Sunday, January 6, 2019
Another pretty awful week, followed by a few hours grabbing a few
links in case I ever want to look back and see what was happening,
other than my own misery.
One point I've been wanting to make is that over quite some number
of presidential administrations, I've noticed a pattern. At first,
presidents are overwhelmed and wary of screwing up, so they tend to
defer to their staff, in many ways becoming prisoners of whoever
they happened to install -- usually the choice of their staff plus
the party's unelected Washington insiders. However, presidential
staff are usually careful to flatter their boss, faking fealty, and
over time all that deference (even if insincere) bolsters the ego
of whoever's president. Meanwhile the president gets comfortable,
even a bit cocky about his accomplishments, so starts to impose his
opinions and instincts. There are often further stages, and two-term
presidents tend to go to seed six years in (Eisenhower and Reagan
are obvious examples; Nixon didn't get that far; Clinton, Bush II,
and Obama were sidelines with enemy-controlled Congresses). But
we've clearly made the transition from Trump being the front man
to actually being in charge, running an administration and party
that is increasingly deferential to his every whim. And while most
of us thought Trump was pretty nuts to start with, he used to stay
comfortably within the Republican Party playbook. But increasingly,
his chaos and madness are becoming uniquely his own. Sure, he still
has to walk back an occasional notion, like his decision to withdraw
ground troops from Syria. He may even find he has to give up on his
budget extortion ploy (aka, the shutdown).
Lots of bad things are likely to come from this, but one can hope
that two recent trends will only take firmer and broader root. The
first is the understanding that what's wrong with Trump and what's
wrong with the Republican Party are the same things, all the way
down to their shared contempt for democracy and the people. The
second, an outgrowth of the first, is that the Democratic Party is
changing rapidly from a party that opportunistically tries to pass
itself off as a "kinder, gentler version" of conservative/neoliberal
orthodoxy to one that is serious about solving the real problems of
war and powerlessness and inequality that have hurt the vast majority
of American voters so grievously since Reagan.
I didn't write much about these themes below, but there's plenty
of evidence to back them up.
Some scattered links this week:
Trevor Aaronson/Ali Younes:
US ramps up bombing of ISIS in Eastern Syria following Trump withdrawal
No, Trump cannot declare an 'Emergency' to build his wall.
Rachel M Cohen:
Could expanding employee ownership be the next big economic policy?
The great illusion of The Apprentice: "Even more than wealth,
the reality-TV show promised its viewers accountability."
What does Donald Trump think about when he thinks about "wall"?
What the President could do if he declares a State of Emergency.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts expected to announce retirement, giving Democrats
hope of a blue Kansas. Actually, the Democrats would enjoy better odds
running against Roberts, who (much to their surprise) nearly lost in 2014,
than against a generic (but much younger and very likely more right-wing)
Greg Grandin/Elizabeth Oglesby:
Washington traind Guatemala's mass murderers -- the the Border Patrol played
Ryan Grim/Glenn Greenwald:
US Senate's first bill, in midst of shutdown, is a bipartisan defense of
the Israeli government from boycotts.
Moscow's little-noticed Islamic-outreach effort: "Russia is promoting
Islamic moderation in unison with Arab powers -- and further cementing its
position in the Middle East."
The philosopher redefining equality: "Elizabeth Anderson thinks we've
misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society."
The real story behind the Havana Embassy mystery.
The Lethal Crescent: Where the Cold War was hot. Book review of
Paul Thomas Chamberlin: The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking
the Long Peace.
A brief guide to David Bernhardt, Ryan Zinke's replacement at the Interior
Robert D Kaplan:
Time to get out of Afghanistan: "The United States is spending beyond
its means on a mission that might only be helping its strategic rivals."
Kaplan has been a hawk on Afghanistan at least since his 1990 celebration
of the CIA-sponsored Soldiers of God: With the Mujahidin in Afghanistan,
and even before 9/11 he's frequently hired on as a paid consultant to the
US military, while writing propaganda like Imperial Grunts: The American
Military on the Ground. So fair to say, if he's throwing in the towel,
the "mission" is totally fucked.
What you need to know about Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's new far-right
The Blob: Ben Rhodes and the crisis of liberal foreign policy. Book
review of Rhodes: The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White
The Green New Deal is good for the planet -- and the Democratic
Rep. Ro Khanna on Afghanistan: "Trump's instincts to withdraw are correct,
but the tactical implementation matters".
Trump's border wall demand is constitutionally illegitimate.
CIA's Afghan Forces leave a trail of abuse and anger: "The fighters
hold the line in the war's toughest spots, but officials say their brutal
tactics are terrorizing the public and undermining the US mission."
Rather telling, at this late date, that the author still thinks there
is a "US mission" in Afghanistan. Also that Afghan Forces' tactics are
any more brutal than what the US has been doing there for the last 18
(or is it 41?) years.
House Democrats officially unveil their first bill in the majority: a
sweeping anti-corruption proposal: "Democrats will take up voting
rights, campaign finance reform, and a lobbying crackdown -- all in
their first bill of the year."
An alternative reflection for 2018 -- thank you note to writers who
nurtured my mind and soul.
Middle-class shame will decide where America is headed: "Who can appeal
to the people who feel the cost like they've gotten a raw deal?"
In Trump's mind, all deals are private. 'Public interest' means nothing
to him: "At least a scoundrel knows when he is doing wrong. But the
president is blind to the very idea of public interest."
The Green New Deal, explained: "An insurgent movement is pushing Democrats
to back an ambitious climate change solution."
Trump's bizarre Rose Garden news conference shows why he's impossible to
negotiate with: "Unhinged, incoherent, oblivious, and dangerous.".
This map shows where in the world the US military is combatting
terrorism -- where "terrorism" is basically anything that
challenges American political and economic power.
It's good to talk about impeaching the motherfucker.
Why Trump taking credit for low gas prices is a bad idea.
In 2019, let's finally retire 'electability'.
The House Democrats' best path forward: "To counter Donald Trump, and
to prepare for 2020, the Party needs to think big."
Iraq's post-ISIS campaign of revenge: "The corruption and cruelty of
the state's response to suspected jihadis and their families seem likely
to lead to the resurgence of the terror group."
Steven K Vogel:
Elizabeth Warren wants to stop inequality before it starts: "Redistribution
is important, but it comes too late." On the other hand, we're not talking
about a future threat. It's already too late.
2019 will be the worst year of Donald Trump's life.
Now Mattis admits there was no evidence Assad used poison gas on his
Trump just warned the shutdown could last for years. That's pretty