Sunday, May 31, 2015

Waiting for the Toast

I was clicking around this morning watching the beautiful light in the forest and trying not to notice the gradual warming breeze coming through the kitchen window. The first thing I read was a linked piece on Digby defending Josh Duggar as being a victim of the "new racism." The right wing never sleeps. It's like rust that way. One of the pro-Josh points: none of his victims complained. Of course as Libby immediately remarked upon hearing that assertion, "who says?" But it is true that in an authoritarian world complaining from below is frequently viewed with prejudice. If you want to live for a couple of hours in the authoritarian world that the American religious right wants to bring all of us, take an gander at a remarkable film I just watched, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. That's the way it is when there is an authoritarian hierarchy. Oddly, there's some sexual child abuse here and there in that film. Possibly when you give someone total authority that someone tends to think, "well, why not take it." Total authority is a kind of moral invisibility. Who's going to tie a white ribbon onto the pastor's arm. Or the doctor's. Of course it's quite true that the doctor gets his arm broken in the first scene, and by an event of clearly human cause. Somebody broke his arm, and killed his horse. There is only one peak of the pyramid.

So I got eventually to this piece:

Here's a salient quote:

We have a trade deficit (negative “net exports”) because we import more than we export. A lot of this is imports of things that used to be made here by people who used to be paid here. Congress lets this go on because it makes a few plutocrats vastly wealthy – at the expense of the rest of us.

The trade deficit is eating our economy, closing factories, killing jobs, forcing wages down. But the White House isn’t allowed to say that because they want fast track trade authority to pass next week.

Before I got to this piece (do read it all), I had read a piece suggesting that the current fast track agreement is being pushed by the Administration even in the face of striking problems within it--such as the fact that it does not challenge Malaysia's entanglement with human slavery and in fact gives de facto approval to it--because there is an hidden military aspect to the agreement which may well be driving the whole deal. Who knew? Turns out that:

Malaysia’s membership in the circle of TPP nations is not vital because Malaysia — it’s vital because of the Malacca Straits, through which virtually all the shipping in that part of the world passes. It’s a bottleneck, a chokepoint, and if Malaysia is “driven into the arms of China” then China can close those Straits to shipping how, when, and as they please.

Which would neuter the US Navy in that part of the world, reducing them to observer status. When people at the Pentagon talk about America’s role as the world’s policeman, they are talking about the Navy’s ability to project overwhelming force wherever and whenever needed. The three little chokepoints world trade and shipping depend on are the Strait of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca, and the Panama Canal. Taking one of those and giving control of it to China and Friends — or to anyone but the US Navy — puts the world’s policeman in a clown suit.

This strategic military explanation for Obama's strong support for the trade deal surely has a lot of truth to it. Sad that everything else is trumped.

There's also this historical context today, from Juan Cole.

The so-called PATRIOT Act was pushed as an anti-terrorism measure after 9/11, but it was never about terrorism. The bureaucrats and the GOP had clearly had such an assault on civil liberties and the US Constitution prepared in the 1990s. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) once told me the story of how this 1100 page bill was dropped on all the congressmen and women late one afternoon and then they were expected to vote on it the next day. He doubted that anyone even read it. But the point is that the bill was off the shelf and ready to go. It was a preexisting conspiracy.

It's pretty weird that Rand Paul of all people is leading the effort to rein in the Patriot Act.

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