Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Understanding the 7 Distinct “Nations” of Appalachia - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."
appalachianmagazine.com; via GG on Facebook
Understanding the 7 Distinct “Nations” of Appalachia
JB comment :)
image (not from Facebook entry) from
***[Bad computer translation] Him ahead of three Russian old ladies discussing the current geopolitical situation in America:
- you see, the following decree, he deports all blacks.
- it's about time! All aids from them!
- no, well, all that he did not deport - mind with doubt a third of them, the most liberal.
- all! They're here illegally entered the slaves!
You're a liberal shuts up, not knowing what to say against such a compelling argument. Evening Sun setting into the ocean, shining in the dome of the Russian church in San Francisco.
Rate this translation
Monday, January 30, 2017
The Dissent Papers (May 2012)
Review by John H. Brown, PhD.
The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond. By Hannah Gurman, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-231-15872-5, Cloth, 280 pp., $30.00
“I am as insignificant here as you can imagine.”
--John Adams, who served as Minister to England for three years; cited in the above volume, p. 4
On November 29, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, commenting on “alleged to be stolen State Department cables” via Wikileaks, stated that “I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington. Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world.”1
The first line of this statement, referred to, three times, in the book under review (the second line, however, is not cited) is used by its author, Hannah Gurman, a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, to set the stage for her volume devoted to “the place and evolution of diplomatic dissent writing in the larger of the ‘American Century.’”
The key point of this scholar’s monograph, well-researched and spared of academic jargon, is that the “voices” of dissenting U.S. diplomats, expressed by the written word, have been all too often ignored or dismissed by formulators of foreign policy in the nation’s capital, to the detriment of America’s national interests. This thesis is not particularly original, but it does warrant repeating, for the sake of our country and the world, especially by persons with the intelligence and sensitivity of Professor Gurman.
The title of Gurman’s volume is based in part on the study by Albert Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (1970), which, she explains, “used the term ‘voice’ to describe the actions of the few bureaucrats who decide to express their opinions rather than resign or resign themselves to the status quo.” The Pentagon Papers also provided Gurman with inspiration; but, unlike these voluminous, top-secret reports leaked to The New York Times in 1971, her book is based on “papers,” not currently classified, written by “in-house authors of dissent” who “critiqued the reigning logic” of U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II.
Gurman tells the story of these in-house dissenting diplomats in four well-organized chapters: “George Kennan and the Politics of Authorship”; “The China Hands and the Communist-ification of Diplomatic Reporting”; “The Rhetorical Logic of Escalation [in Vietnam] Versus George Ball’s Writerly Logic of Diplomacy”; “The Dissent Channel of the U.S. State Department.” Her conclusion is titled “The Life After: From Internal Dissenter to Public Prophet.”
We always promote sons of bitches that kick us in the ass ... When a bureaucrat deliberately thumbs his nose; we’re going to get him.... The little boys over in state particularly, that are against us, we will do it.
No wonder that the dissenters, often sidelined by those more powerful (less naïve?) than themselves, felt like voices crying in the wilderness. Expressing self-pity that many would not sympathize with, Kennan, enjoying quite briefly his moment of glory via his telegram on the Soviet Union, lamented that, under Dean Acheson, Secretary of State during the Truman administration, he had become a “court jester expected to enliven discussion, privileged to say the shocking things, valued as an intellectual gadfly on hides of slower colleagues, but not to be taken seriously when it came to the final, responsible decisions of policy.” Acheson, who noted in his memoirs “Papers so often divert readers to trivia,” had this to say to Kennan:
The task of a public service officer seeking to explain and gain support for a major policy is not that of a writer of a doctoral thesis. Qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality, in carrying home a point.
Second, the dissidents were paid by an organization that did not, as a rule, encourage dissent or independent thinking. “As the State Department grew and bureaucratized” after WWII, Gurman notes, “it increasingly policed itself through a culture of restraint and passivity, which was reinforced by new bureaucratic layers and checkpoints.” To get promoted, what counted most was following -- and thinking by -- the rules. To her credit, Gurman does not fail to point out, in considerable detail, that dissenting diplomats did play a “key role” in “several of the most pivotal policies of the period” (as amply illustrated by the influence achieved by George Kennan and George Ball, respectively in the early Cold War and during the Vietnam War). But she emphasizes that “[d]issent posed a social risk, and dissenters were less likely to be welcomed by the ‘in’ crowd.”
Third, the dissenters were, above all, diplomats who put their voices in writing. Indeed, Gurman underscores that her book is “as much an account of the tradition of diplomatic writing as it is one of dissenting diplomats.” By their emphasis on “writing well” (a skill highlighted by François de Callières in 1716, in his how-to book on diplomacy), the dissenters reflected the long-standing tradition praised by the British diplomat Harold Nicolson: “Diplomacy is a written rather than a verbal art.”
During the Cold War, however, the discipline of diplomatic writing (not always observed in preceding eras) lost its cachet. “Instead of amplifying and enriching the policy debate with new information and innovative analysis,” Gurman notes, “most diplomats wrote routine and innocuous reports, memos, and letters designed to deflect rather than gain attention.” Contrary to this tendency, the Cold-War in-house dissenters composed the written word carefully and thoughtfully (to be sure, sometimes writing, and changing their drafts, to win over higher-ranking officials, thereby on occasion becoming, as was the case with Kennan and Ball, “courtesan” writers).
Still, the Foggy Bottom dissidents, no matter how imaginatively they used their pens to advance their careers, “shared a commitment to the promise that their writing could help change policy.” Also, they wanted to create documents that, by their respect for language, reflected an appreciation and understanding of the literary art. George Kennan, who, perhaps pretentiously, considered himself F. Scott Fitzgerald’s soulmate (they both went to Princeton), wrote in 1934 that “[i]f Chekhov could describe Russian small town folk with an appeal so universal that even American reader gasps and says: ‘How perfectly true’ why cannot the Moscow diplomatic folk be written up the same way?”
(As I read Kennan’s words, I wondered how he would have judged twittering and facebooking -- new means of communications, now hyped by the State Department, regrettably not covered in Gurman’s study -- which, conceivably, reduce the craft of diplomatic writing to the “ash heap of history,” to steal a phrase from Ronald Reagan about communism).
It is said in Russia that the country’s dissident poets, so often persecuted by the authorities when they are alive, are most venerated upon their death, including by the officials who wished them far, far, gone from this world. This leads us to the fourth point of Gurman’s book: In the United States, dissenting diplomats -- when no longer numbered among those in seats of power -- are, according to Gurman, “transformed from false prophets of the U.S. foreign policy establishment to true prophets of the nation’s foreign policy.”
But the subjects of her study, Gurman notes, were “not necessarily and absolutely wise.” More important, from her perspective, the dissenters can’t be reduced to modern-day Johns the Baptist. Rather, they were thinkers skeptical about “the predictability of foreign affairs and about the possibility of knowledge more generally.”
The dissenting diplomats’ lasting contribution, Gurman suggests in her impressive study, was not providing definitive answers, but thinking about important current issues and speculating about their implications for U.S. national interests. In other words, these non-conformist in-house outsiders, in their own imperfect intellectual ways, were trying to link the best of diplomatic writing (“thinking”) to policy, a challenging task if there ever was one.
(1) http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/11/152078.htm. Full disclosure: I was one of three Foreign Service officers who left the State Department to express opposition to the US intervention in Iraq.
My name is mentioned in Gurman’s book.
(2) John Service and John Davies, who lost their State Department jobs in the McCarthy era because of their criticisms of U.S. China policy, “Between 1950 and 1953,” Gurman notes, “twenty of the twenty-two Foreign Service officers who specialized in China were either marginalized or dismissed.”
[Book Editor’s Note: See also Ms. Gurman’s 2010 book review in American Diplomacy:
Dr. John H. Brown, a Foreign Service officer for more than 20 years, currently is Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown University, where he teaches about public diplomacy.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
How the 19th-Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics: Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."
From xenophobia to conspiracy theories, the Know Nothing party launched a nativist movement whose effects are still felt today
image from article
By Lorraine Boissoneault, smithsonian.com, January 26, 2017; via NIM on Facebook
Like Fight Club, there were rules about joining the secret society known as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner (OSSB). An initiation rite called “Seeing Sam.” The memorization of passwords and hand signs. A solemn pledge never to betray the order. A pure-blooded pedigree of Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock and the rejection of all Catholics. And above all, members of the secret society weren’t allowed to talk about the secret society. If asked anything by outsiders, they would respond with, “I know nothing.”
By Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker [original article contains links]; via AGG on Facebook
In the first week of the Trump Presidency, influence has run through a very select group of advisers—maybe as many as half a dozen, maybe as few as two.
The Presidential order that Donald Trump signed on Friday barring all refugees and citizens from seven Muslim countries from travel to the United States was reviewed by virtually no one. The State Department did not help craft it, nor the Defense Department, nor Justice. Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, “saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized,” CNN reported. Early Saturday morning, there were reports that two Iraqi refugees had been detained upon their arrival at John F. Kennedy Airport. When a lawyer for the men asked an official to whom he needed to speak to fix the situation, the official said, “Ask Mr. Trump.” This sounded like a sign of straight goonery and incipient authoritarianism; maybe it was. But it also may have been the only reasonable answer. Few people understood what was going on.
The order claims to protect Americans from “foreign terrorist entry,” but that was no reason for it. A wealth of data shows that immigrants from those countries have not been responsible for fatal terrorist attacks in the United States. At first, the acting spokesperson of the Department of Homeland Security said that the order would not apply to permanent residents of the United States. This seemed to be a sensible assumption; as fevered as the talk over immigration has been on the right, few have threatened a mass revocation of the rights of green-card holders. But a senior White House official later said that green-card holders would have to undergo screenings. Morally outrageous scenes followed. Homeland Security officials said that at least a hundred people had been prevented from entering the country, and many more had been stopped from boarding planes to the U.S. Those detained at Dulles International Airport, before federal judges issued stays of the order, included an Iranian couple in their eighties, both with green cards. One was legally blind, and the other had recently had a stroke; their granddaughter said that officials at the airport “weren’t treating them very well.” At O’Hare, a couple with an eighteen-month-old was reportedly detained, after a trip abroad to introduce the baby to relatives.
On Saturday, the President announced three more executive actions, one of which changed the composition of his National Security Council. Trump reserved one seat on the Council for his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, who has no experience in foreign relations. Trump also limited the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence, with a memo that said they will only attend meetings when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” The erasure of the line between national security and Bannon’s politics, which have included an embrace of white nationalism, was deeply troubling. But the exclusion of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence was more surprising. The President can pick anyone he wants for those positions. Trump has nominated the former Indiana senator Dan Coats to be the director of National Intelligence; the term of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, will expire this year. The President seems to be deliberately tightening the circle around him.
In the first week of the Trump Presidency, influence has run through a very select group of advisers—maybe as many as half a dozen, maybe as few as two. The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Bannon have consolidated their influence. Kushner, who has spent his brief career running his father’s real-estate empire, reportedly has been told to lead negotiations with Mexico. Kushner was also involved in a discussion with British officials, and denounced the United Kingdom’s support of a United Nations resolution opposing Israeli settlements. According to the Washington Post, some former campaign aides “have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.” But Bannon’s portfolio may be even broader. His hand was apparent in the President’s dark Inauguration speech, in his economic nationalism, and in his early, aggressive stances against Mexico and refugees.
The President’s isolation runs deeper than that. As the confusion around the immigration ban made clear, the vast government he oversees has little input on his actions. In an interview this week, Trump said that he reads the Times, the New York Post, and the Washington Post each day, but he seems to scan them as an actor does, for reviews of his own performance. His campaign made clear that he was not interested in the findings of scientists, social scientists, or the American government. Trump’s transition has alienated him from the American public. Gallup found on Friday that fifty per cent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance, the highest disapproval rating on record for any American President this early in his term.
In normal times, an Administration this isolated and divorced from public opinion would seem to be fatally weak. The argument made by the President’s first week is that these conditions, combined with the general assent of a Republican-controlled Congress, might in fact create the opposite situation, freeing him to do whatever he wants.
At times this past week, the theatre of the Administration has seemed to be as large as the Oval Office; at others, it has seemed smaller still, about the size of the President’s own head. “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on . . . I will send in the Feds!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday evening. In fact, a large team from the Department of Justice had recently been in Chicago, where it delivered an indictment of the excesses of the Chicago Police Department, connecting them to the collapse of trust between residents and officers, which in turn enabled a rise in crime.
But that report hadn’t prompted the President’s tweet. What had? It turned out that Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show had just aired a segment on crime in Chicago. The President had seen something that moved him on a news program, and then he had reacted. The tweet was one of the least significant Presidential gestures of the past week. But it served as prelude for some of the darker ones. At times, the only figure in the room may be Trump himself and the blue glow of his television screen.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007, and joined the magazine as a staff writer in 2015. He writes mainly about American politics and society.
Chukchi Autonomous District -- What Alaska Might Be if Russia Hadn’t Sold It to US - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."
Staunton, January 29 – The disastrous situation with regard to roads, the economy and human existence in the Chukchi Autonomous District, located just opposite the Bering Straits for Alaska, is a reminder of what that US state might have become had it remained the property of the Russian Empire rather than being sold in 1867.
This week, officials in the autonomy announced the opening of winter automobile roads in several places, the only way many people there have of reaching the outside world by ground, and roads that are anything but reliable in a place where winter lasts nine months of the year, just as it does in much of Alaska (afterempire.info/2017/01/28/chukotka-roads/).
Chukotka, with an area of 737,700 square kilometers and just over 50,000 residents, has a much lower population and road density than does neighboring Alaska where there are 663,000 people and almost 2,000 kilometers of interstate highways alone, a difference reflecting the very different policies of Moscow and Washington and affecting the two populations very differently.
There are only 2,938 kilometers of roadways in Chukotka, most unpaved and nearly 80 percent needing repairs. There are in addition, 1320 km of winter roads that in fact are used all year long and 1135 that are used only in winter. Many don’t go very far: There are 82 bridges for them, but almost half – 42 – are collapsing or too dangerous for use.
Worse, and again in contrast to Alaska, Chukotka doesn’t have land connections to its neighboring regions, even though Moscow officials have been talking about building one for decades. And also in contrast to the US state, 29 of the 37 population points in Chukotka don’t have any paved roads in them at all.
Aviation links have largely collapsed as well, making it extremely difficult for residents to get medical help especially given “the optimization” – a euphemism for closure – of many medical points during Putin’s time. And so even with its enormous reserves of natural resources, Chukchi land remains cut off and poor.
That is what those who can see Russia from Alaska in fact see, and the After Empire portal concludes that “if the Russian Empire had not sold Alaska in a timely fashion to the United States, that neighboring territory might have had the same fate.”
Letters to the Editor, The Times Literary Supplement (TLS, January 20, 2017), p. 6
Sir, -- According to qi.com, Sir Henry Head was the head of the journal Brain from 1905 to 1923. He was succeeded in 1923 by Russell Brain. I applaud the TSL for its efforts to continue this cranial serendipity by assigning a review of a book about the cruelty of the lobotomy procedure to Andrew Scull.
One Country, Two Tribes - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."
By SABRINA TAVERNISE JAN. 28, 2017, New York Times
Image from article, with caption: At the Woman's March on Washington
It was a spring afternoon in Istanbul, and I was talking with a woman in beige
pumps and pearls who was angry about her government. It was taking the country in
the wrong direction, she said, and she had come out with thousands of other people
to protest. People from poor areas who supported the government were going
against their self-interest. “They’re only being manipulated,” she said.
Fast-forward 10 years to 2017. I am standing in a crowd of women wearing
fleeces and sensible shoes in Washington, D.C. Everything feels oddly familiar. They
were angry about the election and worried that it would take the country in the
wrong direction. Many people who supported the new president had voted against
their interests, they said.
I have covered political divides in Turkey, Russia, Pakistan and Iraq. The
pattern often goes like this: one country. Two tribes. Conflicting visions for how
government should be run. There is lots of shouting. Sometimes there is shooting.
Now those same forces are tearing at my own country.
Increasingly, Americans live in alternate worlds, with different laws of gravity,
languages and truths. Politics is raw, more about who you are than what you believe.
The ground is shifting in unsettling ways. Even democracy feels fragile.
President Trump has brought out these contrasts, like colors in a photograph
developing in a darkroom.
“I’m excited about change,” said Helene Lauzier, 37, who had driven to
Washington from Fall River, Mass., and was standing with her mother, Helen
Lauzier, 70, along the parade route on Inauguration Day. Both wore American flag
scarves and hats. She wanted Fall River to get some of its old industry back — fabric
and upholstery. The new industry is “medical, medical, medical,” she said. “But
people who might not be qualified to work in medical, what can we do?”
If that Friday felt like a wedding, that Saturday, the day of the women’s march,
was a feisty funeral.
Nan Nelson, 59, a retired geologist from Syracuse, was holding a sign that read
“Women Geologists Rock.”
“How can people be sucked in by this charlatan?” she said of Mr. Trump. “I have
talked to people who are struggling to keep their homes. But I just don’t understand
what they are expecting.”
She added: “He doesn’t face reality. He just makes things up and thinks it’s true.
That’s not my world.”
I first moved abroad in 1995. I was 24, and like the country I came from, I was
cocky. I visited ghostly Russian factory towns, where drunk and lonely people would
lament the loss of their jobs, their identities and their place in the world. I would
think: “Forget about the factory. Invent something. Get over it.”
Fifteen years later, when I moved back to America, swaths of my own country
were soaking in the same bitter mix. I became obsessed with these places. But their
stories were hard to sell to editors. The grievances were not new, the result of years
of economic decline and unmet expectations that left powerful resentment.
In Russia and the United States, those forces eventually punched their way into
politics and were harnessed by two skilled populists — Mr. Trump and Vladimir V.
Putin. It was a revolt against elites, who were seen as having driven the country into
the 2008 financial crisis without paying a price. Elites, who lived in isolated islands
of economic opportunity and sneered at people who didn’t — for not having a
passport, for liking Donald Trump.
“The vibe I get when they talk to me is they know the world is round and the
earth orbits the sun — they understand that — but they think that I think the earth is
flat,” Larry Laughlin, a retiree from Ham Lake, Minn., who voted for Mr. Trump,
said of liberals.
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, calls it the clash
between globalists and nationalists. The globalists, who tend to be urban and college
educated, want a world like the one described in John Lennon’s song “Imagine” —
no religion, walls or borders dividing people. The nationalists see that as a vision of
hell. They want to defend their culture and emphasize the bonds of nationhood —
flag, Constitution, patriotism. They also want to limit immigration, an instinct that
globalists are often quick to condemn as racist.
It is one of the most profound fissures of the modern political era and has
upended politics in Europe, too.
“Global elites feel they have more in common with their friends in Paris or New
York than with their own countrymen,” said Lars Tragardh, a historian at Ersta
Skondal University College in Stockholm. “In their view of the world, the centrality
of citizenship gets lost, and that is very threatening to the nationalists.”
Mr. Trump’s slogan, America First, he said, “is not just about xenophobia, it’s
about taking citizenship seriously.”
That slogan repels people like Monica Martinez, a 44-year-old from Bethesda,
Md., who works for a nonprofit that helps people with autism and was marching that
Saturday. “He’s basically saying the lives of Americans are more important than the
lives of people in other places — than lives of people in Cambodia,” she said, giving
an example. She said she could not understand people who held that belief. “What
do I say to my kids about that? What do I say if they ask me, ‘Hey, Mom, what’s
wrong with putting America first?’ ”
Nationalists love it.
“He stood there and said, this is for you, this is your country, this is your
government,” Dianna Ploss, a Trump voter from Massachusetts, said of Mr. Trump’s
Inaugural Address. “That’s just amazing.”
Divides change. They can eventually cause social upheaval, political turmoil and
even violence. In Turkey, the protesting crowds turned out to be right. The
government did take their country in the wrong direction.
What will happen here? Social psychologists like Mr. Haidt say the best way to
ease polarization and reduce anxiety among the nationalists is to emphasize our
sameness. But in the crowds a week ago, no one seemed to be in the mood.
“It’s just so hard to understand them,” Maureen Sauer, 55, an account manager
in an insurance company from O’Fallon, Ill., said. “I guess they just wanted change?
I don’t get it.”
Ms. Ploss said that she was just as confused about the march. “I just don’t feel
like my rights are going to be violated,” she said. “Yet all these women don’t feel
safe? If I had had time, I would have asked them, ‘What are you fighting for?’ ”
“Here I am walking down the street with my red dress and my flag shawl and
people don’t even want to say hi,” she added. “What are we doing? What is
happening? Are we going to take up arms against each other?”
Sabrina Tavernise is a national correspondent for The New York Times