Sunday, March 12, 2023
Speaking of Which
I opened this file on Thursday, feeling very bad about my inability
to get any meaningful writing done, but having a couple of links I
figured I'd note just for continuity's sake. I was feeling even worse
on Saturday morning when I wrote the long comment on China, Iran, and
Saudi Arabia, then as I found further links wrote more and more. The
Saudis, like the Israelis, have been throwing wild punches at Iran
for more than a decade, and the US (especially under Trump) had so
little sense of its own interests that it just let others call the
shots. The agreement promises to defuse one of the world's most
dangerous flashpoints. And, needless to say, America had nothing
to do with resolving the problem, after spending decades of trying
to bully Iran into some kind of submission it couldn't recognize
even when it was possible. So, tell me again, who's the world's
And while you're at it, tell me why we have to spend $900 billion
or more a year to beef up a containment barrier around China, when
the latter is doing nothing beyond normal business and diplomacy to
ingratiate itself with trading partners around the world? The dumbest
words in the English language are: "peace through strength."
Wikipedia credits the phrase to Hadrian, and I can see some
merit there, in an age when wars were about nothing more than loot
and plunder, to building a strong defensive barrier. However, the
other examples, which are exclusively American, are hard to vouch
for as defensive (e.g., the motto of Eighth Air Force in 1944, or
the motto of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier).
that sort is meant to intimidate (the sophisticated term is deter),
but can just as well be read as a taunt. Wars for quick spoils
largely went out of fashion by 1900, if not well before: they
became too expensive to fight just for the loot one could carry
off. Wars for imperial glory continued until 1945, when Germany
and Japan expired, although it took a few more decades for the
existing store of colonies to be unwound. As Jonathan Schell
put it, the world had become unconquerable.
But if that's the case, if people recognize that there's nothing
to be gained by going to war, why do we need all this "strength" to
intimidate or deter? Sure, there have been some cases where rulers
(like Saddam Hussein) thought they could defy the odds. Israel has
held onto land they seized in 1967, despite the UN finding their act
"inadmissible." Some nations have claimed to be rescuing their own
fellows (Turkey in Cyprus, the US in Grenada, Russia in Ukraine).
And some tried to pass themselves off as liberators (the US in Iraq
and Afghanistan, neither remotely credible). For the most part,
these ventures have failed. And while some may have started off
with the perception that their targets were weak, there is little
reason to believe that strength would have deterred them. The US
was pretty clear what the consequences of Russia invading Ukraine
would be, yet that didn't stop Putin. If anything, it provoked him
It amazes me how little Americans have learned from their many
military debacles since 1945. Time and again, failure after failure,
you hear the same hackneyed clichés (like "peace through strength")
again. The doublespeak is befuddling: changing the War Department
name to Defense Department has only resulted in more offensive wars,
not less. We should be wondering what we did to get into the war in
Ukraine. (I'm not excusing Putin, but he wasn't the sole author of
the context in which he decided Russia would be better off fighting
than backing down.) And we should be wondering where the saber-rattling
with China is taking us.
Top story threads:
China, Iran, Saudi Arabia: I had this as a second section
piece when I wrote the Baker comment, but then I found more links
and had to promote it.
Peter Baker: [03-11]
Chinese-Brokered Deal Upends Mideast Diplomacy and Challenges US:
"The agreement negotiated in Beijing to restore relations between
Saudi Arabia and Iran signaled at least a temporary reordering of
the usual alliances and rivalries, with Washington left on the
sidelines." Isn't this what China should be doing? (Especially
given that the US has abandoned the role it could have had as a
peacemaker, in favor of being the world's leading arms supplier.)
Revolutionaries often imagine exporting their values, as France
did after 1789, and Russia after 1917. In 1979, Iran's dominant
Shiite clerics saw an opportunity to extend their influence among
Shiite minorities throughout the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia
offered two obvious targets: a substantial Shiite minority in the
east, which has long chafed under Wahhabi rule, and the symbolic
importance of the "holy cities" of Mecca and Medina, which the
Saudis had long exploited to assert their moral leadership over
the Muslim world.
Since then, the Saudis and their Gulf despot
allies have been uremittingly hostile to Iran, especially in the
1980s when they helped finance Saddam Hussein's war against Iran.
Hostilities have heated up again in the last decade, as Saudis
have intervened in Yemen against a local Shiite faction in one
of the world's most brutally pointless wars. Israel has its own
reasons (completely bogus, in my opinion) for implacable hostility
to Iran, and the American arms industry profits from stoking both
Arab and Israeli fears of Iran, so the US has had little (if any)
interest in reducing hostilities. (Obama and Kerry did make an
effort to work out a deal with Iran answering Israel's oft-stated
fear that Iran could develop nuclear weapons, but Israel killed
the deal through Trump, as much as admitting that they never had
any such worry.)
One problem is that the Saudis never got much out of fighting
Iran, especially when doing so looked to make them a pawn in an
American-Israeli plot they had no control over. Similarly, Iran's
so-called proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen were more of
a drain than a resource, and exercising them (to the extent they
did, which isn't clear) just isolated them further. So it should
be easy to see why China offers an exit ramp from a conflict that
hurts both sides. And why is China doing this? Well, it's obviously
good for business. China's a net oil importer, and has lots it can
trade. While the Saudis are cash-rich, Iran is hard-strapped for
finance, which China can provide. And China is a big enough market
that Iran can finally see a way around US sanctions.
As for sidelining Washington (and Israel), none of the parties
are likely to shed any tears. Still, when you think of what a
superpower should be doing, either on its own or through the UN,
it is smoothing over conflicts and stabilizing the world market.
Immediately after WWII, the US considered assuming that role, but
soon got distracted by the ever-polarizing Cold War, and never
extricated itself from that mentality, even after the Soviet
Union dissolved itself -- partly because the arms industry had
become so politically influential, and because the mass military
needed threats to keep the funding going (and, of course, turning
the US into a threat that stimulates more arms races, including
one with China).
David Pierson: [03-11]
China's Role in Iran-Saudi Arabia Deal Shows Xi's Global Goals:
"Brokering a rapprochement between the Middle Eastern rivals underscores
the Chinese leader's ambition of offering an alternative to a U.S.-led
world order." Why shouldn't they? The US does two things that should
bother China greatly: one is that the US divides the world into hostile
camps, mostly based on whether countries buy arms (and pay other forms
of tribute, like patent rents) to the US and/or its preferred companies,
which almost by definition precludes countries with their own legacy
arms manufactures, like Russia and China; the other is that the US is
given to making arrogant moral judgments about how other countries run
their business, with China a common target. (While the US likes to
regard itself as a guardian of democracy and human rights, its track
record shows many convenient exceptions.)
China is far less judgmental, willing to do business with pretty
much anyone (except for a rather glaring blind spot regarding Taiwan,
although even that's mostly cosmetic: they actually do a lot of
business with Taiwan). That clearly gave them an opening to Iran,
which the US regards as treif (not just forbidden but an object of
disgust). And while the Saudis have done enough business with the
US (including buying arms) to grant them official wavers, they must
have noticed that most Americans look down on them as well. Aside
from the Khashoggi murder and the Yemen War and residual anti-Islamic
bias (17 of 21, you know what I mean?), Biden got directly into their
business when he pressured them to turn on their OPEC ally Russia to
help keep gas prices cheap. With friends like US, maybe they should
consider other options?
It's notable that China is also floating a proposal to end the
Ukraine War, which is more than the US and its European allies can
say, but is more in line with what other nonaligned states (like
Brazil and South Africa) are proposing. (The Ukraine War has drawn
Europe closer to the US, but has estranged the US from virtually
every other nation, thus opening doors for China.) It's less likely
to fly because China has less to offer either side, but it's there
if/when the belligerents realize they need to stanch the bleeding.
Especially since WWII, a favorite term is
Pax Americana. Like its Pax Romana and Pax Britannica predecessors,
peace only resides within the imperium; the margins are still likely
to flare into war, and the controlling empires had to deploy huge armed
forces, even if they characterized them as defensive. If such empires
were truly benign, you'd expect the margins to melt away as others
sought safety from war, but they never were, and America's isn't. Rather,
they are constantly engaged in border wars -- and not infrequently wars
against their own people -- which they fight, like most warriors fight,
for the spoils. They would have you think that a global hegemon is
necessary to keep the peace, and that you're lucky it's us this time.
They would also have you think that anyone who challenges Pax Americana
is only out to establish their own imperium. (Hence you hear absurdities
like we have to fight Iraq over there so we won't have to fight them
Such people find China alarming: they refuse to submit, then they
build up defenses, then they imagine they might stave off attack through
deterrence. But most alarming is when they undermine the whole game by
showing that it isn't necessary, by showing that unaligned nations can
cooperate and prosper without paying tribute to Pax Americana.
Michael Crowley/Vivian Nereim/Patrick Kingsley: [03-11]
Saudi Arabia Offers Its Price to Normalize Relations With Israel:
"The Saudi crown prince is seeking a civilian nuclear program and
security assurances from President Biden, a steep price for an
agreement long sought by Israel." If nuclear power is what Saudi
Arabia is after, Iran and China offer an alternative to having to
deal with an increasingly difficult Israel (and its puppet US).
Jonathan Guyer: [03-10]
Why Iran and Saudi Arabia making nice is a very big deal: Among
other things, introduces the phrase: "post-American Middle East."
Daniel Larison: [03-10]
Why the Iran-Saudi agreement to restore ties is so big.
Richard Silverstein: [03-11]
Iran, Saudi Arabia Renew Relations Under Chinese Auspices. This
doesn't seem to preclude better relations between Saudi Arabia and
Israel, although just a week ago, Silverstein wrote: [03-08]
US Ambassador Tells Israel "We've Got Your Back" If You Attack Iran.
Robert Wright: [03-10]
Trading places with Xi Jinping. Wright has been pushing something
he calls "cognitive empathy" -- basically, it means trying to understand
someone else's viewpoint -- as a way of unlocking many of the thornier
problems in American foreign policy. Xi complains that the West, led by
the US, has "implemented all-around containment, encirclement and
suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges
to our country's development." Wright gives examples, including "odd
and gratuitous anti-Xi rhetoric." While you can argue that he's being
a bit paranoid, you can't say there's no substance to the charges, or
no menace behind them. Wright quotes Noah Smith: "What's scary to me
is that we heard similar rhetoric from Germany before WWI and Japan
before WW2." Wright follows up on the German case, but I've been more
struck by how US sanctions against Japan provoked the Pearl Harbor
attack (presumably the opposite of their intent). In both cases,
fears of eventual war led to the calculation that one should attack
first, while the enemy was still relatively weak. Both aggressions
were unwarranted and catastrophic, which China should take as a
cautionary tale, but the US should also learn a thing or two from
such past misunderstandings.
Blaise Malley: [01-27]
Can China and America Live and Let Live? Review of Van Jackson:
Pacific Power Paradox: American Statecraft and the Fate of Asian
Peace. I'm starting to grow tired of the word "détente," as it
implies a continuing adversary relationship even if a less hostile
one. While one should be able to coexist peacefully with others you
are nonetheless critical of, it would be better to minimize threats
than to reserve your right to oppose. I think a big problem with
the JCPOA with Iran was that Obama/Kerry refused to do anything
beyond the treaty's narrow aims to normalize relations with Iran.
(By contrast, the Saudi-Iran agreement starts with normalization,
leaving many details to be resolved in that new context.)
Trump, DeSantis, et al: Trump not indicted yet, but lots of
rumors, and even more revelations that should be embarrassing.
Meanwhile, DeSantis has his campaign book out.
Alexandra Berzon/Ken Bensinger: [03-11]
Inside Ron DeSantis's Politicized Removal of an Elected Prosecutor:
"The Florida governor accused the Democratic prosecutor of undermining
public safety. But a close examination of the episode reveals just how
fueled it was by Mr. DeSantis's political aims."
Ryan Bort: [03-09]
Trump Lawyer Admits Lying About Election Fraud for Personal Gain:
Jasper Craven: 
The Sunshine Imperium: The militarism of Ron DeSantis. Starts with
his "service" at Guantanamo, back when he was a cog in the military
machine, not yet an aspirant to be Commander in Chief.
Chas Danner: [03-12]
Mike Pence's Condemnation of Trump Is Still a Sad Work in
Benjamin Hart: [03-07]
DeSantis Asks Biden if Djokovic Can Enter US by Boat: As
Seth Meyers recapped: "That story again: Ron DeSantis begs Biden
to open the border!"
Margaret Hartmann: [03-09]
Trump Charges $99 for Book Written by Other Celebrities. The book
consists of photos of 150 letters he has received over the years, with
some thin annotation (like the "nasty, unhinged captions" he added to
the 300 photos in his previous book, Our Journey Together).
Hartmann also wrote: [03-08]
Donald Trump's Nasty Ron DeSantis Nicknames, Ranked.
Charles Homans: [03-09]
Seeking Evangelicals' Support Again, Trump Confronts a Changed
Religious Landscape: You've probably forgotten this, but Trump
wasn't their first choice in 2016, either: Ted Cruz won Iowa, and
Ben Carson also did better among evangelicals. But in the end, Trump
was evil enough, not just to get their votes but to inspire a whole
shelf full of apocalyptic hagiography. He'll be evil enough again.
By the way, I don't like using the word "evil," and wouldn't use
it generally even for Trump, but in this context that's exactly
what they're looking for. If they simply wanted someone who walks
the walk and talks the talk, they'd be looking for another Jimmy
Carter (but they hate him).
Clarence Lusane: [03-05]
Will Nikki Haley's Candicacy Flag? Haley's one claim to fame was
when she decided that the Confederate Flag was no longer (if it ever
was) useful to the Republican Party, so she ordered it lowered after
a particularly nasty mass murder. That she wasn't martyred as a result
suggests that she made a shrewd call, but Lusane's backgrounder goes
a fair ways toward showing how she hedged her bet.
Ian Millhiser: [03-08]
Ron DeSantis's plan to strip First Amendment rights from the press,
explained: "DeSantis wants to destroy a fundament of American
free speech law."
Andrew Prokop: [03-10]
The many reinventions of Ron DeSantis. "Will there be another
pivot? Or is this one hard to come back from?"
Greg Sargent/Paul Waldman: [03-10]
Ron DeSantis's book ban mania targets Jodi Picoult -- and she hits
Jennifer Szalai: [02-27]
Preaching Freedom, Ron DeSantis Leads by Cracking Down: Book
review. I give him more credit in my note below, but I haven't
read more than a few pages of the book, with its awkward feints,
leaden clichés, dutiful servings of red meat, and avoidance of
anything that could be mistaken for humor or humanity. He sees
politics as a struggle for thought control, but thankfully his
own thoughts are free and infallible: "Any criticism of his
policies gets dismissed as 'woke' nonsense cooked up by the
'corporate media.' . . . Americans should just stop worrying
and let him do all the thinking for them."
On DeSantis's campaign book, I wrote a note for an upcoming Book
Ron DeSantis: The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint
for America's Revival (2023, Broadside Books): "He played
baseball for Yale [while most were studying?], graduated with honors
from Harvard Law School, and served in Iraq and the halls of Congress
[not just Congress? he was a hall monitor?]. But in all these places,
Ron DeSantis learned the same lesson: He didn't want to be part of
the leftist elite." Nah, he wanted to be part of the far-right elite
(although between Yale, Harvard, Iraq, and Congress, I doubt he met
very many actual leftists. This, of course, is his campaign brief.
(Amazon's "frequently bought together" offer adds Mike Pompeo's
Never Give an Inch and Mike Pence's So Help Me God),
so one would normally expect it to be long on homilies and short
on details. Of course, his homilies are pretty dark, like "The
United States has been increasingly captive to an arrogant, stale,
and failed ruling class." And also: "Florida has stood as an
antidote to America's failed ruling class." The table of contents
not only includes chapters on "For God, for Country, and for Yale"
and "Honor, Courage, and Commitment," but also "The Magic Kingdom
of Woke Corporatism" and "The Liberal Elite's Praetorian Guard."
And if you have any doubt that he's running, the books ends with
"Make America Florida." All this in a succinct 286 pages. He's
every bit as seductive as Satan.
Biden: Headline in Eagle on Biden's budget plan is: "Biden
calls for trillions in tax hikes and new spending." That leaves out
that the tax hikes are on the rich, the beneficiaries of Republican
tax cuts, with few making up for lost revenues. Also that the spending,
aside from more fodder for the military, offers net gains to the very
people who need help most. Omitted from the headline is the deficit
question, which Republicans use as a cudgel to attack any government
spending that helps people, while conveniently forgetting to mention
any time they get a chance to cut taxes on the rich.
Fox and Company: I'm not a fan of defamation suits, but
the Dominion Voting case is prying open some secrets, as the dissembling
and pandering sometimes catches them up:
A Bank Collapses: Silicon Valley Bank, in, well, you know
Derailing: We're not done with the toxic train derailment in
Ohio. But also note a horrific train collision in Greece that killed
Connor Echols: [03-10]
Diplomacy Watch: Tensions grow in West as brutal war drags on.
Lots of posturing on all sides, little if any indication that any
are ready to negotiate. One hint is that both US and Zelensky are
insisting on Russia being tried for war crimes, which however just
in the abstract (the entire war should be considered criminal) is
an indication that you're not (yet) thinking clearly about the real
Fred Kaplan: [03-06]
Why the Russian Army Isn't Learning From Its Mistakes. No idea
whether this is true or not (it certainly relies on a selection of
reports), but I noted early on that superior numbers of tanks didn't
seem to be helping Russia much, and I've wondered whether more tanks
would help Ukraine much either. I can't help but think this war matters
less to Russian conscripts than to Ukrainians, at least at present.
Perhaps the tables will flip as Ukraine approaches territory where
ethnic Russians voted to break away from Ukraine.
Jen Kirby: [03-09]
A Ukrainian city is on the verge of falling to Russia: "If Moscow
takes Bakhmut, it may be a hollow victory." Having lost territory to
Ukraine southeast of Kharkiv and around Kherson, Russian forces have
Bakhmut -- formerly
Artyomovsk, a city of 75,000 (70-29% Ukrainian-to-Russian) well inside
breakaway Donetsk Oblast) the focus of their counteroffensive, effectively
depopulating and destroying the city.
Anatol Lieven: [03-07]
A looming crisis in Moldova's breakaway state: This is about a sliver
of land called Transdniestria (i.e., the east bank of the Dniester River),
The region broke off from Moldova almost immediately after independence.
It has been stabilized by Russian "peacekeepers," whose position has been
made more precarious by war in Ukraine.
Choe Sang-Hun: [03-05]
They're Exporting Billions in Arms. Just Not to Ukraine. "As
traditional weapons suppliers like the U.S. face wartime production
shortages, South Korea has stepped in to fill the gap, while trying
not to provoke Moscow."
Artin DeSimonian: [03-09]
Ukraine war unleashed similar West-Russia divide in Georgia: Like
Moldova and Ukraine, Georgia has breakaway provinces (Abkhazia, South
Ossetia) that have appealed to Russia for protection. In 2008, Georgia
tried to move military to recover those provinces, provoking a Russian
intervention. You may recall that in the midst of his 2008 presidential
campaign, John McCain wanted to go to war with Russia to back Georgia --
one of many needles leading to Ukraine. The conflict persists, although
for now it's dormant. It would be smart for negotiations over Ukraine
to provide a peaceful model for resolving the Georgia dispute. Author
has written more on the region, where Azerbaijan is trying to take
back control over the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region: [01-11]
How great power conflict is affecting the looming Caucasus crisis.
Juan Cole: [03-09]
When We Were Vladimir Putin: "How Washington Lost Its Moral Compass
in Iraq," 20 years ago. It lost its moral compass long before, but few
cases are more easily comparable to Putin's invasion of Ukraine than
Bush's invasion of Iraq. Both start with the arrogant supposition that
one is entitled to dictate to another country, and with the belief that
overwhelming force can mold others to your liking.
Yves Smith: [03-07]
Wall Street Journal: "US Is Not Yet Ready for Great Power Conflict"
Yet Still Plots Against China. Pretty much pure speculation viz
China, followed by a report on the Ukraine War that is significantly
at odds with official American thinking: Smith is unimpressed with
Ukraine's US-backed performance, and concludes "it's hard to see any
reason for Russia to end the war before its aims are met." What aims?
I don't know, and I doubt Putin knows either. My view is that both
sides can look forward to nothing but losses from here on out, so
the only sane thing to do is to ceasefire and negotiate. Americans
(and Zelensky) are deluded if they think victory is just a few tank
advances away. But they're even more deluded if they think that a
big win in Ukraine is going to intimidate China and back it down to
an acceptable sphere of influence. Wins only breed more arrogance,
until someone else knocks you down to size.
Ryan Cooper: [03-09]
Might We See a Bipartisan Agreement to Scale Back the Bush-Obama
Security State?: "Segments of both parties want to do it. But
obstacles are high."
Dave DeCamp: [03-08]
Sen. Lindsey Graham Says He Will Introduce Legislation for Military
Intervention in Mexico. Who was it who said, "poor Mexico; so far
from God, so close to the United States"? Max Boot, in The Savage
Wars for Peace (2002), tried to make the case that America's
"gunboat diplomacy" of the first third of the 20th century was all
good, but his description of Pershing's posse chasing Pancho Villa
shows both how futile his quest was and how lucky he was that it
didn't turn much worse. Since the 1930s, the US has generally
preferred to hire local goons to do its dirty work, but it's hard
to imagine how that could play out in Mexico. Graham may be right
that if you want a job done, you have to do it yourself. But he
is surely wrong that the US military has the skills and resources
to do it.
Jeannie Suk Gersen: [03-12]
The Expanding Battle Over the Abortion Pill: "Republican state
attorneys are threatening actions against pharmacies that dispense
it, as a federal lawsuit challenges the F.D.A.'s authority to approve
Rae Hodge: [03-08]
Biden's FCC nominee backs out after Joe Manchin says no: Gigi Sohn,
whose nomination has been held up for 18 months. And it's not personal
with Manchin: industry lobbyists hate Sohn, and he's just doing their
Ed Kilgore: [03-08]
No Labels Has a Genius 2024 Plan That Would Kneecap Biden: That
assumes that anyone beyond the organizers would fall for it. Their
plan is to nominate a "centrist" third-party ticket for the 2024
presidential election, and put them on the ballot in "at least 23
states" (focusing on competitive ones). While approximately a third
of the electorate likes to identify as independent, the actual middle
ground between a rabid Republican and a relatively sane Democrat is
pretty slim. For more on No Labels, see [03-08]
Could these hacks really put Trump back in the White House? For
one thing, this piece puts some names on the group, like Nancy Jacobson,
whose husband (Mark Penn) did more damage to Hillary Clinton's 2016
campaign than Steve Bannon and Vladimir Putin put together.
Ezra Klein: [03-12]
This Changes Everything: Bad title for a piece about AI. In many
respects, it changes nothing, but it presents an image of change that
can be pitched to the desires and fantasies of those in power, usually
by promising them more power. Will it deliver on those promises? Or
will it just expose their quest for more power to be in vain? Klein
writes: "I cannot emphasize this enough: We do not understand these
systems, and it's not clear we even can." I'd amend that to say: "it's
clear that we cannot." I've spent 30 years struggling with the problem
of how do you write computer code that works as intended. What I've
found is that proving code scales with complexity by some large order
Given how complex AI has to be to appear intelligent,
it can never be known, and can only be programmed through layers of
abstraction that themselves are imperfectly known. Nor is this mere
theory. We've already run the empirical test, and conclusively shown
that billions of intelligent automatons create all sorts of problems
beyond our capacity to understand let alone remedy. (Before I got
into programming, I studied sociology.)
It's not clear how AI will change things, but unless we are very
deliberate, its initial application will be to intensify relationships
of power, both commercial and political. I rather doubt that AI will
produce much in the way of genius breakthroughs, but what it should
be able to do much better than humans is to muddle through data. For
instance, it could be used to solve the surveilance problem: there
are never enough people to surveil everyone, but collect the data
and let computers sift through it. Is this something we really want?
And who decides? (China seems to be heading that direction.) Perhaps
what we should really be asking isn't what AI will change, but what
we want it to be used for, and what not?
Klein is inching his way toward these same questions, even if he
phrases it in one dimension ("accelerate its adaptation to these
technologies or a collective, enforceable decision must be made to
slow the development of these technologies").
[PS: I noticed
this piece by mathbabe, which says much of what I just tried to
say, and a few things I was just thinking (like if you're worried
about ChatGPT-written papers, try oral exams). Final line: "Galactica
can do all the easy stuff but none of the hard stuff, and so why should
we be impressed?"]
Andy Kroll/Andrea Bernstein/Nick Surgey: [03-09]
Inside the "Private and Confidential" Conservative Group That Promises
to "Crush Liberal Dominance": "Leonard Leo, a key architect of the
Supreme Court's conservative supermajority, is now the chairman of Teneo
Network, a group that aims to influence all aspects of American politics
Ian Millhiser: [03-12]
No one knows when it is legal to perform medically necessary abortions
Nicole Narea/Fabiola Cineas: [03-10]
The GOP's coordinated national campaign against trans rights, explained:
"Republicans are unleashing a torrent of anti-trans bills at the state
level ahead of 2024." Any excuse for haters to hate, and this seems to
be the one Republican strategists think they can still get the most
mileage out of -- not least because it takes so damn much effort to
resist, especially when they are other threats that also need defense
(e.g., see the child labor stories, and what the anti-abortion fanatics
Timothy Noah: [02-28]
The Shocking, Sickening Reality of Child Labor in America: "Large
corporations have made the enforcement of labor protections for frontline,
low-wage workers other people's problem." Needless to say, Republicans
are in the forefront of bringing child labor back (including one Wisconsin
bill that seeks to ban the term).
Julia Shapero: [03-08]
Most in new poll view 'woke' as positive term. Divide was 56-39,
but the partisan split is pronounced. It's often said that Americans
of all stripes live in their own bubbles, but the Republican one is
pretty extreme. How else do you explain major efforts within the GOP
to gain political traction by defending Jan. 6 rioters, or to vilify
public health officials and make sure they can never respond to any
future pandemic? Marjorie Taylor Greene tipped her hand when she
revealed that "everyone I talk to" wants a "national divorce." That
can't be many people.
Quinn Slobodian: [03-12]
What Really Controls Our Global Economy: "After decades of giddy
globalization, the pendulum is swinging back to the nation. . . . But
what if globalization has progressed so far that it exists even within
national borders, and we just haven't had the right lenses to see it?"
Slobodian introduces us to the "zone": an enclave with rules and other
perks tailored to serve businesses, one so ubiquitous that no company
would even conceive of opening a plant or office without shopping it
around to politicians to bid on. I see this happen with appalling
regularity even in poor, backwards Kansas. Slobodian has a new book
about this: Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of
a World Without Democracy. After all, that's what your politicos
are really sacrificing.
Jeffrey St Clair: [03-10]
Roaming Charges: The Man Who Came Out of the Darkness. Opens with
long-term Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan. Then he points to articles
meant to provide a counternarrative to Seymour Hersch's piece on how
the US Navy blew up the NordStream pipelines: the obliging publishers
New York Times and the
Washington Post (of course they were). Among many other items, there
a chart on "How much governments spend on child care for toddlers."
The US is dead last. Even neo-fascist states like Israel and Hungary
spend much more per child (6 times for Israel, 14 times for Hungary).
Joseph Stiglitz: [01-10]
Milton Friedman Set Us Up for a 21st Century Version of Fascism:
Aside from the dates, I'm not sure what's new about 21st century
fascism; that is, what distinguishes it from the 20th century fascism
of Pinochet in Chile that Friedman inspired and consulted in.
Katy Waldman: [03-10]
What are we protecting children from by banning books? As far as
I can tell, a growing interest in reading. When I was young, I had
very little sense of what I was prohibited from reading, but I did
quickly and thoroughly learn to hate pretty much everything I was
directed to read. Fortunately, I dropped out of high school, and
started reading on my own. Or unfortunately, depending on your point
of view. But one thing I was left with was an intense distaste for
the viewpoint that the purpose of education is to train people to
follow directions and mind their manners.
Craig Whitlock/Nate Jones: [03-07]
Former top U.S. admiral cashes in on nuclear sub deal with
Robert Wright: [03-09]
Skeptical of the lab leak theory? Here's why you should take it
seriously. Not an issue I have any particular interest in --
least of all when a Chinese and/or American origin story is presented
as evidence for escalating military tensions -- but it seems pretty
obvious that secret labs researching pathogens are inherently dangerous,
and if justified at all should be subject to public scrutiny.
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