New York City deaths from COVID-19 now exceed those from the 9/11 attacks

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “As we cower in our apartments,” in which I note the New York City death toll. This post was originally composed here.

Hailey Branson-Potts, “Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services because of coronavirus greeted by police,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-05/pastor-who-refuses-to-cancel-sunday-services-greeted-by-police

Madasyn Lee, “Pennsylvania issues safety guidelines for essential businesses,” TribLive, April 5, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/pennsylvania-issues-safety-guidelines-for-essential-businesses/

Ewan Palmer, “Middle-aged crowd break COVID-19 stay-at-home order to watch Pink Floyd cover band, chant ‘f*** the police’ as officers arrive,” Newsweek, April 6, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-new-jersey-concert-rumson-1496282


Yet another ‘end’ of a war that isn’t an end

Afghanistan

Previously,

A potential peace deal ending a futile war that has gone on for over 18 years[1] seems like good news. But apparently not everyone will celebrate; some dissenters have the ability to disrupt the planned “reduction in violence” that precedes the deal and must be successfully completed. The worst comes at the end of the story:[2]

After the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, the Afghan government will launch its own round of talks with the Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that he will build a negotiating team that is inclusive, but following disputed election results announced this week, Afghan politics is deeply divided.

Ghani and his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, both declared victory after the results were announced. Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, declared the results illegal and announced he will begin setting up a parallel government. Should this political turmoil persist, it will further complicate the formation of a strong, inclusive team to negotiate with the Taliban.[3]

Which is to say, whoops.[4]

So apparently, they got through the “reduction in violence” and now they’ve signed the agreement. That’s really all that’s changed.[5]

Those hurdles may be tough to surmount. President Ashraf Ghani delayed his inauguration, planned for this past Thursday, at the urging of U.S. officials worried that the event would increase tensions in Afghanistan, where challenger Abdullah Abdullah is contesting the outcome.

The internal split has undercut efforts by the Kabul government to launch talks with the Taliban, which are supposed to begin in the next two weeks.

Saad Mohseni, who returned to Afghanistan in 2001 to launch the country’s most successful private media company, said Saturday’s deal wasn’t the beginning of the end of the war.[6]

Dion Nissenbaum and Ehsanullah Amiri, “U.S., Taliban Sign Deal Meant to End America’s Longest War,” Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-taliban-set-to-sign-deal-meant-to-end-america-s-longest-war-11582977729


  1. [1]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/
  2. [2]Susannah George and John Hudson, “Pompeo, Taliban announce plan to sign peace deal at the end of the month,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/violence-reduction-in-afghanistan-set-to-begin-after-midnight-saturday/2020/02/21/c3df0fb2-547d-11ea-80ce-37a8d4266c09_story.html
  3. [3]Susannah George and John Hudson, “Pompeo, Taliban announce plan to sign peace deal at the end of the month,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/violence-reduction-in-afghanistan-set-to-begin-after-midnight-saturday/2020/02/21/c3df0fb2-547d-11ea-80ce-37a8d4266c09_story.html
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The even scarier delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” Irregular Bullshit, February 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/21/the-even-scarier-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief/
  5. [5]Dion Nissenbaum and Ehsanullah Amiri, “U.S., Taliban Sign Deal Meant to End America’s Longest War,” Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-taliban-set-to-sign-deal-meant-to-end-america-s-longest-war-11582977729
  6. [6]Dion Nissenbaum and Ehsanullah Amiri, “U.S., Taliban Sign Deal Meant to End America’s Longest War,” Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-taliban-set-to-sign-deal-meant-to-end-america-s-longest-war-11582977729

The even scarier delusional raging narcissist-in-chief

Donald Trump

In general, I’m not much interested in personnel shifts. Mostly they’re about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

But Donald Trump really seems ever more unhinged. It seems like he doesn’t even bother to conceal his demands for fealty.[1]

So thanks, once again, Nancy Pelosi, for “[t]he stupidest impeachment ever, historically notable first for all the offenses it failed to charge Donald Trump with,[2] second for its utterly predictable futility, and third for its transparent (and apparently failed) attempt to protect Joe Biden.[3][4] Trump was already scary. Now he’s scarier.[5] And I don’t see how you disentangle our delusional raging narcissist-in-chief’s sudden imperious escalation from that so very stupid impeachment.

Then there’s the really rather baffling puzzlement about why Russia would favor Trump’s reelection when the latter has imposed sanctions.[6] We should note that, apparently, the aforementioned sanctions have produced no change in behavior (which is generally the case); my guess is that some way, somehow they lack sufficient force to outweigh whatever interest Russia perceives in Trump’s reelection.

Ellen Nakashima et al., “Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/after-a-congressional-briefing-on-election-threats-trump-soured-on-acting-spy-chief/2020/02/20/1ed2b4ec-53f1-11ea-b119-4faabac6674f_story.html


Afghanistan

A potential peace deal ending a futile war that has gone on for over 18 years[7] seems like good news. But apparently not everyone will celebrate; some dissenters have the ability to disrupt the planned “reduction in violence” that precedes the deal and must be successfully completed. The worst comes at the end of the story:[8]

After the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, the Afghan government will launch its own round of talks with the Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that he will build a negotiating team that is inclusive, but following disputed election results announced this week, Afghan politics is deeply divided.

Ghani and his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, both declared victory after the results were announced. Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, declared the results illegal and announced he will begin setting up a parallel government. Should this political turmoil persist, it will further complicate the formation of a strong, inclusive team to negotiate with the Taliban.[9]

Which is to say, whoops.

Susannah George and John Hudson, “Pompeo, Taliban announce plan to sign peace deal at the end of the month,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/violence-reduction-in-afghanistan-set-to-begin-after-midnight-saturday/2020/02/21/c3df0fb2-547d-11ea-80ce-37a8d4266c09_story.html


 

  1. [1]Ellen Nakashima et al., “Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/after-a-congressional-briefing-on-election-threats-trump-soured-on-acting-spy-chief/2020/02/20/1ed2b4ec-53f1-11ea-b119-4faabac6674f_story.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  3. [3]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/19/the-sham-pick-your-partisan-flavor-is-on/; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/21/the-asterisk/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “One farce down, one to go,” Irregular Bullshit, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/05/one-farce-down-one-to-go/
  5. [5]Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/; Philip Bump, “Trump is making it very clear how seriously he objects to official corruption,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/18/trump-is-making-it-very-clear-how-seriously-he-objects-official-corruption/; Kevin Johnson, “Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone,” USA Today, February 17, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/17/roger-stone-sentence-judges-worried-political-interference/4788155002/; Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, “Republicans plead with Trump to leave Barr alone,” Politico, February 19, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/republican-senate-barr-trump-116034; Seung Min Kim, “These Republicans said they hope Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment. He said he hasn’t,” Washington Post, February 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/these-republicans-said-they-hope-trump-has-learned-a-lesson-from-impeachment-he-said-he-hasnt/2020/02/04/fa68c18c-478e-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html; Adam Serwer, “The First Days of the Trump Regime,” Atlantic, February 19, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/trump-regime/606682/
  6. [6]Ellen Nakashima et al., “Senior intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/after-a-congressional-briefing-on-election-threats-trump-soured-on-acting-spy-chief/2020/02/20/1ed2b4ec-53f1-11ea-b119-4faabac6674f_story.html
  7. [7]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/
  8. [8]Susannah George and John Hudson, “Pompeo, Taliban announce plan to sign peace deal at the end of the month,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/violence-reduction-in-afghanistan-set-to-begin-after-midnight-saturday/2020/02/21/c3df0fb2-547d-11ea-80ce-37a8d4266c09_story.html
  9. [9]Susannah George and John Hudson, “Pompeo, Taliban announce plan to sign peace deal at the end of the month,” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/violence-reduction-in-afghanistan-set-to-begin-after-midnight-saturday/2020/02/21/c3df0fb2-547d-11ea-80ce-37a8d4266c09_story.html

Driving while white

Pennsylvania

So yesterday, a white woman busted an illegal U-turn right in front of the cop who was in front of me.

I couldn’t see the front side of the cop’s light bar, but I assume he turned it on, as oncoming traffic stopped. He also, somehow, got the woman’s attention.

My Black passenger wondered what was going on. I explained that the cop was chewing out the woman for an illegal U-turn.

As a practical matter, it would have been extremely difficult in that situation for the cop to have written her a ticket. There was too much traffic already part-way into the intersection and even she had had trouble completing the turn, having had to back up (gee, I wonder why U-turns are illegal there) in order to complete it (the cop was, of course, in a larger vehicle), and there was no place to safely pull over.

My passenger expressed incredulity that she’d done that U-turn right in front of a cop. But, in effect, and as I explained to my passenger, the woman was getting away with it. And I could only say, there’s hardly any enforcement around here as long as you’re white.

“That’s true,” replied my passenger. Of course I think race plays a factor in traffic stops. I’ve seen far, far too much that’s completely over the top around here to believe otherwise.[1] And for cops to deny that they’re racist, as they do in this story,[2] only confirms for me, yet again, that they are.

Ivey DeJesus, “Does a driver’s race factor into traffic stops by Pa. police? It’s nearly impossible to tell,” PennLive, December 9, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/12/tracking-race-in-police-traffic-stops-across-central-pa.html


Vietnam Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is what happens when you can’t admit the war was a catastrophically bad idea to start with.

Some of us knew that it was, even if for imprecise reasons. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I remember hearing a news clip on the radio in which George W. Bush said something that made me think the missiles were already on the way.

There I was driving across the Presidio Heights neighborhood in San Francisco (with the windows rolled up) screaming, “No! No! No!” Again and again, I screamed it. “No! No! No!”

It turned out that missiles had not yet been launched, but I was nonetheless convinced that attacking a Muslim country could only make our relations with Muslims worse—and to the extent that Islam was in any way connected to the 9/11 attacks, we were only setting ourselves up for more.

That hasn’t precisely happened either, here in the U.S. and at least not yet, anyway. Although our relationship with Pakistan is severely strained, there’s been no repeat of the 9/11 attacks.

But while I had not yet returned to school (that would happen in 2003), I had learned enough of the history of Afghanistan to realize this was a doomed idea.

You didn’t even have to go back very far in history to examples of the British humiliation there. The Soviet Union’s defeat there is often blamed, at least in part, for its collapse.

But here we were, with fucking Bush the younger and a bunch of neoconservatives filled with hubris, idiots every damned one of them.

Not that Bush’s successors have been any better. One story that emerges again and again in the Washington Post‘s history of the war[3] will be familiar to scholars of colonization anywhere: That of a colonial power swooping in, certain of its rectitude, certain of the superiority of its own ways, heedless of what “backward,” “corrupt,” “stupid,” (pick any of a number of disparaging labels) local people would tell them. The power doesn’t need to know about local conditions and local reality because it has technology and experience, because it “knows better.”[4]

Another will be familiar to those who remember the war in Vietnam: We must pretend to succeed even when we are failing.[5]

Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/

Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/

Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/

Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/

Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/


Grants

It’s yet another obstacle to being hired where I should be hired. If I had a publication track record, I might have a better chance of being hired at a university. But to do that research I would need funding.

And it turns out that to be funded, I would likely need to be affiliated with (employed at) an elite university like Stanford or an Ivy League.[6]

Nothing is honest anymore.

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “How Elitism Marginalizes Academics,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191204-Herlihy-Mera


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/; David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/; David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  2. [2]Ivey DeJesus, “Does a driver’s race factor into traffic stops by Pa. police? It’s nearly impossible to tell,” PennLive, December 9, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/12/tracking-race-in-police-traffic-stops-across-central-pa.html
  3. [3]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/
  4. [4]Edward W. Said’s account mostly relates to India in Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), where the struggle against colonization lasted hundreds of years.
  5. [5]David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000).
  6. [6]Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “How Elitism Marginalizes Academics,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191204-Herlihy-Mera

Forever war and inhumanity, delusional raging narcissist-in-chief style

Migration

27_10:04:55-1The Washington Post caption: “In a photo first published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the bodies of Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter, Valeria, are seen on the banks of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Tex. (Julia Le Duc/AP)” Image via the Washington Post, June 27, 2019, fair use.[1]

Philip Kennicott, “We used to think photos like this could change the world. What needs to change is who we are,” Washington Post, June 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/we-used-to-think-photos-like-this-could-change-the-world-what-needs-to-change-is-who-we-are/2019/06/26/53c9087a-982d-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html

Alejandro Lazo and Jacob Gershman, “Lawsuit Alleges Government Mistreatment of Migrant Children,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-alleges-government-mistreatment-of-migrant-children-11561608969


Iran

Where have we heard this[2] before? Oh yes, here it is:

July 11, 2002 – “Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder.” – Richard Perle, then Pentagon Defense Policy Board chairman. . . .

November 14, 2002 – “The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” – Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. . . .

March 16, 2003 – “I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” – U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to U.S. television network NBC. . . .

May 1, 2003 – “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” – U.S. President George W. Bush, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished”.[3]

I am also recalling David Halberstam’s description of the “Five O’Clock Follies” in which military officials daily delivered rosy assessments of the war effort in Vietnam.[4]

So okay, let’s play. According the CIA World Factbook:[5]

  1. Afghanistan has a land surface area of 652,230 sq km and a population of 34,940,837 (July 2018 est.).[6] We are still at war there.
  2. Iraq has a land surface area of 437,367 sq km and a population of 40,194,216 (July 2018 est.).[7] The war with the Islamic State has mostly wound down, but I haven’t heard anyone say we’re finished with the war in Iraq.
  3. So now, drum roll, please: Iran has a land surface area of 1,531,595 sq km and a population of 83,024,745 (July 2018 est.).[8] That is, over twice the land area of Afghanistan and nearly four times the area of Iraq. And something approaching three times the population of Afghanistan and over double that of Iraq. “President Trump said Wednesday [June 26] that a war with Iran would not ‘last very long’ or involve ground troops, as he seemingly dismissed warnings that limited U.S. military action could spiral into a larger conflict.”[9] He proposes this while we are still embroiled in George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (even if we don’t call it that anymore).

Oh yeah, hubris, baby!

John Wagner and Dan Lamothe, “Trump says war with Iran would not involve ground troops or last long,” Washington Post, June 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-war-with-iran-would-not-involve-ground-troops-and-not-last-long/2019/06/26/9a0e9918-9813-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html


Donald Trump

I am remembering Jürgen Habermas’ description of a conflict between business leaders and royalty in which the latter felt ordinary people too ignorant, idiotic, and ill-informed to judge discussions with foreign leaders.[10] Of course, a lot of people think the “ignorant, idiotic, and informed” description would apply to Donald Trump himself and so when we see Trump saying that what he says to Vladimir Putin is “none of your business,”[11] what we see is how deep the gulf is between Trump with his sycophants and many of the rest of us.

Meanwhile, I’m remembering another photograph:
27_10:29:43-12The Time caption: “A handout photograph from the German government shows a group of leaders at the Group of Seven summit, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Trump, in Canada on June 9, 2018.” Via Time, June 10, 2018, fair use.[12]

I can’t help but think that foreign leaders on the one hand understand they must deal with Trump due to U.S. military and economic heft. And I’ll grant that Putin probably sees a man he can take advantage of. But for the rest, that must somehow still fail to answer the question, why are they dealing with this man?

Brett Samuels, “Trump to reporter: What I say to Putin at G-20 is none of your business,” Hill, June 26, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/450465-trump-to-reporter-what-i-say-to-putin-at-g20-is-none-of-your-business

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm, “Twitter adds labels for tweets that break its rules — a move with potentially stark implications for Trump’s account,” Washington Post, June 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/06/27/twitter-adds-labels-tweets-that-break-its-rules-putting-president-trump-companys-crosshairs/


Israel

It’s hard to say who is more shameless: Donald Trump or Binyamin Netanyahu.

In yesterday’s installment, we learned that Netanyahu was reconsidering the move to a second election after having failed to form a coalition to govern.[13] It turns out that the basic law which controls how Israel is governed is much, much easier to amend than, say, the U.S. Constitution. So guess what Likud’s plan is?[14] Anything, it seems, is legitimate, so long as it keeps Netanyahu in power. Netanyahu may match Trump in shamelessness, but Trump probably can’t match Netanyahu’s execution.

Jacob Magid, “After leading vote to dissolve Knesset, PM’s looking at a redo. Is that allowed?” Times of Israel, June 26, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-leading-vote-to-dissolve-knesset-pms-looking-at-a-redo-is-that-allowed/


Gerrymandering

In which a conservative Supreme Court decides it can’t do anything (so, sorry!) about conservatives rigging electoral districts to keep conservatives in power.[15]

David G. Savage and Mark Z. Barabak, “Supreme Court’s approval of partisan gerrymandering raises 2020 election stakes,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-supreme-court-partisan-gerrymandering-republicans-20190627-story.html


  1. [1]Philip Kennicott, “We used to think photos like this could change the world. What needs to change is who we are,” Washington Post, June 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/we-used-to-think-photos-like-this-could-change-the-world-what-needs-to-change-is-who-we-are/2019/06/26/53c9087a-982d-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html
  2. [2]John Wagner and Dan Lamothe, “Trump says war with Iran would not involve ground troops or last long,” Washington Post, June 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-war-with-iran-would-not-involve-ground-troops-and-not-last-long/2019/06/26/9a0e9918-9813-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html
  3. [3]Dean Yates, “Iraq war, the notable quotes,” March 11, 2008, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-quotes/factbox-iraq-war-the-notable-quotes-idUSL212762520080311
  4. [4]David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000).
  5. [5]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  6. [6]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  7. [7]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  8. [8]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  9. [9]John Wagner and Dan Lamothe, “Trump says war with Iran would not involve ground troops or last long,” Washington Post, June 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-war-with-iran-would-not-involve-ground-troops-and-not-last-long/2019/06/26/9a0e9918-9813-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html
  10. [10]Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger with Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1991).
  11. [11]Donald Trump, quoted in Brett Samuels, “Trump to reporter: What I say to Putin at G-20 is none of your business,” Hill, June 26, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/450465-trump-to-reporter-what-i-say-to-putin-at-g20-is-none-of-your-business
  12. [12]Andrew Katz, “A Single Photo Captured President Trump’s Approach to the G7 Summit,” Time, June 10, 2018, https://time.com/5307314/donald-trump-angela-merkel-g-7-photograph/
  13. [13]Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu reportedly trying to undo Israel’s election redo,” Washington Post, June 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahu-reportedly-trying-to-undo-israels-election-redo/2019/06/26/e2742366-97f1-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html
  14. [14]Jacob Magid, “After leading vote to dissolve Knesset, PM’s looking at a redo. Is that allowed?” Times of Israel, June 26, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-leading-vote-to-dissolve-knesset-pms-looking-at-a-redo-is-that-allowed/
  15. [15]David G. Savage and Mark Z. Barabak, “Supreme Court’s approval of partisan gerrymandering raises 2020 election stakes,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-supreme-court-partisan-gerrymandering-republicans-20190627-story.html

Intractable idiocy

Iran

One way to begin any discussion of war with Iran is with a recognition that the country is larger and more populous than either Iraq or Afghanistan. And that the U.S. isn’t finished with either of George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s wars in those countries. So it’s hard to fathom any claim of easy or instant victory, at least on the terms in which the U.S. has fought its existing wars.

How could this time be different? Could it be that when Donald Trump threatens obliteration and “overwhelming force,”[1] he means nuclear force?

Peter Beinart, “The Question the Iran Hawks Haven’t Answered,” Atlantic, June 24, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/iran-hawks-owe-americans-some-answers/592390/

Erin Cunningham and Ruth Eglash, “Trump warns Iran of ‘overwhelming force’ in the event of an attack on ‘anything American,’” Washington Post, June 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-says-path-to-diplomacypermanently-closed-following-us-sanctions/2019/06/25/636b48e6-96b7-11e9-9a16-dc551ea5a43b_story.html


Brexit

We’re actually back to talking about Brexit. Yes, actually Brexit. Which probably means that the Tory power struggle is all but settled in favor of Boris Johnson, at least until he actually wins the Tory contest, when he will need to secure a confidence vote in Parliament.[2]. Of course, nothing else actually has changed. The backstop is unavoidable, no matter what the Tories fantasize.[3] A hard Brexit remains the default.[4] But the new government could well collapse, failing even to secure an vote of confidence.[5]

Jessica Elgot, “New PM faces losing Commons confidence, Tory MPs warn,” Guardian, June 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/21/next-tory-pm-will-face-serious-challenge-trying-to-secure-commons-confidence

Daniel Boffey, “However you look at it, the logic of a Brexit backstop refuses to yield,” Guardian, June 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/however-look-logic-brexit-backstop-refuses-to-yield-irish

Peter Walker, “Boris Johnson ‘could face Tory coup’ over no-deal Brexit stance,” Guardian, June 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/boris-johnson-tory-coup-deal-brexit-tobias-ellwood-jeremy-hunt


Student loans

I remember telling my students not to be oblivious to the student loans they were racking up, but to consider that this is a middle class issue, and that some kind of relief was all but inevitable. In fact, this was manifest with Barack Obama’s steps on income-based repayment but there’s an argument for considerably more. The trouble will lie in that relief, especially for those like myself who racked up huge loans in graduate school, will often flow to those unlike myself who are most able to repay.[6]

I think my own view is that student loans are only one part of the problem in academia. First and foremost, a neoliberal takeover of institutions must be reversed, restoring universities to something somewhat closer to what they are supposed to be, and moving away from job training. Universities are supposed to be centers for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge; not all knowledge fits neatly with the capitalist profit motive and though we forget this under neoliberalism, there is much, much more to life than the neoliberal particularization and essentialization of human beings as economic units of production and this latter creates severe social problems which also need to be, but are increasingly rarely, addressed as social science programs and humanities programs seem caught in a downward spiral.

Second, athletics need to be divorced from universities. Athletics programs help feed the administrative lust for money, which largely goes to overpaid and self-aggrandizing administrations, and increasingly less toward faculty and research. Visit the University of California, Berkeley, or Stanford on the day of a big game and you see what universities have become really about. Alumni don’t care about current students (except their own children) and they don’t care about what universities are about. It’s about the football, baby. And that needs to end, decades ago.

Third, that anything like two thirds or three quarters of faculty hiring is for woefully underpaid adjuncts should be a scandal. But neoliberalism seemingly makes it all okay. Because despite all these “ivory towers,” we’re anti-intellectual. We just use universities to lie to ourselves about that.

Fourth, that success in attracting grants covering not only the cost of research but helping to defray the administratively-inflated costs of academic programs seem increasingly essential in securing tenure-track faculty positions should be a scandal. Again, neoliberalism, baby, as scholars are particularized and essentialized as economic units of production rather than as what they’re supposed to be: contributors to knowledge.

Fifth, the notion of academic disciplines in the social sciences deserves a very hard look. Right now, they are centers for empire building. They function as blinders as the boundaries between them are arbitrary and ambiguous and scholars inevitably transgress them but lack the preparation to do so. This is deeply damaging to scholarship as the silo walls are reinforced under a neoliberal assault and transdisciplinary scholars such as myself are excluded.

Finally, we need to understand the university, with its mission properly understood, as a social good in and of itself. That we do not informs us that the political and economic elite are not interested in actual solutions to or even in actually understanding problems but rather in pandering to whomever and whatever protects their position.

Steven Johnson, “‘No Exceptions, No Questions Asked’: Progressives Propose Legislation Canceling All Student-Loan Debt,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 24, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/No-Exceptions-No-Questions/246553


Horse abuse

John Cherwa, “Bill allowing horse racing to be suspended approved by California Legislature,” Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/sports/more/la-sp-gavin-newsom-chrb-california-horse-racing-20190624-story.html


  1. [1]Erin Cunningham and Ruth Eglash, “Trump warns Iran of ‘overwhelming force’ in the event of an attack on ‘anything American,’” Washington Post, June 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-says-path-to-diplomacypermanently-closed-following-us-sanctions/2019/06/25/636b48e6-96b7-11e9-9a16-dc551ea5a43b_story.html
  2. [2]Peter Walker, “Boris Johnson ‘could face Tory coup’ over no-deal Brexit stance,” Guardian, June 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/boris-johnson-tory-coup-deal-brexit-tobias-ellwood-jeremy-hunt
  3. [3]Daniel Boffey, “However you look at it, the logic of a Brexit backstop refuses to yield,” Guardian, June 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/however-look-logic-brexit-backstop-refuses-to-yield-irish
  4. [4]Jack Maidment, “Theresa May’s deal defeated again by 58 votes – PM hints at general election to break deadlock,” Telegraph, March 29, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/03/29/brexit-latest-news-theresa-may-final-push-mps-prepare-vote-withdrawal/
  5. [5]Jessica Elgot, “New PM faces losing Commons confidence, Tory MPs warn,” Guardian, June 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/21/next-tory-pm-will-face-serious-challenge-trying-to-secure-commons-confidence; Peter Walker, “Boris Johnson ‘could face Tory coup’ over no-deal Brexit stance,” Guardian, June 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/boris-johnson-tory-coup-deal-brexit-tobias-ellwood-jeremy-hunt
  6. [6]Steven Johnson, “‘No Exceptions, No Questions Asked’: Progressives Propose Legislation Canceling All Student-Loan Debt,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 24, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/No-Exceptions-No-Questions/246553

What? Are you trying to tell me that row Boris Johnson had with Carrie Symonds might reflect on his character? Really? Surely you jest.

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 23, 6:18 pm.
  2. June 23, 11:20 pm:
    • Joe Biden might not be the only candidate for the neoliberal party nomination tripped up by race.[1] The police in South Bend, Indiana, are tripping up Pete Buttigieg with—oh, gee, this should be a surprise—the shooting of a Black man.[2]

Boris Johnson

What’s this? Do the British take domestic arguments apparently verging on violence[3] seriously and possibly as a reflection on the prime minister-apparent’s character? It seems some of them might. Not Boris Johnson: He claimed that voters were entitled to know about his character but then refused to answer questions on the incident as if it had no relevance to his character whatsoever.[4] Neither the Telegraph: Their coverage emphasizes that the neighbor who recorded the fight and called police supports Jeremy Corbyn and is a remainer. The Telegraph also suggests that Carrie Symonds may have been distraught about a black cab rapist, whom she apparently had ridden with and been drugged by.[5]

Gotta tell you: The discrepancy in coverage here is jarring as the Telegraph, a conservative paper, appears to seek to deflect blame from Johnson onto anyone else: Symonds or the neighbor,[6] perhaps others yet to be determined (I blame both Symonds and Johnson[7]), while the Guardian, a neoliberal paper, reports that senior Tories are alarmed and that public support for Johnson is dropping.[8]

Edward Malnick, Patrick Sawer, and Steve Bird, “Left-wing neighbours admit to taping Boris Johnson row with partner Carrie Symonds,” Telegraph, June 22, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/22/left-wing-neighbours-admit-taping-boris-johnson-row-girlfriend/

Michael Savage, Toby Helm, and Simon Murphy, “Boris Johnson under fire over row with partner as top Tories raise fears,” Guardian, June 22, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/22/boris-johnson-under-fire-questions-hustings-late-night-argument


Social Conservatives

This is when I wish I had easier access to my old archive because M. Reza Behnam provides a center[9] for the articles I found on elements of social conservatism that deal with eschatology (“end times” ideology) and the link between Israel, armageddon, and the U.S. political class. To say this is an important article is much too cheap.

What isn’t here is much at all on the neoconservative angle, though Behnam points to George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” rhetoric.[10] Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea[11] even though al Qaeda’s leadership was based in Afghanistan[12] and the 9/11 hijackers were mostly (all but four of nineteen) Saudi nationals.[13] Rhetorically, Bush unified these countries to substitute for the old Soviet Union as an essential (to neoconservatives) monolithic enemy.

M. Reza Behnam, “Selling Israel Biblically,” Tikkun, June 20, 2019, https://www.tikkun.org/selling-israel-biblically


Dissertation

I have finally managed to get a copy of my dissertation on line. It’s also available in other places, some publicly, but here, I can find it and that, in turn, will make it easier to locate some of the sources I used in writing it.

My dissertation turned out to be much more of an opus magnum than dissertations are supposed to be; it came in at over 400 pages when they’re supposed be closer to 100. But it really was a culmination of my scholarly career to that point, which in turn had unintentionally become an exploration of why my life has turned out the way it has. It’s far from perfect; I think most scholars will tell you in hindsight that they have regrets about their dissertations. But it was the best I could do at the time.

This version is better than what I had managed to previously post on parts-unknown.org thanks to a really cool piece of software called pandoc, which is wonderful for converting between various text formats.


Turkey

While celebrating Mr. [Ekrem] Imamoglu’s victory, members of his Republican People’s Party, or CHP, cautioned that Mr. [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan had a track record of canceling the results of elections when he doesn’t like the outcome. Mr. Erdogan canceled a legislative vote in 2015 in which the AKP had failed to garner a majority. In recent months, his administration has annulled scores of municipal votes across Turkey, replacing opposition mayors by government-appointed caretakers.[14]

As was suspected when “Mr. Imamoglu had defeated the AKP [Justice and Development Party] candidate in the initial March municipal ballot, but electoral authorities had voided the results after Mr. Erdogan complained of fraud and called for a do-over.”[15]

Kareem Fahim, “Opposition candidate wins in do-over of Istanbul’s mayoral race, dealing setback to Erdogan’s ruling party,” Washington Post, June 23, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/opposition-candidate-wins-in-do-over-of-istanbuls-mayoral-race-dealing-setback-to-erdogans-ruling-party/2019/06/23/3a59c3cc-92d1-11e9-956a-88c291ab5c38_story.html

David Gauthier-Villars, “In Setback for Erdogan, Opposition Candidate Wins Istanbul Mayor Seat,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-setback-for-erdogan-opposition-candidate-wins-istanbul-mayor-seat-11561309654


Pete Buttigieg

Matt Pearce, “Black residents of South Bend unload on Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-2020-pete-buttigieg-mayor-police-shooting-black-voters-20190624-story.html


  1. [1]Stephen Collinson, “Joe Biden gets in his own way on race,” CNN, June 20, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/20/politics/joe-biden-race-2020-election/index.html; Scott Detrow, “Democrats Blast Biden For Recalling ‘Civil’ Relationship With Segregationists,” CNN, June 19, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/06/19/734103488/democrats-blast-biden-for-recalling-civil-relationship-with-segregationists; Greg Sargent, “Joe Biden is badly undermining his ability to challenge Trump,” Washington Post, June 20, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/06/20/joe-biden-is-badly-undermining-his-case-against-trump/; Matt Viser and Annie Linskey, “Tensions ripple through Biden campaign as his past working relationship with a segregationist senator comes to the forefront,” Washington Post, June 20, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/tensions-ripple-through-biden-campaign-as-his-past-working-relationship-with-a-segregationist-senator-comes-to-the-forefront/2019/06/20/2518afe6-9394-11e9-b570-6416efdc0803_story.html; Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan, “Biden faces backlash over comments about the ‘civility’ of his past work with racist senators,” Washington Post, June 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-faces-backlash-over-comments-about-the-civility-of-his-past-work-with-racist-senators/2019/06/19/c0375d2a-92a8-11e9-b58a-a6a9afaa0e3e_story.html
  2. [2]Matt Pearce, “Black residents of South Bend unload on Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-2020-pete-buttigieg-mayor-police-shooting-black-voters-20190624-story.html
  3. [3]Gordon Rayner, “Police called to home of Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds after reports of loud altercation,” Telegraph, June 21, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/21/police-called-home-boris-johnson-girlfriend-reports-altercation/; Jim Waterson, “Boris Johnson: police called to loud altercation at potential PM’s home,” Guardian, June 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/21/police-called-to-loud-altercation-at-boris-johnsons-home
  4. [4]Michael Savage, Toby Helm, and Simon Murphy, “Boris Johnson under fire over row with partner as top Tories raise fears,” Guardian, June 22, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/22/boris-johnson-under-fire-questions-hustings-late-night-argument
  5. [5]Edward Malnick, Patrick Sawer, and Steve Bird, “Left-wing neighbours admit to taping Boris Johnson row with partner Carrie Symonds,” Telegraph, June 22, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/22/left-wing-neighbours-admit-taping-boris-johnson-row-girlfriend/
  6. [6]Edward Malnick, Patrick Sawer, and Steve Bird, “Left-wing neighbours admit to taping Boris Johnson row with partner Carrie Symonds,” Telegraph, June 22, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/22/left-wing-neighbours-admit-taping-boris-johnson-row-girlfriend/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Police called for a relationship made in Hell,” Irregular Bullshit, June 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/06/22/police-called-for-a-relationship-made-in-hell/
  8. [8]Michael Savage, Toby Helm, and Simon Murphy, “Boris Johnson under fire over row with partner as top Tories raise fears,” Guardian, June 22, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/22/boris-johnson-under-fire-questions-hustings-late-night-argument
  9. [9]M. Reza Behnam, “Selling Israel Biblically,” Tikkun, June 20, 2019, https://www.tikkun.org/selling-israel-biblically
  10. [10]M. Reza Behnam, “Selling Israel Biblically,” Tikkun, June 20, 2019, https://www.tikkun.org/selling-israel-biblically
  11. [11]Andrew Glass, “President Bush cites ‘axis of evil,’ Jan. 29, 2002,” Politico, January 29, 2019, https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/29/bush-axis-of-evil-2002-1127725
  12. [12]Public Broadcasting System, “Background: al Qaeda,” Frontline, n.d., https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/network/alqaeda/indictment.html
  13. [13]CNN, “September 11 Hijackers Fast Facts,” September 5, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11th-hijackers-fast-facts/index.html
  14. [14]David Gauthier-Villars, “In Setback for Erdogan, Opposition Candidate Wins Istanbul Mayor Seat,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-setback-for-erdogan-opposition-candidate-wins-istanbul-mayor-seat-11561309654
  15. [15]David Gauthier-Villars, “In Setback for Erdogan, Opposition Candidate Wins Istanbul Mayor Seat,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-setback-for-erdogan-opposition-candidate-wins-istanbul-mayor-seat-11561309654

John Bolton’s wet dream may turn real

Iran

“I think Iran is showing that it has teeth,” said Charles Hollis, a former British diplomat in Tehran who is now managing director of the Falanx Assynt consultancy. “It’s a way of showing that if they are backed into a corner they are not without means of causing grief.”[1]

I see three additional possibilities, none of which I regard as particularly more likely than any of the others:

  1. Iran’s government has, or perhaps the Revolutionary Guards have, concluded that if war is to come, it’s better to get on with it sooner rather than later. Their assessment would be due to economic sanctions diminishing Iranian war capability (if they in fact do).
  2. A “false flag” operation by either the U.S. or its allies, including Israel.

    Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the incident in Gulf of Oman. He previously suggested without evidence that Israel was staging the attacks to undermine Iran.[2]

    The video is blurry and black and white. Even if we accept Mike Pompeo’s claim that the attack required a certain level of expertise and weaponry,[3] such a video does not support attribution to any particular state actor.

  3. Some or all of it is bullshit:

    [T]he Japanese operator of Kokuka Courageous said the crew saw “flying objects” just before the attack, suggesting the tanker was damaged by something other than mines. Yutaka Katada, the company president, said reports of a mine attack were “false”.[4]

    Avenues of information from the region are limited. The U.S. can pretty much say what it wants, claim whatever it wants to claim, and not many folks are going to question it. Remember, John Bolton, who is now Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, has been lusting for war with Iran for decades and he has falsified claims in the past.[5] Further remember that journalists have a long history of falling into line even with dubious White House and Pentagon claims on international affairs.[6]

The Telegraph has the video.[7] Trust nothing, especially appeals to “classified” evidence.[8]

Remember as well that Donald Trump 1) can use a distraction or two, 2) relies almost exclusively on various bullying tactics to “negotiate,” and 3) is stymied when bullying tactics fail. With number three on that list, and Bolton’s lust for war, the situation with Iran can only be described as extremely dangerous. This would not be a war the U.S. can win, any more than it won in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq. Many, possibly millions of, people will die all so Bolton can get a hard-on.

Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/

Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour, “US says video shows Iranian military removing mine from tanker,” Guardian, June 14, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/13/mike-pompeo-iran-gulf-oil-tanker-attacks


Donald Trump

Donald Trump “is historically unpopular for a President by many measures, but no matter what he does the allegiance of some forty per cent of the American public has so far remained unwavering.”[9] Presumably that’s based on nine percent response rate polling.

Susan B. Glasser, “Forget “No Collusion.” Trump Is Now Pro-Collusion,” New Yorker, June 13, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/forget-no-collusion-trump-is-now-pro-collusion


Ride sharing

Sarah Holder, “Uber and Lyft Really Don’t Want California to Pass This Worker Rights Bill,” Atlantic, June 13, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/06/gig-economy-employment-law-california-bill-ab-5-uber-lyft/591565/


  1. [1]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  2. [2]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  3. [3]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/; Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour, “US says video shows Iranian military removing mine from tanker,” Guardian, June 14, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/13/mike-pompeo-iran-gulf-oil-tanker-attacks
  4. [4]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  5. [5]Dexter Filkins, “John Bolton on the Warpath,” New Yorker, April 29, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/john-bolton-on-the-warpath
  6. [6]J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995); David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000); Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002).
  7. [7]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  8. [8]The claim that evidence is “classified” is an excuse for not supplying that evidence. It is unacceptable in lieu of the actual evidence.
  9. [9]Susan B. Glasser, “Forget “No Collusion.” Trump Is Now Pro-Collusion,” New Yorker, June 13, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/forget-no-collusion-trump-is-now-pro-collusion

Plan B: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Since I began this adventure, my mother has been urging me towards Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I still have relatives and where, apparently, the cost of living is lower. I have explained to her (and she should already know because she’s read the book) that Pittsburgh is on the frontier between Colin Woodard’s Midlands and Greater Appalachia, the latter likely being the source of authoritarian populism. I think either she doesn’t really buy Colin Woodard’s sociocultural analysis of Yankeedom as being more civically engaged and scholarly-oriented[1] or that she doesn’t think the difference between Yankeedom and the Midlands will be that great (figure 1).

upinarms-map-large
Fig. 1. Colin Woodard’s sociocultural regions.[2]

And, to be honest, she may have a point: While Woodard’s history is—to say the very least—illuminating, he may essentialize geographic areas in his description of sociocultural regions; his regional archetypes and sharply drawn boundaries (apparently along county lines) all lack nuance. His description of Yankeedom covers an area mainly from New England to the eastern edge of the Dakotas,[3] some of which has looked rather authoritarian populist lately. Authoritarian populism is probably the most anti-intellectual conservative tendency—even more so than social conservatism or paleoconservatism (the other tendencies in Donald Trump’s oh so very precious base).

So now that I’ve fallen flat on my face in western Massachusetts, she’s gotten involved with the apartment hunt and things are distinctly looking up. I already have two appointments for Wednesday in the Pittsburgh area (with a third expected to contact me Monday).

Understand that the point I made yesterday about barriers to housing that affect the poor, especially the homeless, still applies.[4] But my Mom is not poor—to the extent our lives can be compared, she successfully changed careers while I never really found one I both wanted and could succeed in. She succeeded in developing that career, and though she was a newspaper reporter to the end of her career, she managed to buy a house, save some money, and maximize her pensions. Her involvement in my apartment search quite literally makes all the difference and if I didn’t have her, I’d probably have been homeless for the last ten years (I moved back in with her in December 2008 while I was finishing my M.A. and stayed there throughout my Ph.D. work and since).


I am still not yet caught up on the news. But my eyes are glazing over. Good night.


The Megalithic

Michael Price, “Were Europe’s megalithic societies patrilineal?” Science, April 15, 2019, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/were-europe-s-megalithic-societies-patrilineal


Prison Guards

Philip Zimbardo might be feeling a bit of vindication about now.

Allyson Chiu, “‘Feeling cute, might just gas some inmates today’: Corrections officers face backlash over social media challenge,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/04/17/feeling-cute-might-just-gas-some-inmates-today-corrections-officers-face-backlash-over-social-media-challenge/


Subprime Lending

Ben Lane, “No-income, no-asset mortgages are back (at one lender, at least),” Housing Wire, April 16, 2019, https://www.housingwire.com/articles/48810-no-income-no-asset-mortgages-are-back-at-one-lender-at-least


North Korea

Timothy W. Martin and Dasl Yoon, “North Korea Says It Test-Fired New Tactical Guided Weapon,” Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kim-jong-un-sends-message-to-trump-with-military-visit-11555497814


Yemen

Simon Tisdall, “Trump’s veto over Yemen is a scandalous abuse of presidential power,” Guardian, April 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/17/donald-trump-yemen-veto-war-saudi-arabia-scandalous-abuse


San Francisco

Dan Kopf, “San Francisco’s Diversity Numbers Are Looking More and More Like a Tech Company’s,” Atlantic, April 19, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/04/san-francisco-city-apps-built-or-destroyed/587389/


Julian Assange

Kevin Gosztola, “FBI affidavit in Assange case Shows government is criminalizing publication of Afghanistan war logs,” Shadowproof, April 16, 2019, https://shadowproof.com/2019/04/16/fbi-affidavit-in-assange-case-shows-government-is-criminalizing-publication-of-afghanistan-war-logs/


  1. [1]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  2. [2]I regret that due to my move, at this writing, I do not have access to track down where I found this map. I believe it was in an online article that pointed me to the book by Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011) wherein, as I recall, a similar map appears.
  3. [3]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  4. [4]David Benfell, “If you don’t like homelessness, here’s an idea: Make it possible to rent an apartment,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/04/19/if-you-dont-like-homelessness-heres-an-idea-make-it-possible-to-rent-an-apartment/

Hard Brexiteers twist and turn, but whose neck is in the noose?

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 29, 2:42 am.
  2. Added discussion of my experience driving with Uber and Lyft, January 29, 5:42 am.
  3. January 29, 7:52 pm:
    • Pacific Gas and Electric’s bankruptcy is likely to be extraordinarily expensive while yielding little relief from the wildfire-related liabilities it faces.[1]
    • Parliament has voted against a hard Brexit, but 1) the vote is non-binding (as was the original referendum), and 2) the premise that Theresa May will be able to renegotiate the backstop continues to appear impossible.[2]
  4. January 30, 12:56 am:
    • Added a New Yorker cartoon. I didn’t see who the artist might be.
    • The Wall Street Journal article[3] noted above (January 29, 7:52 pm) apparently isn’t reassuring very many people.[4] I’m perplexed: Both sides in this seem legally informed to me. Perhaps I’m wrong about that.
  5. January 30, 8:20 pm:
    • Kevin McCarthy has drawn suspicion for delays in appointing Republican members to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. With the delay, he has delayed the hand over of transcripts to Robert Mueller,[5] who is widely thought to be nearing completion of his investigation. Given that Donald Trump has blown his opportunity to fire Mueller,[6] I’m not actually seeing Mueller’s limits here: Can he not extend his investigation as long as necessary? (James Comey)
    • Epistemologically, conservatives are an interesting case, often tending to prefer almost anything, be it ideology or a notion of how things ought to be to empirical information about how things actually are.[7] It’s harder to know with authoritarian populists, as Donald Trump demonstrates yet again.[8]
  6. January 30, 11:21 pm:
    • I’m all in favor of sticking it to Pacific Gas and Electric over the California wildfires, and probably just on general principle, but William Alsup, the judge in PG&E’s criminal conviction and subsequent probation for the San Bruno gas line explosion seems to go a little overboard as he criticizes both the company and the California Public Utilities Commission for their handling of fire safety.[9]
    • At least for this issue, it seems the New Yorker is on a roll. Another of their cartoons added.
  7. January 31, 11:38 pm:
    • So I’ve been leaving this, um, conflict, ahem, between Donald Trump and the intelligence community—The Deep State—to simmer for a while. The spitballs, even when thrown in public, just don’t impress me much. But now, in the wake of Senate testimony given by intelligence agency heads, Trump is discovering that there are limits to his support even in the Republican-controlled Senate.[10] I was wondering a bit, not very much, what was happening with neoconservatives who opposed Trump. Now, it seems like when the Republican neoconservatives can get a few of their Democratic neoconservative colleagues to join in, well, it’s just a bit reminiscent of old days. (You may ask me if this is a good or bad thing; just don’t ask me if this is a good or bad thing relative to the present good or bad thing. There! Did I just answer the question I’d have let you ask without you even having to ask it?)

When I say I’m a BA-A-AD vegan, this is what I mean:NewYorker
via the New Yorker, fair use (I hope).

Well, that, and a few other things.


I generally think music—including that crap I’m inclined not to count as ‘music’—is one of the ways that generations create their own identities. Just as rock and roll irritated earlier generations, rap and hip hop irritate me. But then there are my less charitable moments. The gist of which an unknown cartoonist for the New Yorker has captured well:DC013019
Sadly, many folks around where I live will fail to appreciate the noises that a radiator makes when it heats a room. They’re pretty discordant and often startling.


One of the things that really sucks about driving for work is that people who don’t actually have to do your job get to make decisions about how you’ll do it. So, for example, Uber and Lyft simply relay orders for riders to be picked up where it is illegal, unsafe, or otherwise problematic to pick up. Except, that is, with Uber’s Express Pool service, where Uber sets the illegal, unsafe, or otherwise problematic pick up locations just to make riders walk to them (to save money and, supposedly, but not really, time).

San Francisco blames Uber and Lyft for its traffic problems,[11] allegedly targets drivers for additional enforcement,[12] then uses the results of this alleged targeting to justify blaming Uber and Lyft,[13] expects drivers to pony up for a business license (to my knowledge, no other city in California does this), and then, after picking drivers’ pockets every way it can, demands to know if drivers are making a minimum wage[14] (we generally do not[15]). Nobody makes any effort to make our jobs legally easier, we have no control over pickup locations, and we’re just sitting ducks.

There are places I avoid picking up. I go off line to avoid pickups in San Francisco because one $300 ticket (for picking up in a bus stop where there really was no alternative pickup location available) for a $5 fare is enough, thank you very much; and in Sonoma County, where the business seems disproportionately about drunks who drink to get drunk and conflate such drinking with sociability (and no, this has little to do with the growing winery or microbrew industries). But even so, I still occasionally encounter cops who only care about the law, not about the practicalities of some poor schmuck trying to make a living. In their honor, I present the latest Existential Comics strip:socratesTheCop1
socratesTheCop2

The philosopher-cop is Socrates. I didn’t study a lot of philosophy in my academic career but whoever it is that draws this strip is brilliant.


Brexit

Boris Johnson imagines that the European Union will grant Britain an out from the backstop.[16] It won’t[17] and everything else is a sideshow that can, at best, only delay the inevitable. So fasten your seat belts and hold on tight: The powers that be have apparently agreed there will be no second referendum. That means a hard Brexit.

Joe Watts, “Brexit: Theresa May’s renegotiation hopes dealt blow as Ireland says backstop ‘isn’t going to change,’” Independent, January 27, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-backstop-theresa-may-ireland-border-simon-coveney-deal-vote-parliament-commons-a8749076.html

Peter Foster, “What is the Brexit backstop, and why is the Irish border so important to the deal?” Telegraph, January 28, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/0/brexit-backstop-irish-border-important-deal/

James Rothwell, “The Brexit ‘Freedom Clause’ – key questions answered,” Telegraph, January 28, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/01/28/brexit-freedom-clause-key-questions-answered/

William Booth, Karla Adam, and Michael Birnbaum, “Parliament asserts that Britain shouldn’t leave E.U. without a deal, sends Theresa May back to Brussels,” Washington Post, January 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/brexit-theresa-may-tells-a-divided-parliament-she-wants-to-reopen-talks-with-eu/2019/01/29/66ebca3a-1fe9-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html


Pacific Gas and Electric

Oh gawd. Yet more “[w]e are fully committed”[18] crap. Somebody really needs to explain to Pacific Gas and Electric’s public relations folks that they have completely and totally annihilated the credibility of that phrase through extreme overuse.

Seriously, when it seems virtually every public statement you issue contains those words, it all adds up to an acknowledgment of numerous commitments that, since you’re constantly having to talk about them, obviously have gone unfulfilled.

Peg Brickley and Andrew Scurria, “As PG&E Enters Bankruptcy, Professionals Flock to Potential Fee Bonanza,” Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-pg-e-prepares-for-bankruptcy-professionals-flock-to-potential-fee-bonanza-11548715723

Subrat Patnaik, “PG&E, owner of biggest U.S. power utility, files for bankruptcy,” Reuters, January 29, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pg-e-us-bankruptcy-idUSKCN1PN0PX

Dale Kasler, “‘Safety is not your No. 1 thing.’ Judge rips PG&E over California wildfires,” Sacramento Bee, January 30, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article225289445.html


James Comey

Mike Memoli, Ken Dilanian, and Alex Moe, “GOP delay in naming House Intelligence Committee members may have cost Mueller,” NBC News, January 30, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/gop-delay-naming-house-intelligence-committee-members-may-have-cost-n964781


Donald Trump

Shane Harris and John Wagner, “In latest attack on intelligence agencies, Trump ignores where they actually agree,” Washington Post, January 30, 2019, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/comment/18412#comment-18412


The Deep State

Karoun Demirjian, “Senate rebukes Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, Afghanistan,” Washington Post, January 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-backs-mcconnells-rebuke-of-trumps-military-drawdown-plans-in-syria-afghanistan/2019/01/31/5812d058-2584-11e9-90cd-dedb0c92dc17_story.html


  1. [1]Peg Brickley and Andrew Scurria, “As PG&E Enters Bankruptcy, Professionals Flock to Potential Fee Bonanza,” Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-pg-e-prepares-for-bankruptcy-professionals-flock-to-potential-fee-bonanza-11548715723
  2. [2]William Booth, Karla Adam, and Michael Birnbaum, “Parliament asserts that Britain shouldn’t leave E.U. without a deal, sends Theresa May back to Brussels,” Washington Post, January 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/brexit-theresa-may-tells-a-divided-parliament-she-wants-to-reopen-talks-with-eu/2019/01/29/66ebca3a-1fe9-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html
  3. [3]Peg Brickley and Andrew Scurria, “As PG&E Enters Bankruptcy, Professionals Flock to Potential Fee Bonanza,” Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-pg-e-prepares-for-bankruptcy-professionals-flock-to-potential-fee-bonanza-11548715723
  4. [4]Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak, “‘We have been shorted.’ Why wildfire survivors are furious about PG&E’s bankruptcy filing,” Sacramento Bee, January 29, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article225246820.html
  5. [5]Mike Memoli, Ken Dilanian, and Alex Moe, “GOP delay in naming House Intelligence Committee members may have cost Mueller,” NBC News, January 30, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/gop-delay-naming-house-intelligence-committee-members-may-have-cost-n964781
  6. [6]Aaron Blake, “Trump backers just had their anti-Mueller hopes and dreams dashed,” Washington Post, December 18, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/18/trump-backers-just-had-their-anti-mueller-hopes-dreams-dashed/; Paul Waldman, “Trump’s battle to destroy the Mueller investigation is officially doomed,” Washington Post, November 16, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/11/16/trumps-battle-to-destroy-the-mueller-investigation-is-officially-doomed/; Benjamin Wittes, “It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller,” Atlantic, November 9, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/11/10-reasons-whitaker-might-not-foil-mueller/575467/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  8. [8]Shane Harris and John Wagner, “In latest attack on intelligence agencies, Trump ignores where they actually agree,” Washington Post, January 30, 2019, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/comment/18412#comment-18412
  9. [9]Dale Kasler, “‘Safety is not your No. 1 thing.’ Judge rips PG&E over California wildfires,” Sacramento Bee, January 30, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article225289445.html
  10. [10]Karoun Demirjian, “Senate rebukes Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, Afghanistan,” Washington Post, January 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-backs-mcconnells-rebuke-of-trumps-military-drawdown-plans-in-syria-afghanistan/2019/01/31/5812d058-2584-11e9-90cd-dedb0c92dc17_story.html
  11. [11]Katie Dowd, “Why is San Francisco traffic so bad? Uber and Lyft are to blame, says city,” SFGate, December 13, 2016, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-traffic-Uber-Lyft-SFMTA-blame-10791265.php
  12. [12]One of my passengers informed me that she worked for San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency and that the agency had a team assigned to target Uber and Lyft drivers.
  13. [13]Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, “SFPD: Uber, Lyft account for two-thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown,” San Francisco Examiner, September 25, 2017, http://www.sfexaminer.com/sfpd-uber-lyft-account-two-thirds-congestion-related-traffic-violations-downtown/
  14. [14]City Attorney of San Francisco, “Herrera investigates Uber, Lyft over driver pay and benefits,” PR Newswire, May 29, 2018, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/herrera-investigates-uber-lyft-over-driver-pay-and-benefits-300655892.html
  15. [15]Cyrus Farivar, “What’s Uber and Lyft drivers’ median hourly wage? $10 or lower, report finds,” Ars Tehnica, March 6, 2018, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/whats-uber-and-lyft-drivers-median-hourly-wage-under-4-report-finds/
  16. [16]James Rothwell, “The Brexit ‘Freedom Clause’ – key questions answered,” Telegraph, January 28, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/01/28/brexit-freedom-clause-key-questions-answered/
  17. [17]Peter Foster, “What is the Brexit backstop, and why is the Irish border so important to the deal?” Telegraph, January 28, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/0/brexit-backstop-irish-border-important-deal/; Joe Watts, “Brexit: Theresa May’s renegotiation hopes dealt blow as Ireland says backstop ‘isn’t going to change,’” Independent, January 27, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-backstop-theresa-may-ireland-border-simon-coveney-deal-vote-parliament-commons-a8749076.html
  18. [18]John Simon, quoted in Subrat Patnaik, “PG&E, owner of biggest U.S. power utility, files for bankruptcy,” Reuters, January 29, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pg-e-us-bankruptcy-idUSKCN1PN0PX