Sunday, July 24, 2022


Speaking of Which

Started to jot down a few links with even fewer comments more than a week ago, and added some more (with longer comments, but not always) over the weekend.

PS: Added link and notes to Jeffrey St Clair piece below.


Andrew Bacevich: [07-14] Imperial Detritus: After the American Century: Cites, and responds to, Daniel Bessner: Empire Burlesque: What comes after the American Century? Both start with Henry Luce's 1941 coinage of "the American Century," from shortly before the US entered WWII. Luce's essay, rooted in his own peculiar history as a child of missionaries growing up in China, has become emblematic of a major shift in American thinking about the world, as initial fretting over German and Japanese encroachments in Africa and Asia would limit American interests gave way to the realization that by winning WWII (and bankrupting the UK and France) the US could have it all (cf. Stephen Wertheim: Tomorrow the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy). That left the problem of Communist-led national liberation movements, which is what the Cold War was fought against. We can debate how successful it was, and why it wasn't, but 80 years later it's increasingly clear that the U.S. is a spent force, still ominous but incapable of deciding much less imposing its will. Bessner wants to revive the pre-Luce tradition of restraint, citing Washington and JQ Adams as founding "restrainers." (As Wertheim points out, the term "isolationist" was invented as a pejorative for those who still adhered to traditional American norms, which favored "open door" trade over the colonial prerogatives claimed by European imperial powers. "Isolationists" didn't want to hide from the world; they simply wanted to deal with the world on its own terms, not through the barrel of a gun.)

Dean Baker:

Zack Beauchamp: [07-23] CPAC goes to Israel: Well, Ben Shapiro anyway. "Who is really learning from whom?" The far-right loves Israel's ethnocracy, its cruel repression of the Palestinians, and its quasi-random violence against its neighbors (e.g., [07-21] Israeli Airstrikes Kill Five Syrian Soldiers Near Damascus), and Israelis like American money with no strings attached and veto protection in the UN, but while Israel has picked up some of the artifacts of neoliberalism, no one's in a big hurry to dismantle their welfare state. So it's hard to see someone like Shapiro as doing anything more than stroking their egos. Speaking of which, J.D. Vance took his Ohio Senate campaign to Israel: [07-24] Inside the GOP Freakout Over JD Vance's Senate Campaign.

Bonnie S Benwick: [07-24] Diana Kennedy, cookbook author who promoted Mexican cuisine, dies at 99. I'm not much for Mexican cuisine, but when I decided to buy a serious book on the subject, I picked out Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking.

Matthew Cappucci: [07-22] Why the Dust Bowl was hotter than this heat wave, despite global warming. I've long known that a lot of high temperature records here in Wichita were set in 1936. We've had a couple years in the last 20 that have come close. In 2011, we had 53 days of 100F+. In 2012, we had 36, and in 2000, we had 33. The median since 2000 is 9. We've had 11 through July 23, so we're above average, but not on a record-setting pace. (Forecast is for 100F+ the next 4 days, which will make it 15.) The big difference between now and the 1930s is that so far we've been spared the drought that's struck most points further west -- although most climate models point to a dryer Kansas, which combined with the depletion of the Ogalalla Aquifer could turn western Kansas back into a dust bowl. The article explains "why the Dust Bowl doesn't disprove climate change," lest you be tempted to draw that inference.

David Dayen: [07-18] The Impossible, Inevitable Survival of the Trump Tax Cuts: "How Democrats went from unanimous opposition to an unpopular policy to doing nothing about it in the five years since it became law."

Eleanor Eagan: [07-20] Democrats Need to Fight for a Government That Works: Given that Republicans are always out to cripple government (at least the part that actually works for people), the Democrats' future depends on two things: convincing people that the government can be a blessing, and that Democrats are the only ones who can run government for the benefit of the people. I wouldn't define this, as the author does, strictly on the basis of money appropriated, but that may suffice as a first approximation. Meanwhile, Ryan Cooper: [07-20] Republicans Have Created a Pro-Life Dystopia.

Catie Edmondson: [07-14] Republicans Oppose Measure to Root Out White Supremacy in the Military.

Henry Giroux: [07-22] The Nazification of American Education: Inflammatory title, but then you see the picture of Ron DeSantis and remember, oh yeah, him: indeed, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Then comes a Theodor Adorno quote from 1959: "I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy." Of course, DeSantis doesn't call his program "nazification." His term is "patriotic education." He views the schools first and foremost as "propaganda factories" (Giroux's apt term). Second half of the article reviews how Hitler changed education in Nazi Germany. See if you can spot the common threads.

Mark Hannah: [07-18] It's time for a US push to end the war in Ukraine: Well, it's way past time, but the situation is bad and only going to get worse.

Michael Holtz: [07-22] Harvesting Wheat in Drought-Parched Kansas. One caveat here is that Wichita, which is the center of the state's wheat belt, we're actually about +3 inches of rain above normal this year. Still, the U.S. Drought Monitor map shows us "D0 (Abnormally Dry)." There is more severe drought in western Kansas, but without irrigation not much wheat is grown there.

Sarah Jones:

Fred Kaplan: [07-10] Boris Johnson Diminished Britain on the World Stage: "He promised to make the UK great again. Instead, he left it as just another US sidekick." One thing about former empires is how they preserve the conceit that they should still exercise sway over their former dominions, as if the countries they plundered still owe them deference. You see this in places like Iran and Turkey. You see this with France and Russia poking their noses into former colonies. You see this in Japan and Germany, even though they've explicitly renounced empire-building. You saw this in fascist Italy and Germany, even though the empires they aimed to revive were more than a thousand years removed. But no country exceeds Britain for self-delusion. Ever since Churchill, British leaders seem convinced that they haven't lost an empire, just conned the US into doing their heavy lifting.

Ed Kilgore:

Meryl Kornfield: [07-22] Rio Grande runs dry in Albuquerque for the first time in 40 years.

Kelly McClure: [07-24] Gaetz on ugly women and abortion rights: "The people are just disgusting." In a similar vein, [07-22] Ted Cruz says his pronoun is "kiss my ass".

Ian Millhiser: [07-21] The Supreme Court just let a Trump judge seize control of ICE, at least for now: "Apparently President Biden isn't in charge of the executive branch anymore." This is very bad.

Sara Morrison: [07-22] Amazon wants to be your doctor now, too: "The e-commerce giant is buying One Medical for $4 billion."

Steven Mufson: [07-12] Republicans threaten Wall Street over climate positions.

Olivia Nuzzi: [07-14] Donald Trump on 2024: 'I've Already Made That Decision': "The only question left in the former president's mind is when he'll announce."

Evan Osnos: [07-18] The Haves and the Have-Yachts.

Fintan O'Toole: [07-08] Boris Johnson has vandalised the political architecture of Britain, Ireland and Europe.

Kasha Patel: [07-12] Second glacier avalanche in a week shows dangers of a warming climate. Meanwhile: [07-13] Temperatures soar to 115 in Europe as heat wave expands. Also: [07-14] Unforgiving heat wave in Texas and Southern Plains to worsen next week.

Yumna Patel: [07-23] Israeli Supreme Court rules citizens can be stripped of status for 'breach of loyalty'.

Dave Philipps: [07-14] With Few Able and Fewer Willing, US Military Can't Find Recruits: "Fighting headwinds from the pandemic, the tight labor market and demographic shifts, the armed forces may fall further short of enlistment quotas this year than they have in decades."

Charles P Pierce: [07-22] The Secret of the Jan. 6 Hearings Is That None of It Changes What the GOP Is Now: "Or what it's been for a very long time now." The hearings often play like a lifeline to sane Republicans, but real Republicans know that everyone co÷perating with the Committee and/or expressing reservations about Trump is traitorous RINO scum.

John Quiggin:

Brian Resnick: [07-12] Why the new James Webb Space Telescope images are such a big deal. Also: Farhad Manjoo: [07-14] The Web Telescope Restored (Some of) My Faith in Humanity.

Ingrid Robeyns: [07-04] How to write a good public philosophy book. Author is working on one provisionally titled Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth.

Bernie Sanders: [07-14] The Great Microchip Corporate Giveaway.

Jonathan Schell: [07-24] A Niagara Falls of Post-9/11 Violence: Reprint, with new introduction by Tom Engelhardt, of a 2014 post, which itself was a posthumous reprint of a piece from Schell's 2003 book, The Unconquerable World. I read the book when it first came out, and found it somewhat wanting: a great (indeed, prophetic) title, but the book itself got lost in arcane discussions of sovereignty, and failed to detail the many reasons the world is unconquerable. Still, the analogy to 1914 is again worth pondering. That war officially started with Austria-Hungary invading Serbia, supposedly in response to the assassination of its Archduke, but the key decision that made the war possible, and that caused it to spread so rapidly across Europe, was the "blank check" Germany incited Austria-Hungary with. So far, Biden has stopped short of acceding to Zelensky's demand for his own "blank check," but he's coming close (see White House Approves 16th Weapons Transfer to Ukraine, Total Security Aid Now Over $8 Billion; meanwhile, the recipient of such largesse is more focused on keeping the arms coming than on ending the war: Zelensky Rejects Any Ceasefire With Russia).

Robert J Shapiro: [07-21] The Case for Bill Clinton's Economic Record: "No, progressives, the former president wasn't some neoliberal corporatist helping the rich. Clinton delivered the strongest economy of the past half century and helped working families." Second bit is mostly true, but by weakening unions (remember NAFTA? Shapiro doesn't) and unraveling the safety net (remember "welfare reform"?) the gains that working families made in the late 1990s were easily wiped out in the Bush recessions. The first bit is bullshit. The whole New Democrat concept was the conceit that they could grow the economy more than Republicans, and in doing so they could make the rich even more so. And they were right: the rich never had it so good as under Clinton. He made them tons of money, and left a legacy -- Greenspan, ending Carter-Glass, tax-exempting internet commerce -- that continued to make them money (especially after the Bush tax cuts let them keep more of it). Neoliberalism may not be the ideal term to describe what Clinton did, but what he did was very much within the broader neoliberal game plan. And the epithet sticks because it reminds us that liberals like Clinton (and Obama) did as much to rig the economy for the rich as their Republican opponents ever did.

Alex Shephard: [07-22] The Right-Wing Media Celebrated Biden's Covid Diagnosis. Also: Abdul El-Sayed: [07-21] Biden's Covid Diagnosis and the GOP's Endless Cynicism. By the way, Covid cases are up 19% over 14 days, (129,136), and deaths are up 38% (444).

Katie Shepherd: [07-14] Texas sues Biden administration for requiring abortions in medical emergencies. I read an op-ed last week about how we should stop talking about the possibility that abortion bans could interfere with women getting treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, assuring us that none of the bans would interfere with life-saving medical care. Biden tried to codify that reassurance in an executive order. So Texas is suing Biden, in a case that will ultimately be decided by the Federalist Society judges. Panic now?

Jeffrey St Clair: [07-22] Roaming Charges: The Sky Is Frying: If you only follow one link here, make it this one. The introduction on global warming is superb (at least until he veers off with "this was the week Joe Manchin performed a late-term abortion on the fetal remains of Biden's already grossly inadequate climate plan"). After he gets to other subjects, note this: "In 2008, before the Citizens United ruling (another Alito opinion), billionaires contributed $31 million to federal political campaigns. In 2020, billionaires contributed $1.2 billion." Can we really claim to have "freedom of speech" when it's impossible to get a word heard over the megaphones of billionaires? PS: I missed this one from the previous week: Roaming Charges: The Screams of the Children Have Been Edited Out. Quite a bit there on the 10-year-old rape victim who had to go out of Ohio to get an abortion. Much more, of course. One item I was struck by was: "The state of Arizona spends only 6% of its welfare budget on helping poor families, and 61% of it on harassing and punishing poor families through Child Protective Services." Arizona also has a law that "requires 'civilian' oversight boards to be composed of 100% police or former police." Then there's this chart on "Life expectancy vs. health expenditure." Caption: "The Genius of the American Health Care System: Spending more to die younger."

Michael Stavola: [09-21] Toddler grabs gun and shoots self in the leg in east Wichita. Also (from 2017): Boy, 5, shoots himself to death, the KC area's 11th such shooting since 2013. Isn't the NRA mantra "if guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns"? Wouldn't that be better?

Matt Stieb: [07-12] John Bolton Admitted on National TV That He Helped Plan Coups. Just none that were even temporarily successful.

Veronica Stracqualursi: [07-22] Newsom signs California gun bill modeled after Texas abortion law: I can't deny that the same idea occurred to me moments after I read about the Texas law, but after a bit of reflection I realized that's a dumb idea. Note that the ACLU is already on the case.

Lena H Sun/Mark Johnson: [07-21] Unvaccinated man in Rockland County, NY, diagnosed with polio: "This is the first US case of polio in nearly a decade." Meanwhile: WHO declares monkeypox a global health emergency as infections soar.

David Weigel: [07-23] On the campaign trail, many Republicans talk of violence. Shortly after adding this, I ran across an Ó propos meme which said: "Stay away from people who act like a victim in a problem they created."

Philip Weiss:


Tweet from Barbara Res on the late Ivana Trump:

I saw Trump humiliate Ivana. I listened to him put her down in front of others, once to the point of tears. I listened to him complaining about her, to the extent of cursing her out. In my opinion, of course, he raped her. I watched Ivana fall apart in her office. I liked her.

Daily Log

Greg Magarian post on Facebook:

I recently attended an academic conference on the Second Amendment. I presented a draft of the Introduction to a book I'm writing about clashes and interactions between free speech and gun rights. The Introduction makes clear that the book will take a strong position against Second Amendment rights. I'm at an early stage, and when I distributed my draft, I noted several thorny structural issues that I needed help with.

The conference included participants with a diverse range of views. Most of the people who offered comments on my draft were gun rights advocates. Here's the high-level scholarly feedback they gave me:

-- Kyle Rittenhouse (whose story I use to frame the interaction between political protest and gun violence) was the real victim in Kenosha.

-- The cops who killed Breonna Taylor (whose story I mention in framing the Rittenhouse frame) were justified.

-- Gun rights advocates are thoughtful and reasonable, and my suggestion that a substantial number of them are comfortable with political violence is scurrilous. (The commenter, alas, didn't use the word "scurrilous.") However . . .

-- My dismissing the likelihood that our armed populace could legitimately and successfully identify and overthrow a tyrannical U.S. government in the 21st century is absurd.

From this dubious experience I take two apt lessons -- one about speech and the other about guns:

(1) Presenting your work to people who adamantly oppose your worldview isn't nearly as useful as free speech truisms hold, because generally those people just find as many ways as the schedule permits to tell you that they adamantly oppose your worldview, which you already knew.

(2) Gun rights advocates are entitled snowflakes who think the world owes them respect, by which they mean unquestioning solicitude.

(I know -- these "lessons" should have been obvious to me already. I'm slow sometimes.)

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