What? You mean cops aren’t allowed to be ‘original’ or ‘creative?’

Qualified immunity

Just remember, they’re all, each and every one of them, “cop haters:”

The centerpiece of Cato’s strategic campaign to take down qualified immunity has been a series of targeted amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse its precedents and eliminate the doctrine outright. Since launching the campaign in March 2018, Cato has filed dozens of additional amicus briefs in our own name, but we have also organized a massive cross‐​ideological alliance of public interest groups opposed to qualified immunity — what Judge Don Willett recently called “perhaps the most diverse amici ever assembled.”[1]

To the extent I’m understanding this correctly, qualified immunity enables “rights‐​violating police and other government officials” to do whatever the fuck they please as long as they haven’t been explicitly told they can’t do it.

Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee to the Fifth Circuit, has explained how “[t]o some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior — no matter how palpably unreasonable — as long as they were the first to behave badly,” and sharply notes that “this entrenched, judge‐​created doctrine excuses constitutional violations by limiting the statute Congress passed to redress constitutional violations.”[2]

But originality counts! Doesn’t it?

I’m not a fan of the Cato Institute. They’re capitalist libertarians, that is, what neoliberals were before they got into power and became even worse hypocrites.[3]

But something I’ve noted for a long time is that capitalist libertarians are occasionally very, very good on constitutional issues. This might be one of those occasions.

Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight


Iraq and Iran

Capitalist libertarians are also one of a triumvirate of sometimes anti-war conservative tendencies; the other two are paleoconservatives and traditionalist conservatives. Of these, the traditionalists are the most consistent and, truly, scathing. Some paleoconservatives are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, so for at least some of them, race war would be okay and their opposition to war is to foreign war—if you believe in preserving your own segregated society, it hardly makes any sense to involve yourself in other societies. And capitalist libertarians are against war until they think another principle, usually entailing money, is more important.[4]

This article[5] is useful for an explanation of just how it is that Congress ceded the power to start wars to the president:

But, unless you’re willing to go full John Yoo and endorse “the president’s right to start wars,” imminence matters because the constitutional claim has to be based on self‐​defense. Under Article II, the president retains some measure of defensive power, alternately described at the Convention as the power “to repel sudden attacks” or “to repel and not to commence war.” That power reasonably includes the use of force to avert an impending attack not yet begun. But as you move from shooting back, to addressing an immediate threat, to “deterring future Iranian attack plans” — or “re‐​establishing deterrence,” as Pompeo put it this week — the self‐​defense rationale disappears. If the Trump administration wants the general power to target Iranian military commanders as enemy combatants, it should make its case for war to Congress.[6]

The trouble, of course, is that many such “immediate threats” have involved long-running wars: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, that is, every major military encounter the U.S. has been involved in following World War II. Each of them was ill-advised; not one has ended in anything like victory. They are simply occasions for killing people and for spending vast sums of money on the military rather than for helping people as elites argue violently over which of them will control which territories, the people on those territories, and the resources within those territories. Which is pretty much what war is about.[7]

Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence


Guns

So I was mentioning about paleoconservatives above and the possibility of race war? Fuck, here it is, along with a helping of militia in general:[8]

“The anticipation of violation of gun rights is common among militia groups more broadly — pretty easily seen in all the ‘molon labe’ patches worn by militia folks,” [Sam] Jackson said. (“Molon labe” is a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them.”) “Several novels that are important for the group depict war between Americans and the American government that begins with attempts at gun control.”

But beyond civil war, others expected to attend Monday’s rally are explicitly calling for a race war, in which white Americans will kill nonwhite Americans and Jewish people to establish a white ethnostate. Using the term “boogaloo” — a sarcastic reference to the 1980s film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that implies a “Civil War 2” of sorts — users of online forums like /pol/ are using Richmond as the impetus for the beginnings of a race war. They use phrases like “fuck all optics,” a reference to the last post shared on the social networking site Gab by the Tree of Life shooter, which has become a motto of sorts for white nationalists.[9]

I’m not seeing this rally so much as the start of a civil war as I am a harbinger of what may yet come. Though some militia movements are white supremacist, I generally associate them with authoritarian populism, and we are in a situation where I fear that the possibility that Donald Trump may be removed from office, either through impeachment or electoral defeat, may indeed provoke a very violent and heavily armed uprising.[10]

Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism


Pittsburgh

Winter seemed finally to have arrived. I went out to my car yesterday to find three inches of snow on it. The snowfall amounts were weirdly variable. Even immediately adjacent cars didn’t seem to have that much and I hadn’t been on the road very long when I saw the snow was pretty thin on grass by the Allegheny County Airport. Areas north of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers seemed barely to have received any at all.

There was more snow last night and a warning went up for snow and freezing rain today.[11] These looked to be conditions that would make me pause before going out. But I have no choice: Thinking I was in a bit better shape than it turns out I was, I ordered bookshelves to accommodate the last of my book collection that my mother has been sending me from the west coast (it’s all here now). That’s a hit on my bank accounts.

As it turned out, it was just rain, which melted a lot of the snow that had fallen the last couple nights.

Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/


Amish

Since coming to Pittsburgh, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t seen more Amish. I expected to at least cross their territory on various trips. I haven’t.

The only time I’ve seen them, it was outside a hospital in Pittsburgh. They were recognizable by their plain dress and were standing around a trash bin, using it as a platform, eating. I don’t know their story.

From what I know of them, stories of normalized rape such as those presented here[12] are most emphatically not the picture they would like the world to have of them. The ethical dilemma for me as a human scientist is two-fold: 1) Of course, these women need support and their assailants should face far harsher penalties than they are; but 2) how do we present Amish society such that it isn’t totalized as rape culture? It isn’t like “English” (the term used by Amish to refer to their non-Amish neighbors) society has such a wonderful a track record either.

Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/


Gig economy

Some things are a little too close to home. There is a substantial strain of capitalist libertarianism among denizens, especially the richer ones, of Silicon Valley. What we see with the “Silicon Valley Economy,” the gig economy, is the outcome of capitalist libertarians being absolutely certain they can get their way and acting accordingly.

My guess is that California’s AB 5 is a harbinger of what’s to come.[13] It may not appear in precisely that form everywhere, but it will appear in something like that form in enough places that the non-viability of companies that rely on misclassification of workers will be pushed even further.[14] But it’s going to take a while. And in the meantime, these capitalist libertarians will continue to be self-righteous as they extract ever more wealth from a very raw deal for workers.

Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare


  1. [1]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  2. [2]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  3. [3]Capitalist libertarians have the oh-so-cute notion in which political power is a “threat to liberty” but never economic power. Neoliberals circumscribe that to declare that labor power is a “threat to liberty,” but never corporate power or the power of whomever can shovel the most money at, well, especially, the Clinton Foundation. Neoliberals think political power is great for deregulation, reducing taxes, and eviscerating the social safety net in the name of balancing the budget. They gain support from neoconservatives, who view neoliberalism as a moral imperative, in part because they never suggest that the military should be cut and mainly because capitalism is part of the Amerikkkan Way, the system which neoconservatives believe is universally best for all people everywhere and which they therefore believe must be aggressively and proactively “defended” from even the most remote challenges. David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126); see also David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [5]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  6. [6]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  7. [7]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  8. [8]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  9. [9]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  10. [10]David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/
  11. [11]Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/
  12. [12]Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/

The morality of polarization makes an appearance in Israel

Israel

While the United Kingdom’s Balfour declaration, calling for creation of a Jewish homeland predates the Holocaust, little action, apart from mass Zionist purchases—they seem to have made generous offers—of Palestinian land, was taken until after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.[1] Accordingly, I hadn’t even questioned that Israel was founded in response to the Holocaust as the latest and most horrific in a series of pogroms that occurred over a period of centuries.[2]

Apparently, however, Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, given in 2009, connecting the Holocaust with the founding of Israel caused outrage because it was understood to have undermined the Zionist claim to indigenous status in Palestine,[3] a claim which is ridiculous given that nearly all residents of the region for thousands of years, at least, have had somewhat darker skin than the Ashkenazi Jews[4] who dominate Israeli politics, often discriminate even against darker-skinned Jews, and are often the most vocal Zionists. (Spare me your white Jesus bullshit. Just spare me.) This truly belongs in the same category with Rachel Dolezal, a white former college instructor who claimed to be Black.[5]

But now that U.S. Republicans are saying it rather than Obama, guess what? It’s all okay,[6] offering yet further evidence for my theory of the morality of polarization.[7]

Gotta tell you: It’s bad enough that a country founded as a political response to the Holocaust engages in genocide against Palestinians. Hypocrisy such as this is its own reason for the obliteration of Israel.

Ron Kampeas, “Linking Israel’s founding to Holocaust, once cause for outrage, is now accepted,” Times of Israel, January 15, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/linking-israels-founding-to-holocaust-once-cause-for-outrage-is-now-accepted/


  1. [1]David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace (New York: Owl, 1989).
  2. [2]Avigail Abarbanel, “A change needs to come,” Electronic Intifada, May 26, 2008, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9567.shtml; Albert Memmi, Portrait of a Jew, trans. Elisabeth Abbott (1962; repr., New York: Viking, 1971).
  3. [3]Ron Kampeas, “Linking Israel’s founding to Holocaust, once cause for outrage, is now accepted,” Times of Israel, January 15, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/linking-israels-founding-to-holocaust-once-cause-for-outrage-is-now-accepted/
  4. [4]Masha Kisel, “How does it feel to be white?” Times of Israel, November 29, 2019, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-does-it-feel-to-be-white/
  5. [5]David A. Love, “Can Rachel Dolezal redeem herself as an ally?” Grio, June 14, 2015, http://thegrio.com/2015/06/14/can-rachel-dolezal-redeem-herself-as-an-ally/
  6. [6]Ron Kampeas, “Linking Israel’s founding to Holocaust, once cause for outrage, is now accepted,” Times of Israel, January 15, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/linking-israels-founding-to-holocaust-once-cause-for-outrage-is-now-accepted/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/; David Benfell, “The theory of the morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/23/the-theory-of-the-morality-of-polarization/

Amerikkkan dreaming

Artificial idiocy

As of yesterday, January 13, there is a new blog post entitled, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining.”


Royalty

There is a new blog post entitled, “‘The ugly premise that one group of humans had the absolute right to rule over another group of humans’.”

Gary Vogt, “Letters to the Editor: Royals everywhere should follow Meghan and Harry into obscurity,” Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-01-12/meghan-markle-prince-harry-quit


Winter? What winter? What’s a ‘winter?’

Climate crisis

When I woke up and looked at the weather report this morning, it was 59° F. As I was driving home—I quit around sunset—the thermometer reading in my dashboard told me it was 72-73° F. As I was fixing dinner, I received repeated warnings of impending thunderstorms—it might be quite a night. There is, of course, no snow on the ground.

I’ve been remembering, from my time here 50 years ago, walking door-to-door with a snow shovel, realizing that as I walked up people’s walks through freshly-fallen snow, I was compacting it beneath my footsteps such that it would adhere to the concrete below, making my own job harder. I had no idea what to do about that.

It’s certainly not a problem this year. The maintenance folks at my apartment complex usually (they missed one day) douse the walks and parking lots heavily with salt whenever snow or ice threatens.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been cold days and even snowy days. But the snow melts within a few days and I’m still not wearing winter clothing—I wear a Gore Tex windbreaker I bought for San Francisco Bay Area rain, not my heavy winter coat, and I’m still wearing sandals—because the effort required to don winter clothing seems wildly disproportionate to any fleeting discomfort I might feel in my brief exposures to the cold.
RAYGRAPHIC
Fig. 1. Pittsburgh snowfall by decade. Graphic by Ray Petelin, January 9, 2020.[1] Fair use.

But if a local meteorologist is to be believed, it actually turns out that this has not been an exceptionally low-snow decade.[2] I honestly don’t know how to reconcile his chart (figure 1) with, for examples, my mother’s ongoing terror of a Pittsburgh winter (she grew up here in the 1940s and 1950s) or what I hear from just about everyone. Something’s clearly off kilter there because contrary to what he says, what I hear even from younger folks is that there is less snow than there used to be. Those who were here for it recall an exceptional blizzard in the late 1990s, a much lower-snow decade than the 2010s, let alone the 1960s (I was here for a couple years in the 1960s).

I have to think that total snowfall in each decade is somehow—this would actually be a good human science question—the wrong measure for people’s experience of snow and cold.

Robinson Meyer, “Australia Will Lose to Climate Change,” Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/

Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/


Ireland

Kate Devlin and Oliver Wright, “DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to revive Stormont assembly,” Times, January 11, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/northern-ireland-s-power-sharing-government-is-expected-to-be-restored-within-days-after-sinn-fein-and-the-democratic-unionist-party-signed-up-to-a-draft-deal-brokered-by-the-british-and-irish-governments-three-years-after-sinn-fein-walked-out-gsk0sph39


Israel

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-knesset-legal-adviser-said-set-to-okay-immunity-debate/


  1. [1]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/
  2. [2]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/

Amerikkkans dreaming

I thought I forgot to publish this on January 9. So it now covers January 10 as well. There’s actually not much that’s changed.


Donald Trump

I’m seeing a conclusion without a properly developed argument:

I assume there’s more to this than something like a cold or the flu? And please, if there is, help me to know how I should know that there is.


Political polarization

There’s a new blog post (as of January 9) entitled, “These disunited states.” I had written this prior to finding the article by Annalisa Merelli in Quartz, which helps to illustrate the mythology that preserves the status quo.[1] I’ve updated the post accordingly and also with a more accurate formulation of the means of “persuasion” in an exchange system.

Annalisa Merelli, “New study finds most Americans don’t really care about inequality,” Quartz, January 9, 2020, https://qz.com/1780450/new-study-finds-most-americans-dont-really-care-about-inequality/


Royals

I have to say that I really don’t buy Mona Eltahawy’s antipathy. The photographs I’ve seen of the couple seem to me to show a woman who has genuinely fallen in love with a man—everyone should have someone who loves them the way she appears to love him.

But Eltahawy seeks to regulate whom that woman may fall in love with, whom she may marry. Which is an awfully odd position to adopt for someone who campaigns so vigorously against the patriarchy.

Yes, from an anarchist perspective, and as residents of East Sussex seem to have noted,[2] monarchy is, perhaps, at or near the epitome of illegitimate authority. But it’s hard not to acknowledge a point here:

The novelist Hilary Mantel once compared the royal family to pandas. There is one big difference, though: Zoos are nice to pandas.[3]

(Assuming one regards captivity as “nice.”)

Helen Lewis highlights a parallel between the treatment of Harry’s mother (Diana) and his wife (Meghan Markle) and, at some point, you have to say, wait, the sort of coverage that, as many of us remember, pursues a woman to her death at high speed in a French tunnel and then photographs her while she’s dying[4] is by no means a legitimate form of journalism.

There are other forms of authority besides monarchy that can be every bit as cruel. We need to attend to those as well.

Helen Lewis, “Harry and Meghan Won’t Play the Game,” Atlantic, January 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/01/prince-harry-meghan-markle-sussex/604657/

Rebecca Mead, “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Flush,” New Yorker, January 10, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/prince-harry-and-meghan-markles-royal-flush


  1. [1]Annalisa Merelli, “New study finds most Americans don’t really care about inequality,” Quartz, January 9, 2020, https://qz.com/1780450/new-study-finds-most-americans-dont-really-care-about-inequality/
  2. [2]Rebecca Mead, “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Flush,” New Yorker, January 10, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/prince-harry-and-meghan-markles-royal-flush
  3. [3]Helen Lewis, “Harry and Meghan Won’t Play the Game,” Atlantic, January 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/01/prince-harry-meghan-markle-sussex/604657/
  4. [4]Helen Lewis, “Harry and Meghan Won’t Play the Game,” Atlantic, January 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/01/prince-harry-meghan-markle-sussex/604657/

Warmongers rob the poor. Leftists too often ignore them.

Bernie Sanders

There is a new blog post entitled, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched . . ..”


Iran and Iraq

I’m just leaving this here.


Nobody knows why the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief had Qasem Soleimani assassinated

It’s Pittsburgh in January. And there is no snow. We have had some 50° days, even a couple where the mercury touch 60°. It’s not at all what I remember from 50 years ago.

There have been occasional snowfalls. But any accumulation melts away within a few days.

And while the driving is easier, as an Uber and Lyft driver, it isn’t helping business. I just had one of the worst days I’ve ever had doing this. I really can’t afford days like this because I’m too close to the margin as it is.

Meanwhile my fury about my job hunt situation just grows.

I don’t even know what I’m doing this for. I can’t afford to take any time off or any time to explore what Pittsburgh has to offer besides the white supremacism that is in my face with nearly every corner I turn. All I do is work. I take abuse from the companies. I take abuse from other drivers. That’s my entire fucking life.

And I have a Ph.D. But hey, I’m supposed to be satisfied with driving for Uber and Lyft. Sorry, this needs to end.


Iran and Iraq

Today, I followed a thread on the decision-making process that led to Qasem Soleimani’s assassination. The various versions of the story include that no one really fucking knows[1] and that Donald Trump has “Obama envy.”[2] Which is pretty much par for the course for this presidency. Also, nobody knows how we’re going to avoid a war with Iran. Which, of course, is just fucking brilliant.

These geniuses are running the country while I’m driving for Uber and Lyft. How do I rationalize this to myself? I can’t.

Missy Ryan et al., “How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html

David Nakamura, “In confrontation with Iran, Trump wrestles with the shadow of Obama, ‘the metric he has to beat,’” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, “Pentagon Rules Out Striking Iranian Cultural Sites, Contradicting Trump,” New York Times, January 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/06/us/politics/trump-esper-iran-cultural-sites.html


  1. [1]Missy Ryan et al., “How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html; Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html
  2. [2]Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

There are no words

Iran and Iraq

There is a new blog post entitled, “Every bit as stupid as World War I, if not more so.”

The first article here is actually from yesterday, but it’s been updated and worth a re-read. One part is especially weird: Donald Trump threatened Iraq with harsh sanctions and demanded repayment for the costs of an air base should the country indeed force U.S. troops out.[1] The U.S. military, nonetheless, may—or may not—be preparing to withdraw.[2]

Normally I wouldn’t care much about words from third parties, but a comment from an Israeli Defense Force general is interesting for his characterization of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani as part of a contest between Iran and the U.S. over control of Iraq.[3] Which is to say, pretty fucking bluntly, that Iraq is a colony, albeit with a yet-to-be-determined colonizer. Iraqis won’t appreciate that but there’s some real truth to it. This is a contest that’s been going on for a while.

“[Qassem] Soleimani hurt American interests and represented a significant danger to Americans in the region. We must look at the assassination as part of a fight between Iran and the United States over Iraq’s character. That is the story,” said IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi.[4]

Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html

John Hudson et al., “Killing of Soleimani follows long push from Pompeo for aggressive action against Iran, but airstrike brings serious risks,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/killing-of-soleimani-follows-long-push-from-pompeo-for-aggressive-action-against-iran-but-airstrike-brings-serious-risks/2020/01/05/092a8e00-2f7d-11ea-be79-83e793dbcaef_story.html

David Smith, “Suleimani killing: Donald Trump defends threat to target cultural sites in Iran,” Guardian, January 6, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/06/suleimani-killing-donald-trump-defends-threat-to-hit-cultural-sites-in-iran

Times of Israel, “IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-general-distances-israel-from-soleimani-killing-in-first-public-comment/

Times of Israel, “US military says it’ll ‘move out’ of Iraq, but defense secretary denies pullout,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-military-tells-iraq-it-is-preparing-to-move-out-official-letter/


  1. [1]Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
  2. [2]Times of Israel, “US military says it’ll ‘move out’ of Iraq, but defense secretary denies pullout,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-military-tells-iraq-it-is-preparing-to-move-out-official-letter/
  3. [3]Times of Israel, “IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-general-distances-israel-from-soleimani-killing-in-first-public-comment/
  4. [4]Times of Israel, “IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-general-distances-israel-from-soleimani-killing-in-first-public-comment/

This ain’t getting better

Iran and Iraq

There is a new blog post entitled, “Tit for tat and the path to war, raging narcissist-in-chief style.”

Isabel Coles, “Iraqi Parliament Votes in Favor of Expelling U.S. Troops,” Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-votes-in-favor-of-expelling-u-s-troops-11578236473

Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html


War at last

Iran and Iraq

An intelligent president might have been able to avoid a war with Iran. Given the raging narcissist-in-chief we have, I see zero reason for optimism.

Matt Purple, “This is Trump’s War,” American Conservative, January 3, 2020, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/trumps-war/

Jared Malsin, “Thousands March in Iraq for Iranian Commander Killed in U.S. Strike,” Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/thousands-march-in-iraq-for-iranian-commander-killed-in-u-s-strike-11578145358


Vegans

There is a new blog post entitled, “The problem of non-vegan restaurants.”

Jenny Kirkham, “‘Hands up this isn’t great’: KFC admits selling chicken instead of vegan burger to vegetarians,” Liverpool Echo, January 3, 2020, https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/kfc-vegan-burger-chicken-vegetarian-17511479