The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. May 24, 2016: “Many factors combined to create the current housing crisis in the United States.
Low interest rates after the 2001 stock market crash spurred the housing boom. Housing prices skyrocketed above historic trendlines. People were duped into thinking prices would rise forever, but it was inevitable that the housing bubble would burst, and houses would suddenly be worth a lot less. With house prices falling, lots of people are now finding they owe more than their house is worth. This problem is exacerbated by predatory loan arrangements that have left millions facing suddenly rising mortgage payments.
A lot of people and corporations deserve blame for this state of affairs.
Instead of warning consumers about the housing bubble – which would have gone a long way to counter the excessive price run-ups – then-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan denied a bubble was occurring.
Wall Street firms created exotic investment instruments that made possible the purchase and trading of large numbers of mortgages. This created conditions so that banks and initial lenders took less care in issuing mortgages – since they wouldn’t be responsible for mortgages gone bad. The Wall Street firms not only sold these instruments to duped investors, they took on major liabilities on their own – even though it was obvious the housing bubble would have to burst.
Rating agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, which evaluated the riskiness of these new mortgage investment instruments, failed utterly. The housing bubble meant mortgage investments were sure to lose money, but the ratings agencies gave them top ratings anyway. Along with the “innovation” of the Wall Street firms, the ratings agencies helped maintain a market that dramatically exacerbated, and to a considerable degree may have created, the housing bubble.
Financial bubbles create an incentive for criminal and shady activity. Just like the stock bubble of the late 1990s created the climate for Enron and dozens of other companies to cook their books, the housing bubble created incentives for predatory lenders to exploit consumers.”
The Müller Washington Journals 1948-1951
At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.
His name was Heinrich Müller.
Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.
This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.
When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.
Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.
The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.
Thursday, 8 December 1949
When I was in Key West, T. made a reference to the Jewish Stern Gang and how they tried several times to murder him. He said I should talk to one of the Secret Service men and gave me a note.
Today, I had a conversation with one of the CIA people who knew about this and said that (James Jesus, ed.) Angleton was the man who “took care of the business with the hebes” (he is commonly believed to be part Jewish although he claims his mother was a Mexican) and I will have to confirm this. T. knows my former organization was involved with the protection of the Führer and his Secret Service man made very many notes when he talked with me. In fact, he was on the boat trip and followed me around with his little pad in his hand.
It seems that in mid-1947 a team of four Stern Gang members, using false British papers, went to Toronto, in Canada. This city has a very strong Jewish presence and they basically control a large portion of Canadian business from there. There were two plots to kill Truman. One was to send him anthrax germs in what appeared to be an important personal letter and the other was to shoot him while he was out on one of his daily walks. The poison was quickly discovered by the White House security staff and the matter was investigated by them. They are quite competent and they discovered a trail that led to Canada. However, they cannot operate outside the country so the CIA was called in, especially Angleton and then Pash.
Three of the agents were caught in a “safe house,” very severely interrogated (one died on the spot) and then shot and their bodies disposed of very crudely (thrown into the pens at a large hog farm on the outskirts of the city). The fourth man had fled to Miami where there is a large Jewish population, augmented by thousands of illegal refugees smuggled into the country by the Mossad, and from there, fled to Cuba. While he was awaiting a nice trip back to his country, Pash’s men caught him, interrogated him and turned his remains over to Batista’s secret police. I suspect they just dumped him into the ocean.
From the papers and the interrogations, it was learned why this group of lunatic killers, who had already killed the British High Commissioner in Cairo and later killed Bernadotte, the UN supervisor in Palestine who had the temerity to criticize the terrorists there for slaughtering Arab civilians, decided to kill Truman. Number one, he had not shown “the proper respect” for the needs of the Jewish people in seeking a home state in Palestine. Number two, he refused to give these creatures huge sums of American money.
When Truman was told about these plots, he became very angry and at once stopped the sale of arms to the Zionists and was otherwise very obstructive to their causes. He did recognize the new Jewish state but he makes a distinction between the serious leadership of Israel and the criminal lunatics who are on the fringes of the Zionist movement.
Photocopies of the interrogation reports and other documents are being sent over some time this week and I will write a paper on this for the President. He told me that one of the reasons he authorized my hiring was because I had some firsthand knowledge of these people and he was sure I would “come in handy” if he had any more troubles.
Of course, when the removal of the Stern people got back to Tel Aviv, Truman was made the target of a boycott in America. Jewish money, which to that time had gone without reservation to the left-wing Democrats, now was promised to the conservative Dewey on the condition he would “fully support the military, geo-political and fiscal needs” of the new state. He agreed and the “big money” swung behind him. Truman was not expected to win, especially because the Democrats did not like him, comparing him with Roosevelt the God. But he stayed the course and beat them handily. My God, there must have been deep mourning at the eastern end of the Mediterranean when that happened!
The notorious Stern Gang had no hesitation in murdering anyone they took a dislike to. Besides the personalities noted in the section above, they were also responsible for a devastating reign of terror in Jerusalem prior to the creation of the new Jewish state which included dynamiting the King David Hotel, headquarters of the British civil administration, and other bank robberies, train derailments, assassinations, ambushes and dynamiting. They were eventually disowned by the officials of the new state but one of their leaders and the man who engineered the King David episode was Menachim Begin, who later became the Prime Minister of Israel. Begin could not travel to England during his lifetime, even as head of state, because there was an outstanding murder warrant against him.
Confirming information on these plots can be found in: Margaret Truman, Harry S. Truman, New York, 1973, p. 489; Michael Collins Piper, Final Judgment, Washington, 1998, and records of the White House Protection Detail of the Secret Service of 1947-48.
Monday, 12 December 1949
Today I inspected my new offices at the CIA headquarters at the Naval Hospital complex over on “E” and 23rd streets. There is simply too much work to accomplish here at the house so all but my most important files will be sent over there. The really important papers are securely locked up in a vault in my basement. I had my people rebuild a wine cellar and then hide the new steel door behind some shelving so that curious people could never find it.
I have a nice view of both the river and the Lincoln Memorial, a big office with an antechamber for my secretary (and two guards to drink coffee in), and a private lavatory. This was once a hospital and some of the signs are still in place on the doors.
It is a short drive from here, but if the weather is good and my knee doesn’t bother me, I could easily walk it and probably will when I feel like it. The problem for me in working there is that I have to suffer all of the CIA people firsthand. Most of them are from the “best” schools like Harvard and Yale and joined the “correct” clubs like the “Deathshead” (Skull and Bones at Yale, ed.) and so on. Everyone knows everyone else. They have married women who are related to other snobs and all they talk about are their little boats, their summer homes, their parties, their golf games, their tennis matches, and so on. Many of them were in the OSS and they love to talk about their mysterious missions during the war when they could wear trench coats. Most are pro-English, anti-Jewish and all of them loathe Truman as “not one of us” and call him all kinds of names behind his back.
I have never met so many educated people in my life who are as empty of brains as a ladle. They have absolutely no knowledge of anything outside their small and vicious circles and they simply are not interested in learning new facts. All of them are too stupid to try to explain complicated facts to. Like our aristocrats in Germany, they are very superficial, very social and very stupid. They view all CIA personnel through their elitist eyes and no matter how qualified a man might be, they judge him first and foremost by his school tie, and next, by his family connections. God help us all is what I say.
I have to be bored with their incessant cigarette smoking, long and alcoholic lunches and very dirty conversation dealing with private parts and fecal matter. I would never have allowed such conversations while I was running things but everyone there thinks pudenda jokes are extremely funny.
The aim of all of them is to set American foreign policy, something they have no knowledge of in the first place (nor ever will), and to circumvent the plebeian President at every opportunity. These inbred donkeys all seem to have brothers or cousins in the State Department that explains a good deal. Most are heterosexual, generally speaking, but I am certain that a number walk on both sides of the street when they can. The new space will be pleasant but this is offset by the terrible company.
Heini asked me this morning about taking a leave to go home at Christmas to visit his family. I cannot really spare him so I told him I would do what I could. What I intend to do is bring his family here for the holiday as a surprise. I will hold him off for a while and have all the arrangements made. I do enjoy surprising people, which I will do to Philby just after he has begun to digest his Christmas meal.
The President will be back in the capital on the 20th and I have a great deal to do before he gets back.
Memo: select the paintings and furniture for the office tomorrow but be careful not to include anything that was looted. If it was from Russia, that’s fine because I doubt if the Russians will be visiting me at CIA headquarters…unless they have someone on the inside here…which is not impossible.
I will be enjoying more piano foreplay with my new friend down the street and who knows where that could lead. Somewhere positive one hopes. Irmgard no longer loves me and spends all of her time making eyes (and other things) towards what she hopes will be her new husband. She has visions of citizenship swimming about in her head. My, how soon they forget all the earlier joys. In any case, I certainly have and I am off on the hunt again. I shall have to persuade the new one to change the color of her hair. I much prefer women with blonde hair and this one has darker hair than mine…although a good deal more of it than I have. It all comes out in the comb these days. I should get some wax for my head and wear a monocle like von Stroheim (an Austrian-born actor with a monocle and shaved head who played Prussian officers in the movies, ed.).
Large Otto (SS-Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny, ed.) will be here after the first of the year and Wisner wants me to have discussions with him. Wisner has made a deal with the Irish to supply some technical assistance to the IRA (Irish Republican Army, ed.). If he blows up Englishmen, I will be delighted to help. Of course, Wisner told me he has to keep these plans away from Dulles and Angleton because they are, to quote him “a pack of drooling Anglophiles.” I have no problem in keeping quiet on this business at all and good luck to that project.
I did have a pleasant conversation recently with Polly Wisner, Frank’s wife, and she has more sense than he does, is not manic and does not soak up alcohol. The wives of these boobs are often very pleasant, well educated and well mannered. If I have no luck with the piano player, there are other pastures to graze in. Their husbands are too busy acting important to worry about their wives.
A note from Willi (Krichbaum, an SS Colonel, once Müller’s deputy for Border Police matters and later the CIA-run Gehlen’s chief recruiter, ed.) about the fact that there is some Soviet penetration going on there. My advice…let it go on but keep a close watch on things…and especially to keep me informed. His boss, Colonel C.(ritchfield, ed.) has absolutely no idea whatsoever about what is going on and we should keep it that way.
Gehlen is an arrogant, useless man who licks the feet of his CIA bosses and does what they tell him to. His agency is worthless and his reports reflect what he is told to write. They have employed a mixture of my men who are professional, sadists, brutes and eastern European murderers. I am sure Stalin must laugh himself to sleep at night when confronted with this toothless lion.
Just after Christmas I will make my pounce on Philby. I have spoken to Hoover about this and he wants to record the entire meeting. Why not? After all, we will conduct it in English (Hoover does not understand any foreign languages and knowing it is going to be recorded, I will do myself well without a problem.) Tuesday, 13 December 1949
I no longer have the time to do this full justice, but a few notes.
I met with Patrick Hayes briefly. He is an impresario who is connected with the National Symphony Orchestra. Discussion of a debut for my friend.
I have booked a suite at the Hay Adams for Heini’s family…mother, father, brother and sister…and reserved compartments for them on the train. This is to be a big surprise for him. He wants to go home for Christmas but will work here for me. He is loyal, very much so, and this is my reward for him. Truman wants an overview from me, which I have completed. He will only be in Washington for a day or so and then will be traveling back to his home in the country for Christmas. No fancy White House affairs for him. We can leave those for the Harvard and Yale people.
After the New Year, I am thinking about having T. for a dinner and have been talking about a piano recital afterwards. Still in the planning stage. Have sent off things for the family at home. Maybe I can return there some day but certainly not now. Not safe with the CIC watching the house (they have been told nothing at the lower levels although I was amused to note that Critchfield found out about my stay in Switzerland and made a huge fuss about it. He was visited and told to keep his mouth shut).
Christmas and Philby, in that order, and then Truman for dinner. This ought to keep me busy.
Hiss being retried again. They may get him this time. Such lamentations among the CIA people. Many of them knew him at Harvard and they are very supportive of him. They say you can always tell a Harvard man…but he will never listen. They had best keep their sympathies to themselves because I have passed their woe on to Hoover who is promptly investigating them! I ought to slip some of this to McCarthy just for entertainment sake. Merriment for the holidays after all.
EgyptAir crash: Forensics chief dismisses reports of human remains pointing to onboard explosion
May 24, 2016
Egypt’s head of forensics has denied reports that human remains retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and examined by a team of experts point to an explosion taking place on board Flight 804, which crashed last week.
“Everything published about this matter is completely false, and [are] mere assumptions that did not come from the Forensics Authority,” state news agency MENA quoted forensics head Hesham Abdelhamid as saying.
Earlier on Tuesday, an official who was said to have personally examined the remains at a Cairo morgue told AP on condition of anonymity that “the logical explanation is that it was an explosion.”
The source went on to state that the experts had been given around 80 small body parts to investigate.
“The size of the remains points towards an explosion, the biggest part was the size of a palm. Some of the remains started arriving on Sunday in about 23 bags,” a forensics official told Reuters.
The official said that no traces of explosives have been found yet that would suggest that a bomb caused the plane to crash. The team is expecting more body parts to arrive soon so that they continue with their forensic examination in trying to find out what caused the crash.
Family members of the disaster victims turned up at the Cairo morgue to give DNA samples to help the forensics department identify the remains of those who passed away, AP reported.
The Airbus A320 crashed early on Thursday morning around 170km from the Egyptian coast in the Mediterranean Sea, having taken off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
The plane was carrying 66 people, which comprised 56 passengers and 10 crew members. Of the passengers, 30 were Egyptian, 15 French and two Iraqi, with one from each of Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Chad, Kuwait, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said that authorities are working hard to find the plane’s black boxes. Cairo deployed a submarine over the weekend to search for wreckage from the plane.
He added that at this stage of the investigation “all scenarios” of plane crash “are possible.”
“So please, it is very important that we do not talk and say there is a specific scenario,” Sisi said. “This could take a long time but no one can hide these things. As soon as the results are out, people will be informed.”
President Poroshenko’s offshore connection in Germany
Resentment is growing in Ukraine about the offshore holdings of the president and his confidantes. A DW investigation sheds new light on the relationship between Poroshenko and shell companies in Germany.
May 23, 2016
A starch factory seems an odd addition to an Eastern European oligarch’s portfolio. Yet in the case of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, starch is an important ingredient for his chocolate empire; so important that Poroshenko’s group of companies does not buy the ingredient but produces it in their own factories, which include two in Ukraine and one in eastern Germany, according to a DW investigation.
Poroshenko and shell companies
Speculation about Poroshenko as a possible investor in the factory in Germany dates back to 2011, the date it was purchased. With the “Panama Papers” revelations, the complexity of the investments held by Poroshenko and those close to him has become clear: the politician has coordinated the business of his well-known confectionery manufacturing company “Roshen” via offshore holdings. Critics say this was to avoid taxation, but Poroshenko denies those allegations, saying that these offshore companies were created in order to allow them to be managed in escrow for as long as he is president.
An investigation by Deutsche Welle has shown, however, that the use of shell companies in tax havens is not unusual for Poroshenko. One example of that can be found in the starch factory in the city of Elsterau in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt. With revenues of around six million euros and nearly 100 employees, it is just a side project in the larger business empire the Ukrainian president has built.
Goal: stay anonymous
The firm in Elsterau belongs to a limited liability company called “Interstarch GmbH,” which, as DW discovered, is run by Poroshenko’s firm “Interstarch Ukraine.” According to commercial registration records, the German company is formally registered to a corporation in Cyprus, which itself is controlled by a corporation registered in the British Virgin Islands. This web conceals the real ownership and could be used for tax advantages.
A request made by DW to the office of the Ukrainian president for clarification about his relationship to these offshore companies has gone answered. His business adviser has said that the network of companies does not belong to Poroshenko, but instead legally belongs to a man named Sergei Zaitsev, who, according to the adviser is an “independent businessman” and business partner of Poroshenko.
But an inspection of commercial registries in Cyprus and the Netherlands tell a different story. Zaitsev is not only the deputy director general at Poroshenko’s Roshen company but is also the CEO of the shell companies which are said to be handling Roshen in escrow. The “Panama Papers” have thus revealed the Ukrainian president to be the person legally charged with this web of firms that can be traced back to the British Virgin Islands. That is also where the company Euro Business Investments Ltd is registered – a company, which – via Cyprus – is controlled by the German firm Interstarch GmbH.
No registration requirements but tax savings
The British Virgin Islands are one of the most important tax havens in the world, according to Tax Justice Network. There is no public registry of companies and they do not cooperate with foreign tax offices. Is this how Poroshenko’s firms have been organized offshore?
Legally, the Ukrainian president is required to detail any earnings openly. Poroshenko has said that since he took office, he has not had any overseas income. And he couldn’t have, as his old friend Zaitsev is in reality the owner of the factory in Germany via the firm in Cyprus. What remains unclear, however, is who claims ownership at the end of the chain of firms in the British Virgin Islands?
In addition to the anonymity that a shell company offers, these holdings come with the added advantage of reduced taxes. The sale price for the German factory was 35 million euros, which the company Interstarch GmbH received in the form of a loan from its Cypriot parent company, Camarin Limited. The Ukrainian investors had essentially lent themselves the money, and it seems they did so at a high interest rate, according to the annual balance sheet. Since 2011, nearly two million euros in interest have been paid out to the Cypriot firm annually.
Such interest payments are not taxed due to a double-taxation agreement between Germany and Cyprus, a legitimate method for saving on taxes according to financial expert Hans-Lothar Merten.
More millions said to flow
Year after year, Interstarch has piled new debt onto its Cypriot parent company. By the end of 2014, that amounted to 44 million euros. Yet during a visit by Hartmut Möllring, the economics minister of Saxony-Anhalt, the head of management at Interstarch announced a further investment in the company totalling 25 million euros.
The company complained in their annual report that prices for starch are too low and prices for wheat too high. That resulted in a loss in 2014 amounting to nearly six million euros. But, at the same time, the production capacity there will be expanded over the next five years. The Ukrainian investors are apparently loaning themselves money in Germany, for which more interest payments will be made that will need to flow into the accounts of the offshore firms. The German tax authorities with therefore come away empty-handed: without profits there are also no corporate taxes.”The interest payments can be claimed here as an expense which reduces profits in Germany. Then the profits that flow further through to Cyprus and the Caribbean are tax-free,” said the expert. In his best-selling book, “Steueroasen” (Tax Havens), Merten writes about such loopholes. Large German companies also take advantage of such opportunities, said the publicist and banker.
Dear Grads, Don’t Join the Military
Stay Free to Be All That You Can Be
May 24, 201
by Dan Sanchez
Dear high school senior considering a military career,
Graduation is coming up. You’re probably looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation, enjoyed with the peace of mind that your next few years are pretty much covered. Maybe you’re going to enlist soon, and then be off to basic training. Or perhaps you received an ROTC scholarship and will be starting college and officer training.
It may feel very comforting to know exactly where you’re headed. I’m writing to challenge you to question that feeling: to be wary of being lulled into something that feels like security, but which in reality endangers, not only your physical safety, but your career and happiness. If all you have done at this point is sign a confirmation with ROTC, you are not yet legally bound to fulfill your term of service. You can still back out.
There are many reasons why it is immoral to place yourself in a position in which you are compelled to kill on command, or to facilitate such killing. But in this letter, I will focus on why, even if you accept the morality of war, you should stay out of military life for the sake of your own personal development and flourishing.
Consider why having the future “taken care of” might be so comforting. Since your first day of kindergarten, you’ve been deprived of both freedom and responsibility. Your life has been regimented and prescribed. You’ve been trapped in secluded camps called schools in which the activities that fill your every day have been decided for you. You’ve been riding an institutional conveyor belt that has moved you through every stage in your life, from classroom to classroom, grade to grade, school to school.
Now, for the first time, the conveyor belt has brought you to a juncture. You finally have an exit option. You can choose to be dropped off onto the ground, where you must make your own way in the world. But the belt is the only thing you’ve ever known. The thought of being dumped onto the cold earth with its disorienting multitude of possible directions may terrify you. And so instead you’ve chosen to be transferred to yet another conveyor belt.
That is the choice that many make when enrolling in college. High school graduates delay shouldering the responsibilities of adult life for at least another four years by immersing themselves in yet one more institution. Military life is an even higher plane of institutionalization. The military is school-plus, with even more regimentation, more direction, and more seclusion. This has been the military ideal since ancient times. Read the philosopher Plato’s prescription for military life, which he believed should be the model for childhood and society in general:
“Military organization is the subject of much consultation and of many appropriate laws. The main principle is this—that nobody, male or female, should ever be left without control, nor should anyone, whether at work or in play, grow habituated in mind to acting alone and on his own initiative, but he should live always, both in war and peace, with his eyes fixed constantly on his commander and following his lead; and he should be guided by him even in the smallest detail of his actions—for example, to stand at the word of command, and to march, and to exercise, to wash and eat… This task of ruling, and being ruled by, others must be practised in peace from earliest childhood…”
Indeed universal compulsory schooling was invented in order to condition youth for military service. (For more on this, see my recent column, “How Schooling Leads to War.”)
Through years of forced conditioning, you have had dependency and docility drilled into your mind, and your soul purged of initiative and self-reliance. That is why “the real world” frightens you, and why you seek refuge from it in the institutional confines of college and/or military life.
But self-commitment in a never-ending series of asylums will never make you truly happy. Ask yourself this. Why does it take so many years of all-day conditioning for the institutionalized mindset to take hold? It is because regimentation doesn’t come naturally to the human spirit, which can only thrive in conditions of freedom. It takes that long for the system to “break” the inmate: to smother his or her natural inclination toward freedom and independence.
But take heart. Your capacity to be free is not dead, but only dormant. You can resuscitate it: but only if you get off the conveyor belt. You must strike out on your own into the wide world, and break out of the environments that are keeping you dependent, servile, and unfree.
Use the upcoming summer to begin de-institutionalizing yourself. Get a summer job and throw yourself into it. Become passionate about value creation. Impress the hell out of your employers. Start a web site or social media account for them. Research how to make money online. Apply for internships. Start building a professional network. Pick up skills by taking online courses or in-person technology workshops. Start building online portfolios documenting value creation and proven skills: a LinkedIn profile, a GitHub account, a work experience blog, etc. Strive to depend less and less on your parents for financial support.
Other people have been keeping you trapped in an extended childhood for far too long. It is time to defy them and forge a path toward emancipation and full adulthood. The military life is often said to be a path toward discipline. But it is only a continuation of the kind of “discipline” you’ve already been subjected to at school: the discipline of a prison camp. True discipline is self-discipline, which can only be attained by independently pursuing the opportunities, and braving the rigors, of the real world: by embracing both freedom and responsibility. It takes being independent and free to truly be all that you can be.
The Battle for the Soul of American Higher Education
Student Protest, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the Rise of the Corporate University
by Aviva Chomsky
During the past academic year, an upsurge of student activism, a movement of millennials, has swept campuses across the country and attracted the attention of the media. From coast to coast, from the Ivy League to state universities to small liberal arts colleges, a wave of student activism has focused on stopping climate change, promoting a living wage, fighting mass incarceration practices, supporting immigrant rights, and of course campaigning for Bernie Sanders.
Both the media and the schools that have been the targets of some of these protests have seized upon certain aspects of the upsurge for criticism or praise, while ignoring others. Commentators, pundits, and reporters have frequently trivialized and mocked the passion of the students and the ways in which it has been directed, even as universities have tried to appropriate it by promoting what some have called “neoliberal multiculturalism.” Think of this as a way, in particular, of taming the power of the present demands for racial justice and absorbing them into an increasingly market-oriented system of higher education.
In some of their most dramatic actions, students of color, inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, have challenged the racial climate at their schools. In the process, they have launched a wave of campus activism, including sit-ins, hunger strikes, demonstrations, and petitions, as well as emotional, in-your-face demands of various sorts. One national coalition of student organizations, the Black Liberation Collective, has called for the percentage of black students and faculty on campus to approximate that of blacks in the society. It has also called for free tuition for black and Native American students, and demanded that schools divest from private prison corporations. Other student demands for racial justice have included promoting a living wage for college employees, reducing administrative salaries, lowering tuitions and fees, increasing financial aid, and reforming the practices of campus police. These are not, however, the issues that have generally attracted the attention either of media commentators or the colleges themselves.
Instead, the spotlight has been on student demands for cultural changes at their institutions that focus on deep-seated assumptions about whiteness, sexuality, and ability. At some universities, students have personalized these demands, insisting on the removal of specific faculty members and administrators. Emphasizing a politics of what they call “recognition,” they have also demanded that significant on-campus figures issue public apologies or acknowledge that “black lives matter.” Some want universities to implement in-class “trigger warnings” when difficult material is being presented and to create “safe spaces” for marginalized students as a sanctuary from the daily struggle with the mainstream culture. By seizing upon and responding to these (and only these) student demands, university administrators around the country are attempting to domesticate and appropriate this new wave of activism.
In the meantime, right-wing commentators have depicted students as coddled, entitled, and enemies of free speech. The libertarian right has launched a broad media critique of the current wave of student activism. Commentators have been quick to dismiss student protesters as over-sensitive and entitled purveyors of “academic victimology.” They lament the “coddling of the American mind.” The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf has termed students “misguided” in their protests against racist language, ideas, and assumptions, their targeting of “microaggression” (that is, unconscious offensive comments) and insensitivity, and their sometimes highly personal attacks against those they accuse. One of the most vocal critics of the new campus politics, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, argues that such rampant “liberalism” and “political correctness” violate academic freedom and freedom of speech. (In this, they are in accord with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. Free speech advocates Daphne Patai and the ACLU’s Harvey Silvergate, for example, bemoan a new diversity requirement at the University of Massachusetts for its “politicization of education.”)
In a response that, under the circumstances, might at first seem surprising, college administrators have been been remarkably open to some of these student demands — often the very ones derided by the right. In this way, the commentators and the administrators have tended to shine a bright light on what is both personal and symbolic in the new politics of the student protesters, while ignoring or downplaying their more structural and economically challenging desires and demands.
The Neoliberal University
University administrators have been particularly amenable to student demands that fit with current trends in higher education. Today’s neoliberal university is increasingly facing market pressures like loss of state funding, privatization, rising tuition, and student debt, while promoting a business model that emphasizes the managerial control of faculty through constant “assessment,” emphasis on “accountability,” and rewards for “efficiency.” Meanwhile, in a society in which labor unions are constantly being weakened, the higher education labor force is similarly being — in the term of the moment — “flexibilized” through the weakening of tenure, that once ironclad guarantee of professorial lifetime employment, and the increased use of temporary adjunct faculty.
In this context, universities are scrambling to accommodate student activism for racial justice by incorporating the more individualized and personal side of it into increasingly depoliticized cultural studies programs and business-friendly, market-oriented academic ways of thinking. Not surprisingly, how today’s students frame their demands often reflects the environment in which they are being raised and educated. Postmodern theory, an approach which still reigns in so many liberal arts programs, encourages textual analysis that reveals hidden assumptions encoded in words; psychology has popularized the importance of individual trauma; and the neoliberal ideology that has come to permeate so many schools emphasizes individual behavior as the most important agent for social change. Add together these three strands of thought, now deeply embedded in a college education, and injustice becomes a matter of the wrongs individuals inflict on others at a deeply personal level. Deemphasized are the policies and structures that are built into how society (and the university) works.
For this reason, while schools have downplayed or ignored student demands for changes in admissions, tuition, union rights, pay scales, and management prerogatives, they have jumped into the heated debate the student movement has launched over “microaggressions” — pervasive, stereotypical remarks that assume whiteness as a norm and exoticize people of color, while taking for granted the white nature of institutions of higher learning. As part of the present wave of protest, students of color have, for instance, highlighted their daily experiences of casual and everyday racism — statements or questions like “where are you from?” (when the answer is: the same place you’re from) or “as a [fill in the blank], how do you feel about…” Student protests against such comments, especially when they are made by professors or school administrators, and the mindsets that go with them are precisely what the right is apt to dismiss as political correctness run wild and university administrations are embracing as the essence of the present on-campus movement.
At Yale, the Intercultural Affairs Committee advised students to avoid racially offensive Halloween costumes. When a faculty member and resident house adviser circulated an email critiquing the paternalism of such an administrative mandate, student protests erupted calling for her removal. While Yale declined to remove her from her post as a house adviser, she stepped down from her teaching position. At Emory, students protested the “pain” they experienced at seeing “Trump 2016” graffiti on campus, and the university president assured them that he “heard [their] message… about values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory’s own.” Administrators are scrambling to implement new diversity initiatives and on-campus training programs — and hiring expensive private consulting firms to help them do so.
At the University of Missouri, the president and chancellor both resigned in the face of student protests including a hunger strike and a football team game boycott in the wake of racial incidents on campus including public racist slurs and symbols. So did the dean of students at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), when protest erupted over her reference to students (implicitly of color) who “don’t fit our CMC mold.”
Historian and activist Robin Kelley suggests that today’s protests, even as they “push for measures that would make campuses more hospitable to students of color: greater diversity, inclusion, safety, and affordability,” operate under a contradictory logic that is seldom articulated. To what extent, he wonders, does the student goal of “leaning in” and creating more spaces for people of color at the top of an unequal and unjust social order clash with the urge of the same protesters to challenge that unjust social order?
Kelley argues that the language of “trauma” and mental health that has come to dominate campuses also works to individualize and depoliticize the very idea of racial oppression. The words “trauma, PTSD, micro-aggression, and triggers,” he points out, “have virtually replaced oppression, repression, and subjugation.” He explains that, “while trauma can be an entrance into activism, it is not in itself a destination and may even trick activists into adopting the language of the neoliberal institutions they are at pains to reject.” This is why, he adds, for university administrators, diversity and cultural competency initiatives have become go-to solutions that “shift race from the public sphere into the psyche” and strip the present round of demonstrations of some of their power.
Cultural Politics and Inequality
In recent years, cultural, or identity, politics has certainly challenged the ways that Marxist and other old and new left organizations of the past managed to ignore, or even help reproduce, racial and gender inequalities. It has questioned the value of class-only or class-first analysis on subjects as wide-ranging as the Cuban Revolution — did it successfully address racial inequality as it redistributed resources to the poor, or did it repress black identity by privileging class analysis? — and the Bernie Sanders campaign — will his social programs aimed at reducing economic inequality alleviate racial inequality by helping the poor, or will his class-based project leave the issue of racial inequality in the lurch? In other words, the question of whether a political project aimed at attacking the structures of economic inequality can also advance racial and gender equality is crucial to today’s campus politics.
Put another way, the question is: How political is the personal? Political scientist Adolph Reed argues that if class is left out, race politics on campus becomes “the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism.” As he puts it, race-first politics of the sort being pushed today by university administrators promotes a “moral economy… in which 1% of the population controlled 90% of the resources could be just, provided that roughly 12% of the 1% were black, 12% were Latino, 50% were women, and whatever the appropriate proportions were LGBT people.”
The student movement that has swept across the nation has challenged colleges and universities on the basics of their way of (quite literally) doing business. The question for these institutions now is: Can student demands largely be tamed and embedded inside an administration-sanctioned agenda that in no way undermines how schools now operate in the world?
Feminist theorist Nancy Fraser has shown how feminist ideas of a previous generation were successfully “recuperated by neoliberalism” — that is, how they were repurposed as rationales for greater inequality. “Feminist ideas that once formed part of a radical worldview,” she argues, are now “increasingly expressed in individualist terms.” Feminist demands for workplace access and equal pay have, for example, been used to undermine worker gains for a “family wage,” while a feminist emphasis on gender equality has similarly been used on campus to divert attention from growing class inequality.
Student demands for racial justice risk being absorbed into a comparable framework. University administrators have found many ways to use student demands for racial justice to strengthen their business model and so the micro-management of faculty. In one case seized upon by free-speech libertarians, the Brandeis administration placed an assistant provost in a classroom to monitor a professor after students accused him of using the word “wetback” in a Latin American politics class. More commonly, universities employ a plethora of consulting firms and create new administrative positions to manage “diversity” and “inclusion.” Workshops and training sessions proliferate, as do “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” Such a vision of “diversity” is then promoted as a means to prepare students to compete in the “global marketplace.”
There are even deeper ways in which a diversity agenda aligns with neoliberal politics. Literary theorist Walter Benn Michaels argues, for example, that diversity can give a veneer of social justice to ideas about market competition and meritocracy that in reality promote inequality. “The rule in neoliberal economies is that the difference between the rich and the poor gets wider rather than shrinks — but that no culture should be treated invidiously,” he explains. “It’s basically OK if economic differences widen as long as the increasingly successful elites come to look like the increasingly unsuccessful non-elites. So the model of social justice is not that the rich don’t make as much and the poor make more, the model of social justice is that the rich make whatever they make, but an appropriate percentage of them are minorities or women.” Or as Forbes Magazine put it, “Businesses need to vastly increase their ability to sense new opportunities, develop creative solutions, and move on them with much greater speed. The only way to accomplish these changes is through a revamped workplace culture that embraces diversity so that sensing, creativity, and speed are all vastly improved.”
Clearly, university administrators prefer student demands that can be coopted or absorbed into their current business model. Allowing the prevailing culture to define the parameters of their protest has left the burgeoning Millennial Movement in a precarious position. The more that students — with the support of college and university administrations — accept the individualized cultural path to social change while forgoing the possibility of anything greater than cosmetic changes to prevailing hierarchies, on campus and beyond, the more they face ridicule from those on the right who present them as fragile, coddled, privileged whiners.
Still, this young, vibrant movement has momentum and will continue to evolve. In this time of great social and political flux, it’s possible that its many constituencies — fighting for racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice — will use their growing clout to build on recent victories, no matter how limited.
Keep an eye on college campuses. The battle for the soul of American higher education being fought there today is going to matter for the wider world tomorrow. Whether that future will be defined by a culture of trigger warnings and safe spaces or by democratized education and radical efforts to fight inequality may be won or lost in the shadow of the Ivory Tower. The Millennial Movement matters. Our future is in their hands.
Head of security for TSA removed from post
May 24, 2016
by Eric Beech
The head of security for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has been removed from his position, according to an internal TSA memo on Monday seen by Reuters, after the agency was criticized for long lines at airport security checkpoints.
Kelly Hoggan, who had served as TSA assistant administrator for security operations since May 2013, was replaced by his deputy, Darby LaJoye, who will serve on an acting basis, according to the memo from agency head Peter Neffenger.
Long security lines at U.S. airports this spring have frustrated travelers and caused thousands of passengers to miss flights. TSA has blamed the problem on a lack of security screeners and an increase in passenger volumes.
Hoggan came under fire at a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on May 12 for receiving over $90,000 in bonuses and awards over a 13-month period in 2013-14.
Earlier this month, TSA said it would add screeners at the country’s busiest airports.
About 231 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines from June through August, up 4 percent from the same period last year, according to trade group Airlines for America.
In the memo, Neffenger said TSA is doing a better job of moving passengers through security at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after particularly long lines at the nation’s second-busiest airport made national news several weeks ago.
He also said TSA has established a National Incident Command Center at agency headquarters in Washington to track daily screening operations nationwide and shift resources in advance of higher predicted passenger volumes.
A TSA spokesman said the agency does not comment on personnel matters.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh)
Getting a photo ID so you can vote is easy. Unless you’re poor, black, Latino or elderly.
May 23, 2016
by Sari Horwitz
HOUSTON — In his wallet, Anthony Settles carries an expired Texas identification card, his Social Security card and an old student ID from the University of Houston, where he studied math and physics decades ago. What he does not have is the one thing that he needs to vote this presidential election: a current Texas photo ID.
For Settles to get one of those, his name has to match his birth certificate — and it doesn’t. In 1964, when he was 14, his mother married and changed his last name. After Texas passed a new voter-ID law, officials told Settles he had to show them his name-change certificate from 1964 to qualify for a new identification card to vote.
So with the help of several lawyers, Settles tried to find it, searching records in courthouses in the D.C. area, where he grew up. But they could not find it. To obtain a new document changing his name to the one he has used for 51 years, Settles has to go to court, a process that would cost him more than $250 — more than he is willing to pay.
“It has been a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Settles, 65, a retired engineer. “The intent of this law is to suppress the vote. I feel like I am not wanted in this state.”
In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID. They include swing states such as Wisconsin and states with large African American and Latino populations, such as North Carolina and Texas. On Tuesday, the entire 15-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans is to begin hearing a case regarding the legality of the Texas law, considered to be the most stringent in the country.
Supporters say that everyone should easily be able to get a photo ID and that the requirement is needed to combat voter fraud. But many election experts say that the process for obtaining a photo ID can be far more difficult than it looks for hundreds of thousands of people across the country who do not have the required photo identification cards. Those most likely to be affected are elderly citizens, African Americans, Hispanics and low-income residents.
“A lot of people don’t realize what it takes to obtain an ID without the proper identification and papers,” said Abbie Kamin, a lawyer who has worked with the Campaign Legal Center to help Texans obtain the proper identification to vote. “Many people will give up and not even bother trying to vote.”
A federal court in Texas found that 608,470 registered voters don’t have the forms of identification that the state now requires for voting. For example, residents can vote with their concealed-carry handgun licenses but not their state-issued student university IDs.
Across the country, about 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or a passport, according to Wendy Weiser of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), compares his state’s new voter-ID requirement to what is needed for “boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed.” Texas officials, who say the laws are needed to combat possible voter fraud, recently said in court papers that the Justice Department and civil rights groups suing the state are not able to find anyone “who would face a substantial obstacle to voting.”
But former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. has called the costs associated for voters seeking a photo ID a “poll tax,” referring to fees that some Southern states used to disenfranchise blacks during the Jim Crow era of laws enforcing racial segregation between the late 1800s through 1965.
Soon after Obama’s election, a surge of Republican-led state legislatures passed laws requiring photo IDs.
“Voters who have to show ID constantly in their everyday lives certainly don’t see ID as a problem,” said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “It is a common-sense, basic requirement needed to ensure election integrity, which is an essential part of free and fair elections.”
Opponents say that the laws were designed to target people more likely to vote Democratic.
Last week, during the federal trial on Wisconsin’s voter-ID law, a former Republican staffer testified that GOP senators were “giddy” about the idea that the state’s 2011 voter-ID law might keep Democrats, particularly minorities in Milwaukee, from voting and help them win at the polls. “They were politically frothing at the mouth,” said the aide, Todd Allbaugh.
A recent voter-ID study by political scientists at the University of California at San Diego analyzed turnout in elections between 2008 and 2012 and found “substantial drops in turnout for minorities under strict voter ID laws.”
“These results suggest that by instituting strict photo ID laws, states could minimize the influence of voters on the left and could dramatically alter the political leaning of the electorate,” the study concluded.
The question of whether photo IDs are difficult to obtain has become central to cases across the country, where government and civil rights lawyers are challenging new state laws.
Three courts have in fact struck down the voter-ID law in Texas, but the state’s governor has not backed down and has promised to keep it in effect in November.
In 2012, a federal court in Washington concluded that the burden of obtaining a state voter-ID certificate would weigh disproportionately on minorities living in poverty, with many having to travel as much as 200 to 250 miles round trip.
“That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty,” wrote David S. Tatel, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in the panel’s 56-page opinion.
Voter-ID laws are also being litigated in North Carolina and Virginia, in addition to Texas and Wisconsin. Election experts predict that one of these cases could go to the Supreme Court before November.
‘A lot of them just give up’
Many of the residents struggling to obtain a valid photo ID are elderly and poor and were born in homes rather than hospitals. As a result, birth certificates were often lost or names were misspelled in official city records.
Hargie Randall, 72, was born in his family’s home in Huntsville, Tex., and has lived in the state his entire life. Randall, now living in Houston’s low-income Fifth Ward neighborhood, has several health problems and such poor eyesight that he is legally blind. He can’t drive and has to ask others for rides.
After Texas implemented its new law, Randall went to the Department of Public Safety (the Texas agency that handles driver’s licenses and identification cards) three times to try to get a photo ID to vote. Each time Randall was told he needed different items. First, he was told he needed three forms of identification. He came back and brought his Medicaid card, bills and a current voter registration card from voting in past elections.
“I thought that because I was on record for voting, I could vote again,” Randall said.
But he was told he still needed more documentation, such as a certified copy of his birth certificate.
Records of births before 1950, such as Randall’s, are not on a central computer and are located only in the county clerk’s office where the person was born.
For Randall, that meant an hour-long drive to Huntsville, where his lawyers found a copy of his birth certificate.
But that wasn’t enough. With his birth certificate in hand, Randall went to the DPS office in Houston with all the necessary documents. But, DPS officials still would not issue him a photo ID because of a clerical mistake on his birth certificate. One letter was off in his last name — “Randell” instead of “Randall” — so his last name was spelled slightly different than on all his other documents.
Kamin, the lawyer, asked the DPS official if they could pull up Randall’s prior driver’s-license information, as he once had a state-issued ID. The official told her that the state doesn’t keep records of prior identification after five years, and there was nothing they could do to pull up that information.
Kamin was finally able to prove to a DPS supervisor that there was a clerical error and was able to verify Randall’s identity by showing other documents.
But Myrtle Delahuerta, 85, who lives across town from Randall, has tried unsuccessfully for two years to get her ID. She has the same problem of her birth certificate not matching her pile of other legal documents that she carts from one government office to the next. The disabled woman, who has difficulty walking, is applying to have her name legally changed, a process that will cost her more than $300 and has required a background check and several trips to government offices.
“I hear from people nearly weekly who can’t get an ID either because of poverty, transportation issues or because of the government’s incompetence,” said Chad W. Dunn, a lawyer with Brazil & Dunn in Houston, who has specialized in voting rights work for 15 years.
Refugee reaction? Extremist violence ‘explodes’ in Germany in 2015, far-right crimes spike by third
May 24, 2016
Crime statistics released by Germany’s Interior Ministry on Monday reveals that 2015 beats all yearly records in terms of politically-motivated crimes and acts of violence. Authorities believe the figures reflect a deepening polarization of German society.
Although most of the recorded crimes are non-violent and deal with spreading extremist propaganda and inciting hatred, instances of violent crimes have also gone through the roof.
Total growth of politically motivated crimes has shown a 19 percent surge compared to the previous year, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
An absolute majority (22,690) out of the total 38,981 politically-motivated crimes registered in 2015 were committed by far-right radicals, their activity growing by a third (34.9 percent). More than twice as little crimes (9,605) have been committed by the far-left troublemakers (18 percent growth).
Most of the people convicted for those crimes are young men aged between 18 and 30, who lived near the refugee centers and who had never been found guilty of a crime before, the Local reports.
Attacks on refuge centers alone have grown by five times, jumping from 199 recorded cases in 2014 to 1,031 in 2015, of them 94 arson offenses and eight offenses involving explosives.
These attacks include arsons and spraying of neo-Nazi symbols and swastikas on refugee center walls. Nine attacks out of ten have been committed by the far-right extremists, estimates Interior Ministry.
The violent political crimes in 2015 have increased by 30 percent, hitting 4,400 cases according to police records, of them 20 cases of attempted murder, including those of police officers and refugees.
De Maizière also conceded that when it comes to investigating attacks on refugee centers, the number of solved cases, 26 percent in 2015, was “too low.”
The Islamists in Germany have also been increasingly active in 2015. The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA, Federal Criminal Police Directorate) estimates there are 497 “dangerous Islamists” living in Germany, Welt am Sonntag reported. A year ago there were some 270 extremist Islamists posing a terror threat in Germany.
It is believed that Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) might activate some of its sleeper cells in Europe during the Ramadan, this year beginning early June, to stage attacks on military and civilian targets, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
These attacks could also take place during the UEFA Euro 2016 football championship to be held in France from June 10 to July 10, 2016. The championship is expected to attract over 2.5 million visitors, preparing to attend 51 football matches.
Only six months ago a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on bars, cafes, a concert hall and a football stadium left 130 people dead in Paris.
Is Scarborough Shoal Worth a War?
May 24, 2016
by Patrick J. Buchanan
If China begins to reclaim and militarize Scarborough Shoal, says Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III, America must fight.
Should we back down, says Aquino, the United States will lose “its moral ascendancy, and also the confidence of one of its allies.”
And what is Scarborough Shoal?
A cluster of rocks and reefs, 123 miles west of Subic Bay, that sits astride the passageway out of the South China Sea into the Pacific, and is well within Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Beijing and Manila both claim Scarborough Shoal. But, in June 2013, Chinese ships swarmed and chased off a fleet of Filipino fishing boats and naval vessels. The Filipinos never came back.
And now that China has converted Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef into artificial islands with docks and air bases, Beijing seems about to do the same with Scarborough Shoal.
“Scarborough is a red line,” says Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International studies. To allow China to occupy and militarize the reef “would clearly change the balance of power.”
Really? But before concluding that we must fight to keep China from turning Scarborough Shoal into an island base, there are other considerations.
High among them is that the incoming president of the Philippines, starting June 30, is Rodrigo Duterte, no admirer of America, and a populist authoritarian thug who, as Mayor of Davao, presided over the extrajudicial killing of some 1,000 criminals during the 1990s.
Duterte, who has charged Aquino with treason for abandoning Scarborough Shoal, once offered to set aside his country’s claim in exchange for a Chinese-built railroad, then said he might take a jet ski to the reef to assert Manila’s rights, plant a flag and let himself be executed to become a national hero.
In a clash with China, this character would be our ally.
Indeed, the rise of Duterte is yet another argument that, when Manila booted us out of Subic Bay at the Cold War’s end, we should have dissolved our mutual security pact.
This June, an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague will rule on Manila’s claims and China’s transgressions on reefs that may not belong to her. Beijing has indicated she will not accept any such decision.
So, the fat is in the fire. And as the Chinese are adamant about their claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands and virtually all the atolls, rocks and reefs in the South China Sea, and are reinforcing their claims by creating artificial islands and bases, the U.S. and China are headed for a collision.
U.S. warships and reconnaissance planes passing near these islets have been repeatedly harassed by Chinese warplanes.
Vietnam, too, has a quarrel with China over the Paracels, which is why President Obama is being feted in Hanoi and why he lifted the ban on arms sales. There is now talk of the Navy’s return to Cam Ranh Bay.
But before we agree to support the claims of Manila and Hanoi against China’s claims, and agree to use U.S. air and naval power if needed, we need to ask some hard questions.
What vital interest of ours is imperiled by who owns, or occupies, or militarizes Scarborough Shoal? If U.S. rights of passage in the South China Sea are not impeded by Chinese planes or ships, why make Hanoi’s quarrels and Manila’s quarrels with China our quarrels?
Vietnam and the Philippines are inviting us back to our old Cold War bases for a simple reason. If the Chinese use force to back up their claims, Hanoi and Manila want us to fight China for them.
But, other than a major war, what would be in it for us?
And if, after such a war, we have driven the Chinese off these islets and destroyed those bases, how long would we be required to defend them for Hanoi and Manila?
Have we not enough war guarantees outstanding?
We are moving NATO and U.S. troops into Eastern Europe and anti-missile missiles into Poland and Romania, antagonizing Russia. We are fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, and, if the neocons get their way, we will soon be confronting Iran again.
Meanwhile, North Korea is testing nuclear warheads for long-range missiles that can reach the American homeland.
And no vital U.S. interest of ours is imperiled in the South China Sea.
Should Beijing insanely decide to disrupt commercial traffic in that sea, the response is not to send a U.S. carrier strike group to blast their artificial islands off the map.
Better that we impose a 10 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods, and threaten an embargo of all Chinese goods if they do not stand down. And call on our “allies” to join us in sanctions against China, rather than sit and hold our coat while we fight their wars.
This economic action would send China’s economy into a tailspin, and the cost to Americans would not be reckoned in the lives of our best and bravest