Sunday, June 19, 2016

Weekend Roundup

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 pretty hit-and-miss.

  • 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 Him.

  • Some light reading on Donald Trump:

Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:


David Everall [Mon, June 20, 2016, 6:44 am]

A few quick observations on the EU Referendum item in your latest weekend roundup.

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 directly.

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 untenable.

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.