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I’m reassured with the knowledge that a small legion of smart people are actively planning the demise of civilization and the majority of human life here on Earth.  I’m thinking that these people need to be called the Fermi Corps because they are actively trying to prove Fermi’s Paradox and associated theory theory to be correct.  Rajan Menon writes on Tom’s Dispatch on how our governments are attempting to normalize and rationalize nuclear solutions that spell the end of our world.

What is scary (on top of the base amount of scary) is how insular this report (NPR) seems to be.

“Instead, [the Nuclear Posture Review] it makes an elaborate case for a massive expansion and “modernization” of what’s already the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal (6,800 warheads versus 7,000 for Russia) so that an American commander-in-chief has a “diverse set of nuclear capabilities that provide… flexibility to tailor the approach to deterring one or more potential adversaries in different circumstances.”

The NPR insists that future presidents must have advanced “low-yield” or “useable” nuclear weapons to wield for limited, selective strikes.  The stated goal: to convince adversaries of the foolishness of threatening or, for that matter, launching their own limited strikes against the American nuclear arsenal in hopes of extracting “concessions” from us.  This is where Strangelovian logic and nuclear absurdity take over.  What state in its right mind would launch such an attack, leaving the bulk of the U.S. strategic nuclear force, some 1,550 deployed warheads, intact?  On that, the NPR offers no enlightenment.

You don’t have to be an acolyte of the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz or have heard about his concept of “friction” to know that even the best-laid plans in wartime are regularly shredded.  Concepts like limited nuclear war and nuclear blackmail may be fun to kick around in war-college seminars.  Trying them out in the real world, though, could produce disaster.  This ought to be self-evident, but to the authors of the NPR it’s not.  They portray Russia and China as wild-eyed gamblers with an unbounded affinity for risk-taking.

The document gets even loopier.  It seeks to provide the commander-in-chief with nuclear options for repelling non-nuclear attacks against the United States, or even its allies.  Presidents, insists the document, require “a range of flexible nuclear capabilities,” so that adversaries will never doubt that “we will defeat non-nuclear attacks.”   Here’s the problem, though: were Washington to cross that nuclear Rubicon and launch a “limited” strike during a conventional war, it would enter a true terra incognita.  The United States did, of course, drop two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities in August 1945, but that country lacked the means to respond in kind.  

However, Russia and China, the principal adversaries the NPR has in mind (though North Korea gets mentioned as well), do have just those means at hand to strike back.  So when it comes to using nuclear weapons selectively, its authors quickly find themselves splashing about in a sea of bizarre speculation.  They blithely assume that other countries will behave precisely as American military strategists (or an American president) might ideally expect them to and so will interpret the nuclear “message” of a limited strike (and its thousands of casualties) exactly as intended.  Even with the aid of game theory, war games, and scenario building — tools beloved by war planners — there’s no way to know where the road marked “nuclear flexibility” actually leads.  We’ve never been on it before.  There isn’t a map.  All that exists are untested assumptions that already look shaky.”

Our demise as a species is being laid out, piecemeal, by people who should know better.  Realistically the only ‘nuclear button’ needed by the the ‘great powers’ is one that is labelled “The End of All Civilization” because there are no winners in a nuclear exchange.

It might even be better just to have a button that incinerates one’s own country and civilian population, as a quick (relatively quick-ish) nuclear conflagration seems to be a more humanitarian endpoint than the slow starvation and decent into chaos that is promised with nuclear winter.

Sounds a bit macabre, I realize, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t prefer the nuclear winter option, as my mad blogging skillz and boff0 teaching portfolio have no utility in any sort of post apocalyptic  scenario.


The tortures that the Grecian people are being subjected to by the neo-liberal institutions of Europe (European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF) are unnecessarily brutal and threaten to unravel the fabric of their society. We can learn what is in store for other nations that dare to act against the ‘good prudence’ of the current economic elite. Robert Hunziker writes about the toxic economic prescription being forced onto Greece and some of the reasoning behind it.

“Mysteriously, but maybe not so mysterious, this particular Greek Tragedy does not pass the sniff test. Something is rotten, somewhere. In order to get to the bottom of it, according to Dimitris Konstantakopoulos, member Secretariat of Syriza: “The Greek Reform Program was no mistake but was and remains the premeditated assassination, by economic and political means, of a European nation and its state, for reasons of much wider significance than the significance of the country itself,” Ibid.

Which prompts: Why so brutally horribly dehumanizing?

According to one analysis, Greece is the scapegoat for all European ills, thus it represents a looming threat to all other abusers of neoliberal dicta. The rationale: Other delinquent southern European countries were spared the hatchet only because, if Troika brutalized them as well, it risks alliances of like-minded protagonists and revolt all across half of Europe. Which would exceed the wherewithal of the grand neoliberal crusade and possibly blow its covert operations wide open for all to see. As it happens, Greece was/is low hanging fruit and a perfect whipping boy that hopefully knocks some sense into spendthrift Mediterranean lefties, or so the Troika likely assumes. Otherwise, why destroy Greece?

As it happened, Troika misrepresented good intentions, and in fact lied by publicly claiming Greece was receiving enormous amounts of financial support from its European partners, whereas 95% of those funds zip-zip right back to Deutsche Bank, PNB Paribas, and other U.S. and European banks, bypassing Greece’s banks and citizens as quickly as a finger click. But wait; of course, Greece keeps five percent.

In order to receive Troika’s financial bailout, Greece has undergone a massive transfer of public assets, all the best stuff, to privatization interests, part of the hardcore hypothesis behind neoliberalism, e.g., (1) 14 major regional airports sold to Germany’s Fraport, (2) the Port of Piraeus, one of the largest ports in Europe sold to China’s Cosco, (3) the Port of Thessaloniki, which is Greece’s second largest city, sold to a German consortium, and (4) privatization funds created, under Germany’s direction, for water utility transfers to private hands, prompting the president of the Greece water company trade union to forewarn that the for-profit model often times raises prices for consumers and sometimes service degrades. But then it’s too late to do much about it.

And, come to think of it, why should water be a for-profit enterprise in the first instance? And, why should ports, as old as the city of Athens, be for-profit private enterprises? By longevity alone, it is an iconic attachment to Greece, dating back centuries upon centuries. Maybe some precious things in life should escape the dictates of profit for the few in favor of the common interests of the many.

Regardless, financial colonization is ripping Greece to shreds same as 19th-century European colonization of Africa, in harmony with the Industrial Revolution, shredded natural resources. But, nowadays Industrial Revolution is passé as the Internet revolutionizes everything, other than the onslaught of neoliberalism’s transnational elite special forces.”

I think we, as Canadians, should be aware of what is in the toolbox of the world’s financial instituions when it comes to deal with countries that are ‘in need of financial discipline’.



If democracy is to be a useful concept for our future generations one aspect that is necessarily going to have to change is the level of engagement people have toward their political system.  What is in play now is a plutocratic distortion of what representative government is supposed to look like.  When our political representatives (continuously) fail at their mandated role – representing the people that voted for them – it is easy to see how the apathy sets in.  Consistently getting the short end of the stick from whichever party happens to be in control isn’t a very heartening situation.

The problem is that the current system works exquisitely well for a select few and thus, change to the political system would endanger their extravagant lifestyles an expectations.

And that, most certainly, will not do.

Therefore increasing voter apathy and furthering the disconnect between people and the political process is a necessity to maintain the current system.  The demobilization of the American public is evinced by the dull eyed phlegmatic indifference to such alarming concepts like that of ‘generational war’.  When people just shrug off the very real possibility of endless war (with Oceana) your society has a problem.   Stephanie Savell writes about the deadening of the public interest in her essay that appears on Tom’s Dispatch titled “The Hidden Costs of America’s Wars“.


“Of course, it’s hardly surprising these days that our government is far from transparent about so many things, but doing original research on the war on terror has brought this into stark relief for me. I was stunned at how difficult it can be to find the most basic information, scattered at so many different websites, often hidden, sometimes impossible to locate. One obscure but key source for the map we did, for example, proved to be a Pentagon list labeled “Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medals Approved Areas of Eligibility.” From it, my team and I were able to learn of places like Ethiopia and Greece that the military deems part of that “War on Terrorism.” We were then able to crosscheck these with the State Department’s “Country Reports on Terrorism,” which officially document terrorist incidents, country by country, and what each country’s government is doing to counter terrorism.

This research process brought home to me that the detachment many Americans feel in relation to those post-9/11 wars is matched — even fed — by the opacity of government information about them. This no doubt stems, at least in part, from a cultural trend: the demobilization of the American people. The government demands nothing of the public, not even minimalist acts like buying war bonds (as in World War II), which would not only help offset the country’s growing debt from its war-making, but might also generate actual concern and interest in those wars. (Even if the government didn’t spend another dollar on its wars, our research shows that we will still have to pay a breathtaking $8 trillion extra in interest on past war borrowing by the 2050s.)

Our map of the war on terror did, in fact, get some media attention, but as is so often the case when we reach out to even theoretically sympathetic congressional representatives, we heard nothing back from our outreach. Not a peep. That’s hardly surprising, of course, since like the American people, Congress has largely been demobilized when it comes to America’s wars (though not when it comes to pouring ever more federal dollars into the U.S. military). 

Last October, when news came out about four Green Berets killed by an Islamic State affiliate in the West African nation of Niger, congressional debates revealed that American lawmakers had little idea where in the world our troops were stationed, what they were doing there, or even the extent of counterterrorism activity among the Pentagon’s various commands. Yet the majority of those representatives remain all too quick to grant blank checks to President Trump’s requests for ever greater military spending (as was also true of requests from presidents Bush and Obama).

After visiting some congressional offices in November, my colleagues and I were struck that even the most progressive among them were talking only about allocating slightly — and I mean slightly — less money to the Pentagon budget, or supporting slightly fewer of the hundreds of military bases with which Washington garrisons the globe. The idea that it might be possible to work toward ending this country’s “forever wars” was essentially unmentionable.

Such a conversation could only come about if Americans — particularly young Americans — were to become passionate about stopping the spread of the war on terror, now considered little short of a “generational struggle” by the U.S. military. For any of this to change, President Trump’s enthusiastic support for expanding the military and its budget, and the fear-based inertia that leads lawmakers to unquestioningly support any American military campaign, would have to be met by a strong counterforce. Through the engagement of significant numbers of concerned citizens, the status quo of war making might be reversed, and the rising tide of the U.S. counterterror wars stemmed.”

The challenge here, in the beginning, is to raise awareness of the problems that face the American populace.  People need the context in order to name the problems that affect them.

Our actions are causing the earth to warm.   This is easy slam dunk science.  Yet somehow the leader of the free world didn’t get the memo.  Michael Klare writes:


“In energy terms, what does dominant mean in practice?  For President Trump and his cohorts, it means above all the “unleashing” of the country’s energy abundance by eliminating every imaginable regulatory impediment to the exploitation of domestic reserves of fossil fuels.  After all, America possesses some of the largest reservoirs of oil, coal, and natural gas on the planet and, by applying every technological marvel at its disposal, can maximally extract those reserves to enhance national power.

“The truth is that we have near-limitless supplies of energy in our country,” he declared last June.  All that stood in the way of exploiting them when he entered the Oval Office, he insisted, were environmental regulations imposed by the Obama administration.  “We cannot have obstruction. Since my very first day in office, I have been moving at record pace to cancel these regulations and to eliminate the barriers to domestic energy production.”  He then cited his approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, the cancellation of a moratorium on the leasing of federal lands for coal mining, the reversal of an Obama administration rule aimed at preventing methane leakage from natural gas production on federal lands, and the rollback of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which (if implemented) would require sharp cuts in coal usage.  And from the recent opening of the pristine Alaskan Arctic Refuge to that of those coastal waters to every kind of drilling, it’s never ended.

Closely related to such actions has been his repudiation of the Paris Agreement, because — as he saw it — that pact, too, stood in the way of his plan to “unleash” domestic energy in the pursuit of international power. By withdrawing from the agreement, he claimed to be preserving American “sovereignty,” while opening the path to a new kind of global energy dominance. “We have so much more [energy] than we ever thought possible,” he asserted.  “We are really in the driving seat.  And you know what? We don’t want to let other countries take away our sovereignty and tell us what to do and how to do it.  That’s not going to happen.”

Never mind that the Paris agreement in no way intruded on American sovereignty. It only obligated its partners — at this point, every country on Earth except the United States — to enact its own greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures aimed at preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels. (That is the biggest increase scientists believe the planet can absorb without experiencing truly catastrophic impacts like a 10-foot rise in global sea levels).  In the Obama years, in its own self-designed blueprint for achieving this goal, the United States promised, among other things, to implement the Clean Power Plan to minimize the consumption of coal, itself already a dying industry. This, of course, represented an unacceptable impediment to Trump’s extract-everything policy.”

I’m glad the people in power will get a few more sweet sweet dollars.  Perhaps they can purchase a large dam to keep the oceans at bay too..


I think, perhaps, the American public – so disassociated with what democracy actually is – has already begun the labourious task of wallpapering over the elephant in the room.

Is there a more obvious example of how undemocratic a supposedly democratic national is (hmm..18 years of being at war racking up trillions of dollars of war debt that will cripple their future *and* creating more terror and instability in the world)?

The current system will remain until change is forced on the powers that be.

An excerpt from Kennith Surin’s Essay, “Poverty American Style”.

There are not many aspects and norms that are left to chance in society.  The norms we accept, the ‘common knowledge’ we are all expected to understand, and “the way things are” are all socially constructed choices.  The decision whether to have society work for the majority of people or just a select few is not a codified law of nature, but rather a choice made by the people who currently control society.  The author of this piece argues that the crushing poverty in the US is a tacit choice made by the elite in American society, and because it richly benefits them, see no reason to change the current status quo.


“It doesn’t take an economic genius to know that what rescues the US is the dollar’s role as the primary global reserve currency, and the vast size of its economy. A huge and rampant stock market helps, but since that contributes significantly to cycles of boom and bust (87, 97, 2007, ??), its contribution to the overall economy should not be overestimated. In objective economic terms, therefore, with a smaller overall economy and without a global reserve currency, the US would in all probability be more like Brazil.

After making his statement on the US, Alston gave an interview on the Amy Goodman radio show, at the time when the Republicans published their tax-cut bill which is now law. To quote him:

“[T]he issue with elimination of poverty always is around resources: ‘We don’t have the money.’ The United States, again, uniquely, has the money. It could eliminate poverty overnight, if it wanted to. What we’re seeing now is the classic — it’s a political choice. Where do you want to put your money? Into the very rich or into creating a decent society, which will actually be economically more productive than just giving the money to those who already have a lot?”.

It is impossible to disagree with Philip Alston when he says that this state of affairs has resulted from political choice and not economic necessity.

Apart from his plutocratic supporters (the Kochs, Papa John the pizza man, Sheldon Adelson, Art Pope, Robert Mercer, Robert Kraft, the DeVos wife and husband, and of course the army of their hangers-on and wannabes in Republican country clubs), Trump’s base consists of moderately or less well-off whites who’ve had the show all to themselves for many decades– this making their own systemic exploitation somewhat bearable– but who now have to share this show with blacks and Latinos, Muslim Americans, “the gays” (as the near-senile televangelist Pat Robertson refers to this community), as well as a small quota of refugees from America’s unceasing wars and bombing campaigns, and so forth.

As other CounterPunchers have noted, “Make America Great Again” is code aimed at this group of white self-professed “victims”— thanks to Trump’s declamations the latter somehow believe they are more likely to have the show to themselves once again.

Supporting the very affluent wearer of a baseball cap (made in the US but from imported fabrics) sporting this slogan, is always a political choice, as is the preference of the plutocracy to line its already ample pockets by donating massively to the cap-wearing con artist: “con artist” being the appellation used by his fellow Republican plutocrats Michael Bloomberg and Mitt Romney, who have political ambitions of their own not entirely congruent with Trump’s white-nationalist agenda, however incoherent the latter may be.

Trump, Romney, or Bloomberg? Whichever one gets ahead politically; the plutocracy will prevail. As it did with Bill Clinton and Obama.

Also a political choice in this context is the preference of mainstream Schumer and Pelosi Democrats to make congressional shadow-boxing a pitiful facsimile of real opposition.

And so, a great many Americans have before them an option expressed by a well-known philosopher, if only they opened their eyes: “You have nothing to lose but your chains”.”

The level of poverty in the US is unacceptable, it won’t change until the streets are filled and people re-engage with the political process.


Menon’s arguments are quite rational, but with the current American Republican Administration having rational arguments doesn’t count for much.


“Here’s a prerequisite for avoiding war in Korea: stop believing in the North’s denuclearization, attractive and desirable as it might be (if achieved through diplomacy).

It doesn’t follow, however, that war can’t be avoided.  Kim Jong-un and his inner circle are not, in fact, irrational beings immune to deterrence.  Their paramount aim is to ensure the survival of the North Korean state. Starting a nuclear war would destroy it.  Yes, many people have perished in North Korea (whether due to repression or famine), but deterrence worked in the cases of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong, both of whom enacted policies that killed millions. Mao supposedly even boasted that China could survive a nuclear war because of its huge population.

Coming to terms with the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea and trusting in deterrence may not sound like a perfect ending, but under the circumstances it’s undoubtedly the best way to avert catastrophe.  And that, unquestionably, is the urgent task.  There are other ways, down the line, to make the Korean peninsula a better place through dialogue between the two Koreas, by drawing the North into the regional economy and reducing troops and weaponry on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone.  These shouldn’t be ruled out as infeasible.

For them to happen, though, South Korea would have to separate itself from Trump’s war plans by refusing to allow its sovereign space (land, sea, and air) to be used for such a preventive war.  The symbolism would be important even if Trump could strike in other ways.

Seoul would also have to build on two recent positive developments that emerged from a surprise January 9th meeting between the Koreas.  The first is the agreement on Kim Jong-un’s proposal (initially advanced by the South last June) to send a North Korean contingent to the February Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  The second flowed from South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s follow-up idea of restoring the hotline between the countries and beginning discussions of how to tamp down tensions on the peninsula.  (Pyongyang shut down the hotline in February 2016 after South Korea’s conservative government closed the Kaesong joint industrial zone located in the North, which then employed more than 50,000 North Koreans.)  Moon’s suggestion doubtless eased the way for the subsequent agreement to hold future military talks aimed at reducing the risks of war.

There are further steps Seoul could take, including declaring a moratorium on military exercises with the United States — not just, as now (with Washington’s consent), during the February Olympics and the Paralympics that follow and end in March, but without a preset time limit. While such joint maneuvers don’t scare Pyongyang, moves like flying American B1-B bombers and F-15C fighter jets in international airspace off North Korea’s coast do ratchet up the tension.  They increase the chances of one side concluding that the other is about to attack.

Trump may continue his threats via Twitter and again denigrate the value of negotiations with Pyongyang, but South Korea is a powerful country in its own right. It has a $1.4 trillion economy, the 11th largest in the world (versus North Korea’s paltry $32.4 billion one), and ranks sixth in global exports.  It also has a formidable military and will spend $34 billion on defense in 2017 — more than North Korea’s entire gross domestic product.  It is, in short, anything but the Asian equivalent of a banana republic for which Donald Trump should be able to write the script.

Trump’s generals and the rest of the American foreign policy establishment won’t welcome independent initiatives by Seoul, as witness the condescending remark of a former official about the hazards of South Korea “running off the leash.”  Predictably, mainstream warnings have already begun.  Cunning Kim Jong-un wants to drive a “wedge” between the United States and South Korea.  He’s trying to undo the sanctions.  Agreeing to talks with Pyongyang will only communicate weakness.  The United States must demonstrate its resolve and protect its credibility.  And so it goes.

Policies based on these shibboleths, which portray South Korea as an American dependency, have brought us to the brink of war.  Continuing them could push us over the edge. “

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