Sunday, September 3, 2023
Speaking of Which
I've been reading my old paperback copy of Eric Hobsbawm's
The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 (1962, my paperback is
a New American Library pocket edition I've had for 50+ years --
retail $1.25, so it's bound as densely as it was written. I've
always been reluctant to read old books, but this one may get
me to change my mind, or at least continue to his sequels. The
first chapter, in particular, describes the European world so
compactly yet completely that you approach the French Revolution
thinking you know all the background you need. The next three
chapters -- one on the industrial revolution in Britain, the
next on France, and a third on the Napoleonic wars -- are every
bit as compact and comprehensive.
Much of the book is quotable, but I was especially struck by
the line at the bottom of this paragraph, from Part II, where
he goes back and surveys how ownership and use of land changed
during those revolutions (p. 191, several previous lines added
For the poor peasant it seemed a distinctly hard bargain. Church
property might have been inefficient, but this very fact recommended
it to the peasants, for on it their custom tended to become
prescriptive right. The division and enclosure of common field,
pasture, and forest merely withdrew from the poor peasant or cottager
resources and reserves to which he felt he (or he as a part of the
community) had a right. The free land market meant that he probably
had to sell his land; the creation of a rural class of entrepreneurs,
that the most hard-hearted and hard-headed exploited him, instead or,
of in addition to, the old lords. Altogether the introduction of
liberalism on the land was like some sort of silent bombardment which
shattered the social structures he had always inhabited and left
nothing in its place but the rich: a solitude called freedom.
The significance and relevance here has to do with the phenomenon
where former peasants leaned to the right politically, taking more
comfort in the memory of feudal bonds to lord and church. Liberalism
here means proto-capitalism, or what CB MacPherson more descriptively
called "possessive individualism." The later Luddite revolt grew from
a similar impulse, as does Trumpism today. In all these cases, the
satisfaction of joining the right is purely emotional, as the right
is every bit as controlled by people who saw in capitalism a path to
ever greater exploitation.
The difference between conservatism and
liberalism today is that one offers a better afterlife for their
deference, and the other offers a rarely achieved hope for better
in this life. The difference between liberals and the left is that
one idealizes individuals each responsible only to themselves, and
the other emphasizes solidarity, arguing that our fates are shared,
and therefore our responsibility is to each other. Liberals like
to call Trumpists, and their antecedents back to the Dark Ages,
populists, because they look down on common people as ignorant and
prejudiced (or as one put it memorably, "deplorable"). Leftists
hate that designation, because they feel kinship with all people,
not just because that's how solidarity works, but because they
see many of those people being critical of capitalism, even when
they aren't very articulate about why.
Top story threads:
Jeff Amy: [08-31]
Efforts to punish Fani Willis over Trump prosecution are 'political
theater,' Georgia Gov. Kemp says. It seems unlikely that the
Republican threats to remove Willis will go anywhere without
Kemp's support, but this whole episode only underscores the point
that the party that wants to use the justice system as a political
weapon is the Republican. Such politicization is a two-edged sword.
Sure, it can involve prosecuting your opponents, but it also means
protecting your partisans from paying for their crimes.
Trump's pardons were often for political allies, like Michael
Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Joe Arpaio, Dinesh D'Souza, and
seven former Republican congressmen, including Duke Cunningham.
Nor was Trump the first Republican to excuse and shelter their
own criminals. Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, but let the rest of the
Watergate criminals serve their sentences. GHW Bush pardoned the
Iran-Contra felons. GW Bush
commuted Scooter Libby's prison sentence (later
Trump pardoned Libby). But that's just one aspect of how politics
determines Republican attitudes to law enforcement. Republicans have
pushed for draconian enforcement of borders, drugs, and "fraud" in
voting and welfare, but are extremely lax when it comes to antitrust
cases, environmental disasters, and tax evasion. They've created a
culture of corruption where they've lost all sense of right and
Maggie Astor: [08-31]
Offering few details, Trump says he knows how Republicans should
Andrew Jeong: [09-02]
Trump lawyers evoke 1931 trial of 'Scottsboro boys' in election
case. The reference is described by one law professor as
Nicole Narea: [08-31]
Trump could soon be in big legal trouble for inflating his net worth.
This is New York's civil case against his business, so no jail jeopardy,
but it cost him up to $250 million and result in him and his family
being banned from doing business in New York.
Heather Digby Parton: [08-30]
Republicans demand a ransom: Defund the prosecution of Donald Trump
or else: Or else they'll force a government shutdown.
Nia Prater: [08-31]
It turns out Trump probably didn't get $2.2 billion richer in 2014:
You mean, he lied?
Ben Protess/Jonah E Bromwich/William K Rashbaum: [08-30]
Trump, under oath, says he averted 'nuclear holocaust': I'll
leave this to Dean Baker, who tweeted: "It's pretty funny that Donald
Trump apparently thinks he prevented a nuclear holocaust and we're
supposed to worry that Joe Biden is senile."
Jennifer Rubin: [09-01]
What responsible media coverage in the Trump era would look like:
I.e., "if the media stopped normalizing the MAGA GOP."
Myah Ward: [09-03]
Meet the white Trump official behind the launch of Black Americans for
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Dan Balz: [09-02]
Is America ready for another impeachment? McCarthy thinks maybe so.
Hard part is figuring out what for.
[PS: Also see Peter Baker: [09-02]
Biden team isn't waiting for impeachment to go on the offensive.]
Michael Barajas: [09-01]
The "chief lawbreaking officer" of Texas finally faces trial:
"Ken Paxton evaded scandal -- criminal indictments, a staff revolt,
a whistleblower lawsuit -- for years. But his impeachment trial
starts in the Texas Senate on Tuesday." Which raises the question,
when was the last time an office holder was deemed too corrupt for
the Texas Lege? (As Molly Ivins liked to call it. She, of course,
Emma Brown/Peter Jamison: [08-29]
The Christian home-schooler who made 'parental rights' a GOP rallying
cry: "On a private call with Christian millionaires, home-schooling
pioneer Michael Farris pushed for a strategy aimed at siphoning billions
of tax dollars from public schools." I have mixed feelings about this,
in large part because I have bitter memories of my own public schooling,
but also I think most parents are incompetent at teaching children (mine
sure were, even if they had the time, which they didn't), and also because
I really hate the idea that children "are given by God to the parents,"
who can tyrannize them at will -- I'd say there's much more need for a
children's bill of rights than one for parents. I also have this view,
based on personal experience, that while adults should be free to adopt
any religion they fancy, imposing one on children is cruel. More generally,
I think all this indoctrination focus (either for or against, and those
who claim to be against public school indoctrination are usually the
strongest advocates of imposing it themselves) simply misses the point,
which is that people will react or rebel as they see fit. One of the
few pieces that seems to understand this is Sarah Jones: [04-08]
Children are not property. I'm so impressed by that piece, I've
kept it open ever since it appeared.
Chauncey DeVega: [09-01]
From RICO charges to loyalty pledges: Trump's transformation of the
GOP into a crime mob is complete. The article quotes
Shawn Rosenberg saying something which is the core point of
chapter two of my political book (except that I drew the conclusion
from Richard Nixon):
Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have weaponized the idea
that the rule of law, democracy and democratic norms and institutions
do not matter, because all that matters is the end result. Winning at
any cost. You go for what you believe is right, and you get it in
whatever way you can.
DeVega also cites
a new poll from the Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight showing
"evidence of how a significant percentage of Republican voters
support candidates who break the law if it helps them to win
elections and get power."
Francis Suarez drops out. Will the other 2024 duds follow?
I don't see why they're calling him a "dud": he got his name in the
press when he became the last to announce, and he got his name in
again when he became the first to quit. That's two more times than
If Mitch McConnell goes, the Senate could get very scary.
I don't see any reason to get sentimental over that old coot.
It's not like he hasn't done immense damage over his long term
as Senate party leader. Even if the leadership goes to someone
much worse (like Rick Scott), as opposed to just a little worse
(like John Thune/Cornyn/Barrasso), it's hard to run the Senate
as tightly as the House, especially when the margins are so
Lisa Mascaro: [08-29]
Conservative groups draw up plan to dismantle the US government and
replace it with Trump's vision.
Nicole Narea: [08-30]
A Florida hurricane and shooting are testing Ron DeSantis: I've
always thought that DeSantis's slogan
Make America Florida was a threat that would turn people away,
not something the rest of America would be attracted to. So this
week's brought more proof. On the other hand, faced with disaster,
even DeSantis recognizes he needs to tone it down a bit. One thing
you have to admit about Florida Republicans is that no matter how
much they complain about the federal government's spending, they
never take their hands back from a handout after a hurricane.
Andrew Prokop: [08-29]
The "I would simply . . ." candidate: Vivek Ramaswamy, who has
an easy answer for everything, because he doesn't understand much
of anything -- just how to con gullible people.
Greg Sargent: [08-30]
Nikki Haley's emotional plea about racist 'hate' takes a wrong
turn. "Why can't Haley just decry a horrifying white-supremacist
attack and leave it at that?" No, she also has to remind us not to
"fall into the narrative that this is a racist country." So when an
obvious racist kills someone, she feels the need to defend everyone
else -- really her fellow Republicans, who have so often exploited
racism for political gain, at least since 1964 -- from being tarred
as racists. Very few people actually believe that this has to be a
racist country, but most do get suspicious when you start denying
that it ever was: that's a lot of history to sweep under the rug,
all the way up to yesterday's newspaper.
Emily Stewart: [08-31]
The conservative boycott playbook is kind of working: "From Bud
Light to Target, right-wing anger at 'woke capitalism' is scaring
Kirk Swearingen: [08-20]
Guns, Republicans and "manliness": We all suffer from the right's
mental health crisis. Author also wrote: [09-03]
Can't we all get along? Actually, no -- not when the other side
behaves like that, rather belatedly in response to pretty dumb [08-02]
David Brooks column.
Li Zhou: [08-28]
White supremacy is at the heart of the Jacksonville shooting.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
EJ Antoni: [08-31]
Bidenomics robs from the poor, gives to donor class: This piece
of hackwork showed up in my local paper, along with Ryan Young: [09-01]
Don't let politicians take credit for economic recovery. Together
they give you a sense of how flailing and incoherent right-wing attacks
on Bidenomics have become: on the one hand, don't credit Biden for any
recovery, because that's just good old capitalism at work (an article
that none of them wrote when Trump or Reagan were president, but became
a staple during the much stronger recoveries under Clinton and Obama);
on the other blame everything bad on Biden, and imply that corruption
is the root of everything Democrats do (talk about projection). Antoni
is particularly ripe for his concern over "the radical disconnect
between Washington's ruling elites and working-class folks." It may
be true that much of the extra spending Biden accomplished -- the first
recovery act, the barely-bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the big
Inflation Recovery Act -- has passed through the hands of companies
that donated to Democrats (and usually Republicans, who get even more
of their money from rich donors), but most of that money has trickled
down, creating jobs that wouldn't have existed otherwise, and raising
wages in the process.
Both parties do most of their public spending
through companies, but Biden has done a much better job than previous
Democrats at seeing that spending benefit workers -- and indeed in
improving the leverage of workers throughout the labor market. Maybe
you can criticize him for not doing enough, but he clearly would have
done more if he had more Democrats in Congress (and better ones than
Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema). As for "robbing the poor," the only
evidence he has is inflation, which is simply the result of companies
actively taking advantage of supply shortages and growing demand --
lots of reasons for both, and I suppose you could blame Biden for
adding to the demand side, by giving jobs and raising wages. These
are, after all, complex issues, with many factors, but to the extent
you can isolate Biden's contribution, it clearly has helped large
segments of the economy.
[PS: Both links include author pics. I hate it when people make
assumptions about character based on looks, but I must admit I was
taken aback by this pair -- perhaps by how young they appear, and
how smiley when their messages are so disingenuous.]
Jessica Corbett: [08-30]
Biden admin proposes 'much-needed' overtime protections for 3.6
Lee Harris: [08-07]
Biden Admin to restore labor rule gutted in 1980s.
Ben Jacobs: [09-01]
Sidelined and self-sabotaged: What The Last Politician says
about Kamala Harris. Franklin Foer's book, subtitled Inside Joe Biden's
White House and the Struggle for America's Future, is coming out
this week (Sept. 5). I've never been much of a Harris fan, but I've
also thought they should be using her more, and trying to build her
up, to make the 2024 campaign more of a team effort, reassuring voters
of continuity, should Biden's age get the better of him. Republicans
are going after her anyway, so why not lean into it and feature her
more?. For a bit more on the book, see this
Playbook column. There is also an excerpt on Afghanistan in
Harold Meyerson: [08-07]
Buybacks are down, production is up: "Bidenomics has begun to
de-financialize the economy."
Toluse Olorunnipa: [09-02]
Biden surveys Hurricane Idalia's damage in Florida, without DeSantis:
There is a photo of DeSantis (looking annoyed) with Biden after Hurricane
Ian a couple years ago. Such photo ops are normal, but Republicans often
take flak for mingling with the enemy, much as Trump did for posing with
Kim Jong Un. I wonder how much of this is because the White House Press
has nothing useful to do, but maybe if they were given fewer useless ops
they might think of something?
[PS: I see a
tweet with a New York Times: "Biden Won't Meet DeSantis in Florida
During Tour of Hurricane Damage"; but wasn't it DeSantis refusing to
meet Biden, not the other way? On the other hand, Rick Scott wasn't
afraid of having
his picture taken with Biden. DeSantis is such a wuss!]
Dylan Scott: [08-30]
Medicare's first-ever drug price negotiations, briefly explained:
Seems like a very modest first step, but looking at the list prices,
you can see how "serious money" adds up. (For you youngsters, back in
the 1970s, Sen. Everett Dirksen quipped: "a billion here, a billion
there, before long you're talking serious money"). After this ten,
another batch of fifteen are to follow. There is much more that should
be done. Such high prices are purely the result of government-granted
patent monopolies. The law could change the terms of patent use from
monopolies to some form of arbitration. Or (my preference) we could
end patents all together. And yes, I filed this under Biden/Democrats
because there is zero change of getting even this much relief when
Republicans are in power. Also see:
Legal matters: Ok, sometimes I mean illegal matters.
Obviously, Trump's crimes are filed elsewhere.
Adam Gabbatt: [08-30]
Kyle Rittenhouse sued by estate of man he killed at Kenosha anti-racism
protest: Also being sued, law enforcement departments: "They did
not disarm him. They did not limit his movement in any way. They did
not question him. They did not stop him from shooting individuals
after he started. They did not arrest him, detain him, or question
him even after he had killed two people." He is also facing two
other suits, by other people he shot (or their estates).
Caroline Kitchener: [09-01]
Highways are the next antiabortion target. One Texas town is resisting.
This sounds ridiculous, but it allows anyone to sue anyone they suspect
of "abortion trafficking," and is just a localization of a more general
trend of criminalizing assistance from friends and concerned citizens.
Conservatives think that such laws will only be used by their people
to harass others, but it's hard to imagine limits to such a potential
expanse of litigation.
Judd Legum: [08-31]
Top North Carolina judge faces potential sanctions for talking about
racial discrimination. Anita Earls, "the only Black woman on the
court, is under investigation by the state's Judicial Standards
Commission, a body largely comprised of conservative judges appointed
by North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby."
Amber Ferguson: [09-01]
Ohio police release video of officer fatally shooting pregnant
Alan Feuer/Zach Montague: [08-31]
Proud Boys lieutenant sentenced to 17 years in Jan. 6 sedition case:
Joseph Biggs. Prosecutors had asked for 33 years. Another Proud Boy
leader, Zachary Rehl, was sentenced to 15 years. Biggs' sentence was
the second-longest handed down, following the 18 years given to Oath
Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.
Tom Jackman: [09-01]
Proud Boys leader gets 18 years, matching longest Jan. 6 punishment
to date: Ethan Nordean. Dominic Pezzola also received a 10-year
Ian Millhiser: [08-29]
America's Trumpiest court just put itself in charge of nuclear
Judge James Ho strikes again. "Much of the Fifth Circuit appears
to be intentionally trying to sow chaos throughout the federal
government, without any regard to consequences."
Climate and Environment: Hard to find anything about it
in the US press, but they're having a rip-roaring typhoon season
in East Asia this year; e.g.:
Typhoon Saola makes landfall in China's coast after slamming Hong
As Typhoon Haikui barrels into Taiwan, thousands are evacuated.
These are big storms hitting heavily populated areas. Back in early
August, there was this: [08-02]
Heaviest rainfall in 140 years drenches Beijing while Typhoon
Khanun hits Japan's Okinawa. You may recall that in 2022 they
held the Winter Olympics in Beijing, so it's not exactly a place
you expect to be ravaged by tropical storms.
Jacob Bogage: [09-03]
Home insurers cut natural disasters from policies as climate risks
grow. So what happens when you can't buy (or can't afford)
insurance against actual risks? At some point, I predict that the
insurance industry will be taken over by the federal government,
because no one else can afford to underwrite it.
Matthew Cappucci: [09-01]
Idalia is gone, but peak hurricane season is looming. What's next?
There are four named storms in the middle of the Atlantic (Franklin,
Gert, Idalia, and José), where the only thing they're likely to hit
is Bermuda. Another one, Katia, is likely to appear this week, but
not much is expected of it. Beyond that, each tropical wave coming
off Africa could develop into something big.
Umair Irfan/Benji Jones: [08-30]
Why Hurricane Idalia is so dangerous, explained in 7 maps.
On the other hand: Dan Stillman: [08-31]
Hurricane Idalia wasn't as bad as feared. Here are 5 reasons.
Hit at low tide; weakened just before landfall; hit an area with
lower population; moved relatively fast; the forecast was extremely
accurate. The day difference is explains the tone shift. It's normal
to try to scare people before the fact, then to soothe them after.
Still, with sources like these, it's hard to calibrate the right
level of hysteria.
Taylor Lane: [09-03]
Monsoon rain leaves Las Vegas roads flooded.
Rebecca Leber: [08-31]
There's been a shift in how we think about climate change:
Interview with "environmental psychologist" Lorraine Whitmarsh.
My quotes, because it seems to me like less a subspecialty than
a subject of investigation, but in a world with a shortfall of
answers there's always a market for "experts" (again, my quotes).
Sophia Tesfaye: [09-03]
Thousands trapped at Burning Man after historic flooding.
Li Zhou: [08-30]
How Louisiana -- one of the nation's wettest states -- caught on
Ukraine War: The New York Times insists
Ukraine's offensive makes progress. Elsewhere, we are warned:
Ukraine tells counteroffensive critics to 'shut up'. Meanwhile,
Sen. Richard Blumenthal says
US is getting its 'money's worth' in Ukraine because Americans aren't
dying, which suggests ulterior motives and double standards.
More stories follow, but plus ça change, etc. Even if the
counteroffensive breaks the Russian line,
doing things in the next month or two (before winter) they haven't
even hinted at in the last three months, Ukraine will remain far
short of their goal of expelling Russia from their pre-2014 borders,
and will have no real leverage to force Russia to capitulate to
their terms. And even if they could expel Russia, they'd still be
locked in a state of war until a truce was negotiated.
The only way out is to find a combination of tradeoffs
that is agreeable both to Russia and to Ukraine, and (not that they
have any business dictating terms to Ukraine) to Biden, who is
engaged in his own shadow war with Putin, and has possibly decisive
chips to play (sanctions, trade, security assurances).
Diplomacy Watch: The search for an endgame in Ukraine.
Can sanctions help win peace? According to this report, not likely:
"Not only does economic warfare not work because it ends up hurting the
people it claims to help, but it can stand in the way of diplomacy."
I don't think that is quite right. Sanctions can, and should, be
considered a chit for negotiation, but that only works if one is
willing to relinquish them as part of an agreement. The problem is
when sanctions are seen as permanent, foreclosing negotiation. For
instance, sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq demanded regime
change, not something Hussein could reasonably negotiate. Under
such conditions, sanctions are acts of kabuki warfare, symbolic
yet reflecting hostility and a desire to harm -- a meaning that
targets cannot fail to detect, but which, due to the arbitrariness
and overreaching hubris of American foreign policy, especially the
belief that enemies can only respond to a show of force, makes it
nearly impossible to defuse. US sanctions against Russia started
way before Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and have only escalated
with each offense, paving the way to the present war, and possibly
to much worse.
The report is from International Crisis Group: [08-28]
Sanctions, Peacemaking and Reform: Recommendations for US Policymakers.
One key quote there is: "Sanctions can only help bring parties to the
table for peace talks, and provide leverage when they get there, if
negotiators can credibly promise meaningful and enduring sanctions
The U.S. does not always make clear what parties can do that will
lead to sanctions relief. In some cases, Washington has not laid out
any such steps or it has outlined steps that are unrealistic. In
others, the U.S. was never willing to lift sanctions in the first
place. Elsewhere, Washington's communication on sanctions has been
vague, leaving targets in the dark about what might lead to reversal.
Targets can be unsure why they were sanctioned, as members of
Venezuela's electoral authority reported in 2020, or have learned
about the designations second- or thirdhand (a former Congolese
official found out about his listing from the newspaper and some
FARC members learned from listening to the radio). Some never see
the full evidence underpinning the designations -- even if they
lobby the Treasury Department. Without clarity on why they were
sanctioned and what they can do to be delisted, targets have
little incentive to make concessions in exchange for relief.
A big part of the problem is that the neocon view that talking
is a sign of weakness, and liberal-interventionist conviction that
America's unique moral legitimacy makes it a fair and necessary
judge of everyone else, has driven diplomacy from Washington,
leaving American foreign policy as little more than "irritable
David Bromwich: [08-29]
Living on a war planet (and managing not to notice): Raises
the question (at least to me): if the war in Ukraine hadn't come
along, would America have invented it? ,Leaving aside the second
question (did it?), the withdrawal from Afghanistan left some
kind of void in the minds of that class of people whose sole
concern is America's military position in the world? Wars give
them meaning in life, and after twenty years of frustration in
Afghanistan and Iraq, Ukraine is some kind of dream: industry
is stoked delivering arms and explosives, while it's someone
else doing the fighting and bleeding, someone else having their
lives upended. The plotters in America haven't had so much fun
since Afghanistan in the 1980s -- another time when every dead
Russian was counted as a blow for freedom. But mostly it just
helped perpetuate the conflict, with no domestic political cost.
So of course they refuse to negotiate. Why spoil such a good thing?
After citing Roger Cohen's recent propaganda piece
Forever War), he notes that "Mikhail Gorbachev finally emerges
as the hero of this story," then adds:
Nowhere quoted, however, is the Gorbachev who, between 2004 and 2018,
eight op-eds to the New York Times, the sixth of which
focused on climate change and the eighth on the perilous renewal
of a nuclear arms race. Gorbachev was deeply troubled by George W.
Bush's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile
Treaty (which Putin
called a "mistake") and Donald Trump's similar decision to pull
out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Does anyone
doubt that Gorbachev would have been equally disturbed by the Biden
virtual severance of diplomatic relations with Russia?
Daniel Brumberg: [08-30]
The Russia-Ukraine Jeddah meeting reflects a changing global
Stephen F Eisenman: [09-01]
Some people will hate me for writing this: End the war!
Sounds like some people already do. Every war starts with efforts
to suppress doubters and dissenters in one's own ranks, which no
one doubts happened in Russia this time, but has been relentless
here as well (albeit stopping short of arrests, unlike the World
Wars and, in some cases, Vietnam). Lately we've been warned that
casting doubt on the counteroffensive's prospects is catering to
Russia, and that even suggesting talks should begin before Ukraine
is ready implies we're eager to sell them out. My counter is that
the war will never end until negotiators on all sides decide to
end it, and that you'll never know whether that is even possible
until you've set up a forum for negotiation.
Ellen Francis: [09-02]
Nobel Prize foundation scraps plan to invite Russia, Belarus after
criticism: Ukraine may be having trouble with their counteroffensive,
but they're winning regularly at shaming international bodies into
petty slighting of Russia.
Keith Gessen: [08-29]
The case for negotiating with Russia: Draws on RAND analyst
Samuel Charap, co-author of the 2016 book, Everyone Loses: The
Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Russia.
Since then, everyone has continued to lose, the pace accelerating
with the February, 2023 invasion. I'd argue that all wars are, as
he puts it, "negative-sum games," but the case here is especially
But among "defense intellectuals," that's a minority view --
in my formulation, it would probably disqualify you permanently
from employment. Gessen quotes Eliot A. Cohen as saying:
Ukraine must not only achieve battlefield success in its upcoming
counteroffensives; it must secure more than orderly Russian
withdrawals following cease-fire negotiations. To be brutal
about it, we need to see masses of Russians fleeing, deserting,
shooting their officers, taken captive, or dead. The Russian
defeat must be an unmistakably big, bloody shambles.
The implicit assumption is that it's possible to inflict such
a defeat on Russia without further escalation or recourse: that
Putin (or some other Russian who might ascend to power) will take
such a catastrophic defeat gracefully, as opposed to, say, blowing
the world up. Note that if Putin is really as irreconcilable as
people like Cohen make him out to be, that's exactly what he would
do in that circumstance.
Joe Lauria: [08-29]
US victim of own propaganda in Ukraine War.
Few Russians wanted the war in Ukraine -- but they won't accept a Russian
defeat either. As bad as Putin has been -- for America, for Europe,
even (especially?) for Russia -- replacing him could get a lot worse.
The kind of embarrassing, punishing defeat that Cohen (above) demands
has been tried before, especially at Versailles after WWI, and tends
to backfire spectacularly.
Sarkozy vilified for speaking uncomfortable truths about Ukraine:
The quorted sections from Sarkozy's book seem pretty reasonable to me.
I've said all along that we should allow for internationally-supervised
referenda in the disputed territories. If Crimea, say, wants to be part
of Russia, it should be. Granted, it's harder to do now than it was
before the invasion, but it should be possible. I think that a similar
procedure should also be used to resolve disputes in Georgia, Serbia,
and elsewhere. If Scotland wishes to avail itself of a referendum, we
should allow it. It's easy enough to propose solutions on other issues
as well. But at some point Russia has to see NATO as a purely defensive
pact -- which NATO could help make more plausible with less war-gaming,
something that should be but doesn't have to be reciprocal -- and the
EU as simply an economic club, which Russia could conceivably join.
On the other hand, the US and allies need to see a path to dropping
the sanctions against Russia, and reintegrating Russia into the world
economy. Granted, there are problems with the way Russia runs itself,
but that's really their own business. One thing that would help would
be an international treaty providing a right to exile, so real or
potential political prisoners in any country could appeal to go to
some other country. It's hard to get a country like Russia to agree
to peaceful coexistence, but a necessary first step would be to tone
down the criticism, the meddling, the menace, and the isolation. In
the long run, none of us can afford this level of hostility.
Alice Speri: 
Prigozhin's legacy is the global rise of private armies for hire.
Al Jazeera: [09-03]
Israel's Netanyahu calls for deportation of Etitrean refugee
Jonathan Coulter: [09-03]
A seditious project: "Asa Winstanley's book shows how the Israel
lobby facilitated the influence of a foreign government's interests
in dictating who gets to lead the Labour Party, causing the downfall
of Jeremy Corbyn." The book is Weaponizing Anti-Semitism: How
the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn. Of course, the
Lobby is also active trying to purge any whiff of criticism from
the Democratic Party, but Corbyn was their biggest victim, all the
more critical as the Labour Party replaced him with the second
coming of Tony Blair ("Bush's poodle").
Nada Elia: [08-30]
Golda: A failed attempt to boost Israel's propaganda: There is
a new movie about the Israeli Prime Minister (1969-74), with Helen
Mirren in the title role. Looking at the film's plot on
Wikipedia, I see that it focuses on the 1973 war, when initial
setbacks led Meir to prepare to use nuclear weapons, and the immediate
aftermath, which led to recriminations over allowing those setbacks.
But it also notes: "Anwar Sadat, who like Golda Meir publicly speaks
English, agrees to establish diplomatic relations to Israel in
exchange for the return of the Sinai Peninsula." Sadat offered
that shortly after the war, but Meir didn't agree to any such deal.
That was Menachim Begin in 1979, under heavy pressure from Jimmy
Carter. By the way, one of the few stories I like about Meir is
how she casually referred to Begin, when he joined the war cabinet
in 1967, as "the fascist." (Begin doesn't appear in the film's cast,
although there are a bunch of generals, and Liev Schreiber playing
Although the 1973 war occurred at the pinnacle of Meir's political
career, I doubt her leadership was any more decisive than Levi Eshkol's
was in 1967. In both wars, the key character was Moshe Dayan, and the
difference was that he was the aggressor in 1967, but in 1973 he had
to play defense, which wasn't as much fun, especially as it punctured
the air of invincibility he had built up through 1967. The key lesson
of 1973 is that if you refuse to negotiate with your enemies, as Meir
had done, they may eventually decide that their only option is war,
and at that point all sorts of bad things can happen. But to make
sense out of 1973, you need a lot more context than they're likely
to provide, especially given the usual propaganda mission.
I imagine that a more interesting film could be made about Meir
when she was younger, about how she became the only woman in the
Histadrut and Mapai inner circles, where she probably overcome the
default sexism by becoming the toughest character in the room --
not unlike Mirren's character in Prime Suspect. That would
have been a tougher movie to sell, especially without Mirren, and
it would be hard to present those times accurately, and easy to
wallow in post-facto mythmaking.
Having gone on at this length about Meir, I should close with a
quote of hers, which in my mind is possibly the most obnoxiously
self-flattering thing any political figure ever said:
When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the
Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive
them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when
the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.
But peace hasn't happened, and this attitude goes a long way to
explaining why. More on Golda:
Sonja Anderson: 
The real history behind the 'Golda' movie: A fairly detailed
biographic sketch of Meir's life, but very little to explain the
conflict leading to the 1973 war.
David Klion: [09-01]
The strange feminism of Golda. Regarding director Nattiv's
motives: "The answer seems to be that he is more interested in
rescuing the dignity of Israel's founding generation in the context
of its current political crisis." Still, that generation was at the
root and heart of Israel's later militarism and apartheid. To hold
them up as models barely rebukes Netanyahu and Ben Gvir for bad
Joseph Massad: [08-31]
Ben Gvir's racist comments are no different from those if Israel's
founders. Quotes from Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, Vladimir
Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, even the usually circumspect
Peter Shambrook: [08-25]
Policy of Deceit: Britain and Palestine, 1914-1939: An extract
from a new book of that title. One of the first books I read on the
subject was Tom Segev: One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs
Under the British Mandate, which I recommend, although there
is certainly more detail that can be added.
Richard Silverstein: [08-29]
Why the US must not add Israel to its visa waiver programme.
Around the world:
Sarah Dadouch: [08-23]
Saudi forces killed hundreds of Ethiopians at Yemen border, report
Brian Finucane: [07-17]
Dangerous words: The risky rhetoric of US war on Mexican cartels:
"War talk will only serve to strain US-Mexico ties." This has mostly
come from Republicans, including Trump, DeSantis, and Lindsey Graham,
who want to outdo each other in declaring the cartels to be "foreign
terrorist organisations" and bombing them as indiscriminately like
the US bombs Somalia. More:
Ellen Ioanes: [08-27]
Zimbabwe's elections herald more of the same.
Jen Kirby: [08-29]
China's economy is slowing down. What gives? Interview with Stephen
Morgan. I'm not making much sense out of it. China's GDP growth forecast
for 2023 is 5 percent. That's less than the ten-percent growth of recent
years, but it's still double the worldwide growth rate. It's like he's
trying to measure China with rules they've never been held to.
Paul Krugman: [08-21]
How scary is China's crisis?; and [08-31]
Why is China in so much trouble? I've come to be pretty skeptical
of the China doomsayers, because, well, they've always been wrong. So
I take these pieces with the usual measure of salt, but at least there's
a plausible kernel of substance here: it seems that a big slice of the
wealth China has accumulated has been channeled into a huge real
estate bubble, which is a surefire recipe for panic and recession.
That happened here in 2008, and Washington went into a tizzy, trying
at least to save the banking class, while leaving the rest of us to
adjust on our own. So if China does reach its own "Minsky moment,"
as Krugman notes: "the next few years may be quite ugly." But does
it have to be? China managed its way through 2008 better than most,
and same for 2020, especially compared to the armchair quarterbacks
in the US financial press.
Krugman, by the way, also wrote: [08-28]
The paranoid style in American plutocrats, about the not-so-curious
vortex of "the three C's: climate denial, Covid vaccine denial, and
cryptocurrency cultism," especially common among tech moguls.
Branko Marcetic: [08-31]
The BRICS expansion isn't the end of the world order -- or the end of
Rachel DuRose: [08-30]
The US has new Covid-19 variants on the rise. Meet Eris and Fornax.
Bill Friskics-Warren: [09-02]
Jimmy Buffett, roguish bard of island escapism, is dead at 76:
I wasn't going to mention this here, but No More Mister Nice Blog
picked out a selection of rabid hate comments from Breitbart on
how awful his politics were (see
Jimmy Buffett, Stalinist Nazi). Warms my heart more than his
music ever did (and let's face it, I'd never turn down a "Cheeseburger
in Paradise," although I must admit I've never gone to one of his
restaurants for one). Few things drive right-wingers crazier than
finding out a rich guy identifies with Democrats. By the way, this
blog is almost always worth reading, but his piece
Public Options is especially striking, as one that gets personal --
unusual for an author whose last name is M.
Sean Illing: [08-30]
Is the populist right's future . . . democratic socialism?
Interview with Sohrab Ahmari, explaining "why precarity is breaking
our politics." You see some of this happening in multiparty systems
in Europe, where it's possible to combine safety net support with
conservative social concerns, resulting in a party that could ally
with either right or left, but at least this two-party system has
little choice to offer: you can get a better break on economics
with the Democrats, but you have to accept living in a diverse
and predominantly urban country; on the other hand, if you insist
on the old "family values," you can get some lip-service from
Republicans, but in the end their embrace of oligarchy will hurt
you. I think such people should be more approachable by Democrats,
but I'm even more certain that as long as they back Republicans,
they will be screwed.
Eric Levitz: [08-31]
Was American slavery uniquely evil? Not sure why this came up,
other than that some right-wingers are irate about the tendency to
view all (or at least many) things American as evil. As Levitz
points out, all slave systems shared many of the same evils. One
could argue that America was more exploitative because American
slaveholders were more deeply enmeshed in capitalism, but it's
hard to say that the French in Haiti and the British elsewhere
in the Caribbean were less greedy. You can argue that America was
more benign, because after the import of slaves ended, the numbers
increased substantially, while elsewhere, like in Brazil, imports
barely kept up with deaths. Plus there were many more slave revolts
in Brazil and the Caribbean than in the US -- but still enough in
the US to keep the masters nervous. As for reparations, which comes up
tangentially here, I don't see how you can fix the past. But it
would be possible to end poverty in the near future, and to make
sure everyone has the rights they need going forward. History
neither precludes nor promises that. It just gives you lots of
examples of what not to do again.
By the way, Levitz cites a piece he wrote in 2021 about Israel
and Palestinian rights:
Why is this geopolitical fight different from all other fights?
He offers three reasons, and admits one more ("Israel's role in the
Christian right's eschatology is also surely a factor"). He omits
one or two that have become even more salient since then: Israel
is an intensely militarist nation, which makes it a role model for
Americans (and some Europeans) who want an even larger and more
aggressive military front. Israel is also the most racially and
religiously stratified nation, with discriminatory laws, intense
domestic surveillance, and strong public support for establishment
religion, and some Americans would like to see some or all of that
here, as well. I only quibble on the count because the prejudices
seem to go hand-in-hand. On the other hand, many of the moderate
and left people who have begun to doubt the blind support given
Israel by nearly all politicians started with alarm at what
Israel's biggest right-wing boosters want to also do to America.
Amanda Moore: [08-22]
Undercover with the new alt-right: "For 11 months, I pretended to
be a far-right extremist. I discovered a radical youth movement trying
to infiltrate the Republican Party." But they're pretty obvious about
Jason Resnikoff: [08-31]
How Bill Clinton became a neoliberal: Review of a book by Nelson
Lichtenstein and the late Judith Stein (who started work on the book
that Lichtenstein picked up): A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton
Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism. First
I have to question whether the notion that Clinton wasn't any kind
of neoliberal before he became president. The premise of the New
Democrat movement was the promise to be better for business than
the Republicans were, and Clinton's long tenure as governor of
Arkansas, as WalMart and Tyson grew from regional to national
businesses, suggests that he was good at it. Clinton certainly
wasted no time throwing labor under the bus to pass NAFTA.
Sam Roberts: [09-02]
Bill Richardson, champion of Americans held overseas, dies at 75:
Former governor of New Mexico, served 14 years in Congress, was
Secretary of Energy, held various diplomatic posts, including US
Ambassador to the United Nations, ran for president in 2008, and
engaged in more freelance diplomacy than anyone but Jimmy Carter.
Curiously, there is only one line here about North Korea ("he
went to North Korea to recover the remains of American soldiers
killed in the Korean War," as if he had nothing more to talk to
Nathan J Robinson:
"Conservatism" conserves nothing: "Whatever 'conservatism' is,
it does not involve the conservation of a stable climate, or the
polar ice caps, or the coral reefs, or the global food supply."
The rejoinder is that the nation and the world are too far gone
to be satisfied with just preserving the status quo, which is
why others are more likely to call them reactionaries: they see
change they don't like, and react fitfully, contemptuously, often
violently. But not all change bothers them: what they hate above
all is any challenge to the privileges of wealth, or any limit to
their ability to accumulate more. Given that one of the easiest
ways to get rich is to suck wealth from the earth, conservation
is not only not in their portfolio, it's something they dread --
etymology be damned.
As cruel as it's possible to be: This week's example is Fox
host Jesse Waters, who wants to make homeless people feel more
ashamed for their misfortune, and argues that "the deaths of
homeless people are a form of cosmic justice."
Kenny Torrella: [08-31]
The myths we tell ourselves about American farming. One I
should write more about, one of these days.
Bryan Walsh: [09-01]
What America can learn from baseball (yes, baseball): "Baseball
fixed itself by changing its rules. The country should pay attention."
I used to know a lot about baseball. I could recall back to the 1957
all-star game lineups. (You know, the one where the Reds stuffed the
ballot box so Gus Bell and Wally Post got more votes than Hank Aaron
and Willie Mays.) And I looked up the rest. I was part of a club a
friend started called Baseball Maniacs, out of which Don Malcolm
started publishing his Big Bad Baseball annuals. (Malcolm
was my co-founder on
Terminal Zone, and he published
my Hall of Fame study, I think in the
1998 Annual.) Then with the
1994 lockout, I lost all interest, and never returned, although
I'm slightly more aware this year than I have been since 1994.
The difference is getting the "electronic edition" of the local paper,
which is padded out with a ridiculously large sports section. While
I speed click through everything else, that got me to following
basketball more closely, so I wondered if I might pick up a bit of
baseball while waiting for the season to change. A little bit is
about right: I land on the standings page, so I know who's leading
and who's beat, and sometimes look at the stats, but that's about
all. I do know a bit about the rules changes, because I've read a
couple pieces on them.
Walsh's point is that when people get too
good at cornering the rules, it helps to change them up a bit. In
baseball, that mostly means shorter games (not that they've gotten
much shorter: Walsh says they've been dialed back to the 1980s,
but I remember games that barely exceeded two hours). Walsh has
plenty of other examples of "operating under a rule book that is
out of date," many involving the gridlock in Congress. But baseball
at least has incentive to change (although it took an insanely long
time for the NL to accept the DH, even though watching pitchers try
to hit was embarrassing even back in the 1950s).
Li Zhou: [08-31]
Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that
means. Well, for starters it would reduce the quantity of complete
nonsense the government swears on, which might make them more credible
about drugs that pose real dangers beyond mere bad habits.
meme titled "When the actual dictionary completely nails it." The
text offers a dictionary definition:
trumpery, n.; pl. trumperies, [Fr.
tromperie, from tromper, to deceive, cheat.]
- deceit, fraud. [Obs.]
- anything calculated to deceive by false show; anything externally
splendid but intrinsically of little value; worthless finery.
- things worn out and of no value; useless matter; trifles; rubbish;
This idolatrous trumpery and superstition.
Trump's German family name used to be Drumpf. After a brief search,
I'm unclear as to exactly when, where, and why the name change occurred,
but it does seem like a deliberate choice, if not necessarily a fully
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