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Credit…Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the very least, what happened here is a major blunder in geopolitical respect and basic communications to a longstanding important ally. Not to mention the legal or contractual consequences. That’s a hornet’s nest itself. If this happened in a business deal outside the realm of national security or government military arena, there would be millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of punitive penalties imposed.
I understand the decision to go with nuclear powered subs. There’s no comparison with conventional subs. Certainly not for security purposes when patrolling the Pacific. That’s a simple product comparison. They’re better. Period. How the French and Australia approached their original deal with that choice or conversation in mind is another topic. The issue here is not about that. It is about the multi billion dollar contract between them that got severed. It’s not even about why. It’s about how it happened.
From how this clumsy decision was presented, it’s almost unforgivable behavior from the full trio of Australia, Britain, and U.S. given the size of the preexisting, now cancelled, agreement between Australia and France.
This mishandling will cover Biden’s shoes in excrement for quite some time. It was ultimately his call to handle it this way, and he deserves the pain to fight his way out. But, the equal, if not more accountability, is in the complete failure of multiple military officials and diplomacy advisers to do something, anything, to make sure this incident had a chance, any chance, to be presented in a less damaging light. Instead, what they all collectively let happen, was radioactive fallout.

In Submarine Deal With Australia, U.S. Counters China but Enrages France



Can we have democracy without political parties?

In the recent elections in India, voters faced a dizzying choice between candidates and political parties.

Around the world, voters appear to be turning away from traditional political organisations, but can democracy survive without them?

From Knowable Magazine

In 1796, President George Washington lambasted political parties for allowing “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” to “subvert the power of the people”.

His indictment seems brutally timely today, just a few months after 147 Republican US congress members publicly challenged results of the most recent US presidential election. But even long before then, many Americans shared Washington’s concern.

The popularity of parties is at a nadir, with both the Democratic and Republican parties in the US widely condemned as not only unrepresentative but also hijacked by elites. Indeed, a steadily increasing share of US voters – 38% in 2018 – identify as unaffiliated with either party. That proportion is now larger than the share of voters identifying with either Republicans or Democrats.

It seems to be an international phenomenon. In Europe, for example, traditionally powerful centre-left parties are being accused of ignoring their voters, potentially contributing to a backlash that helped push the United Kingdom into Brexit.

The mounting animosity toward the parties has inspired debate among political scientists. Defenders of the traditional party system contend that democracy depends on strong, organised and trustworthy political factions. People in politics often try to go around parties, to go directly to the people. But without the parties, we’d have chaos,” says Harvard University political scientist Nancy Rosenblum, who explores the challenges facing political parties today.

Yet a small group of scholars, many of them young, say it’s time to start visualising a more open and direct democracy, with less mediation by parties and professional politicians. Such proposals were seen as “completely fringe” until a decade ago, says Hélène Landemore, a political scientist at Yale University. But events including the 2008 economic crisis and Donald Trump’s 2016 election as president, she says, have enlarged the scope of debate.

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The choice between candidates and the political parties they represent has become a defining feature of most democratic elections (Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

The choice between candidates and the political parties they represent has become a defining feature of most democratic elections (Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Several trends have sped the declining popularity and power of the parties in the United States. Party-run patronage schemes that rewarded supporters with government jobs have long given way to more meritocratic systems. The rise of independent political action committees has given candidates a source of campaign funding — around $4.5bn (£3.17bn) in the last decade – outside the party channels that once dominated access to campaign money. This has made many candidates more entrepreneurial and less beholden to the party bureaucracy.

Thirdly, parties now determine their candidates through primary elections instead of with meetings of party insiders. Just 17 primaries were held in 1968 – today every state has a primary or caucus. This switch to universal primaries has shifted influence from party veterans to more extreme activists, who are more likely than average voters to vote in primaries, says Ian Shapiro, a political scientist at Yale. In 2018, the Democratic National Committee even cut back on the influence of superdelegates, the hundreds of party VIPs who also had votes in selecting candidates. This was to reassure voters that party officials were listening to them, the DNC’s vice-chair said at the time.

In many parts of the United States, partisan gerrymandering has contributed to making candidates less representative of their constituents by creating “safe seats” for both parties. That means that the winners are, in effect, decided in the primaries that pit Democrats against Democrats and Republicans against Republicans. This phenomenon helps explain the 2018 election of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, then a 28-year-old democratic socialist who had never before held elected office, says Shapiro. Ocasio-Cortez beat an establishment Democrat in a primary in which less than 12% of voters turned out.

Not everyone agrees that political parties are weaker today than they once were. Today’s extreme polarisation means that much of the public is more strongly attached to their own party, says Rosenblum, and party-led voter suppression or voter mobilisation efforts in fact make party leaders more powerful than ever.

Parties serve many other important roles, including facilitating compromise, says Russell Muirhead, a political scientist at Dartmouth University

Still, Shapiro and many other experts believe political parties have suffered a major loss in clout, which in turn has been a loss for democracy in general.

“Political parties are the core institution of democratic accountability because parties, not the individuals who support or comprise them, can offer competing visions of the public good,” write Shapiro and his Yale colleague, Frances Rosenbluth, in a 2018 opinion piece. Voters, they argue, have neither the time nor the background to research costs and benefits of policies and weigh their personal interests against what’s best for the majority in the long run.

To show what can go wrong with single-issue voting that lacks party guidance, Shapiro and Rosenbluth point to California’s notorious Proposition 13, a 1978 ballot initiative that sharply restricted increases in property taxes. At first, the measure seemed like a win to many voters. Yet over the years, the new rule also decimated local budgets to the point where California’s per-pupil school spending now ranks near the bottom of a list of the 50 states.

Parties serve many other important roles, including facilitating compromise, says Russell Muirhead, a political scientist at Dartmouth University and Rosenblum’s co-author. As an example, Muirhead points to the US Farm Bill, which the two parties renegotiate roughly every five years. Each time they sit down, “the Democrats want food support for urban people and Republicans want support for farmers, and somehow, they always come to an agreement,” Muirhead says. “The alternative is favouring one side or simply passing nothing at all.”

Perhaps most important, the US’s two main parties have traditionally cooperated in acknowledging their opponents’ legitimacy, as Rosenblum and Muirhead write. Other nations, such as Thailand, Turkey and Germany, have banned political parties that their governments have seen as too destabilising to democracy. American parties’ cooperation has helped keep the peace by reassuring US voters that even if they lose today, they may well win tomorrow. Now, however, this fundamental rule is being broken, say Rosenblum, Muirhead and others, with some party leaders even accusing their opponents of treason.

Despite the tense and often combative party politics in many countries, political parties also find room for compromise and work together (Credit: Bill Greenblatt/Getty Images)

Despite the tense and often combative party politics in many countries, political parties also find room for compromise and work together (Credit: Bill Greenblatt/Getty Images)

“The key thing going on now is that we have an explicit argument that the opposition party is illegitimate,” says Rosenblum. “Trump has been calling the Democrats the enemy of the people and illegitimate, and saying the election is fraudulent. This is the path to violence, as there’s no way to correct this with another election.”

Political parties throughout the world have lost considerable goodwill and influence, says Shapiro, yet he suggests that rather than ban them or further sap their power we must strengthen them and make them more reliable. He and his colleagues advocate reforming campaign financing, to eliminate the currently chaotic bidding wars for candidates’ loyalties, although that goal continues to be elusive. To combat the rise in extremism, they also urge that the job of redistricting go to nonpartisan commissions instead of gerrymandering.

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To further reduce the risk of primaries increasing polarisation, Shapiro proposes that party leaders be allowed to choose candidates if the turnout in a primary election has fallen below 75% of the turnout in the previous general election.

Landemore and her faction contend these ideas don’t match the urgency of the current dilemma. She invites people to imagine how democracy might function with less or even zero reliance on political parties and particularly without costly and potentially corrupting political campaigns. One possibility, she says, would be to randomly appoint groups of citizens, chosen much as today’s juries are, to lead government, while rotating in fixed terms through a permanent “House of the People”. These citizens’ assemblies would be more representative than the current US Congress, wrote Rutgers University philosopher Alexander Guerrero in a 2019 opinion piece, in which he advocated choosing representatives by lottery.

Several European nations have already tried alternatives to party-driven democracy

“In the United States, 140 of the 535 people serving in Congress have a net worth over $2m (£1.4m), 78% are male, 83% are white, and more than 50% were previously lawyers or businesspeople,” he wrote.

Several European nations have already tried alternatives to party-driven democracy. In 2019-20, France held a Citizens’ Convention on Climate, calling on 150 randomly chosen citizens to help devise socially just ways to reduce greenhouse gases. In December 2020, the French President agreed to hold a referendum on one of the convention’s suggestions, the inclusion of climate protection in the national constitution.

And in 2016, the Irish Parliament assembled 99 citizens to deliberate on stubborn issues, including a constitutional ban on abortion. A majority of the assembly proposed that the ban be struck down, after which a national referendum confirmed the result and changed the law – all accomplished without involvement of established political parties.

Despite the limited impact of these efforts to date, Landemore says the tide of public opinion is turning. Just five years ago, colleagues mocked the notion of an “open democracy” at a political science conference, she says, adding: “Five years from now I’m guessing we’ll be completely mainstream.”

A Nation of Citizens All Too Used to Watching Re-runs

College students crowded the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on March 11.

Reading the latest CDC guidelines, as well as recognizing some states’ loosening, one would hope, think, we are moving in the right direction. Its something at least. Right?

But, given the UK B1.1.7 variant (already dominating the U.S.), the So. African B1.351, and the P.1, both here ashore as well, albeit expected, I wonder if this loosening up is fueled more by politics, especially state and local, than science. No matter the Democratic President or the appointed CDC head.

Factor in the dumbfounded recent decisions in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, all now wide open states, who gather and travel amok, plus the 50%-80% higher transmission rate of the new variants, plus the increase in severity levels, plus the still open question of transmitting the virus even if vaccinated and/or asymptomatic, and I’m not sure how to relax at all outside of the tightest, most trustworthy bubble of a single household, or maybe two, that are almost clones of each other’s controlled activity patterns.

People gather for spring break on the beach in Port Aransas, Texas on, Friday, March 12, 2021.

Politics aside, which is already barely possible to remove from the current guidance, the new guidance right now, today, is positive. BUT, when the guidance is merged, as it must be, with aggregated human behavior right now, today, it becomes a different calculation. One with a bold asterisk.

A look back at the past year, and already questionable current activity, is enough to see how thoughtless, selfish, ultimately clueless human behaviors can always upset any positive outcome of scientific trajectory. No matter how promising it might sound in the beginning.

States like Florida, Texas, Mississippi, and all the other usual actors defying common sense, are already playing the same losing hands as recklessly as they did last Summer of 2020.  We know what then followed in this country.

I wish I could fully embrace the new CDC guidelines, including the state where I live, but I just can’t. I honestly don’t even know why anyone could.


Related News:

Experts concerned that rolling back restrictions will cause a COVID surge in CT

Connecticut Post
March 9, 2021

Gov. Ned Lamont’s decision to loosen COVID-19 restrictions has experts concerned about an increase in coronavirus cases and possibly deaths.

“I am concerned that we, yet again, have lulled ourselves into a false belief that we have gotten SARS-CoV-2 under control,” said immunologist Kristian G. Andersen on Twitter. “We’re getting close — much closer, in fact — but we’re not there. Yet.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, told National Public Radio Wednesday that although cases are dropping, the pandemic is not over yet.

“I think the next two or three months could go in one of two directions,” Walensky said on NPR following the Texas governor’s decsion to recind that state’s mask mandate. “If things open up, if we’re not really cautious, we could end up with a post-spring break surge the way we saw a post-Christmas surge. We could see much more disease. We could see much more death. In an alternative vision, I see we really hunker down for a couple of more months, we get so many people vaccinated and we get to a really great place by summer.”

Lamont announced Thursday that capacity limits will be lifted for restaurants and other businesses, though social-distancing rules and mask mandates will still be in effect.

Under the new rules, social and recreational gatherings will be limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Sports teams will be allowed to practice and compete again, and venues will be allowed to include 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors.

The loosened restrictions take effect on March 19, 2021. 

Alt-Right: Age of Rage

Alt-Right: Age of Rage

Disturbingly important to watch. Produced in 2018, here is a palpable demonstration of what has been happening in plain sight these last four years. There is no mystery that Donald Trump has emboldened the Alt-Right movement, and borderline psychotics like Richard Spencer. Whether Trump has done so by ruthless premeditated formula for his own personal gain, or by empowering hate groups by sheer cluelessness of his irresponsible speech no longer matters. The damage has been done. The only thing left to wonder is whether the Alt-Right presence will shrink in relevance and attrition over the next few years just as Trump’s legacy and influence hopefully does, or provokes yet another crescendo of violence across this country in its final gasps of desperation.


Available on Netflix and iTunes

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

There are so many articles about the Donald Trump Presidency that serve as a springboard to larger discussions, its no effort to search them out. They hang out there every day with the next load of news.

Donald Trump will try his best to co opt the RNC for himself with help from the same enablers who sold their souls to him from the start. What is clear, is that in spite of the feverish support he has from millions of his followers, and their expected social media barrage, Trump will face longer odds to resurrect himself without the machinery of the Republican Party. That platform is the single biggest asset he has to potentially exploit as he leaves office.

The story linked below is yet another trigger for the exhaustingly redundant questions I’ve tried to answer for myself of how this man got elected, and how it is possible he could continue to infect our sociopolitical system years after he’s gone from the White House.

Concurrent with the devastating coronavirus sweeping the globe, is an equally virulent disease that has infected millions in America. Trumpism. In this case, the answer is not a vaccine, but a broad scale comprehensive treatment of the disease carriers that is even more monumental than administering a nationwide Covid vaccine.

It’s hard to imagine a single individual as the proverbial patient-zero being capable of super spreading an infection, which then goes on to cause a chain reaction in a country’s entire political system, but, that is what this country is fighting off right now with Donald Trump and, arguably, his victims.

The origin of the disease is not an immediately transferable comparison with a physical virus because it’s not physiologically originated. It is psychological. Likewise, it is not a contagion that one gets, or not gets, through random unexplained immunity, or inherent physical vulnerability. Instead, this psychological disease needs to be understood from its earliest days within each individual’s initial infection, and then, tracing contact backwards through family, friends, parents, co-workers, as far back as necessary, and of course, including the overlay of technology and social media.

I have ruminated on this, and other “psychological diseases” afflicting humanity long before this dude in his red cap and red tie showed up. He’s nothing new. He is a human character that’s been re-incarnated many times from others who have come before him. He’s nothing new. Nor are his followers. He, and they, are simply this time’s version of the same play and theater that had its curtains raised on what’s always been there among all of us. Fear. Fear of powerlessness. Fear of weakness. Fear of loss. Fear of irrelevance. Fear of the other. Fear of confronting fear.

Humanity is prone to a panoply of fears on a daily basis. Small fears. Medium fears. Larger fears. Each of these fears has a root perhaps in a single universal fear. Unfortunately, honest deliberation among all of the earth’s citizens on subjects of this depth, rarely occur outside of deeply religious enclaves, often with dogmatic approaches. They form communities of coping and perseverance in the name of one religious or spiritual movement or another, but, in most cases, the end result is the same. Separating us from each other in judgement. No matter how gentle the language used in defining those who “believe” and those who do not. This will also be the struggle of humanity. The struggle to feel part of something universal, of a higher meaning, and of an equal inherent value among all the others in the same grand scheme.

Donald Trump may be easily diagnosed with deeply rooted psychological problems, but tens of millions of his followers are not as easy to dismiss. Understanding them is no different than understanding any critical mass of humanity that is stirred into action at any given time in history. Its nothing new. It happened before. It will happen again. What have we learned? What will we learn?


“Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”
― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

How Trump Hopes to Use Party Machinery to Retain Control of the G.O.P.