Trump gave his first speech to the joint houses of the Congress. It was a strange display. He defended his various executive orders with the statement that the United States should not become a 'sanctuary for extremists'. The only thing that came to my mind is this: it is already a sanctuary for extremists, with Steve Bannon and Trump himself leading the way.
In the current issue of Frontline, my Diary from Trumpland continues. This diary entry starts with an admission by a senior diplomat (still in office) who said that he'd prefer to watch re-runs of the Game of Thrones than the news. He feared the velocity of Trump's pronouncements, the madness of each of them, the sheer predictability of their inhumanity. The diplomat's is a sane voice in an increasingly maddening US bureaucracy. The rest of the column is on Russia and Israel-Palestine.
But there is a bit on the art historian who has been placed on the National Security Council. This is perhaps because Trump likes drawings more than texts. So I write: 'He is a deeply visual person. Reading irritates him. His ex-wife Ivana Trump once said that beside his bed, Trump kept a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. One should rest assured that he most likely never read it'.
You can read the column here.
A day before his speech to the US Congress, Trump said that he wanted to increase US military spending by an additional $54 billion - which is itself between 80% to 90% of the entire Russian military budget. Trump's is a proposal saturated in belligerence, but rooted quite firmly in the political economy of the United States - where military production and employment through the military are the basis for counter-cyclical spending. This is what we call Military Keynesianism. The total for the US military budget would then edge close to $700 billion per year.
At Alternet - my home now for the past year (what an anniversary!) - I have a column on US military spending, the pressure this will place on the social side of the budget, the failure of the United States to win wars and the way Trump used the widow of a US serviceman killed in an illegal raid in Yemen to burnish the brand of US militarism. The column ends with this:
- The ‘military industrial complex’ has metastasized into each section of the US government, into each Congressional district. It is like Stage 4 cancer – rigid to the bones of American institutions. The obscenity of it cannot be questioned because of the fog of patriotism. To be a patriot is measured not based on your commitment to end hunger and illiteracy amongst your people. Rather it is measured based on your commitment to give your people a gun in their hands and to make sure your military is funded beyond imagination. Countries are hollowed out by such poor distribution of their resources and by imperial wars that can never be won.
You can read the entire column here.
Finally, two other things to share:
(1) A concerted attack has been ongoing in India driven by the ruling party and executed by its student wing against progressive students and faculty. There is a real push to destroy the open-minded culture of universities and colleges, which had been made deeply democratic by students and faculty politics. The most recent epicentre has been at Ramjas College in Delhi. A group of us faculty members who teach about India and have a connection to India signed a letter in solidarity with the faculty and students. The signatories include Gayatri Spivak, Akeel Bilgrami and others. You can read our letter, published in The Hindu, here.
(2) Teesta Setalvad's book was officially launched in Mumbai (picture from the launch above is of Teesta being photographed by Sidharth Bhatia of The Wire, who was in conversation with her). At the LeftWord Books blog, we have a round-up of the reviews of Teesta's fabulous memoir. You can find it here. There is also an excellent review in the new issue of Frontline by Anupama Katakam, which you can read here.
Coming up soon: reports from Zambia and South Africa as well as more from Trumpland (on the killing of an Indian in Kansas).