Peace Movement in the Age of Trump

Throughout those conversations, there was consensus that the contemporary peace movement was not nearly powerful enough to mount a serious challenge to the forces of American empire and militarism. As the challenges facing that movement came into focus for me, so did their scale. It is hard to imagine a more difficult target, from an organizing perspective, than military policy. The US empire today leaves a great deal of ruin in its wake, but its cost is only vaguely felt by most Americans, while its gargantuan profits are pocketed by a few and its most recognized organization—the military itself—is widely celebrated as the most trusted public institution.

In the wake of the election, as the need for a constituency to challenge American militarism grows in urgency, how might such challenges be met? Doing so will require reimagining the constituency, strategy, and purpose of the movement itself. It is not at all clear that a “peace movement” or even an “antiwar movement,” as those have generally been conceived, will suffice. Rather, we need a movement that can speak to the anger that so many Americans feel toward the corporate powers that dominate our politics. Such a movement would expose how militarism is not immune to that influence but is particularly beholden to it. Can such a movement be organized? …
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Rather than cutting foreign aid, Trump should be cutting these instead

If President Trump really feels the need to cut foreign aid, he should take a close look at the Pentagon’s “shadow” security assistance programs — programs that are buried deep in the department’s budget, where they are largely shielded from scrutiny by the news media, the public and most members of Congress.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon has created dozens of new arms and training programs within its own budget, at a cost of about $10 billion per year, in support of activities in more than 130 countries, according to the Security Assistance Monitor. This is small change by Pentagon standards, but more than three times the value of the domestic programs that are on the White House’s “hit list,” including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, and funding for Planned Parenthood, Legal Services, AmeriCorps and the Export-Import Bank. Continue reading

UBI for 1%

In 2015, according to PSZ, the richest 1% of people in America received 20.2% of all the income in the nation. Ten points of that 20.2% came from equity income, net interest, housing rents, and the capital component of mixed income. Which is to say, 10% of all national income is paid out to the 1% as capital income. Let me reiterate: 1 in 10 dollars of income produced in this country is paid out to the richest 1% without them having to work for it.
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Trump’s Military Budget Doesn’t Add Up

And while Trump says increased military spending will reassert America’s strength, the United States already is the world’s 800-pound gorilla. In 2015, it was responsible for more than one third of all military spending on the planet. China and Russia, the United States’ main military competitors, don’t even come close.

Trump’s budget plans also feature drastic cuts to international and environmental spending. He’s reportedly pushing for a 24 percent cut to the EPA budget and a 37 percent cut to the State Department and USAID budget. While such reductions would have profound effects on these agencies, they are a drop in the bucket compared with the Pentagon budget. In 2016, the Department of State and USAID received an estimated $50.6 billion, or 1.3 percent of all federal spending. The EPA received $8.3 billion, or 0.2 percent of all federal spending. Meanwhile, the Pentagon got 15 percent.
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Meritocracy and the decline of the Democratic Party

Meritocracy, Franks argues, is the ideology that allowed Democrats to self-consciously claim the mantle of social justice and egalitarianism while subverting both. In this framework, one’s race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation shouldn’t matter when it comes to achieving success in America; what does matter is having the talent and ability to graduate from a place like Harvard Law. But at the same time, meritocracy demands inequality—not everyone, after all, can go to Harvard Law or become a doctor or a high-tech executive. In fetishizing meritocracy, therefore, the Democratic Party has embraced an ideology based on inequality.

Frank contrasts this ideology with the GOP’s more traditional plutocratic one. In the United States, as elsewhere, having a lot of money gives you power. But this “hierarchy of money,” as he puts it, is rivaled by another: a “hierarchy of merit, learning, and status.” The lawyers, doctors, and academics who compose “the liberal class” (to use the journalist Chris Hedges’s term) have erected their own edifice of power—one that has also come to ignore the interests of working-class people and reproduced structures of extreme racism, particularly in the prison system.
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Trump put budget in a muddle with big military spending increase

“I don’t know how you take $54 billion out without wholesale taking out entire departments,” said Bill Hoagland, a longtime Republican budget aide in the Senate and now a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “You need to control it in the area of the entitlement programs, which he’s taken off the table. It is a proposal, I dare say, that will be dead on arrival even with a Republican Congress.” Continue reading

Ken Loach on Corbyn

The spate of calls for Jeremy Corbyn to quit since last week’s byelections in Stoke and Copeland has been as predictable as it was premeditated. It says everything about the political agenda of the media, and nothing about people’s real needs and experiences.

I went to Stoke and Whitehaven, in Cumbria, a few days before polling. Momentum arranged screenings of Daniel Blake. We went to Labour clubs in neglected areas, old estates away from the centre. At one club I was asked: “Why have you come here? No one comes here.”

Joe Bradley and Georgie Robertson, the organisers, were a model of how Labour activists should work: full of energy, hard-working and brilliantly efficient. They had a warm greeting for everyone, checked the screening facilities, made space for local contributors so people from that community felt it was their event and that they were being heard. This is how Labour can reconnect.

Both screenings were packed. The discussions were passionate, informed and invigorating, a world away from the tired cliches of the public discourse. This was not a marketing exercise but a real engagement with people and their concerns.

The failure of Labour governments – and, importantly, Labour councillors – was a common theme. It is not hard to see the neglect around Stoke. Solid Labour, for sure, but what good has it done them? A 2015 report into the area found 60,000 people in poverty, 3,000 households dependent on charity food, and £25m in council tax arrears. The presence of the BNP, now replaced by Ukip, shows how Labour’s failure left space for the far right.

It was a similar story in Copeland. Industries have been lost – steel, mines, a chemical factory – without any plan to replace them. Labour is seen to be as culpable as the Tories. Someone said that in Copeland it was an anti-establishment vote, and Labour is the local establishment. It was a vote against Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and previous MPs Jack Cunningham and Jamie Reed.

In both constituencies the Labour candidates, neither from the left of the party, were invited, but both candidates ignored the meetings. With coverage on television, radio and the press, this is bizarre. Could it be because Momentum were the organisers? We were there to support Labour. There was not even the courtesy of a reply.
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Trump is continuing the trend of ever-increasing military spending

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, he committed truth: He said it’s one of the largest military budget increases in history—about 10 percent, $54 billion, which, to put it in perspective, would be about what the United Kingdom spends—just the increase. That would be the seventh biggest military budget in the world. And, of course, we’re spending at historic levels, $600 billion a year, which is more than the peak of Reagan. The Obama years, we spent more than under George W. Bush. So the idea that there’s a gap in military spending is ludicrous. He hasn’t talked about tens of billion dollars in Pentagon waste. And, of course, he hasn’t said how he’s going use the military, other than rattling sabers about Iran, which, were they to go to war with Iran, as one person said, would be—make Iraq look like a walk in the park. So, I think the money is problematic, but also kind of the reckless possibilities of how they might use the military.
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Housing is a human right not a commodity

In Melbourne, Australia, one in five investor-owned units lie empty, the report says; in Kensington, London, a prime location for rich investors, numbers of vacant homes rose by 40% between 2013 and 2014 alone. “In such markets the value of housing is no longer based on its social use,” the report says. “The housing is as valuable whether it is vacant or occupied, lived in or devoid of life. Homes sit empty while homeless populations burgeon.” …

Farha, 48, by background a human rights lawyer and anti-poverty activist, calls for a “paradigm shift” whereby housing is “once again seen as a human right rather than a commodity”. It is clear, she suggests, that the UN’s sustainable development goal of ensuring adequate housing for all by 2030 is not only receding, but without regulatory intervention to re-establish the primacy of housing as a social good, laughably optimistic. Continue reading

Trump’s new budget is his war on public services

As The New York Times first reported, Trump’s newly confirmed budget director, former South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, has assembled a “hit list” of agencies and programs to eliminate. Current candidates include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities; Legal Services Corporation; and AmeriCorps. And Trump—no doubt egged on by Mike Pence—has pledged to cut the more than $500 million in funding to Planned Parenthood…

The proposed cuts have everything to do with right-wing ideology and nothing to do with fiscal responsibility. All of the programs slated for closing provide essential public services. All of the programs slated for closure, plus the proposed Planned Parenthood cuts, cost the federal government a combined total of about $3 billion per year. That grand totally amounts to one-half of one percent of, the current Pentagon budget, now runs at about $600 billion per year. And that’s before Trump’s pledge to throw an additional $1 trillion at that bloated department over the next ten years. Continue reading

What Oxfam’s campaign on Yemen can teach us all about change

How to turn that around? Our campaign on Yemen has highlighted the catastrophic humanitarian crisis and the urgent need for a ceasefire. It has sought to give a platform to Yemeni civil society and described how Yemeni women are striving for peace. …

There were three main reasons:

  • Precisely because governments that we had a degree of influence over were so complicit in the crisis, we had an exceptional opportunity to reduce the suffering in Yemen.
  • Oxfam had been in Yemen for 30 years. We have a strong programme on the ground and we were one of the first NGOs to scale up operations in response to the intensifying conflict.
  • Oxfam had campaigned for ten years for an Arms Trade Treaty which was designed to prevent the carnage caused by just these kinds of arms transfers.

So on our side, we had both legitimacy from our on-the-ground presence and moral clarity.  We had a clear call that stirred passions and could be easily understood. People get the connection between arms sales and suffering. Continue reading

China boosts arms exports by 74%, while becoming more self-sufficient

Comparing two five-year periods between 2007-11 and 2012-16, the volume of Chinese exports of major arms increased by 74 per cent. Its share of the global total of exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent, making it the third-largest supplier in the world, following the United States and Russia.
Unlike the US, which accounts for one-third of exports and supplies at least 100 countries, China delivered major arms to 44 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. More than 60 per cent of China’s exports went to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and another 22 per cent went to Africa.

China has also been expanding its market. In 2015, it exported type 90 multi-barrel rocket launchers to Peru, the first time Chinese weapons were used to equip Peru’s armed forces. A report released by the Pentagon last April estimated that China’s arms sales from 2010 to 2014 totalled about US$15 billion. Continue reading

SIPRI: Global Arms Trade Highest since Cold War

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said on Monday that more weapons were delivered between 2012 and 2016 than any other five-year period since 1990. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yementhat has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212%, mainly from the US and the UK.

Asia was the main recipient region in the world as India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13% of the global imports. While India received most of its arms from Russia, the Saudis relied heavily on US arms. US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters. Continue reading

Debt Cancellation and Economic Renewal

Basically what you had in the Bronze Age and every ancient society was a different concept of time than you have today. You had the concept of time as circular. That meant economic renewal. The idea was that every new ruler, every new reign, began time all over again. It wasn’t really time, it was really the economy had to start from a new position of equilibrium. This equilibrium – basically freedom from debt, the ability to support yourself – had to start afresh. Continue reading

Antitrust in the era of Amazon

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

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Would Gandhi give the go-ahead to the UBI

India is nearly done building the plumbing to enable such a system by connecting the Aadhaar-based biometric ID system to individual bank accounts. It’s already replaced LPG gas canister subsidies with cash, a program that has 150 million beneficiaries and is the now the world’s largest cash transfer program. So could India take this example to its logical conclusion and replace all welfare benefits with UBI? (GiveDirectly is asking a similar question in a bold 10-year $30 million experiment in Kenya.)

The Survey’s assessment begins with quotes from Mahatma Gandhi suggesting both support and objection to the principles of UBI. The chapter then methodically addresses the conceptual pros (e.g., justice, equity, agency, efficiency) and potential cons (e.g., labor disincentives, moral hazard, political objections). It attempts various modeling, including a rough estimate that cutting national poverty in half via UBI would cost just 1.5 percent of GDP, less than the subsidy bill in the 2016-17 budget. For the data nerds, there are seven (!) appendices explaining all the estimates and calculations. Continue reading

$900 billion spent in Afghanistan

The most telling moment in the SASC hearing came when Nicholson remarked that plans were being developed to “find success” in Afghanistan within the next four years. That would mark a full twenty years of direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Since the first Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary teams entered Afghanistan in November 2001, 2,350 servicemembers have given their lives and almost $900 billion in taxpayers’ money has been spent. Meanwhile, the country is less politically stable and less secure from all forms of insurgent and criminal predation. No one can say how or when this largely forgotten war will end, but “finding success” certainly should begin with some realism, honesty, and a corresponding adjustment in U.S. expectations and objectives.

Being Honest About U.S. Military Strategy in Afghanistan Continue reading