Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Speaking of Which

I opened this during a brief lull on Friday, adding a bit here and there, but by Sunday evening I was so swamped with my collation of the 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll that it became clear that I wouldn't be able to find time to post until after Monday's deadline.l That's pushed it back two days, and will push Music Week back another, to Wednesday (at the earliest). In making a final round, I haven't limited myself to Sunday's articles, but I am trying to keep it light and manageable.

Zack Beauchamp: [12-09] The bizarre far-right coup attempt in Germany, explained by an expert: Interview with Peter Neumann. Also:

Melissa del Bosque: [12-11] Arizona governor builds border wall of shipping crates in final days of office.

Jessica Corbett: [12-10] Kari Lake files suit to reverse her loss in race for Arizona governor: I've occasionally wondered who is the Trumpiest governor in America -- Ron DeSantis is certainly the most prominent, although Kristi Noem pops into mind -- but to be truly Trumpy, you have to lose an election and refuse to let it go. Lake is the only one other than Trump with the ego to do that, although one suspects that even she is only following the Leader.

Tim Craig: [12-10] As bitcoin plummets, Miami vows to hold onto its crypto dreams: Paul Krugman linked to this and tweeted: "Republicans have long insisted that governments shouldn't try to pick winners. So I guess they've decided to pick losers instead." He continued: "Crypto has always been a combination of technobabble and libertarian derp. But the sheer scope of the scam continues to amaze. The fact that there's still an FTX arena is the cherry on top."

Connor Echols: [12-09] Diplomacy Watch: NATO infighting continues as Putin signals long war: "Western policy on Ukraine is hitting a snag as Turkey and Hungary flex their new-found geopolitical muscles." Little here beyond the hostage swap of Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout.

More on Ukraine:

Rhoda Feng: [12-07] The Gamification of Everything Is No Fun: Review of Adrian Hon: You've Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us.

William Hartung: [12-09] New spending bill squanders billions on dysfunctional weapons programs: "The increase alone [$80 billion] from last year is more than what some of the world's biggest countries spend on their own defense budgets." This year's bill allocates $858 billion. More on this:

  • Andrew Cockburn: [12-08] The B-21: another Air Force diva that can't deliver?

  • Fred Kaplan: [12-08] There Is No Good Reason for a Defense Budget This Large: "And yet, no one is even talking about the additional $45 billion." That's beyond the DOD's request; $80 billion over last year (+10%); adjusted for inflation, it's still "the largest U.S. military budget since World War II."

  • Charles P Pierce: [12-08] The Money the US Spends on its Military Is Obscene, and So Is the Way It's Legislated.

  • Li Zhou: [12-07] Why Republicans are so intent on rolling back the military's Covid-19 vaccine mandate. Let me give you my theory: Most Americans were willing and even eager to get vaccinated, but a tiny minority objected, giving all sorts of cockamamie reasons that basically boiled down to them insisting on putting their personal health concerns over public ones. I'm not unsympathetic to individuals taking that stand, although in this case I think their reasoning is unsound, and because it shows their disinterest in public health. However, the military is supposedly committed not to the individuals that constitute it but to the core and the public as a whole. When one joins, one gives up a certain amount of personal freedom to support that whole, and in this context, vaccine mandates are a small personal price to pay. By the way, the military has a long history of requiring vaccinations and much more, ranging from standard hair cuts to (in my father's WWII case) circumcision. Why Republicans should choose to take up the anti-vax cause in the military has less to do with opposition to the imposition of state power -- which they often promote for causes they like -- than with the idea that anti-vax soldiers are politically sympathetic to their agenda, and their desire to grow a political column within the armed forces that might eventually be used to seize power and impose the dictatorship of their dreams. After all, soldiers who put the public welfare and a belief in the sanctity of law ahead of their personal political allegiances aren't likely to overthrow the government. By the way, it's not true that all anti-vaxxers are right-wingers. Only the ones who attempt to impose their idiot views on others are.

Shirin Ghaffary: [12-09] What the Twitter files don't tell us: "The documents are ammo for conservatives, even if they lack crucial context." Elon Musk selected Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss to orchestrate these leaks, figuring they'd give them the political spin he wanted. Also on this:

Margaret Hartmann: [12-08] Donald Trump Cost Lara Trump Her Fox News Gig: "Nepotism giveth, and nepotism taketh away."

Eric Herschtal: [12-08] How the Right Turned "Freedom" Into a Dog Whistle: "A new book traces the long history of cloakroom racism in the language of resistance to an overbearing federal government." Review of Jefferson Cowie: Freedom's Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power.

Ellen Ioanes: [12-10] Iran's months-long protest movement, explained. Also:

Ed Kilgore: [12-13] Is DeSantis More Electable Than Trump?: This is not a question Democrats should fret over. Better or worse? Perhaps, but best to prepare against the union of their two sets of views, which is often worse than any divergences you might be able to discover. (And note that Trump's deviances from Republican orthodoxy are like subatomic particles: tiny, unstable, and very short-lived.) No real need to go down this rabbit hole, but:

Keren Landman: [12-06] The US has never recorded this many positive flu tests in one week: "And health care systems are getting crushed . . . again."

Rebecca Leber: [12-10] The weird Republican turn against corporate social responsibility: "Companies say they want to acknowledge environmental impacts. Republicans are mad about that." It used to be easy to think that Republicans are simply shills for big business, and that they'll reflexively support anything that adds to corporate bottom lines. The reality is more complex and more nuanced than that -- much more than I can unpack here, but whatever the political and ideological underpinning may be, for all practical purposes it just seems like Republicans really want a world that is even more dystopian than the one they've already created.

Eric Levitz: [12-08] Climate Hawks Should Have Given Joe Manchin His Pipeline: Because Manchin's "permitting reform" bill would have made it easier not just to build his pet pipeline but to install more wind power and transmission lines, which are currently bogged down in the permit process.

Neal Meyer/Simon Grassmann: [12-12] The Case for Proportional Representation. This is a "response" to another piece, by Benjamin Studebaker: [06-16] Proportional Representation Is a Terrible Idea That the Left Should Not Embrace. From a practical standpoint, I'm not sure exactly that they are proposing (or opposing), but I had a related idea a couple weeks back, and this gives me a chance to jot it down. My idea wasn't to divide the number of representatives up proportionately, but to keep districts (including states) and award weighted votes to the top two (or possibly more than two, subject to some minimum threshold) representatives. With a two-party system, each district would have two representatives: one Republican, one Democrat, with their voting weight set by the election split (rounded up for the winner, down for second place). The Senate could also be organized this way, with or without factoring the state population in. (Obviously, factoring it in would eliminate one big problem with the Senate.) I'm not sure what you'd do about executives (other than reduce their power). Think about it: this would solve a lot of problems, starting with gerrymandering; it would give more people a stake in representative government (living in Kansas, I can testify that at present "my" representatives are totally fucking useless); it would also reduce the incentive people have to invest in campaigns, given that most districts can only be swayed by a few percentage points. What this has to do with "left" political strategy is beyond me, but a more functional democracy seems likely to be a good thing.

Ian Millhiser:

Françoise Mouly: [12-02] Remembering the artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, a trailblazing funny woman: Dead, at age 74.

Nathan J Robinson: [12-12] Why We Need Book Reviews: "Books are where the knowledge is. A flourishing democracy depends on a culture that care about and talks about books." Amen to that. Given that my own reading capacity is so starkly limited, I find that it also helps to have a map to books I (mostly) haven't read.

Paul Rosenberg: [12-10] How the New York Times helped Republicans win the House: "The Gray Lady told America that rising crime and worsening inflation were driven by Democrats. None of it was true." Among other things, quotes Dean Baker: "In short, the media decided that we had a terrible economy, and they were not going to let the data get in the way."

Storer H Rowley: [12-05] Biden Faces Netanyahu and Israel's Most Right-Wing Government. One imagines that Democrats including Biden should take offense at the rampant racism and the callous contempt for human rights and peace, but they've tolerated (and for all practical purposes endorsed) such behavior in increasing amounts for decades. It's hard to see why that changes now, although we are seeing more articles like Uriel Abulof: [11-25] "Have I Just Met the Jewish Hitler?"

Barbara Slavin: [12-10] When will the US learn that sanctions don't solve its problems? "Harsh economic penalties rarely, if ever, work to change a targeted regime's behavior; so why do we still use them?" Could have filed this under Ukraine, but it's a much more general problem. In Russia's case, sanctions -- even if ineffective -- may be justifiable as a way to do something in response to invasion short of escalating the war. One might also imagine scenarios where the threat of sanctions might work to deter undesired behavior, but that's only likely to work if you're threatening to take away something a country depends on: South Africa is the poster case, and Israel might work the same way (at least that's the hope of the BDS movement). And relieving sanctions can be useful as a diplomatic bargaining chip, but only if you're willing to bargain and withdraw the sanctions: Iran and North Korea should be success examples here, but aren't, because ultimately preferred to nurse their grudges over allowing other nations any degree of normal freedom.

Jeffrey St Clair: [12-09] Roaming Charges: The Mask of Order.

Emily Stewart: [12-13] FTX's implosion and SBF's arrest, explained. This has become much bigger news than I care to go into. One wonders, for instance, if the decision to prosecute Brinkman-Fried isn't an attempt to whitewash the rest of the crypto racket, much like Bernie Madoff became the fall guy for a much larger and deeper financial scandal. But, what the hell:

Li Zhou: [12-06] Raphael Warnock is officially Democrats' 51st senator. Here's why that matters. On the other hand, days later the other shoe dropped: Christian Paz: [12-09] How Kyrsten Sinema's decision to leave the Democratic Party will change the Senate. She's registering as an Independent, and says she won't caucus with the Republicans, so that probably means that for organizational purposes Democrats will retain a 51-49 advantage, but now dependent on three independents (also Angus King and Bernie Sanders). More on these stories:

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