Thursday, March 2, 2017

Midweek Roundup

Some weeks the shit's piling up so fast you have to get the shovel out a few days early. I have little doubt that there will be this much more by the weekend. Less sure I have the time and energy to keep up the pace.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

  • Dean Baker: Bill Gates Is Clueless on the Economy

  • R Mike Burr: The Self-Serving Hustle of "Hillbilly Elegy": On J.D. Vance's book, widely acclaimed as a book you should read to understand "Trump's America" (well, not Trump, really, but some of the fools who voted for him).

  • Juan Cole: Sorry, Trump, China's cut-back on Coal Dooms Industry: A few years ago China was poised to build so many coal-fired electricity generators that it became likely that one nation, at the time a nation in complete denial about global warming, would wind up frying the rest of us. Since then at least half of those coal plants have been canceled. Since then, it's become clear that if you consider the externalities -- which for China includes the good will of other nations fearful of being fried -- coal is already an inefficient energy source. That's increasingly obvious in the US as well, even though thanks to fossil fuel industry clout most of those externalities go uncharged. And the trendline for coal is getting worse, even with the President and Congress securely in the industry's pocket.

  • Stanley L Cohen: Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel: The analogy hits closer to home than "apartheid" (although that was merely the South African term for a legal code of segregation inspird by and borrowed from America's Jim Crow laws). Of course, the analogy is not quite precise: the US and SA systems were meant primarily to preserve a low worker caste their respective economies were built on, whereas the Israeli system seeks to make Palestinian labor (hence Palestinians) superfluous, and as such is an even more existential threat. Article does a good job of reminding you not just that separate is inherently unequal but that segregated systems are sustained with violence and injustice.

    Cohen also wrote Trump's 'Muslim ban' is not an exception in US history, rubbing it in a little when it might be more effective to explain how such bans are inimical to American ideals even if they've recurred frequently throughout American history.

  • Mark Lawrence Schrad: Vladimir Putin Isn't a Supervillain: This seems like a fairly realistic evaluation of Russia, after first positing two strawman arguments and showing how neither is all that true. I'll add that there are a few countries what once had larger empires and have never quite shaken the mental habit of thinking they should still be more powerful than they are: this is true of Russia and China, would-be regional powers like Iran and Turkey, and several ostensible US allies (notably Britain, France, and Saudi Arabia), and if you possess the ability to look cleary in a mirror, the United States as well. (Germany and Japan were largely cured of this by the crushing weight of defeat in WWII, although you see glimpses in, e.g., Germany's role in breaking up Yugoslavia and Japan's weird dread of North Korea.) What has thus far passed for Russian aggression has so far been limited to adopting breakaway regions of now independent former SSRs -- Crimea from Ukraine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. On the other hand, the US has been extending its NATO umbrella into previously neutral former SSRs, building up its Black Sea fleet, installing anti-missle systems focused on Russia, and imposing sanctions to undermine the Russian economy, and trying to influence elections in places like Ukraine and Georgia to heighten anti-Russian sentiments. Given all this, who's really being aggressive?

    Of course, were I a Russian, I'm quite certain that I'd have no shortage of political disagreements with Vladimir Putin. But the US doesn't have (or deserve) a say in who runs Russia. At best we can refer to standards of international law, but only if we ourselves are willing to live by them -- which, as was made clear by Bush's refusal to join the ICC we clearly are not. An old adage is that you should clean up your own house first, and that's the thing that American politicians should focus on.

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