Sunday, September 10, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started to work on a books post this week, which caused some
confusion when I ran across reviews of books I had recently written
something about. I'm guessing I have about half of my usual batch,
so a post is possible later this week, but not guaranteed. I'm
still reading Eric Hobsbawm's brilliant The Age of Revolution:
1789-1848, which is absolutely jam-packed with insights --
probably why I drone on at such length below on liberalism and its
discontents. I got deep enough into it to order three books:
- Franklin Foer: The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's
White House and the Struggle for America's Future (2023,
- Cory Doctorow: The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means
of Computation (2023, Verso)
- Astra Taylor: The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as
Things Fall Apart (paperback, 2023, House of Anansi Press)
I didn't bother with any reviews of Foer this week (there are
several), although I mentioned the book
week. I figured I'd wait until I at least get a chance to
poke around a bit. I have a lot of questions about how Biden's
White House actually works. I'm not big on these insider books,
but usually the outside view suffices -- especially on someone
as transparent as Trump. Two I read on Obama that were useful
- Ron Suskind: Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington,
and the Education of a President (2011, Harper).
- Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining
Decisions (2019, Rosetta Books).
Suskind was a reporter who had written an important book on
the GW Bush administration (The One Percent Doctrine: Deep
Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11). Hundt
was a participant, but not an important nor a particularly
successful one, so he took his time before weighing in.
Top story threads:
Holly Bailey: [09-08]
Georgia special grand jury recommended charging Lindsey Graham
in Trump case. We now know that the Grand Jury actually
recommended prosecution of 38 people, but the prosecutor
streamlined the case to just 19 defendants. It's easy to
imagine the case against Graham, who was especially aggressive
in trying to bully Georgia officials into throwing the election
to Trump. But it's also easy to see how prosecuting Graham, and
for that matter Georgia Senators (at the time) Loeffler and
Perdue, could distract from focusing on the ringleader.
Amy Gardner: [09-08]
Judge denies Mark Meadows's effort to move Georgia case to federal
court: This was the first, and probably the most credible, such
appeal, so it doesn't look good for the other defendants.
Alex Guillén: [09-07]
Trump's border wall caused 'significant' cultural, environmental
damage, watchdog finds. Rep. Raúl Grijalva put it more bluntly:
"This racist political stunt has been an ineffective waste of
billions of American taxpayers' dollars."
Nicole Narea: [09-06]
January 6 rioters are facing hundreds of years in prison combined.
What does it mean for Trump? Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio
was sentenced to 22 years for seditious conspiracy, the longest
individual sentence yet. Jeffrey St Clair notes (link below) that
Tarrio was initially offered a plea deal of 9-11 years, in "a
textbook case of how prosecutors use plea deals to coerce guilty
pleas and punish those who insist on their constitutional right
to a trial." He lists four more Proud Boys who received sentences
approximately double of what they were offered to plea out.
Tori Otten: [09-07]
Guilty! Trumpiest Peter Navarro convicted of contempt of Congress.
Charles P Pierce: [09-08]
Get a load of the letter Fulton County DA Fani Willis sent Jim
Jordan: "I didn't think there were this many ways to tell
somebody to fck off."
Jack Shafer: [09-08]
Donald Trump destroyed horse race journalism: "At least for
now." I guess it's hard to enjoy a good horse race when something
more than your own bet depends on it. Like whether there'll ever
be another race. Especially when you have to spend so much time
scanning the grounds for snipers and ambulances, which are the
only things about this race you haven't seen before.
Li Zhou: [09-07]
Trump faces another big legal loss in the E. Jean Carroll case.
No More Mister Nice Blog: [09-08]
So why wasn't Trump impeached for emoluments?:
It's a shame, because much of America struggled to understand the
point of the first impeachment, whereas an emoluments impeachment
would have been extremely easy for ordinary citizens to grasp: If
you use your status as president to cash in, that's illegal.
Simple. Relatable. It's like stealing from the cash register. And
he was allowed to get away with it.
The question is probably rhetorical, but the obvious answer is
that there was a faction of Democrats who thought that national
security was the only unassailable moral high ground that exists,
therefore everyone would get behind it. In the end, it persuaded
no one who wasn't going to vote to impeach Trump for any of dozens
of things anyway. Ironically, the key witnesses against Trump at
the time have become the Washington's biggest Ukraine hawks, with
the same "security Democrats" cheering them the loudest. And still
Republicans are trying to get Hunter Biden prosecuted, so you
didn't even win the battle, much less the war.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Fabiola Cineas: [09-08]
Republicans in Alabama still want to dilute the Black vote:
"Here's why the state's congressional maps were just struck down --
again." Interview with Michael Li.
Prachi Gupta: [09-05]
Vivek Ramaswamy and the lie of the "model minority": "The
Asian American candidate is peddling a dangerous message."
Ben Jacobs: [09-07]
RFK Jr.'s Republican-friendly Democratic presidential campaign,
explained. One revealing stat here is that his approval rate
is 28% among Democrats, 55% among Republicans.
Sarah Jones: [09-08]
'Pro-Life' or 'Pro-Baby,' Republicans can't outrun abortion.
Robert Kuttner: [09-06]
US Steel and the Fake Populism of JD Vance: I don't doubt that
Kuttner is right, but when I read Vance's op-ed,
America cannot afford to auction off its industrial base, I
was surprised how persuasive he was. Not that I buy the "national
defense" crap, but there is something to be said for local rather
than foreign owners. Of course, my preferred local owners would
be the employees themselves, whose stake would indeed be local.
Nicole Narea: [09-05]
The impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton,
explained: Or how evil do you have to be to get your fellow
Republicans to turn against you?
Will Norris: [09-06]
DeSantis loves stepping on Florida municipalities, thwarting the
Michael Tomasky: [09-08]
Jim Jordan and Wisconsin Republicans know the law -- they just don't
care: "Conservatism is no longer defined by resistance to liberal
progress -- it's all about destroying the pillars of our democracy."
Maegan Vazquez/Amy B Wang: [09-10]
GOP presidential hopefuls take renewed aim at efforts to combat
covid. It's probably unfair to say that they want you to die,
but it's not inaccurate to say they don't care. And they really
hate the idea that government might respond to a pandemic by
trying to keep you well.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Peter Baker/Katie Rogers: [09-10]
Biden forges deeper ties with Vietnam as China's ambition mounts:
Further proof that the only thing that can get American foreign policy
past a grudge is to spite another supposed foe.
Jonathan Chait: [09-09]
Biden or Bust: Why isn't a mainstream Democrat challenging the
president? The simple answer is that no one wants to risk
losing, not so much to Biden as to a Republican who should be
unelectable but still scares pretty much everyone shitless.
The greater left of the party isn't that unhappy with Biden,
at least as long as they don't have to think much about foreign
policy (which, frankly, is pretty awful, but so were Obama and
Clinton). The neolibs aren't that unhappy either, and they're
the ones most likely to sandbag anyone to Biden's left. Second
answer is money. Nobody's got any (unless Bloomberg wants to
run again, and that would really be stupid). But if Biden did
drop out, ten names would pop up within a month.
Lisa Friedman: [09-06]
Biden administration to bar drilling on millions of acres in
Alaska: This reverses leases granted in the late days of
the Trump administration, but only after [04-23]
Many young voters bitter over Biden's support of Willow oil
drilling, also on Alaska's north slope.
Molly Jong-Fast: [09-05]
Can Joe Biden ride "boring" to reelection? "His administration is
getting a lot done for the American people, yet its accomplishments
don't get the same media attention as Trumpian chaos."
Andrew Prokop: [09-08]
Should we trust the polls showing Trump and Biden nearly tied?
You have much more serious things to worry about than polls, but
what I take from this is that Democrats haven't really figured out
how to talk about their political differences, and the mainstream
media isn't very adept at talking about politics at all. There are
obvious, and in some ways intractable, reasons for this. The idea
of merely reporting the news gives equal credence to both sides
regardless of truth, value, or intent. Republicans are masters at
blaming everything bad on Democrats, while crediting them nothing.
Democrats are reluctant to reciprocate, especially as we've been
conditioned to dismiss their infrequent counterattacks as shrill
and snotty. The double standards are maddening, but somehow we
have to figure out ways to get past that. The differences between
Trump and Biden, or between any generic Republican and Democrat
you might fancy, are huge and important. At some level you have
to believe that it's possible to explain that clearly. But until
then, you get stupid poll results.
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Kate Aronoff: [09-08]
World's wealthiest countries gather to admit continued failure to
address climate change: The G20.
Umair Irfan: [09-09]
The Southern Hemisphere, where it's winter, has been really hot
Rebecca Leber: [09-08]
The oil industry's cynical gamble on Arctic drilling: "Companies
like ConocoPhillips are banking on a future filled with oil."
Rebecca Leber/Umair Irfan: [09-09]
The world's brutal climate change report card, explained: In
subheds: Coil, oil, and natural gas need to go; Everyone is doing
something, but everyone needs to do more.
Ian Livingston/Jason Samenow: [09-08]
A first: Category 5 storm have formed in every ocean basin this
year. One of them,
Hurricane Lee, is still well out in the Atlantic, and expected
to turn north before it gets to Florida and the Carolinas, but
could affect New England or (more likely) the Canadian Maritimes
(Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence).
Aja Romano: [09-06]
The Burning Man flameout, explained: "Climate change -- and
schadenfreude -- finally caught up to the survivalist cosplayers."
Connor Echols: [09-08]
Diplomacy Watch: Inquiry finds 'no evidence' South Africa armed
Russia. No meaningful diplomacy to report. The website has
a new design, which I don't like, mostly because it makes it
much harder to find new pieces on the front page.
Ben Armbruster: [09-05]
Why blind optimism leads us astray on Ukraine: "The
pre-counteroffensive debate in the US was dominated by claims of
'victory' and 'success' despite available evidence predicting it
wouldn't meet key goals." This is similar to the Confidence Fairy,
where Obama and his people seemed to think that the key to recovery
from the 2008 meltdown was projecting confidence that the economy
was really just fine. The effect of such thinking on war strategy
is even worse: any doubt that war aims will succeed is scorned as
giving comfort to the enemy, so everyone parrots the official line.
The final withdrawal from Afghanistan was hampered by just this
kind of thinking. The article includes a wide sampling of such yes
men cheering each other on into thinking it would all work out.
I've tried to take a different position, which is that it doesn't
matter whether the counteroffensive gains ground or not. In either
case, the war only ends when Russia and the US -- with Ukraine's
agreement, to be sure, but let's not kid ourselves about who
Putin's real opponent is -- decide to negotiate something that
allows both sides to back down. And the key to that isn't who
controls how many acres, but when negotiators find common ground.
Until then, the only point to the war is to disillusion hawks on
Ben Freeman: [06-01]
Defense contractor funded think tanks dominate Ukraine debate:
A lengthy report, finding that "media outlets have cited think
tanks with financial backing from the defense industry 85 percent
of the time."
Jen Kirby: [09-07]
Are the US and Ukraine at odds over the counteroffensive?
Daniel Larison: [09-07]
Hawks want Biden to take the fight with Russia global:
"Walter Russell Mead thinks the West can wear down Russia by
attacking it everywhere." The first question I have is: isn't
it global already, or is he really arguing for escalating with
military action? (Syria and Mali are mentioned.) The bigger
question is why do you want to fight Russia in the first
place? I can see defending Ukraine, but the hawks seem to
be starting from the assumption the US should wage war
against Russia, and Ukraine is just an excuse and tool for
Anatol Lieven: [09-06]
Afghanistan delusions blind US on Russia-Ukraine: "If
Washington forgets the war's lessons, its mistakes are likely
to be repeated."
Robert Wright: [09-08]
Logic behind Ukraine peace talks grows: This is a pretty good
summary of an argument that I think has been obvious if not from
day one, at least since Russia retreated from its initial thrust
at Kyiv: that neither side can win, nor can either side afford to
Common Dreams: [09-02]
US to begin sending controversial depleted uranium shells to
Ukraine: The shells are effective at piercing tank armor,
but they ultimately disintegrate, leaving toxic and radioactive
uranium in the air, water, and soil. They were used extensively
in Iraq, and the results have been tragic; e.g., Sydney Young:
Depleted Uranium, Devastated Health: Military Operations and
Environmental Injustice in the Middle East; and Dahr
Iraq: War's legacy of cancer.
Around the world:
Daniel Handel: [09-05]
We're finally figuring out if foreign aid is any better than handing
out cash: "The rise of cash benchmarking at USAID, explained."
What we know about Morocco's deadly earthquake: "A massive quake
near Marrakesh on Friday night has killed more than 2,000."
What's behind Africa's recent coups: Gabon, Niger, Burkina
Faso, Mali. And not just recent: worldwide, "from 1950 through
January 2022, there had been 486 coup attempts, 242 of which
were successful." For Africa, the numbers were 214 and 106,
ahead of 146 and 70 for Latin America.
Nicole Narea: [09-07]
Latin American abortion rights activists just notched another win
in Mexico: "The Mexican Supreme Court decriminalized abortion
nationwide. It's a big deal for the whole region."
Haris Zargar: [09-04]
India: Why Modi is fueling anti-Muslim riots ahead of 2024
Dan Balz: [09-09]
What divides political parties? More than ever, it's race and
ethnicity. That's what a report from the American Political
Science Association (APSA) says. My first reaction was: that's
a shame. My second was the suspicion that they got that result
because that's all they could think of to measure. It's always
possible to think of other questions that could scatter the
results in various directions. And my third is that this is
mostly an indictment of the news media, which seems completely
incapable of explaining issues in ways that people can relate
Elon Musk's strange new feud with a Jewish anti-hate group,
explained: So Musk is suing the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) . . .
for defamation? He blames them for a 60% loss of advertising revenue,
which couldn't possibly have been caused by anything he did?
Chris Rufo's dangerous fictions: "The right's leading culture
warrior has invented a leftist takeover of America to justify his
very real power grabs." Rufo's book is America's Cultural
Revolution: How the Radical Left Conquered Everything. Rufo
is the guy whose rant on Critical Race Theory launched recent
efforts by DeSantis and others to ban its teaching, even though
it never had been taught, and thereby censoring the very real
history of racial discrimination in America, lest white people
be made to feel bad about what their ancestors did. CRT was
developed by legal scholars to show that some laws which were
framed to appear race-neutral had racist intent. This refers
to the Critical Theory developed by mid-20th century Marxists
like Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, which was very useful
in detecting how capitalism and authoritarianism permeated and
refracted in popular culture.
I spent a lot of time studying Critical Theory when I was young.
(I recently cracked open my copy of Dialectic of Enlightenment
and was surprised to find about 80% of it was underlined.) It really
opens your eyes to, and goes a long way toward explaining, a lot of
the features of the modern world. But having learned much, I lost
interest, at least in repeating the same analyses ad nauseum. (To
take a classic example, I was blown away when I read How to Read
Donald Duck, but then it occurred to me that one could write
the same brilliant essay about Huckleberry Hound, Woody Woodpecker,
and literally every other cartoon or fictional character you ran
into.) But while Critical Theory appealed to people who wanted to
change the world, it was never a plan of action, much less the plot
to take over the world that Rufo claims to have uncovered.
Beauchamp does a nice job of showing up Rufo's paranoia:
Rufo cites, as evidence of the influence of "critical theory"
across America, diversity trainings at Lockheed Martin and Raytheon
that used the term "white privilege" and similar concepts in their
documents. This, he argues, is proof that "even federal defense
contractors have submitted to the new ideology."
But the notion that American arms manufacturers have been taken
over by radicals is ridiculous. Lockheed Martin builds weapons to
maintain the American war machine. It is not owned or controlled in
any way by sincere believers in the Third Worldist anti-imperialism
of the 1960s radicals; it is using the now-popular terms those
radicals once embraced to burnish its own image.
Rufo is getting the direction of influence backward. Radicals
are not taking over Lockheed Martin; Lockheed Martin is co-opting
So Rufo is not wrong that some radical ideas are penetrating
into the institutions of power, including corporations. Where he
is bonkers is in thinking that the ideas are power, plotted by
some malign adversary bent on total control, trying to force us
to think (gasp!) nice thoughts. What's scary is the mentality
that views any hint of civility or accommodation as a mortal
threat. Beauchamp continues, in terms that will probably drive
Rufo even crazier:
Historically, liberalism has proven quite capable of assimilating
leftist critiques into its own politics. In the 19th and 20th
centuries, liberal governments faced significant challenges from
socialists who argued that capitalism and private property led to
inequality and mass suffering. In response, liberals embraced the
welfare state and social democracy: progressive income taxation,
redistribution, antitrust regulations, and social services.
Reformist liberals worked to address the concerns raised by
socialists within the system. Their goal was to offer the
immiserated proletariat alternative hope for a better life
within the confines of the liberal democratic capitalist order --
simultaneously improving their lives and staving off revolution.
Meanwhile, conservatives like Rufo resisted every such reform,
often histrionically, even ones they eventually came to accept
Jonathan Chait: [09-07]
Samuel Moyn can't stop blaming Trumpism on liberals. I only
mention this because I recently spent a lot of time writing up a
book blurb on Moyn's Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War
Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times. I'll save the
details, but note that Chait is upset because his heroes and
his muddle-of-the-road philosophy were critiqued -- he says,
incoherently. What happened was that after 1945, the New Deal
coalition was deliberately split as most traditional liberals
(like Chait, but he came much later) turned against the left,
both abroad and at home, as part of a bipartisan Cold War
consensus. They were pretty successful for a while, and with
Lyndon Johnson even did some worthwhile things (civil rights
and Medicare were big ones), but they neglected the working
class base of the party, while throwing America into nasty
(and in the case of Vietnam, hopeless) wars. So instead of
building on the significant progress of the New Deal, the
Democratic Party fell apart, losing not just to Republicans
but to its own neoliberal aspirants. How that brought us to
Trump is a longer and messier story, but it certainly got us
Reagan, and the rot that followed.
PS: I wrote this paragraph before the one above on Beauchamp,
so there's a bit of disconnect. Beauchamp talks about "reformist
liberals," which diverge somewhat from Moyn's "cold war liberals."
Chait thinks of himself as one of the former, but shares the
latter's aversion to the left. Classical liberalism contained
the seeds for both: first by individualizing society, breaking
down the traditional hierarchy, then by declaring that every
individual should have the right to "life, liberty, and pursuit
of happiness." It turns out that in order for any substantial
number of people to enjoy liberty, they need to have support
of government. Some liberals understood, and others (including
Hayek and Friedman) simply didn't care. Cold War liberals
wound up on both sides, but even those who still supported
reforms undercut them by fighting the left as much or more
than the right.
Rachel M Cohen: [09-05]
Is public school as we know it ending? Interview with Cara
Fitzpatrick, who thinks so, as in her book title: The Death
of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education
Richard Drake: [09-08]
Gabriel Kolko on the foreign policy consequences of conservatism's
triumph: I occasionally still crack open Kolko's brilliant
books on US foreign policy (both subtitled The World and United
States Foreign Policy, The Politics of War: 1943-1945,
and The Limits of Power: 1945-1954), but it's been some time
since I thought of his earlier The Triumph of Conservatism: A
Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (1963). The
point there is that while the progressive movement sought to limit
the manifest evils of capitalism, the actual reforms left big
business and finance in pretty good shape -- as was evident in
the post-WWI period, all the way to the crash in 1929.
Drake goes into the later books, but this piece doesn't do
much to clarify how the "triumph of conservatism" in 1916 led
to the "politics of war" in 1943. In this, I must admit I'm a
little rusty on my William Appleman Williams, but "democracy"
in Wilson's "making the world safe" slogan could just as easily
been replaced with "capitalism." That was exactly what happened
in the later 1943-54 period, when Roosevelt did so much to
revive Wilson's reputation, while forever banishing opponents,
including remnants of the anti-imperialist movement from 1898,
to obscurity as "isolationists."
Kolko's formulation also does a neat job of solving the
debate about whether Wilson was a progressive or a conservative:
he was the former to the ends of the latter. Nowadays we dwell
more on Wilson's racism, which we associate with the right, but
in his day the two weren't strangers, even if what we still
admire about the progressive idea suggests they should have
Zeke Faux: [09-06]
That's what I call ponzinomics: "With Sam Brinkman-Fried, Gisele,
and a credulous Michael Lewis at the zenith of crypto hype." On first
glance, I thought this might be a review of Lewis's forthcoming book
on Bankman-Fried (coming Oct. 3: Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall
of a New Tycoon), but it's actually an excerpt from Faux's new
book, Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering
Fall, about a conference in 2022 where Lewis was talking about
Bankman-Fried "as if he were presenting a prize to his star pupil."
Constance Grady: [09-08]
The sincerity and rage of Olivia Rodrigo: One class of story
I invariably skip past is "most anticipated," especially with
albums, because interesting albums rarely get the advanced hype
to make such lists. (TV and movies fare a bit better, because
there are many fewer of them, at least that you'll ever hear
about.) But I gave this one a spin as soon as the banner popped
up on Spotify, and then I gave it a second. If you don't know,
she's a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, whose
2021 debut Sour won me and practically everyone else over
immediately (RIAA has certified it 4x Platinum). Her new one,
Guts is her second, and I'll review it (sort of) next
For now I just want to note that she's getting newsworthy
Adam Hochschild: [09-05]
The Senator who took on the CIA: Frank Church. Review of James
Risen/Thomas Risen: The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the
Mafia, and the Kennedys -- and One Senator's Fight to Save
Whizy Kim: [09-08]
The era of easy flying is over: "Lessons from a summer of
hellish flights." As far as I'm concerned, it's been over for
at least 20 years, about the time when it became obvious that
deregulation and predatory profit seeking were going to devour
the last shreds of decency in customer service.
Karen Landman: [09-07]
Covid is on the rise again, but it's different now: "Covid
transmission continues to ebb and flow -- but at least the latest
Pirola variant isn't too menacing."
Prabir Purkayastha: [09-08]
Is intellectual property turning into a knowledge monopoly?
The question almost answers itself, given that the current laws
defining intellectual property include grants of monopoly (with
minor exceptions, like mechanical royalties for broadcast use
of songs). The question of "knowledge" is a bit fuzzier, but
there is real desire to claim things like "know how" as property
(read the fine print on employee contracts). A patent can keep
others making the same discovery independently from their own
work, and the tendency to chain patents can keep competition
away almost indefinitely. Copyrights, as the word makes clear,
are more limited, but once you start talking derivative works,
the line gets harder to draw. Moreover, the smaller granularity
of fair use gets, the more likely accidental reuse becomes. How
serious this is depends a lot on how litigious "owners" are,
but in America, where so much seems to depend on wealth, we
are very litigious indeed. This piece is excerpted from the
author's book: Knowledge as Commons: Towards Inclusive
Science and Technology (LeftWord, 2023).
Ingríd Robeyns: [08-28]
Limitarianism: academic essays: Author has edited a book,
Having Too Much: Philosophical Essays on Limitarianism,
with various academic papers on the problem of having too much
stuff. Fortunately, they read their own book and decided to
make it available through
Open Book Publishers, so it doesn't add to your surplus of
Dylan Scott: [08-07]
The NFL season opener is also the kickoff for the biggest gambling
season ever: "How America became a nation of gamblers -- and
what might happen next." Few things make me more pessimistic for
the future of the nation.
Norman Solomon: [09-07]
Venture militarism on autopilot, or "How 9/11 bred a 'War on
Terror' from Hell: America's response to 9/11 in the lens of
history." Seems like every week brings enough new stories about
America's bloated, wasteful, stupid, ineffective, but still
really dangerous war culture, even beyond the ones that fit
securely under "Ukraine" and "World." This gets to the big
picture, being adapted from the introduction to Solomon's new
book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll
of Its Military Machine. The focus here is less on what
war is and does than on how it is talked about, to make it
seem more valorous and/or less cruel than it is, or just as
often, how it's not talked about at all, allowing most of us
to go about our daily lives with no sense of what the US
government is actually doing, let alone why.
Melissa Garriga/Tim Biondo: [09-08]
The Pentagon is the elephant in the climate activist room:
"The US military is the world's largest institutional oil consumer.
It causes more greenhouse gas emissions than 140 nations combined
and accounts for about one-third of America's total fossil fuel
Maha Hilal: [09-05]
22 years of drone warfare and no end in sight: "Biden's rules
on drone warfare mask continued violent islamophobia." Author
wrote the book Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the
War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11, so that's
her focus, but one could write much more about the seductiveness
of drone warfare for the gamers who increasingly run the military,
with their huge budgets to waste while risking none of their own
Jeffrey St Clair: [09-08]
Roaming Charges: The pitch of frenzy. Lots here, as usual,
including some links I've cited elsewhere. One I'll mention here
is a tweet by anti-woke pundit Richard Hanania: "Jimmy Buffett
taught Americans to hate their jobs and live for nights and
weekends so they could stuff themselves with food and alcohol."
Actually, he picked that trope up from country music, where he
sold most of his records before being reclassified as Adult
Contemporary. The classic formula was to transpose Saturday
night and Sunday morning, but many singers never got to the
latter (or only did so in niche albums).
PS: I mentioned Biden's stop in Vietnam above, but hadn't
seen this article: Katie Rogers: [09-11]
'It is evening, isn't it?' An 80-year-old president's whirlwind
trip. Which focuses more on his age and foibles than on the
diplomatic mission, showing once again that the mainstream press
would rather focus on appearance than substance. Why does "the
rigors of globe-trotting statesmanship" even matter? I'd rather
prefer to have fewer photo-ops and more actual communication.
But the reason I bring this piece up isn't to rag on the sorely
atrophied art of journalism yet again. I found
this tweet by Heather Cox Richardson, which pointed me to the
article, even more disturbing:
Here's what I don't get: this administration's reworking of global
relationships is the biggest story in at least a generation in
foreign affairs -- probably more. Why on earth would you downplay
that major story to focus on Biden's well-earned weariness after
an epic all-nighter?
No doubt Biden has been very busy on that front, but it's hard
to tell what it all means, which makes it hard to agree that it's
big, harder still that it's good. GW Bush did at least as much
"reworking," but his assertion of imperial prerogatives wound up
undermining any possibility of international cooperation, and
more often than not backfired. Obama tried to unwind some of
Bush's overreach, and negotiated openings with Iran and Cuba,
but left the basic unilateral posture in place. Trump did more
in less time, but was too erratic, greedy, and confused to set
a clear direction.
Biden, on the other hand, is mostly intent
on patching up the mess Trump made, without addressing any of
the underlying problems. And because he's left the imperial
hubris unchecked, he's actually worsened relations with many
countries, of which Russia and China are the most dangerous.
On the other hand, even though Ukraine has brought us near a
precipice, he hasn't actually plunged into disaster yet, as
Bush did. It's still possible that, having reëngaged, he
could move toward a more cooperative relationship with an
increasingly multipolar world. But you can't call this a
"story" without some sense of how it ends, and that's far
from clear at the moment.
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