Sunday, February 11, 2024

Speaking of Which

It's pretty exhausting trying to wrap this up on Sunday evening, early enough so I can relax with a bit of TV, a few minutes on the jigsaw puzzle, a few pages in my current book, and maybe a bit of computer Mahjong before I run make to get a jump on Monday's Music Week. After a night's sleep, chances are good that I'll think of some introductory text, and stumble across a couple stories I initially missed. If I do, I'll add them and mark them accordingly, with that red right-margin border.

But if you want a pull quote right now, it's probably this:

But if Biden can't get his wars under control by October, I fear he's toast -- and will be deserving of the loss, even if no one else deserves to beat him. After all, the ball is in his court.

Initial counts: 145 links, 5,485 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Lots of people have unsolicited advice for the Biden campaign, which frankly seems to need one, but New Republic came up with a bundle of them this week -- enough to break out from the news items above, so let's collect them here.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Al Jazeera: [02-02] Ex-CIA software engineer who leaked to WikiLeaks sentenced to 40 years: "Joshua Schulte had been found guilty of handing over classified materials in so-called Vault 7 leak.

Nicholson Baker: [01-31] No, aliens haven't visited the earth: "Why are so many smart people insisting otherwise?"

Harry Brighouse: [02-05] What's wrong with free public college? Some reasonable points, but I'm not much bothered that a right to free higher education would benefit the middle class more than poorer students. Lots of worthwhile programs do the same, but we shouldn't, for example, give up on airline safety just because the beneficiaries skew up.

Elizabeth Dwoskin: [02-10] How a liberal billionaire became America's leading anti-DEI crusader: Profile of Bill Ackman. Another rich guy with money to burn, but how does having donated to Clinton and Obama make him any kind of liberal?

Nicholas Fandos: [02-10] What to know about the race to replace George Santos: "The special House election in New York pits Mazi Pilip, a Republican county legislator, against Tom Suozzi, a former Democratic congressman." In other words, the Democrats nominated the most anodyne white guy possible, while the Republicans calculated that the best way to advance their racist, sexist, nativist agenda was by nominating a black female Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia.

Abdallah Fayyad/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop: [02-09] 7 questions about migration and the US-Mexico border, answered. More border:

Rebecca Gordon: [02-11] Banning what matters: "Public libraries under MAGA threat."

Joshua Keating: [02-06] Welcome to the "neomedieval era": "Nations like the US have more firepower than ever before -- but they also appear weaker than ever. The upshot is a world that feels out of control."

Carlos Lozada: [02-16] : I was expecting, perhaps even hoping for, a Consumer Guide-style compendium of notes on political books, but instead got an introductory essay adapted from his forthcoming The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians. Of course, unless you're a writer with a specific assignment, it's very unlikely you'd actually have to read any book written by (or for) a Washington politician, nor would you do so voluntarily. But I find that such surveys, such as I attempt in my book roundups, can be useful for sampling the state of public discourse. By the way, I did finally pick up a copy of Lozada's What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Clare Malone: [02-10] Is the media prepared for an extinction-level event? "Ads are scarce, search and social traffic is dying, and readers are burned out. The future will require fundamentally rethinking the press's relationship to its audience."

AW Ohlheiser: [02-08] What we've learned from 20 years of Facebook.

Nathan J Robinson:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-09] Roaming Charges: Comfortably dumb. Harsh on Biden. Quote:

  • Sen. Chris Murphy on the failed Border/Ukraine/Israel deal: "They are a disaster right now. How can you trust any Republicans right now? They told us what to do. We followed their instructions to the letter. And then they pulled the rug out from under us in 24 hrs." ["They"? You got nothing but embarrassed.]

  • It's instructive that MAGA has threatened to "destroy" James Lankford, the rightwing Senator from Oklahoma who wrote a border closure bill that gave them 99% of what they wanted and Democrats are lining up behind Biden for endorsing a bill that betrayed everything he'd ever promised on immigration.

Bryan Walsh: [02-10] Taylor Swift, the NFL, and two routes to cultural dominance: My minor acknowledgment of the week's overweening culture story, not that I have anything to say about it. Cultural dominance isn't what it used to be LVIII years ago, when the Chiefs I remember fondly -- Len Dawson, Otis Taylor, Ed Budde, E.J. Holub, Buck Buchanan -- got butchered by the Green Bay Packers (IV was much more satisfying), while the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and James Brown were regularly outdoing themselves. These days, even the largest stars seem much smaller than they did when I was fifteen, because we now recognize that the world is so much larger. I haven't watched football since the 1980s (or baseball since the 1990s), and while I still listen to quite a bit of popular music, I doubt that any new artist has occupied as much as 1% of my time since 2000. I've listened to, and clearly like, Taylor Swift, but I hardly recognize her song titles, and certainly couldn't rank them (as Rob Sheffield did, 243 of them). I suppose you could chalk that up to age, but I'm feeling the least bit nostalgic. I reviewed more than 1,600 records last year. In 1966, I doubt I heard more than 10 -- supplemented, of course, by KLEO and TV shows like Shindig! and Hullabaloo, but the universe I was conscious of extended to at most a couple hundred artists. Back then, I thought I could master it all. Now I know I never stood a chance.

I know I promised, but what the hell:

Li Zhou: [02-06] The Grammys' Beyoncé snubs speak to a deeper problem: Beyoncé was snubbed? "They're emblematic of how the awards have failed Black artists." As someone who has never had any expectation of Grammy ever doing anything right, I find the very notion that anyone could be so certainly deserving of a win as to be snubbed baffling.

Sorry for doing this to you, but I'm going to quote a Donald Trump tweet (quoted by Matthew Yglesias, reposted by Dean Baker, my emphasis added):

2024 is our Final Battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the Deep State, we will expel the warmongers from our government, we will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, we will throw off the sick political class that hates our Country, we will rout the Fake News Media, we will Drain the Swamp, and we will liberate our country from these tyrants and villains once and for all!

Yglesias responded: "This stuff is demented but it also serves to deflect attention from the boring reality that what he's going to do is cut rich people's taxes, raise prescription drug prices, let companies dump more shit in the water, etc etc etc." There's a lot of hyperbole in this pitch, but who can doubts that there are warmongers in the cururent government, that they are pushing us into more perilous foreign entanglements, and that Biden isn't likely to restrain much less break from them. There's good reason to doubt that Trump can fix this, but if he wants to campaign on the promise, many people will find slim chance preferable to none. Moreover, the rest of his pitch is coherent and forceful, and is likely to resonate with the propaganda pitch much of the media -- and not just the shills at Fox -- have been pushing over the last decade.

Countering that Trump won't really do this just feeds into the paranoia over the Deep State -- which, to be sure, thwarted him in 2017, but this time he knows much better what he's up against. Worse still is arguing that his actual government will be boring, with a side of petty corruption, just shows you're not listening, and also suggests that you don't much care what happens. If Trump did nothing more than check off Yglesias's list, he'd still be a disaster for most Americans. But at the very minimum, he's going to do much more than that: he's going to talk, and he's going to talk a lot, and he's going to bring more people into government and media who are going to add ever more vicious details to the mass of hate and pomposity he spews. And even though lots of us are going to recoil in horror, we'll still have to stuggle to survive being inundated by it all, all the while suffering the glee of our tormenters.

Of course, the "Final Battle" and "once and for all" is as over the top as the Book of Revelation he's taken to heart. But that it can't happen won't make them any less determined, or dangerous, or dreadful.

Ask a question, or send a comment.