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6 February 2021   Leave a comment

Protests by farmers in India have been going on for several months, and the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has invoked colonial-era sedition laws to repress them. The farmers fear that new laws passed by the BJP will devastate their earnings and wish to protect the subsidies that have allowed them to prosper since the 1960s. The Washington Post summarizes the changes made by the Modi government. The changes are an attempt to modernize the agricultural sector of the Indian economy which accounts for a substantial part of the population but only a fraction of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The protests were largely peaceful until late January when a farmer was killed in one of the demonstrations. According to Reuters:

“Tens of thousands of farmers have been braving New Delhi’s winter by sleeping in the open for months on national highways. Their protests have mostly been peaceful but a tractor rally on Jan. 26 flared into turmoil as some farmers clashed with police.

“Since then, authorities have shut down the mobile internet in parts of the national capital and heavily barricaded border roads to prevent protesters from coming into the city again.”

The Modi government has been arresting journalists, shutting down internet sites, and freezing Twitter accounts in an attempt to halt the protests. The Associated Press details the extent of the clampdown:

“Prosecutions on sedition charges are rare but their use to silence journalists, critics and dissenters in India isn’t new and previous governments had resorted to it. But official data shows that Modi’s government has used the law more than any other — up by nearly 30%. It has also repeatedly rejected demands to repeal it.

“Calls and messages seeking comment from four BJP spokespersons went unanswered. Calls to the party’s media office also were unsuccessful.

“Media watchdogs and rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, condemned the government’s actions as censorship. The Editors Guild of India said the cases against journalists were ‘an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media.’

“Daniel Bastard, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk, said the government was trying to impose its own narrative.

“Critics say India under Modi is growing intolerant. Its ranking on the World Press Freedom Index has fallen every year, and it ranked 142nd out of 180 places in 2020.”

The farmers are quite determined, but the Modi government seems intent on keeping the changes in agricultural laws in place. The Indian Foreign Ministry has compared the protests at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi with the protests on 6 January at the US Capitol. There does seem to be a great deal of disquiet in the world these days.

Farmers at the Red Fort, 26 January 2021

Posted February 6, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

5 February 2021   Leave a comment

Boğaziçi University is one of the top universities in the world and is the premiere university in Turkey. It is also the site of continuing protests as students and faculty are trying to resist an attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to exert political control through the appointment of Melih Bulu as Rector. The International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs identifies the issues at stake:

“Boğaziçi is a world-renowned university with a long history of autonomy. It was the first institution to improvise elections as the only legitimate means to choose the rector in 1992 and set the example for other universities in the country. Although dependent on public funds as a public university, it maintained a pluralistic culture, open to encounters of diverse ideologies, ethnicities and sexual orientations among students and professors. This commitment to democratic values was upheld despite the wrath of nationalists, conservatives and even republicans, who often accused the university of “treachery” for allowing for debate on politically taboo issues.

“Boğaziçi was one of the last universities to remain relatively untouched by a wave of oppressive interventions into higher education in Turkey since 2016. Since the failed coup of July 2016, the AKP government banished elections in universities all over Turkey and re-introduced the top-down method of nominating rectors. The pretext provided by the coup also allowed the government to devastate higher education by mass evacuations, administrative or judiciary action against professors voicing critical views, and the incarceration of academics, students and intellectuals.

President Erdogan has deepened the crisis by attacking the LGBT community. The tactic of smearing the protests by linking them to issues of sexual orientation is a familiar one. The Voice of America reports:

“Some analysts believe Bogazici University’s LGBT community became the latest target of the government’s broad brush to label dissidents as terrorists.

“’What is most striking in the Bogazici case is that LGBTI individuals are now demonized as criminals and terrorists simply because of their sexual orientation, reflecting how far Turkey has drifted away from fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law and due process,’ Aykan Erdemir, director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a former Turkish Parliament member, told VOA.

“Erdogan praised his party’s youth Monday in a video conference, saying, ‘You are not the LGBT youth, not the youth who commit acts of vandalism. On the contrary, you are the ones who repair broken hearts.’

“Two days later, he said, ‘there is no such thing’ as LGBT, adding that ‘this country is national and spiritual, and will continue to walk into the future as such.’

“Yuksel of Amnesty International said the Turkish authorities’ recent anti-LGBT statements were ‘not only a reflection of the government’s homophobia but also a calculated political strategy.’

“’The authorities’ attacks on LGBT (individuals) are the latest frontier in a culture war launched by President Erdogan in an effort to rally his conservative base ahead of elections scheduled for 2023, though rumors suggest they may be held earlier,’ she said.”

One cannot overestimate the dangers of protesting against a regime as ruthless as Erdogan’s. But we also now have strong protests in Russia in support of Alexei Navalny. We should be grateful for the courage of those who defend the right to criticize authoritarian governments.

Posted February 5, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

4 February 2021   Leave a comment

US President Biden made his first foreign policy speech today. I listened to it and I was struck by the direct repudiation of the “America First” policy pursued by former President Trump. I will wait until the transcript of the speech is published before I analyze it carefully. But I was encouraged by his words earlier to the State Department:

“And finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.  

“I want the people who work in this building and our embassies and consulates around the world to know: I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back.  This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you.  We want a rigorous debate that brings all perspectives and makes room for dissent.  That’s how we’ll get the best possible policy outcomes. 

“So, with your help, the United States will again lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example.”

I was also encouraged by his strong support for the multilateral organizations, such as NATO, which were deprecated by the previous administration.

President Biden not only repudiated much of Trump’s foreign policy, but he went further to reverse one of President Obama’s positions on support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen. The Associated Press quotes from Biden’s speech:

“‘The war has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe,’ Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president. ‘This war has to end.’”

“The Yemen reversal is one of a series of changes Biden laid out Thursday that he said would mark a course correction for U.S. foreign policy. That’s after President Donald Trump — and some Republican and Democratic administrations before his — often aided authoritarian leaders abroad in the name of stability.

“The announcement on Yemen fulfills a campaign pledge. But it also shows Biden putting the spotlight on a major humanitarian crisis that the United States has helped aggravate. The reversing of policy also comes as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia, a global oil giant and U.S. strategic partner.”

The decision will no doubt disappoint the Saudis as well as the US corporations which were intent on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. But it is an important step in the right direction as well as a clear indication that Biden is intent on forging his own path in foreign policy.

Posted February 4, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 February 2021   Leave a comment

I cannot resist.

Posted February 2, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

1 February 2021   Leave a comment

There has been a military coup in Myanmar (a state once known as Burma) and the civilian leader of the state, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been arrested. There was a national election on 8 November and Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won about 80 percent of the vote. The size of the vote apparently rattled the Myanmar military and the coup was led by military chief Min Aung Hlaing who embraced the claims of voter fraud by the opposition party backed by the military, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Myanmar has had a spotty political history. It was once a British colony and achieved its independence in 1948. But the military seized power in 1962 and maintained that role despite widespread political protests in 1988, 2003, and 2007, finally giving up power in 2011. Throughout these protests, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a powerful voice for civilian control, enduring many years of house arrest. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for her steadfast support of democratic reforms. Her reputation has diminished in recent years as she sided with the brutal military repression of the Royingha minority group in Myanmar. That violence, fueled by the Buddhist majority’s fear of the Muslim Royingha, began in earnest in 2016 leading to the expulsion of thousands of Royingha to Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

I fear that the world will pay little attention to this coup because of the concerns about the domestic effects of the COVID pandemic. Vasuki Shastry, writing for The Guardian, outlines the possibilities for outside support for the democratic forces in Myanmar:

“The international community, led by G7 members, has issued obligatory statements condemning the army’s decision to stage a coup. Thailand has described the move as an “internal matter” and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members have called for restraint. The two countries with the greatest leverage on Myanmar – India and China – will be calibrating their response based on strategic considerations. India has called for the rule of law and democratic process to be upheld, perhaps calculating that army rule in the long-run is unsustainable. China is likely to take the Thai road by describing the developments as an internal matter. It is useful to remember that China was Myanmar’s only strategic economic and political partner during the dark era of Than Shwe’s rule. Democracy and civilian rule in Myanmar has not been kind to China, and Beijing will be eager to restore its status as the country’s indispensable partner. With China on its side, the army will find little reason to articulate a pathway toward a full restoration of democracy.”

The crisis in Myanmar is the first major international crisis for the Biden Administration and we will learn much from how President Biden addresses it. But Myanmar does not have a great influence on great power politics, so I am not optimistic about the US response.

Posted February 1, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

29 January 2021   Leave a comment

Most of us would agree that there are sharp political divisions in the US, divisions that were made sharper and more manifest during the Trump Administration. The Pew Research Center has conducted a very large number of polls to measure how deep these fissures actually are and the results are sobering. The report summarizes some of the findings:

“Trump’s status as a political outsider, his outspoken nature and his willingness to upend past customs and expectations of presidential behavior made him a constant focus of public attention, as well as a source of deep partisan divisions.

“Even before he took office, Trump divided Republicans and Democrats more than any incoming chief executive in the prior three decades.1 The gap only grew more pronounced after he became president. An average of 86% of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling of the job over the course of his tenure, compared with an average of just 6% of Democrats – the widest partisan gap in approval for any president in the modern era of polling.2 Trump’s overall approval rating never exceeded 50% and fell to a low of just 29% in his final weeks in office, shortly after a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol.”

One of the more striking findings of the polls was the extent to which words were interpreted in vastly different ways by Democrats and Republicans. The graph below shows the disparities in how words uttered by former President Trump were interpreted.

This disparity spilled over into the very question of what constituted a fact in political discourse. The report notes that

“One of the few things that Republicans and Democrats could agree on during Trump’s tenure is that they didn’t share the same set of facts. In a 2019 survey, around three-quarters of Americans (73%) said most Republican and Democratic voters disagreed not just over political plans and policies, but over “basic facts.”

Most Americans said in 2019 that Republican and Democratic voters can't agree on 'basic facts.'

“Much of the disconnect between the parties involved the news media, which Trump routinely disparaged as ‘fake news’ and the ‘enemy of the people.’ Republicans, in particular, expressed widespread and growing distrust of the press. In a 2019 survey, Republicans voiced more distrust than trust in 2o of the 30 specific news outlets they were asked about, even as Democrats expressed more trust than distrust in 22 of those same outlets. Republicans overwhelmingly turned to and trusted one outlet included in the study – Fox News – even as Democrats used and expressed trust in a wider range of sources. The study concluded that the two sides placed their trust in ‘two nearly inverse media environments.'” 

The report finally notes that most Americans would prefer that Trump exit the political stage, but that there is a divide on this question between moderate and conservative Republicans: “Around two-thirds of Americans (68%) said in January 2021 that they would not like to see Trump continue to be a major political figure in the years to come, but Republicans were divided by ideology. More than half of self-described moderate and liberal Republicans (56%) said they preferred for him to exit the political stage, while 68% of conservatives said they wanted him to remain a national political figure for many years to come.”

Posted January 29, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

25 January 2021   Leave a comment

Andreas Kluth has written a provocative essay for Bloomberg entitled “The U.S. Mustn’t Follow Weimar Germany and Ancient Rome”. The argument is a familiar one: there are patterns to the decline of once-prosperous societies into corrupted ones”

“History, according to a famous aphorism, may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. Here, then, is my own personal musing on two republics that failed, with consequences for the whole world: pre-Imperial Rome between 133 BCE and 27 BCE, and Weimar Germany between 1919 and 1933….

“Once broken, taboos are hard to unbreak. And their damage is cumulative. Lies go unpunished, violence leaches from words into deeds, loyalties shift from country to parties or individuals. Gradually, the republic — its constitution, precedents and norms — becomes hollow. Citizens stop believing in it.

“When that happens, as in Weimar and Rome, republics tend to expire quietly, sometimes even discreetly. Hitler never bothered to formally repeal the Weimar constitution of 1919, he just ignored it. Octavian, later known as Augustus, made a big show of keeping all the iconography of the Roman republic, including the senate, assemblies and magistrates. He didn’t call himself king but princeps, or ‘first.’ But everybody knew that Roman liberty had ended.”

The declines are almost always associated with concentrations of economic power that allow political institutions to pass laws that facilitate further concentrations of wealth. Chrystia Freeland offers another example of this process, using the example of Venice:

“IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

“Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

“The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.

The process can occur quickly or it can take years. But it appears as if Adam Smith was prescient in terms of his expectations of how the rich would protect their interests at the expense of the public good. In his book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (a much better book than his more-often cited, The Wealth of Nations):

“This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments. That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages.” (Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, (London: A. Millar, 1790), 6th edition, I.III.28.)

F. Scott Fitzgerald summarized the mentality of the rich in his short story, “The Rich Boy”:

“They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

All the economic evidence suggests that this concentration of wealth in the US has exceeded that level experienced by Fitzgerald. Nothing is pre-determined in human affairs and history is an imperfect guide to the future. But history does give us a great deal to think about.


Posted January 25, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

22 January 2021   Leave a comment

Heather Boushey has written an essay for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) entitled “How to Make America More Equal“. Boushey notes how the COVID pandemic has aggravated already stark inequalities in the US economy. She writes:

“Before the pandemic, the United States was in the midst of a decade-long recovery from the Great Recession, which began in December. But not all Americans experienced that recovery in the same way. The top 1 percent emerged as strong as ever in terms of wealth, regaining what they had lost by 2012. As of March 2020, however, US working- and middle-class families had barely recovered their lost wealth, and many families, especially those of color, never recovered. Even amid a strong recovery, the United States was burdened by extraordinary economic and racial inequality.

Today, stark differences among US workers and their families make the current recovery neither U- nor V-shaped but rather one that resembles a sideways Y, with those benefiting from a stock market recovery or employed standing on the branch of the Y that points up unaffected by the recession, and those on the bottom branch facing perhaps years of struggle. And there are stark differences of race and class between the upper and lower legs of that sideways Y.”

Boushey identifies the underlying causes of these inequalities: a false belief that markets would over time reduce those inequalities; Tax cuts and weak public investment that overwhelmingly favor the rich; Eroding worker power due to animosity toward unions; Economic concentration that favors large corporations over small businesses; overemphasis on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of economic prosperity which ignores how that prosperity is shared; and Racism and sexism which limits the possibilities for disenfranchised groups.

Most importantly, Boushey points out that the solutions to these problem requires government intervention–unfettered markets have only made the situation worse: “Transforming the US economy requires policymakers to recognize that markets cannot perform the work of government.” To those who would characterize her policy recommendations as “socialist”, I would simply point out that the economic trends left unchecked would bring the US back to feudalism.

Posted January 22, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

21 January 2021   Leave a comment

China has announced sanctions on 28 Trump Administration officials for their conduct toward China over the last four years. Interestingly, the sanctions did not include former President Trump himself. According to the South China Morning Post:

“Beijing announced sanctions against a slew of recently departed Trump administration officials over their positions on China on Thursday, barring them from entering or doing business with the country.

“Among those sanctioned were former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, and former deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, considered one of the key architects of the Trump administration’s hardline China policies.

“In total, 28 people were targeted by the measures, which also apply to the individuals’ immediate family members. Besides mainland China, they will not be permitted entry to Hong Kong or Macau, while any companies or entities associated with them will be restricted from doing business with China.

“In a statement issued early Thursday morning, a foreign ministry spokesman said the individuals were responsible for a number of ‘crazy moves’ that had ‘gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-US relations’”.

It is unlikely that any of these officials had any current intentions to go to China, but the sanctions will seriously constrict their ability to conduct any business with China, Hong Kong, or Macau. The Chinese newspaper, Global Times, explains the underlying logic of the sanctions:

“The message was clear. It aimed to punish former officials who contained China in a reckless manner, telling those politicians that they should bear the consequences and meanwhile send out a warning to the US that when it comes to China policy, it should always respect China’s core interests and safeguard the bottom line of ethics and regulations, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

“Lü Xiang, an expert of US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times Thursday that in US politics, there was a revolving door for US politicians to be employed in private sector companies, financial institutes and think tanks after they leave office. 

“The sanctions would seriously affect ‘the politicians’ road for gaining money,’ Lü said. ‘For instance, like Stilwell on the sanction list, we met in Washington when he was going to retire from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2015,’ Lü said. ‘At that time, the issues that most interested him were about doing business.'”

US President Biden has indicated that he does not plan to make any rapid changes toward China, particularly on the issue of the tariffs imposed on China by the Trump Administration. Nonetheless, the Biden Administration was critical of China’s moves, although the critical language was not especially harsh:

“‘Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides,’ Biden’s National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement to Reuters.

“‘Americans of both parties should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China,’ Horne said.”

President Biden, however, seems to be well aware of the fact that China is in a much stronger position in world affairs given the ineptitude of the Trump Administration. And China is too important to the US and the global economy to allow hostility to fester, as explained by Javier Solana and Eugenio Bregolat:

“The US-China relationship is ‘too big to fail.’ Because continued deterioration would bring unacceptable risks for them and the entire world, both countries should seize the opportunity to put relations on a new footing. The framework for peaceful coexistence that Biden and his team hope to find will require maintaining a fine balance between principles and realities. To be sure, combining competition with cooperation will not always be easy, but the new US administration is perfectly capable of passing this critical, era-defining test.

Posted January 21, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

19 January 2021   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has issued “The 1776 Report” which is its attempt to present American history in terms different from the New York Times report entitled “The 1619 Project“. The 1619 Project highlighted the importance of slavery to the development of American society and that emphasis was viewed by many conservatives as a distortion of history. According to the Washington Post, the document was not well-received by historians:

“Historians responded with dismay and anger Monday after the White House’s ‘1776 Commission’ released a report that it said would help Americans better understand the nation’s history by ‘restoring patriotic education.’

“’It’s a hack job. It’s not a work of history,’ American Historical Association executive director James Grossman told The Washington Post. ‘It’s a work of contentious politics designed to stoke culture wars.’

“The commission was created in September with a confusing news conference featuring Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. The 45-page report is largely an attack on decades of historical scholarship, particularly when it comes to the nation’s 400-year-old legacy of slavery, and most of those listed as authors lack any credentials as historians. While claiming to present a nonpartisan history, it compares progressivism to fascism and claims the civil rights movement devolved into ‘preferential’ identity politics ‘not unlike those advanced by [slavery defender John C.] Calhoun and his followers.’

“….Grossman, the AHA executive director, said: ‘This is written as if no historical scholarship has been produced in nearly 70 years, so it’s bereft of any professional historical sensibility at all. There are no historians on this commission. Would you take your car to a garage where there’s no mechanic?’”

I cannot recommend reading this document, but there are snippets that reveal a great deal. For example, the following paragraph appears to be beyond ironic in the wake of the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January:

“Finally, the right to keep and bear arms is required by the fundamental natural right to life: no man may justly be denied the means of his own defense. The political significance of this right is hardly less important. An armed people is a people capable of defending their liberty no less than their lives and is the last, desperate check against the worst tyranny.”

The section on slavery attempts to minimize the significance of the practice by noting that slavery has been an endemic feature of all societies historically and that ultimately the US decided to abolish the practice. It is a variation of the “in the long run” apology that ignores the horror of the moment experienced by all the Africans who were kidnapped from their families and homes. Moreover, the treatment of slavery conveniently forgets the legacy of racism that haunts the American society to this day. Much of the wealth of the American society is due to the use of coerced labor and stolen lands of the indigenous peoples of North America. Finally, the report outlines the rather cold-blooded calculations of those drafting the Constitution as they tried and failed to reconcile the moral abomination of slavery with the language of the Declaration of Independence. That reconciliation moved forward with the Civil War but remains unfulfilled.

The report condemns the Progressive Movement in the US in the late 19th Century but the language is more likely directed toward the progressives in the US today. The report states:

“Based on this false understanding of rights, the Progressives designed a new system of government. Instead of securing fundamental rights grounded in nature, government—operating under a new theory of
the ‘living’ Constitution—should constantly evolve to secure evolving rights.

“Far from creating an omniscient body of civil servants led only by ‘pragmatism’ or ‘science,’ though,
progressives instead created what amounts to a fourth branch of government called at times the bureaucracy or the administrative state. This shadow government never faces elections and today operates largely without checks and balances. The founders always opposed government unaccountable to the people and without constitutional restraint, yet it continues to grow around us.”

I will admit that I am impressed that the authors of this report resisted the urge to identify this development as the “deep state” that seems to preoccupy conservatives today. But the implication is clear.

Finally, the report bemoans the development of what it terms “identity politics”.

“Today, far from a regime of equal natural rights for equal citizens, enforced by the equal application of law, we have moved toward a system of explicit group privilege that, in the name of ‘social justice,’ demands equal results and explicitly sorts citizens into ‘protected classes’ based on race and other demographic categories….

“Identity politics makes it less likely that racial reconciliation and healing can be attained by pursuing
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for America and upholding the highest ideals of our Constitution and our
Declaration of Independence.”

This radical celebration of individualism completely ignores the awareness of those who wrote the Constitution of the fact that all individuals exist in a social universe which demands a sense of the common good. This interpretation of the significance of the individual underpins the justification of those today who refuse to wear masks in the face of the pandemic, insisting that mask mandates are an intolerable infringement on personal freedom. It also justifies those who insist that they have a right to carry weapons in public, even those weapons such as automatic rifles that the Founders never could have imagined.

This argument gets additional attention in Appendix III of the report. I found the Appendix incomprehensible but perhaps others can make more sense of it. Indeed, I consider this part to be more of a screed than a thoughtful analysis:

“In recent times, however, a new creed has arisen challenging the original one enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. This new creed, loosely defined as identity politics, has three key features.

“First, the creed of identity politics defines and divides Americans in terms of collective social identities. According to this new creed, our racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as individuals equally endowed with fundamental rights.

Second, the creed of identity politics ranks these different racial and social groups in terms of privilege and
power, with disproportionate moral worth allotted to each. It divides Americans into two groups: oppressors and victims. The more a group is considered oppressed, the more its members have a moral claim upon the rest of society. As for their supposed oppressors, they must atone and even be punished in perpetuity for their sins and those of their ancestors.

“Third, the creed of identity politics teaches that America itself is to blame for oppression. America’s
‘electric cord’ is not the creed of liberty and equality that connects citizens today to each other and to every
generation of Americans past, present, and future. Rather, America’s ‘electric cord’ is a heritage of oppression that the majority racial group inflicts upon minority groups, and identity politics is about assigning and absolving guilt for that oppression.

“According to this new creed, Americans are not a people defined by their dedication to human equality, but a people defined by their perpetuation of racial and sexual oppression.”

I am not sure who this straw man is, but it is a caricature of those who seek to honor the struggles that many minorities have had to endure to achieve equality in American society.

I am certain that this report will find a nice place to gather dust in the National Archives.

Posted January 19, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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