Sunday, June 19, 2016
Travel disrupts my normal news browsing. I'm lucky to keep up with my
email, find it hard to write on notebook keyboards, never listen to the
radio, only watch TV when that's happening somewhere I'm staying (which
did get me some History Channel in CT, CNN in Buffalo, and Weather Channel
in AR). So I'm catching up here, and this week's links and comments are
David Atkins: Gun Violence Research: If Republicans in Congress Won't Do
It, California Will: One of the major problems with debates over gun
control is the general lack of serious research into the problem. We have
some rough numbers about total shootings but little else, in large part
because the NRA has worked very hard to keep any research from getting
funding. So if California does this, it will be a big help to anyone who
wants to base policy on real data.
Andrew Cockburn: Victory Assured on the Military's Main Battlefield --
Washington: Back in the 1980s the "star wars" program was originally
dubbed SDI, but I recall someone quipping that it should have been SFI,
for Strategic Funding Initiative. It is one of the Pentagon's more famous
multi-billion-dollar boondoggles, but far from alone. The military may or
may not get the wars they lobby for, but somehow they always manage to
get extravagant funding:
Inside the Pentagon, budget planners and weapons-buyers talk of the "bow
wave," referring to the process by which current research and development
initiatives, initially relatively modest in cost, invariably lock in
commitments to massive spending down the road. Traditionally, such waves
start to form at times when the military is threatened with possible
spending cutbacks due to the end of a war or some other budgetary crisis.
[ . . . ]
The latest nuclear buildup is only the most glaring and egregious
example of the present bow wave that is guaranteed to grow to monumental
proportions long after Obama has retired to full-time speechmaking. The
cost of the first of the Navy's new Ford Class aircraft carriers, for
example, has already grown by 20% to $13 billion with more undoubtedly
to come. The "Third Offset Strategy," a fantasy-laden shopping list of
robot drones and "centaur" (half-man, half-machine) weapons systems,
assiduously touted by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, is similarly
guaranteed to expand stunningly beyond the $3.6 billion allotted to its
development next year.
Steve Fraser: How the Age of Acquiescence Came to an End: Author
of last year's The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American
Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power, now admits that:
So consider this essay a postscript to that work, my perhaps belated
realization that the age of acquiescence has indeed come to an end.
Millions are now, of course, feeling the Bern and cheering The Donald.
Maybe I should have paid more attention to the first signs of what was
to come as I was finishing my book: the Tea Party on the right, and on
the left Occupy Wall Street, strikes by low-wage workers, minimum and
living wage movements, electoral victories for urban progressives, a
surge of environmental activism, and the eruption of the Black Lives
Matter movement just on the eve of publication.
Also, after noting that not just the left but also the right has
rediscovered the class struggle of the 1930s:
Hillary Clinton is broadly distrusted. Sanders has consistently outpolled
her against potential Republican opponents for president because she is
indeed a limousine liberal whose career has burned through trust at an
astonishing rate. And more important than that, the rebellion that has
carried Sanders aloft is not afraid to put capitalism in the dock. Trump
is hardly about to do that, but the diseased state of the neoliberal
status quo has made him, too, a force to be reckoned with. However you
look at it, the age of acquiescence is passing away.
It should be added that while both right and left seek to build on
mass disposession, the left offers programs that appeal to those without
power, whereas the right seeks to redirect that fear and anger against
others, thereby insulating the wealthy from the wrath of the masses --
if not from the consequences of their own lust for violence.
Paul Krugman: Notes on Brexit: Eleven of them, concluding that Britain
would be slightly better off if they vote down the referendum threatening
to part company with the European Union. Still, the biggest point is that
exit would be bad for the City's financiers, which probably means as little
to the average Briton as Wall Street bonuses mean to most Americans. Beyond
that, he dismisses "claims that Britain, freed from EU rules, could achieve
spectacular growth via deregulation." I haven't read much on this topic
and don't have much to offer, other than the thought that exit might be
preferable if Britain was solidly to the left of Europe -- and therefore
able to use its independence to further equality -- but with the Tories
controlling Parliament that pretty clearly isn't the case. (On the other
hand, Scottish independence would likely have moved Scotland to the left,
although that wouldn't have been good for English Labour.)
The Brexit thing took a nasty turn with the assassination of
Jo Cox, a Labour MP who strongly opposed Brexit, by a right-winger
who shouted "Britain first" while attacking her. It would be fitting
if her martyrdom swings the vote to no, but I can think of more than a
few strategic assassinations that, often despite initial sympathy, did
the job. As for the killer, there is much available, like
Ben Norton: Suspected killer of British lawmaker is neo-Nazi -- but media
blamed mental illness, like Charleston 1 year ago.
Stephen Kinzer: Don't mythologize Ali's rage: Probably much more
worth reading on the late Muhammad Ali, but this is a good start,
focusing on his courageous political stances against racism at home
and imperialism abroad, and how recent eulogies tend to sanitize him
in a time when "his message is every bit as urgent today as it was
when he first began preaching it."
Ronald B Rapoport/Alan I Abramowitz/Walter J Stone: Why Trump Was
Inevitable: Nothing deep or surprising or even very informative
here. The authors merely did some polling among likely Republican
voters and found out that Trump was the most popular candidate,
beating all the others in one-on-one contests with Cruz (48%),
Rubio (43%), Carson (42%), Paul (37%), and Fiorina (36%) his closest
challengers -- the most notable finding is that among ten contenders
(the polling was done around Iowa caucus time) the lowest rating
belonged to Jeb Bush (31%), with Kasich and Christie just a whisker
better (32%). Another chart shows that Republicans thought Trump was
more likely to win in November than any other candidate (56%, vs.
44% for Cruz, 39% for Rubio, and a mere 13% for Bush). Other charts
show that Trump's signature issues (banning Muslims, building his
wall) were widely favored not just among Trump supporters but among
all Republicans. As I said, nothing revealing there (except perhaps
how doomed the Bush campaign was from the beginning).
Aaron Rupar: Senator Who Has Received More NRA Suport Than Anyone
Blames Obama for Orlando Shooting: John McCain, $7.7 million,
although most of that came during his 2008 presidential campaign, an
unfair advantage compared to all the other NRA stooges in Congress.
McCain's thinking here is that Obama opened the door for ISIS when
he oversaw the withdrawal of US occupation forces from Iraq. The
implication is that were it not for Obama's folly no one would have
heard of ISIS, so no deranged westerner could pledge allegiance to
the group in the midst of a killing spree. McCain may be one of the
last true believers in the magical powers of American military power,
or he may just have wanted US troops to stay in Iraq because their
presence sustains the war he so dearly loves. If one has to blame
Obama for this, it would make more sense to question his decision to
send troops back to Iraq (and on to Syria) to fight ISIS, reinforcing
the view that America is at war with Islam and has callous disregard
for anyone who gets in the way. Clearly, America's long and seemingly
intractable involvement in the Middle East's wars is leading to both
sides disrespecting and dehumanizing the other. I don't think either
Bush or Obama ever wished to paint their wars with racism but as those
wars drag on, with us and them killing the other, their remonstrations
are lost on demagogues like Trump. McCain, at least, has started to
walk back his charges. Still, he hasn't betrayed his sponsors.
Of course, what actually happened in Orlando doesn't fit at all well
with the preconceived notions of someone like McCain. That the shooter
was born a Muslim and had heard of ISIS seems almost incidental, even
as that he was so filled with rage and armed with an assault rifle is
so quintessentially American. For a profile, see
'Always Agitated. Always Mad': Omar Mateen, According to Those Who Knew
Some light reading on Donald Trump:
Geoff Blades: Why Donald Trump has defied the odds: It's insulting to think
he wins by insulting
Steven Shepard: Trump's poll ratings in a historic hole:
Trump is setting modern records for political toxicity -- at least for
a major-party candidate this far out from an election. Seventy percent
of Americans surveyed in an ABC News/Washington Post poll out this week
had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, up 10 points over the past month.
The poll showed Trump's favorable rating cratering at 29 percent, down
from 37 percent last month. [ . . . ]
But it's not just the overall unfavorable numbers -- it's the intensity
of the antipathy toward Trump, and the lack of enthusiasm for him. In
the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 56 percent of respondents had a
"strongly unfavorable" opinion of Trump, compared to just 15 percent
who had a "strongly favorable" opinion.
Shepard's piece was cited by
Paul Woodward: Trump's plan for winning if he loses, on how Trump's
"already crafting a plan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat -- not
by winning but election but by turning his campaign experience into the
launchpad for his next commercial venture."
Jamelle Bouie: Whether He Wins or Loses, We're Stuck With Trump.
Tom Engelhardt: Donald Trump Is the Mosquito, Not the Zika Virus
Ann Jones: Donald Trump Has the Traits of a Wife Abuser and Women Know
Seth Stevenson: Former Apprentice crew members on their old
boss, Donald Trump: Actually, that's the subhed. The title they
went with was "He's Obsessed With Menstruation."
Warren Tears Into Trump: He's a 'Thin-Skinned, Racist Bully':
Perhaps she's auditioning for the role of Spiro Agnew, if you can
imagine Hillary Clinton as Dick Nixon -- you know, looking presidential,
above the fray and the dirt (not that he was/she is).
Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:
Andrew Bacevich: America's Sinkhole Wars
William deBuys: No More Wide Open Spaces?
Ben Ehrenreich: How Israel Is Inciting Palestinian Violence: Author
also has a new book on the subject: The Way of the Spring: Life and
Death in Palestine. Philip Weiss comments on the piece and reaction:
'Politico' dares to publish Ehrenreich saying occupation fosters terrorism,
and 'Camera' goes haywire.
Hassan Hassan: Washington's War on the Islamic State Is Only Making It
Barry C Lynn/Philip Longman: Populism With a Brain: Ten old/new ideas
to give power back to the people:
- Protect democracy by restoring market competition
- Use trade power to restore American independence
- Ban price and data discrimination
- Break up Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Comcast
- Localize banking, retail, and farming
- Make all government public
- Protect the industrial arts
- Take back leisure
- Keep planes, trains, and robotic cars out of the hands of plutocrats
- Power (and ideas) from the people
Lynn, by the way, is the author of an important recent book on why
we need stronger antitrust regulations: Cornered: The New Monopoly
Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction (2010).
Kansas Isn't Home Anymore . . .: A statement from the head of the
company Pathfinder Health Innovations on why they're relocating from
Kansas to Missouri. Hint: has a lot to do with Sam Brownback.
David Everall [Mon, June 20, 2016, 6:44 am]
A few quick observations on the EU Referendum item in your latest
Firstly both the linked to article and your comments vastly
underestimate the racist, xenophobic nature of the "leave" side of the
debate here. The Remain side have, I think, put too much store in the
hope that people will ultimately vote on economic issues rather than
migration. In this case the "It's the economy stupid" argument may not
prevail. They should have addressed the issue of migration more
What may (just) swing it for Remain is the increasingly extreme
nature of some of the campaign material coming out of the Leave camp
(see below) which is alienating those that feel there is an economic
argument for quitting. The Jo Cox killing will I think convince a few
more to join the remain camp. I do however think we should be careful
in ascribing motives to her attacker at this stage. There are
undoubted right wing links but also a history of mental issues, some
very recent. There could well be a complex interplay of these issues
involved in his actions. Here in the UK and don't feel there is any
great pressure from organisations to try to force a lone wolf/ mental
illness interpretation on events. What does seem apparent is that Jo
Cox was a genuinely decent person who will be greatly missed in
parliament and elsewhere.
It seems to me that Cameron is screwed whichever way the vote
goes. If it's remain then there are enough Tory leave supporters to
make his life hell and if its leave then his position would seem
If it's leave then the UK will become a nasty, even more right wing
country under the influence of Johnson, Gove, Farage etc.
I know that from an economic point of view probably there wouldn't
be as much change as some say but the lurch to the right of the Tory
party would be inevitable and to a Socialist like me almost
unbearable. It's ironic that it would be the working poor in this
country, a good proportion of which support leaving, that would mainly
bear the consequences.