Sunday, August 20, 2023
Speaking of Which
Didn't really start until Friday, but by now this pretty much
writes itself. I do notice that I'm dropping more bits of memoir
into the mix. Also that I needn't comment on everything. But do
read the Astra Taylor piece. Not sure when the new book is coming
out, but you probably have time to Democracy May Not Exist:
But We'll Miss It When It's Gone first.
I clicked on a bunch of articles, and ran into the paywall at
The New Republic. Evidently my wife's subscription had
expired. It's probably worth straightening out ($15/year is pretty
decent as these things go), but meanwhile the articles that looked
promising but I wasn't able to read:
Top story threads:
Trump: He got indicted again, and the resulting tsunami
of press earned him his own section, separate from the Republican
Alexander Bolton: [08-14]
GOP sees turnout disaster without Trump. This suggests that
a sizable bloc of Trump supporters will only turn out for him,
so that if Republicans run some other candidate with the same
effective program, a lot of voters are likely to pass. And since
Republicans have alienated most people, they can only continue
to win by thin margins (even trying to rig them, as they do).
It is certainly true that a lot of Trump supporters really hate
many other Republicans -- Mitch McConnell is a good example --
although they hate Democrats so much more that the GOP benefits
when they show up. It's also true that Trump's fans are
spectacularly misinformed about nearly everything, which is
a trait Republican strategists bank on.
Jonathan Chait: [08-15]
Lindsey Graham: Don't indict Trump, or impeach Trump, or vote against
him: Two thoughts here: one is the extended portrait of Graham in
Mark Leibovich's Thank You for Your Servitude, which paints
Graham as an innate lap dog, who once took John McCain as his leader,
a role that, to the surprise of pretty much everyone, Trump has since
assumed (the insecurity to have made that transition is staggering);
the other is the old maxim, "all's fair in love and war." We won't
talk about Graham's love life, but no one in Congress in eons has
exhibited a more kneejerk affection for war. Graham has always seen
politics as war, so as long as Trump can be seen as an effective
warrior (and Graham can hardly see him otherwise), anything can be
excused (and most of it can be celebrated).
Kyle Cheney: [08-15]
Special counsel obtained Trump DMs despite 'momentous' bid by Twitter
to delay, unsealed filings show.
Isaac Chotiner: [08-16]
The benefits and drawbacks to charging Trump like a mobster:
"Racketeering statutes allow prosecutors to arrange many characters
and a broad set of allegations into a single narrative." Interview
with Caren Myers Morrison. Many people have observed that the Trump
indictments are designed to tell stories. Morrison contrasts Georgia
and Smith: "The other one's Raymond Carver, and this is Dickens."
Matthew Cooper: [08-17]
Willis's indictment is "an overwhelming show of force . . . shock
and awe": Interview with Jennifer Taub.
Norman Eisen/Amy Lee Copeland: [08-15]
This indictment of Trump does something ingenious.
Adam Gopnik: [08-16]
There is nothing élitist about the indictments against Trump:
"The judicial system is doing its work, and the former President
has never been a man of the people."
Danny Hakim/Richard Fausset: [08-14]
Two months in Georgia: How Trump tried to overturn the vote.
Trump cancels press conference, will lie in legal filings instead:
On Monday, he promised to unveil on Friday an "Irrefutable REPORT"
about "the 2020 presidential election fraud that took place in
Georgia." Then, big surprise, he bailed.
Melania really doesn't care about Trump's indictment, do u?
I had this theory back in 1988 that one of the reasons Bush won
(besides Willie Horton, you know) was that voters took pity and
decided to spare Kitty Dukakis the ordeal of being First Lady.
She was clearly unstable and easily freaked out during the
campaign, whereas, well, you might not like Barbara Bush, but
you knew she could take it. It's hard for me to gin up any
sympathy for Melania, but maybe someone should take pity on
her. Maybe not as much as I dread a second Trump term, but
putting her through a second term as First Lady seems like a
lot of unnecessary cruelty.
w/Chas Danner: [08-19]
Giuliani begged, but Trump refused to cover his crushing legal
Richard L Hasen: [08-15]
The biggest difference between the Georgia indictment and the Jan. 6
indictment: Race, which enters from several angles, but especially
from Trump, who wasted no time in calling the prosecutor racist.
Quinta Jurecic: [08-15]
Trump discovers that some things are actually illegal: "The cases
against the former president aren't criminalizing politics. They're
criminalizing, well, crimes."
Ed Kilgore: [08-17]
A pardon won't save Trump if he's convicted in Georgia: They've
rigged the system to make pardons virtually impossible.
Ian Millhiser: [08-15]
Will anyone trust these hyper-politicized courts to try Donald
Trump? "The federal judiciary is a cesspool of partisanship,
and now it's being asked to oversee some of the most politically
fraught criminal trials in American history."
Lisa Needham: [08-15]
Trump's Fulton County indictment, unpacked.
Andrew Prokop: [08-15]
The five conspiracies at the heart of the Georgia Trump indictment:
- Trump's effort to get Georgia officials and legislators to change
- Trump's fake electors
- Jeff Clark's effort to have the US Justice Department case doubt
on Georgia results
- Trump allies' effort to influence poll worker Ruby Freeman's
- Trump allies' breach of voting data in Coffee County, Georgia
Matt Stieb: [08-18]
Threats from Trump supporters are piling up against the authorities:
This seems like one of those articles that's going to grow to book
length by the end of the year. The right-wing ecosystem is a cesspool
of hate and malice, so violence is inevitable, and not necessarily
preceded by easily traceable threats (such as the late
Jennifer Rubin: [08-20]
Why Trump's Georgia case likely can't be removed to federal
Charles P Pierce: [08-18]
I'm starting to think Donald Trump is untrustworthy: "He canceled
a Monday presser that was sure to be the mother of all conditions of
Tatyana Tandanpolie: [08-16]
Economic analyst stunned at sources of Jared Kushner's funds:
"Just 1% of investments in Kushner's fund came from sources in the
United States." No doubt Trump has done a lot of disreputable and
dishonest things to get money, but he's never come remotely close
to the heist his son-in-law pulled off, leveraging his multiple
White House portfolios. The 1% figure looks bad, but the really
outrageous number is $3 billion.
Hunter Walker: [08-15]
The full story behind the bizarre episode that led to charges in
Trump's latest indictment: "How Kanye West's publicist, an "MMA
fighter," and a Lutehran pastor teamed up to pressure a Georgia
Amy B Wang/Josh Dawsey: [08-19]
Trump to release taped interview with Tucker Carlson, skipping GOP
Odette Yousef: [08-18]
Threats, slurs and menace: Far-right websites target Fulton County
grand jurors. Follow-up: Holly Bailey/Hannah Allam: [08-18]
FBI joins investigation of threats to grand jurors in Trump Georgia
Li Zhou/Andrew Prokop: [08-16]
Trump's 4 indictments, ranked by the stakes: About what you'd
expect, but the Georgia election case could add up to more time
than the federal election case, and couldn't be pardoned by a
Republican president. (As I understand it, the Georgia governor
doesn't have pardon power like the US president has. To secure
a pardon in Georgia, you have to go before the state parole
board.) The New York charges would also be more difficult to
pardon, but aren't very likely to result in jail time. Ranked
third is the federal documents case. The charges there are
pretty air tight, and the maximum sentences are very long,
plus such cases are usually judged harshly.
James D Zirin: [08-15]
Will the prosecution of Trump have terrible consequences?
"Maybe, but they're likely to be far less terrible than if he
wasn't prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." I'm not
sure I understand either argument. If Trump had quietly faded
into oblivion, as Nixon did, I could see letting these charges
slip by -- although pleading them out would have been better.
But Trump couldn't let it go, so now he really should face a
reckoning with his crimes (at least those he's been charged
with -- no doubt there were many more). Will this have a
chilling effect on the behavior of future presidents? Let's
This is an aside, but I hadn't realized that Gerald Ford
was given a
John F Kennedy Profile in Courage award for pardoning Nixon.
There was nothing conventionally recognizable as courage in that
pardon. It was pure cover-up, meant to short-circuit further
investigations, taking the story out of the press cycle, and
saving Republicans from the continued association. Still, in
one sense the award was completely predictable. In
his 1956 book, Kennedy devoted a chapter to Edmund G. Ross
for voting against impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who had become
president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and who
used his office to sabotage Reconstruction, speeding the return
of white racist power in the South. Another of Kennedy's profiles
was Robert A Taft, who was praised for his criticism of the
Nurembert Trials of Nazi war criminals.
Zack Beauchamp: [08-17]
The Trump indictments reveal a paradox at the heart of American
democracy: "The Trump cases help us understand how America's
democracy can be both strong and weak at the same time." Last
section sketches out what he calls "the ominous Israeli parallel,"
which is interesting in that few people are willing to take it
seriously, but is not quite the one I would make.
way to make sense of politics among Israeli Jews is to divide it
on two axes: conservative vs. liberal/socialist, religious vs.
secular. The Palestinian "citizens of Israel" are off on the
side, with their own conservative (religious) vs. socialist
(liberal/secular) spread, but they are rigidly excluded from
consideration by Jewish Israelis. The secular/liberal sector
was dominant up to 1978, and still an important factor up to
2000, but have since been largely wiped out, as the right has
taken the lead in fighting the Palestinians, while neoliberal
economic policies have undermined traditional support for
Labor. The religious parties early on were content to seek
special favors from joining Labor coalitions, but with the
rise of the right, they gravitated that way, and recently have
become even more anti-Palestinian.
That same matrix model works reasonably well for the US, at
least if you buy the superficially ridiculous idea that Trump
is the manifestation of the religious right. The key thing is
that the more violence against others, the more people rally
to the cult of violence, which is most clearly represented by
the party of Armageddon.
The big question in Israel is whether the threat to democracy
from the religious right, which thus far Likud has indulged, will
push enough moderate voters into opposition to curb the threat
from the far right -- which threatens not just democracy but
genocide. One could imagine a similar dynamic in America, but
the far-right is mostly out of power here, unable to manufacture
crises (although Abbott and DeSantis are trying), and are faced
with a more deeply democratic/liberal political culture. Still,
that Trump can be seriously considered as a political force, and
that Republicans have had so much luck leveraging their power
bases, means that the threat here is real. To get a better idea
of how real that could be, look no farther than Israel.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Jonathan Chait: [08-18]
'Lock them up' is now the Republican Party's highest goal:
"It's no longer about policy or even culture war but prosecutorial
revenge." Nobody seems to remember this, but it was GW Bush who
started started the purge of politically unreliable US attorneys
back in 2006 (see
Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy). I don't recall
anything remotely like that under Obama, and Biden hasn't lifted
a finger to curtail the Trump-appointed US attorney prosecuting
Hunter Biden. You'd think that if Republicans genuinely objected
to the partisan nature of being prosecuted by Democrats, they'd
deny that if given the chance they'd do the same thing, but the
opposite appears to be true: they're chomping at the bit. One
pretty good bit here, about Trump:
Trump's legal jeopardy is easily explained: His private sector
record was a long history of shady associations with gangsters
and running scams. His presidency was a continuous procession of
his own advisers pleading with him not to do illegal things while
he complained that his attorneys weren't as unethical as Roy Cohn,
the mob lawyer he once employed.
I wouldn't have bothered with the last clause, as anyone familiar
with Cohn knows that representing the mob was nowhere near the most
unethical thing Cohn did. Also that Cohn was more of a mentor to
Trump than an employee.
PS: Steve M. comments on Chait's piece: [08-18]
Republicans think Democrats stole their act (and are doing it
better), starting with a tweet from Ben Shapiro (if you
don't know who he is, Nathan J Robinson has
written reams on him):
Whatever you think of the Trump indictments, one thing is for certain:
the glass has now been broken over and over again. Political opponents
can be targeted by legal enemies. Running for office now carries the
legal risk of going to jail -- on all sides.
In some sense, that risk has always been there. John Adams passed
laws to criminalize the speech of his political opponents, but he
never got around to prosecuting his vice president, Thomas Jefferson,
who did wind up prosecuting his, Aaron Burr. But for the most part,
politicians behaved themselves, or at least managed to keep above
the fray when their subordinates misbehaved (Grant, Harding, and
Reagan are classic examples; Nixon only escaped with a pardon). But
the idea of using criminal prosecutions for political leverage was
mostly developed against Clinton, a period when "no one is above
the law" was etched on every Republican's lips. Nothing comparable
happened on during the Bush and Obama presidencies, although several
people wrote books urging the impeachment of Bush (Elizabeth de la
Vega was one, in 2006, although the Democratic Congress elected
that year didn't touch it), and (as Chait noted) Shapiro himself
wrote The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against
the Obama Administration, structuring his complaints as a RICO
Trump, on the other hand, was hellbent on prosecuting his opponents
from early in the campaign, when "lock her up" became a rally chant.
He toned back a bit after taking office, probably realizing that he
didn't really have the power to order prosecutions (though Nixon
probably did just that with the Chicago 8 and Daniel Ellsberg), but
where he did have power he exercised it politically (e.g., to fire
James Comey, and to pardon a number of his allies). And in general,
he behaved as someone convinced he was above the law, as someone
who could never be held to account for trampling on the law, as
someone who had no sense of justice other than seizing advantage.
And he was above the law, until he wasn't. Prosecution for his
crimes may be precedent-setting, but the crimes are very carefully
defined, and the evidence overwhelming. As a precedent, it's also
a pretty high bar. If a Democrat did anything comparable, most of
us would have no problems with prosecution.
Beth Harpaz/Jacob Kornbluh: [08-14]
Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn blamed Jews for boarding trains
to Asuchwitz: And "more offensive comments he's made about Jews."
But not a single one involved Israel, so he must be OK.
Ed Kilgore: [08-18]
DeSantis targeting Ramaswamy in a debate a sure sign he's losing:
It's hard to see how calling him an "inauthentic conservative" will
pay off, but bashing Ramaswamy as a Hindu should help DeSantis with
his bigotry bona fides.
Eric Levitz: [08-19]
The rise of the young, liberal, nonwhite Republican
Nia Prater: [08-17]
Trump supporter arrested for threatening to kill Trump's trial
Matt Stieb: [08-18]
James O'Keefe is now under criminal investigation: Conservative
provocateur, recently ousted as CEO of Project Veritas, appears to
be one of those guys whose "favorite charity" is himself.
Ben Terris: [08-17]
Awkward Americans see themselves in Ron DeSantis: I'm not sure
which one this reflects more embarrassingly on: the candidate or
the journalist (who at least asks one further question: "but do
they like what they see?").
Chris Walker: [08-16]
Arkansas rejects credit for AP Black History -- but Europe history
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [08-17]
In Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republicans have something new: This
left me hoping we never have to take him seriously, but fearing
that he's proving much more effective at shoveling bullshit than
his milquetoast competitors.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Aaron Gregg/Jacob Bogage: [08-14]
After conservatives' Target boycott, Stephen Miller group sues over
losses. Miller's group is called America First Legal, "which
bills itself as the conservative movement's 'long-awaited answer
to the ACLU.'" It's unclear whether their mission is simply to
degrade and ultimately destroy Americans' civil liberties, or they
just mean to file lawsuits, like this one, to harass their imagined
The fight over whether courts can ban mifepristone is headed back
to the Supreme Court: "The far-right court just tried to ban
an abortion drug. Here's why you can ignore that."
The case for optimism about the Supreme Court: "There are some
terrible things that even this Supreme Court isn't willing to do."
With power comes some measure of responsibility, I guess -- something
Thomas and Alito never learned, possibly because when they joined
the Court, right-wing agitators were still a minority. Or they may
simply bear in mind the threat that Congress can still restructure
the Court, a chance that goes up the more they embarrass themselves
as political hacks. Roosevelt's "pack the court" scheme wasn't very
popular, but ultimately failed because a majority of the Court read
the tea leaves and decided that Congress could legislate on issues
like child labor after all ("the switch in time that saved nine").
Andrew Perez/Julia Rock: [08-18]
The antiabortion judge with a financial ethics problem: James
Ho, who cast the decisive vote in the mifepristone case Millhiser
wrote about above. His wife, Allyson Ho, has "participated in events
with the Alliance Defending Freedom and accepted honoraria, or speaking
fees, every year between 2018 and 2021."
Climate and Environment: Record-setting high temperatures
here in Wichita, yesterday and today and probably tomorrow. Next week
we'll probably have news about Atlantic hurricanes, as no less than
five suspects have been identified late this week. And while the
rubble of Maui and the evacuation of Yellowknife are the big fire
stories below, there are also big ones in
Sue Halpern: [07-13]
Vermont's catastrophic floods and the spread of unnatural disasters.
Ellen Ioanes: [08-20]
Why Hurricane Hilary is so strange -- and how it could impact
California. Here's the
tracking and forecast.
[PS: There was also
a 5.1-magnitude earthquake, presumably unrelated, although in my
part of the country, water injected into faults does cause earthquakes.]
Benji Jones: [08-18]
9 things everyone should know about Maui's wildfire disaster.
Starts with: 1) This is the nation's deadliest wildfire in more than
a century; 2) More than 2,200 structures in the town of Lahaina were
damaged or destroyed; . . .
Mike Lee/Adam Aton: [08-17]
Electric cars face 'punitive' fees, new restrictions in many states:
"A growing number of conservative states are imposing new taxes on
drivers using electric vehicle charging stations and trying to limit
EV sales." Texas is prominent here, but unbeknownst to me, Kansas has
one too. Part of the rationale has to do with lost gas tax revenues,
but you're also losing a lot of pollution and other rarely recovered
Canada's raging fires have burned the equivalent of Alabama:
"Wildfires continue to rage in Canada, burning twice as much land
as any previous season.
Yellowknife is being evacuated, as there are more than 200
wildfires in the Northwest Territories.
Brutal heat wave developing over central US, with excessive heat watches
in Midwest: It hit 110°F here in Wichita on Saturday, with Sunday
forecast for the same, and another five days of 100°F or higher.
/Diana Leonard/Ian Livingston: [08-19]
Hurricane Hilary barrelling toward California, 'life-threatening'
flooding possible Sunday: Winds are expected to weaken to
tropical storm levels, which would still make it the first such
storm to his southern California since 1939. [PS: Ioanes, above,
Hurricane Nora in 1997 as the most recent similar storm. Its
path was somewhat to the east, so Arizona and Utah were most
Kelsey Piper: [08-17]
We're bad at predicting the future and there's no way around it:
"Technology improves over time, but it's hard to know what that means
when it comes to calculating the social cost of carbon."
Blaise Malley: [08-18]
Diplomacy Watch: Will Russia follow through on Black Sea threats?
"Tensions are gripping the region as Ukraine begins to allow free
passage from its ports past the grain blockade." The end of the
Black Sea Grain initiative, and the subsequent Russian bombing of
Ukrainian ports, not only hurts world food supplies, it also means
suggests that Russia has decided that agreeing to such limits on
its warmaking won't lead to further negotiation. This is at least
partly the result of Ukraine crossing various red lines (mostly
through drone attacks, ranging from Black Sea ships to the Kerch
Strait Bridge to spots in Moscow), and partly due to ever-tightening
sanctions hurting Russia's efforts to export its own agricultural
products. Ukraine, meanwhile, is daring Russia to attack ships in
its newly-christened "humanitarian corridor." Nothing else in this
report suggests any diplomatic progress.
Paul Dixon: [08-15]
Five lessons from Northern Ireland for ending the Ukraine war.
These points are fairly reasonable -- especially the second that
"everyone must win" -- but it seems to me that a partition plan,
decided by popular vote that hands Russia a slice of Ukraine
somewhere between the pre-2022 secession borders and the current
battle lines, would be cleaner and simpler than trying to come
up with a power-sharing agreement under a neutral Ukraine. That
would allow Ukraine to join the EU and (effectively if not quite
completely) NATO, while allowing ethnic Russians the option of
moving east), so the pre-2014 divisions would effectively vanish.
(One wrinkle I would like to see is the option of a revote in 5
years. That would provide both powers with incentives to rebuild
and to rule responsibly.)
Benjamin Hart: [08-14]
How Ukraine's counteroffensive might end: Interview with John
Nagl, now a "professor of warfighting studies at U.S. Army War
College," once regarded as one of the Army's counterinsurgency
gurus. He's pretty gung ho on Ukraine, but he also admits that
Ukraine can't fight the war the way Americans would, and that's
the way he most believes in. He cites a piece by Steve Biddle: [08-10]
Back in the Trenches ("why new technology hasn't revolutionized
warfare in Ukraine") that gets technical about weapons systems and
trench warfare, while ignoring the only fact that matters: that this
war cannot be resolved on the battle field.
John Hudson/Alex Horton: [08-17]
US intelligence says Ukraine will fail to meet offensive's key
goal: "Thwarted by minefields, Ukrainian forces won't reach
the southeastern city of Melitopol, a vital Russian transit hub,
according to a US intelligence assessment."
Michael Karadjis: [08-17]
The Global South's views on Ukraine are more complex than you may
think: "The claim that developing countries are neutral about
the war or even pro-Russian oversimplifies and distorts a more
Paul Krugman: [08-15]
Science, technology and war beyond the bomb: Tries to make a
case that superior technology and "under the surface" tactical
adjustments may still give Ukraine a counteroffensive breakthrough,
analogous to the WWII Battle of the Atlantic. In support of this,
he cites a piece by Phillips P O'Brien: [07-23]
Weekend Update #38, arguing "Please give this time."
Branko Marcetic: [08-14]
Can Washington pivot from its maximalist aims in Ukraine?
Actually, many American presidents have talked themselves into
a blind alley. Truman couldn't accept a Korean armistice that
Eisenhower signed right after he took office. Johnson never got
a chance to negotiate a deal in Vietnam. Perhaps most egregiously,
GWH Bush's insistence that Saddam Hussein was Hitler redux made
it impossible to explain why he stopped the rout at the border
of Kuwait, leading to the grudge match in 2013. Anyone portraying
Ukraine as a life-or-death struggle for democracy is either full
of shit or incapable of thinking two or three moves ahead. Hard
to tell about Biden, but some of his people definitely are both.
Peter Rutland: [08-14]
Why the Black Sea is becoming ground zero in the Ukraine War:
"Kyiv's counteroffensive efforts have focused on cutting Russia
off from Crimea, while the grain export deal continues to falter."
Ted Snider: [08-16]
Why peace talks, but no peace? When I saw this piece, I guessed
it was about the recent conclave in Saudi Arabia which Russia wasn't
invited to -- really more of Ukraine rehearsing its talking points
Kyiv says Jeddah participants back Ukraine territorial integrity in
any peace deal) -- but this goes back to actual talks, both
before and after invasion, which the US and UK helped subvert.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-17]
Bill Kristol leads charge to make Republicans think 'right' on
Ukraine: The neocon founder is juicing over another war,
and has some lobbying money to work with, though probably not
enough to stand up to Trump.
Marcus Walker: [08-20]
Why Russia's war in Ukraine could run for years: "The reason isn't
just that the front-line combat is a slow-moving slog, but also that
none of the main actors have political goals that are both clear and
Lauren Wolfe: [08-14]
In occupied regions, Ukrainians are being forced to accept Russian
passports: While the annexation is not sanction by international
law, the idea that this amounts to genocide mocks the concept.
Joshua Yaffa: [07-31]
Inside the Wagner Group's armed uprising.
Around the world:
Sina Azodi: [08-16]
It's been 70 yrs since the CIA-assisted coup in Iran:
In many ways, the original sin of American Cold War foreign policy --
not the first move, as those as early as 1946 were directed against
actual communist influence and insurgencies, but in the case of Iran,
it was simply a favor to British imperialism and the "Seven Sisters"
of the oil world, which wound up compensating Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.
for its suffering. By 1979, the event was little remembered in the
US, but etched unforgettably in Iran, leading directly to the hostage
crisis and all the subsequent bad blood. Stephen Kinzer's All the
Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
(2003) is a nice, short book on the subject.
Adriana Beltrán: [08-18]
The high stakes of Guatemala's presidential elections: "The world
is watching as a reformer takes on and tries to reverse the country's
slide into political corruption."
Connor Echols: [08-17]
What will happen to US troops stationed in Niger if the region
Genevieve Glatsky/José María León Cabrera: [08-20]
Security is the main worry as Ecuador votes on Sunday. Here's what
to know. It looks like leftist candidate Luisa Gonzalez leads
the voting, with "business scion" Daniel Noboa in second-place,
advancing to the run-off on Oct. 15.
Uki Goni: [08-14]
Far-right outsider takes shock lead in Argentina primary election:
"Former tantric sex coach and Donald Trump admirer Javier Milei
has said he thinks the climate crisis is 'a socialist lie'." If
elected, it sounds like he could become the worst president
anywhere (although his party did poorly in Congressional races).
For another report:
Jack Nicas/Natalie Alcoha/Lucia Cholakian Herrera: [08-14]
Far-right libertarian wins Argentina's presidential primary:
With 30% of the vote, which puts him in the October 22 runoff.
The system is
pretty confusing, as the first round included primaries within
party coalitions, but it looks like the runoff will be between Milei,
Sergio Massa (21%, "center-left"), Patricia Bullrich (17%, "right-wing"),
and two others who cleared the 1.5% minimum: Juan Schiaretti (a
"non-Kirchnerist Peronist"), and Myriam Bregman ("a lawyer, human
rights and women's rights activist"). Eliminated are coalition
primary runners up Horacio Rodriguez Lareta (11%) lost to Bullrich
(which suggests the PRO vote is 28%), and Juan Grabois (6%) lost
to Massa (which would give FR 27%), so the top three coalitions
are pretty close, and a second runoff on November 19 seems likely.
Sarah Dadouch: [08-14]
Who is Javier Milei, Argentina's right-wing presidential front-runner?
Neve Gordon: [08-18]
The true face of Israel's protest movement. Cites a
"glowing profile" of Israeli particle physicist Shikma Bressler,
then adds some nuances the New York Times missed.
Ellen Ioanes: [08-20]
What's at stake in Guatemala's elections: "Anti-corruption
presidential candidate Bernardo Arévalo is heavily favored in
polls." Meanwhile. the conservative establishment is trying to
get him removed form the ballot.
James Park/Mike Mochizuki: [08-18]
Camp David summit: A trilateral march toward instability?
The war council between the US, Japan, and South Korea met,
and decided to stroke each other to the exclusion of any more
serious issues of war and peace.
[PS: Fred Kaplan [08-18] has a different view:
Why Biden's summit with Japan and South Korea is a big deal.
He also gives Biden more credit on China than is clear to me: [08-11]
Biden's delicate dance with China.]
Roni Caryn Rabin: [08-15]
Growing segregation by sex in Israel raises fears for women's
rights: As this makes clear, Israel is moving way beyond
Dean Baker: [08-15]
Getting beyond copyright: There are better ways to support creative
Paul Cantor: [08-18]
The other 9/11: Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of
the US-supported coup in Chile, where democratically elected
president Salvador Allende was killed, as were many more (the
final figure cited here is 3000), and replaced by Augusto Pinochet's
dictartorship. Henry Kissinger was chief among the conspirators,
and this figures prominent in his long list of crimes against
humanity. Pinochet remained in power until 1990, and turned
Chile into a laboratory for Milton Friedman's neoliberal economic
theories, which needless to say were disastrous.
Robert Sherrill: [1988-06-11]
William F Buckley lived off evil as mold lives off garbage:
An old piece, basically a review of John B Judis: William F
Buckley, Jr: Patron Saint of the Conservatives, which includes
a section on Buckley's junkets to Chile to help Pinochet. Sherrill
was 89 when he died in 2014. I remember reading his eye-opening
1968 book, Gothic Politics in the Deep South, which helped
clarify some memories I had of visiting Arkansas when Orval Faubus
was still governor. I also read, and occasionally drop the title
of, Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to
Lisa M Corrigan: [08-16]
The evisceration of a public university: "West Virginia University
is being gutted, and it's a preview for what's in store for higher
Carter Dougherty: [05-22]
A new vision for a just financial system: A laundry list of
mostly good ideas, but the one that always strikes me as key is
"provide public banking," which leads me to ask, what do we need
all these other crooks and predators for? I don't anticipate
outlawing them, and I can see likely value for innovation around
the margins, but most banking transactions can be done simply
and cheaply by a common non-profit, and that can easily extend
into large classes of routine loans (credit cards, mortgages,
small business loans, etc.).
Rachel DuRose: [08-12]
What's going on with your lightbulbs? Perhaps they're right
that "incandescent lightbulbs aren't banned," but they're getting
harder to find, not that I've looked in 10-20 years, at least
since LED manufacturers stopped trying to charge you for the
5-10 incandescent bulbs you might have bought during the expected
lifetime of the LED bulb. I've moved to LEDs wherever possible:
the main exception are places where only halogens seem to work;
my happiest switch was finding I could replace fluourescent
tubes with LEDs without having to rewire around the ballast,
and they are many times better.
Jordan Gale: [08-18]
An intimate look at Portland's housing crisis: "The ongoing
housing crisis in Portland, Ore., has desensitized us to the real
people who have been affected." A photo essay.
Peter E Gordon: [08-08]
President of the Moon Committee: "Walter Benjamin's radio years."
German literary critic, associated with Frankfurt School but legendary
in his own right, 1892-1940 (committed suicide when jailed while trying
to flee the Nazis). This collects what survives of radio transcripts
from 1927-33, a wide-ranging commentary meant to be more readily
accessible than his usual writings.
Constance Grady: [08-17]
How does Elon Musk get away with it all? "The billionaire's
heroic image is built on media praise, breathless fans, and . . .
romance novel tropes." But hasn't he also become the object of
intense ridicule, based on not just that he's a rich asshole but
that he flaunts that image endlessly. Or am I missing something?
And what's unusual about rich assholes getting away with things?
Sure, Donald Trump is turning into an exception, but think of
all the things he got away with before his luck turned. And as
a rich asshole, he still has such enormous advantages, he may
still get away with it.
Lauren Michele Jackson: [08-17]
The "-ification" of everything: "it's an interesting combination
of trying to do something original that is, in fact, already quite
derivative. That's how culture works."
Chalmers Johnson: [08-13]
Coming to terms with China: This is a piece written back in
2005 by the former CIA analyst (1931-2010), who wrote a series
of books I recommend highly: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences
of American Empire (2000; rev. 2004); The Sorrows of Empire:
Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2006);
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007);
and Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope
(2010). In one of those books, he published a thought experiment
as to how China could disable America's entire satellite network
(all it would take would be to "launch a dumptruck full of gravel"
into earth orbit), and how crippling that would be. This is a
sober analysis of trends already clear in 2005 as China was
emerging as a fully independent world power. He ends with the
question: "Why should China's emergence as a rich, successful
country be to the disadvantage of either Japan or the United
States?" In particular, he warns that: "History teaches us that
the least intelligent response to this development would be to
try to stop it through military force." Yet we clearly do have
strategists in Washington whose intelligence is that low.
Mike Joy: [08-15]
Critics of 'degrowth' economics say it's unworkable -- but from an
ecologist's perspective, it's inevitable. Looks like it was
David Attenborough who said, "someone who believes in infinite
growth is either a madman or an economist." Even some economists
realized that infinite growth can't possibly happen (although I
failed to find the quote; I vaguely remember Kenneth Arrow). One
of the big differences between eco-activists and Democrats is that
the latter see growth as the solution to all problems, whereas we
(putting on that hat, which isn't my only one) see it as one of
the most intractable of political problems. But at some point, I
think it does have to come into play, as I don't see any viable
Stephen Kearse: [08-17]
The return of Nonane: "In her new album, Sundial, the
rapper melds her activism and artistry seamlessly." Before I heard
this album, I ran into complaints of anti-semitism, a kneejerk
reaction to guest Jay Electronica namedropping "Farrakhan sent
me." So this review is first of all interesting to me because
the reviewer didn't even notice the offense, casually grouping
Jay Electronica with Billy Woods among "the fellow rap mavericks,"
with an oblique reference to a different line. Expect my review
in the next Music Week. I wish I was as sure of her political
acumen as Kearse is, but I also doubt that it really matters.
The patronizing moralism of David Brooks: "In a series of recent
essays, the New York Times columnist has pronounced all social
ills the result of deficient moral fiber among individuals." Reminds
me of a Bertolt Brecht line, but the English translations leave much
to be desired. ("Grub first, then ethics"? More like "morality is a
self-satisfying luxury for those who have eaten." Not that Brecht
couldn't be pithy, as in: "What keeps mankind alive? Bestial acts.")
Still, isn't it possible to accept Brooks' analysis and simply ask
"so what"? If problems are caused by "deficient moral fiber," why
should that prevent us from solving the problems? Does it sound like
too much work? Or is it possibly the sense of righteousness that
accrues to people who can afford to look down their noses at others?
It's even possible that people who "lack morals" now might develop
some once their baser needs are met. On the other hand, I rather
doubt that the conservative approach, which is to let people rot in
their squalor, or just lock them away or worse, gives "morals" a
very good reputation, or sets a positive example.
Interesting note toward the end here about Christopher Lasch.
I read much of his early work, but never got to The Culture of
Narcissism, which as Lehman notes is widely cited by social
scourges like Brooks. Lehman defends Lasch as much misunderstood,
which certainly sounds credible to me. After all, the amount of
stuff Brooks misunderstands seems boundless.
The new bard of the right: More than you need to know about a
country song by Oliver Anthony, "Rich Men North of Richmond,"
which earns its conservative bona fides by bitching about how
taxes are spent on poor people (without, of course, noting the
vastly larger sums spent making rich people richer).
PS: Listened to the
song and double-checked the
lyrics. First verse could just as easily have turned left
("I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day/ Overtime hours for
bullshit pay"), but then he makes a couple fairly major blunders.
You know about the punching down on welfare, which has been a
right-wing trope for more than fifty years, but the other one
still surprises me: "These rich men north of Richmond/ Lord
knows they all just wanna have total control." This notion that
"liberal elites" (which is what his phrase means, after stripping
away the gratuitous Confederate angst) want "total control" is
ridiculous on many levels, yet it is the common thread of
right-wing paranoia (e.g., Bill Gates' nanobots disseminated
through Covid vaccines). Such control, despite the diligent
efforts of regimes like China and Israel, is impossible, and
even if it were possible, no liberals would want it: central
tenets of liberalism include that all people should think for
themselves, and respect for (or at least tolerance of) different
thinking by others.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are opposed to those tenets,
which makes their aversion that liberals want "total control" look
like some kind of projection. On a practical level, this leads them
to prevent students from being exposed to facts and ideas that may
undermine their preferred beliefs, and where possible to ban those
ideas from the public, while using the power of the state for harsh
repression of any sign of dissidence.
A couple more comments on this song:
Gregory P Magarian: [08-20]
The revealing case of a Kansas judge and a search warrant:
The Marion, KS police raided the offices of a small-town newspaper
that had upset a local business owner.
Orlando Mayorquin: [08-20]
Store owner is fatally shot by man who confronted her about Pride
Flag. Her murderer was later tracked down and killed by police,
further proof that while guns are good for committing crimes, they're
not much good for self-defense.
Christian Paz: [08-14]
How two pop culture Twitter accounts turned into the internet's
wire service: "Are Pop Crave and Pop Base the future of
political journalism?" Noted out of curiosity, which so far
isn't sufficient to render an answer. I am, however, skeptical,
and not just about these particular portals but about "political
journalism" in general.
Andrew Prokop: [08-17]
The mystery of Hunter Biden's failed plea deal: "Incompetence,
malfeasance, or politics?" My best guess is mixed motives, undone
by politics. The plea deal was a way for the prosecution to score
a win, while Biden gets to put the case behind him without too much
pain. But neither motive was strong enough to overcome the politics,
where Republicans have been harping on "the Biden crime family" way
before Biden ran in 2020. Without this drumbeat of harassment, I
doubt the case would ever have been prosecuted, regardless of the
defendant's name. In any case, credit Republicans with extraordinary
chutzpah for juggling their political campaign against Biden while
while still decrying political motives in re Trump.
Sigal Samuel: [08-18]
What normal Americans -- not AI companies -- want for AI:
"Public opinion about AI can be summed up in two words: Slow.
Down." One significant polling result is: "82 percent of American
voters don't trust AI companies to self-regulate." One proposal
is that: "At each phase of the AI system lifecycle, the burder
should be on companies to prove their systems are not
harmful." Even this seems like a two-edged sword, as "harmful"
can mean different things to different people. I'm inclined to
limit ways companies can profit from AI, such as requiring the
software to be open source, so we can get lots of eyes evaluating
it and flagging possible problems. That would slow things down,
but also help assure us that what does get released will be used
constructively. If AI seems like a sudden emergence in the last
couple years, it's because companies have hit the point where
they have products to sell to exploit various angles. Given that
most new business development is predatory, that's something one
should be wary of.
Jeffrey St Clair: [08-18]
The night the cops tried to break Thelonious Monk. No "Roaming
Charges" this week, but this is worth perusing. It recounts the
story of how Monk took a rap for the more fragile Bud Powell in
1951, and how Monk got blackballed by NYC, so he couldn't perform
live during the period when he cut some of the most groundbreaking
albums in jazz history. I first encountered these stories in Geoff
Dyer's fictionalized But Beautiful, which I've always loved
(although I know at least one prominent Monk fan who flat out hates
Astra Taylor: [08-18]
Why does everyone feel so insecure all the time? One of the
smartest political writers working today, offers an introduction
to her forthcoming book, The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together
as Things Fall Apart, where among much more she picks up on
Barbara Ehrenreich's "fear of falling" theme (title of her "1989
study of the psychology of the middle class"). The more recent
term is precarity. Much of this is quotable, as I'm reminded by
tweets quoting her:
The relatively privileged have "rigged a game that can't be won,
one that keeps them stressed and scrambling, and breathing the
same smoke-tinged air as the rest of us."
"Insecurity affects people on every rung of the economic ladder,
even if its harshest edge is predictably reserved for those at
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [05-29]
The long afterlife of libertarianism: "As a movement, it has
imploded. As a credo, it's here to stay." Review of The
Individualists: Radicals, Reactionaries, and the Struggle for the
Soul of Libertarianism, by Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi,
while roping in several other books. This reminds me that one of
my jobs, back in the mid-1970s, was typesetting reprints of several
Murray Rothbard books -- for the Kochs, as it turned out -- so I
got deep into the weeds of his arguments for privatized police and
fire departments, among everything else. Thus I was able to make
sense out of Michael Lind's quip: that libertarianism had been
tried and had failed; it was just called feudalism at the time.
(Can't find the exact quote.) It's easy to imagine the Kochs as
feudal lords, because that's how they run their company (and
would like to run the country), which not coincidentally leaves
precious little liberty but anyone but the lords. Still, when
governments do become overbearing, which is sadly much of the
time, it's tempting to fall back on the libertarians for sharp
critiques. It's just impossible to build anything that works
from negative platitudes. As I think back, the new left was
much smarter to focus not on government, which was a tool and
rarely monolithic, but on power itself. I don't recall when I
first ran across the maxim "power corrupts, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely," but it was well before I turned left,
yet it remains as one of the great truths of our times.
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