Listen, Liberal by Thomas Frank

The Influence of Influence in Washington

Although it’s difficult to remember those days eight years ago when Democrats seemed to represent something idealistic and hopeful and brave, let’s take a moment and try to recall the stand Barack Obama once took against lobbyists. Those were the days when the nation was learning that George W. Bush’s Washington was, essentially, just a big playground for those lobbyists and that every government operation had been opened to the power of money. Righteous disgust filled the air. “Special interests” were much denounced. And a certain inspiring senator from Illinois promised that, should he be elected president, his administration would contain no lobbyists at all. The revolving door between government and K Street, he assured us, would turn no more. Instead, the nation got a lesson in all the other ways that “special interests” can get what they want — like simple class solidarity between the Ivy Leaguers who advise […]

Thomas Frank is a historian and writer. He is also the man who tried to save the Democratic Party and our Nation from great harm. He is the great chronicler of one of the most grievous, self-inflicted wounds in modern American history. Twelve years ago, in What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Frank tried to warn the Democratic Party’s dominant elites’ that their policies and contempt for workers were pushing a large part of its base out of the Party. Many of the workers that were the Democratic Party’s traditional base were leaving the Party and failing to participate in elections, but some were supporting the far-right wing of the Republican Party. At the national level, the New Democrats’ candidates remained highly competitive, but the Republican Party was able to attain complete political domination of most states. This year, Frank renewed his warnings in […]

Kill Anything That Moves

AFRICOM Clams Up After Commander Peddles Contradictory Statements to Congress

General David Rodriguez might be a modern military celebrity — if he hadn’t spent his career ducking the spotlight. After graduating from West Point in 1976, he began his long march up the chain of command, serving in Operation Just Cause (the U.S. invasion of Panama) and Operation Desert Storm (Iraq War 1.0) before becoming deputy commander of United States Forces, Afghanistan, and commander of the International Security Assistance Force-Joint Command in 2009. In 2011, the 6’5” former paratrooper received his fourth star and two years later the coveted helm of one of the Defense Department’s six geographic combatant commands, becoming the third chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Rodriguez has held that post ever since, overseeing a colossal American military expansion on that continent.  During his tenure, AFRICOM has grown in every conceivable way, from outposts to manpower. In the process, Africa has become a key hub for shadowy […]

Kill Chain by Andrew Cockburn

Keeping the Money Flowing

These days, lamenting the apparently aimless character of Washington’s military operations in the Greater Middle East has become conventional wisdom among administration critics of every sort. Senator John McCain thunders that “this president has no strategy to successfully reverse the tide of slaughter and mayhem” in that region. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies bemoans the “lack of a viable and public strategy.” Andrew Bacevich suggests that “there is no strategy. None. Zilch.” After 15 years of grinding war with no obvious end in sight, U.S. military operations certainly deserve such obloquy. But the pundit outrage may be misplaced. Focusing on Washington rather than on distant war zones, it becomes clear that the military establishment does indeed have a strategy, a highly successful one, which is to protect and enhance its own prosperity. Given this focus, creating and maintaining an effective fighting force becomes a secondary […]

War Is Not Over When It's Over by Ann Jones

Millions of Women See Through Him, Even If the Media Don’t

Last fall, when presidential wannabe Donald Trump famously boasted on CNN that he would “be the best thing that ever happened to women,” some may have fallen for it. Millions of women, however, reacted with laughter, irritation, disgust, and no little nausea.  For while the media generate a daily fog of Trumpisms, speculating upon the meaning and implications of the man’s every incoherent utterance, a great many women, schooled by experience, can see right through the petty tyrant and his nasty bag of tricks. By March, the often hard-earned wisdom of such women was reflected in a raft of public opinion polls in which an extraordinary number of female voters registered an “unfavorable” or “negative” impression of the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.  Reporting on Trump’s “rock-bottom ratings” with prospective women voters, Politico termed the unfavorable poll numbers — 67% (Fox News), 67% (Quinnipiac University), 70% (NBC/Wall Street Journal), 73% (ABC/Washington […]

Who Rules the World by Noam Chomsky

Nuclear Weapons, Climate Change, and the Prospects for Survival

In January 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced its famous Doomsday Clock to three minutes before midnight, a threat level that had not been reached for 30 years. The Bulletin’s statement explaining this advance toward catastrophe invoked the two major threats to survival: nuclear weapons and “unchecked climate change.” The call condemned world leaders, who “have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” endangering “every person on Earth [by] failing to perform their most important duty — ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.” Since then, there has been good reason to consider moving the hands even closer to doomsday. As 2015 ended, world leaders met in Paris to address the severe problem of “unchecked climate change.” Hardly a day passes without new evidence of how severe the crisis is. To pick almost at random, […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Class of 2016, Tell Us Who We Are

Graduates of 2016, don’t be fooled by this glorious day.  As you leave campus for the last time, many of you already deeply in debt and with a lifetime of payments to look forward to, you head into a world that’s anything but sunny.  In fact, through those gates that have done little enough to protect you is the sort of fog bank that results in traffic pile-ups on any highway. And if you imagine that I’m here to sweep that fog away and tell you what truly lies behind it, think again.  My only consolation is that, if I can’t adequately explain our American world to you or your path through it, I doubt any other speaker could either. Of course, it’s not exactly a fog-lifter to say that, like it or not, you’re about to graduate onto Planet Donald — and I don’t mean, for all but a […]

The Limousine Liberal by Steve Fraser

An American Version of Class Struggle

Arising from the shadows of the American repressed, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been sending chills through the corridors of establishment power. Who would have thunk it? Two men, both outliers, though in starkly different ways, seem to be leading rebellions against the masters of our fate in both parties; this, after decades in which even imagining such a possibility would have been seen as naïve at best, delusional at worst. Their larger-than-life presence on the national stage may be the most improbable political development of the last American half-century.  It suggests that we are entering a new phase in our public life. A year ago, in my book The Age of Acquiescence, I attempted to resolve a mystery hinted at in its subtitle: “The rise and fall of American resistance to organized wealth and power.” Simply stated, that mystery was: Why do people rebel at certain moments and […]

America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

A Multi-Trillion-Dollar Bridge to Nowhere in the Greater Middle East

We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan marks “an important milestone.” So the president of the United States has declared, with that claim duly echoed and implicitly endorsed by media commentary — the New York Times reporting, for example, that Mansour’s death leaves the Taliban leadership “shocked” and “shaken.” But a question remains: A milestone toward what exactly? Toward victory? Peace? Reconciliation? At the very least, toward the prospect of the violence abating? Merely posing the question is to imply that U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world serve some larger purpose. Yet for years now that has not been the case. The assassination of Mansour instead joins a long list of previous milestones, turning points, and landmarks briefly heralded as significant achievements only to prove much less than advertised. […]