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AZProgressive's Journal
AZProgressive's Journal
December 9, 2018

Noam Chomsky: Here's why Americans know so much about sports but so little about world affairs

The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway to influence the real world.
By Noam Chomsky / Noam Chomsky's Official Site

QUESTION: You've written about the way that professional ideologists and the mandarins obfuscate reality. And you have spoken -- in some places you call it a "Cartesian common sense" -- of the commonsense capacities of people. Indeed, you place a significant emphasis on this common sense when you reveal the ideological aspects of arguments, especially in contemporary social science. What do you mean by common sense? What does it mean in a society like ours? For example, you've written that within a highly competitive, fragmented society, it's very difficult for people to become aware of what their interests are. If you are not able to participate in the political system in meaningful ways, if you are reduced to the role of a passive spectator, then what kind of knowledge do you have? How can common sense emerge in this context?

The following is a short excerpt from a classic, The Chomsky Reader, which offers a unique insight on a question worth asking -- how is it that we as a people can be so knowledgable about the intricacies of various sports teams, yet be colossally ignorant about our various undertakings abroad?

CHOMSKY: Well, let me give an example. When I'm driving, I sometimes turn on the radio and I find very often that what I'm listening to is a discussion of sports. These are telephone conversations. People call in and have long and intricate discussions, and it's plain that quite a high degree of thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into far-reaching discussion about whether the coach made the right decision yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who are applying their intelligence and analytic skills in these areas and accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and, for all I know, understanding. On the other hand, when I hear people talk about, say, international affairs or domestic problems, it's at a level of superficiality that's beyond belief.

In part, this reaction may be due to my own areas of interest, but I think it's quite accurate, basically. And I think that this concentration on such topics as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that's far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that's in fact what they do. I'm sure they are using their common sense and intellectual skills, but in an area which has no meaning and probably thrives because it has no meaning, as a displacement from the serious problems which one cannot influence and affect because the power happens to lie elsewhere.


December 9, 2018

Atlanta United wins MLS Cup in just its second season

Atlanta United has completed the incredible two-year odyssey from expansion start-up to Major League Soccer champions.

With a 2-0 win over the Portand Timbers in the MLS Cup before a record crowd of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United won its first league championship in just its second season in existence.

Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar provided the goals, Martinez's coming in the first half at 39 minutes with Escobar seemingly sealing the championship with a second at the 54-minute mark.

Atlanta United's title is also the first for the snakebitten sports city since the Atlanta Braves won the 1995 World Series. The Braves' World Series win had been Atlanta's only major professional sports championship until Atlanta United's triumph.

December 8, 2018

Trump's ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades

Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history.”
By Sean Illing@seanillingsean.illing@vox.com Updated Dec 7, 2018, 9:17am EST

On November 9, 2016, just a few minutes after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a man named Vyacheslav Nikonov approached a microphone in the Russian State Duma (their equivalent of the US House of Representatives) and made a very unusual statement.

“Dear friends, respected colleagues!” Nikonov said. “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton admitted her defeat in US presidential elections, and a second ago Trump started his speech as an elected president of the United States of America, and I congratulate you on this.”

Nikonov is a leader in the pro-Putin United Russia Party and, incidentally, the grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov — after whom the “Molotov cocktail” was named. His announcement that day was a clear signal that Trump’s victory was, in fact, a victory for Putin’s Russia.

Longtime journalist Craig Unger opens his new book, House of Trump, House of Putin, with this anecdote. The book is an impressive attempt to gather up all the evidence we have of Trump’s numerous connections to the Russian mafia and government and lay it all out in a clear, comprehensive narrative.


November 30, 2018

Elizabeth Warren Tries to Invent a Foreign-Policy Message for Progressives and the Establishment

When did contemporary American foreign policy first go wrong? In an address at American University’s Washington College of Law on Thursday, Senator Elizabeth Warren offered a surprisingly tidy answer. “In the nineteen-eighties, Washington’s focus shifted from policies that benefit everyone to policies that benefit a handful of wealthy élites both here at home and around the world,” she said. “Mistakes piled on mistakes—reckless, endless wars in the Middle East, trade deals rammed through with callous disregard for working people, extraordinary expansion of risk in the global financial system. And why? Mostly to serve the interests of big corporations, while ignoring the interests of American workers.”

This sounds like a thesis statement for a foreign policy inspired by the wave of progressive populism that will make both Warren and Bernie Sanders formidable Presidential contenders in 2020, should they run. But Warren’s foreign-policy agenda, as described in her speech, differs in subtle ways from the vision Sanders outlined in his own major foreign-policy speech in September. To begin with, for Sanders and most on the hard left, America’s modern history of moral and strategic foreign-policy failures begins well before the nineteen-eighties. In his address, Sanders mentioned not only the Vietnam War but the C.I.A.-supported coups against Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, in 1953, and Salvador Allende, in Chile, in 1973. The most Warren said about this era was that America “wasn’t perfect.”

Warren and Sanders both have drawn connections between the problems we face abroad and the triumph of neoliberalism, an economic ideology that she never named in her speech, but nevertheless described succinctly. “Washington technocrats,” she said, “backed austerity, deregulation, and privatization all around the world.” For Sanders and others, the neoliberal turn exposed underlying economic dynamics that are indictments of capitalism itself. But for Warren neoliberalism has been a perversion of a system that could and once did work. “As one crisis after another hit, the economic security of working people around the globe was destroyed, reducing public faith in both capitalism and in democracy,” she said. “Policymakers promised that open markets would lead to open societies. Wow, did Washington get that one wrong.” All told, it was a speech aimed as much at the foreign-policy establishment as at the progressive left—a populist vision tempered for the Blob. Even if Warren doesn’t run in 2020, the balance she’s attempting to strike on this front may be the one the Democratic Party as a whole settles on.

November 30, 2018

Macron heard warning bin Salman after Saudi crown prince tells him not to worry: 'I am worried'

An extraordinary exchange between Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been caught on video.

In audio of the conversation, which covered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing Yemen war, it is possible to make out Saudi Arabia‘s de-facto leader saying “Don’t worry,” to which the French president responds: “I am worried”.


Later in the one-minute clip posted on Twitter, Mr Macron says: “You never listen to me,” and Prince Mohammed replies: “I will listen, of course.”

At the end of the video, Mr Macron can be heard saying: “I am a man of my word.”


November 29, 2018

Good job Bernie

I've been opposed to the war in Yemen from the beginning. This shows to me once again he gets it.

November 29, 2018

The House's Progressive Caucus Will Be Bigger Than Ever In 2019

The liberal wing of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House is going to be bigger than ever when the new Congress starts in January. It’ll be much larger than the conservative wing, and that has major implications, both for the next two years and potentially for 2021.

“Duh,” you might say, “of course there are more liberal than conservative Democrats.” But the two wings used to be much more equally matched. And 2018 represented a big jump in the progressive ranks.

In 2010, when Democrats last controlled the House, there were 80 House members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a bloc of the most liberal members of the House and Senate, according to a caucus spokesperson. The Blue Dog Coalition, a group of the most conservative House Democrats, stood at 54 members. And the conservatives rivaled the liberals in influence. The Affordable Care Act, for example, grew more conservative in a number of ways thanks to pressure from conservative Democrats.

But many of the Blue Dogs back then represented more conservative-leaning areas, particularly in the South. Between 2010 and 2016, more than two dozen of them either lost re-election bids or retired from the House (often anticipating defeats). Even amid the Democratic wave this year, the number of Blue Dogs will likely only grow from 18 to 24. (More newly elected members could join the Blue Dogs later.) Meanwhile, the Progressive Caucus ranks held steady during the Obama years (these members tend to be in fairly liberal districts), so the group stood at 78 members before the 2018 midterms. That number will grow to 96 in 2019, according to the group, as a number of progressive candidates won in previously Republican-held districts.


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