Sunday, February 25, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, I failed to finish my rounds by end-of-Sunday, so I'm posting what I have, with the expectation that I'll add more on Monday (look for red right-border stripes). One thing I didn't get to but seems likely to be worthwhile adding is No More Mister Nice Blog. That's where I first ran into the Katie Glueck article, and I see relevant posts on many of this week's politics articles. Charles P Pierce also has worthwhile takes on most of this.

This appeared after my cutoff, but is a good overview of everything else that follows: Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable, where she starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Initial count: 154 links, 7,499 words. Updated count: 178 links, 8,813 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide continues.

Reported casualty figures, as of 2/23, show 1,147 Israelis killed on October 7, plus 576 Israelis killed since. Palestinian deaths -- certainly undercounted -- are 29,514 in Gaza + 380 elsewhere in Israel. Since Oct. 7, Israelis are killing more than 51 Palestinians in Gaza for every soldier lost. No breakdown between soldiers lost in invading Gaza vs. elsewhere, but the latter numbers are probably very small. The kill ratio increases to 65-to-1 using the 38,000 estimate "when accounting for those presumed dead."

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Ben Armbruster: [02-22] US intel has 'low confidence' in Israel's UNRWA claims.

  • Michael Arria: [02-22] The Shift: US vetoes UN ceasefire resolution again: "Joe Biden has stepped up public criticisms of Israel to save his faltering electoral prospects in Michigan, but there remains an incredible disconnect between these words and his administration's ongoing support for Israel's genocidal attack on Gaza."

  • Moustafa Bayoumi: [02-17] As Biden ignores death in Gaza, the 'Dark Brandon' meme is unfunny and too real.

  • Miguel A Cruz-Díaz: [02-23] On the shame of living through times of genocide. The article, about "suicidal ideation," is not exactly what I imagined from the title, but I'm not wired to take other people's tragedies personally. (I was tempted to say "for empathy," but I can imagine even if I only rarely feel.) But the title is evocative. I don't advise you feeling shame for what other people -- and not just the perpetrators, but also those making excuses, or just shrugging their shoulders -- are doing, but they definitely should feel ashamed (and if not, should learn).

  • Emily Davies/Peter Hermann/Dan Lamothe: [02-27] Airman who set self on fire grew up on religious compound, had anarchist past: Aaron Bushnell, whose protest echoed that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War.

  • Yves Engler: [02-21] The reasons for Canada's 'unwavering' support for Israel: "Canada's remarkable fidelity to an apartheid state committing genocide is driven by imperial geopolitics, settler solidarity, Christian Zionism and the Israel lobby in Canada, and the weaponization of antisemitism."

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Jonathan Freedland: [02-23] Hamas and Netanyahu are a curse on their peoples. Yet amid the horror, there is a sliver of hope: The "sliver" seems to be [02-23] Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris, but this ignores the core fact of this "war," which is that you don't need to negotiate a ceasefire when only one side is shooting. Just do it. Israel can even declare that if Palestinians do keep shooting rockets at Israel, there will be reprisals (short in time, but severe). That would be understandable. But negotiations just does something Israel claims it doesn't want to do, which is to elevate Hamas as the representative of the people of Gaza.

    The headline suggests that both Netanyahu and Hamas are unfortunate political choices, but Netanyahu was a choice, at least of the limited electorate within Israel, and there's plenty of reason to believe he's doing exactly what those who voted for him want. Hamas was never elected, because Palestinians have never been free to choose their own leaders. The West Bank is, well, complicated, but Gaza should be simple: all Israel has to do is stop attacking and step away. They've more than punished Hamas. They've destroyed most of the region's infrastructure. For at least the next 20 years, the only way people will be able to live in Gaza is through foreign aid, which they will basically have to beg for. If Israel takes itself out of the picture, and lets the UN organize a proper democratic government there, Hamas will release the hostages, and quietly disappear. (Sure, Hamas may still survive in the West Bank, and among exiles, but that shouldn't be Gaza's fault. Hamas has no life except as resistance to Israeli power.)

    The idea that some people who got to power purely through the use of terror -- and that's every bit as true of Netanyahu as of Hamas (and only slightly less for the Saudis and Americans and other parties invovled) -- can settle something in Paris that will bring peace to Gaza is absurd. Freedland writes: "To grasp it, the Palestinians need to be free of Hamas and Israelis free of Netanyahu." Swap those and you start to enter the realm of the possible: Palestinians need to be free of Netanyahu, which for Gaza at least is easy to do. And that would also make Israelis free of Hamas (except, of course, in the areas where they're still determined to rule rough over Palestinians, because such rule always begets resistance -- if not by Hamas, then by the next bunch that bands together to stand up for freedom and against injustice).

  • Thomas L Friedman: [02-27] Israel is losing its greatest asset: acceptance: This is one of those "if even Thomas Friedman sees a problem . . ." pieces. Israelis have a handicap here: they're so conditioned to expecting that the whole world hates them, they can't imagine how much worse it can get, or how that might impact them. They figure as long as the US stays in line, no problem. And they figure the US is way too big to worry about its own diminishing acceptance.

  • Mehdi Hasan: [02-21] Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here's how.

  • Robert Inkalesh: [02-23] Why the US must enage Hamas politically: I don't agree with this now, but I do believe that I do believe that America's refusal to accept the results of the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections -- I believe Israel, which had always preferred Hamas to the secular-socialist PLO, was only following the American lead -- was largely responsible for pushing Hamas back into violent rebellion, including the desperate attacks of Oct. 7. There is, of course, much room for debate as to how to apportion blame for the continued repression and resistance. Israel's behavior is fully consistent as a white settler colony overseeing a rigidly racist system of control -- call it "Apartheid" if you like, but it differs in some from the disgraced South African system, and often for the worse. It reflects a demented and ultimately self-destructive worldview, but they are pretty clear on what they're doing, and why. As for Americans, they're much harder to explain. Having developed two (or maybe three) such rigidly racist systems, then dismantled them without ever owning up to their crimes, they're amazingly ingenious at lying to themselves and others -- hypocrisy is much too superficial a word -- for the way they so easily rationalize and romanticize Israeli brutality as high moral dudgeon.

  • Jake Johnson: [02-22] "I think we should kill 'em all," GOP Rep. Andy Ogles says of Palestinians in Gaza. Makes him exhbit A (but not the only one) in:

  • Robert Lipsyte: [02-22] I'm heartbroken by the war in Israel.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [02-23] Biden won't let Israel's rejection of a Palestinian state interfere with his delusions.

  • Philip Weiss: [02-21] The context for October 7 is apartheid, not the Holocaust: "The Israel lobby is attempting to indoctrinate Americans that the context for the October 7 attack is the Holocaust. This is a misrepresentation. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust."

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans: Well, South Carolina is done and dusted -- see [02-24] Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina primary, 60.1% to 39.2% (at the point with 92% counted). Also, if you care, How different groups voted in the South Carolina primary, according to exit polls. Nothing terribly surprising there, except perhaps that Trump had his best age split in 17-29 (66% vs. 63% for 65+). [PS: The final delegate split was 47 Trump, 3 Haley.]

CPAC: The erstwhile conservative (more like fascist) organization held their annual conference last week, headlined by Donald Trump, so we'll offer this as a Republicans overflow section. Before we get serious, probably the best introduction here is: [02-23] Jimmy Kimmel on CPAC: 'A who's who of who won't accept the results of the election'.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [02-26] Criticizing a president is always okay -- even one running against Trump: If you care about issues, you should say so, even when it's politically inexpedient. Otherwise, you lose your credibility, and any hope for eventual success. You reduce politics to a game, signifying nothing. If that's your view of it, you may already be a Republican -- although they've adopted some truly obnoxious issue stands, they're really just saying whatever they think gives them a slight advantage, because all they're really intererested in is power: seizing it, keeping it, cashing in on it.

  • Aaron Boxerman/Jonathan Weisman: [02-24] Biden caught in a political bind over Israel policy: "His steadfast support of the Gaza war effort is angering young people and Arab Americans in an election year. But any change risks alienating Jewish voters." Not really: recent polling has Jewish Americans favoring a ceasefire 50-34%. That's not as high as support for a ceasefire from Americans in general, but not enough to justify the NYT's antisemitic trope of painting "the Jews" as responsible for Biden's colossal blunder.

  • Jackie Calmes: [02-14] Biden's polls aren't great. How much is the media's fault?

  • Ben Davis: [02-21] Biden visited East Palestine a year after Trump. This doesn't bode well.

  • William Hartung: [01-31] Tone deaf? Admin brags about 55% hike in foreign arms sales: "Washington's sanitized view of unleashing $80.9 billion in weapons on the world, especially now, is a bit curious."

  • Eric Levitz: [02-23] Biden is weak -- and unstoppable: "It will be hard to convince the president that he isn't the best of his party's bad options."

  • Norman Solomon: [02-25] Joe Biden's moral collapse on Gaza could help Donald Trump win. I'm not going to not vote for Biden in November even though I regard him as not just naive and/or negligent but materially complicit in the most crime against humanity in recent decades, but only because I fully realize that Trump would even be worse (as, indeed, his four years as president amply demonstrated). Still, by all means, tank Biden's polls and trash his prospects, at least until he starts to reverse course. And also note that lots of people are not fully apprised of how awful Trump has been on Israel in particular and on world war in general -- indeed, he is campaigning, Wilson-like, on having "kept us out of war" and steering us away from the path to "world war" that Biden is heading (even though, sure one might even repeat Wilson-like, he's done more than anyone to pave that path). If Biden fails to get his war under control, enough people are likely to fall for Trump's line to tip the election. Also linked to by Solomon:

  • Robert Wright: [02-23] Biden's tough love deficit: Two years after Ukraine, and 20 weeks after Gaza, turned into massive wars:

    There are lots of differences between those two events and between the wars they've brought, but there's one important commonality: how President Biden has reacted. In both cases he has come to the aid of a friend in need and done so in a way that wasn't ultimately good for the friend. Biden is good at showing love and catastrophically bad at showing tough love.

    With both Ukraine and Israel, the US has massive leverage -- by virtue of being a critical weapons supplier and also in other ways. And in both cases Biden has refused to use the leverage to try to end wars that are now, at best, pointless exercises in carnage creation.

    I'll add that both of these wars were advertised long before they broke out, coming out of long-standing conflicts, and only surprising to the those in Washington who pretended that peace can be secured simply by buying American arms and covering them with clichés about deterrence and sanctions. Most of the fault belongs to presidents before Biden: to Bush and Trump for indulging Israel's most right-wing fantasies (and Obama for not resisting them, reinforcing the idea that American reservations are not things Israelis need to take seriously); to Obama's pivot toward a renascent Cold War (after Clinton and Bush expanded NATO to Russia's doorstep); and to Trump for his half-assed mishandling of Ukraine, Russia, China, and everything else. On the other hand, every president inherits the mistakes of his predecessors. Thanks to Trump, Biden wound up with more than usual, but it was his job to fix them. In some cases he tried, and has even had some success. In others, he failed, sometimes not even trying. But here, he's made bad situations worse, and seems incapable of even understanding why.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Eric Levitz: [02-21] Why you probably shouldn't blow up a pipeline. Reaction to Andreas Malm's book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and the subsequent movie. My rejection of such notions is so deep-seated -- I'm still anti-Luddite, even after having developed some appreciation for the intractable problems they faced -- I've never had to wrestle with the issues, nor do I expect that I ever will. But I won't be surprised to see a rising tide of sabotage -- they've already coined the term "ecoterrorism" for this eventuality -- as climate distress worsens, especially if major powers are unwilling to reform and continue to set the standard for dealing with problems through repression and violence. [PS: Note, however, that in Kim Stanley Robinson, in his novel, The Ministry for the Future, expects to see a lot of "ecoterrorism," and sees it as promoting necessary changes.]

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: [02-21] The sham "The economy is awful" story: Per Baker's tweet: "Too bad they [New York Times] weren't allowed to run these when Donald Trump was in the White House." Next in my Twitter queue was Kevin Erdmann: "It's really crazy how interest rate casual stories get canonized without the slightest interest or curiosity in facts. EVERY story about housing will stipulate that the Fed's rate hikes slowed down sales." The chart shows that sales spiked after the worst of the pandemic in 2020, while interest rates were still low, and declined as interest rates increased, but since 2022 they're basically back to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with higher interest rates.

  • Farrah Hassen: [02-23] The rent's still too high! "A new Harvard study found that half of U.S. renter households now spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. And rent increases continue to outpace their income gains. . . . Last year, homelessness hit an all-time national high of 653,100 people."

Ukraine War:

  • Responsible Statecraft: [02-22] The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [02-22] US officials see Ukraine as an active and bountiful military research opportunity.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: [02-25] After two grueling years of bloodshed, it's time for peace in Ukraine.

  • Aaron Blake: [02-27] Zelensky's increasingly blunt comments about Trump: This isn't a good sign, but Trump has always wanted Zelensky to wade into the American political fray -- on his side, of course, but it's not like he can't play opposition just as well. Zelensky is careful to portay his interests as America's own, but Trump is unflappable in that regard.

  • Joe Buccino: [02-22] Ukraine can no longer win. This piece appeared in the Wichita Eagle right after the Doran piece, below. Added here after I wrote the Doran comment, but let's list it first.

  • Peter Doran: [02-24] Ukraine can win -- here's how: Author works for Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), one of our leading war tanks, out here to buck up the troops by, well, quoting Winston Churchill and Henry V. He's wrong on many levels, starting with the notion that anyone can win at war these days. Even when he has a point (that Russia's "manpower pool" isn't inexhaustible) he misses it (that it's still much deeper than Ukraine's). He points to the unpopularity of the war in Russia, the suggestion being that Putin will buckle if the West only shows we're firmly resolved to win, but hasn't Putin proven much more effective at stifling dissent than the democratic West has? Aside from greater resolve, he insists the keys to winning are faster deliveries of even more sophisticated weapons systems, and even tighter sanctions. How did the war planners miss that? He insists on "a clear and compelling definition of victory in Ukraine that advances our national interests." Note nothing here about the well-being of the Ukrainian people, who bear the primary costs of continued war. His definition? "The requirements of this victory include the Russian military ceasing to kill Ukrainians, departing Ukrainian territory and not threatening the existence of the country in the future." It should be obvious by now that the only way to achieve any way of this is through a negotiated settlement that leads not just to a ceasefire but to an enduring stable relationship between Russia, Ukraine, and the West. That may require lesser steps -- a ceasefire would be a good start -- but also means giving up impossible definitions of victory.

  • Steven Erlanger/David E Sanger: [02-24] Hard lessons make for hard choices 2 years into the war in Ukraine: "Western sanctions haven't worked. Weapons from allies are running low. Pressure may build on Kyiv to seek a settlement, even from a weakened position."

  • Ben Freeman: [02-22] The Ukraine lobby two years into war.

  • Joshua Keating: [02-22] Are Ukraine's defenses starting to crumble? "What Ukraine's biggest setback in months tells us about the future of the war."

  • Serhiy Morgunov/David L Stern: [02-25] Zelensky says 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since invasion. His first public disclosure since Dec. 2022 ("up to 13,000"). He's also claiming 180,000 Russian troops have been killed. When the New York Times reported this story (31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in two years of war, Zelensky says, they also noted that Zelensky's number "differs sharply from that given by U.S. officials, who have said the number is closer to 70,000."

    A leaked Pentagon document had estimated deaths at 15,500-17,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and 35,000-42,500 Russian soldiers. That doesn't count at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians killed. For more figures, some exaggerated, some minimized, see Wikipedia's Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

  • Marc Santora: [02-24] Ukraine's deepening fog of war: "Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainian leaders are seeking a path forward in teh face of ferocious assaults and daunting unknowns."

  • Paul Street: [02-22] 500,000 dead and maimed in Ukraine, enough already: It's been a long time since I've seen any figures for war in Ukraine, so this one caught me off guard.

  • Marc A Thiessen: [02-22] If Republicans want to help Trump, they should pass Ukraine aid now. I never cite him, mostly because he's pure evil (he got his start as Cheney's torture apologist), but my local paper loves his columns, so I run into him constantly, and occasionally read enough to reconfirm my judgment. But this one is especially twisted, so I offer it as an example of the mind games regular Republicans play to manipulate the deranged Trumpian psyches -- in effect, to keep them reliably evil. The pitch is that Republicans should keep the war going so Trump can fulfill his "I'll have that done in 24 hours" campaign promise once he's elected. Of course, if Trump does win, Thiessen will do his most to sabotage any peace moves, but in the meantime the war goes on and Biden gets the blame.

  • Katrina Vanden Heuvel/James Carden: [02-23] 10 years later: Maidan's missing history.

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-24] First 2 years of US proxy war against Russia finds both US and Ukraine in downward spiral.


  • The Observer: [02-17] The Observer view on Alexei Navalny's murder: Putin must be shown he can't kill with impunity: "Russia has been exposed as a rogue state that is a menace to the rest of the world." Isn't the Guardian supposed to be the flagship of Britain's left-leaning press? But I cringe any time I see an "Observer view" editorial, perhaps because so many of them are so full of spite yet so futile, combinations of hypocrisy and bluster. After fulminating for twelve paragraphs, they finally explode: "It's time to get real with Russia." So, like, no more patty-cakes? Like 74 years of "cold war" that actually started with US and UK troops fighting the revolution on Russian soil? That went on to using Afghan proxies to snipe at Russians in the 1980s? That after a brief respite when Yeltsin tried to adopt America's prescription of "shock treatment" nearly self-destructed Russia? That was followed by the relentless expansion of NATO combined with economic warfare including crippling sanctions?

    When they wail, "After Navalny, it's time to drop any lingering illusion that Putin's Russia is a normal country, that it may be reasoned with." If Russia is not "a normal country," and I'll grant that it isn't, perhaps that's because no one in the US/UK has tried to reason with it in dacades? Navalny is part of the price of this hostile rivalry, and unless he was some sort of spy, he wasn't even a price the US/UK paid. He was just collateral damage, like thousands of Ukrainians and Russians maimed and killed in Ukraine, the millions displaced, the many more who are denied food and fuel due to sanctions, and the millions of Russian subjects who are denied free political rights because they are living under a state whose security is constantly being attacked by the West.

  • Andrew Cockburn: [02-19] Tears for Navalny. Assange? Not so much.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [02-20] Where does the fight for a free Russia go now? "Yulia Navalnaya picks up her husband's battle against Putin."

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-21] Even if you hate Julian Assange, the US attempt to extradite him should worry you.

  • Margaret Sullivan: [02-20] The US justice department must drop spy charges against Julian Assange: 'You don't have to like him or WikiLeaks to recognize the damage these charges create."

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-22] Julian Assange is Biden's Navalny.

Other stories:

Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it." This is a pretty seriously wrong-headed article, its appeal to the liberal publisher based on the MAGA movement, prominent Republicans, Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson for making America weak, the effect simply to "advance Putin's agenda." The key to American influence around he world was always based on nothing more than the perception that we would treat the world fairly and generously -- unlike the old colonial empires of Europe, or the new militarism of the Axis, or the growing Soviet-aligned bloc. Sure, the US was never all that innocent, nor all that charitable, but in the late 1940s seemed to compare favorably to the others. The US squandered its moral standing and good will pretty rapidly, and as the article notes, is losing the last of it with Biden's wholehearted support for Israeli genocide.

Nick Estes: [02-19] America's origin story is a myth: Daniel Denvir interviews Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

David French: [02-25] What is Christian nationalism exactly? NY Times opinion columnist, self-described Never-Trump Conservative, professes as evangelical Christian, claiming the authority to explain his wayward brethren -- the flock Chris Hedges wrote about in his 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America -- or at least to make fine distinctions between his kind and the others, who he's more inclined to dub "Christian supremacists." That works almost as well as Hedges' "Fascists" to identify the dictatorial and vindictive powers they aspire to, without implicating Christians who practice tolerance and charity, and allowing new nationalists to express their love for American diversity (as opposed to the old ones, wallowing in xenophobia and racism).

By the way, one term I haven't seen, but seems more to the point, is Republican Christianists (or, I guess, Christianist Republicans): those who enbrace the Republicans' cynical pursuit of coercive power at all costs, while justifying their lust and avarice as a divine mission. This piece led me to some older ones:

Katie Glueck: [02-19] Anti-Trump burnout: The resistance says it's exhausted: "Bracing for yet another election against Donald Trump, America's liberals are feeling the fatigue. "We're kind of, like, crises-ed out," one Democrat said." Well, if one Democrat said it, that's exactly the sort of thing you can count on the New York Times to blow up into a page one issue. Genocide in Palestine? Not so much. Reading their own paper, they don't seem to understand that Trump is out of power, and has been for 3.5 years now. Sure, he still talks a lot, but that's all he is. Trying to shut him up, even if we wanted to, not only isn't worth the effort, but would make things even worse. For most of us, there's nothing much we can do except wait until November, then vote against him.

Sarah Jones: [02-22] The right to a private life is under attack: Starts with the Alabama ruling on IVF (see Cohen, Millhiser, and others, above), but of course the Trump-supporting Christian Nationalists want much more than that: they want to run nearly every aspect of your life:

Our private freedoms are linked to public notions of equal citizenship. Conservatives attack the former in order to undermine the latter. It's an unpopular strategy, but as the scholar Matthew Taylor told Politico, "These folks aren't as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare." This is total war, and not just on women. Anyone who fails to conform is at risk.

More, especially on the IVF backlash:

Taylor Lorenz: [02-24] How Libs of TikTok became a powerful presence in Oklahoma schools: "The owner [Chaya Raichik] of the far-right social media account, who sits on a state advisory panel, has drawn attention since the death of a nonbinary student near Tulsa." I could have filed this under Republicans (above), as that's her mob, but didn't want to bury it under the usual graft and bullshit. Related here:

Garrison Lovely: [01-22] Can humanity survive AI? Long piece I haven't spent much time with as yet, although the subhed "Capitalism makes it worse" is certainly true. I don't know how good and/or bad AI will be, but it's generating a lot more press than I can follow, including:

Kelly McClure: [02-23] Ex-NRA chief funneled millions of dollars into his own pockets, according to a NYC jury: "Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives were found liable for financial misconduct."

Anna North: [02-23] Mascuzynity: How a nicotine pouch explains the new ethos of young conservative men: "Stimulants, hustle culture, and bodybuilding are shaping young men's drift to the right." Not obvious to me why this has become "a gateway to right-wing politics." Unless, that is, you're broadening the definition of right-wing from servants of hierarchy/oligarchy to plain old, all-around assholes.

Rick Perlstein: [02-21] The neglected history of the state of Israel: "The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions." This is, of course, directly relevant to what's happening in the Israel section above. The relationship is not just temperamental and ideological: Netanyahu's father was Jabotinsky's secretary and confidant.

Alissa Quart: [02-21] US media is collapsing. Here's how to save it. She's director of something called Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Aja Romano: [02-18] An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country's bonkers season finale: Noted in the breach, as a remarkably bad review of a season and series where I'm hard pressed to find any points to agree with, either in praise (mostly of seasons one and three, where the flaws are most obvious) or in panning (seasons two and four, where the messes swamp out the positives). But I will say that the "bonkers season finale" was much more satisfying than any I imagined to that point. I at least took the political point, which is that the power of the rich, and the hopelessness of the people they carelessly grind down and toss aside, are never as complete as they imagine.

At the same time, I was also watching A Murder at the End of the World, which was, if anything, even messier (though just a close second for bone-chilling cold), and again mostly acquitted itself with a politically-charged "bonkers finale": the murders were orchestrated by AI, but the context was corporate megalomania, as represented by a billionaire obsessed with control and life-extension. Speaking of which:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-23] Roaming Charges: Somewhat immature: Title is Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, describing the "rules of engagement for orbital warfare," which is to say nobody agrees on any rules, or even knows what they are or should be. But who's that going to stop?

Ben Wray: [02-24] It's time to dismantle the US sanctions-industrial complex: "The US has built up an elaborate machinery for waging economic warfare on its rivals with little or no public debate. This sanctions-industrial complex is a disguised form of imperialism and a dangerous source of global instability."

Li Zhou: [02-23] America's first moon landing in 50 years, explained.

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