Sunday, August 18, 2019
Too late to write an introduction now. Maybe I'll add a postscript
Some scattered links this week:
Militarization has become our national religion: "As attitudes toward
war grow dangerously worshipful in the US, quitting our endless wars
becomes all the more difficult."
Trump's transparent attempt to manipulate American Jews.
Trump's trade policy is a disaster. Here's what the next president should
do. I would stress that the US should switch sides and work against
patent rents rather than furthering them. This is part of what Bernstein
means by "more stakeholders," as rent-seeking corporate interests have
dominated American "trade" strategy.
America holds onto an undemocratic assumption from its founding: that some
people deserve more power than others. By the way, this piece is part
of something called
The 1619 Project, a set of articles occasioned by the 400th anniversary
of the introduction of slavery in what became the United States.
The Anthropocene is a joke: "On geological timescales, human civilization
is an event, not an epoch." Well, yeah, but there's more to it than "inflates
our own importance by promising eternal geological life to our creations."
As an event, human activity over the last 10,000 (or for that matter 250)
years has had more impact on more of the earth than just about any "event"
in the geological record -- comparison to the K-T asteroid could go either
way. That it will last for millions of years like past eras and epochs may
be a conceit, but geologists 65 million years from now will find us easier
to find than K-T was for us. It may be a joke, but it's one we're very
much stuck inside of.
The limits of Trump's white identity politics.
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
World's nations gather to tackle wildlife extinction crisis.
Meanwhile, Trump's trying to accelerate it.
Steve King's views on rape are inseparable from his racism. Also:
Steve King says without rape and incest, there wouldn't "be any population
of the world left"; also Ryan Bort:
Steve King devised an insane formula to claim undocumented immigrants are
taking over America; and Tessa Stuart:
Steve King's view of rape and incest is not abnormal among GOP
lawmakers (I think they mean "unusual").
How the trail of American white supremacy led to El Paso
How Stephen Miller rode an anti-immigration wave to the White House:
"Behind Mr. Miller's singular grip on the Trump anti-immigrant agenda
are forces far bigger than his own hostility toward the foreign-born."
Modi's decision on Kashmir reveals a brittleness in India. Related:
Modi's Kashmir decision is the latest step in undoing Nehru's vision.
Is America crazy? "Mass shootings, economic inequality, a racist
president: have we grown dangerously accustomed to a country gone mad?"
The GOP's sinister new nationalism: "The party's assault on "globalists"
and "cosmopolitans" pushes against internationalism when it's needed most."
Trump's hate makes the 'squad' stronger.
Jim Golby/Peter Feaver:
It matters if Americans call Afghanistan a defeat. But it will take
years to sort out, not just to see what happens after US/NATO troops
make their long-procrastinated but inevitable departure, but also due
to how various interest groups choose to spin it. It should be easier
to agree that it was a mistake, but even now few Americans recognize
that the post-9/11 decision to overthrow the Taliban was profoundly
This is how Israeli democracy ends.
He's getting worse: "Trump is turning the American presidency into a
platform for the wholesale demonization of minorities."
I watched the video recording of the rally in Panama City shortly after
reading the El Paso killer's so-called manifesto. It is a document littered
with phrases and rhetorical devices injected into mainstream discourse by
the president and his supporters -- talk of a "Hispanic invasion,"
accusations that Democrats support "open borders," and the like. As Trump
faces the possibility that he will lose the presidency next year, he may
become more enraged, and more willing to deploy the rhetoric of violence
as a way to keep his followers properly motivated. The Panama City speech
was an important moment in Trump's ongoing effort to make the American
presidency a vehicle in the cause of marginalizing and frightening racial
minorities; the killings are a possible (and predictable) consequence of
With Trump as president, the world is spiraling into chaos: Attacks
"Donald Trump's erratic, amoral and incompetent foreign policy." Actually,
I find his "amoral" a refreshing change from the sanctimonious posing of
other presidents, both Cold War and later. I think that his ability to
suspend moral judgments has made it possible to negotiate with Kim Jong-un
and the Taliban where others had been unwilling. Sure, he doesn't have
much to show for his efforts -- "erratic" and "incompetent" take a toll.
Also, On the other hand, he seems to have never met a dictator he doesn't
like, he still falls back on spouting moral cant when faced with leftist
governments like Cuba and Venezuela.
Bernie Sanders versus the "corporate media," explained.
After El Paso and Dayton, three ways to think about mass shootings.
Everything that Donald Trump does as a demagogue involves, in classic
demagogic fashion, giving license to others to act on their impulses
without shame. And the fact that he, in a classic demagogic move, then
recoils from the consequences of his words does not make them less
empowering. Trump's rote condemnation of bigotry, during his brief
comments at the White House on Monday morning -- seemingly authored
by some other hand, and delivered with his usual insincerity, right
down to his naming the wrong Ohio city -- cannot permit him to escape
responsibility for what his more spontaneous words may have wrought.
Second distinction: there is a difference between those who fight to
make gun control impossible and those who use guns to kill people.
The majority of the first, much larger group often view weapons as
powerful symbols of personal autonomy. (The deaths of innocents are,
seemingly, a price necessarily paid for that idea of freedom.) . . .
People who oppose gun control at every turn often cite the sense of
control and power that weapons provide, regardless of how false that
sense may be. The vast majority of those people will never shoot anyone,
but they help put lethal weapons in the hands of those who will.
How the US created the Central American immigration crisis.
David A Graham:
Trump didn't make the storm, but he's making it worse: "The president
didn't put any of the globe's authoritarians in office, but he's encouraged
their worst instincts." He lists a few cases, with Bolsonaro in Brazil a
glaring omission (perhaps because he can't be sure the US had nothing to
do with installing him), or Putin in Russia or Johnson in the UK. Nor does
he mention cases where Trump has tried to destabilize governments with the
aim of replacing them with friendlier autocrats (Iran, Venezuela, Cuba) --
places where Trump clearly is intent on making storms.
Neither a Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong nor Modi's move in Kashmir nor
blocking Omar and Tlaib would have been unimaginable without Trump as
president, but each incident shows how Trump's indifference to democratic
norms, and his sometimes open antagonism toward them, shapes world leaders'
behavior. These recent examples are part of a much longer record. Trump
implicitly endorsed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's antidemocratic
power grab. He has lifted up Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he
cracks down on dissent and centralizes power. He has ostentatiously refused
to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of the journalist
(and U.S. resident) Jamal Khashoggi, citing the importance of American arms
sales to Saudi Arabia. Trump has declined to speak out against abuses and
outrageous statements like those of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
He has coddled Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Polish President
Andrzej Duda as they crack down on dissent.
Obama warned Trump -- but he didn't listen: "The 44th president became
a devotee of unilateral presidential actions -- and then saw many moves
quickly reversed once he left office." Many of Trump's executive orders
should prove equally easy to undo, although reversing the effects may be
difficult or impossible (e.g., his pardons).
Rivers of dust: The future of water and the Middle East.
Trump's latest proposal would let businesses discriminate based on LGBTQ
status, race, religion, and more.
Russian cities are still chocking under smoke from massive Siberian
wildfires. Satellite images show that the smoke has spread into
and beyond Alaska.
How the recession of 2020 could happen: "The freeze-up in business
confidence, caused in part by the trade war, could wind up affecting
The NRA is in trouble, but don't count it out yet.
The CBS and Viacom merger, explained. Actually, that's the link
I followed. Title here is different.
Isabel Kershner/Sheryl Gay Slotberg/Peter Baker:
Israeli decision on Omar and Tlaib inflames politics in two countries.
Primary voters are focused on beating Trump, so the candidates are,
too. I appreciate policy wonkery as much as anyone (probably more
than most), but I've been saying all along that candidates need to
distinguish themselves by two things: prove themselves to be the most
effective critics of Trump and his Republican masters and toadies,
and show their commitment not to their personal campaigns but to
rebuilding the Democratic party top-to-bottom. The primaries should
simply be a contest over those two points. It would appear that one
candidate who's belatedly figured (half of) this out is Beto O'Rourke:
see Alexander Burns:
Beto O'Rourke's new approach to 2020: 'taking the fight to Donald
Trump'. Kilgore writes:
One of the many, many neurotic fears Democrats took away from
the 2016 election is that Trump hypnotized Hillary Clinton into focusing
on his unsavory character instead of promoting her own potentially popular
policies and agenda, which undermined her ability to mobilize her base
or to persuade swing voters.
I've often faulted both Obama and the Clintons for putting themselves
above the party and running highly personalized campaigns that left them
saddled with Republican majorities rendering them unable to deliver on
most of their campaign promises. To some extent, this suggested that the
"New Democrats" were ashamed of the party's past -- a concession which
hurt the party but allowed them some distance, which proved beneficial
to liberal donors (and ultimately made the candidates rich).
Unfortunately, Kilgore's buzzword is "electability," which is often
defined as whoever caters most flagrantly to the indecisive center.
That seems to be an even thinner slice of the electorate this year
than usual -- e.g., the latest Fox poll shows Biden to be running
just 2% better vs. Trump than Sanders is. That's not much gain for
sacrificing most of your platform.
Trump's state-by-state approval rating should scare the MAGA out of him.
Do conservative evangelicals like Trump not despite but for his hatefulness?
Well, duh! Of course, we're only talking about those evangelicals who
do like Trump. I've long noted a division among my evangelical brethren
between believers who want to help their fellows and who take delight
in damning those they dislike to hell. The latter have been easy prey
for Republican strategists, but they've long been disappointed by how
little the GOP has delivered. For them, Trump is the Hand of God, set
upon the Earth to vanquish the heathen. For more, see Emma Green:
Why some Christians 'love the meanest parts' of Trump: Interview
with Ben Howe. Green also wrote:
What conservative pastors didn't say after El Paso, and
Trump has enabled Israel's antidemocratic tendencies at every turn.
It's filibuster -- or bust -- for Democrats in the near future.
Jeffrey Epstein's death and America's jail suicide problem: "Suicide
is the leading cause of death in jails." Related: Jeanne Theoharis:
I tried to tell the world about Epstein's jail. No one wanted to listen.
The Trump administration finds a new target: endangered species.
From Trump boom to Trump gloom: "The smart money thinks Trumponomics
is a flop."
Why police violence needs to be treated as a public health issue.
The Trump Justice Department's war on progressive prosecutors, explained.
"Kochland" examines the Koch Brothers' early, crucial role in climate-change
denial. The author who reported extensively on the Kochs in
Dark Money: The hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the
Rise of the Radical Right, reviews Christopher Leonard's new book
on the Kochs: Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries
and Corporate Power in America.
Because the Kochs opposed the candidacy of Donald Trump, in 2016,
many have assumed that they are antagonistic to the Trump Administration.
To the contrary, Leonard writes, with the help of allies such as
Vice-President Mike Pence, "the politics that the Kochs stoked in
2010 became the policies that Trump enacted in 2017." Whether announcing
his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, placing shills
from the oil and coal industries at the head of federal energy and
environmental departments, or slashing taxes on corporations and the
ultra-wealthy, Trump has delivered for the Kochs. "Kochland" quotes
Charles Koch telling his allied political donors, in 2018, "We've made
more progress in the last five years than I had in the previous fifty."
What Toni Morrison knew about Trump: "In her 1993 Nobel Prize acceptance
speech, the late author cautioned against the distraction of the 'political
Don't burn trees to fight climate change -- let them grow.
Hong Kong's protests have cemented its identity.
Claire Cain Miller:
Why the US has long resisted universal child care. Doesn't really
explain why beyond listing some rationalizations for not having it, but
does point out the costs and loss of opportunity that lack entails.
What's happening in Kashmir looks a lot like Israel's rule over
Texas is bracing for a blue wave in 2020. Yes, Texas.
Steven Mufson/Chris Mooney/Juliet Eilperin/John Muyskens:
2°C: Beyond the limit: "Extreme climate change has arrived in America.
Maps plot temperature changes from 1895 to 2018, showing that while nearly
everywhere has gotten hotter, the biggest changes are widely scattered --
these are places where we are already living in the long-feared (and rapidly
approaching 2°C future.
Charles P Pierce:
Kansas stepped down as the craziest state there is. Tennessee stepped up.
Not that he doesn't still have things to say about Kansas . . . and
Adam K Raymond:
Truck drives through crowd of ICE protesters outside Rhode Island prison.
The Endangered Species Act is incredibly popular and effective. Trump
is weakening it anyway.
Trump is panicked that his trade war will start a recession.
Fracking may be a bigger climate problem than we thought.
The GOP's climate change dilemma: "It's Frank Luntz vs. Grover Norquist
in a battle for the GOP's future." Doesn't it always boil down to soundbites
and clichés? Luntz's polling shows that the GOP is losing the public debate
on climate change (plus he "had a come-to-Jesus moment on climate change
when he was forced to evacuate his Los Angeles home in the face of the
Skirball Fire in 2017"), so he's trying to fashion some wording in favor
of a carbon tax (the oil industry's proferred token solution -- not that
they're seriously in favor of it, but at least it's worse for coal).
Norquist, on the other hand, has kept the party hostage to his "no new
taxes" pledge, so he's not having any of it.
Top US bosses earn 278 times more than their employees.
Democracy dies without alternative media: Interview with Peter
Richardson, who wrote
A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine
Changed America and
American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams.
Why it's immigrants who pack your meat.
The immigration raid last week at seven poultry plants in rural Mississippi
was a perfect symbol of the Trump administration's racism, lies, hypocrisy,
and contempt for the poor. It was also a case study in how an industry with
a long history of defying the law has managed to shift the blame and
punishment onto workers.
Israel's massive self-own: "Trump's racism and Netanyahu's dependency
have driven a bulldozer through the bipartisan consensus."
Trump is the only reason Netanyahu banned the US congresswomen. They'll
both regret it.
Cardi B's very on-brand love for Bernie Sanders, explained. Also,
with Tara Golshan:
Cardi B and Bernie Sanders's video, and her longstanding interest in
The limits of my conservatism. More like vanities: like all "Never
Trump conservatives," Sullivan does a lot of whining, blaming the left
for his former comrades drinking the Trump Kool-Aid, and warning that
more good conservatives will turn into vile reactionaries if the left
keeps bullying them. More proof that conservatives always shoot left
even when they recognize that the real enemies are to their right. (On
the other hand, liberals have rarely had a problem with attacking the
left, or with seeking allies among reactionaries for that purpose.)
This gets pretty incoherent (e.g., "many leftists somehow believe that
sustained indoctrination will work in abolishing human nature, and
when it doesn't, because it can't, they demonize those who have failed
the various tests of PC purity as inherently wicked"). Scrolling down,
two further notes on "Are We Rome? Cont'd" and "Trump and Israel: A
Special Relationship" make better reasoned points.
Ilhan Omar is already changing Washington: "Banned by Isrel and
demonized by Trump, she's been fighting business as usual in Congress'
hidebound foreign policy club."
Obama and Biden's relationship looks rosy. It wasn't always that simple.
"A shameful, unprecedented move": Democrats react to Israel blocking Omar
and Tlaib's trip.
The US isn't the only major economy facing a possible recession: "Japan,
Germany, the UK, and Brazil are seeing signs of trouble too." Also mentioned:
South Korea, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico, China.
What caused Russia's radioactive explosion last week? Possibly a
The brazen way a Chinese company pumped fentanyl ingredients into the
US: Still, reminds me of the Opium Wars, and how what goes around
Trump's plan to buy Greenland, explained.
Pete Buttigieg's plan to use immigration to revitalize shrinking
communities, explained: "Place-based visas could help America's
declining cities." I can add that literally the only places in
Western Kansas that are not shriveling up are towns with a lot of
immigrants (e.g., Garden City and Dodge City). It's also true that
an exceptionally high percentage of doctors in rural Kansas are
foreign-born. On the other hand, immigrants would almost always
be better off moving to areas that are growing and generating new
opportunities. [PS: The map in the DeParle article above shows
significant increases in foreign-born population almost everywhere
in Western Kansas -- not just in areas that haven't lost population.
On the other hand, the map shows relatively little change (<25%)
in many large cities known for immigrants like Los Angeles, Phoenix,
El Paso, and Miami.]
The yield curve inversion panic, explained.
Trump's China tariff climbdown, explained.
Immigration makes America great. Leaving aside the silly matter of
what constitutes greatness, there is little wrong here, and it's useful
to be reminded of these facts periodically. America is fortunate that
there are still people who want to move here.