On Donald Trump’s travails, remembering that ‘[h]istory is written by the victors’

Gilead

Donald Trump

Coup attempt


Fig. 1. “Jake Angeli (Qanon Shaman), seen holding a Qanon sign at the intersection of Bell Rd and 75th Ave in Peoria, Arizona, on 2020 October 15.” Photography by TheUnseen011101 [pseud.], October 15, 2020, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Sam Levine thinks that, at least for the historical record, Dominion has already won its defamation case against Fox News.[1] This, of course, assumes that the record will be preserved, which in turn depends to some degree on how much power and inclination white Christian nationalists, who already seek to suppress the teaching of U.S. history, to obliterate it.

The old adage that “[h]istory is written by the victors”[2] comes to mind.

My inclination now is to believe, once again, that the threat of Gilead will be contained. I haven’t always been so inclined.[3] Whichever way this turns out, I will have been wrong at one point or another, and, for me, that inspires caution rather than confidence.

David Remnick, “The Curtain Rises on Trump’s Legal Dramas,” New Yorker, March 18, 2023, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-curtain-rises-on-trumps-legal-dramas

Charlie Savage, “Dissecting Charges That Could Arise From the Trump Investigations,” New York Times, March 19, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/19/us/politics/trump-investigations.html

Bess Levin, “Donald Trump’s Lawyers Seem Pretty Panicked He’s Going to be Indicted in Georgia Too,” Vanity Fair, March 20, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/donald-trump-potential-fulton-county-georgia-charges

Jeremy Barr, “Judge sounds skeptical of some Fox arguments in Dominion lawsuit,” Washington Post, March 21, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2023/03/21/judge-sounds-skeptical-some-fox-arguments-dominion-lawsuit/

Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, “Trump denounces ‘crime-fraud’ ruling forcing attorney to testify in documents probe,” Politico, March 21, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/21/trump-crime-fraud-attorney-documents-probe-00088215

Josh Dawsey et al., “Trump lawyer must turn over evidence on classified documents, court rules,” Washington Post, March 22, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/03/22/trump-appeal-lawyer-classified-documents/

Charlotte Klein, “Judge Doesn't Seem Convinced by Fox News' Arguments in the Dominion Lawsuit,” Vanity Fair, March 22, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/fox-dominion-hearing

Tina Nguyen, “Is the Republican Primary Already Over?” Puck, March 22, 2023, https://puck.news/is-the-republican-primary-already-over/

Sam Levine, “Why Dominion is already the winner of the $1.6bn lawsuit against Fox News,” Guardian, March 23, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/23/dominion-fox-news-defamation-lawsuit-winner

Stormy Daniels


Fig. 1. Stormy Daniels at Ron Jeremy’s birthday party. Photograph by Luke Ford (Lukeisback.com), March 10, 2007, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5.

Upon taking office, [Alvin] Bragg found himself almost immediately engulfed in controversy. A memo to his new staff laid out his plans: With some exceptions, the office would no longer prosecute low-level offenses such as fare evasion and prostitution, and it would seek lesser charges for certain robberies in which the accused did not “create a genuine risk of physical harm.” These positions were consistent with Bragg’s campaign platform, but when the memo leaked, the [New York] Post declared it akin to a get-out-of-jail-free card. As a result of the memo, along with Bragg’s defense of bail reform and the city’s climbing postpandemic crime rate, the new DA spent his first year on the defensive.[4]

He made adjustments and a rising crime rate soon fell, “[b]ut Bragg had allowed himself to be caricatured as soft on crime, something [Donald] Trump and his allies are now trying to exploit.”[5]

The concern is not with Alvin Bragg’s prosecutorial skills—these appear to be top-notch—but rather with his political acumen and, specifically, his ability to manage and fend off the vicious attacks that Donald Trump and his supporters are sure to mount.[6]

Chris Smith, “Alvin Bragg Is Known as a Sharp, Methodical Prosecutor. Can He Handle the Politics of a Trump Indictment?” Vanity Fair, March 22, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/alvin-bragg-politics-trump-indictment


Illiberalism


Fig. 1. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Dan Williams, “Israel ratifies law limiting conditions for a Netanyahu ouster,” Reuters, March 23, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-ratifies-law-limiting-conditions-netanyahu-ouster-2023-03-23/


Human Science

Inquiry

Quantitative
Artificial idiocy

What we have here is an early sign we’re stumbling into a massive game of [artificial intelligence idiocy] misinformation telephone, in which chatbots are unable to gauge reliable news sources, misread stories about themselves, and misreport on their own capabilities. In this case, the whole thing started because of a single joke comment on Hacker News. Imagine what you could do if you wanted these systems to fail.

It’s a laughable situation but one with potentially serious consequences. Given the inability of AI language models to reliably sort fact from fiction, their launch online threatens to unleash a rotten trail of misinformation and mistrust across the web, a miasma that is impossible to map completely or debunk authoritatively. All because Microsoft, Google, and OpenAI have decided that market share is more important than safety.[7]

Sounds like capitalism to me.

James Vincent, “Google and Microsoft’s chatbots are already citing one another in a misinformation shitshow,” Verge, March 22, 2023, https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/22/23651564/google-microsoft-bard-bing-chatbots-misinformation


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure


Fig. 1. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh officials look to expedite $48M rehab of Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 22, 2023, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-officials-look-to-expedite-48m-rehab-of-charles-anderson-memorial-bridge/


Eschatology

Tom Engelhardt, “Prophesies, Then and Now,” TomDispatch, March 23, 2023, https://tomdispatch.com/prophesies-then-and-now/


Banking

Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and Credit Suisse, 2023


Fig. 1. “The monument sign in front of the parking lot of the Silicon Valley Bank headquarters at 3003 West Tasman Drive, Santa Clara, California.” Photograph by Minh Nguyen, March 13, 2023, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

It should go without saying that we are now in a financial crisis. We have just witnessed the collapse or near-collapse of five banks, including Credit Suisse, an institution of systemic importance. And yet it still needs to be said in light of the glib reaction following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) earlier this month, which many pundits claimed was only a problem for rich “tech bros.” But SVB was the 16th-largest bank in the United States and its speed-of-social-media implosion left observers and regulators grasping for answers, which made it easy to blame the bank’s failure on corrupt venture capitalists trying to cheat the system. After SVB, the San Francisco-based First Republic bank also started to melt down, while the crypto-focused Signature and Silvergate banks went into closure, a pattern that reinforced the notion that this was a Silicon Valley phenomenon being hyped up by wealthy venture capitalists looking for a government bailout.[8]

Ashley Rindsberg subscribes to a conventional notion that interest rates will have to keep rising in order to contain inflation, though she acknowledges “[t]he [Federal Reserve’s] rate hike on Wednesday [March 22] delivered a hybrid message, increasing the federal funds rate by 0.25% but also signaling this will be the last, or second to last, increase,” and that “even this modest rate increase—coming in place of a pause in raising or a drop in rates—could inflame the debt crisis, putting more banks at risk.”[9]

This is paradigm thinking, strictly conventional, even as it so obviously points to a need to “think outside the box,” to recognize, first, that, in this instance, inflation is not being caused by interest rates and therefore that raising those rates is the wrong approach; and second, that neoliberal dogma is responsible both for a supply chain crisis that is responsible for inflation and widening social inequality.[10]

So the question here is whether elites will insist on their neoliberal paradigm, slitting banks’ throats just as they do workers’, or whether they’ll recognize that a neo-feudal system is simply the wrong approach to managing the economy. My bet is on the former.

Margot Patrick, Justin Baer, and Dana Cimilluca, “UBS Nears Deal to Take Over Credit Suisse,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubs-in-talks-to-take-over-credit-suisse-ed932b01

William D. Cohan, “The Last Days of SVB,” Puck, March 19, 2023, https://puck.news/the-last-days-of-svb/

David Goldman, “FDIC sells most of failed Signature Bank to Flagstar,” Cable News Network, March 19, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/19/investing/fdic-signature-bank-assets-flagstar-hnk-intl/index.html

Margot Patrick et al., “UBS Agrees to Buy Credit Suisse for More Than $3 Billion,” Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubs-offers-1-billion-to-take-over-credit-suisse-bfac51fa

Marion Halftermeyer and Myriam Balezou, “How Scandal and Mistrust Ended Credit Suisse’s 166-Year Run,” Bloomberg, March 20, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-19/how-scandal-and-mistrust-ended-credit-suisse-s-166-year-history

Joe Rennison, “Banks Remain Under Pressure as Investors Eye Fallout From Rescue Deals,” New York Times, March 20, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/20/business/markets-today.html

Justin Lahart, “The Fed Flies in the Dark,” Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-fed-flies-in-the-dark-30768449

Ashley Rindsberg, “How the Bank Collapse Goes Nuclear,” Tablet, March 22, 2023, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/how-bank-crisis-goes-nuclear


  1. [1]Sam Levine, “Why Dominion is already the winner of the $1.6bn lawsuit against Fox News,” Guardian, March 23, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/23/dominion-fox-news-defamation-lawsuit-winner
  2. [2]This adage is often incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill but in fact long predates both him and Hermann Göaut;ring. Attribution will depend on whether one accepts a narrow or broad context—to my mind, the distinction is unimportant—and does not seem definitive: Matthew Phelan, “The History of ‘History Is Written by the Victors,’” Slate, November 26, 2019, https://slate.com/culture/2019/11/history-is-written-by-the-victors-quote-origin.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Start changing the border signs: ‘Welcome to Gilead,’” Not Housebroken, July 28, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/18/start-changing-the-border-signs-welcome-to-gilead/; David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, March 8, 2023, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  4. [4]Chris Smith, “Alvin Bragg Is Known as a Sharp, Methodical Prosecutor. Can He Handle the Politics of a Trump Indictment?” Vanity Fair, March 22, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/alvin-bragg-politics-trump-indictment
  5. [5]Chris Smith, “Alvin Bragg Is Known as a Sharp, Methodical Prosecutor. Can He Handle the Politics of a Trump Indictment?” Vanity Fair, March 22, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/alvin-bragg-politics-trump-indictment
  6. [6]Chris Smith, “Alvin Bragg Is Known as a Sharp, Methodical Prosecutor. Can He Handle the Politics of a Trump Indictment?” Vanity Fair, March 22, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/alvin-bragg-politics-trump-indictment
  7. [7]James Vincent, “Google and Microsoft’s chatbots are already citing one another in a misinformation shitshow,” Verge, March 22, 2023, https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/22/23651564/google-microsoft-bard-bing-chatbots-misinformation
  8. [8]Ashley Rindsberg, “How the Bank Collapse Goes Nuclear,” Tablet, March 22, 2023, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/how-bank-crisis-goes-nuclear
  9. [9]Ashley Rindsberg, “How the Bank Collapse Goes Nuclear,” Tablet, March 22, 2023, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/how-bank-crisis-goes-nuclear
  10. [10]David Benfell, “The Silicon Valley Bank collapse exposes our system for what it is: neo-feudalism,” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2023, https://disunitedstates.org/2023/03/19/the-silicon-valley-bank-collapse-exposes-our-system-for-what-it-is-neo-feudalism/

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