Trump Budget Cuts Bankroll New Waste

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President Trump’s proposed budget takes a big step towards draining the swamp in Washington. This is the first time since the Reagan era that a president has sought a wholesale demolition of boondoggles. On the other hand, Trump’s defense and homeland security spending increases will squander bounties that should be reserved for taxpayers, not bureaucrats and bombs.

Regardless of whether Trump can cajole Congress into imposing the cuts, Americans should welcome candor on an array of federal programs that should have been decimated or abolished long ago:

The Housing and Urban Development budget takes one of the biggest hits — down $6 billion or 13%. The administration aims to sharply cut spending on rental vouchers that are notorious for redistributing violent crime from public housing projects to previously safe urban and suburban neighborhoods. HUD’s flagship HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides grants to states and localities, is also in the budget crosshairs. That program is such a fiasco that HUD was not even aware that hundreds of projects it was bankrolling had not been built until a Washington Post investigation compiled hundreds of aerial photos of empty lots.

Trump calls for abolishing both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The vast majority of spending for the arts comes from private pockets. America does not need a culture commissariat to give federal seals of approval to efforts that please Washington bureaucrats. There is no justice in taxing dishwashers in Arkansas to subsidize programs such as Synetic Theater’s Silent Shakespeare — in which actors gyrate and grope in lieu of delivering the richest bounty of the English language.

Trump recommends abolishing federal subsidies for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When federally financed television and radio began, there were vastly fewer options on the television and radio dial. Considering the bounty that technology is delivering, there is no excuse for spending $445 million a year for news and cultural programming that is consistently biased in favor of Big Government.

According to The Post, Trump wants a 17% cut for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service. The service nowadays prefers to play therapist instead of giving taxpayers the best information available. Last Monday, it realized that it had greatly exaggerated likely snowfalls from winter storm Stella but refused to correct itself because it feared confusing folks. A headline from the Gothamist website summarized that debacle: "National Weather Service: Sorry, you're too stupid to trust with the REAL forecast."

Trump calls for sharply slashing the $1.5 billion budget for Food for Peace, America’s most destructive foreign aid program. For decades, foreign farmers have been bankrupted when US government agencies dump crops in their nations at harvest time. But the program works out well for the farm lobby, the merchant marine and non-profit groups, and its foreign victims have no lobby in Washington.

The homeland security budget proposes to fizzle away billions of dollars on a border wall — a monument to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign that will have little or no impact on curbing illegal immigration.

On the bright side, the budget favors slashing Urban Area Security Initiative grants — a howler of a program that has paid for a latrine-on-wheels in Texas; sno-cone machines in Michigan; and a "zombie apocalypse" show at a training seminar. Also targeted for cuts is the Transportation Security Administration’s goofily named VIPR program (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) — which dispatches TSA teams to pointlessly hassle bus and train passengers in "security theater" at its most absurd.

On the other hand, Trump proposes to devote almost all of the savings from cutting domestic programs into the Pentagon, whose budget would rise by $52 billion, roughly 10%. Since 9/11, the Defense Department has been Washington’s ultimate sacred cow — regardless of how badly US military interventions abroad turned out. A Pentagon advisory panel recently documented $125 billion in bureaucratic waste; Pentagon honchos and their political allies quickly buried that report. The Pentagon Inspector General reported that the Army made $6.5 trillion in erroneous adjustments  (Yes,trillions) to its general fund in 2015. At the least, the Pentagon should receive no additional money until it reveals how it spent previous windfalls.

The specter overhanging Trump’s budget is the possibility that he could jettison his campaign promises and plunge the nation more deeply into conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. If that happens, federal spending could quickly soar out of control as it did in the George W. Bush administration. What is the point of draining the swamp if all the savings are poured down other budgetary rat holes?<

Trump’s budget would be better if it included more corporate welfare targets — such as farm subsidies — on the hit list.

Regardless, his proposals are evoking screams of agony inside The Beltway. A Postarticle fretted that under Trump’s budget, "government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America."

Actually, there was an election last November, and the people who did not want their lives micromanaged by federal agencies won.

James Bovard is author of Public Policy Hooligan.

Reprinted with author's permission from USA Today.

Neocons Strike Back: Kagan Family On The Warpath (Again)

The neocons may have backed Hillary Clinton for the presidency, but that doesn't stop them from demanding the right to define our foreign policy in the Trump Administration. They get their money from the military-industrial complex and unlimited mainstream media exposure as the "experts" -- even though they are always wrong. The first family of neoconservatism, the Kagans, have recently regrouped after the election and have taken to the media to demand more war footing against Russia and a return to the policy of "regime change" in Syria. It appears they are making inroads in the Trump Administration. We discuss the neocon phoenix in today's Liberty Report:

May denies the accusations against the GCHQ, but replaces its director

Finally, Theresa May's government has denied the accusations, formulated [first] by Judge Andrew Napolitano, then by the White House's spokesman, Sean Spicer, that the GCHQ had wire tapped Trump Tower on behalf of Barack Obama. However, at the same time we learn that “in January”, the cabinet appears to have accepted the resignation of the current director of the GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, for personal reasons. The Sunday Times reports that he would soon be replaced by the current director of (...)

Mainstream Media in Total Collapse

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Few any longer believe the “mainstream media,” that is, the presstitutes. This has put them into a panic as the presstitutes lose their value to the ruling elite if the presstitutes cannot control the explanations in order to justify the self-serving agendas of the ruling elite.

To fight back against the alternative media that does tell the truth, a secret group, PropOrNot, as well hidden as an offshore money-laundering operation, published a list of 200 websites accused of being “Russian agents/dupes.” 

PropOrNot’s effort to discredit truth-tellers was hurt by the site’s anonymity.

Consequently, the next list appeared on the website of the Harvard University library, where it is attributed to a Melissa Zimdars of whom no one has ever previously heard. The websites on the list are also on the PropOrNot list, but those of us on Zimbars’ list are no longer “Russian agents/dupes,” merely purveyors of “fake news.”

None of my readers agree that I provide fake news. Indeed, when I tried to retire, my readers demanded that I continue providing them with reliable information as they understand that the presstitue media consists of lies.

Now I hear from bloggers in France that the French newspaper Le Monde has posted a list of conspiratorial news sites, and, yes, French sites that translate and post my columns in the French language are on the list.

It appears that the campaign against truth is being extended to the entirety of the American Empire.

Just as the Washington Post and the Harvard Library made themselves look ridiculous and had to put some distance between themselves and the lists that they publicized, Le Monde will also. Not only was I a columnist for leading French newspapers, such as Liberation (Paris) in the late 1980s and for Le Figaro (Paris) in the early to mid-1990s, but also I was awarded the French Legion of Honor by the President of France in 1987. The honor was personally presented to me at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., by the French Minister of Economics and Finance, and later Prime Minister, Edourad Balladur, at a grand party at which top level Reagan Administration officials attended bearing a letter from the President of the United States congratulating France for recognizing my contributions.

That Le Monde would post such a list proves the truth of Udo Ulfkotte’s statement in his well known book that there is no significant journalist anywhere in Europe that is not on the CIA payroll.

I have wondered if the PropOrNor list was a creation of the presstitute media, such as CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, MSNBC, in order to protect their monopoly over explanations, or whether it was a creation of the CIA in an effort to protect the presstitutes who serve the CIA by controlling the explanations that gullible and ignorant people receive. I suspect that the list is a creation of the CIA or the Department of State. It is a desperate act by those who have lost credibility to keep control over explanations.

The world of lies that comprises life in the Western world and hides reality from the people has destroyed all justification for the West’s long hegemony over humanity. Today the West, corrupt, violent, greedy beyond all measure, evil beyond Satan, is a collection of populations comfortable with the mass murder of millions of Muslims in many countries. When evil can go without challenge, what hope does humanity have?

The Harvard Library website, perhaps in response to criticism, has now identified Melissa Zimdars as an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College. The library distances itself from the list by declaring it to be “an informal list.” The library still has a link to Zimdars’ list of fake news websites, but the link opens to something else. Stephen Lendman provided a copy of Zimdar’s list on Global Research. Notice that WikiLeaks is on Zimdar’s list, which shows Zimdar’s absurdity. WikiLeaks posts no commentary or news, only vetted documents. Here is Zimdars’ list:

21st Century Wire
Activist Post
Antiwar.com
Before Its News.com
Black Agenda Report
Boiling Frogs Post
Common Dreams
Consortium News
Corbett Report
Countercurrents
CounterPunch
David Stockman Contracorner
Fort Russ
Freedoms Phoenix
Global Research
The Greanville Post
Information Clearing House
Intellihub
Intrepid Report
Lew Rockwell
Market Oracle
Mint Press News
Moon of Alabama
Naked Capitalism
Natural News
Nomi Prins
Off-Guardian
Paul Craig Roberts
Pravda.ru
Rense
Rinf
Ron Paul Institute
Ruptly TV
Russia-Insider
Sgt Report
ShadowStats
Shift Frequency
SJLendman.blogspot.com – my alma mater (Harvard) recommends avoiding my writing; new articles posted daily; featuring truth-telling on major issues
Solari
Sott.net
South Front
Sputnik News
Strategic Culture.org
The Anti-Media
The Duran
The Intercept
The People’s Voice
The Saker
The Sleuth Journal
Third World Traveler
Voltairenet
What Really Happened
Who What Why
WikiLeaks
Zero Hedge

Reprinted with permission from PaulCraigRoberts.org.

Washington halves its financial contribution to the UN

President Donald Trump has instructed his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to reduce by half the US's financial participation for UN expenses over the next three years. This decision was made following the request for an audit of Nikki Halley, the UN ambassador to the Security Council. Since July 2012 and the appointment of Jeffrey Feltman as the head of the UN Policy Department, UN resources are used by the US Deep State to pursue its goals to remodel an expanded Middle East and to cut (...)

Tears of Solidarity

The story of Ann Atwater and Claiborne Paul (C. P.) Ellis is beautifully told in Osha Gray Davidson’s book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South. Atwater, a domestic worker whose parents were sharecroppers, was a civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina. Ellis, the son of a millhand, was a janitor at Duke University and a local Klan leader. In 1971, after battling each other for years, Atwater and Ellis ended up co-chairing a ten-day public forum—a “charrette,” as it was called—that brought together black and white community members to address problems in Durham’s public schools. It was a fraught process.

Ellis and Atwater couldn’t stand each other. To Atwater, Ellis was an ignorant racist cracker. To Ellis, Atwater was a mean, loudmouthed black woman who was forever blaming white people for her problems. Despite their mutual antipathy, they joined the forum steering committee to represent their racial communities and ensure that the other did not participate unopposed. Ellis and Atwater were nominated to co-chair the charrette on the grounds that its leaders should represent different points of view. Both reluctantly agreed.

When news of the co-chairing arrangement was announced, Ellis and Atwater were rebuked by their friends. Some members of the Klan called Ellis a race traitor and threatened to kill him. Atwater’s people berated her for agreeing to work with an avowed white supremacist.

During the planning stages, Ellis wouldn’t even speak to Atwater. Yet he wanted to make the process work; he thought that the right solutions to the school system’s problems could reduce the harm that integration was doing to white children. He also wanted to show his fellow Klansmen that he hadn’t sold out and was working behind the scenes to represent their interests. So he reached out to Atwater, proposing that they set aside their feelings and cooperate to make the charrette a success. Again, she agreed, warily.

A few months later, at the end of the second day of the charrette, exhausted after twelve hours of meetings, Ellis and Atwater collapsed in adjacent chairs and began to talk to each other more personally. Ellis told Atwater that his kids had been taunted in school because he was working with her. Atwater told Ellis that her kids had gotten the same treatment because she was working with him. They talked about how teachers always seemed to find fault with their kids rather than with kids from more affluent families. Ellis was amazed to learn that Atwater was human and that her problems were much like his own. Davidson’s account of this scene leaves no doubt that it was a transformative moment:

P. couldn’t believe what he was hearing. But even more amazing to him was what he was saying—and to whom. He was sharing his most intimate grievances, all of his doubts and failures, with the hated Ann Atwater. The militant he usually referred to with a sneer as “that fat nigger.” And yet, here they were, talking like old friends. As if she wasn’t black at all, or he wasn’t white, or as if all that didn’t matter. He looked at her and it was as if he was seeing her for the first time. He was stunned by what he saw. Mirrored in her face were the same deeply etched lines of work and worry that marked his own face. And suddenly he was crying. The tears came without warning, and once started, he was unable to stop them. Ann was dumbfounded, but she reacted instinctively by reaching out and taking his hand in her own. She tried to comfort him, stroking his hand and murmuring, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” as he sobbed. Then she, too, began to cry.

A little over a week later, Ellis addressed a ballroom crowd gathered to celebrate the end of the charrette and delivery of its report to the community. He had by then begun his break from the Klan. “Something has happened to me,” Ellis said, departing from his script and remarking on how the experience had affected him. “I think it’s for the best.”

Completing the transformation begun during the charrette was not easy for Ellis. For a time, he struggled with the new feelings and understandings that had upended his world. What he had come to see, through working with Atwater and the other black people who had credited his honesty and treated him with respect, despite his repugnant views, was that black people were not his problem.

Rocky and uncertain though the process was, by working together Ellis and Atwater discovered that race was a fiction that masked their common class interests. Their struggles to make decent lives for themselves and their children, they came to see, did not arise from the other side of a color line but from above them on a class ladder. Both were disdained by the political and economic elites of their respective racial communities. Both were subject to exploitation because of their lack of education and wealth. Both could make gains by uniting to fight the same power structure that held them down.

Eventually, Ellis and Atwater became not only temporary allies but long-time friends. After the charrette, Ellis publicly renounced the Klan and went on to become a union organizer. He worked for the International Union of Operating Engineers for eighteen years before his retirement in 1994. Ellis was 78 when he died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2005. Atwater, who said at Ellis’s funeral that God had brought them together for a purpose, remained a community activist until her death at 80 in 2016.

*     *     *

Forty-six years after the events that are at its core, the story of C. P. Ellis and Ann Atwater still holds valuable lessons about the place of identity politics in a capitalist society. In some ways, their story begins with identities: his as a white man and hers as a black woman. If not for these ascribed identities—identities deriving from social categories that existed long before they were born—Ellis and Atwater might never have been antagonists.

The racial identities bequeathed to Ellis and Atwater led them to believe that they were fundamentally different kinds of people. These were not equally valued identities, of course. The ideology of white supremacy allowed Ellis to imagine that his value as a human being was greater than Atwater’s, simply because he was white and she was black. It was this investment in a feeling of white superiority that made his identity as a white man worth defending. The Klan was unusual only in that it made this valuation, unspoken in polite company, explicit.

What Ellis had accepted, as W. E. B. Du Bois famously called it, was the psychological wage of whiteness. This wage was paid in the currency of positive feeling, resting on a false belief in white superiority. Dating to the late 1600s, colonial elites in North bestenemiesAmerica offered indentured workers of European descent modest privileges and a chance to identify as “white”—as being of the same superior racial stock as members of the ruling class—as a way to divide them from workers of African descent, thereby to quell the threat of working-class solidarity. The psychological wage of whiteness also made exploitation more bearable and less likely to erupt into rebellion. In exchange for this ideological balm, white workers accepted lower wages, less political power, and loss of part of their humanity.

For Ellis and many others, membership in the Klan raised the psychological wage of identifying as white, offering, as always, a form of compensation for economic marginality. More than this, Klan ideology misidentified the source of that marginality, blaming blacks, Jews, and communists. The charrette process taught Ellis that he’d been misled, that he’d gotten many things wrong. He came to see that he’d implicitly accepted a bargain that would forever leave him—and other working-class people, black and white—exploitable and exploited by political and economic elites. He came to see, as working with Atwater brought about a change of heart and mind, that racism had cost him a piece of his soul.

The Ellis/Atwater story is extraordinary in that it involves a dramatic transformation of rare degree. This is part of what makes it so compelling; it inspires hope, as the subtitle of Davidson’s book implies, that even vehement racists are redeemable. But there is another reason to find the story compelling: it demonstrates the principle that the best way to overcome prejudice and racism is to get people working together, as equals, on a common problem.

The story can also be read as a cautionary tale about identity politics, though it’s not a simple one. While racial identities divided Atwater and Ellis, those identities also drew them together. If not for civil rights struggles on the part of people identified as “black” and acting in solidarity on the basis of this identity, Atwater would not have had a constituency. Even Ellis, whose racial identity tied him to a historically dominant group, was involved largely because he saw himself as leading a put-upon faction of that group. If not for these differences, and a willingness on the part of the charrette organizers to acknowledge them, Ellis and Atwater would not have discovered their shared class interests. Concerns for diversity and inclusion can thus produce results that are, as the saying goes, more than the sum of their parts.

Yet there is indeed a cautionary lesson here, one that echoes analyses that cite the election of Donald Trump as evidence of the failure of identity politics. What those politics have amounted to, critics say, is an obsession with identity that obscures the larger reality of class oppression. According to this critique, many progressives have been more concerned in recent decades with expressing their racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities, and with having those expressions honored, than with working together, across lines of difference, to challenge the capitalist system that depends on exploitation and division for its existence. Identity politics has thus led us, as Walter Benn Michaels argues, to love diversity and ignore inequality. Which is precisely what Ellis and Atwater did not do.

In more positive terms, the lesson is that what Ellis did is what working-class whites must do more generally: develop a consciousness of class that reveals their common interests with working-class people of color. As with Ellis, this consciousness, this way of understanding how capitalist society works, would begin, at the very least, to put the notion of race into question. In the long run, class consciousness might well dissolve it. Getting to that point, the point where the wages of whiteness are understood as cheap payoff for accepting subordination, won’t happen solely through encounters with texts. It will require encounters with flesh-and-blood Others, under conditions like those of the Durham charrette.

To say that more attention should be paid to class is not to say that racism and sexism should be relegated to the background. It is not to say that demands for fair and equal treatment by women and people of color should be tabled until capitalism is abolished. That was the dysfunctional approach of an older Left, one dominated by white males, and it is part of what produced the divisive identity politics of the 1970s and ’80s. We should not make this mistake again.

The kind of coming together needed to discover common class interests will happen only if women and people of color are afforded no less dignity and respect than white males. But this won’t happen by piously calling out people for microaggressions and politically incorrect speech. What it will require, again, is the kind of hard collaboration through which Ellis and Atwater came to feel each other’s humanity. It is this feeling of respect for the other that undermines racism. Knowing that the cared-for other can be hurt by what we say—and that what we say can strengthen or undermine a relationship that is essential to accomplishing an important task—is the knowledge that drives out racism and sexism. This process takes time and entails painful mistakes.

Trump’s victory has led to much liberal hand-wringing about how the Democratic party can “win back” working-class whites. This is a dead-end concern. Even if campaign rhetoric attracted the votes of more working-class whites, it still would be drawing those votes to a pro-corporate party—a party whose capitalist paymasters create the very problems that greater class consciousness would bring to the fore. It would be a mistake, too, because seducing working-class voters with populist rhetoric is far different from teaching people to think critically about the capitalist system and the undemocratic concentrations of power that are the root of their problems. And it is far different from nurturing the extra-electoral social movements through which changes in consciousness occur.

Some left-of-liberal commentary has questioned the prospects for altering the hearts and minds of working-class whites drawn to Trump’s right-wing populism. Anthony DiMaggio describes Trump supporters as representing a “perverse fusion of economic discontent and hateful, right-wing bigotry and nationalism,” arguing that they are less open to progressive ideas than many on the left think. No doubt DiMaggio is right about a large portion of Trump supporters. Likewise he would have been right, fifty years ago, had he offered this characterization of C. P. Ellis.

In the face of this grim obduracy, the challenge is somehow to recreate the process that changed Ellis and Atwater. Showing how the richest .1% rigs politics and the economy in its favor is not enough. Urging people to be more empathic, to consider the suffering of others, is not enough. Exposing racism and sexism as based on lies and misconceptions is not enough. Bringing people together to share their stories and get to know each other is important but not enough. Much of this work has been done and is being done. And it is not enough.

What changed Ellis and Atwater was the opening-up to each other’s humanity that they experienced, face to face, in working together as equals to solve a common problem. This is the kind of experience that must be recreated. Without class consciousness, working-class whites are not the future of progressive politics in America. But when tears of solidarity break the levees of oppression, anything is possible.

Content and specifics matter, too. Any bringing-together that occurs, if it is going to build class consciousness and unite working-class whites and working-class people of color, will have to address common problems that are rooted in class domination. Fortunately, perhaps, this is true with regard to most problems—from crumbling public schools to stagnating wages to unaffordable health care to unaccountable police—faced by all working-class Americans.

So perhaps we need a national round of charrettes. The North Carolina AFL-CIO initiated the Durham charrette; unions, churches, and social movement groups might play similar facilitating roles today. In any case, two things seem clear. One is the need to focus on trying to solve real problems in a way that builds class solidarity. The second is that without a focus on real, shared problems that need solving, identity politics will likely run the process aground.

To have a chance of success, charrettes (or whatever they might be called) would need to be both local and diverse. Locality, a deep regard for a place called home, is what makes people care enough to participate; diversity is what helps conquer the biases that lock inequality in place. What else we might discover, as Atwater and Ellis did, is that the problems we face can’t be solved by diversifying the personnel who control the machineries of oppression but only by dismantling those machineries entirely.

 

Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done

Brexit is English nationalism made flesh, but the English underrate its destructive potential as a form of communal identity. Concepts like “nationalism” and “self-determination” have traditionally been seen as something that happens to foreigners. An English failing today is an inability to recognise the egocentricity implicit in such nationalism and the extent to which it alienates and invites confrontation with other nations in the British Isles and beyond.

A classic example of this blindness to the consequences of this new type of nationalism came this week when Theresa May denounced Nicola Sturgeon for “playing politics with the future of our country” in demanding a second referendum on Scottish independence. This immediately begs the question about the nature and location of this “country” to which such uncritical loyalty is due. If the state in question is the UK, then why do the advocates of Brexit ignore the opposition – and take for granted the compliance – of Scotland and Northern Ireland in leaving the EU?

It is worth recalling the degree to which British politics was divided and poisoned by fierce disputes over Irish independence for the whole of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, right up to the moment that Ireland achieved self-determination in 1921. What used to be called “the Irish Question” has now been reborn as an all-consuming issue by “the Scottish Question” and, whatever the timing and outcome of a second Scottish referendum, it is not going to go away. Supposing that Theresa May really believes, as her patronising rejection of another poll in Scotland might suggest, that “the Scottish Question” can be indefinitely delayed, then she will be joining a long dismal list of British leaders down the centuries who made the same mistake about Ireland.

English politicians have frequently had a tin ear when it comes to other people’s nationalism, imagining that it can be satisfied by material concessions or rebutted by arguments about independence inflicting unacceptable economic damage. English people often have an equally muddled or myopic vision of their own nationalism, using the terms “English” and “British” as if they were synonymous or marked a distinction of no great account. They therefore do not see how their nationalism has changed significantly in the last few years and is making the continuation of the UK less and less likely. The transformation is also obscured because the ingredients of nationalist identity are in any case hazy since a successful nationalist movement becomes the vehicle for all sorts of grievances and protests.

British nationalism was in the past more fluid than Irish or continental nationalism because it did not face such intense pressures. It needed to be adaptable and inclusive enough to meet the needs of empire and a post-imperial world. It was primarily territorial within the island of Britain, rather than ethnic, religious or linguistic, and was so successful and self-confident that it did not closely define exactly what made somebody British. Strident assertions by Ulster Protestants about their “Britishness” sounded foreign and rather embarrassing to people in the rest of the UK.

The new English nationalism that surfaced so strongly during the Brexit campaign is, ironically, much closer to continental traditions of nationalism. It is much more ethnically and culturally exclusive than the English/British tradition, which developed when British politics stabilised after prolonged turmoil and civil war at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

What makes the new English nationalism so dangerous post-Brexit is that it is deeply felt but incoherent and comes with little self-knowledge. It is more dangerous than the elephant in the room, whose presence nobody will acknowledge, because in this case the elephant is scarcely aware of its own bulk and impact upon others. As a system of beliefs the new nationalism is much more appropriate to an English nation state than to a more diverse United Kingdom. Yet there is genuine bafflement among English people when the Scots apply the same arguments as Brexiters used to justify leaving the EU to justify Scottish independence. It takes a good deal of cheek for Theresa May, as she initiates Britain’s withdrawal from the EU – the consequences of which even its protagonists admit nobody knows – to accuse Nicola Sturgeon of setting “Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty.”

It should be quickly said that there is nothing wrong with there being an English nation state. The left tends to denigrate or suspect nationalism as a mask for racism or, at best, a diversion from more important social and political issues. It can be both, but nationalism has also been the essential glue for progressive and liberal movements since the American War of Independence. If it has fallen into the hands of the xenophobic right in England and the US in recent years, that is the fault of those who saw it as illegitimate, obsolete and irrelevant in a globalising world.

Because the new nationalism sees itself in a vague way as seeking to return to a mythical England, which seems to have had its terminal date in about 1960, it is not good at seeing that its project is new and different from what went before. The old British state, as it developed from the end of the seventeenth century, was known – and often detested by other states – for its acute sense of its own interests. The new English nation state stretching from the Channel to the Tweed seems to have little idea of its own strengths and weaknesses and will be much less capable of charting an independent course in the world, whatever its pretensions “to be taking back control”.

One of the curiosities of the Brexit referendum was that, while the Leaves frequently beat the patriotic drum and spoke of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the Battle of Britain in 1940, they showed little interest in or knowledge of history. Before the eighteenth century, English governments spent much of their energies and resources fighting the Scots, Irish and Welsh. In the years before Agincourt, Henry V learned to be a soldier suppressing Welsh uprisings. Scottish and Irish rebellions played a central role in precipitating and determining the outcome of the English Civil War. An end to this disunity through repression or conciliation launched Britain as a great power. A return to instability in relations between the nations living in the British Isles will have the opposite effect.

Britain is already weaker as a state than it was two years ago because its government is wholly preoccupied with Brexit and the prospect of Scottish secession from the UK. All other pressing problems facing the country must wait, possibly for decades, until these issues are dealt with. The break-up of Britain is not something that may or may not happen as the result of a second referendum, but is already upon us. The confrontation between English and Scottish nationalism is not going to moderate or evaporate. The one certainty is that “The Scottish Question” and Brexit have come together to destabilise Britain for years to come.

Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll

On a hot night in July 1969, I was standing with at least a thousand other people on the narrow road that led to Wollman Rink in Central Park, waiting to get into the late show of a concert featuring John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and The Byrds, that as part of the Schaefer Music Festival cost a whopping two dollars.  Suddenly the entire line in front of me jumped off the road and onto the grass.  A black Cadillac came down the road away from the rink, with one person inside, the driver, Chuck Berry.  That was as close as I got to Chuck Berry that night, and as close as I got period.  It didn’t matter what the contract said, it didn’t matter thousands were there to see him, Chuck Berry did one show a night and that was that.

Several years later I tried to see him again at a club called Alexander’s in Browns Mills, New Jersey.  The place was packed, and every once in a while I managed a glimpse of the top of Berry’s head.  I didn’t try again and it didn’t really matter.  Chuck Berry was notorious for bad shows.  He refused to have his own band, and promoters would wind up hiring the cheapest band they could get, figuring every band could play Chuck Berry songs, which wasn’t necessarily the case.  They may have known the songs, playing them right is a different matter.  That said, I’ve spent a lot of time since Berry’s death Saturday trying to think of a musician in my lifetime who had a greater influence, because every kid who’s picked up an electric guitar since 1955 did it whether they realize it or not because of Chuck Berry.

Chuck Berry knew exactly where his music came from.  Check out this clip of the Tonight Show from 1987 where Johnny Carson in one of his finer moments, realizing he was in the presence of greatness cancelled his other guests while the show was happening and devoted the entire show to Berry.  Berry says exactly what he was trying to do, and where it came from.

Add in country music and the Western Swing of Bob Wills to the mix (“Maybelline” borrows heavily from Wills’ “Ida Red,” and the realization sets in that Berry was working firmly in what the folkies of the ’50s and ’60s called the folk tradition.

Berry was 29 when his first single “Maybelline” became a hit, not young by rock and roll standards.  His look, his duck walk, and that he used his guitar as a weapon (his licks were actually answering his lyrics) surely scared the shit out of millions of white parents.  Songs like “School Days,” still the best depiction of high school didn’t ease their fears.  In 1962 he was busted for violation of the Mann Act and sentenced to prison though he didn’t serve the full term.  By all accounts he emerged a changed and bitter man.  He still managed a few hits such as the “School Days” rewrite, “No Particular Place To Go,” “Nadine,” and “You Never Can Tell.”  His only number one hit was the unfortunate “My Ding A Ling” in 1972.

It was however in his lyrics that Berry’s true genius emerged.  Most of his songs tell a story, his use of imagery, making up words when he had to – was “motorvatin’” used before Chuck Berry? – was beyond brilliant.  Put his lyrics on paper and they read like pure poetry, flowing effortlessly in perfect meter.  Take this verse from “Promised Land,” and every other verse in the song is its equal.

Swing low sweet chariot, come down easy
Taxi to the terminal zone;
Cut your engines, cool your wings,
And let me make it to the telephone.

That use of language is in all his best songs, the reason why his songs were covered by hundreds of musicians and played for more than half a century in bars around the world.  And it’s why most people of my generation know the words to “Sweet Little 16” without even thinking about it.  Chuck Berry set the standard for rock and roll lyric writing.

As news of Berry’s death spread, my Facebook news feed was close to all tributes to Berry, and several people commented, “The real king of rock and roll.”  I don’t like to think like that.  They were all great for different reasons.  Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis were simply fireballs of energy.  Berry was a bit more sophisticated and his energy was in his guitar.  John Lennon once said of rock and roll, “You can call it Chuck Berry,” and that pretty much sums it up.

What Trump’s Travel Ban Reveals About His Long-Term Educational Policy

President Trump’s executive order that bans refugees and immigrants from six predominately Muslim nations from entering the United States, at first blush, has little to do with educational policy. Yet, upon closer inspection, this xenophobic action is possibly telling of the president’s vision regarding America’s public schools.

What, then, does this executive ban on refugees say about the president’s educational agenda? One possibility, of course, is nothing. Given Trump’s documented pattern of short-sighted, almost impulsive action, it is certainly conceivable that his executive order is not part of any comprehensive plan that connects to educational policy. He, then, is merely fulfilling his campaign promises to address the largely unwarranted fear of Middle Eastern families fleeing tumult and civil war.

Similarly, it is also possible that President Trump is woefully unaware of the social purposes of a public education system. That is, schooling at taxpayers’ expense has long had a broader aim than merely an individual’s academic or economic advancement. America’s system of public schools developed in the first half of the nineteenth century with the justification that the training of the coming generations to be upstanding democratic citizens was a social necessity. The nineteenth century was a time of massive waves of immigration and, as such, it was fully understood and accepted that these new institutions would assimilate newcomers to the norms and values of the United States (although, at times and for some groups, the Americanization process was too heavy-handed and sought more to undermine the immigrants’ cultural traditions than to inculcate democratic values).

The ban also could point to the notion that the president and his advisors have lost faith in the acculturating power of America’s public institutions, notably its schools. This view is not without historical precedent. During the Progressive Era, many Americans feared that the public schools could not adequately Americanize the large numbers of refugees and immigrants arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe. As a consequence, various restrictions were put on immigration, culminating with the Johnson-Reed Act of the 1920s which essentially eliminated the flow of Italians, Poles, and Russian Jews—groups that were deemed inferior and dangerous—into the United States.

Most concerning, however, is that President Trump’s executive ban on Muslim refugees is intimately connected with his educational agenda. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, seemed to confirm this view by suggesting that all of the president’s executive orders and cabinet nominations were part of a larger agenda to “deconstruct” current governmental policies and regulations. Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is certainly no champion of public education. Instead, she has advocated for for-profit charter schools and school vouchers. If taken to the extreme, a hodgepodge of private and charter schools would replace public education in America. With no coherent public system—a system with a civic mission devoted to promoting democratic ideals and values—perhaps the simplest way to address the xenophobia that the president and his supporters feel is outright immigration restriction.

I have long thought it strange that the political leaders who express the greatest fear of immigrants and refugees also undermine the public schools that aim at developing engaged and thoughtful democratic citizens, thus making that such fears unnecessary. But, perhaps it is not so odd if, in the end, their goal is to eliminate the very system of public educational institutions that promote civic responsibility and a democratic ethic.

Paul J. Ramsey is an associate professor at Eastern Michigan University and is the author of numerous works on the history of immigrant education, including Bilingual Public Schooling in the United States: A History of America’s “Polyglot Boardinghouse”(Palgrave Macmillan).