Sunday, September 15, 2019
No time (or stomach?) for an introduction.
Some scattered links this week:
Andrew J Bacevich:
What to know what's next for Afghanistan? Ask Vietnam. I have my
doubts about the analogy, but the final point about carelessness is
well taken. Related: Stephen M Walt:
We lost the war in Afghanistan. Get over it.
A generation of economists helped get us into this mess. A new generation
can get us out. Refers to Binyamin Appelbaum's book, The Economist's
Hour, for the first assertion.
A shared place: "Wendell Berry's lifelong dissent."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Trump wants to cut the safety net. It kept 47 million people out of poverty
What if the only Democrat who isn't too radical to win is too old?
Perhaps the reason neoliberals argue for Biden on electability grounds
is that they recognize their positive program has no real appeal beyond
the wealthy liberal donor class. At least with Biden, you get a cipher
who signifies no big changes without even trying to explain why.
Watch Liz Cheney and Rand Paul fight over who Trump loves more:
As befitting his very large ego and power and very tiny brain, Donald
Trump is constantly surrounded by people trying to manipulate him. . . .
On most issues, Trump does not know what to think, so he gravitates
toward whatever position is expressed more sycophantically. The
"debates" within the party therefore play out in the form of competitive
groveling for his favor. . . . The secret here is that Paul and Cheney,
while anchoring opposite sides of an intellectual debate within their
party, both consider Trump a moron, but each thinks he or she can gain
influence with him and his supporters by presenting the other one as
John Bolton era ends with no casualties except Bolton's dignity:
Talk about lowering the bar: "The fact we made it through Bolton's
17-month-long tenure without killing tens of millions of people
counts as a major win." More on Bolton:
How Trump learned to make 9/11 a racket. Related: Zak Cheney-Rice:
The uses of 9/11.
Trump has figured out how to corrupt the entire government. Given
what he had to start with, it couldn't have been that hard. Trump's
contribution was his venality and utter shamelessness, along with his
implicit guarantee that none of his minions would bear any risk for
doing business. (Note that Tom Price, Scott Pruit, and Ryan Zinke
managed to lose their jobs anyway. But nobody's holding their breath
waiting for Bill Barr to prosecute them.)
None of these stories by itself has the singular drama of a Teapot
Dome or a Watergate. Indeed, the mere fact that there is so much
corruption prevents any single episode from capturing the imagination
of the media and the public. But it is the totality of dynamic that
matters. A corrupt miasma has slowly enveloped Washington. For
generations, both parties generally upheld an assumption that the
government would abide rules and norms dividing its proper functioning
from the president's personal and political interests.
The norm of bureaucratic professionalism and fairness is a pillar
of the political legitimacy and economic strength of the American system,
the thing that separates countries like the U.S. from countries like
Russia. The decay of that culture is difficult to quantify, but the
signs are everywhere. Trump's stench is slowly seeping into every
corner of government.
Wilbur Ross's threat to fire NOAA officials over a tweet turns Sharpiegate
into a real scandal.
Manny Fernandez/Miriam Jordan/Zolan Kanno-Youngs/Caitlin Dickinson:
'People actively hate us': Inside the Border Patrol's morale crisis.
The moral logic of humanitarian intervention: A writer I never expect
much from takes on a subject I'm not interested in (Samantha Power), least
of all by him. Still, this raises real questions, like what gives her the
right to decide who to "protect"? And how "humanitarian" is it really to
intervene with anything from Seal Team 6 to full infantry divisions? And
once you've done it so badly, what makes you think the next time will be
any different? As Filkins notes, "during her years in the White House, it
became clear that benevolent motives can have calamitous results."
What went down in the Third Democratic Debate: The "live blog"
transcript, followed by
Who won the Third Democratic Debate?. More links:
Lisa Friedman/Coral Davenport:
Trump administration rolls back clean water protections.
President Trump wages war on government and expertise, and our institutions
Did Brett Kavanaugh perjure himself during his confirmation hearing?
"New allegations are raising questions about whether he met the very
high bar for perjury." Not the only Kavanaugh piece this week:
Saudi oil attack prompts more incoherence from Trump administration.
The best case for and against a fracking ban.
Israel and the decline of the liberal order.
The forces that are killing the American dream: Review of Nicholas
Lemann's Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of
the American Dream. For another review, see Robert Christgau:
To bust you shall return.
The Republican Party is (probably) not doomed. Refers to, and argues
with, Stanley B Greenberg:
The Republican Party is doomed, which starts:
The 2020 election will be transformative like few in our history. It will
end with the death of the Republican Party as we know it, leaving the
survivors to begin the struggle to renew the party of Lincoln and make
it relevant for our times. It will liberate the Democratic Party from
the country's suffocating polarization and allow it to use government
to address the vast array of problems facing the nation.
It's possible the GOP is on the cusp of maxing out its appeal with
rural voters and its capacity to bend election law to its own ends.
But any persuasive case for the party's imminent demise must explain
why the party's structural advantages will fail it. Establishing that
Republicans have alienated a majority of Americans is insufficient.
If this country were governed by popular sovereignty, the GOP would
already be dead.
Greenberg expands on his argument his new book: R.I.P. G.O.P.:
How the New America Is Dooming the Republicans. Also on Greenberg:
Dare we dream of the end of the GOP? Goldberg, by the way, also
Mazel tov, Trump. You've revived the Jewish left.
Jonathan Franzen's climate pessimism is justified. His fatalism is not.
I cited Franzen's article,
What if we stopped pretending, favorably last week, so I was surprised
to find the article widely attacked from the "left" -- I've lost track of
the tweets (Roxanne Gay is the one name I recall), but this riposte by
Jeet Heer seems typical:
Jonathan Franzen pens another environmental disaster story ("the famed
novelist is resigned to a global ecological catastrophe because his
imagination can't move beyond the status quo"). I'm generally dismissive
of complaints about "leftist thought police," but that pegs Heer pretty
well.has little more
to offer. Levitz is only marginally more sensible, conceding the facts
if not the attitude. Other articles (mostly against) Franzen:
Biden camp thinks the media just doesn't get it: "The vice president's
allies say neither detractors in the media, nor his rivals on the stump,
understand the root of his appeal."
The Supreme Court has delivered a devastating blow to the US asylum
US has spent six trillion dollars on wars that killed half a million
people since 9/11, report says: George Bush effectively responded
to Osama Bin Laden's 9/11 taunt with: "You think that's terror. I'll
show you terror." Bush and the political class brought America down
to Al Qaeda's level within weeks, and kept digging for 18 years and
counting. While Bush is gone, the politicians and pundits who backed
and blessed him have continued his path of destruction.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Congress has only three weeks to avert another government shutdown.
Tweeted this along the way:
Bush effectively responded to Bin Laden's 9/11 taunt with: "You think
that's terror. I'll show you terror." Bush and the political class
brought America down to Al Qaeda's level within weeks, and kept digging,
18+ years: [Link:
U.S. has spent $6 trillion on wars that killed 500,000 people since