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  • Reply to: Sunday News: From the Editorial pages   12 hours 6 min ago

    This week's loser is David Brooks, for wholeheartedly embracing American Exceptionalism:

    Most of human history has been marked by war. Between 1500 and 1945, scarcely a year went by without some great power fighting another great power. Then, in 1945 that stopped. The number of battlefield deaths has plummeted to the lowest levels in history. The world has experienced the greatest reduction in poverty in history, as well as the greatest spread of democracy and freedom.

    Why did this happen? Mostly it was because the United States decided to lead a community of nations to create a democratic world order.

    In reality, the lull between WWII and the Korean Conflict (a brief five years) had more to do with licking wounds than any grand visions, but don't let me slow down the pep rally:

    That order consisted of institutions like NATO, the U.N. and the World Bank. But it was also enforced by the pervasive presence of American power — military, economic and cultural power as well as the magnetic power of the democratic idea, which inspired dissidents worldwide.

    Yeah, and some of those "inspired dissidents" finally broke the autocratic grip on their country and democratically elected a Parliament. But when they moved to nationalize their oilfields, the United States engineered a military coup and put their Shah back in power, giving him more authority than his royal line had exercised in decades. So much for the democratic idea.

    But the U.S. having been dragged into two world wars, leaders from Truman to Obama felt they had no choice but to widen America’s circle of concern across the whole world. This was abnormal. As Robert Kagan writes in “The Jungle Grows Back,” “Very few nations in history have ever felt any responsibility for anything but themselves.”

    If you still needed evidence that David Brooks has been drinking from a tainted pond, there you go. Neocons have mastered the art of painting beautiful pictures of previous American exploits in their crusade to engage in more of the same, and Robert Kagan leads that pack. But their view of the role of America in international affairs makes Social Darwinism seem mild in comparison.

    And their frustration with the American public's lack of interest in that is palpable:

    Over all, this history should be a source of pride for all Americans, but it is not. Researchers from the Center for American Progress recently completed a survey of American foreign policy views. They write: “When asked what the phrase ‘maintaining the liberal international order’ indicated to them, all but one of the participants in our focus groups drew a blank. Voters across educational lines simply did not understand what any of these phrases … meant or implied.”

    That by itself is not a problem. The liberal order was built by foreign policy elites, from George Marshall to Madeleine Albright. The problem is that voters are now actively hostile to the project. Instead of widening the circle of concern, most Americans want the U.S. to simply look after itself.

    The truth is, Americans no longer trust these pro-democracy cheerleaders, or their master plans. Because there's always a corporate influence behind such actions, just like what happened in Iran, and numerous other places. Democracy is more of a beard than a driving ideological force, and that charade has put some really nasty tyrants in place.

    But the worst part of an essay like this is when the writer tries to create groups of people that don't exist:

    There are two types of low-trust voters. On the right there are the Trumpian America Firsters, who want to cut immigration and break alliances. On the left there are the New Doves. These are young people who express high interest in human rights, but having grown up in the Iraq era, they don’t want the U.S. to get involved in protecting them. A survey of American voters by the Eurasia Group Foundation reported, “People under 30 years old were the most likely to want the United States to abstain from intervening in human rights abuses.”

    The America Firsters and the New Doves may think of themselves as opposites, but they wind up in the same place. America should not be abroad preserving the liberal world order.

    Understand, nothing exacerbates human rights abuses more than war does. To date, some 460,000 Iraqi citizens have died as the result of the U.S. invasion. In Afghanistan, 18 years of conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and American air strikes are increasingly responsible for those. You throw in Syria and Yemen, and what you see doesn't even resemble "democratization" by the U.S. More like a cage match, where the spectators are continually smashed over the head with folding chairs.

    You're damn right young people are losing faith in such activities, and it's a blessing.

  • Reply to: If you're reading a Nicholas Sparks novel, you might want to burn it   1 day 12 hours ago

    The lawsuit was filed almost five years ago, and the fact it revolves around a North Carolina school (albeit private) should have made this at least page 2 material, if not the front page of newspapers.

    It's probably me. I generally avoid news not related to politics, because I don't care about who's being traded to the Mets, or who is this week's darling on America's Greatest Bachelor. But if this story was shuffled over into the entertainment section, somebody needs a smack on the back of the head.

  • Reply to: Friday News: Provenance   2 days 13 hours ago

    Several of the crewmen on board one of the vessels say it was a flying object that hit their ship, not a mine:

    One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship’s Japanese operator said on Friday, disputing at least part of the account of United States officials who had blamed Iran for the attack.

    “Our crew said that the ship was attacked by a flying object,” said Yutaka Katada, the president of the operator, Kokuka Sangyo.

    American officials released video on Thursday that they said showed an Iranian boat crew removing a limpet mine attached to the hull of the damaged Kokuka Courageous, a tanker operated by Kokuka Sangyo.

    But Mr. Katada, citing accounts from the ship’s crew, said: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

    I also don't think the folks who were attacked would lie about what hit them just to protect Iran.

  • Reply to: Friday fracking video   3 days 5 hours ago

    of these weekly posts, and the above video is one of the first we published back then.

    Whether or not this contributed to the fact North Carolina still hasn't done this (aside from a small testing program), who can say. But I for one have learned a great deal about the process, and I hope readers have to.

    No plans to stop the series, just thought I would mark the milestone.

  • Reply to: Wednesday News: A key part of the puzzle   4 days 12 hours ago

    This was a Sub-Committee meeting, and not the full Committee. That Sub-Committee has about 1/3 the members of the full Judiciary, so naturally there were going to be a bunch of empty chairs.