Sunday, June 23, 2019
The week's biggest, and most ominous, story was the Trump administration's
decision to launch a "limited" missile attack on Iran, then the reversal
of those orders minutes before execution. Here are some links:
Michael D Shear with others:
Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman/Thomas Gibbons-Neff:
Urged to launch an attack, Trump listened to the skeptics who said it
would be a costly mistake: E.g., Tucker Carlson, who pointed out
that "the same people who lured us into the Iraq quagmire 16 years ago
are demanding a new war, this one with Iran."
John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are the hawks behind Trump's Iran policy.
Bolton keeps trying to goad Iran into war.
Media, war boosters slam Trump for 'chicken' response to Iran: "The
hawks are in their element today, screeching for air strikes and promising
In Iran crisis, our worst fears about Trump are realized.
Iran had the legal right to shoot down US spy drone.
Iran must escape the American chokehold before it becomes fatal:
Not someone I look to for sane opinions, but this offers a sense of
how Trump's administration has cornered Iran, leaving their leaders
with few (if any) good options, and thereby ratcheting up pressure
for greater violence. I didn't say "war" there because that implies
that war is a future threat. Ignatius makes clear that the US has
already started war with Iran, but for now is playing a "long game"
by using ever-tightening sanctions to weaken and finally strangle
US-Iran standoff: a timeline: Start with Trump's withdrawal from
the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, and Pompeo's "12 demands for a
new agreement for Iran" (May 21, 2018), and the imposition of a new
round of sanctions, aimed at applying "maximum pressure" to cripple
Trump has a $259 million reason to bomb Iran: An accounting of
campaign donations from known Iran hawks.
Aaron David Miller/Richard Sokolsky:
Why war with Iran is bad for Trump -- and America.
America's confrontation with Iran goes deeper than Trump.
For Iranians, the war has already begun: "In Iran, US sanctions
are producing a level of suffering comparable to that of wartime."
Iran is outmatched in its latest game of rhetorical chicken. But it
might be too late.
Trump's Iran reversal exposes one of his most dangerous lies.
Next contestant, Iran: Meet America's permanent war formula.
Michael G Vickers:
To avoid a wider war, Iran must be deterred with limited US military
strikes: Argues that Trump should be ordering more air strikes,
citing Reagan in the late-1980s as an example of forceful deterrence
(e.g., shooting down civilian Iranian airliners).
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Trump called off a military strike against Iran. The US targeted its
computer systems instead. Contrast this with
Iranian cyberattacks against the US are on the rise. Both sides
at least given some consideration to consequences when it comes to
shooting off missiles. Iran, for example, stressed than when they
shot down a US drone, they allowed a manned aircraft accompanying
it to pass safely. But neither side seems to worry about cyberwar
turning into full-scale war. That strikes me as reckless ignorance:
the fact is we know very little about the risks and consequences of
attacking and terrorizing computer networks. It also seems pretty
obvious that when the US attacks Iran, Russia, China, and others,
the response will be counterattacks against civilian computers. As
no one has more potential targets for cyberattacks, cyberwarfare
puts Americans at far greater risk than anyone else. Given this,
you would think that it would be in the interest of most Americans
to negotiate protocols against cyberwarfare, but the war planners
can't think that far ahead. They'd rather just press what they see
as carefree advantages, regardless of future blowback.
After cancelling a retaliatory strike on Iran, Trump warns: "If they
do something else, it'll be double".
Why Iran is fighting back against Trump's maximum pressure campaign:
Interview with Afshon Ostovar.
Iran shoots down US military drone, increasing risk of war: Update
of the previously unreported story: "US flies military drones over Iran,
increasing risk of war."
9 questions about the US-Iran standoff you were too embarrassed to ask:
The questions aren't that unreasonable, although the answers could be
sharper. Ward is only partly right that the run-up to war against Iran
is different from Iraq. With Iraq, Bush led the propaganda campaign
from the top, with his entire administration in lockstep, and they had
very ambitious goals of invading, seizing power, and reconstructing
Iraq under US control. Under Trump, the pro-war faction is smaller and,
of necessity, more furtive and disingenuous. They haven't articulated
clear goals (least of all a plan to invade and seize power -- Iran is,
after all, a much more daunting target than Iraq and Afghanistan, and
neither of those adventures are remembered as successes). Their more
limited goal has been to sow discord and cultivate enmity, applying
pressure to increase tension and provoke reaction in the hope that
incidents like we've seen this past week will convince Trump to
Trump plans to nominate Mark Esper, a former combat veteran and lobbyist,
as Pentagon boss: "He was a former classmate of Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo [at West Point]." And, more recently, a lobbyist for Raytheon,
and continues as an advocate of high-tech weapons systems aimed at China
The exceptionally American historical amnesia behind Pompeo's claim of '40
years of unprovoked Iranian aggression'.
What will follow Trump's cancelled strike on Iran?
Ardeshir Zahedi/Ali Vaez:
The US should strive for a stable Iran. Instead, it is suffocating it.
Some scattered links this week:
Benjamin Netanyahu just unveiled Israel's newest town: "Trump Heights".
Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman:
Trump campaign to purge pollsters after leak of dismal results.
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Congress has set the record for longest stretch without a minimum wage
Joe Biden to rich donors: "Nothing would fundamentally change" if he's
Nineteenth-century novels, with better birth control.
Bernie Sanders's free college proposal just got a whole lot bigger:
"Sanders wants to cancel all student loan debt."
Are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders the same? The debate, explained.
Not all that satisfactorily, but the two candidates offer a lesson in how
distinct political traditions can converge on similar answers given our
current set of political and economic problems. Early in the 20th century,
people who thought that the system had to be changed could be divided up
as progressives and socialists. (The populist party pre-dates this split,
and had elements that went both ways, but isn't a very useful distinction
these days. Later liberals liked to malign populists as bigots, which is
why the term is sometimes applied to bigots like Trump today, who lack
any affinity to populism.) With her focus on expanding the middle class
and her near-obsession with policy reforms, Warren fits pretty clearly
into the progressive tradition. Sanders, on the other hand, identifies
with the working class, and still likes the idea of revolution (always
qualified as "political" -- i.e., non-violent). Still, the practical
effect of either winning is likely to be very similar, both because
they agree on the key problems (much more equality, an end to war),
and because their scope will be limited by more conservative Democrats
in Congress. I should probably add that within this household, Warren
is deemed less trustworthy on war and the military -- she did, after
all, vote for Trump's military spending increase -- which is something
that presidents have a lot of leeway to act directly on. Golshan doesn't
see that much of a gulf there but, well, this is something we're pretty
Taylor Swift's "You Need to Calm Down" wants to be a queer anthem. It
also wants to sell you something. You might find the video link
inspiring, or at least amusing. I noted the "Get a Brain Moran" sign --
a thought I've had before, although to be fair the Jr. Senator from KS
has more on top than most of his caucus (e.g., just voted against arms
sales to Saudi Arabia).
E. Jean Carroll: "Trump attacked me in the dressing room of Bergdorf
Goodman." He's just one of many featured in Carroll's
My list of hideous men. Related: Anna North:
E. Jean Carroll isn't alone. That matters. Also: Laura McGann:
Donald Trump is trying to gaslight us on E. Jean Carroll's account of
The empty promise of Boris Johnson: A portrait: "The man expected
to be Britain's next Prime Minister makes people in power, including
himself, appear ridiculous, but that doesn't mean he'd dream of handing
power to anybody else." Hard to believe that whoever wrote that line
wasn't also thinking of Trump, who may not be as sui generis as he'd
like to think. Article mentions that Johnson is one of ten candidates
in the race for Conservative Party leader. That field has been reduced
to two now: Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, with Johnson still heavily favored.
[PS: Or maybe not: Rebecca Mead:
Will Boris Johnson's "late-night altercation" sink his bid to become
The GOP doesn't actually care if you call them 'concentration camps':
"This bad faith criticism isn't based on a great deal of care for the
feelings of Jews or a deep understanding of the Holocaust." Related:
'There is a stench': no soap and overcrowding in detention centers for
Inside a Texas building where the government is holding immigrant
The unimaginable reality of American concentration camps.
I'm a Jewish historian. Yes, we should call border detention centers
Joe Arpaio ran a self-proclaimed 'concentration camp' for years. Where
was GOP outrage?
'Some suburb of Hell': America's new concentration camp system.
AOC's generation doesn't presume America's innocence, where he
notes that "for the first time in decades, the left is mounting a
serious challenge to American exceptionalism." He admits that the
1960s new left did that too, even citing Noam Chomsky's 1969 book
American Power and the New Mandarins, but he doesn't seem
to have registered that Chomsky has written
more than 100 books since then. [PS: for his latest, see
Noam Chomsky: The real election meddling isn't coming from Russia.]
While the Vietnam War did much
to make Americans aware that their government habitually lied about
its good intentions and covered up its misdeeds, even then one could
not avoid awareness that the government had systematically oppressed
Native Americans and African-Americans ever since the first Europeans
arrived, or that the US had waged brutal wars of conquest against
Mexico and the Philippines. Indeed, the historiography on all of
these issues has grown steadily since the 1960s. Beinart's assertion
only makes sense if, like him, you assume that the leading lights of
"the left" in recent decades were the "liberal interventionists" of
the Clinton and Obama administrations: people like Madeline Albright,
Samantha Power, and Beinart himself (temporarily, at least, as when
he wrote his first book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only
Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror). Between Vietnam and the
War on Terror, many Americans worked hard to forget their "barbaric"
past (as Beinart quotes George McGovern putting it), which is what
allowed the Clintons and Obama to try to reclaim the lost moral high
ground. That those claims increasingly ring hollow is not just because
the left has resurfaced as a force that can be talked about. It's also
because the right, especially since Cheney started bragging about
"taking the gloves off," has become perversely proud of American
10 takeaways from the Times' interview with 21 Democratic
candidates: My takeaway from the article is "Elizabeth Warren is
definitely to the right of Sanders on foreign policy."
David Lightman/Ben Wieder:
Trump states and rural areas grab bigger chunk of transportation grant
funds: Something reassuring about this bit of old fashioned pork
barrel politics. I don't even mind the increased rural road funding,
although the cuts elsewhere probably affect more people.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates gives Mitch McConnell a thorough history lesson
on reparations. Related:
Here's what Ta-Nehisi Coates told Congress about reparations.
The genius of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Sanders didn't just defend the president from the effects of his own
statements; she offered herself as a kind of prosaic presence whose
function it was to act like anything Trump did, no matter how shocking,
was no big deal. She exemplified the stolid approval Trump wanted for
everything from family separations to tax cuts for the rich. As her
tenure ends, we can now see how much her reliance on reassuring phrases
like "make a determination" -- and unblinkingly calling lies differences
of opinion and hush payments not worth discussing -- provided a kind of
muted laugh track to the terrible show being forced upon America. Rather
than laugh at unfunny jokes, she loyally normalized despicable conduct.
David Nakamura/Holly Bailey:
'There's no accountability': Trump, White House aides signal a willingness
to act with impunity in drive for reelection.
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders had 2 very different answers to Trump's
official 2020 campaign launch.
Give War a Chance: "In search of the Democratic Party's fighting
spirit." Title is a sick joke -- Democrats have given war plenty of
chances, and for a long while counted warmaking as one of their "core
competencies" (as the MBA's like to put it). Subtitle is closer to
the intended mark, but I still don't care for the imagery. (Fittingly,
Elizabeth Warren, author of books like A Fighting Chance and
This Fight Is Our Fight, is featured in the graphic.) What
should be clearer is that Democrats need to find and stick to some
principles ("worth fighting for" is a cliché hard to avoid here),
instead of always trying to broker compromises with an opposing
party that seeks nothing less than abject surrender. Pareene makes
Biden out to be the poster boy for gutless, guileless surrender --
a task that Biden himself made easier last week in touting his
ability to "work with" rabid racists like James Eastland and Herman
Jeffrey St. Clair for "a taste of the rhetorical stylings of
James Eastland"; he also quotes a Biden "love letter" thanking
Eastland for his help "to bring my ANTIBUSING legislation to a
Death by algorithm: the age of killer robots is closer than you think.
Frances Robles/Jim Rutenberg:
The evangelical, the 'pool boy,' the comedian and Michael Cohen:
How Jerry Falwell Jr. fell in love with Donald Trump.
Curtis Flowers was tried 6 times for the same crime. The Supreme court
just reversed his conviction. Related: Jeffrey Toobin:
Clarence Thomas's astonishing opinion on a racist Mississippi
How Republicans stopped worrying about the right to vote: "The GOP
launched a four-pronged plan in 2008 to undercut the American tenet of
'one person, one vote.' We're now entering the final phase."
Will a Trump trade move create an election mess for overseas US voters?
That's actually just one aspect of Trump plans to withdraw from the Universal
We're less prepared for the next recession than we were for the last:
You may recall that the economy entered a steep decline early in the 2008
recession very similar to the one in 1929, but unlike the Great Depression,
the free-fall was stopped by "automatic stabilizers" like the unemployment
compensation system that saved many families from ruin. Those automatic
stabilizers have not been maintained during the post-2008 austerity, and
that will let the next collapse hit even harder.
Six takeaways from Hope Hicks's House Judiciary testimony: One I
believe is "Hicks said Trump's 'Russia, if you're listening' line was
Trump kicks off re-election campaign: Get ready for 'Billionaire Populist
II: The Sequel'.
Disaster upon disaster: Sample paragraph, relatively close to home
(and by no means the most harrowing):
Last month, in the Midwest, 500 tornadoes swept through the region in
just 30 days -- an average of 20 every day. The region is still underwater
from historic flooding earlier in this spring, with some places deluged
by seven feet of water and others issuing multiple disaster declarations
in a single week. The Mississippi River has been flooding for three
straight months; in Baton Rouge, the river rose past "flood stage" the
first week of the year, according to Weather.com, 'and has been above
that threshold ever since." In March, major flooding began in Iowa,
Missouri, and Nebraska -- and in Nebraska alone, damages are expected
to reach $1.3 billion. The whole Midwest, the New York Times wrote, "has
been drowning," and farmers are so far behind in their planting -- with
only a fraction of corn and soybean crops actually in the ground -- that
the whole year's harvest is in peril.
Felt like making a rare political
tweet today (tortured
into fitting their character count limit, depending heavily on the
reader's "cultural literacy"):
Another way Trump isn't Hitler: you can't imagine the latter
announcing then postponing Kristallnacht two weeks. Real fascists made
the trains run on time. Poseurs and wannabes flirt with evil, then
make nice, like "good people on both sides." Vile, at least.
Other tweets I felt like saving: