Sunday, May 7, 2023

Speaking of Which

Got a late start, and really not feeling it this week. Seems like plenty of links, but not a lot of commentary.

Top story threads:

Trump: I got some flak for not taking the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit seriously enough last week, and wound up dropping a couple parenthetical remarks. The case will presumably be wrapped up and given to the jury early next week, so we'll see. One thing I missed was that while Trump cannot be prosecuted for rape (statute of limitations), he can be sued for assault, so this is not just a defamation case. Also, his own deposition makes him look guilty as hell. I'm particularly bothered by the "she's not my type" defense. In order for that to be a thing, he has to have a pretty large population to choose from, and do so with extreme shallowness. (Ok, maybe Trump does have a type, but think about what that says about him.)


More Fox fallout:


Slow civil war: Section name derives from Jeff Sharlet's book (see below). Mostly assorted right-wing wackos taking pot shots at whoever, but it doesn't seem to be random circumstance.


Ukraine War: Jeffrey St Clair (see below) offers a long quote from an El Pais interview with Lula da Silva, where the key point is: "This war should never have started. It started because there is no longer any capacity for dialogue among world leaders." He didn't single out the US in this regard -- the country he condemned was Russia, which "has no right to invade Ukraine" -- but by focusing on the question of how to prevent wars from starting, the US is most clearly negligent. The US has lost its capacity to act as an advocate for peace because US foreign policy has been captured by the merchants and architects of war.


  • Connor Echols: [05-03] NATO foray into Asia risks driving China and Russia closer together: So, NATO's opening a "liaison office" in Tokyo -- something they've also done in Ukraine, Georgia, Kuwait, and Moldova. As I've noted many times, the prime mission of NATO over the last 10-20 years has been to promote arms sales (mostly US but also European), often by provoking threats. The war in Ukraine would seem to validate their prophecies -- and indeed has been a boon for arms sales, with more to come in Sweden and Finland. A similar US sales pitch has been racking up big sales in Taiwan, so it's not so surprising that European arms makers want a piece of the action, and NATO gives them a calling card. While China is less likely to be bullied into a war, the risks are even greater.

  • Ben Freeman: [05-01] 'Acceptable' versus 'unacceptable' foreign meddling in US affairs: "It all seems to depend on whether the offending nation is an ally or adversary." And (talk about elephants in the room) not even a word here about Israel.

  • Frank Giustra: [05-03] De-dollarization: Not a matter of it, but when. The US has been able to run trade deficits for fifty years because the world has uses for dollars beyond buying American-made goods. (One, of course, is buying American assets, including companies.) But when the US levies sanctions, it motivates others to find alternatives to the dollar, to make themselves less dependent on the US. This has been tempting for a long time, but war with Russia and efforts to intimidate China are quickening the pace.

  • Daniel Larison: [05-05] US military driving and exacerbating violence in Somalia: "Americans have been intervening there for decades. Isn't it past time to ask whether we are the problem?"

  • Blaise Malley: [05-02] In Washington, China is a four-letter word and the excuse for everything: "Lawmakers have introduced nearly 275 measures this session, while bureaucrats are busy using the CCP to justify ballooning budgets."

  • Kiyoshi Sugawa: [05-02] Should Japan defend Taiwan?: Biden says the US will defend Taiwan. It is rare, at least since WWII, for the US to enter into a war without enlisting support of its nominal allies, so this prospect is something every US ally should think long and hard about. Still, it's striking how easily the US has recruited former occupiers into its "coalition of the willing": for Iraq, not only the the UK sign up, but so did Mongolia. Japan occupied Taiwan from 1895-1945, a time that few there remember fondly.

Other stories:

William Hartung/Ben Freeman: [05-06] This is not your grandparents' military industrial complex: "Arsenals of influence, the consolidation of contractors, the blob -- all would make Eisenhower blink with unrecognition."

Ellen Ioanes: [05-06] Serbia's populist president pledges "disarmament" after mass shootings: File this under "it can't happen here." Note that Serbia is tied for the third-highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world (39.1 firearms per 100 residents; US rate is 117.5), but mass shootings are "quite rare" (vs. more than 1 per day in the US). In the two events, a 13-year-old boy killed nine people at a Belgrade-area elementary school, and a day later a 20-year-old killed eight people and wounded 14.

Umair Irfan: [05-01] Smaller, cheaper, safer: The next generation of nuclear power, explained. Still, those terms are only relative, and the old generation of nuclear power plants, which are nearing the end of their planned lifetimes, have set a pretty low bar. I can imagine a scenario where nuclear complements other non-carbon sources of energy, but first you have to solve two problems that are more political than technical: figure out what to do with the waste, and end the linkages between nuclear power and bombs, by disposing of the latter. Of course, you'll still have economic questions: how cost-effective nuclear power is compared to alternatives that are still compatible with climate goals. Even then, perhaps on some level nuclear power is still just too creepy.

Benjamin Keys: [05-07] Your homeowners' insurance bill is the canary in the climate coal mine. As climate disasters mount, their cost is going to be average out over everyone, with the result that insurance will become increasingly unaffordable. For most people, this will happen before actual disasters happen, which will make it hard to see and understand. But in the long run, I think this will fundamentally change the way government has to work.

Tyler Koteskey: [05-04] 'Mission Accomplished' was a massive fail -- but it was just the beginning.

Keren Landman: [05-05] What the ending of the WHO's Covid emergency does (and doesn't) change: "For Americans, the coming [May 11] end of the US public health emergency will have much bigger impacts."

Bruce E Levine: [05-05] Once radical critiques of psychiatry are now mainstream, so what remains taboo?.

Eric Levitz: [05-03] The Biden administration just declared the death of neoliberalism.

Nicole Narea/Li Zhou: [05-05] How New York City failed Jordan Neely: A black, unhoused person, choked to death on a New York subway, by "a white 24-year-old former Marine," who hasn't been named, much less arrested. Also:

Elizabeth Nelson: [05-02] The Ed Sheeran lawsuit is a threat to Western civilization. Really.

Jeffrey St Clair: [05-05] Roaming Charges: How White Men Fight.

Emily Stewart: [05-04] What the lottery sells -- and who pays. I know a guy who signs his emails with: "lottery (n.): a tax on stupidity." My reaction was that it's more like a tax on hopelessness, or maybe just on hope, for the set of people who realize they'll never have a chance to make qualitatively more than they have, but are willing to give up a little to gain a rare chance of change. Still, I'm not one of them. I've never bought a ticket or a scratch card of whatever form they take -- even before I got taken to task for using the "if I won the lottery" rhetorical foil (my cousin pointed out that if I did, I'd never be able to tell who my real friends are, which she insisted would be a worse problem than the supposed gain). Still, I'm glad that the state runs the racket, instead of leaving it to organized crime. Same is true for all other forms of gambling. Beware all efforts to privatize them.

Aric Toler/Robin Stein/Glenn Thrush/Riley Mellen/Ishaan Jhaveri: [05-06] War, Weapons and Conspiracy Theories: Inside Airman Teixeira's Online World: "A review of more than 9,500 messages obtained by The New York Times offers important clues about the mind-set of a young airman implicated in a vast leak of government secrets."

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