Sunday, October 20, 2019
Half a week here, after my
Roundup came out on Thursday. Still too exhausted to write an
Some scattered links this week:
Jedediah Purdy has an idea that could save us from capitalism and the
climate crisis: Interview with Purdy about his latest book, This
Land Is Our Land. Article doesn't live up to its premise, not all
Purdy's fault, but I've never found his books all that satisfying.
Tulsi Gabbard calls Hillary Clinton "the queen of warmongers" in her
latest clash with top Democrats. A point which was pretty obvious
after Clinton called Gabbard "the favorite of the Russians." Clinton
is also still bear-baiting Jill Stein; see Tessa Stuart:
Green Party torches Hillary Clinton for claiming Jill Stein is 'totally'
a Russian asset. I've seen people attempt to defend Clinton on this
(e.g., Charles P Pierce:
Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to judge the effectiveness of
foreign-influenced candidates), but they're rubbing salt into a
still tender wound. Russian interference in 2016 is well established
as a fact, but neither explains nor excuses Clinton's loss to Trump,
nor does it make Trump unworthy (although lots of other things do)
let alone brand him as some kind of Russian stooge. Moreover, such
charges appear to have the intent of worsening US-Russian relations,
at a time when better relations with Russia would be helpful on many
issues. When Clinton attacks Gabbard and Stein as "favorites of the
Russians," she's really warning Democratic candidates that Russia is
bad and they should repeat her 2016 sabre-rattling mistakes. That the
net effect of her attacks has been to increase Gabbard's popularity
only underscores how irrelevant Clinton has become. For something
much deeper on Gabbard, see Kerry Howley:
Tulsi Gabbard had a very strange childhood. [PS: Robert Wright
on Clinton's attacks:
Virality and virulence. Another valuable Wright post:
How the New York Times distorts our view of Syria.]
The US has backed 21 of the 28 'crazy' militias leading Turkey's brutal
invasion of northern Syria: "Former and current US officials have
slammed the Turkish mercenary force of 'Arab militias' for executing
and behading Kurds in northern Syria. New data from Turkey reveals that
almost all of these militias were armed and trained in the past by the
CIA and Pentagon."
Wildfires are raging in Lebanon. Experts say they saw this coming.
"Fires are burning across Lebanon during a record heatwave."
The man who rigged America's election maps: "How Tom Hofeller shifted
the balance of power by taking gerrymandering to the extreme."
William D Cohan:
"There is definite hanky-panky going on": The fantastically profitable
mystery of the Trump chaos trades: "The president's talk can move
markets -- and it's made some futures traders billions. Did they know
what he was going to say before he said it?" Related: Jake Johnson:
Democrats demand federal investigation of 'suspicious' stock sales linked
to Trump's economy-shifting trade war moves. Also:
Hey Securities and Exchange Commission, if you are watching. Someone is
trading on insider info.
Ocasio-Cortez credits Sanders for her political awakening at Bernie's
comeback rally in Queens.
Trump is right: Ending the endless wars starts in Syria. This is a
little mealy-mouthed, but not exceptionally so for a House Representative
(R-OH): I'd reject "after 9/11, America had a clear cause for war in
Afghanistan" and some of the chest-beating about America's military,
but this shows that some Republicans are eager to claim the mantel of
peace, especially when Democrats cede that ground. Also note:
Republican voters are largely backing Trump's withdrawal from Syria.
Syria critic Lindsey Graham reverses stance, says Trump's policy could
succeed. It's getting really hard to overstate how completely Trump
has the Republican Party under his thumb.
Socialism doesn't work? An emerging middle class of Bolivians would
beg to differ.
Existential threat versus existential crisis: "The Great Depression
and the Climate Crisis, New Deals then and now."
Adam Goldman/William K Rashbaum:
Review of Russia inquiry grows as FBI witnesses are questioned:
After complaining about "witch hunts," Trump and Barr order up one
more to their liking.
It's not news that Trump is corrupt. What's new is how he is succeeding
in corrupting our government.
For the first time, workers are paying a higher tax rate than investors
and owners: "The proximate cause of the shift was Trump's 2017 tax
cut, which dramatically slashed taxes on corporate profits and estates."
Bernie Sanders hasn't killed identity politics: Maybe not, but he's
defined an identity that transcends the usual boxes that Democratic Party
proponents of "identity politics" like to tick off, partly because he's
revived an old identity "centrist" Democrats have been trying to wash
their hands of (the working class), and partly because he has no desire
to make those other distinctions.
Trump isn't bringing any troops home. In fact, he has sent an additional
14,000 troops to the Mideast since May. It's just another con.
The UK Parliament just blew up Boris Johnson's Brexit plans:
"Parliament just voted the make the prime minister seek a Brexit delay,
even if his deal passes." Kirby previously wrote:
The UK and EU have a new Brexit agreement. But it's not a done deal
yet. More on Brexit:
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the US: Why progressives should not support
a new imperial partition in the Middle East.
Trump can't stop bragging to foreign leaders about his resorts.
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez make a show of force in
Messages show Boeing employees knew in 2016 of problems that turned
deadly on the 737 Max.
Biden's attacks on Medicare for All undermine the entire Democratic
Trump's choice to bring G7 to his own resort would violate conflict-of-interest
law, if he weren't President.
Mujib Mashal/Thomas Gibbons-Neff:
Civilian casualties reach highest level in Afghan War, UN says.
Aaron David Miller/Eugene Rumer/Richard Sokolsky:
What Trump actually gets right about Syria: First paragraph back
peddles a bit: "Trump's assessment of the situation [in Syria] is not
entirely wrong." Still, their main points are spot on, even if they
aren't flattering to the American ego: "The US-Kurdish relationship
was never going to last"; "Russia is the key power broker in Syria";
"Assad is here to stay"; "There won't be a second caliphate"; and
"Syria is not a vital US interest." Turns out that Miller wrote a
book back in 2014 (ergo, pre-Trump): The End of Greatness: Why
America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President.
From a note on the book: "Americans are adrift in a kind of Presidential
Bermuda Triangle suspended between the great presidents we want and
the ones we can no longer have. . . . Indeed, greatness is too rare
to be relevant in our current politics, and driven as it is by
nation-encumbering crises, too dangerous to be desirable." Good
thing he got this book written before Trump came around, else he
would have had to incorporate a twist too deranged to anticipate:
a "stable genius" with "unmatched wisdom" who blundered his way
into crisis only to find himself totally lacking in whatever it
takes for "greatness" to emerge.
Why Republicans should be worried about their chances of retaking the
Adam K Raymond:
World's least self aware person, Donald Trump Jr, attacks Bidens for
Staring down Donald Trump, the same elephant in every room.
We are not "all Greta Thunberg," but all of us know what it's like to
be ambushed by Donald Trump. He pops up on your social media feed with
hateful words and impulsive policy announcements. He flickers on TV
screens in bus terminals and airport departure lounges, forever looming
over your shoulder. He barges unbidden into your dreams. It is a condition
of being alive in America in 2019. No matter who you are or what you're
trying to accomplish, whether you're a 16-year-old working to save the
planet or an ordinary citizen trying to make it through the day with
some peace of mind intact, you will inevitably confront the specter of
Trump, drifting into the frame in a cloud of disorder and bad vibes.
Even the president's most dedicated enablers scan the sky warily,
awaiting today's cyclone, the next reckless, capricious twist of the
plot. The door swings open, the president enters, all heads turn. The
camera whips around, and suddenly, everything else -- better angels,
higher ideals, common decency, common sense, beauty, truth -- blurs
into the background.
Matthew Rosenberg/Kevin Roose:
Trump campaign floods web with ads, raking in cash as Democrats struggle.
The miseducation of Mean Pete: "Once the Rhodes Scholar version of
Mister Rogers, Buttigieg has become the snarling incarnation of anti-left
rage." You know, I've long suspect that a big part of the pitch centrist
Democrats make to their donors, even if only implicit, is that they will
help business by, among other favors, keeping the left contained. That's
part of why Clinton and Obama hardly ever lifted a finger to help labor,
and it's part of why they felt few qualms about surrendering control of
Congress, thereby giving up any chance of implementing the progressive
platforms they successfully ran for president on. Buttigieg has done an
impressive job of raising money from those same donors, only he's having
to be much more explicit about carrying their water, and in 2019 those
donors are much more worried by the left than they are by Trump and
the Republicans. His eagerness to do that has made him a viable niche
candidate, but when it comes to converting money to votes he may find
himself pinned down way too narrowly. A related article from June 25:
Do Pete Buttigieg's donors know him better than we do?: "The South
Bend mayor has become a darling to Silicon Valley and Wall Street elite.
That alone is a red flag."
What I learned from the debate: Democrats still can't level with voters
about the American empire. Related: Alex Emmons:
Trump's chaotic Syria exit puts anti-war 2020 Democrats in a delicate
spot. Schwarz also wrote:
The US is now betraying the Kurds for the eighth time.
'A threat to democracy': William Barr's speech on religious freedom
alarms liberal Catholics.
Media alarmed by US pullout from Syria -- which didn't actually happen.
US justice department resumes use of death penalty and schedules five
As Trump fumes, GOP advances real party goal of making federal judiciary
When the dream of owning a home became a nightmare: "A federal
program to encourage black homeownership in the 1970s ended in a flood
William Barr's wild misreading of the First Amendment.
A new report suggests Trump may have committed financial crimes.
The French economist who helped invent Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax:
Trump loves dictators. Erdogan is the latest to take advantage of that.
I don't think it's right to call Erdogan a dictator. He holds his office
due to winning a reasonably open election (although he has used surviving
an attempted military coup as an excuse for consolidating power in ways
that may undermine future democracy). Many of the other "dictdators" Trump
seems to admire were also elected, including Putin (Russia), Modi (India),
Bolsonaro (Brazil), and Duterte (Philippines), but so was the only one
Trump has actually called a dictator: Maduro (Venezuela). Clearly, he
has little appreciation of, or concern for, the democratic process -- no
surprise, given that he was elected with the flimsiest popular mandate of
any of the above, but also because right-wingers are always contemptous
of democracy, perhaps because even they suspect that their rule is
The Syrian ceasefire the US brokered is already falling apart.
Top Trump official throws Giuliani under the bus in impeachment inquiry
Impeachment is too important to leave to Congress -- it's going to take
mass mobilization. I don't want to rain on anyone's desire to march,
but I don't really buy this, even before discounting the inapplicability
of various foreign examples. If impeachment happens, it's going to be
done on narrow legalistic grounds, and it's not going to change power
dynamics in any way. Mike Pence would replace Trump as president, he's
pretty much hand-picked the cabinet anyway, and Congress would remain
divided and ineffectual as at present. Sure, it's merited, and sure, it
would be a chastising lesson for future presidents. Most of all, it
presents an educational opportunity. But nothing significant can change
until the 2020 elections, so that's where most of that pent-up energy
should be directed. Well, that and keeping the frameworks for the rest
of the political struggle viable, because even if the Democrats win big
in 2020, we're still going to need a peace and social justice movement,
union organizing, environmental awareness, and so forth.