Sunday, May 28, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started collecting this on Thursday, and was pretty much done on
Saturday before the "debt ceiling deal" broke. Most of the links there
are to now-forgettable, soon-forgotten thinking, which I sympathized at
the time, but the thing I like best about the deal is that it kills the
issue until well after the 2024 election, whereas the unorthodox fixes
would be litigated that long, even if they're ultimately found valid.
In the meantime, the Republican House is going to cut more spending
and encumber it with more stupid rules than Biden agreed to this round.
The only response to that is to kick their asses in 2024, and any cause
they give you should be used back against them.
Top story threads:
Ron DeSantis: The Florida governor announced he's running for
president, which got enough ughs and moans to temporarily bump Trump
off the top spot here.
Zack Beauchamp: [05-25]
The biggest problem with Ron DeSantis's announcement wasn't Twitter:
Can you really run a winning campaign on the war against "wokeness"
when hardly anyone knows what you're talking about?
Gary Fineout/Sally Goldenberg: [05-24]
In DeSantis' Sunshine State, life is not all sunny.
Alex Isenstadt: [05-25]
Here's what top DeSantis lieutenants said in their private huddle with
donors. Unfortunately, this is mostly campaign strategy spin. The
really juicy exposés are yet to come.
Ben Jacobs: [05-24]
Ron DeSantis's very online and very disastrous 2024 campaign
Clarence Lusane: [05-21]
For Trump and DeSantis, different paths, the same destination, or
"Two peas in a (white nationalist) pod."
Charisma Madarang: [05-26]
DeSantis signs bill shielding Musk's SpaceX from 'spaceflilght entity
liability'. I guess this shows that there are some corporations
anti-woke enough to graft DeSantis.
Charlie Mahtesian: [05-24]
Ron DeSantis has a problem. It's Florida. For most politicians,
this would be a cheap shot, but for DeSantis, the state is his
Nicole Narea: [05-24]
Make America Florida: Ron DeSantis's pitch to beat Trump in 2024.
Nicole Narea/Li Zhou: [05-25]
A guide to Ron DeSantis's most extreme policies in Florida.
Bianca Quilantan: [05-24]
Ron DeSantis upended education in Florida. He's coming for your state
Luke Savage: [05-26]
Ron DeSantis is too extremely online to stand a chance: "Cruel and
hateful, to be sure. But it's also emblematic of a political project
whose sense of discipline and purpose has been overpowered by its own
machinery -- whose activists increasingly speak an abstruse and
impenetrable online jargon, strike maximalist poses by default,
and obsess over causes that scarcely register outside the reactionary
Bill Scher: [05-25]
Ron DeSantis is not a competent governor: "Republicans looking for
a Donald Trump who can get things done will find the Floridian is just
another peformative pol who picks fights and doesn't understand public
Jack Shafer: [05-24]
The media has got Ron DeSantis nailed: "Noting both his rigid
demeanor and his deliberate avoidance of the nonpartisan press, the
reporters covering DeSantis have gathered these behavioral cues to
sew the candidate into a straitjacketed image, portraying him as a
locked up, frozen and vengeful character whose veins pump bile, not
Alex Shephard: [05-24]
Ron DeSantis's biggest problem isn't Donald Trump: Hard to rate
the arguments here, but I was struck by one bit about Trump: "His
campaign is built around few issues that matter to real people.
Instead, it's mostly a platform for Trump to air a wide array of
personal grievances, real and imagined. He's a bit like late-stage
Lenny Bruce, drily reading legal filings aloud in a comedy club,
only substantially less funny."
Alex Skopic: [05-26]
Florida Man: Examines his life and career, guided by his recent
campaign brief, including a few details conveniently left out there.
Michael Arria: [05-25]
Can you run to the right of Trump on Israel? DeSantis is going to
try. As Philip Weiss
points out, "Ron DeSantis visited Israel four times in recent years --
the sum total of his official foreign visits."
Margaret Hartmann: [05-25]
5 ways Trump trolled DeSantis over his disastrous launch.
Trump and other Republicans:
The debt ceiling: Latest reports are that Biden and McCarthy
came to some sort of deal, which still needs to be passed before the
latest June 5 disaster date projection (see: Li Zhou/Dylan Matthews:
Biden and McCarthy's budget deal to lift the debt ceiling, explained).
Nihilist Republicans will still try to trash the deal (e.g., see:
Furious Freedom Caucus vows to scuttle debt deal), so it will need
Democratic votes to pass Congress. Left Democrats will also be unhappy
that Biden went back on his initial position and caved in negotiations
with terrorists. But most Democrats are solidly pro-business, and will
line up behind any deal to save capitalism -- even one that hurts many
of their voters. Most of the links below are pre-deal (check dates).
Jeff Stein: [05-27]
What's in the McCarthy-Biden deal to lift the debt ceiling? Here are 6
Ryan Cooper: [05-25]
Democrats need to get over their pathetic fear of the Supreme Court:
"Remembering what Franklin Roosevelt did when faced with a potential
Court decision that would blow up the economy: prepare to ignore it."
Cooper also wrote: [05-23]
Republican debt ceiling lies.
David Dayen: [05-18]
The access journalism-House Republican mind meld: "How the
relationship between Punchbowl News and Kevin McCarthy is driving
a bad resolution to the debt ceiling crisis." For more on
Punchbowl News (a "membership-based news community," which
delivers daily "tip sheets" to Washington insiders), see Ryan
Savvy beltway reporters' debt ceiling duplicity.
Paul Krugman: [05-25]
Debt: The bad, the weak and the ugly: He offers three workarounds
that don't involve surrendering to Republican extortion. He also doubts
that the Supreme Court (unlike House Speaker McCarthy) wouldn't decide
to blow up the world economy just to score a political point against
Biden. He previously wrote: [05-16]
How Biden blew it on the debt ceiling, the gist of which has little
to do with recent negotiation strategy, but faults Democrats for not
raising the debt ceiling (or eliminating it altogether) when they still
had a chance before Republicans took over the House.
Eric Levitz: [05-25]
Is Joe Biden botching the debt-ceiling fight? Post-deal, Levitz
The no good, not that bad debt ceiling deal.
Aneela Mirchandani: [05-27]
Meet Russ Vought: Mild-mannered mastermind of the GOP's debt-ceiling
Christian Paz: [05-28]
Why don't more voters care about the debt ceiling? A poll cited
here shows that if the federal government couldn't issue any more debt,
45% would blame Republicans, 43% would blame Democrats, and 7% would
blame both. That's roughly the partisan split on everything, so suggests
that the issue doesn't mean anything more. One reason why might be that
despite all the writing this and previous threats have produced, most of
us have no real idea what the actual consequences of hitting the debt
limit might be. I know I don't know, and I've read tons on the subject.
People who have read less presumably have even less idea (or some less
nuanced idea, which is most likely wrong). And ultimately, what we think
has little import, because the people who really do have money at stake
in this fight are the same ones best able to get heard in Washington.
That once again they've resolved the issue to their satisfaction just
validates our lack of interest in the details.
Ukraine War: There is a report that
first steps in counteroffensive have begun. Ukraine has been
advertising its "spring offensive" all winter, while pleading for
more and more weapons, and waiting their arrival.
Connor Echols: [05-26]
Diplomacy watch: Denmark offers to hold Ukraine peace talks in July:
That sounds kinda squishy, but expectations are high that Ukraine will
launch a "spring offensive" soon, and they're unlikely to consider any
form of talks until they first give war a chance -- after all, that is
the point and the promise of all those tanks and planes they've been
lobbying so hard for. Echols also wrote: [05-22]
The West must prepare for Putin to use nukes in Ukraine. Interview
with Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, whose prediction that Russia will use nukes
seems intended on pushing them along. But how exactly does one prepare
for such an attack? It's not like fallout shelters are a practical
project at this time. The only real defense is negotiating a winding
down of the war. Anything else is just fucking insane. Robert Wright:
also writes about Ryan: [05-26]
Why the chances of nuclear war grew this week.
Julian E Barnes: [05-26]
Russian public appears to be souring on war casualties, analysis
shows: I'd be inclined to file this under propaganda, not least
because no one's reporting solid casualty figures. But sure, you
can't totally hide these costs, so it makes sense that ordinary
Russians would start to question the mission -- as happened with
the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Just how that public perception can
turn into policy is hard to imagine. Gorbachev gave his generals
enough rope to hang themselves, then pulled the plug. Putin, on
the other hand, is much more invested this time.
Isaac Chotiner: [05-24]
Why Masha Gessen resigned from the PEN America board: An
Eli Clifton: [05-24]
Dedollarization is here, like it or not: The effective shift may
have more to do with the US-China conflict, but Ukraine sanctions are
convincing more and more nations not to trust the US. Few people talk
about this, but the debt ceiling nonsense is further undermining world
trust in the dollar. Clifton also wrote: [05-26]
Jamie Raskin and Rachel Maddow, brought to you by Peter Thiel and
David Cortright/Alexander Finiarel: [05-25]
Russians' support for the war may be softer than you think.
I've always suspected there was little public support for war, which
is why Putin moved so decisively to quash dissent. Still, there is
no evidence that Putin's grasp on power is precarious.
Daniel L Davis: [05-21]
F-16s won't fundamentally alter the course of Ukraine War.
Gregory Foster: [05-26]
How war is destroying Ukraine's environment.
Ellen Ioanes: [05-21]
How Ukraine is trying to woo the Global South -- and why it's so hard:
Ukraine has massive support from the US and Europe, but the rest of the
world is a much tougher sell.
Fred Kaplan: [05-16]
How the Russia-Ukraine war has changed Europe: Mostly on Germany,
where Kaplan spent a month recently. Russia burned a lot of bridges
when they invaded Ukraine, and this has pushed Europe back into a
closer alliance with America. The link title suggested a broader
topic: "The ripple effects from the Ukraine War are becoming clear
now." That could have been a more interesting story. Kaplan also
The alarming reality of a coming nuclear arms race.
Michael Klare: [05-18]
The G-3 and the post-Ukraine world: The Ukraine War dominated
the latest G-7 confab, with all seven powers -- effectively the US
and its six dwarfs -- firmly in the pro-Ukraine/anti-Russia camp.
But it's impossible for such a group to mediate regional conflicts
when they're busy fighting them. Back in the day, the US and USSR
could quickly agree to impose a ceasefire on their clients (as they
did in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars), yet no one today can
do that -- even Klare's hypothetical G-2 of the US and China, or
G-3 adding India (the world's most populous country; as Klare notes,
the three of them would represent 40% of all people on the planet).
Getting those three nations to work together for world peace will
be much harder than lining up the G-7 to ratify Washington's wishes,
but might actually work. This complements a piece by Juan Cole:
China and the Axis of the Sanctioned, occasioned by China taking
the lead in reconciling Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Eric Levitz: [05-24]
Will the Ukraine War become a 'frozen conflict'? By "frozen conflict"
he seems to mean something like Korea, where fighting has halted but
neither side admits defeat or can reconcile with the other. Apparently,
this is an idea being circulated in Washington (see Nahal Toosi:
Ukraine could join ranks of 'frozen' conflicts, US official say).
But that's no solution. The main thing that's allowed the Korean War
"freeze" to persist is how isolated North Korea is from the rest of
the world. Russia is a much larger country, with a much more complex
set of trading partners and relationships, including a large portion
of the world not currently on board with America's sanctions regime.
Anatol Lieven: [05-25]
Ukraine attacks in Russia should be an alarm bell for Washington:
Supposedly the US disapproves of such attacks, but that doesn't seem to
be limiting the supply of weapons that could be used to attack beyond
the Russian border. This is doubly dangerous as long as the US seems to
be leaning against peace talks.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [05-23]
What does the fall of Bakhmut in Ukraine really mean? Interview
with Anatol Lieven and George Beebe.
Around the world:
Dean Baker: [05-22]
Should Jamie Dimon get a government salary? Points out that Dimon
got $34.5 million last year as CEO of JP Morgan, and stands to get much
more in coming years, despite much evidence of mismanagement. On the
other hand, the head of FDIC makes $181 thousand, and the head of the
Fed makes $190 thousand. I'm not really sure how the suggestion that
bank heads should be put on civil service salaries would work, but it
seems unlikely it would undermine the competency of management, and it
might make the banks a bit less predatory. Then there's inequality:
"We have let the right rig the market to generate the extremes of
inequality we see. While government tax and transfer policy to reduce
inequality is desirable, it is best not to structure the market to
create so much inequality in the first place."
Zachary D Carter: [03-16]
On Silicon Valley Bank, and finance as a public good: This is old
as news goes, but worth the effort. One current thought is to wonder
how many similar banks would have failed had the feds defaulted on the
debt. I also like this line: "Nobody ever just came out and said it,
but the basic attitude from the bill's Democratic supporters seemed
to be that it was unfair to harp on Democrats doing something corrupt
and stupid when Republicans were corrupt and stupid as a matter of
Coral Davenport: [05-28]
You've never heard of him, but he's remaking the pollution fight:
"Richard Revesz is changing the way the government calculates the cost
and benefits of regulation, with far-reaching implications for climate
David Dayen: [05-25]
A liberalism that builds power: "The goals of domestic supply chains,
good jobs, carbon reduction, and public input are inseparable."
David French: [05-28]
The right is all wrong about masculinity: Occasioned by Josh Hawley's
silly new book, but no need to dwell there when the inanity is everywhere:
"But conservative catastrophism is only one part of the equation. The
other is meanspirited pettiness. Traditional masculinity says that
people should meet a challenge with a level head and firm convictions.
Right-wing culture says that everything is an emergency, and is to be
combated with relentless trolling and hyperbolic insults."
Luke Goldstein: [05-24]
How Washington bargained away rural America: How farm bills get
made, usually a bipartisan grand bargain ensuring food (SNAP) for
the poor and profits for agribusiness.
DD Guttenplan/John Nichols: [05-26]
Biden must remake his candidacy: I doubt I'll bother with many of
the articles I'm sure we'll be seeing as various Democrats debate
strategy going into 2024. But the point these left-Democrats make
about Biden's lousy polling numbers is valid. It means that he can't
run a campaign based on his personal charisma while ignoring the needs
of his party, as Clinton did in 1996, and as Obama did in 2012. To
win, he needs a Democratic Party sweep, giving him sufficient margins
in Congress to actually get things done. You'd think Republicans are
making such a campaign easy, but the media landscape remain treacherous,
and Democrats have little practice settling on a winning message.
Benji Jones: [05-23]
Why the new Colorado River agreement is a big deal -- even if you don't
live out West.
Peter Kafka: [05-23]
Do Americans really want "unbiased" news? "CNN and the Messenger
both say they're chasing the middle." Well, bias is inevitable, and
just because its 'centrist" variation is often incoherent doesn't
except it from the rule. You can, of course, muddy up the situation
by providing countervailing points of view, but as a practical matter
that rarely works. In theory, you could clarify the situation by
taking an unflinchingly critical view of everything, but in today's
political arena, that would get you tagged as "left-biased" because
the right is almost always not just wrong but lying their asses off.
Timothy Noah: [05-26]
Why workers will be treated better in the future. Researchers
have noticed that in many cases higher wages pay for themselves,
but it usually takes pressure to get companies to move in that
direction. So much of what Noah predicts is based on the notion
that political power will shift toward workers. It's clear enough
what needs to happen, but harder to see how it happens. But the
great suppression of wages can clearly be dated to the rise of
Reagan Republicans in the 1980s.
McKenna Oxenden: [05-27]
An 11-year-old boy called 911. Police then shot him.
Aja Romano: [05-24]
Puritanism took over online fandom -- and then came for the rest of
the internet: "Puriteens, anti-fans, and the culture war's most
bonkers battleground." After reading Kurt Andersen's Fantasyland,
I should have been prepared for this piece, but my basic reaction is
to imagine that no one, even the author, could have anticipated how
much more blurred the line between fantasy and reality could become
in a mere six years. Less clear is how ominous all this fantasy is.
The temptation to inhabit imaginary worlds probably goes back to the
oral folklore preserved as myths, and certainly encompasses the whole
history of literature (usually explicitly labeled fiction). In recent
years, three inventions have intensified this: television has immersed
us in fiction, making it both easier to consume and more much vivid;
gaming has added an interactive dimension; and the internet (social
media) has made it trivially easy for people to react and expound upon
the stories. As long as people recognize the line between fact and
fiction, and as long as they maintain respect and decorum in their
posts, it's hard to see much harm. But there have always been gray
areas, especially where fantasy is presented as fact, even more so
when it's driven by malign politics. Still, the problem here is less
the art than the politics. As long as you can keep them straight, I
don't see much problem. (For instance, we watch a lot of shows where
cops are extraordinarily insightful and smart, have integrity and
character, are profoundly committed to justice, and rarely if ever
make gross mistakes -- traits uncommon among real cops.)
One thing that made this article difficult is the terminology.
In particular, I had to go to Fanlore to find a definition of
shipping: it is
contracted from relationship, and used for promoting or derogating
hypothetical relationships between fictional characters. This all
seems to be tied to an increase in anti-sex attitudes -- no doubt
this is amplified by the internet, but really? -- including an
obsession with pedophilia and trafficking. Supposedly this has
been made worse by the FOSTA-SESTA act, which originally sounded
unobjectionable but its loudest advocates can turn it into cruel
Jim Rutenberg/Michael S Schmidt/Jeremy W Peters: [05-27]
Missteps and miscalculations: Inside Fox's legal and business debacle:
"Fox's handling of the defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems,
which settled for $787.5 million, left many unanswered questions."
Lily Sánchez/Nathan J Robinson: [05-18]
Robert F Kennedy Jr is a lying crank posing as a progressive alternative
to Biden. Also:
Richard Sandomir: [05-27]
Stanley Engerman, revisionist scholar of slavery, dies at 87:
Engerman co-wrote, with Robert W Fogel, the 1974 book Time on the
Cross: The Economics of Negro Slavery, which significantly changed
our understanding of how slavery function within American capitalism.
Fogel & Engerman were among the first prominent historians to base
their work on extensive data analysis, as opposed to the standard
practice of collecting stories from primary and secondary sources.
Jeffrey St Clair: [05-26]
The Clintons and the rich women: No "roaming charges" this week,
sad to say, so St Clair dusted off an oldie from his book, An Orgy
of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (a compilation of
short essays published in 2022). This one explores the lobbying effort
(and the money behind it) that secured Marc Rich a pardon in 2000.
One surprise name that pops up here is Jack Quinn.
Maureen Tkacik: [05-23]
Quackonomics: "Medical Properties Trust spent billions buying
community hospitals in bewildering deals that made private equity
rich and working-class towns reel."
Nick Turse: [05-23]
Blood on his hands: "Survivors of Kissinger's secret war in Cambodia
reveal unreported mass killings." More occasioned by his 100th
Ben Burgis: [05-27]
Henry Kissinger is a disgusting war criminal. And the rot goes deeper
Greg Grandin: [05-15]
Henry Kissinger, war criminal -- still at large at 100: "We now
know a great about the crimes he committed while in office, . . . But
we know little about his four decades with Kissinger Associates."
Grandin has a 2015 book on Kissinger: Kissinger's Shadow: The Long
Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman. In that book, I
found this quote, based on Seymour Hersh's 1983 Kissinger book, The
Price of Power:
Hersh gave us the defining portrait of Kissinger as a preening paranoid,
tacking between ruthlessness and sycophancy to advance his career,
cursing his fate and letting fly the B-52s. Small in his vanities and
shabby in his motives, Kissinger, in Hersh's hands, is nonetheless
Shakespearean because the pettiness gets played out on a world stage
with epic consequences.
Jonathan Guyer: [05-27]
Henry Kissinger is 100, but his legacy is still shaping how US foreign
policy works. I've never tried to figure out how much US foreign
policy in the pivotal 1969-75 period was Kissinger as opposed to Nixon.
My guess was that Kissinger added intellectual filigree to Nixon's
baser impulses, but Kissinger was callous enough to suit Nixon's needs.
As for his later freelance efforts, I knew few specifics, so I'm most
likely to chalk them up as ordinary graft. With all the criminality --
in some ways, Kissinger's most damaging legacy isn't what he did but
that he made such things seem normal, expected even, for those who
followed -- it's easy to overlook one of Nixon's most important moves,
which was to end the Bretton-Woods system, during which the US was
responsible for maintaining a stable capitalist world market. After,
it was each nation for itself, which ultimately turned into the US
(and the few "allies" it intimidated) against the world.
Fred Kaplan: [05-27]
Henry Kissinger's bloody legacy: "The dark side of Kissinger's
tradecraft left a deep stain on vast quarters of the globe -- and on
America's own reputation."
Jerelle Kraus: [05-27]
Henry Kissinger: A war criminal who has not once faced the bar of
Bhaskar Sunkara/Jonah Walters: [05-27]
Henry Kissinger turns 100 this week. He should be ashamed to be seen
in public: The picture, from 2011, shows him with a rather giddy-looking
You can also watch a piece from the
Show on Kissinger. You might also take a look at
this chart of life expectancy in Cambodia, which falls off a cliff
during the years Kissinger was in power (1969-77). Some commenters
want to make a distinction between bombing deaths (150-500K) and the
genocide unleashed by the Khmer Rouge (1.5-3M), but the the former
destabilized the studiously neutral Sihanouk regime, allowing the
Khmer Rouge to seize power.
Kayla M Williams: [05-28]
Who should we honor on Memorial Day? The article argues that many
veterans are unfairly not counted among the war dead heroes because
they were felled by longer, slower maladies that only started in war,
such as exposure to toxic chemicals (Agent Orange in Vietnam, burn
pits in Iraq) or PTSD (the suicide rate among veterans if if anything
even higher than the battlefield death rate). I have no quarrel with
that argument, but my initial gut reaction to the title is that we
shouldn't limit honor to war dead or even to veterans.
When I was young, the focus of Memorial Day was
down in Arkansas: either we went there, or my mother arranged for
flowers to be placed there by relatives. Some served, but none of
the people I knew of under the headstones were killed in war. But
they worked the hardscrabble Ozark soil, and built homes and families,
eventually leading to me (and, well, many others). As far as I know,
they were all honorable people, and deserved remembrance. Of course,
those who did die in war deserve remembrance as well, but less for
their lives (however valiant) than for their waste, which we should
be reminded of lest we blunder into even more wasteful wars.
Li Zhou: [05-23]
Montana's TikTok ban -- and the legal challenge of it -- explained.
My preferred solution is to ban all companies from collecting personal
data, much less passing it on to others. If that impacts their business
models, maybe that's a good thing.
Ask a question, or send a comment.