This blog is about The Big Picture - information and insights about what goes on in the world outside our borders - and what it means for Americans. Unless otherwise specified, all photos from Deena Stryker archive.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Stealing a March on 2014
Saturday, November 23, 2013
My Conversation with Fidel Castro after JFK's Assassination
Friday, November 22, 2013
The Privatization of the World
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Why is US Relief Taking So Long?
Notwithstanding the Asian Pivot, that must include dozens of ships in the region, the response has been shockingly slow. (The typhoon had been forming since November 3rd...)
Yesterday the Philadelphia Metro signaled that once sailors returned from shore leave a US ship in nearby Hong Kong would take off for the disaster. Once they returned? Really? What happened to urgent recall of all personnel?
With climate disasters set to increase, Washington should be thinking about increased preparedness: this is one area where it can still shine - if it wants to.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Why Do I Write About The Big Picture?
Forget about the butterfly wings flapping in Mexico that impact Siberia. What happens from day to day in the 200 countries Americans share the planet with have a direct - and newly cumulative - bearing on our daily lives: whether taxes go up or down, whether social security is solvent, whether schools are repaired, immigrants welcomed or deported - and especially, whether we will continue to dominate those 200 countries with the most awesome military and spying technologies the world has ever seen.
Rather than the butterfly, it’s useful to think in terms of phase transitions. A phase transition is a magic moment when a trend that was gathering pace reaches a tipping point and changes direction, whether for better or worse. The problems we face are disparate trends all leading eventually to phase transitions, but also, interacting and hence affecting each others phase transitions.
Another useful notion derived from modern physics is that the arrow of time is irreversible: once a trend takes off, it keeps going in the same direction until it reaches a phase transition. That is why when a political opposition campaigns for peaceful change, it rarely succeeds. It take a sustained acceleration of energy through a system to provoke a phase transition, or bifurcation. Examples are 1917 Russia, when the Mensheviks failed to obtain gradual, ‘civilized’ change and the more determined, better organized Bolsheviks imposed it by force. This also happened in Depression era Germany, where the social democrats capitulated to highy organized and energized Nazis.
The United States is witnessing a monumental phase transition from uncontested world power to has been, as one diplomatic blunder after another bring its ‘Atlantic’ partners closer to the point of view of former ‘Third World’ nations whose voices are poised to carry the day in international fora.
America’s decline is occurring more rapidly that its ascent. I cannot advise you on how to cope with it, but I will continue to report and analyze the sea changes that constitute its daily markers.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Sea Changes V, Vi, VII and VIII
But now Donald Trump goes to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant and reveals plans to build a second Trump Tower.
And while that was happening, Germany and Brazil, whose leaders were among those spied on by the NSA, submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly calling for internationally recognized rights to privacy.
If anyone is still wondering whether a new international configuration is taking shape (led by China, Russia, and the other BRICS nations, including Brazil), they need only to consider that during a Florida fund raiser President Obama wondered if it still made sense to maintain the Cuban embargo put in place when he was a toddler.
A few years ago lifting the Cuban embargo might have sufficed to save America’s reputation. But now, while it will of course benefit the Cubans, it’s too little too late to save the Empire.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Some Myths Never Die
Can spying by five AngloSaxon eyes be explained merely by their geographically justified interest in ‘Oriental’ Asian countries? Or does this juxtaposition hark back to a 150 year belief in ‘Aryan superiority’ as documented in James Bradley’s 2005 book ‘The Imperial Cruise’?
Bradley’s account uses a 1905 Pacific junket organized by then President Theodore Roosevelt as pretext for an investigation into a little-known pillar of American foreign policy, the myth of the superiority of the ‘Aryan’ race. This deleterious idea did not begin with Hitler, as most Americans believe, but goes back several centuries and has played a major role in the foreign policy of both Great Britain and the United States.
You have to read Bradley’s book to get the details, but let me just divulge here that in the early twentieth century Japan set out to prove that it was unlike the other Asian ‘barbarians’ by industrializing and adopting American ways, ultimately being seen by Washington as Honorary Aryans. So strong was his belief that the United States backed Japan in its epic 1904 war with white but non-Aryan and non-Protestant Russia over Manchuria.
One might think this crazy idea would have died a natural death since the second world war, but if it did, why are five ‘Aryan’ countries spying on a list of Asian nations to this day? And for that matter, is ‘the West’s’ battle with Islam partly a prolongation of the old myth of Aryan superiority that was brutally challenged when non-Aryans took on the bastion of White supremacy on 9/11?
Sunday, November 3, 2013
America's Finlandization of Europe
During the Cold War, Washington incessantly warned Europeans that even if Soviet tanks didn’t come rolling across the Central plain, the continent would be neutralized, as happened to Finland. For decades that country felt it had to avoid challenging its powerful neighbor, the Soviet Union, thus limiting its ability to pursue a truly independent foreign policy. (During that period social democratic Finland rose to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world…)
Somehow, pundits on both sides of the Atlantic warned, doughty Moscow was going to draw the prosperous, hip countries of Western Europe into its orbit and lock them away behind an Iron Curtain. Reagan wanted to install ‘defensive’ Pershing missiles in West Germany; if fired, they would have destroyed the heart of Europe in order to ‘save’ it from Communism. That insane project fortified the peace movements on both sides of the Iron Curtain and in a few short years led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emancipation of the rest of Eastern Europe, and less than a year later, to the formal reunification of Germany’s two halves.
Notwithstanding this truly earth-shattering event, which no recognized pundit foresaw (I did, in my book ‘Une autre Europe, un autre Monde’ which came out on the day the Berlin Wall fell), the governments of Europe stuck with Washington (those of the Eastern half being the most pro-American, even though Washington had not lifted a finger to liberate them). After 9/11, their osmosis with Uncle Sam led them to throw decades of strict banking regulations to the winds and buy into Wall Street’s Financial Follies. In 2008, the world’s largest economy was decapitated, along with its welfare system that included month-long vacations, maternity leave and a host of minor benefits that Americans could not even dream of.
Meanwhile, Russia got through the Yeltsin years, during which Western financiers got richer on the backs of its citizens, finally inventing a new power-sharing system between a law professor and a former KGB agent. The musical chairs between Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, who have alternated in the roles of President and Prime Minister, elicit condescending remarks from American pundits. But is this arrangement any less ‘democratic’ than alternations between the American Democratic and Republican parties which nowadays can hardly be told apart?
Under its duopoly, Russia’s involvement with Europe is not limited to supplying gas: besides being a member of the Council of Europe, (along with Ukraine and Azerbaijan, while the United States is only an observer...), Russian teams play European football, soccer, hockey, etc. (The Union of European Football Association includes Russia, Kazakstan, Moldova, Bela Rus and Ukraine....) While all this can be seen as a post-Communist friendly Finlandization (or the realization of Mikhail Gorbachev’s dream of ‘a common European home’), is it pure coincidence that it should come on the heels of a truly devastating American Finlandization of Europe.
The 2008 crash was no self-contained event from which the continent, five years on, is recovering. It put an end to a system that had provided its people with ever-broader support for everything from education to old-age care (known pejoratively as cradle-to-grave welfare) since the end of World War II.
The United States did not turn Europe into a battlefield, or even bring it under its direct control, as the Soviet Union supposedly aspired to do: it used the international financial system it controls to destroy a superior way of life built up over half a century. And following Edward Snowden’s revelations as to the extent and depth of America’s secret aggressions, Europe is increasingly likely to gravitate toward Russia and the other BRICS countries, leaving the United States to console itself with the conviction that the rest of the world hates it for its freedoms.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Luck Running Out
Morrow was CBS's star newsman. His boss William Paley, did not interfere with editorial decisions, but would "not allow editorial decisions' to bring down the network. When Morrow denounced Joseph McCarthy, for conducting a veritable witch hunt against supposed Communists, Paley riled but stood behind him.
Morrow felt compelled to break with the media's uncritical coverage of Congress's anti-communist crusade when the Air Force dismissed a pilot on grounds that his immigrant father had subscribed to a foreign newspaper, supposedly making the young man a security risk. His principled stance eventually led to McCarthy's downfall, and the film closes with a shot of President Eisenhower reminding Americans that "we have habeus corpus' and no one can take that from us.
A year after Clooney's film was released, in 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Patriot Act, eliminating habeus corpus for those suspected of terrorism - or, in an eery throwback to the airman's father - of associating with terrorist suspects. Seven years later, the corporate media maintains an obedient, united front against Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and a growing cohort of whistle-blowers.
In the films' final take, Morrow maintains that television could be a powerful educational tool, but he was not heard in the big three boardrooms. CNN came on the scene in 1980 with the desire to do better, but with Ted Turner's ouster, it became just another spin machine. Neither the print media nor mainstream telelvision acknowledge the existence of foreign networks such as Al-Jazeera, France 24 or RT, hence most Americans haven't a clue as to what the rest of the world is thinking, doing or wanting.
Publlc ignorance has led to a situation that even the most astute observers would have deemed impossible just six months ago: Edward Snowden is weighing whether to swap his Moscow asylum for Berlin, or testify remotely about NSA spying on the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The arrow of time, combined with the acceleration of energy within the world system is moving it toward a bifurcation point that signals a change of era. Notwithstanding Morrow's fervent wishes, our luck is running out.