Sunday, September 22, 2019
I had an idea for an introduction based on the book I've been reading:
Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican
Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. I never really got the
title until it appeared in the text 400+ pages in, and it wasn't anything
like what I would have guessed. The line comes from Trump's inaugural
address, where it climaxes a series of assertions that have virtually
no connection to reality. I'd need to find the quote and unpack it a
bit, but it basically confirms my suspicion that the Republican campaign
in 2016 was basically an extortion racket. They had remarkable success
at spoiling eight years of Obama, and they clearly intended to treat
Hillary Clinton even worse should she win. The only way Americans could
save themselves from the wrath of the Republicans was to elect one --
in which case, the downside was limited to incompetence and corruption.
Of course, a better solution would have been to beat the Republicans
so badly they couldn't do any real damage, but that was too much to
hope for -- especially with Hillary as your standard bearer.
Some scattered links this week:
Israel's election results show Netanyahu is in serious trouble:
"No one outright won. But Netanyahu did worse than he hoped and may
lose office because of it." More on this:
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
The house just passed a bill that would give millions of workers the right
to sue their boss.
Defending Kavanaugh has become personal for conservatives, not
Rather, the idea of Brett Kavanaugh is that he is a stand-in for
conservative men, a blank slate upon which fears of liberal overreach
ruining the lives and reputations of right-leaning heterosexual men can
be projected. He's not Brett Kavanaugh -- he's your son, or your brother,
or even you. . . . For many on the right, particularly those increasingly
concerned about the potential weaponization of accusations of sexual
assault against conservatives, that's enough.
The challenges of constructing New York's tallest apartment building:
Interview with architect Gordon Gill.
Letting go: "What should medicine do when it can't save your life?"
Bernie Sanders wants to put credit reporting companies like Equifax out
Greta Thunberg is leading kids and adults from 150 countries in a massive
Friday climate strike. Other links:
The future is ours for the taking: Interview with Ann Pettifor,
author of The Case for the Green New Deal.
Boris Johnson had a really bad day in Luxembourg. The Incredible Hulk was
Edward Snowden and the rise of whistle-blower culture: Review of
Snowden's memoir, Permanent Record.
Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt:
Why Republicans play dirty: You probably recall their examples,
and it wouldn't take much head-scratching to come up with their two
analogues (post-Reconstruction southern Democrats, pre-WWI German
conservatives -- although post-WWI were arguably even worse). I'd
quibble with this claim: "Republicans leaders are not driven by an
intrinsic or ideological contempt for democracy. They are driven by
fear." But they wouldn't fear losing so much if they hadn't started
out with their belief in a rightful socioeconomic hierarchy (with
themselves at the top), a belief that starts with fear and loathing
of what they take to be the lower orders. There may be cases where
conservatives are willing to respect democracy, but doing so is not
something that come naturally to those accustomed to ruling.
Actually, there are other things to quibble with here. "As the
collapse of democracy in Germany and Spain in the 1930s and Chile
in the 1970s makes clear, these escalating conflicts can end in
tragedy." Democracy didn't "collapse" in Spain or Chile: it was
murdered by right-wingers who refused to accept popular election
results, aided by malign foreign powers (Nazi Germany in Spain,
the US in Chile). Germany was a local affair, where the traditional
conservative powers backed the Nazis, not least because Hitler
promised an end to what they really feared: a government of, by,
and for the people. With their "dirty tricks," Republicans have
revealed that they're no better nor even different from reviled
conservative regimes of the past. Also, like their predecessors,
they won't stop until they're stopped. Hopefully, we can do that
with a peaceful election, before they manage to bring us all to
Related, with many of the same examples, expressed more pointedly:
Republicans don't believe in democracy.
David Brooks: Politics is too uncivil -- and anyone to my left is
un-American. You might think that someone stepping forward to
read and expose Brooks' inanity is a good thing because it saves us
from having to do so, but does anyone really care anymore whatever
Brooks is thinking (or in this case fantasizing) about?
Nancy Pelosi's drug plan pits Trump's base against GOP orthodoxy:
Two problems I see: one is that in trying to balance off competing
business interests, this still leaves a fair amount of slop as the
various parties try to game the system; the other is that Trump's
base has voted against its own best interests so regularly it's hard
to imagine they'll punish Republicans for protecting drug monopoly
Imagine Jair Bolsonaro standing trial for ecocide at The Hague.
Sure. I've often thought that the ICC was poorly designed, mostly
because it's more important to expose world-class criminals than
it is to actually incarcerate them. Also, any system of justice
needs to be fair, even-handed, and consistently and universally
applied. To do the latter, you need to be able to indict and trial
people in absentia, but to do the former, you need to provide them
with a defense, whether they participate in it or not. One way to
do this would be to build up a list of certified judges, prosecutors,
defenders, and expert investigators. Anyone can approach the court
to bring a case, which would then be developed through stages, each
with aimed at a degree of certainty in its verdict, mitigated by
defense arguments, including limits to information and extenuating
circumstances. All verdicts would remain tentative, subject to
further litigation as more evidence is made available. The court
would in theory be able to order punishment, but few trials are
likely to get to that stage (as, indeed, few are now). But the court
proceedings would also be publicly available, so other jurisdictions
can build their own cases on them. But the key thing is that you
would have a common standard and process for charging individuals
with crimes against humanity (including war crimes), and we'd know
just where any given culprit stands. This article shows how a case
against Bolsonaro in such a court might proceed. You can probably
think of a few dozen more such obvious candidates. Henry Kissinger
would probably top my list, followed by GW Bush and Dick Cheney,
with Donald Trump rising fast.
How a wealth tax could totally remake charity in the United States.
The astounding advantage the Electoral College gives to Republicans, in
Mitch McConnell: The man who sold America.
The US just signed a deal that could send asylum seekers back to El
The 51st state? Interview with Sean Rameswaram, Derek Musgrove, and
Eleanor Holmes Norton on the movement for DC statehood. Related:
House Democrats held the first hearing on DC statehood in 25 years:
"Republicans are unified in their opposition."
Pence took an eight-car motorcade to a Michigan island where vehicles
are banned: Another little something to add to that list of norms
being trashed by the Republican administration. Related: Erica L
US orders Duke and UNC to recast tone in Mideast Studies.
More than a quartet of all birds have disappeared from North America
since 1970. Related: Jeff Sparrow:
This isn't extinction, it's extermination: the people killing nature know
what they're doing.
The imperial debris of war: "Why ending the Afghan War won't end
the killing." Literally, as untold tons of unexploded munitions still
wait their destiny. Other TomDispatch links:
Bernie Sanders's plan to eliminate medical debt, explained.
Mark Joseph Stern:
The right's latest attack on academic freedom might actually work.
"Corruption is breaking our democracy": Elizaeth Warren's case for the
When the ideologues come for the kids: Looks like a rant about
"woke" people attempting to imposing their beliefs on impressionable
children, I expected this piece to be borderline-awful, and it comes
close. Still, reminded me that I've long thought that, while I fully
support the rights of adults to adopt any religious beliefs they
like, it's long struck me as cruel to impose those beliefs on their
children. I don't see a way to prevent that from happening, although
recognition that such harm is inevitable might spur us to providing
helpful counselors, as well as practicing more tolerance. Still,
in my experience, it's rarely the people who respect diversity who
are the problem.
Emily Todd VanDerWerff:
The West Wing is 20 years old. Too many Democrats still think it's a
great model for politics. My wife was a fan, but I never got into
it, usually getting irritated and leaving the room after a few minutes.
Two things stand out in my memory: how President Bartlett always had
an appropriate Bible verse to quote for every occasion, and how often
he went to his default distraction strategem (bombing Iraq). I found
those trait horrifying, but some Democrats regard them as the magic
recipe for political success. West Wing showrunner Aaron Sorkin
went on to produce The Newsroom, which we rather quickly gave
up on -- unfortunately watching a whole episode on the good cheer and
excitement of everyone on hearing the news of Seal Team 6 killing
Osama Bin Laden. PS: From
Wikipedia on The West Wing:
The show's ratings waned in later years following the departure of
series creator Sorkin after the fourth season (Sorkin wrote or co-wrote
85 of the first 88 episodes), yet it remained popular among high-income
viewers, a key demographic for the show and its advertisers, with around
16 million viewers.
The week in US-Saudi Arabia-Iran tensions, explained. More links
Peter Baker/EricSchmitt/Michael Crowley:
An abrupt move that stunned aides: Inside Trump's aborted attack on
The Saudi Arabia drone attacks have changed global warfare.
If the attacks proved anything, it's that Saudi Arabia, despite all its
super-expensive American firepower, is remarkably vulnerable to relatively
cheap weapons. Cockburn usually writes on the Middle East, but applies
some of what he's learned there to his homeland here:
Boris Johnson's coup is eerily reminiscent of Erdogan's rise to power.
Karen DeYoung/Missy Ryan/Paul Sonne:
US to send additional troops to Saudi Arabia after attacks on oil
Threatening new war for oil, Donald Trump calls his own offer of Iran
talks "fake news".
On Iran, Trump is all talk, and thank God: "For whatever reason,
Donald Trump seems reluctant to go to war -- and in moments like the
Iran crisis, we should be glad."
Trump's deference to Saudi Arabia infuriates much of DC. Probably
because much of DC is insufferably arrogant and conceited, a combo
trait known as hubris. Still, Trump couldn't very well retaliate
for Saudi Arabia without Saudi Arabia's approval, could he? And as
much as you might want to slam Trump for showing weakness by backing
off from his initial deranged lunatic posture, it's just possible
that Saudi Arabia is the one getting cold feet, as they have the most
to lose if larger-scale war breaks out.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
US officials say their pressure on Iran is working -- and that's why
tensions are getting worse: Pompeo and Mnuchin try to claim that
the poisoned chalice is half full.
Robert F Worth:
The end of Saudi Arabia's illusion: "Time to face reality: The United
States doesn't want to go to war with Iran to protect its Arab allies."
In Saudi Arabia, world oil supplies are in flames; also:
Iran entrenches its "axis of resistance" across the Middle East.
Wright gets most of her info here from Israel, a source with its own
reasons for projecting Iran as a long-term "strategic" foe. Still,
even this view suggests that would be to try to normalize relations
with Iran, reducing Iran's supposed need for proxy conflicts, while
giving Iran a positive stake in the world economy.