Sorry for the irregular posting. I've been working at various projects. You might say I've been seduced by the hopeless ambition to get something important done before the ticker stops ticking.
Here are a few items worth your time:
Chaos and war.
Just because I've become a reluctant opponent of Bernie Sanders doesn't mean that I've blinded myself to the evils of Obama's foreign policy -- a policy which Hillary did much to enact. Edward Herman
has a marvelous new piece on the disasters of our times -- in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, in Ukraine and in Yemen. Even worse:
There has been little publicity and debate addressing President Obama’s new and major contribution to the nuclear arms race and the threat of nuclear war. In April 2009 Mr. Obama claimed a “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.4 And on the release of a Nuclear Posture Review on April 6, 2010 he stated that the United States would “not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.” But he wasted no time in violating these promises, embarking soon on a nuclear “modernization” program that involved the development of an array of nuclear weapons that made their use more thinkable (smaller, more accurate, less lethal).
The New York Times reported that “The B61 Model 12, the bomb flight-tested in Nevada last year, is the first of five new warhead types planned as part of an atomic revitalization estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. As a family, the weapons and their delivery systems move toward the small, the stealthy and the precise. Already there are hints of a new arms race. Russia called the B61 tests ‘irresponsible’ and ‘openly provocative.’ China is said to be especially worried about plans for a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.”5 The Times does cite a number of U.S. analysts who consider this enterprise dangerous as well as “unaffordable and unneeded”.6 But the modernization plan has not aroused much comment or widespread concern. And it would very likely be considered too modest by all the leading Republican presidential candidates.
Clinton and Kerry have disappointed on many levels, but they aren't responsible for this new nuke madness. No, this dangerous new arsenal has but one owner: Barack Obama.
is talking about it, not even Bernie Sanders.
The case for Rubio.
In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart argues that Donald Trump poses so profound a threat that liberals in states that allow crossover primary voting should support Marco Rubio. This, despite the fact that Beinart despises Rubio.
Trump is not subverting public opinion. He’s exploiting and fomenting its basest aspects. In deciding how much to appeal to the public’s most hateful and bloodthirsty desires, most politicians exercise a measure of restraint born in part from a respect for legal norms and individual rights. Trump calls this restraint “political correctness” and flaunts his disdain.
I doubt Trump is the first post-9/11 presidential candidate to realize he could rouse a majority of Americans—or at least a majority of Republicans—by calling for the murder of terrorists’ family members and by giving a full-throated endorsement of torture. But the others stopped short. Other Republican presidential candidates have demonized Muslims, but none ever called for banning every single Muslim from entering the country. Other prominent Republicans subtly questioned President Obama’s Americanism. Trump denied he was born in the United States.
The difference is shame. It’s vaguely possible to imagine another Republican candidate launching the canard about Muslims celebrating 9/11. But only Trump—despite a thousand fact checks proving him wrong—would double down on the claim. Other Republicans have played on the right’s hatred of the mainstream press. But only Trump calls for changing libel laws to make it harder for journalists to write critical stories about him. And only Trump openly threatens the donors who fund efforts to defeat his campaign.
Not only that. Trump understands neither history nor the Constitution. He continually speaks as though the President can function as a monarch. When he learns the limits of his office, he will undoubtedly seek to expand his powers -- perhaps in an extra-constitutional fashion. When I see Trump, I'm reminded of Napoleon III, who was elected to office (mostly on name recognition), and then declared himself emperor, using some quickly-forgotten "emergency" as an excuse.
Even if my worst case scenario does not come to pass, a Trump presidency -- even a Trump nomination -- will, as Beinart notes, fundamentally change American politics.
But as conservatives have often reminded liberals, change does not equal progress. Sometimes even a morally corrupt status quo is better than what follows. A Trump nomination would represent a leap into a terrifying political unknown.
Trump the con artist.
Okay, I admit that Matt Taibbi offers little here
that we haven't heard before. But gaw-DAMN, this guy's a great writer.
President Donald Trump.
A thousand ridiculous accidents needed to happen in the unlikeliest of sequences for it to be possible, but absent a dramatic turn of events – an early primary catastrophe, Mike Bloomberg ego-crashing the race, etc. – this boorish, monosyllabic TV tyrant with the attention span of an Xbox-playing 11-year-old really is set to lay waste to the most impenetrable oligarchy the Western world ever devised.
It turns out we let our electoral process devolve into something so fake and dysfunctional that any half-bright con man with the stones to try it could walk right through the front door and tear it to shreds on the first go.
And Trump is no half-bright con man, either. He's way better than average.
Trump is no intellectual. He's not bringing Middlemarch to the toilet. If he had to jail with Stephen Hawking for a year, he wouldn't learn a thing about physics. Hawking would come out on Day 365 talking about models and football.
But, in an insane twist of fate, this bloated billionaire scion has hobbies that have given him insight into the presidential electoral process. He likes women, which got him into beauty pageants. And he likes being famous, which got him into reality TV. He knows show business.
That put him in position to understand that the presidential election campaign is really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show whose production costs ludicrously include the political disenfranchisement of its audience.
Taibbi may be the only well-known writer to show adequate appreciation for Trump's background in wrestling. The Donald has brought his rivals down to his level by turning GOP debates into WWE events. And isn't this precisely what our dumbed-down public has long yearned for? Policy debates bore us: We want body slams.
Taibbi also understands that conspira-noia plays a huge role here. Other writers focus on racism, but I would argue that the appeal of Trumpism has less to do with race than with the American public's addiction to paranoia and sensationalism.
Nothing else can explain why evangelical voters have embraced an unabashedly hedonistic New Yorker who exemplifies everything a good Southern Baptist should revile. Fundamentalist Christians grew up reading books like Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth
and Pat Robertson's The New World Order
. Christians of this sort don't read the Old Testament very far beyond the first few chapters of Genesis (although they pretend otherwise), but they do
devour books like Mystery of the Shemitah
and The Harbinger
. This is the audience for Alex Jones and George Noory and all of that crappy programming that made you swear off the History Channel. Guess what happens when millions of people get hooked on absurd conspiracy theories and other forms of anti-thought? Donald Trump is what happens.
Trump is, after all, the guy who took birtherism seriously. And that's not all, according to the NYT
: He also takes at least semi-seriously the theory that Justice Scalia was murdered.
He has said on Twitter that President Obama might have attended Justice Scalia’s funeral had it been held at a mosque, feeding into the pervasive rumor that the Christian president is actually a Muslim. And he shared with a rally crowd a dramatic story of a United States general executing Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, which has been dismissed as an Internet rumor.
Part hair-salon gossip, part purveyor of forwarded conspiracy emails, Mr. Trump has exploited the news cycles of an Internet era in which rumors explode like fireworks and often take a long time to burn out. Mr. Trump’s willingness to touch on what passes for fact on fringe websites puts him in a unique class for a national major party front-runner.
“It’s like a walking, talking Enquirer magazine,” said Erick Erickson, the former editor in chief of the conservative website RedState, referring to the popular supermarket tabloid National Enquirer.
He has also promoted the notion that vaccines cause autism, a claim that has been widely debunked by doctors and scientists. “Just the other day, 2 years old, 2-and-a-half-years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic,” Mr. Trump said at a Republican debate in September. When another presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, then a Minnesota congresswoman, made a similar claim in the 2012 campaign, she was savaged by news media commentators for the remarks; Mr. Trump received little serious blowback.
More recently, at a South Carolina campaign event, Mr. Trump touched on the smoky theory that the identity of those who funded the attacks was still not publicly known. If he wins, he said, “you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center.”
In a way, I'd rather see Alex Jones become the president. Jones is a little bit smarter, and a little less arrogant. A little.