tomgram

The final three paragraphs:

And here, to me, is the strangest thing: for all the trillions of words devoted to campaign 2012, no one even bothers to discuss its size. Americans may be willing to argue copiously about whether New York’s Mayor Bloomberg should control the supersizing of soft drinks in his city, but not a peep is heard when it comes to the supersizing of the run for the presidency.

Under the circumstances, the slogan of ABC News seems either touchingly or mockingly silly: “Your Voice, Your Vote.” Whatever this thing may be, it certainly has ever less to do with your individual voice or your individual vote. As Big Election becomes a way of life, democracy — small “d” — increasingly seems like a term from a lost time. If this is democracy, it’s on steroids and on the Comedy Channel. It’s our own Democratic Mockpocalypse.

I’d be the last person to claim I understand it. Still, I do know one thing: whatever it is, we’re evidently going to pass right through this endless political season without stopping to take stock of our supersized political world.

The real war on women

The article linked to below addresses the most fundamental, widespread, and accepted type of violence out there: male violence against women. Through a long list of statistics and examples, the author tries to hammer home what it means when people talk about the “rape culture” or “war on women” and how, across all societies, this basic violent misogyny from men is one of the cornerstones of human life.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175641/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_the_longest_war/

I believe she is trying to make the point that this is specifically male violence against women for the crime of being women, and exists independent of other forces in play that always get far more press than misogyny, such as racism, anti-semitism and the like.

We ignore it. We sweep it under the rug. We tell ourselves some version of the rapist’s defense: “the bitch had it coming.” For wearing a short skirt. For talking back to her man. For not giggling and flirting back to the creep at the bar. For existing.

And beyond the violence itself, we have the fear and distrust that it begets. Women must fear walking down the street at night alone in a way men don’t because of the violence directed towards women by men. Sure, some streets in the rough parts of town will be dangerous for men… but those same streets will be even more dangerous for women.

Same goes for the parking garage. Or the office, late at night. Or the business-trip hotel room when a man and a woman have adjoining rooms. If you later found out that one member of the man and woman duo from your company had been raped or murdered by the other, would you really have to guess long and hard about which was the aggressor and which was the victim?

And let’s not forget the unequal response to misogyny vs. other social crimes in the celebrity-o-sphere. Michael “Kramer” Richards’ career was ended after one racist rant, and Mel Gibson basically became untouchable after his anti-Semitic tirade. On the other hand Chris Brown’s was barely fazed from beating his girlfriend’s face in. Charlie Sheen’s domestic violence is considered his least-important flaw. Kobe gets a free pass for raping a fan because, gee, just look at his points-per-game average. And Gibson himself had few repercussions from his own history of domestic violence — it remains his anti-semitism as his biggest career-killer.

Admitted racists and anti-semites are banished from society. Admitted misogynists (the MRAs, the gender equivalent of the KKK or the Nazi Party) are merely seen as misguided or socially awkward.

It obviously does not mean that every man is a wife-beater. But it does mean that every man must initially be seen with suspicion by every woman, because it’s never clear which exterior hides the beast underneath. It is our own fault.

I don’t agree with everything the author says and am not a doctrinaire Democrat unlike her because, well, the Dems don’t treat women much better now do they? Women and feminists are always at the bottom of the totem pole of Dem special interests, who are always pushed aside should their interests ever clash with those of unions, minorities, trial lawyers or environmentalists. Bill Maher is a card-carrying leftist on all those issues and more, but he hates women just as much as Rick Santorum. And let’s not forget the long litany of male Democratic politicians guilty of sexual assault.

But this climate of fear, this “rape culture” will never end as long as it isn’t addressed directly, and the woman-haters aren’t shamed into social exile the way the racists are. And this will never be the case while our leadership is dominated by men. In my opinion, the only solution is having our leadership roles default to women. If only it were that easy…

There is nothing in this article that I can disagree with whatsoever.

Description of the America that has evolved since 9/11 and it isn’t very pretty. In fact it has all the earmarks of a totalitarian, fascist state.

The America of the 21st Century is the type of nation that the Greatest Generation fought against in WWII.

Unfortunately this 21st Century version is even more insidious because it wraps itself in the cloth of patriotism, Justice, Exceptionalism and righteousness as opposed to the true fabric of hypocrisy.

2

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Israel, Gaza, and Energy Wars in the Middle East [Again:Gaza AND Syria Have Oil & Gas WE Want!]

Posted by Michael Schwartz, February 26, 2015.

Talk of an oil glut and a potential further price drop seems to be growing.

The cost of a barrel of crude now sits at just under $60, only a little more than half what it was at its most recent peak in June 2014.

Meanwhile, under a barrel of woes, economies like China’s have slowed and in the process demand for oil has sagged globally.

And yet, despite the cancellation of some future plans for exploration and drilling for extreme (and so extremely expensive) forms of fossil fuels, startling numbers of barrels of crude are still pouring onto troubled waters.  

For this, a thanks should go to the prodigious efforts of “Saudi America” (all that energetic hydraulic fracking, among other things), while the actual Saudis, the original ones, are still pumping away.  

We could, in other words, have arrived not at “peak oil” but at “peak oil demand” for at least a significant period of time to come.  

At Bloomberg View, columnist A. Gary Shilling has even suggested that the price of crude could ultimately simply collapse under the weight of all that production and a global economic slowdown, settling in at $10-$20 a barrel (a level last seen in the 1990s).

And here’s the saddest part of this story: no matter what happens, the great game over energy and the resource conflicts and wars that go with it show little sign of slowing down.  

One thing is guaranteed: no matter how low the price falls, the scramble for sources of oil and the demand for yet more of them won’t stop.  

Even in this country, as the price of oil has dropped, the push for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring expensive-to-extract and especially carbon-dirty Canadian “tar sands” to market on the U.S. Gulf Coast has only grown more fervent, while the Obama administration has just opened the country’s southern Atlantic coastal waters to future exploration and drilling.  

In the oil heartlands of the planet, Iraq and Kurdistan typically continue to fight over who will get the (reduced) revenues from the oil fields around the city of Kirkuk to stanch various financial crises.  

In the meantime, other oil disputes only heat up.

Among them is one that has gotten remarkably little attention even as it has grown more intense and swept up ever more countries.  

This is the quarter-century-old struggle over natural gas deposits off the coast of Gaza as well as elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean.  

That never-ending conflict provides a remarkable and grim lens through which to view so many recent aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and long-time TomDispatch regular Michael Schwartz offers a panoramic look at it here for the first time.

By the way, following the news that 2014 set a global heat record, those of us freezing on the East Coast of the U.S. this winter might be surprised to learn that the first month of 2015 proved to be the second hottest January on record.  

And when you’re on such a record-setting pace, why stop struggling to extract yet more fossil fuels?

Tom

The Great Game in the Holy Land

How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of An International Power Struggle

By Michael Schwartz

Guess what?

Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises.

Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza.

In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies.

In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus.

Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis.

Resource wars are, of course, nothing new.

Virtually the entire history of Western colonialism and post-World War II globalization has been animated by the effort to find and market the raw materials needed to build or maintain industrial capitalism.

This includes Israel’s expansion into, and appropriation of, Palestinian lands.

But fossil fuels only moved to center stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the 1990s, and that initially circumscribed conflict only spread to include Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, and Russia after 2010.

The Poisonous History of Gazan Natural Gas

Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza’s coastline.

As a result, Israel agreed that the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area.

Rumored natural gas deposits there mattered little to anyone, because prices were then so low and supplies so plentiful.

No wonder that the Palestinians took their time recruiting British Gas (BG) — a major player in the global natural gas sweepstakes — to find out what was actually there.

Only in 2000 did the two parties even sign a modest contract to develop those by-then confirmed fields.

BG promised to finance and manage their development, bear all the costs, and operate the resulting facilities in exchange for 90% of the revenues, an exploitative but typical “profit-sharing” agreement.

With an already functioning natural gas industry, Egypt agreed to be the on-shore hub and transit point for the gas.

The Palestinians were to receive 10% of the revenues (estimated at about a billion dollars in total) and were guaranteed access to enough gas to meet their needs.

Had this process moved a little faster, the contract might have been implemented as written.

In 2000, however, with a rapidly expanding economy, meager fossil fuels, and terrible relations with its oil-rich neighbors, Israel found itself facing a chronic energy shortage.

Instead of attempting to answer its problem with an aggressive but feasible effort to develop renewable sources of energy, Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated the era of Eastern Mediterranean fossil fuel conflicts.

He brought Israel’s naval control of Gazan coastal waters to bear and nixed the deal with BG. 

Instead, he demanded that Israel, not Egypt, receive the Gaza gas and that it also control all the revenues destined for the Palestinians — to prevent the money from being used to “fund terror.”

With this, the Oslo Accords were officially doomed.

By declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty.

Since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.

The Israeli veto led to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sought to broker an agreement that would satisfy both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

The result: a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the PA.

However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, which was meant to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel.

This arrangement still did not satisfy the Israelis, who pointed to the recent victory of the militant Hamas party in Gaza elections as a deal-breaker.

Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, now led by Ehud Olmert, insisted that no “royalties be paid to the Palestinians.”

Instead, the Israelis would deliver the equivalent of those funds “in goods and services.”

This offer the Palestinian government refused.

Soon after, Olmert imposed a draconian blockade on Gaza, which Israel’s defense minister termed a form of “‘economic warfare’ that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas.”

With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of all commerce in and out of Gaza, severely limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry.

As Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass summed up this agenda, the Israeli government was putting the Palestinians “on a diet” (which, according to the Red Cross, soon produced “chronic malnutrition,” especially among Gazan children).

When the Palestinians still refused to accept Israel’s terms, the Olmert government decided to unilaterally extract the gas, something that, they believed, could only occur once Hamas had been displaced or disarmed.

As former Israel Defense Forces commander and current Foreign Minister Moshe Ya’alon explained, “Hamas… has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel’s strategic gas and electricity installations… It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

Following this logic, Operation Cast Lead was launched in the winter of 2008. According to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, it was intended to subject Gaza to a “shoah” (the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster).

Yoav Galant, the commanding general of the Operation, said that it was designed to “send Gaza decades into the past.”

As Israeli parliamentarian Tzachi Hanegbi explained, the specific military goal was “to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel.”

Operation Cast Lead did indeed “send Gaza decades into the past.” Amnesty International reported that the 22-day offensive killed 1,400 Palestinians, “including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins.” 

The only problem: Operation Cast Lead did not achieve its goal of “transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel.”

More Sources of Gas Equal More Resource Wars

In 2009, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inherited the stalemate around Gaza’s gas deposits and an Israeli energy crisis that only grew more severe when the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted and then obliterated 40% of the country’s gas supplies.

Rising energy prices soon contributed to the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades.

As it happened, however, the Netanyahu regime also inherited a potentially permanent solution to the problem.

An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that “most” of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay “within Israeli territory.”

In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and the Palestinians.

In some other world, this immense gas field might have been effectively exploited by the five claimants jointly, and a production plan might even have been put in place to ameliorate the environmental impact of releasing a future 130 trillion cubic feet of gas into the planet’s atmosphere.

However, as Pierre Terzian, editor of the oil industry journal Petrostrategies, observed, “All the elements of danger are there… This is a region where resorting to violent action is not something unusual.”

In the three years that followed the discovery, Terzian’s warning seemed ever more prescient.

Lebanon became the first hot spot. In early 2011, the Israeli government announced the unilateral development of two fields, about 10% of that Levantine Basin gas, which lay in disputed offshore waters near the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil immediately threatened a military confrontation, asserting that his country would “not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of our gas that is falling in our zone.”

Hezbollah, the most aggressive political faction in Lebanon, promised rocket attacks if “a single meter” of natural gas was extracted from the disputed fields.

Israel’s Resource Minister accepted the challenge, asserting that “[t]hese areas are within the economic waters of Israel… We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law.”

Oil industry journalist Terzian offered this analysis of the realities of the confrontation:

"In practical terms… nobody is going to invest with Lebanon in disputed waters. There are no Lebanese companies there capable of carrying out the drilling, and there is no military force that could protect them.

But on the other side, things are different.

You have Israeli companies that have the ability to operate in offshore areas, and they could take the risk under the protection of the Israeli military.”

Sure enough, Israel continued its exploration and drilling in the two disputed fields, deploying drones to guard the facilities.

Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government invested major resources in preparing for possible future military confrontations in the area.

For one thing, with lavish U.S. funding, it developed the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense system designed in part to intercept Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli energy facilities.

It also expanded the Israeli navy, focusing on its ability to deter or repel threats to offshore energy facilities.

Finally, starting in 2011 it launched airstrikes in Syria designed, according to U.S. officials, “to prevent any transfer of advanced… antiaircraft, surface-to-surface and shore-to-ship missiles” to Hezbollah.

Nonetheless, Hezbollah continued to stockpile rockets capable of demolishing Israeli facilities.

And in 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own.

It began negotiating with Russia.

The goal was to get that country’s gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the “long-running territorial dispute with Israel.”

By the beginning of 2015, a state of mutual deterrence appeared to be setting in.

Although Israel had succeeded in bringing online the smaller of the two fields it set out to develop, drilling in the larger one was indefinitely stalled “in light of the security situation.”

U.S. contractor Noble Energy, hired by the Israelis, was unwilling to invest the necessary $6 billion in facilities that would be vulnerable to Hezbollah attack, and potentially in the gun sights of the Russian navy.

On the Lebanese side, despite an increased Russian naval presence in the region, no work had begun.

Meanwhile, in Syria, where violence was rife and the country in a state of armed collapse, another kind of stalemate went into effect.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria’s claims to that Levantine gas field.

Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.

While the presence of the Russians apparently deterred the Israelis from attempting to develop any Syrian-claimed gas deposits, there was no Russian presence in Syria proper.

So Israel contracted with the U.S.-based Genie Energy Corporation to locate and develop oil fields in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by the Israelis since 1967.

Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal.

At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.

And then there was Cyprus, the only Levantine claimant not at war with Israel. Greek Cypriots had long been in chronic conflict with Turkish Cypriots, so it was hardly surprising that the Levantine natural gas discovery triggered three years of deadlocked negotiations on the island over what to do.

In 2014, the Greek Cypriots signed an exploration contract with Noble Energy, Israel’s chief contractor.

The Turkish Cypriots trumped this move by signing a contract with Turkey to explore all Cypriot claims “as far as Egyptian waters.”

Emulating Israel and Russia, the Turkish government promptly moved three navy vessels into the area to physically block any intervention by other claimants.

As a result, four years of maneuvering around the newly discovered Levantine Basin deposits have produced little energy, but brought new and powerful claimants into the mix, launched a significant military build-up in the region, and heightened tensions immeasurably.

Gaza Again — and Again

Remember the Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel’s northern gas fields?

Over time, it was put in place near the border with Gaza to stop Hamas rockets, and was tested during Operation Returning Echo, the fourth Israeli military attempt to bring Hamas to heel and eliminate any Palestinian “capability to bomb Israel’s strategic gas and electricity installations.”

Launched in March 2012, it replicated on a reduced scale the devastation of Operation Cast Lead, while the Iron Dome achieved a 90% “kill rate” against Hamas rockets.

Even this, however, while a useful adjunct to the vast shelter system built to protect Israeli civilians, was not enough to ensure the protection of the country’s exposed oil facilities.

Even one direct hit there could damage or demolish such fragile and flammable structures.

The failure of Operation Returning Echo to settle anything triggered another round of negotiations, which once again stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. 

The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an “exploration concession” with Gazprom, the huge Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy loomed as a potential deterrent to Israeli interference.

Meanwhile, in 2013, a new round of energy blackouts caused “chaos” across Israel, triggering a draconian 47% increase in electricity prices.

In response, the Netanyahu government considered a proposal to begin extracting domestic shale oil, but the potential contamination of water resources caused a backlash movement that frustrated this effort.

In a country filled with start-up high-tech firms, the exploitation of renewable energy sources was still not being given serious attention.

Instead, the government once again turned to Gaza.

With Gazprom’s move to develop the Palestinian-claimed gas deposits on the horizon, the Israelis launched their fifth military effort to force Palestinian acquiescence, Operation Protective Edge.

It had two major hydrocarbon-related goals: to deter Palestinian-Russian plans and to finally eliminate the Gazan rocket systems.

The first goal was apparently met when Gazprom postponed (perhaps permanently) its development deal.

The second, however, failed when the two-pronged land and air attack — despite unprecedented devastation in Gaza — failed to destroy Hamas’s rocket stockpiles or its tunnel-based assembly system; nor did the Iron Dome achieve the sort of near-perfect interception rate needed to protect proposed energy installations.

There Is No Denouement

After 25 years and five failed Israeli military efforts, Gaza’s natural gas is still underwater and, after four years, the same can be said for almost all of the Levantine gas.

But things are not the same. In energy terms, Israel is ever more desperate, even as it has been building up its military, including its navy, in significant ways.

The other claimants have, in turn, found larger and more powerful partners to help reinforce their economic and military claims.

All of this undoubtedly means that the first quarter-century of crisis over eastern Mediterranean natural gas has been nothing but prelude.

Ahead lies the possibility of bigger gas wars with the devastation they are likely to bring.

Michael Schwartz, an emeritus distinguished teaching professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, is a TomDispatch regular and the author of the award-winning books Radical Protest and Social Structure and The Power Structure of American Business (with Beth Mintz). His TomDispatch book, War Without End, focused on how the militarized geopolitics of oil led the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq. His email address is Michael.Schwartz@stonybrook.edu.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Michael Schwartz

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175961/tomgram%3A_michael_schwartz%2C_israel%2C_gaza%2C_and_energy_wars_in_the_middle_east/

But he just continued on his way. She had to say, “That’s her book” three or four times before he finally took it in. And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn’t read, just read about in the New York Times Book Review a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless — for a moment, before he began holding forth again. Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we’ve never really stopped.
Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Inside China's "New Normal" | TomDispatch
See on Scoop.it - Sustain Our Earth


BEIJING — Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls “new normal” mode.

“Slower” economic activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7% in what is now the globe’s leading economy. Internally, an immensely complex economic restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing, which stands at 44%.


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Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Eurasian Integration vs. the Empire of Chaos | TomDispatch
See on Scoop.it - Sustain Our Earth


We were kids, but they weren’t kidding.  It wasn’t called “Risk: The Game of Global Domination” for nothing. You remember it, I’m sure. You had a territory. You had armies. You could make alliances. You could cheat, stab in the back, and generally scheme to your heart’s content as long as you achieved your goal: the conquest of the world.  And it’s never ended, not for Parker Brothers, nor for the great powers of this planet over the last many centuries.  Look at a Risk board these days and note that whoever controls Europe starts off with Ukraine, while whoever has Asia (with China at its heart) has Russia as well.  Pepe Escobar would find meaning in that line-up. TomDispatch’s peripatetic Eurasian correspondent, he’s the man who discovered Pipelinestan, which, by the way, would have made a thrilling kids’ game filled with skullduggery and historic profits in the service of devastating the planet until the price of oil recently began plunging toward the energy subbasement.  As he points out today, the world is starting to look ever more eerily like a giant game of Risk, especially across the Eurasian subcontinent.


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"Europeans understand, as it seems Americans do not, the intimate connection between a country’s domestic and foreign policies. They often trace America’s reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order. They’ve watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace its decaying infrastructure, disempower most of its organized labor, diminish its schools, bring its national legislature to a standstill, and create the greatest degree of economic and social inequality in almost a century. They understand why Americans, who have ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, are becoming more anxious and fearful. They understand as well why so many Americans have lost trust in a government that has done so little new for them over the past three decades or more, except for Obama’s endlessly embattled health care effort, which seems to most Europeans a pathetically modest proposal."