Speaking of* [0 - 9]

Sunday, March 3, 2024


Speaking of Which

I started this early, on Wednesday, maybe even Tuesday, as I couldn't bring myself to work on anything else. There's a rhythm here: I have twenty-some tabs open to my usual sources, and just cycle through them, picking out stories, noting them, sometimes adding a comment, some potentially long. By Friday night, I had so much, I thought of posting early: leaving the date set for Sunday, when I could do a bit of update.

I didn't get the early post done. Sunday, my wife invited some friends over to watch a movie. I volunteered to make dinner, and that (plus the movie) killed the rest of the day. Nothing fancy: I keep all the fixings for pad thai on hand, so I can knock off a pretty decent one-dish meal in little more than an hour. And I had been thinking about making hot and sour soup since noticing a long-neglected package of dried lily buds, so I made that too. First actual cooking I had done in at least a month, so that felt nice and productive.

This, of course, feels totally scattered. I'm unsure of the groupings, and it's hard for me to keep track of the redundancies and contradictions. And once again, I didn't manage to finish my rounds. Perhaps I'll add a bit more after initially posting it late Sunday night. But at the moment, I'm exhausted.


Initial count: 160 links, 3,339 words.


Top story threads:

Israel:

Israel vs. world (including American) opinion: This week we lead off with a singular act of self-sacrifice, by an American, Aaron Bushnell, in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington:

Other stories:

  • Spencer Ackerman: [03-28] The anti-Palestinian origins of the War on Terror: Interview with Darryl Li, who wrote the report Anti-Palestinian at the core: The origins and growing dangers of US anti-terrorism law.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [02-28] War on Gaza: How the US is buying time for Israel's genocide: "As the US ambassador to the UN recently made clear in a rare moment of honesty, Washington is fully committed to facilitating Israel's destruction of the Palestinians."

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-01] US vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel for flour massacre.

  • Muhannad Ayyash: [02-26] Boycotting Israel could stop the genocide: At this point, this is probably just wishful thinking: "the world must ensure Tel Aviv's legal, economic and political isolation." The nice thing about BDS was that it provided a forum for grass-roots organizing against the apartheid regime in Israel: something that individuals could start and grow, and eventually recruit more powerful organizations, while ultimately appealing to the better consciences within Israel itself. That it worked with South Africa was encouraging.

    But it was always going to be a much more difficult reach in Israel -- I could insert a half-dozen reasons here -- and it never came close to gathering the collective moral, let alone financial, force it had with South Africa. Now, about all you can say for it is that it allowed people of good will to express their disapproval without promoting even more violence. I would even agree that it's still worth doing -- Israel deserves to be shamed and shunned for what it's doing, now more than ever. And, as we witness what Israel is doing, many more people, indeed whole nations, may join us.

    But will boycotting stop the genocide now? Maybe if the US and NATO banded together and put some serious teeth in their threats, some Israelis might reconsider. But sanctions usually just push countries deeper into corners, from which they're more likely to strike back than to fold. I'm not about to blame BDS for Israel's rampant right-wing -- their racism dates back further than any outsider noticed -- but they would claim their ascent as the way of fighting back against foreign moralizers. Even if we could count on eventually forcing some kind of reconciliation, the people in power in Israel right now are more likely to double down on genocide. It's not like anyone in the Nazi hierarchy saw the writing on the wall after Stalingrad and decided they should call the Judeocide off, lest they eventually put on trial. They simply sped up the extermination, figuring it would be their enduring contribution to Aryan civilization.

    • Jo-Ann Mort: [02-28] BDS is counter-productive. We need to crack down on Israeli settlements instead: "A future peace depends on drawing a line between Israel proper and the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory." This article is so silly I only linked to it after the Ayyash piece above. It does provide some explanation why BDS failed, but it doesn't come close to offering an alternative. Israel has been continuously blurring and outright erasing the Green Line ever since 1967. (It started with he demolition of the neighborhood next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque's western wall, just days after the 7-day war ended.) There is no way to force Isreal to do much of anything, but few things are harder to imagine them acceding to is a return to what from 1950-67 were often decried as "Auschwitz borders."

  • Phyllis Bennis:

  • Amena ElAshkar: [02-28] Gaza ceasefire: Talk of an imminent deal is psychological warfare. I haven't bothered linking to numerous articles about an imminent ceasefire deal because, quite frankly, possible deals have never been more than temporarily expedient propaganda, mostly meant to humor the hostage relatives and the Americans. If Israel wanted peace, they could ceasefire unilaterally, and having satisfied themselves that they had inflicted sufficient damage to restore their Iron Wall deterrence, leave the rubble to others to deal with. The hostages would cease to be a bargaining chip, except inasmuch as not freeing them would keep much needed international aid away. So why is Netanyahu negotiating with Hamas? Mostly to squirrel the deal, while he continues implementing his plan to totally depopulate/destroy Gaza.

  • Paul Elle: [02-26] The Vatican and the war in Gaza: "A rhetorical dispute the Church and the Israeli government shows the limits -- and the possibilities -- of the Pope's role in times of conflict." On the other hand, if you look at the Pope's recent comments on "gender theory," you'll realize that he has very little to offer humanity, and that a Church that follows him could be very ominous. (For example, see [03-02] Pope says gender theory is 'ugly ideology' that threatens humanity.)

  • Madeline Hall: [02-28] Israeli genocide is a bad investment: For one thing, Norway has divested its holdings of Israeli bonds.

  • James North:

  • Peter Oborne: [02-27] These ruthless, bigoted Tories would have Enoch Powell smiling from his grave: "The recent spate of vile anti-Muslim rhetoric from the Tories shows they have decided that stoking hatred against minorities is their only way to avoid electoral annihilation." Also in UK:

  • Vijay Prashad: [02-14] There is no place for the Palestinians of Gaza to go.

  • Barnett R Rubin: [03-02] Redemption through genocide: "The ICJ ruled that Israel's Gaza campaign poses a plausible and urgent threat of genocide. Future historians of Jewish messianism may recount how in 2024 "redemption through sin" became "redemption through genocide," with unconditional US support."

  • Sarang Shidore/Dan M Ford: [02-29] At the Hague, US more isolated than ever on Israel-Palestine.

  • Adam Taylor: [02-29] Democrats grew more divided on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poll shows. Interesting that the Democratic split has always favored "take neither side," from a peak of 82% down to 74% before Gaza blew up -- the 12% drop since looks to be evenly split. Republicans, on the other hand, never had any sympathy for Palestinians, and became more pro-Israeli since (56% would "take Israel's side," vs. 19% for Democrats).

  • Philip Weiss: [02-28] PBS and NPR leave out key facts in their Israel stories: "Pundits and reporters in the mainstream media have a double standard when it comes to Israel and all but lie about apartheid, Jewish nationalism, and the role of the Israel lobby."

America's empire of bases and proxy conflicts, increasingly stressed by Israel's multifront war games:

  • Juan Cole: [03-03] How Washington's anti-Iranian campaign failed, big time.

  • Dave DeCamp: [02-29] US officials expect Israel to launch ground invasion of Lebanon: "Administration officials tell CNN they expect a ground incursion in late spring or early summer." The logic here is pretty ridiculous, and if it's believed in Washington, you have to wonder about them, too. Israel had a lot of fun bombing Lebanon in 2006, but their ground incursion was a pure disaster. There's no possible upside to trying it again. The argument that Netanyahu will, for political expediency, enlarge the war in order to keep it going "after Gaza," overlooks their obvious desire to "finish the job" by doing the same to Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank.

  • Sasha Filippova/Kristina Fried/Brian Concannon: [03-01] From coup to chaos: 20 years after the US ousted Haiti's president.

  • Jim Lobe: [03-01] Neocon Iraq war architects want a redo in Gaza: "Post-conflict plan would put Western mercenaries and Israel military into the mix, with handpicked countries in charge of a governing 'Trust.'" Pic is of Elliott Abrams, who was the one in charge of US Israel policy under Bush, and who pushed Sharon's unilateral withdrawal of settlements from Gaza, so that Gaza could be blockaded and bombed more effectively. That directly led to Hamas seizing power in Gaza, so one could argue that Abrams already had his "redo in Gaza."

The Michigan primaries: Of minor interest to both party frontrunners, so let's get them out of the way first. Trump won the Republican primary with 68.1% of the votes, vs. 26.6% for Nikki Haley, splitting the delegates 12-4 (39 more delegates will be decided later). Biden won the Democratic primary with 81.1% of the vote, vs. 13.2% for an uncommitted slate, which was promoted by Arab-Americans and others as a protest vote against Biden's support for Israel's genocide in Gaza. Marianne Williamson got 3%, and Dean Phillips 2.7%. Everyone's trying to spin the results as much as possible, but I doubt they mean much.

Next up is "Super Tuesday," so here's a bit of preview:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Mitch McConnell, 82, announced he will step down as Republican Leader in the Senate in November. This led to some, uh, appreciation?

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-29] Mitch McConnell, Senate arsonist.

  • Jack Hunter: [02-29] Sorry AP: Mitch McConnell is no Ronald Reagan: "The paper deploys the usual neoconservative trope that their foreign policies are the same. They are not." Still, I hate it when critics think they're being so clever in claiming that old Republicans were so sensible compared to the new ones. Reagan's "willingness to talk to America's enemies" didn't extend much beyond Russia, and that only after the door had been opened by Gorbachev. He left nothing but disasters all over Latin America and the Middle East through Iran and Afghanistan.

  • Ed Kilgore: [02-29] Mitch McConnell's power trip finally comes to an end.

  • Ian Millhiser: [02-29] How Mitch McConnell broke Congress.

  • John Nichols: [02-29] Good riddance to Mitch McConnell, an enemy of democracy: Sorry to have to break this to you, but he isn't going anywhere. He'll serve out the rest of his six-year term. He's not giving up his leadership post out of a sudden attack of conscience. He's doing it so some other Republican can take over, and possibly do even worse things than he would have done. By holding out until November, he's giving Trump the prerogative of hand-picking his successor -- assuming Trump wins, of course.

  • David A Graham: Mitch McConnell surrenders to Trump: That's more like it, but at least he's given himself some time. If Trump wins in November, there'll be no fighting him. And if Trump loses, why should he want to be the one stuck cleaning up the mess?

  • Andrew Prokop: [02-28] How Mitch McConnell lost by winning.

  • Jane Mayer: [2020-04-12] How Mitch McConnell became Trump's enabler-in-chief: Sometimes an old piece is the best reminder. Had McConnell a bit more foresight and backbone, he could have swung enough Republican votes to convict Trump over Jan. 6, and followed that with a resolution declaring Trump ineligible to run again, according to the 14th Amendment -- such a resolution was discussed at the time, and would undoubtedly be upheld. Sure, it would have been unpopular among Republicans at the time, but popular will has almost never entered into McConnell's political calculus.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [02-27] Biden has been bad for Palestinians. Trump would be worse. "On Israel, the two are not the same." Probably true, but this really isn't much comfort. Biden is effectively an Israeli puppet, with no independent will, or even willingness to caution Netanyahu in public, and as such has had no effect on moderating Israel's vendetta -- and may reasonably be charged with not just supporting but accelerating it. For instance, Biden did not have to send aircraft carriers into the region, threatening Iran and provoking Yemen and Lebanon. Nor did he have to accelerate arms deliveries when a ceasefire was obviously called for. As for Trump, sure, he doesn't even know the meaning of "caution." He is largely responsible for Netanyahu believing that he can get away with anything.

    • Isaac Chotiner: [02-28] Does the Biden administration want a long-lasting ceasefire in Gaza? Interview with John Kirby, Biden's National Security Council spokesman, explaining that Biden only wants whatever Netanyahu tells him to want. It's like a form of hypnosis, where Hamas is the shiny object that so captures America's gaze that it will support Israel doing anything to it wants as long as it's saying it's meant to eliminate Hamas. Sure, Biden understands that Palestinians are suffering, and he implores Netanyahu to make them suffer less, but he can't question his orders.

      The key to this is that he buys the line that Hamas is a cancer that can be excised from the Palestinian body politic, allowing Israel to regain its security. I hesitate to call that the Israeli line: sure, they developed it with their targeted assassinations (they go back at least as far as Abu Jihad in 1988), but Israelis never claimed one strike would suffice -- they tended to use metaphors like "mowing the grass"). It was only the Americans, with their romantic conceits about their own goodness and the innate innocence of ignorant savages, that turned this systematic slaughter into magical thinking. Israelis don't think like that. They understand that Hamas (or some other form of militant backlash) is the inevitable result of their harsh occupation. And, their consciences hardened by constant struggle (including their carefully cultivated memory of the Holocaust), they're willing to live with that brutality.

      If they can't distinguish Hamas from the mass of people they've emerged from, they see no reason to discipline their killing. They figure if they destroy enough, the problem will subside. Even if it inevitably erupts again, that's later, and they'll remain eternally vigilant. There are no solutions, because they don't want to accept the only possible one, which is peaceful coexistence. But silly Americans, they need to be told stories, and it's amazing what they'll swallow.

    • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-01] Biden memos show Palestine advocacy is working: "Two recent presidential orders show the Biden administration is feeling the heat from months of protests against his support for Israel's genocide in Gaza."

    • Alexander Ward: [03-01] 'We look 100 percent weak': US airdrops in Gaza expose limit to Biden's Israel policy.

    • Fareed Zakaria: [03-01] Biden needs to tell Israel some difficult truths. Only he can do it.

    • Erica L Green: [03-03] Kamala Harris calls for an 'immediate cease-fire' in Gaza: Promising title, but fine print reveals it's only the "six-week cease-fire proposal currently on the table," and that she's calling on Hamas, not Israel, the ones who are actually doing all of the firing, and who have already broken off talks on that particular proposal. A cease fire, especially where the war is so one-sided, doesn't need to be negotiated: just do it (perhaps daring the other side to violate it, but the longer it lasts, the better). Sure, prisoner exchanges have to be negotiated, but not cease-fire, which is just common sense.

  • Frank Bruni: [03-03] How Democrats can win anywhere and everywhere.

  • Michelle Goldberg: [03-01] The Democrat showing Biden how it's done: Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan. This follows on recent columns by Goldberg:

  • Ezra Klein: [02-16] Democrats have a better option than Biden: Starts by heaping considerable praise on Biden and his accomplishments of the last three-plus years, then lowers the boom and insists that he should step aside, not so much because one reasonably doubts that he can do the job for more years, but that he's no longer competent as a candidate. (Never mind that Trump is far from competent, in any sense of the term. He's a Republican, and one of our many double standards, we don't expect competency from Republicans, or for that matter caring, or even much coherence.) He goes into how conventions work, and offers a bunch of plausible candidates. It's a long and thorough piece, and makes the case as credibly as I've seen (albeit much less critically of Biden than I might do myself).

    Klein's columns are styled as "The Ezra Klein Show," which are usually just interviews, but this one is monologue, with multiple references to other conversations. He's had a few other interviews recently with political operatives, a couple adding to his insight into Democratic prospects, plus a couple more I'll include here. (Also see the pieces I listed under Ukraine.)

  • Paul Musgrave: [03-03] An inside look at how Biden's team rebuilt foreign policy after Trump: Review of Alexander Ward: The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump.

  • Bill Scher: [02-29] "Nightmare in America": How Biden's ad team should attack Trump: "In 1984, Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign ran a series of ads that evoked how different life felt in America compared to under his opponent's administration four years prior. Today, Joe Biden should do the same." Sure, there's something to be said here, if you can figure out how to say it. But Trump's going to be pushing the opposite spin, in many cases on the same set of facts, all the while pointing out the extraordinary efforts his/your enemies took to hobnob his administration and persecute him since he was pushed out of office. He's just as likely to embrace the Left's notion of him as their worst nightmare. Note that page includes a link to a 2020 article, which also cites Reagan: Nancy LeTourneau: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

  • John E Schwarz: [03-01] Democratic presidents have better economic performances than Republican ones.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [03-01] Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks. I don't really buy that "Ukraine's shift is a sign of just how dire the situation is becoming for its armed forces," but I do believe that Russia can more/less hold its position indefinitely, that it can continue to exact high (and eventually crippling) costs from Ukraine indefinitely, and that it can survive the sanctions regime (which the US is unlikely to loosen even in an armistice. All of this suggests to me that Zelensky needs to approach some realistic terms for ending the war, then sell them as hard to his "allies" as to Putin, and to the rest of the world.

  • Anatol Lieven/George Beebe: [02-28] Europeans' last ditch clutch at Ukrainian victory: "France's Macron raised the idea of Western troops entering the fray, others want to send longer range missiles."

  • Olena Melnyhk/Sera Koulabdara: [02-29] Ukraine's vaunted 'bread basket' soil is now toxic: "Two years of war has left roughly one-third of its territory polluted, with dire potential consequences for the world's food supply."

  • Will Porter: [02-28] Russia claims first Abrama tank kill in Ukraine.

  • Ted Snider: [03-01] How the West provoked an unprovoked war in Ukraine. The ironies in the title at least merit quotes around "unprovoked." The important part of the story is the relatively underreported period from March, 2021 when Biden added $125 million of "defensive lethal weapons" on top of $150 million previously allocated under Trump, up to the eve of the March 2022 invasion, when "Putin called Ukraine 'a knife to the throat of Russia' and worried that 'Ukraine will serve as an advanced bridgehead' for a pre-emptive US strike against Russia." It is unlikely the US would ever launch such a strike, but Ukraine had by then given up on the Minsk accords and was preparing to take back Donbas. Had they succeeded, Crimea would be next, and that (plus excessive confidence in his own military) was enough for Putin to launch his own pre-emptive attack.

  • Marcus Stanley: [02-28] Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war: "Not only will this prolong the conflict, but rock confidence in the Western-led world economic system."

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [02-28] Foreign troops in Ukraine? They're already there.

  • Ezra Klein:

  • [2022-03-01] Can the West stop Russia by strangling its economy? Transcript of an interview with Adam Tooze, doesn't really answer the title question but does provide a pretty deep survey of Russia's economy at the start of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. One minor note: I think Tooze said "Kremlinologists" where you read "the criminologists of the modern day have five, six, seven, eight different groups now that they see operating around Putin."

    PS: Unrelated to Russia, but for another Klein interview with Tooze, see: [2022-10-07] How the Fed is "shaking the entire system".

Around the world:


Other stories:

Lori Aratani: [03-01] Boeing in talks to reacquire key 737 Max supplier Spirit AeroSystems: Boeing spun the company off in 2005, including the Wichita factory my father and brother worked at for decades.

Marina Bolotnikova/Kenny Torrella: [02-26] 9 charts that show US factory farming is even bigger than you realize: "Factory farms are now so big that we need a new word for them." Related here:

Rosa Brooks: [02-20] One hundred years of dictatorship worship: A review of a new book by Jacob Heilbrunn: America Last: The Right's Century-Long Romance With Foreign Dictators [note: cover has it "America First" in large white type, then overprints "Last" in blockier red].

Daniel Denvir: [02-28] The libertarians who dream of a world without democracy: Interview with Quinn Slobodian, who wrote the 2018 book Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, and most recently, Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy.

Adam Gopnik: [02-19] Did the year 2020 change us forever? "The COVID-19 pandemic affected us in millions of ways. But it evades the meanings we want it to bear." A review, which I haven't finished (and may never) of the emerging, evolving literature on 2020.

Sean Illing: [03-03] Are we in the middle of an extinction panic? "How doomsday proclamations about AI echo existential anxieties of the past." Interview with Tyler Austin Harper, who wrote about this in the New York Times: The 100-year extinction panic is back, right on schedule. I could write a lot more on this, especially if I referred back to the extinction controversies paleontologists have been debating all along, but suffice it to say:

  • Short of the Sun exploding, there is zero chance of humans going extinct in the foreseeable future. People are too numerous, widespread, and flexible for anything to get all of us. (Side note: the effective altruist focus on preventing extinction events is misguided.)
  • Human population is, however, precariously balanced on a mix of technological, economic, political, and cultural factors which are increasingly fragile, and as such subject to sabotage and other disruptions (not least because they are often poorly understood). Any major breakdown could be catastrophic on a level that affects millions (though probably not billions) of people.
  • Catastrophes produce psychological shocks that can compound the damage. By far the greatest risk here is war, not just for its immediate destruction but because it makes recovery more difficult.
  • People are not very good at evaluating these risks, erring often both in exaggeration and denial.

The Times piece led to some others of interest here:

Chris Lehman: [03-01] Border hysteria is a bipartisan delusion: "Yesterday, both President Biden and Donald Trump visited Texas to promise harsher immigration policies."

Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable. I mentioned this in an update last week, but it's worth mentioning again. She starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Michelle Orange: [03-01] How the Village Voice met its moment: A review of Tricia Romano's The Freaks Came Out to Write, a new "oral history" (i.e., history presented in interview quotes). I rushed out and bought a copy, and should probably write my own review, even if only because she left me out.

Rick Perlstein: [02-28] Kissinger revisited: "The former secretary of state is responsible for virtually every American geopolitical disaster of the past half-century."

Deanne Stillman: [02-21] Mothers, sons, and guns: Author wrote a book about Lee Harvey Oswald and his mother, recounted here, in light of high school shooter Ethan Crumbley and his mother, Jennifer Crumbley, who was convicted for her role leading up to the shootings.

David Zipper: [03-01] Driving at ridiculous speeds should be physically impossible: As someone who grew up with a great love of auto racing, I'd argue that driving at ridiculous speeds has always been physically impossible, even as limits have expanded with better technology. Of course, "ridiculous" can mean many different things, but I'd say that's a reason not to try to legislate it. I've long thought that the 55 mph speed limit was the biggest political blunder the Democrats made, at least in my lifetime. (Aside from Vietnam.) Not only did it impose on personal freedom -- in a way that, say, European levels of gasoline taxes wouldn't have done -- but it induced some kind of brain rot in American auto engineering, from which Detroit may never have recovered. (I can't really say. After several bad experiences, I stopped buying their wares.)

Ironically, this political push for mandating "speed limiters" (even more euphemistically, "Intelligent Speed Assistance") on new cars is coming from tech businesses, who see surveillance of driving as a growth area for revenue. This fits in with much broader plans to increase surveillance -- mostly government, but it doesn't end there -- over every aspect of our lives. Supposedly, this will save lives, although the relationship between speeding and auto carnage has never been straightforward, and much more plausible arguments (e.g., on guns) go nowhere. My great fear here is that Democrats will rally to this as a public health and safety measure, inviting a backlash we can ill afford (as with the 55 mph speed limit, which helped elect Reagan).


Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 25, 2024


Speaking of Which

Once again, I failed to finish my rounds by end-of-Sunday, so I'm posting what I have, with the expectation that I'll add more on Monday (look for red right-border stripes). One thing I didn't get to but seems likely to be worthwhile adding is No More Mister Nice Blog. That's where I first ran into the Katie Glueck article, and I see relevant posts on many of this week's politics articles. Charles P Pierce also has worthwhile takes on most of this.

This appeared after my cutoff, but is a good overview of everything else that follows: Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable, where she starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.


Initial count: 154 links, 7,499 words. Updated count: 178 links, 8,813 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide continues.

Reported casualty figures, as of 2/23, show 1,147 Israelis killed on October 7, plus 576 Israelis killed since. Palestinian deaths -- certainly undercounted -- are 29,514 in Gaza + 380 elsewhere in Israel. Since Oct. 7, Israelis are killing more than 51 Palestinians in Gaza for every soldier lost. No breakdown between soldiers lost in invading Gaza vs. elsewhere, but the latter numbers are probably very small. The kill ratio increases to 65-to-1 using the 38,000 estimate "when accounting for those presumed dead."

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Ben Armbruster: [02-22] US intel has 'low confidence' in Israel's UNRWA claims.

  • Michael Arria: [02-22] The Shift: US vetoes UN ceasefire resolution again: "Joe Biden has stepped up public criticisms of Israel to save his faltering electoral prospects in Michigan, but there remains an incredible disconnect between these words and his administration's ongoing support for Israel's genocidal attack on Gaza."

  • Moustafa Bayoumi: [02-17] As Biden ignores death in Gaza, the 'Dark Brandon' meme is unfunny and too real.

  • Miguel A Cruz-Díaz: [02-23] On the shame of living through times of genocide. The article, about "suicidal ideation," is not exactly what I imagined from the title, but I'm not wired to take other people's tragedies personally. (I was tempted to say "for empathy," but I can imagine even if I only rarely feel.) But the title is evocative. I don't advise you feeling shame for what other people -- and not just the perpetrators, but also those making excuses, or just shrugging their shoulders -- are doing, but they definitely should feel ashamed (and if not, should learn).

  • Emily Davies/Peter Hermann/Dan Lamothe: [02-27] Airman who set self on fire grew up on religious compound, had anarchist past: Aaron Bushnell, whose protest echoed that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War.

  • Yves Engler: [02-21] The reasons for Canada's 'unwavering' support for Israel: "Canada's remarkable fidelity to an apartheid state committing genocide is driven by imperial geopolitics, settler solidarity, Christian Zionism and the Israel lobby in Canada, and the weaponization of antisemitism."

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Jonathan Freedland: [02-23] Hamas and Netanyahu are a curse on their peoples. Yet amid the horror, there is a sliver of hope: The "sliver" seems to be [02-23] Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris, but this ignores the core fact of this "war," which is that you don't need to negotiate a ceasefire when only one side is shooting. Just do it. Israel can even declare that if Palestinians do keep shooting rockets at Israel, there will be reprisals (short in time, but severe). That would be understandable. But negotiations just does something Israel claims it doesn't want to do, which is to elevate Hamas as the representative of the people of Gaza.

    The headline suggests that both Netanyahu and Hamas are unfortunate political choices, but Netanyahu was a choice, at least of the limited electorate within Israel, and there's plenty of reason to believe he's doing exactly what those who voted for him want. Hamas was never elected, because Palestinians have never been free to choose their own leaders. The West Bank is, well, complicated, but Gaza should be simple: all Israel has to do is stop attacking and step away. They've more than punished Hamas. They've destroyed most of the region's infrastructure. For at least the next 20 years, the only way people will be able to live in Gaza is through foreign aid, which they will basically have to beg for. If Israel takes itself out of the picture, and lets the UN organize a proper democratic government there, Hamas will release the hostages, and quietly disappear. (Sure, Hamas may still survive in the West Bank, and among exiles, but that shouldn't be Gaza's fault. Hamas has no life except as resistance to Israeli power.)

    The idea that some people who got to power purely through the use of terror -- and that's every bit as true of Netanyahu as of Hamas (and only slightly less for the Saudis and Americans and other parties invovled) -- can settle something in Paris that will bring peace to Gaza is absurd. Freedland writes: "To grasp it, the Palestinians need to be free of Hamas and Israelis free of Netanyahu." Swap those and you start to enter the realm of the possible: Palestinians need to be free of Netanyahu, which for Gaza at least is easy to do. And that would also make Israelis free of Hamas (except, of course, in the areas where they're still determined to rule rough over Palestinians, because such rule always begets resistance -- if not by Hamas, then by the next bunch that bands together to stand up for freedom and against injustice).

  • Thomas L Friedman: [02-27] Israel is losing its greatest asset: acceptance: This is one of those "if even Thomas Friedman sees a problem . . ." pieces. Israelis have a handicap here: they're so conditioned to expecting that the whole world hates them, they can't imagine how much worse it can get, or how that might impact them. They figure as long as the US stays in line, no problem. And they figure the US is way too big to worry about its own diminishing acceptance.

  • Mehdi Hasan: [02-21] Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here's how.

  • Robert Inkalesh: [02-23] Why the US must enage Hamas politically: I don't agree with this now, but I do believe that I do believe that America's refusal to accept the results of the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections -- I believe Israel, which had always preferred Hamas to the secular-socialist PLO, was only following the American lead -- was largely responsible for pushing Hamas back into violent rebellion, including the desperate attacks of Oct. 7. There is, of course, much room for debate as to how to apportion blame for the continued repression and resistance. Israel's behavior is fully consistent as a white settler colony overseeing a rigidly racist system of control -- call it "Apartheid" if you like, but it differs in some from the disgraced South African system, and often for the worse. It reflects a demented and ultimately self-destructive worldview, but they are pretty clear on what they're doing, and why. As for Americans, they're much harder to explain. Having developed two (or maybe three) such rigidly racist systems, then dismantled them without ever owning up to their crimes, they're amazingly ingenious at lying to themselves and others -- hypocrisy is much too superficial a word -- for the way they so easily rationalize and romanticize Israeli brutality as high moral dudgeon.

  • Jake Johnson: [02-22] "I think we should kill 'em all," GOP Rep. Andy Ogles says of Palestinians in Gaza. Makes him exhbit A (but not the only one) in:

  • Robert Lipsyte: [02-22] I'm heartbroken by the war in Israel.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [02-23] Biden won't let Israel's rejection of a Palestinian state interfere with his delusions.

  • Philip Weiss: [02-21] The context for October 7 is apartheid, not the Holocaust: "The Israel lobby is attempting to indoctrinate Americans that the context for the October 7 attack is the Holocaust. This is a misrepresentation. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust."

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans: Well, South Carolina is done and dusted -- see [02-24] Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina primary, 60.1% to 39.2% (at the point with 92% counted). Also, if you care, How different groups voted in the South Carolina primary, according to exit polls. Nothing terribly surprising there, except perhaps that Trump had his best age split in 17-29 (66% vs. 63% for 65+). [PS: The final delegate split was 47 Trump, 3 Haley.]

CPAC: The erstwhile conservative (more like fascist) organization held their annual conference last week, headlined by Donald Trump, so we'll offer this as a Republicans overflow section. Before we get serious, probably the best introduction here is: [02-23] Jimmy Kimmel on CPAC: 'A who's who of who won't accept the results of the election'.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [02-26] Criticizing a president is always okay -- even one running against Trump: If you care about issues, you should say so, even when it's politically inexpedient. Otherwise, you lose your credibility, and any hope for eventual success. You reduce politics to a game, signifying nothing. If that's your view of it, you may already be a Republican -- although they've adopted some truly obnoxious issue stands, they're really just saying whatever they think gives them a slight advantage, because all they're really intererested in is power: seizing it, keeping it, cashing in on it.

  • Aaron Boxerman/Jonathan Weisman: [02-24] Biden caught in a political bind over Israel policy: "His steadfast support of the Gaza war effort is angering young people and Arab Americans in an election year. But any change risks alienating Jewish voters." Not really: recent polling has Jewish Americans favoring a ceasefire 50-34%. That's not as high as support for a ceasefire from Americans in general, but not enough to justify the NYT's antisemitic trope of painting "the Jews" as responsible for Biden's colossal blunder.

  • Jackie Calmes: [02-14] Biden's polls aren't great. How much is the media's fault?

  • Ben Davis: [02-21] Biden visited East Palestine a year after Trump. This doesn't bode well.

  • William Hartung: [01-31] Tone deaf? Admin brags about 55% hike in foreign arms sales: "Washington's sanitized view of unleashing $80.9 billion in weapons on the world, especially now, is a bit curious."

  • Eric Levitz: [02-23] Biden is weak -- and unstoppable: "It will be hard to convince the president that he isn't the best of his party's bad options."

  • Norman Solomon: [02-25] Joe Biden's moral collapse on Gaza could help Donald Trump win. I'm not going to not vote for Biden in November even though I regard him as not just naive and/or negligent but materially complicit in the most crime against humanity in recent decades, but only because I fully realize that Trump would even be worse (as, indeed, his four years as president amply demonstrated). Still, by all means, tank Biden's polls and trash his prospects, at least until he starts to reverse course. And also note that lots of people are not fully apprised of how awful Trump has been on Israel in particular and on world war in general -- indeed, he is campaigning, Wilson-like, on having "kept us out of war" and steering us away from the path to "world war" that Biden is heading (even though, sure one might even repeat Wilson-like, he's done more than anyone to pave that path). If Biden fails to get his war under control, enough people are likely to fall for Trump's line to tip the election. Also linked to by Solomon:

  • Robert Wright: [02-23] Biden's tough love deficit: Two years after Ukraine, and 20 weeks after Gaza, turned into massive wars:

    There are lots of differences between those two events and between the wars they've brought, but there's one important commonality: how President Biden has reacted. In both cases he has come to the aid of a friend in need and done so in a way that wasn't ultimately good for the friend. Biden is good at showing love and catastrophically bad at showing tough love.

    With both Ukraine and Israel, the US has massive leverage -- by virtue of being a critical weapons supplier and also in other ways. And in both cases Biden has refused to use the leverage to try to end wars that are now, at best, pointless exercises in carnage creation.

    I'll add that both of these wars were advertised long before they broke out, coming out of long-standing conflicts, and only surprising to the those in Washington who pretended that peace can be secured simply by buying American arms and covering them with clichés about deterrence and sanctions. Most of the fault belongs to presidents before Biden: to Bush and Trump for indulging Israel's most right-wing fantasies (and Obama for not resisting them, reinforcing the idea that American reservations are not things Israelis need to take seriously); to Obama's pivot toward a renascent Cold War (after Clinton and Bush expanded NATO to Russia's doorstep); and to Trump for his half-assed mishandling of Ukraine, Russia, China, and everything else. On the other hand, every president inherits the mistakes of his predecessors. Thanks to Trump, Biden wound up with more than usual, but it was his job to fix them. In some cases he tried, and has even had some success. In others, he failed, sometimes not even trying. But here, he's made bad situations worse, and seems incapable of even understanding why.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Eric Levitz: [02-21] Why you probably shouldn't blow up a pipeline. Reaction to Andreas Malm's book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and the subsequent movie. My rejection of such notions is so deep-seated -- I'm still anti-Luddite, even after having developed some appreciation for the intractable problems they faced -- I've never had to wrestle with the issues, nor do I expect that I ever will. But I won't be surprised to see a rising tide of sabotage -- they've already coined the term "ecoterrorism" for this eventuality -- as climate distress worsens, especially if major powers are unwilling to reform and continue to set the standard for dealing with problems through repression and violence. [PS: Note, however, that in Kim Stanley Robinson, in his novel, The Ministry for the Future, expects to see a lot of "ecoterrorism," and sees it as promoting necessary changes.]

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: [02-21] The sham "The economy is awful" story: Per Baker's tweet: "Too bad they [New York Times] weren't allowed to run these when Donald Trump was in the White House." Next in my Twitter queue was Kevin Erdmann: "It's really crazy how interest rate casual stories get canonized without the slightest interest or curiosity in facts. EVERY story about housing will stipulate that the Fed's rate hikes slowed down sales." The chart shows that sales spiked after the worst of the pandemic in 2020, while interest rates were still low, and declined as interest rates increased, but since 2022 they're basically back to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with higher interest rates.

  • Farrah Hassen: [02-23] The rent's still too high! "A new Harvard study found that half of U.S. renter households now spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. And rent increases continue to outpace their income gains. . . . Last year, homelessness hit an all-time national high of 653,100 people."

Ukraine War:

  • Responsible Statecraft: [02-22] The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [02-22] US officials see Ukraine as an active and bountiful military research opportunity.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: [02-25] After two grueling years of bloodshed, it's time for peace in Ukraine.

  • Aaron Blake: [02-27] Zelensky's increasingly blunt comments about Trump: This isn't a good sign, but Trump has always wanted Zelensky to wade into the American political fray -- on his side, of course, but it's not like he can't play opposition just as well. Zelensky is careful to portay his interests as America's own, but Trump is unflappable in that regard.

  • Joe Buccino: [02-22] Ukraine can no longer win. This piece appeared in the Wichita Eagle right after the Doran piece, below. Added here after I wrote the Doran comment, but let's list it first.

  • Peter Doran: [02-24] Ukraine can win -- here's how: Author works for Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), one of our leading war tanks, out here to buck up the troops by, well, quoting Winston Churchill and Henry V. He's wrong on many levels, starting with the notion that anyone can win at war these days. Even when he has a point (that Russia's "manpower pool" isn't inexhaustible) he misses it (that it's still much deeper than Ukraine's). He points to the unpopularity of the war in Russia, the suggestion being that Putin will buckle if the West only shows we're firmly resolved to win, but hasn't Putin proven much more effective at stifling dissent than the democratic West has? Aside from greater resolve, he insists the keys to winning are faster deliveries of even more sophisticated weapons systems, and even tighter sanctions. How did the war planners miss that? He insists on "a clear and compelling definition of victory in Ukraine that advances our national interests." Note nothing here about the well-being of the Ukrainian people, who bear the primary costs of continued war. His definition? "The requirements of this victory include the Russian military ceasing to kill Ukrainians, departing Ukrainian territory and not threatening the existence of the country in the future." It should be obvious by now that the only way to achieve any way of this is through a negotiated settlement that leads not just to a ceasefire but to an enduring stable relationship between Russia, Ukraine, and the West. That may require lesser steps -- a ceasefire would be a good start -- but also means giving up impossible definitions of victory.

  • Steven Erlanger/David E Sanger: [02-24] Hard lessons make for hard choices 2 years into the war in Ukraine: "Western sanctions haven't worked. Weapons from allies are running low. Pressure may build on Kyiv to seek a settlement, even from a weakened position."

  • Ben Freeman: [02-22] The Ukraine lobby two years into war.

  • Joshua Keating: [02-22] Are Ukraine's defenses starting to crumble? "What Ukraine's biggest setback in months tells us about the future of the war."

  • Serhiy Morgunov/David L Stern: [02-25] Zelensky says 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since invasion. His first public disclosure since Dec. 2022 ("up to 13,000"). He's also claiming 180,000 Russian troops have been killed. When the New York Times reported this story (31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in two years of war, Zelensky says, they also noted that Zelensky's number "differs sharply from that given by U.S. officials, who have said the number is closer to 70,000."

    A leaked Pentagon document had estimated deaths at 15,500-17,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and 35,000-42,500 Russian soldiers. That doesn't count at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians killed. For more figures, some exaggerated, some minimized, see Wikipedia's Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

  • Marc Santora: [02-24] Ukraine's deepening fog of war: "Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainian leaders are seeking a path forward in teh face of ferocious assaults and daunting unknowns."

  • Paul Street: [02-22] 500,000 dead and maimed in Ukraine, enough already: It's been a long time since I've seen any figures for war in Ukraine, so this one caught me off guard.

  • Marc A Thiessen: [02-22] If Republicans want to help Trump, they should pass Ukraine aid now. I never cite him, mostly because he's pure evil (he got his start as Cheney's torture apologist), but my local paper loves his columns, so I run into him constantly, and occasionally read enough to reconfirm my judgment. But this one is especially twisted, so I offer it as an example of the mind games regular Republicans play to manipulate the deranged Trumpian psyches -- in effect, to keep them reliably evil. The pitch is that Republicans should keep the war going so Trump can fulfill his "I'll have that done in 24 hours" campaign promise once he's elected. Of course, if Trump does win, Thiessen will do his most to sabotage any peace moves, but in the meantime the war goes on and Biden gets the blame.

  • Katrina Vanden Heuvel/James Carden: [02-23] 10 years later: Maidan's missing history.

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-24] First 2 years of US proxy war against Russia finds both US and Ukraine in downward spiral.

Navalny/Assange:

  • The Observer: [02-17] The Observer view on Alexei Navalny's murder: Putin must be shown he can't kill with impunity: "Russia has been exposed as a rogue state that is a menace to the rest of the world." Isn't the Guardian supposed to be the flagship of Britain's left-leaning press? But I cringe any time I see an "Observer view" editorial, perhaps because so many of them are so full of spite yet so futile, combinations of hypocrisy and bluster. After fulminating for twelve paragraphs, they finally explode: "It's time to get real with Russia." So, like, no more patty-cakes? Like 74 years of "cold war" that actually started with US and UK troops fighting the revolution on Russian soil? That went on to using Afghan proxies to snipe at Russians in the 1980s? That after a brief respite when Yeltsin tried to adopt America's prescription of "shock treatment" nearly self-destructed Russia? That was followed by the relentless expansion of NATO combined with economic warfare including crippling sanctions?

    When they wail, "After Navalny, it's time to drop any lingering illusion that Putin's Russia is a normal country, that it may be reasoned with." If Russia is not "a normal country," and I'll grant that it isn't, perhaps that's because no one in the US/UK has tried to reason with it in dacades? Navalny is part of the price of this hostile rivalry, and unless he was some sort of spy, he wasn't even a price the US/UK paid. He was just collateral damage, like thousands of Ukrainians and Russians maimed and killed in Ukraine, the millions displaced, the many more who are denied food and fuel due to sanctions, and the millions of Russian subjects who are denied free political rights because they are living under a state whose security is constantly being attacked by the West.

  • Andrew Cockburn: [02-19] Tears for Navalny. Assange? Not so much.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [02-20] Where does the fight for a free Russia go now? "Yulia Navalnaya picks up her husband's battle against Putin."

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-21] Even if you hate Julian Assange, the US attempt to extradite him should worry you.

  • Margaret Sullivan: [02-20] The US justice department must drop spy charges against Julian Assange: 'You don't have to like him or WikiLeaks to recognize the damage these charges create."

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-22] Julian Assange is Biden's Navalny.


Other stories:

Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it." This is a pretty seriously wrong-headed article, its appeal to the liberal publisher based on the MAGA movement, prominent Republicans, Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson for making America weak, the effect simply to "advance Putin's agenda." The key to American influence around he world was always based on nothing more than the perception that we would treat the world fairly and generously -- unlike the old colonial empires of Europe, or the new militarism of the Axis, or the growing Soviet-aligned bloc. Sure, the US was never all that innocent, nor all that charitable, but in the late 1940s seemed to compare favorably to the others. The US squandered its moral standing and good will pretty rapidly, and as the article notes, is losing the last of it with Biden's wholehearted support for Israeli genocide.

Nick Estes: [02-19] America's origin story is a myth: Daniel Denvir interviews Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

David French: [02-25] What is Christian nationalism exactly? NY Times opinion columnist, self-described Never-Trump Conservative, professes as evangelical Christian, claiming the authority to explain his wayward brethren -- the flock Chris Hedges wrote about in his 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America -- or at least to make fine distinctions between his kind and the others, who he's more inclined to dub "Christian supremacists." That works almost as well as Hedges' "Fascists" to identify the dictatorial and vindictive powers they aspire to, without implicating Christians who practice tolerance and charity, and allowing new nationalists to express their love for American diversity (as opposed to the old ones, wallowing in xenophobia and racism).

By the way, one term I haven't seen, but seems more to the point, is Republican Christianists (or, I guess, Christianist Republicans): those who enbrace the Republicans' cynical pursuit of coercive power at all costs, while justifying their lust and avarice as a divine mission. This piece led me to some older ones:

Katie Glueck: [02-19] Anti-Trump burnout: The resistance says it's exhausted: "Bracing for yet another election against Donald Trump, America's liberals are feeling the fatigue. "We're kind of, like, crises-ed out," one Democrat said." Well, if one Democrat said it, that's exactly the sort of thing you can count on the New York Times to blow up into a page one issue. Genocide in Palestine? Not so much. Reading their own paper, they don't seem to understand that Trump is out of power, and has been for 3.5 years now. Sure, he still talks a lot, but that's all he is. Trying to shut him up, even if we wanted to, not only isn't worth the effort, but would make things even worse. For most of us, there's nothing much we can do except wait until November, then vote against him.

Sarah Jones: [02-22] The right to a private life is under attack: Starts with the Alabama ruling on IVF (see Cohen, Millhiser, and others, above), but of course the Trump-supporting Christian Nationalists want much more than that: they want to run nearly every aspect of your life:

Our private freedoms are linked to public notions of equal citizenship. Conservatives attack the former in order to undermine the latter. It's an unpopular strategy, but as the scholar Matthew Taylor told Politico, "These folks aren't as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare." This is total war, and not just on women. Anyone who fails to conform is at risk.

More, especially on the IVF backlash:

Taylor Lorenz: [02-24] How Libs of TikTok became a powerful presence in Oklahoma schools: "The owner [Chaya Raichik] of the far-right social media account, who sits on a state advisory panel, has drawn attention since the death of a nonbinary student near Tulsa." I could have filed this under Republicans (above), as that's her mob, but didn't want to bury it under the usual graft and bullshit. Related here:

Garrison Lovely: [01-22] Can humanity survive AI? Long piece I haven't spent much time with as yet, although the subhed "Capitalism makes it worse" is certainly true. I don't know how good and/or bad AI will be, but it's generating a lot more press than I can follow, including:

Kelly McClure: [02-23] Ex-NRA chief funneled millions of dollars into his own pockets, according to a NYC jury: "Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives were found liable for financial misconduct."

Anna North: [02-23] Mascuzynity: How a nicotine pouch explains the new ethos of young conservative men: "Stimulants, hustle culture, and bodybuilding are shaping young men's drift to the right." Not obvious to me why this has become "a gateway to right-wing politics." Unless, that is, you're broadening the definition of right-wing from servants of hierarchy/oligarchy to plain old, all-around assholes.

Rick Perlstein: [02-21] The neglected history of the state of Israel: "The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions." This is, of course, directly relevant to what's happening in the Israel section above. The relationship is not just temperamental and ideological: Netanyahu's father was Jabotinsky's secretary and confidant.

Alissa Quart: [02-21] US media is collapsing. Here's how to save it. She's director of something called Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Aja Romano: [02-18] An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country's bonkers season finale: Noted in the breach, as a remarkably bad review of a season and series where I'm hard pressed to find any points to agree with, either in praise (mostly of seasons one and three, where the flaws are most obvious) or in panning (seasons two and four, where the messes swamp out the positives). But I will say that the "bonkers season finale" was much more satisfying than any I imagined to that point. I at least took the political point, which is that the power of the rich, and the hopelessness of the people they carelessly grind down and toss aside, are never as complete as they imagine.

At the same time, I was also watching A Murder at the End of the World, which was, if anything, even messier (though just a close second for bone-chilling cold), and again mostly acquitted itself with a politically-charged "bonkers finale": the murders were orchestrated by AI, but the context was corporate megalomania, as represented by a billionaire obsessed with control and life-extension. Speaking of which:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-23] Roaming Charges: Somewhat immature: Title is Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, describing the "rules of engagement for orbital warfare," which is to say nobody agrees on any rules, or even knows what they are or should be. But who's that going to stop?

Ben Wray: [02-24] It's time to dismantle the US sanctions-industrial complex: "The US has built up an elaborate machinery for waging economic warfare on its rivals with little or no public debate. This sanctions-industrial complex is a disguised form of imperialism and a dangerous source of global instability."

Li Zhou: [02-23] America's first moon landing in 50 years, explained.


Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


Speaking of Which

Another week, dallying on work I should be doing, eventually finding a diversion in the world's calamities, reported below.

Note, however, that I didn't manage to finish my usual rounds by end-of-Sunday, so posted prematurely, and will try to follow up on Monday, the new pieces flagged like this one.

Initial counts: 151 links, 7,009 words. Updated: 171 links, 7,780 words.


Top story threads:

Israel:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [02-17] Too old? Biden World thinks pundits just don't get Joe: "The president's friends and aides play media critic amid a political mess." They're probably right, but it's hard for outsiders to see, because Biden has never been a very good communicator, and that's never sunk in deep enough to save his latest gaffes from being attributed to obvious age. David Ogilvy advised: "develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga." But if they hadn't paid attention, that's what they'll think anyway, since that's the easiest answer. But people who have paid attention often come to a different appreciation of Biden. I was surprised when, as Biden was just sewing up the 2020 nomination, to see the "Pod Save America" guys appear on Colbert and profess not just support for Biden -- as any practical Democrat would -- but love. I take that to be the point of Franklin Foer's The Last Politician (on my nightstand but still unread as, well, I'm pretty upset with him since he sloppily endorsed Israeli genocide).

  • Elie Honig: [02-16] The real Biden documents scandal (it's not the old-man stuff).

  • Paul Krugman: [02-13] Why Biden should talk up economic success: I'm pretty skeptical here. Two big problems: one is that people experience the economy differently, so it's hard for most people to see how the big stats affect them personally, and the latter requires more personalized messaging; the other is that lots of people think the economy does wonderfully on its own, and that politicians can only muck it up. They're wrong, but telling people they're stupid or naive is a rather tough sell. What Biden should be doing is talk about case examples. He should identify problems, like high prices (drugs is a good one; gasoline is less good, but still affects people), low wages (minimums, unions, etc.), rent, debt, pollution, corruption, fraud, etc. -- the list is practically endless -- and talk about what he has done, and what he is still trying to do, to help with these problems. And also point out what businesses, often through corrupt Republicans, are doing to make these problems even worse. Every one of these stories should have a point, which is that the Democrats are trying hard but need more support to help Americans help themselves, and to keep Republicans from hurting us further. But just throwing a bunch of numbers up in the air doesn't make that point, at least in ways most people can understand, even if you're inclinled to believe Biden, which most people don't. And isn't that the rub? There are lots of good stories to be told, but Biden is such an inept communicator that he's never going to convince people.

  • Miles Mogulescu: [02-10] Biden's unqualified aid to Israel could hand Trump the presidency: I think this is true, even though anyone who knows anything knows that it was Trump who gave Israelis the idea that Washington would blindly support any crazy thing right-wing Israelis could dream up, and that was what increasingly pushed Hamas into the corner they tried to break out of on Oct. 7. However, Biden didn't so much as hint at any scruples over Israel, even after raging vengeance turned into full genocide. At this point, the war in Ukraine is slightly less of an embarrassment, but also shows the Biden administration's inability to think their way out of war. As I said last week, if Biden can't get his wars under control, he's toast.

  • John Nichols: [02-16] Michigan just became the first state in 6 decades to scrap an infamous anti-union law.

  • Ari Paul: [02-16] The media is cheering Dems' rightward turn on immigration.

  • Christian Paz: [02-12] Yes, Democrats, it's Biden or bust: "Even if voters or the establishment wanted to, there really isn't a viable process to replace Biden as the nominee." More "replacement theory":

  • Paul Rosenberg: This also led me to a couple of older articles also on tactics.

  • Dylan Saba: [02-15] Democrats are helping make the US border look more and more like Gaza.

  • Robert J Shapiro: [02-12] Based on incomes, Americans are a lot better off under Biden than under Trump.

  • Norman Solomon: [02-16] Dodging Biden's moral collapse is no way to defeat Trump.

  • Paul Starr: [02-15] It's the working class, stupid: Review of John Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Story of the Party in the Age of Extremes. I've been thinking about the same problem, so picked up a copy of the book, but haven't rushed to get into it. After all, these guys aren't exactly known as geniuses. Their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, tried to flip Kevin Phillips' 1969 book on how demographic trends favored Republicans, and didn't fare so well -- it's easier to be optimistic than to be self-critical. Starr lets them off easy, noting that he wrote a similar essay five years earlier (An Emerging Democratic Majority), so it's nice to have that reference.

  • Matt Stieb: [02-15] Biden picks up key Putin endorsement: Eliciting suspicion by Democrats that he's playing some kind of devious reverse psychology game, although his explanation ("[Biden] is a more experienced, predictable person") sounds eminently reasonable. Of course, it would have been more sensible to just dodge the questions, maybe even to admit that covert support for Trump in 2016 was a blunder. In their rush to demonize him -- which Navalny's death once again sends into overdrive -- people forget that he is the kind of guy, secure in his own power, that one can do business with, at least if you approach him with a measure of respect. Unfortunately, that seems to be a lost art in Washington, supplanted by a cult of power projection with no concern for doing right.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Valerie Hopkins/Andrew E Kramer: [02-16] Aleksei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, dies in prison at 47. I don't have any real opinions on Navalny, other than that his arrest and death reflects badly on Russia's political and justice systems, and therefore on their leader, Vladimir Putin. Like most people with any degree of knowledge about Russia, I don't have much respect let alone admiration for Putin. I could easily imagine that, if I were Russian, I would support whatever opposition seems most promising against Putin, and that may very well mean Navalny, but not being Russian, I also realize that it's none of my business, and I take a certain amount of alarm at how other Americans have come to fawn over him. I don't think that any nation should interfere in the internal political affairs of another, and I find it especially troubling when Americans in official positions do so -- not least because they tend to be repeat offenders, using America's eminence as a platform for running the world.

On the other hand, I don't believe that nations should have the right to torture their own people over political differences. There should be an international treaty providing a "right to exile" as an escape valve for individuals who can no longer live freely under their own government. Whether Navalny would have taken advantage of such a right isn't obvious: he did return to Russia after being treated for poisoning in Germany, and he was arrested immediately on return, so perhaps he expected to be martyred. That doesn't excuse Russia. If anything, that the story had such a predictable outcome furthers the indictment.

More on Navalny:

Speaking of prominent political prisoners, there's been a flurry of articles recently on Julian Assange:

Around the world:


Other stories:

Keith Bradsher: [02-12] How China built BYD, its Tesla killer.

Tim Fernholz: [02-15] How the US is preparing to fight -- and win -- a war in space: "Meet the startup trying to maintain American military dominance in space." Author previously wrote Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race (2018). Few ideas are more misguided than the notion that anyone can militarily dominate space. Chalmers Johnson illustrated that much 20 years ago by imagining the result of some hostile actor launching "a dumptruck full of gravel" into orbit: it would indiscriminately destroy everyone's satellites, and everything dependent on them (including a big chunk of our communications infrastructure, and such common uses as GPS, as well as the ability to target missiles and drones).

Lydialyle Gibson: [02-12] We have treatments for opioid addiction that work. So why is the problem getting worse?

Umair Irfan: [02-14] Carmakers pumped the brakes on hybrid cars too soon.

Ben Jacobs: [02-13] The race to replace George Santos, explained: Written before Tuesday's vote, which gave the seat to Democrat Tom Suozzi, who was favored in polls by 3-4 points, and won by 8 (54-46).

Sarah Jones: [02-14] The anti-feminist backlash at the heart of the election.

Eric Levitz: [02-18] How NIMBYs are helping to turn the public against immigrants: "(In this house, we believe that high rents fuel nativist backlashes."

Charisma Madarang: [02-13] Jon Stewart skewers Biden and Trump in scathing 'Daily Show' return: I watched the opening monologue segment, and must say I didn't laugh once. It was about how much older Stewart is now than when he retired from the show 20 years ago, which was when Biden was the same age Stewart is now. And, yes, Trump's pretty old too. The most annoying bit was when Stewart, repeatedly, referred to being president as "the hardest job in the world." That it most certainly is not. As far as I can tell, it looks like a pretty cushy job, with lots (probably too many) people constantly at your beck and call, keeping track of everything and everyone, and preparing for every eventuality. It may be overscheduled, but Trump showed that doesn't have to be the case, and Biden doesn't seem to spend a lot of time in public, either. It may be dauntingly hard to fully comprehend, and the responsibility that comes with the power may be overwhelming, but Trump, and for that matter Biden, don't seem to be all that bothered. Maybe we should have presidents who know and care more, but history doesn't suggest that it makes much difference. Once they get their staffs in place, the bus pretty much drives itself. (Or, in Trump's case, wrecks itself, repeatedly.)

Later on, Stewart brought in his "team of reporters," tending to all-decisive diners in Michigan -- the sort of comedians who developed careers out of the old Daily Show, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver -- and sure, they were pretty funny, albeit in stereotypical ways (naïve/inept Democrats; vile/evil Republicans). More on Jon Stewart:

  • Jeet Heer: [02-16] Jon Stewart is not the enemy: "You don't defeat Trump by rejecting comedy." I agree with the subhed, but I'm still waiting for the comedy. For what it's worth, I think Messrs. Colbert, Myers, and Kimmel have done great public service over the last eight years in reminding us how vile, pompous, and utterly ridiculous Trump has always been, and I thank their audiences for robustly cheering them on. (It's nice to know you're not alone in thinking that.) Myers even does a pretty good job of reminding us that all Republicans are basically interchangeable with Trump, which is a message more people need to realize.

Ciara Moloney: [01-29] What peace in Northern Ireland teaches us about 'endless' conflicts: "If the international community can underwrite war, it can also underwrite peace and justice." Nathan J Robinson linked to this in a tweet, pace a quote from Isaac Herzog: "You cannot accept a peace process with neighbors who engage in terrorism."

Kevin Munger: [02-16] Nobody likes the present situation very much. Unclear where this is going, but it's something to think about:

I think that the pace of technological change is intolerable, that it denies humans the dignity of continuity, states the competence to govern, and social scientists a society about which to accumulate knowledge.

Dennis Overbye: [02-12] The Doomsday clock keeps ticking: The threat of nuclear weapons is real, but the metaphor is bullshit. The clock isn't ticking. It's just a visual prop, meant to worry people, to convey a sense of panic, but panic attenuates over time. So if 7 minutes haven't elapsed since the clock was set 77 years ago, why should we worry now? We clearly need a different system for risk assessment than the one behind the doomsday clock. We also need some much better method for communicating that risk, which is especially difficult, because there are actually dozens of different risks that have to be represented, each with their own distinct strategies for risk reduction. I'm not willing to enter that rabbit hole here, other than to offer a very rough swag that the odds of any kind of nuclear incident in the next 12 months are in the 1-2% range (which, by the way, I regard as alarmingly high, given the stakes, but far from likely; my greatest uncertainty has to do with Ukraine, where there are several serious possible scenarios, but the avoidance of them in 2023 and the likelihood of continued stalemate suggests they can continue to be avoided; by the way, I would count Chernobyl as an above-threshold incident, as it caused more damage, and more fallout, than a single isolated bomb; it should be understood that there is a lot more danger in nuclear power than just the doomsday scenario).

Jared Marcel Pollen: [02-14] Why billionaires are obsessed with the apocalypse: Review of Douglas Rushkoff's book, Surival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

Aja Romano: [02-15] Those evangelical Christian Super Bowl ads -- and the backlash to them -- explained. Also:

Brian Rosenwald: [02-14] The key to understanding the modern GOP? Its hatred of taxes. Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America. The reviewer, by the way, had his own equally plausible idea, in his book: Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States.

Becca Rothfeld: [02-15] The Alternative is just the book economists should read -- and won't: "Journalist Nick Romeo lays out eight examples of what we gain when we think about morality alongside money." The book's subtitle: How to Build a Just Economy.

Matt Stieb: [02-13] The millionaire LimeWire founder behind RFK Jr.: "Mark Gorton has done his own research on JFK, LBJ, vaccines, and the 2024 election."

Li Zhou:

The New Yorker: [02-17] Our favorite bookstores in New York City: From the days after I turned 16, got a driver's license, and dropped out of high school, up until perhaps as late as 2011 (i.e., when Borders show down), I spent large parts of my life carousing around bookstores -- at least two, often more like four times a week. (Since then, I mostly just do this.) I fell out of the habit here in Wichita (which still has Watermark Books, and a Barnes & Noble), but what really got me was find most of the bookstores I regularly sought out when visiting New York City had been turned into banks (Colisseum Books was especially saddening). So I'm pleased to see this article, and also to note that the only store listed I've actually been in was the Barnes & Noble. Not that I'm actually likely to get back there any time soon -- most of the people I knew there have departed, and I haven't traveled since the pandemic hit -- but at least one can again entertain the thought.


Also, some notes found on ex-Twitter (many forwarded by @tillkan, so please do yourself a favor and follow her; my comments in brackets):

  • John Cassidy: When 2 headlines are worth 10,000 word[s]. [Image of Wall Street Journal page. Headlines: "Biden Presses Netanyahu to Accept Plan"; "U.S. Is Preparing to Send Bombs, Other Arms to Israel"]

  • Tony Karon: Judge Biden by what he does, not by what he says. Israel can't sustain its genocidal war without the US munitions Biden keeps sending, while offering the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers" for the Palestinian civilians they'll kill [link to: US to send weapons to Israel amid invasion threat in Gaza's Rafah]

  • Nathan J Robinson: The worst serial killer in history killed nearly 200 children. A true monster. Unfathomable evil.

    So far Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu have killed over 10,000 children. Their evil reaches a whole other level of depravity.

    [Commenters belittle the comparison by pointing to the usual list of political monsters -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao -- without realizing that they're only adding to the list (which should, by the way, also include Churchill, Nixon, and GW Bush). Where Netanyahu ranks on that list is open to debate, but that he is morally equivalent isn't. As for Biden, he's certainly complicit, a facilitator, but things he's directly responsible for are relatively minor even if undeniably real (e.g., strikes against Yemen, Iraq, Syria; general poisoning of relations with Iran and Russia). I'm less certain that Stalin and Mao belong, at least the mass starvation their policies caused: that result was probably not intended, although both did little to correct their errors once they became obvious. Churchill's relationship to starvation is more mixed: the Bengal famine was mostly incompetence and lack of care, much like Stalin and Mao, but his efforts to starve Germans were coldly considered and rigorous.]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 11, 2024


Speaking of Which

It's pretty exhausting trying to wrap this up on Sunday evening, early enough so I can relax with a bit of TV, a few minutes on the jigsaw puzzle, a few pages in my current book, and maybe a bit of computer Mahjong before I run make to get a jump on Monday's Music Week. After a night's sleep, chances are good that I'll think of some introductory text, and stumble across a couple stories I initially missed. If I do, I'll add them and mark them accordingly, with that red right-margin border.

But if you want a pull quote right now, it's probably this:

But if Biden can't get his wars under control by October, I fear he's toast -- and will be deserving of the loss, even if no one else deserves to beat him. After all, the ball is in his court.

Initial counts: 145 links, 5,485 words.


Top story threads:

Israel:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Lots of people have unsolicited advice for the Biden campaign, which frankly seems to need one, but New Republic came up with a bundle of them this week -- enough to break out from the news items above, so let's collect them here.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:


Other stories:

Al Jazeera: [02-02] Ex-CIA software engineer who leaked to WikiLeaks sentenced to 40 years: "Joshua Schulte had been found guilty of handing over classified materials in so-called Vault 7 leak.

Nicholson Baker: [01-31] No, aliens haven't visited the earth: "Why are so many smart people insisting otherwise?"

Harry Brighouse: [02-05] What's wrong with free public college? Some reasonable points, but I'm not much bothered that a right to free higher education would benefit the middle class more than poorer students. Lots of worthwhile programs do the same, but we shouldn't, for example, give up on airline safety just because the beneficiaries skew up.

Elizabeth Dwoskin: [02-10] How a liberal billionaire became America's leading anti-DEI crusader: Profile of Bill Ackman. Another rich guy with money to burn, but how does having donated to Clinton and Obama make him any kind of liberal?

Nicholas Fandos: [02-10] What to know about the race to replace George Santos: "The special House election in New York pits Mazi Pilip, a Republican county legislator, against Tom Suozzi, a former Democratic congressman." In other words, the Democrats nominated the most anodyne white guy possible, while the Republicans calculated that the best way to advance their racist, sexist, nativist agenda was by nominating a black female Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia.

Abdallah Fayyad/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop: [02-09] 7 questions about migration and the US-Mexico border, answered. More border:

Rebecca Gordon: [02-11] Banning what matters: "Public libraries under MAGA threat."

Joshua Keating: [02-06] Welcome to the "neomedieval era": "Nations like the US have more firepower than ever before -- but they also appear weaker than ever. The upshot is a world that feels out of control."

Carlos Lozada: [02-16] : I was expecting, perhaps even hoping for, a Consumer Guide-style compendium of notes on political books, but instead got an introductory essay adapted from his forthcoming The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians. Of course, unless you're a writer with a specific assignment, it's very unlikely you'd actually have to read any book written by (or for) a Washington politician, nor would you do so voluntarily. But I find that such surveys, such as I attempt in my book roundups, can be useful for sampling the state of public discourse. By the way, I did finally pick up a copy of Lozada's What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Clare Malone: [02-10] Is the media prepared for an extinction-level event? "Ads are scarce, search and social traffic is dying, and readers are burned out. The future will require fundamentally rethinking the press's relationship to its audience."

AW Ohlheiser: [02-08] What we've learned from 20 years of Facebook.

Nathan J Robinson:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-09] Roaming Charges: Comfortably dumb. Harsh on Biden. Quote:

  • Sen. Chris Murphy on the failed Border/Ukraine/Israel deal: "They are a disaster right now. How can you trust any Republicans right now? They told us what to do. We followed their instructions to the letter. And then they pulled the rug out from under us in 24 hrs." ["They"? You got nothing but embarrassed.]

  • It's instructive that MAGA has threatened to "destroy" James Lankford, the rightwing Senator from Oklahoma who wrote a border closure bill that gave them 99% of what they wanted and Democrats are lining up behind Biden for endorsing a bill that betrayed everything he'd ever promised on immigration.

Bryan Walsh: [02-10] Taylor Swift, the NFL, and two routes to cultural dominance: My minor acknowledgment of the week's overweening culture story, not that I have anything to say about it. Cultural dominance isn't what it used to be LVIII years ago, when the Chiefs I remember fondly -- Len Dawson, Otis Taylor, Ed Budde, E.J. Holub, Buck Buchanan -- got butchered by the Green Bay Packers (IV was much more satisfying), while the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and James Brown were regularly outdoing themselves. These days, even the largest stars seem much smaller than they did when I was fifteen, because we now recognize that the world is so much larger. I haven't watched football since the 1980s (or baseball since the 1990s), and while I still listen to quite a bit of popular music, I doubt that any new artist has occupied as much as 1% of my time since 2000. I've listened to, and clearly like, Taylor Swift, but I hardly recognize her song titles, and certainly couldn't rank them (as Rob Sheffield did, 243 of them). I suppose you could chalk that up to age, but I'm feeling the least bit nostalgic. I reviewed more than 1,600 records last year. In 1966, I doubt I heard more than 10 -- supplemented, of course, by KLEO and TV shows like Shindig! and Hullabaloo, but the universe I was conscious of extended to at most a couple hundred artists. Back then, I thought I could master it all. Now I know I never stood a chance.

I know I promised, but what the hell:

Li Zhou: [02-06] The Grammys' Beyoncé snubs speak to a deeper problem: Beyoncé was snubbed? "They're emblematic of how the awards have failed Black artists." As someone who has never had any expectation of Grammy ever doing anything right, I find the very notion that anyone could be so certainly deserving of a win as to be snubbed baffling.


Sorry for doing this to you, but I'm going to quote a Donald Trump tweet (quoted by Matthew Yglesias, reposted by Dean Baker, my emphasis added):

2024 is our Final Battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the Deep State, we will expel the warmongers from our government, we will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, we will throw off the sick political class that hates our Country, we will rout the Fake News Media, we will Drain the Swamp, and we will liberate our country from these tyrants and villains once and for all!

Yglesias responded: "This stuff is demented but it also serves to deflect attention from the boring reality that what he's going to do is cut rich people's taxes, raise prescription drug prices, let companies dump more shit in the water, etc etc etc." There's a lot of hyperbole in this pitch, but who can doubts that there are warmongers in the cururent government, that they are pushing us into more perilous foreign entanglements, and that Biden isn't likely to restrain much less break from them. There's good reason to doubt that Trump can fix this, but if he wants to campaign on the promise, many people will find slim chance preferable to none. Moreover, the rest of his pitch is coherent and forceful, and is likely to resonate with the propaganda pitch much of the media -- and not just the shills at Fox -- have been pushing over the last decade.

Countering that Trump won't really do this just feeds into the paranoia over the Deep State -- which, to be sure, thwarted him in 2017, but this time he knows much better what he's up against. Worse still is arguing that his actual government will be boring, with a side of petty corruption, just shows you're not listening, and also suggests that you don't much care what happens. If Trump did nothing more than check off Yglesias's list, he'd still be a disaster for most Americans. But at the very minimum, he's going to do much more than that: he's going to talk, and he's going to talk a lot, and he's going to bring more people into government and media who are going to add ever more vicious details to the mass of hate and pomposity he spews. And even though lots of us are going to recoil in horror, we'll still have to stuggle to survive being inundated by it all, all the while suffering the glee of our tormenters.

Of course, the "Final Battle" and "once and for all" is as over the top as the Book of Revelation he's taken to heart. But that it can't happen won't make them any less determined, or dangerous, or dreadful.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 4, 2024


Speaking of Which

No introduction for now. I really need to be working on other things. This is driving me crazy. Right now, all I really want is to move it out of the way.

Initial count: 141 links, 4726 words. Revised: 146 links, 5723 words.


After posting, I ran into a couple items that merit additional comments, mostly because they exemplify the kind of shoddy thinking that promotes war (or vice versa).

Harlan Ullman: [01-31] We don't need a Tonkin Gulf Resolution for the Red Sea. Headline is ok, but the hawks don't need one because Biden is escalating the war on his own authority -- as presidents have tended to do ever since the "blank check" war authorization Johnson secured in 1964. But nearly everything else here is wrong-headed or at least seriously muddled. The bit that got to me was "Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, diabolically designed to elicit an Israeli overreaction." He seems to be saying that Israel had no agency in the matter. And now the Houthis, having "plagiarized Hamas' Oct. 7 attack," have tricked the US into bombing Yemen, risking escalation into a broader regional war -- for which, no doubt about this, Ullman will find sinister designs in Tehran.

Of course, there is a perverse kernel of truth to this: Israel and the U.S. are such dedicated believers in security through deterrence that they feel obliged to meet any challenges with overwhelming force, with scarcely a thought given to collateral victims, let alone to how the resulting atrocities damage their credibility and their own psyches. But given their massive investments in intelligence gathering, in war gaming, and in propagandizing, it's hard to accept that their warmaking is merely a conditioned reflex, something that a marginal ideologue with a martyr complex could simply trigger. (As Laura Tillem put it: "Bin Laden was a hypnotist who said look into my eyes, you will now pour all your resources down the drain.")

Rather, they must somehow believe that terror suffices to suppress the aspirations of the disempowered people who inconveniently occupy parts of the world they feel entitled to rule. Still, they feel the need to paint themselves as innocent victims -- a claim that is only plausible in the wake of a sudden outburst, which is why Netanyahu on 10/7, like Bush on 9/11, seized the opportunity to take the offensive and do horrible things long dreamed of but rarely disclosed.

By the way, Ullman lays claim to have been the guy who thought up the "shock and awe" strategy that promised to instantly win the war against Saddam Hussein. It didn't, perhaps because only the dead were truly shocked and awed. The rest simply learned that they could survive, and resolved to fight on. But imagine, instead, the kind of people who got excited by the Powerpoint presentation. Those were the people, from Bush to the Pentagon to their affiliated "think tanks," who, intent on proving their own superiority, brought death and havoc to 20 countries over 20 years. Most were genuinely envious of Israel, which they saw as the one government truly free to impose its superior power on its region and their unfortunate peoples. So now that Israel has finally moved from systematic discrimination reinforced withsporadic terrorism to actual genocide, they're giddy with excitement. Ullman advises them to "act boldly to cripple Houthi and Islamic militant capabilities," but he's also advising a measure of stealth, unlike the "real men go to Tehran" crowd.

The second piece I wanted to mention came from Democracy Today: [02-05] U.S. & Israel vs. Axis of Resistance: Biden Strikes New Targets in Middle East as Gaza War Continues. The transcript includes an interview with Narges Bajoghli, an "expert" who likes to throw about the term "Axis of Resistance." Evidently, this is enough of a thing that it has its own Wikipedia page (as does Iran-Israel proxy conflict, linked to under "Purposes for the Axis"). The term "Axis of Resistance" is internally incoherent and externally malicious. "Axis" implies organization and coordination of a power bloc, which hardly exists, and even where possible is informal. "Resistance" is something that arises locally, wherever power is imposed. Palestinians resist Israeli power, wherever it is felt, sometimes violently, mostly non-violently, but in Israeli-controlled territories to little or no effect. When Israel occupied Lebanon, resistance was generated there as well, most significantly coalescing into Hezbollah. Resisters may come to feel solidarity with others, and may even help each other out, but resistance itself is a limiting function of power. "Axis of Resistance" was nothing more than a rhetorical twist on Bush's "Axis of Evil." What makes the term dangerous is that it's being used to organize a coherent picture of an enemy that Israel can goad America into waging war against. (Israelis have no wish to be the "real men" invading Iran, but would be happy to cheer Americans on, especially as a hopeless war there would deflect qualms about genocide.)

Bajoghli isn't as fully aligned with the hawks as Ullman is, but inadvertently helps them by buying this significant propaganda line. A realistic analysis would see that there are obvious opportunities to breaking up this "axis": Iran wants to end its isolation, and be able to trade with Europe and America (as, it was starting to do before Trump broke the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions); Assad would do virtually anything except surrender power for stability; Yemen and Lebanon have been wracked by civil wars for decades, mostly because local power is fragmented while foreign powers have been free to intervene. These and many other problems could be solved diplomatically, but what has to happen first is to turn the heat down, by demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and beyond, along with discipline against the pogroms in the West Bank. Israel needs to see that their dreams of a "final solution" to the Palestinians are futile: there is no alternative to living together, in peace, with some tangible sense of justice. Not everyone on every side is going to like that, but a democracy of all should be able to come to that conclusion.


Top story threads:

Israel:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats: I meant to note this, but wasn't sure which piece to link to. But, for the record: [02-04] Biden nets landslide victory in South Carolina Democratic primary, over 95% of votes. That compares to about 55% in New Hampshire, where his opponents actually campaigned, but he needed an unofficial write-in campaign.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:


Other stories:

Emily Bazelon: [02-01] The road to 1948: A panel of six historians -- Nadim Bawaisa, Leena Dallasheh, Abigail Jacobson, Derek Penslar, Itamar Rabinovitch, and Salim Tamari -- offer insights into the 1920-48 period, when Palestine was a League of Nations mandate trusted to Britain, which had occupied it during WWI, displacing the Ottoman Empire. I'm most familiar with this period from Tom Segev's One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate (2001), although I've read numerous other books on the period. There are things I'd quibble with here, but it's generally useful information.

Jules Boykoff/Dave Zirin: [01-29] Israel and Russia have no place in the 2024 Paris Olympics: I'm tempted to say the US should have no place either, but I'm not totally sure whether that should be due to US support for genocide in Gaza, for US agitation for war elsewhere, and/or simply for commercial crassness and nationalistic yahoo-ism. But note that South Africa was banned from 1968 until the end of the apartheid regime, and Israel has long crossed that line.

Mike Catalini: [01-31] Man accused of beheading his father in suburban Philadelphia home and posting gruesome video online: The father is Michael F. Mohn, a civil servant working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The son is Justin Mohn:

Mohn embraced violent anti-government rhetoric in writings he published online going back several years. In August 2020, Mohn published an online "pamphlet" in which he tried to make the case that people born in or after 1991 -- his birth year -- should carry out what he termed a "bloody revolution." He also complained at length about a lawsuit that he lost and encouraged assassinations of family members and public officials.

In the video posted after the killing, he described his father as a 20-year federal employee. He also espoused a variety of conspiracy theories and rants about the Biden administration, immigration and the border, fiscal policy, urban crime and the war in Ukraine.

Aside from the murder, sounds like a pretty solid Republican. The lawsuit he lost, by the way:

In 2018, Mohn sued Progressive Insurance, alleging he was discriminated against and later fired from a job at an agency in Colorado Springs because he was a man who was intelligent, overqualified and overeducated. A federal judge said Mohn provided no evidence to indicate he was discriminated against because he was a man -- in the length of his training or in being denied promotions to jobs. Progressive said it fired him because he kicked open a door. An appeals court upheld the finding that Mohn did not suffer employment discrimination.

Maybe we should start a regular feature on right-wing crime, and how Republicans have encouraged and/or rationalized it:

Fabiola Cineas: [02-01] Conservatives have long been at war with colleges: "A brief history of the right's long-running battle against higher education." Interview with Lauren Lassabe Shepherd, author of Resistance From the Right: Conservatives and the Campus Wars in Modern America.

David Dayen: [01-29] America is not a democracy: "The movement to save democracy from threats is too quick to overlook the problems that have been present since the founding." On the other hand, focusing on structural faults that were build into the Constitution directs attention to issues that have no practicable solution, while ignoring what is by far the most pervasive affront to democracy, which is the influence of money, how the system caters to the rich while confusing issues for everyone else. The simplest test of whether government is democratic is whether it is reflective of and responsive to the needs of the vast majority of its citizens. America's is not.

Rebecca Jennings: [02-01] Everyone's a sellout now: "Everybody has to self-promote now. Nobody wants to." One result: "You're getting worse at [your art], but you're becoming a great marketer for a product which is less and less good."

Whizy Kim: [01-31] How Boeing put profits over planes: "The fall of Boeing has been decades in the making."

Dylan Matthews: [02-01] How Congress is planning to lift 400,000 kids out of poverty. The House passed a bill 357-70 which revives the child tax credit, which has the headline effect, but the bill also includes tax breaks for businesses, which is what it took to become "bipartisan."

China Miéville: [01-31] China Miéville on The Communist Manifesto's enduring power. Interview with the author of A Spectre Haunting: On the Communist Manifesto. I read the book recently, right after Christopher Clark's massive Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World: 1848-1849. It didn't add a lot of detail on the role of the proletariat in the 1848's revolutionary struggles, but it did remind me of the synthesis of clear thinking and human decency that informed the founding of the socialist movement.

Kevin Munger: [01-29] "The Algorithm" is the only critique of "The Algorithm" that "The Algorithm" can produce: A bookmark link, as this seems possibly interesting but requiring more attention than I can muster at the moment. It ties to Kyle Chayka's book Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture. Chayka has a previous book (2020), The Longing for Less, where the subtitle has changed from Living With Minimalism to What's Missing From Minimalism in the recent paperback edition. Shorter is Munger's "The Algorithm" does not exist.

Brian Murphy: [01-31] Anthony Cordesman, security analyst who saw flaws in U.S. policy, dies at 84: "Dr. Cordesman saw the seeds of defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan planted by U.S. policymakers." Of course, I prefer critics who were more prescient earlier, but insiders -- "he described himself as a tepid supporter of the Iraq invasion" -- who are willing to harbor doubts are better than those with no doubts at all.

Timothy Noah: That judge is right. Elon Musk isn't worth what Tesla pays him. For more (and the actual numbers are jaw-dropping) on this:

Christian Paz: [02-02] What we're getting wrong about 2024's "moderate" voters: "The voters who could decide 2024 are a complicated bunch." Paz tries to salvage the term "moderate" by splitting the domain -- by which, less prejudically, he means people with no fixed party affiliation -- into three groups: the "true moderates," the "disengaged," and the "weird." The prejudice is that any time you say "moderate," you're automatically contrasting against some hypothetical extreme that you can thereby reject. But while the people who use the term -- almost never the "moderates" themselves, who prefer to think of themselves as sober, sensible, respectful of all viewpoints, and desiring pragmatic, mutually satisfactory compromises -- like to think they complimenting the "moderates," they're implying that they don't truly believe in what they profess (otherwise, why are they so willing to compromise?).

Rick Perlstein: [01-31] A hole in the culture: "Why is there so little art depicting the moment we're in?"

Brian Resnick: [01-31] The sun's poles are about to flip. It's awesome -- and slightly terrifying.

Ingrid Robenys: A professor of political philosophy at Utrecht University, has a new book: Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth, leading to:

Nathan J Robinson: Including interviews at Current Affairs:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 28, 2024


Speaking of Which

Front page headline in Wichita Eagle today: Domestic violence killings at all-time high in Wichita. Deeper in the paper, see Dion Lefler: [01-27] Guns are dangerous. The Kansas Legislature's even more so, where he points out that since the KS legislature passed its "constitutional carry" law in 2014, the number of Kansans who have been killed by guns increased 53% (from 329 in 2014 to 503 in 2021).

I've been reading Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War, a painstaking examination of the steps the major European powers took to kick off what they soon called the Great War. It's a long book, and at page 500 the shooting still hasn't started (but will soon, as mobilization has begun). There are some striking similarities to the present: notably the belief that affronts to power have to be answered with violence (whence Austria-Hungary's compulsion to rush to war against Serbia). Also the notion of land as a currency to acknowledge power, which has arguably declined since the days of Europe's imperial carve up of the world, but still persists, especially in Israel's obsession with retaining the land of a depopulated Gaza, and in Russia's grasp of southeastern Ukraine from Luhansk to Crimea. France's eagerness to fight Germany in 1914 stemmed from losing Alsace-Lorraine in 1871.

On the other hand, what we thankfully lack today is the sort of balanced alliances that allowed war to spread almost instantly from Serbia to Flanders. Even though the US imagines it has enemies all around -- and Israel is doing its best to provoke them -- the conflicts are all marginal, mostly with opponents who have little or no appetite for directly attacking the US. It is deeply disturbing to see a nation with so much appetite for destruction floundering about with so little sense of its own needs, and so little concern over its trespasses.


Top story threads:

Israel: The genocidal war on Gaza continues, expanding on all fronts.

The genocide charge vs. Israel

Beyond Israel, wounded, frustrated empires spread war, leading only to more war, suffering, and disturbance:

Trump, and other Republicans: Trump, as predicted, won the New Hampshire primary, 54.3% to 43.2% over Nikki Haley, with lapsed candidates Ron DeSantis (0.7%) and Chris Christie (0.5%) far behind.

Biden and/or the Democrats: The New Hampshire primary, denied recognition by the DNC, was held on Tuesday, with Biden getting 63.9% of the votes as a write-in, to 19.6% for Dean Phillips and 4.0% for Marianne Williamson (who actually has much to commend, especially on peace, especially compared to Biden's recent record).

  • David Firestone: [01-25] Biden needs to lose it with Netanyahu: "His aides say he is close to losing his patience, but that isn't enough. He needs to actually lose it."

  • Kayla Guo: [01-28] Pelosi wants FBI to investigate pro-Palestinian protesters: "The former House speaker suggested without offering evidence that some protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza had financial ties to Russia and Vladimir V Putin." This story pretty neatly sums up the mental and moral rot at the top of the Democratic Party.

  • Ed Kilgore: [01-28] 4 reasons Biden's 2024 odds may be better than you think: I'll give you one: in November, folks on the fence are going to have to decide whether not whether they're happy or not, but whether they want change so desperately they'll risk electing a maniacal moron who's vowed to upend everything, or stick with the same boring status quo they've grown accustomed to. Vote for Trump, and you're going to hear about him every day for the next four years, framed by the seething hate he generates among friend and foe alike. Vote for Biden and you'll hardly ever have to hear about him. You don't have to like him, or understand him. You don't have to pretend he's smart, or some kind of great leader. All Democrats need to do is to pass him off as the generic Democrat who, unlike the actual Biden, still wins every poll against Trump. He actually fits that bill pretty well.

  • Paul Krugman: [01-25] Bidencare is a really big deal. True that Biden has managed some minor improvements over the health insurance reform popularly known as Obamacare, but hard to see how it helps his political pitch. Most of the value provided by the ACA was in arresting some horrifying trends at the time -- like the spread of denials for pre-existing conditions, which was fast making insurance unaffordable and/or worthless -- and slowing down cost increases that were already the worst in the world, but those are fears easily forgotten, leaving little in the way of tangible benefits. Meanwhile, Democrats paid a severe price politically for their troubles, while kicking real reform much further down the road. It's interesting that Biden's campaign seems to be embracing slurs like Bidenomics, but it's far from certain that doing so will help. "Bidencare" just sounds like not much to brag about.

  • Dean Baker: In honor of Bidenomics (and Bidencare), we'll slot these pieces here, giving Biden the wee bit of credit he deserves:

  • Eric Levitz: [01-25] A booming economy might not save the Biden campaign.

  • PE Moskowitz: [01-18] Marianne's people: "To her detractors, presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is a political joke. But for her most fervent supporters, it is, as one of them put it, 'Marianne or death.'" That's dumb way of putting it, at least without naming the death alternative as Joe Biden. Her fringe basis is largely based on her pre-political career, which with all its holistic healing, "New Age self-help speak," and A Return to Love vibes, suggests warm heart but soft head. On the other hand, if you limit yourself to what she says about politics, she actually comes off as pretty sensible.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [01-26] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine nears a breaking point: "The window for peace talks is closing as Western support dries up." Most significant point here:

    Russia President Vladimir Putin "may be willing to consider dropping an insistence on neutral status for Ukraine and even ultimately abandon opposition to eventual NATO membership" in exchange for keeping the Ukrainian territory Russia currently occupies, according to anonymous people close to the Kremlin who spoke with Bloomberg. The report says the proposal is part of Moscow's quiet signaling to Washington that it is open to talks to end the war, though U.S. officials deny any backchannel communications.

    Details need to be worked out, but that sounds like a fairly decent deal to me. It's not worth further war to try to regain the lands that Russia has currently secured, especially as most ethnic Ukrainians have departed, leaving mostly ethnic Russians who seem to support Putin. I would like to see a deal which arranges for internationally supervised referenda in 3-5 years to determine permanent boundaries. Assuming Russia does a decent job of reconstruction, they should be able to win those votes, and if they don't, they should at least recognize they were given a fair chance. Future elections would incentivize good behavior on both sides, especially in reconstruction. While I don't see NATO membership as offering much to Ukraine, Russian submission on the point would signal that they have no further territorial ambitions in Ukraine, which should reduce the threat perception all along the Russian front. Ideally, that could lead to more general agreement on demilitarization.

    Note that I haven't changed my mind that Russia was totally in the wrong when they invaded in March 2022. But I've always insisted that conflicts have to be brought swiftly to negotiated ends, and that the only real way to do that is to try to do the best you can for everyone involved. Consequently, the best possible solution has shifted over time, as the underlying reality has shifted and hardened.

  • Fred Kaplan: [01-26] The truth about Ukraine's decision to give up its nukes in the '90s.

  • Constant Méheut/Thomas Gibbons-Neff: [01-28] After two years of bloody fighting, Ukraine wrestles with conscription: "A proposed bill on mobilization has become the focus of a debate as more men dodge the draft and calls rise to demobilize exhausted soldiers." One of the few lessons the US did learn in Vietnam was that no army can fight modern war with conscripts.

  • Joe Gould/Connor O'Brien/Nahal Toosi: [01-26] Lawmakers greenlight F-16s for Turkey after Erdogan approved Sweden's NATO bid.

Around the world:


Other stories:

Freddy Brewster: [01-24] Airlines filed 1,800 reports warning about Boeing's 747 Max: "Since 2020."

Sasha Frere-Jones: [01-23] The Blue Masc: "The brilliant discontents of Lou Reed." A review of Will Hermes' book, Lou Reed: The King of New York.

Amitav Ghosh: [01-23] The blue-blood families that made fortunes in the opium trade: "Long before the Sacklers appeared on the scene, families like the Astors, the Peabodys, and the Delanos cemented their upper-crust status through the global trade in opium." Original title: "Merchants of Addiction," which appeared as a Nation cover story. Covers the historical literature, especially of the Opium War, which the author knows well enough to have written a trilogy of novels on.

Andy Greene: [01-22] The 50 worst decisions in the past 50 years of American politics: "These are the historic blunders, scandals, machinations, and lies that have defined our times." Silly article you can nitpick and re-sort and add your favorites to. But what the hell, let's list them (and I'll spare you the reverse order suspense, although you'll still be expecting things that never materialize*):

  1. Richard Nixon maintains detailed recordings of his White House criminal conspiracies (1971-73)
  2. Obama roasts Trump at the White House correspondents dinner (2011)
  3. Mitch McConnell makes no effort to bar Trump from office after January 6 (2021)
  4. Swing-state liberals vote for Ralph Nader over Al Gore, inadvertently electing George W. Bush (2000)
  5. Hillary Clinton decides not to campaign in Wisconsin in 2016
  6. Mitt Romney unloads on 47% of the country: 'my job is not to worry about those people' (2012)
  7. Gary Hart dares reporters to look into his personal life (1987)
  8. Trump tells America to fight Covid-19 by drinking bleach (2020)
  9. Congressional Republicans overreach by impeaching Bill Clinton, boosting his popularity (1998)
  10. Bill Clinton declares "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" (1998)
  11. John McCain picks Sarah Palin as his running mate (2008)
  12. W. declares "mission accomplished" (2003)
  13. Dukakis poses in a tank (1988)
  14. Ruth Bader Ginsburg refuses to retire while Obama is president (2009-17)
  15. George W. Bush flies over Katrina, tells his FEMA director he's doing a "heckuva job" (2005)
  16. James Comey reopens the Hillary Clinton email investigation eleven days before the 2016 election
  17. Anthony Weiner reveals himself to be a monser by sexting with 15-year-old girl (2015
  18. Ronald Reagan says his "heart and best intentions" tell him Iran Contra didn't happen (1987)
  19. Michael Bloomberg burns a billion dollars on his 2020 primary run and only wins in American Samoa
  20. Trent Lott says America would be better off is segregationist Strom Thurmond won in 1948 (2002)
  21. Ford pardons Richard Nixon (1974)
  22. Trump refuses to lay off John McCain, costing him Obamacare repeal (2017)
  23. Elliot Spitzer brings a sex worker across state lines (2008)
  24. The butterfly ballot is created in Florida in 2000
  25. Donald Trump tells supporters not to vote by mail (2020)
  26. Rudy Giuliani shreds every remaining tiny bit of credibility he has by going all in on Trump (2021, or earlier?)
  27. Senator Bob Packwood keeps a diary logging sexual assaults, political bribes (1992)
  28. Jeb Bush thinks 2016 is his year to shine
  29. Rick Perry doesn't do his homework before a debate (2012)
  30. Biden totally mucks up the Anita Hill hearings (1988)
  31. Al Gore doesn't let Bill Clinton campaign for him (2000)
  32. Barack Obama says that Midwesterners "cling to guns or religion" (2008)
  33. George H.W. Bush pledges 'read my lips: no new taxes' (1988)
  34. Jimmy Carter follows up his infamous 'malaise' speech by inexplicably firing his cabinet (1979)
  35. Gerald Ford fails to brush up on basic geography before presidential debate (1976)
  36. Joe Biden launches 2008 presidential campaign by calling Barack Obama "clean" and "articulate"
  37. Chris Christie decides against running in 2012
  38. Todd Akin has some thoughts about "legitimate rape" (2012)
  39. Herschel Walker runs for the U.S. Senate (2022)
  40. Dan Quayle sets up Lloyd Bentsen for the mother of all zingers (1988)
  41. Ted Kennedy has no answer when asked why he's running for president in 1980
  42. Dr. Oz films a trip to the grocery store (2022)
  43. Clint Eastwood is given the stage at the 2012 RNC
  44. Mark Sanford "hikes the Appalachian Trail" (2009)
  45. Michael Dukakis calmly reacts to hypothetical question about his wife being raped (1988)
  46. John Edwards has an affair with a campaign staffer while his wife is dying of cancer (2008)
  47. The New York Republican Party makes no effort to vet George Santos before 2022 nomination
  48. Ted Cruz goes on vacation to Cancun during a state of emergency in Texas (2022)
  49. Rod Blagojevich can't keep his stupid mouth shut (2008)
  50. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley rip each other apart but won't attack Trump in bizarre race for second in the 2024 GOP primary

*Top of my list here is Colin Powell's WMD speech at the UN (2003), or a dozen other signal blunders leading up to the Iraq war, ahead of the "mission accomplished" fiasco cited. Worse still, at least in my mind, was Bush's 2001 bullhorn speech at the World Trade Center, which kicked off the whole Global War on Terrorism. [PS: See the Jonathan Schell quote at the bottom of this post.]

Items 1-5 and 14 strike me as blown way out of proportion, and mostly contingent on other events that were impossible to predict at the time. Nixon's tapes only started to matter once he had been exposed for lots of other things. Had Ginsberg resigned in the last year of Obama's presidency, McConnell wouldn't have allowed a vote on a successor. Obama only had a Senate majority in his first two years, and Ginsberg outlived them by ten. And had Hillary Clinton won in 2016, as everyone expected, she (not Trump) would have chosen Ginsberg's replacement.

Many of the others testify to the trivia so much of the media prefers to dwell on. Still, I don't get picking on Obama's "guns or religion" gaffe at 32 while ignoring Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables."

Sarah Jones: [01-25] When a rapist's logic is the law. I should have filed this under Republicans, since they're the ones responsible for this sort of thinking (or at least for it becoming ensconced in law), but I felt this piece should stand out, rather than get buried in the rest of their muck.

Joshua Keating: [01-25] It's not your imagination. There has been more war lately. "Why the 'long peace' may be ending." What "long peace"? Looks like he's referring to arguments by Steven Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) and Joshua Goldstein (Winning the War on War) that never had much empirical support, but -- and I'm generally sympathetic on this point -- reflect changing attitudes towards war, at least in wealthier nations where the potential costs are much greater than ever, and benefits are pretty much inconceivable. It's hard to say why this widespread public sentiment hasn't been reflected in policy. Partly it's because War has been hiding as Defense ever since the Department changed its name. Partly it's the corruption built up around the arms industries and other geopolitical interests (oil is a big one). Partly it has to do with the cult belief in power, despite its repeated failures.

The chart here of "estimated fatalities in conflicts involving at least one state military around the world" is farcical, as it seems to exclude wars states fight against their own people, but it also seems to be doing a lot of undercounting: how could you count 2001-11 as the least deadly stretch of time since WWII when the US was constantly fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as killing people with drones in another dozen countries?

Shawn McCreesh: [01-26] The media apocalypse: "Condé Nast and other publishers stare into the abyss." This looks to me like one of many areas where the private sector can no longer be counted on to provide public goods. When that happens, one needs to find other ways. Bailing them out -- hint: banks are another -- may suffice in the short term, but isn't a real solution. Unfortunately, this area is one that's so poisoned by partisanship that it's going to be especially hard to do anything sensible.

Doug Muir:

  • [01-22] The Kosovo War: 25 years later: An so to war: Fourth part of this series, where "earlier installments can be found here" (cited by me in previous posts). Also, note several long comments by Muir. I suspect there is much more to be covered here, especially as the conflict there seems to be recurring. I didn't think much about Kosovo at the time, although I was struck by the collateral damage (e.g., the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade), and alarmed by the notion that the US could intervene militarily at essentially no risk to American personnel. (The "no fly zone" in Iraq operated on the same principle.) I did pick up one or the other (or maybe both) of the following books, but never read much in them:

    • Noam Chomsky: A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor, and the "Responsibility to Protect" Today (2011, Routledge)
    • Alexander Cockburn/Jeffrey St Clair: Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia (2004, Verso): for a taste, see: Kosovo: Where NATO bombing only made the killing worse.
  • [01-24] Why you should watch American football: I haven't watched for decades, and fast forward through the relevant virtual newspaper pages (in their appalling plenitude), but followed it close enough in my youth to recognize the points (also the counterpoints in the comments), and still find it appealing on the rare moments I happen to catch a play. One thing that really helped me was learning to focus on the line play, something Alex Karras brought to the early days of Monday Night Football.

Rick Perlstein: [01-24] American Fascism: "Author and scholar John Ganz on how Europe's interwar period informs the present." Ganz has a new book coming out in June, When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s.

Kim Phillips-Fein: [01-24] We have no princes: "Heather Cox Richardson and the battle over American history." A review of her book, Democracy Awakening, which is based on newsletter posts since 2019, contemporary politics viewed by someone with extensive knowledge of history and a general commitment to democratic principles. I've read enough of her work to make me initially want to jump right onto this, like I did with Jill Lepore's These Truths: A History of These United States -- at least until I found a post on Biden's foreign policy that was insanely misconceived. Phillips-Fein, who's written several good books about the rise of the new right, helps explain where and why Richardson turns clueless.

Stephen Prager: [01-24] Conservatives are finally admitting they hate MLK.

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [01-13] How to spot red flags: Picture is of John Fetterman, who has of late been a disappointment to left-leaning fans.

  • [01-23] Can Trump be stopped? He was thinking of Lewis Mumford's Myth of the Machine critique of "how society itself can become like a giant machine, integrated with its technologies and directed from above," and noticed:

    The interesting typo is this: at one point in my edition, instead of "megamachine," it happens to say "magamachine." Which strikes me as an interesting description of the kind of giant, brainless, unstoppable engine that Donald Trump is trying to build. He plans to fire all the federal bureaucrats who disagree with him, to give himself complete immunity from the laws and to put the whole state in his service. Donald Trump likes having minions. He is building a giant personality cult that defers to him absolutely, and is incapable of self-criticism.

    Robinson contrasts this with what he calls "the great exhaustion," combined with "Joe Biden's total incapacity to inspire anyone."

  • [01-25] Would it be better if we all turned color-blind? Review of the Coleman Hughes book, The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America.

  • [01-26] Why you should be a Luddite: Interview with Brian Merchant, whose book on the early 19th-century movement is Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech.

Raja Shehadeh: [01-25] In the midst of disaster: A review of "Isabella Hammad's novel of art and exile in Palestine," Enter Ghost.

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-26] Roaming Charges: The impotent empire.


The Nation did us a favor and linked to this old piece by Jonathan Schell: {2011-09-19] The New American Jujitsu. Consider this:

The United States, as if picking up Osama bin Laden's cue, keyed its response to the apocalyptic symbolism, not the genuine but limited reality of the threat from Al Qaeda. It accepted bin Laden's brilliantly stage-managed inflation of his own importance. Soon, the foreign policy as well as the domestic politics of the United States were revolving like a pinwheel around Al Qaeda and the global threat it allegedly posed. Al Qaeda was absurdly likened to the Soviet Union in the cold war and Hitler in World War II, and treated accordingly. "Threat inflation" has a long history in US policy, from the "missile gap" of the 1950s to the Vietnam War, but never has it been so extensively indulged.

Now real, immense forces were in play, for the power of the United States was real and immense, and what it did was truly global in reach and consequence. In his address to Congress nine days after the attack, George W. Bush expanded the "war on terror" to states, declaring, "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." The policy of "regime change" was born, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were launched in its name. There was more. In a speech a few months later, Bush announced, "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." In other words, he claimed nothing less than an American monopoly on the effective use of force in the world. The famous White House policy paper of September 2002, the "National Security Strategy of the United States of America," touted the American ideals of "freedom, democracy, and free enterprise" as the "single sustainable model for national success." Politicians and pundits explicitly embraced a global imperial vocation for the United States.

This strategy, and the whole posture it represented, was doomed from the start, for reasons elucidated in Schell's 2003 book: The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People. Yet the lessons remain unrecognized and unlearned in Washington, in Tel Aviv, in Moscow, wherever national leaders instinctively lash out at challenges to their precious power.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 21, 2024


Speaking of Which

Lots of stuff below. No need for an introduction here.


Top story threads:

Israel:

Genocide watch, around the world: But mostly in Washington.

Trump, and other Republicans: Trump's sweep of the Iowa caucuses was easily predicted, and seems definitive, but 52% of practically nothing against practically nobody doesn't exactly impress as rock solid -- the glut of endorsements suggest that, at least among Republican officeholders, Trump is more feared than loved. Trump looks good to win New Hampshire next week with a similar near-50% split, but this time with DeSantis way behind a very second-place Haley (Jan. 20 poll averages: Trump 48.9%, Haley 34.2%, DeSantis 5.2%). Then comes South Carolina, where the polling shows: Trump 60.9%, Haley 24.8%, DeSantis 8.9%. I expect Haley and DeSantis to hang in through Super Tuesday -- DeSantis can expect to do about as well in Florida as Haley in South Carolina, which is to say not much -- where the current national polls should be indicative: Trump 66.2%, Haley 12.3%, DeSantis 11.1%. After that it's all over, which should leave Trump plenty of time for courtrooms.

PS: I wrote the above before this [01-21] Ron DeSantis ends presidential campaign, endorses Trump. Given that there are no significant policy differences between Republican candidates, the standard reason for quitting is that your backers pulled their money, which was clearly in the cards. Quitting now and endorsing Trump avoids Tuesday's embarrassment, and gives him a chance to claim a bit of Trump's margin (maybe even the whole margin, if it's slim enough).

Closing tweet by Will Bunch:

It's so tempting to pile on the Ron DeSantis jokes but I keep thinking about the Black voters he had arrested, the kids who had to leave New College, the migrants he tricked onto that plane - all for the sake of the worst campaign in American history. It's actually not that funny.

Biden and/or the Democrats: I haven't seen much comment on this, but the Democrats' decision to cancel Iowa and New Hampshire left the impression this week that only Republicans are running for president in 2024. Biden would certainly have won landslides in both states this time -- after losing both in 2020, only to have his candidacy saved by South Carolina. I suspect that the reason they did this was to deny any prospective challenger a forum to show us how vulnerable Biden might be. As a tactic, I guess it worked -- it's highly unlikely that Biden won't get enough write-in votes in New Hampshire to clear Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson, and even if he doesn't, it's not like he was actually running -- more a case of New Hampshire just being spiteful jerks (which, as a long-time Massachusetts resident, I can tell you isn't a tough sell). Still, it feels like they're sheltering a lame horse, thereby wasting the opportunity to see who really can run. So while a Trump-Biden rematch looks inevitable, both candidates are in such precarious shape, with such strong negatives, that it's hard to believe that both will still be on the ballot in November. With no serious primaries, and leaders ducking debates -- even Haley has got into the act, figuring DeSantis isn't worthy of debate in New Hampshire, even though she's regularly mopped the floor with him so far -- 2024 may turn out to be a vote with no real campaigning. That may sound like a relief, but it's not what you'd call healthy.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Blaise Malley: [01-19] Diplomacy Watch: Zelensky's lonely calls for 10 point peace plan: He's still making maximalist demands, including "withdrawal of Russian troops from all Ukrainian territory and the prosecution of Russian officials for war crimes."

  • David Rothkopf: [01-19] The GOP is actively supporting Russia's Ukrainian genocide: So, if this guy thinks Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine, why isn't he up in arms against what Israel is doing in Gaza? What Russia is doing is criminal and reprehensible on many levels, but it's not genocide, by any stretch of the imagination. That Russia "openly wishes for the end of the Ukrainian state" isn't even true. They want regime change, to a regime that's friendly to their interests, but if that counted, the US would be guilty of genocide against at least thirty nations since WWII. As for "kidnapped and indoctrinated hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children," I don't know what you'd call that (let alone whether it's true; it's possible they just moved some children out of the war zone, for their safety), but it's not genocide. Putin might even argue that intervention in Ukraine was necessary to protect ethnic Russians from Ukrainian nationalists -- the term he used was "Nazis," which wasn't quite right but is not totally lacking in historical reference -- but while Ukraine may have behaved prejudicially against ethnic Russians, that too had not remotely risen to the level of genocide. To have any usefulness, the term "genocide" has to denote something extraordinary -- as is the case with Israel's demolition of Gaza.

    He is, of course, right that Republicans don't care about Ukrainians. They also don't care about Russians. They don't even care about Americans, or for that matter even their own benighted voters. They just want to win elections, so they can grab power and dole out favors to their sponsors, while punishing their enemies. But for some reason they all seem to love Israel. Maybe because they've set such a role model for how to really smite one's enemies?

Around the world:

  • Ellen Ioanes: [01-14] In Taiwan's high-stakes elections, China is the lower.

  • Joshua Keating: [01-13] Taiwan elects Lai Ching-te, denying China's hopes for reunification.

  • Paul Krugman: [01-18] China's economy is in serious trouble. What's the evidence here? That a 5.2% GDP growth may have been politically fudged? That Chinese are investing 40% of GDP instead of spending it on consumer goods? That they may have a real estate bubble? That the population decline reminds him of Japan in the 1990s (which, he admits, wasn't as big a disaster as predicted, but is Xi smart enough to manage it as well?). Finally, he worries that, "scariest of all, will [Xi] try to distract from domestic difficulties by engaging in military adventurism?" China's actual record on that account isn't half as scary as Biden's, whose "soft landing" on inflation owes no small amount to the primed business of making rockets and bombs, and shipping LNG to supplant Russian gas sales to Europe.


Other stories:

Chris Armstrong: [01-08] What if there were far fewer people? I mention this mostly because I had cited a NY Times piece by Dean Spears, The world's population may peak in your lifetime, but searched in vain for an adequate rejoinder. One could make more points, but this, at least, is a start. It is well known that population growth alarms -- most famously those by Malthus and Ehrlich -- were easily exaggerated into doomsday scenarios that have at least been dodged, even if their logic has never really been refuted. By the way, the "cornucopian" counter-theories have rarely if ever been tested, mostly because no one takes them seriously. (For a recent discussion of Malthus, see J Bradford DeLong's Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century.) Population growth is something we have a lot of experience coping with, but make no mistake, it is a strain that always requires compensatory changes.

As for population decline, that's rarely occurred, and never been a serious problem. Certainly, it's not one that Malthus could imagine, as he was perfectly aware of the standard solution: have more children. Spears' conjecture -- that population will peak in 2085 then decline ("perhaps precipitously") thereafter, is far enough into the future as to be the last thing we should bother with (aside from, you know, the Sun turning super-nova, that is).

David Dayen: [01-18] An unequal tax trade: "The business tax credits in the Wyden-Smith deal are five times as generous as the Child Tax Credit expansion." This on the "bipartisan" bill that seems to be finally working its way through Congress. Also see:

Jackson Diiani: [01-21] Is America like the Soviet Union in 1990? It sometimes feels that way: "America's symptoms of decline are everywhere -- and history tells us what happens if we don't change course." Sure, you can make that case, and find plenty of pictures, like the abandoned diner used here, to illustrate the case. Or you could take the opposite tack, and while noting that there are things that need to be fixed up, those improvements are easily within out means, given a little will to do so.

This article starts with a question: "Who owns the parking meters in Chicago?" The answer is: "Morgan Stanley and the city of Abu Dhabi." A cash-strapped city tried to solve a small problem by turning to the private sector, turning it into a bigger problem. Privatization was the buzz word, sold on the promises of efficiency but expanding the reach of predatory capitalism.

Kevin T Dugan: [01-19] Greed killed Sports Illustrated. Greed kills everything. Related here:

  • Ezra Klein: [01-21] I am going to miss Pitchfork, but that's only half the problem: I land on Pitchfork 3-5 times a week (on average, just a guess), but rarely read anything there, and can't imagine missing it much. Of the list below, Vox is the only one I would miss.

    Sports Illustrated just laid off most of its staff. BuzzFeed News is gone. HuffPost has shrunk. Jezebel was shut down (then partly resurrected). Vice is on life support. Popular Science is done. U.S. News & World Report shuttered its magazine and is basically a college ranking service now. Old Gawker is gone and so too is New Gawker. FiveThirtyEight sold to ABC News and then had its staff and ambitions slashed. Grid News was bought out by The Messenger, which is now reportedly "out of money." Fusion failed. Vox Media -- my former home, where I co-founded Vox.com, and a place I love -- is doing much better than most, but has seen huge layoffs over the past few years.

    News publications are failing too, and while some people are making a good living writing on Substack (including his increasingly vacuous co-founder Matthew Yglesias), most don't make any living at all. As Klein puts it: "A small audience, well monetized, is a perfectly good revenue stream." That's how these people -- at least the more successful ones -- think, with the corollary being: and if you don't cater to a rich-enough audience, you deserve to die. If we cared about democracy, we'd do something to make sure we had a reasonably well-informed and thoughtful citizenry. But "greed is good" went from being a dirty desire to a shameless motto in the Reagan 1980s, and has remained unquestioned even through Democratic administrations (with their nouveaux riches presidents), leaving the rest of us to live in greed's detritus.

  • Benjamin Mullin/Katie Robertson: [01-18] Billionaires wanted to save the news industry. They're losing a fortune. Save? More like "own," which is what they're doing. And as they've lost money they made way too easily elsewhere, like vulture capitalists in other industries, they've started to hollow out these venerable brands, until they're just empty shells, allowing nothing to grow in their place.

Elizabeth Dwoskin: [01-21] Growing Oct. 7 'truther' groups say Hamas massacre was a false flag: No use filing this under the Israel sections up top, as it's solely meant to muddy the waters. There is no reason to doubt that militia groups in Gaza, associated with but not identical to Hamas, planned and executed the attack. Israel has a long history of "false flag" operations, but this bears no resemblance to them. The precise scale and effect of the attack are still not clear, but "unprecedented" is a fair description, and the shock was deeply felt, although it quickly gave way to cunning political maneuvers. Israeli leaders had always responded to even the most trivial of attacks from Gaza with threats of extreme punitive violence, so they immediately realized this as an opportunity to implement genocide -- a consideration that had been cultivated for over a century, but only seriously pursued under the cover of the 1948 war (the Nakba remembered by Palestinians as their Holocaust, but never quite recognized as such by the world). The Israeli government quickly worked to mold world opinion -- at least among critical allies like the US, UK, and Germany -- to go along with Israel's destruction and depopulation of Gaza, which meant elevating the by-then-defeated attack to mythic proportions. Such disingenuity was bound to generate "conspiracy theories" like these. For now, they can be dismissed as nonsense, and/or conflated with other easily discredited theories (not least those belonging to antisemitism). But what they do correctly intuit is that there were deceitful political interests at work from the beginning, leaving us with little reason to trust what we are told.

Richard J Evans: [01-17] What is the history of fascism in the United States? Reviews Bruce Kuklich's Fascism Comes to America: A Century of Obsession in Politics and Culture, which starts in 1922 with fascination and fear of Benito Mussolini and traces the use and abuse of the word ever since, noting that "over the years, the concept gradually lost its coherence."

Caroline Fredrickson: [01-19] Elon Musk's war on the New Deal -- and democracy: "The South African-born mogul is now trying to gut the 89-year-old National Labor Relations Board."

William D Hartung: [01-16] The military-industrial complex is the winner (not you): "Overspending on the Pentagon is stealing our future." A record-high $886 billion Defense appropriation bill, another $100 billion-plus for aid to Ukraine and Israel, much more buried in other departments. By the way, Hartung also has a "Costs of War" paper:

Doug Henwood: These are a couple of older pieces I found in "related" links. I don't especially agree with them, but they cast doubts on theories and approaches that sound nice but haven't been overwhelmingly successful.

Phillip Longman: [01-16] How fighting monopoly can save journalism: "The collapse of the news industry is not an inevitable consequence of technology or market forces. It's the result of policy mistakes over the past 40 years that the Biden administration is already taking measures to fix." I'm pretty skeptical here. Whatever Biden is doing on antitrust enforcement -- after decades of inaction, a bit worse with Republican administrations but still pretty much ineffective with Democrats in charge -- is going to take a long time to be felt. And the argument that "advertising-supported journalism might be the worst way to finance a free press except for all the rest" is worse than defeatist, in that it doesn't even allow the option of treating journalism as a public good, as something we could deliberately cultivate -- instead of just hoping it somehow pans out. The sorry state of journalism today has less to do with constrained competition than with the carnage due to relentless profit-seeking.

Louis Menand: [01-15] Is A.I. the death of I.P.? Well, it should be, and take its own I.P.-ness with it.

Doug Muir: [01-15] The Kosovo War, 25 years later: Things fall apart: Part 3 of a series, that started with [01-08] The Kosovo War, 25 years later and [01-08] The Serbian ascendancy.

Andrew O'Hehir: [01-21] Never mind Hitler: "Late Fascism" is here, and it doesn't need Hugo Boss uniforms: "Fascism has been lurking under the surface of liberal democracy all along -- we just didn't want to see it." Draws on Alberto Toscano's book: Late Fascism: Race, Capitalism and the Politics of Crisis. I'm struck here by the line about how fascism arises "to save capitalism from itself." But it does so by misdirection, never really facing up to the source of its disaffection, leading to its own self-destruction. Such analysis is kids' stuff for Marxists, who start with a fair understanding of the dynamics. Yet it's lost on conventional liberals and conservatives, who assume capitalism is just a force of nature, something they skip over to focus on abstractions (democracy, freedom, etc.).

James North: [01-18] What the media gets wrong about the so-called border crisis: "The mainstream press's dark warnings about a flood of migrants are underpinned by a staggering ignorance about where asylum-seekers are coming from -- and why they're fleeing for their lives."

Rick Perlstein: [01-17] Metaphors journalists live by (Part I): "One of the reasons political journalism is so ill-equipped for this moment in America is because of its stubborn adherence to outdated frames." Framed by a discussion with Jeff Sharlet. Also [01-18] Part II.

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-19] Roaming Charges: It's in the bag. Starts by pointing out the ridiculously low turnout at the Iowa caucuses, which among other things resulted in this: "Amount GOP candidates spent per vote in Iowa: Haley: $1,760; DeSantis: $1,497; Ramaswamy: $487; Trump: $328." Of course, that undervalues the free media publicity given to all, but especially to Trump. Roaming to other topics, here's:

+ According to Jeffrey Epstein's brother, Mark, Epstein "stopped hanging out with Donald Trump when he realized Trump was a crook."

Liz Theoharis: [01-18] Change is coming soon: "The powerful and visionary leadership of young activists is crucial in these times."

Michael Tomasky: The right-wing media takeover is destroying America: "The purchase of The Baltimore Sun is further proof that conservative billionaires understand the power of media control. Why don't their liberal counterparts get it?"

Sandeep Vaheesan: [01-16] Uber and the impoverished public expectations of the 2010s: "A new book shows that Uber was a symbol of a neoliberal philosophy that neglected public funding and regulation in favor of rule by private corporations." The book is by Katie J Wells, Kafui Attoh & Declan Cullen: Disrupting D.C.: The Rise of Uber and the Fall of the City.

Jeff Wise: [01-13] Who will rid us of this cursed plane?: Boeing's "troubled 737 Max," although that's just the most obvious of the problems with Boeing.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 14, 2024


Speaking of Which

Quite a bit below. I figure this as a transitional week, mostly cleaning up old stuff (like EOY lists), as I get ready to buckle down and do some serious writing next week. So it helps to do a quick refresher about what's happening these days.

Although pretty much everything you need to know about the wars in Gaza and Ukraine is touched on below, you'll be hard pressed to find much of this elsewhere. The lack of urgency is very hard to square with reports of what's actually happening.

One thing I will note here is that I made a rare tweet plugging someone else's article (Joshua Frank's "Making Gaza Unlivable," my first link under "Israel" this week). I found it very disappointing that a week later the total number of views is a mere 91. (My followers currently number 627. The number of views for my latest Music Week tweet was only 142, which is less than half of what I used to get 4-6 months ago, so one thing being measured here is how many people no longer bother with X.)

Still, it is an important piece, making a point (one I tried to make last week, with fewer concrete details but more historical context) that really must be understood.


Top story threads:

Israel:

The genocide trial:

Elsewhere, the world reacts to the genocide, while the US, UK, and Israel spread the war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Blaise Malley: [01-12] Diplomacy Watch: Italy calls for diplomatic effort to end Ukraine war.

  • George Beebe/Anatol Lieven: [01-11] Russia's upper hand puts US-Ukraine at a crossroads.

  • Douglas Busvine: [01-11] Russia finds way around sanctions on battlefield tech.

  • Dave DeCamp: [01-11] Pentagon did not properly track over $1 billion in weapons shipped to Ukraine.

  • Thomas Geoghegan: [01-09] Why does Ukraine aid drive the Trump right nuts? "It's not just because the 45th president has a crush on Putin and hates Zelensky." It's because "the war it really wants to fight is at home -- on our form of government itself." One of my favorite political thinkers, but I don't buy this, on several levels. I didn't object to sending arms to Ukraine to help fend off Russian invasion, although I never bought the notion that either they or we were fighting Russia to defend democracy. Russia and Ukraine were both corrupt oligarchies with thin democratic veneer and diverging economic interests. It was credible that the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine reacted to the 2014 elections by attempting to realign with Russia. The crisis this caused should have been negotiated away, but festered as a civil war for six years before Russia grew desperate enough to invade. Putin deserves most of the blame for this, but Russia had been pressured by NATO expansion, economic sanctions, and sharply increased military support after Biden replaced Trump. The result was a huge boost for the US arms industry -- not just directly in supplies for Ukraine but in increased sales in other NATO countries, Taiwan, and South Korea -- but at enormous costs to the Ukrainian people. The Trumpists care hardly for any of that (and, sure, democracy is one of many things they have no concern for). They simply hate Biden. They associate him with Ukraine, and more than anything else want to see him fail. Much of this is stupid domestic politics -- the Ukraine-Biden axis starts with Trump's scheme to implicate Hunter Biden, while the Democrats' fixation on Trump-Putin starts with the 2016 election interference. What neither side seems to understand is that war only destroys and degenerates. Ukraine shows us that deterrence is as likely to provoke war as to prevent one, and that sanctions mostly just harden resistance.

  • Joshua Yaffa: [01-08] What could tip the balance in the war in Ukraine? "In 2024, the most decisive fight may also be the least visible: Russia and Ukraine will spend the next twelve months in a race to reconstitute and resupply their forces."

Around the world:


Other stories:

Zack Beauchamp: [01-10] How a horny beer calendar sparked a conservative civil war: "It's called 'Calendargate,' and it's raising the question of what -- and whom -- the right-wing war on 'wokeness" is really for."

Luke Goldstein: [01-09] Boeing 737 MAX incident a by-product of its financial mindset: "The door plug that ripped off an Alaska Airlines plane only exists because of cost-cutting production techniques to facilitate cramming more passengers into the cabin."

By the way, this is old (2011), but never more relevant: Thomas Geoghegan: Boeing's threat to American enterprise:

Here is yet another American firm seeking to ruin its reputation for quality. Why? To save $14 an hour!. Seriously: Is that going to help sell the Dreamliner? . . .

At this moment especially, deep in debt, we cannot afford to let another company like Boeing self-destruct. Boeing is not a product of the free market -- it's an extension of the U.S. government. Over the years, our taxpayers have paid to create a Boeing work force with exceptionally high skills. That work force is not just an asset for Boeing -- it's an asset for the country. Why should the country let Boeing take it apart? . . .

Most depressing of all, Boeing's move would send a market signal to those considering a career in engineering or high-skilled manufacturing. It is a message that corporate America has delivered over and over: Don't go to engineering school, don't bother with fancy apprenticeships, don't invest in skills. No rational person wants to take on college or even community college debt to come out and work on the Dreamliner -- which should be the country's finest product -- for a miserable $14 an hour. If a single story in the news can sum up the reasons for America's global decline, it's the decision to build a Dreamliner that will gut the American dream.

Sarah Jones: [01-11] Death panels for women: The abortion ban in Texas. Related:

Dylan Matthews: [01-11] Do we really live in an "age of inequality"?

Harold Meyerson: [01-08] Why and where the working class turned right: "A new book documents the lost (and pro-Democratic) world of Pennsylvania steelworkers and how it became Republican." The book is Rust Belt Union Blues, by Theda Skocpol and Lainey Newman.

Nicole Narea: [01-11] How Iowa accidentally became the start of the presidential rat race: "The history of the Iowa caucuses (and their downfall?), briefly explained."

John Nichols: [12-12] Local news has been destroyed. Here's how we can revive it.

Rick Perlstein: [01-10] First they came for Harvard: "The right's long and all-too-unanswered war on liberal institutions claims a big one."

Lily Sánchez: [01-14] On MLK Day, always remember the radical King.

Michael Schaffer: [12-22] Liberal elites are scared of their employees. Conservative elites are scared of their audience. "It's hard to tell who's more screwed by the new politics of fear."

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: [01-10] Wendy Brown: A conversation on our "nihilistic" age: Interview with the author of Nihilistic Times: Thinking With Max Weber. Sample (and yes, this is about Trump):

All of these elements -- instrumentalized values, narcissism, a pure will to power uninflected by purpose beyond the self, the irrelevance of truth and facticity, quotidian lying and criminality -- are expressions of nihilistic times. In this condition, values are still hanging around -- they're still in the air, as it were -- but have lost their depth, seriousness, and ability to guide action or create a world in their image. They are reduced to instruments of power, branding, reputation repair, narcissistic and other emotional gratifications -- what we today call "virtue signaling."

This also raises another feature of nihilism, namely the refusal to submit emotionality to reason and a more general condition of disinhibition. . . . So once values become lightweight, as they do in nihilistic times, so does conscience and its restricting force. Conscience no longer inhibits action or speech -- anything goes. Relatedly, hypocrisy is no longer a serious vice, even for public figures.

Finally, nihilism generates boundary breakdowns and hyper-politicizes everything. Today, churches, schools, and private lives are all politicized. What you consume, what you eat, who you stream or follow, how you dress -- all are politically inflected, but in silly rather than substantive ways. "Cancel culture" -- again, on all sides of the political spectrum -- is part of this, as an utterance, a purchase, an appearance, becomes a political event and responding to it a political act! This is politics individualized and trivialized.

Brown traces nihilism back to 19th century existentialists like Nietzsche, which in turn leads her to focus on Weber. Despite an early interest in existentialism, I've never really thought of this being an "age of nihilism." But I have lately referred to Republicans as nihilists. It's hard to discern any consistent core beliefs, but more importantly they seem to have no concern for consequences of their acts and preferred policies. As for nacissism, sure, there's Trump (and a few more billionaires jump to mind). Whether this amounts to "an age" depends on how widely people support (or at least condone) such behavior. The 2024 elections will offer a referendum, and not just on democracy.

Emily Withnall: [01-13] For some young people, a college degree is not worth the debt. I can relate, as someone who forfeited the chance for a degree for economic considerations, but also with a sense of regret. "Economic considerations" are the result of policy decisions, which ultimately are bad both for the people impacted and for the country as a whole.

Li Zhou: [01-08] The Epstein "list," explained.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 7, 2024


Speaking of Which

I didn't open this until Friday, when I wrote the introduction to the Israel section. I only got to collecting links on Saturday. Still, quite a bit here. The main reason for the late start was work wrapping up the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll, including this blog post, and a big chunk of time I spent documenting the discussion generated by Matt Merewitz's Facebook post.

I should also note here that after posting last week's Speaking of Which a day early, I went back and added a few more links and notes, marked with a red border stripe, like this paragraph.


Top story threads:

Israel: We speak of Israel's war against Gaza as genocide, because it fits the technical definition, and because genocide was formerly regarded as such an extraordinary crime as would compel other powers to intervene and stop. The classic model was what Nazi Germany did to European Jews during WWII -- the the discriminatory but less lethal period from 1933-39 now recognized as a precursor to genocide. But we've come to recognize other episodes of systematic killing and/or expulsion as other examples of genocide. (Some people like the term "ethnic cleansing" for expulsions, but the term first gained currency as used by Serbs in Bosnia, where it was plainly a euphemism for mass murder. I don't see any distinct value to the term, as the very idea of "cleansing" ethnics points to genocide.)

There can be no doubt that what Israel is doing in Gaza is genocide. (As for the West Bank, there is little difference between what Israelis are doing and what Nazi Germans did taking power in 1933, which doesn't necessarily mean that Kristallnacht, let alone Vernichtung, is coming, but certainly doesn't preclude it.) However, there is no precise word for what Israel is doing. The Germans had precise words to explain what they wanted: Lebensraum, Judenrein, Endlösung: they wanted land to settle, they insisted that no Jews could live there, and they meant this state to be final. What Israeli Nazis (I'd be open to a different term, but we routinely distinguish between Nazis and ordinary Germans, and that's precisely the distinction at work here) want in the West Bank is clearly articulated in the first two German terms (substituting Palestinians for Juden). But in Gaza they're moving straight to Final Solution, which they're willing to pay for even by giving up what has always been their prime directive: settlement (or Lebensraum).

There is a word for what Israel is doing, but it has rarely been used, and never by its practitioners: ecocide. Israel's goal (or to be more precise, the goal of the Israeli Nazis in power) is to make Gaza uninhabitable. If they succeed at that, they won't have to kill every Gazan. The land will be free of Palestinians, and Israel will have reasserted its Iron Wall. This shouldn't be much of a surprise. The catchphrase we've been hearing for decades was "facts on the ground." This was the motto of the post-1967 settlement movement in the West Bank: to establish "facts" that would make it politically impossible to undo. So while Israeli and American diplomats talked, in increasingly ridiculous terms, of "two-state solutions," Israeli policy was making any such thing impossible. And so, today, diplomats and pundits talk of postwar schemes for containing Gazans in their rapidly demolished surroundings, Israel is making life impossible, and irrecoverable.

The closest thing I can think of to an historical analogy is Sherman's efforts to exterminate the bison on the Great Plains. As a result, many Plains Indians starved, but more importantly the survivors realized that they couldn't sustain the way of life they had enjoyed when the buffalo roamed, so they gave up, trudged into the concentration camps the government set up for them as reservations, while settlers turned the vast grazing lands into farms. When Israelis spoke of their desire to turn Palestinians into "an utterly defeated people," I always thought back to the Plains Indians.

I also noted that at some point the US became satisfied with its Lebensraum, and realized that they didn't have to exterminate the last Indians, who in any case had started to adapt to their changed reality. The Final Solution turned out to be liberal democracy -- a stage that Israel is far from realizing, and may never given demographics and psychology. Indeed, any other "solution" would have failed, as Israeli history is repeatedly showing us.

This week's links:

Israel, America, and the search for a larger war in the Middle East:

Israel, genocide, and conscience around the world: Israel is not just fighting Palestinians. They're also, with American help, waging a propaganda war around the world, not just against sympathy for Palestine but against the possibility that people around the world will develop a conscience and try to hold Israel accountable.

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Edward-Isaac Dovere: [01-02] How the Biden campaign hopes to make 2024 less about Biden and more about a contrast with Trump. The worst part of this strategy is the temptation to try to drive a wedge between Trump and supposedly less extreme Republicans (like Nikki Haley?). There is no practical difference. Forget about Trump and Biden for the moment. Democrats do much better in generic polls than when they're represented by Biden, in large part because people understand that Republicans are worse. Campaign on that. The only downside is realizing that Biden is dead weight, dragging the whole ticket down.

  • Noah Lanard: [12-22] How Joe Biden became America's top Israel hawk: "The president once said 'Israel could get into a fistfight with this country and we'd still defend' it. That is now clearer than ever."

  • Ruy Teixeira: [01-03] How did we get stuck with Biden and Trump again? I should read this more carefully, and maybe even read the book he wrote with John B Judis (Where Have All the Democrats Gone? -- on my proverbial bedstand), but I'm suddenly gobsmacked by the bio line: what kind of Democrat cashes checks from the American Enterprise Institute?

  • Michael Tomasky: [01-05] Americans don't care about democracy? Well, Democrats -- make them care: "What Biden needs to tell American voters today -- and every day until the election." Actually, Democrats need to do more than lecture Americans on their civic duty. They need to show the people that democracy serves them, and not the special interests (which most of them spend most of their time pursuing).

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:


Other stories:

AP: [01-05] Boeing still hasn't fixed this problem on Max jets, so it's asking for an exemption to safety rules. Then, a day later, there's this coincidence:

Dave Barry: [01-01] 2023 in review: Or, as the title appeared in my local paper: "2023 was the year that AI and pickleball came for humanity."

Fabiola Cineas: [01-05] The culture war came for Claudine Gay -- and isn't done yet: "Harvard's former president is just one target in the conservative uproar over higher education." Also:

Rachel M Cohen: [12-29] Why treatments for severe mental illness looks radically different for rich and poor people: "And a new way to understand cities' response to tent encampments." Interview with Neil Gong, author of Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics: Mental Illness and Homelessness in Los Angeles.

Sheon Han: [01-05] What we lost when Twitter became X: "As former Twitter employee, I watched Elon Musk undermine one of the Internet's most paradoxical, special places."

Sarah Jones: [01-04] Who gets to be a person? By the way, she's become my favorite columnist of the past year, so let me remind you of a few of her pieces:

Fred Kaplan: [01-05] Nostalgia for Cold War diplomacy is a trap: "Compared with the international problems of today, post-World War II diplomats had it easy." Responds to an article in Foreign Affairs, which given that foreign policy wonkery is a reserve for elites is beyond my budget -- the piece is Philip Zelikow: The atrophy of American statecraft: How to restore capacity for an age of crisis -- I can't fully engage in. I will note one aspect of Cold War diplomacy that I am nostalgic for: mutual fear that even small conflicts could escalate into world war (as, e.g., happened after an assassination in Sarajevo in 1914) led the US and USSR to force ceasefires urgently, as happened with Israel's wars in 1967 and 1973. Since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the US has never shown any urgency in ending conflicts, because that fear of escalation has been lost, and more fundamentally because the US is increasingly in the business of intimidation and escalation, and as such has set the model for other nations -- above all our supposed enemies -- to follow. The irony is that peace has never been more urgent, because the world has become ever more complex, interdependent, and fragile.

Kaplan quite rightly points out that the Cold War diplomats were pretty fallible. I would also add that they enjoyed two big advantages over current diplomats: after WWII, America was very rich, compared to the rest of the (largely devastated) world, so could afford to be generous in its dealings; and the US enjoyed a great deal of good will, largely because the US was not viewed as an aggressor in the World Wars, and had a relatively small and benign imperialist footprint. Both of those advantages dissipated over time -- especially the latter, as American bases, arms, and banks replaced colonial with capitalist exploitation.

Still, the sorry decline of American diplomacy since 1990 isn't a mere function of declining advantages and increasingly complex terrain. A toll is also being taken by arrogance, greed, special interests, domestic political calculations, the persistence of myths (many dressing up plain stupidity), disregard for justice (partly due to increasing inequality in America), and sheer pettiness. One could (and someone should) write a book on these mistakes. It is hard to think of any other area of public policy where so many ostensibly smart people have been so wrong for so long with such disastrous consequences, yet they continue to be celebrated in the annals of elite publications like Foreign Policy. (Need I even mention Henry Kissinger?)

Doug Muir: [01-06] The Kosovo War, 25 years later: First of a promised series of three posts.

Rick Perlstein: [01-03] You are entering the infernal triangle: "Authoritarian Republicans, ineffectual Democrats, and a clueless media." The former is what it is, but we rarely examine it critically, or even honestly. Much of the blame for looking away lies with the latter two, for which the author gives numerous examples. Argues that "all three sides of the triangle must be broken in order to preserve our republic, whichever candidate happens to get the most votes in the 2024 Electoral College."

Nikki McCann Ramirez/Tim Dickinson: [01-05] Longtime NRA chief resigns ahead of corruption trial: Wayne LaPierre.

Clay Risen: [01-06] Arno J. Mayer, unorthodox historian of Europe's crises, dies at 97: "A Jewish refugee from the Nazis, he argued that World War I, World War II and the Holocaust were all part of a "second Thirty Years' War." A little late -- I've cited pieces on the late historian two previous weeks running -- but does a good job of defending his "nuanced" view of the Nazi Judeocide and his disillusionment with Israel, both of special relevance today.

Paul Rosenberg: [01-01] Project Censored top 10 stories: Corporate abuse and environmental harm dominate: "The pattern signals a deeper truth about economics and human survival." Fyi, let's list these:

  1. "Forever chemicals" in rainwater a global threat to human health
  2. Hiring of former CIA employees and ex-Israeli agents "blurs line" between big tech and big brother
  3. Toxic chemicals continue to go unregulated in the United States
  4. Stalkerware could be used to incriminate people violating abortion bans
  5. Certified rainforest carbon offsets mostly "worthless"
  6. Unions won more than 70 percent of their elections in 2022, and their victories are being driven by workers of color
  7. Fossil fuel investors sue governments to block climate regulations
  8. Proximity to oil and gas extraction sites linked to maternal health risks and childhood leukemia
  9. Deadly decade for environmental activists
  10. Corporate profits hit record high as top 0.1% earnings and Wall Street bonuses skyrocket

Dean Spears: The world's population may peak in your lifetime. What happens next? Argues that world population will peak with six decades, then lead to a precipitous depopulation, which is supposed to be some kind of problem -- one in need of "a compassionate, factual and fair conversation about how to respond to depopulation and how to share the burdens of creating each future generation." People who worry about such things worry me.

Emily Stewart: [01-04] You don't need everything you want: "Our expectations around money are all out of whack." Pull quote: "There is nowhere you can look in society that isn't screaming at us to spend, spend, spend."

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Saturday, December 30, 2023


Speaking of Which

Several things have nudged me toward shifting my usual posting schedule this week. The first is that I usually do Music Week on Monday, but I also like to finish the last Music Week of the calendar year on the 31st, which this year is Sunday. Delaying last Monday's post seemed like too much, but moving this week's up one day makes enough sense. But then, I normally do Speaking of Which on Sunday. I could post both on the same day, but I like separate days, which suggests moving this one up a day, too. Besides, my big job this weekend is to get the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll ready to go up next week, so it would be nice to get this out of the way.

Besides, not much happens on holiday weekends, although there seems to be no letting up in the unfolding genocide in Gaza. At least Congress and the Supreme Court are safely home with their families (or sugar daddies). Meanwhile, the usual media sources are chock full of lookbacks at 2023, projections for 2024, and occasional (but rare) cross-checking. I can't ever recall feeling less enthusiasm for such fare. Very few made my first pass here.

Of course, if I notice anything that should be added to this week's list, I can always add it later, flagged with the bit of red right border. [PS: Some were added when I posted Music Week, and some more on Jan. 1 -- mostly ones I had open but hadn't gotten to in the rush to post. Also some more on Jan. 4, although the articles themselves are still in bounds.]

Paywalls are the bane of my existence, but this one strikes me as especially pernicious: all of a sudden, I can't read a single article on AlterNet without paying them money? I rarely cite them, unless I'm looking to reinforce a political point I've already made. Paywalls make sense for media that caters to specialized business interests, but are suicidal as political outreach.


Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide, and there's really no other word for it, continues, with the Biden administration, to its eternal shame, deeply complicit.

Israel and America: And Iran, which Israel doesn't care that much about, but finds useful to goad America into reckless conflict.

Trump, and other Republicans: With Maine joining Colorado in banning Trump from Republican primary ballots -- see Maine declares Trump ineligible under disqualification clause -- that story is going to take a while to play out, though I haven't seen anyone yet who thinks the Supreme Court will let the bans stand. The lawyers will deal with that in due course. Meanwhile:

Other stories on Trump and/or other Republicans:

  • Ed Kilgore: [12-30] The real reason MAGA-World is trying to rehabilitate Nixon.

  • Josh Kovensky: [12-26] Dictator on day one: The executive orders that Trump would issue from the start: "Ending birthright citizenship and politicizing the civil service rank high among Trump's planned first acts in office."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [12-29] GOP's biggest losers of 2023: George "it's a witch hunt" Santos. Actually, for a nobody two years ago, he seems to have done pretty well for himself -- even though he only came in fourth in this series, behind Kevin McCarthy, Moms for Liberty, and Lauren Boebert. PS: Last in this five-part series [12-30]: Donald "smells like a butt" Trump and his fellow insurrectionists.

  • Heather Digby Parton: [12-29] Nikki Haley deserves no grace for Civil War gaffe. Refers to her hesitancy to identify slavery as the "cause" of the Civil War. Her actual answer was far worse:

    I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was gonna run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn't do. . . . Government doesn't need to tell you how to live your life. They don't need to tell you what you can and can't do. They don't need to be a part of your life. They need to make sure that you have freedom. We need to have capitalism, we need to have economic freedom, we need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have the liberties, so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they want to be without government getting in the way.

    Clearly, no Republican actually believes this crap, because they're always trying to use government to force people to "behave themselves" (i.e., to conform to their political dictates). Freedom, for them, is reserved for the capitalists Haley says we "need." Most of us recognize slavery as the total abnegation of freedom, but Haley identifies with capitalists completely, understanding that their freedom is paid for by exploiting others. Perhaps "slavery" is too abstract to be the one-word cause of the Civil War. A more precise answer is "slaveholders." They are the ones who seceded to protect their "peculiar institution" with laws and arms they safely controlled. And when they lost, the first thing Americans did was to abolish slavery. After all, if freedom can't be enjoyed by everyone, it's really just a euphemism for tyranny. But, they stopped short of abolishing other forms of capitalism, allowing tyranny to return, dressed up as "freedom" for the rich.

    Also on the Haley "gaffe":

    I should also note that when I first saw the top headline here, I blanked out "Civil" and just registered "war gaffe." Haley's been making them all along. Kinsley's famous definition is: "a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth -- some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say." Of course, it needn't be true. It's just something that the politician thinks but should know better than say in public. Haley's worst gaffe in recent weeks was when she urged Israel to "finish it" in Gaza.

  • Maeve Reston/Hannah Knowles/Meryl Kornfield: [12-30] Led by Trump, GOP candidates take polarizing stances on race and history: It's not like Haley is the only one saying stupid things. It's more like a contest, a race to the bottom, which is ground Trump has clearly staked out.

  • Peter M Shane: [12-26] Trump's laughable claim of immunity.

  • Reis Thebault: [12-31] DeSantis, Haley pledge to pardon Trump if convicted: Angling for leadership of the pro-crime party. Aside for all you pundits arguing that Christie should drop out so the "anti-Trump" GOP can unite behind Haley, please start eating your hats now.

  • Li Zhou: [12-27] House Republicans' humiliating year, explained.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:


Other stories:

Ben Armbruster: [12-29] Mainstream media wasn't good for US foreign policy in 2023: "Major themes this year focused on feeding the Ukraine war, hyping the China threat, and avoiding context in Israel-Palestine." Some more general pieces relating to America's incoherent inability to understand the world needs and how to interact with others:

Dean Baker:

Dan Diamond: [12-28] America has a life expectancy crisis. But it's not a political priority.

EJ Dionne Jr: [12-31] Why 2024's vibes are so perplexing: 'Everybody thinks they're losing'. Well, they're right: pretty much all of them are losing. Even the super-rich, who've never looked wealthier on paper, are losing. Democrats need to ditch the campaign to convince people how much better off they are under Biden, and try to make people understand how much worse off they'd be with Republican denialism and dystopia. Crises are coming. Do you want a government that helps people cope, or one that just accelerates the dangers?

On the other hand, this piece is also true (mostly): Jennifer Rubin: [12-31] Get real and read some history. The past was worse. But she's mostly warning against the allure of nostalgia, as in "Make America Great Again." But I rather doubt that nostalgia's a serious concern on the right -- unlike rage and spite.

By the way, when people talk about good things that happened in any given year, they're mostly thinking of technology, whereas bad things tend to be politics and war (the so-called "other means"). Part of this is what you'd call structural. It's easy to see the upside of technology: it's literally designed to obtain that upside, so that much is conscious in mind even before you see it work. And then the marketing folk get involved. If someone can figure out a way to make money off it, there's no stopping them. On the other hand, there usually are trade-offs, and hope and spin do their best to obscure them. You often have no idea what it will cost you, until it already has.

Politics doesn't have to be so relentlessly negative, but our system is modeled on competing special interests, most pursuing zero-sum gains against everyone else, seeking leverage through power, clouded in myth and cliché. You'd think that the disasters that inevitably follow would trigger some rethinking, but special interests mostly they just recoil into ever deeper myths.

Connor Echols: [12-29] The 7 best foreign policy books of 2023: Worth listing:

  • Henry Farrell/Abraham Newman: Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy
  • Steven Simon: Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East
  • Keyu Jin: The New China Playbook: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism
  • Paul Kennedy: Victory at Sea: Naval Power and the Transformation of the Global Order in World War II
  • Nathan Thrall: A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy
  • Thomas Graham: Getting Russia Right
  • Paul R. Pillar: Beyond the Water's Edge: How Partisanship Corrupts U.S. Foreign Policy

Greg Grandin: [12-27] Arno Mayer has died. He leaves us an unorthodox Marxism. I noted his death last week, complained about the lack of obituaries much less of appreciation, but predicted they would come. This is a very useful review of one great historian by another.

Eric Levitz: [12-29] Are America's cities overpoliced? Podcast debate between Alex Vitale (author of the 2017 book The End of Policing, cited by many who argue to "defund the police," and Adaner Usmani, a Harvard sociology professor who "argues that America is suffering from a crisis of mass incarceration but not one of overpolicing." Levitz's concept is to set up debates on issues that divide folks on the left, but I suspect that there's pretty common agreement here on the core fact, which is that a lot of police work is being done very badly (see St Clair, below, for hundreds of examples).

Raina Lipsitz: [10-13] Why haven't the protest movements of our times succeeded? Review of Vincent Bevins' book: If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution.

Eric Lipton: [12-30] New spin on a revolving door: Pentagon officials turned venture capitalists: "Retired officers and departing defense officials are flocking to investment firms that are pushing the government to provide more money to defense-technology startups."

Brian Merchant: [12-28] The 10 best tech books of 2023: Surprise pick here is Naomi Klein's Doppelganger, with Cory Doctorow's The Internet Con at the bottom of the list:

  1. Naomi Klein, Doppelganger
  2. Malcolm Harris, Palo Alto
  3. Kashmir Hill, Your Face Belongs to Us
  4. Joy Buolamwini, Unmasking AI
  5. Zeke Faux, Number Go Up: first of a cluster on crypto
  6. Rachel O'Dwyer, Tokens
  7. Jacob Silverman/Ben McKenzie, Easy Money
  8. Lee McGuigan, Selling the American People
  9. Taylor Lorenz, Extremely Online
  10. Cory Doctorow, The Internet Con

Andrew Prokop: [12-26] The weird, true story of the most successful third-party presidential candidate in the past century: "Why did Ross Perot do so well in 1992? And could something like that happen again in 2024?"

Nathan J Robinson:

Areeba Shah: [12-30] The worst right-wing influencers of 2023: Pictured and profiled: Nick Fuentes, Alex Jones, Andrew Tate.

Jeffrey St Clair: [12-29] From taser face to the goon squad: The year in police crime. A staple of his most-weekly "Roaming Charges" reports, still the sheer length of this post is striking.


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