Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Another week, so here we go again.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

  • Andrew Bacevich: At the Altar of American Greatness: There's a line deep into this piece about how "it's the politics that's gotten smaller," and indeed this piece is a good deal smaller than at first advertised -- see the subtitle: "David Brooks on Making America Great Again." Brooks is normally an easy target, but Bacevich stumbles, declaring "among contemporary journalists, he is our Walter Lippmann, the closest thing we have to an establishment-approved public intellectual." Lippmann retired in 1967, so for me was a famous name that signified little -- even today most of what I know about him I had gleaned from Walter Karp's The Politics of War, which featured him as a prominent hawk behind the so-called Great War, but while he often catered to political power, the main thing he's remembered for was his cynicism about the ignorance and gullibility of the American people. Brooks, on the other hand, is little more than a partisan hack with a bit of cosmopolitan make up to pass muster with New York/Washington elites. Still, it's interesting that Bacevich digs up a Brooks column from 1997 prefiguring Donald Trump (cue Marx's joke about tragedy/farce), titled "A Return to National Greatness" -- a title Brooks reiterated in 2017. Especially precious is the line: "The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind." He should pinch himself to recall that he's talking about a country which positively worships the ideal of individuals pursuing their self-interest -- as witnessed by the fact that we just elected as president a guy who has done nothing but for more than fifty years.

    Under the circumstances, it's easy to forget that, back in 2003, he and other members of the Church of America the Redeemer devoutly supported the invasion of Iraq. They welcomed war. They urged it. They did so not because Saddam Hussein was uniquely evil -- although he was evil enough -- but because they saw in such a war the means for the United States to accomplish its salvific mission. Toppling Saddam and transforming Iraq would provide the mechanism for affirming and renewing America's "national greatness."

    Anyone daring to disagree with that proposition they denounced as craven or cowardly. Writing at the time, Brooks disparaged those opposing the war as mere "marchers." They were effete, pretentious, ineffective, and absurd. [ . . . ]

    In refusing to reckon with the results of the war he once so ardently endorsed, Brooks is hardly alone. Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.

    Brooks belongs, or once did, to the Church's neoconservative branch. But liberals such as Bill Clinton, along with his secretary of state Madeleine Albright, were congregants in good standing, as were Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton. So, too, are putative conservatives like Senators John McCain, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, all of them subscribing to the belief in the singularity and indispensability of the United States as the chief engine of history, now and forever. [ . . . ]

    That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth, much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of a country providentially charged to serve as the "successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome." In fact, this conception of America's purpose expresses not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump.

  • Srecko Horvat: Tom Hardy's Taboo goes to the heart of our new imperialist darkness: Not sure the series is that coherent, but the asides like how "colonialism doesn't cause misery only in poorer countries, it boomerangs back to rich countries with their rising inequality" are spot on. Also he notes how today private companies, much like the "honourable" British East India Company two centuries ago, have become far-from-benign forces all around the world (and he didn't even cite Exxon Mobil as an example).

  • Robin McKie: Biologists say half of all species could be extinct by end of century: Not really a new story: I read a lot about mass extinction back in the 1990s and maybe earlier, when the Alvarez theory of the K-T extinction event became popular and Carl Sagan came up with the notion of "nuclear winter." So, no surprise that it's gotten worse. Still, I'm struck by how the threat has receded in our consciousness as our politicians keep coming up with more urgent short-term crises. Thinking about the end of the century has started to look like a luxury.

  • John Nichols: Tom Perez Narrowly Defeats Keith Ellison for DNC Chair: Margin over Keith Ellison was 35 votes. It's tempting to regard Perez as a corporate stooge, but Esme Cribb has him saying some useful things, like: "I heard from rural America that the Democratic Party hasn't been there for us recently"; "We also have to redefine our mission"; and "Our unity is our greatest strength, and frankly our unity is Donald Trump's greatest nightmare." Underscoring that unity, he named Ellison "deputy chair" (see Trump Claims DNC Chair Race Was 'Totally Rigged,' Offers No Evidence.


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