Sunday, February 26, 2023
Speaking of Which
Started early, with the Bobert tweet at the bottom, then the
Wirestone piece I picked up from Facebook, because I doubted I'd
be able to find them come weekend. Then found Responsible Statecraft's
anniversary series on Ukraine (starting with the Kinzer piece), and
I was off and running. Also note the mini-essay following the MJT
nonsense. I've contemplated collecting a few dozen such ideas under
an old Paul Goodman title, Utopian Essays & Practical
Proposals. Although it would take a constitutional amendment,
this is one of the practical ones.
[PS: Added a couple minor notes on Feb. 27. I should add that
the Wichita Eagle's top front page story today was Josef Federman:
Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills 2 in West
Bank. It's important to stress that this is not a single event,
occasioned by a single event. Israeli settlers have been attacking
Palestinians with more/less impunity for years now, including in
the days leading up to the two settlers being killed. The change
since the last election is that settlers who have gotten away with
crimes against Palestinians in the past have now been elected to
the government, and are using their position to encourage further
attacks. For another report, see:
Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian towns in revenge for
shooting. When officials incited Russian mobs to attack Jews
in Tsarist Russia, the massacres were called Pogroms. The same
word is completely appropriate here. The only thing new about the
"new government" is that they're making no effort to hide or to
sanitize their virulence. Hence, even in Wichita people who once
admired and supported Israel are now getting a glimpse of just
what the cult of Zionism has become.]
Top story threads:
Trump, DeSantis, et al.: Slow week for Trump, while he's
awaiting the Georgia indictments. Meanwhile, DeSantis is pranking
as usual, and a couple minor figures have entered the 2024 race.
Nia Prater: [02-23]
George Santos Wants to Make the AR-15 America's 'National Gun'.
Marjorie Taylor Greene's National Divorce: Her terminology
may have been influenced by having just
divorced her husband of 29 years. While I wouldn't presume that
her divorce was amicable, it was certainly a lot simpler and cleaner
than dividing the Federal Government between Red and Blue States --
especially given that said government has a trillion dollar military
operating all around the world, with enough firepower to destroy the
world many times over. Given that virtually every nation that has/has
been divided has done so in war (including the US in the 1860s), the
risk is off the charts.
Greene defends her proposal by saying,
"Everyone I talk to says this." Obviously, her circle of acquaintances
doesn't amount to much. It clearly excludes the 40% or so Democrats in
Red States who would be stranded, including majorities in nearly every
actual city. It also ignores Republicans who realize that they're much
better off in the United States than they would be in the third-world
dystopia that Republican policies lead to -- a contrast that will only
grow as Democrats gain effective power in the Blue States, finally free
of the dead weight of the Red. (Even now, the Federal government sends
considerably more money to Red States than it collects in taxes, a net
transfer that presumably would end with division.)
So the first thing that needs to be said about her proposal is that
there's no reason to take it seriously. It has no political support
beyond the small and delusional right-wing faction that Greene has
become the public voice of, and a similarly small faction of the left
who are sick and tired of Republican obstruction when we are faced
with problems that require bold and imaginative action.
Speaking of which, I've had this idea kicking around for a while, on
how to restructure Congress so it actually represents virtually all of
the American people (instead of a bare majority, mostly selected by a
tiny slice of donors). The idea is that within any congressional district,
the top two (or possibly more) vote getters would be elected, with the
district's vote a fraction, according to how many votes each candidate
received. You could sweeten the pot a bit and round the winner up to a
percentage point, and the second (and lesser) votegetters down, so the
winner of a close race might get 0.51 votes, and the loser 0.49. But the
first big advantage of this system would be that 100% of voters would
have an elected representative, whereas under the current system, as
many as 49% might not.
There are other advantages. Gerrymanders would cease to matter,
because all they would do is shift fractional votes from one district
to another. This also significantly reduces the importance (payback)
of money in elections. Third parties would complicate things, but not
that much. It would matter little whether districts got larger or
smaller than at present. You could also calculate vote weights based
not on percentages but on actual votes, so districts with high turnout
would be better served than ones with low turnout. You could also use
actual votes to deal with grossly unequal districts, such as states
represented in the Senate. (Which would solve that problem, although
eliminating the Senate would also work.)
Israel: I wanted to comment on the Parsi article, then
found Beinart, then created a section, which (as usual) snowballed.
Elsewhere I offer two definitions of "forever war," but Israel
suggests a third: a war that you protract endlessly because you're
less interested in the goal than the process. This is practicable
only when your enemy is incapable of hitting back effectively. As
such, this process resembles hunting more than it does war:
Peter Beinart: [02-19]
You Can't Save Democracy in a Jewish State.
Neve Gordon: [02-24]
The Problem with Israel's So-Called 'Crisis of Democracy'.
Ibrahim Khaliliye: [02-16]
Israel sees reliance on Palestinian health workers as a 'threat to
Ruth Margalit: [02-20]
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel's Minister of Chaos.
Trita Parsi: [02-21]
By caving to Israel, Biden opens the door to war. This is a minor
point, but Israel has actually been at war with Iran for several years
now. In the text, Parsi describes his fear of "starting a disastrous
war with Iran." The war Israel has been fighting, mostly by bombing
Iranian forces and allies in Syria, by cyberwarfare, and by targeted
assassinations of Iranian scientists, has been kept below the disaster
level because Iran hasn't responded in kind, let alone escalated. It's
possible that the US is complicit in some of these acts, but unlikely.
In 1967 and 1973, the US and Russia brokered deals to quickly end wars.
In 1978, Jimmy Carter effectively ordered Israel to end its intervention
in Lebanon (something Reagan didn't do in 1982, leading to a 17-year
occupation where the only tangible result was Hizbullah). In 1991, GHW
Bush effectively ordered Israel to report to Madrid for peace talks.
However, since then, the US has given up on even trying to tell Israel
what to do. At least as of Trump's withdrawal from JCPOA, now Israel is
giving the orders, and all American presidents have the guts to do is
Mitchell Plitnick: [02-25]
Israel has quietly annexed the West Bank and Biden stays silent.
Claire Porter Robbins: [02-23]
How Israeli youth helped usher in the farthest right-wing government
Richard Silverstein: [02-22]
IDF Nablus Massacre: 11 Dead, 100 Injured, 6 Critically.
Philip Weiss: [02-23]
US Ambassador Tom Nides says Palestinians don't need rights, they just
need 'money': With his "'biggest fear' that Israel has 'lost the
narrative' on US campuses," you could easily get confused about which
country Nides actually works for.
Ukraine War: The one-year anniversary of Russia's Feb. 24,
2022 invasion is bringing out a lot of rear-view mirror gazing, as well
as fresh rounds of bluster from Messrs. Biden, Putin, and Zelensky. I
pretty much said my piece on this war, or at least its historical
context, in my
23 Theses piece back on April 19, but I add to a few of those points
below, and reiterate most of them. It is important to stress that one
year ago, despite a vast history fraught with errors and atrocities on
every side, one person could have prevented this war from happening:
Vladimir Putin. But a year later, responsibility for continuing the
war largely rests on his opposite counterpart, Joe Biden. I fear he
isn't up to the task (although I worry more about the company he
Connor Echols: [02-24]
Diplomacy Watch: China's peace plan draws mixed reactions: China
presented a proposal, which Zelensky at least had the good sense not
to reject out of hand (unlike the US). Echols also wrote: [02-21]
How the Ukraine war helped the arms trade go boom.
Gregory Afinogenov: [02-24]
Peace in Ukraine Isn't Coming Soon: Something here that you rarely
(if ever) read elsewhere concerns the internal restructuring of Ukraine
to make it more neoliberal, i.e., a better investment for Europe and
America. On the other hand, limiting speech and banning parties isn't
a particularly good look for Team Democracy. Better known is how Russia
has become more repressive.
Daniel Bessner: [02-23]
How the war in Ukraine has challenged left-wing restrainers.
One of the more problematic pieces this week from the Quincy Institute's
Responsible Statecraft, where the idea that the US should exercise
considerable restraint in dealing with the world is foundational --
while the website appeals to both left and right, the focus on restraint
is intrinsically conservative (even when mouthed by Obama as "don't do
stupid shit"). To refer to "left restrainers" is not only infelicitous,
it also shortchanges the diversity of opinion on the left. Aside from
left-rooted converts to massive armed support for Ukraine (like Bernie
Sanders aide Matt Duss, who figures so large in this article -- partly
because Bessner's definition of the left is tied to the Sanders campaign --
that if lefties had to have licenses, his would be suspended), I can count
at least four left-oriented position groups: the pacifists (Medea Benjamin
might be an example), who see all warring sides as wrong, even if they
have trouble figuring out how to disengage them; the international law
visionaries (Phyllis Bennis is prominent here); advocates of international
solidarity (deriving from the old communist left, where the solution to
war is revolution by workers on both sides; I don't have a prominent
current example); and the anti-imperialists, who see Zelensky as a tool
of the same old imperialism, and therefore hope that Putin can thwart
the west (Max Blumenthal is an example; if I could, I'd suspend the
licenses of this group as well). And, of course, there are hybrids and
in-betweeners as well. I draw on all four, but I don't see how the first
three allow one any measure of sympathy or support for Putin.
Eli Clifton: [02-24]
Ukraine War is great for the portfolio, as defense stocks enjoy a banner
year: "The top five US weapons firms outperformed major Wall Street
indexes in the last year, mostly on the backs of American taxpayers."
Andrew Cockburn: [02-22]
We were promised 'economic shock and awe' against Russia: "But one
year after its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Moscow looks poised to weather
the worst of Western sanctions." Just last week Biden was talking about
new, even more crippling sanctions. But one clear lesson from the last
year is that sanctions have had minimal impact on Russia. Nor is there
any reason to expect that further sanctions will make any difference.
I was skeptical a year ago, and even more so now. But while sanctions
have a miserably poor record of motivating desired political behavior,
the one thing they really do is express the desire to hurt a country.
So not only did they fail to end the war; they continue to give Russians
a reason to fight on.
Jonathan Guyer: [02-21]
Biden and Putin's dueling speeches show why the end of the Ukraine war
is a long way off. Both sides feel the need to show strength and
determination, without betraying any doubt as to the rightness of their
cause, or allowing the possibility of compromise. Guyer thought about
this a bit more, and wrote: [02-24]
How Ukraine could become America's next forever war. "Next" is
something of a misnomer, given that it's already happening. However,
the phrase is telling. It could mean one of two things: one is that
you're fighting against a foe that cannot be defeated and will never
give up, in which case your only out is to find some accommodation;
the other is that you're really confused about your goals, so it's
easier to keep fighting than to reconsider. Vietnam is an example of
the former; the Global War on Terror the latter. Russia in Ukraine
has elements of both: neither side can be defeated, so the war has
turned into a game of chicken; meanwhile both sides have gotten so
wrapped up in their own propaganda neither can see a way to back
Ellen Ioanes: [02-26]
Here's what arming Ukraine could look like in the future: France,
Germany, and the UK have floated a proposal to arm Ukraine on their
own, independent of American control.
Fred Kaplan: [02-21]
The Game Putin Is Really Playing by Threatening a Nuclear Weapons
Treaty, on Putin's declaration that Russia is suspending its
participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty; and [02-24]
How the Ukraine War Is Likely to End. As he rules out a "total
war solution," "end" can only mean some sort of agreement, for which
he offers little grounds for hope.
Stephen Kinzer: [02-21]
Putin & Zelensky: Sinners and saints who fit our historic narrative:
"Think about why the West wants to invoke WWII and the Cold War here,
and then ask whether it's been productive." Actually, the "West" started
invoking WWII in the runup to Bush's Iraq War, probably because Vietnam
didn't poll so well. I doubt it's a coincidence that two of the loudest
anti-Russia hawks in academia (Anne Applebaum and Timothy Snyder) have
books to sell you about Stalin's atrocities in Ukraine, while others
(like Michael McFaul) have careers in think tanks subsidized by the war
machine. Meanwhile, recycling Cold War propaganda against Putin works
because he's Russian and no one who matters cares about the differences.
Zelensky's Churchill act also works, because he knows it's just a role,
so he can ignore most of Churchill's career, and not get called on it.
As Kinzer points out: "As far back as 1873,
an American cartoonist depicted Russia as a hairy monster vying with
a handsome Uncle Sam for control of the world. That archetype resonates
across generations. Like most populations, Americans are easily mobilized
to hate whatever country we are told to hate. If that country is Russia,
we have generations of psychic preparation."
Charles A Kupchan: [02-24]
US-West must prepare for a diplomatic endgame in Ukraine: The only
possible endgame is diplomatic, but that means offering Putin some kind
of graceful exit -- something the armchair generals in Washington and
Brussels seem to be having too much fun to contemplate.
Marlene Laruelle: [02-25]
This is far from over: Sobering lessons from Ukraine. These
aren't organized very nicely, so let me offer my own:
- Russia has totally burnt its bridges to the West. NATO is stronger
than ever, and while it's not a real threat to Russia, it is an insult,
and won't be going away. Russia is presumably still popular in the
separatist regions, but they've totally lost the rest of Ukraine.
Even if they negotiate an end to sanctions, it will be a long time
before they recover lost business with Europe.
- Ukraine, minus any parts that vote to stay with Russia, will be
tightly integrated into the EU.
- Militarily, there has been a huge home-field advantage, which
doesn't bode well for Ukrainian hopes to retake Russian ethnic areas.
The big Russian advantages (air power, strategic depth) haven't been
very effective, while discipline, morale, and logistic support have
been weaknesses. Western arms have allowed Ukraine to move from a
guerrilla defensive operation to more conventional operations, but
territorial gains have been minor. The result is unwinnable for both
- The US has so little credibility in the Global South that it has
failed to isolate Russia and strangle it economically. The utility
of sanctions as a weapon is seriously in doubt.
- The costs of continued military operations on both sides are high
and growing. While the West is better able to afford them, there is
no reason to expect that Russia will be starved out of the war any
- The toll on the Ukrainian people is, of course, immense, with
millions of refugees in Europe and Russia. Much of Ukraine is being
turned into a complete wasteland.
- While the risk of nuclear war is small, it demands respect, and
that means that both sides need to curtail their ambitions. We have
seen little indication of that in this anniversary's rhetoric.
Anatol Lieven: [02-20]
Russia was defeated in the first three weeks: Basically true, both
militarily and politically. Russia's offensive in the south from Crimea
was actually pretty effective, although short of capturing Odesa it made
little difference. But their blitzkrieg toward Kyiv and Kharkiv stalled,
turning into a "40-mile-long traffic jam" that became easy pickings for
Ukraine. I'm skeptical that even had Russia troops captured Kyiv, the
west half of Ukraine would have folded, so it was just a matter of time
before Putin realized he bit off more than he could chew. And politically,
Putin gave NATO something it hadn't had since 1992: a reason to exist.
There was never a chance that western hawks who had kept the organization
on life support wouldn't jump on the opportunity to fight (especially as
they could do so through proxies). The problem since then is that the
Russian defeat, which Putin would be hard-pressed not to admit, still
hasn't been as total as the victory the resurgent NATO powers crave.
If only the warmongers understood that there is no such thing as
victory in war. The only decision is when do you cut your losses?
And the only answer is the sooner the better.
Aryeh Neier: [02-24]
Will the West Be Serious About Crimes Against Humanity This Time?
"In the 1990s, the Western powers were slow to move against Serbian
butcher Slobodan Milosevic. We can't make that mistake again." Yes we
can, and sure we will. Milosevic and several of his henchmen are the
only ones who had to face the ICC, because they were the only ones who
fell out of power with no one to protect them. Putin may be worse, but
he'll never face the ICC, because even if Russia puts him out to pasture,
he won't be vulnerable like that, and no one else is going to be able
to touch him. Same, I might add, for Henry Kissinger, and a long list
of others. I came to grips with this with Richard Nixon, who never got
anything like the punishment he deserved, but once he was driven from
power and shamed, anything more ceased to matter. Besides, if you want
to get serious about "crimes against humanity," you have to catch them
much sooner than when they get mixed up in war. The time to stop Hitler
wasn't when he crossed some line at Wannsee or even Kristallnacht but
when (or before) he came to power.
Vijay Prashad: [02-26]
The global South refuses pressure to side with the West on Russia:
Actually, most have voted to condemn Russia's invasion, but very few
have agreed to enforce economic sanctions against Russia.
William Ruger: [02-23]
'Ukraine maximalists' on the Right still dominate. But for how long?
Ever since Arthur Vandenberg in 1948, Democrats could always count on
overwhelming Republican support for foreign wars, with some Republicans
(like Barry Goldwater and John McCain) reliably overexcited. Meanwhile,
the Democratic rank-and-file tended to become more dovish, encouraging
Republicans to pile on, painting Democrats as spineless appeasers even
as their leaders overcompensated with macho posturing (none more than
Hillary Clinton). The prowar consensus has held up on Ukraine, with
Democrats especially reluctant to break ranks -- part loyalty to Biden,
part because they've been sold the line that Putin (not unlike Trump)
is a sworn enemy of democracy. On the other hand, a few Republicans
(most notably Trump) are wavering, for various reasons -- the worst
being that some (e.g., Josh Hawley) would rather go to war with China,
followed closely by the ones who like Putin as a fellow fascist. What
worries me is that unless Biden can steer this war toward a diplomatic
conclusion, the Democratic Party will be so mired in the war machinery
that they'll never be able to deliver on their core promises, and
Republican do-nothingism will seem like the saner course.
Alex Shephard: [02-23]
Republicans Are Ready to Abandon Ukraine: "The GOP is turning against
continued support for Ukrainians fighting off a Russian invasion." As I
noted above, some are hedging their bets, but most Republicans love the
arms merchants too much to throw cold water on their party. Republicans
will, of course, abandon Ukraine as soon as the war is over and the US
is called on to rebuild a country which sacrificed everything so our war
gamers could think they were "degrading" the Russian military threat.
Robert Wright: [02-23]
The Ukraine Archives: Summaries and links to a remarkable series
of pieces on the war, going back to Jan 24, 2022: "How cognitive
empathy could have prevented the Ukraine crisis" -- did you know
there was a crisis a full month before invasion?
Joe Lauria: [02-24]
More Evidence Emerges That US Wanted Russia to Invade: Slant here
is anti-American (some evidence for that) and pro-Russian (more of a
stretch). It is, of course, likely that some American deep state-types
decided early on that Putin was less pliant than Yeltsin and should
be viewed as a threat (or could be propped up as one), so they came
up with a scheme to flip Ukraine and use that as leverage to entrap
Putin. I've always thought that pro-western lobbying in Ukraine had
less to do with US strategic interests than with European business,
as the rewards there were much closer to home, but sure, Victoria
Nuland, and all that. Whether 2014 counts as a coup or a popular
uprising is open to debate: the presence of plotters (including
Nuland) doesn't preclude the latter. One may also debate the extent
to which the 2014 separatist uprisings in Crimea and Donbas were
spontaneous or orchestrated from Moscow, although it didn't take
long before Putin was calling the shots.
In any case, subsequent
elections legitimated the shift in power (no doubt more than would
have been the case had Crimea and Donbas not split off). What's
much murkier is the political machinations after Zelensky ran on
a peace platform, then ultimately emerged as Ukraine's top warrior.
In particular, no one that I'm aware of has written up a thorough
diplomatic history from Zelensky's election to the invasion, but
it's safe to say that the Biden administration encouraged Zelinsky
to demand more, and that Putin grew increasingly alarmed. I doubt
this was meant to provoke an invasion (as Lauria claims), but it
was certainly meant to corner Russia. We've seen some evidence
(not provided here) that Putin tried diplomacy before resorting
to force: there are reports of the US and UK lobbying Zelensky
to reject Russian overtures. The US also went to great lengths
to publicize the Russian troop buildup, and to threaten sanctions
and other retaliation. At the time, I noted that the US risked
goading Putin to attack. I don't know that to have been their
intent, but they were surprisingly well prepared when Putin made
Still, regardless of any American designs -- something one should
always be skeptical of, given how poorly past designs have played
out -- it was Putin, for reasons wholly of his own, who deliberately
walked into this "trap." Lauria concludes, "the question is whether
Russia can extricate itself from the U.S. strategy of insurgency and
economic war." I doubt that he can, and not because he's ideologically
wedded to KGB-recidivism, to atavistic dreams of reviving imperial
glory, or the sheer nihilism of ending western civilization, but
because bullies can't stand to back-peddle, and because politicians --
and that's what he really is -- get so easily trapped in the rhetoric
that initially gained them success. He needs to find a new game, but
I doubt he has the imagination for that.
The real question going forward is whether Biden and/or Zelensky
can see clear to let Russia loose. No one can afford a "forever war,"
no matter how much pleasure you take in making your enemy squirm.
Christine Ahn: [02-22]
When Jimmy Carter went to North Korea: "Ever the peacemaker, he met
with Kim Il Sung in 1994 and helped freeze Pyongyang's nuclear weapons
program for over a decade." The secret of Carter's success was that he
met with them personally, and he agreed to reasonable proposals. The
Clinton administration was shamed into accepting his fait accompli, but
in due course reneged on its promises and sabotaged the deal, which was
finally buried by Bush, and in due course by North Korea testing nuclear
bombs and missiles. Trump's brief flirtation with Kim Jong Un produced
a lull in the testing, which might have been formalized into an end to
hostilities, but Trump's underlings (e.g., John Bolton and Mike Pompeo)
made sure that didn't happen either.
For more on Korea, see:
Brooks Barnes: [02-23]
The Billionaire's Daughter Knows What You're Thinking: Elizabeth
Koch, daughter of Charles Koch, the second generation feudal lord of
Wichita. Cited because it may be interesting, but I haven't invested
the time to tell you why. So I'll pass this over to Ian Millhiser:
"A fascinating window into what becomes of a useless person who never
had to worry about anything important her entire life. And a strong
policy argument for higher estate taxes."
Thomas Floyd/Michael Cavna: [02-25]
'Dilbert' dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist's racist
rant. Noted because I've read "Dilbert" for a long time, but only
because it was there in the paper. Long ago, it was occasionally clever
or observant about office culture, but it started to lose its moorings
when Adams quit his day job, leaving him to recycle his clichés. My
wife quit reading it years ago, and I doubt I'll miss it much. Should
the strip be canceled? That's something I'd almost never do, not least
because he doesn't deserve to martyr himself (which may well have been
his intent, as he no doubt believes the "woke mob" is out to get him).
Besides, his statements, at least as quoted in the article, are more
stupid than inflammatory (not that I'm not much of a stickler on either
count). How could anyone construct a poll with a question like "are you
ok with white people" and expect straight, meaningful answers? On the
other hand, how could anyone jump to his conclusions without being a
dangerously deranged racist?
[PS: The Wichita Eagle ran "Dilbert" on Sunday, but canceled the
strip as of Monday. They replaced it with something called "Pooch
Café," which, yes, is marginally funnier. On the other hand, has
any comic strip in the last 10-20 years done more than "Dilbert"
to make white guys look clueless and/or stupid?]
I didn't go looking for anything to tack onto this, but then there
Shirin Ghaffary: [02-21]
Social media used to be free. Not anymore. As Facebook joints Twitter
in trying to squeeze more money out of their users, as if they weren't
imposing enough already. Granted, the push is mostly aimed at businesses,
which are already used to paying for publicity, but at some point the
platforms will start to bleed users, and that the value of that publicity
will depreciate. Thing is, it would be possible to publicly fund social
media platforms that provide the desired connectivity without harvesting
data and trying to monetize it through advertising. And they would be
less of a drain on society than the current monopolistic rackets.
Clare Malone: [02-25]
Watching Tucker Carlson for work: "You don't know Fox News until
you are watching it for a job."
Timothy Noah: [02-21]
How the GOP Lost Its Brain: "Today's Republican Party is driven
by egos and power rivalries, not ideas. The GOP once had ideas --
lots of them. The problem was that they were unpopular and bad."
Isn't the answer obvious? At some point, unpopular and bad ideas
become liabilities. And besides, they never were anything but props
for hitting on some irrationally emotional point -- one they've
since found they can jump to with hysterics endlessly repeated by
their propaganda machine. Turns out all those brains were merely
Evan Osnos: [02-26]
Sliding toward a new Cold War: Russia and Ukraine come up, but
this is mostly about China, which is by far the more serious force.
Still, this is remarkably short on reasons why China might be
considered a threat. They just, you know, are, mostly
because we understand so very little about them, or for that
matter ourselves. Osnos turns to George Kennan for guidance,
quoting a new biography that Kennan "spent the four years from
1944 to 1948 promoting the Cold War, he devoted the subsequent
forty to undoing what he and others had wrought." The point should
be obvious: starting wars is much easier than ending them.
Nathan J Robinson: [02-23]
Why the Right Hates Social Security (And How They Plan to Destroy It):
Interview with Alex Lawson, of Social Security Works.
Derek Willis: [02-24]
After a Decade of Tracking Politicians' Deleted Tweets, Politwoops Is
No More: "Service changers after Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter
have rendered it impossible for us to continue tracking these tweets."
Clay Wirestone: [02-09]
'No future!' If Rep. Kristey Williams has her way, there won't be a
next generation of Kansans: "Destroying public education will
drive parents, students and teachers out of the Sunflower State for
good." First, let's dial the hyperbole back a bit, and dispense with
the Johnny Rotten analogies. The Republican chair of K-12 Education
is pushing a voucher bill, designed to siphon public education money
into private schools, with "little or no oversight on expenditures,
little to no oversight for student achievement." Choice sounds like
a good thing, and one can argue that having to compete for students
should make schools work harder to satisfy students and parents. But
does it really work like that? For starters, it's the rule rather
than the exception that privatization of public services leads to
more cost while returning less value. This is part profit-seeking
(which includes a strong impulse toward fraud, unless it is checked
by regulation, which itself adds to the overhead), and part due to
the lost efficiencies of scale (including more specialized teachers,
less administrative overhead, shared technology, lots of things, but
not necessarily larger classroom size). Second, vouchers divide public
support for public schools, worsening current underfunding. Third, if
vouchers don't cover the whole cost of private schooling (which isn't
likely, given its inefficiency), they increase religious isolation and
class-stratification (which has always been a selling point for elite
private schools; but they're not the ones driving this agenda, as their
clients always have been able to afford paying their own way).
Still, the advocates of voucher programs are remarkably myopic. In
looking to exempt their children from the taint of public schooling
(be it secular and/or non-elitist), they blithely ignore the others,
who they consign to run-down, under-resourced schools that teach little
and increasingly resemble detainment centers -- until their inmates
escape and struggle to survive in a world that has shown them nothing
but disdain. If, then, they turn to crime, they can finally look forward
to the public finally spending serious money on them, in the guise of
punishment. Even if they don't, most will never gain the skills that
we need to run an increasingly complex and fragile economy. What a
By the way, there are specific Kansas angles here, some mentioned in
the article. In recent years, Johnson County has grown largely based on
the reputation of its public school system (compared to the Missouri
suburbs around Kansas City). The author is worried that wrecking public
schools in Kansas will reverse that trend, resulting in a mass exodus
(although having once fled Missouri, I'm not so sure they want to head
back). A possibly bigger problem is rural Kansas, which has already lost
so many people that school districts are struggling just to hold on, let
alone to adapt to times that require more and better education.
James Thompson forwarded this Twitter interchange:
Lauren Bobert: One thing you can be sure of - I'll never
Leslieoo7: I'm sure of that. To be woke requires awareness,
an enlightened mind, exposure to different cultures and different
types of people. It requires maturity to realize that not everyone
looks like you or thinks like you and that's okay.
Woke is the antonym of ignorance.
Michael Thrower offered a list of "10 Great Very Short Econ Books"
(≤ 200 pages)
- Diane Coyle: GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
- Albert O Hirschman: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline
in Firms, Organizations, and States -- how consumers influence
- Jesper Roine: Pocket Piketty: A Handy Guide to Capital in the
- Eric Lonergan/Mark Blyth: Angrynomics
- Joan Robinson: An Essay in Marxian Economics
- Avner Offer: Understanding the Private-Public Divide: Markets,
Governments, and Time Horizons -- argues that state can plan
long-term where markets can't.
- Alex Cobham: The Uncounted -- how statistics can be distorted
by power relations.
- Richard A Easterlin: An Economist's Lessons on Happiness: Farewell
- Dean Baker: The Conservative Nanny State
- Lee Elliot Major/Stephen Machin: Social Mobility: What Do We
Know and What Should We Do About . . . ?
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