Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Donald Trump Has Assembled a “Team of Generals.” So What’s the Problem?

by Nomad

A podcast takes a look at President-elect Trump's decision to surround himself with top military officials and the problem it presents to the long-standing neutrality of the armed forces.

You might not have heard of this news source but The UN Dispatch provides in-depth commentary and coverage on the UN and UN-related issues.
Its managing editor,  Mark Leon Goldberg, also hosts a fairly interesting podcast. Recently, the podcast investigated the implications of President-elect Trump's selection of "a team of generals" to fill key posts in his national security posts.  

His guest, Alice Hunt Friend is a former official in the Pentagon and is currently both a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Center for a New American Security.

Top Brass

Most Americans (at least those with anti-fascist views) might find the idea of the former military officials dominating a presidential cabinet, a recipe for any number of disasters.That's especially true in peacetime and especially when the president refuses to support the opinions of intelligence agencies.

Indeed, Friend points out that while members of top military brass have served in civilian roles, (Colin Powell, for example) never before have so many generals been tapped to serve at once and in top positions in the government.
Among the many crumbling institutions when it comes to trust in government the military is saved from that. The American public still holds the United States military in very high regard.  
The problem comes in when  the US military is seen to approve or disapprove of a particular politician whatever his policies might be,
Trump's selection is a way of obtaining a kind of legitimacy that he could not acquire on his own merits. It implies that the United States military is de facto endorsing Trump and his policies. In effect, Trump has politicized the US military to become his private cheerleaders.

Monday, January 30, 2017

From the Archives: Fascism's First Steps: Heywood Broun's Warning From the Past

by Nomad

In June 2012, Nomadic Politics took a moment to honor an old-school reporter in the post entitled "Fascism's First Steps: Heywood Broun's Warning From the Past."

If you've never heard of the name, you are in good company. Before there was Walter Cronkite, before there was Edward R. Murrow, there was Heywood Broun. While probably not exactly in the same league, he was certainly the kind reporter that later great journalists would admire.

Broun worked at some of the most respected newspapers of the day. It was not always a happy relationship. His ideas often rubbed newspapers owners the wrong way.  Early in his career, he was described as "an extraordinary mixture of sophistication and naïveté."  
Like many of the celebrity writers of his day,  Broun was for ten years, (1919 - 1929) a member of the much-celebrated Algonquin Round Table.
That, no doubt, shaped his later witty kind of cynicism. With a professional aplomb, Broun could skewer the pompous egos in the arts and in politics.  

Sadly, one has to hunt high and low even to find a few of his quotes. But here are a few notables.
Write the news as if your very life depended on it. It does!
On people who ignore warnings:
Appeasers believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Thanks to Hoodwinked Voters, Trump is About to Ratchet Up Institutionalized Government Corruption

by Nomad

Government Doesn't Care What you Think

A couple of years ago,  Anticorruptionact.org produced a video which sought to explain why our system of representation has broken down. The question was: how did corruption become so pervasive legal in Washington and in state governments around the nation?

A Princeton University study uncovered things we all, on whatever side of the political spectrum you might be on, have long suspected.

Their study took data from nearly 2000 public opinion surveys and compared it to the policies that ended up becoming law. To put it another way, researchers compared what the public wanted to what the government actually accomplished. What they found was extremely disturbing: 
The opinions of 90% of Americans have essentially no impact at all.

The Parable of the River of Freedom

by Nomad

I found this video and thought you might find it interesting. It's narrated by Orson Welles and, according to what I could learn dates back to 1971.
Like all classic parable, it seems as if it were written for our times.

The backstory is provided by Joseph Cavella, a writer for the film.
For several years, Bosustow Productions had asked Orson Welles, then living in Paris, to narrate one of their films. He never responded. When I finished the Freedom River script, we sent it to him together with a portable reel to reel tape recorder and a sizable check and crossed our fingers. He was either desperate for money or (I would rather believe) something in it touched him because two weeks later we got the reel back with the narration word for word and we were on our way.
I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Friday, January 27, 2017

ACA Repeal and How Trump Voters in Kentucky Threw Themselves Under the GOP Bus

by Nomad

The general interest news site, Vox, went to Whitley County, Kentucky to ask the residents there what they thought of Obamacare.
They were not at all happy.
So it's no surprise that these people overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. Throughout the campaign, the billionaire candidate made no secret of his vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What is a surprise is that these Trump voters there are exactly the demographic that benefits the most from Obama's signature healthcare plan. Logically, they ought to be shooting off fireworks for Obamacare. They have the most to lose if Trump keeps his campaign promise about the repeal.

Vox attempts to learn what gives. How and why could voters vote against their own best interests on something as serious as health insurance?
The answers might surprise you.The video's worth watching.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Death by a Thousand Cuts: Is Trump Demolishing the Federal Government to Please Corporate America?

by Nomad

President Trump may call it downsizing but a look at just some of the programs and agencies that face cuts (or outright dismantling) makes one wonder what will be spared.

The Heritage Foundation Budget

Trump transition staffers say they've earmarked ways to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years and cutting jobs is a big part of the plan, The Hill reported. The cutback blueprint report was hand-delivered last year from the powerful conservative think tank and advocacy group the Heritage Foundation.Trump's budget cuts closely mirror a document (titled “Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017”)

The article in The Hill cited unnamed sources from inside President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. According to that report, two Trump transition staffers are charged with presenting the possible cuts to the White House Budget Office. The Hill said.
 Russ Vought, a former aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and the former executive director of the RSC, and John Gray, who previously worked for Pence, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) when Ryan headed the House Budget Committee.
Both Vought and Gray worked for the Heritage Foundation, once the intellectual backbone and now the bane of the GOP. Right Wing Watch has quite an archive on the Heritage Foundation. Weeks after the election, the watchdog group reported on a new initiative designed to "roll back the power of the federal government’s regulatory agencies." 
Now with former Heritage rank and file in charged of the budget, the rolling back has presidential approval.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Here are Five Orwellian Quotes for Trump's "Post-Truth" Presidency

by Nomad

When tiny Donnie Trump, future President of the United States, was a two-year toddler, a world-famous author named George Orwell passed away of tuberculosis at the age of 46.

Orwell's best-known book, "Nineteen-Eighty-Four" painted a grim dystopian image of the future, in which lies and truth were reversible and the definitions of both were under the absolute control of an autocratic state.

The slogans of the ruling party in the novel are all about controlling the message and allowing no dissent, even to the degree of stating something as obvious as 2 plus 2 equals 4 or the size of a crowd.
Allies could suddenly become enemies and long-vilified enemies could in mid-sentence become welcome allies. The "facts" could be anything that suited the leaders and this required citizens to hold both truth and lies - the most transparent- are having equal value. (Thank God, this was just fiction.

Terms found in the novel such as "Big Brother", "doublethink" and "newspeak" have become part of our political language.
Nineteen Eighty-Four has been translated into more than 65 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide, giving George Orwell a unique place in world literature.
Practically ever since that book was written, Orwell's insight into the ways a government can manipulate the truth has served as an alarm against an increasingly totalitarian world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Interesting Story from Trump's Past Should Serve as a Warning to the CIA

by Nomad

In my pursuit of something new, I often go back to something old. In this case, to May 1991. I found an article written by the late Christopher Byron, a veteran financial writer of Wall Street and all of the 1990s shenanigans that went on. In this piece published in New York Magazine (May 1991), Trump plays only a cameo appearance.

The piece is, in fact, about a New York investigative agency, Kroll Associates. Based in Midtown ManhattanNew York City the firm had specialized in digging up dirt in the world of finance.

In the 1980s, corporations would consult Kroll regarding in investors, suitors and takeover targets. "with special attention to any perceived connections to disreputable organizations, suspicious business practices, personality and integrity issues, or any kind of corporate malfeasance " The CIA of Wall Street, you could say.

Its founder, Jules Kroll, recalled a short tale of his encounter with businessman Donald Trump. 
Byron wrote:

Donald Trump.. told me that he had once used Kroll for "a certain matter" and that the investigator's work had been "superb."

"You can quote me on that," said Trump.

A week or so later, however, Kroll himself supplied an unexpected reason for Trump's thumbs-up endorsement. According to Jules, Trump hired Kroll Associates four or five years ago to investigate whether Atlantic City's Plaza casino which Trump was negotiating to buy, had become "mobbed up."

"It was a tough assignment," said Kroll, shaking his head. "One of the people we interviewed was murdered three days after we spoke to him."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sanity Sunday- Two Songs by Zee Avi

by Nomad

Here are two selections from Malaysian-born Zee Avi. This talented singer/songwriter is also a guitarist, ukulele player, and visual artist.
For more about her biographical details, click here.

Let's start off with "Bitter Heart."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How Ignoring American Diversity is Warping of our Heritage and Sense of Pride

by Nomad

The mission of the non-profit organization the Ad Council "is to identify a select number of significant public issues and stimulate action on those issues through communications programs that make a measurable difference in our society. "  

In the ad featured below, American professional wrestler, rapper and actor, John Cena points out that you cannot celebrate and honor America without recognizing its diversity.

Patriotism is, he says, more than pride of country. it’s a kind of love that goes beyond labels.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Looking for a Non-Political Diversion? Try Listening to these True Story Podcasts

by Nomad 

Headphones Watercolor

In honor of the "coronation, I've decided to offer my readers an alternative, a diversion from what will be, for many of us, a spectacle very difficult to watch. Here are three true story podcast episodes that you might find interesting.

Pleasures of Podcasts

Blogging can be hard work.
A lot like digging ditches in the Texas sun. In August. Some days my shoulders ache from toting that barge and lifting that bale. You just can't imagine.
Okay, it's not really all that hard. And to be honest, my reward is watching the lively chat that I am privileged to host on this blog.  

Of course, there are times in writing a blog article when the spirit is willing but the eyes feel like burning globes of fire. At such moments, it's time to take a break from all things Internet. 
But how?
By reading? No, that's clearly not a solution.
By sleeping? Perhaps but then my mind is still active- at least, as active as it will ever be. I need a shot of mental stimulation while keeping my eyes closed.
That doesn't leave a lot of options.

This is why listening to podcasts make so much sense for me. Maybe you too.
There are literally tens of thousands of podcasts available online. If you aren't familiar with the format, it's kind of like a radio program that you have control over. You can pause it or listen to it as many times as you like.
When you subscribe to a podcast feed, (and it is best to subscribe to more than one) you will receive a new show regularly, every week or so.

The subjects are practically limitless and can be loaded onto whatever device you wish, (phone, tablet) making them more portable than your laptop. Many podcasts are not discrete episodes but run as a season-long series.
But it's no problem if you have missed the previous installments, though. In that case, you can download all episodes and binge on a full season. (That's great if you are traveling and you don't feel like toting a book around.)

Unlike humans, not all podcasts are created equal and some of them are unbearable to sit through. As a rule, I cannot tolerate the kind of podcast where two people are sharing their opinions about politics a la the Howard Stern format.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Government for Sale: An Interesting Discovery in the CIA Files on Donald Trump

by Nomad

Newly-released CIA files offer us a bitter look back at what we used to laugh at decades ago. A satirical op-ed piece is a timely reminder of how far we have come along the path to corporatocracy. And under Trump, it's likely to get a lot worse. 

When I heard the news that the CIA had just uploaded around 13 million formerly classified documents, I did what any inquisitive blogger would do. I hastily typed in Donald Trump's name in the site's search engine. What I found was, to put it mildly, not what I was expecting.
No, nothing scandalous, so don't get too excited. There is one rather peculiar find to report.

Among a few other items, there's a photocopied news clipping of a June 1985 article by the then-editor of the monthly, Harper's Magazine, Lewis Lapham.
This article's presence in the CIA file is very likely to do a very brief mention of the CIA head at the time, Bill Casey. As for the Trump reference, you'll have to be a little patient.

The piece itself is a tongue-in-cheek op-ed entitled "Putting the Government Up for Sale: Deals to Ponder." The crux of the article is pretty basic and is summed up in the first paragraph.
"Sooner or later, it will occur to somebody in the Reagan administration to put the federal government up for sale in a patriotic series of leveraged buy-outs. The deficit and the national debt would vanish as if in magician's smoke. The Dow Jones stock averages would gain 4000 points and everybody lucky enough to command the necessary lines of credit and political patronage would make a killing."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Three Inspiring Stories To Brighten a Gloomy Monday

by Nomad

Suffice to say, the recent days haven't done much to bring much happiness in our lives. I don't know about you but I am finding it hard to find much in the way of silver linings in the present fiasco. It's difficult to stay positive when every day there's some new trauma to contend with.

The really unfortunate part is that we currently live in a world where a person like Anne Coulter or Rush Limbaugh (or a hundred others like them) can effortlessly grab the attention of millions with some divisive and discouraging remark.

It's time we took a break and heard a little good news about good people.
*   *   *

Teacher Retires After 38 Years, But Students’ Heartfelt Send-Off Leaves Him Speechless

Last month, the students at College Paul Fort– a junior high school in Courcouronnes, France- decided to give a proper send-off to their teacher who was retiring after 38 years.

The 63-year-old gym teacher, Alain Donnat, was leaving his final class and heading towards the doors of the school to leave, when.. well, I will let you watch the video to learn what happens next.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Russian Journalist to US Media: Congrats on Trump's Press Conference and Get Used to the New Normal

by Nomad

Immediately following last week's press conference, in which President-elect Trump faced off with the reporters, many in Russia were laughing their heads off. Others were totally astounded by what they saw.
Not, however, for the reasons you might automatically assume. Not because of America's abject humiliation on the world's stage.

A report in The Moscow Times points out:
In Russia, the independent media has gradually eroded under a president who seems to share Donald Trump’s disdain for disruptive journalism. But Russian Twitter users who tuned in to watch Trump’s meeting with the press weren’t partying or seething — for the most part, they were laughing.
Many prominent Russian Twitter users seemed to think the most amusing aspect of Trump’s confrontation with the press was the fact that reporters actually asked him tough questions, sometimes quite aggressively. This is a far cry from the tone at Vladimir Putin’s annual press conferences, where a room packed mostly with sycophants pampers the president with praise, disguised as questions, and opportunities to impress the nation, framed as requests for presidential intervention.
Alexey Kovalev, a Russian journalist who writes about propaganda, fake news, and Russian state media, has a message for US new organizations about Donald Trump.
If you think that Trump press conference was a disaster for journalism, you'd better get used to it.
Kovalev says the Russians have been dealing with this kind of thing for over a decade.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Thomas Wolfe's Message to Trump's America: You Can't Go Home Again

by Nomad

Thomas WolfeAmerican author Thomas Wolfe's travels through 1936 Nazi Germany comprised part of his posthumous novel. Excerpts from the book reveal the ways a society can adapt to the unstoppable approach of a brutal regime.

The Shortcomings of "Genius"

Last Saturday night I saw a film called "Genius." It was, to put it as nicely as possible, not as good a film as it should have been.
The germ of the idea was worthy enough, to be sure. The point of the film, I suppose, was that often genius relies on hard and cold self-evaluation. Oftentimes, the artist is the last person capable of this type of hard-nosed discipline.

The other side of genius is knowing what to leave out, what to excise in order to enhance the focus and strength.
Fair enough, but in an age where the only rule of communication is trying to keep it down to 144 characters, it seems to be a bit of lesson too well learned.

To be honest, until I watched the movie, I really hadn't known much about the life of the writer Thomas Wolfe. He never made it on my reading list but I gather that in style he was a forerunner to the later Beat Generation's Kerouac.

Actually, I kept getting him confused with other similar names. Thomas Mann and the author and journalist, Tom Wolfe, a Republican dainty who wears a white tie, white homburg hat, and two-tone shoes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Here's the Intel Report that President-Elect Trump Didn't Want the World to See

by Nomad

Yesterday's blockbuster leak of a 35-page classified intelligence report has, at long last, emerged as President-elect Trump prepares to be sworn into office.
The report, disclosed by a site called BuzzFeed, seems to reveal the extent of the alleged Russian involvement with Trump's campaign.
The document, a dossier prepared by a former British intelligence officer hired by Mr. Trump’s political opponents, had been circulating among high-ranking politicians and some journalists since the fall. Intelligence officials recently presented a two-page summary of the allegations to Mr. Trump and President Obama, CNN reported on Tuesday.
The allegations, which could not be absolutely substantiated, appear to come from a variety of credible sources, in and out of the US government intelligence community.
The charges suggest that Russians were gathering highly damaging information about Donald Trump, of both a ("perverted") sexual and financial nature for over 5 years. 

Nevertheless, while the report raises a lot of questions about Trump and foreign manipulation of the election, nothing has been proved.  Many reputable new sources refused to print the report and since the advent of purposefully faked news sites, deniability has now been permanently built into any disclosure.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Is Putin's Majoritarian Democracy the Alt-Right's Fast Track to Fascism in America?

by Nomad

Mob rule

In the hands of a corrupt leader, majoritarian democracy can be a very dangerous thing. Russian president Putin is all the proof the world needs. 

A Dangerous Idea in the Wrong Hands

Most Americans take a positive view of democracy. Everybody wants to live in a democracy. Yet, it might surprise a lot of people to learn that, in its purest form, the democratic idea can actually be a dangerous thing.
The term, majoritarian democracy, for example, refers to a democratic form of government based upon majority rule of a society's citizens.
Pedro Schwartz, a professor in the Department of Economics at the University San Pablo in Madrid, explains:
Many modern constitutions proclaim that sovereignty is ultimately vested on the people. In that case, the power of the people must also be divided if liberty is to endure. Democracy can therefore not be defined as the rule by majority vote. Neither does it imply that the vote of the majority is "an authoritative expression of what is right".
Strictly speaking, majoritarian democracy is defined as the concept that anything more than a 51 percent share of the popular vote entitles the election winner to rule without interference.
For far right-wing parties, who claim this to be no-nonsense democracy, it has proved to be an extremely useful concept to justify their agenda.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sanity Sunday- Please Don't Go by Barcelona

by Nomad

This Sanity Sunday song is by the Seattle-based group Barcelona. It is here coupled with the view of Japan's Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. It certainly provides a few soothing minutes.
Lord knows, we can use it.

I dedicate this song to the outgoing president- Barack Obama to whom we owe a heartfelt thank-you for 8 years of hard and largely unappreciated work.

We are definitely going to miss you in a hundred ways we can't now even begin to imagine.

For what it is worth, this song was listed in their top 10 relaxing songs by researchers at Mindlab International, an independent research consultancy. (Legitimate or not, I can't tell you.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

From the Archives: The Rise of The Great Society in the Summer of 65

by Nomad

A post from the blog archive offers a look back at a critical time in American history- the summer of 1965.

As most of you know Nomadic Politics has been around for about 6 years. In that duration, I have built up quite a large archive.

Not every post is outstanding, I admit. Some of them are out-dated. Given what we have seen from President-elect Trump, -posts about the problems with Mitt Romney back in 2012 now seem hopelessly naive.
Some of them have subsequently been proved wrong. Many of them I forget ever writing.

However, a few of them I am proud of. Most of those types of posts deal with a part of history that has been forgotten or somewhat overshadowed.
My fondness for those posts isn't based on personal vanity, or any artful writing skill. I know my limitations in that regard.

It's usually because, at some point in my research, I made a discovery or a connection that turned a new light on the subject. Or I found something (or somebody) that ought to be remembered.
because the information can perhaps go a long way in helping us understand how we got where we are today.

For all those reasons, in the coming year from time to time, I will highlight one of the past blog posts with a small introduction. I hope you find them interesting.

In August 2012, Nomadic Politics cranked up its trusty time machine and zipped back to the summer of 1965. That post was entitled "The Great Society, Medicare and the Summer of ‘65"

As the introduction of that post notes:
The summer of 1965 was one of many critical moments of American history. The Great Society, President Johnson's ambitious policy to overhaul the country, became a reality. However, at the same moment, a new movement of a different kind was emerging. It was a kind of backlash that would take 15 years to mature into the conservative movement.
Over a half-century has passed and yet the echoes of that time are still very much with us today.

Whenever you hear a politician (or a president) using the phrase, "Take America Back" it's important to know your history. Then, you can decide whether America really needs to go back to the days before that summer fifty years ago.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Russia Direct: The Rebirth of Journalism or Just Another Cynical Putin Ploy?

by Nomad


Monologues vs. Dialogues

Here's an interesting podcast about the Russian government attempts to promote fair and balanced journalism inside America. Or maybe it's just a new Russian offensive against the West.

The motto of Russia Direct is "turning monologues into dialogues" and seeks to reach out to "well-educated Americans."
The target audience is Americans who are "skeptical" and open-minded. Cynics would say that those are precisely the kind of people that would be most accepting of Russian propaganda. Especially in light of the election of a president of the US is casting aspersion about US-based intelligence agencies and news sources that do not match exactly his own way of thinking.

Founded in 2013, Kremlin-financed Russia Direct features original reporting which, depending on your perspective either represents the possibility of breathing new life in journalism or just another attempt by the Russian government to subvert the West with phony journalism.
(Not a particularly rare commodity in the West as it is.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

This Social Experiment Gives a Fresh Look at Empathy

by Nomad

This is a video experiment was produced by a Lithuanian website. The site is a kind of online handbook on how to deal with hate speech not only online but also in the mass media, and in real life situations.

The experiment setup was fairly standard for a "prank." Various people, all non-actors, all Lithuanians with English language backgrounds- were invited to a casting call for a commercial. They were clueless that the scenario or the hidden cameras. The unsuspecting targets were then given a simple task- translating an online message from Lithuanian into English.

That's enough background information. Watch and see what happens next.