We’re back to a mix of history and short shows, which means we’re back to quick intros on the smaller episodes. It looks like I’m finally going to pull together that shorts discussion with some of my old Peace Corps buddies this week, and if I don’t have Vietnam II out by Monday—I’m about fifty fifty on that, but I think it should be out in two weeks if not in one—I’ll have that up for you.
Big thanks to Jeff, the second PoliSci grad student to reach out to me and our newest supporter on Patreon. Share the shows folks. Share, share, share the shows.
Diminished US Power—A Conversation with Rob Morris Safe For Democracy
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I’m getting back on track after my internet outage, and as promised, here’s a make-up of a sort for those last couple of weeks. This is the show that Rob and I recorded back in December, and which went up earlier this week as the December news show on Patreon.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is going to be the second-to-last news show, since I’ve got to just buckle down on the four or five plates I’ve got spinning already. The Patreon site will keep trucking, hopefully with some support, but from here on out, the only exclusive content will be whatever I can cook up that doesn’t fit into the normal podcast, rather than a regular thing.
We’re talking about capitalism, and specifically the ways in which unrestrained, industrialized, late-stage capitalism like ours works to destroy, reconstitute and commodify widely-available goods, usually in such a way as to create a population that is so repressable, the state and its corporate partners don’t even need to repress it.
Big ask for one show. But it’s a reachable one, I think, and everything’s pretty damn interesting on the way there.
It’s pretty straightforward on this one; October’s news show on Corruption just in time for December. Enjoy folks. Patreon people, appreciate the patience while I’m on my monthlong, sabbatical-type trip to see my folks in the US.
I don’t do a lot of heavy quotes in this one, but I do lean very heavily on my sources, so here’s something we’re more used to from the history shows.
I’m running a day late this week, mostly due to hangover, but I’ve got an excuse. This was a three day weekend in Mexico, commemorating the birthday of what wasn’t their first president, or even their first republican president, but what was, because of a messy political century from 1820 to 1920 or so, their first real republican, democratic president, and the first indigenous president elected anywhere in Latin America.
We only got one real new executive order last week. The new travel ban was actually written two weeks ago, and since it was stopped by a federal court as soon as it was supposed to go into effect, until the next wrinkle on that shakes out, the one worth paying attention to is EO 13781, the “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch.”
The EO, on its face, appears to be pretty tame, and definitely to appeal to the folks who got POTUS elected. It directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who puts together the budget for the executive branch, to:
…submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.
You ever notice how our history seems exceptional?
I don’t mean American Exceptionalism the way it comes up in the State of the Union, or not exactly. I mean the way it feels when you think about it, compared to when you think about the history of Rome, say, or Mexico. There’s something less straightforward about it, something more nuanced; we have more shades of gray.
Whether or not you agree with any of that, meditate on it for a minute. Try the Vietnam War. Why were the French in Indochina in the fifties? Because of colonialism, simple. Why were we there in the sixties? Supporting our allies, maybe, or war profiteering, or as part of the containment policy and domino theory. Tell that story to yourself and see if it comes out as cut and dried.
It’s natural and almost inevitable to feel that way about your own history. If you’re American, you probably know more US history more intimately than anyone else’s, and that much just by osmosis. The same is true of French history if you’re French, Canadian if you’re Canadian. I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexican schools, and just like their counterparts in the US, they spend every single semester learning about the same group of guys who founded the Republic, repeated year in and out.
I’ve studied more Roman history, more Latin American history, and more European history than my own, but I have a better feel for how it looked and sounded in the back when in the US than in any other place. Everyone feels this way about their own country’s past, which is, just to note, why the phrase ‘American Exceptionalism’ rubs pretty much everybody in the world the wrong way.