Lion an Affecting Film

LION (2016)
Directed by Garth Davis
Weinstein Company, 118 minutes, Not-rated (in English, Hindi, Bengali)
* * * *

Unless you swore off movies two decades ago, you know the East-meets-West genre—the one in which some circumstance (comic, tragic, romantic) thrusts postindustrial Westerners into close contact with someone darker-skinned with a different world view. Distrust, misunderstanding, and broad humor eventually mutate into acceptance and/or respect and/or friendship/love. British directors, in particular, find the urge to use Pakistani and Indian actors as irresistible as the American compulsion to have characters shoot each other. Lion is different—a film that stands high above the pride of cookie cutter banality.

Maybe it helps if the story is true. This one is based on an autobiographical book by Saroo Brierly that covers his life from ages five to thirty. Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) spent his first five years in a Bengali-speaking peasant village with his mother (Priyanka Bose) and older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). Theirs is life at the margins—the sort in which the two boys hop freight trains and poach coal to trade at the local market for two small bags of milk that their mother will use to make their evening meal. But Saroo is content, as long as he gets to follow his brother around like a faithful puppy. He even begs Guddu to let him go along to a nearby city for an all-night job.

That’s where the trouble begins. Saroo can’t stay awake and Guddu can’t walk away from a job that helps put food on the brazier. Guddu tells Saroo to sleep on the train station bench and await his return. One of the many things director Garth Davis does well in his directorial debut is convincingly take us inside the mind of a five-year-old. At what point does a small boy imagine he has waited long enough and set off to look for his brother? Saroo searches the cars at the railhead and is trapped when the doors lock and the train begins to move. It is the start of a journey that will take him more than a thousand miles from home—to Kolkata. Put yourself in Saroo’s sandals. He can’t even ask a policeman for help as they speak Hindi there, plus the cop probably wouldn’t care—India has an estimated 30 million street children. Plus, it’s Kolkata—a chilling mise en scene for the first half of the film. The city may have its charms, but what’s depicted here invokes the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Saroo becomes one of Kolkata’s street children—dodging all manner of dangers—until he’s scooped up and deposited in an orphanage so vile it would have made Charles Dickens sick. He still speaks only rudimentary Hindi and he’s still five. He is asked: “What is your mother’s name?” “Mom,” he replies—a single word that will tear out your heart. You want cultural misunderstanding? When Saroo asks a caseworker if they’ve looked for his mother, she indignantly tells him they published his details in a Kolkata newspaper read by many millions. Umm… Did it not occur to her that a Bengali-speaking boy probably isn’t from around those parts? Or that, like most peasant women, maybe his mother is illiterate? Watch out for young actor Sunny Pawar, who is cute as a button but also exudes precocious acting chops—a bit like Dev Patel, who made his acting debut in Slumdog Millionaire and plays older Saroo in Lion.

Young Saroo’s life takes an unlikely turn when John and Sue Brierly (John Wenham and Nicole Kidman), an Australian couple living in Tasmania, adopt him. We watch him and another boy try to shed their Indian skins and adapt to Aussie ways, then the film jumps ahead twenty-five years. Saroo (Dev Patel) has more than adapted. Although he hangs out with some other Indian lads at college in Melbourne, he has a white girlfriend (Rooney Mara), has lost patience with his brother’s bad behavior, and when asked by his peers who he favors in a cricket test match between India and Australia he replies, “Australia, of course.” But a small trigger sets off something deep inside and Saroo finds himself obsessed by his birth family. Here is where Davis shows a remarkably light touch. He does not opt for any sort of clichéd search-for-roots sentimentality—Saroo doesn’t want to be Indian; he’s consumed by the sad thought that people have wondered about him for twenty-five years. John and Sue are his mom and dad as far as he’s concerned, but he needs to see if it’s possible to find his birth mother. But remember—he was five when he left and his only firm memory of his hometown is a non-descript concrete water tower. He has no idea of what his town was named. Can he find out in the age of Google Earth and online archives?

Both halves of this film are deeply affecting. Patel has grown into a strikingly handsome young man and as an actor has begun to shed the frippery displayed in earlier films such as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise. Lion surprises you at numerous steps, probably because the things we see really happened and life isn’t subject to script-washing. It is easily the best new film I’ve seen in the past few months. Check it out—you may be traumatized in places, but you’ll leave the theatre satisfied. By the way, you’ll need to stay for the credits to find out why the film is named Lion.

Rob Weir    


A Progressive Platform


In recent posts I’ve outlined a possible Democratic Party makeover that shifts left and runs contrary to head-in-the-sand Democratic leaders who think the party needs to be more “mainstream,” a code word for “conservative.” Follow that hidebound advice and Progressives will take down the party faster than the GOP.

Let me make it stark: Progressives are done with the Democratic Guilt Trip. Every time an election comes around Democrats insist we “must” vote for them, or the country will be taken over by the Neanderthal Right. Then they get their butts kicked by the Neanderthals. Progressives are done taking the blame for liberal ineptitude. The time for guilt trips, fear-mongering, pandering, and shifting the blame is over.  Eugene Debs said it best: “I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want and get it.”

I get asked how Progressives are different from liberals. Here’s a 30-point Progressive agenda. Unrealistic? As opposed to what? All those things Democrats haven't enacted since LBJ? Democrats can either lead or get the hell out of the way. I am not optimistic about  the Democratic Party's willingness to change, but if Democrats want to keep Progressives, below are some of the directions they should be heading.

1. Free trade and free labor, or neither. It’s insane that goods move across the globe without restriction but workers can’t. What would Chinese steel factories look like with an influx of American-born workers? Can’t imagine this could ever happen? It was the way of the 19th century industrial world and the practice didn't end at the behest of wage earners.

2. Passage of a Workers’ Bill of Rights whose codes are prerequisites to most favored nation trade status. The current Hobbesian “race to the bottom” must end.

3. Forbid the export of new technology for 20 years. We’ve had four major recessions since 1980. Among the reasons is the export of the very sector that was supposed to take up the postindustrial slack: the high tech sector. We invented the computer revolution—and allowed investors to send it to Asia. Medical technology and green energy advances loom. Keep them here.
4. Strong anti-offshoring laws that penalize companies that close American plants and send them out of the country. Tax loopholes encouraging this should be closed. Slap a pre-tax import on the percentage of offshore production of U.S. firms. That is, if Ford makes 30% of its vehicles abroad, 30% of Ford’s total fleet is subject to an import tariff. By the way, know who sells the most American-made cars in the USA? Toyota!

5. Anti-raiding laws that prevent states from stealing jobs from other states. A first step would be enacting prevailing wage laws that mandate, for instance, that Tennessee auto workers must be paid the industry standard for all autoworkers.

6.  Living wage laws instead of a minimum wage. It’s morally unacceptable when full-time workers cannot survive on their compensation.

7. Repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act and all right-to-work legislation. Workers will never have dignity until there are countervailing forces to what is currently unchecked corporate power. Unions should be automatically certified when a majority of workers sign cards in favor. RICO laws should be applied to union-breaking consultants and tactics.

8. Enact minimum corporate and wealth taxes. These should be based on net worth, not current- year “earnings.” The latter have become little more than accountant tricks. There is no justice to allowing figures such as Donald Trump to avoid paying taxes. How about mandatory audits for all rich individuals and companies posting losses? Make them open the books.

9. Enact carbon taxes and end all tax write-offs for coal, gas, and oil exploration. Invest the tax revenues in green energy research and development.

10. Enact a national infrastructure improvement bill. Establish oversight committees to monitor cost control. Progressives are sick of hearing that there’s no money, given that much of the current national infrastructure was built during the Great Depression!  

11. Enact a Value Added Tax (VAT) to generate more revenue for social services and infrastructure improvement. Also slap heavier taxes on unimproved property—an old Henry George idea that would encourage development and penalize speculation.

12. Eliminate most tax deductions and return to a for-real graduated income tax scale.

13. End tax-exempt status for churches, colleges, and all other agencies not involved in direct services to disadvantaged people.

14. Eliminate most social/welfare services by enacting a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) for all Americans that is pegged to the cost of living. This income should be tax-free, as should be all income that replicates that amount. Taxes kick in when that level is exceeded. For instance, if the GAI is $40,000, individuals can earn another $40k above it, thereby exempting $80,000 from income taxes.

 15. Free universal health care for all Americans. No one should profit from human illness, nor should health care be subject to market forces.

16. Repeal the current cap on Social Security taxes. This would make the system solvent into the 23rd century. It would also fund an expansion of Medicare to all Americans.

17. Hard-fast separation of church and state. Limit public displays of religion. Treat all religious public advocacy as political advocacy.

18 Pass a National Hate Crimes Act that removes such acts from state and local control and prosecutes allegations in federal courts.

19. Repeal the 1994 Communications Act and forbid media moguls or conglomerates from operating more than one media outlet within a given region. Open competition to all comers, including competitive cable and telecommunications carriers within the same market.

20. Pass an Accuracy in Media Act that authorizes the FCC to suspend the license of media that do not engage in fair and balanced coverage. Establish truth panels to insure accurate coverage.

21. Pass a new Glass-Steagall Act to re-regulate the banking industry and end reckless speculation in mortgages and questionable investment instruments. Cap interest rates on student loans.

22. Pass an Equal Rights Amendment to make gender discrimination actionable.

23. Establish age 75 as the mandatory upper-range retirement age for all federal employees, including members of Congress and Supreme Court justices.

24. Overturn the Citizens United decision. Corporations are not people and big money democracy is an oxymoron.

25. Enact a National Privacy Act that protects reproductive rights, sexual freedom, marriage rights, and other personal freedoms that do not endanger the public.

26. Require all lobbyists to appear before an ethics panel before they are authorized to approach members of Congress. All lobbyist pitches should be subject to public sunshine legislation and severe penalties should be put in place for secret lobbying.

27. Enact a national educational curriculum and mandate a per pupil spending floor. All districts within a state must rise to that floor before any district can go above it.

28. Consumer laws should be strengthened, including laws forbidding animal testing and inhumane treatment of animals.

29. Reform the War Power Act and require Congressional approval before the president can take military action for any reason other than a direct attack on the United States that threatens national survival.

30. Dramatically decrease defense spending by shifting the emphasis to homeland security and ending unilateral military ventures abroad. Cancel expensive military weapons systems and focus only on those necessary for defense. Redeploy military personnel to American cities by creating a U.S. version of the Carabinieri. Place urban police departments under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security and require joint military/police patrols and crime investigation. The constant recycling of military personnel would greatly reduce police corruption and military involvement would beef up law enforcement in high-crime and gang-ridden areas.


Sleeping at Last: Music to Ease Your Soul and Help Humankind

The Spring

Forget the five-star rating for a moment. Every now and then something comes along that restores your faith in humankind. This is one of those projects. Before you listen to this music, go to YouTube and spend 20 minutes watching the video that explains what inspired it. Take a box of Kleenex, as you will witness things magical, soul stirring, and heart breaking. The first notes you hear will sound like a gentle rain. They come from "Atlantic," the opening track of The Spring and the track snippets are interspersed throughout. Watch and then read my review.

Feeling better? Sad? Inspired? You'd better be feeling something, friend, or you've lost your humanity. Let's talk about the "band" and then the music from The Spring. First, Sleeping at Last isn't really a band per se. It started as a three-piece post-punk band in Wheaton, Illinois back in 1999, but these days it's the handle for solo projects launched by Ryan O'Neal (no–not the actor). Some of you may have heard their music in the background of episodes of Grey's Anatomy. When the original trio broke up, O'Neal moved more deeply toward a style of music sometimes labeled "emo." That's short for emotional and it is used to describe a very expressive and lush music–"emotional hardcore" according to some definitions. In other words, it's aimed at getting you in touch with your feelings, not your feet. Some would call it "New Age," but even a casual listen to The Spring reveals that Sleeping at Last doesn't quite fit that bill–New Age is often more overtly spiritual, tends to rely more on electronic sounds, is meditative in quality, and is rooted more in jazz; emo is a subgenre of alt.rock, prefers live (not remixed) instrumentation, has stronger melody lines, and is less interested in making you feel relaxed. There's no denying the lullaby-like qualities of Sleeping at Last, but there's also (if I might) an emotionally unsettling quality about many of the tunes.

I adore O'Neal's projects and I'd listen to him play music about cleaning out the fridge, but The Spring ought to be nominated for an Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian prize. He enlisted cellist Sharon Gerber (Celloasis) to add sonorous bottom to his piano, and Ms. Gerber brought along her daughter, Anya, an accomplished violinist who is all of twelve! If you've watched the video, you know that The Spring is part of a campaign to bring clean water to the 666 million global citizens who lack it. You also know about charity:water, the foundation started by former music promoter Scott Harrison, and were probably pretty moved by his biography, until he topped it by telling you about MercyShips, upped the ante by showing you what it means to lack clean water, and knocked you off your pins by telling you about nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith.

Because The Spring is about water, O'Neal's keyboard playing has a liquid quality. They drip on "Atlantic," rush and gush on "Clean Water," and build slowly on the soundtrack–as if they are percolating from deep underground and burst to the surface as Gerber's cello swells and surges. The goal of each track is to be both beautiful and set a mood;  many are short so that we can keep our thoughts focused on the project rather than the musicians. Let's do both!  "Enabling Environment" is just one-minute long. It's bright and upbeat, but it's also loaded with a double meaning: Nature provides, especially when humans assist. There are two tracks that evoke Rachel Beckwith, the 40-second ambient "Rachel," with its angelic vocalizations in the background, and "In Her Honor," which is both emotive and energetic–like a nine-year-old with a big heart. This is simply a gorgeous album from start to finish and it's fine if sometimes you play it just to zone out and maybe even nod off for a few moments. But let's remember that it closes out with "Transformations," which is somber, quiet, and reflective. It is the sound of sadness leavened with hope and melancholy bathed in beauty.

Rob Weir   


Can the Democratic Party Be Saved? Part Two

Those who blame Democratic woes on external sources–the media, disloyalty, sexism, etc.–need to grasp that since 1989, Democrats have lost 60 House seats, 14 U.S. Senators, 830 state legislative seats, and 10 governorships. One-third of the House Democratic caucus comes from just three states: California, Massachusetts, and New York. Anyone that thinks the party is simply the victim of dirty politics is delusional. Democratic economic and social policies are in disarray. One wonders also about their political strategy.

                         Political Strategy:

This can be summed in a single phrase: fight or fold the damn tents! Republican bombast has already begun: Cooperate with President Trump; give him a chance to lead. The Democratic message should be loud and unambiguous: "Screw you!" Democrats should cooperate with Trump with exactly as much sincerity and fervor as Republicans cooperated with President Obama. The American public voted for gridlock and nastiness, so dish it out for a change instead of being on the receiving end. Do not fall into the "good of the nation" trap or any fantasy about being statesman-like. The GOP declared all-out war on Obama, Clinton, and Carter and all the Democrats got by seizing the moral ground was their butts kicked. Should American politics be about ideas and issues? Of course it should! Should it be rational and moral? Yes again. But it's not--so get over it. Michelle Obama suggested, "When they aim low, we go high." I wish, but she's wrong. Get in the mud, fling, and fight or --as Bob Dylan sang,--you ain't going nowhere.

Economic Policy:

1. Stop talking about the 'middle class' all the time.

It wasn't hard for Donald Trump to win the working class: after Sanders left the race, as no Democrat mentioned for-real wage earners. The constant "middle class workers" drum roll excludes a whopping 58% of all working Americans who work for wages, not salaries. The election of 2016 exposed the fiction of a "middle class" America, as well as  the impoverished thinking of Democrats imagining that the middle class cares about its agenda. Memo: That's only true of an educated elite; most of the white, suburban middle class is Republican, racist, selfish, and averse to taxes. Democrats need to do the following:

·      --Get out of the suburbs and into the urban core and the countryside.
·      --Evolve a message that addresses hourly wage earners that goes beyond raising the minimum wage.
·      --Put forth candidates that come from farm and industrial states, not those dominated by the professional classes. In essence, revive the John Edwards platform.
·      --Talk about the dignity of service industry jobs and stop treating it as if it's unskilled labor.
·      --Put forth a coherent plan for preserving American jobs. Part of this would include penalizing outsourcing and closing loopholes that make it easy for employers to engage in said practice.
·      --Take the lead on easy-sell economic programs such as closing tax loopholes that benefit only rich individuals and large corporations.

2. Get off the free trade horse.

It may not be possible to stem the tide of globalism completely, but Democrats should stop worshiping at the free trade altar. Donald Trump is absolutely right when he says that not all free trade is good. If there is no tangible benefit for American workers, no deal! Cheap imports mean nothing if working people have to max out credit cards to purchase them. Trump has threatened to slap high import tariffs on car manufacturers that move jobs out of the USA and he actually does that--good on him! Run with the idea that a healthy American economy is something beyond making Chinese exporters and Wall Street speculators richer.

3. Go hard at some 'soft' targets.

Pick on easy-to-hate GOP allies like banks, the pharmaceutical industry, and CEOs.  

How about a hard cap on credit card interest? Ten percent would be a start. There aren't many other businesses that make that kind of profit margin. Go after bank interest rates as well. Peg interest rates bank charge to a percentage of what they offer on savings. How about 1:3? If a bank charges 3% on a home mortgage, it ought to pay depositors at least 1% for getting to use their money. End all user fees for routine customer services: using auto tellers, checks, getting money orders….

It's obscene for drug companies to make grotesque profits from human suffering. A hard cap on drug profits is in order. It would reward research and insure fair profit, but under no circumstances should drug or medical costs be subject to the logic of  'what the market will bear.'

Log overdue: a law restricting total CEO compensation. It should be pegged to a formula vis-à-vis the lowest-waged employee. The average package used to be in the 4-5 times range; now it's 373 times. Call this what it is: a practice that breeds arrogance and management completely out of touch with average workers.

4. Go green or go home.

Democrats need a 21st century industrial policy and the "green" sector is the obvious place to go. Promote it and protect it. Sell it hard in postindustrial regions. Ignore backward-looking regions such as Louisiana and West Virginia that insist that more drilling and more mining will solve all woes. They're on the wrong side of history and until they flip the calendar, it's pointless to waste political energy there.

Social Policy:

Kneejerk liberals won't like it, but serious reframing is in order. I can't emphasize this enough: Democrats must stop talking about things that are perceived as "special privileges." I am not suggesting that Democrats abandon the quest for racial justice, LGBTQ rights, or reproductive freedom, but they must repackage them. How about using phrases such as "the right of all Americans?" Make appeals to "fairness" and "privacy," and steer clear of questions of morality. Currently the party is perceived as privileging black, queer, abortion, and interest group rights over all others. It makes it too easy for moralists to position themselves as the guardians of "American values."

Reframing works. For millions of Americans the difference between saying, "I favor abortion rights," and "I don't think the government has a right to tell people what people what they can do with their own bodies," is the difference between rejection and accord. Ditto saying, "It's not fair to discriminate against anyone" versus "Affirmative action programs are necessary to level the playing field."

This rankles the "Stand up for your rights" crowd, but I can attest firsthand the magic of reframing. I worked a Sanders-for-U.S. House campaign in which gay rights was successfully repositioned as a "privacy" issue. Democrats have two choices: they can address the masses, or be viewed as the party of the special classes. Liberals generally hate sanctimonious moralists, so stop behaving like them.


Can the Democratic Party Be Salvaged? Part One

To answer the rhetorical question above, I doubt it.  A party that loses to complete idiots like George W. Bush and Donald Trump is so seriously out of touch as to suggest that Barack Obama’s election was a recession-induced fluke. I’d like to see a truly progressive alternative rise from Democratic ashes. But let’s assume that resuscitation is possible. How could Democrats respond to their latest thumping? A few ideas:

1.  Send old warhorses to the glue factory.

Some of the people listed below were ones I admired—back when both of us were younger, that adjective being the key word. A new Democratic Party needs to look like tomorrow, not yesterday. Under no circumstances should any of the following play so much as an advisory role in a Demo remake:

Hillary Clinton:  Second-wave feminism in a third-wave world. Her time came and went.

Bill Clinton: It baffles me why anyone admires this sleaze ball Republican in Democratic clothing.

Nancy Pelosi:  Like Hillary minus the pants suit.

Russ Feingold:  Admirable man, but his ship sailed decades ago.

Jerry Brown:   Governor Moonbeam is now Governor Sunset.

Debbie Waserman-Schultz:  Perhaps the person most culpable for Trump’s presidency. You’re fired, Debbie!

John Kerry:   “I used to be a contender! Instead of a hack, which is what I am.”

Anthony Weiner:  Like a sheet whose stain can’t be removed and eventually you just toss it.

Charlie Crist:    Was never really a Democrat, but gets to play one on TV every other election.

Evan Bayh:  How many elections can one man lose, before he sleeps in the sand?

Jim Webb:  Loose cannons should be left to rust.

Assorted Kennedys:  "I knew Jack Kennedy… and you're no Jack Kennedy."

Democratic National Committee:. Like a used Cadillac in a hybrid world. No one is buying.

AFL-CIO:    These moribund bureaucrats are a bigger threat to the future of unions more than an offshore rig-full of corporate raiders.

2.  Admit that conservatives might be right about (some parts of) immigration policy.

Democrats shouldn't surrender to xenophobia, but a blind man can see that current immigration laws are absurd. If you want open borders, make the case, but if the USA is going to have any immigration laws, they need to be rational and enforceable. What might a middle path look like?

            a. Declare a reset date. Trump’s promise to deport all illegals can't be kept.  Hammer out a sensible reset date and offer a path to citizenship for those on the correct side of it. Write off the rest. It's elemental: No one else gets to ignore laws they don't like.

            b. Substantially raise the number for annual legal immigration. Give priority to those from the Western hemisphere. America needs more laborers and, frankly, it’s cruel to cherry pick intellectuals and professionals from developing nations. Many nations have policies that won’t allow the hiring of foreign professionals unless no current national can do the job.

            c. Dramatically expand the number of refugee entries, but….

            d. Implement much better screening of all entering the USA. No one should enter until a thorough background check has been completed: fingerprint and photo database searches, Interpol checks, extensive interviewing, etc.)

            e. Issue unalterable identity cards for all Americans and legal aliens. This would also take the wind from the sails of the voter ID crowd. And, yes, the states have to pay for these and have to make card centers accessible to all.

            f.  Punish employers who hire undocumented workers.
No documentation? The employer is jailed, fined severely, and pays the costs of prosecution and deportation of illegally hired workers.  Let’s see how many undocumented workers are mowing Phoenix golf courses when CEOs are cooling their heels in jail.

3. This will rankle Kumbaya liberals, but admit that conservatives are right: There really is a clash of civilizations.

Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations argues that cultural and religious ideologies have supplanted political views as the chief source of global conflict in the post-Cold War era.  It's a very short walk from Huntington to an Islamophobic revival of the Crusades, but denial of all legitimacy is an equally short stroll to surrendering to Islamofascism/Islamomisogny.

Democrats need a coherent middle path. It would entail a degree of profiling, which could be massaged by enacting extra layers of screening for anyone seeking entry into the U.S. from volatile regions. Still, it's facile to ignore the fact that this falls disproportionately upon Muslims. Democrats are correct that very few of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are terrorists, but there is a war against the West.  Attacks on Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Paris, and New York simply cannot be ignored.

Part of the screening process should be cultural. Americans should stop apologizing for secular values, cultural diversity, materialism, support for Israel, and pluralism. The message should be unambiguous: a precondition for coming to the United States is acceptance of these values in word and deed.

4. Abandon the Obama Doctrine for the Carter Doctrine, as tempered by George F. Kennan.

Barack Obama put forth a vision of how the world ought to operate: adversaries speaking to each other in search of common ground. There's no need to close that door, but it's too utopian to be the cornerstone of foreign policy. In practice, the Obama Doctrine gives tyrants, theocrats, and authoritarians too much leeway.

Jimmy Carter had a better idea: peg U.S. foreign aid and trade to human rights. Ronald Reagan gave priority to trade as if human rights didn't matter and was a damned fool for doing so. It's idiotic to send massive aid to wealthy Saudi Arabia, one of the least democratic nations in the world; to the failed state of Pakistan, a major den of terrorism; to the authoritarian monsters of Honduras and Haiti; to Turkey, an oppressor of Kurds and an Islamic state supporter; or to scores of other nations low on the human rights scale. Stop shedding crocodile tears for Palestine (#110 of 167 on that list), and stop blaming Israel (#34) for its woes. Carter's economic hammer was a better idea.

George Kennan advised dividing the globe into nations core and peripheral to American interests. The Obama Doctrine is more moral, but Kennan's is more pragmatic.  Trump may be onto something in his critique of NATO, which consistently asks North Americans to bear the troop and financial burdens that Europeans should assume. Kennan would have said the Iraq War should have never been fought; it's not in U.S. core interests. He'd have said the same of Syria. Various global nightmares break our hearts but, as we've tragically seen in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere, U.S. intervention that goes beyond humanitarian aid causes more problems than it alleviates. Democrats could argue with history on their side that the only justifiable U.S. military intervention since World War Two was toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9/11. That didn't go very well either. It's time to put the kibosh on GOP reversion of the Department of Defense into the Department of War. 

Next up (in order): A Democratic Economic and Social Agenda; a non-Democratic Party progressive platform.