Sunday, February 26, 2017
Another week, so here we go again.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Kevin Carey: Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era
Tom Engelhardt: A Trumpian Snapshot of America: The list of things
gone wrong in America is trenchant as usual, but his nutshell conclusion
leaves something to be desired:
We're living, that is, in an ever more chaotic and aberrant land run
(to the extent it's run at all) by billionaires and retired generals,
and overseen by a distinctly aberrant president at war with aberrant
parts of the national security state. That, in a nutshell, is the
America created in the post-9/11 years. Put another way, the U.S. may
have failed dismally in its efforts to invade, occupy, and remake Iraq
in its own image, but it seems to have invaded, occupied, and remade
itself with remarkable success.
Not sure what the last part even means, but the state we're in is
clearly due to two inadequately checked notions: one is the fact that
we've allowed the rich in America (and throughout much of the world)
to become utterly shameless in their pursuit of ever greater wealth;
the other is that we've allowed the US and its "allies" to engage in
perpetual war. Unfortunately, it's not just the Republicans who have
invested in those notions. A large segment of the Democratic Party has
too -- notably Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and new DNC Chairman Tom
Julie Hirschfield Davis/Michael M Grynbaum: Trump Intensifies His Attacks
on Journalists and Condemns FBI 'Leakers'
Max Paul Friedman: Trump's Refugee Ban Is Even Crueler Than You Think.
Michelle Goldberg: It's Bad: "The first month of the Trump presidency
has been more cruel and destructive than the majority of Americans feared.
The worst is yet to come." More (although I would have picked a totally
different laundry list, emphasizing how mainstream Republicans loom as
the real threat to most people):
Every day there's a new Trumpian outrage that in an ordinary presidency
would be a multiday scandal: an ostensibly light-hearted threat to invade
Mexico, a casual dismissal of a potential Palestinian state, a feud with
a reporter or an actor or a department store. Trump lies so much it's as
if he's intentionally mocking the impotence of truth. He shamelessly
profits off his office, reveling in our powerlessness to stop him. His
closest aide is an unkempt racist who has described Nazi propagandist
Leni Riefenstahl as a role model. A senior adviser uses her administration
perch to hawk the president's daughter's line of polyester-blend workwear
in a blatant violation of ethics rules. Trump himself is either enmeshed
in a subversive relationship with Vladimir Putin, or he's willing to appear
to be. He and his coterie make a fetish of patriotism yet take a perverse
antinomian pleasure in defiling the presidency.
I count Goldberg among those left-leaning liberals who actually thought
Hillary Clinton promised good progressive policy, as opposed to those of
us who saw her as a marginal (but clear) alternative to the vicious slime
that other party was offering. Scapegoating Putin and Russia is ridiculous
on its face, and wrapped up with the sort of imperialist and belligerent
jargon Democrats should know better than spouting, but evidently Clinton's
most dead-end supporters still find that preferable to admitting her faults
and starting to correct for them.
Glenn Greenwald: The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a
Long-Standing US Playbook. Also see:
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Neo-McCarthyite furor around Russia is
Nicholas Kulish/et al: Immigration Agents Discover New Freedom to Deport
Under Trump. Another example:
Australian children's author Mem Fox detained by US border control.
Josh Marshall: Tourism Industry Hit by Trumpism Bigly, also
Anne Kim: The Long-Term Economic Wreckage of Trump's Travel Ban.
Oliver Milman: Scott Pruitt vows to slash climate and water pollution
regulations at CPAC: Pruitt is Trump's new EPA head -- one of the
very worst imaginable people for the job, and likely to be one of the
most destructive forces in our near future.
Sarah Posner: CPAC's Flirtation With the Alt-Right Is Turning Awkward.
Steven Simon/Daniel Benjamin: The Islamophobic Huckster in the White
House: Specifically, Sebastian Gorka, "an itinerant instructor in
the doctrine of irregular warfare and former national security editor
at Breitbart," which is, of course, the rock Steve Bannon found him
lurking under. Also see:
Jacky Fortin: Who Is Sebastian Gorka? A Trump Adviser Comes Out of the
Shadows. If you're keeping track of such things, note that Gorka
is an immigrant (born in the UK of Hungarian parents, although he is
now a US citizen) and was recently arrested (for carrying a gun into
an airport, but the charge was later dropped).
Jessica Valenti: Milo Yiannopoulos isn't the only bigot Republicans
are cozy with.
Olathe shooting: Friend and widow on US shooting: Surprised not
to see any coverage of this in the Wichita Eagle, but BBC is all
over it. Olathe is near Kansas City. The shooter targeted several
people of Indian descent, first asking if they were "in the United
States illegally, questioning where he'd come from." Of course,
White House: 'Absurd' to Suggest KS Shooting Linked to Trump's
Jamelle Bouie: A Deafening Silence.
Paul Woodward collected this and similar links, including other events
following the same pattern.
The Eagle did have a lot of coverage of the one-year
anniversary of a mass shooting in Hesston, northwest of Wichita.
One tidbit there was that the shooter explained he did meth rather
than marijuana because his company (the scene of the shooting)
drug-tested employees and meth was harder to detect.
Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's
bout of political insanity:
Andrew Bacevich: At the Altar of American Greatness: There's a line
deep into this piece about how "it's the politics that's gotten smaller,"
and indeed this piece is a good deal smaller than at first advertised --
see the subtitle: "David Brooks on Making America Great Again." Brooks
is normally an easy target, but Bacevich stumbles, declaring "among
contemporary journalists, he is our Walter Lippmann, the closest thing
we have to an establishment-approved public intellectual." Lippmann
retired in 1967, so for me was a famous name that signified little --
even today most of what I know about him I had gleaned from Walter
Karp's The Politics of War, which featured him as a prominent
hawk behind the so-called Great War, but while he often catered to
political power, the main thing he's remembered for was his cynicism
about the ignorance and gullibility of the American people. Brooks,
on the other hand, is little more than a partisan hack with a bit of
cosmopolitan make up to pass muster with New York/Washington elites.
Still, it's interesting that Bacevich digs up a Brooks column from
1997 prefiguring Donald Trump (cue Marx's joke about tragedy/farce),
titled "A Return to National Greatness" -- a title Brooks reiterated
in 2017. Especially precious is the line: "The things Americans do
are not for themselves only, but for all mankind." He should pinch
himself to recall that he's talking about a country which positively
worships the ideal of individuals pursuing their self-interest -- as
witnessed by the fact that we just elected as president a guy who has
done nothing but for more than fifty years.
Under the circumstances, it's easy to forget that, back in 2003, he
and other members of the Church of America the Redeemer devoutly
supported the invasion of Iraq. They welcomed war. They urged it.
They did so not because Saddam Hussein was uniquely evil -- although
he was evil enough -- but because they saw in such a war the means
for the United States to accomplish its salvific mission. Toppling
Saddam and transforming Iraq would provide the mechanism for affirming
and renewing America's "national greatness."
Anyone daring to disagree with that proposition they denounced as
craven or cowardly. Writing at the time, Brooks disparaged those
opposing the war as mere "marchers." They were effete, pretentious,
ineffective, and absurd. [ . . . ]
In refusing to reckon with the results of the war he once so
ardently endorsed, Brooks is hardly alone. Members of the Church of
America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably
incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary
efforts have yielded.
Brooks belongs, or once did, to the Church's neoconservative branch.
But liberals such as Bill Clinton, along with his secretary of state
Madeleine Albright, were congregants in good standing, as were Barack
Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton. So, too, are putative
conservatives like Senators John McCain, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, all
of them subscribing to the belief in the singularity and indispensability
of the United States as the chief engine of history, now and forever.
[ . . . ]
That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed
of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth,
much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of
a country providentially charged to serve as the "successor to Jerusalem,
Athens, and Rome." In fact, this conception of America's purpose expresses
not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own
arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the
wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump.
Srecko Horvat: Tom Hardy's Taboo goes to the heart of our new imperialist
darkness: Not sure the series is that coherent, but the asides like how
"colonialism doesn't cause misery only in poorer countries, it boomerangs
back to rich countries with their rising inequality" are spot on. Also he
notes how today private companies, much like the "honourable" British East
India Company two centuries ago, have become far-from-benign forces all
around the world (and he didn't even cite Exxon Mobil as an example).
Robin McKie: Biologists say half of all species could be extinct by end
of century: Not really a new story: I read a lot about mass extinction
back in the 1990s and maybe earlier, when the Alvarez theory of the K-T
extinction event became popular and Carl Sagan came up with the notion of
"nuclear winter." So, no surprise that it's gotten worse. Still, I'm struck
by how the threat has receded in our consciousness as our politicians keep
coming up with more urgent short-term crises. Thinking about the end of
the century has started to look like a luxury.
John Nichols: Tom Perez Narrowly Defeats Keith Ellison for DNC Chair:
Margin over Keith Ellison was 35 votes. It's tempting to regard Perez
as a corporate stooge, but
Esme Cribb has him saying some useful things, like: "I heard from rural
America that the Democratic Party hasn't been there for us recently"; "We
also have to redefine our mission"; and "Our unity is our greatest strength,
and frankly our unity is Donald Trump's greatest nightmare." Underscoring
that unity, he named Ellison "deputy chair" (see
Trump Claims DNC Chair Race Was 'Totally Rigged,' Offers No Evidence.