Sunday, April 30, 2023
Speaking of Which
PS: Added the Kessler piece below (under Trump).
Started early, mostly just to grab some of the early Tucker Carlson
reactions. Then I focused more on the
Book Roundup. I've been pretty unhappy the last couple days, but
keep finding links, and things to write about. Hoping to wrap this
up as soon as possible.
Although I say some nice things about Biden in his section, pay
extra attention to the world sections. Biden's foreign policy is not
an absolute, unmitigated disaster, but the mitigations are minor,
especially compared to the threats that of so much focus on power,
and the arrogance that comes from that.
Top story threads:
Fox and fiends (mostly Tucker Carlson): As you know, Carlson
was fired Monday morning, effective immediately, with Brian Kilmeade
lined up as a temporary replacement. CNN followed almost instantly by
firing Don Lemon. A couple days later, ABC fired FiveThirtyEight guru
Nate Silver. And there was more (see Stieb).
Matt Stieb: [04-28]
This Week's Media Massacre: A Roundup. About half of those seem to
be further proof that the big money media world is suffering some form
of heat death: companies are cooling off and cracking up, the firings
merely symptomatic. In this, Carlson's firing is probably an outlier,
if even an example at all.
Sara Morrison/Aja Romano: [04-28]
What we know about Tucker Carlson's shocking Fox News departure.
Peter Kafka: [04-26]
No, seriously, why did Fox News fire Tucker Carlson?
Jonathan Chait: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson, Fake Populist and
Genuine Racist: "A TV character who exploited the worst impulses
of the American right."
Lee Harris/Luke Goldstein: [04-25]
The Smuggest Man on Air: This tries to make a best case for
Carlson as a populist, as someone "who punctured the lazy pieties
of the media class." Still, slipping the occasional (and far from
original) nugget of insight into a cloak of vitriol isn't all that
helpful, let alone laudable. And even these authors had to conclude:
"For a partial list of Tucker's noxious comments, see
New York magazine,
The New Republic,
The New York Times, and others."
PS: The publisher got a lot of flack for this piece, for which editor
David Dayen apologized, and agreed to a rejoinder. It is here:
Harold Meyerson/Tisya Mavuram: [04-27]
The Real Tucker Carlson: "Carlson has been second only to Donald
Trump in building a neofascist right that threatens American democracy."
They also did a podcast, where Ryan Cooper is more explicit:
Farewell to a Crypto Nazi Blowhard. These pieces, in turn, provide
fuel for Andrew Prokop: [04-26]
The new controversy on the left: Is it okay to say Tucker Carlson had
some good ideas? Well, is it useful? It certainly doesn't work as
an argument from authority. One could say that "even Tucker Carlson"
conceded or tried to capitalize on some point, but then you're stuck
suggesting that Carlson had some values or insights rarely in evidence
Ed Kilgore: [04-25]
Tucker Carlson for President? Not in 2024. "No lane," not that
that's stopped anyone so far, although Carlson has long been a
subject for speculation (see Politico: [04-24]
The keys to a hypothetical Tucker Carlson 2024 campaign, which
asks the question: "Will Don Lemon be his running mate?" As I recall,
Lemon was on Trump's shit list, so not bloody likely. But I wouldn't
rule out the other fired Fox host, Lou Dobbs, or even Geraldo Rivera.
[PS: I've also seen a cartoon that pairs Carlson with Larry Elder,
who announced his candidacy on Carlson's show.]
Eric Levitz: [04-24]
Fox News Could Be Just as Racist Without Tucker Carlson: Sure,
they can always find another racist, but wasn't there something
distinctive and unique (je ne sais quoi, but something)
about Carlson's racism?
Branko Marcetic: [04-28]
Tucker Carlson Isn't an Anti-Imperialist -- He's a Rabid China
Andrew Prokop: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson was doing something different -- and darker -- than most
Fox hosts. For one thing, he had that super-creepy laugh (really more
of a cackle).
Jim Rutenberg/Jeremy W Peters/Michael S Schmidt: [04-26]
On Eve of Trial, Discovery of Carlson Texts Set Off Crisis Atop
Alex Shephard: [04-27]
Tucker Carlson Has Already Lost His War With Fox News: "His hostage
video on Wednesday proves it." Shephard also wrote: [04-26]
Rupert Murdoch May Have Blown His Tucker Succession Plan; also: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson's Firing Was Hilarious.
Matt Stieb: [04-24]
All the Things Tucker Carlson Said That Should Have Gotten Him Fired
Already: Well, sure, not all of them, but some typical
Tatyana Tandanpolie: [04-28]
Fox News loses more than half of audience after axing Tucker
Carlson: "It's not just Tucker's slot -- Sean Hannity and Laura
Ingraham's ratings are falling too."
Michael Tomasky: [04-28]
Rupert Murdoch Must Be Totally and Utterly Humiliated. Sure, but
Tomasky has been making a lot of bold, emphatic moral proclamations
lately. Have any of them come true?
Erik Wemple: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson, a terrible individual, leaves Fox News.
Jason Zengerle: [04-28]
Fox News Gambled, but Tucker Can Still Take Down the House.
Trump: E. Jean Carroll's defamation case against Trump is in
a court room, being argued. The case is a poor proxy for a charge of
rape, which happened about 25 years ago.
Kevin McCarthy, terrorist, sociopath, nincompoop: What else
would you call someone who wants to destroy the economy along with the
Alex Shephard: [04-28]
Kevin McCarthy Is Not Good at This: "The 'budget' passed by House
Republicans is terrible for the party politically." Well, he did get
his hostage note passed by the House, but in no scenario will he come
out of this looking like anything but a heel. Threatening to default,
like shutting down the government, has backfired every time Republicans
have tried it, but somehow Republicans like McCarthy can't resist the
moment in the spotlight. If they could, they could quietly cut all the
spending they wanted in the coming year's appropriations process. It
might seem harder, because the lobbyists will be all over his case,
but it's his leverage according to the constitution. But default over
spending that's already been passed is just terrorism.
Peter Wade: [04-30]
Ted Cruz Maligns Biden, Claims He Is 'Behaving Like a Terrorist' with
Debt Ceiling: Talk about the kettle calling the pot black. "The
senator also called White House staffers 'little Marxists with no
experience in the real world."
Jamelle Bouie: [04-29]
A Sinister New Page in the Republican Playbook: It's long been
evident that Republicans believe that America is really home to, and
should belong to, only a part of its people. The others have long
been deprecated, disparaged, even rallied against. They wish to deny
them rights, especially the right to vote. The "new page" is that
they've started to use their power to deny others representation.
You're probably familiar with many of these examples. One is here:
Li Zhou: [04-26]
Montana Republicans are punishing a trans lawmaker for criticizing
their anti-trans bill.
Fabiola Cineas: [04-28]
The Ten Commandments could be in every Texas classroom next fall:
Interview with Jonathan Zimmerman, on three bills Texas passed that
almost certainly violate the 1st Amendment.
Gabrielle Gurley: [04-27]
Republicans Declare War on Young Voters: "The GOP answer to anger
about its abortion, climate, and gun control crusades is to double
down." Also: "Some Republican lawmakers have been very clear about
views on suppressing the college vote."
Ed Kilgore: [04-28]
State Court Deals Big Blow to Dems' Chances of Retaking the House:
The North Carolina Supreme Court blesses the Republican gerrymander.
Dylan Matthews: [04-29]
The blithe cruelty of the GOP push for Medicaid work requirements.
Nicole Narea: [04-28]
The Florida legislature is working for Ron DeSantis's presidential
campaign: "This legislative session has been all about Ron
Timothy Noah: [04-27]
Why Republicans Hate It When Poor People Have Food to Eat: "The
House GOP's attacks on food stamps are part of a long history of
conservative attempts to slash the program."
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [04-28]
DeSantis Suggests He Personally Prayed a Hurricane Away From Florida:
Weirder, he had to go to Israel to make his prayers heard.
Dylan Scott: [04-27]
How Ron DeSantis transformed into an anti-public health crusader.
Lots of things disturb me about the Republican Party, but the extent
to which they've turned against public health is especially alarming.
Hard to tell whether DeSantis is leading that turn, or just going with
Tori Otten: [04-28]
Ron DeSantis Explodes When Asked About His Role in GuantŠnamo Torture.
This also leads us to Prem Thakker: [04-24]
Ron DeSantis Short-Circuits When Asked About Dropping Poll Numbers.
Incidents like these have led to a substantial thread of posts raising
questions about DeSantis's deficiencies in social skills and manners:
Biden: He announced that he is running for reŽlection in 2024,
so I figured I should give him a section, as I've been giving Trump (and
sometimes DeSantis) for several months now. Surely there would be an
outpouring of articles praising his accomplishments and auguring
future hope? Well, not so much. One thing only I noticed is that this
breathes a faint bit of hope into my theory about political eras: that
each starts with a major two-term president (Washington, Jefferson,
Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan) and ends with a one-term disaster
(John Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, Trump). Biden still seems like
a stretch, but he wouldn't be as much of an anomaly as Reagan, whose
whole era is the only one to witness a retreat of fundamental rights.
But also, Biden is the only president in my lifetime who has impressed
me beyond expectations. (True, I have no memory of Truman, and was at
best ambivalent about Eisenhower and Kennedy. Johnson I now see did
some good, but far worse was his war in Vietnam. Nixon, well, you know
John Cassidy: [04-25]
Joe Biden's 2024 opening argument: It's me or the abyss: "The
President's calling card -- as a Trump-slayer, and an upholder of
normality and sanity -- remains his biggest advantage."
Ed Kilgore: [04-27]
Will Biden Get Embarrassed in Iowa and New Hampshire? The problem
here has less to do with Biden's popularity than with primary politics:
Iowa and New Hampshire have repeatedly jumped through hoops to get to
first slot on the schedule, and the decision to drop them in favor of
South Carolina hasn't been taken lightly.
Eric Levitz: [04-28]
Trump Could Definitely Beat Biden: I'm filing this under Biden
instead of Trump, because it's more about Biden's weaknesses. I know,
never underestimate the ability of the American people to make stupid
mistakes. But it seems like Levitz has been writing a lot of stuff
lately just to trigger reactions.
Harold Meyerson: [04-24]
The Hedge Fund's Man at the Democratic National Committee: "Cedric
Richmond backs a hedge fund takeover of 60 TV stations."
Nicole Narea: [04-27]
Will there be any presidential debates in 2024?: "It's looking like
neither Trump nor Biden will have to participate in a presidential debate
in 2024." While both have some skills at acting out, neither is much of
a debater, so why risk a commanding lead? Biden has the least reason to,
given that few in the press recognize Marianne Williamson and/or Robert
F Kennedy Jr as serious candidates. Trump could take the same position,
unless the polls tell him otherwise. As for debates between them after
they get nominated (assuming as much), that's too early to tell.
Katie Rogers: [04-28]
Press Freedom! Celebrities! (Also, the President.) Get ready for
the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. One of the few
Trump moves I approved of was to put this miserable exercise out of
business. Sure, he only did it because he was too thin-skinned to
take the heat. But the White House correspondents, or at least the
news they reported, would have benefited from more objectivity and
PS: If you care, see Kelly McClure: [04-30]
The White House correspondents' dinner highlights: Biden can make
jokes as well as he can take them; also Hershal Pandya: [04-30]
Roy Wood Jr's Best Jokes at the 2023 White House Correspondents'
Blaise Malley: [04-28]
Diplomacy Watch: China seeks to portray itself as peacemaker in
James Bamford: [04-27]
The Most Dangerous Game: How Shadow War Over Ukraine Nearly Triggered
Nuclear Holocaust; "Unnoticed among the trove of documents in the
Pentagon leak is this account of how a miscommunication between a
Russian pilot and his base came perilously close to starting World
Julia Conley: [04-27]
Climate Groups Call on Biden to Support Peace Talksk in Ukraine.
Fred Kaplan: [04-29]
Why Did Xi Jinping Suddenly Call Zelensky? "Some guesses as to what's
Daniel Larison: [04-28]
Lawmakers deploy 'Munich' trope to push dangerously hawkish Ukraine
resolutions: "A bipartisan group of hawks in Congress" want to pass
something they call the Ukrainian Victory Resolution, whereby the US --
and not Ukraine, which is actually doing the fighting -- will dictate
the only acceptable terms for ending the war: "restoration of Ukraine's
1991 borders" and inclusion of Ukraine in NATO. And of course they're
invoking the hoariest of pro-war tropes, the "Munich moment" (which was
1938, not 1939, and involved Czechoslovakia, not Poland). By the way,
in 1939, when Hitler threatened to invade Poland, the UK and France did
announce that they'd declare war on Germany if they invaded, and that
had no deterrence effect whatsoever. So why does anyone think that a
stronger stand in Munich would have frozen the Nazi war machine in its
Nanjala Nyabola: [04-25]
What the World Should Know About Sudan: "You need to understand
European foreign policy."
Olivia Rosane: [04-27]
Investigation Details How Gas Industry Exploited Ukraine War to Boost
World at Large:
Michael Barnett/Nathan Brown/Marc Lynch/Shibley Telhami: [04-14]
Israel's One-State Reality: It's Time to Give Up on the Two-State
Solution: Introduction to a new book, a collection of essays
edited by the author, called
The One State Reality: What Is Israel/Palestine?. Mitchell
Plitnick wrote about it here: [04-21]
The one-state reality goes mainstream, as did Philip Weiss: [04-26]
White House officials know Israel is an apartheid state, but they can't
say so. This insight isn't particularly new: it's hard to think of
anyone other than Washington diplomats who've talked about "two-state
solution" since 2012, which is the date of a book I read: Ariella
The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in
Israel/Palestine. As for "apartheid," Jimmy Carter:
Palestine Peace Not Apartheid came out in 2006. So I'm not
surprised to find that prospects for separating the former West Bank
into an independent Palestinian state have been demolished: that's
been the plan since 1967, as was made clear by Avi Raz:
The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the
Aftermath of the June 1967 War. What does surprise me is that
nobody talks about the obvious two-state division, which breaks Gaza
off as an independent state. Palestinians don't like this, presumably
because they see it as a divide-and-conquer policy, aimed as finalizing
the subjugation of the Palestinian West Bank. And Israelis don't like
it, because it would mean recognizing that there is a legitimate
Palestinian state. But it would end the current "open air prison,"
and allow at least some Palestinians to get on the path of becoming
a normal country. That at least is a separable, solvable problem.
Sure, that would leave Israel's foundational problem (call it apartheid
for lack of a sufficient alternative), with little chance of solution,
but why not fix what you can do now?
Tanya Goudsouzian: [04-28]
What would it take to recognize the Taliban? While I would like to
see many of the concessions the US and others are demanding, I doubt
you get there in one initial step, or ever unless you offer some basic
level of recognition.
Michael T Klare: [04-26]
A US-China War Over Taiwan? "What will happen when China invades
Taiwan, as so many in Washington believe is inevitable?" But why should
we credit anything people in Washington think about China? What gives
them such special insight? One thing we should know is that China has
been very patient as well as very stubborn about territorial claims.
They patiently negotiated their takeover of Hong Kong and Macau, which
they could easily have occupied (as India, for instance, grabbed Goa).
I don't like the elaborate fiction they have insisted on regarding "one
China" and/or their claim to Taiwan (which has only been part of China
for 4 years since 1895, and a very divided China at that), but the push
to arm Taiwan and turn it into a satellite dependent on the US for its
security seems very clearly meant as aimed at China. And it is precisely
the sort of move that could provoke China to unseemly action.
Dan Lamothe/Joby Warrick: [04-22]
Afghanistan has become a terrorism staging ground again, leak reveals.
Robert Wright points out, the headline here is misleading, in such
a way as to imply "that this amounts to an indictment of President Biden's
decision to withdraw from Afghanistan -- that, just as his critics had
warned, turning Afghanistan over to the Taliban has turned it into a
playground for anti-American terrorists." The "terrorists" in question
identify as ISIS, although how closely (if at all) they are affiliated
with ISIS in Syria isn't clear. The enemy of the Afghan ISIS is the
Taliban, if the US had any interest in countering ISIS terrorism, they
would recognize and work toward stabilizing the Taliban regime. It is,
after all, the de facto government there, and there's nothing practical
the US can do to alter that, so huffing off in a snit helps no one.
PS: See Robert Wright: [04-29]
No, Afghanistan has not become a 'staging ground for terrorists'.
James Park: [04-28]
What the Biden-Yoon summit left out: "Nuclear saber rattling hasn't
changed North Korea's behavior in the past and it likely won't now."
As best I recall, it's mostly made it worse. One of the clearest lessons
we should but haven't learned from Ukraine is that deterrence doesn't
work: more precisely, it can be safely ignored by countries that have
no interest in attacking you in the first place (which includes the
Soviet Union for the entire duration of the Cold War), while it presses
countries that think they can get away with it into acting more boldly
(as Russia did in Ukraine). The lessons from North Korea itself should
be even clearer. Ever since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and
with it the security umbrella and life support Russia provided, North
Korea has been desperately flailing, threatening at times and otherwise
accommodating, trying to protect its security and enter into trade that
could revive a moribund economy. The US and/or South Korea has sometimes
started to engage, which lowered the threat level, then backed out and
double crossed North Korea, which lead to increased threats. Why? This
seems monumentally stupid to me, but the war gamers in Washington may
figure a threatening North Korea is better for their budgets, plus it
keeps Japan and South Korea in the US orbit, which matters when you're
ulterior motive is to muscle China around.
Chas Danner: [04-29]
Texas Family Gunned Down by Neighbor in Yet Another Horrific Shooting.
David Dayen: [04-18]
Big Tech Lobbyists Explain How They Took Over Washington: "An
amazing research paper unearths how the tech industry invented the
concept of digital trade and sold it to government officials."
Daniel Gilbert: [04-29]
Moderna's billionaire CEO reaped nearly $400 million last year. He also
got a raise.
Ethan Iverson: [04-10]
The End of the Music Business.
Jay Caspian Kang: [04-04]
The case for banning children from social media: Not a subject I
particularly want to think about, at least right now, but bookmarked
for future reference. I will say that throughout history, banning
something is a good way to get people to do it anyway, and make them
more anti-social and anti-civil in the process. Also that we tend to
be overprotective of children, while at the same time making it harder
for people of all ages to overcome mistakes and recover their lives.
Also that the real problem with social media is commercial capture,
and if you want to work on something, start there: if, for instance,
you severely limited data capture, banned selling it and/or using it
for advertising, and made advertising strictly opt-in, you could drive
most of the bad actors off the Internet, and solve most of the problems
associated with them. Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I'm
sure much more could follow. And perhaps this is just me, but I was
miserable as a child, in many ways that access to the Internet (even
in the benighted form of today's social media) would probably have
Robert Kuttner: [04-26]
The Soaking at Bed Bath & Beyond: "Who bought up all that stock,
as the retailer was on the route to bankruptcy?"
Joel Penney: [04-29]
Right-wing media used to shun pop culture. Now it's obsessed with it.
I'm not so sure about the first line, given how popular music from rock
and roll in the 1950s to hip-hop in the 1980s were met with hysterical
denunciations from self-appointed guardians of decency, but sure, it
seems to be getting both more trivial and more frantic. Part of that
may be the perception that popular culture trends have become so broad,
so ubiquitous that all the right can do is rant and rail -- also feeds
into their general sense of victimhood and grievance. I remember back
in the 1970s it seemed like a big insight to understand how politics
permeated cultural artifacts. (One famous example was
How to Read Donald Duck.) But while the right managed to claw
back (or cling to) political power, culture has continued its popular
(if ever more varied) drift, and "high culture" is hardly even a term
anymore (maybe "highbrow," but even that may be showing my age).
Still, I can't help but be amused watching right-wingers discover
bits of formerly left-wing methodology, exposing hidden political memes
in everyday cultural artifacts. But haven't they been doing that all
along? It's just funnier now that symbols of satanism have given way
to the currently more alarming curse of wokeness.
Adam Rawnsley/Jim Laporta: [04-27]
The Online Racists Stealing Military Secrets: Jack Teixiera:
If he's to be believed, you can't call him a whistleblower, because
he wasn't trying to expose secrets that needed further scrutiny.
He was just showing off to his friends, which turns out to be a part
of a broader complex of pathological personal traits: the guns, the
racism, etc. People have wondered why the military gave someone like
him such access to top-secret material. Perhaps they should wonder
about the mutual attraction between the military and people like him,
or, say, Timothy McVeigh, or Michael Flynn. I'm not a big fan of a
culture where the most basic principle is the necessity of following
orders, but at least that's an ordering principle. Just recruiting
psychotics who think they should answer to "higher powers" is crazy.
And speaking of crazy, while I didn't think much of the revelations
at first, the more we get into them, the more bizarre they become. I've
long suspected that secret classifications were more meant to keep the
truth from ourselves than from supposed enemies. And the big secret
here is that nobody in a position of power seems to know what they're
Jeffrey St Clair: [04-28]
Roaming Charges: Nipped and Tuckered: Starts with Carlson, but has
surprisingly little to add, other than his observation that: "Tucker
Carlson seems to be a truly weird person. His obsessions -- filth,
bizarre animal stories ('sex crazed pandas' and 'psycho raccoons'),
obesity, bodily excrescences, the subliminal gender messages in candy,
testicle tanning -- which he regularly inflicted on his audiences,
range far beyond the usual tabloid grotesqueries and border on the
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