EU at the moment. One is from Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times, Five concurrent crises push Europe into the realm of chaos 09/27/2015:

Europe is juggling five simultaneous crises, all unforeseen shocks in different stages of development: refugees from Syria, eurozone periphery debt, a global economic downturn, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its aftermath, and Volkswagen’s crimes and misdemeanours. ...

An innocuous crisis trigger in Europe has been Angela Merkel’s principled decision to open up Germany to refugees from Syria. Most Germans greeted her decision with exuberance, but she did not prepare her country, and the rest of Europe, politically and logistically for what was to come. In Berlin and Hamburg the housing situation is so desperate that the authorities are preparing legislation to confiscate empty privately owned apartments and, in Hamburg, commercial properties too. There have been cases where local governments terminated rental contracts of tenants in social housing to give shelter to refugees. When the public sector behaves this way, xenophobia is only nanoseconds away. ...

The combination of an economic slowdown and the refugee crisis will transform the German fiscal surplus into a small deficit, which would be fine under normal circumstances. Germany should be running a modest deficit to support the eurozone economy. But Germany imposed on itself a constitutional law that enforces budgetary balance over the economic cycle. Once the surpluses are gone, the political and legal room for discretionary policy ac­tion will have disappeared. To put it more crudely: the Germans have decided to spend the surplus on the refugees, not on Greece.
Heckuva job, Angie, heckuva job!

And Bob Kuttner weighs in with The European Prospect The American Prospect 09/28/2015:

After the euro became Europe’s common currency in 2002, leadership of the project passed to German conservatives. Their goal, above all, was fiscal balance. Helmut Kohl, chancellor at the time of German reunification, and before the launch of the euro, conditioned Germany’s willingness to give up the deutsche mark on extremely conservative fiscal and monetary rules. Germany is obsessed with price stability because of its experiences with hyper-inflation both in the Weimar period and in the chaos after World War II. More recently, the costs of absorbing the former communist DDR pushed Germany well beyond the fiscal norms that Kohl had imposed on the rest of Europe. All of these provisions, hidden in plain view in the Maastricht Treaty, were mere nuisances until the financial crisis of 2008 hit. The Maastricht rules then gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the banks a hammer with which to destroy the sovereignty and social solidarity of lesser nations.

Austerity not only served as perverse macroeconomic policy, but the plans imposed on the debtor states of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland included neoliberal policies that went far beyond mere budget balance, reminiscent of the IMF in its worst period. According to their EU masters, these countries needed to restore growth to reassure their creditors. How to accomplish that trick at a time of fiscal belt-tightening? Cut wages, undermine collective-bargaining rights, intensify privatizations, reduce taxes on business, and eviscerate social outlays. Basically, the crisis gave a huge political opening for neoliberal policies that are not even effective economics. The resulting stagnation undermines voter confidence in both the nation-state and in the European Union. The European Central Bank, with far less general authority than the U.S. Federal Reserve, serves mainly as the agent of banks. Thus did a project promoted by social democrats in the 1980s and 1990s become an instrument of deep conservatism.
And he notes how the refugee crisis not only reflects the EU's chronic weaknesses and exacerbates them:

If Europe needed one more assault to further undermine the model, it came via the refugee crisis. The crisis laid bare two awful fragilities. The first is the dysfunction of the EU as a confederation with multiple veto points and little capacity for leadership in a crisis. As Henry Kissinger reportedly said, expressing his skepticism about the EU as a diplomatic player, “Who do I call?”

The second frailty is that, despite all of the efforts of Brussels to forge a common identity, the continent is still, in the famous formulation of General de Gaulle, one of the original Euro-skeptics, a Europe “des patries”—a Europe of nations. When a crunch comes, most citizens are French or Danish first, European second. And most social contracts are still forged—or not—at the level of the polity. The EU is woefully incomplete as a polity, much less a democracy. All over Europe, the EU is increasingly a project of elites, losing the trust of citizens. [my emphasis]
And here's a useful illustration from a German Green Member of the European Parliament, Ska Keller, on How Europe is "Helping" 4 Million Syrian Refugees 21.09.2015.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Humor, satire, ridicule and politics

Rick Perlstein weighs in on a persistent question about the effect and usefulness of satire and mockery against demagogues and dictators in What Ronald Reagan Teaches Us About Donald Trump Vice 09/25/2015. He argues that Charlie Chaplin's famous 1940 movie The Great Dictator lampooning Adolf Hitler was actually helped Hitler more than hurting him.

He refers to the judgment of Ron Rosenbaum in Will They Never Learn? 11/29/2006, who wrote:

... there is no more trivializing, over-rated, treatment of Hitler than Chaplin’s dimwitted, laboriously unfunny Great Dictator. Yes Chaplin made some funny movies, but when he tried his hands at politics Chaplin made a movie that did nothing but help Hitler because he made him seem like an unthreatening clown just at a time, 1940, when the world needed to take Hitler’s threat seriously.

Yet Chaplin’s film makes it seem like Hitler was nothing but a harmless fool (like Chaplin, same mustache and all). And he made it at a time, during the Nazi-Soviet pact, when the world most needed to mobilize against Hitler’s threat. And yet Chaplin, to his eternal shame ended the film not with a call to oppose fascism, and its murderous hatred, but rather – because he was following the shameful Hitler-friendly Soviet line at the time – ended his film with a call for all workers in the world to lay down their arms–in other words to refuse to join the fight against fascism and Hitler. [emphasis in original]
Rick uses The Great Dictator as a lead-in to his main topic, a caution against taking Donald Trump too lightly, referring to people who regarded Ronald Reagan that way as a cautionary tale.

It's an interesting history. And I'm basically in agreement with him and his conclusion, "But more than that, Reagan, and now Trump, reveal our own tendency to repress our fear of demagogues by dismissing them. And ultimately, it's all about us. Follow the bouncing beach ball. Take demagogues seriously. Voters love them. And they're only a joke until they win." (my emphasis)

I doubt that Rick Perlstein thinks very favorably of Herbert Marcuse's work, although I don't really know. But in his 1972 book Counter-Revolution and Revolt, Marcuse wrote, referring to conscious radical left strategies of mocking the existing order:

Liberation here is having fun within the Establishment, perhaps also with the Establishment, or cheating the Establishment. There is nothing wrong with having fun with the Establishment - but there are situations in which the fun falls flat, becomes silly in any terms because it testifies to political impotence. Under Hitler's fascism, satire became silent: not even Charlie Chaplin and Karl Kraus could keep it up.
In that passage, Marcuse is making is actually conflating the life-practices of communes, which were enjoying a surge in popularity as an alternative lifestyle, and satire in literature and film. He is actually fretting in that argument that such popularity was contributing to withdrawal from political activism. As he wrote immediately preceding the sentences just quoted, "They [the communes] continue to be possible nuclei, 'cells,' laboratories, for testing autonomous, nonalientated relationships. But they are susceptible to isolation and depoliticization. And this means self-co-option or capitulation: the negative which is only the reverse of the affirmative - not its qualitative opposite."

Marcuse is actually making a very similar point to Perlstein's, for all the differences in underlying assumptions there may be. Since Donald Trump's popularity in 2015 so much resembles that of George Wallace's in the 1960s and 1970s, and Marcuse refers to Wallace's popular support in that same book as evidence of "a proto-fascist syndrome" at work, it's likely that were he still around today, he would share Rick's concerns about trivializing Trump as a political figure.

Marcuse also emphasized in that work the point that, despite the rhetoric and genuine fears of the radical left and many liberals in 1972, many of which he obviously shared, the Nixon Administration, he wrote, "is not a fascist regime by any means." (emphasis in original) A topic worth exploring elsewhere. But I'll note here that the Republican Party in 1972 not only harbored proto-Trump Democratic convert, Vice President Spiro Agnew, but had senior elected officials who were actually moderate and even some who could legitimately be called liberals, like Oregon's Mark Hatfield and New York's Jacob Javits. The Wallace brand of "proto-fascism" was largely a phenomenon of the Southern segregationists in the Democratic Party. The party-based ideological alignments of today are qualitatively different. And therefore more conducive to the possible of the further advance of authoritarianism in the Republican Party.

On the Great Dictator matter, as Marcuse indicated and Perlstein states, "Chaplin [later said] that had he know about the horrors Hitler was responsible for at the time, '[I] could not made have fun of their homicidal insanity.'"

Karl Kraus (1874-1936) was a Viennese satirist, publisher of a magazine called Die Fackel from 1899 to 1936, and such works as The Last Days of Humanity. I enjoyed this graphic novel version of the latter published in 2014:

Marcuse in the quoted comment on Kraus is presumably referring to the caution Kraus begin exercising in published satire critical of Hitler and the Nazis after Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. And maybe to his 1934 book, Warum die Fackel nicht erscheint (Why the Fackel Isn't Appearing).

I share Rick's concern that because Trump sounds like a clown, people opposed to what he's advocating may not take him seriously enough.

That doesn't mean to me, though, that all spoofing or mockery of Trump's posturing are damaging. And Rick's piece got me thinking about the various ways we use humor in politics.

Some political satire is just funny because it expresses a general truth, even though that truth could be spun different ways.

For instance, one of my Facebook friends shared this photo without any mention that it could be a satire. And I really don't know whether it's fake or not. But in this case, it's funny either way.

It's supposedly a poster in support of Michael Häupl, the social-democratic (SPÖ) mayor of Vienna. It says, "We want you to vote for the SPÖ. Otherwise you can kiss my ass." The German version is actually a touch nastier than the American one. But that's close enough.

It's funny because it refers to a near-universal pretension in political campaigns, that every candidate is showing the deepest respect for the general good and for all their potential voters.

On the other hand, some alleged humor is actually political propaganda. A good sign of this version is that no one but partisans of the position think it's funny. Rush Limbaugh's brand of "humor" is pretty much exclusively of this kind. But his "humor" is not just partisan but plainly mean-spirited. The late great Molly Ivins described his still-typical style 20 years ago in Lyin' Bully Mother Jones May/June 1995.

Other kinds of political humor are partisan but not mean-spirited, which means they will mainly be popular with those in general ideological agreement, but can also be entertaining or even persuasive. Molly Ivins herself could serve as an example. Esquire's Charlie Pierce is a current example, with his Menckenesque style displaying his solid political analysis. But while the humorous is a key part of the style of both, their emphasis was on the political.

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart could be seen as variations of this type, but in their case they are comedians who found a major niche doing political humor.

Then there is comedy generally, ranging from the club versions to Saturday Night Live, plays, movies and TV series. Politics comes into these at various times, sometimes hitting on political themes, typically leaning toward the provocative but often designed not to tick off the audiences by being too overtly partisan or nasty. Much of this probably has little or no political significance.

One growing field of political humor that I find particularly problematic is the increasing merger of politics and show business. The White House Corrrespondents' Dinner is the most prominent example of this, in which the President plays stand-up comic to Beltway Village media types and various Hollywood celebrities. Such events not only blur the boundaries between the press and the politicians they theoretically covering with a critical eye. It also contributes to the blurring between politics and show business. And both trends contribute mightily to the depoliticization of public affairs and even politics itself. It substitutes spectacle for substance. Much to the advantage of the Establishment that Marcuse was writing about in 1972.

Ridicule and mockery do have their place, even in dictatorships. They may have been more risky in, say, East Germany than they are in today's Germany. But cynicism and humor are part of the way humans cope with the miseries and frustrations of political life.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The real existing EU: Germany and Greece under the Compassionate Pastor's Daughter

The fight of Alexis Tsipras' government earlier this year against the harsh austerity measures imposed by the German government of the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter Angela Merkel via the Troika of the EU, the ECB and the IMF has highlighted for the world Greece's need for debt structuring.

So it's not at all surprising to see that need articulated by Richard Portes, who "argues that Greece is fundamentally insolvent and that the EU and its attendant institutions should recognize that fact and work immediately toward some form of sovereign debt restructuring." (Fiscal Austerity & Greece New Economic Thinking 09/26/2015)

He has the following to say about those famous "structural reforms" we hear so much about from the advocates of neoliberalism:

Portes also suggests that Greece is a special case, a country that does not lend itself readily to easy reform. There is an ongoing banking crisis, unsustainable debt levels ..., and institutions by and large remain malfunctioning. So whilst Portes agrees with much of the prevailing sentiment that further fiscal austerity will be counterproductive, he also argues that Greece must relent as well: it must signal its commitment to deep structural reform, particularly in regard to the endemic corruption in public administration, tax evasion, and the complex oligarchic system that links political parties to the media and administration. For Portes, no further fiscal austerity makes sense, but he suggests that Greece could aid its cause by reforming product markets and services that are still oligopolistic, with numerous barriers to entry and, hence competition. A second priority is to modernize the legal framework of property rights, investor protection and corporate governance, as well as a massive reorganization and restructuring of the public administration. These, rather than further wage cuts, are the only way to raise the competitiveness of the Greek economy. [my emphasis]
This is one way that the Greek fight this year has helped turn neoliberal rhetoric against itself.

The standard neoliberal recipe for "structural reforms" includes those obvious-sounding elements he mentions: fight corruption, crack down on tax evasion, even reduce the power of "oligarchy." Oligarchy in the neoliberal vocabulary refers to the capitalist class in countries considered in disfavor by whoever is using the term. In favored countries, they are economic elites ("job creators" for US Republicans) who are eager to show their public spirit by engaging in business-government cooperation and public-private partnerships, aka, PPP for the Kool Kids. In disfavored countries, they are oligarchs practicing crony capitalism.

In the Europe of the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter, Greece is the model of a corrupt, oligarchical, inefficient southern European country full of lazy and irresponsible people, needing the tutelage of a superior country with honest business practices and a good work ethic, i.e., Germany.

The dishonest and lawless practices of a great German company like Volkswagen are certainly no sign of deficiency in the superior economic and moral standards of Germany and the EU operating under the direction of the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter! Oh, no, that was just a couple of bad apples, or something. Why, it would be frivolous to even suggest that this was a symptom of a corrupt, oligarchical political system practicing crony capitalism. (Timeline: Is Volkswagen’s ‘Bug’ an EU Feature? Emptywheel 09/25/2015)

Brendan Greeley writing for the well-known radical-left Bloomberg Businessweek (note for Republicans: that's supposed to be obvious irony) asks, Did Privilege Enable Volkswagen’s Diesel Deception? 09/24/2015:

In Italy, the privilege is called potere speciale; in France, action spécifique; in the U.K., it’s a “golden share.” Those are all different names for an ownership stake that gives a government — be it national or local — special powers above any other shareholder. That makes a crucial difference in running a business. Governments, for example, have good reason to prevent jobs from moving to more competitive labor markets. A golden share can help with that.
But for countries practicing the neoliberal dogma in ways other than the ones discussed here so far, this is not crony capitalism or corruption, you see. Not at all. It's responsible gubment support for the Job Creators through public-private partnership. Or something.

In Europe, most golden shares are held in utilities and telecoms, companies that were state monopolies before being privatized. For more than a decade, the European Union, as it expanded and liberalized its common open market, has been trying to undo the persistence of state control. But there is one golden share that has endured, a German law so breathtakingly exceptional it can only be called what it is in fact called—“das VW-Gesetz,” the Volkswagen Law. It is explicitly designed for a single company. Germany has managed to defend its golden share against the EU because VW had built a reputation as a force for good: responsible corporate citizen, pioneer in environmental progess [sic]. [my emphasis]
Fortunately for the EU, Germany staunchly defends the rules for everybody. Well, with the occasional exception:

[Germany's "Volkswagen Law"] eventually brought Germany into conflict with the EU. In 2000 the European Commission — the EU’s executive body—began enforcement actions against the golden shares that remained in the newly privatized utilities in several countries. It acted against Italy for its shares in Eni, the former state oil company; against France, for its holdings in Elf Aquitaine, another oil company; and against the U.K. and its British Airports Authority. Several countries responded by defining their golden shares more narrowly, exercised only to defend a compelling national interest.

“The case of Volkswagen is peculiar because we are not dealing with public services,” says Daniele Gallo of Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. “We are dealing with a company that sells cars.” In 2007 the commission won a judgment in the European Court of Justice against the Volkswagen Law. Germany, which usually follows the court’s judgments, responded instead with improvisation and duct tape: It struck some of the law’s provisions, which Volkswagen immediately added to its own bylaws. Lower Saxony retained its de facto veto over major decisions. The EC challenged, but the Court of Justice upheld the rejiggered law in 2013.
But this is consistent with the actual priorities of the neoliberal agenda and the actual application of it under the leadership of the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter. Germany gets to angle narrow nationalistic advantages out the EU and especially eurozone structures and processes. And those reforms emphasized by Portes - enforcing tax laws, reducing corruption, limiting the power of the oligarchy - are not the highest priorities.

Portes also notes "that the German government in particular (which consistently insists on 'following the rules') has been a serial violator of the Stability and Growth Pact, and conveniently forgets its own history when it comes to issues of debt forgiveness." The hardline "ordoliberalism" to which the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter adheres does seems to take deficits seriously, though exceptions can be made for the convenience of model country Germany, of course.

The "structural reforms" on which the Troika under the direction of the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter has been very intent on enforcing, most cruelly in Greece's case, are those calling for privatization of public property, deregulation of private business, elimination of capital controls, weakening of labor unions, reductions of wages and salaries and protective legislation for workers (aka, "liberalization of labor markets"), reductions of social services, raising the retirement age and reducing old-age pensions.

Alexis Tsipras' government shows every sign of being serious about improving tax collection and fighting corruption. His former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis expects that in his new government, Tsipras is "going to make a big deal out of how uniquely positioned he is to take on the oligarchy and tax evaders because Syriza has no strings attached." (Quoted in David Patrikarakos, Varoufakis told you so Politico EU 09/23/15)

But the Troika has actually impeded them in those efforts in various ways. As Varoufakis puts it, the Troika "is in cahoots with the oligarchs. Since 2010 the oligarchs have been the greatest supporters of the Troika and the Troika has been sheltering them." And presumably will continue to do so. As long as the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter has her way. As Varoufakis says, the July MOU the Troika imposed on Greece has deprived the country of "all the instruments the state has to fight a war against them."

Varoufakis refers to some of the ways in which the Troika, in cooperation with the Greek oligarchy, is impeding one of the very reforms, combating tax evasion, that Portes considers most urgent and emphasizing others (The lenders are the real winners in Greece – Alexis Tsipras has been set up to fail The Guardian 09/21/2015):

Tsipras must now implement a fiscal consolidation and reform programme that was designed to fail. Illiquid small businesses, with no access to capital markets, have to now pre-pay next year’s tax on their projected 2016 profits. Households will need to fork out outrageous property taxes on non-performing apartments and shops, which they can’t even sell. VAT [value-added taxes] rate hikes will boost VAT evasion. Week in week out, the troika will be demanding more recessionary, antisocial policies: pension cuts, lower child benefits, more foreclosures. [my emphasis]
And it's always important to remember the cost to Europe's fundamental democratic system from the midconduct of the Troika and the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter. Varoufakis in The Guardian: "Of course, to get to this point Greek democracy has had to be deeply wounded (1.6 million Greeks who voted in the July referendum did not bother to turn up at the polling stations on Sunday) – no great loss to bureaucrats in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington DC for whom democracy appears, in any case, to be a nuisance."

The is the real existing EU, currently under management of the Mitfühlende Pastorentochter.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Shakira performs at the UN in honor of Pope Francis

Shakira performed for Pope Francis at the UN today (Friday), Shakira - Imagine (Live at the UN's General Assembly 2015):

The text at her YouTube channel says, "Shakira, before the Pope at the UN in NYC, dedicates her performance of John Lennon's Imagine to Aylan and Galip Kurdi and all the children turned refugees due to the Syrian war / Shakira, frente al Papa en la ONU, dedica su actuación a los hermanos Aylan y Galip Kurdi y a los niños refugiados por la guerra."

I can't quite tell from the reports I've seen, but it seems as though the Pope may have left the Assembly hall before she sang. (Shakira le canta 'Imagine' al Papa en la ONU El Periódico 25.09.2015)

Also on Shakira's agenda was meeting with the attorneys of her former boyfriend Antonio de la Rúa to try to settle a lawsuit in which De la Rúa is demanding a portion of her earnings from the time they were together. (Shakira viaja a Nueva York para ver al Papa y arreglar cuentas con su ex El Espectador 24.09.2015)

I don't see Shakira in the following video herself, although she has very publicly expressed her solidarity with it. (Shakira, Santana, y Gloria Estefan cantarán contra Donald Trump El Espectador/EFE 24.09.2015)

It's a video made in solidarity with American immigrants and American-born Latinos against the racist, xenophobic, God-hating immigrant-bashing being practiced by Donald Trump and the supporters of his white-trash bigotry, Video musical "Todos Somos Mexicanos" Univision Noticias 09/21/2015:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Greek "Troika" program continues

Alexis Tsipras just formed a new government in Greece after last Sunday's elections. (Helena Smith, New Alexis Tsipras-led Greek government takes power The Guardian 09/23/2015)

Despite a significant split-off from his own Syriza party, he was able to gain enough votes that he could form a new coalition with his previous small partner party Anel (Independent Greeks). Anel is typically described as a rightwing populist party. But their basic economic program, an end to austerity but keeping Greece in the eurozone, is compatible with Syriza's.

The new government has a narrower majority than his previous one. But at the moment, Tsipras is backing the latest brutal Troika program forced onto his last government, so he will get solid support for other non-coalition parties on votes in accord with the Troika's directions. Which means, above all, the directions from the Compassionate Pastor's Daughter Angela Merkel.

Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis comments on the challenges for Tsipras in The lenders are the real winners in Greece – Alexis Tsipras has been set up to fail The Guardian 09/23/2015:

The third promise is key to Tsipras’s success. Having accepted a new extend-and-pretend loan that limits the government’s capacity to reduce austerity and look after the weak, the surviving raison d’être of a leftwing administration is to tackle noxious vested interests. However, the troika is the oligarchs’ best friend, and vice versa. During the first six months of 2015, when we were challenging the troika’s monopoly over policy-making powers in Greece, its greatest domestic supporters were the oligarch-owned media and their political agents. The same people and interests who have now embraced Tsipras. Can he turn against them? I think he wants to, but the troika has already disabled his main weapons (for example by forcing the disbandment of the economic crime fighting unit, SDOE).

In 2014 the conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras found himself in a similar conundrum, having to implement a failed troika programme. He resorted to feigning allegiance to the troika while stonewalling and petitioning it for laxity, lest Syriza win.

Will Tsipras have more success in faking commitment to another failed troika programme? The prospects are not bright, but we should not write him off. His fate depends on whether his new government remains connected to the victims of its troika agreement, implements genuine reforms to give bona fide business some confidence to invest, and uses the intensification of the crisis to demand real concessions from Brussels. It is a tall order. But then victory, however sweet, is not the point. The point is to make a difference.
Varoufakis has not aligned himself with the dissenting split from Syriza. But he declined to stand for his parliamentary seat in last Sunday's election because of his disagreement with Tsipras' acceptance of the Compassionate Pastor's Daughter's brutal austerity program.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pope Francis Tuesday

The Pope has been visiting Cuba over the weekend. That visit called to mind this song by Kate Campbell that references an earlier papal visit to the island.

Rosa's Coronas 11/30/2014

Joshua McElwee reports on Pope Francis' major speech in La Habana at the Plaza de la Revolución in Under image of Che Guevara, Francis says Christian service 'never ideological' National Catholic Reporter 09/20/2015

This combination of images of two of the most famous Argentines is surely more jarring for an American audience than for Argentines. When I visited the Presidential Palace Casa Rosada) in Buenos Aires in 2012, the entry hall had two portraits prominently displayed together: Che Guevara and the Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero, murdered by a death squad while presiding over Mass in a hospital. Pope Francis formally declared Romero a martyr this year and he's on the road to sainthood. I doubt any Pope will canonize Ernesto Guevara. Although there was and maybe still is a folk shrine to "St. Che" near the place in Bolivia where he was assassinated in 1967. I think a few miraculous cures have been reported there. Go figure.

The staunchly anti-Communist and theologically conservative Pope Juan Paul II also celebrated mass in Plaza de la Revolución on his visit to Cuba in 1998.

This was also an interesting part of the Pope's message: "At the end of the Mass, the pope appealed to Colombia's government and Marxist FARC guerrillas to ensure that nearly three years of peace talks in Cuba are successful in order to end their 'long night' of war." (Pope meets Fidel Castro, warns against ideology on Cuba trip Buenos Aires Herald 09/20/2015) Cuba has hosted peace talks to end that long-running conflict.

Darío Pignotti notes in Página/12 (Cuba se viste de blanco y amarillo por el Papa 19.09.2015) that the chatter in Cuba he heard before Francis' arrival included many mentions of the "Argentine Pope." (Pignotti goes a bit Tommy Friedman in this piece and reports on an interview with a taxi driver.)

How much of the Pontiff's worldview is actually consistent with that of a government like Cuba's?

Eric Bugyis in a post which,so far as I can tell, is supportive of Pope Francis, argues that there is a great deal of philosophical/ideological agreement It Is Marxism! Commonweal 09/22/2015:

In Bolivia, Francis called for "the just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor" saying that this is "about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right." Linking the fruits of labor to rights in this way suggests the "labor theory of value" that one finds in Thomas Aquinas and in the social encyclicals beginning with Rerum Novarum, but it is also the theory of value that one finds in Marx. It is the theory that says that those who work to produce goods and services, through agriculture or manufacture, ought to have a share in the ownership of those goods. It is a rejection of the wage slavery whereby workers are shackled by policies that seek to interrupt the worker's relationship with the fruits of his or her labor by turning this labor into a commodity itself. The price of this commodity, then, must be weighed against the expected profits to be gained through the sale of commodities owed by stockholders. On this account, it should be made clear, the stockholder owns both the workers (now often more honestly referred to as "human resources") and the commodities that these workers produce and profit to the extent that the stockholder (and the market) values the former less than the latter. Thus, when Francis talks about a "formal market" in which people are "exploited like slaves," what else could he be talking about but the alienation of workers from the means of production? And when he calls for governments to promote "the strengthening, improvement, coordination and expansion of forms of popular economy and communitarian production," what could he be referring to other than supporting the formation of unions (another thing endorsed by the social encyclicals) and empowering local commerce by limiting the monopolistic practices of transnational corporations? All of which, I assume, Mr. Langone would rightly identify as "Marxism." [my emphasis]
Now, I'm hardly allergic to Marxist perspectives, as any of my numerous posts about the Frankfurt School thinkers can illustrate. And I'm definitely in sympathy with the perspectives of the Pope described here.

But this just gets some history wrong. No St. Thomas Aquinas (1224/25-1274) did not invent the "labor theory of value." Marx' version built on those of the distinctly modern philosophers and political economists Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ricardo (1772-1823). Marx also made a clear distinction between chattel slavery, where the workers actually are owned, and wage labor, which Marxists also call wage slavery, in which it is not the case that "the stockholder owns ... the workers," as Bugyis puts it.

A great undergraduate professor of mine, the late Howard Bavender, was my adviser on this now long-ago paper ("Just War Concept and American Churches in the American Antiwar Movement" 1974). As I was trying to sort through the relationship of Catholic theology to dissenting movements, he stressed that while the Church took strong positions on issues of social justice and the just war that at times were in accord with left political positions, the Church had never abandoned its criticism of Marxism on matters where it contradicted the Church's view of the nature of humanity.

In fact, what I wrote where I took his advice on that wasn't bad:

The Roman Catholic Church, in the United States and around the world, had been staunchly opposed to "atheistic Communism" before and after World War II. The American hierarchy continued to speak strongly against Communism even during the wartime alliance with Soviet Russia. Many Roman Catholic churchmen really believed that the United States was threatened by Communism, but they were also interested in acquiring American aid in their world-wide battle with Communist governments, particularly in Eastern Europe where the Soviet Urion attempted to break the political power of the church. ...

However, around the time of Pope John XXIII's ascendancy, Catholic attitudes toward international relations began to change. Pope John issued his encyclical Pacem in Terris, which many Catholics took to be "a clear call for total pacifism in a nuclear age." [1970 quote from Francine du Plessix Gray] Pope John stated in that famous document, as quoted above, that war was unacceptable in the nuclear era. The support of the Catholic Church for such projects as the Cold War against Communism was clearly decreasing, although the Church has never abandoned its opposition to those elements of Communism which challenge the Christian conception of man. This notable decrease in support nevertheless was to be an element in the future Catholic opposition to Vietnam policies in the United States.
It's also important to remember that when the Church has criticized capitalism or aspects of it, that also comes from centuries of theoretical development that has some of its roots in pre-capitalist concepts and economic arrangements, i.e., European feudalism. "Corporate state" arrangements like those in Mussolini's Italy or the Austrian Standestaat of Engelbert Dollfuß and Kurt von Schuschnigg were forms of government with which the Catholic Church of that time were generally comfortable.

The Catholic Church is a worldwide institution that has congregations within the entire spectrum of contemporary forms of government: secular ones and ones with established religions (Christian and otherwise); military and civilian; democracies and dictatorships, and varying degrees of both. The Catholic Church doesn't take the position of American neocons that they shouldn't even have formal conversations with governments they finding displeasing. On the contrary, they are interested in negotiating the best possible arrangements for the Church and its members even in countries hostile to the Catholic Church.

Eduardo Valdés, the Argentine Ambassador to the Vatican, notes that Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of La Habana, has played a key role in the current process of rapprochement between the US and Cuba which the Holy See has helped to mediate. (Premonición Página/12 19.09.2015)

The Catholic News Service provides this description of Fidel Castro's view of Christianity as expressed in a 1985 book of interviews with Fidel in which he positioned himself as supportive of the views of liberation theology: Cathy Lynn Grossman, Christ, Marx and Che: Fidel Castro offers pope his religious views National Catholic Reporter 09/21/2015. Pope Francis has views more friendly to liberation theology than his two immediate predecessors. John Paul II was a bitter opponent of it. Benedict XVI was known before and during his Papacy as generally reactionary on theological and political issues. However, both of them also took positions based on Catholic social teaching (feudal roots and all) that challenged politically conservative positions. They also took pacifist positions at odds with the normal power politics on which the world runs far too much.

Vatican Radio reports on the meeting between Francis and Fidel in Pope Francis meets former Cuban president Fidel Castro 09/20/2015:

Pope Francis gave Castro several books, including one by Italian priest Alessandro Pronzato and another by Spanish Jesuit Segundo Llorentea. The Holy Father also gave him a book and two CDs of his homilies, as well as his two encyclical letters, Lumen Fidei and Laudato si'.

In return, Castro gave Pope Francis an interview book entitled, "Fidel and Religion," written in 1985 by Brazilian priest Frei Betto. The dedication reads: "For Pope Francis, on occasion of his visit to Cuba, with the admiration and respect of the Cuban people."

The head of the Vatican Press Office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said the meeting was "familiar and informal," and the two men spoke about "protecting the environment and the great problems of the contemporary world."

Father Lombardi compared the private encounter to that which took place with Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, saying Fidel Castro asked Pope Benedict many questions, while Sunday's meeting with Pope Francis was "more of a conversation."
Emphasizing some of the differences between the Church and the Cuban regime, Martín Granovsky reports (Ortega, el cardenal de las negociaciones secretas Página/12 19.09.2015):

¿Piensa el cardenal Ortega que el proceso de normalización ya es irreversible? Está en camino a serlo, pero según él “Obama y Raúl tienen enemigos y hay que protegerlos a ambos porque los dos saben que antes de irse todavía tienen mucho que hacer”. Cuando habla de los retos a Raúl, Ortega describe el peso de lo que él llama “ideología”, o sea el resabio del modelo soviético y de la rigidez. Para el cardenal el efecto se nota aún en sectores del Partido Comunista Cubano, en los medios controlados por él, en la TV, la radio y la prensa escrita.

Contó un ejemplo. El periodista Amaury Pérez lo entrevistó para la tele cubana y en vez de la media hora habitual le dio una hora. Era el primer reportaje televisivo en 60 años. El director de TV se opuso. Quería revisar y cortar partes. “La entrevista se pasa sin tocar una coma”, le dijeron a Ortega que fue la frase de Castro. El diálogo se puede ver haciendo click en

[Does Cardinal think that the process of normalization is now irreversible? It's on the way to being so, according to him: "Obama and Raúl {Castro} have enemies, and we have to protect both of them because the two know that before they leave {the political scene}, there is still a lot to do." When he speaks of Raúl's challenges, Ortega describes the weight of what he calls "ideology," that is, the bad taste of the Soviet model and the rigidity. For the cardinal, the effect can be observed even in sectors of the Cuban Communist Party, in the media controlled by them, in TV, radio and the written press.

He gave an example. The journalist Amaury Pérez interviewed him for Cuban television and gave him an hour instead of the usual half hour. It was the first television report {featuring Ortega?} in 60 years. The TV director opposed it. He wanted to edit it and cut parts. "The interview will air with touching a comma," Ortega was told was the phrase {Raúl} Castro used.]
It's reasonable to assume that when Francis spoke about the problem of "ideology" in Cuba, his meaning was the same or similar to that in which Cardinal Ortega is using it.

In the TV interview referenced, Ortega recounts a conversation he had with Pope Benedict XVI, in which Benedict said that the Church is not in the world to change governments. It's in the world to spread the Gospel. Ortega says it in a context that makes it clear he agrees with that perspective. And he also says that is the perspective of Pope Francis.

Granovsky continues to report on Church-related consequence of the long-standing embargo:

El desafío para la Iglesia es ganar feligreses, sobre todo entre la juventud, y conseguir fondos propios para ayuda humanitaria. Por el bloqueo la Iglesia no puede recibir dólares porque los aportes de afuera son interferidos en algún punto de su curso por Estados Unidos. Ocurrió con fondos regalados por Los Caballeros de Colón, por la Isla de Malta y por grupos irlandeses. Llegaron a Cuba tras operaciones clandestinas e incluso algún obispo debió recorrer el mundo con 200 mil dólares ocultos en una valija. En La Habana no hubo problemas.

[The challenge for the Church is to win parishioners, above all among youth, and obtain its own funds for humanitarian support. Because of the {US} blockade, the Church is not able to receive dollars because donations from outside are intercepted at some point in their course from the United States. That has occurred with funds donated by the Knights of Columbus, from the island of Malta and from Irish groups. They arrived in Cuba after {via} clandestine operations, including one bishop who has said to have traversed the world with $200,000 hidden in a valise. In Havana, he had no problems.]
Meanwhile, columnist George Will prior to the Pope's arrival in the US is griping about the Jesuit Francis defending science on the topic of climate change. (Anthony Annett, On Fact-Free Flamboyance: George Will vs. Pope Francis Commonweal 09/21/2015) Awesome.