The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: February 2023 Page 1 of 3

“Fuck Suffering”, The Buddhist Solution (Part One)

In “Fire From The Gods” I argued that humanity has proven consistently unable to handle new technologies: that we have usually wound up making them do more harm than good. This is a first in a series on looks at past attempted solutions.

Now the people who made these solutions usually didn’t say that they were trying to solve the problems of technology, though it’s implicit in some myths, like that of the eating from the tree of knowledge and being kicked out of paradise. But there is a wave of major solution sets being proposed all at about the same time. This is known as the Axial revolution, and includes Socrates/Plato, Confucius and Buddha. Zoraoaster comes in a bit earlier, Jesus rather later and the Jewish prophets (who spend a lot of time on social issues) scattered around thru the period.

The Buddha was born a nobleman, and during his life his father was conquered. While called a “king”, his father really lead a coalition of nobles and warriors: clans. He wasn’t a powerful king in the sense of having the ability to enforce his will. The Kings who were rising during this period in India were, and it was one of them who conquered his father. Indeed the Buddha’s time was one of huge prosperity in the part of India he lived in: probably this was the most prosperous area in in the world. They were urbanizing and for those who got in on the prosperity, standard advice was to keep one-third of one’s profits for oneself, give one-third to one’s friends and give the final third away.

They were filthy rich.

At the same time they were deeply dissatisfied and a large group of people renounced and tried to find a better way of living. These people were admired: they weren’t considered to be bums, but because they lived with few possessions and were trying to find a way out for everyone, were generally looked up to. It is that group Siddhartha joined.

Now the story of Siddhartha is that he was brought up by his father with all suffering concealed from him: aging, death and disease in particular, because a prophecy said that if he saw such, he would leave. Eventually he did and he left.

But, and this is important, the essence of the Buddha’s question is heroic to the point of being quixotic. Siddhartha saw suffering and instead of saying “well, it’s inevitable, I just have to accept it” instead determined:

Fuck suffering. I refuse to accept it is inevitable and I will dedicate my life to finding a way to end suffering.

Now that’s heroic to the extent of imbecility, except that he seems to have succeeded.

This is the core of all great ideologies, of which religion’s are a subset. The are based on a heroic ideal: a heroic conception of what it is possible for humans to achieve. Something extremely idealistic, often to the point of near insanity.

Buddhism is a heroic ideology, just like Christianity and Marxism and the Declaration of Independence and Confucianism and even Capitalism (to name only a few, but a few we will be covering.)

On a personal note, having done a lot of work and meditation and met a fair number of masters who seem to “have it” I’d say the Buddha succeeded: his way works. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone, at least not in one life. (If reincarnation is a thing.)

Buddhist societies have sometimes extended the mandate. Asoka, the first Buddhist King of India had, so far as I know, the world’s first animal welfare laws. Construction in Buddhist Tibet was slow and difficult, because they would dig out the foundations very carefully, sift thru the dirt and remove the insects and worms and so on so they didn’t kill them.

Even when suffering cannot be ended, we can reduce it. The reduction of suffering and, when possible, its end, is the goal of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism, with its Boddhisattva ideal, is an extension of this. Final enlightenment is said to remove one from the cycle of reincarnation (this doesn’t necessarily mean the individual stops existing, but they stop coming back here.) So a Boddhisattva swears to not accept final enlightenment until all sentient beings are enlightened. They’re going to stick around and keep helping, thru multiple lives if necessary.

We’re all ending suffering together

That’s the Mahayana extension.

Now of the great solutions, Buddhism is in the group I consider to have done less harm than good, but it’s definitely been perverted at various times. Like all ideologies, like all great ideals, there are ways it goes wrong. We’ll deal with that in the next article, but I wanted the articles separated, and this will be a pattern, because I want people to focus on the dream, on the ideal, on the greatness of the initial conception and its beauty. That beauty is there in all great ideologies; all of them, or they would not have succeeded.

Sometimes you have to dig a bit to find it, though not in Buddhism, but it’s always there. Just as in dealing with enemies, even when it’s an ideology you have (or perhaps you hate all ideologies) acknowledging whatever virtues there are is important. Great ideologies succeed, in part, because of some seed of great beauty: something wonderful.

If you want to understand the ideology, you cannot just look at all the evil it has done, or what you hate about it. You must find the beauty. If you haven’t, you aren’t close to the truth. If I skip some ideologies, it will be because I can’t see the core beauty that obvious exists in them. (Islam perhaps, if I can’t figure it out while I’m doing this series.

We’ll continue with the failures of Buddhism: the ways it either went wrong, or failed to achieve its dream. But understand that failing to go all the way doesn’t mean good wasn’t done, for any ideology, or even that more good wasn’t done than ill, especially for a period of time.

See you soon.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 26, 2023

by Tony Wikrent



How The U.S. (And UK) Sabotaged Peace In Ukraine

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 2-23-2023]

In an interview with an Israeli outlet (vid), former prime minister of Israel Naftali Bennett, who was personally deeply involved in the negotiation process, also alleged that the ‘West’ blocked them:

“Reports at the time reflect Bennet’s comments and said Russia and Ukraine were softening their positions. Citing Israeli officials, Axios reported on March 8 that Putin’s “proposal is difficult for Zelensky to accept but not as extreme as they anticipated. They said the proposal doesn’t include regime change in Kyiv and allows Ukraine to keep its sovereignty.”

“Discussing how Western leaders felt about his mediation efforts, Bennett said then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took an “aggressive line” while French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were more “pragmatic.” Bennett said President Biden adopted “both” positions.

“But ultimately, the Western leaders opposed Bennet’s efforts. “I’ll say this in the broad sense. I think there was a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking Putin and not [negotiate],” Bennett said.

“When asked if the Western powers “blocked” the mediation efforts, Bennet said,

“ “Basically, yes. They blocked it, and I thought they were wrong.” 


Recognizing The War Is Lost The ‘West’ Seeks An Exit 

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2023]


President Vladimir Putin’s State of the Nation address, 21 February 2023 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 2-25-2023]

The State Duma has just approved a law sent to it by the President declaring the suspension of Russian participation in the New Start treaty. There is now no remaining convention limiting the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear superpowers.

The constellation of treaties that was developed starting in the 1970s was important not only for setting down numbers and kinds of systems that were permitted to the signatories. Still more important were the verification procedures which were ongoing. They involved regular meetings of high officials from both sides and served to establish some kind of mutual respect and trust.  As I noted from the opening remarks of Vladimir Putin in his address, there is now zero mutual trust and the guard rails protecting us from nuclear holocaust have been removed.


A Fight for Survival: What Victory Looks Like to Putin 

[Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, via Naked Capitalism 2-24-2023]

Putin’s state of the nation address effectively suggests that in the growing confrontation with the West, Russia will rely on one sole argument: the nuclear option. In this respect, suspending the New START treaty also sends a warning to non-Western countries of the consequences for the entire world of the West’s anti-Russian policies. Moscow is presenting the global community with a choice between Russia or descending into a nuclear disaster.


A year on, Russia’s war on Ukraine threatens to redraw the map of world politics – and 2023 will be crucial 

[The Converstion, via Naked Capitalism 2-22-2023]

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

Fire From The Gods: the Original Sins of Agriculture and Industrialism And Hope For The Future

We’re all familiar with the myth: Prometheus steals fire from the Gods and gives it to man and is cruelly punished for it.

I’ve considered writing a story in which Prometheus is freed by Zeus and returned to Earth to judge the results of his action.

We’ve gone over the problems of industrialization and agriculture many times and that isn’t what this post is about, but as a brief summary: most people’s lives got worse about two thousand years after agriculture, and in some ways immediately after. Rotten teeth, more disease, reduced lifespan and narrow hips in women leading to more deaths in childbirth and harder live childbirths, then the rise of the kings and all the evil that came with them. As for industrialization, it came with capitalism and required stealing people’s property rights and forcing them to take wage jobs that up until the middle of the 20th century were worse than staying on the land. Then climate  change and ecological collapse, without which technological triumphalism might have something of a point

But the bitterness of the fruit (and the fall from Eden is a related myth) is the bitterness that knowledge has turned in our hands and struck us. We learned to do amazing things: to grow our own plants; to domesticate animals; to make a vast variety of items; to use river and wind and coil and oil and the sun itself for power; to look at our own DNA and change it and so on and so forth.

The triumphalism in some circles: the joy at human ingenuity, is largely justified. What we have learned and invented as a species is amazing and we should, collectively, be proud.

The issue isn’t human ingenuity, it’s demonstrated instead that every time something new is discovered or invented, instead of thinking “what great things will we do with this”, many of us think “oh fuck, how is this going to be misused?” The recent AI crap is instructive, but I’m old enough and was online enough in the 90s to remember the initial predictions from futurists about how the internet itself was going to change the world. A lot of it was right, but way too much of it was wrong: far too optimistic.

My favorite example is that every study I know of (there may be a few exceptions) find that the more you engage with social media the more unhappy you are. There are countless other examples, insert your own.

So the pattern, and this is a pattern that has gone on for somewhere between eight to ten thousand years, depending on whether you look at agriculture or the rise of kings as the watershed, is that we figure out something amazing and then, more often than not the balance between how much it makes life worse and how much it makes life better is in favor of “oh crap.”

Debates about capitalism, communism, anarchism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and so on are debates about a way out of this trap, these original sins—these stories of taking fire or knowledge from the Gods and then burning ourselves more than helping ourselves. They are attempts to find a way to get more of the good and less of the bad, to tilt the field solidly towards the good.

Most major attempts have been sincere in their inception, much like the glee of of most discoverers of new knowledge. Then they have gone wrong, some more than others.

Some solutions have done significant good, especially at first. Others have had the opposite pattern. The same is true of specific inventions. The printing press in Europe (not China) probably did far more evil than good for about 200 years (say hello, wars of religion.)

We’re going to spend  time teasing this apart over the next few months or maybe year or two because this is important. If there is a way out of this trap, it lies partially in understanding what we’ve tried in the past, and how it both worked and failed.

In the meantime, the simplest understanding is this: we are in a trap. As a species we created this trap ourselves. We forged our own chains and our own torture instruments, then used them on ourselves and keep doing so, in large part because we imagine them to be ourselves.

There is blame here, sort of, but really the blame/responsibility distinction is more important. We were born into societies that were already fucked up and that are immensely powerful, far more powerful than we are. Our collective might and the weight of the chains we have forged for ourselves over millennia is like Sisyphus’s boulder. It’s too much and every attempt to push it to the top of the hill has failed.

But the Gods haven’t said we must suffer forever from our own discoveries and inventions: only that we must learn to use these inventions with consistent kindness and wisdom.

Our task, then, is to figure out how to use knowledge and power with wisdom and kindness, in a sustained way, over not just a few decades or a century or two, which seems to be our best record so far, but over millennia, in a stable solution set.

Let’s get to it.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

The Essence of Capitalism

Eric Anderson wrote an excellent post on how late-stage capitalism engenders mental illness. I thought I’d follow it up with a simple post on capitalism.

As the name implies, capitalism is the accumulation of capital. This doesn’t mean money, primarily, that’s not what the early theorists meant by capital: they meant the means of production: land, workers, resources and capital goods: machinery in particular.

Capital is the ability to make and grow items. Because of economy of scale, if you concentrate capital it is easy to increase how much you make: Adam Smith’s famous pin factory.

But to concentrate capital you have to take it from a large number of people and put it in the hands of the few. This has been covered by a number of authors, and it involves taking away the commons rights of people in Europe (their right to use the land, which had existed for about a thousand years or so). We demonize serfs and peasants, and they had to engage in demeaning acts of servility, but they had strictly defined obligations to their lords for a certain amount of work, crops and animals and once that was taken care of they were able to spend their time as they pleased and they could grow crops on land they had right to; pasture their animals and so on.

Economists call the concentration of capital “primitive accumulation” but what it was was taking away property rights from people so they couldn’t support themselves. This forced them to go to cities and work in factories and so on, where they lived shorter lives, worked a hell of a lot harder (6 1/2 12 hour days were pretty common) and were sick a lot more often. The freedom of capitalism is the right to sell your labor, not the right to control how you spend your day. Unlike serfs and peasants, who were tied to the land, you could choose your master, but for most of the population, that’s what it was, a choice of masters, at least when there weren’t enough workers.

In the rest of the world European capitalism was about conquering land and into the 19th century, about taking slaves. The only thing better than workers who are desperate being workers who you didn’t even have to pay.

Capitalism, again, is about concentrating the means of production, capital, in the hands of the few. It is justified by the idea that concentrated capital is more effecient and therefore everyone has more. There’s a lot of arguments about whether that’s true and we now know, for example, that land clearances didn’t increase agricultural productivity much more than on communal lands, and in the case of some crops, communal lands were more efficient.

But it’s hard to make the case for the path not taken. Perhaps communal forms could have worked, I think they could have, and would have produced more prosperity in time, since they didn’t involve impoverishing people and two-thirds of the non-European globe, but… the water is passed and the argument is important not for what might have been, but for what might be in the future.

But all systems are made up of means and ends. Capitalism justifies removing the ability of most people to support themselves without working for others beyond what amounts to taxation by the violent authorities (that’s all governments. Don’t pay your taxes and eventually the big men with guns will show up, just like the knights did when a peasant didn’t meet his feudal contract.)

The means of capitalism in the modern world amount to “wage slavery,” something well  understood by they yeoman farmers who were being forced off their land in the 1800s, and who seem to have coined the phase. You will have a master and if you can’t find one, you will starve.

It’s important to separate “capitalism” and “industrialization”. Because we industrialized under capitalism we think of the two as the same thing, or perhaps as co-joined siamese twins, but it’s not hard to imagine industrializing, which is about machines and assembly lines, in different ways: perhaps with communal organizations co-owning the means of production. This is distinct from Soviet communism, in which the government effectively owned everything, leading to the normal problems of totalitarian organization. Plurality and capitalism and synonyms.

This is something you need to think through; to imagine, for yourself. Try and come up with different ways industrialization and technology could have advanced, and don’t be caught up in historical inevitability. If you think that the past could not have been any different, then you effectively believe the future is determined.

This is one of the issues of Marxism: historical determinism. When it turned out (at least so far) that the historical dialectic didn’t work out how Marx and Engels envisaged, well, the house of cards collapsed. You have to give up inevitability to have choice and the ability to adapt.

We have plenty of options for the future and do not have to make the mistakes of the past. The first principle is that if your means are bad, no matter how good your ends, your society is going to have huge problems. You can’t routinely do evil, day in and day out, and expect the some invisible hand to lead to a good world for all.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Capitalism as Mental Illness, by Eric Anderson

It’s axiomatic that any system preying upon the vulnerabilities of the many, to profit the few, is both a moral and ethical atrocity. Capitalism embodies such a system. As originally conceived by Adam Smith “selfish interest” would theoretically extend “that universal opulence … to the lowest ranks of people.” But at some historical point his creation escaped. It turned malignant. Today, it serves only to increase the opulence of the opulent, while recruiting the rest of us to wage perpetual war against each other for survival. When, and why, did this occur? I’ll begin with a brief technical digression.

Psychologists have long used the diathesis/stress model to explain mental illness. The DSM-V defines mental illness as a syndrome of disturbances in cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior reflecting dysfunction in psychological, biological, or development processes. In medical terms, a diathesis is defined as a tendency to suffer from some latent condition. Stress defined as a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse circumstances. Also known as the vulnerability–stress model, the model attempts to explain mental illness as the result of the interaction between latent vulnerabilities (diathesis) and adverse life experiences (stress).

Not coincidentally, the U.S. leads the world in mental illness. More than 50% of us will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in our lifetime, and 20% of us will experience a mental illness in a given year. The perversion of Adam Smith’s originally benign, and arguably beneficial early conception is to blame — and the story of John Watson marks a good starting point to the divergence.

Watson was a behavioral psychologist at John Hopkins University, who, together with his research assistant Rosalie Rayner, conditioned an infant to fear a white rat by loudly striking a metal rod every time the rat was introduced. “Baby Albert’s” aversion was then extended to white rabbits, dogs, and cats. Watson made no attempt to decondition Albert leading to severe developmental and emotional difficulties.

Subsequently, the discovery of an affair with Ms. Rayner led to Watson’s expulsion from John Hopkins in disgrace (quaint — what progress we’ve made). It’s also known that three out of four of Watson’s children attempted suicides, two of them succeeding, due to Watson employing his children as subjects of his conditioning techniques. Yes, he was a moral monster.

But the moral monster landed on his feet. He took his ‘talents’ on the road to New York City where he rapidly climbed to the upper echelons of the Madison Avenue advertising world. He did so by employing his conditioning techniques on a public totally unprepared for incessant psychological warfare. Watson also inspired Edward Bernays — known as the Father of Propaganda — who is credited with ad campaigns popularizing female smoking under the banner of freedom. In short, Watson’s behaviorism copulated with Smith’s self interest and spawned the science of exploiting psychological vulnerability for profit. Capitalism became mental illness the moment diathesis met stress.

And long before the science of psychology, theology recognized that we all possess multiple diatheses that reduce our humanity. Christianity warned us against indulging these psychological vulnerabilities. They’re called the seven deadly sins, which are: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. But virtually every religion forewarns against overindulgence in these base emotions and behaviors. Advertising, invariably appeals to precisely these base impulses.

Tying back to psychology, one’s imagination need not roam far to begin drawing parallels between these “sins,” and the ten recognized DSM-V personality disorders, known as: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Ultimately, one could go on at book length about the relationship between sin and psychological disorder. But for the sake of brevity, I’m certain you take my point.

As to the stress mechanism, Adam Smith supplied that with his theory of “selfish interest” providing collective benefit. And while it’s inarguable that being forced to compete in a self reinforcing and ever accelerating rat race has provided us with many industrial and technological milestones, we must ask ourselves: at what cost? The fracture of social cohesion? The immiseration of the many to benefit the few? Graft and corruption?

Over generations now, the diatheses and the stresses have combined and evolved together, entwining ever more tightly like tentacles around our collective throat. Over generations we have become inured to the impact upon our mental health. But make no mistake, the impact is real, as evidenced by a society that has become morally and ethically unhinged.

Ethically, our collective conception of the the utility of preying on the vulnerable among us is commonplace. We pride ourselves in becoming rich by selling snake oil. We turn our backs upon the poverty stricken while shunning them to makeshift camps, which we then tear down with impunity. And as amply demonstrated by the Covid 19 pandemic, we turn our backs on the oldest and youngest among us in the name of protecting the rights of the strong. We’re destroying the very planet that sustains us and massacring our fellow species that inhabit it in an orgy self-loathing masochism. Why? Why do we it find so difficult to be humane?

In a word: fear. We are taught to fear the success of our fellows by teachers aiming a fire hose of capitalist propaganda at us from the moment of conception. We are taught young to fear our precarious positions in life. And thus, we fight interminably for ascendance to the promise of opulence, displayed on TV by the Jones’ we’ll never meet. And from fear arise those close cousins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Oh, how well we’re taught young to fear falling behind those ubiquitous Jones’, ever parading their opulence before our eyes.

The result is predictable. Morally, our political leaders and captains of industry are insane with greed for wealth and power. How does someone need billions of dollars? And how can someone possessing billions of dollars look around the world, witness mass suffering, and do nothing about it while possessing the means to fix it? How can they use every tool at their disposal to crush the efforts of those who would try?

The answer is simple. Latent vulnerabilities, coupled with the stress of the hyper-competitive environment they were raised in, drive them insane. We all possess psychological vulnerabilities. We’re all incessantly exploited by well rehearsed behavioral tools. Algorithms, we call them now. And coupled with a conditioned creed to compete only for our own selfish interest, we’ve all grown sick in the mind.

Psychologically, we have been conditioned to accept an ethical system that treats atrocity as mundane, while simultaneously lionizing morally diseased monsters. We’re swaddled from birth in fear. We’re coddled on competition. And we age into insanity. This isn’t a portrait of a mentally healthy society. It’s a portrait of depravity on a mass scale — of capitalism as mental illness.

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 19, 2023

by Tony Wikrent



“The Sy Hersh effect: killing the messenger, ignoring the message”

[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-16-2023]

“Absolute crickets. That is the sound in the major mainstream media — both foreign and domestic — following the charges by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that the United States led a covert operation to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022…. Second, they point to what appears to be “single sourcing” in Hersh’s Substack report (though he is much more ambiguous about this in his interview with Radio War Nerd this week). Additionally, Twitter and Substack sleuths, using OSINT (open source intelligence,) say they’ve found holes in the details (like the class of minesweeper ship involved and where it was located the day Hersh claims the explosives were planted) that cast doubt on his entire story. But the questions raised about Hersh and his reporting (appropriate or not) do not explain the lack of mainstream coverage of his extremely detailed, 5300-word article, which under any other circumstances should have opened the floodgates of journalistic inquiry. … Media critic, author, and podcaster Robert Wright suggests the media blackout is part of an ongoing trend of one-sided and incurious Ukraine War coverage. He pointed to explosive, yet little-reported claims by former Israeli prime minister Neftali Bennett earlier this month that the West had killed a tentative peace deal between Russia and Ukraine last March. ‘In some ways I think MSM’s more or less ignoring Naftali Bennett’s comments on aborted early-March Ukraine negotiations is even less excusable than ignoring the Hersh story,’ Wright said in an email exchange with RS. ‘MSM can always say Hersh is now just a freelancer and was relying basically on a single anonymous source, etc — but Bennett is an eyewitness to what he’s describing, and he’s the former prime minister of Israel!’”


NATO Turning to Target China? Western Alliance Developing Plan For Multiple Simultaneous Conflicts 

[Military Watch Headlines, via Mike Norman Economics 2-15-2023]

On February 14 a high ranking NATO source, cited by Bloomberg, warned that NATO members were preparing plans for the alliance to involve itself in multiple conflicts simultaneously – including conflicts beyond its traditional areas of responsibility. During meetings in Brussels on February 14-15 NATO Defence Ministers will sign a classified guidebook containing plans of action for “high intensity” conflicts and conflicts “beyond the area of responsibility” of the alliance, which will include requirements for NATO members’ military investments. Members will additionally be directed to redirect investments to the sectors seen as most important for collective security – whether it be tank forces or missile defences – to strengthen the military bloc’s collective warfighting capabilities. The report comes as NATO members have not only increasingly involved themselves in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian War, whether by dispatching hundreds of Marines to the battlefield as in Britain’s case, or providing even larger personnel contributions through private military contractor groups as was done by Poland among others. As Western intervention in the conflict has continued to increase, NATO members have also expanded their military footprints in the East Asia aimed at China – most recently in the form of aerial warfare drills involving the U.S., Britain and Australia.…


Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than the US and NATO can produce it. Inside the Pentagon’s plan to close the gap 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 2-17-2023]


Radio War Nerd EP #366 — Seymour Hersh on US Bombing Nord Stream Pipelines (postcast; unlocked)

[Radio War Nerd, via Naked Capitalism 2-13-2023]


“Mike Gallagher: A New Cold Warrior”

[RealClearPolitics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-14-2023]

“The West is unprepared for everything all at once…. Well, at least that is what Rep. Mike Gallagher along with a team of academics and generals had to imagine when they poured over what looked like the most complicated “Risk” board ever assembled. It was only a war game, an exercise hosted last May by the Center for a New American Security…. If the U.S. and China go to war, the Wisconsin Republican said in a ‘Meet the Press’ interview, ‘a lot of people are going to lose their lives.’ The lesson: ‘We want deterrence to actually work.’ That is also the mission statement, in so many words, of the House Select Committee on China which Gallagher now chairs, a mammoth undertaking to examine not just the military risk but also the ideological and economic threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party. It is serious business. And Gallagher, a 38-year-old former U.S. Marine, is a serious man. Everyone says so. There is a feeling in Congress that the effort might just rise above the normal self-importance of Capitol Hill. ‘The word ‘serious’ has been tossed around about this committee because that’s the desire,’ said Rep. Mikie Sherrill. Confronting an existential threat, the New Jersey Democrat told RealClearPolitics, shouldn’t be something members ‘do for personal edification or partisan means.’ And that’s what had Gallagher ‘worried’ when he pulled her aside. The two have served on committees together, and they teamed up in the CNAS war game. A U.S. Navy pilot before entering politics, Sherrill said during that exercise she appreciated the Marine’s ‘knowledge of ground operations.’ His question on the House floor, between votes earlier this year, didn’t have to do with tactics or grand strategy. Who would the Democrats seat on his committee?”


The Calamity of America’s ‘Divine Mission’ 

[Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 2-14-2023]

[TW: Quoting John Quincy Adams to rebut Robert Kagan’s war mongering. We need to see much more like this! ]


Democrats’ political suicide

Biden DOJ Backing Norfolk Southern’s Bid To Block Lawsuits 

Rebecca Burns & Julia Rock, February 16, 2023 [The Lever]

In the case against Norfolk Southern, the Biden administration is siding with the railroad in its conflict with a cancer-stricken former rail worker. A high court ruling for Norfolk Southern could create a national precedent limiting where workers and consumers can bring cases against corporations.

The lawsuit in question, filed initially in a Pennsylvania county court in 2017, deals with a state law that permits plaintiffs to file suit against any corporation registered to do business there, even if the actions that gave rise to the case occurred elsewhere.

In its fight against the lawsuit, Norfolk Southern is asking the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling, overturn Pennsylvania’s law, and restrict where corporations can be sued, upending centuries of precedent….

If the court rules in favor of Norfolk Southern, it could overturn plaintiff-friendly laws on the books in states including Pennsylvania, New York, and Georgia that give workers and consumers more leeway to choose where they take corporations to court — an advantage national corporations already enjoy, as they often require customers and employees to agree to file litigation in specific locales whose laws make it harder to hold companies accountable.

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

Last week’s posting was light due to some minor but rather unpleasant illness. Should return to normal next week.

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